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Saturday, May 27, 2006
A week ago, last Saturday, I went out with people to a place where you can paint your own pottery. It's just the kind of artsy-fartsy crap that would never have occurred to me, but it sounded like fun once the idea was presented to me, as usual, through the Formal Committee on Can We Please Go Do Something? So, we went.
As we pull up, someone says, "What kind of stuff are we going to make?"
Me: "I dunno, single-use Frisbees?"
I thought it was a really dumb remark, but it went over surprisingly well.
You walk around the store, and the pottery is made already; different kinds of bowls and plates, masks, animals, you name it, you can probably find it and paint it. Then you pick out the colors you want to use, and that takes longer than you think, too, because the paint looks different after the piece is fired, and depending on how many coats you use. Not that I was in a hurry, mind you, but the planning process eats up some time.
The painting begins, and because I am no artist, the bowl I have picked out will be one color on the inside, and another on the outside, dark green, and cobalt blue, respectively. But, in a nod to trying not to be a complete lameass, I paint a yellow moon and a white star on one side of the bowl, which you may have guessed, is sort of square-shaped.
It occurs to me, only now, that because of these choices, the woman who runs the place, while very kind and helpful, probably thinks that I'm a Muslim fundamentalist.
In past stabs at art, back in grade school, I was inevitably stymied by a complete lack of ability to translate things I saw in the world or in my mind into a tangible, visual thing. I cannot make a straight line or a circle, and the only art-thing using clay that I can recall making was a baseball.
"Oh, you shaped clay into a sphere, made laces on it, and then painted it white and red?"
Um, no. Just that first step. And not a particularly good sphere, either.
I can just imagine my art teacher (note to my younger readers in the US: school children used to get art class in school, back before we realized there is no quantifiable value in this type of expression) looking at this blob of crap, with my initials dutifully carved into it, so no one else might try and lay claim to it, and thinking, "My God. Dirt died for this?"
But the bowl shows promise, and we will go pick our stuff up today. Perhaps if I can figure out how to post pictures here, I'll let you have a look at the results, which should be dishwasher and microwave-safe.
posted at 12:37 PM
Now You've Gone Too Far
The United States Congress has passed and renewed the obviously unconstitutional so-called Patriot Act. It has ceded its duty to be the branch of government that declares war to the Executive branch. It has permitted the president of the United States to ignore the laws that are inconvenient to him. It has looked the other way when members of the US military tortured detainees in Iraq. It has done nothing to stem the practice of "extraordinary rendition" in which the government deports prisoners, often without charges, to countries that permit torture. It has approved tax cut after tax cut for the wealthiest, running up enormous deficits, all while Americans die in the deserts of Iraq. It has ignored the fact that the president has bragged about tapping phones within the United States, without a warrant. It has seen fit to downplay the NSA's data mining operations which have collected data on virtually every telephone call made within the US since 2001.
The Congress of the United States has allowed George W. Bush to use the Constitution as a doormat, and to declare civil liberties as inconvenient.
This week, the FBI, signed search warrant in hand, raided the capitol office of a congressman charged with taking bribes. Congressmen from both parties inveighed against this unprecedented intrusion into their kingdom.
So finally, the Congress of the United States is concerned about the rights of citizens against the wants of a police state.
Too late. Fuck you. Die.
posted at 3:06 PM
My Big Fat Greek Primary Diary
I'm going to take an objective look at the California governor's race right now, but before I get started, please bear in mind that Arnold is going to win. Thank you.
But, as of this writing, we have a Democrat primary coming up, and it pits State Treasurer Phil Angelides against State Controller Steve Westly. The race leaves me with only one question:
Do I want to vote for the multi-millionaire, or the mega-multi-millionaire?
Phil is a guy who has worked closely with bigshot Sacramento developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, and this is a major bone of contention for those in the party who are very anti-development.
Steve, on the other hand, is best known for helping eBay get started, and is a one-man dotcom bubble unto himself. This is a major bone of contention among those of us who have a problem with an online garage sale.
They're battling it out for the right to be the Dem nominee, and take on the current governor, whose name I have momentarily forgotten. He's bland, but that's all I remember.
Being a political animal, I've looked very closely at both men, their resumes, their statements, and it's not going to be an easy decision for me to make. Both candidates will protect a woman's right to choose, will fix our "broken" schools, and probably give us all enough access to health care that we may live to be 500 years old. I'm not sure I want to live that long, but neither candidate is proposing a handgun ban, so at least I can still blow my brains out, should I so desire.
There are differences, of course. Phil Angelides' name was once used on The Simpsons, and this fictional Phil was introduced as Duff Beer's "vice president in charge of calendars and fake IDs." Apparently, the show's producers just liked the name and decided to use it, but it gives Phil a deep well of cool that dorks like me can't get enough of.
Steve Westly has great hair.
So again, a tie. I need something to help me decide, and it's already May 22nd.
At the moment, the major issue separating the boys is the fact that Angelides has said that he is going to raise taxes, which in days of yore, used to be done all the time when a government was running an obscene deficit. Westly, of course, is a smart enough politician to jump all over Phil.
"Taxes? TAXES?!? What's next? Human sacrifice?"
And I snort in amusement, because I know that Phil is only asking for large corporations to pay a higher share, and for households with incomes over $400,000 per year to do the same. We as Californians have bills to pay, and the top one percent is being asked to use regular gas instead of premium in their yachts.
Poor rich bastards...
I don't understand why, year in and year out, people who work for a living, and I mean really work, sympathize so much with the super-wealthy whose pools you clean, and whose children you raise. Let them pay a little more, and when the deficits are erased, they will receive tax cuts again. Or they won't. Frankly, I don't care.
Now, I don't fault Westly for jumping all over this opportunity to kick his opponent, but it is disingenuous to claim to want to fix problems in California, and not have a plan to pay for these repairs. Do you want the cops to come when your house is being invaded? The fire department to show up when your car hits a pothole and sails off of a bridge? What about fixing the damned roads and bridges?
These things cost money, and society raises cash for them through taxes. I learned that in junior high, and apparently have gotten neither so old, nor so rich that I have forgotten the lesson. It'd be nice if Jesus would miracle the deficit away, but he's very busy working up hurricanes for New Orleans.
So, if I was a betting man, I'd have to put my money on Steve Westly to get the nomination, even though I feel like Phil Angelides is the better candidate. Plus, you know, that whole Simpsons thing. But, Westly will win in June because he sent me money in the mail.
This past Saturday, I open my mailbox and find an envelope. It is from Steve Westly, State Controller. Inside is my California state tax refund. No one could possibly compete with that. For doing absolutely nothing, I have received money, delivered to my home, and I am grateful.
Polls now show Angelides and Westly in a virtual deadlock. The interesting thing is that 33% of the people polled (and I think we know how painful that can be) are still undecided. I'm seriously hoping the undecideds and a good 25% of the "lesser of two evils" voters will take a look at Peter Camejo's Green Party candidacy. Camejo is a sharp guy, and knows how money works. He's an unrepentant liberal, and doesn't owe anything to anyone. At least look at his website at http://votecamejo.com/
If your interest isn't piqued, I'll personally refund the price of your magazine.*
*offer not valid if you can read this.
The long holiday weekend is over. It's very quiet on the election front. Maybe a little too quiet. I'm out of the loop, and also owe the Overused Cliche' Writers Union a hundred bucks.
Phil and Steve still polling in a statistical dead heat, and the mud continues to fly. Arnold must be giggling to himself a lot these days, watching the ammo pile up for him to use against whichever one of these shnooks wins the primary. The governor may still be polling in the low-40s himself, but he was the star of Last Action Hero, and no one can compete with that.
Well, no one but Mary Carey.
Election Eve. It's not really a holiday, but it feels like one. I celebrate by heading out with two rubber masks, one looks like Phil, the other looks like Steve. I start knocking on doors.
"Tax or effete!"
I am assaulted roughly the same number of times in either mask. I still don't know who is getting my vote.
I go vote around 11am, and am handed a non-partisan ballot, which matches my registration. The ballot does not have a listing for "Governor." I cast my mark on the ballot measures, and for sheriff, and slink out of my polling place. I remember later that I could have asked for a party-affiliated ballot. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone.
I wish I was making this up.
Phil Angelides declares victory at about 1:15 am, and will take on Arnold in the election come November. I am excited by the prospect of actually casting a vote in this race, although upon further consideration, I can't think of any reason why that should be.
In our next issue: Hot Fall Fashions to wear to the polls! Parasols are going to be de rigeur this year! Suck on that, Newsweek.
posted at 2:42 PM
Some of you know what I do for a living, and some of you don't. I don't think it matters, really. But I work closely with a guy who is very bright, and has similar views politically, yet we're quite different, even in how we look at things where we agree.
Talking about things political is an amusing exercise, and I encourage people to do so, but I don't expect any positive change to come from any of it. I believe the system is too broken to wring any value out of it, but that doesn't stop me from railing on about any number of topics, be it the growing economic disparity in America, or the reduction of our civil liberties. These things (and many more) frustrate the hell out of me, and it's very easy to work myself up about them, explore possibilities, make inappropriate remarks, and enjoy the argument.
When the conversation is over, I'm done with it. I'm not angry, depressed, just done. And I can have another conversation immediately, if for some reason, someone actually wanted one. I think maybe I use it as a cerebral workout, but not much else.
Turns out, I'm not really so much of an activist. I used to go out and march, and counter-demonstrate, although, even then, a great deal of it was curiosity about the people standing opposite whose viewpoint I couldn't fathom. Now, I think I'm really more of an agitator. It's not that there aren't still causes I'd be willing to get smashed over the head to further, but I just understand now that the game is fixed, and I'd really rather not waste my time. There's a laziness component there, I will not deny, but even though I respect the passion of activists, I can't bring myself to share it. I will get you good and fired up about something, or at least force you to reexamine it, but you would have a tough time convincing me that change is possible in this day without armed revolution. If you aren't rich, you're on the wrong side of the ledger, and frankly, you've lost.
I still like to examine problems, and consider solutions, because I do believe that change is possible, but when demonstrators are penned in to "free speech zones" blocks or miles from the thing or person they are protesting, then it is an utter waste of time. I'm pretty sure that such zones are an inherent violation of the right to assemble peaceably, but I'm not an attorney, and it will be left up to attorneys to decide this, if anyone ever bothers to bring up a lawsuit about it. Power respects only power.
I'm a bit tired, and I suppose when I'm better rested, I may take issue with some of what I've written here.
posted at 6:29 PM
Mad yet? Hello?
Frankly, I don't much feel like listing the exhausting litany of reasons why the Bush administration is the most criminal organization to ever run the White House. You can read the blog archives to relive many of them. But, we can focus on two for the moment, if you can focus at all.
Back in December, it was revealed that the president had instructed the NSA to conduct wiretaps on American citizens within the United States without first getting a warrant. George W. Bush did not deny this; No, he instead chose the time-honored method of acting boastfully about something that he should be ashamed of. He vowed that he would continue the program, and find out who the traitors were that revealed the program. Par for the course with this bastard, but the interesting aspect, at least for me, is that his admission about the program makes the first time in the history of the United States that a sitting president has admitted to a felony. Feel free to re-read that sentence, and then wonder aloud why impeachment proceedings have not been initiated.
The Department of Justice was starting an investigation of these crimes, but when they got around to the NSA, they were told that they, the DOJ, did not have clearance to investigate the NSA.
Does that seem a bit strange to you?
The icing on the cake is that, the DOJ, instead of subpoenaing what has become a rogue agency within the US government, just said "OK," and closed the investigation. Much harm, no foul.
Just this month, Bush fires CIA chief Porter Goss, who is tied in with these poker & prostitute parties at the Watergate Hotel. Hah, a sordid mess that certainly deserves its own blog entry, but I only mention it because Bush has nominated Goss' replacement, Air Force General Michael Hayden. Hayden has an extensive intelligence background, with NSA, and not to brag, the warrantless NSA wiretaps on Americans was his brainchild. So, he's uniquely qualified to head up the CIA for an autocrat like Bush, and of course, the DOJ has dropped the investigation, so Hayden is golden.
This week, it was revealed that the NSA has been keeping a log of domestic calls made since shortly after the September 11th attacks. If you have land line service from AT&T, BellSouth or Verizon (and 200 million Americans do), then your calls have been logged. All of them. The NSA also went to Qwest, but for some reason, just because it's the law, I guess, Qwest asked them to go get a warrant from the FISA court. The NSA agent replied that they didn't take that particular legal step, because they were pretty sure that a warrant would not be granted. The NSA threatened Qwest with the loss of future government contracts. If this seems like extortion to you, I am forced to agree. Still, Qwest insisted on a warrant, and the NSA reps crawled back under their rocks.
The president was forced to defend yet another illegal program by saying that the government "not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." The word that leapt out at me was "innocent." It indicated to me that, anyone whose records were being trolled through must, in fact, be guilty, or somehow complicit in a crime, at least according to the government. Is there any other way to see it?
You're with us, or you're against us.
posted at 7:38 PM
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