Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Middle Eastern History

--Mostly unrelated note: the symbols in LOST that came up a few weeks ago, when time almost ran out, unless someone made a mistake or dicovered a new word, must be the Middle Egyptian word SWDhe which means "die" (Faulkner A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, 1962 (2002 reprint),p. 218, . . . $1 in the bargain books at Boarders)--

Last night Gina bought me some more discount books. We actually came to Boarders, also known as my office, since the coffee shop is often the setting for my investigations, to see Patrick McMannus. He is (as he always was) hilarious, and is one of the best storytellers I've heard in person (John Smith, from San Diego, might be better). Anyway, we listened to him speak with I'd guess two-hundred people (judging from the autograph line), and then were again seduced by discount books. I picked up two on Islam and one on the English Bible for two dollars a piece, and Gina found a Dave Berry novel (yes, I said "novel") at a huge discount and a book for Steve and one for herself from the 2 books for 3 dollars section, then, after she couldn't find a third in which she had any considerable interest, she had me look, and I'm so glad she did. I found The Bookseller of Kabul. It, like my favorite book of the last six months, Reading Lolita in Tehran, is a biographical account of the recent history of a Muslim nation.

I am generally well-versed in the histories and cultures of the world, but the Middle East was off my radar from the tenth century to the present. But in the present, I've discovered these beautifully written narrative histories, and the world is a different place. Did you know that both Iran and Afghanistan were on their way to more secular forms of Islam, like Turkey? Iran was impeded by the very agents of change who would have made it a modern nation; their desire to form a national identity, caused them to remove the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi but in the vacuum of power the Ayatollah Khomeini was able to gain suppreme authority, which he used to create an atmosphere of terror, similar to Stalin's.

Before the Taliban, the situation in Afganistan was similar under Zahir Shah a somewhat ineffective leader who was ousted by his brother-in-law who was subsequintly murdered in a Marxist revolution. The USSR eventually took over but had little success subduing the native population. Eventually the Taliban, essentially a group of Pashtuni thugs and assorted criminal, along with Pakistani CIA types, and local crime lords, took over and created bizzare ans strict rules of conduct like "NO KITE FLYING: Kite flying has wicked consequences, such as gambling, death among children, and truancy. Shops selling kites will be removed." Dang, I wonder what kites were like to cause death, and, evidently more importantly, truancy.

Alright, so I said all that to say this: did you know that the Burka or Chador were not required in any country before the late ninteenth or early twentieth century? That's right, though most muslims do not know that and would deny it. Women were always expected to dress modestly, but the Burka was an invention of the ruler Habibullah,who required his 200 wives to wear them. It became fashion for the rich, but became normal dress for women of all social classes because of Taliban decree. Similarly, women in Iran were never required by law to wear the Chidor before the Ayatollah took over. Prior to that they were the choise of the extremely pious women, also primarily in the upper levels of society. I've never heard a report of how the afgani women feel, but Azar Nafisi says that many women who wore it as a religious symbol are angry that their act of devotion has been stolen by those who force everyone to dress in that way. They have become empty of the meaning for which they were originally adopted, the argument goes. According the proverb: "In a country where everyone is a Christian, no one is a Christian," thus, if everyone dresses in a pious manner, no one dresses in a pious manner.

Friday, March 24, 2006

This week I walked

Sorry to have been so slow with a new post but I've been walking this week. Actually, not today, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I averaged ten miles a day, a pretty decent amount for a person who has been vegetating for the winter months. Yeah, my legs were hurting the other day (pre-exercise) and Gina suggested that my legs might not be too happy with my lack of healthy eating and exercise (okay, so she very kindly pointed out that I've put on a few pounds). "Well," I thought to myself, "Self, would you rather have your legs hurt because you're getting fat, or because you're exercising?" And I replied, "I'm not FAT, I'm at my target weight." So, I casually loosed my rejoinder, "Yeah, you DO make a pretty good target now." Long story short: I listened to myself and started walking ten miles a day, except on Friday (mostly because my left knee demanded a day off). I plan to keep it up for about four weeks (excluding next weekend, when I'll be in Oklahoma City (if my plans go off unhindered, free tickets and all that). After that, I'll just try to walk a mile or two a day.

That said, it is now the perfect time to take up walking in Boise. Why? Because they have closed our street and are doing construction on all but two streets in our neighborhood, as the map, below, demonstrates. The red Xes are construction and the solid red octagons (that look like circles since I shrunk the picture) are stop signs where traffic gets backed up for miles, the empty red circle is about where we live and the similar blue circle is the branch of the freeway that leads to my sister's work. It has gotten a little better than it was. Now, they send flaggers to direct traffic on Maple Grove from seven to ten and four to six (I think), and they have one group that stands at an intersection without stop signs (I haven't yet figured out their purpose). Oh, and each regular block in the grid is about one mile, to give you a feel for distance.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

That's why there are rules about these things.

Alright . . . THAT'S IT!

This morning the songleader decided that his original postings were inadiquate and sang an extra four songs. Now, I love to sing, but, from the time I was in High School, I've had a very sensative throat. When I was in choir, I used to lose my voice about once a week (which is one of the reasons that I didn't join in college). Like I said, I like to sing, so, when somebody breaks the two songs and a prayer rule (2s & ap), I can't control myself, I have to sing that fourth, fifth, or, in this case, eighth song. Somehow I think that this time will be different, that I'll be able to keep my voice. Even in a 2s & ap service, I often have to change the register in which I'm singing in order to keep my voice, but, in a longer song service, I can feel the soreness before we stop singing. So now my throat is sore and I sound like a cancer patient.

Thanks a lot Eight Song Guy (read sarcasm mark here).

This must be why they started the 3s & ap rule in the first place. Come on people, read your bibles (I'm not sure whether this should be a sarcasm mark, because I'm being sarcastic, or an Irony mark, because I should know that the 2s & ap rule isn't scriptural).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Example of Trey's Theorem of Comics/Soap Opera Parallels

Trey commented on Similarities btween Comic Books and Soap Operas. I just thought I'd give a specific parallel. Days of Our Lives - Wayne Northrop was the original Roman Brady, he died in 1984. Drake Hogestyn turned up in 1986 as the second Roman Brady, who had beed kidnapped and surgically altered. Wayne Northrop came back to the role in 1991 (because Deirdra Hall forced the producers to give him back his original role). I can't find info on why he left again in 1994 on Wikipedia, so let's just say that he left. Finally, Josh Taylor (Father on Valeries Family, renamed the Hogan Family when Valerie Harper, of Rhoda fame, left 1n 1988), who originally played Chris Kositchek, became the current Roman Brady. Recently, the original Roman, Wayne Northrop, came back as Dr. Alex North, a hypno-therapist, it sounds like.

Now, Peter Parker was the original Spiderman (according to the current arc). In what is now called The Clone Saga, in 1975, Gwen Stacy died while peter was trying to save her. The Jackal clones Gwen and Spiderman, Gwen because he's all creepy obsessed with her and spidey because fate needed fome tools to work with, and some of spidey's writer were just that (that was the only Spiderman comic I owned, given to me by my cousin, I wore it out, and I plagerized it in the 6th grade). 20 years later Ben Reilly, the "clone" in the stadium, and Kaine are both discovered to be spidey clones.

Long-story-short, Kaine degenerates and kills some people, Peter is accused, and yada-yada Kaine confesses. Peter is cleared. The second Jackel turns up with another masked monster, the Guardian . . . yada-yada, they are failed clones of Peter Parker. Another Peter Parker clone get loose. yada-yada. Time goes on, the Jackel's apprentice (Jacky) gives ben evidence: Ben is the real Peter Parker. In the meantime Judas Traveller, I think, reveals that Ben, now the Scarlet Spider, is the real Peter Parker and Peter Parker is a clone (because the writers were tired of MJ). But, because of fan outrage, the writers turned that into a lie, the Peter we followed after Spiderman or Spider Clone? was the real Peter Parker.

So, Chris Kositchek is now Roman Brady and John Black was Roman Brady and Roman Brady is Alex North, Peter Parker was a clone but has always been Spiderman and is now the real Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, who was the real Peter Parker, was actually a clone and the Scarlet Spider, and, in addition to all of that, various clones of peter Parker are/were villians, and at least one is unaccounted for, I think.

I'd like to give credit to my mother and sister for watching Days ALL THE TIME while I was growing up, and Gray Haven Magizine for a recap of the clone saga (which I butchered).

Monday, March 13, 2006

An Argument for Censorship

So, I've never really cared that much about people putting grotesque scenes in movies. If I don't want to see it, I don't go to the movie. In this case, however, I have to object. Last time I went to the movie theatre, Narnia, I think, they put the most disgusting thing that I have ever seen on the screen. I covered my eyes, but I was too late. The Image of a 20 foot high Sarah Jessica Parker will forever haunt my nightmares. It's like they put Owen Wilson in drag and then used fun-house mirrors to stretch out his face. All this does is encourage her bulimia. Back in 3-2-1 contact or Footloose, it wasn't that bad, I still felt a little sorry for her but, uuuuuuuuuugh, now it's horrendous, and I'm not even going to mention her man hands. PLEASE BLUR HER.

In a few years we'll have to do the same thing with Jessica Simpson, they say that women have to choose between their thighs and their face, I beg of you choose your face. Jessica Simpson used to be a really pretty girl, but she obviously chose to let her face go and now the poor girl's most stunning feature is her clef chin, reminiscent of The Tick. People out there, please listen to me, STOP WITH THE ANOREXIA/BULIMIA, you look much better with a pretty face and an acceptable body than with a fun-house distortion for a face and a body beyond compare. If you do have an eating disorder, please take SJP as a warning, get professional help before it is too late.

A note for miss parker: I have several pounds of fat that I'd donate for injections until you can eat enough to fill out.

A note to people who might take this seriously: I am exaggerating a truth for the sake of humor and using humor to dull the sting of truth. It is a time honored tradition going back to works like the biblical book of Esther, and the various works titled "Satyrica," by Juvinal et alia.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The alarm clock and the DOT

Bizarre fact #2855 from
Did you know...
The alarm clock was not invented by the Marquis de Sade, as some suspect, but rather by a man named Levi Hutchins of Concord, New Hampshire, in 1787. Perversity, though, characterized his invention from the beginning. The alarm on his clock could ring only at 4 am. Rumor has it that Hutchins was murdered by his wife at 4:05 am on a very dark and deeply cold New England morning.
While this may be true, I suspect that the city planners of several metropolitian districts took their impetus from de Sade. In some cases they have designed jumbled roadways that would make de Sade cry . . . and not in a good way. Whoever decided to make a little ditch into the major cross-town freeway in Portland, OR, certianly found a kindred spirit in de Sade. The person who decided to make the freeways in Oklahoma city change direction and cross eachother in places with no direct access, made de Sade proud. I won't even mention New York, Tokyo, or London, except to say that they have reputations for being unnavagable, except on foot. So, lets celebrate de Sades children, the city planners of the past, and lets hope that Bacon's children take those jobs in the future.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why supervillians should practice abstinence

Having grown up in a conservative church, I was made all too aware of most of the dangers of the premarital (insert euphemism for coitus here). We were threatened with disease after disease, some including (word removed for the sake of the readers) discharge, others leading to insanity and death. For months we went though all of the horrors we would release if we allowed ourselves to lose control and were shown films about the premarital pregnancy, abortion, and death that awaited us in our first (insert euphemism for sexual experience here).

Now I've studied a little theology and I've come to a few conclusions:

1. They should have spent more time on the theological values that we needed to develop if we were to have reasons more powerful than fear.

2. They missed the most important reason for people over a certain level of intelligence to avoid any situation which might result in illegitimate offspring: The spawning of a child of incredible intelligence and immeasurable anger at their absentee father, which manifests itself in schemes of world domination or destruction. The filmstrip could start with a (insert euphemism for one-night-stand here). The guy walks away and never sees the girl again. The girl finds out that she's pregnant and decides to (insert euphemism for keep here) the baby. The baby grows up and mom is never at home because she has to work really hard to make ends meet. The child gets smarter every day, you'd see him reading books on advanced chemistry and physics and nuclear engineering and origami . . . One day "mom" returns home from her second job and finds that her child (okay, lets just admit it, very few girls would do this), her son has constructed an android that is identical to her. At first she thinks, 'how sweet, he built a robot to help me with work.' But she realizes as the robot starts cutting off her fingers and running them down the garbage disposal that this is her replacement.

Time passes and Jaden (it's one of the most popular baby names now) realizes that the death of his mother was not enough. When he can't locate his father, he redirects his anger, and his pity at the entire world. Since he wants revenge on his father, his anger strikes out against all fathers, bad ones for being like his dad and good ones because they aren't his dad; and pity for all children everywhere who had to live without fathers, and more anger for kids who had good dads.

He knows what he has to do. He may not be the smartest person in the world, that would matter if he wanted to go for world domination, but he doesn't, he just wants to destroy all human life. You see, if you want world domination, there are a lot of people looking out for that who are really smart, and its pretty easy to track down the would-be despot. World destruction, on the other hand, ain't that hard. I can think of three comparatively easy ways to wipe out human life off the top of my head (the other 98 took awhile). Now our story catches up to the absentee father, carrying out his own difficult plans to dominate the world, he's wearing a business suit and dining with Satin and Trump. The emergency broadcasting system comes on and announces: This is a message from the Emergency Broadcasting System, the end of the world is at hand. We instruct you to put your head between your knees and cry and pray, and repent of your plans at world domination."

the last scene is from space on the night side of the earth and as the destruction progresses, the lights disappear from the globe and it becomes completely black.

Disclaimer: the exception to the fear of sex teaching rule was Kevin Woods' "Thank God for Sex" series. Good job Kevin (seriously).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nerdiness earns dividends

As you know, I am a nerd. Not a particularly bad type of nerd, I just like to read nerdy books in various languages and contemplate philosophical problems. I picked up the books, which I had been using to decorate the floor of my room, a few days ago; the count came to 51. Of those 51, 9 were fiction. Out of those 9, only 5 were written solely in English. Out of those 5, 3 were published before 1900. Out of the two which remain, one was Science Fiction and the other fantasy. Okay, maybe I am a bad type of nerd.

For me nerdiness is about the thrill of discovery. I hunt night and day for the the various insights that will lead to an epiphany that will, in turn, provide a truly unique (and valid) perspective. I began the hunt when I was in the seventh grade and I realized that I was not a particularly good person. Getting in fights with bullies to get them to stop hurting people was my only real effort to make the world a better place. Then one day I decided that I would not accept my own hypocrisy without a fight. Day after day I read and searched, starting with the Christian and Jewish scriptures and moving on to almost every genre imaginable.

Occasionally I find someone with like interests and we share our understandings of the world. Several months ago I met a guy named Chris. Chris was adversarial toward Christians, and I don't blame him. Our ministry to him has often been condescending (not in a good way like Jesus coming down to live like we do but condescending like the waiter at the expensive restaurant when you order Dr. Pepper instead of wine) and characterized by more violence than love and peace. Chris, however, is an amazing person for one reason: Chris treated me with courtesy even after learning that I am a Christian. Chris and I had a good discussion that day and he later sent me an email with a link to a website dedicated to the denial that Jesus ever lived. It took me months to reply (I've been busy) but, a few weeks ago, I finally looked at the website and sent a response based on my understanding of the Philosophy of History championed by Hayden White. Chris responded with admirable grace, accepting my answer as valid and worthy of further investigation.

It may not seem like much but, finally, my time in study is being redeemed. I have believed for many years that my labor was not in vain, that all knowledge is useful knowledge if used properly but it really helps to see an actual situation where my dedication to understanding has paid off even in small ways. You see, I've helped a lot of people but usually I don't need my nerdy knowledge so much as my ears and my heart. Now I like to use my ears and heart, but I never worried that I spent too much time in their cultivation (you can't spend too much time learning to listen and understand people), with my personal pursuit of knowledge, I've always harbored some insecurity.


I'm just getting my Blog footing, so I'm keeping it fairly light for now. Let me know if you have a direction you'd like to see me go with this.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Forgive me a diabolical laugh

Have you ever spent hours trying to perfect your diabolical laugh? Neither have I, but maybe I should start. On page 23 of Zawacki's How to be a Villain, he indicates that it is very high among the priorities of potential supervillians. I guess I was too woried with learning the art of mass hypnotism and the science behind the so-called death ray to work on my presentation.

But my lack of a suitable laugh was not my reason for abandoning the supervillian game. It actually comes down to two complimentary factors: cost/benfit analysis and political agnosticism. Cost/benefit analysis reveals that the labor which goes into organizing and ruling a country, let alone the world, severly outweighs the benefits of despotic rule. That's not even including the work it takes to get there. I could put in the hours, and I might have in High School, just to prove I could do it but, then what? Then I'm responsible for everyone else's problems and I've got to either pull a Stalin and waste hours every day signing death orders (while becoming more paranoid every day) or I've got to find real solutions to problems.

That is where my political agnosticism comes into play. I don't believe that a politician can really acomplish much positive good, even as suppreme overlord. In history I see all kinds of politicians with excellent (or nefarious) intentions fail to accomplish anything worthwhile. If a despot extrodinare (or Buffy the Republican Slayer, or The League Democrat Ladies/Gentlemen) accomplishes her or his goals for world-management, it is because a mighty social movement supports those goals, not because of suppreme power or because of quality planning.

Now propaganda solves a few problems but, as soon as things start going your way, there are always toadies that feed on the dregs of dictatorial power, who will use the distraction caused by signing death orders and solving all the world's problems to siphon some of the benefits of power for their own use. Now, one would think that a wise world-governing genius would be able to detect such duplicity but history shows that two problems interfere with the detection and removal of such traitor-toadies: First, the smartest strata, pepole with the skills and genius to avoid detection, are too smart to want the burdens of absolute-power and lie in wait for positions such as High-Level Sycopant, to avoid the work but reap the benefits; second, effective toadies are hard to find so, even if you discover their plots to undermine or hi-jack your intrests, they are too valuable to replace (especially since they are too smart and paranoid to train new toadies).

So it comes down to this: I might succeed in a bid for world domination but I am not confident enough, or should I say "megalomoniacal" enough, to believe that I would be able to accomplish my new world order. I guess that means that, if I want to change the world for the better, I'd better start working to set up the structure that best represents my ideals to undergird a social movement (since, as I mentioned above, social movements are more effective than despots).

I guess that there is really a third factor: I'm a really bad liar. I couldn't even play that beloved card game where one is supposed to lie about the contents of one's hand because I can't lie that well. That being the case, propaganda is very difficult. Though, Goebels said that propaganda has nothing to do with truth (has no truth-value), I can't believe in that position strongly enough to propagandize the world.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Repost of Island Swapping

Alright, I've been informed that Saturday's post doesn't all show on Internet Explorer. Here's a copy from my page via Firefox.

Let's try a little island-swapping

I've been corrupted! I guess it was about four years ago when Trey and Emily inducted me into their twisted web of Survivor. I know, I know . . . it is a horrible show about people who have no control over their competition impulse, but it can be fun, with a sarcastic sense of humor, which I have in abundance and a lot of friends, which I seem to have misplaced in a recent move :). When the peer pressure is off and I have the remote, I can’t bring myself to watch (beyond which, I hate coming in a few episodes after things start or after missing an episode).

Now my sister converted me to a show that is more my style – LOST. LOST is an “out there” fantasy series where forty-some-odd people get terrorized by the mysterious bad guys while their most embarrassing moments and the stories about the worst things they ever did are plastered up where the whole world can see. Of course, they are stuck on the island and they don’t know that we know their secrets, so why be embarrassed?

My proposal is this: let’s combine the shows. We crash a plane-load of overly-competitive people on an island and let Sayid torture them until they spill all their most embarrassing moments on national television. Then we have a contest, greased boar wrestling, for instance, then, if everyone lives through it, the maroons get to vote on who gets dragged off into the jungle by people dressed as refugees from Pirates of Pinzance.
I’d watch that.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What month is it?

Last month I made several trips to the biggest public library in town, “Gosh, they must have neigh on a hundret books an' most of ‘em ain’t even been culerd in yet.” Each month they display books that celebrate some important issue. Since last month was February they of course were displaying . . . Did you say Black History Month books? I hope so, that’s what I said too, but we are both wrong. Evidently, here in Idaho, the greatest modern testimony to the ability of committed people to make the world a better place is less important than “Fix it February,” that unknown holiday presided over by Bob Barker (yeah . . . THAT kind of “fix”). If I were more energetic, I’d make decorations and cover their current display with “Happy Belated Black History Month,” banners. If you live in Boise, I’m not telling you to start moving books by M.L. King and Alex Hailey and Ralph Ellison onto the display with “Happy Belated Black History Month,” notes attached to the covers, I just think it would be appropriate.

Now, on to March: On a more serious note (where is a sarcasm mark when I need it), March is Voltron Month (no joke! See below) and, being a one time so -devoted -I -planned -my -world -around -show -time fan, I must at least acknowledge the special status of this month, especially since this is Voltron’s 20th anniversary. God bless Keith, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, (Sphen – though he only lasted a few episodes as a pilot), and Princess Allura and everyone on Planet Arus. We miss you. You Vehicle Voltron posers can go to Planet Doom (or Planet Hollywood) for all I care.

March 2006: Voltron Month - Fandom Challenge!

"Voltron fandom a bit sluggish lately? Crave some fresh art, fic, media files, screen caps - any kind of excitement for the show? Then this is for you! You don't need to sign up anywhere to participate. But if you see this on your friends-page and like the idea, please post this text to your LJ to spread the word.

How to participate:

1. Pick a day of the week (or more than one) on which you resolve to always post something Voltron-related in March, and let your friends-list know (can be
LV, VV, V3-D, comics related...whatever!)
2.Go back and watch some eps, read some comics - relive the Voltron experience. Let the Voltron canon inspire you. And then, share the love.
3. Start your subject line with (Voltron Fandom Challenge) when you post, and use a "Voltron Fandom Challenge" tag. This'll make it easy to spot your Voltron Month entries.

No matter if you just ramble about your undying love for Voltron, picspam us, post wallpapers, icons, or write fan fic / create fan art, the plan is to get as many Voltron-related entries on our friends-pages as possible throughout March.

Sounds good? We've been there, let's go back again!"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Let's try a little island-swapping

Reposted in the March 6 post due to an IE error

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Constructive ideas on dealing with the Idaho DMV

My sister got married about three-and-a-half years ago. She is much more responsible than I am and so she changed her name with every agency, company etc. When she got to the Idaho DMV, however, none of her documentation was enough. Evidently, a marriage certificate, easily faked in an afternoon, and which she had left in Oregon, seems like a more professional record than a military ID, by the ID DMV logic. Also by ID DMV logic, military ID is only unacceptable after a person turns 18; it is, in fact, the preferred form of identification for a first driver's license.

Here are my (never to be carried out) answers to her situation- and, yes, I know that she can just order a copy of the certificate for a moderate fee, wait in line for another four hours, and pay the $15 DMV fee to have her name on the license changed

10. Pit the DMV with the IRS in a winner-take-all brawl where the loser has to join the light side of the force.

9. Send a letter to the Idaho congressman, along with compromising photos -- preferably of him

8. Send a letter to the Idaho congressman, along with a picture of me and a threat that NEXT TIME the picture of me will be compromising.

7. Send a letter to the DMV's grandma asking her to talk to it

6. Show up every morning with cookies.

5. Show up every afternoon protesting the cookies

4. Learn to harness the demonic forces to unleash unchecked havoc . . . sorry, that's from my "to-do" list

3. Insist on spraying DMV personal with "Holy Water" designed to lower their inhibitions and facilitate a happy outlook on life

2. Orchestrate the downfall of western civilization and thus the DMV (who says I can't adapt my "to-do's"

1. Approach the desk at the DMV and speak in gibberish until you are pretty sure that they are going to call the police. Return each day and repeat the process. After a month, when they recognize you say, in a triumphal voice, "This time I wasted your time."

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