Week Two April 02
||Today: ouch. Fish-in-law, God love em. Remembering Mehdi; new Flotsam and Matchbook, of course
A quiet night at Jasperwood, except for the part where the dog decided that my leg was as finely-tuned a shank as hed seen of late, and gave it the old hey-ho hump - his dewclaw sank into my shin, and I jerked my leg away instinctively, catching his dewclaw in the fabric of my sweatpants, which must have felt having like your fingernail yanked up and peeled off: yipe. So hes yipping and Im cussing and Gnat is on the bed, clapping and laughing. A floor show! Hooray!
Earlier tonight she wanted to watch an Olie, so I summoned up an episode from the TiVo library. It concerned a day in which the entire family was bored, until the robot patriarch decided it would be fun to imitate the family dog. Soon everyone was doing it - the robot kids, the robot parents, the robot uncle. Gnat thought this was hilarious. (According to the latest issue of Parenting, TV is just wallpaper until kids are past two - well, Gnats 20 mos. old, and she knew exactly what was going on.) So I got down on my hands and knees and barked. And she got down on her hands and knees and chased me, saying Buh buh! Buh! Buh!
The only one not invited was Jasper, alas, who would have taken this very seriously, and probably attempted to mate with my leg again. Mans Best Friend, perhaps, but thank the stars hes the only friend who cannot resist the desire to pitch spasmodic woo at my femur.
A weekend of relatives - sister-in-law, Mother-in-law, other sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece-in-law, one or the other, sometimes all, occasionally two or three. The sort of weekend where you shave before you go downstairs. I have always been a bad man in the morning - not grumpy, really, just ursine. Leave me alone; let me hunch over a cup of coffee, read the paper and get the humours balanced - caffeine, hope, bile, and grim amusement. Theres really nothing I need to say in the morning, and so it only seems fair that there is nothing I need to hear. This passes quickly, but it makes for a initial period of strenuous unsociability I can either cover with frighteningly insincere bonhomie or display in all its Buster-Keaton-faced honesty. I should really just heap a pile of instant Folgers in the bathroom next to the radio, and chew the crystals while listening to the news. Then Id be ready for my close-up.
How did Ben Franklin put it? Guests, like fish, are often found in the oven with a nice Dijon-accented breading after three days. Or something like that.
The news was peculiar this weekend, what with the Blair trip and the Powell comments. The news crawl said Powell insists an Iraqi invasion plan is not on the Presidents desk, as if no one in the Pentagon had really thought about this matter yet. Oh, well, eventually well get around to it, but right now were waiting for the maps to come back from Kinkos. This entire war-to-be feels like an engagement - theres a ring, but no date. We just have to figure out the logistics - catering, the band, renting the hall, firming up the opposition to take control after the Tikrit clan has been turned into red mud, whether itll be an open bar or a cash bar. I remember during Gulf War I, when a psychologist studied video of Saddam, and noticed that he was blinking about 900 times a minute. This supposedly indicated stress. That, plus the constant stain on his trouser front.
I wonder how many times hes blinking these days.
I know how Id feel if I knew that six or four or seven or three months from today, the police planned to surround this house, flush me out, seize my title and shoot me on the front lawn.
Whats peculiar is that everyone knows this is coming, and no one seems to be stating the obvious: Saddam will throw Scuds at Israel. And if the Palestinian situation is still in flux - and it will be; if theres anyone whos fluxed, seriously fluxed, mother of all motherflux flluxed, its the Palestinians - then this attack will inevitably be seen in the context of Palestinian frustration. It will be framed as some sort of meta-tit for Sharons micro-tat. Let me rephrase that. It will be seen as part of a larger Arab response to a legitimate grievance, and while of course no Arab spokesman will approve of exploding VX gas canisters in Israeli residential neighborhoods, you have to understand the humiliation the Palestinians felt when their menfolk were gwabbed by the centuwions and thwon to the gwond, woughly. (Note to the justifiably confused: go to Bwockbuster went "The Wife of Bwian," by Monty Python.) The EU and the UN will have emergency meetings for the sole purpose of cautioning Israel to exercise restraint. This will be the case even if Powell meets with Arafat. This will be the case even if the US pledges to help the Palestinians develop some sort of workable civic infrastructure. This will be the case if a murder-bomber whose family will be paid off by Saddam himself kills 20 in a seaside cafe the previous day.
Saw an interview with a Kuwaiti spokesman today; he was asked, point blank, if his country would support a strike against the man whose troops marched into his country, crapped on the carpet, stole all the TVs and set the house on fire. He responded by talking about the pain and suffering and injustices done to the Palestinians, and how this must be resolved at once. End of statement. Iraq-related content in answer: Zero percent. Now, reasonable people can disagree on the Palestinian issue - but hearing this come from a man whose country had A) seen Arafat embrace Saddams invasion, and B) kicked out most of its Palestinian worker population when they got their palaces back - well, you can only laugh.
Its like the entire Middle East is one big Tammanny Hall, the individual nations mere boroughs dispensing patronage, favors, lies and haughty denials. When the corruption of a system outpaces the corruption of the people, however, you have a problem - which is why I believe its possible for some of these governments to fold like a Yugo in a parking garage collapse. In my strange hopeful moments I place great stock in Iran - which brings me to Mehdi.
He was a friend of mine at the old Valli in Dinkytown; we were both waiters for many years. Iranian students did not have the best rep in those days - that unpleasantness at the embassy, and all that. But we all loved Mehdi. He was brooding over a Marlboro one day, all cheer and grins the next, a faithful friend, a poolshark non pariel, a student of engineering in the day and the finer arts of pinball at night. He dated a Big American Blonde, who was mad about him. Then one day he announced he was going home, because the Shah was gone and he wanted to be part of this new society.
We never heard from him again.
Id like to think - God, I hope - that hes alive, living in Tehran with teenaged children, and that the kids sometimes ask him about America. And he would tell them of the long cars and the big shiny buildings and rock & roll radio and all the people of all faiths & colors who had been his friends, and how the fact that he had been Persian and a Muslim had been the absolute least important factor in our friendships - never came up, for that matter. It got in the way of a good game of pool.
I dont wonder if he spoke well of us; I know it. Just as we speak well of him to this day. How many Mehdis went home? How many children grew up rolling their eyes at Dads adventures in Great Satan land, but now regard him as the luckiest man they know?
Well find out. I dont say that in some shoulder-shrugging European que-sera-sara fashion. I mean it. Well find out, and soon.
April 9 2002
Today: proof of spring; the stupidest robot in the world; Al-Aqsas next logical step
At night, after the planes have stopped coming, you can hear the tulips growing. Its a faint sound, tiny and quiet, like a mouse flossing, but its there. Spring is here. The sun had some heft today - its not just a cold coin rolling overhead anymore. The snow is gone, and this year it didnt leave behind great drifts of grit on the boulevards. Even the crows are gone. People are looking up and smiling again, and something about that tells crows to move along. Caw this, you black-hearted bastards.
Microsoft really can help you solve your problems, if you just let them. Constant Readers, to borrow an old Dorothy Hic! Parker term, will recall that Ive been having email problems. It comes in but I cannot send. I can take it, but I cant dish it out. This has happened before, and its always because MSN, my ISP, occasionally blocks people like me who have email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org. If I had an email like email@example.com Id be fine. But firstname.lastname@example.org, which doubtlessly points to the cheap garish multi-level marketing blinking-banner-ad abomination that is my site, is banned.
If theyd just say so, Id be happy, but no. Its never a problem on their end. No, I must have called up my account preferences and entered random numbers by smashing my face repeatedly on the keyboard, and repeated the procedure on three computers. Thats why things suddenly changed at 5:28 Wednesday afternoon.
Today I was having an online help session with one of the robots that MSN uses for tech support; as usual, I was getting nowhere, because the robot refused to listen to my problem. Tell it I use a Mac, and it sends me a file that begins Click on the Start Button on your task bar. Tell it that I cant send mail because theyve blocked me, again, and it pauses five minutes, digests this information, and asks does your mail stay in your outbox after youve tried to send it. No, it leaps off the screen and scampers under the sofa. OF COURSE it stays in my box. Thats what happens when you cant send mail. Result: robot tells me that my outbox.dbx file is corrupted. I am goin to send you a file on how to fix this is this OK? No, it is not, since I am not running Windows, and such a file does not exist on my computer, and even if it did, it is highly unlikely that two computers would simultaneously have a failure of this file, and even if that DID happen it would not explain why the native Mac mail program doesnt work.
Naturally, I was sent to a page titled Changing your outbox.dbx file.
Of course, that leaves 300+ unread on the main machine, and it does make my life easier, but I like to read my mail, even though it gnaws at me to see the high number of unread missives. So. I called MSN tech support (want a treasure hunt? Go to msn.com and try to find the phone numbers. Youll have a better chance of finding a NINA in a Hirschfield drawing of Cousin It.) (From ten feet away.) I explained my situation. Carefully. Bottom line: there was absolutely no way I could be using MSN to send mail from my own server. But I have been doing it for two years, I said. Except for those times when you folks blocked me, and I had to change my settings.
Sorry: such a thing was not possible. There was no way I could have been sending mail through them. By now Im at the other computer, noting that I have sent 2000 letters in the last few months alone.
I dont know how, said tech support.
Ill tell you how, you sightless cog! Because I could! Until you blocked me simply because you suspected me of spamming! Server profiling! Server profiling!
Ill show them. Ill break my contract, pay the fine, and reduce their subscriber base by a statistically insignificant number. Anyway: sorry for my email silence, friends. And shoutouts to all my homies whove been throwin down mad linx to my page! Yo, Scalzi-J, Vod-K, Da Prof! Yall been there for me in tha Day, nomesane? Peace out.
(hideous grinding of gears as mood and subject change without warning, sending Bleat lurching in reverse)
Had a horrible thought today: how long until Al-Aqsa sends pregnant women to commit suicide bombings? Theres certainly nothing in their moral construct that would prohibit it. Theyre canny enough to know that many Westerners would find this Horribly Symbolic - not the act itself, of course; weve digested (and excreted) the concept of female suicide bombers and the attendant carnage. No, many would insist that we regard anew how horrible the situation must be, that women would kill their unborn babies in protest. The inhumanity of the act - the unspeakable atrocity of the act - would be taken up by some as proof of a greater atrocity visited on the Palestinian people. The symbolic denial of a collective Palestian future by the occupation would be equated with the actual denial of the future of an individual Palestinian child. Mind you, no one would support it . . . but.
Always a but.
The men who send these children out to kill know their enemy, which is to say us. They know well that some in the West wouldnt even consider a Manichean stance unless the name was changed to Personchean - and even then, its too simplistic. Some in the West insist on a complex approach to moral inquiry, as if they want an innoculation against uncomfortable truths. Stupid people are full of cerrtainty - why, Yeats said as much. Smart people, wise people, nuanced people are more comfortable analyzing evil than confronting it - as if understanding the history of handgun development will keep the one pointed at your head from firing.
Hence we would actually debate whether a pregnant suicide bomber in her first trimester was exercising her right to choose for herself, while simultaneously committing an act of impositional choice in the Stockhausian sense, one that had extenuating circumstances that required a historical and cultural perspective . . .
Theres a certain point where a modern moral discussion becomes an Escher drawing of vertiginous staircases, with down and up conjoined until constant forward motion is the only thing that keeps you from madness.
But here in the middle of Minneapolis, on a sane spring night in the middle of North America, I am quite able to stop and get my bearings. And I know this: If someone convinced my daughter to blow herself up in a restaurant, and one of Saddams men came around later with a check to buy us off, I would return it. And by return I mean I would kick his body over until his face is in the dirt and shove the check in the hole in the back of his head.
Are we clear?
Sometimes I wonder if the rustling I hear in the garden isnt the sound of beetles, carrying away the dead. Making space for new life to grow
April 10 2002
This is the first year in a dozen Ive not attended the Midwest Petroleum Jobbers Convention. And why should I go? Im not a Jobber, although the term has a frank & hearty sound, almost British; es a jobber, that one is. The convention is always held in the same location, the Bloomington Radisson, a place fraught with personal history - it was right across the highway where our family stayed in 64, at a classic Howard Johnsons motel. We went to Southdale, the Gem of the Prairie, and I got a stuffed dog that played Some Enchanted Evening when you wound the key. Its in a drawer in my room in Fargo. The HoJo was knocked down two years ago. My mother, of course, no longer accompanies my dad to the convention. For the last few years hes taken my brother-in-law. This year, however, he came down alone.
Stopped by this afternoon to say hello, have a cup of coffee. In a way I wish he hadnt; I wish Id gone out to the hotel, just to mark the arrival of Spring. Its the first clear sign Spring is here, even though the day is often cool and dank. The parking lot of the hotel is full of tanker trucks, always red, always clean, always gleaming, as though the delivery of petroleum products was work that demanded antiseptic conditions, starched shirts and pants with a knife-edge crease. Inside the hotel is an atrium with a swimming pool that exhales a chlorine fog; it's ringed by rooms that turn into courtesy suites at convention time. Sounds like some euphemism for small brothels, but theyre just places where the Jobbers of the Midwest can meet a friend or a industry rep and have a beer. It always smells like cigarettes. The old guard still smokes - a curious habit for men who spend their time around explosive fumes and flammable liquids, but an instructive detail. Percentage of gas station pumps with a posted sign that says NO SMOKING: 100. Number of smoking-related explosions any of these men can recall in a lifetime of pumping gas and hauling oil: Zero.
Theres a banquet at night for each brand - Texaco, Conoco, Mobil. The brands come and go, and mostly these days they go; venerable brands are consolidating, and that means some names go away and take their history with them. Texaco, for example, has merged with Shell, and its passing will be noted only by business mags and a few old crusty columnists who've set their Andy Rooney Blatherizer on 11. No one really cares if Texaco stays or goes. Gas is gas.
When I was a kid Texaco was an institution along the lines of Church and State; it had always been and thus would ever be, a red star on a green field, an empire of clean white stations. My father was the man who wore the star, as the commercials said, and the commercials were right; you could trust him. Every year we got big Rand MacNally US Atlases, and they not only carried the Texaco brand, they had pages and pages of promotional tie-ins with Rand MacNally and Stuckeys, a fried-meat and pecan concern popular in the south and lower Midwest. Looking over that book on a spring afternoon, dreaming of road trips to come, it seemed as if Texaco was some great benevolent civic instrument of the public good, with a million-man army in crisp Unitog uniforms. You could almost imagine a motorcycle patrolman tearing up your ticket and wishing you godspeed. Course I let him go. Hes a Texaco man, after all.
When I was 11 or 12 Gulf Oil had a promotion: round orange styrofoam car-antennae finials, free with a fill-up. (You could supposedly locate your car in the parking lot much easier this way, even though half the other cars had them as well.) I used to fume when I saw those - Gulf! Who wanted a stupid Gulf ball, anyway? A star was much cooler. But there were no stars. In fact, Texaco seemed to have no public profile at all. The atlases stopped carrying the brand; the Stuckey deal lapsed; there were no ads on TV anymore, no slogans. The stations by now had dropped their clean white look for a gawdawful 60s faux-stone mansard roof style, and eliminated the classic logo for one of those roundy fat 70s logos much prized as retro today. (God help us all.) Then one day I was going through the mail, and discovered a letter from Gulf, with its brazen orange ball logo. It was a letter to a shareholder. My dad had shares in Gulf.
It was like learning your Dad worked for the KGB.
Eventually Texaco left town altogether, and Conoco came in. Conoco felt like the guy your mom marries after your parents split up while you were in college. He really wants to be your friend, but you're not that interested in a relationship. Oh, Conoco was nice enough, a little too eager to please, perhaps. But it didnt mean anything. Even the name seemed like a parody of compacted abbreviations - Texaco was, of course, the Texas Oil Company, but CoNoCo meant what, exactly? the Company No Company? The Colorado-Nome Company? No one knew, or was interested in finding out. Id have preferred Mobil, which always seemed to be the most graceful and stylish oil company, thanks to that marvelous Pegasus logo. Exxon - no thanks; that logo, with its big double Xs, looked like a fistful of hypodermic needles, and Id never forgiven them for swallowing Esso (A Tiger in the Tank ad campaign had somehow melded in my young mild with Tony the Tiger; thus Exxon seemed like the company that stole Frosted Flakes and acting as if nothing had happened.) Standard Oil was too big and too boring; with its red-white-and-blue logo it was the Superman of gas stations, and I was a Spiderman-kind of kid. Spur - which still has a branch a mile from my house, incredibly - was too weird, like some Pecos ranch hand who wandered north and got lost. Cities Services was long gone by then, even though their impossibly spindly skyscraper in lower Manhattan still stands. Sinclair would have been cool, because they had a dinosaur in the logo. (Remember that stupid Simpsonseque show about a family of dinosaurs named the Sinclairs? Thats where that came from.) They were all worthy suitors, I suppose, and Conoco was nice enough. But it wasnt Texaco.
Eventually Texaco came back to North Dakota, and Dad signed up to distribute them again. Then came the merger with Shell, and out they go again. This time everyones eyes are dry. By now they know: a warm handshake and a 30-year-affiliate plaque at the Jobbers convention doesnt mean a goddamn thing.
At the banquets, incidentally, they gave nice framed pictures of old gas stations, Thomas Kinkead-type paintings of bygone days. You can buy scale models of old tankers in the convention hall, too. You can collect the past, and its a safe & satisfying thing to do, because the past isnt going anywhere.
Its all grimly amusing to me now. Raised in the creed of brand loyalty, I have none. Even though I know gasoline has proprietary blends, even though I know that Texaco gas is actually different from Spur gas in some minute yet definable way, I dont care. It make car go, car not go when no gas have. Simple as that.
My dad, however, will stop once on the way back to Fargo, just to top off the tank. You dont have to ask which station hell choose.
April 11 2002
Apologies to those whose interest in this warblog stuff is narrower than a beetles urethra, and who couldnt care less about who said what about whom. This is going to be long, long, long. Youve been warned. Beyond here is the land of cranky trees who throw apples.
PART 1: WARMONGERING DOLLAR-LOVERS
We take time out from our usual Bleat to address another issue roiling the blogosphere: WAR PROFITEERS! Theres been some discussion of a post from a longtime blogger Neale, who made the rather startling charge of war-profiteering on his site. (Which, incidentally, predates warblogging by a gazillion bytes, and has a fine tradition of good links & inventive original content.) This is, as we say in the print biz, the nut graf:
Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds and others have turned commenting on 9/11, and more recently the Arab/Israeli conflict into a cottage industry. If they were presenting many and varied views about the conflict, this wouldn't be so bad. However, they are merely regurgitating the same endless biased rhetoric and views over and over again. After all, they are journalists who understand their audience and are, sensibly, playing to it. You want pro-US views? You got 'em! You want me to stand up bravely and condemn terrorism? Watch me! The commentary is no better than the boring, "mainstream media" commentary that you can get by turning on CNN or MSNBC. This is because they express the same views you will find from the average man on the street, as by agreeing with this, you can garner the largest audience, and therefore turn the largest profit.
The crux of this bias is that Reynolds and Sullivan (who, I admit, I'm unfairly using to represent the warbloggers as a whole) do not discuss the hard issues of 9/11 and the Israeli/Arab conflict. Certain moral decisions and attitudes are foregone conclusions. They do not talk about whether the US should be involved in the Middle East, or whether they should of invaded Afghanistan, or why the attacks took place, but how the US should be involved and when. This is a critical distinction - they are not looking at the WHYs, but at the HOWs, WHATs and WHENs. This is not critical analysis, but mere rhetoric supportive of already biased views.
At the risk of sounding like an uncritical regurgitation consumer, beak outstretched as a I await Mama Warblog to fly back to the nest and puke out some links: there is a war on. I am interested in news and opinion concerning this war. I am not interested in a blog that spends every day wondering if the US should have invaded Afghanistan - to paraphrase the famous bank robbers, thats where the terrorists were. I want news, and lots of it. The assumption is telling: because warbloggers discuss current events without banging their head on the floor every ten lines shouting SINNERS ARE WE, WICKED AND MOST FOUL some warblog critics assume that weve not given a moments thought to the context of this struggle.
On the contrary.
But am I a profiteer? My hits are up; so are my contributions. I think in order to be a profiteer the site would have to actually make a profit, but I understand the gist of the accusation. And can just as easily dismiss it. Warblogs provide information and commentary. So does my daily newspaper. If Blogs are profiteers, then so is the Washington Post.
I have the suspicion, however, that the charge would not be made if the content was different.
Anyway: via Hawspipe, I came across another Aussie site that took up Neales cudgel. It states the case with a bit more gusto, and Id like to address its points with the shrill, thin-skinned, cretinous style for which the warbloggers have become famous.
Where the fuck did all these Humourless American Warbloggers come from? What a silly question, they come from Mars, or some doppelganger world somewhat reminiscient of the Christian music industry. (Strange, too, that they all seem to have their sites on Blogspot.) Basically, what we have here is a bunch of insular minded cretins who hate it when anyone says anything bad about the US -
Yes, when British newspapers scream TORTURE CAMP on a story about Camp X-Ray, we should pull our tongues and serve them to the dog.
and seemingly quite sanguine about how the Bush administration is slowly transforming that bastion of the free world into a police state (just the way bin Laden wanted it),
Mind you, warbloggers are the cretins.
When Bush signs the order rounding up the Jews and Christians, banning alcohol and tobacco, music, kites, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, as well as sports, illustrations and swimsuits; when he blows up Mount Rushmore because its graven images offend the mullahs; when hebeats Condi Rice to death on the White House lawn for leaving the house without a sack over her head, and deploys an army to Europe to reclaim Spain for Islam, then hell be close to the way bin Laden wanted it. Not quite there. But close.
But there I go, one more insular cretin all bent out of shape because someone said something bad about the USA. My McAuschwitz, right or wrong.
accept kooky conspiracy theories as fact because it fits their agenda,
Hes got our number there. I need only point you to the complete and utter conviction among the blogerati that no plane crashed into the Pentagon, that Jews stayed away from the WTC on 9/11, that Moslems were not involved in the WTC attack but that the planes were diverted by the Mossad, and that the Tora Bora gravemarker that reads Osama Aron Bin Laden proves that he did not die but is sitting in a Comet drive-in in Mississippi having a chocolate shake with Elvis. We believe it all, and anyone who suggests differently we mass on our side of the hill, hop up and down and wave bleached femurs.
and are particularly shonky about their factchecking,
Since Im not familiar with this word, I can only assume it means using the internet to debunk Michael Moores lies and inflated Afghan casualty figures.
In the past we wouldn't have heard a peep out of these buffoons, but one nice thing about the internet, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde's quote about journalists, is that by giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. Grow a brain.
Jawohl. Let us wander back into this fellowss archives to see what moved his spirit in, oh, September 01 - and trust me, there's a reason for this.
He sketches a few lines of heartfelt sympathy for the US, but like many who were moved on that horrible day, they preferred that the US just go to its room and think about what it had done instead of retaliate. By the end of the month he had worked up this exquisitely argued passage:
Are you ready for a WAAARRRRR? The great adventure, the great game, transformer of boys into misshapen, traumatized, resentful, bitter, shadows of men. Yes! Send all those skanky skateboarders and script kiddies and li'l varmints off to foreign climes to contract malaria and dengue fever and dysentery, whilst getting pinged off by people who don't give a shit whether they live or die! There's nothing more dangerous than a bunch of maniacs who have nothing to lose, which will add to the challenge and the fun and the televisual appeal of this WAAARRRRR.
. . . C'mon kiddies, support this WAAARRRRR, it'll be really great for national pride, and, besides, military hardware manufacturers need the business. And CNN and NBC and Reuters and the BBC promise not to show any gory bits, by jeez we don't want to see anything like Vietnam again, people getting shot in the head and people with skin peeling off them and Marlon Brando hiding in the shadows, dammit. If that's what happening, don't let us know, it might make us think negatively about the WAAARRRRR. And we don't want that.
Friends dont let friends drink and post.
But theres more!
It seems that certain people are blaming everybody who doesn't believe in Ghodd for this wretched thing, when you and I know that racist dickhead Jerry Falwell (not to mention certain local letterwriters here in Albury, which have said much the same thing) is cut from the same cloth as Osama Bin Liner. I'm half inclined to bop the next person who attempts to convert me back to Christianity in the nose and tell him to violate himself with a pitchfork. It's these Xtian fundamentalist warhawks who have brought this upon the US as much as anyone, and they haven't learnt a single thing from Jesus Christ's teachings. Damned hypocritical godbotherers.
He seems to suggest that Christians shared responsibility for 9/11 because they too believed in God, which is a little like saying male models share responsibility because the hijackers also shaved their body hair.
And who can set us straight on all this mess?
I haven't been linking out much about this thing, so I'll do so now, on a few of the things I've been reading over the past few days. Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, John Perry Barlow, Robert Fisk, Phil Agre. (By the way, I would hardly call these correspondents Radical Left. Hang around the indymedia sites and read some of the batshit Marxist sermonising being spouted by self-righteous spartacists there and you'll get Radical Left. Investigate what manufactured consent means, consider what the US has done to drive these people to commit these horrible attacks, and think for yourself, schmuck! If we want our world to be both safe and free again, this is where we must start.)
Yes, Chomsky couldnt possibly be called the Radical Left, because there are Spartacists who are more extreme. And Castro cant be a Communist when you consider how strict the Shining Path boys are. (Im always amused that the people who insist that our Consent is Manufactured all quote the same guy, and all use his phrase Manufactured Consent. But Manufactured Dissent is okay, because, well, its dissent. )
Here we have the nub of the gist of his ilk: Americans must consider what drove these people to kill us. These people, of course, consisted of a multi-millionaire religious fanatic and 19 middle-class nutjobs who couldnt sleep at night because somewhere in Saudi Arabia a female soldier was sleeping wearing only her underwear. And let us all think of that brothers, think long and hard and hard and longly hard, longingly! An infidel who does the Jews bidding slumbers in the land of Mecca, and she is naked beneath her clothes - okay, stop thinking about it. We must strike at the heart of the Infidel, topple their towers, crush their women, bury the men who try to save them, and for our one moment of pain we will be rewarded with 72 unpunctured hymens. Group hug.
Talking about the root causes of 9/11 is like siting in a Paris cafe in the spring of 41 discussing the Versailles Treaty. Nations are always in a state of competition; cultures rub up against one another; religions fracture. Shiites happen. Its interesting, however, when people insist that the United States bears the blame for the attacks. This absolves the cultures and political structures of nations which have no free press, no elections, no religious freedom, no ethnic diversity, a pathological hatred of the Jews, and no Simpsons reruns at suppertime. But its our fault! We forced the Arab News cartoonist to draw Sharon beating children with a Swastika. He had no choice. Vietnam, he muttered under his breath as he dipped his pen in the inkwell. Guatemala.
If al-Qaeda had attacked European capitals, and the EU had marshaled its military forces to respond <grim smile> </grim smile> most of the critics would be far more supportive, because it was Europe on the move, not yee-ha American cowboys from the Bar-Bubba Ranch. Few would demand that Europe examine its past to see why the Arabs hated them. So some Europeans shot the face off the Sphinx for grins? So they feasted on the remains of the Ottoman empire? So they carted away the spoils of the tombs of the Pharaohs, invaded Ethiopia, made claim to Algeria? They have an excellent track record when it comes to the PLO. You hate the Jews? Hey, we hate the Jews! Come here, you big lug. All is forgiven.
When it comes to the troubles of the Middle East, you have four factors: the Arabs, the Jews, the Europeans, the Americans. Which one killed the most Arabs? Which one occupied the most land? Which one feasted on the bones of the Ottoman empire? Which one expelled its Jews?
Which one was attacked on 9/11?
Conclusion: if warbloggers spent more time ignoring the news of the day and inhaling Chomskyite fantasies, they could post PayPal gifs.
Part II: Warblogging in Practice
So. Were just a bunch of frothing warmongers who log on daily and bay for blood, eh? Come with me as I randomly visit the billions of blogs Ive bookmarked for a regular look.
From PatioPundit, a link to a site that adds a bit of context to some of the pictures you might have seen in the papers lately. Believe or disbelieve - its an unabashedly pro-Israel site, which automatically discredits it in the eyes of some , but tell me how youre better off for not seeing the site. You either believe the sites interpretation of the photos, OR you have more evidence that the pro-Israeli sites are twisting the truth like a bar towel. (I lean towards the former, frankly. The first series of photos didnt do much for me, but the one of the kid was . . . interesting.)
Daimnation has a link to a Pro-Palestinian page). Its a nifty bit of fiction about the Evil Jews (whose flag bore a swastika-like emblem) and the gentle, peace-loving people whose land they stole. Plot: gentle, peace-loving non-Jew painter takes painting lessons from Gnarled Brown-toothed Jew, who locks the gentle, peace-loving painter in his cellar and starves him to death.
Well, that was . . . special. Perhaps I am misjudging the site, though - perhaps its like reading Safire and concluding that the New York Times is a right-wing paper. So lets go up to the sites main page . . . ah. Occupied Palestine and the Politics of Terrorism: Post-Modern Colonialism, Suicidal Rage and the Propaganda System. The piece, which takes only three paragraphs to assert that Jews control the US media, begins with Lie No. 1: Israel is under terror.
TalG will be happy to learn thats not the case. He blogs from Jerusalem, and noted the other day - well, lets go get the quote:
My stomach sinks when I hear that a coworker has turned up the radio loud.
A simple definition of the times, that. Everyone understands that. Just think about living in a small country at war, and knowing that when someone turns up the radio its not because a good song as just come on. People have just died, and the news is going to be horrible.
But we go on. Tim Blair is having fun with Michael Moore in his unabashedly cruel style (Calling Mr. Moore a Ham Ass terrorist is just beyond the bounds of good taste, completely unacceptable, and it made me smile for three hours whenever I thought of it.) A sad lack of racist, war-profiteering bloodlust in todays post, Im afraid.
Moving right along - ah! Surely the Sarge is demanding death and carnage: no, hes discussing the Bibi speech to the Senate (I tried to find a link in my own papers site, and couldnt find it, but I found the link at the Corner.) Sarge puts the speech in the context of Israeli political solidarity, and goes on to pen an amusing account of mandatory M-16 training. Ah, you think, this is where he cradles the gun and talks sweet love to it! Right? Right? Well . . . no. It begins I'll tell you up front that I'm not especially enamored with guns. Imagine if your job required you to take apart a gun every other year, regardless of the likelihood youd ever have to use on - this is the sort of thing you'd bitch about in the cafeteria.
Im sure theres a magazine on the stands somewhere that gives an ordinary guys view of military culture, but Ill be damned if I know what it is.
Muslimpundit hasnt updated in a while, but his last remarks on the Islamic conference in Malaysia are worth reading if you havent already. A true prize, this man.
Juan Gato is arguing about Social Security with the worlds oldest member of the Lollipop Guild, Helen Thomas. . . scroll down to see if he wants her to DIE in a WAAARRRR. . . drat the luck.
Matt Welch is busy with Eric Alterman and his List of Jew-Puppets; Eric is becoming to Matt what Krugman was to Sullivan. And thats a good thing.
Ken Layne - who is joined to Matt at the elbow, which is why its fun to watch them drink at a bar - is chock full of fun as usual. The NYPress interview excerpts have some interesting assertions from an old 60s lefty - but the big news is a link to:
Volokhs Blog. Despite the name, he is not a Romulan. He has an essay that calls for the deportation of all Muslims into small leaky rafts which we will shell at will, and the nuclear annihilation of Mecca! (Mandark laugh: Ha! Ha ha ha ha!)
Just kidding. He has a small smart essay on immigrations consequences to a democratic polity, and a civil disagreement with a recent Instapundit assertion about Europeans and Jews. Maybe in the source code hes demanding that war critics have their intestines stuffed with sweet corn and fed to pigs . . . sorry. No.
Photodude, an actual photographer, looks at the Pulitzer prize choice and makes his own somber recommendation, as well as linking to the picture that should have won. (Chances are you havent seen it.) Bloodlust quotient: off the charts! He has pictures of toy soldiers!
Clueless has a big picture of Nell McAndrew in a Lara Croft outfit.
Top this, Capn.
Insular, ignorant cretins all.
Did I learn more from this quick tour than I learned from the days papers? Yes and no. Newspapers build the house. Weblogs furnish it.
The more I read, the more I learn. The more kaleidoscopic the links, the more I can hope to understand what is going on. The warblogger world is more diverse than it appears, but it has one unifying meme: Never again. This used to be the oath of the Jews, but its shared now by millions who saw the towers tumble.
As an unreflective knee-jerk insular America-firster gun-pointing babe-clenching irony-deprived ahistorical cretin, I couldnt possibly tell you why.
April 12, 2002
Today: Nothing about the blogworld, thank Golb - okay, just a little, since The UnBlair made an accusation. Gnat writes a Bleat. Email Contrusions. Gil yes, Selma no. Shopping in Thongworld.
There you have it: the first Bleat entry by Gnat. (Im grooming her to take it over, someday, just like Family Circus.) She wandered over to the Puter, as she calls the machine, and taped 0 1 0. It has an e e cummings quality to it.
Of course, I ascribe nothing to this; I'm still dealing with what I saw when I looked in her coloring book tonight. She colors inside the lines. She did a parrot in red blue and green, and a dog in brown. Twenty months and change. And more change to come.
Now, a personal note - ATTENTION, MY WEBHOST ADMINSTRATOR! A friend of mine who knows a few things about these computators says he suspects that my mail problems are due to security restrictions on your end. I cant send email to ask you about this, and I cant call you because youre in another hemisphere. (I think.) HELP.
Now, another cri de coeur: NOTE TO JOEL. Ill take you up on the offer of a mail server for the short term. I have to send mail! I must!
And heres why:
You know that dream we all have, the one in which youre late for something important? Youre supposed to give a speech, and you dont know what its going to be about - and then youre there, and the audience is stone-silent, waiting, arms crossed and eyes glaring. I had the feeling today as I finally called up my mail. Its still not working (problem could be my host, not MSN. Forget everything I said. And to the MSN tech who wrote in with advice: bless you. My faith in humankind has been restored and backed up.) Keep in mind that I already had 700 unanswered emails. New mail: 698 letters. Good thing I warn folks that their kind missives may go unanswered, but it sits like a stone on my heart. Im chipping away at the pile tonight, but since I dont know if I can send my replies I feel like a man wandering through the rubble of a city destroyed by Martians, dictating thoughts into a tape-recorder.
And the mail is just amazing. Never mind the barnyard s3x spam (and what, exactly, compels someone to go into that line of work? Getting model releases must be incredibly difficult.) Just read a letter from a fellow Fargoan who works in Ground Zero, describing the last removal of remains from the pit. The detail that made me pause for a while: Dozens of remains were found in that area in the past few weeks. I won't say bodies. They found more (than bits) of the firefighters because protective gear is protective. But still, those flag-draped stretchers were pretty shallow
Because there was just a fragment of a human body, of course. And then you think about what you didnt see but could only imagine, and then you think of that day again and you find yourself wondering: where did those buildings go? They were just here a few months ago.
Reality at its worst is the definition of surreal.
(one hour pause while I answer mail. . . okay, Im back.)
Today I had no time for mail, and just a few minutes for the internet, period. Got up, glanced at the paper, then fired up the iceBook to read the wires and blogs. (Im a living example of the problems of my very own beloved newspapers.) Soon Gnat was toddling over with an armload of books: read buk? Read buk? So we read them all, including this annoying alphabet book illustrated in a distinctly English cartoon style. (For some reason, slightly crossed eyes seems to be a hallmark of modern bad British cartoons.) We played doctor with her medical kit - its amusing to see her shoot up her stuffed animals with the little hypo. No ones feeling any pain in her menagerie. Then we cooked on her small plastic kitchen set - made imaginary cheese pancakes, which she pretended to eat and pronounced Num. This took us up to 9 AM, and we had the entire day to go.
Its not all one-on-one; sometimes she reads by herself. She doesnt read the words, but she reads the pictures - Ill hear her babbling away, and when I check to see what shes reading shes pointing to a yellow insect, saying yellow boog. (She knows her colors now.) But during these moments when shes on her own, I dont feel like writing. Editing video, yes. Reading Layne or Welch or den Beste, yes. Writing, no. When she went down for her nap - a whopping 42 minutes - I went down to the Battle Bridge to open a box from Amazon. Key to consumer satisfaction: preorder, and never read those emails from Amazon telling you that your order has shipped. Whatever comes is a nice surprise. This time it was a Simpsons Environment, the Noiseland Arcade with that hateful Jimbo, and three MST3K DVDs.
My DVD collection bears the scars of late-night one-click impulse sessions. (Tron. Say no more.) And its running up against the collection of Simpsons figurines, which is vast but hardly comprehensive. Im glad I have Hans Moleman, but I dont need Herb Powell. Dr. Nick? Of course. Moe? Of course. Pinpal Moe? No. Worker and Parasite? Please! Im begging them, make Worker and Parasite figurines.
During the weeks after 9/11, when we all expected Smallpox or some other merry disaster to roll across the land, I used to sit downstairs watching the news, and wondering if Id have to pack everyone in the car and flee for Fargo - and these figurines would just sit on the shelf staring sightlessly into the dark.
Ahh, the kidll probably sell them on eBay after Im gone. Theyre not toys - theyre investment grade figurines.
So. She wakes up, and its lunch. Then out the door to the mall to exchange an item at Victorias Secret. I bought my wife some sleepwear for her birthday, and it was the wrong size - XXXS instead of XXS. Victorias Secret is such an odd place - all these frilly scraps of do-me cotton being pawed by scowling middle-aged women in search of a deal, dewy staffers helping red-faced young men who are, at the moment, trying to conceal their dewy staffers; posters of women with waists the diameter of a tea cup, legs as long as Broadway and breasts that not only defy gravity but appear so dense they may actually exert a gravitational pull of their own. The model of the moment for VS appears to be Gisele, whom Ive never liked; she looks both stupid and cruel, and while that may make some men reach for their wallet it looks boring to me.
We get VS catalogs by the pound. My wife buys some business suits from them, and once a year I buy her a swimsuit, so were on the mailing list twice, and have been for years. Why, I even remember Heather Stewart-Whyte, who was either 410 or 94 - hard to tell, really. I remember when you couldnt open a catalog with Tyra Banks pictures unless you held it at arms length, lest you get two black eyes. I remember when Daniela Pestova could smile, back before whatever lip treatment she got permanently numbed her mouth. The models seem less interesting now - perhaps Im just a weary tired dad, but pouty 18 year olds with that deadly serious expression just look hilarious. Kid: go rent some Bacall movies. See how its really done. Heidi Klum is amusing, because she has this great wide smile that make dumb guys think shes happy because theyre there, but it really says thanks for the drink! Never see you again. And now we have this 40-foot tall Brazilian Gisele, who is standing atop a building in lingerie and heels, all frowny and bothered because she is just too perfect for this or any other world. The slogan, written on the VS back wall in yard-high letters: WHAT IS SEXY?
If Victorias Secret has to ask, then no one knows anything.
As we approached the checkout counter, I beheld a marvel of modern fashion technology: the thong that does not ride up. A table of thongs (in spring colors!) was topped by a truncated butt on a pole, wearing a thong. And the sides of the thong clung to the precipice of the crevasse, so to speak. False advertising? Let the class action suit begin.
Before I go, a choice entry from the moist, Cheetos-fingered auto-frottaged dwarf over at warblogger watch:
This morning the boys in warblogger war room (Commander Reynolds, Lieutenant Blair, Captain Welch and Sarge Stryker, just to name a few) are slapping each other's behinds in celebration over the anti-warblogging post over at Lilek's propaganda shop. There I learned that Lileks (scroll to the bottom of his page) frequents comic book conventions, get his pictures taken with the models there and tries to convince people that she's his girlfriend! Good job Lileks!
What an maroon. First of all, the picture was taken at Toy Fair, an annual convention that introduces the next generation of gotta-haves for Americas overindulged brattery; Ive been to five Toy Fairs, and have had my picture taken with Enviroman, Mr. T, the Cowboys from Moo Mesa, the Power Rangers, various noble Klingons and too many others to mention. The pic was posted in reply to a Clueless post, and I hardly tried to convince anyone that shes my girlfriend, nor would I want to, since it would reflect poorly on my wife - who is much better looking. And if I can grind it in a little harder, lads, each one of those trips to Toy Fair meant a trip to New York, all expenses paid, including liquor and supper anywhere I wanted. And all I had to do was write about clutching bored empty-headed rent-a-Laras.
Its a wonderful life.