Wednesday, December 29, 2004

As Goes California...

...So Goes the US. Andrew over at And Then brought this story to my attention:

...After voters rejected a ballot measure Nov. 2 that would have boosted the sales tax to preserve city services, Salinas has earned the scorn of bibliophiles worldwide and an ugly distinction. The blue-collar town of 150,000 residents could become the most populous U.S. city without a public library.

Administrators plan to close all three branches by May or June. Nearly three dozen employees will be fired by July 1.

A friend of mine from San Francisco once claimed that everything that happens in the US, happens first in California, just three years before. While we didn't get the rolling blackouts they had, we did get the Enron crash, which was part of the cause. While we haven't had Arnold elected President (yet), their are those trying to make it happen. I fear many of the countries public libraries will be following suit shortly.

Without a library system, we aren't a viable country. It's just that simple. Barnes & Noble and Amazon will never take the place of a Library. But hay, who cares. Libraries only contain books that contradict five thousand year old shepherd poetry, so fuck 'em.

Pride in our own ignorance will make America the pariahs of the world and condemn millions to suffer for our whims but at least we won't piss off the invisible man who lives in the sky. Plus, a few more rich white men will have a couple extra bucks to roll around in at night. Ain't capitalism grand.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami Relief Blog

South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog has been set up as a resource to help the victims of the Tsunami. They have links to places where you can donate money and are looking for bloggers to help keep the place running. Pass the link along and give a hand, any way you can.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Yuletime Catblogging


Copyright 2004 Elvira Sanchez Kisser

Lucy wonders which present is hers. I'm taking the rest of the week off for the hollidays. See everybody Monday!

Update: How silly of me. I forgot to mention that the picture was taken by my lovely wife. All Rights Reserved.

Burn Down the House-- There's a Devil in the Closet

I'm on a listserv for librarians and this arrived in my inbox recently:

Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 16:35:20 -0600
Subject: Google, libraries, and privacy

As you have no doubt heard by now, five major libraries have agreed to let Google digitize all or part of their collections. Google has made arrangements with the New York Public Library and the libraries of Harvard University, Stanford University, the
University of Oxford and the University of Michigan. Stanford and Michigan will let Google digitize everything. New York and Harvard agreed to pilot projects. Oxford agreed only to books and documents prior to 1901.

To address copyright issues, Google will divide material into three categories: 1) public domain material that is displayed in its entirety without ads, 2) copyrighted material that shows only snippets and bibliographic information, and 3) copyrighted material where the publisher has agreed to allow a portion to be displayed by Google, along with sponsored links that return some money to the publisher.

Nowhere in the press have any librarians or academics expressed concerns about privacy issues.

That would be because these books are, as pointed out in the e-mail, public domain, or widely available books. He information contained in them is not double top secret, it's open access. There are no privacy issues concerning the content of any book. Ever. Books are kinda fun like that.

Google has the capacity, the history, and the intention of tracking the browsing habits of anyone and everyone who visits any of their sites. Since its
inception, Google has used a cookie with a unique ID in it that expires in 2038. They record this ID, along with the IP address, the search terms, and a time/date stamp, for everyone who searches at Google. To make matters worse, Google never comments on their relations with officials in the dozens of countries where they operate.

You mean, Google is a business and wants to keep track of what their clients buy and look at? Shocking! Why, that makes them little better than Barnes & Noble, Amazon, the Library of Congress or any book store, anywhere!

Moreover, they can be very misleading about this tracking. When Gmail was launched last April, a Google vice-president initially claimed that there would be an information firewall between Gmail and Google's tracking on their main index search. Within three months, however, after the press interest receded, Google revised their main privacy policy to comply with a new California law. In it they confessed that a single cookie is used across all of their various services, and all information is shared between them.( see www.google-watch.org/gcook.html)

Welcome to the Internet, sir. If you don't want to leave digital footprints, stay off the web.

I am asking the American Library Association to address the issue of privacy in cases where search engine digitization projects are proposed to libraries. Beth Givens from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Pam Dixon from the World Privacy Forum, and Chris Hoofnagle from EPIC are helping me with this. Here is a letter I wrote to Mitch Freedman: www.google-watch.org/appeal.html

If you can help us get the word out on this issue, it would be much appreciated. Thank you,
Daniel Brandt
PIR president
Public Information Research

I've left off Mr. Brandt's contact info, to protect his privacy.

I've noticed lately that a lot of the old Guard Librarians are afraid of Google. Numerous e-mails have been circulating about the proposed digitization of library holdings, Google Scholar and just plain Google. You'd think from the tone, that Google is Sauron offering librarians to hold his ring. What the hell are they so afraid of? No one's saying that Google will replace libraries or librarians (except a few librarians, oddly enough) and frankly the notion is absurd. Google is not going to Deascession, throw out, burn asunder or in any other fashion get rid of the physical books they are digitizing. They'll still be there in the library for browsing and Inter Library Loan requests. The LA Daily News:

"You'll see a highly faithful, photographic, high-resolution image of each page," said John Wilkin, a librarian at the University of Michigan who's been working with members of the so-called "Google Print" project for more than two years. He said that, by mid-2005, Google will have tens of thousands of the university's books in digital format -- and ready to be placed online.

Wilkin doesn't think having books and excerpts online will replace the brick-and-mortar library. But he does envision a day when people will be able to browse "virtual book shelves," arranged by topic or catalog number.

Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association, thinks the value of helping people from anywhere in the world view a library's special collections is "almost priceless."

Still, he is "underwhelmed" with the idea of short excerpts of copyrighted books, which he says provide information that -- unless read as part of the whole book -- is limited and often useless.

"The English language with words out of context doesn't really mean anything," says Gorman, who's also dean of library services at California State University, Fresno.

Other librarians agree that there are kinks that Google will need to work out. For instance, to make sure the library content isn't buried beneath traditional Web content, many think Google will need to create a separate area for searching books only.

Among them is Andrew Herkovic, strategic projects director at the Stanford University Libraries.

Still, Herkovic believes people will still find this latest Google feature useful.

"This is a way of enhancing access to the literature, not a way to replace it," he says. "You can't know you want it if you don't know it exists."

Herkovic says this system will, at the very least, let Web searchers know the book they need is out there.

I use Google frequently to write my papers for Grad School, and to do research for my fiction, which is why I'm excited about Google Scholar and this digitization program: it means I'll be able to find the information I need faster. But I also frequent the shelves of libraries and bookstores, request books through ILL and do things the old fashioned way, when I'm not pressed for time. I use Google tools to get me started in the digital world and really, that's what Google is for: it's a digital supplement to traditional research, not a replacement for libraries or librarians. So, calm down Mr. Gorman, Mr Brandt and all you other upitty librarians. All Google is doing is changing the way we do our job, something we're used to-- or at least should be, by now.

Monday, December 20, 2004

From the Horse's Mouth

Philip Pullman, on the democracy of reading:
Of course, democracies don't guarantee that real reading will happen. They just make it possible. Whether it happens or not depends on schools, among other things. And schools are vulnerable to all kinds of pressure, not least that exerted by governments eager to impose "targets", and cut costs, and teach only those things that can be tested. One of the most extraordinary scenes I've ever watched, and one which brings everything I've said in this piece into sharp focus, occurs in the famous videotape of George W Bush receiving the news of the second strike on the World Trade Centre on 9/11. As the enemies of democracy hurl their aviation-fuel-laden thunderbolt at the second tower, their minds intoxicated by a fundamentalist reading of a religious text, the leader of the free world sits in a classroom reading a story with children. If only he'd been reading Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, or Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, or a genuine fairy tale! That would have been a scene to cheer. It would have illustrated values truly worth fighting to preserve. It would have embodied all the difference between democratic reading and totalitarian reading, between reading that nourishes the heart and the imagination and reading that starves them.

But no. Thanks among other things to his own government's educational policy, the book Bush was reading was one of the most stupefyingly banal and witless things I've ever had the misfortune to see. My Pet Goat (you can find the text easily enough on the internet, and I can't bring myself to quote it) is a drearily functional piece of rubbish designed only to teach phonics. You couldn't read it for pleasure, or for consolation, or for joy, or for wisdom, or for wonder, or for any other human feeling; it is empty, vapid, sterile.

But that was what the president of the United States, and his advisers, thought was worth offering to children. Young people brought up to think that that sort of thing is a real book, and that that sort of activity is what reading is like, will be in no position to see that, for example, it might be worth questioning the US National Park Service's decision to sell in their bookstores a work called Grand Canyon: A Different View, which claims that the canyon was created, like everything else, in six days. But then it may be that the US is already part way to being a theocracy in the sense I mean, one in which the meaning of reading, and of reality itself, is being redefined.

He goes on to mention the now infamous reality-based community and our delusion that facts come from the horse's mouth-- that is, they proceed from evidence, which is obtained through sound experimentation, as well as a bit of judicious imagination, rather than from the other end of the horse, where our proto-Theocrat, President Kill Again seems to get all of his information. What a sorry state of affairs this world has fallen into when the notion that creative rather than fundamentalist reading is a requirement of a democracy strikes us as a radical idea.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Earthsea Vs. The Salt of the Earth

I love movies. This is hardly a surprise, I know, as often as I write about them here but I just want to clarify this fact. I love, love, love movies. My wife and I have a DVD collection approaching 250 titles1. Another shock will be when I announce that I love books just as much. A Librarian? Who loves Books!? Egads!

Yes, I know. The horror, the horror. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that while books may be the backbone of our culture and movies the dominant form of entertainment in the world, Book People and Movie People tend to move in different circles and interact only in a mediated setting, something along the lines of a diplomatic treaty writing session, where the Book People-- conquered and embittered by those moving pictures, fork over rights to the Movie People for a couple of bucks so the Movie People can make millions turning well crafted and thoughtful books into Action thrillers and Saturday afternoon popcorn munchers, devoid of their native themes, characters or even stories.

It's often been lamented how unfaithful Hollywood is to the book durring the adaptation process. I have a bit of insight when it comes to this process, as I studied it extensively in undergrad (If you think Tolkienites got uppity when they left Tom Bombadil out of Lord Of The Rings, you should see how irate some Comic Book Geeks got over the changes to the X-Men, "What do you mean, Beast isn't in the movie!?!").

Adaptation is a complex process and even the successful ones (See: LOTR) must take liberties to the plot and characters. The general rule of thumb for a successful adaptation is to stay true to the spirit of the story. Retain the themes. Make only those changes that are necessary. Get in, make you movie, and get out before the corporate execs decide Aragorn needs a wisecracking parrot or Lex Luthor should have a gay robot sidekick2.

So, it's understood that some things must be changed when a story goes from the page to the screen. As popular as Tom Bombadil is with Tolkienites, he's not a pivitol character and including him in the film would have been a mistake. It would have slowed the pace durring the Black Rider's chase sequence and made no sense. Why would the Hobbits spend a month sipping tea with this wood sprite while the Black Riders are knocking down doors all across the shire looking for them? Tolkien, famoulsy, said his book was unfilmable. And he was right, in that to film it scene for scene, including every detail would make the most awful frankenstein of a film ever. Imagine Lord of the Rings as a twenty hour long musical and you begin to see that Tom Bombadil is the least of the elements that needs to be cut.

But one can go too far, as illustrated in this critique of her own books-turned-TV miniseries, Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin:

They were talking at that time of a large-scale theater movie, although the possibility of a TV miniseries was mentioned. They said that they had already secured Philippa Boyen (who scripted The Lord of the Rings) as principal scriptwriter, and reported that she was eager to work on an Earthsea film. As the script was, to me, all-important, her presence was the key factor in my decision to sell them the option to the film rights.

Time went by. By the time they got backing from the Sci Fi Channel for a miniseries -- and Robert Halmi Sr. had come aboard -- they had lost Boyen.

That was a blow. But I had just seen Mr Halmi's miniseries Dreamkeeper with its stunning Native American cast, so I said to them in a phone conversation, hey, maybe Mr Halmi will cast some of those great actors in Earthsea! -- Oh, no, I was told -- Mr Halmi had found those people impossible to work with.

"Well," I said, "you do realise that almost everybody in Earthsea is 'those people,' or anyhow not white?"

I don't remember what their answer to that was -- it may have used that wonderful weasel word "colorblind" -- but it wasn't reassuring, because I do remember saying to my husband, oh, gee, I bet they're going to have a honky Ged. . .

And as anyone who's seen the commercials will know, they do get the Honkiest of Honkies, Shawn 'Ice Man' Ashmore3. The changes don't stop here, of course. Most of the cast is whitewashed, as is a fair amount of the story. As Le Guin elaborates on her own website:

When I tried to suggest the unwisdom of making radical changes to characters, events, and relationships which have been familiar to hundreds of thousands of readers all over the world for over thirty years, I was sent a copy of the script and informed that production was already under way.

So, for the record: there is no statement in the books, nor did I ever intend to make a statement, about "the union of two belief systems." There's nothing at all about the "duality of spirituality and paganism," whatever that means, either.

Earlier in the article, Robert Halmi is quoted as saying that Earthsea "has people who believe and people who do not believe." I can only admire Mr Halmi's imagination, but I wish he'd left mine alone.

In the books, the wizardry of the Archipelago and the ritualism of the Kargs are opposed and united, like the yang and yin. The rejoining of the broken arm-ring is a symbol of the restoration of an unresting, active balance, offering a risky chance of peace.

This has absolutely nothing to do with "people who believe and people who do not believe." That terrible division into Believers and Unbelievers (itself a matter not of reason but of belief) is one which bedevils Christianity and Islam and drives their wars.

But the wizards of Earthsea would look on such wars as madness, and the dragons of Earthsea would laugh at them and fly away...

Toto, something tells me Earthsea isn't Iraq.

I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien "intended..." would people think they'd been "very, very honest to the books"?

Luckily, they didn't. And while it's too late for this adaptation of Earthsea, perhaps, in the future, some precocious director with the sensibilities of Peter Jackson will learn a lesson from this botched job and make a fine adaptation, one that remains faithful, even while making changes for "The Salt of the Earth..."4


_________
1. Or over $2000, as a friend of ours pointed out last night, much to our dismay. We'd rather not think about just how much money our obsession costs, thank you.

2. This was an actual suggestion made by an actual Hollywood exec, many moons ago when Superman was being shopped around. I heard it from an aquintence in undergrad who was an intern one summer in LA. It may be approcraphil, but the acquaintance was a pretty reliable guy.

3. No offense to the young Mr Ashmore. He's a good actor and has potential to become a great one but he's pretty much as wholesome and white bread as they come, a far cry from the brown-skinned Ged of the Earthsea books.

4. "...You know, morons."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Google Library

Cnet News:
Google will expand its ability for searching books by working with Stanford and Harvard Universities, among others, to digitize out-of-print and copyrighted works.

On Tuesday, the Mountain View, Calif.-based is expected to announce relationships with five major libraries, including the University of Michigan, Oxford University and the New York Public Library, to create digital copies of some books so that they may be searchable using Google. Also on Tuesday, the company will begin sampling some works already scanned for Google Print, the company's searchable index of books that it formally unveiled in October.

Susan Wojcicki, Google's director of product management, said the project will evolve over several years.

"Lbraries have been the keepers of information for centuries," she said. "We're excited to unlock that wealth of Information."

This is Amazon's Search Inside the Book function times a thousand. If they get all the bugs worked out (and with copyright laws as FUBAR as they are right now, there are some big bugs) this could be revolutionary-- a virtual Library of Alexandria. The Real Invisible Library.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Early Weekend Catblogging



I'm going to be on the road most of the weekend so no posting until at least Monday for me. But I've left Lucy in charge until then, so all of your catblogging needs will be accounted for.

Digging A Hole

Once again, the Guardian does the job US news sources should be, but aren't doing:

What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? "Dig a hole," Gerald Allen recommends, "and dump them in it." Don't laugh. Gerald Allen's book-burying opinions are not a joke.

Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. "Oh no," he laughs. "It's my fifth meeting with Mr Bush.

Bush is interested in Allen's opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush's base. Last week, Bush's base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that "promote homosexuality". Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle". That's why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.
It's well worth reading the Guardian article, just for the take down of this half wit's inane similes, tortured logic and complete lack of scruples or self awareness. He comes off as a political opportunist of the first order, the sort of knee jerk, goose stepping pig fucker who could blithely defend censorship, while claiming he's actually fighting it, and never ever see the irony, or the tragedy of his actions. Of course, that would require a sensitivity to literary themes and ideas that he and most Republicans never bothered to cultivate, because as we all know, irony and tragedy are totally for fags.

I wrote previously about Representative Gerald "I'm Not a Nazi, Really" Allen's adventures in bamboozelment here.

Sangria

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a recipe for Chatham County Artillery Punch that sounds promising. Reading it reminded me that I've never posted the recipe for Sangria that Elvira and I have fine-tuned over the years. So here it is:

Sangria

  • 1 magnum of red wine (cheap wine works well but not too cheap. A good $8-10 bottle will do. We like Concha y Toro)
  • 1 pint bourbon or spiced rum (The Captain does nicely)
  • 1 can each, frozen concentrate lemonade and limeade
  • mixed fruit, seasonal
  • about a quart of cold water
  • sugar to taste
Ideally, the fruit should soak overnight in the rum or brandy but if you're making this last minute, it's not required and doesn't diminish the taste.

Mix the lemonade/limeade with water and then add to the wine in a large pot. Pour in the rum or brandy (if you've decided not to soak the fruit). As fruit goes, lemons, limes and oranges are practically a necessity. Grapes are nice. Cherries are preferable.

Obviously, you need to refrigerate the brandy and fruit if your soaking them overnight. The whole concoctive should be refrigerated until served.

This goes great at parties but if you want to make a small, cheap and dirty batch for just lounging around on a Saturday night, omit the fruit, use smaller cans of concentrate lemon and limeade and whatever left over wine and rum/brandy you have on hand.

Generally, we serve this at Halloween parties, or summer get togethers but there is absolutely no reason it can't be served at Christmas or New Years. Oranges and cherries would be lovely this time of year, whereas pineapple and grapes go nicely in warmer months.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Where My Mind Is

I saw the Pixies last night, at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. I was blown away. Really tight playing, a solid show all around. I was super impressed and had a great time. They did a fantastic rendition of Nimrod's Son where, in the second verse, they slowed the pace down and added a sot of dark-edged country sound to it that I think was an improvement over the original.

During Vamos, Joey Santiago took center stage and played his guitar with a drum stick, played with some noise colloge and tapped out the melody on the raw end of his amp coard. It was fun, though after the show, whle walking back to the metro, I heard two kids lamenting that he dropped the notes and was just making noise.

Kids these days. I tell ya, they have no respect for the art of their elders. Why, in my day, we loved noisey rock and roll-- the fewer notes the better.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Human Cost of Big Ideas

Over lunch, Kevin and I were discussing The Librarian, that execrable show that TNT aired last night. After lambasting the hackneyed plot (though the actors did a remarkable job, considering the stilted dialogue and ridiculous story) we got to discussing the Pyramids.

Kevin and I share a fascination with esoteric lore of all sorts, from Theosophy to Astrology and the more outlandish brain droppings of mystics from all over. However, we differ on our views of history. Kevin is a big fan of the Great Pyramids, much in the way that many are: as monuments to something greater than humanity, that spiritual impulse to devote one's life (and as I pointed out, the lives of thousands of slaves and coerced peasants) towards the construction of something representative of the Awe of the Divine.

Being an atheist with a progressive sense of social justice, and in possession of a thoroughly modern world view, I have mixed feelings about the Pyramids. While I do recognise their importance as grand monuments to the Human Spirit, I also cannot fully appreciate them as being worth the sacrifices made to build them. While Kevin argued that the builders of the pyramids were glad to give their lives for something greater, I take a slightly more cynical view: that they were coerced with lies spread by priests into giving up their freedom, and often times their lives, for the aggrandisement of a King who fancied himself semi-divine and thus, beyond mere human concerns like compassion for the less fortunate. Filled with hubris, the Pharaohs decided that they were more important than history and wished to outlive it. Ironically, their pursuit of immortality ensured that something would remain, though the pyramid's have become more an abstract symbol for human achievement, while the names and deeds of those particular kings have become little more than footnotes in history books.

I fully realize these views are the product of my 21st century lifestyle and 20th century upbringing, are contradictory and disregard historicity as well as cultural differences. But, I am vast, and contain multitudes. I don't apologize for being modern, unsympathetic towards those whose religious delusion leads them to coercion of others through lies and trickery, or culturally smug. I'm better than the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Mullahs of Islam and the Preachers of the Moral Majority, all rolled together in one gigantic Frankensteinian ego monster, because I recognise the human cost of their Big Ideas.

So, the Great Pyramids, while fascinating as architectural and cultural objects, were only possible through coercion, lies and the suffering of uncounted thousands. I suspect President Kill Again understands this on some emotional level (with his infamous Thinking Gut, perhaps) but completely misses the bigger picture: that whatever his reasons and motivations may be for waging his wars, be they cultural shifts towards the Radical Right or Military Adventures in Mesopotamia, his actions are made possibly only by the suffering of his fellow human beings and history will remember this fact, above all others.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The New Confederacy

Six score and nineteen years ago, the American Civil War ended. The Confederacy was dragged kicking and screaming back into the Union in order to preserve Unity, economic prosperity, and so we wouldn't have to change the number of stars on the flag1. At the time, this seemed like a good idea. But, as the recent Presidential Ugliness has shown us, in the long run, this idea sucks eggs. We should have let the Confederates go when we had the chance.

Now, we've let them into the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court and they're trying to rewrite the Constitution (When they aren't just ignoring it outright) to suite their ends of turning this once great Experiment in Democracy into a Christian Theocracy that, were it's rhetoric slightly more Arabesque, would give the Mullahs in Saudia Arabia a holy hard on.

This election made one thing very clear: their really are two Americas. John Edwards may have thought he was being allegorical but there is far more truth in symbolism than many care to admit. Blue America and Red America, while not exactly regional places, are very clear states of mind. These mental states have created these two Americas that are very separate, very much at odds with one another. As Steve gilliard pointed out:

Liberals, members of the reality-based community, cannot understand why right-wingers cannot see the self-serving nature of those in charge and make much of the blind religious faith of evangelical fundamentalists who support Bush. Again: Bushco doesn't want policies. They want power. The power to empty the Treasury, to enrich their golfing buddies, the power to enforce social, intellectual and cultural conformity at the expense of independent thinking. How else will they get enough of the populace to vote against their own best interests?

Here's the thing: right-wing voters can see it. They like it. Jane Smiley's wrong. They know perfectly well which end is up; they're bullies and, at heart, monarchists/theocrats, and they want to be associated with brute force. They know it'll cause pain to people they hate, so they like it.

Well, I say, if it's a Confederacy they want, It's a Confederacy they shall have. Only this time, it's we Unionists who will Secede.

Take a look at this electoral map. While not all of the Blue States are contiguous, they are all in pockets, the Coasts and the Northern Midwest states, plus Hawaii.

Here is what I sugest: Blue America should succeed from Red America. While the regional Red vs. Blue state divide is not a complete match, it’s better than what we have now: two very different Americas trying to get along as one. The Confederates don't like our culture; all of our decadent art and filthy museums? Fine. We'll take them with us. All the important cultural institutions are in Blue America anyway. Along with all the ivy league schools and most of the other educational centers that are so rife with pinko sentiment. But we get to keep Wall Street. It's in that hot bed of Liberal sentiment, New York, so commerce is ours. Red America hates Hollywood values but they love Hollywood movies. From now on, they'll get them second run, and pay through the nose for them. Oh, and we get Washington DC as well. It's not like they were visiting the Smithsonian anyway and they're always going on about how they want someone from outside the Beltway to run things. Fine. Move your Confederate Capitol to Arkansas.

We also get the Constitution, and the name along with it. You won't miss it. We'll be the USA and you can be The Confederate States of Jesusland or whatever Biblical name you can conjure up. Fine with us.

Now, succession isn't easy. Their will be some uncomfortable years of adjustment. Mostly for the Confederates, as they'll have to get used to not having Blue State tax money funding their roads, schools and small businesses. Georgia Tech used to be a nice school. But once the Confederates get their way and Education is privatized, they can say bye bye to their NCAA teams2. But hay, they want to abolish all that pesky government interference in education and economics anyway. The hardest part will be for the Unionists who currently reside in blue counties stuck inside Red States. There's quite the archipelago of Unionists out there and we'll have to establish guidelines so they can immigrate to safe territory. I suggest a Treaty of Naturalization: Once the two Americas are separate political entities, anyone born prior to the date of succesion and living in the Confederacy can immigrate to the US and receive immediate, free citizenship. After all, you were born in the US. I would suggest a reciprocal guideline for those living in the US who wish to immigrate to the Confederacy but we all know how they feel about immigrants.

So where will the new American States go from there? That's up to all of us to decide, since, after all, we'll be a real, functioning Democracy again, instead of the Confederate sham that we have now3. Hay, the skies the limit. And since we'll need to replace the vacuum left by the Democrats becoming the conservative party, then maybe the Greens (or some as-yet unknown party that is actually Liberal) will step up and fill the void.

And what will become of our Confederate neighbors? It's unlikely that they will be able to keep on making wars, since most of the means of production that belong to the military industrial complex will be in the US. Not that that will stop them. They do love to blow shit up and don't let a little thing like economics, the well-being of their citizens or reality get in the way of their boys having a good ol time. I predict that within a generation of succession, the Confederacy will be running on slave labor and dirt roads, just like grandpapy used to. And they'll love every minute of it. Sure, they'll effectively be a third world nation of subsistance farmers, oil fiefdoms and corporate slavery. But they'll finally be rid of that nasty liberal and cultural elite that they hate so very much.


_________
1. If you think the process is tedious for a regular bill, try passing one involving amending the flag. It's easier to discuss evolution with a Republican.
2. We will of course have to send archivists and librarians in to retrieve the few cultural artifacts and resources left behind by secession.
3. I'm thinking Universal healthcare, Legal Homosexual Unions with all the benefits and maybe even decriminalization of marijuana, just to name a few of my pet ideas.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Something in the Water?

I didn't see this anywhere else on the Blogosphere, so go me for being on the ball:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson resigned Friday, broadening an exodus that has emptied more than half of President Bush's Cabinet before he starts his second term.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's cabinet member number nine to resign in a month. Sure, some adjustments are always in order for a president's second term but nine resignations in a month? Either the rats are jumping ship (except for the biggest rats, Rumsfeld and Chenney, who probably can't fit through the portholes) or else President Kill Again is purging the pseudofascists in order to replace them with the real thing. Given the choices for replacement, I'm leaning towards the latter, unfortunately.

Out of curiosity, what does it take to get a scandal to stick to this bunch? Torture, corruption and invasion isn't enough, apparently. Anybody got any incriminating pictures of W and Condi?

Catblogging



'Blog' may have been added to the dictionary but has catblogging? I don't think so. We're still ahead of the curve on that one.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Down Birmingham Way

Birmingham News:

MONTGOMERY - An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

[...]

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

A spokesman for the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center called the bill censorship.

"It sounds like Nazi book burning to me," said SPLC spokesman Mark Potok.

[...]

If the bill became law, public school textbooks could not present homosexuality as a genetic trait and public libraries couldn't offer books with gay or bisexual characters.

When asked about Tennessee Williams' southern classic "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," Allen said the play probably couldn't be performed by university theater groups.

Allen said no state funds should be used to pay for materials that foster homosexuality. He said that would include nonfiction books that suggest homosexuality is acceptable and fiction novels with gay characters. While that would ban books like "Heather has Two Mommies," it could also include classic and popular novels with gay characters such as "The Color Purple," "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and "Brideshead Revisted."

It starts with ripping out a page here and a page there and then, before long, we're digging holes and burrying all the books, or just torching them where they sit on the shelves. This is worse than the Nazis because at least the Nazis just built bonfires and shoved the books in. With a Nazi, you know where you stand and have something to swing against. But with a Republican, they like to pretend it's some moral crusade for Baby Jesus and all the little cherubim at home and paint the opposition as evil sodomists and cock suckers for Satan. They learned their lessons and are trying to legislate hate and degredation instead of just stomping on our faces with jackboots.

The CBLDF is fighting this and, as Neil Gaiman sugests, becoming a member is an acceptable Christmas Gift for that bibliophile or librarian in your life.

Twice a Day, In Vaudeville

John Halbo suggests that Joseph Moncure March's The Wild Party would make an excellent stocking stuffer. And I agree. Just search inside the book and you'll see (Gads! Now I'm rhyming! Oh what luck, and timing...)

Anyway, This book is made all the better with At Spiegelman's illustrations. Which got me thinking, what other little books would thrill adults (of a suitably deranged and askew humor) if they were to find them in their stockings on Christmas morning?

Obviously, for illustrated books full of humor and strangeness, the grand master is Edward Gorey. Amazon has a nice little catalog of all of his books in print and they are all well worth it.

Any other suggestions?