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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blogathon Thursday in Aid of Katrina Victims

I'm in.

Check out the Instapundit link if you want to be a part of this massive show of blogger solidarity with the devastated victims of that killer hurricane, Katrina -- a name I cannot look at now, without wincing.

UPDATE: Join HERE.

One blogger, Val Prieto, of Babalu Blog, has vowed not to post one more blogpost until his blog readers donate at least U$ 1,000 to charities. Harsh, but maybe this is the type of attitude, this kick in the backside way, that gets results.

I won't follow suit with the meagre amount of readers I have (only 120 per day, on average) but I will beg to all who read this, wherever you are, even if it's one dollar, or one pound, one euro, one dinar, or one rupee, PLEASE donate something.

CHARITIES INFO: American Red Cross, 1-800-HELP-NOW. Canadian Red Cross, 613-740-1900. Catholic Charities, 1-800-919-9338. Habitat for Humanity, 229-924-6935, ext. 2551.

And remember my birthday earlier this month?

The moneys I received that I was saving up for some goody like clothes or a trip to NYC, are almost gone.

Yes, I included 60% of them (basically, with the excception of $50, all I have left) to my parents' donation, which is in itself a miracle, since they never donate outside of medical charities.

So far, this year 2005, they've done so twice -- for the tsunami victims, and now for the Gulf State fugees.

My first blogpost tomorrow in Katrina Victims solidarity will be at 9 AM EDT.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Another Thing

Here's another thing about being incommunicada for 4 days, similar to my Third World observation:

One feels like life is passing you by -- the world turns, and you stay stock still.

This reminds me of a type of Peace Corps work I once did in South America back in the year 2000.

For almost two summer months, I lived in a small village with no running potable water, and for whose purpose we were there to help to build.

There was one "armazen-tienda" in the whole village, which acted as pub, village meeting place, town hall, supermarket and restaurant, which held the only working colour television set for miles.

Now, I have never been much for television.

I have never watched one whole episode of Friends, Seinfeld, 90210, Buffy, barely any British or American shows, or any of the normal television viewing a person my age should have had. Here in the US I watch sport, History Channel and PBS, that's it.

So when I signed up to volunteer, I thought I was going to be fine with no telly.

I wasn't.

Every night I would go to that tiny, overstuffed village inn with a thousand smells, and cling to that 13" TV set like a Spanish moth to torchlight.

It was my one contact to the outside world, and I treasured any news from abroad, no matter how trivial.

During the whole time, though, I kept wondering what it must be like to live like that for one's entire life.

It's fine if you were raised like that, but one would think that television would attract people by that which is shown in the many telenovelas and news shows on at night.

But I realised at once why, perhaps, that wasn't the case.

If you have never lived in a minor country, like say Bolivia, or Albania, or Laos, a country not often on the world scene, you cannot know how much of the news focuses on what goes around the world, far away from your reality.

It's almost 90% of the footage, and though all humans feel some kinship towards others, when say flooding in Venice is shown, or a summit at Y-River, or even the latest film shindig at Cannes, you get an odd, disembodied feeling about the world.

You're not a part of it. What's it to you?

Unfortunately, that wasn't my case.

Perhaps it's the insularity of the British, with our insistence on any news in a small island being of monumental interest to all, or the Americans, with their juggernaut hold on current world history, but I never felt like I was outside the loop or not au courrant.

That's what this hurricane robbed me of -- the feeling that the whole world was living life, and instead of being a part of it, I was standing stock still, living an insignificant and localised existence.

What an awful feeling that is.

Today was a hectic day, and tomorrow will be too. But slowly I am getting into the rhythm of things.

Such was my frame of mind as I turned the corner at the main campus of my University, at the Registrar's putting in my sabbatical request, when I almost bumped into Toni Morrison.

Turns out she was there to give the Convocation Address tonight.

Now how come she never goes to any tiny, remote Andean villages for a pep talk, hmm?

Surely, they need it more than the pampered, privately educated poodles at a big, glamourous American University.

But perhaps after living in Paris, hanging about in Stockholm and New York, she too doesn't want to feel outside the loop.

Just this once, I can relate.

Monday, August 29, 2005

So You Want To Hear What a Hurricane Sounds Like?

It sounds like this:

Hurricane Katrina.

UPDATE: Thanks to the wonderful Kullrad for hosting this .wav.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Third World

I've lived in the so-called Third World, and I know what deprivations are like, even to the spoilt like me.

But living through the sheer physical stress and misery of a hurricane, as it makes it's SLLOOOOOWWW way through your home, a storm which lasts 8 hours of intense rain, ghostly sounds, and nauseatingly strong winds is indescribable.

And then comes the aftermath, which saps your energy to overcome the destruction which inevitably follows.

I've now lived through three Acts of God:

  • Hurricane

  • Earthquake

  • Tornado


  • And am only missing:

  • Tsunami

  • Volcano Eruption


  • Somehow, as bad as Hurricane Katrina was -- and she was child's play compared to Hurricane Andrew, or her more recent cat 5 incarnation --, I think God is saving the best for last...

    My thoughts are with you, Nawrleans.

    Saturday, August 27, 2005

    Incredibile!

    All along South Florida, still lots of parts of it without power.

    Today, I went to pick up some water and ice at the National Guard's free handing out of them at the Metro Zoo -- not only for myself and my parents, but for an elderly lady who is bed-ridden at a friend's condo in Coral Gables. She has no one in the world to care for her, and...

    ...this reminds me that family is the most important thing in the world, next to health.

    Without family, or health, you have nothing.

    P.S.: During the height of the storm, just before we lost power, I made a recording of the hurricane's brutally eerie train-whistle sound. I will upload it when I get normalised.

    This you gotta hear.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    The Perfect Storm

    It seems we are to spend this Friday dodging and weaving from the path of soon-to-be Hurricane Katrina, so if I disappear for a few days, fear not -- I just lost power, and hopefully nothing else.

    By now, after 7 years of cohabiting with seasonal hurricanes, I'm an old hand, and I certainly don't lose my head.

    But you know, one does take precautions, so with that in mind, I went to my local 'market and picked up the essentials:

    1- Water
    2- Non-perishable items and tins (the only time I ever buy Vienna Sausages, WTF)
    3- Bleach (to disinfect the bathtub, since one fills it up with water to drink)
    4- Sterno
    5- Batteries
    6- Fill the tank with petrol
    7- Get loads of ready cash from the ATM
    8- Put up the hurricane shutters

    Torches I have by the dozen. After that, you just settle into a comfy seat, tune into Don Noe, and wait.

    Here's looking at you kids.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Bring Me The Head of Hugo Chavez!

    (Welcome Babalublog readers! Croquetas and Ironbeer available as you enter)

    The Papal memoirs review-post will have to be pushed to the backburner yet again, reminiscent of this weekend's television coverage when first the Gaza pullout, then the missile-launch attack on an USN ship constantly pre-empted the World Youth Day coverage, but it can't be helped.

    A story of monumentally MSM-ish proportions is brewing as I write.

    CNN, especially of the cable news channels, has covered this story with a passion hithertofore reserved for the capture of Saddam Hussein -- with interruptions, updates, breaking news reports, and regular programmes like Lou Dobbs economy-centric show being completely devoted to the story.

    What is this story? Simple, really.

    Pat Robertson, whose input in politics waned almost 20 years ago, asked on his Monday televangelical 700 Club programme for the US government to covertly take out Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez.

    Phrases such as "evangelical fatwa" have been heard from such news outlets as Reuters and MSNBC, in a phrase dripping with the same contradiction in terms as "military intelligence" -- according to anti-military wags, that is.

    Pat Robertson, for those who are unaware, ran for the nomination of the Republican Party in 1988, being resoundly beaten by President Bush 41, and since then, his political influence has been near neglible. With the present President of the United States, that infamous evangelical of PBS' worst imaginings, his influence is a big goose egg of nothingness.

    Why? Because.

    Robertson lacks the stateliness of a Billy Graham.

    He lacks the philosophical fervour of a Robert H. Shuller.

    And he can't even be credited the media savviness of a Reverend Jesse Jackson in his prime.

    Perhaps he only comes closest to the oft-times bizarre antics of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, who has made throughout the years one outrageous and racist statement after the other, famously calling Jews "bloodsuckers", "slumlords", ascribing to them control of most if not all important industries of the US, including their aiding of "pro-Zionist" US foreign policy, with seemingly no CNN round-the-clock media coverage on his remarks whatever.

    Robertson's appeal lies primarily with the Bible Belt Over-60's, whose speech patterns and way of thinking are redolent of Paleo-Conservatives the world over.

    This is why he can say in stark terms:

    [Venezuela is] the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

    ...and some of his viewers wouldn't blink an eyelash.

    BUT, don't think all of them wouldn't.

    This is precisely one of the biggest stumbling blocks of MSM-led newstories, and the frustration many feel when such stories are being "framed" to get certain impressions: that one member of a sub-culture or group speaks for an entire swath of more-or-less like-minded believers.

    Life just doesn't work that way. And they know better.

    OPINION

    Let me be precise.

    For Pat Robertson to say something so outrageous, so negligent, and frankly so un-Christian, is a travesty of what he is supposed to represent -- Christian probity in its most direct ethical embodiment, a man of the cloth.

    (And here may I say as a Roman Catholic, what a contrast to the very recent words and actions by Pope Benedict XVI, called "God's Rottweiler" in Monday's UK Channel 4 programme about his ardent conservatism, in such prickly topics as rapprochement with German Jews and meetings with Islamic leaders, make against the backdrop of Robertson's call for regime-change slaughter)

    In very few places of worship in the US will you find Christian leadership advocating the outright killing of another human being.

    Even the most religious anti-abortion adherents would think twice about haranguing from their pulpit the need to kill medical doctors who perform abortions -- simply because defenceless killing is wrong. Full stop.

    Those who do so are reprehensible and should have the severest consequences dealt to them, like Atlanta Olympics, and anti-abortion crusader, Eric Rudolph.

    To say that I find the MSM coverage of this newstory as tilted to salivate over the miscue of one doddering old beg-a-thon preacherman in no way, shape or form excuses these remarks by Mr. Robertson.

    Sure, there are practical considerations, such as dangling to dissemblers of bias a carcass dripping in red blood, as to sharks in a tank, waiting for them to present his marginalised position as somehow representative of all strains of Conservatism or Christianity.

    Yes. That is despicable too, but it was started by the thoughtless, quite possibly, criminal words of Pat Robertson -- let's not forget that it's against the law to instigate the killing of anyone via the FCC-regulated airwaves.

    Who knows now what will happen to his televangelist career, but what he advocates deserves scorn and ridicule of the highest magnitude, from all civilised peoples.

    Never mind that he's just Pat Robertson, and not a pastor with the weight and influence of a Billy Graham.

    Wrong doesn't play favourites.

    HUGO CHAVEZ PLAYS THE ANTI-AMERICAN CARD LIKE HIS MENTOR

    Never has anti-Americanism been played better, for such a long time, and from such a position of historical approbation by intellectuals, as by Fidel Castro, Cuba's unelected dictator since 1 January 1959.

    Boy, he plays the US and its 5 generations of leaders like a banjo, and the music he produces makes anti-Americans everywhere fall over themselves in Terpsichore delight.

    Since he came unto the scene, democratically-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has learned that unsubtle art of throwing caustic acid in the face of the United States like a past master of the genre.

    He is literally, Mini-Me.

    He even has a signature feature which all successful dictators use to distinguish themselves and their movements -- a beret.



    And the one cardinal rule for Castro, and now Chavez, is that you use any and all open expressions of opinions, or actions in the US to body-slam a whole people and especially, its government.

    Stretching truth to its most illogical conclusions, they can and have already used the words of one private US citizen to indict the entire US War on Terror.

    The Venezuelan Vice-President, Jose Vicente Rangel (no relation to Charlie, presumably) railed against the US by saying:

    The ball is in the U.S. court, after this criminal statement by a citizen of that country. It's huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country, there are entirely terrorist statements like those.

    This rapid response is straight out of Fidel Castro's "How to Deal with Gringos Hijoputas 101".

    El Comandante-en-Jefe couldn't have done it better himself if he tried.

    Since in the worlds they live in and command, there is no private opinion that is not sanctioned or passed by the strict ideological censorship of their State mechanism, it is inconceivable to their peoples that Robertson is speaking out of turn, rather than out of official imprimatur.

    Robertson said it, so of course the US EN MASSE as a country and as a people must be guilty of promoting terrorism. Ergo, they are terrorists.

    The anti-American feeling is such in South America especially, that old dumping ground for School of the Americas graduates -- go their arguments --, that even moderate politicians or the well-disposed to the US sometimes find themselves angry and envious of the US, simply because this North American country casts a huge shadow over a whole demi-sphere.

    It is they, the moderates, or the ones who send their children to be educated in the United States, who are vulnerable since an attack on Chavez might actually give the Venezuelan President sympathy, as yet another beleaguered victim of US bully boy tactics.

    UPDATE: Wait! Castro HAS given it the old college try! Pero que cosa mas grande, chico. My word yes, but aren't the wonders of the internet which he denies his own people access to, a wonder to behold. This is what the official news organ of the Cuban State, the comic-sounding-to-English ears, GRANMA, says on the matter of Chavez v. Robertson:

    El "Reverendo Robertson" ha retomado ahora la campaña antivenezolana que conduce el gobierno del presidente Bush, con el secretario de Defensa, Donald Rumsfeld, como principal alabardero, encaminada a crear las condiciones sicológicas para un zarpazo militar contra Venezuela y contra Cuba, incluidos el asesinato de los principales dirigentes de ambos países.

    Translation mine, with capitalised emphasis mine, below:

    The "Reverend Robertson" [ed. - note the sarcastic use of inverted commas/quotes] has again taken up the anti-Venezuelan campaign conducted by President Bush's government, of which its main cheerleader is Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, by putting into full gear the laying of the psychological foundations to facilitate a military coup against Venezuela AND against Cuba, including the assassination of the leaders of BOTH countries.

    As much as my powers of translation would like, I cannot FULLY CONVEY TO YOU the degree of cynicism dripping from this official Cuban communiqué.

    First of all, it's just not true. It only rumbas with the truth, like all good Marxists do.

    Robertson didn't mention offing Castro in his television show at all.

    This only exists in the arteriosclerotic mind of Fidel Castro, who even though his pupil is the object of a hit-talk, cannot forebear but to inject himself into the picture.

    We won't even fully explore how Robertson's words suddenly become full-on psychological warfare by the current US administration which will lead to the overthrow via 'dictatorcide', of BOTH these men.

    I've heard of wish-fulfillment, but this is ridiculous.

    Also, as the briefest of examples, here's another twist.

    The word used to describe Donald Rumsfeld, "alabardero" is really untranslateable. It comes from the religious term "alabar" or to praise on high, to shout hosannas until you are blue in the face, you know, like zealots do (hint, Rumsfeld is a mad zealot), and is used with true comic-sardonic and yet malevolent intent.

    If you don't speak Spanish, you cannot know how insiduous this brand of writing is, you truly cannot. But I can and do.

    And I will say it to any who will listen because this, my friends, is mastery of twisting words which cannot ever truly be understood by the free people of the West. Nothing compares.

    Nothing.

    Cuba has been in the grip of this Orwellian newspeak for almost 50 years. And Venezuela, should Mr. Chavez not be DEMOCRATICALLY unseated, might well be on its way.

    SCENARIOS

    What comes next for Robertson and Chavez?

    First, the US President should avoid a Sheehan-like pall of silence until a situation has escalated to suit the needs of a certain demographic still fighting the November 2004 election, and personally mention in the strongest possible terms, that Robertson's views, which cannot be controlled since this is a free country, are nevertheless unacceptable, and morally wrong.

    No one who loves Christ, or professes to, as a minister allegedly does, can say what he did.

    This will not be the end of it, but can go a long way to ameliorating a media-frenzy which will explode in the dog days of August news reporting Wednesday. Not just in the US, I venture to add. But around the world.

    Second, using the Castrista method of making oneself a victim of Yanqui Imperialismo, President Chavez will put in an official complaint to the United Nations, asking them to review the words of Reverend Robertson for censure by the whole body of nations, especially noting that the United States government is harbouring terrorists.

    This state-of-affairs, he will inveigle, clearly violates the policy of not harbouring terrorists so often stated as an international knuckle-rap by the present US administration.

    Third, he will ask for extra protection via the UN Peacekeepers or similar to escort him when he visits the UN Headquarters in the upcoming month. He will be the toast of the Upper East Side salons, should he chance to accept their invitations as Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua once did, despite his anti-bourgeois stance.

    That none of this will be granted or truly considered is not important.

    The important part is that Chavez is in the news, and that the US is seen in the worst possible international light. Again.

    WORLD REACTION

    When I started this blogpost, there were 883 news articles on the topic, on Google News. In the span of 2 hours, this has doubled. And that's just in the US Google version, never mind the foreign press.

    Here's a cross-sampling of headlines all over the world (translation mine):

    Prensa Latina (Mex): "Pasa campaña contra Venezuela a intimidación abierta" [The campaign against Venezuela is now in a state of open intimidation]

    2001.com.ve (Ven): "Declaraciones de Robertson no asombran a Toro Jiménez" [Robertson's words don't frighten Toro Jimenez -- Venezuela's UN Ambassador, Fermin Toro Jimenez]

    Terra España (Spain): "Rangel considera 'una declaración criminal' las declaraciones del Pastor Robertson" [Rangel, Venezuelan VP, considers Robertson's words "a criminal statement"]

    Madrid Digital (Spain): "Un ex candidato presidencial por el partido republicano insta publicamente a asesinar al presidente de Venezuela " [Ex-Republican candidate for the Presidency publicly urges the assassination of the President of Venezuela]

    Guardian (UK): "US Dodges Robertson Comments on Chavez" [This has mysteriously been taken out of circulation. This is the first line of the article: "Guardian Unlimited, UK - 4 hours ago By ANNE GEARAN. WASHINGTON (AP) - There's an old Southern saying that you dance with the one that brung ya, but as the Bush administration ..."]

    Times Online (UK): "Let's assassinate Chávez, says US Christian leader"

    EiTB (Spain/English) : "Chavez's assassination cheaper than starting a war"

    Xinhua (China/English): "US denies any hostile action against Venezuela"

    CNN (US): "Chavez ally: Robertson a 'fascist'"

    Hindustan Times (India/English): "Christian body asks US to murder Venezuelan President"

    ABC Online (Australia): "US Christian extremist branded a terrorist"

    Winston-Salem Journal (US, North Carolina): "Out of His Mind" [Also mysteriously gone after a short 2 hours]

    Hartford Courant (US, Connecticut): "Pat Robertson Issues a Fatwa"

    Miami Herald (US, Florida / aka The Miami Horrible): "Upset Americans e-mail Venezuelans"

    Slate (US, Blogger Wrap-up): "Hurricane Hugo"

    Each of these stories has a certain amount of editorialising contained even in the wording of their headlines. And though Le Monde of France, La Reppublica of Italy or Der Spiegel of Germany carried no headlines on the topic at the time of writing, I'm sure they will weigh in with their respective "framing" soon.

    For the secular, represented by the media, anything which even smacks of the religious, but especially that which is Christian, is seen as suspect. And this story only confirms and renews their worst suspicions about ALL Christians.

    Oh yes. This story has only just begun.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Piano Man is No Anna Anderson

    I was going to wrap-up Papa Ratzi coverage on my blog today, by posting my blog-review of the Pope's memoirs, but a story too delicious has popped up, necessitating commentary.

    For four months, when he seemingly washed on shore in West Kent, the man the world knew as Piano Man suddenly said Friday:

    I think I'll speak today

    With these prosaic, anti-climatic words, the mystery of this unknown man who had been mute in his psychiatric hospital room until that moment, was slowly unravelled.

    • He's German.
    • From the Pope's home State of Bavaria, actually.
    • He's gay.
    • He's a would-be suicide.
    • Oh, and apparently the Mirror claims he can't "play a note of music".
    So much for the musical acumen of psychiatrists.

    Man, how upsetting.

    Before this revelation, the mystery of the Piano Man's identity ranked as a cross between Greystoke's Tarzan, the Hartlepool Monkey, and Anna Anderson.

    Allow me to explain.

    The Greystoke/Tarzan bit is easily decipherable. It is the ultimate man-beast story, where civilised people encounter a human being in its most unsocialised incarnation.

    Since the advent of globalised travel, meeting such creatures of nature has been near miraculous, although they've actually happened -- but it's a telling dream of the Victorian mind that Edgar Rice Burroughs would imagine such an impossible tale.

    The Hartlepool Monkey bit refers to the famous, and possibly apocryphal story (dommage!) of a monkey washing on shore, shipwrecked, in the coastal port town of Hartlepool, in the NE of England.

    Said monkey, cutesily dressed in a sailor's uniform, was obviously unintelligible to the good people of Hartlepool, and being during the Napoleonic Wars and all, they took his goobledigook for being a French spy! And obviously, when encountering a spy in the midst of war, you must hang them, (hear that Sean Penn?)...

    ...so they did!

    -- Not to worry though. With the presence of mind of all Brits in times of colossal cultural mistakes, like imperialism and all that, Hartlepool and its local football club actually made the monkey their mascot, and recently there was even a man in a monkey suit who called himself the Hartlepool Monkey who ran and WON as Hartlepool Mayor. What a wonderful life this is. --

    Quite obviously, that part of the story reminds me of the washing up on shore one day, and no one comprehending the Piano Man.

    Lastly, the Anna Anderson reference deals with the woman later called that by detractors.

    She claimed was the Grand Duchess Anastasia, miraculously saved from the bloodshed which befell all members of the Russian Imperial Family, save, of course, her good self. TOTALLY believable.

    She was found half-dead, after attempting to commit suicide in a Berlin canal, and her story slowly came out in her psychiatric ward room.

    You can immediately see the connexion between her and the Piano Man's story, can't you?

    In fact, I never thought we'd have another pretender-mystery like this again because of the finger-pointing evidence of DNA testing -- which ultimately unmasked her after she had died, as just being a Polish peasant in need of a lot of attention.

    Pretenders, mystery men, washed-up monkeys are in fact, as old a story as any in world history.

    It was everyone's secret delight that it seemed we had an unsolvable mystery on our hands, but no.

    He's just a rather sad young man, not particularly musical or indeed, mysterious, just a little lost.



    Well.

    A lot lost, but not everyone can keep it together in life, so charity, charity, my friends.

    After all, who amongst us has not wanted to be gussied up as a French spy, when you're really just a monkey?

    UPDATE: Piano Man has been sent home to Germany, after presenting his passport and having everything verified by authorities. His name was not revealed, but I bet you it's Dirk or Detlev. Mark me.

    THURSDAY UPDATE: Boo! I lost. His name is Andreas, and his Bavarian friends and family from his village never recognised him. What a cosy family.

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Quick

    Tell me -- what immediate mental image comes to you if someone, say me, were to paint this scene for you:

    In a huge, open-ended field once used for army manoeuvres, a group of Germans of all ages, but particularly full of young, nubile bodies, congregate in euphoric outpour of support for their German leader...

    ...a man usually quiet, even shy, but today transformed by the power of his strong, intense words, challenging this mass of torchlit youth to greater heights of belief, by the sheer force of his presence and the impeccably-planned impact of the occasion?

    You can be forgiven if this below is what springs to mind first.



    Until this weekend.

    This weekend gave the world another image of Germany to collect in her arsenal of historical snapshots.



    This weekend, a 78-year old frail, retiring German man gave his people a different mental self-image in circumstances diametrically opposed to the ones of the Nuremberg Rallies, the loathesome Partei Täge.

    The particulars of the image weren't so different, as you have read.

    But its purpose was so different, so manifestly different, as to be light-years away from the first.

    Instead of racial superiority, and the teaching of bilious hatred, in heightened demonic tones, this old man offered inclusion for all peoples; voluntary acts of kindness; he extended a hand of sympathy and friendship, and the not the least of which, very real penance, to German Jews.



    He sat down with 12 (yes 12, the magic Catholic number) youths of several countries to supper, and acted as translator when communication broke down, laughing and smiling and even answering questions posed to him on what he meant by 'relativism'.

    Some say that he is not The German Pope, as Karol Wojtyla was undoubtedly The Polish Pope, but I think that is very wrong, or at least, misguided.

    He may love to speak Italian, and his eyes twinkle when he speaks French, he may have the air of a humble academic of indeterminate residence (which, of course, he is), but he is very much a German Pope.

    He knows how important it is for his fellow countrymen to have a vision of themselves which is of peace, of camaraderie, of love -- and this weekend, he gave it to them.

    And if ever there were a people who needed it, it was the Germans.

    He allowed them to believe and be carried away by the fervour of God and life, which they could then present the world, a baby-step counterbalance to the horrific images of yesteryear.

    This weekend wasn't about the Triumph of the Will. It was about the Triumph of the Faith.

    And the victors were all peoples there, but especially, the Germans -- the heart of Mitteleuropa.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Pele and the Pope

    Suddenly, one day it hits you: hey, I'm Pope -- the spiritual head honcho of 1 billion souls!

    "I can meet anyone I want -- all I have to do is ask to see them and wallah, they arrive! Like room service, only with better autographs."

    So of course, you ask to meet Pelé, when he happened merely by coinkidink to be in Cologne the same time as yourself.

    I mean, who wouldn't want to meet O Rei, right?



    And actually, now I have photographic evidence of how tall the Pope is, since, see I have stood next to Pelé, not once but twice. He's not that tall, but he's at least 5'8", maybe a smidge more. So Pope Benedict XVI must be a shrunken 5'7", which isn't as tall I had thought, but no matter. Maradona is only 5'5".

    Oops, I've gone and done it now. I've mentioned the Stomach-Stapled One!

    Yes, if I were Papa Ratzi, I would know which soccer legend I'd wish to meet, no offence I'm sure.

    It's just that Maradona was once miffed at Pope John Paul II, because the latter had given him just an ordinary set of rosaries, after a Vatican audience, like he did to any old peasant from Wadowice for chrissakes.

    So Maradona was terribly upset, calling it a total lack of respect, and for good measure, later sniped about the late pontiff behind his back:
    "I've been to the Vatican and seen the gold ceilings. And then I hear the Pope saying that the Church was concerned about poor kids. So? Sell the ceilings, mate! You've got nothing going for you. You were only a goalkeeper."

    Quite. So much better to spend money for the poor up your nose, Dieguito.

    Yes, small wonder the Pope decided to forego hooking up with El Pibe de Oro. God only knows what crack he would've made about this Pope, who confessed in his memoirs that he's "hopeless" at sport.

    "You so totally suck compared to Cardinal Maradiaga. I had a fiver on him."

    And heavens only knows what he would've said about Germany's next Chancellor, CDU leader, Dr. Angela Merkel, who admittedly isn't the prettiest pencil in the woodshed.



    "Ño, que fea! Igualita a la Thatcher."

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    WYD Vigil - Listen Live

    I'm still a bit busy, and part of that has to do with composing a review of Pope Benedict's memoirs, Milestones, but I did want to give you some important links.

    In case you want to listen to Radio Vatican in English of today's coverage of World Youth Day:

    Real Audio
    Windows Media Player

    If you want to WATCH it, that option is also available online, via EWTN's Live TV links:

    Real Audio (English, Low)
    Real Audio (English, High)
    Real Audio (Spanish, Low)

    Windows Media Player (English, Low)
    Windows Media Player (English, High)
    Windows Media Player (Spanish, Low)

    The Vigil will start shortly at 2 PM EDT, and continue for at least 3-4 hours. It marks the penultimate day of World Youth Day celebrations in Germany.

    The Address to Seminarians by Pope Benedict XVI is just starting in pre-recorded mode, since there is a rain delay for the Vigil at flooded Marienfeld.

    There are 800,000 'kids' aged 18-30 there. I wonder how many more, if it hadn't been raining?

    UPDATE: I've noticed now two straight times, that Radio Vatican & EWTN translators must have an advanced text of the Pope's speeches, in various languages, because they are always two sentences ahead. (Since I speak all the languages the Pope does, plus Portuguese, I can follow closer than most) And speaking of languages, the Holy Father is completely fluent in 5 languages -- his native German, of course, French, Italian, Spanish and English. I notice, however, that he is least comfortable and fluent in English, although that's being very picky, because it's just a question of pronunciation, as much as enthusiasm in speaking. As a quick example, Jesus becomes Cheeses, lending our Lord's name an unwittingly comic touch. His favourite languages are undoubtedly the two Romance tongues of Italian and French. You can tell he just loves speaking Italian, and his eyes light up with such a joy when he does so. And in French, he has that slight shudder of delight in speaking it, turning the phrases in his mouth elegantly, in the way many Germans like to do so, when speaking French. For such a shy man, he's very engagingly extroverted in speech-making.

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Eins Benedetto! Zwei Benedetto!

    Only a German Pope could begin a visit to his homeland with a Teutonic crowd-control countdown.

    I'll be blogging about it in depth later Friday, since I am watching the recording I made today of EWTN's full-day coverage (to my surprise, none of the news cable stations covered the story live -- giving preference to the dramatic scenes in Israel today; understandable, if disappointing for people like me).

    Meanwhile, here are two photos which captured some of the delightfully accident-prone spirit of the day.

    I don't think I've ever seen Pope Benedict smile such a wide smile, he being a very retiring, even fragile man, than I did today.

    Come on.

    Gerald Ford (or Chevy Chase) couldn't get pics like that taken of them.

    It augurs well for plummetting Saturday Night Live Nielsen ratings, I think.



    This may be why the UK teen glossy magazine, Bravo!, which usually gives away posters of Britney Spears and pop-tarts like that, had such a favourable response, when they included a Pope Benedict XVI poster in their foldout edition.

    I can't wait to put mine next to my poster of Theo Fleury and John Travolta shooting up in Pulp Fiction.

    More later.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Back in "Pope" Mode

    My more defenceless secular readers will be depressed to hear that I am going back on Pope-mode these next few days.

    As promised during the long, and for millions of Catholics around the world, very eventful days of April 2005, my Catholic side took over my blog, as I reported my thoughts during the passing of John Paul II and the election of his successor, Benedict XVI.

    But just as I was able to, I reverted back to my quirky, and multi-themed blogposts so beloved by you all (right? Don't leave me hangin').

    But an event too wonderful interrupts my usual sweatshop of moxie, as World Youth Day bookended by Benedict XVI's visit coincides with this phantasmagorically, über-Catholic celebration of youth and religion.

    World Youth Day, Cologne, 16-21 August 2005

    Think Lollapalooza with lots of incense and no annoying Fiona Apple songs.



    I believe the Pope himself will be visible to the future of the Church in Germany's gayest city (pace Berlin) on Sunday, 21 August.

    That I wouldn't miss for the world.

    Oh, also, I just got a copy I had on hold from my local public library of Papa Ratzi's memoirs, Milestones: 1927-1977.

    I was 121st in the queue since April with only 10 copies available -- after the library had to up their holdings since so many people complained that there was only one copy of this fascinating self-portrait of the new Pope.

    I will of course be blogging a review soon, after I just sort out my recent travails (see below).

    So far, though, you'll be happy to hear the book is the best autobiography that I've read this year, managing honesty and acute self-knowledge in equal doses, since Barak Obama's exquisite autobiography, Dreams from My Father.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Sounds Like a Bad Country Song

    My car broke down. My dad went to hospital. My dog was upchucking. My bed frame broke. Our loo pipes burst. My cable and internet were down for 2 days.

    Know when to walk away. Know when to run...

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    The Last Duel

    Just finished reading this book by Michigan professor, Eric Jaegar, about the supposed last authorised judicial duel in the then territory of France.

    The geographical nicety is there because, of course, Brittany and other regions of modern-day France were still in foreign hands in 1385-6, when the story takes place.

    The book is a Dan Brown-like read insomuch that it has dazzlingly intense narrative action, covering a certain lack of writing skill, and though somewhat lightweight historically because of its focus on popular rather than scholarly audience (one reviewer sniped that it read like a "Hollywood treatment" given to pitch a film idea to a producer -- which is true, actually), it does bring to life the art of duelling to the death by sanction of the State, something which had been centuries old and legally protected, such as Colisseum gladiatorial battles.

    The "ifs" of history irritate me more than intrigue me, since I honestly find a waste of time to conjecture something which didn't happen.

    And yet my mind wandered as I finished the book, with its literal blow-by-blow account of the duel of two knights, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris.

    What if, I wondered, a Crusader knight, hardened, even inured to the fatigue of long-distance battle, were to meet, say, a samurai warrior? Or a Zulu one? Or indeed, a gladiator?

    Who might you suppose would win such a duel?

    And to my astonishment, I found online a very well-researched and thoughtful essay on this very topic, via the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts -- pitting the Crusader versus the Samurai.

    Read it here, and be intrigued alongside me.

    It's difficult to imagine the lanky Norman Crusader not winning over the comparatively tiny 5'0"-5'3" Samurai (though the essayist mentions that European knights varied in height, he omits that most noblemen were on average taller than most commoners, such as William the Conqueror, who was 6'2" -- and even moreso versus a Japanese man of the same period), but as indeed the Last Duel showed, it's not always the physically privileged who win out.

    Actually, my interest in militaria has now been rekindled.

    I think I'll try to increase my collection, which includes lots of my forebears' decorations and two swords, one of which is hanging on the wall next to to my computer as I write.

    How about this statuette in full colour of a Crusader from the Mediaeval Weapon Art site?



    A snip at U$25.00.

    Although who amongst us cannot love this tasteful reproduction of Lancelot's duel versus a fire-breathing dragon?

    Few can pine for the brutal days which we know as the Middle Ages, but one must admit -- their stories and imagery were much better than ours.



    See what I mean.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Renaissance Blogger

    I have a secret...I like fantasy.

    Fantasy sports, that is.

    Unfortunately, like blogging, it keeps me at my desk much too long, especially when certain seasons begin, like the English Premiership did this weekend, or the NFL will in less than a month, and one has to husband one's teams.

    And speaking of husbands, any spouse of mine will have to embrace this part of me, because I am not giving up blogging, posting on boards, or fantasy sport.

    Unless I am given free access to any and all major credit cards, obviously.

    P.S.: Remember I said I love me some Condoleeza Rice? Well, she apparently likes fantasy NFL as well. And if I'm not careful, I will end up a 50 year-old spinster with a graduate degree, wondering if I should go with Roethlisberger or Brady in the 10th round.

    Sunday, August 14, 2005

    Didn't Quite Make It - Part 1

    Haven't you ever wondered what is the central impetus for an invention catching on...or not?

    Usually people point out that it's a question of:

    1- Usefulness
    2- Price
    3- Mass Production
    4- Brand Competition
    5- And of course, that undefinable, consumer "Ingredient X"

    Take this idea below, which on paper seems not a heckuva lot different from what we have today:



    This photo is of a family somewhere in Britain, sometime in the 1940's, when television was being marketed for the first time there.

    The catch is...it's a coin-operated television set!

    This was originally going to be the norm for television sets, given the expense of programming (cameras, technician crews, personnel, producers, directors, actors, etc.) to a very limited audience.

    Can you imagine if this idea had caught on, due perhaps to the post-war pinch felt by so many around the world.

    Well, it's not difficult to imagine why, is it?

    At the same time this 2 parent, 2 child family unit (oh hated phrase), in a modest-looking home were putting their coins in for family fun hour, they were still using clothing coupons, ration books and other wartime austerity measures long after the Second World War had come to a mushroom cloud halt.

    And it would've made complete sense if a mass-produced television set, perhaps bought on account, had been pay-as-you-go, rather like the Jukebox or vending machines only just then making their debuts.

    Plus, anyone in a boardinghouse who lacked sufficient shillings to heat their rooms knew all too well about pay-as-you go.

    Furthermore, though this is not the case in the US, in many parts of the world, state-owned or directed television entities like the BBC were available only after paying a licence fee -- and that's not unlike paying to watch television, save it's not as frequent.

    So you see, the concept COULD have taken off but it didn't.

    By and large around the world, the idea of terrestrial television, free-to-air, is seen as almost a modern birthright.

    Once you buy the set, you're off.

    It's only in the 1980's, when the rise of cable and satellite television hit the mainstream, that paying to watch television, including paying fees to watch certain programmes, films, or events, came to be seen as normal.

    It seems, then, that the all-important convenience factor in television won out, until a more improved, wider variety of programming could legitimately be seen as extra-pocket.

    And thank heavens it did.

    Can you imagine me, the person who is always seemingly a quarter short to start a load of laundry, having to root around for loose change to watch the Simpsons?

    I don't even want to think of my father running out of dosh just as England score in the World Cup.

    Yes, it's a good job GE went with one-charge television sets, else I would've been visiting my father in the Big House...just to watch his free TV.

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    The Spirits are Restless

    I was watching the cable Travel Channel earlier, when the camera crew caught obvious signs of paranormal activity at Castle Kinnitty in Ireland.

    So my question is: why doesn't this type of thing happen to me? Like, ever?

    It's not that I doubt that there are such things as ghosts, goblins, UFOs, aliens, Loch Ness monsters, and Rosie O'Donnells...but why can't I ever see them in action?

    And it's through no lack of living in an older house either, as both my grandparents homes' dated pre-1600s.

    The closest I ever came to encountering paranormal activity is once when I was playing on the Ouija board, you know, like you do...and my cousins' hands spelt out, "Alice", which was my great-grandmother's name, in whose old sitting-room we were in.

    Just then, a candle we had in the middle of the table blew out.

    I blame the open window, but we all still ran out of the room in a panic (for effect).

    Yes, I'll believe in ghosts if they appear before me, but to be completely honest, my suspension of disbelief begins and ends with Jesus Christ.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Memories of a Ceiling Collapse

    After having a late night capuccino with a friend on SoBe (he had seen Luc Jacquet's March of the Penguins, and highly recommended it to me, so I'll pop down to the Regal multiplex tomorrow night), I arrived home to see an odd black stain on my bathtub from the corner of my eye.

    No brides in this bath. Just a prosaic ceiling collapse where the plaster had leaked through.

    What now?

    It's sad when all one's skills are for show-and-tell, rather than of any practical use. I can speak a half-dozen languages, and can't even screw in a lightbulb.

    Pathetic.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    Multi-Culturalism

    (Welcome Tim Worstall, and belatedly but still warmly, PeakTalk readers!)

    As conversation swirls around Europe regarding multi-culturalism vis-à-vis immigrants' acceptance into the greater society, one wonders why it's easier for some cultures to accept people who have more outward shows of "foreignness" than others.

    The recent debate in France regarding the wearing of the chador, voile or veil, to use its many terms, has however, more to do with the French insistence of respect of its code of laïcisme, or that of the lay over the religious, even when the religious is the dominant Christian expression.

    Not all matters can be explained by a society's liberalism or tolerance to its more visible minorities, either.

    Holland has long been considered one of Europe's more "progressive" and vivre et laisser vivre cultures, and yet the recent Theo Van Gogh assassination put paid an entire country's view of itself as being especially integrating of their resident-minorities.

    It seems not everyone is on the same multi-cultural page.

    But some countries are...

    ...or, they have an easier time of it, even if the road has not always been so smoothly paved. Some people concentrate on the journey, when often it's the destination which should be the focus.

    In the United States, many court battles have been fought over the right to keep a headscarf for drivers' licences. As always, States' rights prevail as to what is legal or not, so what can be legal in Alabama may not be in say, Florida.

    But though the wearing of religious clothing in public schools is not a given (based on the individuality of each school system, even each school itself), it is far more common in the United States to be tolerant of religious strictures, since I conjecture that US public schools have always had to compete with non-secular, private schools, whereas many European countries did not.

    Private or independent schools are a rarity in many European countries since the second World War, especially in Scandinavia. Increasingly though, they are on the rise precisely because of these religious reasons.

    At Oxford University, St. Hilda's, the only all-female College still extanct, often caters to the daughters of Muslim fathers whose religion prohibits the mixing of genders in the Halls of Residence and with Faculty.

    Coincidentally though, this has allowed women to pursue an University degree in Britain, if accepted, without flouting their religious laws -- something which State-funded, co-educational Universities, which are the norm in Europe, cannot boast.

    However, in the case of still available all-female educational institutions, it is true to say that this is a happy coincidence of circumstances, than a pre-meditated regulation.

    Long considered insular as a people, the complex and fraught British separation of classes spilled over into religions and ethnicities, at once dividing, but by its division, also allowing people to keep virgin their customs, without the need to mix into the mainstream culture.

    Alienation, or how distant immigrants feel in relation to said cultures, is a delicate subject, and yet often no matter how relaxed and tolerant a society, feelings of worthlessness and hostility still arise.

    The reason is not simple, but I believe it has a lot to do with acceptance of differences by both sides. That's one reason, easily arrived at, without much problem.

    The other difference maybe that immigrant cultures have a self-view simply, by definition, unavailable to what I call, parent cultures.

    When everyone is a descendant of a foreigner, in some way or another, not even the colonising power can lay proper and definitive claim to a country, such as the British in North America.

    It should come as no surprise then, to find out that the first black man to receive the covetted Victoria Cross, Britain's highest decoration for valour, should have been a Canadian sailor -- in 1857.

    Hall - William ….. FIRST black man and FIRST Canadian sailor to be awarded the Victoria Cross which he earned in 1857 in the Relief of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny

    And although it should be noted that in Britain, black soldiers were incorporated into the Army as early as 1662, the elite Regiment of Guards, in which my father served as a Coldstream Guards officer, did not have a black Guardsman until the 1990's.

    UPDATE: Please note that Tim Worstall and his readers make pertinent corrections, and add commentaries of historical relevance here, which however, I will leave intact for now.

    Indeed, Capitain Justin Butah was the first black Guards officer, commisioned to ride escort to the Sovereign in the third millenium -- the year 2000.

    It may well be that when you have a traditional or accepted visual of how things have always been, that the shock of the new is simply too much for some to handle.

    This may be why many consider this photo of a black Guardsman wearing the prestigious Blues & Royal uniform...



    ...somehow incongruous to those unused to the sight, because it's simply never been seen before to date -- whereas this Sikh Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (with female Mountie colleague) may seem perhaps surprising, but not jarring somehow.



    After all, the Regiments of Foot Guards, which date to at least 1665, therefore have a longer visual history of some 340 years with which to associate mental images, than say, the equally prestigious Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which date to 1873 -- a "mere" 125 years to form the same impressions.

    A word about Sikh RCMP officers.

    Like any cultural tugs-of-war, it was not always legally authorised to wear the dastaar, or Sikh turban, which all Sikh males must wear.

    When the officer pictured joined the RCMP, there were over 195,000 Canadian petition signers who were against the wearing of the turban with the traditional red serge jacket of the RCMP -- and this legal battle was only decided quite recently in 2003, by the Supreme Court of Canada, the proviso being that the turban must match the colours of the uniform so as not to distract from its inherent purpose: uniformity.

    Said Officer Baltej Singh Dhillon:

    Having been able to wear the turban in RCMP meant an acceptance into Canada's mainstream. To be allowed to wear the turban is a clear indication of getting accepted. I just wanted to join the RCMP as an officer and to be able to work with equal respect and dignity in every way.

    It is precisely this tricky matter, of being distinctive from the norm, that is at the heart of integration and acceptance in any culture.

    And yet, this Sikh officer, who belongs to a people often called "the world’s most visible minority", also made clear his intentions to his adopted homeland, to which he emigrated from Malaysia.

    We are thankful for the acceptance given in the country and, at the same time, we also must make a promise to the country -- that we will stand on guard to make Canada a better place for all to live.

    These are not the words of an embittered, disillusioned man, weary of protracted legal battles to preserve his identity. These are the words of a proud Canadian, ready to lend his new country his all, including his loyalty.

    The onus of integration must always lie first with the immigrant, who at least theoretically has chosen a new life trajectory than the one to which he or she was born.

    Whatever the reason, that is the outcome.

    That acceptance of newcomers by the receiving country is in and of itself, already a sign of its good faith cultural openness, and should always been seen as beneficent -- yet as an exception, not the rule.

    There are too many countries which are closed societies, which prevent the kind of immigration taken for granted historically by those in the Americas, and more recently in larger quantities, in Europe.

    Very rarely does one hear cries of racism levelled at these countries, and quite the opposite -- religious, ethnic or cultural reasons are often given for not accepting foreigners into the mainstream of their countries, and often their very presence is seen as insulting or demeaning to the wider whole.

    Others even praise this as preserving what makes them unique, or at least, that one should respect their values.

    But why is one more worthy of being accepted, and not the other?

    There is only one major reason for that, and that reason is as mentioned, the strength of how a culture perceives its own values.

    If a culture is too weak, or too gelatinous, more conflict will arise than tolerance because the native culture will see its particularly national characteristics erode -- a question of perception, as much as reality.

    Too much weakness, but also too much strength, with no "give", and it leads to intolerance, hostility, suspicion, as well a sense of superiority/inferiority, and the possibility of fifth-columnism, in each case.

    For true multi-culturalism to work, distinctiveness need not mean alienation, so long as both the dominant culture and the immigrant believe that its national traditions are its strengths, not its weaknesses, as in the case of France and her stringent protection of her native culture.

    Moreover, the goals of each society must be co-equal with its newest integrants, for multi-culturalism to stand a chance.

    Plainly stated, these goals must at some point be accepted by all parties, in as much totality as each generation can accept them to reduce the shock of cultures colliding internally.

    Multi-culturalism is very much a new spin on a very old idea, but one which nationhood -- a relatively new off-shoot in the political imagination of man -- injects its own stamp each time.

    That stamp is one which will either make forever distinct sub-cultures, or to enrich the wider one by their mutual respect and integration.

    Both scenarios are possible but none are feasible if both exist conflictually at the same time.

    (Even then, on paper, they can exist, so long as one part of the whole does not wish the whole ill)

    It is not a fault a culture asks, even demands this of its own people.

    It is for its very survival which should be the concern of all -- its survival assures that of yours' and your descendants' --, and which ranks as the greatest reason for immigration, because you chose it as your new home, that it must do so.

    This is the real question mark yet unanswered by multi-culturalism and its ideals: plurality, or unity.

    Which is it to be?

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Shocking Photos of Marilyn Monroe & Joan Crawford!

    Joan Crawford



    Marilyn Monroe



    Just found on the deliciously macabre site about famous actors in dead poses onscreen, CineMorgue.

    Why, what did you think this blogpost was about?

    Mein Kampf by Hans Küng

    Just started Hans Küng's autobiography, My Struggle For Freedom (2002), and out of curiosity, I checked the Index to see if there was any mention of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Hah! Why there are 42 separate listings for him, is all.

    Seems someone is a bit hung up on his ex-colleague at Tübingen U, who he once teased about the size of his empty classrooms, as opposed to his full ones. And we all know how important popularity is in life, don't we.

    More later.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005

    On That Word You Can Only Say on HBO

    Just ask Penn and Teller.

    As you might've guessed by now, this is a blogpost on the book, On Bullsh*t (Harry G. Frankfurt).

    Not quite a review of it, as well, frankly, it's a teensy book.

    I started it at 12:20 AM sharp, and finished it at 12:44. If you count the 5 or so minutes I went to pat my dog, get a yoghurt, and brush my teeth, this means I read the book in 15 minutes.

    This is the first reason why

    Grand Total of Pages: 67

    This is the second reason why

    It presents a paper-thin thesis on the notion of bullsh*t, that lovely expressive North American phrase for...hogwash, blarney, codswallop, in no special order.

    (Although I confess that my grandparents' generation had a much more elegant phrase: stuff and nonsense. Same idea, less poop)

    Firstly, allow me to say that I was expecting some huge tome on the topic, and part of my disappointment may have to do when the librarian handed me my copy, and my subsequent inner-squeal of:

    "You've got to be kidding me. I waited on hold for this since MAY? There are 20 copies of the book! How long does it take one to read this folio which Vanity Fair would be embarrased to churn out in a segment on Liz Hurley's upcoming wedding?? Dayum!"

    There sure are some slow readers out there, as assuredly as there are cheapskates like myself.

    The size of the book is inconsequential, although for U$9.99 one would think it would be marketed as a Sherlock Holmes-like monograph, which it more properly should be called.

    Hey, the author started it. He's the one making a much ado about poo, as it were. Let's at least get our definitions right for it. It's a monograph.

    Or is it an essay?

    Consider that it has at most, 4 supporting arguments, similar to what one would expect on a GCSE or SAT examination, and even then, you only get 1 hour to write it.


    • Why do we use the word bullsh*t, as opposed to say, humbug or hot air?


    • Is bullsh*t just lying, or is there something else at work, and if so, what is it?


    • What would St. Augustine say about bullsh*t?


    • At the heart of bullsh*t is there merely lack of something (knowledge, e.g.) but presented as though we possessed it?

    That's it. That's the whole book condensed into four short explorations. If this book took more than 1 hour to write, I want my tax money back.

    As to item number one, this is the part where Ludwig Wittgenstein, that monarch of unravelling mis-usage of language, makes a querrelous appearance arguing that his hospitalised student's assertion that she felt like a dog which had been run-over was...bullsh*t. What did she know about dogs being run over? Was she a dog? How then could she know what it felt like to a dog to be run over?

    Indeed. And what a tonic he must've been as you're strapped down with IVs and morphia-drips, listening to him chastise you about your bad word usage.

    But so then bullsh*t includes hyperbole or simile which is nothing more than lying to make a point. It's the exaggeration, stupid.

    As to item number two on the menu, and as following from item number one (the reader may be forgiven at this juncture, if he or she reaches for an egg-roll or fortune cookie), lying is obviously a big factor in bullsh*t, but why do we do it?

    Doesn't a lie ultimately become worthless if the person you are lying to realises you are bullsh*tting them?

    Why, even a masterful bullsh*tter, like say Liberace, can only bullsh*t for so long before people realise he's not out there to play Chopin, but to show off his bling-bling. Who would pay U$50 for a concert of his, when you could go to Tiffany's for free? You know?

    And yes, I know he's dead, but my point stands.

    Anyways, so on to item number three.

    St. Augustine would not have liked bullsh*tting one whit, no sir.

    He wrote up an essay about lying called, somewhat disingenuously, "Lies", which his editor must've forced on him after his original, "Lies, and the Lying Liars who Tell Lies, and that means you Genghis Khan, Liar, Pants on fire" was turned down.

    In it, he mentions the eight lies which are the rubric of the category. The first seven examples of lies are bad enough, but it's the eighth which falls closest to bullsh*t. It is:

    The lie which is told simply for the pleasure of lying or deceiving that is the real lie.

    What St. Augustine is clearly saying is that though we all lie, some liars like to lie for the helluva it.

    In our era, they would be called pathological liars, or as I like to call them, "Mainstream media".

    These are clearly people we should have the deepest suspicion of, since they are evil, and possibly vote a straight party-ticket. Yuck.

    The fourth and last item has to do with lying about possessing something which we know we don't possess, but palming ourselves as though we do.

    Of course, this is the reason we humans have survived so long in this Darwinianly cruel world, but never mind.

    Frankfurt here is at his winsome best when he ends the book with this memorable sally,

    Sincerity is itself bullsh*t.

    Lovely.

    So not even when presenting something in as good a faith as we possibly can is still crapola. Why? Because it could be wrong. And being wrong is the key to bullsh*t.

    Well, for pity's sake. Why didn't he say so to begin with, and not drag it out until page 67??

    Here's a handy exercise in spotting BS.

    When you are being told something, do you get a weird little feeling at the pit of your stomach, not unlike that of the time when you see your Mastercard statement?

    Because charging something when you don't have money is the ultimate bullsh*t of them all.

    (Other than telling one's spouse they look thin and young, obviously)

    As long as we are unable to afford things, which is another way of saying, we want to have a Mercedes and pretend we're loaded whilst actually being maxed out on our credit-limit, there will always be a reason for bullsh*t in this world.

    And I'm not so sure that's a bad thing either.

    Who on earth wants to drive a Yugo?


    ADDENDUM: I thought my ending was too cutesy, although the book deserved it, so here are some thoughts on BS: I think that bullsh*t is like any criminal activity -- and criminals commit crimes because at heart, they are optimists. I don't think there is a criminal or bullsh*tter alive that doesn't do what they do so as NOT be be able to get away with it. Yes, it may be self-delusional, but I repeat, it's the height of optimism to BS your way in life. The chances are against you that you will be caught out, and yet, still we do it. And so the conclusion must be that we do it, because more often than not, we get away with it. So...bullsh*tters are optimists and gamblers both? Yes. Sounds like fun people to be around, actually. Not like those nasty little saints, the silly do-gooders.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    In One Year

    No Brokaw. No Rather. And now, no Jennings.

    An almost Rovian set of occurences...

    Peter Jennings
    1938-2005


    He was present when JFK was killed in Dallas, a lanky, elegant and suave Canadian, and would remain so the rest of his journalistic career.

    His delivery was perhaps the best of any anchorman with the exception of fellow Canadian, Robert McNeill, of the now defunct McNeill/Lehrer Report on PBS.

    I predict with not so much prescience as common sense, due to the changing nature and importance of the Nightly News phenomenon, that this marks the end of the Personality-Anchorman syndrome on US network television -- the kind of newsreader whose presence and alleged probity like Walter Cronkite on CBS, Frank Reynolds on ABC, and David Brinkley on NBC, before him embodied.

    12:57 AM UPDATE: On CNN, Jeff Greenfield mentioned this very point, and I'm sure many others will too. He also mentioned his attention to sartorial detail, when he suggested Greenfield use a NY subway token (but natty-looking) tie during an on-air interview. I would love to see a pic of that tie, since subway tokens sound a step-up from a car salesman, Betty Boop power-tie.

    1:00 AM UPDATE: Only CNN are continuing with the story, in a LKL reprise of a Jennings interview. Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC are continuing with their regularly scheduled programming. Well it is late. By the way, speaking of Walter Cronkite -- who would think that he would outlive Jennings?

    I have always railed against MSM on my blog, and admittedly, Peter Jennings was not a favourite of mine because of that.

    But, everyone, at the moment of their death, deserves a break...as Ben Bradlee said when Nixon passed on.

    So, RIP.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    And So Say All of Us

    Nought!

    Heh. I wish.

    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Dressing Ron and Nancy

    (Welcome Ann Althouse readers! No amazing Amsterdam Notebooks here, just lots of knickers)

    Ann Althouse recently posted a pic of a strange object lying on the pavement, which looked suspciously like a Hawaiian hula dancer...car air freshener. And so it was.

    But my first guess was that it could've been Paper Doll Cut-Outs, which I had had played with as a child, taking special glee at cross-dressing Ken with Barbie's undies. I was a weird little thing. But fun!

    Wouldn't you know it, though: the topic is rife with possibilities, as I discovered when I Amazoned it.

    There are over 161 Paper Doll Cut-Out books available. Fascinating. Who knew there was such a cottage industry for the over-45 effeminate guy crowd.

    The following are the finest example of undressed celebs and TV character cut-outs I, or indeed, anyone could find.


    LET THEM RIP OFF MY BODICE!

    Marie Antoinette Paper Dolls

    Are the Royals getting you down? Tired of their petty squabbles, two-timing ways, and general leeching off of the blood of the masses?

    Well here's your chance for revenge, chérie!

    You will have loads of fun dressing up Marie Antoinette, that poor misguided, pathetic, possibly lesbian soul, in her shepherdess costume, as you and she pretend the starving peasants around you are merely really convincing, Non-Union extras.



    No wait, there's more.

    Some Amazon buyer actually had the gall (De Gaulle?) to post a review! Sacré bleu culottes!

    Firstly, the doll itself bears no resemblance to the extant portraits of Marie Antoinette. In fact, the doll and a gown(plate 4) look as if they were based on a portrait of Madame de Pompadour. Marie Antoinette would not have been amused!

    Actually, I'm not amused either.

    List Price: 6.95 (cake sold separately)


    MORE BUTT-UGLY INBRED ROYALS

    The Duke and Duchess of Windsor Paper Dolls In Full Colour (as opposed to drab black-and-white versions you get at the 99 cent store)



    First of all, I have no quarrels with the costumery shown. The Duchess looks as sleek as ever in Molyneux or Mainbocher, and the Duke is perfectly bespoked in his Hawes & Curtis.

    But I have a huge bone to pick about the dog. Pun very much intended.

    It's a well-known historical fact that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor favoured PUGS, and that their last Sealyham terrier (here pictured) died on a skiing trip to St. Moritz in 1937. He was run over by the King of Spain. Tragic.

    Now see, if they had hired me to do the research, this colossal oversight would never have happened.

    Pikers.

    List Price: 4.95 (barely)


    WARDROBE MALFUNCTIONS

    I Love Lucy Paper Dolls



    Scene 1, Act 1:

    "Luuuucy, I hoooome!"
    "Lucy! What amazing panties you are wearing!"
    "Well come here and show me Big Ricky, you bad niño, you"

    (cue credits, DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH, DAH! DAH!)

    List Price: 10.36 (cringingly bad I Love Lucy Porno scene sold out)


    Sarah Bernhardt Paper Doll



    Dude. Sarah Bernhardt?

    Not SANDRA, mind, but Sarah. What 128 year-old is going to buy this?

    For those who weren't around in the naughty 90's (1890's, that is), La Belle Sarah is pictured in the roles which made her famous, (l-to-r) as Good Queen Bess, L'Aiglon, and if I'm not mistaken, the Empress Theodora.

    Yes, that's right -- I'm the world's oldest blogger, what?

    FWIW, List Price: 4.95


    HAIL TO THE BRIEFS

    Presidents are big in this part of the world, as Monica Lewinsky can tell you. Or, erm, maybe not.

    And here's the chance you've been waiting for to dress down President Clinton, and attempt to make Hillary actually look feminine for a change.

    Yes, it's the Clinton Family Fun Hour! (Which is 59 minutes more than Bill and Hill actually spent together in the same room)



    Check out Chelsea, though. She's got that surprised damsel look going on, like the first time a Secret Service agent asked to cop a feel.

    "Moi?"

    Yeah, you, Pizza Face.

    This is a cool book. There are 29 costumes for 4 dolls: The President, First Lady, Chelsea, and Mrs. Virginia Clinton, Bill's mother. A must-have for paper doll fans and collectors alike! :-)

    Wow, they even threw in Virginia Kelly for free -- but then as a Vegas veteran, she knew a thing or two about throwing in your hand.

    List Price: 5.95 (cigar sold separately)

    If you need to please your inner Donklephant, here's the George W. Bush Family Version.



    Dear God is Dubya wearing cowboy boots with his tux?? Good call.

    But why does Laura Bush look like Ruth Buzzi?? They got those "twins" dead to rights though.

    Jenna looking zonked from too much booze she got with her fake ID, and Barbara looking like a bad xerox of Sarah Michelle Geller.

    Fun for the whole family, you can mix and match -- see George in a ballgown and Laura in a tux!

    I'm not sure what is more disturbing. That someone else thought along those lines, or that it was a guy called Charles who bought the cut outs and said it.

    Yipes.

    In a similar vein, here's an Amazon reviewer of the genre:

    Paper Dolls: A list by Rafael A Prieto, who has 6 nieces

    Sure he does.

    List Price: 5.95 (and if you act now, you get Laura with the Kung-Fu grip!)


    Richard M. Nixon and Family Paper Dolls



    O. M. G. Tricky Dick...and family, yet!

    WHO buys these things??? Who draws them?? WHO WOULD BLOG ABOUT THEM!?

    LIST PRICE: 5.95 (psychiatrict consulation, $125 p/h)

    And finally, we come to this last Paper Dolly, saving as ever, the best for last.

    First Family Paper Doll and Cut-Out Book



    That's so wrong.

    RIP Mr. Prez.

    LIST PRICE: 3 bucks? Sheesh. Damn Liberals.


    UPDATE: The Anchoress linked in the comments section to another site which might be of interest to all you, erm, me freaks. Yes, it's the Mother Anthony Marie Nun Habit Cut-Outs!



    Sometimes, just sometimes, one is lost for words, you know?

    ...ooh, a Mother Cabrini Habit Sewing Kit on page 2. Niiice.

    List Price: 11.95 (ruler to smack palm with for over-talking in class not included)

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Birthday Poll -- Results

    Well, the voters have spoken on my poll question:

    What Should Victoria do on her Birthday?

    1- Relax. Stay Home. Read "The Truth About Hillary" and Laugh 12% 2
    2- Go out with Friends & Family 71% 12
    3- Suggestion in Comments Section 18% 3

    TOTAL: 17 votes

    So, 2 votes for me staying at home and reading a good book on the future first woman President of the United States (in an Asimovian parallel universe).

    3 votes for suggestions on how to enjoy meself for my birthday -- but failing to actually post the suggestions, thus presumably asking me to use my imagination. And we all know what that leads to.

    But fortunately, the "Go out with Friends & Family" crowd have it, with 71% of the votes.

    So I will! Hurrah for the democratic process!

    Although I'm sure at least one voter really didn't vote for Buchanan.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Meet France's Mother Teresa

    He was voted Top 10 Frenchmen of all time in a recent poll, and yet few people outside France know about L'Abbé Pierre, who turns 93 today.

    His claim to fame isn't so much the founding of an Order to care for the lost and indigent of his city, as the late Albanian Mother Teresa was known for, but to be the champion of homeless waifs everywhere.

    Hiver 54, a film which came out in 1989, recounts this priest's j'accuse-like open letter to the French government in 1954, where he implored the State to do more for the homeless during the glacial winter of said year.

    Adults and chldren both were dying in the streets, and his cri-de-coeur stroke a chord with the post-WWII French.

    His letter was published in all newspapers, and he became a spiritual leader sorely missing in much of Western European society today.

    His foundation, Les Chiffoniers d'Emmaus, or "The Ragpickers of Emmaus", is active to this day -- a rarity in foundation-shy, State-run French society.

    Check the film out, you'll definitely like it. And hey, it's not only feel good, but see-good, as it stars the scrumptious Claudia Cardinale.

    Now, casting Mother Teresa in a biopic might be a tad more difficult.

    What is Linda Hunt doing these days?

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Everyone is Talking About Battlestar Galactica

    It seems everywhere I turn these days in Blogosphere, someone is talking about this hit show on the Sci-Fi channel here in the US.

    Since I rarely watch anything other than a daily tipple of PBS, History Channel International, or BBC America, alongside my sport shows, I rarely get a chance to see network shows or indeed, cable TV series.

    (As an aside, I notice that Ann Althouse loves her Six Feet Under, but even were it still around, I wouldn't blog about my love of Sex and The City. She can make SFU seem intelligent. Even I can't do that with S&TC, although it was fantastic for what it was)

    Thus when I came upon a throwaway Battlestar Galactica reference today in a blog (Eugene Volokh's Profanity thread), I finally realised I better start watching, since I was very late to the Law & Order party, and Arrested Development bash, totally missed the Seinfeld do, and a host of other wonk-approved shows.

    Makes me want to go back to the first season of The Soprano's...you know, when it was actually good.


     




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