November 16, 2008

Politics (and Other Human Weaknesses) Explained, Part 2

So Obama will be President in two months. Since his name is now plastered on t-shirts and White Houses, Rush Limbaugh figured it couldn't hurt to stick it in one more place. Rush is now calling the current state of the economy "The Obama Recession."

Meanwhile, Georgia Congressman Paul Broun took the Obama clause and tacked on a Hitler rider. Apparently, since Obama proposed forming a Civilian Reserve Corps to maintain the nation's infrastructure in the event of an emergency, what this really means is that Obama is building a force "as strong as the army" as possible precursor to a totalitarian takeover. Apparently, no longer content with inconveniencing Labor-Day travelers with closed lanes and detours, the nation's highway workers plan to rule us all with an iron steamroller.

So who makes up stuff like this and says it in public? Kooks, right? Fanatics, self-marginalizers and other soon-to-be-former leaders of the free world. Not us. Not normal people.

Two-three years ago, I posted pretty regularly to the alt.slack newsgroup under the name Ergonomicon. alt.slack is a forum for the Church of the SubGenius, that famous parody cult of non-joiners and other smartypants who don't want to go along to get along. Once a year, the Church gets together to celebrate the annual end of the world. What could be kookier?

The Church is not tax-exempt, and therefore not a real church. However, this fact is lost on a lot of alt.slack posters -- along with other, more tangible citizens. Once in a while, they decry this fake church as a false religion.

Which is totally untrue, because the Church of fake kooks turns about to be a magnet for real religious kooks. In practical if not spiritual terms, this means that alt.slack is flooded with kook spam.

Back in the day, one of these particular kooks cranked out an astonishing number of moralistic conspiracy screeds. At least I think they were screeds, because what they really were was unreadable.

However, at least one poor soul decided to read them anyway -- and be amazed at what they implied about the indomitability of the human spirit. Or something.

That amazement kicked off a thread about the nature of kookdom. Toward the middle, I threw in my two cents. The thread is well worth reading, even if the subject matter gets a little disgusting.

As the thread grew, I thought some about what makes kooks so kooky, what makes fanatics so self-justifyingly fanatical. And of course, I came up with a half-assed idea about the origin of human language and culture to justify it all.

My idea is in the thread, so I won't repeat it in detail. If you want to see the whole thing, search down the thread for the name Ergonomicon. (Strangely enough, not my given name). If you don't want to read the whole thing, then briefly my idea was this: language and culture evolved as replacements for the waning human sense of smell.

Now do you see why Part 1 of this series focused so much on belabored stink-based metaphors?


Bear with me.

All social animals need a way to identify who's in their group and who's not. In my fantasy world of how things work, the way they do that is by sniffing each other's butts. However, humans don't really have that option anymore, since our butts are no longer at eye level.

Fortunately our mouths are at eye level, so language is a good replacement. And even better, culture is all around us, no matter where we look. What better ways than to broadcast your group affiliation?

Actually, calling language and culture a "replacement" for scent is the wrong word. To really describe what they did to the human race, you'd have to use terms like "hostile takeover". The innocent prehistoric rituals of butt-sniffing and poo-flinging were transmuted into something far more protean and insidious.

See, if you compare language with the sense of smell, there's a big difference. A social animal with a sense of smell has one thing -- a butt. Assuming consistency of diet, the animal is powerless over the smell of that butt. Another animal, sniffing that butt, can only smell the way the butt actually smells. In other words, butts don't lie.

But language, on the other hand...

To be continued. Again.

November 01, 2008

Politics (and Other Human Weaknesses) Explained, Part 1

Back in January 2001, there was a president named Bill Clinton. He was packing to leave the White House, having just floated an air biscuit of presidential pardons to shady guys hiding out in Switzerland. This on top of his having stunk up a blue dress, and then lying about it. Phew!

Enter George W. Bush. You might remember that this man liked a particular letter of the alphabet, the one that starts with W. You might also remember that, upon assuming the office of President, Bush strode into the White House to fulfill his campaign promise to throw open a window and let in the fresh air of honor, dignity and asexual bipartisanship.

But he found a mess. All White-House keyboards had been systematically relieved of their "W" keys. Furthermore, the outgoing President Clinton, in addition to leaving his political stink behind, had also left more tangible products from his nether regions. Just what you'd expect from such a low character!

Except none of it turned out to be true.

In response to these complaints of key-swiping and poop-leaving, the Government Accountability Office swung into action. The first question it asked was -- what were the damages?

That was the only question it had to ask, because the damages were zero. Zip. It was all made up. Nothing but a good story, a pungent smell to waft through the noses of good citizens everywhere and wake us up to W's new America.

Now, at the rear end of W's eight years in office, comes another typographical stinkbomb. Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama recently gave a speech in Ohio while standing in front of a number of flags. Every other flag looked American, but the rest looked different. They were the right colors and had stripes and stars, but all featured a big "O".

Enter Bob Grant -- longtime radio host, inspiration to Rush Limbaugh, and flag critic. Something stinks, he told America. This O thing is just wrong. If Obama would go and do something like this -- make a flag in his image, or at least in his first initial -- he must be a despot.

Except that the flags weren't Obama flags. They were Ohio flags. As in flags representing the State of Ohio, where Toledo is and where Obama's speech was delivered.

So again. Zero. Zip. Nothing but a good story, a smell to cause the noses of decent, non-state-flag-recognizing Americans to sniff in outrage.

I didn't pick these examples merely as representatives of election-year inanity, which they are. I picked them because there's something more fundamental at work here, something that's been with us a long time. Something that -- assuming Obama carries the presidency -- we will see and smell much more of in the next four years.

To be continued in Part 2.

September 20, 2008

Fannies and Freddies and Bears, Oh My

Back in March, I wrote most of a piece on the near-collapse and subsequent fire sale of investment bank Bear Stearns. However, the simultaneous near-collapse of my ability to form coherent sentences caused investors to lose confidence in the piece, and I was forced to to sell my language-comprehension skills to J.P. Morgan Chase for pennies on the dollar.

Financial observers and English teachers at the time noted that my failed post was simply a consequence of the blog market adjusting itself, and that no regulatory oversight by grammar or syntax was needed.

However, a recent groundswell of demand for that failed post has led to several more near-collapses on Wall Street, thus making my piece relevant again. All I can say is -- thank you. I'm humbled. Your $700 billion check will be arriving shortly.

Ah, for the heady days of March 2008 and the winsome innocence of $30-billion bailouts. Come with me and bask in the notalgia...

All the recent discussion about poor people, high mortgage interest rates, and how they turned out to be a foundation of clay for our magnificent financial edifices has masked the discussion of a much larger issue than the market in subprime mortgages. Namely, the market in credit default swaps.

No one seems to know exactly what credit default swaps are or what their real value is, only that you can make money by selling them to people. Something like $45 trillion (yes, trillion) in credit-default-swap business has been transacted. That's three times the annual US GDP.

So what are credit default swaps? They are explained as being something like insurance against institutions defaulting or otherwise not paying their debts. Until its near-default, Bear Stearns was a major player in this market.

A near-default that was avoided by a $30 billion dollar loan from the Fed.

So. Pop quiz. In order to save the market in institution-default insurance, when one of those market institutions threatens to default, you need:

a) $45 trillion in institution-default insurance, or
b) $30 billion in taxpayer monies.

Apparently, the choice is clear.

Given the Fed's stellar performance in their first test of economic-fiasco avoidance, they might be looking for new Everests to climb. Here is one suggestion: bail out the US Mint.

Since the decline of the dollar, the cost of manufacturing Benjamins has risen by nearly three thousand percent. To print a single dollar bill now costs $100.05. Clearly action is needed.

If the Fed bails out the Mint, the Mint can provide a sizeable long-term return by only printing money that already exists. Aside from the obvious benefit of slashing waste, this has the added bonus of getting the Mint in on the ground floor of the Green Economy. It will simply recycle those dollars back to the Federal Reserve, where they will be stored safe for reborrowing by the Mint. The real winner will be the U.S. taxpayer.

However, some critics say this will only work until the world runs out of Scotch Tape to hold the aging bills together. At which point the Fed may be forced to declare that each shred of a $100 bill is worth $10. This seems appealing at first glance, but it is simply manufacturing money out of nothing. In the best case, the government will be forced to nationalize the manufacture of Scotch Tape, absorbing the cost by borrowing against future money-recycling revenues.

In the end, the best option might be to offshore the printing of US money to more business-friendly countries. This would give us the best return for the lowest cost. Now, protection of the US Mint from overseas competition might appear desirable, but in the long run it reduces our competitiveness and weakens the economy. In these troubled times, it's critical for everyone to support free trade.

September 11, 2008

The Only 9/11 You'll Ever Need

9/11. No matter where we were or what we were doing on that day, none of us can ever forget what it meant. The horror of seeing the World Trade Center in flames, the shock of our newfound vulnerability to those who hate us, our sympathy for the victims and our admiration for those who put their lives on the line to save them...and our undying resolve to move forward together to bring those responsible to justice. Now, on this anniversary, as on all anniversaries future and past, we make the solemn vow -- Never Forget.

Yes, the collective feeling inspired by 9/11 belongs to all Americans, and it will last a lifetime. But that doesn't mean it's "one-9/11-fits-all!" Now, on the seventh anniversary of the most deadly attack on US soil, we bring to you --


My911. With all the power you've come to expect from the 9/11 brand, but now with the flexibility to match even the most 9/11-demanding lifestyle.

Do you appreciate the sense of resolve that the deaths of 3,000 victims gave you and your leaders, but wish the victims themselves had been a little more deserving? My911 is the answer. With one click of the mouse, you can change the full list of 3,000 names -- of stock traders, maintenance staff and first responders -- to be the editorial staff of Mother Jones magazine. Now, when the remaining liberals and east-coast elites carp about the administration's systematic lack of preparedness for 9/11, you can enjoy a shiver of schadenfreude.

As a bonus, New York's first responders need not risk their own lives for fifth columnists such as these. Instead of dying on that day and slowly sickening over the years to follow, as happened on the conventional 9/11 -- these heroes can stay safe in their fire stations and police stations and emergency rooms, secure in the knowledge that a blow has been struck against America's enemies.

As a safety feature, My911 lets you customize all first responders to be immune to airborne toxins. This way, none of them will sicken -- and thus be ungrateful when they are denied medical coverage for their conditions. But this is probably overdoing it. After all, any first responder is welcome in the emergency room at any time. In reality, none of them lack medical coverage.

But not only can you save the lives of those worth saving. For the first time ever, My911 gives you the power to say "I told you so!"

Sure -- just like everyone else, you rallied around the President when he vowed to take down the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein -- before he made an even worse attack on us. You cheered when Baghdad fell, and you cheered when we shipped demonstrators into Baghdad to cheer when we pulled down Saddam's statue.

But then, every claim the President made turned out to be false. Worse, we were stuck in Iraq for years to come, overextended and unable to deal effectively with genuine threats to our security. Oops.

But wait! It's My911, here to rescue you and everyone you love from the crumbling tower of your own hubris!

With My911, there's no need for the mushroom cloud of all that Iraqi hot air to leave a smoking gun of embarrassment in your life. My911 has an embarrassment-removal feature that enables you to go back in time, so you can bury all the WMD you want anyplace you want. Now, when they dig up Saddam's army of atomic Republican Guards, slumbering in burqas of depleted uranium, only awaiting the command "Jihad!" to awake and lay waste to the world -- now you can say "I told you so."

If you want to go all the way, you can even erase the unfinished chemical plant that US firm Bechtel contracted to build in Iraq after the gassing of all those Kurds in 1988. Now, San-Francisco-based Bechtel need never face the shame of having threatened to evade the sanctions against Iraq which Congress was on the point of signing into law -- because none of it ever happened! With a clean slate, Bechtel can now accept all those no-bid Iraq contracts with no doubt as to the purity of its intentions.

Talk about your San Francisco values!

But why reverse-engineer Iraq when you can edit al-Qaeda? My911 is there to help. Prior to 9/11, Osama bin Laden and his cohorts complained of the American presence in Saudi Arabia -- in effect, an army of infidels occupying the Muslim holy land. In fact, al-Qaeda did more than complain -- they vowed to strike back.

But now, you can just waft our pre-9/11 troops out of Saudi Arabia and plop them down in Iraq. Now we win the war on terror before we've even had to fight it! And not least, Osama bin Laden's complaints have been cleansed of any taint of legitimacy. Now, if he ever attacks us again, we can have the comfort of knowing that it's truly because he hates our freedom.

Are you a leader in one of our two major political parties -- at least, the only one of the two parties that counts? Want to hold a convention in St. Paul Minnesota to select a presidential nominee, and want a high level of security -- but worry that having police make warrantless raids on organizations with names like "Food Not Bombs" will send the wrong message? Even if it's generally agreed that terrorists enjoy food?

That's a lot of responsibility, but now you can master it. My911 crashes through the door of political discourse, armed with a concussion grenade of free expression. My911 can create a custom-tailored video of the finest moments of your 9/11 -- moments powerful enough to put the opposition on the ground with its hands behind its head, all in the cause of sound public policy. Because unless you show a montage of suffering and destruction, how will Americans know you're on their side?

In fact, there's nothing that My911 can't do for you. Unhappy that the Afghan regime we've fought to preserve produces ninety percent of the world's heroin? Not to worry -- you're just a few keystrokes away from a joint announcement from the DOE and the FDA that poppies are the revolutionary biofuel of the future -- second only to terrorists themselves. Just imagine -- the freedom of the open road, powered by the corpses of those who hate it!

Unhappy that our troops are stuck in Iraq for tour after tour, enduring merciless heat? Just tell My911 to say "No" to global warming and get the next Ice Age going. Then take that thickening Arctic polar cap and ship it to Iraq, where it can do some good. At last, we can put those transportation biofuels to worthy use -- and our troops can be proud of their new responsibilities, guarding polar bears from extinction!

Irked at the shortsightedness of the bygone British Empire, which drew the Afghanistan/Pakistan border straight through the Pashtun tribal lands -- thus making the border porous and indefensible against modern-day evildoers? My911 can not only change 9/11 -- it can give you a whole new Fourth of July. Now, thanks to My911, instead of just having declared our independence from Britain, we conquered them. In one day. And drew the borders of their empire, and all world's countries, where they should have damn well been drawn in the first place.

My911. The only 9/11 you'll ever need.

March 09, 2008

Political Awareness

Apparently there were primaries, and apparently somebody won. But I'm not here to gloat. I'm above all that partisan nonsense of "preferring" one candidate to "another".

No, no gloating here. No, I'm here to make a joke.

The day of the primaries, there were signs plastered all over my workplace reading "Vote Today!" So far so good. But after that, whoever was in charge of GOTV really fell down on the job. The next morning, not one of the signs had been updated to say "Vote Yesterday!"

I am so cool.

January 01, 2008


At last: my favorite end-of-year list.

I have to admit I don't know a fair proportion of the people in the list. I just like the pictures.

Sometimes I try to keep up with the news, since knowing stuff makes end-of-year lists about stuff more meaningful. But to tell the truth, whenever I read a headline, my eyes glaze over by the second or third word.

For example, just from today's New York Times: "Delay Expected In...". Well, what else is new. The delay is always expected to be in. At least, that's what the delay's secretary always tells me when I call. That is, when she's not telling me the delay is currently in a meeting, and can she take a message? Frankly, the New York Times needs better sources.

A more newsworthy headline would be "Delay Expected To Be Late". Except that's more than two or three words, so I wouldn't read it.

"Outside Groups Spend...". Well, duh. Outside groups are always spending. With all that money, you'd think the outside groups would at least offer decent compensation and benefits. But since you're outside the group, they pay you freelance rates at best. With zero health coverage. Such working conditions are particularly exploitative because, outside the group, on assignment all alone, it's easy to get lost and die of exposure. So write your congressman, and dress appropriately!

"U.S. Diplomat Killed...". This headline leaves me hanging. Who did the U.S. diplomat kill, and why? Well, it probably doesn't matter. The U.S. has a hard-line policy of refusing to negotiate with diplomats, no matter how many innocents are killed. And rightly so: to give in would demonstrate to diplomats everywhere that diplomacy gets results.

Anyway, it's all academic. I'm just not motivated to care about the world or anything in it. How can I possibly care about what's going on in the world when the world is so aggressively disinterested in how kissable my lips are?

Benazir Bhutto assassinated? Well, if she didn't want to be assassinated, she shouldn't have had herself flown to where the assassins are! She should have skipped assassin country and had herself flown straight to my lips. Lips aren't well-known for their ability to share political power in Muslim nations, but neither are they known for assassinating anybody. Well -- sometimes lips perform character assassination, but everybody knows that characters aren't people.

Third anniversary of the catastrophic tidal wave hitting Indonesia? Feh. How about the ninth anniversary of my face getting hit by a tongue wave?

Now, Indonesians are known for many things -- being Muslim, making Nike sneakers, drowning when underwater -- but they are not known for the frequency with which they make out. If they had wanted to solve that particular national crisis, all they had to do was hop a plane to my house. Then they wouldn't have been on the beach when the wave hit. Really, they have no one but themselves to blame for how things turned out.

Iowa primaries neck-and-neck? Candidates pleading for last-minute donations to put them over the top? No thanks. They don't talk about the issues that matter. If any of them even hinted at imposing term limits on my lack of lip-locking, I would donate like a shot. I would go door-to-door in any weather to talk passionately about this pressing issue. But my lips are off the table. It's just another example of the disconnect between Washington insiders and the American people.

July 24, 2007

On the culturally dictated applications of sticking old brains into new skulls

In the future:

Heads will become viewed less as repositories of the soul or consciousness, and more as recycling bins.

Skulls will become hinged, much like foot-operated trash cans. Of course, the skulls will literally be foot-operated.

As a result, slow dancing will become even riskier.

As usual, this development will be motivated by the defense and entertainment industries. The military will fund development of hinged skulls ostensibly to have resilient new bodies for the brains of top commanders -- along with their guts. However, the skulls will be used mainly by hawkish congressmen who desire credit for not exempting their children from war service. Before any brave congresschildren ship out for duty, their cortexes will be secretly rescued -- and the bodies will ship out with the brains of illegal immigrants instead.

As repayment for this generosity, the sons and daughters will work on their parents' home renovations and landscaping projects. Meanwhile, the sudden upsurge in non-English-speaking recruits will have no measurable effect on the ability of officers to communicate with their men.

On the entertainment side, Hollywood superstars will rush to take advantage of hinged skulls. Actors who have been typecast and want a fresh start will exchange brains with drama students who are impatient for a public. And stars who are just plain tired of fame will change brains with housepets.

As a result, acting will much more frequently be described as "uneven".

On the professional-sports end, eager children will sign up to exchange brains with their favorite basketball stars. However, the kids will soon realize that, even though their allowances get bigger, every day is just like PE. Minus the bathroom breaks.

For a while, though, trading cards will display the faces of star kindergarten dribblers. Autographs in flesh-colored crayon will drive auction prices through the roof.

In the end, the demographic with the highest demand for brain-exchange service will be aging bachelors. However, their only takers will be other aging bachelors.

Meanwhile, stem-cell researches will think all this is silly. As far as they're concerned, a brain isn't something you swap out -- it's something you grow into.

June 27, 2007

The Most Environmentally-Friendly Post On Any Weblog Ever

Dear everyone who's been demanding that I post something: I just want you to know that I see you out there. How beautiful you look, sprinkled like little stars across the velvety night of my non-blogging. Because of you I know I am not lost, but merely sailing aimlessly until the light of some fool idea dawns -- and I can see well enough to find the ship's log and scribble something captainlike in it.

Now if I could just find my glasses.

Speaking of glass, and how uncomfortable it makes you feel when it's between you and the sun: I know how to fix global warming. Not through caps and trades and cleaning up dead dinosaurs, which nobody wants to pay for anyway. The solution? Pass a law requiring carbon dioxide to wear safety reflectors.

The proposal is not without its pitfalls, but at its base it's a simple public-safety measure. And really, what public doesn't approve of safety? It's just common sense.

Picture something that's a common sight every day throughout our great nation: an ordinary, everyday photon of infrared radiation, speeding on its way from the planet's surface toward the measureless void of space. Our photon, like so many of its industrious brethren, is returning home after a long day spent heating the ground. Now it's cruising along at the lawful speed limit of 3x108 meters per second, when -- out of nowhere -- a carbon dioxide molecule steps right out in front of it! The result is tragedy.

The collision isn't normally fatal for the photon, since it is equipped with airbags and just bounces back to the earth's surface. But what of the poor CO2 molecule which has been splattered all over the troposphere? And all the molecules just like it? Who will speak for victims such as these?

Our nation's lawmakers, that's who.

Thanks to them, every carbon dioxide molecule will be equipped with reflective safety gear, enabling sunbeams -- and any other type of radiation -- to respect CO2's right of way. Tragedy is avoided, insurance premiums go down, and everybody's happy.

Granted, enforcement will be problematic at best. However vigilant an officer of the law may be, he can only monitor a tiny fraction of the atmosphere's countless billions of CO2 molecules before overtime pay kicks in. Even assuming that the vast majority are law-abiding, the idea of being surrounded by roving, predatory gangs of non-reflector-wearing CO2 is enough to make any policeman's trigger finger itch.

Then, too, there is the issue of discrimination. By conducting random stops of CO2 molecules, law enforcement risks alienating the larger CO2 community. With some justification, carbon dioxide will complain that cops think all molecules look alike.

The answer is not to rely solely on police protection, but also to encourage an environment where law-abiding CO2 molecules can form supportive, close-knit communities -- communities that will voluntarily police themselves better than any carbon legislation could. An environment where CO2 molecules can thrive in peace, without persecution. An environment rooted in faith and moral values, where carbon dioxide is free to worship at the tailpipe of its choice.

But what of the minority of carbon dioxide which, despite its freedom, refuses to obey the law? What of the gases that wallow in the carbon sinks of their baser nature and go right on playing chicken with infrared radiation? Some say that such cases are hopeless, that the only thing to do is sentence them to life in a hole in the ground as an example to other potential offenders.

Despite the value of appearing tough on crime, here too lies a pitfall. Not only does the average CO2 molecule live far longer than the average judicial system. In addition, by locking up vast swarms of offenders (which then must be supported at taxpayer expense), we create a pressure-cooker environment where the most unpleasant gases hold sway over the rest. An environment where the worst elements are just waiting for the carbon cycle to parole them back into a defenseless atmosphere.

The solution is simple and old-fashioned. Rather than lock up carbon dioxide, let it work for its keep. Let it learn to appreciate a day's honest labor.

As always, this kind of work is best done in the open. Fresh air and sunshine build character in ways imprisonment never could. When a formerly shiftless carbon dioxide molecule engages in productive labor such as photosynthesis or dry-cleaning, it cannot fail to become more industrious. It will open its heart to that fresh air, to that sunshine, and keep a piece of it forever. Treated with tough love, carbon dioxide won't just become carbon-neutral. It will become carbon-positive.

I'm happy. Why? How can I possibly justify such a state of affairs? Because Marc and Kelli came to visit, that's why. Marc, who has been traveling the world since the end of the Harding administration, finally came to town and brought Kelli with him. Together, they took all the zingers I'd been saving up since the end of the Harding administration. They also took a lot of Marc's books. But they left me with Japanese t-shirts, sound advice on digital cameras, and the warm glow that comes from knowing good folks.

To top it off, Rory is posting again. Finally, something I can read that won't alienate me.

And in a few months I'll be an uncle.

January 26, 2007

Deconstructing Scary

Monster movies are all explorations of the idea that anything big and ugly will want to destroy everything around it.

And if the thing isn't too big, it will take our women.

Also, if the thing is Woody Allen, there will be complaining involved.

January 04, 2007


Instead of making Muslim women wear burqas, why not just make Muslim men nearsighted?

You'd have to keep them away from glasses, but that should be easy because nearsighted people always have trouble finding their glasses.

December 29, 2006


This just in! There is a mind-boggling amount of stuff going on in the world outside my door. This precipitates an ongoing crisis, because all that stuff is forever threatening to be more important than what goes on in my day-to-day life. Clearly, some balance is required.

Therefore allow me to remind my readers that there is a very important topic that deserves their immediate attention: me.

While most of my goals for the coming year are tentative, one thing I will definitely do is turn forty. This saddens me for a number of reasons. A big reason is that I had hoped my career as a concubine would have taken off by now.

I was hobbled from the get-go by the fact that I never made it into concubine school. My GRE scores were OK, but I couldn't produce any letters of reference. Maybe it's just as well, considering what you have to do to get one of those. Anyway, without a degree it's hard to establish trust with potential new clients, let alone get research grants.

At this point, I should probably just admit that I am the only client I will ever need, and give myself a business card. Who knows -- I might win a free lunch!

On the other hand, one thing gives me hope: Living Out Loud, a 1998 chick flick starring Holly Hunter. Like always, she plays a cute and watchable lady who has some problems. The movie also has problems, but there is one perfect bit: a synchronized dance number, almost an anthem, on the need to be touched.

Maybe Holly Hunter is the only client I'll ever need.

In other news, I find this projection on climate-related problems over the next 40-50 years extremely disturbing. What this map makes shockingly clear is that climatologists can't color between the lines. When the supposed experts show you a map with blobby smears all over it, how can they expect you to take them seriously? Clearly, more debate is required.

I challenge the experts to disprove my counterthesis: namely, that the world is a Family Circus strip, and God lets Billy draw it every week. That would at least explain the map.

December 23, 2006

The Most Precious Gift

So here are the holidays again. The only ones we should ever need.

I don't want to mislead you into thinking I hate them. The holidays are nothing if not targets of convenience, big fat blimps kept aloft by humanity's collective exasperation with them. Being big and exasperating, they tend to draw fire from those too lazy to aim at smaller sleeker targets, including me. But no matter how I badmouth the holidays, I still have a fundamental regard for them.

I'll tell you why.

Fifty-one out of fifty-two weeks of the year, we are at Their mercy. You know who I mean. Them. The Type As. The overachievers. The stay-after-school-to-wash-the-blackboard-ers. The team players, the micromanagers, the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-ers. And the Joneses too -- that Adam and Eve of conspicuous consumption, and all their numberless scuttling progeny. The ones for whom life is a lifelong race, with no pit stops.

Even if they're not around, you can still hear their voices. And boy, are they disappointed. They're puzzled that you're not doing your best, working just a little bit harder, spending just a little more time at work instead of indulging in comfort, talk, friends, family, all those pursuits that never lead to prosperity or discipline or the respect of your betters. Don't you know you're on a team, and you're holding your team back? Get with the program, get on the same page as everybody else, get agile, get ahead of the pack, get out of the way, get tough, get going.

But then, just when you think you can't take anymore -- along come the holidays.

I don't mean little one-shot holidays like Labor Day or Memorial Day. Not holidays that only exist to add a few hours to your weekend and a few extra war movies to AMC's lineup. I mean The Holidays. Days and days of holidays, chock full of traditions, cultural resonance and expected observances. In short -- the perfect distraction for Type-A personalities.

All of a sudden, they want you to get away from your ditch or your desk or whatever else constitutes your workplace environment. They want you to go spend time with your friends and family. Why? Because it's in the program! It's what team players do!

They'll still probably expect you to put up some decorations and string some lights. However, unlike their expectations the rest of the year, these will not affect your performance review. For now, for just this one week of the year, THEY stop trying to make you better by tearing you down, and leave you alone in blessed peace.

And hey. If the price I pay for this week of peace is to hear a little more Christmas music than I would like -- well, I'll gladly pay it. I might secretly wish that more carolers would sing Lou Reed's "Men of Good Fortune," but I won't complain if it's not in their repertoire.

So. Peace On Earth.

Enjoy it with my blessing.

November 07, 2006

Election Day

It's just like Christmas, except that inside every box is an old white guy.

Ah, don't fuss. You'll grow into it.

November 06, 2006


Election Day will prove that we've finally learned something about zealots: mainly, that their judgment is bad.

But let's not reject them too openly. Otherwise they'll decide not to count our votes again. Then we'll have to wait another two years.

October 03, 2006

Good Bill, Bad Bill

Over the weekend, my folks took me to see a benefit concert put on by Bill Cosby. Before the benefit concert, naturally enough, was a benefit dinner, co-hosted by Cosby and Barack Obama.

Unfortunately Obama had to leave before he introduced Cosby's act. Instead, Obama taped a short intro video that convinced me he is, like most politicians, a torso bolted to a desk in front of a bay window somewhere in Washington. But, in his case, a torso with a heart of gold.

On to Cosby. I grew up on Cosby. Not his TV show, but his earlier concert albums. Cassette tapes of these were fixtures of any family vacation that involved driving for more than a couple of hours. Thanks to him, I learned the perils of putting bullets in furnaces, and came to understand the plight of newly tonsil-less children upon their first, tragic encounter with ice cream.

Now, thirty years later, Cosby can still make complaints about wives and children sound startling and new. And he can do it while sitting in front of an audience that's dressed to the nines, while he himself is clad in a University of Chicago sweatshirt and elf socks. Proof, if any is needed, that the man is his own tuxedo.

A lot of it is in his delivery. He sounds like he's seen it all and still can't believe it. Take his bit about sitting with his wife. There he sits, and sits and sits. Then he makes the slightest, Swiss-clockwork-fine motion to get up -- and receives a peremptory query about what he's doing. So far, easy to follow.

But then...ah. The magic ensues. Cosby discovers that, in order for his justification to be taken at all seriously, it has to involve voices in his head.

Whatever you have to do to make your marriage work!

Great stuff.

Now, if Bill can make sitting with his wife sound funny, surely I can make last week's Military Commissions Bill and the death of habeas corpus sounds funny.

Only I can't.




"In other news, ABC is under heavy pressure from advertisers and policymakers not to run the names of the 800 Habeas Corpi killed in Iraq. Pictures of their flag-draped coffins have been widely circulated on the internet, prompting many lawmakers to decry what they call blatant election-year politicization of the sacrifices these Habeas Corpi have made in the cause of freedom."

I'm sorry. This isn't working. Or at least there's hearsay evidence it isn't working, and that's pretty much the same thing.

September 27, 2006

This Is The End

Here are two articles that, read in conjunction, should scare the festering shit out of you:

"War Signals?":

As a strike group of six US naval vessels prepares to deploy to the Persian Gulf, wary critics of the Bush Administration and members of the military are raising flags that an "October surprise" attack on Iran may be imminent.

"The End Times Hits Primetime":

Karl Rove and Co. may be flirting with selling the public the same thing cult leaders throughout history have sold their followers: the afterlife.

The first article should be self-explanatory. The second claims that many in the current US administration are readers of a novel which claims that bombing the right places is the best way to trigger the Second Coming.

No, I don't know what to do about it. Protesting automatically makes you a member of the fringe and doesn't so much grant you the power of invisibility as force it upon you. Anyway, I'm sure many Democrats wouldn't protest the use of force in Iran because, well, they don't want to be known as the party that kept Jesus from coming back.

I find myself hoping that the nation's military will disobey the nation's commander-in-chief. This may be one of those times when the prospects of the many ride entirely on the whims of the few.

If you think I'm exaggerating: remember a couple months ago, when the main talking point that greeted Israel's invasion of Lebanon was "IT'S WORLD WAR THREE!"? And remember when moderate Condi claimed the Lebanese civilian casualties were the "birth pangs of the new Middle East"? Well, in my bedroom is a pamplet that someone left wedged in my door that shows an evil pregnant lady, captioned "BIRTH PANGS OF THE TRIBULATION HOUR". This is absolute proof that when people talk about birth pangs, the world's children should not be rejoicing.

Even if you subscribe to the doubtful theory that there are some things the current US administration is not willing to do to achieve its ends -- and God knows lately those ends have not included "making itself look good" -- you have to agree that the main wellspring of administration policy seems to be satirical cartoons. Every time cartoonists try to find a way to pointedly exaggerate what's going on, before long that IS what's going on.

You also have to agree that once the administration has convinced itself something is the case, no force on earth can change their minds. Why should they? They already have their one-act script:

Once there was a nation. This nation was called America. And then, one day, everybody hated America because it was free.

Except Jesus. He liked us.


-- and it's too good a script to change at this point in post-production. Even though it's not really the documentary it claims to be.

The idea of a script figures prominently in everything these guys do. A couple of years ago, I planned to write up the ways our war in Iraq resembled the French strategy in World War One. (And, yes, comparing America's leaders with the French is meant to be shocking). Iraq has many fewer dead than World War One (or World War Three), but in both wars three things figure prominently: a continuing conviction at the top that the enemy was being soundly defeated (even though, in France, the Germans were killing twice as many French as the French were killing Germans), the hysterical nationalistic chest-beating in the media, and the corresponding near-complete lack of press access to what was actually going on.

Not that the press minded. It served everybody's interests to claim that the Germans (or the insurgents) were about to be defeated, when real intelligence would have plainly laid out that this was not the case. Nor were the French (or us) interested in the enemy's real strategy, or the aims it was trying to achieve. No, the script clearly stated "The enemy is being defeated", and they were going to get it right if it took all night. Or all their young men.

Still, it's just possible that Iraq has the first insurgency driven by the fact that they hate the occupiers' freedom.

But this Iran thing. You should really think about what script is being followed, and what this administration thinks is going to happen to make THE END appear in big bright letters. And you should think about what to do about it.

And then you should tell me. Because I don't know.

September 19, 2006

The Future of Eating

People are always saying, Wow, fast food is fast! But how can we make it faster?

Someday, someone really smart will realize that valuable time is lost killing live food before it can be cooked and served on a bun. They will briefly consider serving live food, but then will discard that option in favor of a solution with greater commercial potential. One that will make customers, shareholders and PETA happy. The slogan will be: "Patty Palace. Where we don't kill our patties 'cause they're already dead."

I think you know where this is going.

Zombie cows.

I know it sounds strange, but in the future everything is strange. Just hear me out.

Face it -- you just can't mistreat a zombie cow. You can keep it in the smallest pen imaginable, and it won't care -- or lose muscle tone. You can inject it with all the antibiotics and bovine growth hormone you want, and it will have no effect. But there wouldn't be a point. The cow can't get sick because it's dead.

One thing the cow WILL do is get hungry. Fortunately, like now, you can feed it other ground-up cows. In fact, this is the only food it is likely to eat. But unlike now, the zombie cow has no chance of going mad.

And the taste? Just like dead cow that used to be alive!

There is no downside.

Except, once management has tasted the benefits of an undead food source, they will start to consider the benefits of an undead labor pool as well.

Chained to a dairy-treat dispenser, your average zombie will perform at least as well as your average high-schooler. But instead of being deadened by raging hormones, the zombies will be deadened by raging death.

One benefit of raging death is that it leads to nonexistent turnover among employees, along with low probability of sex in the walk-in freezer.

Unlike teenagers, undead employees don't rebel. Every zombie, no matter how long or lush its hair, is equally willing to wear a hairnet. This will make common health code violations a thing of the past.

If your zombie employees started off as regular teenage employees, they'll even provide their own uniform!

And we won't even mention the pay that zombies are willing to work for. Or the food.

Of course, zombie line cooks will present some small danger to customers. If you're smart, you don't want your customers to accidentally become part of your zombie-food supply chain! At least the customers who have the money to keep coming back.

Here's where a few well-placed campaign contributions can work real magic. Sprinkle a little zombie dust, and soon enough Congress will establish a fund to match medical costs for any millionaire who opts to have his skull replaced with titanium.

Sure, it seems corrupt at first whiff. But don't think of it as pork. Think of it as a way for our nation's most productive citizens to avoid becoming the OTHER white meat.

Or, if you like, think of it as trickle-down health care. The better protected the brains of our nation's best are, the better protected everyone else will be from having to need their own brains.

But the problem remains -- how do you feed your undead workforce? The solution will cost just a few more contributions to your representative's warchest.

Suddenly, bankruptcy reform will become the topic of the day. To prevent abuse of the system, a law will be passed which mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must enter a lottery in which they and their immediate family become eligible to feed their brains to undead-American workers. Workers who, unlike the bankruptcy filers, keep this nation functioning.

Really, it's the most humane solution. Those bankruptcy seekers are pretty much going to be denied anyway. If the family breadwinner refuses to straighten up and succeed like a real American, what prospects do his family have? This way they will at least serve a vital cause.

Eventually, US lawmakers will adopt a softer stance, and vote to outsource zombie-food production to China. Since Chinese authorities are currently hard-pressed to enforce the "one child per family" rule, they are likely to welcome the opportunity to ship extraneous newborn citizens overseas. Especially girl citizens. The future of China can only be glorious if eighty percent of the future is male.

But some problems will always be with us. For every hardworking zombie suppurating his "special sauce" onto an almost-completed Bitey Burger, there will be at least ten illegal immigrants looking to steal that job. Like now, the best solution will be to build a wall on the border. A wall to protect our hardworking undead-Americans from the greed and desperation of the living. Especially the living who are different from us.

September 12, 2006

Intrinsic worth

Over on the alt.slack Usenet newsgroup, Reverend Ivan Stang mentioned the possibility of trade with the bottled city of Kandor.

This got me thinking. What kind of currency would a bottled city have?


Because -- really, what else is there?

This isn't as farfetched as it sounds. In some ways, this system is a lot like ours. For example, in the nineties Kandor had a tech bubble too.

Like in our world, Kandorians are usually encouraged to invest in one bubble at a time. After all, a bubble represents a whole New Economy that will only get bigger and bigger! Buy shares now, because the stock will split for sure!

Like for us, this approach works until it doesn't.

Once a bubble has popped, everyone gets on their soapboxes about how silly the whole thing is. Meanwhile, speculators have already started speculating whether or not there'll be another bubble, and how much its presence or absence will be worth.

And then there are always a few sensible folks who claim the popping of the bubble is proof that the world is flat.

It always amazes me what people will consider as having intrinsic worth. For example, gold. You can't eat it, breathe it, or build anything out of it -- except a little protective band for the base of your third left-hand finger. This is apparently what you get in exchange for marriage: reasonable protection for a tiny portion of your anatomy.

Gold has two advantages that I can see: it's shiny, and it's heavy enough that you can't carry very much of it. This way, if you're out jogging and get attacked by bandits, they can only make off with so much of your wealth.

But you know what else has the twin virtues of sheen and weight? A wet whale! Where's your intrinsic worth now, huh? Then again, maybe this explains why whale snot has a fancy name -- ambergris -- and fetches twenty bucks a gram.

September 11, 2006

Fixing Afghanistan

In honor of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, here is my plan to fix Afghanistan, AND win the War on Drugs -- for almost nothing.

Afghanistan, as you might have heard, is expecting a bumper crop of poppies -- enough to exceed world heroin demand by 30%.

With that in mind, here is the plan we should follow.

1) Leave Afghanistan.

2) Let the Taliban come back into power and burn the poppy crop.

3) Sit back and watch as the world's entire population of junkies applies for visas to Afghanistan.

4) Grant said visas, and provide the junkies with slow boats to Asia. On the journey, seasickness should crank their frenzy and desperation to Sean Youngian levels.

5) A few flatscreen TVs and high-tops may be stolen by the more desperate junkies on their way out of your country, in a pathetic bid to have some kind of bargaining chip with the Taliban. This is OK. This is a free country, and things like this happen in a free country.

6) Watch as the world population of junkies floods Kabul. Listen for the faint collective scream as they realize they cannot petition the Taliban with high-tops.

7) Watch as the junkies overthrow the Taliban and take control of the means of production. Soon they will set up efficient assembly lines for the production of both heroin and filthy mattresses, and consume their entire annual output of same.

8) The Taliban is vanquished, and so is the problem of opiate addiction within your borders.

9) Your turn. Fix Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.

September 08, 2006

Labor For a Day, Be Uncool For a Lifetime

I just want to note that Monday was Labor Day, but if you snuck home from work and turned on the teevee you wouldn't have known it. Unlike Memorial Day, when TV falls all over itself to let you know Hollywood made some war movies, TV gots nothin for Establishment chattel.

Instead, the History Channel ran something about food, and the Food Channel ran something about history of food. Even the Running Channel ignored Labor Day and showed something about running. Or cutting and running. Or maybe it was about noses. I don't remember -- I was watching war movies.

The theory goes that, unlike work, war is exciting. People already see way too much of work, so that by the time they finally finish a workday and straggle home with nothing to look forward to but doing the same thing tomorrow, the idea of seeing a documentary about people fighting for the right to work seems like a bad joke. Instead, working audiences want to see people fighting for the right to kill each other. Marches and strikes are passé; parades and airstrikes are the Bomb.

Unlike overwork and underemployment, war is exotic. Anyone can pick up a tool and get paid a pittance to use it, but hardly anyone in the whole world takes up arms against anyone else. See -- unlike work, war is forbidden. This makes it incredibly cool.

If you doubt, consider war's capacity for helping its participants to get in touch with themselves. Close your eyes and imagine what has really happened in so many combat epics: you're in a war, lying in a ditch, and some heavy-caliber round hits your helmet and spins it around 360 degrees without touching your skull. You're still alive.

All of a sudden, you realize how much life it worth living. You want to stand up, take a deep breath, go home, tell your wife how much you love her, and inform her that she must start making babies. But first you have to kill all these Germans.

In all the world there is no greater miracle.

Now compare that life-enhancing bullet to a ten-cent raise. A ten-cent raise is appropriately named, because it raises you very, very slightly from the dead. At least enough to find some uncontaminated liquid to wet yourself down with before you shamble off to your double shift. But not, fortunately, enough for you to be driven crazy by how little your employers think of you. Being driven crazy requires brains, and zombies are always hurting for lack of those.

Even when TV and movies can tear themselves away from armed combat and show something about work, the shows tend to focus on jobs that are so cool you would do them for free. Take CSI. If you're like me, you just can't wait for the next drug-war victim to get garroted so you can draw some chalk lines, tote the body home to your "lab" and fire up the old ultraviolet. Strictly for medicinal purposes, understand.

But these shows gloss over the grotesque working conditions, such as the stress and strain of dealing with evidence of violent crimes. For example, in LA, heavy smog can taint blood samples with trace amounts of exotic materials, making every death look like the work of a highly skilled assassin. Christ, you mean I have to go track another ninja? Why do these guys kill so many other people's shrewish ex-wives?

Not to mention LA's miasma of amorality that seeps into everything and turns every crime scene into the meth-fueled beating of a single parent with the skull of his or her own trick-turning eight-year-old. Who, of course, had a spec script that was THAT CLOSE to being read by Spielberg's assistant. Yes, criminal stereotypes are a terrible thing. But lack of appropriate monetary compensation for dealing constantly with criminal stereotypes is an even more terrible thing.

Sadly, no CSI investigator is ever going to petition for a ten-cent raise. In fact, the only time they'll ever see a dime is when they find five or six pre-1965 silver dimes lodged in the bodies of a kitchenful of fast-food employees. At first the investigators will assume the employees planned to smuggle the dimes out of the restaurant safe, in locations that would be missed by your run-of-the-mill employee strip-search. But then things will take a dark turn when the employer falls under suspicion of hiring illegal-immigrant werewolves for five cents an hour, then killing them with silver and frying their meat -- with the aim of turning his customers into werewolves! Fortunately, the manager's proven parsimoniousness will save him, since he wouldn't spare one silver dime to kill his sainted mother, let alone a kitchenful of illegal werewolves.

See? Penny-pinching is a virtue!

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. The fact that labor isn't exciting. I'd talk a lot more about this, but it's Friday and I have some serious forgetting to do. Not to mention pennies to pinch. It's not cruel. They love it, really.

P.S.: I have never watched an episode of CSI. Really? You could tell? Wow -- you are such a detective!

July 01, 2006

I'm Back!

Wow. It's been like ten months since I last posted.

To make up for it, here's some trenchant commentary I wrote for Usenet a few days ago. World leaders, pay attention! I speak truth! And you're supposed to, you know, be on your toes when people do that. (However, world leaders -- please refrain from noticing that Usenet is still around. Technoweenie shut-ins such as myself need an outlet where we can post irresponsible trash without personal repercussions).

"Israeli tanks turn screw on besieged Gaza Strip"

Israel widened its assault on the Gaza Strip last night by shelling the north of the territory and dropping leaflets warning residents of a pending attack by tanks and troops, as the government seized on a crisis over an abducted soldier to take on Palestinian armed groups. It also held more than 1 million ordinary Palestinians responsible for 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shilat's continued capture and promised "extreme action" to secure his release.

What do you get if you dilute an Israeli soldier to one part per million?

A Palestinian solution!

It's homeopathic medicine!

One principle of homeopathy is that "like cures like". Therefore, if you're a Palestinian who's down with a bad case of Israel, the best cure is to take an Israeli, dissolve in water (or alcohol if water is not available), make multiple dilutions, then pass it around. Make sure there's enough for everyone.

This explains Israel's haste in going after one million Palestinians. They have to act quickly if they want to recover a workable portion of poor Shilat's component molecules, before they pass through all the Gaza residents' kidneys.

If they can rebuild him, though, it will be worth it. He will be a soldier with the strength of 600,000 refugees.

As a bonus, here's something I've been thinking about. As usual, it has to do with the end of the world.

When civilization collapses and electronic communications are all wiped out, the only way future archaeologists will be able to gain insight into how we communicated with one another is through hardcopy publications. This, of course, means technical manuals.

Such manuals are a priceless Rosetta Stone because they display the same message in multiple languages. Not only will this allow the seven-lobed land sloths that succeed the human race to crack many of our dead languages -- it will also clue the sloths in to our long-vanished values. Since technical manuals were written in multiple languages, the messages they contain must have been of broad importance to many peoples and cultures.

It will become clear that the wisdom the human race most needed and desired to see was the word "Troubleshooting" followed by useless gibberish.

Okay. There's your world news, all taken care of.

On the home front, a few things have happened:

Family visited: check.

Sister married to worthy suitor of twelve years: check.

Neat pictures of marriage snapped by photographer friend I hadn't seen in a long time: check.

New suit purchased for wedding ceremony (and to accommodate my creeping waistline): check.

No healthy food ingested that would help this too, too solid waistline to thaw, melt and resolve itself into a dew: check.

Tenth anniversary of celibacy celebrated: not quite check. The anniversary is either tomorrow or the next day. I haven't quite made it, but something tells me it will be smooth sailing.

And believe me -- I will be doing my best to think of it as an accomplishment. Judging by Clinton's second term, I got out of that sex racket just in time.

One problem with this weblog (or outlet for unchallenged screeds, or whatever it is) is that it's in bad, bad need of an overhaul. But my web skills are current as of 1999. I don't view this as a failing on my part. After all, I learned HTML and layout once. Now, evidently, I need to learn it all over again. HTML tables have become the Shaun Cassidy feathered hair of online communication, and CSS is the new Vin Diesel. But instead of feeling challenged by the prospect of going bald, I am frantically annoyed.

This puts the future of "Same Day, Different Rat" in a potentially tragic light., who knows. So tune in again and see if it's another ten months until my next post!

September 12, 2005

"Sorry" Voted Most Popular, Beats Out "Safe"

NEW ORLEANS -- At 11 AM CDT, President Bush, accompanied by a contingent of the 101st Airborne Division, waded ashore to Jackson Square in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

Then, after being perched sidesaddle atop the famous statue of Andrew Jackson, the President addressed the nation and the stricken city.

"My fellow Americans: major combat operations in New Orleans have ended. In the battle of Louisiana, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

"Let the Reconstruction begin."

Following the speech, commentators noted that the President's decision to attire himself in a frogsuit and brandish a speargun was a clever poke at the French origins of New Orleans, and a gesture which would endear him to his audience. Most agreed that the President's speech was a success.

On the subject of FEMA's (and the administration's) slow response to the crisis, pundits insist that it is all to the administration's credit.

"This is a litmus test of the President's ability to relate to the average voter," wrote Malcolm Gallstone of The Wall Street Journal, "a test he has passed with flying colors. Is the average NASCAR watcher supposed to know what to do in a catastrophe of this magnitude? I don't think so. And neither should the President. Only a pampered, overeducated elite knows -- or claims to know -- what measures to take. And, predictably, the Liberal Media is calling for FEMA and Homeland Security to be staffed with these high-minded do-gooders.

"But, Mr. Liberal Media, before you do anything so rash, you would do well to ask yourself -- does the American public really need or want your so-called charity? No, Mr. Liberal Media. The American public, and the American President, know what's really important: sinecures and no-bid contracts for the President's friends. Only then will the spirit of enterprise, now tragically dammed behind a levee of wasteful social programs, flow freely through the streets of New Orleans. Truly, a rising tide to lift all boats."

Demonstrating his aptitude for independent thought, President Bush has ordered FEMA to turn away relief efforts by the Red Cross. Normally, the Red Cross is a bulwark in times of crisis. However, the President, along with many loyal citizens, understands that the "Cross" in Red Cross is a tragic misnomer. In reality, the organization does not endorse any particular brand of Christianity.

Realizing that New Orleans requires spiritual as well as material aid, the President has called upon faith-based organizations to meet the challenge.

Among the organizations receiving federal funds for their assistance on the Gulf Coast are Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing, which has called for the assassination of any foreign heads of state found in New Orleans. Also slated to receive federal funding is Operation Rescue, which has vowed to save all unborn fetuses along the coast by 1) praying for them, and 2) by forming cordons to cut off supplies from area hospitals that offer family-planning services.

Finally, many religious leaders have vowed to disobey activist judges who block their efforts to cleanse New Orleans of its moral wickedness. Legal obstructions would be counterproductive, the leaders claim, because it is the lack of moral values which precipitated this disaster in the first place.

Many might ask: what will be the fate of New Orleans?: After this week, when the cameras leave and the news programming returns full-time to celebrity pedophilia, the hearts of many of us will continue weigh heavily with this question.

Although firm predictions are premature, a multitude of options is percolating at the federal, state, and even local levels.

One option that appears unlikely, but which has not been entirely ruled out, stems from the great number of faith-based aid workers currently in the city.

"I can't speak for all of us, but I personally know a lot of aid workers, who, in their nightly prayers, pray for all that water to turn into wine," says aid worker Peter Piper of the organization Mission Accomplished.

One result of such a miracle would be that the city's remaining holdouts would have no chance of passing a breathalyzer test. They would then swiftly be booked with DUIs, and safely incarcerated on higher ground. Their uncertain futures would no longer be so uncertain.

Finally, and most happily, the shady element would be removed from the city. The more industrious and prosperous residents of New Orleans could then return, and rebuild the city in a style more suited to their aspirations.

A longer-term solution might take into account New Orleans' current status as a federal disaster area. Since the city and all its land is under federal jurisidiction, it may be sold under the terms of an 1872 federal mining law that states "All valuable mineral deposits on lands belonging to the United States...shall be free and open to exploration and purchase."

The city would become the nation's first mineral-water mine. Its land would go to contractors for the industry-standard price of about five dollars an acre.

"New Orleans is really a diamond in the rough," says mining-industry expert Walton Hardtack. "Water is our most precious and scarce resource. And here's New Orleans, chock-full of it. Surely by now that water is nice and hard from exposure to all those rusting vehicles that all those Southerners liked to keep in their front yards. It's practically ready for bottling."

Standard strip-mining procedures would be observed, though without some of the unsightly side effects that normally tarnish the industry's public image. For example, there would be no need to shear off mountaintops and dump them into streams and rivers.

Still, warns Hardtack, it won't be easy. "People have no idea how much raw material it takes to refine a bottle of mineral water. To produce a twelve-ounce bottle of Brownsluice Springs could easily require a hectare of Latin Quarter."

Nevertheless, in these uncertain times, it pays to know where our vulnerabilities lie. If the terrorists know that we have a domestic source of mineral water that could supply Americans for months, it makes their job harder -- and our children safer.

But how do we address the long-term environmental degradation that contributed to the flood? Well-known is the problem of the disappearance of Louisiana's coastal wetlands, which normally protect inland areas from storm surges. Less well-known is a solution to the problem.

Though some hardliners dispute whether the disappearance of Louisiana's wetlands is caused by man and not by some as-yet-unknown natural process, most in the administration understand that the problem is real and must be dealt with.

The key may lie with a recent EPA study. Under Bush, the EPA concluded that many of the natural functions that wetlands provide, such as water filtration, can be served equally well by golf courses.

While expensive, the positives to such a project would be manifold. Not only would golf courses provide a bulwark against future floods along the Louisiana coast. The gentrification that golf courses provide would also serve as a bulwark against the racking poverty which the state is usually known for.

For critics who worry about an exodus of Cajuns flooding north and taking jobs from hardworking Americans, this plan's proponents have an answer. Instead of remaining rootless and unproductive, the area's poor could be hired as caddies.

Then, instead of wondering about their place in a consumer-driven society, the poor be proud of their newly gainful employment. Employment as water carriers and human levees, protecting the rest of us from danger and sacrifice.

What could possibly go wrong?

May 26, 2005

Language and Other Barriers

I feel for China. Not only is it taking the rap for its booming energy consumption, which is expected to grow to half that of the US. (Which, on a per-capita basis, represents a whopping ten percent of American energy usage). Not only is China expected to make blustery noises over Taiwan and Tibet, while simultaneously manufacturing a large portion of Wal-Mart's inventory. Which, to add insult to injury, Wal-Mart advertises with a yellow happy face.

No, the worst part is -- China has to do all this while being multilingual. Really, it's enough to make any self-respecting behemoth throw up its hands. Or at least its tongues.

True, China has a single written language. But that's just papering over the problem. How could any single nation overcome the deep gulf separating Mandarin, with four tones, from Cantonese, with six or seven tones? That's like a band whose guitar player knows a bunch of Ramones songs, while the singer does a spot-on imitation of Jon Anderson from Yes.

I picture Mandarin as a wily outlaw, and Cantonese as a lone-wolf bounty hunter tracking Mandarin across the vast expanses of mainland China. Finally, after a battle with a horde of savage Ping speakers, Cantonese would corner Mandarin in some lonely, godforsaken larynx. The two would fight it out at high noon, on a wide and dusty palate.

One would say, "This guy's mouth ain't big enough for the both of us," and the other would say "What? I can't understand, you're only using four tones." At which point the first one would draw a pistol and discharge it next to the second one's ear, so it wouldn't matter how many tones he used.

Ultimately, though, Cantonese and Mandarin would tire of being unintelligible to each other, and retire to the saloon. At that point, a talent scout would spot the pair, inform them that they're cult figures in Japan, and offer them two million dollars to endorse Suntory Whiskey. At last, our two mismatched heroes would bond over their common bemusement with Japanese culture.

Ain't love grand?

Sadly, the average American is willing to believe anything about China. I recently saw a cover story in a national news magazine, titled "How We Would Fight China". Pictured on the front was a fearsome, preternaturally glowy-eyed Chinese sailor.

Here's the problem. The magazine was The Atlantic Monthly.

Chances are, if we do fight China, it won't be in the Atlantic. Not that geography-challenged American readers are likely to catch this. No -- according to them, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is our last hope against a brutal Communist takeover of Bermuda. Next thing you know, Congress will authorize $87 billion in emergency funds for the defense of America's vital offshore tax havens. After all, what is the loss of $87 billion compared to the loss of our freedom?

May 03, 2005

The Future, Part III

And now, a very special episode of "Same Day, Different Rat." It's a little number I like to call "Christ, is he still jabbering about Metropolis?!?"

Yes, he is.

Just three more things -- then I promise I'll talk about something else.

First, the Alloy Orchestra's website is back up. These men of bronze are known for making music with strange objects like bedpans and air-conditioner filters. Now, I'm happy to report that you can still visit their site and order stuff to put some jingle in their jeans.

Second, the issue of the correct playback speed for Metropolis, about which I've been an unconscionable ass. DVD Savant has an informed and interesting article about this and other aspects of the DVD. Apparently, Fritz Lang meant his movie to be projected at 20 frames per second, but the studio overrode him and had the music scored for 24 fps.

In this age of wonders, software like WinDVD can take the place of a good old speed dial. WinDVD can play a video faster or slower, while keeping the soundtrack at its original pitch (with some loss in quality). After playing portions of the DVD at 85% speed, I see that DVD Savant has a point. The slowdown isn't drastic, but it makes the action more manageable.

Finally, here's something interesting but exhausting: original reviews of Metropolis from 1927. The reviews run the gamut from huffy to goofy to grandiloquent.

The most entertaining piece is by H.G. Wells. Look for the review that starts "I have recently seen the silliest film."

It's interesting how jilted Wells comes off. I suspect some friends told him to see Metropolis because it incorporated one or two of his old ideas, and he was appalled by how the movie handled them. Granted, if someone took my writing from, say, age sixteen and turned it into the script for Titanic, I would also conclude that humanity had failed a crucial test of taste and restraint.

But what's most fascinating about the review is how its intelligence spotlights its cluelessness. For example, Wells pillories Metropolis for not presenting a well-reasoned picture of what the future might be like. Metropolis wasn't supposed to be an accurate projection of the future any more than The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a scientific analysis of sleepwalking.

Wells was drawn to Progress the way a zombie is drawn to brains. Were he alive today, Wells would say that progress is a tide that lifts all boats. Everyone lives better and gets paid more, so they can buy more, so they make the producers richer, so they make themselves richer. He's at a loss to understand how the future city of Metropolis could depend for its riches on indentured labor, so he concludes that it's poppycock.

Were he alive today, I wonder what Wells would make of Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap. In the late nineties, Dunlap was the CEO of Sunbeam. He was a miracle-worker, the man who turned stock into gold, and his philsophy was this: in a perfect world, the workers would live on a barge. The barge would go wherever labor was cheapest.

At his worst, Dunlap talked like a general from World War I -- as though he was actually thirsty for the blood of his own men. But this was the late nineties, and there was no war. It was a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity. Compared to the rest of the world, Americans from Dunlap on down lived like kings -- or at least like kleptocrats.

Progress? We report -- you decide.

Forget for a moment that Wells wrote his review two years before the Great Depression, and three years before Gandhi's salt march, to break the British government's monopoly on Indian salt. (So much like Bechtel's 1999 privatization of Cochabamba's water, which actually forbid residents to collect rainwater!) By 1927, Gandhi had already started his campaign to revive Indian cottage industry, which had been crushed by British industrialists who took everything worth owning.

Where did this fit into Wells' vision of Progress? Presumably, he was talking about the First World. As Wells gazed from the top of his Tower of Babel at the gleaming skyline of the future, there were no wogs to spoil the view. They labored securely underground, on the other side of the equator.

Nowadays the word "progress" is passé. It's more fashionable to prattle about the Information Economy as we paw through racks of clothes made by fourteen-year-old brown people working fourteen-hour days. But they're on the other side of the world, and they don't believe in freedom anyway. Just like the good old days.

April 13, 2005

What information will look like -- In The Future!

I predict that the trend away from investigative journalism, and toward the recycling of a few easily available news pieces, will grow. In the future, news providers will maximize their ROI by eliminating wasteful, labor-intensive sentence construction. Within ten years, all news stories will be one word long.

For example, "Tsunami!" or "Pope!"

If a story is truly groundbreaking, or touches the lives of millions, the word will be repeated over and over.

Furthermore, I predict that one of the mainstream news outlets, CNN or MSNBC, will cut additional production costs by eliminating punctuation. But this scheme will backfire when Fox runs intensive coverage on "ELITISM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". This will shame Fox's less reactionary competitors into reinstating punctuation, thereby avoiding the trap of reporting news like William Faulkner. Journalistic integrity must be maintained.

My friend and webspace-mate Rory recently speculated on gayness, attempts to avoid the appearance of gayness, and the enshrinement of conventional wisdom on attempts to avoid the appearance of gayness. He got me to wondering.

For my money, sexual preference is completely determined by non-sexual behavioral traits. For example, sometimes I sip my tea with my pinky held out. This either means I'm gay, or else I learned to hold my pinky out by playing classical guitar. But then again -- classical guitar. Sheesh. By itself, that dooms me to a lifetime of fingering other men's fretboards.

Speaking of sticking your M-16 into other men's exit wounds, you know what's not gay? The military. Young, strapping men volunteering to leave their wives and homes, to spend years together stacked in barracks bunkbeds. Nope. Not gay.

In fact, our government is determined that there should be no stain on the honor of this country's fighting men. As soon as the Defense of Marriage Act is safe from violation at the hands of activist judges, this administration will turn its attention to the Defense of Defense Act. In lieu of veteran's benefits or family assistance, our soldiers will be protected by the force of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The amendment will read: "The military is not gay."

Some lawmakers, caught up in their zeal to do right by our country's armed forces, are proposing a second amendment to table. Tentatively named the Defense of Offense Act, this new law would state "Everything besides the military is gay."

However, more moderate lawmakers point out that such an amendment would entail that marriage is gay. One consequence might be that only gay marriage would be constitutional. In order for heterosexual unions to exist at all, our men in uniform would have to marry each other. Because, you know, they're not gay.

And because they sacrifice themselves so that we might live free.

June 10, 2004

One For The Gipper.

If the nation's voters elect me to office, I will make and keep two promises.

First -- I will turn my attention to our nation's flag. This noble and revered symbol of our highest aspirations has a long and hallowed history. But 9/11 changed everything. Now our flag no longer represents who we, as a people, are.

I will therefore give our flag the honorable retirement it deserves, and replace it with a flag composed of the world's total supply of fossil fuels.

Second -- I, and all self-respecting lawmakers who stand with me, will immediately amend the constitution to outlaw flag-burning.

See? Alternative energy sources are viable.

And now, some random memories of Ronald Reagan. Not only are they random, they are my memories. This saves me the trouble of looking up the details to make sure they have any basis in fact.

Free for a Day

In 1981, after a long, nightmarish period of attempting to bargain with a fanatical new Ayatollah, and a rescue attempt that ended in total failure, the desperate hopes of a nation were finally realized. Iran released its American hostages from their imprisonment at the former US embassy.

As I remember, this happened shortly before Carter left office. But it seemed clear to everyone that Iran had cashed its chips because Mr. Carter was about to make way for Mr. Reagan. And Reagan wasn't interested in playing by the rules. (As indeed he didn't. Unlike President Carter, who only sent Iran a couple of "pre-crashed" rescue choppers, Reagan sent entire racks of missiles -- which Iran was then free to crash into anything it wanted).

Anyway, the day after the hostages were freed, we were let off from school. I don't remember if it was a national holiday or not. But if the presidential election had been held that day, I believe that Reagan would have been swept into office on a tidal wave of adoring seventh-grade testimonials.


Later in 1981, Reagan renewed the hope of the world when he sent the message, loud and clear, that he would stop at nothing, shun no ally, in his crusade against Soviet tyranny. He would even support...labor movements.

As long as they were Polish.

Jack D. Gipper

In 1983, one of the graduating seniors at my high school forsook the normal yearbook photo of himself, and substituted a portrait of Reagan. It was a stark black-and-white portrait, showing Reagan in his office, standing tall and resolute.

It was a good portrait. But something about it struck me, and only later did I realize what it was. The portrait looked exactly like the opening shot of Sterling Hayden in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have just passed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Sometime around 1984, everyone simultaneously woke up to the fact that was no hunger in America. And no racism. And no pollution, except from national forests. The dreams of King had come true; the Great Society had been made good. We were clean.

And we hadn't even had to try. We had achieved success without work. We had awakened in the new American Morning -- to find the American Dream was sweet reality.

Cook Election Thoroughly Before Serving

All presidential elections are created equally hideous, but the presidential election of 1984 was created more equally hideous than others. Since everything bad in America had been cured, Democratic nominee and former VP Walter Mondale had to dig deep to find something that would stick to the Teflon President. In the end, he was reduced to scooping muck out of the grave of Clara Peller.

A few years earlier, Clara Peller had appeared in a series of Wendy's commercials. She gave the smackdown to fast-food burger outlets that served mostly bun. Now, Mondale took the bat and stepped up to the plate. He looked at Reagan, looked at us, and asked "Where's the beef?"

Fortunately, Reagan didn't realize the question was rhetorical. "Here's the beef," he replied.

Thus did Reagan become the Great Communicator. And thus did our leaders give us the first presidential race composed entirely of product placements.

Shop at Soft Target -- and Save!

"Soft Target". Is anyone else old enough to remember this phrase? This was after Nicaraguan dictator (and U.S. ally) Somoza lost power to the Sandinistas. All of a sudden, Nicaragua had a Communist regime only two days' driving time from the US. In response, the Reagan Administration funded the Contras, or Freedom Fighters, in their effort to dislodge the Sandinistas from power.

But what were soft targets? This was a phrase used to describe rural Nicaraguan villages, and hospitals and such. These places were unarmed and had the usual complement of women and children. The Contras, naturally, did not want to engage in firefights with hard targets, which shoot back. So they preferred soft targets.

In defense of this policy, it must be stated that the Contras were the good guys. Plus, whereever possible, they chose targets that were so soft the bullets bounced back. The villages and hospitals would emerge unharmed. The bullets functioned primarily as a wake-up call for their inhabitants to stop voting against their best interests.

What's Yours Is Mined

Around 1986, when it came to light that the Administration had been covertly mining Nicaraguan harbors, Senator Barry Goldwater condemned the action. This was the same Barry Goldwater who, as the Republican Party's 1964 presidential nominee, had declared that "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."

Dude. Whoa. When the Extreme Liberty guy says your foreign policy is extreme...well, then you're way past extreme. You are snowboarding with Satan.

Or maybe what you're defending isn't liberty.

Red Smears

Long after Reagan's final term, I learned that our government had funded the Khmer Rouge throughout the 1980s. You remember...Khmer Rouge...Pol know, that one agrarian dictatorship that killed millions of Cambodians. In short, real jerks.

Why did we fund them? Well, starting around 1978 they started fighting the Vietnamese. As long as they did that, they weren't jerks.

But by 1989 we didn't want folks fighting Vietnam anymore. Secretary of State James Baker suggested that we close the books on Reagan's policy, and turn the Khmer Rouge back into jerks again. The timing was ideal, because then Pol Pot died, and we all got to talk about what a jerk he had been.

The moral? Moral ascendancy is all in the timing.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Now Reagan is dead, and his funeral has been code-named Operation Infinite Moral Ascendancy. I know, I know. Don't start. He was a nice enough guy. He always had a smile for everyone, even right after he got shot. While being taken to surgery, a nurse held his hand. He looked at her, smiled, and said "Does Nancy know about us?"

But listen. In reading about Alzheimer's, I learned this. If sufferers of Alzheimer's live long enough with the disease, they become unable to speak, or respond to people in almost any way. The last social reflex that goes is the ability to smile. And a smile, by the way, is the first social response that infants learn.

Reagan was a great actor, no question. In the 1964 remake of The Killers, he managed to keep a straight face, even when backed by incidental music that prominently featured bongos. But, with that first smile, every infant learns how to act. And the smile is the last thing a great actor forgets.

March 29, 2004

The Fog of War

How do you make a zombie? You start with a human being. Then you peel away everything that isn't a zombie.

If it's not too late to discuss the Academy Awards, I must say I'm happy that The Fog of War won the Oscar for best documentary. I'm a longtime fan of John Carpenter's work, and it's great that he's finally getting the recognition he deserves. Albeit twenty-four years too late.

However, despite my familiarity with Carpenter's filmography, I was surprised to learn that The Fog of War is a documentary. That the paralytic malaise which crept over late-seventies America took physical form as a dense wall of fog. And that the fog hid such terrible secrets about our nation's recent past.

I'll never forget the sight of Adrienne Barbeau trapped on the roof of the American embassy, with no hope of escape from her pursuers. And how her eyes bulged as she realized who her pursuers were, and what terrible justice they were about to exact.

Yes -- the members of Lyndon Johnson's cabinet had shambled forth from the grave. And they hungered. They hungered for revenge against the peacemongering, pill-popping, thrill-copping, me-first Americans who had stabbed them in the back and robbed their own country of victory in Vietnam.

I'll never forget how Adrienne grabbed the phone to call for help, only to drop it in horror as she realized that the rotting corpse of J. Edgar Hoover had given her a wiretap -- from Hell!

Great moments indeed. However, if this was all there is to The Fog of War, it would not have deserved the Oscar. But John Carpenter, despite the dark subject matter of his films, has never descended to cheap nihilism. Ultimately, his movie shows us that the long and terrible night of the seventies came to a close, and a shining sun called Reagan rose to purify the land. To roll back the soupy fog of affirmative-action legislation that was choking the life out of our principles. Reagan dispelled that dark nonsense, and taught us that America had never been racist and never would be. That, far from being victims, blacks had taken the lead in defending their country in Vietnam -- while white liberals at home were busy stabbing them in the back.

For showing us the truth, John Carpenter deserves the Academy's Oscar, and the gratitude of all America. After all -- Jesus may have been a carpenter, but John is the Carpenter.

November 30, 2003

Lost Weekends and Other Special Occasions

If you're still looking for that perfect Thanksgiving movie to share with your loved ones, but want to avoid the cliché-ridden dysfunctional families who populate big-studio releases, I wholeheartedly recommend the indie effort Blood Freak.

It's the heartwarming story of a lone biker who, on Thanksgiving Eve, meets some pushers. Though the biker is a stranger, the pushers invite him into their home, and offer him a heaping platter of homemade PCP. But the biker isn't grateful for what he's been given, and refuses to empty his plate -- even though the world is full of starving children who would be happy to take his place.

The biker gets his just desserts when he grows a giant turkey head. Then, as a mutant turkey, he's forced to eat people for Thanksgiving! However, the mutant turkey still has the brain of a lone biker, so he stays literate. Furthermore, he finds redemption when he discovers the true meaning of Thanksgiving, and writes thank-you notes to the families of the victims who have provided his bounty.

No matter who you are, the film has a heartwarming lesson for you. Even if you're a mutant turkey, the movie can show you how not to be a cold turkey.

Many people view Alzheimer's as a disease. I view it as an opportunity.

One symptom of Alzheimer's is the inability to do simple math. This is an excellent reason not to tip your waiter. And it bears the FDA stamp of approval -- as the recommended way to keep pace with the rising cost of prescription drugs.

Another Alzheimer's symptom is the tendency to wander around in the street. This is an excellent opportunity to regain your lost youth. If, back in '23, you were hot enough to stop traffic -- you can do so again! Or, even if you weren't -- you can finally do what your mama told you and go play in traffic. Whether you play Kick The Can, or kick the bucket -- it's all an adventure.

Or, if you always wanted to be a rebel but never figured out how to express your contempt for societal norms, here's your chance. Mama always told you never to accept rides from strangers. But now, thanks to Alzheimer's, everyone is a stranger -- and every destination is unknown. The romance of the road awaits you!

Last and most important -- Alzheimer's is the best reason to stop treating your family members as loved ones, and see them for what they really are: meddling, condescending strangers who want to take everything away from you.

It may be hard to drop the kindly grandmother act. But it's essential that you start screaming and throwing things at people who protest that they love you, that they're your son or daughter or whoever and that they only assumed power of attorney for your own good. You see -- in this new, post-9/11 world, we cannot afford the luxury of innocence. We must face some unpleasant truths. It may hard to accept the fact that your so-called loved ones are terrorists -- but your willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt is precisely what makes them so dangerous.

Luckily, our current administration has recognized this threat and taken firm steps to deal with it. Against all odds, they corralled those flighty fillies in Congress, and made them pass the Patriarch Act into law. They may not realize it, but it was for their own good -- and yours too.

Under the new law, the only man who can assume power of attorney for you is the Attorney General. Anyone else who tries to do so is undermining your homeland security and taking away your freedom of choice. So heed the voice of Papa Ashcroft. Turn your family in. Stand up on your own two walkers and become your own primary caregiver. You literally can't afford not to.

November 13, 2003

Where There's a Landfill, There's a Way

Ask me a question, and I'll give you the right answer. It won't always be the real answer. But trust me. You won't miss a thing.

For all my carrying on and huggermuggery in my last post about Lost In Translation, I forgot to say what really I wanted to say about it. Here it is.

A contemporary of J.S. Bach's, I think, said that Bach could play the pipe organ better with his feet than other organists could play with their hands. You could make the same claim for Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray. They manage to say more with their feet than other actors say with their whole bodies. Watch the movie and you'll see what I mean. (Although having bodies to go along with their feet does add emotional credibility to their performances).

I've ragged too much on Japan. Sure, the Japanese have strange fixations, like the filthiness of feet. If they accidentally throw their socks in the regular clothes washer, it's contaminated and they have to buy a new one. With universally accepted social stigmas like that, it's almost easier just to knit a hair shirt for your feet and walk from town to town, denying the flesh by offering to help people move their furniture and then dropping it on your toes. But me! I have cleanliness issues that put Japanese hoofers to shame.

I realized this during last weekend's total lunar eclipse. As I watched the Earth's shadow creep across the moon, it occurred to me that here was firsthand evidence of Earth doing something I've suspected it of doing all along. Now I know -- Earth leaves a big brown stain on the universe.

You'd think that for the billions of stars in each of the billions of galaxies out there, SETI -- the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence -- would have picked up some signals. Interstellar ultimata for us humans to stop splitting atoms before we split the universe, maybe. But no, nothing. All SETI hears are military satellites chatting up the orbiting remains of Timothy Leary. What went wrong?

Here's my theory. Any broadcasts would be made by technologically advanced societies. By their progressive nature, these societies produce lots of garbage. After just one century of human progress, think of all the landfills choked with now-useless IBM XT computers and Loverboy albums. Now for the aliens, multiply that century of progress by a thousand -- and imagine all that's come and gone. All the fads that were popular just two millennia ago, like putting on the tentacle-warmers and power-flaggellating to Richard Simmons, are out of style. Really, all those self-help books were fine while the Hive-Mind was in its larval stage -- but now they're useless to a perfect group consciousness. Alan Bloom is so much more sophisticated, don't you think? So into the collective wastebasket they go.

It's easy to see that any civilization capable of broadcasting powerful signals across thousands of light-years has already drowned in its own refuse.

Either that, or the alien garbage itself becomes the most successful life-form on the planet. Maybe that's why UFOs only abduct white trash.