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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, April 11, 2004
12:17 - Moral high ground
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=10605_SF_Insurgence_Solidarity_March

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I suppose it would be wrong to punch an old man, huh?



And he's so convinced he's on the side of freedom, peace, and righteousness. Judging by his shirt, he even thinks he's on the side of America.

My brain hurts.

UPDATE: Deep breath... deeep breath...

Saturday, April 10, 2004
00:51 - Mmm... bug

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For months now, the accent wall above the living room has stood empty, a deep rich cinnamon brown color to contrast with the Sweet Marzipan of the walls; nice enough as a contrast, but empty and stark.

But not anymore:



It's an alpaca blanket, bought at South Lake Tahoe where the alpaca-products stores cluster as thickly as motels and snowboard shops; it's mounted on a frame made from 1x2-inch furring strips and stapled around the edges, then hung using a wire kit. It's just what that wall needed. Plus it can serve as an anti-PETA banner.

Anyway, we did some flying this afternoon-- I got to take the controls briefly over the Gilroy area, and I didn't make us crash. Yay! And then we picked up a friend and did a nighttime Bay Tour, the ubiquitous sightseeing circuit up the Peninsula, across north of Oakland, and back down the Pleasanton valley or any of several alternate routes. Then massive rock lobster tails at Red Lobster, followed by a stop at the Cheesecake Factory; and with that, a tiring but satisfying day is brought to a close.

I probably won't get to do any motorcycle test-riding tomorrow, because all the dealerships will be closed. Ah well-- perhaps it's just as well, because there's work to be done in the backyard. Plus I'm way too full, and probably will still be tomorrow.

Happy Easter, everyone.


00:14 - Burning Bush
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/04/11/film_rights_bought_to_clarkes_

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It'll all end in tears. No, wait. Not tears. Blood.

The best-selling book by former counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke may soon be a movie. Sony Pictures Entertainment has purchased the film rights to "Against All Enemies," Sony vice chairwoman Amy Pascal told The New York Times for yesterday's editions. In the book, Clarke charges that the Bush administration made Iraq more important than threats from Al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Never mind how pathetic and pointless this whole Clarke thing is, and the 9/11 commission shrieking like the guy at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. See, it's got legs... legs that go all the way up.

The Left no longer cares if its arguments make sense. It no longer gives a damn whether its machinations are perhaps not the best thing for our country to be engaging in while we're in the middle of a war. It doesn't give the tiniest crap whether it's forging an American society where doing good is punished, and doing evil is condoned or rewarded. That's all immaterial. Because now there's blood in the water. They see a way that they believe they can get Bush, and that's all that matters.

There's only one way out of this. It sucks, and it disgusts me, but it's the only way this trend will resolve itself, short of all-out civil war. And that's for Bush to become the Left's sacrificial lamb-- for Bush to be cast by his very supporters to the wolves, a peace offering, a capitulation, justified or not, for the sake of sanity at any cost; to be converted into the modern age's Hitler, Mussolini, and Joan of Arc, all rolled into one; to be impeached and arraigned and sentenced and imprisoned and stoned and hung from a lamppost in the village square. Guilty of anything or not, or even a figure of leadership during wartime unmatched since FDR and Churchill, it has to be done; he has to be torn apart, reduced to reliquaries-- for only that will satiate the Left's bloodlust.

Now we've got feature films being made-- not just rambling documentaries about Charlton Heston shooting little girls, but Sony-produced feature films-- which will project onto a 35-foot screen the story of a Bush administration that must be ripped apart like so much warm bread. Those of us who disagree had better just stay out of the way, keep our heads down, and not attract attention. Anyone who does will suffer a similar fate.

The alternative is a real, live war. It's happened before.

It's going to get way, way worse before it gets better.

But damn, I'd love to be wrong.

UPDATE: Read this. And this.

Friday, April 9, 2004
01:17 - Come with me if you want to live
http://sify.com/peopleandplaces/fullstory.php?id=13450922

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Now this is the kind of story that we don't see enough of these days. It's the kind of thing that comes near to restoring my faith in the real world to be just as good as any fantasy.

Los Angeles: Brawny movie hero and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger became a real life hero when he saved a cramp-stricken swimmer from possibly drowning off the coast of Hawaii, aides said Friday.

The "Terminator" star -- used to saving people, and indeed entire planets, from terrible fates in his Hollywood movies -- spotted a man in trouble off the coast of the lush island of Maui, where he is enjoying a weeklong family holiday, and stepped in to save him on Wednesday.

"He saw a man in distress in the water and brought him back to the shore," an aide to the former Mr Universe bodybuilder and Republican politician said.

"The man was hanging onto a boogie board and the governor knew there was something wrong and asked the guy if he was OK.

"The swimmer said he had cramps all over and couldn't swim back to shore, so the governor told him to hang on and swam him 100 yards (meters) back to the beach," the source said.

Okay, so he didn't tuck the guy under his arm and march in over the crests of the waves, battling sharks and drug-smuggling boats all the way. But still, how cool is that?


15:30 - Beware the Giant Stomping Saddam Statue
http://www.alien-zoo.com/newyorkgirl.html

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Insane! Insane, I tells ya!



What to make of it? Who cares?

(The video is "too weird to be political," in the words of the friend who passed this to me. But remember: it's one year ago tomorrow that the statue fell. Be sure to read what Omar at Iraq the Model has to say. No, I'm serious. Briefly.)

Then again, there's this:



Ah, those wacky French. (Mac users, make sure to get WMP9 first.)

Of course, if you're nostalgic about Windows in general for some reason, there's this...



Today's selection of freaky brain-popping mystery material brought to you by Friends On iChat™. Blame them!


13:37 - This just in my brain

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I saw something odd while watching This Just In last night, and it made me think something odd.

The odd thing I saw was a sequence where Bill O'Reilly is shown fantasizing about a cruise missile (funded by his own $1 million donation) launched from a jet fighter, with his face on a decal on its nose, streaking into Paris and blowing up the Eiffel Tower in a big mushroom cloud.

Now: granted, this was presented as a counterpoint to the sequence immediately preceding it, where Brian Newport (the lead character) fantasizes about the same donated cruise missile, with his own face on the decal, zeroing in on a hole where Osama bin Laden is hiding, creating the same mushroom cloud.

But I just couldn't help but think: if I were French, and I saw this show, even in context... hell yeah, it would piss me off.

It's clear that the intent is to mock Bill O'Reilly as being just a bit over-the-top and vindictive, with strange priorities and ire aimed in rather an unproductive direction. It's clear that the writers of the show aren't actually suggesting that attacking France would be a good thing.

But it has become somewhat of a tacit staple of our collective thought process, hasn't it? Tanks in Iraq spray-painted with FIRST BAGHDAD, THEN PARIS? And we giggle mischievously?

Sure, an argument can be made that France is not an ally-- even that it's playing for the other team. But it does us no service to treat them as adversaries in a shooting war, or to let such venom seep into our pop culture, even as a way of letting off steam. After all, isn't our disdain for France largely based on French loathing of America as expressed in their pop culture, which we'd like to think is unfounded and unprovoked?

Perhaps, if we're interested in laying a legitimate claim to the moral high ground here, it would be a good thing if we could rise above such pettiness. Because it sure looks ugly from the perspective of the business end. We're trying to convince everyone we're better than that, right? We could stand to rise above such childish thoughtlessness.

Hey, I told you it was an odd thing for me to think.


13:19 - And that's being optimistic
http://www.tnr.com/easterbrook.mhtml

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Sure, we coulda prevented 9/11. Here's how.

AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY: Washington, April 9, 2004. A hush fell over the city as George W. Bush today became the first president of the United States ever to be removed from office by impeachment. Meeting late into the night, the Senate unanimously voted to convict Bush following a trial on his bill of impeachment from the House.

Moments after being sworn in as the 44th president, Dick Cheney said that disgraced former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would be turned over to the Hague for trial in the International Court of Justice as a war criminal. Cheney said Washington would "firmly resist" international demands that Bush be extradited for prosecution as well.

On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. special forces units parachuted into this neutral country, while air strikes targeted the Afghan government and its supporting military. Pentagon units seized abandoned Soviet air bases throughout Afghanistan, while establishing support bases in nearby nations such as Uzbekistan. Simultaneously, FBI agents throughout the United States staged raids in which dozens of men accused of terrorism were taken prisoner.

Reaction was swift and furious. Florida Senator Bob Graham said Bush had "brought shame to the United States with his paranoid delusions about so-called terror networks." British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the United States of "an inexcusable act of conquest in plain violation of international law." White House chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke immediately resigned in protest of "a disgusting exercise in over-kill."

When dozens of U.S. soldiers were slain in gun battles with fighters in the Afghan mountains, public opinion polls showed the nation overwhelmingly opposed to Bush's action. Political leaders of both parties called on Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan immediately. "We are supposed to believe that attacking people in caves in some place called Tora Bora is worth the life of even one single U.S. soldier?" former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey asked.

When an off-target U.S. bomb killed scores of Afghan civilians who had taken refuge in a mosque, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar announced a global boycott of American products. The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the United States, and Washington was forced into the humiliating position of vetoing a Security Council resolution declaring America guilty of "criminal acts of aggression."

You know that's how it would have gone down.

And it still might, if certain people get their way.

(Via LGF.)

Thursday, April 8, 2004
23:53 - "Shared histories", indeed...

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Hey, get a load of this full-page ad in Newsweek. Read it, and then you tell me you know how exactly to feel about it. Go on-- I dare you.



Hey, it's great that you're with us in Iraq and stuff. But you know-- aren't we, like, maybe, leaving a little something out? Just some little trifling matter or other?

I appreciate the gesture, and I understand the impulse. But damn, that's ballsy.


21:21 - A thousand words are just as good as a video
http://brain-terminal.com/articles/politics/quantum-democrats.html

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Evan Coyne Maloney, he of the excellent videos that expose Lefist moronism in the detail that only the eyes and ears can convey, has penned a brief essay that comes as close as I've ever seen to explaining what the psychological malfunction is that's got the Democrats and the American Left in such a stranglehold these days.

It would behoove you to read it all.

Here's the problem for the Democrats. You can't be both for and against unilateral action. You can't be both for and against a pre-emptive attack against a known enemy who has vowed to do us harm. You can't talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s and then pretend now that they never existed. You can't call for toppling Saddam Hussein and then criticize someone for actually doing it. Actually, I guess you can do these things, because that's exactly what the Democrats have been doing.

According to principles of quantum mechanics, it is possible for a subatomic particle to occupy multiple positions at the same time. Perhaps the Democrats hope to become the quantum party. If so, it explains why John Kerry, the consummate Quantum Candidate, is the perfect person to head the Democratic ticket this fall. Here's a man who criticizes President Bush for not giving our troops in Iraq sufficient supplies and equipment. But when he was given a chance to vote for an $87 billion package to supply our troops, he ultimately voted against it. (Although, in fairness to Kerry, I should note his nuanced stance on the issue: he explained his vote by saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.")

Principled, persuasive arguments can be made both for and against the tenets of the Bush Doctrine. Unfortunately, the Democrats are squandering their opportunity to outline an alternative vision and instead are resorting to knee-jerk criticisms and ad hominem attacks. That's too bad; this is a discussion our country must have, because it will determine how we handle this war against radical Islam, a war that could easily last a century. But it seems that the only war the Democrats want to wage is one against President Bush.

And against anyone who supports him. Check out what Markos Zuniga of the Daily Kos has decided is the course of action to take against the indispensable LGF:

So nice to see Coffman advertises on a site that calls for an ethnic cleansing of an entire region in retaliation for the - completely unwarranted - killing of four men. Yes it was a terrible thing, but killing women and children fixes this how?

And then we have the lovely insult to Islamic women, like this:

(Accompanying a photo of Islamic women in traditional garb) I don't know why more people - especially women - aren't converting to Islam. They make it seem so inviting.

Tell Mr. Coffman that America is not about ethnic and religious hatred.

You have to work really hard to find a way to describe LGF as a "hate" site, or as advocating genocide, religious hatred, or incitement against women. If LGF has a constant drumbeat, it's one of unrelenting vigilance against Islamic terrorism and fascism, including repression of women, indoctrination of kids into a cult of death, and moral bias in the media and other pundits that never miss a chance to lambast some American wrongdoing, or to overlook one committed by Arabs or Muslims. If you want to try to cherry-pick quotes from commenters and out-of-context post titles to paint LGF as a "hate" site, Kos is welcome to try-- but it doesn't do any good at all to do it by accusing Charles Johnson (baselessly, if necessary) of being some kind of neo-Nazi, not when you're coming from a site whose reputation is now primarily one that was won by saying "Screw 'em" when the American security contractors were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah, and claiming that the "mercenaries" deserved it. No real apologies or retractions have been forthcoming-- just statements that it's all the fault of America and of people like Charles for running a smear job on him.

The trouble is that the majority of Americans, whether the Left likes to hear it or not, are intelligent enough to make their own decisions. I know this is hard for elite-minded, self-important web geeks fresh out of college to swallow, but it's true. And whenever I see some Leftist-filled site-- like this one-- where the commenters haughtily dismiss accusations that they're not unpatriotic or anti-American, I can't help but notice that they immediately follow up such sentiments by saying things like "I love America-- I just hate Americans". Apparently without irony.

I want to ask these people: Okay, if not the people, what is it you do like about America? Yosemite? Castro Street? Hollywood? Humboldt County? When some European wag, like any of several dozen posters at the abovementioned link, sniffs that America is a "sick little country"-- why don't you defend it against him, and explain why he's wrong?

And if you're not willing to do so, then how exactly are you being patriotic?

To decry the majority of the people in your own country as too stupid or corrupt to make decisions for themselves is not democratic. It's quite the opposite. It's the antithesis of what democracy, the Constitution, and this country are all about.

(Wait. I just visited that link, and it seems the entire site has been removed. Well, hell. It was quite a spectacle.)

But I hope the illustration is clear. One blog's commenters can snipe at another blog's commenters all they want; that's how this modern form of discourse works. But the line gets drawn at slander; and more specifically, if impartial third-party observers should come by and look at the respective facts on the ground, they're going to notice that one side treats the facts as something worth presenting on their own merits, for readers to make up their own minds about-- and the other side treats such impartial observers, sight unseen, as unqualified to cogitate upon such matters.

These are the people who will look at the debate in coming months and decide who's laying out the facts for us all to make our own decisions about, and who's trying-- through sheer force of volume-- to prevent us from accessing those very facts.

UPDATE: Charles says:

I’m just curious; has anyone ever heard of a blogger or other citizen on the right side of the aisle demanding that a left wing site be shut down, by making false claims of TOS violations? Has anyone heard of a blogger on the right side of the aisle trying to find a home address and phone number to encourage their readers to harass and stalk the owner of a left wing site?

Remember, Charles Johnson was a liberal prior to 9/11-- a long-haired bike-riding art hippie.

He still has the hair and the bike. And the artistic sensibility. And everything else. And then some.


13:43 - Axis of Steevil Releases Statement
http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/04/08/1922237&mode=nested&tid=126&tid=17

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Some people are saying that Mac OS X has had its first documented virus ever. Do not believe them! It is a Crusader lie by the insane little dwarfs of Redmond! Viruses are even now smashing themselves to bits on the walls of Cupertino. Viruses are not within 100 miles of Mac OS X! We will not be intimidated by threats of infidel Trojan horses undermining our security. I tell you this-- it is a lie! All Hollywood trickery. Soon will will give all virus writers a terrible lesson and cut their miserable throats! I triple guarantee you!

(Thanks to Mike for giving a name to our doomed movement!)

Wednesday, April 7, 2004
22:30 - Minor radiation leak. Roll up windows
http://www.angelfire.com/extreme4/kiddofspeed/

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Now this is fascinating beyond all reason.

It's a Russian lady on a Kawasaki ZX-11 (so it has a certain relevance for me), which she chose specifically for its power, comfort, and straight-line flat-out speed.

Because she likes to do the Dead Zone ride. Through the region surrounding Chernobyl. Camera in one hand, Geiger counter in the other-- and if it starts clicking, she cranks on the throttle.



She also stops for lots of truly excellent photos whenever the microroentgens reading is low enough. She accurately characterizes Chernobyl (and Pripyat, the Ghost Town itself) as the modern-day equivalent of Pompeii-- it's a near-perfect snapshot of what the Soviet Union looked like in 1986, untouched by change since then.

Except by the presence of a woman from the Matrix on a 140-hp Japanese supersportbike tearing down the main street of town, instead of dour and doughy men on 20-hp Workers' Chariots on May Day.


16:51 - State of a Different Union
http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/2004_01-03/deatkine_iraq/deatkine_ir

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If you're interested in getting a nice, thorough, realistic view of the state of things in Iraq, you could certainly do worse than this piece by Norvell B. DeAtkine, forwarded to me by JMH. It's by no means a glowing report, but it provides a better-fleshed-out picture of what's really going on than what most of the commercial media outlets are letting filter through, for reasons that become clear in the narrative.

It's a great portrait of the various factions in the country and what they all mean to each other, and what the prospects for democracy really are, not to mention what would be likely to happen if we were to pull out before the proper infrastructure for government is set up, or to turn it over the the illustrious United Nations.

Feedback from focus sessions and my own conversations with educated Iraqis confirm that there is an association of democracy with chaos. Moreover the lack of a civil society or even a civic consciousness in Iraq will be a monumental and long-term problem to solve. It entails reeducating the entire Iraqi society. For example, Oxford University conducted the most comprehensive survey of Iraqi attitudes in the November-December timeframe and discovered that seventy-nine percent of the population did not trust the Coalition. Of course, this was the news in the American media. The much more relevant finding, however, was that less than ten percent trusted their neighbors. This is the effect of thirty-five years of Ba’ath rule and intimidation. An entire society had been corrupted. This endemic distrust among all the Iraqis, even to the point some Iraqis would not tell their relatives that they worked with the Coalition, is no doubt the greatest obstacle to the implementation of democracy. The same survey indicated the Iraqis overwhelmingly welcomed democracy, rejected the idea of a religious government, and did not consider democracy some sort of nefarious Western import, as many of the religious Ulama preach.

Also don't miss the discussion of Kurdistan, what the cities there are like, how astonishingly modern and optimistic an area it is-- and how bewildering to them our policy of trying to pacify the Sunnis with magnanimous gestures must be, considering that the Kurdish cities are such a good example of what we'd like places like Baghdad and Basra to become.

We're getting there, but succeeding will take time. I'm sure everybody understands that, including the people who want us to get it over with in a matter of weeks. (We know what they're hoping for.)


09:25 - These people must be stopped
http://www.mtl2600.org/media/video/badgerbadger.mpg

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You know, I'm all for Casual Fridays and everything. But...



Aaaauuuuughhhh!

What hath Weebl wrought?

UPDATE: Speaking of which, I hope everybody's seen this cover article in Animation World magazine, the premier periodical in the animation industry, which does a deep exposé on Odd Todd, Weebl, and Homestar Runner. Evidently there's talk of bringing one or more of them from the Flash Meme world into the sphere of syndicated animated series...

Tuesday, April 6, 2004
01:56 - Nah, no bias here

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So the new issue of Newsweek is here, just in time for tax franticity week.

What do you suppose the cover story is? 308,000 new jobs in March? U.S. manufacturing at a 20-year high? The lowest poverty rate in decades? A special-report thick-spine edition full of inspiring anecdotal stories from all over America that illustrate what people are doing with their tax refunds, written with the sincere hope of inspiring readers to treat the economy with some optimism and start investing in earnest again?

Hah! Don't make me laugh:
THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET OF THE TAX CUT
Why It's Smaller Than You Think

I knew there was a touch of gray in that there silver lining-- and I knew Newsweek would be able to find it for me.

Next time something like this happens, Newsweek becomes classified as mailbox spam, and treated accordingly.


14:13 - Relapse
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=10524_German_Antisemitism_Watch

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Europe is sick again.

Are we gonna have to amputate?

Three times in a hundred years really is too much, even when it's socialized medicine.

UPDATE: There seems to be some uncertainty over whether the quote in question is directly attributable to the person purported to have written it. And I'd be a lot more skeptical if this were the first thing like this to have been documented at LGF or elsewhere-- or even remotely the first.

Monday, April 5, 2004
19:14 - I used to not get it either
http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2004_03_28_dish_archive.ht

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By the way, after hemming and hawing for a few days, I guess I should comment on this statement by Andrew Sullivan before it's beyond relevance:

THE PASSION OF THE JEW: If you didn't see South Park last night, my commiserations. Watching a cartoon Mel Gibson in his tighty-whiteys jumping onto his own sado-masochism machine was one of the more sublime sights of the year. Yes, he is clearly bonkers. And yes, Stone and Parker are geniuses.

Uh, yeah, he's bonkers as portrayed in South Park, all right-- hootin' and hollerin', leaping around his mansion in what may as well have been a rotoscoped Daffy Duck routine. However: I don't know what Gibsonian antics Sullivan is thinking of, but I've seen no evidence that Mel deserves the treatment that South Park gave him.

The episode is all about how The Passion supposedly states in no uncertain terms that The Jews™ are collectively to blame for killing Jesus, which naturally inspires Cartman to don full Hitlerian regalia and begin leading marches against synagogues (until it's revealed to him that Mel Gibson is in fact kaka-cuckoo, upon which discovery he retires home in abashment). I guess Parker and Stone must have seen the movie, but it seems to me that they must have deliberately missed the point of it, because the South Park episode in question is founded on a straw-man argument and ultimately ends up being weak and confusing.

I think it's obvious to anyone who's seen the movie without the intent to discover Judenhass in it that the movie never makes any claims that "all Jews are culpable for killing Jesus". That doesn't make any sense, especially considering the Jew who helps Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha. Jews in the movie are carefully delineated as to their respective moralities, with many good ones and many bad ones; it's the high priests, fearful of Jesus' influence and pettily eager to defend their own niche of power sandwiched between the common Jews and the Roman occupiers, who are made out clearly to be the villains.

But I'm not exactly qualified to discuss this sort of thing, being almost entirely non-religious myself. Bill Hobbs, however, does a much better job:

I have a confession to make:

I killed Jesus.

And I had many co-conspirators, including you.

Yes, you. All of us. We all killed Jesus. All of us – the Romans, the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, the Greeks, the Asians, the Rastafarians, the Egyptians – ancient and modern - the Babylonians, the Russians, the French, the Mexicans, the Canadians, the Americans and even those nice people who live down the street from you and go to church every Sunday.

We're all guilty.

We all killed Jesus because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – and Jesus came to earth, withstood real human temptation, lived a sinless life, was crucified despite His pure innocence, and then rose from the dead, thereby triumphing over evil's ultimate weapon. Because He paid the penalty for our sins, we can live without fear of death because, by accepting what He did, we accept God's free gift of grace: salvation and eternal life with Him rather than eternal life without Him.

The South Park conclusion is that "we should focus on what Jesus taught, not how he died," and that sounds very level-headed and sensible and even-handed in this age of making sure the same language can be used to describe any ideology, so that Christianity can be cast as a religion founded on the principle of "be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes", just like all the other religions-- so that we in our postmodern, non-denominational, secular world can feel comfortable coexisting with all religions and treating them all alike.

Normally I treat Parker and Stone as gods in their own right. But in this case I think they really dropped the ball, because Christianity in fact is first and foremost about how Jesus died. It's all about the fact-- or narrative, as you prefer-- that even though he'd committed no crimes or sins, he willingly endured one of the worst tortures any human has ever gone through, absorbing all the associated pain right up to death-- and even though at any point he could have put a stop to it through divine intervention, or caused himself to not feel any more pain, or even (on the human plane) simply cried out for mercy, he didn't. Instead, he sucked it all up, because he was specifically and explicitly trying to take upon himself all the punishment that all of humanity-- guilty or not, sinful or not-- would otherwise have to endure.

That's what the story of the Crucifixion is all about. Whether you consider it just that-- a story-- or the gospel truth, if you remove the unbelievable gore and the unendurable physical pain from the narrative, the story stops making sense, and certainly loses all its emotional and theological impact.

The magnitude of the suffering is crucial, no pun intended, to understanding why Christianity is different in nature from other religions and from general admonitions simply to "love thy neighbor"-- and that's why Gibson portrayed it with as much graphic detail as he did. So often, the Crucifixion is treated like a cartoon, like a day in the park, like some kind of strange ritual where people sort of got shoved around and carried heavy things, but where genuine physical agony really never entered the picture. (In the Life of Brian rendition and other sanitized modern interpretations, the condemned are tied to the crosses.) In Gibson's movie, the gore is the central element to what's on-screen-- you're not supposed to be able to ignore it or treat it with the detachment that we currently use in talking sterilely about the WTC towers falling, yesterday's news that it is. The Passion is to Christianity what the live video coverage of 9/11 was to the War on Terror.

Besides which, there's the seemingly important argument that the narrative paints Jesus' death as predestined-- that the whole point of his birth and life as a human was to suffer and die for everybody else's sins. (Parker and Stone bring up this point, but don't bother addressing it.) Without that unjust death, that martyrdom, there would be no Christianity-- Jesus, divine or not, would have lived an obscure life of traveling ministry, evidently never to make an impact on theology through the ages. Which makes the question of "who killed Jesus?" rather moot, it seems to me; are the people who blame it on the Jews actually saying they'd prefer it if there had been no Crucifixion, and therefore no Christianity?

Which is why I think Parker and Stone, and in turn Andrew Sullivan, are depressingly and uncharacteristically wrong about this.

I'm an atheist, at least insofar as practice takes me. I once scoffed at religion as the domain of the feeble-minded, a playground in which to absorb oneself to keep from facing the realities of everyday life. I regarded a disdain for religion that was founded purely in scientific facts and logic to be demonstrably superior to any brain cycles wasted on the nature of "faith" or on prayer or on any kind of religious study, because hey, look how much free time it left me with.

But it's become fairly clear to me that faith is a concept that's not something a person can grasp in a moment. It's way deeper than that, and seeking out its true meaning is by no means wasted thought. Sure, it may not actually result in anything concrete, and many people take it way too far. Many people who are religious stop being religious on a daily basis, and many other people shift in the opposite direction just as often. But people who disdain religion because it's ostensibly shallow or imbecilic, and who yet consider themselves to be deep philosophers on the nature of the human condition, are deliberately shielding themselves from what is perhaps the most fundamental form of philosophy that informs any understanding of how human beings work.

Religion isn't for me-- I'm really not wired for it. But I can respect the depth of the concepts behind it, having caught one or two glimpses into how hard it can in fact make the brain work.

I can't claim to understand the meanings of the things depicted in The Passion anywhere near as well as, say, Hobbs does. But I think that both he and Mel Gibson have probably devoted a lot more thought to the matter than Parker and Stone have, and I think you can probably guess whose stance on it I respect more.


17:46 - And if we punched these people, we would go to prison
http://www.command-post.org/oped/2_archives/011319.html

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After reading this article, via Dean Esmay, I had to go stand by the window. And just stare into the distance for a while.

People treat Communism these days, and its symbols and dramatis personae, like some kind of silly and cute curiosity-- a harmless, starry-eyed, idealistic little notion with cool constructivist iconography that inexplicably got America's reactionaries all comically flustered back in the 50s. (Why, it even triggered our very own purges and show trials and banishments to the gulags that we undoubtedly had somewhere in Montana.) It was just a well-intentioned, if misguided, conceit of the young and overeducated, and certainly it couldn't ever have done any real damage here.

People, in other words, love to kid themselves.

And it makes me feel genuinely ill.


17:06 - Never mind, Webalizer

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I was just investigating installing Webalizer, an open-source Web logfile analysis tool that appears to be a bit more modern and robust than the venerable analog, and used by lots of high-profile blogs (such as LGF). But then I noticed, at the bottom of the Webalizer's official site, an ad-style banner:



There can hardly be a government in the world, including the Arab world and the wider Muslim world, which has not for a long time considered  that a lot of life's problems would have been resolved if Saddam Hussein had been called some time ago by the Almighty to receive the judgment which awaits him in the next life.

But the "selection" by the US Supreme Court of George Walker Bush to the office of President of the United States of America has had consequences unimagined by the Western World since the end of World War II.

Who would ever have thought that a majority of the peoples of Europe would ever regard the United States of America as a real threat to the peace and stability of the world ?  But they do.  That is primarily a consequence of the Bush 'n' Blair invasion and occupation of Iraq. 

The war  was unlawful as a matter of international law.  It has vastly weakened the United Nations, it has led to the impending demise of NATO.  It has split the European Union.  It has created  divisions between the West and the Muslim world which may take decades, if not centuries, to heal.

Within a matter of months we shall be closing this page to start a new page for the next US Administration.   For the sake of the rest of the free world, we hope and pray it will not be under the leadership of George Walker Bush and that he may be rapidly consigned by the American people to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it's a link to an external site ("Eurolegal Services", whose main page currently features an article lionizing Sheikh Ahmed Yassaruman). But it's featured prominently-- and in a non-rotating manner-- on the Webalizer development/distribution site, and it's pretty clear that it's not just some silly accident.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find this kind of sentiment so well-entrenched in the open-source community; like all groups that proudly define themselves as "outcasts" and "rebels", a swell of pride in the status quo is seldom in evidence-- and philosophy that applies to software or sexuality seldom has difficulty spilling over into politics.

I realize that refusing to use a piece of free open-source software because of the politics of its author is a pretty silly interpretation of "boycott"-- it's not like it'll have any effect. But hey, at least I'll feel less grubby.


16:11 - Epsilon-Minuses?

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Funny-- the stories I'd always heard about the quality of men's minds in the Army were that in order to qualify as a tanker, you had to reach a grade in your qualification testing slightly below that of an infantry soldier. Not the most demanding assignment, in other words.

I wonder how this anecdote from Dennis, a commenter at Frank J's IMAO, squares with that:

The biggest truism about the Army in general and the Guard/Reserve in particular is the unbelievable education of the troops. My last driver was a young corporal who had joined the Guard to get an education. He had his Bachelors degree and was within striking distance of his Masters. We had a medical unit attached to our battalion. There were enlisted medics in that section. All of the enlisted medics were Registered Nurses. One of my NCO's was a practicing attorney, another was a CPA. Fully 60% of the unit was enrolled in college. In short, the guys in the Guard/Reserve take advantage of the educational opportunities, and they make the unit stronger because they are so educated.

Imagine that.


12:43 - Gee, I never thought of that!
http://slashdot.org/articles/04/04/03/174249.shtml?tid=106&tid=185

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Wow! Check out this brand-new idea that the Linux community has come up with all by itself:

Zero Install uses an NFS to both run *and* install apps from. The apps are all self-contained in their own directory; binaries, docs, source code and all. Once the app has been downloaded its kept in a cache from that point on to minimize delay. The beauty becomes apparent when Zero Install is combined with ROX which runs the application by just clicking on the directory it was installed to. Deleting the application along with all the other misc files is as simple as removing the directory it's contained in. This method of partitioning applications in their own directories also allows installing multiple versions of any application trivial.

As the commenters note almost immediately, gee, this sure sounds familiar...

J Greely says:

There actually is some innovation involved, but it's not what this
slashdotter thinks. It comes from combining these two old-news
features with another one, cachefs, allowing you to run new apps
from a server transparently, caching components locally for speed.
Although it sounds like this guy wrote his own file-system kernel
module rather than using existing ones, which is generally a bad sign.


12:32 - SimVideoGame
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2004/04/DotHackSign.shtml

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(Nah, nothing to say, really. I just wanted to use that title.)


12:24 - Sorry, I couldn't resist...

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Over at the Daily Kos (the premier left-wing blog in terms of visitorship, by most accounts, but which has lost its endorsements by the Kerry campaign and other advertisers over its proprietor's recent comments), you will soon be able to see prominent Seemann stains.

(Okay, fine, I'm not sorry.)


11:54 - Oooh, that can't be good...

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If there's one thing I learned through a childhood of dedication to devout zealous nerddom, it's that nobody likes a Grammar God.
Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

In my experience, this is just a nice way of expressing the usual term, which is Grammar Nazi.

D'oh!

(Via Rosemary Esmay.)


11:26 - Does all news radio suck?

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For some time now, the radio in my Jetta has remained silent, the volume knob turned down to MIN while I either listen to my iPod (traffic safety regulations be damned) or just the hum of the VR6. Why? Because not only have I been unable to force myself to listen to NPR for many weeks, I can't even bring myself to switch back to KCBS, my previous good old standby news-crawl station.

This morning I was driving Kris' truck to work (lots of garage-cleanout over the weekend, as well as unearthing my riding leathers so I can get back in the saddle, which for the time being will involve Lance's Buell), and it was tuned to KCBS. Twice, in the top-of-the-hour headline report, and later in the actual story, the station covered a story of state legislators attempting to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

Here's the thing, though: every time they described these games, they referred to them as first shooter video games. And every time they used that phrase, they immediately followed it with a reference, by way of example, to the Grand Theft Auto series.

A quick Google search shows me that the direct phrase "first shooter" doesn't seem to occur on the Web, or else it's being totally obscured by "first-person shooter", which is what I'm almost positive KCBS is trying to say.

Now, it seems as though "first shooter" would be a fair way to categorize certain games-- i.e., games in which you "shoot first", where you're not being attacked by monsters or bad guys before you decide to shoot them-- or, in other words, games in which you're the bad guy. I can understand calling something like Grand Theft Auto 3 a "first shooter" game.

But if KCBS is just bumblingly trying to say "first-person shooter", e.g. the Quake/Unreal/etc series, which have a lot of buzz and are widely regarded as "violent" but generally only in a very sci-fi/fantasy sort of sense, their trying to use GTA3-- which is not a first-person shooter-- as an illustration of that term is boneheaded in the extreme.

We have two possibilities: Either 1) KCBS or the legislators in question have invented a new term for certain kinds of video games, one that's surprisingly apt; or 2) KCBS is badly misinterpreting the meaning, and misquoting the name, of a whole genre of games by way of attacking only one certain segment of the market with a buzzwordy title that keeps appearing in the headlines.

I so wish I could believe it's the first one.

It's widely acknowledged that whenever the news reports on some story of which you have first-hand knowledge or understanding, you always will notice some crucial piece of information that the news station gets wrong. Somebody's name. The number of kids in the family. How safe the street is acknowledged to be where the thing took place. The name of a video game genre, for crying out loud. But that's just for the stories you know about... so what does that tell you about all the stories you hear about that you don't know from first-hand experience?

Just last night, a friend told me a story of how a terror alert was raised at a Missouri military base; apparently there was word that hijackers would attempt to commandeer emergency vehicles and commit some sort of act of terror against the base. Well, a few days later, at a county fair in a nearby small town, a couple of big fire trucks were on display for the kids to play on. Sure enough, a couple of young Arab men came walking up, carrying duffel bags and making a beeline for the fire trucks. The men were apprehended and spirited away by the authorities, and thenceforward it was a "federal matter" and no further information was forthcoming.

Those friends of friends who witnessed this event now say they'll be taking terror alerts a bit more seriously from now on. But remember: thousands of people heard the alert before the event happened, and they didn't witness the details of what went down. What's their reaction?

"Shyeah, right-- like anything was really gonna happen. These terror alerts are just bogus; they're cynical attempts to keep people in a state of nervousness."

There's always a first-hand version of the story, but very few people get to see it. Everyone else has to make do with whatever sounds most plausible on the air, even if it's bloody well wrong.

Which is why I think my radio dial will stay on MIN for a while yet.

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© Brian Tiemann