"An unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences." -- Edith Wharton.
My brother Dave has started an open-source virtual organization called Phantoms of Lost Liberty, which draws its inspiration from the following absolutely chilling words by John Ashcroft defending the Patriot Act and many other continuing incursions against the Bill of Rights:
"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends."
Well, there's a headline that might start your thoughts roaming in any number of directions, but it turns out that what upsets Steve Ballmer is the way that the Googlers and any number of other cosmo brains have beaten the pants off MicroSoft in the search for search.
All the news for MicroSoft isn't bad though. Ballmer too has his dreams:
Ballmer said Microsoft spends about 12 percent of its media budget on online advertising, and that he orders his staff to "saturate" that market first and foremost.
"I want to make sure [a user] can't get through ... an online experience without hitting a Microsoft ad," he said.
Condoleeza Rice is giving hourly demonstrations of the thickened croak that shows up in your voice when you are desparately lying to save your pelt, perhaps the best thickened croak since that of the master of voice stress analysis, Richard M. Nixon.
The Boston Heraldreports on a massage parlor bust where Quincy, Mass., police found "an intricate color-coded system for weeding out willing customers from those seeking regular massages".
As if that weren't sneaky enough, the 15 women who worked there "allegedly offered sex services with coded names such as the French, Greek, and Handshake". Police cryptanalysts are working on decoding the meanings of these obscure terms.
If you'd like to avoid being lied to, set your personal spam filter for news to reject all statements that include the words frankly, as a matter of fact, actually, to tell the truth, truthfully, and all equivalent tokens.
Of course, this may have the effect of cutting off all communications from the Bush administration.
That is passive filtering. Active filtering requires implementation of the Mandy Rice-Davies Rule. Miss Rice Davies was a courtesan (indeed) involved in the deliciously named Profumo scandal of 40 years ago. When informed on the witness stand that Lord Astor claimed her allegations of his participation in house parties with her were untrue, she replied, "He would, wouldn't he?"
This means setting your filter to ignore anything said by any public person that is nothing more than what you'd expect them to say. This will give you much more time for love and nourishment.
PS - Miss Rice-Davies also made it into the virtual Bartlett's with the following autobiographical essay: "My life has been one long descent into respectability."
The secrets known by U.S. Army Capt. James Yee, a chaplain to Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay arrested on suspicion of espionage were so secret, so dreadfully dreadfully secret that rather than reveal them at a trial, the government has dropped all charges.
No secret keeps forever, though, so here are a couple of guesses as to what Capt. Yee's trial might have revealed:
Capt. Yee may know that hundreds of people are being held without charge, without significant suspicion, without serious interrogation, and with no prospect of even a semblance of American justice on the grounds that someone has declared them enemy combatants, and, what the heck, they aren't on American dirt anyway.
Capt. Yee may know that security regulations at Guantanamo are so half-baked that Army officer must violate them to do their jobs.
The Bush Administration is likely to be such a laughingstock by October that announcing the capture of Osama Bin Laden will go directly to Leno, Letterman, and Jon Stewart on the Daily Show with only the briefest stop in the news.
And even the news, by then, may include the story of Osama Bin Laden's long and beneficial association with the US and why we sought to capture him by attacking Iraq.
Brooms don't prove the existence of witches: Hans Blix talks straight
The Metro is a little free commuter paper that is handed out at mass-transit stops. It is based in Sweden and published in 34 editions around the world. Today's Boston Metro has an exclusive interview with Hans Blix from Sweden. I can't seem to find an online version of the interview anywhere, so here it is, hand-typed and hand-formatted:
'We knew what we knew'
Former United Nations WMD hunter Hans Blix talks to Metro
On March 19, the anniversary of the attack on Iraq, Hans Blix will publish the book, Disarming Iraq, that deals with his four years as U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq.
Q: No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Your book might be seen as twisting the knife in the American misjudgments. Your thoughts?
A: That is not the aim of the book. But after Sept. 11, the Americans were convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and interpreted everything as if they believed in witches. If they saw a broom, that was a proof of the existence of witches. When Powell held his famous show in the U.N. security council, I brought up the trucks the American saw as evidence of decontamination of chemical weapons. Our inspectors had been there and I said before the invasion that we were not convinced by that example.
But you found warheads for chemical weapons and strong indications of them having anthrax?
Yes, we found 12 warheads on the first round of inspections and we didn't know if we had hit the tip of an iceberg or flakes from one. But they were empty and stored in a declared arsenal. Had Iraq forgotten about them, too? We also found a stack of documents about the use of a laser in a nuclear context. The most likely reason was that the scientists had brought them home from work.
Was it only after the U.N. Security Council had exhausted all its possibilities, that Iraq realized that invasion would become a reality?
Perhaps some things were kept from Saddam Hussein. But he must have known something, because there was a pressure in the form of a resolution draft by which he would hold a TV speech in Arabic, disclosing the information the West wanted. And with in a short space of time, Iraq was to comply with five disarmament goals. Saddam Hussein held a TV speech on his son Uday's channel, but it did not have the content that we required. But we don't know if he believed that they would be invaded. Maybe he thought the worldwide demonstrations would save him.
Why didn't Iraq clear itself from the allegations of having weapons of mass destruction?
The suspicions were very costly for them up until 1995. But for the country's elite there wasn't a big problem, even towards the end there was enough food imported.
The sanctions were going to be lifted once the inspectors reported that all weapons of mass destruction were gone, but that was not a rule that Iraq trusted. The U.S. often said that sanctions wouldn't be lifted until Saddam Hussein was removed. Thus he had no reason to meet the demands of disarmament. Another reason might be that he wanted to come across as more dangerous than he actually was. But it probably had to do with their pride.
How did it feel to sand in front of influential world leaders, who tell you that you have been deceived?
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is One Unutterably Ineffably Stupid Woman
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is so stupid it actually makes your brain hurt to read her column today. This will take you there, but it won't stop the pain.
Dowd was subbing today for Matt Drudge. The column's joke, a technical term, not a description, is that Kerry is either
So cranked up on Botox that he cannot show any facial expression.
Such a stiff that even the charming, cunning, funny Maureen Dowd cannot get a facial expression out of him.
The third possibility, left unexplored by Dowd, is that Kerry was bored out of his skull by this stupid woman wasting his time with her clumsy, brain-dead questions.
I think a single stool sample will prove my point:
I figure that the skin on Senator Kerry's face will certainly rise at the mention of Dick Cheney's Gridiron speech, teasing that since Botox is related to botulism toxin, maybe David Kay should search for missing biowarfare agents in Senator Kerry's forehead. Is this a way to mock him for an effeminate vanity?
"No, I don't have it," he says coolly. "Vanity or Boxtox?" I ask, grimacing. "I don't have Botox, but whatever their game is, I don't care," he replies without a wisp of a wince. "That sort of thing is so childish. In the end, people will care about real choices that affect their lives."
This is the same woman who wrote two whining, peevish columns after Howard Dean failed to return a phone call. If I were Kerry, the next time she asked for an interview I'd suggest she find a big pile of sand and a little hammer to pound it with.
This is too much fun to resist, even though it is showing up on all the blogs:
Create custom Bush-Cheney posters!
It's great fun using GOP money for creating posters like Four more years at the hog trough: Bush-Cheney 2004 and There must be a pony here somewhere! Bush-Cheney 2004, but the site also features a sort of sub-game in figuring out what words it will reject for posters. I couldn't get a slogan with "queers" in it, but Democracy is for fairies Bush-Cheney 2004 went right through.
PS - The "flag" on the resulting poster has 20 stars and 10 stripes. Must be that red state/blue state thing.
Mystic MicroSoft: Spiritual transformation in the halls of high technology
How an ubergeek finds God, leaves MicroSoft. Or maybe God found him in MicroSoft and snatched him out. This is apparently the full text of a book by the author of Inside OLE in which he delivers all sorts of insider detail about his life in Redmond intermixed with his spiritual journey out of there.
One touching chapter deals on how he went from being "the OLE man" to "the Active-X nobody". It mattered not that Active-X was OLE. What mattered was that the words had been changed and somebody else was now "the Active-X man".
Indeed, one of the Amazon reviewers of Inside OLE comments, "Surprisingly, I found the book not dated at all even though the notion of ActiveX did not exist at the time of writing. Just about everything that one would currently do with COM today is in the book and still applies 100%."
The online book on the spiritual transformation is fascinating. Lots of technical detail and corporate life and strategy, not an overwhelming amount of mysticism.
The panels, illustrating the 1918 strip "Mama's Angel Child" spectacularly embody some wild evolution from Art Nouveau, some strange foreshadowing of Art Deco, showing great kinship with, but bearing no resemblance to, Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, or Geo. McManus. Not to mention Tony Millionaire.
The panels are beautifully colored designs, requiring no help from modern cyber-airbrushing to glisten and shine, reproduced here as scans from 80-year-old newsprint.
At the end of the televised debate between Democractic candidates, Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times said to Kerry:
"President Bush has said that freedom and fear have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. He's made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America's side.
'Very quickly, senator. Is God on America's side?'
Kerry, not allowed to respond with the contempt this question deserved, gave it a pretty good shot:
Well, God will -- look, I think -- I believe in God, but I don't believe, the way President Bush does, in invoking it all the time in that way. I think it is -- we pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.
And what would I have said, faced with this silly poser?
God is always on the side of justice. We should pray that he is on our side.
As others have pointed out, the great patriotic song, "God Bless America" is just such a prayer. Here it is, with the rarely heard introductory lyrics:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.
One of the best things about this campaign year, and I credit General Clark for this as much as anyone, is the acceptance that patriotism belongs not just to Republicans.
Emily Dickinson sat in her room and wrote her thoughts down and then somehow after it seemed that no one would ever know what she had to say, everybody knew what she had to say. The prototype of a blogger.
Mark Schorr writes, Here's how the other original American blogger, E.D.
anticipated the blog:
I'm Nobody! Who Are You?
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd advertise - you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one's name the livelong day
To an admiring b[l]og!
One model railroad enthusiast set up a complete half-scale replica of the cab of a small steam locomotive whose controls operated the actual electrical controls on a HO model of the same locomotive. When the real locomotive would have blown off steam (if it hadn't been powered by a tiny electric motor), the mechanism dropped water and oil on a hot plate under the window so the smell of oily steam would waft into the cab window. It had glowing heat in the firebox, a whistle, a bell, everything but a fireman. I read about it in Model Railroader magazine. Although the article was cast as a how-to, the author may have had the only half-scale five-senses immobile steam switch engine cab simulation in the world. I loved reading about it.
If you read Wooden Boat, Fine Woodworking, or a thousand other hobby specialist magazines, you'll find similar articles about efforts that you may never emulate, no matter how much you enjoy reading about them.
Yet Martha Stewart is pilloried for providing the same sort of obsessive information. Is it unlikely that much of the Martha-bashing comes from boat-loving, wood-working men who simply have no respect for cooking, sewing, and interior decoration, activities just as hard to succeed at as making sawdust, wood scraps, and expensive holes in the water.
We get Martha Stewart Living here at Desperado Central and the little woman (Mrs. Desperado), a cooking and sewing ace if there ever was one (and retired wallpaperer to boot), quite dotes on it. Furthermore, on two momentous family occasions, she followed intricate and obsessive directions to create wedding cakes that still resonate with the brides. It was the same recipe twice for sisters, my beloved daughter-in-law Jennifer and her sister Skye.
These cakes were in four tiers, each of nine layers, consisting of separately produced disks of ganache, meringue, dacquoise, and genoise, held together with buttercream. The cakes spectacular, and each slice handed out to a guest was spectacular, not only in appearance, but in taste as well. The instructions were clearly written and impeccably organized. Martha and the staff under her direction produce technical writing of a high order that nonetheless infused with enthusiasm for the topic.
Certainly, no one would make everything in every book and magazine, but not only does she do truly fabulous (meaning, as if they were in a fable) wedding cakes, but also downhome peanut butter cookies, not to mention pretty, pleasant rooms, interesting and attractive vegetable and flower gardens. At its base, all the talk about the "domestic dominatrix" reflects contempt for cooking, sewing, and decorating, all that "women's stuff" that men love to denigrate while enjoying to the fullest.
No one can believe that she is on trial for any other reason than the prosecutor's hunger for a celebrity case and if she took good advice and sold high (no crime at all and she is not charged for it) to have been shy about discussing the details of that action is a very little crime indeed. And, if she is accused of being mean to some people some times, then take it as a warning not to cross with her, but keep in mind that she has done everything she's done through application of will power and intelligence. Let's assume we are all bright enough here, but if we had that much will power, lots of people might complain about us too.
Who said Aristide was a poorly organized Communist? In the few days since his ouster, his wife, Mildred Trouillot Aristide, has found out my deep sympathies for the Haitian people, formed when I read Peter Bourne's Drums of Destiny in junior high school, and has generously offered to share some of her husband's bounty with me in exchange for the smallest kind of service on my part, involving only my bank account and the quickest little trip to the Netherlands. I'm surprised, however, that "his friends in the US government [who] have offered to help him escape into exile" couldn't somehow find a way to siphon this $4.625 million off themselves.
- ------- Redacted message -------
URGENT ASSISTANCE NEEDED.
I am writting you with trust and confidential, my name is Mildred
Trouillot Aristide, wife to the ousted Haitian President. from the
Republic of HAITI. And I got your contact from a business Journal I
received at the HAITIAN Chamber of Commerce, and after due
consideration after going through your profile, I became aware and
assured of your credibility of handling this profitable
transaction. Thus, my humble decision to solicit for your
understanding and cooperation in this business that will benefit you
and I. At the mid term of the rebellion which is still on till date,
my Husband ( Jean-Bertrand Aristide ) thinking fast decided to send me
out of the country(Haiti)with a total sum of (US$18.5m )Eighteen
million, five hundred thousand United states Dollars only,sealed in a
Diplomatic Bag meant for the purchase of Arms and Ammunitions to figth
against the rebels.
On arrival in Amsterdam (Holland) because I am political Asylum
seekers, I am not allowed to operate a bank account, so with the
instruction of my Husband I deposited the boxes in a security company,
though I did not declare the content to them.And unfortunately because
of my Husband's political influence, his friends in the US government
have offered to help him escape into exile.
We need your help by coming to Holland, Amsterdam to open a
non-residence bank account with any of the Local banks, Now I am still
in Haiti to negotiate the transfer of our money, since we can not
speak/talk Dutch,it becomes difficult for us to negotiate properly
hence my coming back to Haiti .The non-residence account will enable
the onward telegraphic transfer of the funds to your nominated bank
account. The whole arrangement will be strictly under our Three. Also,
the whole transaction will take three working days from the day of
We intend to share the money upon sussesful completion of the
transaction as follows: 25% will be entitled to you for your
assistance, while 75% will be for us. Should this meet your utmost
consideration, please send us your earliest reply through EMAIL. Feel
free to ask any question you consider necessary.
The confidentiality in this transaction can not be over emphasized as
we trust and believe that you will oblige us the security and
attention it demands. Please treat this transaction with modesty and
absolute confidentiality. We intend to invest in real estate, our own
part of the proceeds. Thank you very much.
The great 1950s Comden-Green-Bernstein musical, Wonderful Town included a song about an ignorant college athlete called "Pass that Football":
Couldn't spell a lick,
Couldn't do arithmetic,
One and one made three,
Thought that DOG was C-A-T
But I could pass that football,
Like nothin' you have ever seen.
Well, it's still being seen, as in this description of the course "Coaching Principles and Strategies in Basketball", which included, on the final exam, the question, "How many points is a 3-pointer worth?"
WRPJ, It really makes me feel so fine, so fine, so fine, so fine
I got my check for $13.86 from the CD ripoff fund yesterday and promptly spent it on a 2-CD set, Night Train to Nashville, featuring R&B songs recorded in Nashville.
So, yes, I just spent it on an album with "Sunny" by Bobby Hebb. That's okay, though, because it also has "The Chokin' Kind" by Joe Simon, a classic that pretty much cancels out "Sunny" (and "Honey" too, but that one isn't on the album). It has "Rolling Stone" by the Marigolds too and 36 more things that you've probably never heard of, but what has me watching madly for the postman is "White Rose (Theme)" by the virtually unknown blues shouter Earl Gaines.
This ode to the qualities of White Rose Petroleum Jelly was perhaps the greatest singing commercial ever recorded; it certainly had the honkingest tenor sax solo ever heard on a commercial and its impassioned lyrics have always been with me:
Whether you a husband, kid, or wife
You need White Rose in your everyday life
The quality's high, the price is low
Buy White Rose at yo favorite sto
My parents are on the old folks' dole, but all I got was this stupid T-shirt
The young people think the old people are fools, but the old people know the young people are fools.
--Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple
The Boston Herald reports that Def Jam and the Kennedy School of Government are at all in a swivet. These two august institutions are deeply disturbed because Urban Outfitters is selling a T-shirt with the slogan "Voting is for Old People".
Kennedy School director Dan Glickman huffed and puffed, "It reinforces the messages that voting doesn't matter" while Def Jam's Russell Simmons puffed and huffed, "Maybe Phat Farm should make a T-shirt that reads 'Shopping at Urban Outfitters Is for Old People'." Why doesn't Simmons shut up and put out a T-shirt that says "Voting is for Phat People"?
The one from the Kennedy School? How about a civics lesson? "Free Speech, It's for Everyone"
Voting is for White People.
Voting is for Black People.
Voting is for Gay People.
Voting is for Jokers.
Daniel J. Boorstin died this week, full of years and honors. He was an historian of cosmic sweep, Librarian of Congress, author of 20 books, prose stylist of exceptional clarity, but he may be best remembered in the long run for his book of social prophecy published in 1961, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America.
Perhaps the best obituary I have found for Boorstin, by Cynthia-Lou Coleman in the Portland Oregonian wasn't an obituary at all, having been published two weeks before Boorstin's death. The essay, "Pseudo-News, Sordid Culture", evokes Boorstin's ideas in The Image and places them in the context of today's "news".
In the The Image, Boorstin coined a phrase that then seemed more like a zen koan than a description of reality:
The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness.
In the four decades since he said it, however, it has become a touchstone, particularly when combined with the other phrase the book made famous, pseudo-event.
The culture of celebrities and pseudo-events runs deeper than Paris Hilton (that deep?). Now we turn genuine people into shallow celebrities, which makes us think we know things about them even though they may not be worth knowing. President Bush's syntax, Al Gore's brown suit, these are celebrity attributes, not insights into anything worth knowing about the people behind them. On some other day, in some other context, I'd say Bush is much more adept at this sort of thing, but for a tribute to Boorstin I'd say the other guys wish they were as good at pseudo-events and celebrity creation as he is. These skills are necessary in these sorry times.
El Escorial, Spain's great palace and architectural triumph, has something like 20 chapels, including one that features "the most grotesque crucifix in Spain", which is saying something. I'll keep looking for an image, but in the meantime, consider the story I was told as a young Methodist in darkest south Georgia: Protestant crosses are empty because they celebrate the resurrection, not the crucifixion.
I'm no theologian, or even much of a protestant, but isn't there something unseemly in all that torture and no Easter?