Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Attn. NASA: A space station for only $100,000! 

Via Wired.com, the amazing story of how a guy bought a space station for $100,000, and he expects to make money on the deal:

Late last month, Jon Jacobs, an independent filmmaker from Miami, became the first person in the history of online gaming to spend $100,000 on a single virtual item when he bought a space station in the game 'Project Entropia.'
Wow. Mr. Jacobs has a lot of disposable income, or at least he used to.

Clearly I must be getting older because, despite the fact that I work in computers and grew up as a bit of a game-playing geek myself, I absolutely don't understand this. I suppose I could do a detailed study of the economics of the situation and find myself able to justify his decision in a rational way. But I just can't imagine being able to feel in my gut that it would ever make sense to lay down $100k, a sizeable fraction of a house, for the bits and bytes needed to make a pretend space station in a computer game.

Still, it's a great story. And if you like that one, Mr. Jacobs, I've got a blog to sell you. I can always start a new one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Double Zeros: Connery and Peres 

My friend Larry insists that this image (Reuters, via Haaretz) must be captioned, and as usual, he's right.

We'll let Larry start us off:

Coke's Marketing Genius's Must Feel Good... 

It has to feel good to churn out stuff like this:

I was going to blog a moral evisceration of Diet Coke's latest marketing campaign here in Israel until a quick Google search turned up Diet Coke feel-good smackdowns going back at least to 2002 -- apparently I'm pretty late to the party. Times like this really drive home the price of living here in Back Waterburg: even the most obnoxious marketing campaigns take three years to get to me. Nevertheless, I've decided that writing about this would make me feel good, so against my better judgement I'm going to blog this stale crust of a topic anyway, consequences be damned!

I'm just astonished Diet Coke felt we all needed so much encouragement. It isn't like we need to overcome all that many inner reservations to do such a hideously repulsive thing as "what feels good." So Coca-Cola Corp must be pretty convinced that some external factor is standing between us and our pleasure, and like the late Rosa Parks, they feel they are in a position to embolden us to take a stand. A stand for what? If you want to see what The Man is denying us, what we need to fight for, just look at the ad. How long has it been since you've had the courage to smile, in public? How about to jump? Or, dare I say it, to dance (unless you're Kevin Bacon of course)?

The catharsis is overwhelming -- to finally be given permission, after all these years, to finally participate in the simplest of pleasures. I've wanted to smile so much but had forgotten how. Thank you Diet Coke. There is so much more I'd really like to do, and I'm sure I'm not alone:

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Help Me Help Them. Please. It's For the Children 

I need your help. Well, more accurately, I need your witty comebacks to insults like "you're stupid" and "you're ugly" and "you're a stinky piece of poop". Even more accurately, I need them for my daughters, but I can't promise I won't use a few select ones myself should the need arise.

I'd love to believe that people are basically good, and that children are even more so, since they are just like tiny adults only purer of spirit and more innocent, untainted by all the moral compromises modern life demands of us adults. Unfortunately the evidence contradicts this belief. I'm hearing about a lot of nasty insults amongst my children's peer groups -- who would have imagined such a thing! -- so now I'm trying to improve my girls' reaction to the situation. I want them to have a full toolbox of responses ready to work with.

They've already found a few techniques even without any real help from me, like getting horribly sad, telling the teacher, asking me to call the offender's parents, or simply requesting I beat up the little punks -- I mean kids -- myself. Of course I know these techniques could work in theory, and a little research even uncovered a solid operational plan should I ever need that last option. But I think we should try a few other things first.

Of course one approach will be to try to learn why kids are insulting my little angels -- as if there could possibly be a reason. Should we oncover some little speck of modifiable behavior that is behind even a micro-fraction of the problem, of course I'll check my kids into the nearest behavior modification clinic until they're operating at 100% capacity again.

But it's unlikely that will solve the entire problem. So to handle the rest of it, I want the girls to have a series of counter-zingers ready from now on. But there's a trick: they have to be appropriate and understandable to kids on the receiving end as well as circling crowds of bystanders, easy to remember and deliver, and, if possible, pee-in-the-pants funny to the 7-9 year old brain.

I did a little preliminary work, jotting down the one parrying thrust I remembered from my own childhood:

That one has the added advantage of using the word "butt", which accrues an automatic 150% funniness multiplier -- for kids between the ages of 7 and 9 that is.

My next step was to Google for more jokes, so I typed in "comeback" and "ugly" to see what would turn up. What I discovered is that Google knows giggles, serving up page after page of hilarious repartee on the subject of suboptimal appearance. Sadly, it generally lacks content appropriate and understandable to kids in that golden demographic between 7 and 9. And most of them are hard to remember and difficult to deliver. And not nearly enough include the word butt.

But my kids are counting on me, so I hiked up my hip waders and set off into the swamp of joke links, probably sampling more than 500 examples of the swill, and came away with only the following that I could truly recommend to my kids:

In response to "you're ugly" I can offer them...
Truth be told, I'm not even sure that last one will work, since my kids stared at me with horrified looks until I explained about doctors wanting to hear new born babies cry. Then I had to explain why he would slap the mother. In fact, I pretty much had to explain every word of that one, and apologize for it too. So I think we're going to skip that one.

In response to "You're a stinky piece of poop" I found this one for them...
Yup, that's the best Google could do. Or at least that was all I could find before the muck went deeper than my hip waders.

I didn't really even try to look for "you're so stupid" responses, because I'm assuming those are coming from kids who are pretty dumb themselves and are just projecting. And what kind of joke are they going to find funny?
So now you're my kids last hope. I can't believe the much-vaunted blogosphere couldn't do better than the garbage I've found so far. Please, you've got to help me. Add your own comebacks in the comments section so I can pass them on to my kids (or use them myself). Consult your own kids for help if you need to, I don't care -- unless your kids know my kids.

Just please pitch in and help. I'll post up the best of the bunch with links crediting contributors who leave them in a few days.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Artistic dhimmitude no longer theoretical... 

...if it ever was.

Mick Hartley brought this one to my attention. You should see it too:

IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.

Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings.
We wait for this same delicate touch to be extended to the treatment of Shylock and other Hebrews in upcoming productions of Shakespeare's plays. After all, it is a worthy goal to avoid upsetting Jews in light of...well, centuries of history. But actually, no. To the best of my knowledge no one is waiting for a rewrite of Shakespeare on behalf of Jewish sensibilities. And they're not waiting for a rewrite of Marlow any longer either. They've already got it.

Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions”.

The burning of the Koran was “smoothed over”, he said, so that it became just the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed.
Kind of like the way Piss Christ could have been "watered down" to avoid pissing off the Christians, so it wouldn't have look exactly like a crucifix anymore, instead just as easily representing a urine specimen from an NFL lineman being checked for steroids. Who knows? Offending juiced-up NFL players -- heck, our whole modern culture of competition and the self-destructive extremes to which we are all driven in the relentless pursuit of victory -- would have made a much more powerful statement. Too bad. Of such lost opportunities are riots born.

Charles Nicholl, the author of The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, said it was wrong to tamper with Marlowe because he asked “uncomfortable and confrontational questions -- particularly aimed at those that held dogmatic, religious views”. He added: “Why should Islam be protected from the questioning gaze of Marlowe? Marlowe stands for provocative questions. This is a bit of an insult to him.”
Sure, it sounds like common sense -- to the unsophisticated. But what you have to remember is that it is much better to insult Marlow than Muslim beliefs. Marlow is already dead. The London artistic community prefers not to be. Life is full of tough choices.

Mr Reade said that Mr Farr felt that burning the Koran “would have been unnecessarily inflammatory”. The play needed to be seen in a 21st century context, he believed. He said: “Marlowe was not challenging Muslims, he was attacking theism, saying, ‘I’m God, there isn’t a God’. If he had been in a Christian country, a Judaic country or a Hindu country, it would be their gods he’d be attacking.” He said more people would be insulted by broadening the attack.

Inayat Bunglawala, the media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, disagreed, saying: “In the context of a fictional play, I don’t think it will have offended many people.”
First of all, their dhimmitude is so naive. Because to bravely and transgressively demean theism is still an insult to Islam, or are they unaware that "there is no God but Allah?"

And again, the pre-emptive dhimmitude exceeds even the expectations of Muslim leaders. While it's reassuring that at least some Muslims are saying the knee is jerking too hard in these cases, it would be more effective if they spoke earlier, louder and more often, so the knee would no longer fear the hammer.

They need to reassure the artistic community that actors and directors and writers won't be killed just for exercising their freedom of artistic expression -- at least as long as they're playing London instead of Amsterdam. After all, the artistic community isn't likely to suddenly grow a spine all by itself, except when it comes to criticizing non-Islamic religions of course.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Protect the internet from the UN -- Let the UN discuss it 

Technology Review (via Wired) has some information on the struggle for control of the internet between the U.S. and the rest of the world. The U.S., which has created and managed the internet for its first few decades in a spirit of relative openness, wants to keep things the way they are. The rest of the world -- Iran and Saudi Arabia, for instance, according to the article -- would prefer to see some changes. While I can scarcely imagine what changes Iran and Saudi Arabia would llike to impose on the globally free flow of information, I can say I'm impressed with the American strategy so far:

In truth, both sides are right to claim a win. The agreement calls for the creation of an 'Internet Governance Forum' to be established by the United Nations before mid-2006. It will not have any binding powers but will be a way to continue the dialogue that the UN summit began. Stakeholders other than governments -- such as industry and so-called 'civil society' groups that advocate special causes like free speech -- will be a part of the process too. The forum will not be limited to discussing the names-and-addresses issue but will examine more mainstream matters involving cyberspace, such as spam and network security, that do not fit comfortably in existing intergovernmental organizations.
Apparently, the U.S. has succeeded in diverting the discussion to some sort of U.N. body with little power and an unfocused mandate. So it is impossible to believe anything will actually occur for at least a few more decades as a result of this move.

Well, that's not entirely true. I wouldn't be shocked if this new "Special U.N. Commission on This or That" managed to put out a few resolutions condemning Israel and commemorating Yassir Arafat's heretofore little-known contributions to the growth of the internet amongst oppressed peoples.

That and more than a few cocktail parties.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I wonder what the old idea was 

Salon has an interesting celebrity tidbit:

Charlize Theron on her plan to eventually marry boyfriend Stuart Townsend: 'We came up with a new idea that we said that we would get married the day that gays and lesbians can get married -- when that right is given to them. We've decided that we're gonna use that in a positive way, so the day that law gets passed then we'll get married.'
I don't bring this up to ridicule their committment to the rights of gays to marry. While I'd prefer that the specific word marriage and relationship of marriage remain a heterosexual term, if homosexual marriage happens I probably won't scream too loudly.

What I find odd is how little the two of them seem to value the very same institution of marriage that they are so keen on opening up to couples of other orientations. When I met my wife there was no way we were going to delay getting married, potentially indefinitely, for the sake of a philosophical point.

This is the area where the marriage controversy troubles me most. Not so much about whether homosexuality is an abomination or a blessing, but the fact that marriage is slowly and steadily being devalued, even by some of the most vocal proponents of its expansion.

Violence in Games: Dastardly Deeds by Good Guys 

Life is a rorschach test. We each look at the same set of facts and come away with our own conclusions. For example, Clive Thompson at Wired News looks at the implications of violence in video games and sees nothing but conservative hypocrisy while I see a slanderous defamation of our police and armed forces:
Then one day, as I was running over an innocent pedestrian during a car chase, I had an epiphany. Family-values types often deplore the brutality of today's action titles. But have they ever closely examined who's committing this carnage?

Nine times out of 10, when you're blowing people's chests open with hollow-point bullets, you aren't playing as a terrorist or criminal. No, you're playing as a cop, a soldier or a special-forces agent -- a member of society's forces of law and order.

Consider our gaming history. In Doom, the game that began it all, you were a Marine. Then came a ceaseless parade of patriotic, heart-in-hand World War II games, in which you merrily blow the skulls off Japanese and German soldiers under the explicit authority of the U.S. of A. Yet anti-gaming critics didn't really explode with indignation until Grand Theft Auto 3 came along -- the first massively popular modern game where the tables turned, and you finally played as a cop-killing thug.

Why weren't these detractors equally up in arms about, say, the Rainbow Six series? Because games lay bare the conservative logic that governs brutal acts. Violence -- even horrible, war-crimes-level stuff -- is perfectly fine as long as you commit it under the aegis of the state. If you're fighting creepy Arabs and urban criminals, go ahead -- dual-wield those Uzis, equip your frag grenades and let fly. Nobody will get much upset.
Here is what rankles me about Mr. Thompson's view of the matter:

Despite my differing interpretation of what the dark splotches mean, he has done a good job of pointing them out. Perhaps the anti-gaming, family values types might want to focus more on the outrageous treatment the custodians of law and order are receiving in video games. Put a stop to that first. Then you can work on Pac Man.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Poor Preppy Prisoners, Snatched From Chess Club? 

I was trolling the Yahoo News Photos, looking for fresh blog meat, when I was suddenly struck by a seriously emotional lump in my throat. It seems Reuters photographers have a real knack for covering distraught Palestinian mothers protesting the brutal and unjustified abduction of their innocent young sons from chess club meetings. Just to look at these pictures is to understand the IDF's brutality and Israel's fundamental illegitimacy as an imprisoning nation.

A Palestinian woman holds a picture of her jailed son during a protest in Gaza November 21, 2005. They were calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, taking the biggest gamble of his political career, quit the ruling Likud on Monday to lead a new centrist party into early elections. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Families of jailed Palestinian prisoners in Israel hold pictures of their sons during a protest in Gaza November 21, 2005. They were calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, taking the biggest gamble of his political career, quit the ruling Likud on Monday to lead a new centrist party into early elections. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

First of all, to any mother whose son truly was taken and imprisoned, fresh out of an after school program, you have my sympathy, and I believe ideally such wrongs should be righted. However, more than a few of these kids aren't only the sweater clad sweeties their mom's would have the camera believe. But if these mom's came out with the other photo's in their family albums, the ones they save for happier days, days of Allahu Akhbar and candy in the street and hastily packed suitcases to avoid the IDF's retailiation, well the camera would paint a different picture:



Most of these guys weren't at chess club. The mothers focus on their sons' preppy nice-boy photos, pretending their sons wouldn't hurt a fly -- or maybe not even a Jew -- only because they happened to get caught. When these same fine young sons don't get caught, when they carry out their murderous missions, these same mothers and sisters and brothers are out there with 8x10 glossy stills from the martyrdom videos, handing out sweets and celebrating.

But somehow a group of angry mothers protesting that their terrorist sons were apprehended before they could launch an RPG or strap on an explosive vest, well, that's just not very photogenic. And Reuters has a knack for photogenic.

[Note: Photoshopped realizations of less photogenic protest possibilities are not showing pictures of the same 'boys' as the originals. I am obviously (over)generalizing, and not claiming knowledge that any individual pictured is not actually in chess club.]

My Fear as Sharon Bolts 

JPost has early reports of Sharon's intention to leave the Likud and run at the head of a new party:

When Sharon leaves the Likud, the race to succeed him as party chairman is expected to be tight. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz announced that they would join former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Likud rebel leader Uzi Landau and party activist Moshe Feiglin in the race.
I still remember running for Vice President of the student council back in 5th grade (a prestigious post if ever there was one). I also remember not winning despite my OBVIOUS qualifications as a candidate. But even more importantly, I remember the race consisting of 3 candidates: 2 boys and a girl. Guess who won.

Now, I'm not trying to call Amir Peretz a little girl -- not with that mustache -- but there are some striking parallels here, and they're making me a little nervous. If I'd wanted to live in a socialist cesspool of an "economy" I could have stayed in the US and voted for.... oh never mind.

Killin's Too Good For Him, But it Would Still Be Good News 

I hope this isn't just a false alarm:

US forces sealed off a house in the northern city of Mosul where eight suspected al-Qaida members died in a gunfight -some by their own hand to avoid capture. A US official said Sunday that efforts were under way to determine if terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among the dead.
Die, murderous scum, die. Or rather, be dead and stay that way.

I hope to awake to confirmation. Maybe I'll go out in the street and dance and ullulate and hand out sweets.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Superficial on Brittany's Sex Mitzvah 

There have been a lot of totally over-the-top bar- and bat-mitzvah stories recently. But The Superficial takes the cake in this category:

A lot of people think that 15% is a pretty decent tip. Some say 20%, some 25%. But some people think the only appropriate way to tip your waiter is with sex. Apparently Brittany Murphy is one of these people. She has been dropped by her manager and agents at ICM, and a bunch of rumors have been floating around including a gossip item on E!online which implied that Murphy had had sex with a waiter at an industry bar mitzvah.
Now I'm not Jewish, and have no idea how bar mitzvah's are supposed to work, but if there's any truth to the above story I'm seriously thinking of converting. Most of my Catholic ceremonies growing up were sixty-minutes of prayer followed by three hours in the church basement running from a man who said he had to sacrifice my clothes to the Lord. This whole judaism thing seems much better. If Brittany gets this kinky at a bar mitzvah, god only knows what she'd do at a bris.
Ok. Just thought you should know.

Tomorrow we'll be turning the sleaze factor on this blog back down to 10. I'm starting to miss posts about tax rates and French immigration policy.

Must read: "Where the WMDs Went" 

Among too many highlights to quote them all, the Front Page Magazine Interview with Weapons Inspector, Bill Tierney includes this:

On the post-war weapons hunt, the arrogance and hubris of the intelligence community is such that they can't entertain the possibility that they just failed to find the weapons because the Iraqis did a good job cleaning up prior to their arrival. This reminds me of the police chief who announced on television plans to raid a secret drug factor on the outskirts of town. At the time appointed, the police, all twelve of them, lined up behind each other at the front door, knocked and waiting for the druggies to answer, as protocol required. After ten minute of toilet flushing and back-door slamming, somebody came to the front door in a bathrobe and explained he had been in the shower. The police took his story at face value, even though his was dry as a bone, then police proceeded to inspect the premises ensuring that the legal, moral , ethnic, human, and animal rights, and also the national dignity, of the druggies was preserved. After a search, the police chief announced THERE WERE NO STOCKPILES of drugs at the inspected site. Anyone care to move to this city?
In the rest of the interview, he backs it up. Not only was the WMD issue not a lie (and not the sole reason for the invasion), it might not even have been wrong as so many have already concluded.

Hat tip to James Lileks for pointing the way.

Elderly Palestinian Protests By Sitting on His Ass 

Jews Leave!! Or I send Elmer to Virgin Ass Paradise Early
An elderly Palestinian man protests against the controversial Israeli barrier near the village of Sawachra November 19, 2005. Israeli troops on Friday shot dead a Palestinian in the West Bank who the army said had a bomb and intended to blow up the soldiers' vehicle. REUTERS/Mahfouz Abu Turk, (click picture for conventional, unenhanced original)
Please Note: No donkeys were harmed in the production of this post...at least not yet.

I Can See I've Gotta Eat More Burgers... 

...a lot more! Holy cow, this burger munching fool has stolen the abs that by all rights should have been mine:

Japan's Takeru Kobayashi, best known as the world champion speed hot dog eater, seen here in July 2005, devoured 67 mini hamburgers in eight minutes to win the World Hamburger Eating Championship.(AFP/Getty Images/File)
Of course I wasted all those years on half-measures, downing only two or three burgers at a sitting. And then finally disciplining myself to foolishly cut back on my consumption rather than pursuing the obvious answer: if something's not working, just try MORE of it. Why didn't I think of it? I'm pretty sure I could have choked down 67 of them, especially since they were actually just mini-burgers. I'm sure my abs would have thanked me.

Looking on the bright side though, I'm pretty sure with my metabolism I could kick his butt in Sumo School.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pearl's Blogging Glossary 

I was blog-trotting and came across Toronto Pearl's blogorismic, consciousness raising Blogging Glossary:

blogtrotter (n.) -- a reader who skips from blog to blog. As in: That blogtrotter Pearl cruises down her blogroll continuously and peeks in at everyone's words and comments.
She's got some more good ones and is definitely showing some blogowitz tendencies. If you're a blogophiliac, you'll want to check it out.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Trying Professor Snape's Teaching Methods 

MSNBC has what I'm pretty sure is a tongue-in-cheek article by a teacher comparing her methods with those of the infamous Professor Snape:

This is not to say that Snape doesn't care about his students' education, in a sarcastic, uncheerful, I-hate-you fashion. He'll even save a life here and there, as long as you don't try to hug him or talk to him or walk within a five-mile radius of him afterwards.
I say tongue-in-cheek because while she writes admiringly of his teaching style and its results, she seems to do so to point out how it wouldn't work in the real world.

My students receive a happy, free-of-charge smile face sticker on exams scoring 95 percent or above, whereas if you scored an A with Snape, you might be rewarded with merely a medium-sized withering glare rather than the usual Super Sized one. I have much to learn from his methods, as I doubt that Snape is often besieged with students screeching at him that of course they should have gotten an A on this essay, as they have gotten As on every single possible evaluation since gaining the ability to breathe independently.
Of course I've never had the experience of teaching in a real school, but I can say that I have personally tried the Professor Snape method of education and found that it works quite well -- on my own children.

In order to get my 7 and 8 year old daughters, both big Harry Potter fans, to work on their math and reading and general classroom skills a little, I've started the Hogwart's School of Math-Magic which meets most evenings at Hogwart's castle (Tamar's room). In choosing their Professor, I first thought I would go with the lovable Hagrid who would be kind and encouraging at all times. But for some reason, a wild hunch I guess, I went with Severus Snape instead.

So while trying to teach them some simple math skills, and how to tell time or read a recipe (a skill disguised as fake potion recipes), I do my best to emulate precisely the qualities mentioned in the article. Oddly enough, the kids really love it, even though I'm going out of my way not to tell them what smart and clever girls they are, and refrain entirely from praising the wonderful job they're doing.

When they answer a math question correctly on the white board I bought for the "classroom," I snarl in dissappointment that a Mudblood Gryffindor could somehow answer such a difficult question correctly and that it must be a matter of blind luck, or perhaps that they copied from Malfoy's paper. They love it. I also give out "points for Gryffindor" (smily face stickers), but only reluctantly and with a lot of grumbling.

I'm sure a big part of it is just the chance to pretend they are at Hogwarts, and another big piece is probably that they know I really love them and manage to see thorugh the Professorial snarling and grumbling, recognize the encouragement that is really hidden behind it. Nevertheless, at the risk of overreaching in my analysis, there might be another dynamic here as well.

It reminds me a little of a teacher I had in the 4th grade. When I found out at the end of the 3rd grade that I was to be in her class the following year, my classmates all shook their heads sympathetically because she had a reputation as the sourest pickle in the barrel. But once in the class, at least for me, it worked out really well. She demanded a lot, and gave out only honest praise as well as honest criticism and discipline, but it brought out the best in quite a few of us. I'm sure it doesn't work for everybody, but sometimes in our rush to always compliment and encourage no matter what, we take away the chance for kids to feel their own sense of accomplishment, knowing they must really have done something right to get a certain reaction. Obviously, kids still do need love and encouragement and compliments, not a just a lifetime supply of disdain and discouragement. But maybe I can suggest we need moderation in all things, except of course for moderation.

Kids do need praise, but apparently a snarl and a curt dismissal from Professor Snape is high praise indeed.

Now I have to start planning their detention for this afternoon, and practicing my smirk.

They'd Rather Pay the Devil Than Move? 

Tucker Carlson takes a hard look at the worldview of 9/11 conspiracy theorists:

In other words, a lot of people seem to think it's possible that the U.S. government had a hand in bringing down the World Trade Center buildings.

Ponder that for a second: The U.S. government killed more than 3,000 of its own citizens. For no obvious reason. Then lied about it. Then invaded two other countries, killing thousands of their citizens as punishment for a crime they didn't commit.

If you really thought this - or even considered it a possibility - how could you continue to live here? You couldn't. You'd leave the United States on the next available flight and not come back. You'd have no choice. Continuing to pay taxes to a government capable of something so evil would make you complicit in the crime.

So of course most of the people who wrote to say they think the government might have been behind 9-11 don't really think the government might have been behind 9-11. For whatever reason, they just like to say so. Which as far as I'm concerned makes them phony and irresponsible.
Don't have much to say except I wish I'd written it.

I'm not sure even this fine-edged argument is sharp enough to cut through the irrational fog shrouding people who'd rather hide in the mist than face a disquieting reality. But it's still good for the rest of us to hear the truth once in awhile, lest we forget, as it is so easy to do as time passes and the job's difficulties don't.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Palestinian Suicide Jumper Training 

Masked Palestinian members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades take position during a rally in Gaza November 17, 2005, preparing to demonstrate the results of their 3 day Suicide Jumper Training Course. After their demands for an international investigation into the death of late president Yasser Arafat fell on deaf ears, the martyrs leaped to their death with boisterous shouts of "Allahu Akhb---" followed by a cluster of loud splats. Senior members of the Martyrs Brigade on hand to observe the demonstration were quite impressed with the splatter and declared the training a success. (original photo and caption at Yahoo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Maybe if we call it "Grease for Peace" 

In this photo released by the Israeli government press office, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, left, General-Secretary of the United Nation Kofi Annan, center, and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom talk during a meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, Wednesday Nov. 16, 2005. Shalom and Abbas held unexpected talks Wednesday in Tunisia, the highest-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting since June. (AP Photo/Moshe Milner,GPO)
A brief transcript of part of the conversation:

Kofi:So we've had a LOT of experience helping out in these matters, trust me...
Abbas:You can trust him.
Shalom:I don't know, we need security assurances and...
Kofi:Look, it's not so complicated. You've already tried "Land for Peace". We at the UN have run "Oil for Food". So let me combine the best of both worlds. I've got four simple but powerful words for you: "Grease for Peace".
Shalom:Grease for Peace?
Abbas:Grease for Peace, yes....
Kofi:It's simple, you want peace, you deposit a certain sum with us....
Abbas:5 Billion
Kofi:(silencing the Palestinian leader with a wave of his hand) ...let's say 10 Billion, but at the UN, where it's perfectly safe. And then we...we ensure that the money gets to help your partners, the Palestinians, provide the security you need, and the economic vitality they need...
Shalom:I don't know, that sounds a lot like protection money to me, you know, extortion. Besides, Grease for Peace is only three words; what's the fourth word?
Kofi:Fourth word? What are you, some kind of an accountant? Four words...three words... what's the freakin' difference?! I can see this isn't going to work. Are there any other Israelis we can talk to? Is Peres still alive?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sensitivity Training 

You might have heard that there has been a string of incidents recently where people and institutions have been caught on the verge of causing great potential offense. This has happened most notably with references to P-eye-G-S, if you catch my drift without being offended by it. Now I'm no friend of the porkers -- being a detested Zionist/neo-con myself -- but I can't honestly say I would be offended just because one of the non-Kosher animals were to, say, appear on the cover of a paperback book buried at the bottom of my bankteller's purse, or if the 3 letter word somehow came up at a spelling bee.

That is why it is so important that we all undergo immediate and intensive sensitivity training on the subject, since this is an offense that is so easy to overlook. And that's why I'm here to help. There has already been some great first steps taken in this field, and I'd like to help carry on this great work:

UK Banks Banning Piggy Banks: Note how important this story is, since the ban was put in place only because the piggy banks may offend some Muslims. It also points out the clear opinion of one of Britain's four Muslim MPs that he "doubt[s] many Muslims would be seriously offended by piggy banks." Do you see how important this is? It is so commendable that the banks went ahead with this important step, even though some try to claim the piggy banks are not actually offensive. Bravo British banks!

Banned: tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet: That's the spirit! Leading by example, setting the proper standard of 0 (Z-E-R-O) tolerance.

Now if we can only live up to this model of proper conduct. In order to help make that possible, please take a few moments to review the simple, common sense guidelines I've drawn up to help us finish this important jihad on insensitivy (the internal kind of jihad that is). Your karma will thank you (am I allowed to say karma?)

  1. Please do not say things like "I'm going to the Piggly Wiggly" but instead say "I'm going to the convenience store named for the unclean beast." And if you own or manage one of these offensive establishments, please immediately change its name to something based on a more honorable animal, like "Camel's Co-op" or "the Festering Falcon".
  2. Please do not indoctrinate your children in the blasphemous "Three Little Pigs" so-called story. But if you feel you must tell this tale, please consider helping your children explore the wolf's side of the story, so they should understand that he had no choice but to attack the pigs' in their houses as they were an affront to his honor and that no God-fearing wolf should have done any differently.
  3. U.S. football fans, please consider launching a class action lawsuit against the National Football League, its owners and affiliates, and any broadcasters associated with the league, to force them to cease playing with what is known as the "pigskin". This is blatant discrimination that is obviously aimed at keeping a particular segment of the population from playing the game. Certainly, with enough public pressure, the league could be brought to understand how worthy it would be to switch to playing with inflated fish bladders instead.
  4. Kindly refrain from using the euphemistic term porker, which is incredibly offensive, and stick to the term fat-tub-of-goo instead.
  5. If you are not blessed to live in a welfare state, it would be considerate if you ceased referring to the results of your long day of thankless toil as "bringing home the bacon". Just because you haven't figured out how to get an entry visa into an EU country doesn't mean you have the right to subject the rest of us to your offensive sob story.
  6. If someone saves you from dire peril, please do not thank them for "saving your bacon." Truly, if you had bacon, they should not have saved you.
  7. When someone is playing to the camera or the crowd in an extremely overt manner, this is best not discouraged with the phrase, "Stop hamming it up!" Rather, the use of the sobering "Save it for your martyrdom video" should be far more effective and less offensive.
  8. Please go to your children's bookshelf right now and bring back your family copy of Charlotte's Web -- I'll wait, I know you have one, so go now.... Ok, are you back yet? Good. Now open it to the page where the little runt is about to get killed. Please rip out the remaining pages of the book and pencil in the new ending: "He killed the beast. The End." Thank you.
  9. It would be great if more people would support the Pork-Busting campaign of Glen Reynolds, N.Z. Bear and company. It is great that he wishes to bring an end to pork and is willing to so publically lead the charge for a pork free world.
  10. Lastly, kindly refrain from describing someone as being in "Hog Heaven" -- there is no such place -- rather, speak of the person being in "the paradise of plump virgins." He will thank you, as do I.

[Disclaimer: This is not generally intended as a criticism of Islam or Muslims, but moreso of the growing tendency in the rest of the world to feel that it must pre-emptively censor itself to avoid giving offense to Islam. In the spirit of Dennis Prager's recent 5 questions, the one thing I would hope moderate Muslims who feel defamed by this satirical piece might ask themselves is why the world seems to react this way as a result of Islamic distaste for pig, but not out of Jewish distaste for pig, or various Christian preferences which are frequently ignored or publically mocked rather than pandered too. The answer I'm looking for starts with a sense of embarrassment that this is so, and concludes with a decision to do something to change the world's perceptions of Islam that has so many intimidated. The answer I fear features a sense of pride that Islamic values require such special treatment, and includes a decision to increase the actions which helped create the situation.]

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Next Tevye 

You might think I'm jumping the gun a bit, but it's really never to early to start something of such critical importance...

AbbaGav's Quest for the Next Tevye

(I look at that in italics and I can almost see it as a hit reality show, can't you?)

I'm sure no one will be able to live up to the gold standard for Tevye excellence set in 1984 by little Jimmy Spiegelman in Mrs. Brown's 6th grade class production of "Fiddler on the Roof." Nevertheless, when Harvey Fierstein steps down we still must seek a successor, no matter how impossible Jimmy's little shoes are to fill.

So here is my early handicapping of the race:

John TravoltaYes indeed, my current front-runner is none other than Vinnie Barbarino. What?...Where?... Who else combines his experience in theatre and music, dance amd comedy, his potential girth, and all with that tera-watt star power? Nobody, that's who. Get Travolta's agent on the phone right now, somebody, please.
Odds: 2-1
Christopher WalkenChristopher Walken is the Prince of Thespians, who could turn the recital of a phone book into a really bizarre experience. Just... iMAGine his... uniquedeliveryandits... complete re-inVISIONing of a CLASSIC... .... ...role. If we can't find the number for Travolta's agent, I say we go for Chris. Just think what he can do with Tevye's famous Russian Roulette scene!
Odds: 5-1
Jerry SeinfeldJerry Seinfeld, walking down a dirt path, schmoozing with God. What could be more entertaining? He's perfect for the part in so many ways. I'm just not sure he'd be willing to appear in anything that had a plot and was actually about something. Nevertheless, if you can't afford the multi-talented song and dance combo of Travolta and Walken, the pure comedy option could start to look mighty appealing.
Odds: 8-1
Donny OsmondSure it could work. Donny's done stage. You might think he's too "not-Jewish" for the part, but he played Joseph...ok...I thought. How hard could it be to write in a few scenes where Tevye rips off his shirt? And think of the gate from the teeny-boppers! Do they still call them teeny boppers?
Odds: 12-1
Michael FlatleyGiving him a spot this high in the list -- heck, even putting him on the list -- seems a little odd even to me. But I have to do it, for political reasons. You see, I first brought up this Tevye-idea over the Shabbat dinner table with guests this weekend, and one of my friends (he knows who he is) suggested this fine candidate. Well. I can't very well leave him off the list after that, and have my friend realize what a dumb idea I thought his suggestion was. Of course, it's not called "Dance Lord On The Roof," but maybe we can get him on the cheap as a backup dancer.
Odds: 25-1
Vin Diesel
The Rock (tie)
As I'm sure most of you know, I do consider myself to be a bit of an artiste (that should have a little thingy over the final e so that it is pronounced ar-TEEST, not ar-TIST-y, but I'm not sure how to get to that letter to show up here). Nevertheless, there are times when even an artiste (see previous pronunciation note) is forced to work the box office. And if you want to work someone or something over, who better than one of these guys? Heck, why not take both of them? They could play the part kind of like the Olsen twins in Full House, and look how that turned out for them (aside from the anorexia and drug rumors).
Odds: 45-1 (each)
Haley Joel OsmentGreat actor. Totally qualified for the dream sequence: he sees dead people. How much longer til he grows up?
Odds: 50-1 (300-1 during the school year)
Kevin FederlineBritney really and truly believes in him, plus he's amazingly, unbelievably, incredibly -- well, available.
Odds: 78-1
Mike MyersAnd even if someone else takes the part before we get to him on the list, I'm sure he could still do a fantastic job as Tevye's wife. Like buttah. Discuss amongst yaselves.
Odds: 100-1
Russell CroweForget the Tony Award, if our boy Russell would take the part, and if he can contain his famous temper, it would be an Oscar for sure -- he gets them just for not beating up the crew. Tevye, only with gravity: "At my signal, unleash hell." Yeah, that works.
Odds: 250-1
Denzel WashingtonYes, it's time.
Odds: 275-1
William ShatnerJust look at the man's qualifications: he has put out a legendary album, given acting lessons to Robert DeNiro, and is also culturally appropriate for the role -- as Adam Sandler has taken pains to inform us in the Channukah Song
Odds: 350-1
Keanu ReevesThe man has all the emotional range needed for the part. He can do anger, sadness, happiness, jealousy, fear... all exactly the same. Plus we could add a new extra scene: the slow motion kick boxing wedding duel. So if we prefer big box office to boxes of Tony awards, Keanu's our dude. And with a little savvy marketing, his performance as Tevye could be cast as the dramatic equivalent of Modern Art's brilliant "blank canvas," so we just might be able to pull it off.
Odds: 500-1
Ashton KutcherHe's, well, ... you didn't think I was serious did you? Gotcha! Punk'd!

Please feel free to contribute to the search in the comments section.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

They Never Tell Us These "Slogans" 

Palestinian supporters of the Fatah faction shout slogans while holding up pictures of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a rally to mark the first anniversary of Arafat's death at the Ein-el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2005. Arafat died in a French hospital on Nov. 11, 2004, after a two-weekthe last two weeks of his illness. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
Did you notice they never tell us anything about these slogans that are always shouted at these Palestinian peace marches? Well fortunately, I have a very rare ability: I can read lips... in Arabic... from still photos. So I can state unequivocally that the slogans they are shouting are:

He's Perfectly Safe, Don't Worry 

A Palestinian boy is dressed as the late leader Yasser Arafat as he attends a rally markingbegins counting virgins as he realizes the loaded, high-power machine gun is aimed right at him, in honor of the first anniversary of their late leader's death in Khan Yunes the Gaza City.(AFP/Said Khatib)

And the media covers it in hopes of...what exactly? 

Yahoo trumpets (courtesy of AFP):

A 10-year-old Canadian boy has called for a boycott of US fast food chain McDonald's in hopes of hastening an end to the deep rift over lumber trade between Canada and the United States.
Well if that doesn't do it then I can't imagine what will. I'm sure the timber and tariff industries down in Bush country are just quaking in their arrogant cowboy boots at the thought. Of course a ten year old boy could never come up with such a wildly ridiculous idea all by himself, no matter what the article's tease of a lead-in would suggest:

...Luke McAndless of Vancouver, who along with a 13-year old friend -- and apparently some adults in the background -- launched his proposed one-day boycott on an internet website...
No, an idea like this is beyond the reach of a single youngster. It takes a committee of adults pushing the littlest kid of the bunch out into the spotlight to front for them. Well done, anonymous grownups! Let's take a closer look at the poke-in-the-eye they think is going to bring the Tariff-Master-In-Chief to his senses:

A McDonald's spokesman regretted the boy's choice, emphasizing that Canada's McDonald's branches are mostly owned and managed by local people.
Excellent. The only silver lining is that I can't imagine the Canadian McDonald's franchisees will actually suffer too much financial hardship when young Luke and his friends skip their shake and fries for a day.

So what does it all boil down to? These anonymous adults apparently can't even launch their boycott -- a boycott that I would describe as feeble and self-destructive at best -- without blatantly exploiting a 10 year old boy to garner the publicity they crave. And given the opportunity to cover a boycott that serves almost no purpose except to generate bad press for the Bush administration, what does the media do? Provide the press of course.

But the media should be aware of one thing. If they'd just presented me the facts of the dispute underlying this little charade of a story, I might actually have been inclined to agree with the Canadians' point -- can't say for sure without a little research, but it seems reasonable and conceivable. Way to go guys! Nice job obscuring the message so that now it's all just about a 10 year old boy.

As entertaining as it is to complain about media bias, in reality the side they choose to shill for often reaps more harm than help.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Piece of Bubble Gum 

I thought I'd post a little bit of poetry from a rare volume I recently unearthed, a one of a kind actually. Written when the poet was but 12 years old, it exhibits such exquisite potential. Yet tragically this is the last recorded poetry we have from his pen.
A Piece of Bubble Gum

A piece of bubble gum will never die,
   It'll live on and on without a sigh.
Man chews it up and throws it away,
   Only to find it on his shoe someday.
I'm sure the world shares my sense of loss at all the poetry that could have been -- should have been. If only.

Certainly if I ever decide to write any more there must be some lofty journal that would love to showcase the return of such talent to the realm of the muse.

Or perhaps someone knows if Hallmark's Novelty Cards section accepts unsolicited submissions? No? Oh well, their loss.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I Can't Stand Thomas But My Kids Love Him 

What's a dad to do? There are a number of kids books which I've been compelled to read over and over through the years despite the fact that, as an adult, I absolutely can't stand them.

Prime example? Thomas the so-called Tank Engine starring in his mega-blockbuster:


With regard to this book I have to say: a more psychologically debilitating experience for children I can't imagine. And it hurts for adults too. But, as I said, all psychological debilitation notwithstanding, the kids love it. Or maybe they love it precisely because of the debilitation; perhaps their little brains crave it in some perverse way, just like they're drawn to spinning tea-cup rides and other vomit-inducing activities. What do I know? I'm only a parent.

Let me explain. Perhaps you aren't already familiar with this one's plot pitfalls.

Thomas is apparently a Tank Engine. That is my first beef with this thing. Couldn't they just have called it Thomas the Train? Wouldn't that have worked so much easier? Ok, maybe there really is such a thing as a tank engine, and technically Thomas is one of those and not a train. Who cares! It's a kids book! If it doesn't alliterate we must obliterate. If it doesn't rhyme it isn't fine.

But that's not all. You see Thomas has a job working for a registered sex offender, Sir Topham Hatt:


The book says of him: "Even Sir Topham Hatt is ready. Ready for what? Children---on a school trip!" And I believe it.

Now I don't actually know that Sir Topham is a registered sex offender, since I don't know the url of the web site where all the cartoon sex offenders are registered. But would you have this guy over to babysit at your house? Didn't think so.

And now Sir Topham is trying to draw young Thomas into his nightmare world. He's made a promise that if Thomas finishes all his work in time, then Thomas gets to take the children home:


And of course Thomas believes him and wants to take those children home with every fibre of his being:


The indoctrination seems to be working. Thomas struggles mightily throughout the book against Rambo-esque odds to get back to the station on time. But one thing after another keeps getting in his way, knocking him off schedule. Like sheep:


And notice that the other, older trains just think it's funny. They're up there on their express runs having a really big laugh over poor Thomas' plight. What kind of lesson is this for kids? If my kids fall behind in their schedule, I don't laugh at them, I scream. Geez.

So Thomas is finally approaching the station and juuuust might make it if he hurries. Won't Sir Topham and the little children be proud! But then cruel fate forces him to confront his Great Moral Choice -- Bertie the Bus has broken down.


Will Thomas risk everything to stop and help his friend, even as fulfillment of his dream is so close at hand? Of course he will. Thomas is a mensch. So despite his sadness, knowing he will now miss his upcoming deadline, Thomas stops to help...only to find:

(if you haven't read the book yet, skip the next picture and following paragraph)


Yayyyy!!!! The kids!!!! They were on Bertie the Bus, and now that Bertie has broken down, they need a ride, and since Thomas was decent enough to stop, his reward is to take them home!!! That's really beautiful, man. No, that's not a tear, I just got something in my eye.

But wait a minute!

The kids are deliriously happy with how their story has turned out and they are now comitted to stopping all the time no matter how late it makes us -- thank you SO MUCH Thomas. But why do I have this sort of hollow feeling in my chest, like I've just watched someone's heart being broken? And then I realize the final outrage. You see, all this time loyal Thomas was running himself into the rail bed gravel trying to meet Sir Topham's condition and get back to the station on time. And yet just as Thomas was nearing the station, struggling to make it on time, Sir Topham had ALREADY SOLD HIM OUT!

This book needs one more page in which Thomas returns home after dropping off the kids. He steams into the station and gives that backstabbing boss a piece of his mind! "You said if I got back on time, I could take the kids home. But before the deadline even arrived, you already had the kids packed up on a bus and gone! Well, Mr. Hatt, I am so out of here! Find yourself another little protege because I quit. And yes, I have pictures, so I expect a very generous severance package..."

So, to conclude this review of "Thomas and the School Trip": your kids will enjoy it and have you read it to them countless times. They won't care a bit about all the things I'm complaining about, and if you try to explain it to them, over and over, they'll just shrug and look at you funny and demand you read it again. So it's a pretty good book for kids.

Go ahead and buy it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

No Respect, No Respect At All 

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon adjusts his tie during a Knesset session in Jerusalem Monday Nov. 7, 2005. Eight Likud members opposed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated their intention to vote against the appointments of Ehud Olmert as permanent finance minister, and two other Knesset members as ministers in the Knesset on Monday night. (AP Photo/Baz Ratner)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fatwas Against Rioting 

Can there be rioting without a fatwa? Apparently not these days:

From an outburst of anger in suburban Paris housing projects, the violence has fanned out into a nationwide show of disdain for French authority from youths, including the children of Arabs and black Africans angered by high unemployment, poor housing and discrimination.

The country's biggest Muslim fundamentalist organization, the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, issued a fatwa, or religious decree. It forbade all those "who seek divine grace from taking part in any action that blindly strikes private or public property or can harm others."
Well isn't this one a bit of a conundrum? After all, as far as we're mostly not being told, these riots continue to be all about anything-but-Islam.

It's about poverty, social exclusion, failure to integrate with French society, rampant French capitalism and the price of a Big Mac. It's not about Islam, no mention of it. Sure there are a lot of Tunisians and Arabs and what-not involved, and many Arabs and Tunisian people are Muslim, but only a hollow-headed knee-jerk lizardoid would think that this logically implied that these were Muslim riots.

So why the fatwa?

Maybe because the Union for Islamic Organizations in France recognizes the great love rampaging French youth hold for Islamic jurisprudence and social justice. Obviously a fatwa would be just the thing to inhibit all the rampaging Christian and Jewish and Buddhist French youth. Only the Religion of Peace has bothered to come out in opposition to the Fiat Flambe. And it's not even their riots.

Makes it all the more appalling that there is, so far, not a peep of a fatwa from any Christian or Jewish or Buddhist leaders calling on their adherents to behave peacefully. They must be pro-riotting. Or maybe they're too busy planning the backlash.

Haveil Havalim: My First Time and I Think I Liked It 

Jack's Shack has posted this week's Haveil Havalim XLIII.

I mention it because this week, for the first time, I actually bothered to lift the necessary finger to submit one of my posts for inclusion -- it really wasn't that difficult, you should try it.

Rather than reading my submitted post directly here, why don't you click over to Jack's Haveil Havalim instead. Then you can use Jack's handy link to click back here from there, the way Soccer Dad intended. Plus you'll find links to lots of other great screed.

It's loads of fun on so many levels.

Led by the French Delegation? 


The European Union plans to announce the launch of a three-year mission today to help the Palestinian Authority build a credible police force, EU officials said yesterday.
I'm sure it's reassuring to all the parties in the region to know that European law enforcement expertise is on its way. I'm just worried the French delegation may have trouble getting to the airport.

YAMP -- Yet Another Meme Post 

I've been meme-tagged by Wishful but Stuck so I really have no choice.

Well, technically, I could always ignore the meme and take the high road -- do a thoroughly researched and uproariously cutting piece criticizing this or that. But frankly, I lack the intellectual momentum to carry anything like that off tonight. I think a meme is just what the doctor ordered. So without further adieu, nor much ado, here are tonight's 7 pre-selected Meme categories:

7 Things I Can Do:
7 Things I Can't Do:
7 Celebrity Crushes:
7 Things I Find Attractive/Sexy:
7 Things I Say Often:
7 Things I Hope To Do Before I Die:
7 Bloggers I'd Like to Infect with This Meme:

P.A. Parliamentary Mens' Room Improvements 

A Palestinian installs a video camera next to a posters of President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and late President Yasser Arafat inside the border of Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt men's room in the PA Parliament building, November 6,2005. Israel's cabinet on Sunday postponed a vote to approve a border crossing for Palestinians between Gaza and Egypt because of disagreement over the role of European Union security monitors, political sources said. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
I wonder which urinal is more popular? Especially now with the camera up. If I were a Palestinian legislator, I think I'd hold it.

Apologies for this post to anyone with any taste or sensitivity. This blog will return to its more elevated fare soon. Really soon.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Guarding the Mural? 

A Palestinian police officer stands guard next to a mural of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat outside the offices of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City,Thursday Nov. 3, 2005. Palestinians will mark the one year anniversary of the death of the late Palestinian leader who died in a Paris hospital Nov. 11, 2004, later this month. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Guarding the mural? Why on Earth would they have to guard the mural of their beloved "martyred" leader? This made absolutely no sense to me until I did a little research, and discovered a translation of the "mural patrol's" rules of engagement, identifying the various threats they are to be on guard against:

O, great guardians of the painted tiger, keep your thoughts on the virgins of heaven, but your backside to the martyr's face. Safeguard the memory of his most revered and whiskered carcass against all infidel forces:
  • Zionist pigeons
  • Hordes of adoring female admirers of the late Chairman, whose lipstick prints must not be permitted to mar his majestic visage.
  • Jilted former bodyguards of the deceased leader who are angry about... well, just watch out for them.
  • Packs of stray dogs trained by the Mossad to mistake the Rais's regal red nose for a fire hydrant
  • Misguided youth worked up after an afternoon watching MTV on the satellite channels wanting to paint "2Pac 4Ever" on Arafat's Kefiyah.
  • Suha Arafat, disgruntled former roommate and co-signer on the family Visa card, possibly convinced that "the money" is hidden in a vault behind the mural. Ignore her words and guard the mural with your life to your last drop of blood.
Best of luck and may you be blessed by the Most Merciful etc. and etc.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Childhood Memories of an Iranian Leader 

Scene: A young boy, future Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, approaches his mother.

Young Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Mom, I want a gun

Mom: No.

YMA: Why not?

Mom: Well, children don't need guns.

YMA: But that stupid neighbor boy, Hashemi, has one! I saw him with it at the bank!

Mom: Hashemi's 18.

YMA: So? He lives at home, I live at home... what's the difference?

Mom: And he's a security guard in a bank, he needs that gun to protect the customers.

YMA: Yeah, but ... but what if that idiot got mad at me... I don't know why, but you know how I'm always fighting with him... and what if he tried to shoot me? What then? How would I defend myself? Without a gun?

Mom: No!

YMA: That's not fair! It's just so not fair that he get's a gun and I don't! I hate Hashemi, I hope he dies.

Mom: Oh Mahmoud, sweetheart, we don't say such things. And that's just another reason why we don't give guns to impulsive children.

YMA: But it's not like I'm asking for a gun specifically for the purpose of shooting him Mom. I'm just hoping he dies a bloody bullet riddled death, that's all.

Mom: Do your homework first and then we'll talk about the gun some more when your Uncle comes back. He went to university in Europe so he'll know what to do.

Uncle: Hello everyone!

YMA: Hi Uncle, Mom won't let me have a gun. She's all worried I'm going to shoot that creep Hashemi with it.

Uncle: Oh nonsense. You're a good boy aren't you? You know better than that, right?

YMA: Well, I mean, it's like I really do hate Hashemi...and I can't wait to see his bloody carcass being dragged down the street by stray dogs, but I mean, well...yeah.

Uncle: Hmmm, so that's a yes then. Great. Well, I'll tell you what, Sis. Let's give him the gun, but we'll make a rule: whenever he wants to play with it, he has to promise to take all the ammunition out first and keep it in his pocket until he's done. That way there won't be any accidents. Brilliant, isn't it!

Mom: Yeah. Brilliant. Thanks.

YMA: Yeah! Brilliant! Thanks! I can't wait to show Hashemi. Can I have a silencer too?

Wow, not the 'concerned citizen' I expected 

Sometimes I see the headline and my blogging bias-detection instincts kick in so strongly I can almost write the scathing post without reading the actual article -- almost:

Headline: Concerned citizen hacks Israeli army's 'rocket hotline'

A concerned Israeli has thwarted the army's latest anti-militant initiative by hacking its 'rocket hotline' set up so that Palestinians in Gaza can rat on those firing projectiles at Israel, the Yediot Aharonot daily reported.
Oh yeah, I'm sure Yahoo and AFP are just loving this Israeli "concerned citizen" who had the chutzpah to shut down the army's anti-rocket hotline. We wouldn't want that nasty Israeli army hotline stopping the rocket fire of the... wait a second... what's this? There's more to the article? Let me see that...

But within hours, soldiers monitoring the 'rocket hotline' found they couldn't access their voicemail after a concerned citizen hacked the system and changed the access codes.

It appears the officials within the army's unit for State of Mind Operations, had forgotten to change the default code to access the voicemail system, making it an easy target for anyone curious to listen in.

"I changed the code because I didn't want the terror organisations to listen to the messages because at the beginning of every message, the voicemail system cites the phone number from which it was received," the concerned hacker told the paper.

"I was afraid the terrorists would be able to identify the callers and would try to hurt them."
Ok, ok. Apparently this 'concerned citizen' really was an actual Concerned Citizen. Great job whoever you are!

So I couldn't write the media-bias post I intended. It's also nice, once in a while, to write a feel-good piece... wait a second... what's this? There's one more line to the article? Let me see that...

Red-faced military officials are still waiting for the hacker to give them the new access codes.
So they couldn't resist taking a parting poke at the nasty old Israeli army after all! Bastards.

At least the natural order has been restored. I feel better.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: