Monday, July 31, 2006

Dreaded Screw-Up Department

Several months ago, I saw a Progressive Review piece about the NSA hassling the blogger known as Capitol Hill Blue. I posted it as well on my blog, where it was somehow picked up by the Fark site. That was back in March, and it turns out it was a hoax NSA letter sent by some of the Capitol Hill Blue guy's buddies. Good one! Here's the big mistake. He found out a few weeks later, but didn't own up to it until this week. Worse yet, he tried to blame his reluctance to come forward on being a dry drunk or some such victim jive. The guy's name is Doug Thompson and he's broken some inside Washington stories. However, if you're going to look down your nose at others, and then pull this stunt, you are permanently in disgrace. It's not the crime - it's the cover-up, you idiot! You're sitting in Washington, D.C.! You should know that! And how sweet for the Portland Freelancer. The one thing of mine that was picked up by a major national site like Fark, and it turns out to be bogus. Oh well. I hang my head in blogging shame. However, I'm not going to blame it on something my teacher said in 6th grade or any of that other victim crap. Hell no! I'm going to blame it on President Bush for creating a climate where this kind of story is plausible. Relax, I'm just kidding! I'll take the blame. I've screwed up on bigger stages than this. One of my jokes got a nationally-televised retraction by Jay Leno himself. That was not my favorite night of TV viewing. This has not been my favorite night of blogging. Sorry for the mistake.

Dear Anonymous, Have I Got a Letter for You

A recent anonymous comment maker on this site made a strong point that the Bush administration never said Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind 9/11, and therefore the war in Iraq was not sold on that basis. Anyone who lived through those years knows Bush, Cheney and other White House officials went out of their way to give that impression - namely, that it rallied the nation to war based on the idea that Saddam was behind 9/11. That is why such a large percentage of Americans believed that to be the case, and many still do. But is there any proof that President Bush did that? You can't impeach someone for being misunderstood, can you? Where's the proof?
Here is the letter the President sent to Congress on the day before the war began:

Presidential Letter 
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate
“March 18, 2003
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

There's your proof: Iraq was based on a lie, a lie that President Bush now denies he made.

Film Fans: The Artificial Humans Are Drawing Near

Movie stars like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes may soon have something real to whine about: The inevitable march towards photo-perfect digital humans has taken a huge leap forward, thanks to the guy who invented Web-TV. He's come up with a process using glow-in-the-dark make-up to replace those stick-on sensors they've been using to enter data about human movement into a computer. Glowing make-up? It makes you wonder what they'll be able to do when someone comes up with something that's actually slick. Oh well. The history of special effects always includes some clumsy steps that still produce lasting art. Remember the stop-action clay models? Anyone who saw the Davey Jones character in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, knows how far they've come from that. But the final breakthrough in movie-making will be capturing an actual human with computers. I suppose you could create a star from scratch, but the probable path will be to let an actor become a star and then buy the rights to use him or her digitally for a project. That would mean less leverage for the stars as the stockpile of digital options grows. Plus, actors would be available in their youngest, hottest forms forever. Of course, they couldn't go out and promote the films, but cyber-versions could appear on TV. Another side effect could be a lessoning of the constant barrage of celebrity tidbits - what Tom and Katie's baby looks like, for example. Somehow I think we could adjust to that. If you're sick of them now, just think: In 50 years we may still be seeing Tom and Katie in brand new movies, maybe even starring with their cyber-baby, their images locked away in the computer forever. If this technology had been around in the "Risky Business" days, Tom and Kate could even star together in a film, and actually be the same age.

Finally, Photo Realistic Artificial Humans - Movie News - - Fun & Entertainment

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Run-up to Iraq - Warning: This Post Contains Sarcasm

I am greatly puzzled by today's article in the Washington Post about Iraq. It suggests the congressional report into Bush and Cheney's use of intelligence to get us into the Iraq war, won't be done before the November elections. Gee, why wouldn't the Republicans want this out there as quickly as possible? If Bush and Cheney lied us into a war, that would surely be an impeachable offense, so why wouldn't the Republicans want to clear this matter up? They're acting like if the American People knew what really happened, there'd be hell to pay. And you know who I feel the most sympathy for? All the people who write into the blogs defending Bush and Cheney, and how these two great men were hoodwinked by those incompetent intelligence officers. These loyal supporters deserve to have the truth out there so they don't have to hear about how their beloved heroes might just be two of the worst scoundrels in American History. So where is the report? Why are the Republicans stalling on this? I know. My guess is the report was just about to be released just like Chairman Roberts said. But then some Bush-hating progressive traitor in the government printing office accidentally "lost" it. Darn, those lefties.

Report on Prewar Intelligence Lagging

The Portland Freelancer's Forced Optimism Post

The single most striking trait of these times is how primitive they are. The machines make us think we're smart, but we're still tribes wandering around the desert killing each other. These gadgets are slick - no question - but look at those Ipods hooked up so closely to our brains. Were TVs just a little too far away? Who knows? We might make an awkward turn of the head and notice our reality. All we need now is the visuals - a little machine we can wire right onto our skulls that will let us see the movie. Then our disconnect will be complete.
What we are seeing these days is either the continuance of primitive times with better weapons that will lead to our destruction, or the last gasps before the Big Awakening and the beginning of an enlightened era. We need a major revelation to hit the planet. Something that will negate all these religious battles and primitive belief systems and wipe the slate clean. Something that will reduce the current power hierarchy to pointless spectators as true freedom engulfs the planet and the age of oil and primitive religious strife comes to a crashing end.
Here's the Portland Freelancer best hope. Feel free to call me a nutcase if you want - like you don't already. Frankly, when I read some of your comments I wonder if you're actually sitting in a cabin in Montana writing a manifesto - that's how primitive they sound. But I love ya anyway. Okay, here goes.
I have followed the UFO thing for decades. Even my intellectual friends hate hearing about this stuff because it takes a great leap. Plus, it goes counter to the smug, know-it-all attitude humans are so fond of. I am not presenting this as something I know. I am presenting this as something I'm increasingly believing has to be true. Let's put it this way: This had better be true or we are screwed. You are aware that at least one of the major religions believes in the end of life on earth, right? Now if I suddenly painted my house orange, and then I found an ancient text that predicts someone will paint his house orange and it will be a sign, then that is one thing. But the trouble with these times is that the people who believe in the end of the world are in charge, and they can make it happen, just as they are making other prophesies happen. That is a scary proposition for me. They might end the world just out of spite - so they can spend the last 15 minutes saying, "See! We were right!"
Monday there's a documentary on British TV - unless the story is an Internet hoax - in which Buzz Aldrin claims their Apollo Mission saw a UFO on the Moon. To anyone who has looked at the UFO subject there is a lot there. What this single revelation could mean is that we shift into an earthling paradigm, rather than the battling tribes dead-end that we are locked into now. It also brings in the concept of a new type of energy source - a system that creates a gravity field that blocks off the gravity field around it and allows pollution-free flight at mind-boggling speeds. We also shed these endless religious nightmares. Sure, keep the holy sites for tourist attractions, but let's stop killing each other for the Dome of the Rock, or a Parade Route in Northern Ireland. Sunnis versus Shiites? Protestants versus Catholics? Folks, we've got to move forward here or we're all going to die. I admit, it doesn't sound like optimism, but there's no point in freaking out. If it doesn't work, the earth is only one speck of dust, in a vast universe. Actually a speck of dust gives us way too much importance. We're sitting on an atom here. But damn it, where's your fighting spirit? Let's shelve the defeatist End Times stuff and make this work. The Ipod of religion is hooked to some ancient religions that all came into being several thousand years ago. They've been pumping that stuff into your head for way too long. These religions can't all be right, can they? But they can all be wrong. Let's work to keep our species alive. We have come up with a few undeniably great things like football and rock and roll. Let's get these last days of primitive tribal behavior out of our system, and get us some spaceships. It's just about time to move out and explore the galaxy.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

C-Span Programming Sends Chills Through the Spine

I knew C-Span was showing a 9/11-Insider-Job conference tonight. I think it'll be rebroadcast at 10. My position is that the official story of 9/11 doesn't add up, so I was pleased to see the leaders of the movement getting some airtime. The panel was okay - I wish they had a couple of the others there, and it slipped at times into a pep rally, rather than an examination of the many damning facts from that morning. The chilling part was that the show was immediately followed on C-Span by a journalism awards presentation with Dick Cheney to honor his longtime friends in the Washington press corps. So right after the one show was talking about Cheney's stand-down orders that morning as he ran wargames based on planes hitting buildings like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there was the actual guy, talking to people who should have gotten to the bottom of this nearly 5 years ago - the mainstream press. My, what a tight little bunch Cheney and they were - talking about practical jokes they had pulled on each other going back to the Ford administration. Can you believe the programming shift with this? We had the 9/11 truth movement, which openly claims that an invisible government has seized control of the United States, and that elements of this group including Dick Cheney ran a deliberate attack on our country to enable what has happened to our country since 9/11 to occur. Then it was followed by this ceremony given to mainstream media types for the incredible job they've done following the news these past years, in the presence of Dick Cheney, himself. This was a jarring transition to be sure. It was startling and surreal. By the way, tons of criticism was dumped on the leftie gatekeepers like Amy Goodman, but not by Cheney and his reporter buddies. No, the 9/11 movement is very frustrated with the left for accepting the official story. Their basic premise - and this was filmed last month - is that we are in a race to get more Americans to look at 9/11 and the overwhelming amount of suspicious evidence, before it is too late. The too late part involves another possible fake terrorist attack as an excuse to go into Iran and declare martial law here prior to the Fall Elections. The fact that so much has happened since the taping - the fact that the showdown with Iran does seem much more likely today than it did last month - was chilling. So what do I believe? We are in the grip of a Neo-conservative agenda that has been planned out for years, and it is proceeding on course. The plan in Iraq was to break it, just as the plan in Lebanon is to break that, too. Next I fear this will escalate to another preemptive strike - possibly nuclear - against Iran. If we do get another 9/11-style event followed by an immediate blaming of Iran you'll know it has come to pass. Treachery is afoot, dear citizens, and the fate of the Constitution lies tonight in a great deal of doubt.

Lindsay Lohan: Honorary Boomer

It's not like Generation W invented the starlet who parties till dawn, arriving late on the set or calling in sick. Marilyn Monroe got there first. We just refined it and added all sorts of other substances that I hope to God Lindsay Lohan is not using. This is my history with the 20-year-old: I've written tons of jokes about her like "It's Tuesday but Lindsay's already onto her Wednesday problem." I had no clue about her acting abilities, or personal charms. I saw her as just another of the current generation's inexplicable stars - famous for being famous. Then I went to the Robert Altman film "Prairie Home Companion", and I am now in love with Lindsay Lohan. So much so that I even watched her Love Bug film co-starring a VW. Talk about a sign that your decision making process has been affected. Hers and mine. I also stayed up one night to watch her on Letterman. Lindsay is amazing. She's got actual talent plus a grin that is electrifying. However I'd recommend that you get a good look now because at the rate she's partying her sparkle could fade before she turns 21. It's such a shame but my generation can't pass judgement. Not only did we do the same thing but we raised her. So to Lindsay Lohan, who was just scolded in public for staying out till dawn partying, the Portland Freelancer regretfully bequeaths unto you the Boomescent Award and grants you the status of Honorary Boomer. Congratulations and please get help.

Social Skills 101

I really have to laugh sometimes. I walked into Cable Access and noticed a meeting of the entire staff in the conference room just inside the door on the left. Then I saw Rosie approaching with another woman, and since I like kidding around with her, I said, "Rosie, should I go and make a statement to the meeting?" This tipped the other woman off to the event which was a surprise party for her. Whoops! I still didn't get it yet, and compounded the social misstep by heading back into the conference room. I walked in and said, "I suppose you've all wondered why I called this meeting" intending to be kind of funny, at which point they informed me that I had ruined the surprise. Sensing my work here was done, I headed to the edit room and began editing my tape of the Born to Slack show, about two lovable losers commenting on - among other things - our lack of social skills. So already I have some material for next time. On the way there, Rosie who is a really fun live-wire type heaped the abuse on for wrecking the surprise party. Of course, when I saw the other woman later I said I was sorry and she said not to worry - she already sensed something was up. But that doesn't mean the rest of the staff didn't retain a little bit of disappointment at my efforts. I asked if it was her birthday and she said that, no, the party was because it was her last day working there. In my mind I heard the expression "Thank God." I'll miss her, but you mean the memory will not be revisited every time I see her from now on? Perfect.
I recently honored the Hillsboro Air Show pilot for his impact on that situation. It's not everyone who can attend a social occasion and as a result of their presence, an entire metropolitan area thinks about never holding the event again. People thought I was kidding, but as a social screw-up I did admire the pilot's reach. You know you've made a bad impression when it's in the ground. You might say he took a scorched-earth approach to social approval, and from an etiquette standpoint, he failed to make a graceful departure. In my case, I failed to make a smooth entrance. You have to admire the speed. When it comes to social miscues, I waste no time. I arrived, walked in perhaps 10 or 15 feet and within seconds, I had derailed a surprise party and irked around 15 people. As my wife said when I told her about it later, "That's my boy."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Boomers as Party Animals? The Best! As World Leaders? Not So Much

The Boomer Generation produced most of my friends, most of my heroes, and almost all of my fun. I do not apologize for taking part. The only regret I have is that I can't do it all over again. For a couple of decades, the mission seemed to be to party and have a good time, but there was another element that I want to emphasize. We also felt we were rebelling against the violent ways of all previous generations, and were in fact changing the world for the better. That is an indispensable part of understanding how truly glorious the times were. This was not sleazy or purely hedonistic. That would come later in the 80s. No, we were inspired. You can duplicate a lot of the transgressions that we partook of to this day. But what you can't recapture is the feeling that by partying, we were helping to save humanity. That took a very special set of circumstances. Yes, it was fun to be approached by beautiful women in their 20s who would take you back to their trippy apartments, and get high with you, and then have wild sex. I know that sounds like a really empty experience now that we're older and wiser, but it actually wasn't that bad. What really should be recorded more though - in the chance that future generations will try and brag about how much fun they are having - was the political component of it all. Not only would these 20-year-old women seem to love you because you were in a rock band, but they actually admired you for your political ideals. There will never be a time like that again. We know too much about drugs and sex, now. But back then they would love you like you were a hero. Imagine. We weren't just having fun for fun's sake. No! We were doing it for the cause of freedom. What a set-up. Just for strumming a guitar and partying, you'd be welcomed like you'd just stormed a beach to save their lives. And that is something I'd never trade for the bragging rights of the Greatest Generation or anyone else. We had a blast and it was awesome.
So do not take my criticism of the Boomers the wrong way. It is only now when we are in charge of the world that it seems to be working out less well. I see many phony people. Women out there pretending to be Donna Reed in "It's A Wonderful Life" who were closer to Lou Reed partying on the wild side. Maybe not that song, but I knew the Moms when they used to rock and roll. Think of the stories you won't be passing on to your kids. You know the ones. And these Boomer men pretending to be our statesmen. Please! You will never fully understand where Newt Gingrich is coming from until you picture him stoned out of his mind, eating a Twinkie, and standing next to a keg with a big stupid grin on his soft pudgy face. To hear him pontificate now about our future and whatnot is the comedy of the absurd. This is a Boomer Clown trying to be taken as a wise old visionary, and I'm not buying it. And guess what? The rest of the world isn't buying it either. You can't fool me, Newt. I was right there when you passed the joint to a new generation.
Ahh, these Bush-Clinton era politicians. What a farce. The "W" in Generation W is short for the "Worst", as embodied by the mediocre moron we've chosen from our ranks to lead the modern world now. But it could also be short for "Wasted". Talk about the stoned leading the stoned. In today's Generation W test, I want you to look at two famous musicians from different eras and tell me who was the drugged-out Boomer of the two and why. Wait, that's too hard. Just tell me why. Now styles change so this can be a subtle thing. Perhaps it's a hair out of place or some other unkempt touch that would seem to indicate a performer not fully in control of himself. Here's a hint - they both play piano. Okay, let's meet our first musician from another generation and no fair looking at the names till after the test is over.

Now we have a musician from the Boomers. Take as long as you like and see if you can detect any signs of excessive drug use.

Got it yet? Need more time? Oh look! It's Duke Ellington and Elton John.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It's Another Generation W Test, Folks

Okay, here we go. The challenge is to spot the person who sprang out of the Boomer Generation - the generation currently in power. Here's a few hints. Both men are Republicans, although one is a great Republican. One man warned about the military-industrial complex - the other doesn't use big phrases like that. One was a General who went onto be President, the other is playing dress-up because it feels cool. One accomplished the biggest military mission in the last 100 years with the fate of the Free World hanging in the balance. The other declared "Mission Accomplished" off San Diego during a photo op. Are you ready to take a guess? The answers are at the bottom under the pictures, but no fair peeking!

Look. It's Ike and George. I wonder how impressed Eisenhower would be by our current President?

The Generation W Test

Okay, let's have some fun with this. I'll show you two beloved people from history in a similar pose, and you tell me which was a product of the generation currently in power and which was not. I'm going to give you a hint. One was named Jerome and the other was named Winston. Each made a splendid contribution to his times - in fact, each was a cultural icon. And before you call me a hater, remember, I do this from the heart - I respected and loved them both. One probably had many more admirers than the other, but the people who loved the other, REALLY loved the other. One more hint: It's like licorice. Not everyone likes licorice but the people who do like licorice REALLY like licorice. If that sounds familiar to you, this test shouldn't be that hard. Ready? Here we go:

One last hint: Both were infinitely more articulate than our current President.
Still struggling? That's Winston Churchill and Jerry Garcia - both brilliant in their own way. Jerry made the licorice comment to describe fans of his band - the Grateful Dead. Winston fired off some great quotes as well.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Word for Generation W

Who can blame us really? Many of the comments to the recent post entitled "The Worst Generation", reflected a poor reaction to being criticized. Isn't that part of being coddled? The classic part for me was that the protests showed such vintage Worst Generation attitudes. Some blamed our parents which is just classic. Others didn't want to acknowledge that their success was anything but their own doing. One cited Rush Limbaugh saying the same thing about our group, although I'm sure Rush was using it to brag about his observational skills, rather than to criticize himself for being a reckless, pill-popping junkie. Indeed, the comments reflected such a strong Generation W profile, that I'm going to take a page from President Bush and invent a new word. The only difference between this and what he does is that I'm aware that I'm doing it. Perhaps my word will "resignate" with the people as much as some of his have. First, are you aware that the "resignate" word was delivered right here in good old Memorial Coliseum? That's a piece of American History, folks, which will mean even more if we're coming to the end of it. Anyone of us could have gone down to that rally and yelled out, "It's resonate, you idiot!" and maybe changed the course of the election. So really, when you think about it, the last 6 years could have been Portland's fault. But why dwell on that right now? It's about improving and changing course. I saw an NBC/Wall Street Journel poll tonight that said 81% of Americans think we're on the wrong track and that it's not just a blip but a long-term trend. 81% is quite a number, folks. We've got to get better at seeing ourselves. We need a new word to point out the foibles of our ways so we can speed up the process of correcting them. It turns out the term "The Worst Generation" is already widely in use, so I have to get more creative and contribute something else. Okay, here goes: It's half "adolescent" and it's have "Boomer". The new word is "boomescent." When you blame your parents for the mess we're in now, that is boomescent. When you take your parents' inheritance earned from decades of frugality and immediately blow it on expensive toys, that is boomescent, too. And when you invade a country for all the wrong reasons because you want to play cowboy and show you're a wartime president? Well, that's really putting the "Boom!" in boomescent. I like making new words. Too bad I was born overseas or I could parlay this into a run for president.

Hey, Mr. Truck Driver, Do You Want Your Part Back?

Last week on the hottest day of the heat wave, I installed an air conditioner and achieved temporary hero status with my wife. Yes, there were problems. I'm not a Home Improvement-type, and I failed to put in the two brackets on the inner window sill, because I couldn't get two of the screws out of the unit after it was in place - the window was too small. A couple of days later, I went to the store and bought an L-shaped Philip's screwdriver, that allowed me to get in and finish up. I put one bracket in but I could no longer locate the other one. My style in these matters is sort of like that informercial, "Set it and forget it", except I set it down and forget it. I'm sure I'll find the other bracket someday, on some surface in the house - and by then it will probably be snowing. Oh well. The days when I fret about stuff like this are long, long gone. Besides, I had achieved cool air during the heat wave, and upgraded the amount of time it would take to snatch the air-conditioner right through the window from 10 seconds, to around 1 minute and a half. That is progress. But I was still one vital bracket short. This is why I was so concerned the next day when I heard a giant crashing, tearing sound coming from the house right where the air conditioner is. My first thought was the window frame had failed and the damn thing had dropped out to the ground. I had a weak frame and a fairly heavy AC unit, so that made sense. It sure sounded like that's what happened from where I was in the basement. The second thought was that someone was in the process of stealing it, so I came up from the basement ready for battle. Rounding the corner outside I saw the unit still in place. Continuing on to the front I saw a huge semi-truck stopped for a moment with a bunch of branches lying in the road. As I got out there, the truck took off. I immediately concluded that the truck had hit the branches and somehow the sound had transferred to right next to the air conditioner. It wasn't till much later when my wife said she had tried to call several times and got nothing, that I figured it out. Both my phones were dead so I went outside. The truck, which was as tall as they get, had caught my phone line, ripping it down from across the street all the way to my house where it yanked a book-sized box from the wall and took off. The violently-removed box was a mere three feet from the new air conditioner which led to the confusion. The only thing that didn't happen was the scene in the comedy where you're on the phone and you get yanked against the wall. Qwest came out the next day, and by then someone had taken the branches from the street. I regretted that as I wanted them to flesh out my story for the repair guy. Not to worry - I was just telling him about it when we looked down and found one of the lights from the semi-truck lying on the ground. So if the truck driver wants it, I've got it here for you, and Qwest would also like to discuss the stuff you tore out and took off with, including about 30 yards of wire and some kind of box. By the way, if you think my reputation with the home improvement stuff isn't well-deserved, my next-door neighbor later reported that he heard the tearing, crunching sound, and also figured my air conditioner had dropped out the window. Since it's still there, and the phones work again, I'm calling this one a win.

There's That Treason Word Again, But This Time It's Not Ann Coulter

Ouch, here are parts of a fairly cranky speech from retired Air Force Col. Robert Bowman. Wow, what an angry man. Sounds like someone needs a Happy Pill:
"....we’ve been lied to not only about the war, but about 9/11 itself. The Bush administration was warned. They were warned by the Clinton Administration during the transition period, they were warned by the intelligence agencies of eleven other nations, they were specifically warned by one FBI agent that Moussawi was planning on flying a hijacked airliner, “into the World Trade Center.” They ignored the warnings, more than that, we have mounting evidence that _at least_, they made it impossible for those planes to be intercepted. If our government had merely done nothing - and I say that as an old interceptor pilot and I know the drill, I know what it takes, I know how long it takes, I know what the procedures are, I know what they were and I know what they changed them to - if our government had merely done nothing and allowed normal procedures to happen on that morning of 9/11, the twin towers would still be standing and thousands of Americans would still be alive. My sisters and brothers, that is treason! As a combat veteran, I will not stand idly by and watch our security destroyed by a President who went AWOL rather than serve in Vietnam. As one who has devoted his life to the security of this country. I will not stand by and watch an appointed President send our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs for the oil companies. Patriotism demands that I speak out and call it by it’s name. It is treason.....
.....As a pilot who flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that includes a renegade President. It’s time for George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and the whole Oil Mafia to be removed from office and indicted for treason."
My, somebody's got some issues here, no?

China to Test Artificial Sun Next Month

The concrete walls are 5 feet of concrete and the roof is 3, which sounds like enough if you're testing the latest hand grenade, but not enough if you're creating an artificial sun on earth. On August 15th China will attempt nuclear fusion - a plasma discharge that could lead to the planet's next big source of energy. This is the Super Bowl of opportunities to say, "What could go wrong?" An artificial sun experiment on planet earth? Don't take any chances. At least encase the concrete walls in a large vat of sun block. Doesn't this remind you of every B-movie ever made? And here's another detail: It happens on a place the Chinese call Science Island. Doesn't that have a Jurassic Park-flavor to it? You can almost see the screaming scientists running down the streets and jumping into the boiling water. Then again, this could be a monumental news story, which would explain why we've seen little about it in the mainstream press. It also could be a flop. Hell, it might even be a hoax. But if the Chinese pull this off and we leave behind the perils of nuclear fission reactors with their incredible radiation problems, and develop something that turns hydrogen into helium and a lot of energy, this could be the breakthrough we have to have. Of course, all that helium and humanity could start sounding funny, but wouldn't you love to tell the oil producing nations of the world to stick it, even if it's in a high squeaky voice? That's what we may have with this, which is why I am hoping the Chinese artificial sun experiment on Science Island is a big success. Even if it sounds crazy just writing the phrase.
China to test its 'artificial sun'

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Part 2: The Virginia Series: The Bob Dole Conversation

Bob Dole was in the news today, cracking jokes and showing emotion at the hanging of his portrait in the Capitol. I always liked him and I knew something long before the voters in his presidential run: He was funny. I actually kidded around with Bob Dole well before most Americans knew he had a sense of humor. I was in a hallway with him, and remembered to shake his left hand as the other was badly damaged from his war wounds. (That's why he always carries a pen in that hand.) I always tried to be funny around big-shots - for some reason I don't feel intimidated in the least, and am more likely to be shy around someone I've known for years. Anyway, I told him he looked a lot better than he did on C-Span surrounded by the rest of Congress, and that cracked him up. We had a fun conversation, and yes, it was weird knowing I had written some of the jokes about him on national TV - a fact I didn't mention. I also said to myself, "My God, why doesn't the guy show this side of his personality to the American Public?" Wasn't that weird how he assumed such a dour persona throughout most of his career, and then after it was over, he loosened up and became much more popular? It's a lesson to politicians and anyone in the public eye. He used to be lambasted on SNL for being grumpy and repetitive, and to an extent, it was accurate. I know he set an unbreakable record for the number of times he used the phrase, "In my view". But seeing him on the news today, brought back another memory from right after the talk I had with Bob Dole in the hallway. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my mother, Virginia, that said a lot about her as well as Bob Dole himself.
Now, you have to know that my Mom was the ultimate softie - she would literally apologize to a fly before swatting it. But she was a World War 2 Red Cross Recreation Worker so she was also the ultimate in emotional strength. Men don't have emotional strength like this. She could walk into a room and no matter how bad things were, you'd feel better. You'd feel stronger emotionally. So I asked her about Bob Dole and to my surprise she was not that impressed. She said, "I knew a lot of men who were hurt a lot worse, and handled it a lot better." Hurt a lot worse? First of all, do you know how long Bob Dole was in the hospital after he was wounded? 39 months. And Virginia knew a lot of men who were hurt more than that? It must have been horrific. But I was surprised when she said she had known a lot of soldiers who had handled it better. I said, "Mom, I mean the guy did go on to be a Senator. He did pretty well." But she was talking about his emotional recovery and she wasn't impressed. Now, you have to remember she was saying this out of total love. I mean these were the GIs of World War 2. Long before my brother and I came along, these were her boys. So I filed that comment away and every time I saw Bob Dole on TV it became clearer. There was an element of hurt there, that hadn't been addressed correctly. Now, it's not anyone's fault, and it certainly doesn't detract one bit from Bob Dole - a man we all should greatly admire. But I began to realize what she was talking about, especially when he would say things like he never looks at his body in the mirror. There are some bitter, painful issues there. I also realized something else. If only my Mom had been on his ward, he would have had a much better recovery emotionally. She would have sat there and talked to him, till he had worked it out. It would have been heavy doses of love, but also a lot of "You have got to shape up, young man." I've heard the voice. Bob Dole is an American hero but so was my Mom, and as well as Bob Dole did in life, he had yet to impress Virginia by getting over his wounds emotionally and moving on.

A Code Beyond Genetics? Wow, Back to School Everyone

I was a little humbled today when I decided to enter the phrase "The Worst Generation" in my search engine and got over 12 million sites. I had even gone so far as to think someone could write a book along those lines only to read that there are books and articles galore with the phrase in them. Oh well. It's the "Whateverly Brothers" thing all over again. I was in a duo by that name, only to hear about another duo called that back East. It's not hard to imagine especially when it's a reaction to something else. In that case, it was a bounce off the Everly Brothers, and boy, did I feel sheepish when the real ones came out at a Simon and Garfunkel concert I attended. In this case, Tom Brokaw coined the phrase "The Greatest Generation", and everyone's bouncing off that with "The Worst Generation" idea. I never thought of it before, because I never felt that way about my group till recently. I mean really recently, like yesterday. My real education in simultaneous inspiration came when I sent a joke into the Tonight Show after a governor - I believe in Arizona - was put in jail. I imagined how it would be if you were on death row waiting for a reprieve phone call from the governor and you saw him in the next cell. The joke came on, with almost my exact wording. In those days, I would call each time I thought I had one, and when they said it was someone else, I pressed a little, for the first and only time. That's when my contact down there said, "I think we received 12 versions of that joke." So it's not all lighting bolts in the forehead, folks. I did have one in the Sunday Oregonian this past week, so I'm still getting it done, but life can be a series of little moments when you're schooled, and this was another.
This leads directly into today's science topic: A new type of information code beyond DNA. The reason I love this is that creationists always point to the unlikeliness of the various proteins lining up by chance. It's a valid point. The numbers they throw around are huge, but they're all based on what we know. I'm always impressed at how little we really do know about this stuff. There's even a chance of consciousness in mere rocks, but I can't go there just yet. I will say the stuff the quantum physicists are openly discussing is so far out there, it makes a rock that thinks seem reasonable. On the other end of the debate, Creationists always are trying to disprove Darwin, which is ridiculous because we've moved way past that. His theories of how evolution works are long gone. Genetic information can be passed around by viruses and other means. It's not about survival of the fittest. It's more like sharing a good book. Darwin's idea was a starting point that ironically didn't survive. So what do we have here today? An entire information code of patterns that we didn't even know about. It takes any argument on how cells came into being and puts it back in kindergarten. Kindergarten? We're in pre-school here. Today the universe pulled another mystery out of the hat. The bigger question is did the hat belong to God?
Scientists Say They%u2019ve Found a Code Beyond Genetics in DNA - New York Times

Comedian Dwight Slade: Major Appearance This Thursday

When last we heard from Dwight Slade he was riding helicopters around Afghanistan entertaining our troops in the middle of a war zone. But now it gets really tough: This Thursday night he performs in Beaverton at the Comedy Club Westside, 8775 SW Canyon Ln. The reason is to prepare for his next gig: One month in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Comedy Festival Fringe 2006. Afghanistan, Scotland? Dwight - listen to me, bro - it might be time to get another agent. Whatever happened to a weekend gig in Vegas? Oh well. It's tough on him, but it's great for Portland. For a mere 3 bucks, you can arrive at 8, get your swerve on(whatever that means), and then listen to Dwight for an hour starting at 9. No opening acts, just the Scotland Show debuted. Which is easier? Catching him here in Beaverton or flying to Edinburgh in August?

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Worst Generation

I had a moment of moral clarity today and it was not pretty. I thought back to a defining time in my young life when I was attending a party on a patio in 6th grade. I looked around at my classmates and thought to myself, "We're going to be in real trouble when this group takes over." It wasn't that we were young and our parents were old. They just seemed like a different species. They were serious to the point of being morose and I wasn't wowed by their sense of humor. They talked about the Great Depression and the Great War and none of it sounded that great. They played bridge, drank way too much, and made puns. Frankly, I didn't get it. It wasn't till years later when I saw a Woody Allen movie that I even realized adults could be funny. But I knew they could be trusted to run the world. They were responsible like I never even thought of being. I knew at a young age that my group of wise-ass cut-ups had no business running anything. We could barely decorate a prom. It wouldn't matter what came our way - we were going to screw it up and then some. Everything was given to us so nothing was taken seriously. It was like we were the designated generation to have fun. Our systems were calibrated for it. While other generations plowed fields and built roadways, we hit the beach, got stoned, and rocked out. For many years it was a formula with no downside. Sure, some young lives were snuffed out by the excesses of drugs, but in general we got in a couple of the best decades ever experienced on this planet, before being forced by cruel circumstance into growing up. And that's when the trouble started. That's when the real-life grown-ups began dying off and the fake little fun-loving party boys and girls began playing pretend-adult. It was our turn to run the world.
Do you realize how immature this Clinton versus Bush argument sounds? We sound like a bunch of spoiled brats in the back of a station wagon, bickering. "Clinton sucks." "No, Bush sucks."
Meanwhile the truth is, WE suck. This generation sucks. You were loads of fun to party with but now that I've seen us in action, it's starting to be a horrible feeling. We go right on sniping at each other while the station wagon is heading off a cliff. We've taken the spoils that our parents sweated to give us, turned America into the richest most materialistic orgy in human history and now we're spending the money our children and grandchildren need for themselves. It's really been a shabby performance up till now, and I don't see any hope of a reversal. Clinton, with his sensory overload hound-dog routine splattering his sperm over the countryside.... Have a little class, for Christ sake. Hire hookers like JFK or bang starlets like Marilyn Monroe. But to go around humping everything you can get your immature, selfish, fun-loving hands on? That's so typical of my people. Then along comes George who prepared for the presidency by being a coke-sniffing, partying drunken fool. The only calling he heard was "Last Call" and the only moral high ground he was on was a barstool. The only noteworthy thing he ever accomplished on his own was to become the most immature 60-year-old man in human history. We've got a President whose #1 agenda is to ride his bicycle. Meanwhile, Clinton turned in some numbers that we'd die for now, but his example as the Human Penis turned off so many people, that it gave a bona fide moron a shot at driving the station wagon. Well, guess what happened? Everything got all screwed up. I knew it would be bad. I didn't know it would be this bad. I didn't know we'd be the Worst Generation - that our actions could cause the greatest country in history to collapse. That's one reason why our parents had that serious side. They saw it. They new what we were capable of down the road. You don't think poor George Sr. - the First President Bush - and Barbara don't say a silent prayer each and everytime their head hits the pillow: "Dear Lord, Please don't let the boy mess up again." Most of our parents are gone now. There's no one to take responsibility. We're in charge and America is slipping to her knees like a fat intern in the Oval Office.

Tired of Chicken-Hawk Phonies and Their Sheep-Like Followers? Let's Listen to a Real Patriot

Okay, today's subject is distrusting your government and I'm bringing in the real thing - my Mom. Tiger Wood's emotional outburst after winning the British Open reminded me so much of what I went through last year when my Mom died. Tiger showed how deeply you can feel the loss of a parent, but it was one word that reminded me of another aspect of the process. He said the experience had been "interesting". That's exactly what I thought, because you suddenly saw yourself reacting in ways you had rarely seen. It's like these deep emotions you didn't even know you possessed came up from the depths of some psychic ocean and swam around on the surface for a few months before drifting back down to where they are now. In a way I miss the intense part of the grieving process and maybe it's the weirdness of being out of control. Whatever. Now to the credentials:
The reason my Mother was older than most of the other kids' mothers was that she spent part of her 20s in the Red Cross serving overseas in hospital wards during World War 2. She was a recreation worker which meant talking with soldiers right after they had been wounded in some of the most famous battles in history. As a result she was carrying around a lot of pain from what she had seen in those wards. She barely mentioned it to me my entire upbringing. However in her later years she began to open up. It was like she was saying, “Okay, 50 years have passed. I’m ready to talk about it now.” She told me she still couldn’t watch any ceremony on TV with American soldiers and the flag. It moved her too much. It brought back too many memories from World War 2. This wasn't the patriotism of the blustery right wing talk show hosts like Lars Larson, who never served in the military. Or David Reinhard, who I bet never served in a combat zone either. And it certainly wasn't the phony tough guy act Cheney and Bush have been running the last few years.
During her Red Cross years, Virginia helped many soldiers. There were the soldiers who were just beginning to realize that their futures had been changed forever by their wounds, men who could have easily become locked into bitterness and anger or feeling sorry for themselves. I believe that by being there at this critical time, giving emotional support and courage, Virginia had a positive impact on these men that would last them the rest of their lives. And believe me, I can imagine my Mom telling them, “We’re all sorry this happened to you but you’ve got to pull yourself together, young man, and go on.” But there was another group of soldiers; soldiers who were not out of immediate danger. Soldiers who needed to have a strong attitude not to live out their lives back in the States, but just to make it through the week. These men couldn’t afford to feel despair right then. They needed to be strong to fight through infections and other medical complications. They needed to be strong to survive. I have no doubt that Virginia with her presence and sheer goodness, saved some of these soldiers from death. Just as surely as the doctors treated their physical bodies with transfusions of blood, Virginia helped save their lives with transfusions of strength.
It’s ridiculous that the word hero only applies to men. And by the way, if we’re going to have a word for heroic women can we do better than heroine? I mean come on. Well, it might not be correct English but it’s true: By helping save the lives of these men, my Mom was an American hero. To this day there are thousands of families across America who had a relative helped by my Mom, even if it was just to be there as they lay dying.
Recently in this country there has been a wave of inexplicable support for the Bush administration. Apparently certain members of our society have gotten the words wrong, and recite the pledge of allegiance directly to our current President. The sad part is that they think they're being patriotic so it might be useful to bring in a real patriot to show you what being an American is really about. And joy of joys, dear right wing readers, it happened during the Clinton Years - a time you love to focus on. Wait, here's one interesting tidbit relayed to me by my Mom, before we start: Did you know our troops in Europe were aware that General Eisenhower was playing around - that he had a mistress? That's something to keep in mind next time you're revisiting your glory years of sniffing around in Bill Clinton's shorts.
Okay, so here comes the point to all this. I was talking to my Mom about the War in Kosovo, which was happening at that time. I said I was amazed that we could fight a war and only lose 2 soldiers.
She said, "If you believe what the government is telling us." What's this? A rebellious attitude from a silver-haired lady? Do you realize how awkward it is when you realize your Mom is hipper than you are? So here we had a super-patriot not willing to buy everything the temporary occupiers of the White House dished out. It's called being "ever vigilant" in guarding our liberty. That's something to keep in mind next time you pledge your allegiance to President Bush and attack any dissent as being the griping of traitors.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Kill Unless George Says It's Okay

Here's a couple of pages from the British daily "The Independent" this week. I assume the one picture is from Lebanon, but it could be from Iraq. I was always fascinated by the Fundamentalist Christians in charge of America and their ability to ignore simple Commandments like "Thou Shalt Not Kill". They just seemed too eager to do it - even lying to accomplish what I thought they'd see as sins. Maybe it was the power rush - who knows? Actually, I wasn't that surprised. Religious people always have seemed to me to be able to grant themselves all kinds of exemptions from their own beliefs. Why? Because they were religious and therefore it was okay. The Bible also contains a lot of imagery of a flock, but I don't think it means to follow your authoritarian rulers like sheep, when you know they are killing and it's not in self defense. Israel at least could make that argument when this all started - and they did. But what about us? What about our many fine Christians - some fighting legal battles to display the same 10 Commandments that they decided not to follow in Iraq? This wasn't self defense and you know it. There were no rockets coming down on us from Iraq. We were responding to the possibility of needing to defend ourselves in the future, by killing today. We attacked based on lies and the supporters of the Bush administration were all too willing to turn their backs on their religious beliefs as long as the children who were dying weren't American. If God exists, I doubt he, she, or it makes that distinction. Or to put it in your terms: Repent before you spend the rest of eternity in Hell for what you've done. Gee, it feels fun to say the powerful stuff. Following the Prince of Peace instead of the Cowboy of War is a little tougher for you, isn't it? What about George's famous moral clarity when it comes to Thou Shalt Not Kill? What shepherd did President Bush's flock of sheep follow into Iraq? Go ahead. Quote me the Psalm about Preemptive Strikes.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

President Bush: My Opinion Clock Has Run Out

There is a certain amount of gleeful rehabilitation of President Bush's image this week by his puppy-love admirers, over his support of Israel versus Lebanon. The message is, "Even when President Bush gets it right, his detractors don't like it." Bill Maher jumped in to say how much he enjoyed supporting the President on this. Others say being Israel's bomb supplier in the bloodbath in Lebanon, might not be appropriate, or beneficial to the long-term interests of the United States. So how do I feel about President Bush after this week? Is my "blind hatred" as his blogging friends like to assert, preventing me from admitting that President Bush is right on this? How does this change my opinion of him? My answer is that it doesn't. Not one bit. Just as my opinion of OJ Simpson is not going to change if I heard he was really nice to the next 10 waiters he met, or if I heard OJ is really sweet to his girlfriend now. My clock on OJ Simpson's worth stopped running a couple of years after Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson were slashed to death. Unlike many, I couldn't really believe OJ did it till well after most other people. I thought I knew the guy, but once the realization hit, I wasn't going to change.
That's part of the opinion process - the final verdict. There are 6.5 billion of us, and every now and then you look at an individual and say, "Frankly, I don't care if they cure cancer, I have seen enough. This is a scoundrel here." With President Bush and his little Chicken Hawk buddy Dick Cheney, the War in Iraq stopped the clock on my opinion process. Once you deliberately lie the American People into a War getting thousands of young soldiers killed or badly wounded, what you do after that, doesn't really matter. My opinion of you isn't going to change much. The fact that the sheep in Congress didn't impeach these maniacs over it, is besides the point. Getting away with it, doesn't make any difference. Hell, OJ got away with it. I carry around a certain sense of quiet rage that the system hasn't worked to deliver justice to OJ, and I feel the same way about Bush and Cheney. The War in Iraq was enough of a character test for me. I have my final verdict. So to answer the question, "Would it change your opinion of President Bush is he did something right?" Nope. And I apologize for bringing up such a farfetched hypothetical.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Portland Freelancer Becomes That Guy on the News

I didn't want to be that guy. You know the one. The guy who gets his snow tires put on on the day of the big storm. Or the guy on the news driving around looking for air conditioners on the first day of the big heat wave. I don't play that. I don't move with the procrastinating herd. I'm a maverick and by God, I go my own way when I damn well want to go. So let me tell you why I bought an air conditioner today. I walked into Fred's and there was a big pile of them. This one dude was already snatching one up, and I felt like the shopper in Moscow the day the Levis finally arrived. "I thought the whole city was out of those?", I asked the clerk. "We got a new supply last night." Suddenly, I decided to be that guy and spend the hottest day of the year so far installing an air conditioner. It would be a nice move for the wife and when you're a person like me, you have to do nice things just to break even. The installation was hellish, of course, featuring rebuilding the window frame into the right shape before I could even begin, but the new unit's up there right now, heading for 72 degrees and I can't wait for my wife to come home. Last week, upon returning from a gig at Pioneer Square, I accidentally swung some musical gear and took out one of her beloved plants shattering the colored pottery container on the front stairs. This is why I have to do nice things. I'm usually trying to catch up. In fact bringing in the air conditioner I gave the new replacement pottery a good slam and almost knocked that off. Oh well, I never said I was perfect. The part I do like is that I've been selling jokes about how hot it is, and I'm using the proceeds to buy an air conditioner and fight the heat. That works in a "Little House on the Prairie" way. Oh well, hope you're keeping cool. I can't wait for my wife to get home. This will be great.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Portland Freelancer Offers You Relief from the Heat

How hot is it? It's so hot Al Gore just broke off a piece of a glacier and put it in his shorts. It’s so hot ice cream trucks now have emergency sirens on them. It’s so hot, Ken Lay’s glad he’s in hell. It’s so hot, Johnny Depp's next movie will be "Pirates of Antarctica". Yes, it is warm, but grieve not. The Portland Freelancer is looking out for you.

David Reinhard Vaults into Lead in Oregonian's Dumbness Contest

Okay, I think I'm onto the Oregonian. Perhaps it's the summer doldrums or the heat, but I believe they're holding a secret contest among the staff as to who can write the dumbest sentence of the month. Peter Ames Carlin was clearly in the lead with his blog question, "Is it acceptable to pay a hooker in cocaine?", but when it comes to sheer dumbness nobody down there can touch David Reinhard. I've come to expect stupid blustery headlines from him, like "On the Ground in Baghdad", when he's actually sitting at his desk in SW Portland. That's why I didn't even blink at today's headline: "Let there be peace in the Mideast, but not just yet". David, some of us have been following this problem for decades, and one thing we never worry about is peace breaking out too soon. Can you say "intractable"?
So let's not even count the headline, which - to be fair - could have been a joint effort of the Oregonian's editorial brain trust. No, we're going to skip right to the text and a gem from this paragraph in which General Reinhard is looking ahead to the cessation of the latest fighting between Israel and Lebanon. He writes, "When will that time come? Sometime after Israel destroys the Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon -- its headquarters, weapons stockpiles and supply networks -- and before Israeli military operations there reach a point of diminishing returns in terms of international and Lebanese opinion. Not a moment sooner, not a moment later." Let's look at the point of diminishing returns in terms of Lebanese opinion. Apparently, the Lebanese are still enjoying the attack but David sees a point sometime in the future when they might turn against it. You know how fickle people are. One week they're in favor of the bombs and the brutal deaths of their countrymen, and then the next, they just don't seem as enthused. Maybe they're undecided right now. Maybe they're not sure how they feel about it. David thinks we should keep track in case this doubt turns to all-out "hating it".
David, if that's what you're waiting on - an opinion poll of the Lebanese people - I can pretty much guarantee that they'd like the shelling to stop right now. I can also guarantee you first place in the contest for dumbest sentence by an Oregonian columnist, but who knows? Peter Ames Carlin is just getting started.

Stem Cell Veto and the Summer of 2001

It's interesting what will trigger a memory. For example this Stem Cell Veto propelled my mind back to the summer of 2001, when President Bush was vacationing for a month down in Texas, and ignoring memos with titles like, "Osama Intends to Attack the United States, So Stop Clearing Brush at Your Ranch and Pay Attention". He did venture to the microphones to announce a decision on stem cell research, and with the morally decisive leadership of a man who's not just pretending to be religious, but actually means it, he announced a Kerry-like attempt to have it both ways, or as I wrote at the time, "The benefits of stem cells are potentially so fantastic that making a principled stand against them might cause a loss of support. President Bush sure figured that out this summer when he said stem cell research was abhorrent but we’ll continue doing it with the lines we already have. This Texas-sized straddling of the issue proved he could read polls, too." It was true, for all you moral clarity fans: The President tried to please everyone with a compromise of his "values." Almost immediately stories began to emerge about the poor quality of the stem cell lines Bush wanted us to use - mainly that they had been mixed with mice cells. That led to my following piece called "Of Mice and Men": Last week the Washington Post had an interesting story saying that all 60 of the famous stem cell lines had most likely been mixed with the cells of mice. Something about these mice “feeder” cells keeps the stem cells healthy although they don’t know what it is. Visions shot through my head of the consequences: “Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we can now cure your son of his disease, however, he will develop a strong fear of cats.”
Every bad science fiction movie has one guy in a leading role who makes a plan. Even as the audience hears it they groan, knowing it can’t possibly come off. Okay, maybe if things went perfectly, but there’s always one additional development usually performed by an incompetent assistant who goes to the lab and gets the wrong brain. Cut to the scene of the horrified townspeople fleeing.
The impressive thing about President George W. Bush is that there is no part in a science fiction movie he couldn’t play. In fact, the hardest thing for the audience to accept would be that he’s the guy in charge. That would be a real stretch. The only way it would work is if you had a few scenes of how his father used to be the main man. That’s it. His father was the brilliant scientist and his son is less gifted but uses his family connections to take over the castle. It’s implausible but they just might go for it. Especially if the castle had a Supreme Court.
Less of a tough sell would be convincing the audience that he could play the bumbling assistant. Just put Dick Cheney in the lead role, and you might be closer to reality than many people want to think. George is a man who can play the klutz. If he helps build a house for poor people, for instance, you just know George is going to hit himself with a hammer. Heck, it already happened.
Finally, the easiest scenario: That this man had been given it all. Okay, not an education or anything, but he’d been set up with dubious business partnerships and sweetheart deals to claim a place of real power. Then at the last moment there was a horrible mistake: he accidentally received the wrong brain. Don’t try to tell me the audience wouldn’t buy into that.
So our science fiction movie is underway and the President is about to announce his decision in the little speech from the ranch. Does he mention that the stem lines are all mixed up with mice cells? No, the point is to sell the plan and deal with the consequences later.
Those consequences could be varied. For example, we might have to change a certain holiday poem: “It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse/human hybrid.”
To assuage our fears, scientists have pointed out that pig cells have already been placed in a man’s brain with only subtle changes. For example, the man used to love exotic dancing, but since he got the pig tissue, he’s now more into mud wrestling.
Oh yeah, the horrified townspeople fleeing? That would be us."
Ahh, the memories. Of course 9/11 happened the next month and this was forgotten. But the Stem Cell Veto reminded me of the time President Bush stood stall in the saddle and tried to ride forward facing the horse's ass.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Peter Ames Carlin Caves to the Man! Lenny Bruce Credentials Revoked!

I love it when would-be comedy writers finally get their shot. Take the Oregonian's Peter Ames Carlin, stuck in the mundane job of analyzing the TV industry. I exchanged emails with him once about Leno and I got the impression he was very disappointed about the Lenny Bruce quotient. It was clear to me that Carlin disapproved that the late night monologues didn't reach his level of hipness. See, you have to know the gig. I write for hundreds of DJs and the last thing I want is an email saying I got one of them fired. I have seen Leno apologize for a factual error in one of my jokes, and that wasn't pleasant either. So, part of comedy writing is being confidant enough in your own level of inner dorkiness, to be able to write for a client without causing a big apology scenario. You would think being a TV-industry analyst, Carlin would have some understanding of that. Hell, even Lenny Bruce - who used to go on TV too - understood that.
But no. Then a break came; a way to right this wrong through the blog world. Peter finally got a shot to cut loose. To share his comedic gifts with the world. In this post, copied from the OMI site, he was bemoaning how his Oregonian-related blog hadn't been linked. Well, why don't we all just read it together: ....."Oh sure, there's one link on the TV page (the one that has yrs truly's name with a vestigial hyphen between his 'Ames' and his 'Carlin') but still nothing on the blog page. Let alone the O-Live front page, which may be asking way too much. News priorities, and all.
And yet my colleagues down here urge me to turn the phantom-ness of my blog into a strength. Or an experiment, at least. Like for instance, what kind of messed-up stuff could I put into this space, and get away with it? And wouldn't it be easy, seeing as no one but me is reading it?
Here are the top candidates:
1. Hello?
2. Please call an ambulance, I need help. Right now.
3. Is it acceptable to pay a hooker in cocaine?
4. No. Really. Hello?
5. Anyone know how to get blood out of carpet?
6. I'll give $1,000, cash, to the first person to write in.
7. Hellllllllooooooooooo?
8. I've fallen and I can't get up.
9. What are you wearing?
10. Is this thing on?

So we have an Oregonian columnist posing the question "Is it acceptable to pay a hooker in cocaine?" Peter Ames Carlin had finally arrived. He had showed how hip he really was. His Lenny Bruce quotient was soaring! For one brief shining moment all was well in the comedy universe. This is where the Oregonian complains but Carlin says, "Screw you. This is my right to talk. You can arrest me if you want. I'll show you just like Lenny Bruce showed you!" Well, no actually, that's not how the story ends. Here's our cutting edge's comment today from the Oregonian's site, complete with a cute little bit about superegos and other Reader's Digest type stuff: "Juvenile and Beneath Me
Let's say you don't have your own superego. That's the part of your psyche that tells your wilder, crazier id part when to pipe down and stop causing trouble. So you definitely want one, lest you become Charlie Sheen or something. And if you don't have your own you should maybe find someone else who can perform that function for you. Someone with common sense, say. So the one I have on staff took a look at some recent work of mine that appeared in this space and rendered a judgment. See also: the title to this entry. And upon further reflection my highly functioning id has seen the light, identified it as such, and feeling chastened, has returned to the proper course. Hence the disappearance of previously posted materials. Back to show business as usual, and let's never speak of this again."

Dude, what happened? Is that the sound of you backing down to the Man! Take my advice. Forget about the desperate comedy writer bit, and stick to writing about "Desperate Housewives".

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How Hezbollah Is Proving My Point About President Bush

If I were living in one house in a neighborhood and someone started lobbing rocks at me, I would have to deal with it. I would want to deal with it. That's self-defense and I completely get it. I understand Israel's position on this - it's how I would react and how I did react one time when a neighbor's kid started lobbing rocks hitting my next door neighbor's truck and nearly hitting me. Now I didn't go completely crazy and destroy the whole neighborhood in response, killing innocents for blocks. No, I chased the kid down right to his own house and had a talk with his parents. This is an analogy, but it also happened in real life. That's what made it so interesting to hear President Bush just now condemning Hezbollah. What about the famous Bush Doctrine also known as the Law of the Jungle? If Hezbollah felt Israel was thinking about attacking them at some point in the future, with weapons that may or may not be built yet, under the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Strike they are right to attack. If the kid in my neighborhood claimed he felt threatened by what my neighbor or I might do someday, according to President Bush, the kid would be justified and right to throw rocks at me - unless Bush believes America gets to do whatever it wants but everyone else has to follow the rules. He doesn't think that, does he? It was interesting hearing President Bush talk about the concept of reacting in self defense - how much he believes in the principle of it. If he only could have followed it himself, we wouldn't be in Iraq right now. Hezbollah is all the proof we need that the Bush Doctrine of unprovoked preemptive strikes is madness. Hezbollah and President Bush are both wrong to act that way, as was the kid in my neighborhood. As dangerous as it is, it's still safer to live in a world where you wait till you're attacked before you attack someone else. It's called deterrence. Both Hezbollah and President Bush should pay for violating that law.

Air Show Pilot Receives Portland Freelancer's Highest Award

Anytime you attend an event and as a direct result, they start talking about canceling the event forever, that deserves some recognition. That didn't even happen at my Prom. This is why I've granted the air show pilot the Portland Freelancer Award, for taking a scorched earth approach to the simple rules of polite social behavior. For example, it's always annoying when people just drop in. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, some background on the award: From the time we were kids most of us have gone off to events with a cheerful farewell from Mom, and some advice: "Don't forget to say thank you" or "Make them glad you came." Despite this advice, some of us still fail to make a good impression. Sometimes there's an awkward reaction to our presence. Sometimes we act rudely and are thrown off the premises. A lot goes into being a good guest. This pilot, for example, failed to execute a key step in all social events: The graceful departure. There are many other ways for things to go wrong. One of the great institutions of social calamity used to be the office party. I personally witnessed a plastered executive end his career one night. He was given the job of arranging the picture-taking session, and he approached it like it was the Invasion of Normandy, ordering everyone around and making a gigantic fool of himself. Before it was over there was a sort of reception line of people extending their condolences to his wife. Indeed, office parties have recently generated so many lawsuits that corporations are shying away entirely, preferring a brunch or just canceling. So somewhere out there, I'm sure a party-goer has arrived at a Holiday event, behaved inappropriately, and then left on a Police Forklift. Who knows? The behavior could have resulted in a company's cancellation of all future parties of this type. In fact, I know it's happened, because I was present at one. After that night, we all got gift certificates the next year in lieu of a celebration. You might ask if this should get a shot at the same award? The answer is no. As with all things related to alcohol - the details sound funnier than it really was in person, and no awards will be granted for this sort of behavior.
But to take down an event the size of the air show? To make so many people say "Never again" by the simple presence of one man? That is amazing. That is literally having an impact. You know you have made a bad impression when it's in the ground. And you can really tell when some people won't be invited back. Now, I don't wish to diminish the man's death. He died doing something he loved, and except for the destroyed home, and the other damaged ones, no one else was hurt. Yes, the plane was old, but let's be clear: Despite the rumors, it is not true that it flew in the War of 1812. Okay, I'll admit it: This incident was mostly bad, but I'm sorry - I have to admire the scale. Let me try one more time. Let's say you show up at an event, and participate. One way to tell it didn't go that great is if an entire metropolitan area winds up debating whether to have this event ever again....I tell you, in my world of social skills, that is award-winning stuff. So from everybody who ever had an awkward moment in third grade or got tossed out of a bar, we salute this pilot. Well done. You might have said thank you before your departure, but I doubt if too many people are glad you came.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Newt Gingrich: Pompous Prick Reinvents Himself as a Visionary

Have you ever heard Newt Gingrich speak in person? Most of the information has been gleaned from other sources and assembled with the care of a college professor giving a lecture, which is what he used to do. I didn't sense anything original from the guy - just a carefully crafted set of data he read somewhere, that was designed to impress and even inspire the audience. At the end, I found myself wondering if that was his true strength as a right wing intellectual. Of course, Newt sees himself as much more - he's in the vision business. He's not a mediocre college professor giving us a lecture. No, while the rest of us are mucking about in the present, Newt is already on to tomorrow. Newt is a politician no more - now he's a soothsayer. That's why his site is called, "Winning the Future". Meanwhile, what he really is - and what he will always be - is a prick. That's what drove his political career. That was his strength - not this vision stuff. To me he seemed like a mean, immature guy who existed on the ability to convince his followers that he was smart - without really bringing much to the table. Now that his bloated bully act has worn out, and the Contract for America stuff is fading in light of the horrendous job his party is doing running Congress, Newt has tried to reinvent himself from prick to prophet. I mean winning the future? It has that pseudo-heavy sound of so many of his points. But the thing about the future is you never really get there. And neither does Newt. This weekend he trotted out his new pet theory that we are in World War 3. This amused me because once again he has taken an idea and presented it as if he has a grip that the rest of us don't have - as if he can see ahead and grasp what we will only understand later. Meanwhile, President Bush made the exact same comment about the War on Terrorism as World War 3, weeks ago. When you're taking ideas from President Bush it's time to dust off the old crystal ball. Newt has a good rap - he can bring it with the talking points but he is essentially a mean phony loser. And don't get me started on the family values angle. So I was amused to hear Newt flaming this weekend with his self-important "Winning the Future", college professor jive. I was even more amused just now when I read that former CIA Director James Woolsley said this is actually World War 4. So Newt's borrowed vision lasted all of one day. Do I hear World War 5 anyone?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's Not Bob Dylan But It's Still a Great Line

As a columnist I avoided quoting other people. It's just too easy. But something about spreading old wisdom on the Internet works. Here's a great quote from James Madison so let the blog go forth: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

A Child in the War Zone

Pictures of dead babies in a war zone are always very tough, but it's the look in the eyes of this young boy that will be even more difficult to forget.

The Lighter Notes at Pioneer Square

Today we start a new series on the Portland Freelancer: Rating the backstage pass. I give this one from the Lighter Notes performance at Sand in the City this weekend an 8. It looks terrific, but "Entertainer" just assumes too much. You can practically hear the crowd saying, "Let us be the judge of that." Grieve not though, for there has only been one backstage pass that's rated a perfect 10 and that was for Ringo at the Schnitz. Let's just say it's an unusual feeling when you're right offstage and a Beatle is looking at you, wondering what you're doing there. Speaking of other bands, Portland continues to amaze me. Every band I saw this year absolutely kicked ass, and yes, it was slightly irritating. This one guy who I believe was named Big Money played slide guitar better than anyone I've ever heard in person, and I'd go further but you'd accuse me of hyperbole. Okay, I'll say it. He played better slide than Duane Allman, whom I only heard on records. I will say Duane had a better sound but who can beat "One Way Out" at the Fillmore? Still, what a monster this guy was - literally frightening considering a couple of bands later I would be on the same stage, also playing slide guitar. With the slide, the first rule is do no harm. Then take it slowly up in degrees of difficulty. This guy shot past my favorites including Bonnie Raitt, etc...and quite frankly scared the living daylights out of me. Wow, was he good. And speaking of daylight - Sand in the City had great weather this year. Although the castles can handle rain, who wants to go there? In closing, this was a great cause - "Kids on the Block". The Lighter Notes were glad to help out.

Army Chief of Staff Better Get with the Program

What the hell kind of answer is this? When Congress asked the Army's Chief of Staff General Peter J. Shoomaker if we were winning in Iraq, he waited awhile, then said, "I think I would answer that by telling you I don't think we're losing." Are you kidding me? Why not just go with, "That depends on what your definition of victory is"? Then he went on: "The challenge … is becoming more complex, and it's going to continue to be. That's why I'll tell you I think we're closer to the beginning than we are to the end of all this." Wow, what did you do with the memo? And what did you do with the other memo about 2006 being an election year? How long after that particular performance do you think it was till he was in Rumsfeld's office getting chewed out? Of course, we're winning in Iraq. Nearer the beginning than the end? Are you crazy? The American People don't want to hear that. We are moments away from a glorious victory that establishes a domino effect in the Middle East, spreading democracy and freedom throughout the region. How bad is it when someone this high up declines to lie and misrepresent the situation? Rumsfeld must be going nuts. Okay, that was before this, but this isn't helping. Repeat after me, everyone: Iraq is going great and the only reason the American People don't understand that is that the media never tells us the good side of the story, got it? Not only that but Cindy Sheehan and John Murtha are taking a terrific plan and screwing it up. Are we clear, everyone? I don't want to have to go through this again every few weeks. And to the General: Good luck in the Aleutian Islands. Don't forget to bring a parka. Is U.S. Winning? Army Chief Is at a Loss - Los Angeles Times

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Are the Stars Out Tonight?

Here's a picture with a million stars in it. This is the center of our galaxy taken in infrared. Of course, most religions teach that it's all about us, but these ancient codes were written before pictures like this. I don't care how moved you are by the spirit; if you can believe all these were set there as a backdrop for our lives, then you are on a serious ego trip.

The United States Is Heading for Bankruptcy

One of the dumbest things said by anyone in the Bush administration, was uttered by Grandfather Darkness himself - Dick Cheney - when he said, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Of course, he meant they can't hurt you in an election because the public seems overwhelmed by the numbers - these guys never think in terms of what is good for the future of the country. It's all about the immediate spin. Every now and then I've been seeing these reports about the financial condition of the United States, especially in regards to unfunded financial commitments that we've already made. Here's one of those articles for you to ponder. Of course, anyone who brings this up is trying to "talk down the economy", but it's important to remember that the Soviet Union fell apart financially from within. That's how they ended their superpower status. We are in the process of doing the same. Deficits do matter, and though President Bush has turned in some terrific numbers for the top 1% of Americans - numbers vast enough for the entire economy to appear great, here's the real situation: The majority of Americans are not doing that much better, the financial well-being of the nation is headed for collapse, and Bush and Cheney couldn't care less. It's always been about the feeling of power for Cheney and Rumsfeld, and once they are gone, America's solvency means nothing to them. Oh sure, they would prefer we did well, but none of their actions seem to indicate it. Deficits do matter. Reagan ran up two trillion in debt and got away with it, but that's not the result of clever financial management - we still haven't paid it off. It's a result of a Republican spin machine that keeps selling Reagan as a terrific President. If America doesn't correct its path, we will go bankrupt, and implode as a superpower. By then - also courtesy of President Bush - we will have to pay for the fact that much of the world now hates us. It's not a pretty scenario but these are ugly times. Cheney will go down as one of the true idiot-villains in American History. It could turn out the thing he did best was fire a shotgun.

Telegraph | Money | US 'could be going bankrupt'

Friday, July 14, 2006

New Nation Proposed in Oregon

I don't like those international analogies to describe the Middle East: "It'd be like Canada firing rockets at Buffalo, New York." But what I really don't like is the American refusal to understand why the Palestinians became pissed off back in 1947, and remain that way till this day. You get comments saying they must not be rational - they're religious fanatics. Now as an American, I have no right to criticize what essentially was a land grab. In fact as a human being, I can't criticize it. That's how the world was settled and populated. We took America from the Indians, so who am I to cast blame? "Might makes Right" really does explain the migrations of people on earth. It was a part of the process in getting to know our home planet. The only really irritating part is when people try and pretend it's something that it's not. By now, most land disputes have been settled and things are under some kind of rule of law. There are still some areas of contention like Kashmir between Pakistan and India, and whether Taiwan gets to stand alone against China, but in general this issue was settled 100s - if not 1000s - of years ago. So let's not make this a complete analogy. Let's make it a Proposal - a new idea that you can sign on to support if you want. Here goes:
The Native American Peoples have been treated poorly for hundreds of years. Indeed, their new museum in Washington talks about their Holocaust - the genocidal wiping out of millions of the Indians who were here when we arrived. What if we were to try and make that right and give them their own nation? Israel is around 8,000 square miles on the shores of the Mediterranean. Let's carve out a country in the Pacific Northwest. White people have only been here a few hundred years. Their claim is nowhere near the claim of Palistinians to living in the Middle East. Why not seize the land from here to the Coast and create a new country that includes Portland? Yes, it's true: Oregonians who own land in the area would be paying an unfair burden for the national pain inflicted on the Native American Indians, but those are the breaks. The Palestinians didn't cause the Holocaust in Germany, did they? I mean this isn't one of those FOX news things where a huge percentage of the American public believes the Palestinians were behind the Holocaust, is it?
Now, I have been in Portland for over 30 years. I have seen bitter battles over esplanades and trams. I have seen protests over whether or not to put in a McDonald's restaurant. Try and imagine how pissed off you'd be if someone seized your home. In our case, if we couldn't resist, we would probably move to other states or Eastern Oregon. Some might go to Seattle. But some might say, "Hell, no. I'm going to fight this," especially if they had nowhere else to turn. If that fight involved living in a refugee camp in poverty while the U.S. government gave the new state billions a year in weapons and aid that was used to bomb you while you sat in your hut, then you might even snap. You might even feel that the injustice was so great that the rage would drive you to do something crazy. Welcome to the world of the Palestinians - formerly from a place called Palestine that you can still see on the old maps. The biggest mistake Americans make about the Middle East is to assume that Palestinians are biologically different from other human beings. The truth is they are pissed off for the same reasons you would be pissed off. Make that the reasons you will be pissed off if this proposal goes through. As for the Palestinians: Announce to them if you want that it doesn't matter - that they will be ground down into submission, much as the Indians were. Might makes right, remember? But don't pretend this is something it is not. That's annoying. And meanwhile: Here's a map of the proposed new nation. If you like the idea, then start packing your things, and get out. It's moving day. Finally! A Homeland for the Indians! I sure hope you're okay with it.

What You Have at the End of the Fight

Forget the battling sides for a moment and think about how little a mother deserves to bury her son, killed at the hands of other humans. How could we do it to them? How could we not find a way where this doesn't happen? Not just to American Moms, or Israeli Moms, but Iraqi Moms and Palestinian Moms as well. The powerful men who cause these wars can't have a clue what a mother's pain is, but they should realize it's a crime to put them through it. We all know the Moms of the World don't deserve this.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Weird Times At The Beirut Airport

Days like today, I think back to the Middle East. Here's one of the weirdest things that ever happened to me at the Beirut Airport: I was flying up from Arabia to visit my Dad. He was temporarily in charge of Tapline, this company that runs an oil pipeline from Arabia to the Mediterranean, and he was staying on top of a hotel in downtown Beirut. The Middle East...just getting off the plane you hear mystical sounds that may or may not be there. I was around 20 at the time, and I made a fairly large mistake. I picked up someone else's suitcase that looked exactly like mine. Now, that could have been huge trouble. Worse yet, I saw that customs was in Middle East mode, which is kind of laid back, and since there was a long line, I just walked out past some soldiers and hit the street. The Arab street, as they like to call it. Evading customs could have also been trouble, considering I had a suitcase that was not mine. When I got to my Dad's hotel suite, I went into my room and popped the bag. The first thing I saw was a carton of cigarettes. I didn't smoke cigarettes. It became immediately obvious what I had done. There were men's clothes but fortunately, nothing worse. A lot of unusual stuff happens in the Middle East. Money, weapons, hashish, documents; there's lots of potential for trouble. In the screenplay it would have been the suitcase of a spy. Fortunately, there in my Dad's hotel suite in downtown Beirut, it didn't appear to be the suitcase of a spy. I closed the bag and went out to have a drink on the balcony with my father. I had decided not to tell him. Harry's #1 good trait was to be considerate of strangers, and always to be respectful of everyone. He would talk to a cab driver with the same respect as the King of Saudi Arabia whom he often had to go see, and it was not an act. Harry was respectful of friends and strangers alike. He was an oil company worker in government relations so he was essentially a diplomat, and he would have not been pleased that I had taken another passenger's suitcase by mistake. Of course, a bunch of drinks later, I told him about it. He was okay, and simply said I had to go back to the airport first thing in the morning and make it right.
The Beirut Airport - just bombed today again by Israel - is quite a place. The Middle East is a mindblower generally but there are certain points where you feel the whole crazy heat more than others and one of them is the Beirut Airport. When I got out there with the bag, I had no plan. There was a huge door coming out of customs with a bunch of soldiers milling about. I noticed they were paying little attention and were mainly chatting. I decided rather than spend a long time going though the Middle East airline counter, etc... upstairs, that I would just walk past the soldiers in through the outdoor.
This - in retrospect - seems a little crazy but you have to remember I was young and life was an adventure. I made it in the door, essentially penetrating the security of one of the hottest airports in human history, while carrying someone's else's suitcase, and walked back to the luggage area. There I saw my bag, still sitting on the floor near where we had come in the night before. I switched bags and began to leave. I had all my ticket stubs etc, so I was good to go through customs this time, except of course I intended to try and just walk out again. I had nothing to hide, although it could be seen as strange that the plane had landed the night before and I was just now making it through customs. So I began to bolt. This is when my father's example of how to live life kicked in. I realized I had already screwed over some random person in the Middle East and the least I could do was own up to it. I went to an airline official and told the story. The man seemed to know the details, and went into an elaborate long scolding: "You must pay attention." He went on about how the airline had to buy the other passenger a new set of clothes - the whole bit. Having been raised in the Middle East, I knew this was a Middle Eastern thing. He was probably making it up and for sure he didn't really care. This was verified when a beautiful woman walked by and he stopped in mid-sentence to watch her pass. I apologized again in a Middle Eastern way which is to say 1,000 times and left. Eying the door out I saw the soldiers and the customs. Nobody looked too engaged so I carried my bag right past them, hopped in a cab, and went back to Beirut.