Sunday, July 31, 2005

Ghost Rhetoric

Ghost Rhetoric

Ghost Rhetoric (2003)

An "exquisite corpse" Google found poem randomly collaged from text excerpts created by a Google search on the title of today's image:

Visit the Ghost Town website where you can read
the tax exemption rhetoric on the part of the religious right.
How do you avoid rhetoric in poems that address the political sphere
when, at first, Scrooge seems unmoved by the ghost's arrival?
Adherence to the Geneva Conventions is reduced to cynical rhetoric
and a thread about ghost detainees, a symbol, not what America
stands for. Your file request cannot be found and a new study
finds the ghost of Orwell haunting American public dialogue.
No sourcebook. No pictures. Enough rhetoric. Cut to the video tape.
The Mock-Heroic. The Rhetoric of Plagiarism. It was the Ghost Dance
that made the whites nervous since the Crusades have never ended
but doctors are saying she hasn't a ghost of a chance. Jerry Falwell agrees.

The superstitious villagers believe the white apparition must be a ghost
discredited, spinning history with the uncouth syllables of the Puritan colonists.


Sources for lines: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve/twelve, thirteen, and fourteen/fourteen.

~/~

No entry tomorrow because of travel. Back sometime on Tuesday.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Discourse Error

Discourse Error

Discourse Error (2002)

John at Blogenlust alerted me to this gem from John Hinderacker of Powerline -- Time's "Blog of the Year":

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

Blogenlust awards Powerline the inaugural Idiot Wind Award for such a migraine-inducer, but I want more tangible documentation.

The illiteracy level of our children are appalling...

"Ahead of his time"?

I want visuals to accompany such colossal, deluded hyperbole. Let's have Hinderacker's "very strange" lament as a cable news screen crawl accompanied by all the Bush pics and vids we've come to know and love: falling off bike(s), flipping the bird when Texas Gov, picking his nose on Jumbotron. Or, maybe, Hindrocket text screen crawl with Best-of-Bush vids retooled as MTV "pop up" video as "She Blinded Me with Science" plays in the background -- when suddenly up pops Is our children learning or They misunderestimated me. Now there's a presentational format designed to "unveil the masterpieces" and truly showcase the "genius" of President Bush.

Or, then again, today's image may be the most fitting response to Powerline's blithering idiocy.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Neo-Humanist Graph

Neo-Humanist Graph

Neo-Humanist Graph (1999)

Godlessness is dead but even the underworld recycles. Each sin must be placed in its own colorful asbestos bin. Outed with shame you look like trash. Satan is green again. The preacher is a pol or a mole slumming on your school board. Let the welfare scum fry in their own deep fat count. Blame is cheaper than training. Stage a filibuster on Foster and stall that minimum wage hike. Scrawled in magic marker WILL WORK FOR FOOD is guillotined by your tinted power window. Bury cheats and slackers under cast stones and block grants. Toss around mandates like trucks packed with fertilizer. You say you want a revolution. Tell the ferryman to stick it as you rock the boat on talk radio. Charon’s stuck in a hell of a service job without a signal flare. No way he got a future or free laptop. No success story here to rant on the House floor or ride out the Third Wave. Downsize the bum. Big Bird’s resume reads better anyway. She’s a flamer and will pole you across in a blazing nest. Hey. It’s your Viking funeral. You’ll burn out and drift with the herd before docking. No crock or urn will hold what’s left. You signed on and the blood’s still damp on the Contract. The hitman is not Mafia but pirate-for-life Scalia, and burial at sea sounds so good to me.

~/~

I wrote the poem above in the mid-90s, but it seems recycled easily for the Reign of Bush. Gay bashing. Stealth religious rule. Bankruptcy punishment. Bootstraps mentality for everyone but the "have-mores." PBS under criticism for not being as "fair and balanced" as Fox News. And, of course, John Roberts, 50, another potential "pirate-for-life." After all, according to dKosopedia:

As noted on Law.com, many who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. "He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.

And, naturally, we the people will insist that Roberts' record be scrupulously studied and rationally debated -- all the while refusing to be distracted by superficialities and assorted "catapulted propaganda." Right?

From Underneath Their Robes:

--And boy does he belong in the spotlight! Judge Roberts is lookin' super-hunky tonight, much younger than his 50 years. He's not the #5 Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary for nothing!

[...]

President Bush mentions that Judge Roberts was born in Buffalo, grew up in Indiana, and was the captain of his high school football team. Hunky hunky hunky!

[...]

--Now President Bush yields the podium to Judge Roberts. Hubba hubba!

Why does the gushing above almost read as a parody to me? Oh yeah. Now I remember...

"In a big family the first child is kind of like the first pancake. If it's not perfect, that's okay, there are a lot more coming along."

Cartoon by Ruben Bolling

Back to the (dismal) future? Nothing puts me in the "last throes" of orgiastic excitement like 30+ years of ironclad conservative dogma hanging over the country like the Sword of Damocles.

It's our poster boy politics -- our Viking funeral. And burial at sea sounds...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Robespierre's Last Accusation

Robespierre's Last Accusation

Robespierre's Last Accusation (2005)

From the Modern History Sourcebook -- "Justification of the Use of Terror":

Maximilien Robespierre (1758­ 1794) was the leader of the twelve­man Committee of Public Safety elected by the National Convention, and which effectively governed France at the height of the radical phase of the revolution. He had once been a fairly straightforward liberal thinker -- reputedly he slept with a copy of Rousseau's Social Contract at his side. But his own purity of belief led him to impatience with others.

The committee was among the most creative executive bodies ever seen -- and rapidly put into effect policies which stabilized the French economy and began the formation of the very successful French army. It also directed it energies against counter-revolutionary uprisings, especially in the south and west of France. In doing so it unleashed the reign of terror. Here, Robespierre, in his speech of February 5,1794, from which excerpts are given here, discussed this issue. The figures behind this speech indicate that in the five months from September, 1793, to February 5, 1794, the revolutionary tribunal in Paris convicted and executed 238 men and 31 women and acquitted 190 persons, and that on February 5 there were 5,434 individuals in the prisons in Paris awaiting trial.

Robespierre was frustrated with the progress of the revolution. After issuing threats to the National Convention, he himself was arrested in July 1794. He tried to shoot himself but missed, and spent his last few hours with his jaw hanging off. He was guillotined, as a victim of the terror, on July 28, 1794.

[...]

"Republican virtue can be considered in relation to the people and in relation to the government; it is necessary in both. When only the govenment lacks virtue, there remains a resource in the people's virtue; but when the people itself is corrupted, liberty is already lost.

Fortunately virtue is natural to the people, notwithstanding aristocratic prejudices. A nation is truly corrupted when, having by degrees lost its character and its liberty, it passes from democracy to aristocracy or to monarchy; that is the decrepitude and death of the body politic...."

As your leader, I encourage you from time to time, and always in a respectful manner, to question my logic...

Executioner of King Louis XVI Shows the Head of the King of France to Crowd.

From French Revolution -- Robespierre and the Legacy of Terror:

Domestic carnage, now filled the whole year
With feast days, old men from the chimney-nook.
The maiden from the busom of her love,
The mother from the cradle of her babe,
The warrior from the field -- all perished, all --
Friends, enemies, of all parties, ages, ranks,
Head after head, and never heads enough
For those that bade them fall.
--William Wordsworth, The Prelude (Book Tenth, "Residence in France")

Wordsworth came to suffer the disillusion of young revolutionaries in all ages who discover that in shedding an ocean of blood they have more often than not done more harm than good. If the French revolution was the end of monarchy and aristocratic privilege and the emergence of the common man and democratic rights, it was also the beginnings of modern totalitarian government and large-scale executions of "enemies of the People" by impersonal government entities (Robespierre's "Committee of Public Safety"). This legacy would not reach its fullest bloom until the tragic arrival of the German Nazis and Soviet and Chinese communists of the 20th century.

In fact, Rousseau has been called the precursor of the modern pseudo-democrats such as Stalin and Hitler and the "people's democracies." His call for the "sovereign" to force men to be free if necessary in the interests of the "General Will" harks back to the Lycurgus of Sparta instead of to the pluralism of Athens; the legacy of Rousseau is Robespierre and the radical Jacobins of the Terror who followed and worshipped him passionately. In the 20th century, his influence is further felt by tyrants who would arouse the egalitarian passions of the masses not so much in the interests of social justice as social control. Let us take Rousseau for the literary genius he was and appreciate his contribution to history; let us look at his political philosophy with great skepticism.

He [the revolutionary] is damned always to do that which is most repugnant to him: to become a slaughterer...(Arthur Koestler)

The picture above may not be accurate. Some historians claim Robespierre was guillotined face up.

From The History Guide:

Robespierre's turn had come at last. By fawning upon the people he had become their idol, and this will happen to any man who declaims against the rich, causing the people to hope for a division of the spoils. Through the populace, he ruled the Jacobin Club; through the Jacobin Club, the Convention and through the Convention, France. He dictated decrees and directed the administration. Nothing was done except by his orders or with his approval. His caprices were flattered, and his very manias were praised. The tribunal beheaded those he designated without investigation. His power seemed too terrible to his accomplices as it did to his victims. A number had been sacrificed already and others feared the same fate. They banded together to pull down the idol they themselves had set up.

[The committee of general security] ordered that he [Robespierre] be taken to the prison of the Conciergerie. His trial was short. On the following day he was guillotined, together with Saint-Just, Couthon, and his other accomplices. It was quite a distance from the Palais de Justice to the scaffold, and the immensity of the long Rue Saint-Honore had to be traversed. Along the whole course, the people pursued Robespierre with hoots and maledictions. He had been given a conspicuous place in the tumbril, his face half covered by a dirty, bloodstained cloth which enveloped his jaw. It may be said that this man, who had brought so much anguish to others, suffered during these twenty-four hours all the pain and agony that a mortal can experience.

Today's image suggests there are multiple ways to lose one's head -- both theoretical and practical.

Morever, Robespierre's rise and fall has historical lessons for today's suicide bombers and holy warriors on the dangers inherent in seeking to use terror to bring out justice -- and, perhaps, for an administration determined to fight terror by curtailing civil liberties and advocating torture. In both cases, the innocent generally suffer -- and justice gets blown up or locked up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Something in the Water

Something in the Water

Something in the Water (2005)

At heart, Blog with a View is a digital art photoblog. Sometimes, in the throes of shoegazing typing, I lose sight of why I started this blog and talk when I should listen. So, every Wednesday, I'm going to post an image sans words. As I say in the blog's description, feel free to talk back to my "visual diary," or, if you wish, think of this post as a weekly open thread.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Why Fish Never Make Their Beds

Why Fish Never Make Their Beds

Why Fish Never Make Their Beds (2000)

From Tillamook State Forests Interpretative Programs:

Did you know that salmon rot while they are still alive?

No, but thanks for sharing. Waiter -- I'll have the chipped beef on toast instead...

From The Pond Doc:

Fish are more lovable at feeding time -- especially when they eat from your hand. That's probably why most of us make the biggest mistake we can make -- feeding our loved ones too much! The more fish eat the more fish poop. The more fish poop the harder the filters have to work. Excessive food rots causing havoc with our filtration systems. These two factors can be the life or death of your pond!

I'll be more loveable, too, if you let me eat out of your hand. Just no tuna casserole, okay...?

From Badman's Tropical Fish Message Board on "Water Changes":

A tip to keep from sucking "fish poo water" into your mouth when siphoning.

Set up your bucket LOWER (of course) than your tank...

I learned this as a Homebrewer.

No, man, I don't have time to drop by for a beer tonight...

I use the fish-poop-sucking method with a one gallon bucket. Anyone see why I might prefer smaller changes?????!!!!!

You are going through some ch-ch-ch-changes...

From, yes, PoopReport.com:

Doniker -- 8.15.2001
This is why I don't swim in public pools or at public beaches...you might as well just jump into a giant toilet!!

melly -- 8.15.2001
I indeed learned a lesson...no more pooping in the ocean for me! I was so scared I would be found out and exposed as a sea-shitter! But hey, fish poop in the ocean so old paranoid Doniker is still right! The ocean is a giant toilet in a way.

You know, I don't feel like swimming. I think I'll just sit here on the sandbar under the beach umbrella and read...

From the DIS Discussion Forums:

We get off the “personal watercraft” and walk on the sandbar. The guide asks us what we think the sand is made of and tells us to scoop up a handful and sniff it. You know this is the part that he enjoys, its fish poop. Great, I have a handful of poop, I'm a mile and a half out, and I have to get on the dreaded jet ski again.

...or maybe I'll rent Jaws (again) and listen to the ocean from the environmental isolation of my condo balcony...

Hey.  Whatz you lookin' at, Bub?

The World Is My Commode

[Photograph by Greg Ochocki]

And, finally, from FAQs on Loricariids, South and Central American Suckermouth Cats 2:

SHE'S POOPING! Sorry to shout, I never thought a fish pooping would make me happy *grin* but it does. I have a feeling she hasn't pooped in ages (hard to tell, but never found any 6" fish sized poop in the big community tank), it's good to see something finally happening. What is coming out looks pretty abnormal to me, LONG (up to 3") stringy clear things that catch on the plants and wave in the current like fine hairs, some rice-sized bright green/white pods, and some semi normal 1/2 inch long bumpy (not long smooth ropes like pleco poop) brown poos (all alternating; this morning she's back to the white stringy stuff). Sorry to be graphic, but I know that you can tell a lot of things by looking at a fish's waste.

I prefer scanning chicken entrails, myself. They are telling me that someone's hobby is becoming an obsession...

So, other than my usual routine Tuesday poop blogging, have we learned why fish never make their beds? You've heard the rationale from your kids, right? Why make my bed when I'm just going to mess it up again tonight? Well, imagine if you both ate and pooped in your bed -- and then you can begin to see why the bed making/unmaking philosophical thought problem can grow exponentially...

~/~

The management of Blog with a View apologizes to all the many wannabe crusaders hoping to censor the Internets for the multiple references to "poop" in today's post. But, please, just bear in mind at no time did we mention the fact that fish also fornicate in their beds. Thank you.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Abstinence Teacher

The Abstinence Teacher

The Abstinence Teacher (2003)

Oh, that way madness lies; let me shun that.
William Shakespeare, King Lear

From the Washington Post (12-2-04) -- "Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says" by Ceci Connolly:

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.

Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed the curricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

In providing nearly $170 million next year to fund groups that teach abstinence only, the Bush administration, with backing from the Republican Congress, is investing heavily in a just-say-no strategy for teenagers and sex. But youngsters taking the courses frequently receive medically inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction to the findings of government scientists, said the report, by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a critic of the administration who has long argued for comprehensive sex education.

[...]

Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman's investigators:

• A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."

• HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.

• Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.

One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.

From CNN.com (7-5-05) -- "Pediatricians' Group: Abstinence Not Enough":

A leading group of pediatricians says teenagers need access to birth control and emergency contraception, not the abstinence-only approach to sex education favored by religious groups and President Bush.

[...]

"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," said Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairman of the academy committee that wrote the new recommendations.

Teaching abstinence but not birth control makes it more likely that once teenagers initiate sexual activity they will have unsafe sex and contract sexually transmitted diseases, said Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville who provided advice for the report.

From MSNBC (2-1-05) -- "Teen Sex Increased After Abstinence Program":

Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President George W. Bush's education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study.

Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.

“We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired,” said Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study.

And, finally, from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

The fact that the Bush administration ignores the scientific evidence, troubling though that is, is not the primary concern of this report. Rather, it is the fact that the Bush administration distorted science-based performance measures to test whether abstinence-only programs were proving effective, such as charting the birth rate of female program participants. In place of such established measures, the Bush administration has required the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to track only participants' program attendance and attitudes, measures designed to obscure the lack of efficacy of abstinence-only programs.

In addition to distorting performance measures, the Bush administration has suppressed other information at odds with its preferred policies. At the behest of higher-ups in the Bush administration, according to a source inside the CDC, the agency was forced to discontinue a project called “Programs that Work,” which identified sex education programs found to be effective in scientific studies. All five of the programs identified in 2002 involved comprehensive sex education for teenagers and none were abstinence-only programs. In ending the project, the CDC removed all information about these programs from its website.

One scientist, recently departed from a high-ranking position at the CDC, recounts that, on one occasion, even top staff scientists at the agency were required by the administration to attend a day-long session purportedly devoted to the “science of abstinence.” As this source puts it, “out of the entire session, conducted by a nonscientist, the only thing resembling science was one study reportedly in progress and another not even begun.” Despite the absence of supporting data, this source and others contend, CDC scientists were regularly reminded to push the administration's abstinence-only stance. As he puts it, “The effect was very chilling.”

Just say no to sex, kids, and curb those hormonal urges -- although you won't have access (or even hear your "abstinence teacher" explain) options like birth control or abortion. And, by the way, with the nomination of John Roberts to SCOTUS, that second option may soon only be available in back alleys via the black market.

But, you know, some people -- like those who can veto congressional bills -- don't have to control their impulses and bloodlust for violence, especially torture. Moreover, these administrative culture of lifers want photos of American troops and Iraqi guards who chose not to "abstain" from rape, sodomy, and torture aborted from public view. From the DailyKos (7-22-05) courtesy of digby and this article from Reuters:

The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.

The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.

So, kids, be sure to say no to sex -- because all ex post facto remedies may soon be legally closed if you don't. Meanwhile, BushCo, not constrained by an abstinence teacher or congressional wrist slaps, and never given to questioning one's gut instincts over moral qualms or ethical problems, does not believe in shunning. It insists on its God-given right to censor photographic evidence and to indefinitely detain and abuse "enemy combatants" -- and even sodomize young boys -- who, apparently, just "hate our freedoms."

Lear knew better -- but history will record the Bush years as a time of lies and unshunned madness.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Future Salad

Future Salad

Future Salad (2000)

From Food Timeline:

Food historians tell us salads (generally defined as mixed greens with dressing) were enjoyed by ancient Romans and Greeks. As time progressed, salads became more complicated. Recipes varied according to place and time. Dinner salads, as we know them today, were popular with Renaissance diners. Composed salads assembled with multiple ingredients were enjoyed in the 18th century. They were called Salmagundi. Today they are called chef's salad.

"Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the world "salad," they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil, and herbs...The medical practitioners Hippocrates and Galen believed that raw vegetables easily slipped through the system and did not create obstructions for what followed, therefore they should be served first. Others reported that the vinegar in the dressing destroyed the taste of the wine, therefore they should be served last. This debate has continued ever since...With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives...The term salade derived from the Vulgar Roman herba salata, literally 'salted herb'. It remained a feature of Byzantine cookery and reentered the European menu via medieval Spain and Renaissance Italy. At first "salad" referred to various kinds of greens pickled in vinegar or salt. The word salade later referred to fresh-cooked greens of raw vegetables prepared in the Roman manner."
---Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Solomon H. Katz, editor and William Woys Weaver, associate editor [Charles Scribner's Sons:New York] 2003, Volume 3 (p. 224-5).

At the tail end of the 19th century (in the United States) the domestic science/home economics movement took hold. Proponnents of this new science were obsessed with control. They considered tossed plates of mixed greens "messy" and eschewed them in favor of "orderly presentations." Salad items were painstakingly separated, organized, and presented. Molded gelatin (Jell-O et. al.) salads proliferated because they offered maximum control.

"Salad greens, which did have to be served raw and crisp, demanded more complicated measures. The object of scientific salad making was to subdue the raw greens until they bore as little resemblance as possible to their natural state. If a plain green salad was called for, the experts tried to avoid simply letting a disorganized pile of leaves drop messily onto the plate...This arduous approach to salad making became an identifying feature of cooking-school cookery and the signature of a refined household...American salads traditionally had been a matter of fresh greens, chicken, or lobster, but during the decades at the turn of the century, when urban and suburban middle class was beginning to define itself, salads proliferated magnificently in number and variety until they incorporated nearly every kind of food except bread and pastry...Salads that were nothing but a heap of raw ingredients in disarray plainly lacked cultivation, and the cooking experts developed a number of ingenious ways to wrap them up...The tidiest and most thorough way to package a salad was to mold in gelatin."
---Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century, Laura Shapiro [North Point Press:New York] 1986 (p. 96-99).
The great salad revolution began in the sixties and matured in the seventies like so many other American social upheavals. In the decade of nuts and berries, salads went natural and organic. Yogurt became a popular dressing ingredient, and salads were garnished with sesame and sunflower seeds. Many Americans were first introduced to rice and bean salads in the sixties, not to mention bulgar wheat, all of which were destined to become increasingly popular later on.

[...]

In the seventies, salad became a national obsession. Salad bars sprung up everywhere. It was politically, religiously, and socially correct to eat salad. Along with increased interest in salad came widening choices of ingredients and more variety in salad dressings. Tuned-in restaurants served salads and sandwiches bulging with alfalfa sprouts and avocados, perhaps the two ingredients most identified with seventies salads. Who didn't have an avocado pit balanced by toothpicks rooting in the kitchen window, or a water-soaked napkin nestling alfalfa or mung bean sprouts? This was before Chia pets.

[...]

The salad continued to gain status [in the eighties], taking advantage of the increasing availability of fresh produce, familiar and foreign. In the area of salad dressing, the eighties saw a new star -- Ranch, which became the undisputed favorite, akin to Thousand Island of earlier times. The appropriate cheese for salads was no longer cubes of cheddar and Swiss, but the more sophisticated feta, crumbled on. Flavored vinegars, such as raspberry, would also become popular.

[...]

Color contrast appears to be one of the most important considerations in salads at the end of the twentieth century. We saw purple asparagus, red, yellow, orange, and purple bell peppers, orange, yellow, and white tomatoes, purple endive, yellow watermelon, white eggplant, golden beets, and yellow and blue potatoes spring up in the produce department. Let your artistic imagination run wild!

After the extravagant eighties, we might not have expected any new salad greens, but the nineties introduced arugula and purslane as rediscovered treasures. And, unbelievably, the fiddlehead fern has made some brief appearances as a rare delicacy. The salad cheese of choice? Anything from a goat. And for dressings, we discovered white truffle oil near the end of the decade, eked out by the drop to flavor sauces and salads.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous and well-received new vegetables were fresh mushrooms, burgeoning far beyond the familiar white button mushrooms in the produce department into a "department" of their own with dozens of dried and fresh varieties, including shitake, crimini, chanterelles, truffles, oyster, enoki, wood ear, and portobello.

From the TimesOnline:

Et tu...Caesar?

Anyone hoping that salad is the slimming option should read the nutritional information on the McDonald’s website, which reveals that simply switching from burger to salad will not help to shed the pounds.

A chicken Caesar salad with dressing and croutons contains 425 calories and 21.4g of fat, compared with 253 calories and 7.7g of fat in a standard hamburger. Add a portion of fries to your burger and the calorie count climbs to 459, but is still less fatty than the salad at 16.7g.

Today's blog entree has less spice than yesterday's -- but also fewer calories --

-- unless you salad-size it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Future Chili

Future Chili

Future Chili (2000)

From APSnet -- "Chile Pepper and the Threat of Wilt Diseases":

Chile, chili, and chilli; which is which? The literature on “peppers” contains a confusing labyrinth of names with various derivations and slight nuances of meaning. Etymologically, the word “chile” is derived from the Aztec language, and refers to Capsicum peppers in Central America including Mexico, and in several parts of southwestern United States. The word “chili” is thought to be the anglicized form of “chile” and now denominates pungent types of Capsicum peppers in the United States. Similarly, the words “chilli” (singular form) or “chillies” (plural form) are used in Middle Eastern and Asian countries in connection with pungent forms. In 1983, Senator Domenici from New Mexico introduced a bill to formalize the word “chile” as the correct way of spelling Capsicum pepper. According to Bosland and Votava, a “chile powder” contains ground fruit of Capsicum plant, whereas “chili powder” would contain a mixture of chile powder with one or more of other ingredients such as onion and garlic.
According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend and tale (several modern writer have documented - or maybe just "passed along") it is said that the first recipe for chili con carne was put on paper in the 17th century by a beautiful nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. She was mysteriously known to the Indians of the Southwest United States as "La Dama de Azul," the lady in blue. Sister Mary would go into trances with her body lifeless for days. When she awoke from these trances, she said her spirit had been to a faraway land where she preached Christianity to savages and counseled them to seek out Spanish missionaries.

It is certain that Sister Mary never physically left Spain, yet Spanish missionaries and King Philip IV of Spain believed that she was the ghostly "La Dama de Azul" or "lady in blue" of Indian Legend. It is said that sister Mary wrote down the recipe for chili which called for venison or antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. No accounts of this were ever recorded, so who knows?

On March 9, 1731, a group of sixteen families (56 persons) arrived from the Canary Islands at Bexar, the villa of San Fernando de BĂ©xar (now know as the city of San Antonio). They had emigrated to Texas from the Spanish Canary Islands by order of King Philip V. of Spain. The King of Spain felt that colonization would help cement Spanish claims to the region and block France's westward expansion from Louisiana. These families founded San Antonio’s first civil government which became the first municipality in the Spanish province of Texas. According to historians, the women made a spicy “Spanish” stew that is similar to chili.

Some Spanish priests were said to be wary of the passion inspired by chile peppers, assuming they were aphrodisiacs. A few preached sermons against indulgence in a food which they said was almost as "hot as hell's brimstone." "Soup of the Devil," one called it. The priest's warning probably contributed to the dish's popularity.

Records were found by Everrette DeGolyer (1886-1956), a Dallas millionaire and a lover of chili, indicating that the first chili mix was concocted around 1850 by Texan adventurers and cowboys as a staple for hard times when traveling to and in the California gold fields and around Texas. Needing hot grub, the trail cooks came up with a sort of stew. They pounded dried beef, fat, pepper, salt, and the chile peppers together. This amounted to "brick chili" or "chili bricks" that could be boiled in pots along the trail. DeGolyer said that chili should be called "chili a la Americano" because the term chili is generic in Mexico and simply means a hot pepper. He believed that chili con carne began as the "pemmican of the Southwest."
Having a problem with squirrels and other furry creatures eating your birdseed? Birds don't seem to mind ground chili peppers, while it is great fun to watch squirrels leap three feet straight into the air the first time they taste salsa birdseed.

Inca Indians still tie a string of chilis behind their boat to repel sharks. To our knowledge, no one has tried this in Wall Street yet.

Sometimes, when rendering a fractal, I tell my wife that the image is cooking, but today's image was made on a cold winter afternoon while a pot of homemade chili simmered on the stove. It seems art imitates life.

~/~

Hey, if interested, why not surf over to my guest gallery currently on display at the Museum of Computer Art?

And in the Dear Abby category, I'd welcome some advice. Although I update this blog daily, Technorati says I haven't updated in over a month and a half, nor has Technorati indexed my last 45 posts. I've written them multiple times but have never received a reply. My blog settings are correct, and I ping Technorati along with other services. Only Technorati does not seem to "see" me. What's my problem? Bad coding? Too many links? Blogger Fubar? If you aren't as clueless as I apparently am, please slip any cure-all suggestions in the comments or drop me an email. I'll be grateful.

And, you know, since I'm so chatty today, let me take this opportunity to also say thanks for coming by to read and view this rambling visual diary of mine...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ashcroft Sends Flowers

Ashcroft Sends Flowers

Ashcroft Sends Flowers (2004)

Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression...
--Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

John Ashcroft. Not gone. Not forgotten.

Yesterday, as fresh images of a new attack on London flickered on television screens, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to extend Ashcroft's feral brainchild: the USA-PATRIOT Act. The House vote was 257-171. Forty-three Democrats voted to renew key provisions of the act that were set to expire in December of 2005.

Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was quick to note that there hasn't been one verified case of abuse of the PARTIOT Act (really?) and added that

the House has again provided the brave men and women of law enforcement with critical tools in their efforts to combat terrorism and protect the American people.

But who will protect us from our own protectors? The 4th Amendment which states

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

has long been our firewall. But the PATRIOT Act seems designed to hack away at our defenses and delete some our most precious freedoms. Since most of our elected representatives never bothered to read the act before rushing into law after 9-11, why not do yourself a favor and recap a few of the provisions your elected representatives just rubber stamped for ten more years?

Billmon at Whiskey Bar, sourcing the Sociatas blog, explains why the 4th Amendment could be in danger of being detained indefinitely if Section 215 is renewed. Billmon notes:

This is probably a good time to remind people what Section 215 gives the government the power to do:

    • Order any person or entity to turn over "any tangible things," so long as the FBI specifies that the order is part of an authorized terrorism or intelligence investigation.
    • Obtain personal data, including medical records, without any specific facts connecting those records to a foreign terrorist.
    • Prohibit doctors and insurance companies from disclosing to their patients that their medical records have been seized by the government.
    • Obtain library and book store records, including lists of books checked out, without any specific facts connecting the records to a foreign agent or terrorist.
    • Obtain private financial records without a court order, and without notification to the person involved.
    • Conduct intelligence investigations of both United States citizens and permanent residents without probable cause, or even reasonable grounds to believe that they are engaged in criminal activity or are agents of a foreign power.
    • Investigate U.S. citizens based in part on their exercise of their First Amendment rights, and non-citizens based solely on their exercise of those rights. (Naturally, decisions about what constitutes "in part" are left to a secret court, meeting secretly.)
    • Those served with Section 215 orders are prohibited from disclosing that fact to anyone -- even their attorney. (This provision was struck down by a U.S. district court last year.)

Section 213 of PATRIOT, meanwhile, allows federal agents to:

    • Conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of your home.
    • Enter your home or office and seize items for an indefinite period of time, without informing you that a warrant has been issued.

And Section 216 lets the feds:

    • Seize records that could show the subject lines of your e-mails and the details of your Web surfing habits.

Billmon adds:

Just to highlight what an Orwellian witch's brew the Patriot Act has turned into, consider that while the Cheney administration claims Section 215 has never been used to search or seize library records, a 2002 survey of librarians found that almost half of them reported being visited by federal or local law enforcement agents demanding access to patron records.

Confronted with these results, the Justice Department insisted the vast majority of those visits were related to criminal investigations, but refused to disclose how many were terror-related, saying that information was (you guessed it) classified.

So are you feeling safer? Or were all of us bitch slapped (again) by a thug administration using catapulted fear to keep tabs on nearly every aspect of our lives?

Ashcroft, when he wasn't obsessing about losing an election to a dead man and covering the exposed breasts of statues, had this to say about the initial PATRIOT Act:

The Patriot Act is al-Qaida's worst nightmare.

Funny thing about nightmares. They are like art -- subjective. When Ashcroft rolled his PATRIOT Act Roadshow through Cambridge in 2003, city councilor Brian Murphy made the following remarks:

John Ashcroft must know he should be ashamed of himself. That's why he's skulking into town, not speaking to the people, and sneaking out of town. If Ashcroft stayed and walked the Freedom Trail, he could see the Old State House where in 1761 James Otis spoke out against the Writs of Assistance -- essentially open-ended search warrants that allowed customs officers to search wherever they pleased. Otis said “A man's home is his castle, and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it is declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom house office may enter our houses when they please and we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient.”

John Ashcroft is nothing but a modern day Tory stealing the very rights our forefathers fought and died for. His Patriot Act is a 21st century writ of assistance. And just like James Otis 242 years ago, we in Boston must stand up against this tyranny.

This issue has me primed to toss some tea overboard. How about you? Or, are you thinking instead, now that our lives are open books and we're serfs in our own castles, how simple -- and even mundane -- it would be to have us both terrorism-tagged...and then quietly disappeared?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Press Conference on the War

Press Conference on the War

Press Conference on the War (2004)

Today, Blog with a View presents an exclusive mano a mano press conference with President Bush on the War in Iraq. All the questions are my own. All of the President's answers come directly and unedited from The Bush Press Conference Response Generator:

Good Morning, Mr. President. How are you today?

Um. Gosh, I don't know.

Ah. A hopeful society is one more likely to be able to deal with the frustrations of those who are willing to commit suicide in order to represent a false ideology. One of the things I was concerned about prior to going into Iraq was that the oil fields would be destroyed. But they weren't, they're now up and running. And that money is -- it will benefit the Iraqi people. It's their oil, and they'll use it to reconstruct the country. And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world.

(pause) Look, I can understand why people in my administration anguished over the fact that people lost their life.

And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better.

He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. I mean --

Let's see here -- next.

Uh, okay. That was more of a rhetorical question, but, fine. Would you say, sir, that we are still "turning the corner" in Iraq?

Er. Look. He was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States. It will change the world.

That's why it's important for us to spread freedom throughout the Middle East. Ah. A free society is a society in which somebody is more likely to be able to make a living.

Hold on for a second. Those who yell will not be asked.

That wasn't me, Mr. President. That was Scott McClelland venting to his image in the mirror in the men's room. So, then, it's safe to say you agree with the vice president that the insurgency in Iraq is in its "last throes"?

Gosh, I don't know. I did contemplate a larger strategy as to how to deal with al Qaeda.

My response is... The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans.

Er.

A hopeful society is one more likely to be able to deal with the frustrations of those who are willing to commit suicide in order to represent a false ideology.

The lessons of 9/11 that I -- one lesson was, we must deal with gathering threats. And that's part of the reason I dealt with Iraq the way I did. Er. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom.

I think --

Let's see here, hold on. You're next.

Actually, um, I'm the only one here, Mr. President. Apparently, the stress of this interview is bringing on a double-vision flashback. Speaking of bringing things on, do you now, sir, regret telling the terrorists to "Bring it on"?

I mean -- Er.

I mean -- Well, the oil revenues are -- they're bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time. I mean, one year after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is pretty darn significant. It is a -- it is -- it's a chance to hug and weep and to console and to remind the loved ones that the sacrifice of their loved one was done in the name of security for America and freedom for the world.

My message to our troops is: We will stay the course and complete the job and you'll have what you need. I feel strongly that the course this administration has taken will make America more secure and the world more free, and, therefore, the world more peaceful. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.

Yes.

I'll take that as a No. Speaking of the troops, Mr. President, how should they feel about huge wartime tax cuts for your base of "the have-mores" while soldiers have less -- like insufficient armor and slashed benefits? Or should the troops simply adjust their attitudes and embrace the "Scarface" philosophy that "every day above ground is a good day?"

Ah.

And my message to the loved ones who are worried about their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, is: You're loved one is performing a noble service for the cause of freedom and peace.

My response is... Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. We ought to honor that, and we ought to welcome that.

Yes.

I see. Might I remind you, sir, that there were no stockpiles of weapons. No smoking mushroom clouds. No chemical labs found along the yellowcake road. Moreover, the Downing Street Documents clearly note that intelligence was deliberately "fixed" to align with administrative plans for a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq -- a practice you once described as "catapulting the propaganda." In fact, sir, isn't the war based on lies -- and aren't you a lying liar?

(long pause) Gosh, I don't know. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.

This is a guy who was a torturer, a killer, a maimer; there's mass graves.

That's the assessment that I made from the intelligence, the assessment that Congress made from the intelligence; that's the exact same assessment that the United Nations Security Council made with the intelligence.

And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. Gosh, I don't know.

Well, the oil revenues are -- they're bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time. I mean, one year after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is pretty darn significant. I think -- Oceans don't protect us. They don't protect us from killers.

(looks around room)

Yes.

Mr. President, excuse me, but your answers seem pat, rote -- almost mechanical. Are you just reading replies off recycled talking points -- or, instead, are you merely mouthing sweet nothings Karl Rove is whispering in your ear through a hidden microphone?

I mean --

My response is...

I feel strongly about what we're doing.

Ah.

The spirit is incredible.

Um. And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either.

I'll speak as plainly as I can. By winning this battle, it will make other victories more certain in the war against the terrorists. Look.

Let's see -- next question.

Focus, Mr. President. I'm over here. And stop pointing at Jeff Gannon's empty chair. I get the impression that you are just mumbling bland maxims and not considering, or even listening to my questions. Do you mind if I take a different approach?

Er... Er. And my job as the President is to lead this nation into making the world a better place.

He was a threat because he funded suiciders. Saddam Hussein was a threat. Um.

I know the Iraqi people don't believe that, that they're better off with Saddam Hussein -- would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power.

Let's see here.

Uh-huh. Whatever. You know, Mr. President, some political cartoonists depict you as resembling, well, a monkey. Will you categorically deny, here, before the world, once and for all, that you are, in fact, a chimpanzee?

I mean --

My response is... (long pause) He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. I mean -- It is a -- it is -- it's a chance to hug and weep and to console and to remind the loved ones that the sacrifice of their loved one was done in the name of security for America and freedom for the world. I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and, if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society. After 9/11, the world changed for me, and I think changed for the country. I think the hearings will show that the Patriot Act is an important change in the law that will allow the FBI and the CIA to better share information together.

I think --

[Staring at the ceiling and humming under breath] The acid rain...in Iraq...falls mainly...on the cell block...

(long pause)

(pause) (long pause)

It will change the world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. Er. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.

Er. It's a conviction that's deep in my soul. Gosh, I don't know.

[Jeking back awake after nodding off] Um, right. Yes. Okay. Uh. Just one more question, Mr. President. Something I've always wondered. How much nut could a wingnut nut if a wingnut could nut wing?

(looks around room) A free society is a society in which someone is more likely to be able to raise their child in a comfortable environment, and see to it that that child gets an education.

A quick follow-up, sir. Jethro Tull once noted that "the flowers bloom like madness in the spring." Do you think turds blossom in a similar fashion?

I think --

Oceans don't protect us. They don't protect us from killers.

I think --

Yes.

Thank you, Mr. President. This has been...something. Was it good for you?

Gosh, I don't know. Look..

(long pause)

Look. We were shooting Cruise missiles, and with little effect.

I know. You can't tell the difference between truth and fiction, can you? That's because Bush is a "cut-up" President. Take a list of hollow Republican platitudes and collage. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Professor X

Professor X

Professor X (2000)

You probably already know who Professor X is. If not, a quick Googling will direct you to several seriously obsessive fanboy sites. Here's a short bio rundown from Wikipedia:

Professor X (full name Charles Francis Xavier ) is a comic book character in the Marvel Comics universe. He is the founder, mentor and sometime leader of the team of mutant superheroes the X-Men. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he first appeared in X-Men #1 (1963 ).

Xavier is considered one of the most powerful mutants on Earth due to his psionic powers. Xavier can read, control, and influence human minds, and cast illusions. He can also detect the presence of other mutants. A natural genius, he is also a leading authority on genetics, mutation, and psionic powers, has considerable expertise in other life sciences, and is highly talented in creating equipment for utilizing and enhancing psionic powers.

Xavier has devoted his life to helping mutants learn to live with their powers, and to helping mutants and normal humans coexist peacefully and without fear of one another.

Professor Xavier is a mutant -- one of the world's most powerful telepaths. As a young man, he was rendered a paraplegic in an accident that was later revealed to have been caused by an alien called Lucifer. In addition to his mutant gifts, Xavier is a world-class scientific intellect. His undergraduate education was at Harvard University; he later did graduate work at Oxford University.

Xavier founded a school for gifted children which had a secret purpose of providing a safe haven for mutants to master their abilities in order to function in the outside world safely. In addition, he sought to foster good mutant-human relations by providing a positive example of mutants with his superhero team, the X-Men. Among the obstacles to that goal was his old friend, Magneto, a powerful mutant himself whose experience in the Holocaust left him psychologically scarred. Magneto believed that the only solution to mutant persecution was domination of humanity.

Throughout most of the time with the team, Xavier used his telepathic powers to keep in constant contact with his students and provided instructions and advice when needed. In addition, he used a special machine called Cerebro, which enhanced his ability to detect mutants, to allow the team to find new students in need of the school. At one point, he seemed to have died, but that turned out to be a former villain named Changeling, who had agreed to impersonate Xavier while he went into hiding to plan a defense against an impending alien invasion.

There's much more massive annotation, but you get the general idea.

But you are in that chair, Blanche...

Professor X Rallies the Troops

From CBS News -- "From Captain Picard to Professor X":

Patrick Stewart may have one of the most recognizable bald heads in the movie business today.

And now he gets to reprise one of the most famous bald-headed characters in comics.

The actor is best known for playing Captain Jean Luc Picard in one of the biggest franchises in television and movie history, Star Trek. Stewart now returns to the role of another character partly known for his chrome, Professor Charles Xavier, in the sequel to X-Men.

[...]

Stewart says that there is seriousness about retaining the quality of the original material, and he is sure audience will be crying for more from the potential movie franchise.

Doing this movie, he said has afforded him and friend Ian McKellen, who plays Erik Lehnsherr, Magneto in X2 and Gandolf in The Lord of the Rings to work now on plays.

“Ian is doing Strindberg, I'm doing Ibsen. They're not known as big box-office writers. But that we will pull into our audience to see these plays, an audience who might otherwise never have thought have going to see Ibsen. They go to see Professor Xavier, they go to see Captain Picard; they go to see Gandolf. It doesn't matter why they come. And both Ian and I are somewhat smug about that aspect of it.

Well, I am psychic, you know.

I'm Not Your Daddy's Telepathic S'more

And from Skinematic Spotlight:

Not since Blade Runner and Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy have so many skin and hair conditions been seen in a single summer celluloid sensation. The X-Men flick follows the exploits of good and evil mutants as they battle to save the world from anti-mutant prejudice. Many of the genetic mutations have resulted in dermatologic aberrations. On both sides of the moral watershed, there are enough findings in the "X-Men" to keep a skin clinic in HMO heaven.

[...]

So many films cast a hairless character as the heavy. Not so the X-Men. This groups' fearless leader Professor X shines, both with his strong ethics and by reflecting light from his (Mr.) Clean scalp. Instead, this film exploits the opposite stereotype: the hairier, the less predictable, more dangerous, more evil. Professor X's bald head and clean shaven look reflect his logic and control.

I enjoyed reading X-Men comics as a kid -- and liked both films, although I missed seeing characters like Beast and Angel. And, given my wasted youth, I spotted Professor X immediately when he suddenly materialized in today's image.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Enron Board Meets for the Last Time

The Enron Board Meets for the Last Time

The Enron Board Meets for the Last Time (2002)

Or...well...maybe not...

From the Associated Press (July 14, 2005):

The five-member Enron Corp. board of directors has voted for pay raises that boost salaries by as much as $1 million.

In a filing with the New York bankruptcy court that oversaw the company's reorganization last year, the board said it voted to increase its compensation retroactively to the beginning of June.

It raises the annual salary of Chairman John Ray III, a Wheaton, Ill., bankruptcy specialist, from $200,000 to $1.2 million.

Three other board members had their pay double to $300,000, while vice chairman Robert Deutschman, a Santa Monica, Calif., investment banker, now gets $420,000 annually, up from $150,000.

The board, none of them Enron employees, was chosen by creditors last year as part of the bankruptcy reorganization plan.

"There are reports that former Enron CEO Ken Lay is missing. And I'm thinking, has somebody checked Dick Cheney's pockets?" —David Letterman

"All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

[Cartoon from ZNet's Enron Page]

Now -- hmmmmm -- who does this story remind me of? Oh, yeah. Could it be...these guys?

From the Associated Press (June 28, 2005):

The House on Tuesday agreed to a $3,100 pay raise for Congress next year to $165,200 after defeating an effort to roll it back.

In a 263-152 vote, the House blocked a bid by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to force an up-or-down vote on the pay raise. Instead, lawmakers will automatically receive the raise officially a cost of living adjustment as provided for in a 1989 law that barred them from pocketing big speaking fees in exchange for an annual COLA.

Matheson was the only one of 434 House members to speak out against the 1.9 percent COLA, which will raise members' salaries in January.

[...]

The annual debate on the members' COLA resembles kabuki theater: Both Democratic and Republican leaders guarantee sizable majorities of their members to block the effort, and they make sure there is not a clear-cut vote on the measure. None of the party campaign committees uses the pay-raise issue in campaigns.

"Each side put up their required quota" of votes, said Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House.

Republican leaders who succumbed to pressure to block the COLA for three of the first four years their party controlled Congress now are strong advocates of it. The last time it was rejected was in 1998.

Fired that the house rejects him, Sdeath!
I'll print it, And shame the fools.
--Alexander Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

It appears some "lucky duckies" will never have to suffer financial and emotional blowback from the newly minted bankruptcy "reform" bill.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The House of Chooka Frood

The House of Chooka Frood

The House of Chooka Frood (2000)

From Amazon.com -- a review of Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man by hairybloke:

It is one of the great shames of Twentieth Century Science Fiction that Alfred Bester never wrote more and Asimov less. This startlingly innovative, iconoclastic and experimental work, Bester's first novel, was in its own way the Neuromancer of its day. On one level it is a murder mystery in which the reader witnesses the murder, and from then on follows the investigation to bring the perpetrator to justice, or in this case, Demolition. Demolition involves having one's personality erased and rebuilt without the fatal flaws. In a sense it is Death, since one retains no memory of one's former life.

Bester portrays a future in which "peepers" (i.e. telepaths) comprise about two percent of the population and Humanity has spread out to colonise the Solar System. He creates a rich, fabulous and detailed tapestry of society in the Twenty Fourth Century, far more credible and sophisticated than can be found in the work of some of his contemporaries.

The same can also be said for the characterisation since even the minor characters in this fast-paced psi-thriller seem fully-rounded individuals, if a little grotesque and eccentric. There is for instance, the madam and clairvoyant, Chooka Frood, who lives in an "eviscerated ceramics plant" in which there was an explosion long ago. Her living space is a riot of colours, glazed onto the structure of the building.

From Science Fiction Studies (November, 1994) -- "Hell's My Destination: Imprisonment in the Works of Alfred Bester" by Fiona Kelleghan:

Ben Reich [the protagonist of The Demolished Man] is associated with enclosed spaces. Not only does he feel that his rival D'Courtney has him with "his back to the wall," but in Reich's scenes we always find some reference to the surrounding walls. On the opening page, awakening from a nightmare of the Man With No Face, Reich looks wildly around the room at its "walls of green jade, the nightlight.". Again, Bester takes pains to describe the garish and decadent walls of the murder room in Maria Beaumont's house as "curling orchid petals," tainting the atmosphere of sickness and blood-lust with grotesque hints of sexuality. In Chooka Frood's frab house, looking down through the glass floor of "a small round room, walled and ceilinged in midnight velvet," Reich has an opportunity to kill Barbara and Powell with impunity, yet stands inexplicably paralyzed. This bizarrely black, cellular boudoir symbolizes his lack of freedom to execute his own will; his subconscious, rather miraculously recognizing Barbara as his young half-sister, restrains his hand.

From The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester:

Bastion West Side, famous last bulwark in the Siege of New York, was dedicated as a war memorial. Its ten torn acres were to be maintained in perpetuity as a stinging denunciation of the insanity that produced the final war. But the final war, as usual, proved to be the next-to-the-final, and Bastion West Side's shattered buildings and gutted alleys were patched into a crazy slum by squatters.

Number 99 was an eviscerated ceramics plant. During the war a succession of blazing explosions had burst among the stock of thousands of chemical glazes, fused them, and splashed them into a wild rainbow reproduction of a lunar crater. Great splotches of magneta, violet, bice green, burnt umber, and chrome yellow were burned into the stone walls. Long streams of orange, crimson, and imperial purple had erupted through windows and doors to streak the streets and surrounding ruins with slashing brush strokes. This became the Rainbow House of Chooka Frood.

The top floors had been patched and subdivided into a warren of cells so complicated and confused that only Chooka understood the pattern of the maze, and even Chooka herself was in doubt at times. A man could drift from cell to cell while the floors were being searched, and easily slip through the meshes of the finest dragnet. This unusual complexity netted Chooka large profits each year.

The lower floors were given over to Chooka's famous Frab joint, where, for a sufficient sum, a consummate expert graciously MC'd the well-known vices for the hungry and upon occasion invented new vices for the satiated. But the celler of Chooka Frood's house was the phenomenon that had inspired her most lucrative industry.

The war explosions that had turned the building into a rainbow crater had also fused the ceramic glazes, the metals, glasses, and plastics in the old plant; and a molten conglomerate had oozed down through the floors to settle on the floor of the lowest vault and harden into shimmering pavement, crystal in texture, phosphorescent in color, strangely vibrant and singing.

Tension, apprehension and dissension have begun.

Alfred Bester

On Alfred Bester, from Wikipedia:

The Demolished Man is a police procedural in which telepathy is relatively common; a major plot component is an obsessive tune that the protagonist has in his head to block his thoughts from casual scanning. This novel is dedicated to H. L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy, who both published it and made a number of suggestions during its writing. Originally Bester wanted the title to be Demolition!, but Gold talked him out of it.

Bester stopped writing for Astounding when its editor, John Campbell, became obsessed with L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics, the forerunner to Scientology. He found then in H. L. Gold an editor and a good friend.

[...]

The producer of the first Superman movie sent his son off to search for a writer. The name Alfred Bester came up. Bester wanted to focus the story on Clark Kent as the real hero, while Superman was only "his gun." Bester was devastated when the producer declined to hire an unknown writer and decided to go with Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather.

[...]

Bester has been memorialized by other science fiction writers in their own works. Notably, the character of Psi-Cop Alfred Bester is named after him (and the treatment of telepathy in Babylon 5 is similar to that in Bester's works), as is the time-travelling pest named Al Phee in Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series.

The Demolished Man made quite an impression on me when I first read it as a teenager. Bester, along with Philip K. Dick, profoundly influenced scifi and cyberpunk culture. Without Bester, works like Blade Runner and X-Men would not exist.

One late night, while working on this image, I realized I had, after many years, once again wandered into "the Rainbow House of Chooka Frood."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Stripe Choomba

Stripe Choomba

Stripe Choomba (2005)

Today's image? Another celluloid pet gone bad who turned family life into Chinese Take-out...

From the Cyberpunk Dictionary of Slang and Terms:

Choombata, Choomba -- n. (Bantu) Friend. Buddy.

From Amazon.com -- a summary of the film Gremlins (1984) by Marshall Fine:

Gremlins is a whee of a film (if you don't mind the occasional gross-out) from producer Steven Spielberg, writer Chris Columbus, and director Joe Dante. Zach Galligan is the young man whose inventor father (Hoyt Axton) gives him an odd Christmas present: a tiny, furry creature that comes with a set of rules: don't get him wet, don't feed him after midnight, and keep him away from direct sunlight. But Galligan breaks the first rule and the damp little critter pops out a dozen little offspring. Then the offspring break the second rule and, overnight, turn from cute furry guys to malevolent scaly guys with world domination on their mind. The only way to stop them: rule three. But it's an anxious (and extremely funny) battle to make it to daylight -- and the bad gremlins find ways to multiply over and over. Great special effects and a gruesome sense of humor make this a wild (if occasionally dark and scary) ride.

And, from the same page, some insights from a review posted by M. S. Roberts:

I was completely unaware of what the film was actually about, and wasn't expecting the 'evil' Gremlins to quite literally come out of Gizmo, and take over the world. I was expecting a nice little happy family movie, based around Gizmo. I'm not so sure I would have enjoyed the movie if I'd been a few years younger, as the evil Gremlins scared the bejeezus out of me! Especially Stripe -- scary! There's also some Looney Tunes references in the movie, although coming from my major Looney Tunes fan man, there's even more references in the second one, which I've yet to see. Of course, it was directed by Joe Dante, who did the fabulous Looney Tunes: Back In Action, amongst many others. There's also some other references in the movie: the theatre marquee is showing a double bill: A Boy's Life (the working title for Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), and Watch the Skies (the working title for Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind). At the movie's finale the Gremlin leader, Stripe, hides from Billy in a pile of stuffed animals. A plush E.T. doll is shown prominently in the shot. This is a gag reference to the scene in Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, in which E.T. also evades discovery by hiding among plush toys.

I didn't spot this until it was pointed out, but while the father is talking on the phone from the inventor's convention, the machine from The Time Machine can be seen in the background winding up to full power. The scene cuts to the house, and when we cut back again, the machine has gone, leaving only a wisp of colored smoke.

Also, there are quite a few cameos in Gremlins, so next time you watch this, watch out for them! Steven Spielberg is the man in the electric wheelchair with a TV monitor. Chuck Jones is the man who looks at Billy's cartoon in the bar. There is a Warner Brothers cartoon playing on the TV. Jerry Goldsmith is at the inventors' conference, immediately behind actor Hoyt Axton in the phone booth. He's wearing a western hat with a mount for the phone. Rumoured to appear as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it-cameo too is George Lucas at the inventor's convention, riding a bicycle.

Gizmo Caca...

Stripe will frob you with a furball. E. T. is for gonks.

From TheSpinning Image:

Gremlins turned out to be a surprise hit in 1984, and is still recalled fondly by those who saw it at the time it was released. It was written by Chris Columbus, whose streak of nastiness and crass humour found its ideal outlet in this tale of, not the traditional one big monster, but lots of little horrors. Director Joe Dante, as usual, peppers the film with references to the movies, comics and pop culture of his youth, and the creatures featured here fit alongside these allusions perfectly.

As the chaos hits small town America, it is clear that what makes the Gremlins so appalling is actually their complete lack of respect for anything decent, summed up by their attitude to the festive season: Santa is ambushed, carols are ruined, Christmas trees become traps -- not even Johnny Mathis is sacred. Add this to their bad habits -- heavy drinking, heavy smoking, gambling, murdering innocent people -- and it's mainly their sick sense of humour that makes them oddly appealing. Their leader [Stripe] even blows his nose on the curtains.

The movie gremlins I can take -- and even the gremlin that tormented nervous flyer William Shatner in a memorable Twilight Zone episode. But the gremlins I cannot cope with are these --

Oil.  AH.  Yum.  Yum...

Not one of those "Goddamn foreign cars..."

--especially when it desperately needs an oil change -- and I'm trailing it on the Interstate in a convertible...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hedwig Choomba

Hedwig Choomba

Hedwig Choomba (2005)

Today's image celebrates (mutates?) the arrival of the new Harry Potter novel that comes out of bookstore security bunkers today.

From the Information Database of slang terms at the Cyberpunk Project:

Choomba (Choombatta): Neo-Afro-American slang for a friend or a family member.
Harry's owl Hedwig is a Snowy Owl. She's a female but, in the movie, the actors playing her are males. (One of the owls playing Hedwig was also the very first cast member to be chosen!!) You can tell that the owl playing Hedwig in the photo is really a male because his plumage is so white -- female Snowy Owls have dark markings. Females are also bigger and heavier, and so would be a little harder for human actors to handle. Healthy males average about 4 pounds, females almost 4 1/2 pounds. They have powerful talons.

[...]

Snowy Owls are predators, and eat only animals, never plants. Their main prey species is the lemming, a fierce little rodent smaller than a chipmunk. Lemmings have enormous population fluctuations from one year to the next. When lemmings are abundant, Snowy Owls may eat hardly anything else. They usually swallow each lemming whole, head first, but if they're not too hungry, they sometimes bite off just the head, or even eat parts in small bits. But when lemming numbers are down, Snowy Owls eat a lot of other things. Depending on where they live, they may eat a lot of snowshoe hares, grebes and ducks (especially Horned Grebes), ptarmigans, ground squirrels, rats, partridge, and even fish. When a Snowy Owl's face gets gooped up with blood and guts, it sometimes cleans up by wiping its face in the snow.

Wooo. Based on those predatory traits, it sounds like Hedwig's ready to close a contract with her cobbers. Think you'd like Hedwig for a choomba? National Geographic has its doubts:

British animal protection groups fear that Harry Potter's lovable messenger/pet will steal the show and lead to a surge of interest in keeping owls as pets.

[...]

They [animal advocates in Great Britain] fear that when people realize the difficulty of keeping an owl as a pet, the raptors -- known to be temperamental -- will be abandoned to a barn or released into the outdoors where they most likely will starve to death.

[...]

The concern has been an issue mainly in the United Kingdom, where it is legal to buy and keep owls. In the United States, keeping owls as pets is illegal under most circumstances due to their protection under various federal, state, and local laws, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

[...]

"The snowy owl is featured in this particular movie [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone]. We understand that Harry Potter keeps it in a parrot cage, which is against everything we know," said Jenny Thurston, a trustee at the World Owl Trust at Muncaster Castle near the village of Ravenglass, England. "That is horrendous. It will foul up people's imagination."

"To keep [a snowy owl] correctly, you need the biggest aviary you could ever build," said Thurston. "It is a big heavy bird, and in the wild it would fly for miles. We are talking an aviary of a minimum 20 to 30 feet (six to nine meters) long and as deep as you could make it and at least ten feet (three meters) high."

[...]

The concern of animal rights groups is that people will go out and buy a snowy owl, keep it in the wrong conditions and feed it the wrong food and it will die. "Where do you buy lemmings?" asks Thurston. "You can't."

If you can't afford the lemmings bills, could you pal around with an artificial Hedwig? Think of him like the plastic parrot on a bad Long John Silver impersonator:

I don't do impressions, weefle...

I'm as cuddly as a lunch tray.

[Photograph from buycostumes.com]

Other "Hedwigs" have come and gone -- eclipsed by the pop culture popularity of a pet owl. Remember this, um, person?

I'll give ya the bird...or a headless lemming...

Hedwig from Hedwig and the Angry Itch

Or do you recall this beatified person?

St. Francis has that bird gig all hooked up.

Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland

And if your pet owl mistakes your kids for a lemming snack, I suppose it's some comfort to know that Saint Hedwig is the patron saint of the death of children.

Tomorrow, another movie pet, more Sierra Hotel with a chaol bent, turns up to config and cause static.

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