Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why I Didn't Like 'Borat'

Every once in a while a movie gets talked into such a state that it is almost impossible to discuss it on its own merits. Sascha Baron Cohen's Borat is one such film. Many critics hailed the film as an edgy work of comic genius, while others complained that it was rude, degrading, and unfunny. I had heard so much about the movie that it seemed a useless gesture to actually see it myself. Nevertheless, my curiosity got the best of me and I resolved to watch it last night.

I didn't hate it. The movie was funny: there were some ridiculous, zany, and inspired moments. (Insert comment about wrestling in the hotel room here.) But my basic problem with the movie is substantial: Cohen's character spends the bulk of the movie exposing simple, credulous people to be, well, simple and credulous. At the end of the day, that just seems mean-spirited, and kind of boring.

Cohen's outrageous antics confuse people, and one wonders what an 'intelligent' reaction to him would look like. I'd argue that there is no reasonable response to someone bringing a bag of his own feces to the dinner table. In that sense, the film falls more into the category of bizarre, self-referential performance art than satirical comedy or biting social commentary.

There are those in his movie that richly deserve exposure as ignorant and prejudiced. But not many, really. His character basically takes advantage of people's desire to be polite, to help, and to understand an eccentric stranger. I am reminded of the Spongebob episode in which Patrick and Spongebob go to the Joke Shop. The proprietor explains to a wounded and confused Patrick, after zapping him with a hand-buzzer: "it doesn't matter if you don't get it - the prank is for the enjoyment of the prankster." Sacha Baron Cohen is enjoying himself at the expense of some painfully easy marks.

Contrast that to John Stewart and Steven Colbert, whose shows ruthlessly expose the hypocrisy and fatuousness of the most powerful people in the country. Now that's a premise that I can stand behind, and laugh at all day long: lampooning people who make a public stand on the basis of their own haughty ignorance. These are the people who Cohen would do well to sacrifice on the altar of mockery.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Africa or Bust!

Well, it's really happening. I'm going to Africa! How cool is that? I still can't quite believe it. Here's how it came to be: my mother-in-law is good friends with an eminent animal behaviorist and author. He was in town last month visiting her, en route to Yellowstone National Park to observe big cats.

At any rate, he leads safaris a couple of times a year. At our dinner gathering, he was working hard to convince my maw-in-law that she should go with him to South Africa this August. At one point he turned to me and said, "you should come too!" Though it was sort of a conversational lark, it planted a seed in my head. I took a chance and emailed him, he and I traded a few emails, and lo-and-behold I'm part of the expedition!

Here's a picture of where I'm staying - the Little Muck Lodge.

This year's trip is focused on researching wild dogs of South Africa, though we will observe all manner of wildlife on the expansive game preserve in Limpopo. He sent me a CD with a lot of pictures. I'll upload a few soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm Hungry

Lately I've been eating like a feral dog in the middle of an Old Country Buffet. I seriously cannot seem to sate myself. Take last night. Some coworkers and I went to Ike's, a fine downtown Minneapolis destination for for any meal. I devoured the appetizers: potstickers drizzled with hoisin and chili, shrimp wrapped around scallops, and smoked chicken quesadillas with sour cream and guacamole. For my main meal, I inhaled a seared ahi tuna sandwich with wasabi mayonnaise that came with fries and cole slaw. After this kingly feast, I found myself staring at my colleagues' left over burgers and fries. "That looks really good. I wonder if it would be gluttonous to ask them for it."

I think I need help.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pain Is Bad

In my nine years of being an office drone, I have never once felt the slightest hint of repetitive stress pain. Day after day, month after month, year after year, I've hammered away at my keyboard and pulled my mouse all over my friggin desk without a care. But in the last month, I've rapidly developed a nagging discomfort in my hands, especially my right. FACK!

The pain runs from the palm of my hand up to my elbow. My palm feels a dull, warm ache, punctuated by tingling pinpricks - the sensation you feel when you whack your funny bone, or sit on your foot for too long. It grows to a throbbing torment in my wrist, then settles into an icy-hot burning sensation at my elbow. It's totally retarded.

I attribute this precipitous decline to my new position at work. Since I moved, I've inherited a smallish desk and a flimsy chair, and my mouse use has increased tenfold, owing to the crappy RAD tool I use at work. Piece of shit. Still more, it probably doesn't help that I've been doing a fair amount of typing on various laptops.

Anyway, on Wednesday of next week, my company is sending out a specialist to evaluate my workstation. She's gonna make it ergonomically dope.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Damn I'm Hot

I caught a glimse of some sexy, unshaven man-beast just now in the men's room. "I'd tap that," I thought. Then I realized it was my reflection in the mirror. I am just smokin this week! I can't get enough of me. Maybe I'll meet myself in the third stall later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Goddamn I'm slow. I hate being this way sometimes. But I can't deny it. Every time I write, whether it be an email, or a design document, or a blog post, it takes me an agonizingly long time to get it done. Not because I'm a slow typist, but because I'm a slow thinker. My thoughts are like molasses. I struggle with and rethink every word I type. Even that last sentence required a lot of effort. It took me two minutes to decide what word I should use before settling on "struggle." And I've reorganized this paragraph twice. So how do other people do it?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring into Spring with Spring

I wish I had a spring in my step. After all, it is the first day of Spring. But the requirements for our Q2 release are piling up, and I've got to code a number of service objects using Spring. I'd better spring into action. After I get a drink from the... spring.

Monday, March 19, 2007


"I think, therefore I am." Or is it, "existence precedes essence"? Philosophy is hard, dammat!

Ideas are weird. Do they exist? Or are they just electrical impulses produced by a restless brain? Ideas precede action. Except when I leap before I look. Regardless, there are a lot of ideas in action out there, fully manifested: some miraculous, some mundane, and some truly horrifying.

I have an idea. I expect that no one is going to like it. They might think it's stupid, they might think it's dangerous, they might think it's not worth it, they might think it's been done before. I don't think anyone will appreciate it until it is done. I guess until then, it's a terrible idea.

But I still want to try it...

Battlesuck Galactica

I love Battlestar Galactica, but it's seriously beginning to piss me off. This week's episode featured Baltar, one of television's most interesting and complicated villains, on trial for... what? Well, we don't really know exactly, but he is the villain of the show. So he's busted. Put him on trial!

I watch a fair bit of crime drama on the tele. Take Law & Order, for example. They've got one thing they do, week in and week out: every single episode follows the exact same formula. But they do it so well that I still enjoy the show.

In contrast, BSG's courtroom drama was very, very weak. The prosecutor's opening statements were dreadful, and her first two witnesses had no bearing on the case. To make matters worse, the characters who could actually provide some damning testimony against Baltar don't seem to figure at all in the prosecution's strategy. Yet the writers had the nerve to have the prosecutor arrogantly scold the president for asking her to charge Baltar with crimes she cannot prove. Missy, you're not gonna prove anything with your evidence and your witness list. Call Jack McCoy, stat!

The main complaint I have, though, is Lee Adama. The dynamic between Lee and his father Bill (and between Lee and his wife, for that matter) has become absurd. How many life-changing reconciliations and conflicts can a father and son have? A husband and wife? How many times can one character quit the service? Please. Lee's character is completely undefined; he has become merely a plot device. One of my longest-standing peeves about television is writers who change characters for no other reason than to sow discord. I've stopped watching several shows because of this.

About the only thing that will have me watching next week's season finale is the Radio, an innocuous device that seems to be affecting some of the characters in strange ways. This mildly stirred my interest. There is a lot of talk among the lads about what happened to Starbuck, one of the characters who apparently died a few episodes back. But whether they bring her back or not, they still can't fix how broken Lee Adama's character is, nor how boring the cylons have become, nor how much potential they have squandered with this season's storylines. I'm skeptical that the show can redeem itself.

A friend of mine and I were musing about the now three-season-long story arc after Sunday's episode. The program's ominous warning "And They Have a Plan" over the opening credits seems more and more like "We're Making This Up As We Go Along."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nuts in a Box

My daughter loves bouncing on our trampoline. She has worn out three trampolines with her daily routine: round and round the perimeter, jumping and listening to her iPod for hours on end. In the morning and at night, in the sun, the rain, the snow, in the searing heat and the bitter cold, she's out there, lost in the music and the ether of her own thoughts.

Sunday it was finally time get a new one, our fourth. The old one had begun popping springs at an alarming rate, and it seemed to be getting dangerous. The neighbor complained that he needed a helmet to walk out of his back door. My daughter didn't know that we were going to buy one. I had only told her that we were going grocery shopping. So she was pleased when we pulled into the Sport Authority parking lot.

We entered the store and one of the young sales clerks directed us to the back where there were two large models to choose from, a twelve foot model and a thirteen foot model. The one we were about to replace was a fourteen-footer, so unfortunately both were smaller.

Neither were set up. Both sat in their respective boxes, nearly indistinguishable at first glance. But there was a novel difference between the two: while the twelve foot trampoline had standard metal springs, the thirteen foot model had heavy-duty elastic straps. I was drawn to that one because metal springs had always seemed hazardous to me. But what of the stitching? The metal springs were ripping and being flung all over our yard. If the elastic straps weren't sewn more securely than the metal springs, then there seemed to be no point to buy this more expensive model.

The teen-aged clerk said nothing when I asked that he open the box so that I could examine the trampoline's construction, but disappeared around an aisle. He seemed irritated by my request. My daughter and I just looked at one another and giggled. "He probably hates us," I whispered with a smile.

The large, heavy box was kind of beat up, and had been re-taped. I can be pretty picky about that sort of thing, but this time I fought it in my head. "It's fine, it's brand new inside," I told myself. "So what if the cardboard is a little hacked? I don't want to be one of those annoying customers who refuses perfectly fine merchandise because the box has a dint on it."

As we stood there wondering whether we had been abandoned, the clerk returned with a scissors and slowly began to cut the packing straps and tape. He was not the most skillful young man ever to wield a pair of scissors, but eventually we were able to remove the box top. The large jumping mat seemed perfectly in order, and to my satisfaction there were eight layers of heavy-duty stitches that secured the straps to the mat. The old trampoline had only four to hold the metal springs. I was sold! He covered the box in plastic shipping wrap while my daughter and I picked out some new shoes for her.

We continued with our day, stopping at the grocery store and running our other errands. When we got home, we hauled the groceries in and I set to work on the trampoline. I heaved it out of the car and dragged it to its new home behind the garage. My daughter and I disassembled the old one and cleared the area underneath it, which is a popular spot for our dogs to do their business during the wintertime. Gross.

Finally we were ready to begin construction of the new trampoline. I eagerly tore open the plastic and peeled it away. I pulled off the box top and flung the sturdy mat aside to get at the instruction manual. There, underneath the mat, embedded in the foam, lay the remains of a squirrel's nest, complete with acorns, droppings, chewed bits of cardboard, and a baby squirrel corpse.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Waiting for the End of the World

Clive Owen has a remarkable face. His rough-hewn countenance holds pain, ferocity, amusement, cynicism, and resignation in equal parts. Alfonso Cuarón uses all of its disarming allure in his dystopian film Children of Men. Set in the near future, it tells the story of a world without children: tragically, the entire human populace has been rendered sterile by some undiscovered force.

Cuarón's command of his craft is evident from the opening sequence. This is bone-jarring cinema vérité in its most viceral form...

Oh hell. I can't even form coherent thoughts anymore. I'm sitting here watching Hot as a Pistol, Keen as a Blade, an Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint concert film from their tour last year. I was lucky enough to catch the show when it came to the Twin Cities. The arrangements in that gig absolutely floored me. And the horn section - man, those cats can blow. Even so, I've had a long day and a long week, and I can barely keep my eyes open. I've gotta hit the sack.

So where was I? I highly recommend Children of Men. It is a tale of fear and hope and loss, filled with gripping action and gentle humor. I confess it had me in tears more than once. Have a look at it before it leaves the theaters.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Fucking Hate This War

The War in Iraq has cost $408,257,332,763 so far, and the price tag is still spiraling upward. The war has caused at least 58,862 civilian casualties, and there is no end in sight to the carnage. Coalition forces have suffered 3,455 fatalities, and I can't see that number going down either.

Nothing is Fucked?!?

The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain!

This is our concern, dude.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Gayest Bloodbath In History

I saw 300 on Friday night. I had low expectations, but even so it was sadly uncompelling as an action-packed tale of epic heroism. Gerard Butler, who I first noticed in the underrated b-movie Reign of Fire, had been satisfying in everything he'd done to date. Unfortunately, he offered nothing to the role as King Leonidas but bombastic shouting (and, I must admit, an incredibly hot bod).

Afterward my friends and I came up with alternate movie titles such as 300 Gorgeous Men, 600 Meaty Thighs, and 2400 Ripped Abs. The movie itself was like a gory video game with some killer graphics, but repetitive, and burdened with lame cutscenes that couldn't be skipped by hitting the "X" button. And watching someone else play a first-person shooter is about as interesting and engaging as watching porn after sex.

I planned to spend some time writing a funny post on this film, but the New York Times beat me to it: A.O. Scott's review was hilarious and pretty much spot-on. So much for that idea. "The Persians... have vastly greater numbers... but the Spartans clearly have superior health clubs and electrolysis facilities." So true. Thank God they saved Western Civ from the Beast in the East!

The only thing I might add is that the film labored curiously hard to let us know that the Spartans, at least the titular manly-men, AREN'T GAY. "He's too young to have known the warmth of a woman," Leonidas remarks clumsily about one of his soldiers. Which only made the movie seem gayer. What is more homo-erotic than a grunting host of shirtless men with perfectly-toned torsos? Maybe the filmmakers wanted to make it clear to their core audience that watching a bunch of macho men in leather thongs and bondage gear isn't faggy.

The film suffers from the same thing that a lot of Frank Miller comics suffer from: overwrought, over-earnest narration. Miller claims to be a fan of manga, but then he saddles his story panels with retarded-son-of-Hemingway-wannabe exposition, where in real manga there would be none.

So even my low expectations were frustrated. But I still had a good time! The violence, like the dialog, was so outlandish and cartoonish that one couldn't help but be amused. Toward the end, when one of the more sinister villians got his due, the audience erupted in applause.

As the credits were rolling, I overheard one man make some inaudible insult about the film to his friend. His friend, obviously not of the same mind, retorted, "Not every movie has to be pretentious." To which the first replied, "that movie was pretentious as fucking hell!"

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Parable

Once upon a time there lived two men. They were each wealthy and powerful, in the fullness of manhood, scions of their people. They dwelt in a diverse community, neighbors to each other and to the folk who made their homes nearby. Lavish palaces they built for their own pleasure, and they shown like beacons over the countryside. Those who inhabited the surrounding lands marveled at their glorious manors, and grew envious of their fantastic possessions.

Their material wealth unbridled, these men reveled in their own success: hale, in their prime, untouched by disease and unbent by hardship, they were the fortunate sons of generations of hard-working people who had chosen almost by accident the richest lands in which to abide. But so lordly they had become, so high was their bearing, and so mighty was their knowledge and craft, that they were estranged from their neighbors, and as kin they seemed to be to one another, yea, as brothers they were.

But lo, they were not so similar as appearances made them out to be.

Apollonius was the mightier of the two in contests of strength. He was a warrior, and carried a huge cudgel and a keen-edged knife. He weighed the hearts of other men by their outward prosperity, and he did not long suffer the company of lesser men, who shunned him.

Aeneas, a hunter who loved the land, was the faster of the two; he carried a curved horn-bow to hunt and a net to trap game. Aeneas, unlike his peer, harbored a curiosity about his neighbors, and though other men often recoiled when he drew near, he spoke with them when he might.

By and by theses princes took to wandering the countryside, seeking men like unto themselves, and greater knowledge and fortune. Now, Apollonius was masterful and feared no man. Indeed, none could withstand him in battle. One day, while seeking new trophies for his palace, he chanced upon three men, poor farmers from the scrub lands who said to him: "you are Apollonius. The light of your home shines down upon we who have nothing. We hate you for your beauty and strength. We will bring you down and despoil you."

But Apollonius laughed at them. "Come and test your valor, and we shall see if you can do what you say." And they bore down on him in a flash, bruising his face and cracking his ribs. But they were no match for Apollonius, who knocked them to the dusty ground, and untethered his cudgel, and beat them until their bodies were bloodied and misshapen.

"Now you are like whipped curs, and you have no power to harm me," said Apollonius, wiping the sweat from his brow. "And I claim your lands as my own, I will hunt there and take what I will, and you cannot resist."

There was an old crone nearby who saw the encounter, and at this she spoke. With the gravity of an ancient sage, she said: "my lord, what you have done is right, those men deserved punishment. It is justice. But you must not take their lands, for you would upset the delicate balance among the people around you, and the lives of their families would be threatened. Let their wives come and wash and bind their wounds. They will trouble you no more."

But Apollonius replied: "old woman, you do not understand the ways of men. I must make an example of these vagabonds, or they will not fear and respect me. Their families must suffer for their sin against me." The crone at first made no reply, but bowed to him as a sign of her lower station. Then she added, "my lord, you may one day regret this path."

Aeneas also traveled openly, unafraid of strangers and highwaymen. And late one afternoon, as he was returning home, he too met with a hostile trio of poor farmers. "Aeneas! You walk in our lands and hunt and trap where you will. Lay down your arms and give us your goods, or we will attack and rape you of your belongings," they commanded.

But Aeneas would not be mastered thus. He raised his horn-bow and nocked an arrow, and cried: "nay, thieves, you may not take with force that which is mine. But I see that you are hungry, and that you have suffered through lean years. If you stand down, I will make a gift of some of my food." For Aeneas had long been abroad, and his cart was laden with foodstuffs and treasures.

Then he slowly lowered his horn-bow. And they were amazed by his offer, and their wonder calmed their hot-blooded envy. Aeneas was pleased, and said, "let us make a fire together, and share a meal." Meat, wine, bread, cheese, and fruit Aeneas passed among the men, and they spoke long into the night. They told him tales of the surrounding lands and of the harvest and of the simple life that they led, and Aeneas shared secrets of his crafts.

But in the hour before dawn, while Aeneas slept, the farmers crept away with the better part of his possessions, leaving him alone. Though he was left unharmed, his horn-bow, his horse, and his cart were gone. When Aeneas rose and discovered what they had stolen from him, he raged against them for their treachery and against himself for his foolish trust.

But it happened that on this morning the crone, who was fetching water from a well, came upon him, and said: "my lord, why do you cry out?" Aeneas told her the tale of his meeting with the farmers. She considered his tale, and then spoke. "You have been robbed, my lord. And I reckon that the thieves should pay for their crime. But you have been left unhurt. And am I not right to say that your loss amounts to little when weighed against the value of all of your earthly possessions? Do not despise your neighbors for taking advantage of the gifts you had freely given them. For the tale of your generosity will linger far longer than the tale of their thievery."

Aeneas saw that the woman was wise. "Old woman, there is truth in what you say. But what of the thieves? Surely they will mock me and delight in their crime if I do not pursue them and take back that which is mine." The old woman was unmoved. "Perhaps," she said. "But a flame unfed is soon extinguished. Do not labor overmuch in vengeance. Be on your guard for false friends, and do not patronize your neighbors. Learn the names of the people around you. Then you will isolate those who would do wrong to you."

Aeneas, moved by the crone's kind, careworn face, and grateful for her wisdom, took up her burden and accompanied her home. As he walked among her people, stripped of his belongings, and dirty from travel and toil, the folk saw that he was not so unlike them as they thought. All day he worked among them, for a weight of debt had settled upon his shoulders, seeing how little that these people subsisted upon. In the evening they took a meal together.

Now, the eldest of the men who had attacked Apollonius developed sores all over his body. His wounds did not mend, and he fell ill and died. That farmer's son, Matthias, possessed of mischief-making, had become wild with desire for revenge. He had taken a stone, slipped into Apollonius's land, and climbed a tree at the edge of his property. The folk had secretly tried to coax him down, but could not.

In the course of the meal, the people told Aeneas the tale of Apollonius, the farmers, and the farmer's son. For though little love did they have for Apollonius, they worried for the boy, and thinking them brothers, they wanted to repay Aeneas for his labors and his kindness. "My lord," said they, "Matthias cannot stay much longer in the tree. The nights grow colder each day, and he is out of food. He will come down soon." And Aeneas replied, "I will go to him tomorrow and warn Apollonius of the danger, and try to rescue this boy."

The next day Aeneas returned home and washed and shaved and poured oil into his hair. He put on his fine tunic and robe and sought his neighbor Apollonius to warn him of the boy in the tree. Aeneas carefully avoided the tree as he entered Apollonius's domain, and continued on to his dwelling.

"So, the boy dares to trespass upon my land," muttered Apollonius when Aeneas's tale was done. "I shall make an example of him that the people will not forget."

"But my lord," argued Aeneas, "the boy is still stricken mad by grief, and he is half-starved. Little harm can he do to you. Avoid the tree for a week, and he will crawl back to his people. They wish for mercy."

"You have spent too much time among them, and you think like a weakling. I will defend what is mine from man and boy alike," Apollonius scoffed. "The trespasser must leave now or perish."

Then swiftly Aeneas took his leave, for he knew Apollonius was in a bloody-minded fury. He raced across the land to the settlement to rouse Matthias's people.

Apollonius donned his gleaming bronze armor and girted himself as if for battle, for he wished to humiliate the boy and cow him into submission with a bold display of martial strength. He approached the tree, but he could not see Matthias, for he was well-hidden in its boughs. He called out in anger: "boy, come down from my tree and face me. I have heard tell that you mean to do me harm. Such thoughts are folly. Get ye gone or I will bring that tree down to kill you, and mourn the tree before you."

Then the boy was afraid, for he saw how mighty a man he was. But his hatred grew hot again, and he clutched his stone. Apollonius strode up to the tree and began to chop with his ax. "I will savor your death, boy," he taunted.

But sweat filled his eyes, for it was warm work. He removed his helmet, and wiped his brow, and called one last time: "boy, your father died like a dog. Your lands are now mine. If you do not wish to share his fate, climb down and run away."

Hearing this, Matthias hurled the stone with all the strength he could muster. It struck Apollonius's nose and his face exploded in a bloody spray. He cried out in pain, and groped for his spear and threw it with a deadly force into the tree. It grazed the boy's pale right arm and he fell. At this moment, Aeneas returned with the country folk.

A vain man, Apollonius would not be seen bloodied by a mere boy. He placed his bronze helmet back upon his head as the crowd drew near, and shouted, "this boy's life is forfeit. He has trespassed against me and assaulted me. Does anyone dare dispute my right to justice?" He brandished his knife, which flashed in the late afternoon sun.

Aeneas stepped forward. Though unarmed, he was formidable. "My lord, the boy belongs to these people, who have nothing. He has sought out revenge and failed. Show your mercy now and let him go."

"Little do I care for mercy, and I doubt that I can ever trust these people again. But you have always been civil, and so you may take him and be gone. To you vagrants and squatters, I issue this warning: I will hunt and kill anyone who dares enter my land unbidden again: man or woman, young or old."

Aeneas attended to the boy, for he was skilled in the arts of healing. "Collect wood that we may make a stretcher to bear him away," he directed. Apollonius stood fast, however, menacing the country folk.

It happened that the three farmers who had stolen Aeneas's goods were disguised among the crowd. The eldest had claimed the the horn-bow for his own. From under his cloak he produced the hidden bow and raised it and loosed an arrow at Apollonius. But alas, he was unskilled in its use, and the arrow struck Aeneas in the shoulder instead. Shocked, the people around the farmer seized the bow, and his former companions bound him with Aeneas's net, which had also been preserved and secretly carried afield.

At this Apollonius roared with laughter, and jeered, "you are shot with your own bow, you fool. Now you see how this rabble repays your mercy."

But the crone was there too. "My lord, you know nothing of our customs. Verily, you know none of us. You see only one thing when you look out upon us, though there be many things here. Now I beg, let us bear away the fallen, and we will trouble you no more. But beware, for though it seems like you are strong and safe, your ignorance will not serve you long." And with that they fashioned two sturdy cots and carried Aeneas and Matthias away.

Thereafter Apollonius was forever on his guard, and he went abroad more seldom, and when he did he was often beset by brigands in the narrow and lonely places. Never was he bested in these contests, but he suffered greatly. As age and wear took their toll, his strength wained, and he knew he could not travel far in safety. In his twilight years he could no longer keep even young children at bay. They peppered him with stones and taunted him, for his face never mended from Matthias's shot. He died unmourned and unmarked, and carrion fowl picked his flesh, and heather and ferns grew over his bones.

Aeneas walked still among the people, though less proudly than before, and at times he was again robbed and cheated. But the people knew him, and he knew them, and word came to him when it was unsafe to be abroad. And they came to greet him when he traveled, and they sought his advice, and learned what they could, for his knowledge and craft were still beyond measure. They took up arms to defend him in his old age, for always they remembered his service to them. And when finally he passed, they burned a great pyre, and raised up a cairn in his memory, and long did they speak of his life.

And herein lies the moral: men and nations both live and die, that is the way of the world. As a man rises, so shall he fall. A nation too will perish according to its conduct. Tales of virtues and vices will abide in the hearts of others long after you are gone. And so it is for man and nation alike: it is better to know your neighbor's heart, to reckon and to strive with him, and to make peace with him, than to leave him unknown and trust solely in the strength of arms. For in the end, this path merely hastens your own demise.

Friday, March 2, 2007


There was a crazy person on the bus today. He looked like Grizzly Adams's angry brother. He was going off about something.

"I'm alive. I should know, there are a hundred of me. Fourteen hundred people dead. The walls collapsed in San Francisco. Berkeley Heights. Bush knows. I don't listen... "

And on and on. I really wished I had a tape recorder at that moment. Then my cell phone rang and I missed his finale. An attractive young college student standing nearby carefully slipped passed him and found a seat far away.

Never Gets Old

Ah, the joys of living around university students.

When I walked past yesterday on my way home from work, the second snow "man" was being erected by the neighbors two houses down from the first sculpture; I can only suppose that they had a certain form of envy. I'm not saying which kind.

I snapped a couple of pictures yesterday afternoon with my cell phone, but I couldn't figure out how to get them on my computer without paying Verizon money. Screw that. So I went back today and captured them in all their glory.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Totally Wasted

waste verb
4 a : to spend or use carelessly : SQUANDER <waste valuable resources> b : to allow to be used inefficiently or become dissipated <wasting her talent>

I am sick of the flap that we've heard over politicians stating the obvious: American lives are being wasted in Iraq. First Barack Obama, now John McCain. Dear news media, this is not a controversial statement. The Bush Administration stated the value of the war before it started, and gave us a cost estimate. And we have not got what we paid for. One might even say we've been over-charged for a whole lot of nothing. So I applaud these two politicians for agreeing on this point.

Anyone who criticizes their word choice should remember that "waste" does not imply that the thing wasted has no value. Quite the contrary. And instead of wasting our time degrading our language by harping on semantics, pundits who don't like the term "waste" should explain why spending human life in Iraq was and is a good investment.