Archive for November, 2011

To The Barricades

As soon as I became French (and I was already half French through my mother) I realized that my new compatriots were lazy, swindling, resentful, jealous, proud beyond all measure, to the point of thinking that anyone who is not French is a savage and incapable of accepting criticism. I have also understood that to induce a Frenchman to recognize a flaw in his own breed, it is enough to speak ill of another, like saying “we Poles have such and such a defect,” and since they do not want to be second to anyone, even in wrong, they react with “oh no, here in France we are worse,” and they start running down the French until they realize they’ve been caught out.

They do not like their own kind, even when advantage is to be gained from it. No one is as rude as a French innkeeper. He seems to hate his clients (perhaps he does) and to wish they weren’t there (and that’s certainly not so, because the Frenchman is most avaricious). Ils grognent toujours. Try asking him something. “Sais pas, moi,” he’ll respond, and pout as if he’s about to blow a raspberry.

They are vicious. They kill out of boredom. They are the only people who kept their citizens busy for several years cutting each other’s heads off, and it was a good thing that Napoleon diverted their anger onto those of another race, marching them off to destroy Europe.

They are proud to have a state they describe as powerful, but they spend their time trying to bring it down: no one is as good as the Frenchman at putting up barricades for whatever reason and every time the wind changes, often without knowing why, allowing himself to get carried into the streets by the worst kind of rabble. The Frenchman doesn’t really know what he wants, but knows perfectly well that he doesn’t want what he has. And the only way he knows of saying it is by singing songs.

—Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery


Deviant Daughter Deprived Of First Prize

Howling mobs of enraged art-lovers are today marching on that satanic citadel of pure evil known as deviantART, ululating in holy outrage at the infamous anathema in which my daughter was awarded second prize in a deviantART poetry contest, rather than first.

“This shall not stand!” Yahweh thundered, in a fervent burst of righteous wrath, making a rare public appearance before a roomful of startled reporters. “An injustice has been done—yea, verily: one worse, even, than what I did to Job. This decision violates all standards of God and Man, and tempts Me to bring on The Fire Next Time.”

While various lesser deities strive mightily to restrain the enraged celestial brimstone-brewer, the earthside hacker collective known as Anonymous has vowed to publicly reveal the names, addresses, phone numbers, genomes, and underpants sizes of all involved in the anathema.

Remarks by the dissed daughter herself (“Oh no, no bombs!” she pleaded to a cell of the Weather Underground, one that had reconstituted specifically to bomb all those involved in the anathema who need to be bombed, “I actually really loved the poem that got first place, and thought it really deserved to win”) are to be disregarded.

This is because “it is Known that she has always been Nice,” said her father, busily attaching a timer. “And as can be seen: here in this world, this world that is Wrong, nice people finish second.”

Earlier installations in the saga of the deviant daughter are as follows.

Here is some background on her daughterness. Here is where her deviant proclivities were initially exposed. Here is where she first became an award-winning deviant, acknowledged as both “Author Of The Month,” and authoress of “Poem Of The Month.” Here is a deviant poem of hers I published last December, when snow was suffocating all the land. Here is a different-one poem of hers that also won a deviant award.

Here is her deviant page.

And here is the poem that most recently finished second, of 128 entries. But really finished first. On the Earth where there is no anathema.

The Street Only Knew Your Name

The Street people are in the process of moving on from out the tent portion of their being, and on to something different.

No big deal. That’s the way it goes. “Mutate and survive,” my once and future mentor, known round this blog as “sally,” used often to say. For that’s the way it works on this planet. Keep moving.

What the Street thing is, is another acid test. As I said at some point over on the Orange Place, in the end it doesn’t really matter whether or not the Street people move the whole of the world. Because they are moving themselves. And it is through the movement of each individual human being, that the world itself, will someday be moved.

Ken Kesey, maestro of the 1960s version of the acid test, explains how it works:

The acid test was breaking out into an area in which it had no specific goals. It was just discovering what there was out there if you continued to move away from the norm.

It was a test. And there were people that passed, and there were people that didn’t pass.

When we did the show up in Portland—to give you an idea of someone who passed—some businessman, just walkin’ around on the street, came in; we charged a buck, and for a buck you got to see us make all our noise, and the Dead make all their noise, and anything else that happened.

This guy was in a suit, and he had an umbrella. He got the customary cup of stuff. And about midnight, you could see him really get ripped. Somebody who’d probably never been anything but drunk on beer. But he looked around, and he saw all these strange people, and he looked down, and the spotlight was showing down on him, and he saw his shadow.

And he stands up straight, puts that umbrella over his shoulder, and he says: “The king walks.” And: “The king turns around.”

“Now the king will dance.”

I Send Greetings

Humans think they want to communicate with distant life forms, out there in the great wide open, but, being humans, they don’t always go about it in the best of all possible worlds.

The NASA spacecrafts Voyager I and Voyager II were famously equipped with “Golden Records” that sought to present to extraterrestrial beings the nature and meaning of what it means to be human. The Records project was supervised by Carl Sagan, a scientist and a Real person. So, it had promise. But, things being what they are, Sagan’s work was mucked with by people so primitive and embarrassing they should probably be preserved in jars. Thus, the Records were prevented from presenting nude photographs of men and women. Because pee-pees and wee-wees are Nasty. And so extraterrestrials who encounter these objects will be led to believe that humans are but silhouettes. Further, and due to the exigencies of mammalian politics, the Records included a few words recorded by Kurt Waldheim, a Nazi.

We know from the 1984 documentary film Starman that one of the Voyager craft was encountered by higher life-forms somewhere out around Pluto, and as a result an extraterrestrial ambassador answered the Records’ summons to come visit Earth.

Alas, things did not go well. As the Starman documentary records, once the United States government learned the E.T. had come calling, it decided the thing to do was to capture him, and then cut him up, like a frog in a sophomore biology class. He managed to escape this fate, and return to life off-world, leaving behind an Earth woman impregnated with star seed; an attempt to hopefully goose humans speedier towards species sanity. As the film clip at the end of this post notes, the Starman extraterrestrial being was an anthropologist, and so was perhaps accustomed to, or at least prepared for, the sort of nonsense he encountered on this planet.

Meanwhile, an international team of humans recently compiled a list of various moons and planets which it believes to be most likely to harbor intelligent extraterrestrial life. Among these is Gliese 581g, a planet located about 20.5 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Libra.

However, and as will be seen beyond the “furthur,” another crew of humans had previously dispatched communications to Gliese that may encourage any intelligent beings there to regard Earth as a place that should be obliterated, rather than encountered.


What Men Know About Women

Bud’s relationship with the female sex was governed by a gallimaufry of primal impulses, dim suppositions, deranged theories, overheard scraps of conversation, half-remembered pieces of bad advice, and fragments of no-doubt exaggerated anecdotes that amounted to rank superstition.

—Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

Today In Reality

Skyway Robbery

Once upon a time, air travelers would occasionally have their Realities interrupted by young men with beards and a grievance, who would rise in the aisles to command that a flight proceed forthwith to some place other than where it was originally intended to go.

Hijackings. For a while, all the rage.

That was then, and this is now. But following the principle of everything old is new again, it seems that we may now be upon the dawn of a new age of hijackings. Except this time, passengers are being hijacked by their own airlines.

Let us consider the case of a recent Comtel Air flight scheduled to wing its way from India to Great Britain. When the plane stopped for fuel in Vienna, the crew informed the passengers that unless they coughed up $31,000, the plane would fly no further.

Britain’s Channel 4 news broadcast video showing a Comtel cabin crew member telling passengers: “We need some money to pay the fuel, to pay the airport, to pay everything we need. If you want to go to Birmingham, you have to pay.”

Some passengers said they were sent off the plane to cash machines in Vienna to raise the money.

Even as the Vienna robbery was underway, 190 passengers on a Comtel flight arest in Amritsar were informed that the plane would never take off, unless each would-be flyer forked over $200 apiece.

A spokesman for the airline boldly declared that these robberies were not his company’s fault, and furthermore insisted that the high-flying firm was in fine financial shape.

Bhupinder Kandra, the airline’s majority shareholder, told the Associated Press from Vienna that travel agents had taken the passengers’ money before the planes left but had not passed it on to the airline.

“This is not my problem,” he said. “The problem is with the agents.”

Kandra insisted Thursday the company was still solvent.

“We have not run out of money,” he said. “We have enough.”

Kate Hanni, executive director of, a tubes-outfit advocating for airline passengers, cautioned that the Comtel hijacking is hardly unique.

“There’s plenty of absurdity in airline land,” she said.

So stay tuned.

When I Worked

November 2011
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