Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Straight From the USND At Hoople To You 

Here's a little P.D.Q. Bach for your holiday enjoyment.

Schleptet in E Flat Major from The Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach.

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Fighting For Democracy 

Anyone who has bothered to pay attention to what the administration has said and done over the past four years knows that WMD were never the primary motive for going to war. They erred, perhaps in emphasizing them as much as they did, but, after all, they were the easiest of the casus belli for the public to understand and get behind, every security agency in the world agreed they were there and represented a real threat and there was political unanimity here in the US on their existence and the need to do something about them.

Since we didn't find them in the number and scope we expected, they're all you hear about these days from the opposition, as if that alone were evidence of the futility of the war or, more absurdly, the perfidy and disingenuousness of the Administration.

The other low-hanging fruit for the opposition is our involvement with some ugly customers in the Middle East in the fight against terror. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, notably, are cited as brutal and anti-democratic regimes whose cooperation comes at far too high a price. Our support for these thugs, kleptocrats and shifty mullahs taints any claim that we are the good guys.

Fair enough. It's good to remember, though, that the Islamic nations have been fighting a savage war with Islamists now for more than fifty years. We come to this party fairly late, but Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and the others have been involved in this fight and have been warped by it, for a long time.

They've been losing for a long time. There are democrats and reformers aplenty in the area. There are intelligent and thoughtful leaders. There is understanding of, and a yearning for, real democracy. It's not going to happen, though, without fundamental change and reform is virtually impossible in these nations as long as they face a popular and dedicated minority of politico-religious fanatics.

What has evolved among these nations is a host-parasite relationship. While the security agencies brutally suppress Islamists, the political leadership protects their power, preventing reform in the name of avoiding the ascendancy of the sharia. At the same time, 'understandings' evolve and the infection of the host proceeds apace.

Our support for these regimes goes back a number of decades and is based on the notion that 'stability' is better than anything that might follow.

It was the idea of George Bush and the dreaded Neo-Cons that, without offering the people of the Islamic world anything better this situation can only deteriorate until we are truly faced with a decisive confrontation between the West and Islamism. Why not try democracy? In a form adapted for local use, it could put into the hands of the Islamic world the one powerful tool that has never been employed in the battle against terror.

Tigerhawk looks at an editorial in the Lebanese Daily Star which seems to understand and agree with the fundamentally new approach the Bush administration has taken to these problems, without, of course, actually saying so.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Grab Bag 

It was a nice Thanksgiving. I had my brother and his family, plus the mother-in-law, an old friend of hers and her friend's niece from Kansas City. As a theological aside, while Lane is unquestionably a Goddess, she descends from an Old, rather than New Testament figure. Think of Minerva springing from the forehead of Amanda Wingfield. In a really bad mood.

I do 98% of the cooking in the house. I'm pretty good, I think, but I'm not a very organized person, so that last half hour before serving pretty much wrecks me for the day. But it all worked out well and everybody seemed happy.

Today we went to see the new Harry Potter. I liked it (Grace wasn't scared), but I think it is far from the best. It's common to hear the first two movies denigrated at the expense of the second two, but the difference between the Chris Columbus movies and this one is just skill at story telling. Columbus does make things go down rather too easy, but he takes you through everything that is important in the book.

This one had much more interesting material to work with and all the set pieces were done spectacularly, but they didn't really connect. Everybody hates Harry, flip the page and everybody loves him. The complicated and agonizing development of the relationship between Hermione and Ron, which was done so simply and charmingly in the books becomes bumptious and offhand in this movie. If you hadn't read the book it might get past you that there was anything going on at all. The movie is long and the major scenes (the challenges, the ball and the confrontation with Voldemort) are done beautifully and at length and I just think there wasn't space or time for him to get seamlessly from one to the next.

And I think Michael Gambon is one of the greatest actors alive, but I miss Richard Harris.

Much more importantly, I want to talk about an a horror show I've seen two or three chapters of named Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls. If you have a kid under twelve or so a chill just rose up your spine.

Trading Spaces, the "adult" version, is a vile thing, but essentially harmless. Women and those men who are really into design and decorative elements should enjoy and indulge. The rest of us know which channels to avoid.

The whole idea of the kid's version seems to be that there are not enough gay men in the world and we need to start training the next generation. Two boys and two girls design a fantasy room for each other and a crew of designers and some of the merriest construction workers you ever saw help them execute the plan. In other words, two perfectly good young men who might otherwise be outside playing street hockey or torturing cats spend several days designing and renovating a girl's room. Right down to the last Hello Kitty! decal. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As it happens, I agree that there could usefully be a lot more gay men in the world, but I have to admit I get a little queasy watching a show dedicated to their manufacture. It's a generational thing, I guess.

More likely I'm over-compensating for admitting I do all the cooking and for the Tennessee Williams reference in the first paragraph.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone 

We do have so much to be thankful for, those of us who aren't turkeys.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bölsiä You, You Vitun Apärä! 

Okay, Frogs are irritating. Swedes can be tiresome. Hell, Spanish judges can be jumped up nit-wits.

But, let's be honest. We all want to take a shot at the Finns.

Arm yourself with the Finnish 'alternative' dictionary.

At this site you'll learn to be crude, lewd, rude and loaded with attitude in more than 150 languages, including Belarusian, Alemmanic, Basque, Cajun, Frisian, Welsh, Hungarian (an amazingly profane people) and even Esperanto.

Did you know that when the Dutch want to say "That's very bad" they say "Da's kloten van de bok" (That's the balls of the goat)?

Lekh ted! (Hebrew)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

If That Doesn't Work Out, I'll Be A Cowboy 

The face on the right is very familiar. It's Harold Stone, who died on Friday at the age of 92.

According to his entry at IMDB, his credits include 39 features and more than 150 TV shows. He played mostly cops and crooks and was in some of my favorite movies, including The Wrong Man, The Blue Dahlia and Somebody Up There Likes Me, as well as Don't Forget To Wipe The Blood Off and The Werewolf of Woodstock.

Here's the line from the obituary that interested me: "Mr. Stone studied medicine at the University of Buffalo but turned to acting after he was forced to drop out to support his mother." Money's short so I won't be a doctor; I know, I'll be an actor! On the face of it this seems like an amazingly bad decision. But it worked out for Mr. Stone, God bless him. RIP


I like to be amazed as much as the next guy. The physical feats of an act like the Golden Dragon Acrobats are exhilarating as the more impossible they seem, the more they nudge you into a fictive, yet corporal world.

The presentational style as well as the physical scope of the tricks urge the mind to create a semi-fantasy world where such things are possible. Only when the tricks involve apparent, imminent and palpable danger does this delightful mindscape turn inside out like a pleasant dream becoming a nightmare.

But one-on-one illusionists push and manipulate the mental response to the impossible by bringing it down off the stage and right into your lap. When the metaphysical unfolds at arms length we all become Doubting Thomases and when we stick our fingers in the holes we become disciples.

Mr. Snitch! has video of a Japanese illusionist who walks into a bar and violates some pretty fundamental physical laws. The looks of delight and fear on the faces of the onlookers make my point much better.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Your Daily Goddess 

I just threw one of Lane's better spots of the past few years on her website. Look under "Commercials". Six seconds of hi-larity.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Carnival of The New Jersey Bloggers, Number 27 

Tami, the One True takes a utilitarian, sequential approach to managing the Carnival. There's a certain spare beauty to that.
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