g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
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12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
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 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
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 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
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 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
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 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
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 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, December 29, 2002
01:52 - How much better can it get?

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It's just been advertised: Cartoon Network will be getting Futurama.

Every night at 11:00, except for Friday and Saturday. And they flashed the "Adult Swim" logo, meaning that it'll be part of Adult Swim on Sunday night at least; but what about the other four nights? Does this imply that Adult Swim will be expanding to the rest of the week? Oh, how insanely cool that would be.

And either way, it means we get Futurama-- with its "Mac formatted" androids and its "VCR++" jokes, its Groening art and its geek-humor quotient that goes so far beyond where any other show has taken it. And now Cartoon Network has it. I can't think of a better place for it. Because they know that the people watching Cartoon Network at midnight are the kind of people who would love Futurama.

Speaking of geek humor-- the more episodes I see of Mission Hill, the more convinced I am of its genius. It's another of those shows where even aside from the odd success of its off-the-wall avant-garde art style and the odd ability for it to make squalid urban apartment life look like the vaulted-ceiling luxury of a prince's cave, there are so many little visual treasures to savor. Just now, in a scene in an underground video/comic store of some sort, there was a quick flash to a background shot of a poster on the wall-- a black one with a red eyeball in the center. Around the eyeball, it said, "Get US Out of Mordor." And if I got started talking about how masterful was the animated representation of Wally's horrid late-50s sci-fi B-movie, with negative scratches on the pieces of obvious stock footage of military action, I'd never stop-- so I won't.

Suffice to say that Sunday nights continue to rule, and the music ain't stopping anytime soon.

Adult Swim four-hour marathon on New Year's Eve, too. I know what I'll be doing that night.

01:26 - "Paper bag, or triple mylar sleeve?" "No thanks, I'll eat it here."

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Last night, after the movie, we were relaxing in front of the National Geographic channel, when an episode of "Taboo" came on. This is the show where they showcase the Bizarre and Fascinating Practices of Societies Unfamiliar To Us. There's a disclaimer at the beginning that says Every society has its own standards of what is acceptable behavior. Some of these practices may not be suitable for younger viewers. Your discretion is advised. My first reaction was that it had to be the most wussy, PC-ified, every-viewpoint-is-equally-valid disclaimer ever yet seen on this planet; but I'd misinterpreted it as implying that all viewers had equally valid definitions of what was suitable TV to watch, or something. It was actually better than that, but not by a hell of a lot.

Anyway, that's an aside. The show had three segments; the first was on an islander tribe whose males proved their manhood and ensured a good yam harvest by building a big tower and then bungee-jumping off it, except without the "bungee" part. Then there were hot-coal-walkers in Greece. Those were fine. Sure. I can deal with those.

But then there was the third segment, which centered on a guy in the Phillipines who had made a pact with God: in exchange for his wife and daughter living through childbirth, he'd promised God that he would crucify himself once a year, on Good Friday, for like ten years. Thus would he repay God for this deed of divine intervention.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I don't understand much about religion, and that that's probably irredeemably tainting my perspective on this. But one just has to stop and think about this for a second.

The act that this guy is taking upon himself-- flagellating his back with sticks and glass until there's no skin left, then being nailed through the palms onto a cross and left hanging there in front of a cheering crowd for several searingly awful minutes with a circlet of barbed wire on his head-- is predicated on the concept that his suffering is something that he can use to pay for a divine act done on his behalf.

My question is this: What kind of God is it that wants his people to suffer?

If you undergo unimaginable torture in exchange for God's doing you a favor, this assumes that God wants and appreciates and enjoys suffering on the part of his creations. Evidently he gets off on it. Like ants under a magnifying glass. Only these ants hold the magnifying glass for themselves, and fight for the chance to suffer and writhe in agony in order to give God the pain points he apparently craves.

As Lance put it, any God that demands suffering from his people is no god, but a devil.

And maybe I missed something, but wasn't the whole point of the Crucifixion that Jesus chose to suffer so that the rest of humanity wouldn't have to? It's like someone gives you for your birthday a brand-new immaculate paint job on your car; and you say "Thanks!" and proceed to take a circular saw to it. Yeah, way to treat a gift, there, guy.

They talk about how Americans, as a Puritan-derived culture, seem to crave suffering above all else, and work under the assumption that the less you enjoy life, the more worthwhile your life is. Presumably this is what expands to "we like to work hard, harder than our family/social lives can support". But you know-- it seems to me that the urge to torture yourself is more of a general human predilection. Some people do it in different contexts than others, though. Some put themselves through agony in pursuit of the elusive chimaera of personal achievement; others undergo their agony in the hope that God will enjoy watching it so much he'll grant them their wishes.

As I've mentioned once or twice in passing, I'm not religious, but neither am I an atheist; I'm an agnostic, because as one of my classmates once put it, an agnostic is the only thing a scientist, by definition, can be. (We can't know that there isn't a God, any more than we can know that there is a God. We have insufficient evidence one way or the other, and the nature of the question is such that scientific evidence can't be used as proof.) I don't know who or what God is, exactly, to quote Lisa.

But I do think it's not too much to presume that God is not some nasty pimply little boy gleefully roaming the neighborhood with an air rifle and a slingshot. If we have anything like the same morals that God has-- and I think that either has to be true, or all of religion is a sham-- then God can't possibly want to do favors for people in exchange for their voluntary pain and suffering; as though the more they hurt, the more pleasure God feels. No way am I prepared to believe that. I'd have a far easier time believing God exists in the first place than believing that God is that evil.

Okay, okay-- I understand that self-torment and insane personal risk and so forth are a form of "ecstasy", in its etymologically correct meaning-- a way to put yourself "outside" your normal self and existence, a way to feel like you're doing something "special", and therefore achieving some kind of goal or building up some kind of points, redeemable for valuable prizes of the divine-intervention sort.

But I wonder if anybody actually thinks about just what the theological implications would be for this kind of thing to actually work.

00:37 - Makes Compton look wussy

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So I saw Gangs of New York last night. Excellent... big, thick, chunky, chewy movie. It's one of those things that's just so full of rich detail that if you look away for five seconds, you've missed at least one fascinating little historical bauble that someone tracked down and cared enough about to weave into the overall jigsaw-- something that you can't remember after it's over, but that the movie would have been measurably less cool without.

I love this kind of "trace a location through time" thing... when it's the same place as one you know, inhabited by completely different groups of people telling their own stories, there's just something fascinating about it, at least to me. It's that whole Time Machine time-lapse thing, where you get to see buildings rise and fall, people come and go, but some things never really change. They talked about the Five Points area on that "History vs. Hollywood" show on the History Channel; and one thing's for sure: even if Coppola did exaggerate certain things, the city today is immeasurably more civilized these days. You can be a rich person and go to what's now Chinatown and stand in the middle of the streets with your many-thousand-dollar camera gear and make documentaries, and go to one of the quaint hole-in-the-wall restaurants afterward, and nobody would bat an eye. But in those days... sheesh. Police escort, where even the sympathetic characters in the police were on the take? Small wonder not a single character in the movie was an appealing person.

There are some movies where when you walk out into the parking lot, you look over your shoulder, because you're convinced that everything about the modern world sucks. But other movies... you come out those doors, and all you want to do is suck in a lungful of clean rainy air, and enjoy the sheer lack of explosions on the horizon. You wonder just how in the hell things managed to turn out so well, if what you just saw is anything like what the past really was like. It's an intensely optimistic experience.

And the fact that the last time-lapse photo of Manhattan at the end, just before the fade-out, was one of the skyline sometime before last September-- with those two silhouetted towers reaching up past the top of the screen area-- just bolstered that feeling. You think, God, those things are tall. And so are the rest of 'em, even the short ones. It's the nucleus of the country, and it's stable today-- so stable that even if the two biggest features in it are forcibly ripped out of it along with three thousand of the city's most vibrant residents, the people living in those dim concrete labyrinths that line the island are still immeasurably better off and more stable and rich and strong than they ever were a century and a half ago. And if the nucleus is that stable, what does that say about the cytoplasm where the rest of us live?

Since we're supposed to commiserate with the Irish immigrants and boo the scare-quoted "American natives"-- the latter of whom resemble nothing less than what would happen if the KKK ran a whole state-- you end up leaving the theater thinking of the bizarre dichotomy of how "America" and "Americans" can only be defined by the infinitely changing nature of whatever people live within the country's borders at a given time; and you wonder just what about America can't change, lest it stop being "America"? What's the immutable core of the concept of this place, the one thing whose very immutability is what allows-- nay, demands the rest of the country to reinvent itself every generation?

I don't know. The Constitution? Secular rule of human law? A gun (or a throwing knife) in everyone's hand? History books that reserve their most florid and breathless language for the chapters on armed revolution against central government, rather than on loyal wars on behalf of beloved kings? Schoolhouse Rock?

Whatever it is, it does often seem to be the case that in a movie like this that drives right to the heart of such matters, it's the people who wrap themselves in the American flag and drape it over the altars at which they pray who seem to miss the point of America the most drastically: the America they want is the America they grew up with, but to keep America that way means to halt the very fundamental constant change that is really at the heart of America. Bill Cutting thinks he's the patriotic one, and in his own mind he's absolutely right-- he can totally justify thinking that. But it's the Irish, singing wistful songs of the Emerald Isle while they hang their filthy clothes in the offal-lined Paradise Square, who really embody what the country has turned out to be about. It's "trickle-down patriotism". The next generation does melt in the pot. Everybody's languge does average out to English. And each generation takes its own turn wrapping itself in the Stars and Stripes and warning against incursion by the hated outsiders.

Nobody said it was a pretty process. But that's the thing, isn't it? We accept some ugliness that's inherent to the mechanism we've adopted, and it buys us protection against the much bigger ugliness that falls on other places where everybody behaves themselves. It's like Bill Whittle, the blogosphere's newest explosive phenomenon, said in different words: our choices cost us dearly, sometimes in innocent lives. But if we did what was necessary to cut back on how much of that price we pay, what we'd be giving up would be something that's far more valuable to us in the long run. What we have going for us is a bargain at the price.

How did I get onto this topic? I'm not sure; it was a good movie, one that even if it stretched the historical truth to the point where it'll never regain its original shape, at the very least makes me want to study Tammany Hall and the Civil War draft and early New York geography until I'm a kooky old Terence Mann locked up in a Manhattan apartment muttering to myself. If it means I end up spending most of my time wondering how Malcolm McDowell would have looked in a top hat and walking-stick instead of a bowler and codpiece, well then, so be it. I'll have missed the point, but not by much.
Saturday, December 28, 2002
14:18 - How do you feel about MMORPGs?

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Here's an interesting Slashdot thread, beginning with an article/diatribe by someone unclearly identified as Sanftenberg, exposing the grim underbelly of EverQuest and how it works.


Everquest is a game centered on rewarding you for how much time you put into it. This is the core design philosophy behind the game, since they charge you by the month and make more money the longer you stick around. What they don’t tell you is that taking your money is about all they’re interested in. They care little for player complaints, and less about player suggestions and requests. They’re in this to milk you for all you’re worth, and that’s the first thing you have to know.

The second thing you have to know is that the game stops being fun. By that time though, you’re so “addicted” to the game, you don’t realize it. The game becomes a source of frustration and anger instead of a source of entertainment and fun. It becomes a chore. It becomes a job. You plod away at the keyboard, obsessed and consumed with getting that new item, or finishing that last quest, and while so consumed you begin to hate the game. Vehemently. It’s a game that goes on forever, and one that you can never win.


What's especially noteworthy, though-- at least to me-- is that the comments from readers seem to span the spectrum of opinion about addiction and gaming, from "EQ sux, AC r0X0rZ" to "Quitcher bitchin' and turn off the damn video game if you aren't any good at it" to "Sony is the evil entity creating a new drug empire and exploiting addiction using the same rules and tricks as heroin dealers". My favorite bit:

You plod away at the keyboard, obsessed and consumed with getting that new item, or finishing that last quest, and while so consumed you begin to hate the game. Vehemently. It’s a game that goes on forever, and one that you can never win.

"He loves and hates the ring, as he loves and hates himself."
-Gandalf in the first LOTR movie, referring to Gollum.

(Quoted from the movie, of course.)

Anyway, a good read, if the world of MMORPGs has touched you in any way, which is going to be the case more and more often, for more and more people, as time goes on.

13:24 - Wholly crap!

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Okay, so an hour ago it was sunny (if a little breezy) and I was thinking quite seriously about calling up a friend and going hiking up in the mountains-- taking my camera up into the woods, finding a nice sunny hillside, and taking some photos of the cloudscape and the clear blue view across the bay to the Santa Cruz hills and up north as far as San Francisco and Mt. Tamalpais.

And now, suddenly I look outside (in response to a sudden loud rattling and hooooooowwwwwwling at the windowpane) and see rain sheeting by almost horizontally, waves of water rushing up the street, those tall pointy trees that line people's driveways bending over sideways, and lightning directly above.

What does this place think it is? The South?
Thursday, December 26, 2002
17:04 - Dvorak Resolves to Stop Making Fun of Apple
http://www.nyq.pcmag.com/article2/0,6263,645310,00.asp

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...And Microsoft, and the bloggers who pick his columns apart.
Specific Bashing: Apple. I resolve to go an entire year without making critical comments about some Apple computer or some Apple strategy. I visited one of the Apple stores here in California and found a packed store full of happy people. I would love to have a smile on my face just like theirs! Oh joy! Life is good.

Specific Bashing: Microsoft. All my complaining about various Microsoft strategies and certain defective products has accomplished nothing. Maybe looking at the positive side of things would be a better idea! Microsoft, you go girl!

Whee! Moral equivalence right here in the tech industry!
Specific Bashing: Bloggers. I made a huge mistake by mildly criticizing the blogging community and got my comeuppance in the form of hateful blog entries all over blogdom. Blogs provide a unique insight into our culture and picking on bloggers is a waste of my time. I shall cease even thinking about it.

Gee, that's big of you.

11:27 - Room to stretch out

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Well, we're now more or less fully moved over to our new building a block down the street. (Actually we were moved on Monday, but... ye gods, the boxes to unpack, the labs to rebuild, the rough edges to sand down.) We're no longer right across the intersection from Infinite Loop. We're now far enough away that to see it, you have to stand on the roof of the parking structure (we have a parking structure now! Woo-hoo!) and gaze off over the tile roofs of the one-story buildings that line Bandley Drive, the little green-swathed industrial access road that until a couple of years ago was known as "the Apple Graveyard"-- because all the buildings along it used to be Apple buildings, sporting striped Apple logos on the "tombstones" out front, only to be replaced with dot-coms as Apple retreated into itself in the early-to-mid-90s. But lately, the shiny single-colored Apple logos (each building a different color) have been staging a comeback, most recently with Mariani One (right across Mariani from our old location) being reoccupied in triumph by its old fruity tenant.


They somehow managed to miss all of our explicit directives that our lab space was a lab, not a machine room; so all the 19-inch racks that we've had them install ended up bolted to the edge of the platforms nearest the wall that you can see in this picture. It is left as an exercise to the reader to imagine how much walk-behind space this would have left us, if all of our machines were flush-mounted (as they tend to be. Machine rooms tend to have center-mounted devices). All the racks you see here have been uprooted and unbolted so they can be reattached further away from the walls. We're all sure glad we got a networking-lab specialist to do this part of the move, instead of leaving it to the regular contractor.

Still, that's one helluva nice lab, innit?




But anyway, if there's one major complaint I have about the new place, it's the cubicles. Look at 'em. I mean, geez.

Okay, maybe it's not obvious what the problem is-- but that's probably because there are lots of them. See, first of all, there's this stupid corner piece with its cutout section and adjustable keyboard tray with eight axes of motion and fourteen little levers and two-way slide-out mouse boards. If I lean on this thing, it sinks under the weight of my elbows. I can't move the keyboard out of the way and eat lunch in front of my computer as I'm accustomed. And because my size is such that my hands are most comfortable with a keyboard sitting flat right on the desk, I have to raise the keyboard tray to desk level-- which means the mouse tray that slides out to either side collides with the side of the cutout part of the desk (or slides right under it, so I can't fit my hand in between it and the desk, much less a mouse). Plus its surface completely confounds my optical mouse. So I tried putting the mouse on the white desk part, but if I try to move the mouse to the upper left side of the screen, it disappears with a squeak (and a "Fly, you fools!") into the crevasse between keyboard tray and desk cutout. Clunk.


So I moved my primary machine-- my iMac-- over to the straight desk. Trouble with that is, the straight desk is about two feet deep, as opposed to the three feet that our old desks had. So there's barely enough room even for the iMac and its keyboard, and much less for a 17-inch CRT; I tried putting the PC monitor on the straight desk and a keyboard in front of it, and the keyboard hung over the edge by about an inch. Not good. We'll either need to get deeper desks for most of the engineers (all of whom have multiple computers), or buy us all LCDs. Heh. (Many people, by the way, have already unbolted their keyboard trays and are living in the little cutout nooks.)

But this should work out okay; I think the solution I have here, with the iMac (which doesn't take up much space) on the straight desk and the PC in the corner (where the monitor can take advantage of all the corner space that otherwise would have been wasted), is a viable one. Plus there's like a little sticking-out bit of the corner desk that I can use for a Diet Coke holder. In fact, I had worked all the bitching out of my system, but these days I find that it just doesn't feel right if I don't commit such things to blog for permanence and catharsis. Plus it's a shame to have my digicam here and not use it for every little excuse that comes along.

iPhoto really needs to have a way to control the JPEG compression on the Export function. I mean, it really really needs it.


10:37 - New Jesus 8.0! Now with more features!
http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/12/25/face.jesus/index.html

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This is bound to upset a whole lotta people, but they're going to be hard pressed to explain why, I think.

Neave and a team of researchers started with an Israeli skull dating back to the 1st century. They then used computer programs, clay, simulated skin and their knowledge about the Jewish people of the time to determine the shape of the face, and color of eyes and skin.

They turned to the Bible to determine the length of his hair. In the New Testament, "would Paul (one of the apostles) have written, 'If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him' if Jesus Christ had had long hair?" the article speculates.

The magazine's editors admit that they cannot be certain of the accuracy of this facial representation.

Indeed, but I'm much more prepared to believe this than the Sistine Chapel. Truth tends to be less glamorous than fiction... and Kevin Smith movies aside, it's certainly a lot more plausible for a face like this to have been the real deal than some internally lit version of any ten long-haired thin guys I knew in college.

I wonder what kind of psychological tricks it'll play on people who have deeply internalized the "classic" Jesus face, though? Will this be a blip, or will it shake things up?
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
11:18 - See ya on the flip side

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I'm just about to take off, driving up to the Wine Country to see my folks for Christmas Eve and the following associated Morning. Then I'll be driving back down here for what looks like it's turning out to be one helluva Christmas dinner-- roast goose and everything.

Take care, everybody, and Merry Christmas. Go see Mike's greeting card-- it's creepier even than a lot of Lileks' discoveries, and that's saying a lot!
Monday, December 23, 2002
17:53 - Still spit-shinin'

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In the Mac OS X 10.2.3 update which was released a couple of days ago, one odd little silent change was in iChat: reworked window control buttons.



They're recessed now. Instead of protruding out from the title bar's surface, the three colored buttons are now countersunk into the texture of the window.

Looked awfully weird at first, but I'm starting to like it now. It's the same kind of migration as the newly tightened and crispened form-action buttons, which used to have the same "floaty" effect but now have sharp edges and more of a glassy shine.

This OS started out its life better-looking than just about anything else on the market, and they're still not satistfied.


UPDATE: Kris has pawed around and discovered that most of the built-in "brushed metal" theme apps have the new look, like Calculator and Address Book; but not iTunes or iPhoto. The theory is that Apple has updated the default "brushed metal" theme and all the utilities that use it have implicitly been updated; but iTunes and iPhoto "roll their own" interface widgetry, so they don't look any different yet.

Oh, and Mike has a peal of wisdom from the hot-rodder community. Thanks!



13:08 - Frank Speech
http://www.snopes.com/rumors/hawley.htm

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A lot of people have been talking about how they wish American political figures and military leaders and other talking heads would stop beating around the bush (so to speak) and say what they really mean, without fear of offending some special-interest group or campaign funder. Some, like Acidman, are writing the speeches they would make if elected President. It's cathartic.

Well, a speech purportedly by retired General Dick Hawley started going around the net, and while it was good enough to post here in its entirety, I was a good boy and checked snopes.com this time. And yep indeed, it's a fake.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth reading.

4) "These people are poor and helpless, and that's why they're angry at us."

Uh-huh, and Jeffrey Dahmer's frozen head collection was just a desperate cry for help. The terrorists and their backers are richer than Elton John and, ironically, a good deal less annoying. The poor helpless people, you see, are the villagers they tortured and murdered to stay in power. Mohamed Atta, one of the evil scumbags who steered those planes into the killing grounds (I'm sorry, one of the "alleged hijackers," according to CNN-they stopped using the word "terrorist," you know), is the son of a Cairo surgeon. But you knew this, too. In the sixties and seventies, all the pinheads marching against the war were upper-middle-class college kids who grabbed any cause they could think of to get out of their final papers and spend more time drinking. At least, that was my excuse. It's the same today. Take the Anti-Global-Warming (or is it World Trade? Oh-who-knows-what-the-hell-they-want demonstrators) They all charged their black outfits and plane tickets on dad's credit card(!) before driving to the airport in their SUV's.

What's gravy, though, is that Gen. Hawley actually responded to this piece, and his comments are on the snopes.com site-- and he agrees with what was said, though is a little more reserved with his epithets. What he has to say for real is just as good as what was attributed to him in fiction.

What would that be like, I wonder-- seeing a column posted somewhere that I mostly or entirely agreed with, only to find my own name at the bottom?

"Boy, I sure wish I could write like that," I bet I'd say.
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© Brian Tiemann