{Objectionable Content } spacer

Since 1:30am, September 16, 2001

powered by blogger

{Monday, December 31, 2001}

Song of the day: "I Love Rock and Roll," by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. What a crush I had on her in my tender youth. Yes, I own this one on casette.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

100 People. 1000 Years.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

- Arthur O'Shaughnessy

A&E has done a Biography of the Millennium episode, and I can't think of a better way to end the year than to spend a little time thinking about people who've changed the world. There are reasons to be proud of your humanity. Here are a few of the bottom 80 profiles:

Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910) [#92]: Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing and literally revolutionized medicine (particularly but not solely due to an emphasis on hygiene). She was a talented statistician, something that is sometimes overlooked, and she invented the polar-area diagram. Can you imagine her in some British hospital in the Crimea, surrounded by death and ignorance, creating order from chaos? She once wrote these words: "I have no peculiar gifts. And I can honestly assure any young lady, if she will but try to walk, she will soon be able to run the 'appointed course'. But then she must first learn to walk, and so when she runs she must run with patience. (Most people don't even try to walk.) But I would also say to all young ladies who are called to any particular vocation, qualify yourself for it as a man does for his work. Don't think you can undertake it otherwise." An A&E bio (separate from the one you will go to by clicking on her name) is here.

Guglielmo Marconi (1874 - 1937) [#84]: He invented wireless telegraphy and was honored for it with the Nobel Prize in Physics (in 1909, an honor he shared with Carl Braun). Like Florance Nightingale, he came from a relatively wealthy family. In 1895, when he was only 21, Marconi began experimentng at his father's country estate in Italy, and sent a wireless signal over a distance of one and a half miles. He foretold the use of radar and gave a practical demonstration of its use in 1935. "On an historic day in December 1901, determined to prove that wireless waves were not affected by the curvature of the Earth, he used his system for transmitting the first wireless signals across the Atlantic between Poldhu, Cornwall, and St. John's, Newfoundland, a distance of 2100 miles."

Peter the Great (1672 - 1725) [#83]: Not necessarily a do-gooder, I can't help but think about The Lion in Winter (one of the ten best films ever made) when I read his biography. "The eldest son from his first marriage, Alexis, was convicted of high treason by his father and secretly executed in 1718." Peter reformed Russia's alphabet, modernized the army and navy, created a bourgeois middle class (later to be eliminated in the Russian Revolution, I suppose), instituted a viable Senate, and introduced Russia's first newspaper (what? My God, it was the seventeenth century). He re-made a nation.

The Beatles [#76]: They were the greatest rock band of all time. Just four lads from Liverpool. Is it possible that the songs they wrote won't be listened to in a few hundred years? Maybe it is. Maybe the world is changing so fast that this is the last time we'll be able to look back at 1000 years of history and seee a past with significance and meaning for us. Vernor Vinge thinks so. I just hope I can bring my Beatles songs with me.

Charles Babbage (1791 -- 1871) [#47]: He invented an "analytical engine" now recognized as the precursor to the modern computer (Ada Lovelace, Byron's daughter, was one of the first to imagine the wide range of applications for a machine like Babbage's analytical engine, and she wrote what might be considered the first computer program--though I bet you could get into some interesting arguments on that topic simply because of the nature of what a program is). Babbage came from a rich family, and used to hold Saturday-evening soirees attended by two or three hundred people. Aside from computing, he was also an economist of some note, with theories on division of labor that preceded John Stuart Mill's.

Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884) [#42]: He is the father of modern genetics and even though botanists were quoting his papers during the 1860s, his work wasn't widely recognized by the scientific community until after his death. He taught high-school science. I wonder what some of his students made of their late teacher's fame when the value of his work on heredity became known. A google search on Mendel with links to a few good bios is here.

Ludwig Von Beethoven (1770 -- 1827) [#30]: A little of the old Ludwig Von always worked for Alex in a Clockwork Orange. It's hard to imagine what kind of a genius he was. The A&E web site actually says this, "To attempt to characterize any truly significant aspects of Beethoven's last works in a few words would be beyond effrontery." At the end of his life, he composed while deaf. Beyond that, I won't risk effrontery.

Who made the Top 20? These people:

1. Gutenberg, Johann
2. Newton, Isaac
3. Luther, Martin
4. Darwin, Charles
5. Shakespeare, William
6. Columbus, Christopher
7. Marx, Karl
8. Einstein, Albert
9. Copernicus, Nicolaus
10. Galileo Galilei
11. Da Vinci, Leonardo
12. Freud, Sigmund
13. Pasteur, Louis
14. Edison, Thomas
15. Jefferson, Thomas
16. Hitler, Adolf
17. Gandhi, Mahatma
18. Locke, John
19. Michelangelo
20. Smith, Adam

[ Check out A&E's Biography web site for more. ]

Television, atomic energy, capitalism, liberty, electricity, flight, DNA, the automobile, the heliocentric ordering of planets, gravity, the printing press.

Human beings. Us. We did all that. We discovered those things or invented them. We defended them when we had to. Pretty darned good if you ask me.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

East, West, and Sex
Last night Lisa and I talked about sex a little. Neither of us talked about it as a way for to people to come to an understanding (not the same thing as understanding each other), but maybe that's what it is: sometimes an easier and truer form of communication than words (its harder to use sex to make yourself look good, or to make someone do what you want). It's not that sex helps two people understand each other in any complex way, but I think it helps you come to an accord: this is how we are together, this is the way you and I can be. Two people can do that, live without understanding each other.

So Andrew Sullivan wrote a wonderful review of a book I haven't read yet, The Pickup, by Nadine Gordimer. It's on my list of books to read now. Here's a bit of Andrew's review (with quotations from the novel). I left out the part about sex, as an enticement for you to click on the link and read the original.

The pair meet; they gradually get acquainted; sex intervenes; then reality intrudes. Ibrahim becomes an awkward part of Julie's social circle, quietly attending long, drunken conversations with her privileged liberal friends, while Julie is increasingly infatuated with Ibrahim's otherness. What he cannot and will not tell her about his origins she fills in with an empathy no less loving for being a form of condescension: "His figure, a slim taut vertical as he comes out of the dank dimness of the place he works in, the lines of his back, in the sun, as he strolls to the water to give some leftovers to the ducks -- he's a cutout from a background that she surely imagines only wrongly. Palm trees, camels, alleys hung with carpets and brass vessels. Dhows, those sea-bird ships manned by men to whom she can't fit his face. No, he has no photographs."

Like most tortured Westerners, Julie is also acutely aware that she is patronizing while she is dreaming. Here is an authentic figure: a man with dirty hands from a place steeped in religion and tradition, a place so much more meaningful in the abstract than her own wealthy family, with its embarrassing political connections and Nasdaq portfolios. But the sting of Gordimer's tale lies in what Ibrahim sees as he looks at Julie and her background. When the couple finally make a joint visit to Julie's family home, the tension is high. "She is ashamed of her parents; he thinks she is ashamed of him. Neither knows either, about the other."

The punch line is that Ibrahim, of course, admires the very people Julie is embarrassed by. He is in awe of this white, wealthy, aggressive, international culture. Julie wants out; he wants in. "Interesting people there," he says after being introduced to Julie's family. "They make a success." Gordimer doesn't fall into the trap of implying that poverty or isolation from the global economy is some sort of cultural achievement. Ibrahim is extremely intelligent. He sees everything. He knows where he is from, and the central, driving force of his entire life is to escape from it. He wants to go, in his devastating phrase, "where the world is." Appearances don't deceive him. He sees through Julie's young urban intellectual poseurs: "So -- white, young, not smart but dressed in the style they think disguises the difference between rich and poor, the way my overalls outfit was supposed to disguise that I'm an illegal on the run." Brutal, but true.

[ Andrew Sullivan, A Review of Nadine Gordimer's "The Pickup". ]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Thursday, December 27, 2001}

Night time equivocations sneak in under cover of darkness. Once they have a hold it's so much harder to banish them. Now everything is moonglow and shadow; how can you cling to that certainty you had in daylight?

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

There's a place in the world for the angry young man
"Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"

[ David Ben-Gurion, as quoted in The Jewish Paradox by Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress ]

Sampson: Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them; which is disgrace to them if they bear it.

Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson: I do bite my thumb, sir.
Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson: No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.

[ "Romeo and Juliet," Act I, Scene I ]

Tybalt: What, [weapons] drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:
Have at thee, coward!

[ "Romeo and Juliet," Act I, Scene I ]

I don't like being angry. People tell me kindly that it isn't constructive.

What's constructive is to be accommodating and to compromise. In my circles, that's the kind of behavior that's rewarded. It's so gauche to be an extremist. It's so unlikely that one side is right and one side is wrong.

Why should an outsider take the trouble to find out which woman is the mother and which is a pretender when it's so much easier to just cut the infant in half?

I'll tell you why. What if one of those women is the mother? When you speak to her, isn't it a crime to talk about compromise?

"Neutrality only helps the oppressor, never the victim."
- Elie Weisel

This is what's happening in Palestine: A girl is being raped in her own home, and the rapist says, "I promise to stop, if you agree to these terms." The terms are outrageous: he will stop raping her, but he will permanently move into her house. He'll take the main floor, the kitchen, two of the three baths, the master bedroom. She can't enter or leave without his approval because the front door is now in his part of the house. This is the offer he makes, while he is still violating her.

She gets no chance; she is being taken even while he makes the offer. This is called a "peace process."

If she struggles, this "dialogue" ends and she is subject to a rape without even the pretext of negotiation. But if she does not struggle, there is no hope that it will end.

It's too vulgar to talk about in polite society, but that's because what's happening to the Palestinians is vulgar. It isn't constructive to think in these terms, and in the end, you avoid doing so. If you are Palestinian, you sue for peace even as the occupation continues and the pace of settlement building increases and children are murdered. You agree that Israel has a right to exist (which is not a question about whether Israelis as people have a right to live, but about the legitimacy of the state of Israel as a political entity). You show your belly. You make terms.

You give in because you don't want a life of bitterness and struggle. You want normalcy: to go to the grocery store, to watch a football match, to see your children married. In your heart, it's hard to hate. The hate is nurtured for you each time a land-mine blows up a schoolboy; but even so, a person gets weary. You can live on less than a third of what you had before, so long as you can live. There comes a point when you'd do it gladly, when you'd dance in the streets in celebration of the day.

But for a minute, understand my anger.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Song of the day: "Misirlou," by Dick Dale and his Deltones.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

I've changed the blog settings to display the last 14 days' posts on the main page, instead of seven as before. This is because no one ever clicks on Archives.

Comments seem to be working intermittently.

And when I use nested tables, my post automatically begins a few lines lower than normal (see "There's a place in the world for the angry young man," 12/27/01). Why? More housecleaning to do.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Monday, December 24, 2001}

Goodwill Towards All

Merry Christmas everyone.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Song of the day: "The Captain," by Kasey Chambers, from her album of the same name.

I'm wrapping Christmas presents for my family and listening to Kasey and Lucinda Williams.

On June 8th I saw Kasey open for Lucinda at the Count Basie in Red Bank, NJ. She was fabulous — this 25-year-old Australian girl with her own (rock? country? folk?) band; and, yeah, she tells the audience, that's her Dad on guitar. Naturally, people were there for Lucinda and most of the audience hadn't heard of Kasey, but because it was a Jersey venue, most everyone knew "The Captain" from an episode of The Sopranos it had been featured on, and she got a cheer when she thanked the show for playing her song.

She has this voice — maybe its typical of good country singers, I don't listen to enough of them to know — it sounds plaintive and strong at the same time; almost like a ten year old, but one that knows. Someone called it "sugar and hot pepper" and I guess that fits.

She played some songs from her new album, Barricades and Brick Walls. I liked "Not Pretty Enough" which she said was about "all the radio stations in the world that play Britney Spears and not me."

After playing a few more songs Kasey asked us if we liked country music. After we shouted our approval she gave us the Rules of Mainstream Country:

1. Country songs have to be about love
2. Someone has to die
3. Country songs have to be sad
4. You have to mention Texas.

Then she said, “ 'That doesn’t sound very hard,' I thought, 'I can do that, write myself a #1 country hit. So I tried it
out and this is what I’ve come up with- I’ve only got a chorus after seven years, but I’m gonna try it out on you anyway.' ”

Then we got this:
Don’t look up my dress unless you mean it
Don’t you put your hand upon my thigh,
Before you stick that in you’d better clean it,
I hope I go to Texas when I die

It was hilarious and sung in a gorgeous voice. The audience got a kick out of it.

Lucinda came out and pretty early on she said a big thank-you to Elvis Costello and his wife Cait, who were in the audience (in the cheap seats!). She didn't play the songs I wanted to hear most (Me and My Chauffeur Blues, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, or Big Red Sun Blues) but she did good versions of Get Right With God and Lonely Girls.

Lucinda "finished" after maybe an hour, sooner than I expected. She'd done maybe nine songs. You expect to get more than an hour of play from your main act before you have to beg her to come back on stage for an encore, don't you? The audience stood and clapped and cheered for a long time and Lucinda did eventually come back. Lucky for us, her encore was incredible.

Someone in the audience requested Drunken Angel and Lucinda said something like "What? Was that Elvis asking for that one? You want to sing it with me?" She got him up on stage and someone found a guitar for him. He was a great sport and the two of them did an emotionally fantastic version of the song even if it wasn't note-perfect. The whole show ended well. I've only seen the one Lucinda show, so I have no idea if she always says "This is the best gig I've ever had in my entire life!" but she said it for us that day in Red Bank.

Tomorrow it's Christmas songs. I hope we haven't lost the Bing Crosby.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Sunday, December 23, 2001}

A beautiful mind

To use a physical analogy, we are in the midst of a phase transition, when the configuration of the system is switching between two locally stable states. In this transition, technology is the catalyst. It is a self-amplifying change, in the sense that each improvement tends to increase its capacity to improve...

Change was not always like this. For most of human history, parents could expect their grandchildren to grow up in a world much like their own.... Planning for the future was easier then. Architects designed cathedrals that would take centuries to complete. Farmers planted acorns to shade their descendants with oaks. Today, starting a project that would not be completed for a century or two would seem odd...

Why have we become so shortsighted? We have no less goodwill than our ancestors. Our problem is that, literally, we cannot imagine the future. The pace of technological change is so great that we cannot know what type of world we are leaving for our children. If we plant acorns, we cannot reasonably expect that our children will sit under oak trees. Or that they will even want to...

So what are we humans becoming? Whatever it is is more connected, more interdependent. Few individuals today could survive outside the fabric of society. No city could stand alone without being continuously fed from the outside by networks of power, water, food, and information...

There are other, subtler signs that we are becoming part of a symbiotic whole. It is obvious that we have become more narrowly specialized in our professions, but we are also becoming more specialized in the activities of our daily lives.

Increasingly, we fragment our activities into pure components. We either work or play, exercise or relax, teach or learn. We divide our art, our science, our politics, and our religion into carefully separated spheres. There was an older kind of human that kept these things together, a kind of person who worked and played and taught and learned all at the same time. That kind of person is becoming obsolete. Integration demands standardization. Just as a single cell in our body is adapted to a specific function and a specific time, we too must focus our roles. An earlier kind of cell could sense, move, digest, and reproduce continuously, but such a self-sufficient unit cannot function as part of a complex whole.

I cannot help but feel ambivalent at the prospect of this brave new world, in which I will be a small part of a symbiotic organism that I can barely comprehend.

[ A Time of Transition/The Human Connection, by Danny Hillis ]

The above is an excerpt from an essay Hillis wrote. I read it as part of the book True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier. That book is a tribute to Vernor Vinge and his 1981 story, True Names, which preceded Gibson's Neuromancer as an imagining of the internet. Hillis co-founded Thinking Machines, the first company to build and sell super-computers. The book packages Vinge's short story with essays from Hillis, Marvin Minsky, Tim May, Richard Stallman, and other interesting people.

What Vinge is known for aside from an early conception of cyberspace is the notion of a technological singularity. The excerpt from the essay above hints at what that means. If you haven't been exposed to this idea of a singularity and what effects it may have, a good jumping off point is Vinge's Across Real Time (out of print but worth finding!). The book also touches on the notion of anarcho-capitalism, something Neal Stephenson also explores in Snow Crash and The Diamond Age.

It's geeky stuff, and worth reading. If you want high-quality non-geeky stuff, check out A River Runs Through It (the book, not the movie).

When I read the Hillis essay, my mind was on my last post, about the difference between Swedes and Americans. Maybe we Americans are further down the evolutionary path Hillis is describing. It is easy to dismiss the ideas as metaphor, but this is one case where I think they are more powerful when taken quite literally. Maybe we are evolving in a way similar to what happened to the cells in our own body. Don't think of this solely as a political or economic metaphor (ie. we are all cogs in the capitalist, globalizing machine/Empire). I think it's more interesting when thought of in a technological, biological, and sociological sense.

I wonder if what I am doing right now at this computer is bringing me closer to symbiosis or independence. I wonder what it was like for autonomous cells when they joined colonies and became multi-celled organisms. What might it be like for people?

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

It's going to happen soon, Ev will add a few new entrants to Blogs of Note and your faithful Objectionable Content will slip off the bottom, back to the unsung times of 20 or even five hits per day. Better get used to it.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Friday, December 21, 2001}

How to learn Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons
The Swedes are not a skeptical people. They have an endearingly childlike willingness to participate. They believe in joining in on reindeer games.

Take an office party, just as an example. An office party could start off with everyone drinking vodka cocktails, followed by an office choir singing traditional Swedish and American Christmas carols. Then, everyone could sit down and a toastmaster would present the evening. Then two old guys from the office could get up and play electric guitars and sing songs about the company, but to the tune of "Alice's Restaurant." And everyone, but everyone happily joins in on the choruses, and starts to clap along.

If it were America, everyone would be looking around to see if anyone else was clapping. As for singing along, well, social singing is a lost art in America I fear. (more)

[ by Francis Strand ]

Why is it harder for Americans? Does anyone have any counter-examples? I'm thinking of social revelry, not drunkenness.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Song of the day: "Barstow," by Jay Farrar (formerly of Son Volt), from his new album, Sebastopol.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Thursday, December 20, 2001}

"Hi, I'm obviously underage. Margarita please."
Enjoy this and other comments Zagat's couldn't print, including the classic: "Food tastes like socks." (via junior high pants)

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Yalie Strikes Harvard Lad Sharply About The Face And Neck
NEW HAVEN, CT— A heated dispute over the relative merits of Harvard and Yale erupted into fisticuffs Monday, when Yalie William Vanderploeg, 20, struck Randolph Stephenson, a strapping Harvard lad of 19, about the face and neck in a most brutish manner. "The vainglorious braggart dared suggest that his Crimson squad could out-row us nine times of ten," said Vanderploeg, captain of the Yale crew team. "I knew they raised them as barbarians over Harvard way, but the very gall." Stephenson, his hair mussed from the attack, vowed that the dispute is far from settled.

[ the onion ] via chewbekkah

"You don't understand. I went to Harvard. Every time I'm wrong the world makes a little less sense!"

- Fraser Crane
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Wednesday, December 19, 2001}

Post Script
PS: Comments code! Thanks to Matt, truly a digital saint.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Things Taken
If you've visited Objectionable Content in the past week, you probably saw my December 14 entry about "Things Given," an illustrated story I saw on the {fray}.

My blog entry consisted of half a paragraph of text from the story, and two images from it (one an image of text), followed by my comments. In my comments I posted a link to the story, to the site that hosted the story, to the personal web pages of the author and illustrator, and to an unrelated story also hosted by the {fray}. Like most bloggers, my intention was to share something good that I'd found. After all, I came across "Things Given" via a mention on another blog (OliverWillis.com), it seemed only right to pay it forward.

Good things are rare, on the net and in real life. (In other words, "Things Given" is still a good story and you should go read it)

The above is by way of introduction. The story begins here:

I did something wrong. Since Objectionable Content is hosted on blogspot (thanks Blogger!), I couldn't host the two images that I wanted to use in my post — there was nowhere to upload the files. Instead, I linked to the images on the fray.com server. This meant that whenever someone visited Objectionable Content, the browser would load most of the blog from blogspot, but it would have to go to fray.com for the two images in my post and the owners of the {fray} site would have to pay for any resulting bandwidth use.

This didn't even occur to me when I linked to the images. I was running on blogspot, a free site. Of course I knew people paid for bandwidth, but it honestly didn't occur to me that what I was doing would cost the owners of the {fray} money.

I received a gracious e-mail from {fray}'s producer. He wrote that he appreciated that I enjoyed "Things Given," and he thanked me for sending site visits his way. He also pointed out that linking to the images on the fray.com server amounted to bandwidth theft. He asked me not to link to them, and he said please.

I felt horrible, not only for doing what amounted to stealing, but even more acutely because I liked what I'd found on the {fray}. I was hurting something I admired.

I wrote an apology and promised to stop stealing the {fray}'s bandwidth immediately. And I did stop.

I bought a domain name, got some webspace, and voila — for a little effort and nominal money, I had my own home on the web and a place where I could store images without stealing bandwidth from anyone.

So that's what I did.

I copied the images to my server and altered the blog entry so that my server was the image source and any bandwidth charges would be mine.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from {fray}'s producer. He said that taking the images and hosting them on my own server was a copyright violation. I wasn't to link to the images on {fray}'s server (because that is bandwidth theft) or to use them at all (because that's violating copyright). The e-mail was polite and he said please.

At the request of {fray}'s producer, I've taken the images down, which you will clearly notice if you peek at the December 14 post.

I'm unhappy about this. I've sent the producer of {fray} and the creators of "Things Given" a polite e-mail requesting permission to use their copyrighted material. {Fray}'s producer has been courteous so far, despite the fact that I caused him harm to start this whole mess. With luck, the copyright owners will approve my request. If they deny it, the images will remain down.

Although I've chosen not to display the images without permission, I do think a case for fair use could be made. The defense might run something like this:
1. The material is not being used for a commercial purpose (this site is produced in expectation of love and glory, not money)
2. I used only a portion of the text (half a paragraph out of 26 paragraphs in the entire story)
3. I used only a portion of the images (two images out of about twenty images in the entire story)
4. I provided attribution to the content creators
5. I provided numerous links to the original work and to its creators' own web sites

This is not necessarily an air-tight argument. In particular with regard to the illustration, it might stand on its own as a single work even though it accompanies several other illustrations in the context of the story of "Things Given." Considering the illustration on its own, the argument that I used only a portion could be disputed.

The law is vague on fair use, presumably intentionally so, but the copyright issue goes to the heart of blogging as a medium. Weblogs are link-driven sites, as rebecca blood writes (something I linked to on December 13). Often, to entice a reader to follow a link, a blogger will offer a quotation from the original. Even this may raise copyright questions, but quotations from text are more easily defensible under fair use because of the clear distinction between a part and the whole.

With images, bloggers appear to have less room to maneuver. Is use of an individual image automatically a violation of copyright, or would non-commercial use be protected? Should an image in a series be considered a part of a whole, even though it can stand alone more readily than a textual excerpt could?

The evolution of the web is driving it to become a more image-intensive medium: will it even make sense in the future to link to something without showing the web surfer an image of the place they are about to be taken?

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Monday, December 17, 2001}

Trembling Before G-d
"... She believes her attraction to women is a disease she must fight. She is taking antidepressants and trying any other method that may help her get over her illness. In the meantime, she has asked her husband to cease his requests for sexual intercourse; he has refused."

Trembling Before G-d is a documentary about gay Orthodox Jews. Two weeks ago I went to see it with Naomi. Neither of us is gay, though if you put us together we might make up an Orthodox Jew: I'm Orthodox but not Jewish (raised Coptic Christian) and she's Jewish but not Orthodox. As heterosexuals coming from traditional cultures, I think we were exactly the kind of people that the film's makers most hoped to influence.

Naomi wrote a review of the movie for The National Review Online. The quotation above comes from her.

When we talked after the movie, Naomi brought up a point that she only touches on briefly at the end of her review, namely that the conflict faced by the gay Orthodox Jews in the film can be generalized to anyone who violates the strictures of a tradition-bound culture while seeking to remain a part of that culture. It wasn't long ago that marrying outside the faith would result in being outcast.

You can probably generalize this idea well beyond tradition-bound cultures. The problem is that human beings like to tell other humans what to do. We get bothered when we see people behaving in ways we don't approve of. Buy a co-op in New York City and you might learn as much about conforming to social norms as you will in a Hasidic community.

The point of the movie is that conformity is a social good as much as it is an evil. The film is worth seeing. To tide you over, read Naomi's review.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Friday, December 14, 2001}

Proof That Girls Are Evil
Here it is everyone, the definitive answer (via thinkdink).
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Things Given

Michael gave me independence.
For two years I sleep in his waterbed, listening through the walls as his roommates bring home faceless women from the downtown bars. I meet his mother and know why he hates his father and how it tears him up to sever those ties. He holds me when I learn I've been asked to "take a break" from college, and pushes me to scrimp and save to return.

That's from a wonderful something by Susan Kath and Claire Robertson (the creator of Loobylu). The story is called Things Given and you can find it here, at the Fray. It's short, and good. Go. Look at it.

There are other good things at the Fray. It's worth wandering through. If you liked Things Given, you might like this.

[ link via Oliver Willis ]
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Thursday, December 13, 2001}

The Problem With Mathematics, or The Difference Between an Equation and a Program
You know about Gödel, right? Here's a good summary of his theorem of incompleteness:

In 1931, the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics, there would always be some propositions that couldn't be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms ... of that mathematical branch itself. You might be able to prove every conceivable statement about numbers within a system by going outside the system in order to come up with new rules an axioms, but by doing so you'll only create a larger system with its own unprovable statements. The implication is that all logical system of any complexity are, by definition, incomplete; each of them contains, at any given time, more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules.

Gödel's Theorem has been used to argue that a computer can never be as smart as a human being because the extent of its knowledge is limited by a fixed set of axioms, whereas people can discover unexpected truths ... It plays a part in modern linguistic theories, which emphasize the power of language to come up with new ways to express ideas. And it has been taken to imply that you'll never entirely understand yourself, since your mind, like any other closed system, can only be sure of what it knows about itself by relying on what it knows about itself.

The above is from this web site (check out their url) and is a quotation anyway from An Incomplete Education. The Miskatonic web site is a collection of short explanations of the theorem and is worth reading if the one quoted above didn't do it for you. Another brief (one page) layman's summary of what the heck Gödel's theory means is at this web site. The author of that page puts it like this:

As I see it, this is essentially the "Liar's Paradox" generalized for all symbolic systems. For those of you unfamiliar with that phrase, I mean the standard "riddle" of a man walking up to you and saying "I am lying". The same paradox emerges. This is exactly what we should expect, since language itself is a symbolic system.

OK. I hope people are still reading this (look! I blogged about Spider-Man just two posts ago, you can skip straight to there if you like, or to the clever juxtaposition of quotations from Mencken and Woolf two posts after that).

Right. Keep Gödel in your mind for a moment now, and read this summary of the idea behind Stephen Wolfram's new book, A New Kind of Science.

Almost all the science that's been done for the past three hundred or so years has been based in the end on the idea that things in our universe somehow follow rules that can be represented by traditional mathematical equations. The basic idea that underlies A New Kind of Science is that that's much too restrictive, and that in fact one should consider the vastly more general kinds of rules that can be embodied, for example, in computer programs.

What started my work on A New Kind of Science are the discoveries I made about what simple computer programs can do. One might have thought that if a program was simple it should only do simple things. But amazingly enough, that isn't even close to correct. And in fact what I've discovered is that some of the very simplest imaginable computer programs can do things as complex as anything in our whole universe. It's this point that seems to be the secret that's used all over nature to produce the complex and intricate things we see. And understanding this point seems to be the key to a whole new way of thinking about a lot of very fundamental questions in science and elsewhere.

Who the hell is Stephen Wolfram, by the way? Aside from what you'll read via the link at left, he's also perhaps a bit of a self-promoter. But hey. Anyway, he has a web site up to promote the book, and it includes some excerpts. One of them touches on the same idea. Here's a snippet:

It has almost always been assumed that to emulate in any generality a process as sophisticated as human thinking would require an extremely complicated system. So what has mostly been done is to try to construct systems that perform only rather specific tasks.

But then in order to be sure that the appropriate tasks will actually be performed the systems tend to be set up — as in traditional engineering — so that their behavior can readily be foreseen, typically by standard mathematical or logical methods. And what this almost invariable means is that their behavior is forced to be fairly simple.

Wolfram isn't stating anywhere that he has found a way around Gödel's theorem, and I don't think he has, but the juxtaposition of the two ideas is interesting because of the suggestion Wolfram makes that there is a difference between mathematical equations and the rules that computer programs are built on. Does this make sense? A computer program is still a symbolic system, as is human language, so in that sense the two are the same as mathematics. If Wolfram's idea has any meaning then it has to follow that there is some other important difference between (1) the symbolic system that is a computer program and (2) the symbolic system that is math.

I don't know enough about programming or mathematics to identify the fundamental difference between the two. Maybe Wolfram's book will make it clear.

I wish I had comments working for this post, because I am interested in what other people have to say.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

The Good Samaritans
"The Samaritans were people who lived in what had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Samaria, the name of that kingdom's capital, was located between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south. The Samaritans were a racially mixed society with Jewish and pagan ancestry. Although they worshiped Yahweh as did the Jews, their religion was not mainstream Judaism. They accepted only the first five books of the Bible as canonical, and their temple was on Mount Gerazim instead of Mount Zion in Jerusalem (John 4:20).

The Samaritans of Jesus' day were strict monotheists. In some respects they were more strict than Jews about commandments of the Mosaic law, especially the sabbath regulations, but they did not share the Jewish stricture against pronouncing the divine name Yahweh in their oaths.

Because of their imperfect adherence to Judaism and their partly pagan ancestry, the Samaritans were despised by ordinary Jews. Rather than contaminate themselves by passing through Samaritan territory, Jews who were traveling from Judea to Galilee or vice versa would cross over the river Jordan, by-pass Samaria by going through Transjordan, and cross over the river again as they neared their destination. The Samaritans also harbored antipathy toward the Jews (Luke 9:52-53).

That the Samaritans were separated from and looked down upon by the Jews makes them important in the New Testament. Jesus indicated a new attitude must be taken toward the Samaritans when he passed through their towns instead of crossing the Jordan to avoid them (John 4:4-5), when he spoke with a Samaritan woman, contrary to Jewish custom (John 4:9), and he said a time would come when worshiping in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim would not be important (John 4:21-24). When asked whom to regard as our neighbor, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan precisely because Samaritans were despised.

[ from Catholic Quick Questions ]

When I went to Nablus in 1999 to see my mother's family, we drove through a Samaritan neighborhood (in fact, the largest concentration of Samaritans in the world is in that neighborhood in Nablus). Only about 300 active practitioners of the religion remain. To this day, they live apart from the Jews.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has been on my mind lately because of B'Tselem. B'Tselem is an Israeli human rights group. "It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel," (from their web site's About Us section). The fact that such an organization exists in Israel, and that it isn't the only one, is admirable. I hope that Palestinians will one day have a society strong enough and honorable enough to criticize itself.


This is the latest dispatch from B'Tselem:

Office of the Military Advocate General's Investigation into the Death of Khalil al-Mughrabi, age 11, on July 7, 2001

Khalil al-Mughrabi was playing soccer with a group of children in Rafah on Saturday, July 7th, 2001, when a burst of gunfire hit him in the head, killing him and wounding two of his friends, ages 10 and 12.

B'Tselem obtained internal documents from the office of the Military Advocate General which reveal how the military cleared the soldiers who caused the death of an eleven year-old Palestinian boy, covered up the incident, refrained from opening an investigation by the Military Police, and issued a false statement regarding the circumstances of the death.

The documents that B'Tselem received, which are included as annexes to the report, raise the grave concern that cover-ups and falsifications are considered acceptable practice by the Military Advocate General's office.

In the conclusions to its report B'Tselem calls:

: To open a Military Police investigation against those involved in the death of Khalil al-Mughrabi and the injury of his two friends;

: To take action against those in the Military Advocate General's office who intentionally presented a false version of the events;

: To transfer the procedure of investigations from the military to an independent and objective body.
Khalil al-Mughrabi, age 11, killed by gunfire on 7 July, 2001. The investigation into his death was whitewashed by the Military Advocate General. Photo: courtesy of the family.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Wednesday, December 12, 2001}

The Way to A Boy's Heart
Boy: Spider-Man is my favorite super-hero.
Girl: Yes. You are like him.

Which is to say, Stephanie (not the one with the blog), you are cool.

Also, Spider-Man, the feature film, is scheduled for release next year. Spider-Man Hype is the best place for info, but you may also want to visit the movie's official site.

As it turns out, a film of The Hulk is also in the works, by Ang Lee. The actress playing Betty Ross had this to say: "I asked him why he wanted to make The Hulk, and he said, 'Well, it's really a Greek tragedy. It's actually a psychodrama' ... He talks about the rage inside all of us, he talks about fathers and sons, and he's talking about using a heightened format to get at something really profound that is otherwise more difficult to access. So, I'm hearing it like Brechtian theater." You can check the full story here, via Doyce.

What are the chances that either of these films will be another Shawshank Redemption or Braveheart (or even Grosse Point Blanke)? Slim. But I'll give them a shot.

[ art by Kagelman ]
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

The moving finger writes, and having writ . . .

In 1998 there were just a handful of sites of the type that are now identified as weblogs (so named by Jorn Barger in December 1997). Jesse James Garrett, editor of Infosift, began compiling a list of "other sites like his" as he found them in his travels around the web. In November of that year, he sent that list to Cameron Barrett. Cameron published the list on Camworld, and others maintaining similar sites began sending their URLs to him for inclusion on the list. Jesse's 'page of only weblogs' lists the 23 known to be in existence at the beginning of 1999....

....Shortly after I began producing Rebecca's Pocket I noticed two side effects I had not expected. First, I discovered my own interests. I thought I knew what I was interested in, but after linking stories for a few months I could see that I was much more interested in science, archaeology, and issues of injustice than I had realized. More importantly, I began to value more highly my own point of view. In composing my link text every day I carefully considered my own opinions and ideas, and I began to feel that my perspective was unique and important.

[ weblogs: a history and perspective, by rebecca blood | rebecca's pocket ]

Rebecca has a great blog. The article I link to above is worth reading for anyone with an interest in the history of the blog phenomenon. I plan to steal at least two other things from Rebecca in the near future. But not tonight.

Rebecca was once a Gothic Babe of the Week, and she is also married to the Jesse James mentioned in the quotation above (though she wasn't at the time those words were written). I'm not stalking her, it's just she's put up a lot of information on her site.

I'm in California, and my hotel room is cold though I have heated air blowing out of the vent.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment


Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
- H.L. Mencken

On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.
- Virginia Woolf

Two quotes, taken from a list found here.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

On the shoulders of...

o you want to know how to eliminate terrorism? I'll tell you. In fact, I'll tell you about something that no one else knows. Something that has never been written about. You will be amazed, but it is true. Listen."

[ All You Need is Love, by Bruce Hoffman | The Atlantic ] via Adnan

I think Adnan's blog deserves to be a Blog of Note. One of our two blogs is redundant when it comes to Palestine. Mine is the one, since about half my postings on the issue refer to something I read on his site. This is one of those postings. There is a great deal of other interesting content there that I haven't pointed to here (for example, the article from USA Today that he refers to in his 12/10 posting) so I recommend you not rely on me for your Adnan fix but get it straight from the source.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Nodeshell Challenge
Ancient China, ie. pre 1900. Court poets are given a title and an evening to complete a poem, which is judged by the present aristocracy in contest. Such poems usually end with the note "written in response to challenge at 'Palace' on 'date.'"

So says tripitaka, by way of explaining what a nodeshell challenge is.

This is a response to a nodeshell challenge. It wasn't written by me, but by yossarian. Here's just a bit of it:

Until today, it really pissed me off that I'd become this totally centered Zen Master and nobody had noticed
I mean, come on! What does a guy have to do to get a little respect in this world? I tried playing the guitar in high school, and that got me some, but everybody played guitar in high school. And when people would find out that the only band I played in was the school's jazz band, famous county wide for our rendition of "Louie, Louie", they all lost interest and went to watch Henry Finch play. Because Finch was in a rock band and he could play Stairway to fuckin' Heaven better than anyone. Well I got news for ya, Henry, everybody can play that stupid song!

Wait... Breathe in. Breathe out. Ok.

In college I had to give up the guitar pretty quick, because not only could everyone play it, they could play it a hell of a lot better than I could. The competition was just too fierce. So I got into abstract art. It was cool, because it was a lot easier to hide the fact that I had no talent. I mean, who was gonna notice? It's all attitude. I'd stand in front of a sculpture and go on about negative space and all the artists would nod their heads like they knew what the fuck I was talking about. My final project for one class was something I coughed up after a night of heavy partying. And I took lots of poetry classes and I wrote about how much I hated my dad and crap, and they all lapped it up, "Ooh, you're so deep. You've got so much anger. Let me help you work through it." It worked like a fuckin' charm! But then I graduated and I had to get a job. Abstract art don't pay the bills, you know?

And nobody, I mean nobody respected me in the real world. I got this job cleaning pools for just enough money to pay for my pot, and I lived in my parent's basement. I still did the art and poetry and all the rest of that shit, but no one was interested in it. I guess they finally caught on that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

[ read the rest of the story at everything2 ]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

And now a word from the planet Zargon
Change your ways or we'll come and destroy you.


[ idea stolen from Saturday Night Live ]
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Tuesday, December 11, 2001}

Everyone's got their breaking point
With me it's spiders

With you it's me

[ The Tragically Hip, "Thugs" ]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Monday, December 10, 2001}

Song of the day: "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," sung by Maria Muldaur, written by Bob Dylan.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

That Becoming-thing — Which is Fearless!

Kids are awesome. :-)

[ Birthday card via No Demons ]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Saturday, December 08, 2001}

I met one thing and had two encounters.

"Find that burning thing in your life, that becoming-thing — which is fearless!

It's the condition of a hero going into battle with perfect courage.

Think of a blade of grass. Every week a chap comes by with a lawnmower and cuts it down. Suppose the grass was to say, "for Pete's sake, what's the use?"

- Joseph Campbell


Today the local public television station (thirteen) aired Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, one of my favorite programs.

When a Catholic priest asked Joseph Campbell if he believed "in a personal God," Campbell said he didn't. But as I watched Campbell talk — about Indra's Net, about trickster gods, about "ohm" or the Gospel of Thomas — somehow he made me wonder if the question 'do you believe in God?' even mattered.

Campbell doesn't believe in a personal deity, but he personalizes every myth that he shares with the audience. Watching and listening to him was infectious. He tells you that humankind has this love affair with the world — with the Mystery it represents (and hides) and sometimes reveals. Watching the series was like watching a courtship: the World seduces Man with her Mystery, and he tries to win her with religion.

People try hard: we make stories, we build cathedrals, we dance, we chant and sing and preach, we kill, too. We make prayer-wheels, we write laws, we seek each other out and we try to escape from each other, we fast, feast, and tithe. We go into trances, we do drugs, we contort our bodies. We imagine, we reason. We invent. We quest, or we abandon questing. We are the most ardent lover in the world. And the beauty of it is, this is a requited love.

I think somewhere along the line, Campbell saw this and understood it. Every story he tells, every segment of the series, introduces one attempt in humanity's long courtship of the world, and they all express something like joy. "Isn't it wonderful that we've tried all of these ways of achieving union?" Campbell seems to be saying. "Isn't it wonderful that they've all succeeded?"

. . .

You know, I will be damned if I can figure out how to make this column of text align at the top. It seems determined to be in the center, so I guess I'll have to create the illusion of top-alignment by adding more text. Lucky for you guys I found something interesting: another great node on everything2, related to the above at least by way of its sense of wonder. The original version has links worth following, so I suggest you take a peek, but here's the plain text:


i was once smaller than a jellybean, but now look at me - i am macroscopic!
(idea) by texty 1 C! Tue Jul 18 2000 at 13:49:39 UTC

(This is one of those nodes for which the whole reason for existing is the name, and the content is just an afterthought.)

With that in mind, just think...once upon a time we were all invisible to the naked eye, teensy little strands of potential waiting to be uncoiled, molecular books waiting to be read, interpreted, edited. And now here we are, vast lumbering giants (relative to our microscopic origins), running around, having crazy adventures, interacting with other funky texty entities, and sitting at computers, re-encoding the four-dimensional books that we became and lived back into text, closing the circle. It's all just so awe-inspiringly, wonderfully, joyously silly.

The Universe has one hell of a sense of humour.

But what were you before you were even microscopic? What were you before you were anything at all? How does it all jump from 0 to 1?


A hero going into battle with perfect courage . . .

"Despite Israel's illegal policies of assassinating activists, obliterating the Palestinian infrastructure and economy, devastating health and education and attacking civilians, Sharon has not managed to annihilate the Palestinians' determination to achieve freedom from Israeli occupation; nor has he provided security for Israelis. This is understandable: there can be no security for Israelis, if Sharon's agenda is to eliminate the Palestinian leadership and destroy Palestinian lives, livelihoods and property. The events of the past few days only prove that the harder Sharon hits, the harsher the backlash on the Israeli people."

[ Occupation is the problem, by Mustafa Barghouthi in Al Ahram Weekly ]

I've been thinking about the idea that Mustafa Barghouthi expresses above, that the Palestinians will not give up until they have a just peace. Most often, this notion is challenged from a perspective that questions Palestinian restraint. "What if even peace does not stop Palestinian attacks on Israelis?" is the way these challenges run. This is a fair enough question to ask, though I think it is based on a false idea: that Palestinian attacks on Israelis are the result of ethno-religious hatred. I don't think Palestinians would choose to spend time attacking Israelis if Israel was not occupying their land. I don't think Palestinians would attack Israelis if Israelis did not attack them. Contemplating the question above makes a person wonder if there is any way to stop the Palestinians, and to that extent I think it can be used to intentionally mislead, to cast the victims as victimizers.

In this conflict, both sides have victims and victimizers, to be sure, but on the whole Israel is strong and Palestine is weak. Israel can more easily kill Palestinians than vice versa. The question above can be asked fairly, and deserves to be fairly answered when it is, but it can also be used to manipulate.

What I have been thinking about lately is this: what if Barghouthi's idea were challenged from the opposite direction? Barghouthi writes that Palestinians will not rest until they have justice. Some ask whether they will rest even after that point. But here is what troubles me and chips away at my hope: what if they give up before there is justice?

Campbell talks about blades of grass, but people aren't blades of grass. We do ask "what's the use?" We despair. People often see suicide bombers as maniacs and fanatics, but what I see is hopelessness. These people are killing themselves. How can they do that? How can you throw away your life? I have never been pushed to the edge of what I can take, but I understand hopelessness. I understand that Paradise will always be there for the asking, and you don't have to sacrifice your life now for Heaven . . . but you might. It depends on what kind of life you are sacrificing.

Why is Sharon doing this? Why is he bombing and killing. Why? One answer is: in retaliation for this, in order to prevent that. But even these answers assume another one: to break the spirit of the Palestinians. Israel's campaigns are intended to pacify — to make the Palestinians stop protesting the occupation. Every bulldozer says "stop fighting," every bullet says "don't get up," every land-mine tells them "resistance is pain."

Do you think these things are not effective? Would they work on you?

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Friday, December 07, 2001}





[ The Funny Pages ]
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

But Your Statistics are Bullshit
So here's the thing: [there I was, there I was, there I was . . . in the Congo!]*

Sorry. Seriously, this is the thing: A lot of this blog is me blogging about Israel
and Palestine. Aside from the whole 'shut-up about Israel and Palestine' aspect
of the problem, there's something else which has been bothering me.

A lot of my posts (and a lot of my mental energy whenever this subject comes
up, whether in conversation or here on this blog) are about getting people to see
the situation how I see it. And to get them to do that, I put up all these "facts"
I have. Facts about the death ratio of Israelis to Palestinians, facts about the
historical context of the conflict, facts about settlements, water, aid, you name

I do this because I'm trying to be convincing, to provide evidence; and because
I really believe this stuff. These are facts.

Only here's the rub.

When I hear some other people obsessed with their pet issues babble on about
some fact or another that is supposed to mobilize me or convince me, I usually
think, "that is complete bullshit. There is no way that a forest the size of New
York State is cut down every minute. How can these people take this crap at
face value? It's obviously a manufactured statistic, and basically this person's
whole belief system about this issue rests on a foundation of hooey." (ok, I
never think the word hooey)

The point is, that's how my mind operates. I'm a skeptical person, and I am
reading about overblown statistics all the time (like that story about how
domestic abuse increases during the Superbowl. It was complete B.S., and
was debunked in the book Who Stole Feminism. But the "fact" got repeated
and repeated by the news media and many people still believe it). So I don't
believe 'shocking facts' that people tell me. I scoff. I write-off the person
who relates these 'shocking facts' as a moron.

So, basically, I can't have any credibility, and I suck, because I want you to
believe all of my bullshit but I won't believe any of yours. Yours is stupid.

Anyway, this has been troubling me.

*Does anyone remember that commercial?

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Get Your Propaganda from Our Competition
If you haven't been over to adnan's site lately, I say it's about time you go.
You can check out this post of his on the recent suicide bombings in
Israel. It's long, because it covers a lot of ground, all of it worth covering.

So go ahead, I'll be here when you get back. Heck, just click, bookmark
it, then come back. You can read it later. ;)
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Thursday, December 06, 2001}

Would you like fries with that?

American aid to israel   Clicking on the image at left will take you to the web page of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. What's that? You can read their web site's About Us section. The specific link around this image here takes you to a run-down of U.S. aid to Israel. I found tidbits like this there:

"Total U.S. aid to Israel is approximately one-third of the American foreign- aid budget, even though Israel comprises just .001 percent of the world's population and already has one of the world's higher per capita incomes. Indeed, Israel's GNP is higher than the combined GNP of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza. With a per capita income of about $14,000, Israel ranks as the sixteenth wealthiest country in the world; Israelis enjoy a higher per capita income than oil-rich Saudi Arabia and are only slightly less well-off than most Western European countries."

And this interesting theory:

"Matti Peled, former Israeli major general and Knesset member, told Zunes that he and most Israeli generals believe this aid is "little more than an American subsidy to U.S. arms manufacturers," considering that the majority of military aid to Israel is used to buy weapons from the U.S."

... The Aerospace Industry Association ... promotes these massive arms shipments. This association has given two times more money to campaigns than all of the pro-Israel groups combined. Its force on Capitol Hill, in terms of lobbying, surpasses that of even AIPAC [American Israel PAC] ... the general thrust of U.S. policy would be pretty much the same even if AIPAC didn't exist. We didn't need a pro-Indonesia lobby to support Indonesia in its savage repression of East Timor all these years."

Food for thought.


posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Murder Mysteries
Stuff of Neil Gaiman's that I like:
- Sandman series graphic novels [*****] that's me giving it five stars
- Good Omens novel (co-written with Terry Pratchett) [****-] that's four stars
- Murder Mysteries short story [*****] that's five again

Most of this stuff can be found at Amazon. Just look up Neil's name. A lot
of my friends have already read Sandman, which is where I highly recommend
you start. Stephanie, you'd like it!

Neil Gaiman, in addition to being a famous author, has his own blog. That's
where I found out that Murder Mysteries is being adapted for the silver screen.

I once played on a MUSH based on the Sandman mythos. My character, though, was
stolen not from Sandman, but from Murder Mysteries. I played Raguel. In Jewish
(and, as a result, Christian) myth, Raguel is one of the Archangels of God. Raguel's
function is to "watch over the good behavior of his fellow angels." He's originally
mentioned in the book of Enoch, which is considered apocryphal and is not included
in the King James version of the Bible. Neil gave Raguel a big part in Murder Mysteries.

The character, as imagined by Neil Gaiman and interpreted by me, was immense fun
to play, and I have some great logs of scenes he was in. If a movie is ever made of
this story, I'll be the first one in line for tickets.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

This is dedicated to the ones we love (this is dedicated... this is dedicated...)

  Loobylu pointed me to the site that hosts this image. It's called dincTYPE: Tools for people with computers, and some of you may find it useful. I mainly just like the image, and wanted to post it even though it is a few days since George died.

UPDATE: Well, there was a great pic of George Harrison here, but the original site took it down so you can't see it now. In progress is the establishment of my own server so that the site won't have to rely on links to others when I want to put images up. Stay tuned.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Old and in the way
"It's hard to say, it's sad but true..." That's a line from a Hip song,
and just my way of introducing this girl's thoughts on getting old.

Passing through the campus brought back waves of nostalgia (don't worry, I'm not going to share that with you). You could feel the "college vibe" everywhere. It was amazing. However, at the same time, it was also quite sad. For me, it felt as though there was a giant wall between me and The Energy. It was as if I was no longer part of this special, protected and interesting club....

I was just me...

Dressed in gray suit pants, a white collared shirt, grey pullover and black Nine West Shoes. Hair in a sporty, "work-ready-bob." Walking around with fat folders tucked under my arm and contemplating investments on my retirement plan.


Everywhere I looked there was some springy 20 year-old chatting on a cell phone, huddled with friends on a stoop discussing the weekend, reading through extravagantly long tomes on luxurious subjects (the things which people can't find the time to read amidst life's responsibilities), buying CDs at the campus bookstore, eating slice after slice of drippy, greasy pizza at 11:30 am (and living to tell about it), walking arm-in-arm and hugging everyone they ran into as though each person was their very best friend.

These were not my people.

Instead, "my people" were clad in work attire and sensible shoes. We laughed at jokes which weren't funny in order to be polite. We huffed and puffed as we trudged up the steep hill that led to the green – completely out of breath once we reached the top. We talked about "dependents clauses and benefits," growing cilantro in our gardens (because there is never any in stock at the local market) and property values in Barrington.

And I felt old.

You see, I'm afraid I belong to neither of those groups. While I obviously identify more with my peers than the springy college students (whom, at one point, I referred to as "children"), I don't feel I fully belong to either group. While I can no longer wear halter tops, eat dairy or pass for a twenty-year-old, I find the topics of cilantro, property values in Barrington and the fact that I have to wear a certain uniform for work on occassion, quite boring.

I'm somewhere in the abyss between being young and carefree and being a full-fledged, card-carrying, retirement plan worrying – adult.

[ Orientation, by Paula Abilheira ] via loobylu

Song of the post: "Old," by Paul Simon

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Wednesday, December 05, 2001}

Objectionable Origami
I found this site while searching for some history on Zork for the post
below. Apparently their domain name is http://underground.zork.net.
I just couldn't resist.

[ Guillermo Garcia's "The Dog 2" ]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Holy cow, Zork! I can't even describe what it's like to see
this. If you know, you just know, and if you don't, explaining
wouldn't get the meaning across.

It's amazing.

The advice (from Ian, who provided the link and just became
yet cooler in my book) is:

open mailbox

read leaflet


Have fun.
posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Notes in the Margin
Thomas Friedman writes for the New York Times. I've always found the
Times to be biased in favor of Israel, but when I said as much to a Jewish
friend he was in total disagreement. The Times is biased in favor of the
Palestinians, he told me.

Well, perhaps that's a sign that they aren't biased at all, or that my
friend is way out of touch.

I just read this article by Friedman. In probable violation of copyright
laws, I'm going to put the whole thing up here on Objectionable Content, in
addition to providing the link above to the original article on the NY Times
web site. This is because I want to give you guys my reaction to what I
read, and I think the best way to do that is to reproduce the article below,
with my own editorial comments included. Friedman's original words are
in black text, my comments are in maroon.

Here it is.

The Intifada Is Over

The Palestinian Intifada II is finished.

It ended with last weekend's spasm of suicide bombings against Israeli kids — a signal that the Palestinian national movement was being taken over by bin Ladenism, which is the nihilistic pursuit of murderous violence against civilians, without any political program and outside of any political context. If there is anything left of the Palestinian national movement for independence, it better act now to rescue itself. Otherwise it's headed for the same dark cave as Osama bin Laden.

What this ignores is that the very week before the attack he mentions, 5 Palestinian schoolchildren (they were six to fourteen in age ... six!) were killed by an Israeli mine. And, less recent but no less on the minds of Palestinians, 160 children under eighteen, 72 of whom were under fifteen, have been killed by Israelis during this intifada.

Killing Palestinian children does not justify killing Israeli children, but considernig the loss of the Israelis without the context of the Palestinian suffering is prejudicial and dangerously misleading.

How so? Actually, I thought Intifada II was idiotic from the start. Why? Context. It came in the face of the most far-reaching U.S. and Israeli offers ever for a Palestinian state. While those offers of more than 90 percent of the West Bank, Gaza and part of East Jerusalem may not have been sufficient for Palestinians, they were a serious opening bid. The right response was a Palestinian overture to the Israeli people to persuade them to give up 100 percent — not murderous violence. That's still true. Two weeks ago a Gallup Poll showed nearly 60 percent of Israelis favoring a Palestinian state — a remarkable figure after a year of violence. Also, President Bush just publicly endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state.

In fact the Palestinians did give a counter proposal to Ehud Barak's "generous offer." It was rejected, and later Barak lost the election. Sharon wasn't willing to entertain even Barak's offer. As it turns out, Barak's offer was far from generous, stealing most of Palestinian water, giving the "country" no border with any state but Israel, dividing it via access roads and settlements, etc.

Even prior to Sharon's election, the Israelis were continuing to expand their presence in Palestine via settlement building. How can any negotiation on this issue ever occur in good faith while — at the same time — Israel uses their overwhelming force-superiority to constantly change the facts on the ground in their favor? In such a context, violence on the Palestinian side is at least understandable as a reaction to the daily theft of territory by Israel. This theft is accomplished via force; force the Palestinian's meet with what response they can muster.

In other words, it's not as if Palestinians' aspirations were being ignored and their only alternative was violence. The Israeli silent majority and the world's silent majority were both poised for a serious deal, and had Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spurned a Palestinian peace bid he would have been swept aside. But instead, Palestinians offered a suicide package. It leads to only one conclusion: that the priority of the Palestinians is not achieving an independent state. Their priority, apparently, is to kill Jews and get revenge for Israel's assassination of a Hamas leader whose only claim to fame was organizing previous suicide bombings — a regular Thomas Jefferson.

It is exactly as if the Palestinian aspirations were being ignored. While Barak's offer was not generous objectively, it is true that it was a better offer than any previous offer, and therefore was relatively generous. However, what Palestinians have seen for ten years since the Oslo accord is generous language from Israel contrasted with a worsening of the situation on the ground: more settlements, more road closures and checkpoints, less freedom of movement, more demolitions of houses and uprooting of olive trees, more water theft. . . The pace of settlement expansion had actually increased under Barak. Americans can be ignorant of these facts, but they are what life in Palestine revolves around.

From a Palestinian perspective, the negotiations have been a shell game. They are encouraged to focus on promises and treaties while Israel violates them daily. Palestinians are to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This new intifada is a result of their paying attention, and is in the context not just of ten years of failed negotiations —- while Israel eats more land — but of 34 years of occupation.

Most Palestinians do not want to kill Jews. They just want a chance at a normal life. Israel has been denying them one. Lifespans are short. How long must they wait?

So Intifada II, which was supposedly an uprising to prompt Israel to give Palestinians 100 percent of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, has morphed into Bin Laden II, a Palestinian attempt to eliminate 100 percent of Israel. There are authentic Arab and Muslim voices who understand how self-destructive this is. Take The Jordan Times, which said in its editorial Monday: "There is mounting sympathy worldwide, even solid support for the Palestinians' legitimate fight for independence and freedom. . . . But resorting to suicide attacks that have mainly targeted civilians has been harmful to the cause itself."

Most Palestinians do not want to eliminate 100 percent of Israel. Even Hamas, the orchestrator of the recent bombings, points to a specific killing by Israel that it was responding to. This is a bloody tit-for-tat, not an attempt at genocide. Again, Friedman manages to paint a picture that is the opposite of reality. The death ratio is 4:1 in "favor" of Palestinians, yet Friedman doesn't suggest that Israel wants to eliminate 100% of Palestine.

That said, Friedman has a valid point here beneath his generalizations: attacks that target civilians are harmful to any legitimate cause of statehood. They are wrong. They ought to be condemned, as all injustice should.

Arab leaders know this too, but they won't speak the truth to the Palestinians. Sad. Because if it is impossible anymore for Arab-Muslim leaders to distinguish between Palestinian resistance directed at military targets and tied to a specific peace proposal, and terrorism designed to kill kids, without regard to a peace plan or political alternatives, then over time no moral discourse will be possible between America and the Arabs. You can already see the cleavage starting, with the White House's unqualified defense of Israel's retaliation.

Arab leaders have condemned the attacks. How strongly did Israeli leaders condemn the recent killing of five Palestinian schoolchildren? "Leaders," such as they are, usually follow their citizens in these areas. Some Israeli citizens protested the deaths of Palestinian schoolchildren vehemently, while the leadership expressed mild regret. The same is true on the Arab side, with the important exception that the world (or at leas the U.S.) demands Arab disavowal of terror and violence more adamantly than they demand any such thing from Israel, though Israel is surely bringing as much violence and terror to the Arab world as vice versa.

Mr. Sharon is right to send the Arabs and the world the message that Israel is going to do whatever it takes to defend itself. But he would make a huge error — huge — if he eliminated Yasir Arafat. That is a job for Palestinians. Israel should not take ownership of their misfortune, and Mr. Arafat and his leadership are their misfortune. They need to face up to that. Mr. Sharon's job is to dispel any fantasies they have about eliminating Israel and to make clear that if Palestinians adopt a different leadership, with a different approach, Israel will offer them a fair and dignified peace.

There is a real credibility issue on both sides. Palestinians wonder if Israel will ever offer "a fair and dignified peace" given a history of indignity and unfairness. Who would expect fairness after years of settlement expansion, dignity after years of humiliation? At the same time, Israelis fear that any final peace will turn out not to be final at all, that at least some Palestinians want Israel eliminated, and will not stop simply because Palestine has a state.

There is a way out of this credibility gap, but the first step is acknowledgement that this is a problem for both sides. This is the meaning of good faith negotiation and the only way that an accord will ever be reached. Friedman sees Israel's side and ignores Palestine's. If the diplomats do the same, they put any chance of peace in peril.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which keep telling America that Israel is the problem, need to help now too — by giving Palestinians support and cover for a fair compromise. America just told Israel publicly that it must end settlements, end the occupation and accept a Palestinian state to end the conflict. When will Egypt and Saudi Arabia tell the Palestinians publicly that their game is up and they have to accept a Jewish state and end the conflict? (When will they tell themselves?)

When will Israel freeze the settlements? When will they end their violence? Violence is often blamed on Palestinians and on them alone, but anyone on the ground can see the clear imbalance in deaths and in the ability to cause deaths. Violence is caused by Israel more often than it is perpetrated against Israel.

Palestinians should accept a Jewish sate--but they should get the dignity of an end to occupation, and a fair peace in exchange.

Because if they won't, if they only blame Israel and sit by while the Palestinian national movement is hijacked by Hamas and Islamic Jihad — which want no end of the conflict except when all Jews are gone — then America too will retreat and simply adopt the view that Israel's occupation is a matter of self-defense, and may the stronger nation win. [end]

Friedman is right that Palestinian's shouldn't only blame Israel. Both sides have to move in order for the situation to change, and this means getting beyond blaming the opponent and recognizing that concessions need to happen. But the fact is that Israel is deserving of blame: Palestinians have waited not for 10 years but for 34, while Israel stole the rug out from under them. Friedman seems to be angry that the Palestinians resist their occupation at all. Wouldn't all be tidier if the death of these innocents would justify forgetting about the issue? This will not happen.

The current intifada is taking place in a context of years of Palestinian cooperation and years of Israeli stonewalling, aided and abetted by the U.S.

The United State provides the Hellfire missiles that Israel fires on Palestinian targets, provides money, and provides international legitimacy and support. The American press feeds the public here a ration of misinformation or, at best, slanted out-of-context opinion pieces like Friedman's. The result is death. If we can't even be honest about the situation, we will have a long distance to travel before we can remedy it. [end]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment