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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Top Secret Drum Corps

This is just wonderful. One of the most impressive displays of precision drumming I've ever seen.

The Top Secret Drum Corps.

I started playing drums when I was five years old. So I have 34 years of appreciation for just how difficult what they're doing would be even if they were just standing still.

Even if this isn't normally your kind of thing, I predict you'll have a bunch of fun watching through to the end.

Brought to you by drummerworld.com, the best freaking drumming site on the web.

Ticking bombs, torture, and Flame-Haired Angel

Most of you will not want to read this article. It's about torture. And it's more than a couple of pages, so it takes time. Have I sold you, yet?

"The Myth of the Ticking Time Bomb"

It provides an important answer -- in my opinion, an unassailable answer -- to one of the most important questions George Bush has placed before us all. Unfortunately, this bulletproof answer falls prey to the tragic flaw noted in this space just days ago.

Thinking about the article for a long time after I read it, one thing occurred to me that the author didn't address.

There is a seldom-mentioned corollary to the ticking bomb scenario. It is a corollary that makes the whole thing personal, not the least bit abstract. It is this: What if the terrorist had your lover or child? What if it was you with the electrodes and battery acid and ball-peen hammer? Would you personally choose to torture the bastard to save your lover?

This is a particularly appealing scenario for torture advocates to dangle before us. If all that stood between me and Flame-Haired Angel's murder was a little torture, wouldn't I go for it?

The question begs us to simply extrapolate from that personal scenario to the broader "ticking bomb" scenario in which, while it might not be us and our loved ones, it would certainly be someone's loved ones. Wouldn't we want the government/CIA/FBI/etc to make a decision similar to that which we would likely make?

It's an emotionally powerful argument. It's also illogical. The two scenarios are analogous, but they are not the same. They are completely unalike in two critical ways.

As an individual, I would be making an individual choice against which I would have to weigh the consequences of my actions. Am I willing to bear those consequences -- jail, for example -- in order to save my wife? I can make the personal choice to save FHA and throw myself on the mercy of the justice system. If they send me to prison, I will have made the choice knowing that's the trade off.

This is not the same as what the Bush administration is trying to ensconce in law. The Bush administration is trying to legalize torture. No trade off. Just do it.

Further, as an individual, I am making a personal choice. When a government engages in torture, however, the torturers don't have a personal stake, and they aren't making a choice. They are agents of the government following orders.

So, there's no choice. And there's no trade-off. The analogy breaks down dramatically.

All that's left is just legalized torture.

If your reaction is that you'd still definitely want agents of the government to be able to act -- that is, torture people -- on your behalf in a ticking bomb scenario, then I humbly offer you the article above.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Because pirates wear orange pants, they do.

With Flame-Haired Angel away and the autumn sunshine taunting, it's been a perfect day to get out on the rollerblades.

Jean-Francois and I joined a smallish crowd, probably 1000 skaters, to suicide dash the streets of Paris with a police escort. It's an every-Sunday event in Paris, but I haven't been for a few months, and my buns need it. The French roller-cops still impress me. There's just something about a fit policeman zooming by you on skates with a gun strapped on. I guess they feel pretty sure that that thing won't go off if they go ass-over-teakettle and land on it. Surer than I am, I'm guessing.

Lovely day for it. Nice and cool. Unfortunately, I took the knee out of a favorite pair of bright orange pants. Or, rather, the road did. Good spot for a pirate patch, though.



White and Nerdy

The reason I like this video so much? Clearly because I'm white and nerdy.

The number of pop culture in-jokes in this that crack me up label me straight off.

And, just as an aside, it's just gob-smacking how long Weird Al has been at the top of the novelty song genre. It's been, what, 20 years? He's mining the same seam, but just keeps coming up gold. Not bad for a guy who started out playing accordion on a local radio show.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Less hair, same Flame

Today, in a far-off land, Flame-Haired Angel submitted her head to a stranger's scissors.

She got all her hair cut off. Short. Really short, apparently. She says it's Natalie Portman short.

But she hasn't said if that means Natalie Portman short, or Natalie Portman REALLY short.

Strange to be this far away and not even know what my lover looks like.

Good thing that the Flame-est bits have very little to do with the length of her hair.


In a funk

I haven't been writing much, recently, as I've been in a bit of a funk. My life is blessed, but Flame-Haired Angel is away, and work is mentally and emotionally exhausting.

The recent September 11 memorializing of the New York conflagration five years earlier also left me feeling empty. It wasn't so much sadness at the memory of what happened -- I'm still angry and sad about it, but most of the fuel of real anguish is spent -- as a sense of tragedy following tragedy: that tragic events have been tragically misappropriated, extending the suffering to thousands of others, most needlessly.

Worse than needlessly. Unjustifiably. Immorally.

Tragedy begot tragedy. The first was at their hands, but why did the next have to be at ours?

I feel as though everything I've ever had faith in, at the core of the most enduring democracy, has been cheaply sold at auction in return for little more than lashing out at the night. I blame the Bush administration and a rubber-stamp Congress, of course, but my fellow citizens and the press have been complicit, too.

Because of feeling this way, I ducked most of the 9/11 memorializing. But a few pieces of remembrance touched me. They weren't about the victims so much. I read a lot more, in fact, about the places where we, all of us who live uncomfortably on, have come to since then. In sum, we seem reflective about something like the stunting of our own spirits. Not triumphant. Almost embarrassed at how little we've moved on.

Of the pieces that got through my armor and moved me, one was a letter from my friend Margot. She wrote to all the same people to whom she had written five years previous. She talked about the blessings in our lives since, but also about the betrayal of her prayer, then, that our leaders would seek and receive wise counsel.

Another was a short piece by a mathemetician whose articulate analysis of life beyond numbers I have referenced a few times, here, before: John Allen Paulos. The piece is called "A Short Numerically-Flavored Rumination on 9/11/01". It was enough that he lightened my mood with the simple phrase "numerological excrescences".

The most powerfully written thing I read -- the writing itself touched me to my core -- was a piece by Justin E H Smith: "The Self and September 11". It's not a very promising title, I know, but trust me and click the link when you've got a few moments to inhale deeply. Someday, perhaps if I'm very good, I'll write so well.

Keith Olbermann continued to rattle his cage with his new-found Murrow chops. That was appreciated. But it did sound a little tinnier in my ear than it might have on any other night. I love what Keith is doing, allowing us to see what Ed Murrow did, self-consciously "bringing it" to our own time, to our issues, to our complacent sense of right and wrong, and "bringing it" to this President who so desperately needs it brought. But I was, frankly, less receptive to polemic and well-deserved public scolding than usual. There was already enough of that, though less elegantly composed, clanging in my head and thudding just slightly further south.

The best memorial, of all, I thought, was a simple thing done by two of my favorite bloggers. They just posted up an old video clip. It wasn't even from Sept 11, but from a few days later. It was Jon Stewart's Daily Show: the first he did after 9/11. I can't imagine what that must have been like: to restart a comedy show -- a current affairs comedy show -- broadcasting from New York, while the site still smoldered. Below, at the end of this post, you can see how he handled it.

Something else you'll see, indirectly, in that clip, is why my soul hurts. The possibility of light and hope emerged from that tragedy. We could have made something out of those innocents' deaths that would have made them proud of us. Instead, we turned their victimhood into a fiery sword of false righteousness, swinging furiously in fear, justifing torture, imprisoning without charge, killing still more innocent people, and stripping freedoms from our own citizens.

The only fitting memorial to those who died is a nation that is free. A nation that is just. A nation that doesn't cower in fear. A nation that holds itself above any standard that guides killers of innocents.

That is what we need as a memorial to them. Not a new building. Not another television special. Not another "War on Terror" speech. What we need is to be the best possible version of ourselves, both as human beings and as a nation.

* * *

The first Daily Show to air after September 11, 2001:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Maher and Me

At OneGoodMove, there's an excellent clip of Bill Maher being interviewed on Hardball.

About Bush's 9/11 speech, Maher says:

He tried to jam down our throats one more time that the war on terror is about the war in Iraq. And I think most Americans have heard that...we listened to the speech and we said, "You know what? We get it. That's your opinion. You think the war on terror is the war in Iraq. We've made a judgement: it's not. So, shut up about it.

I watched this clip the morning after I wrote about the rhetorical incompetence of most liberals (including me), stemming from our reliance on reason. Lo and behold, Maher makes a similar point that the opposition to Bush just isn't encapsulating its view percussively enough:

They (ie, the Democrats) have all the facts on their side. All they would really have to say to the American people is the Republicans chose to fight the wrong war, and then they lost it. They lost the war. How about that?
The interviewer then opines:

The Democrats can't make a case based on the facts. The Republicans don't need the facts. ... Despite everything you say being true, perhaps. Everything could be objectively true about the case being misled for war, and how they didn't have the facts about anything right, and yet the people, half of them, are ready to vote Republican now. What's it say about the Dems? What's it say about the Republican case?"

Then Maher again makes a case very similar to my vented frustration yesterday:

The Democrats do not know how to fight back to the fear argument. The Republicans keep winning the elections based on the idea that there is a werewolf out there in the woods, and we're the only ones who have a silver bullet. If you don't go along with their idea that indefinitely occupying the country of Iraq is the way to fight terror, then you're one of the Al Qaeda 'types' ... But the Democrats don't seem to know how to make that counter-argument, and say to the American people, "You know, we're patriotic too. We want to fight the war on terror, but we just don't think this is the right way to do it."


The Bunny Bistro

For the foodies who read the previous post.

Paris Pulchritude and the Promenade Plantee

Before Flame-Haired Angel left for Oz, we spent a blissful last weekend together -- almost uninterrupted by preparations for the largest merger in my industry's history -- celebrating our romance, and celebrating Paris. We walked from our apartment to the Eiffel Tower. We shopped at the famous street market around the corner where the cheesemonger flirts with her and gives us freebies. We ate at a traditional bistro where we ate rich rabbit dishes and drank Burgundy. And, most memorable of all, we finally, after almost three years, took our first walk on the Promenade Plantee.

The Promenade is, in a city full of famous sights, one of its least celebrated wonders. A railway running across half the city ceased operation in 1969, leaving behind an unused viaduct and causeway crossing south-eastern Paris for more than four kilometers. In most other cities, the land would simply have been sold off after the trains stopped running. In Paris, they hired a landscape architect, and turned it into a four and a half kilometer garden path.

A city park is lovely enough, offering escape within chaos, as it does. A garden, in and of itself, is lovely. A scenic walk through one of the world's most picturesque cities is lovely. But this is something else, again.

Anyone who has seen Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy stroll through the twilight in Before Sunset has seen them do something seemingly impossible: walk upstairs, far above ground level, and into a garden. They are on the Promenade Plantee, walking in flowers four stories above the street. What you don't see in the calm tracking shots through the foliage are the beautiful 19th Century brick arches, once the support for steam locomotives, on which the garden is planted.

Flame-Haired Angel and I strolled, holding hands, inhaling the jasmine, and looking through the fourth-floor windows of 12th arrondissement Parisians.

The next time you're in Paris, and you want to do something off the beaten tourist track, something even the locals don't think much about, pick a sunny day, put on your walking shoes, and go upstairs.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Losing Logical Love of Lithwick

If my heart weren’t already completely committed, I might see if Dahlia Lithwick would have me.

I read a piece like this, and I’m keen to get into her bed head mind. On so many things, she says what I want to say, only better, in fewer words, with more panache.

That said, the end of that particular article is unusually disappointing. In contrasts to what I’m used to from my usual dalliances with Dahlia, she winds down by going all “tempered debate” on me. Talking about the balance between security and civil liberty, she seems to suggest that what’s really needed is more dispassionate analysis and reasoning. Even-handed debate is fine, as a method toward some end, but as a goal in and of itself, it’s just plain milksop.

To what end, dear Dahlia? To what end?

The worst thing about my lust for Dahlia's wonderful mind and surgical writing, though, is that the source of my love for her is the very source of our mutual rhetorical failure. She, for all her ardent intellectual passion, falls into the same rhetorical trap that kicks dolts like me to the curb all the time. When given a rhetorical battlefield, we choose the weapon we think most powerful: reason. Why do we think it most powerful? Well, because it persuades us. It is the sine qua non of argument winners.

Our problem is that most people aren't built that way. Reason isn’t a weapon to which our rhetorical opponents are very vulnerable. A reasoned battle may be the only one we think is worth winning, but the crowd is baying for something much more visceral.

This has vexed me for a long time. The Republican right wing figured out, long ago, that you don’t have to be right to govern, in a democracy. You just have to be popular. And popularity is an emotional outcome, not the result of a debate. The debate club, the history club and the chess club can out-reason the most popular kids in the school. And they can also hang out alone on Saturday night. We may think with our heads, but the vast majority of us make decisions further south.

And that’s why emotion is so powerful. The head will find reasons to follow the heart's inspiration.

Me and Dahlia, no matter how smart she is, won't often win the audience vote in a popularity contest. We go for reason. Our opponents go for the gut.

For the last five years, the Bush administration has deployed powerful appeals to big emotional symbols (freedom!) and to fear. There has been little clear reason and even less evidence in support of reason. While it's true that it's all wearing a bit thin on the American public, now, it has taken five years, and some of the most extraordinary stretches of credibility imaginable just to convince a majority to question the bald assertions of the emotive rhetoric. Virtually ignoring reason and precedent, no-holds-barred set of emotional assertions has enabled this administration to "justify" torture, to curtail habeas corpus, to spy on its own citizens, to wage war without just cause.

For five years, while I was at McKinsey, I taught consultants about communication strategy. These were folks who had always succeeded at everything they'd ever tried, especially in the realm of the mind. They were the valedictorians of all our high schools, and Suma Cum Laude in every degree thereafter. In a training course aimed at new consultants, I used to set up a simple exercise in which their pristine logic was unable to deliver a result. The lesson was obvious: You're going to need more than analytics and logic to move your clients toward a result they really believe in.

Though that course went on to address all the non-rational elements of communications strategy, and how winning rhetoric -- written or spoken -- actually persuades, I don't seem to have learned my own lesson.

I simply can't watch this administration butcher the facts and manipulate Americans' frayed emotions without reaching toward my scabbard for the sword of superior reason.

And Karl Rove (Bush's top political strategist) just laughs and laughs and laughs. By the time I've got my reasoned argument out, he's on to his next fear-baiting, gay-bashing, stem-cell-baby-killing image.

* * *

Here are just a couple of examples of what I mean:

Condaleeza Rice recently compared the US Civil War and the Iraq War, but not in the way that you'd think. She was making the point that folks probably wanted out of the Civil War, too, but that it would have been wrong to allow slavery to continue. She deepened the offense of her illogic by saying: ''there were people who thought the Declaration of Independence was a mistake'' as well.

It's a good rhetorical gambit for Americans who would never want to be seen abandoning the sacred example of the Declaration. And she's certainly right that as many as two thirds of colonists probably did not actively support the Declaration. But it just absolutely makes me furious because Rice is smart enough to know she's being completely illogical.

She's making a famously invalid logical construction:

People thought X was false. X turned out to be true.

People also think Y is false. Therefore Y is also likely true. (Or, more gently, "Therefore, we should also consider Y plausible.")

It's just absolute bullshit. But putting people on the wrong side of the Declaration of Independence is powerful.

(There's also, of course, the irony that the Declaration of Independence was a document intended to cast off a foreign overlord. So, not a great analogy for her to pick in relation to our presence in Iraq.)

Another example that still has me pissed off, because it is part of the President's ongoing campaign to normalize torture.

In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show (video at OneGoodMove), Bush responded to questions about "waterboarding" -- the practice of holding someone under-water until they're about to drown -- by saying:"I'm not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is that we don't want the enemy to adjust."

Lauer then challenged Bush's assertion that all such techniques were legal, asking, if so, why they had been done only in secret CIA prisons set up in foreign countries. And Bush repeated the evasive soundbite:

"I'm not going to talk about techniques. And I'm not going to explain to the enemy what we're doing."

Sounds reasonable, right? Gotta give the President some privilege, some scope in fighting the terrorists, and he's got to be careful. Except that it's illogical bullshit trashed by the most obvious facts.

Anyone who reads the newspaper has known for years that the US has used waterboarding, snarling dogs snapping at genitals, electric shocks, and other forms of torture. If the "enemy" was going to adjust in response to that information, they did it years ago, when they hung "Never forget Abu Ghraib" banners on their walls. So just answer the damn question.

I don't think my logic in these two examples can be faulted. I also don't think it would persuade a single one of the President's ardent supporters.

And that's why my rhetoric is still on a losing streak. This game just isn't about reason.


Bloody Dervala

Listen, would you stop writing like a god-damn demon, just for a little while, so I could feel that I'm good at it for a few minutes?

(Dervala delivers again. )

For all that, this amoral economy suits me well, I’m making a promise to my future self that if I hear at 54 that my experience is uninteresting to capitalism—and I expect to—I’ll stand up, excuse myself with a big smile, and go back to the woods for good. We’re human beings. Our stories matter. Grown-ups have more to contribute than babies. And where we have been and who we take care of matters more to me than symbols, models, and theories.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Good night, sweet Angel, wherever you are

It is a beautiful, beautiful night in Paris. The air is that perfect warm temperature that is barely un-hot enough to cause nostalgia for the summer just slipped past.

The sky is clear and full of stars. The street noise is quiet with a reverence of couples walking in the not-quite-yet-autumn, short-sleeved moonlight.

Only one thing keeps tonight from complete superlative; only one thing prevents it from being some zenith of loveliness.

Flame-Haired Angel is thousands of kilometers away. And will be for weeks and weeks.

Before she left, we talked about her dreams, and the sacrifices required to build them sweatily into life instead of coddling them as fantasies. The challenge of doing things never done before. Of confronting fears. Of gritting teeth in the face of demons, even if they are only the demons she keeps as pets, uniquely her own.

And of being apart.

For us, who found our love a little later than so many of our friends, time apart is a special torture. Some say it’s just that we’re still newlyweds. But after four and a half years, without the least slippage in the pain of parting, I don’t think that’s it. Rather, I reckon it has something to do with how much of our lives, up to now, we spent wondering if we would ever find a true mate, an amplifier of every joyful note life offers, and the ultimate consolation in the face of any barb fate throws.

Having found her, watching her recede is painful.

But, as I kept reminding her in the days up to her flight, pain is not desolation. It is not despair. This pain is not tragic in the least.

It is a blessing. It is the blessing of being momentarily denied life’s greatest pleasure. The gravity of the loss is felt only because it is known. To know this thing is to know that what I’d always hoped for is even greater than I’d imagined. Missing her like this is the revelation of all living, if love be at living’s foundation. How could such knowledge be pain? I can feel remorse at choosing to be further from her than absolutely necessary, of course. But it is, in the scheme of all that we’ve won for the rest of our lives, only for a little while.

And, moreover, it is only distance. After all, the joy, the happiness, the amplifier of life does not leave with her body. It lives and breathes and beats incorporeally. Only the sanctified routine of sharing those things in daily proximity -- in whispers, on walks, over dinner, with lovemaking -- is put on hold.

All else remains constant.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Save the world with your art

Well, no. I don't think art can save the world. But there was a moment, today, when it made mine a little better, courtesy of:

Mr Picassohead and


(At the latter, don't forget that your mouse has a nifty button on it.)


Americans support idea of police state

We don't need Muslim fundamentalists to fight hard to "destroy our freedom". We appear to be plenty happy to kill it, ourselves, when they've successfully made us a little afraid.

"The new Zogby poll basically shows a nation ... more than willing to support an American police state."


Go, Keith, go!

The Olbermann renaissance continues. There are so many good things to say about this clip, but it says most them better, itself.

It is so rare to see rhetorical strategy taken apart this precisely, this succinctly.

It is also rare -- as has oft been pointed out, in recent years -- to find a journalist willing to do anything other than pander to his or her audience (or, if you prefer, to ratings). I am not naive enough to think that Keith isn't out for ratings. His job depends on them, after all. But what he's doing smacks of a sincerity and articulate personal passion we see too seldom in the "main stream media".

Maybe the reason he's breaking modern journalistic conventions is that he didn't grow up as a journalist. Keith used to be a sportscaster. But, now, after spending a few years being the mildly funny host of his non-sports gig, Countdown, he's somehow seen fit to let loose his inner Murrow. Journalism as the opposite of dispassionate.

And it's working, Keith.

One might complain that he's doing nothing more than being a Bill O'Reilly look-a-like from the left. But I wouldn't buy it. Bill's show is all about Bill. Keith, well, I get the impression it's very much about something bigger than himself.

Below is the transcript of Keith's comments, but the video (linked above) kicks even more ass.

It is to our deep national shame—and ultimately it will be to the President’s deep personal regret—that he has followed his Secretary of Defense down the path of trying to tie those loyal Americans who disagree with his policies—or even question their effectiveness or execution—to the Nazis of the past, and the al Qaeda of the present.

Today, in the same subtle terms in which Mr. Bush and his colleagues muddied the clear line separating Iraq and 9/11 -- without ever actually saying so—the President quoted a purported Osama Bin Laden letter that spoke of launching, “a media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government.”

Make no mistake here—the intent of that is to get us to confuse the psychotic scheming of an international terrorist, with that familiar bogeyman of the right, the “media.”

The President and the Vice President and others have often attacked freedom of speech, and freedom of dissent, and freedom of the press.

Now, Mr. Bush has signaled that his unparalleled and unprincipled attack on reporting has a new and venomous side angle:

The attempt to link, by the simple expediency of one word—“media”—the honest, patriotic, and indeed vital questions and questioning from American reporters, with the evil of Al-Qaeda propaganda.

That linkage is more than just indefensible. It is un-American.

Mr. Bush and his colleagues have led us before to such waters.

We will not drink again.

And the President’s re-writing and sanitizing of history, so it fits the expediencies of domestic politics, is just as false, and just as scurrilous.

[vid]“In the 1920’s a failed Austrian painter published a book in which he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany and take revenge on Europe and eradicate the Jews,” President Bush said today, “the world ignored Hitler’s words, and paid a terrible price.”

Whatever the true nature of al Qaeda and other international terrorist threats, to ceaselessly compare them to the Nazi State of Germany serves only to embolden them.

More over, Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing in part what Osama Bin Laden and others seek—a fearful American populace, easily manipulated, and willing to throw away any measure of restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety.

It thus becomes necessary to remind the President that his administration’s recent Nazi “kick” is an awful and cynical thing.

And it becomes necessary to reach back into our history, for yet another quote, from yet another time and to ask it of Mr. Bush:

“Have you no sense of decency, sir?”


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

To our neighbor...

To our neighbor with 3 children under 12, who just knocked on our door to ask that we turn down our stereo.

Okay, but what do you suggest I ask you to do the next time the screaming of your brats wakes me up at 7am on Saturday?

As someone who seems less and less likely to have children, perhaps I'll just sound like an old crank when I say I've always wondered why parents of young children get a free pass. If I ran up and down the aisle of the airplane singing at the top of my lungs while other passengers were trying to sleep, and I refused to stop when politely asked, I'd be restrained by flight crew and arrested at the next airport.

Flame-Haired Angel and I, living as we do in the close quarters of a Paris apartment, put up with screaming tantrums, hard-shoe hallway races, and decibel-defying door-slamming both above us and below us. Daily. Never, never, ever have we complained. This is not the pitter-patter of little feat. It is a hydraulic jackhammer on hardwood floors. Yet, tonight, at 10:45, we were asked to turn down our stereo so the little tykes could rest.

Why must we subsidize the sonic peace of proximate parents, yet pay the penalty of being awoken at dawn every weekend?

I have half a mind to introduce their daughters to ecstasy, rave parties, and guys who behave like I did when I was 17.

I'll tell you what: You keep your kids quiet and I'll keep my stereo down. Fair deal? Oh, you can't control your kids? They express themselves spontaneously?

Me too. But with AC fuckin' DC.


Beautiful, Geeky, Wonder

Normally, I don't like using the blog as a link dump. Tonight, however, I don't have the energy to write "from life", and I'm blessed with some lovely things to share.

Three things, to be exact. One transportingly beautiful, one bit of sport for the geeks, and a little jaw-dropping wonder.

Transportingly beautiful

If I have the good fortune to be the one to introduce you to dancing Matt, of wherethehellismatt.com, then I am happy to bring you a unique bit of sunshine. This is apparently already famous, but I have no qualms. It is a gift to be shared. I love that it was not designed to be a cathedral, but has just become one because it conveys such a rare, simple thing that all of us would like to share.

(Hat tip to MightyGirl)

A bit of sport for the geeks

I make no secret of being an unabashed ZeFrank fan. I link to him often. But it was news to me that he had addressed the TED conference. And it was brilliant news that the video of his presentation was available. And free.

Jaw-dropping wonder

Those of you who know Flame-Haired Angel know that she's an artist of rare passion and talent. Watching the video here, however, she whimpered. (After jumpting to the link, go to the link for the video and right-click, then save it to your hard drive to view it.)

(Hat tip to Aberrant News)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Because we're nurturing, we are

Vatican condemns abortion performed on 11 year-old rape victim.

As shocking as I find this story, as inhumane and arrogant, there's a part of me that admires the consistency of their conviction. After all, if you really do believe life begins at conception and that all abortion is murder, this is perfectly rational. It's an absolutist stance. Taken seriously, it's a view that brooks no compromise just because of *how* the life was begun. In that view, murder is murder, and the circumstances of the lives preceding the murder are completely irrelevant.

So, I guess I'm happy they're not being hypocrites.

In every other way, however, this is just barbaric. What if the church had gotten its way, but the poor girl didn't believe life began at conception? I guess she'd have been fucked twice as an 11 year-old.



When I flew home from Warsaw, Sunday a week ago, it was shoved in my face that the last summer of my 30s was gone. It was bad enough that I'd just spent a weekend with hundreds of hormone-fuelled 21-year-olds, reminding me, despite their supportive giddiness, that I was no longer any match for their body chemistry. I returned, in the late autumn of my youth, to Paris in the late autumn of, um, summer. It may have been August, still, for a few fleeting moments, but I immediately encountered two sure signs summer was over.

My flight touching down was exactly coincident with the annual French anti-climax called "the rentree". It means "the return." It is *the* day, each year, when the majority of French people, having taken much, if not all, of August off, clog the highways on their way back home from holiday.

Having fought the traffic bravely, from the back seat of a taxi, I eventually made it back into the welcoming arms of my Flame-Haired lover, who possessed a small secret. She was busy with a welcome-home dinner surprise, an unexpected treat found at the markets: cepes.

Cepes (boletus edulis) are mushrooms that shouldn't be in the markets, yet. The arrival of this meaty forest fungus is, in Paris, the surest sign that Autumn is in full flight, the damp and chill having brought it forth. This year, however, August was more than an antidote to a hot, dry July. And, having been cold and damp, the cepes got fooled.

Pissy about the prematurely cold weather, I am nevertheless loathe to look a gift horse in the chompers. And so it was that, last night, for a casual Sunday dinner party, I baked cepes tartes sallees. No pictures of those, though. They were gone before the camera could be got.

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A quick poll. Which would you rather hear about: the types of French bus-stop ads that most frequently feature naked women, or the reason it's necessary for us to lie to our cheesemonger? Leave your preference, if any, in comments.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Breasts, swords and cross-dressing international youth

Last weekend I had the good fortune to be invited to Warsaw to address the 2006 AIESEC International Congress.

My first time in Warsaw was an absolute blast, including the speech, and the party following. The 600 attendees were so happy my speech was over, they threw a party that had me wandering around a university campus at four in the morning looking for a taxi. The party included my first taste of Indian whiskey -- I don't suggest letting curiosity get the better of you on that one -- and a bunch of cross-dressing Koreans, Ghanaians, and just about every other nationality. So, pretty much your standard former-soviet-block social event.

Hanging out with 600 21-year-olds makes you feel very young, and very old.

The random-seeming image on the right is the coat of arms of Warsaw. You can pretty much tell, just from the emblem, that it's a party town.

This link will take you to a pic from the event, and a letter I wrote to my gracious AIESEC hosts.


Distracted by a merger, and renewed (ahem) merging

Well, that was a cheery return to blogging after two weeks away, eh?

Good thing these posts show up in reverse chronological order.

I've been a bit quiet mostly just because of intensity at work. The merger of my company with one of its largest rivals is proceeding apace. As these two objects of extreme mass come together, I've found myself a cozy spot at the intersection. Which means I will either become an intrinsic part of the new entity, or I will be squished like a bug. The likelier of the two possibilities is unknown.

If you noticed the silence at all, perhaps you attributed it to much catching up, of various yummy kinds, with Flame-Haired Angel. Well, yes. That too.


You had me at Murrow

I've blogged before about being a US Constitution geek. I've also blogged about a lot of things that make me bawl like a baby.

But it's absolutely freaking ridiculous when Edward R Murrow, talking about patriotism and freedom, makes you cry.

If you haven't seen or heard about the duty that Keith Olbermann has performed for all of us who love what we once thought were the ideals the US government was there to uphold and defend, have a gander here. (The link is to the short BoingBoing report, and has further links to the video.)

Keith may not have had me at hello, but anyone who appropriately quotes Murrow can get into my bed:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear - one, of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of un-reason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men; Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were - for the moment - unpopular."

He was rebutting Donald Rumsfeld's recent speech to American Veterans, in which Rumsfeld yet again questioned the patriotism of anyone who challenges the wisdom of the administration, attempting to align dissent with cowardice, treason and terrorism.

Olbermann did far more than just quote Murrow, who's target had been the McCarthyist witch hunt for "communist sympathizers". His broadside was eloquent in its own right:

"[Mr Rumsfeld's speech] did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence - indeed, the loyalty - of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land; Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants - our employees - with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

...In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused… the United States of America?"

I have written, often, here, about the tirade of Bush administration policy that enshrines offenses to freedom in law and cheapens life itself while claiming moral high ground. I have called it, again and again, immoral. This is not a political judgment. It is a moral one.

I have but to read "...we are not descended from fearful men", knowing what's coming next, for my eyes to tear up.

To all the neo-cons who claim that those who are neither Christian nor conservative lack, by definition, values and a moral compass, I ask this: Do you think what's behind those tears is just a bleeding heart and misty sentimentalism?

Think again. It's moral rage.