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Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Lunar Mission Conspiracy

After a brief absence…

FFF #33

Before you assume that I must be special just because I went to the moon, let me assure you.  There’s a lot more of us than you think.  Yeah, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong.  One small step for whatever.  I’ve heard all that before.  So what?  They were the first.  No one said they would be the last.  Let’s go back, let’s go back.  That’s what Grandma says.  Back in her day, they were still getting around on horses.  But you want to know the truth?  The truth is we never left.  Oh yeah, you think I’m kidding.  If you have a really good telescope you can see the moon base.  It’s built into a crater, but if you know what to look for, you can’t miss it.  Check for yourself.  All through the seventies we had people up there, construction crews, engineers, botanists and computer experts.  It’s quite an operation now.  You should see it.  In the eighties, they built huge missile silos which could launch 144 warheads anywhere on the planet within twenty minutes.  Reagan kept talking about his Star Wars plan.  That was just to deflect the cost of the silos, man.  That shit worked!  Of course, when the Russians found out about it, they shit their pants.  You think that wall came down for democracy?  Um, no.  Then, of course, since the Cold War was over, the military had other priorities and they started leasing it out to private companies.  You would be surprised, considering all the costs, how profitable that really is for the government.  It’s not on the books, so who knows where all that money is, right?  Who cares?  The moon base up there makes silicone valley look like the flea market.  That’s why they need all the H1Bs down there, to plug the brain drain.  Yeah, the moon is booming.  Of course, I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard about any of this before.  The government is really good at keeping things like this under wraps.      

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Little More Wine

The FDA comes down on the wrong side of the medical marijuana debate.  Of course, I’m biased.  I support medical marijuana.  Hell, I support full legalization.  I even recognize that the whole “medical marijuana” debate isn’t about medicine necessarily but is a thinly-veiled effort to slowly chip away at the government’s rationale for protecting its citizens from the effects of the cannabis sativa plant.  

But how about this one?  Nausea, pain, etc, that’s all good and great.  But what about insomnia?  Forget Ambien.  Just smoke a joint!  You’ll pass out as soon as your head hits the pillow.  Guar-on-teed.

In case you’re wondering, that Guar-on-teed came from the late Justin Wilson, PBS’s reigning Cajun cook.  I used to love watching this guy.  The way he talked, the way he cooked.  He didn’t use measuring cups.  He used the palm of his hand.  And the wit!  Oh my God.  One time, I saw him on a short-lived show hosted by Greg Kinnear (before Talk Soup and his Hollywood career) called Best of the Worst.  They had Wilson as a special guest taste-testing airline meals.  Of the chicken cordon bleu, Wilson said in his thick Louisiana accent, “Looks like shicken, tastes like shicken, but it ain’t shicken.”  Classic!

So you thought pyramids were only for Egyptians and pre-Columbian Mexicans, huh?  Think again.  Who built the pyramids in Bosnia?  And who turned them into hills?  Who knows…Just know that when they were talking about “ancient ethnic hatreds” during the war years, they meant ancient.

You think you got problems?  Try carrying on an extra-marital affair for 30 years.  30 years???  That’s as long as I’ve been on this planet.  I don’t understand the psychology behind this one.  Were they afraid of committing to one another?  Did they really hate their spouses?  Was it just a sex thing?  What’s the deal, man?

Rising gas prices is starting a boom in the pawnbroker business.  After years of being fueled by crack habits and home invasions, pawn shops have a new cash cow:  the SUV driver.

Strippers, hecklers, and thieves.  Oh my.

That’s all the news that is news.  Except for one more thing.  I added another 400 words to Chapter Three last night.  Nothing major.  I realized that we hadn’t heard from Abby in a while, especially after such a big deal was made out of being able to call Max anytime, and figured what better time to receive that call than when he’s in bed with his half-drunk wife?

If the scene seems a bit rushed, it was.  I’m knee deep into Chapter Four and just needed to get it down.  I’ll clean it up in the rewrite.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Photoblogging Capitol Hill

Happy 4-20! Smoke em if you got em!

Today I took some pictures of the old neighborhood, inspired by some Denver photoblogging over at Bonjour Peewee as well as a doc I Netflixed about William Eggleston. Some of them turned out great, others...well, not so much. Part of the reason is that I was using my wide angle lens, which is great because it captures more in the frame, but the trade-off is some distortion in the image. Hey, no one's perfect.

First up, my old home, the Robert Frost building at 1001 Sherman, currently the home of Abby Jeunet, a fictional character from the novel I'm writing. So far it's only been mentioned in the book, but it will play a larger role in later chapters. Look for a "tour" in the upcoming fourth chapter.

Here's a side view of the building. My apartment was on the top floor, third and fourth windows from the left. It also happens to be the same unit where Abby lives in the novel.

Here's the Mark Twain, a few buildings down from the Robert Frost. I actually think this building is more aesthetically pleasing, the rounded corner, the entrance, the art deco signage. It was one of the buildings which drew me to Poets Row in the first place. The other would be the Nathaniel Hawthorne, which is right next door.

Notice how each building has a different design, and yet they are still linked by the same theme.





Across the street there are twin buildings called the Belmont and the Buckingham. I've always had a soft spot for these buildings too. One glance will tell you why.

Back in the early days of Denver, Capitol Hill was where the rich people lived. In the century or so since, many of the mansions have been converted to multi-unit housing or offices, but you can still smell the wealth. Look at these:





Here's a pic of the Molly Brown House, home of the Unsinkable you know who. Ole Molly got her nouveau riches up in the Colorado Rockies and brought them down to Capitol Hill.
And, finally, what city would be complete without a pair of shoes on a powerline?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blood to a Vampire

I’m a haunted man.  I’m haunted by that damn Tool song.  It’s like Maynard has been watching me or reading my blog or reading my mind.  The song is about me.
It's no fun until someone dies

“We won't give pause until the blood is flowing/Neither the brave nor bold, or writers of stories told

We all feed on tragedy/It's like blood to a vampire.
Those lines speak directly to me.

Of course, I’m not saying that I feed like a vampire on tragedy.  But I am devoting a lot of time and energy into creating a series of detective novels based on real-life tragedies.  Is that feeding on tragedy?  In many ways, yes it is.

I don’t feel bad about it.  I’m one of those writers of stories told who won’t pause until the blood is flowing.  To me, it’s cathartic.

Also, I’m really starting to identify with the sentiment expressed in this line:
The universe is hostile,
So impersonal.
Devour to survive, so it is,
So it's always been.
It’s a concept I’ve written about previously, in the context of Werner Herzog, here and here.  As the Man (aka Herzog) said, “I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder.”

Perhaps a dim view, but one reflected by reality.

Mythbusters

Myth)

The US wasn't selling Iraq weapons after Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam Hussein in the 80s.

Absolutely not true. The US, in fact, was involved in multi-million dollar hardware deals, selling them helicopters later used in chemical attacks against Iran.

Throughout the period that Rumsfeld was Reagan’s Middle East envoy, Iraq was frantically purchasing hardware from American firms, empowered by the White House to sell. The buying frenzy began immediately after Iraq was removed from the list of alleged sponsors of terrorism in 1982. According to a February 13, 1991 Los Angeles Times article:

“First on Hussein's shopping list was helicopters -- he bought 60 Hughes helicopters and trainers with little notice. However, a second order of 10 twin-engine Bell "Huey" helicopters, like those used to carry combat troops in Vietnam, prompted congressional opposition in August, 1983... Nonetheless, the sale was approved.”

In 1984, according to The LA Times, the State Department—in the name of “increased American penetration of the extremely competitive civilian aircraft market”—pushed through the sale of 45 Bell 214ST helicopters to Iraq. The helicopters, worth some $200 million, were originally designed for military purposes. The New York Times later reported that Saddam “transferred many, if not all [of these helicopters] to his military.”

In 1988, Saddam’s forces attacked Kurdish civilians with poisonous gas from Iraqi helicopters and planes. U.S. intelligence sources told The LA Times in 1991, they “believe that the American-built helicopters were among those dropping the deadly bombs.”
What's more, not only were we giving them helicopters, but we gave them all the germs they'd need for a biological weapons program.

More on Rumsfeld's personal involvement in arming Iraq here and here.

I guess it's only fitting that he's now in charge of the war in Iraq. He was, after all, part of the team that helped create the monster.

God's Right Hand Man

Good ole Scott McClellan resigned his post as President Bush’s designated spinner, I mean, press secretary.  Can’t say I liked McClellan all that much.  He seemed very uncomfortable at times spinning the president’s daily hogwash, but he did it anyway.  Still, I liked Scotty a lot more than I liked Ari Fleischer.  I think the new guy needs to be a hot young woman, maybe a Hooter girl.  You think the Washington press corps would be caught on tape lobbing hardballs at a Hooter girl?

Here’s one guy who won’t resign…even though he needs to.  Why?  Because he used the phrase “by golly.”  I shit you not.
“By golly, one ought not to be surprised that there are people who are uncomfortable about it and complaining about it,” he said.
By golly, it’s not the fifties.  I mean, if you can’t fit any of the 7 words you can’t say on television in there, a Jesus H. Christ would do just fine.  

When pressed for comment about the calls for Rummy’s head, President Bush said,
"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
You heard the man.  Father knows best.  By now, it should be clear to everyone that when Bush was elected, he was given divine powers of judgment.  It’s not your place to question them.  Remember, God wanted George W. Bush to be president.  Who are you to argue with the almighty?

Breaking news:  Saddam Hussein ordered a 1980 crackdown on Shiites and had over a hundred of them executed.  Who didn’t know that one?  He was the one in charge.

The reason I mention this, however, is to show the benefits of a trial.  It’s one thing for a bunch of well-intentioned blowhards to accuse Hussein of horrible crimes against humanity.  It’s another to produce, in court, his signature on the death warrants.

Let’s review.  One is plausible innuendo.  The other is hard evidence.

Maybe I’m just a liberal scum bucket, but I’ll take the evidence every damn time.  Some day, we’ll see evidence against the “enemy combatants” held in Guantanamo Bay.  Or some day we won’t.  

I guess it all depends on God’s right hand man.

(Note to xenophobic “Speak English or Die” righties everywhere:  Feel free to read the President’s website bio en espanol if you want.  There’s a handy link.  What?  Don’t look at me.  You voted for him.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Vicariously

Chapter Four is moving along swimmingly.  I’d say I’m about a third of the way done and it’s flowing a whole lot better than Chapter Three.  In fact, I might have this one finished by the end of the month if I keep up this pace, maybe sooner.  That would be a nice change of pace, for sure!  Looking back through my records, I see that it took me a month to write Chapter Two and another month to write Chapter Three.  

That’s pathetic!

So onward faithful soldier I go.

Before I get back to work, though, let me share a little bit of the new Tool song mentioned by Chel.  Alright, I’ll be nice and give you the whole thing.  And yes, the sound quality is crappy.  All I can say is this:  Buy the record.  (Note to the RIAA, don’t sue the unpaid advertiser.  I ain’t got nuttin anyway.)

Here’s a few short notes….I wish I had a lyrics sheet.  Maynard James Keenan’s words are poetry, but sometimes unclear in song.

The opening riffs are very dreamlike, then an alarm clock sounds and the thunder of reality comes crashing in.  A not so subtle method of saying WAKE-UP?

I think the song is about watching too much TV, but like most Tool songs, it’s probably about a hundred others things too.

Did I mention that I wish I had the lyrics?  Hell, I wish I had the album!

Updated:

Lookey what I found:

Eye on the T.V. 'cause tragedy thrills me.
Whatever flavor it happens to be like..
"Killed by the husband",
"Drowned by the ocean",
"Shot by his own son",
"She used the poison in his tea
and kissed him goodbye".
That's my kinda story.
It's no fun until someone dies.

Don't look at me like I am a monster.
Frown out your one face,
But with the other.
Stare like a junkie into the T.V..
Stare like a zombie,
While the mother holds her child.
Watches him die.
Pleads to the sky crying:
"Why, oh why?"

Cause I need to watch things die... from a distance.
Vicariously I live while the whole world dies.
You all need it too - don't lie.

Why can't we just admit it?
Why can't we just admit?

We won't give pause until the blood is flowing.
Neither the brave nor bold, or writers of stories told.
We won't give pause until the blood is flowing.

I need to watch things die.. from a good safe distance.
Vicariously I live while the whole world dies.
You all feel the same so..

Why can't we just admit it?

Blood like rain come down.
Drown on grave and ground.

Part vampire.
Part warrior.
Carnivore and voyeur.
Stare at the transmitter.
Sing to the death rattle.

Lie (4x)

(Background news headline)

Credulous, divest your desire to believe in
Angels in the hearts of men.
Pull your head on out.
Your head believes it give a listen.
Shouldn't have to say it all again.
The universe is hostile,
So impersonal.
Devour to survive, so it is,
So it's always been.

We all feed on tragedy.
It's like blood to a vampire.

Vicariously, I live while the whole world dies.
Much better you than I.

More on the Gospel of Judas

I hope that none of the blogs I read are run by people who turn out to be cannibal child killers.  A quick search found me Kevin Underwood’s blog, which I won’t link here, and it’s pretty disturbing.  He talks about his pathetic life and his “dangerously weird” fantasies.  (And to reassure you about this humble blogger, eating Madonna out in a limo may be “weird,” but it ain’t dangerous!)

This person feels some religious right rage at the liberals at the National Geographic for publishing “their gleanings from a sheaf of rags and call(ing) them ‘The Gospel of Judas.’”  Unfortunately for this Vanderleun person, I wasn’t able to make it thru the whole article.  This part told me all I needed to know about their intellectual integrity (or lack thereof):
Having risen through the echo chamber of "higher" education and survived the ruthless but quiet vetting process of their "profession," these editors knew full well that what they were putting out into the world was not a "gospel." They also knew that calling it a "gospel" would ensure greater attention and greater sales. Beyond that, the editors, secular cultists all, also got a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, "stuck it" to the Christian church once again.
First, the editors at least appear to be more educated than Vanderleun in this regard, because the Gospel of Judas is, in fact, a gospel. It’s not one of the four gospels in the New Testament, but that hardly disqualifies it from being legitimately called a gospel.  Note the definition, especially the “similar narrative” part.  Unfortunately for Vanderleun, there are hundreds of gospels, some yet to be discovered, some lost forever.  Only four made it into the Bible.  I can understand the faith-based arguments about why these four are more “correct” or “truthful” than the others, but there doesn’t seem to be any rational basis to make that claim.

Secondly, I’m sure National Geographic has its share of bean counters, but as a non-profit dedicated to education, it’s hard for me to imagine the meeting where the circulation people told the brass, “You know, what would really help us get our circulation numbers up is a story on Judas.”  “Good idea, Bob.  But you know what would really boost circulation?  If we called it the Gospel of Judas.”  “Excellent idea.  I can hear the cash registers now.  Let’s run with it.”  

This kind of conversation would have to happen if we were to believe Vanderleun.  Remember, he/she/it said, They also knew that calling it a "gospel" would ensure greater attention and greater sales.  It’s a conspiracy see.  It’s not about scholarship or spreading new knowledge to educate the ignorant masses.  It’s about magazine sales!  Uh-huh.

And you gotta love that part about the “secular cultists” who want to stick it to the Christian church.  Forget that “secular cultist” is an oxymoron, like military intelligence or presidential integrity.  Forget that Christians themselves cannot agree on anything but the most basic tenets of their own religion.  Forget that it’s possible to believe in God but not in the Church.  Forget all of that.

And just consider the alternate reality Vanderleun presents.  The National Geographic Society published their story about the Gospel of Judas to a) dishonestly line their pockets with controversy money and b) give the finger to the Church.

Sound plausible?  Or like a bunch of knee-jerk irrational bullshit?  My pick is the latter.

On a similar note, the controversy over the Gospel of Judas indicates one of the yawning chasms between science and religion.  In the scientific community, new information usually leads to new understanding.  In the religious community, it’s the complete opposite.  New information threatens old dogmas, and thereby must be suppressed, disbelieved, or summarily dismissed.

Anyone watching the evolution debates is familiar with that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Every TV Show Now, They Rub Your Nose in It

Everyone’s heard of iTunes.  Well, I feel safe saying that everyone who reads blogs will have a fairly good idea what iTunes is all about, the revolutionary new way to sell music, by the song, digitally, downloadable to one of the first must-have accessories of the 21st Century.  But have you heard about allTunes?

It’s legal…in Russia, but they don’t discriminate against IP addresses originating in the United States.  Buying a record on iTunes costs $9.99, plus you get some DRM code and who knows what other anti-piracy measures.  Buying a record from allTunes costs about 41 rubles.  Or $1.50.  Read more about it here.

And who says globalization doesn’t work?

Speaking of Eastern European music, apparently the youth of Croatia are really into a form of Serb folk music called Turbofolk.  I wish they had a sound clip.  It sounds hilarious.

Since it’s Sunday, I watched the Sopranos, probably the first time, thanks to my DVR, that I’ve actually watched it on Sunday.  That show is really good, and even that is an understatement.  Anyway, Chris had the best lines.  Trying to convince Tony that two middle eastern guys Chris has been doing business with aren’t “Al Qaidas,” Chris offers up a few good reasons why they’re not, then says, “Plus Mohammed and his girlfriend have a dog.  A cocker spaniel.”  As if that explains everything.

Then later, he’s talking with an underling about the rumors that Vito is gay, and the soldier says, “Could be a midlife crisis thing.”  Chris gets this incredulous look on his face and says, “Sucking a cock?”  Made me laugh.

Another thing that got a laugh was when Tony was hashing through the Vito situation with Dr. Melfi.  At first, he says he thinks homosexuality is disgusting.  Then, wink-wink at the faithful HBO audience, he says, “Every TV show now, they rub your nose in it.”  He makes an exception for the L Word, though.  As Tony says, the lesbian thing ain’t too bad.

I almost forgot that it was Easter!  When you’re on holiday, it’s hard to remember holidays, if ya know what I mean.  I spent it with my brother and nephew.  It was a nice day and a fun time.  We went to Boondocks, one of those places with mini-golf, go-karts, bumper boats, a batting cage, arcade games, and clowns.  Okay, no clowns.  That was at the restaurant this morning.

Oh and I hate to brag, but I got a hole in one when I played mini-golf.

Here’s a few pics:

Jason and Scott in the go-karts. And then of course, Scott had to have a solo run.
And just for the hell of it, Jessica Alba.