Thursday, July 21, 2005

I'm off for vacation. Ciao, as they say where I'm going.

I know there are tons of more important things going on in the world but I find myself unmoved to blog about them at the moment because James Doohan has died.

That would be Mr Scott (Scotty) of Star Trek.

Scotty is one of my favorite characters in the whole of fictionland. He was the ultimate working-class hero (even in a classless society). He came across as a regular fellow who, due to pluck, grit, and mad skillz, managed to become the best of the best. Kirk was a boy genius, Spock was genetically superior, and Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov never got as much fleshing out (so to speak). Scotty was vivid, and Doohan played him well.

One of my favorite (and your favorite) Scotty moments came in the fourth Star Trek film ("the Voyage Home") when he learned to love an Apple IIe (or whatever it was). Funny.

But as much as I like the original series, I find myself drawn, now, to the Next Generation episode "Relics". In it, Scotty reappears after decades of "death". He survived due to his skill as an engineer but had problems with being superfluous (and he was, largely due to advances in technology). This episode gave him a chance to mourn his youth.

He wasn't the world's greatest actor but he played that role well. If you have ever known a person who has found themselves to be past their prime and are struggling to deal with it, or have known or loved an old soldier or sailor, or have even listened closely to the lyrics to Springsteen's "Glory Days", you will find it hard to watch "Relics" without feeling a little bit of sadness. Well done.

As John Lennon once wrote, a working class hero is something to be. Scotty was that. James Doohan was that.

I just hope he remembered to put the pattern buffers into a diagnostic loop so that some future generation can give him some love.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


In the new Harry Potter, Harry and his friends have an adventure in which someone dies. We also learn a bit more about the mystery surrounding Harry's true identity.

It turns out that Harry is Luke Skywalker's father, the One Ring, the messiah, the Count of Monte Cristo, the Real Slim Shady, the antichrist, the Most Valuable Object in the World, King Arthur, the thing at the bottom of the ladder on Lost, and incontrovertable proof of alien intelligence.

By the way, I'm rereading the first Harry Potter book and I noticed that "young Sirius Black" gets mentioned. Now it may be common knowledge among true fans that Rowling did some planning before setting out to write these things, but I never thought about it and found it interesting that a character from book 3 would be name-checked in book 1. Cool?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ok. Al Franken (on Air America Radio) was just talking with some crazy old (rightwing?) journalist guy (Les Kingsolver? I can't be bothered.) who is famous for asking less-than-standard questions of the White House Press Secretary. As they came to the end of the interview, he fired off an awesome question to Al, who was thunderstruck.

I will get to the meat of the question in a moment. But first:

You will have seen reports from time to time regarding how George HW Bush and Bill Clinton have struck up a friendship of sorts. There was the Indian Ocean cruise just after Christmas. There were joint public appearances. There was the recent story (somewhere, I forget) about Bill spending time up in Kennebunkport.

You will have seen reports that Hillary Clinton seems keen on a (potentially successful) run for the presidency.

You will have heard about the "Sandra Day! Come back Sandra Day!" campaign among certain senatorial types.

You will have heard discussion of how Dubyah is in a bit of a pickle over how to get a Supreme Court to his liking.

You will have noticed that Dubyah is having problems in the realm of uniting versus dividing the Amuhrkin public.

Would Dubyah like to knock Hillary out of the presidential race before it gets rolling? Would he like to see Jebby have a shot? Would he like a solidly pro-business Supreme Court Justice? Would he like smooth sailing on the rest of his lower court appointments? Would he like to take over the news for a while to draw attention away from his various catastrophes? Would he like to wrongfoot the resurgent Democratic Party ahead of the 2006 midterm elections? Would he like to clear the field for Chief Justice Clarence Thomas?

Would he dare nominate Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court and kill all sorts of birds with one stone?

(That was the meat of the question. There is precedent: see William Howard Taft.)

Great Googly Woogly.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

There’s no bread
Let them eat cake
There’s no end to what they’ll take
Flaunt the fruits of noble birth
Wash the salt into the earth

But they’re marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Free the dungeons of the innocent
The king will kneel and let his kingdom rise

Bloodstained velvet, dirty lace
Naked fear on every face
See them bow their heads to die
As we would bow as they rode by

And we’re marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Sing, o choirs of cacophony
The king has kneeled to let his kingdom rise

Lessons taught but never learned
All around us anger burns
Guide the future by the past
Long ago the mould was cast

For they marched up to Bastille Day
La guillotine claimed her bloody prize
Hear the echoes of the centuries
Power isn’t all that money buys

(Rush was awesome. You just don't know.)

I sortof knew about, but clearly forgot, the two minutes of silence thing. The guy in whose office I was sitting at the time seemed also unaware.


I'm silent now.

Next Wednesday, perhaps, there will be two moments of silence for the folks who were blown up yesterday in Baghdad. Whatcha reckon?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

So far I have been pleased with the measured tone of the London bombing coverage in my three preferred UK news sources (the Guardian, the BBC, and the Economist). Lots of factors explain why they aren't hyperventilating like many US media did after the 11 September 01 attacks (scale, media culture, and the 911 having been on tee vee are chief among them, I think). Whatever the cause, though, I prefer the Brits' style.

I do have a problem, however, with the notion that folks are shocked (shocked!) that the perpetrators seem to have been born and reared in Britain. This smacks a little of the fondness, so often expressed by my fellow Alabamians in other contexts, for laying the blame for whatever we face at the feet of "outside agitators". I don't think this is healthy. I know it doesn't bear scrutiny.

[Dog forbid such an outrage were to take place here in Germany, with native "foreigners" (as so many Germans assholishly call folks who don't "look German") on the hook.]

And so, in the interests of pointing out to the "how can they?" brigades that this is not all that unusual, a bit of histoire in the form of event/name dropping:

- Birmingham, Alabama's 16th St. Baptist Church bombing (all perps were local)
- The Baader-Meinhoff Gang (a bunch of Germans doing most of what they did in Germany)
- The Italian Red Brigades (for Italians by Italians)
- The Unibomber in the US (a Harvard Man, no less)
- The Oklahoma City Bombing (both of the men convicted were Americans and army vets: "John Doe #2" is still at large)
- most terrorism in the West Bank and Israel comes from folks who were born and raised inside those territories
- So far as we know, all of the recent attacks inside Saudi Arabia were done by Saudis.
- Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers are, um, Sri Lankan for the most part.
- Japan's Aum Shinrikyo (sp?) cult was/is Japanese.
- Randall Terry (Atlanta Olympic bombing and several abortion clinic bombings) is an American.
- All bombings inside Northern Ireland were done by native residents of that benighted province, to the best of my knowledge.
- Germany's Reichstag fire (probably done by Nazis, but even if you buy their story [that it was the commies], it was still Germans)
- Kristallnacht: German citizens attacking other German citizens (the understatement of the day, at least)
- From what I have gathered, the terrorist problems faced by India have largely resulted from the actions of Indian citizens (and I'm not even talking about Kashmir).
- Most assassinated heads of state I can think of were assassinated by home-grown assassins, if I recall correctly.

And so on.

We have met the enemy and he is us, in other words. Although this could be read as a call for paranoia, what I mean to say is that when the problem is "outside agitators" there is a tendency to take their concerns less seriously (after all, they are outsiders: they shouldn't even be "here"). If our friends and neighbors are going wild, however, it is time for a good long consideration of what the fuck is up.

This (the thinking) is much more difficult and much more effective than lashing out at foreigners. It is so difficult, in fact, that the knee-jerk reaction tends to be a hunt for those things which weigh the same as ducks. And that just makes it all worse.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The other day I was talking with someone (I think it was Scott) about how, as awful as the London attacks were, it was worth bearing in mind that something along those lines happens almost everyday in Baghdad.

The next day something along those lines happened in Baghdad.

Now GoogleNews (Germany) is carrying stories about something along those lines happening right about now in Russia. GoogleNews (US) has got dick all about it.

Sorta adds oomph to this cartoon.

I'm torn regarding the case of Judith Miller and that other journalist guy.

-- I'm pretty sure I'm against the whole notion of compelled testimony.
-- I think if you have knowledge of a crime you prolly should tell.
-- I don't think it is a good idea for "secret agents" to exist.
-- I don't like the idea of it being a criminal act to have or pass along information (if you are an individual and working in that capacity: different rules apply to institutions).
-- I reckon a state can only function properly if the laws are fairly applied, so if you disagree with a law (such as the one to which I just referred) then you should be prepared to face the consequences of breaking it in protest (see civil disobedience).

That last point clearly doesn't apply beyond the theoretical.

Basically, I don't know where to stand.

I do loathe Judy Miller's work leading up to the Iraq war, though.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Natalie Davis' All Facts and Opinions is a blog I like but haven't checked in a few days. It seems the author is having problems with bills. I have no idea who follows my link to her (her sitemeter clocks people coming from here) but I would like to propose that those who do drop a tip or two. There are, I gather, ways to do such things. She seems to be a really cool person in need of some cash, so, you know.

As many of you know, Scott and Shelley were in London Thursday (they still are, although they are on their way to Ireland soon, I think). Scott had a compelling adventure that day and it merited an article in the paper, in fact.

When I came home from work early on Thursay afternoon, I opened up the puter to see what news had taken place while I was at work. I saw the news about the bombings and immediately tried to call Scott and Shelley. They didn't answer. So I checked their blogs. They were fine (Scott and Shelley, I mean, but the blogs were too). A few minutes later my mom called. I answered the phone with the line "they are fine". She had just gotten up and turned on the news and freaked out because she remembered Scott having said something about King's Cross.

From what I can gather from the internets, it appears that the rightwingers in the US are talking about these events in the same way that they talk about all similar events: incorrectly. The internets are also full of more thoughtful American digestions, so all is not lost.

Nevertheless: I was thinking about the "how can this happen?" and "what sort of monsters?" and "why here/now/us/them?" school of commentary. At the risk of implying a lack of sympathy for the victims and their loved ones, I have to say something about that (I gave this a test run in my local bar last night and it went over relatively well).

Sitting here in my Safe European Home I sometimes consider what this place was like 60 years ago. In keeping with the Metaphorocaust (this is the accepted spelling, I think), please think about the rain of fire brought down, at various times, by the air forces of Germany, the UK, the US, and the USSR (and to a lesser extent those of smaller powers like Italy and Canada) on assorted European cities. Did the civilians (and they were almost all "innocent" civilians, whether in Berlin or Coventry or Leningrad or Warsaw or Hamburg or Rotterdam or wherever) ask one another why this was happening? Perhaps some did, but I suspect most realized that it was more or less directly connected to the WORLD WAR their country was a part of. This doesn't make it OK, in my mind, but it is pretty straightforward.

Terrorism may be more disorienting than 1000 bomber raids but both of them are tactics. They are/were specifically designed to "bring the war" to the civilian population of the enemy country, nominally because it is/was thought that the civilian victims would pressure their states to change policy/surrender. It didn't work in World War Two and, I suspect, won't work now (it hasn't worked in Israel, Spain, the UK, Russia, Sri Lanka, or any other country I'm aware of).

I reckon what I'm trying to say is that when your country is involved in a war it is not unreasonable to expect that you might become a casualty. This has not always been the case (your average Roman citizen had little to fear from the Persians and your average New Yorker didn't trouble himself with Navajo reprisals) but it happens and has happened before.

The only sure way to avoid such things is to stay out of wars. Sigh.

Until then, I suggest that any indignation ("How dare they?") be directed less at the perpetrators than at whichever political/economic/social/religious forces put us in conflict.

I'm reminded of the parable of the frog (or was it a mouse?) and the crocodile, as told by Forrest Whittaker's character in "the Crying Game". In case you don't recall it, I will paraphrase. A frog/mouse needed to get to the other side of a stream. A crocodile offered him a ride. The frog/mouse agreed on the condition that the crocodile promise not to eat him. The crocodile did. On the other side of the stream, however, the crocodile chomped the frog/mouse. As he was dying, the frog/mouse said "but you promised not to eat me! Why are you doing this?" The crocodile replied: "It's in my nature."

And now I must point out something that one of my colleagues noted: my place of employment is a target of opportunity to any terrorist in Germany. What with our "big fuckin' Union Jack" on the outside of our building and all.

Neil Young helps me close this: "Soldier, your eyes. They shine like the sun. I wonder why. Soldier, your eyes shine like the sun. I wonder why."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

If you are like me, you just escorted your girlfriend to the airport so that she could go off for a vacation in Thailand while you work.

If you are like me, you use AOL instant messenger.

If you are like me, you just saw the AOL news flash thingy regarding how New York won't get the 2012 Olympics and you saw a picture of Hillary Clinton making a face that looks as if she is saying "Oooooooooo!"

If you are like me, you are disappointed in how few votes the dark horse contender for the 2012 Olympics got: 1 vote only for Ciudad de I Don't Give a Shit.

If you are like me, you are angry at Hillary Clinton for not only saying "Oooooooooo!" but also for her lying about where she is from. First she's from Illinois, then she's from Arkansas, then she's from New York, and now the rumor is that she's not even from the Amuhkuh. Word is she's actually Lesbian. Now I don't know where Lesbia is, but I think she owes us an explanation.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Sandra Day O'Connor, famously the first woman to ever resign from the US Supreme Court, will be replaced by a snarling hellhound.

You read it here first.

I once, some time ago, suggested that Amuhrkuh had not heard the last of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Damned Moore. I wonder. Could it be? Nah. Or? Nah.


Happy Canada Day, by the way. I know this isn't the best time to mention it on a blog read by Amuhrkins, but still.

In other news, Gerhard "Dubyah calls me Gair Hard" Schröder got a no-confidence vote from the Bundestag today. He wanted it because he wants new elections. He is on shaky constitutional ground with this stunt, but it is a fascinating show. It seems likely to end up with a conservative government taking over.

Happy Canada Day, I say again.