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Thursday, September 20, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Adding "just kidding" doesn't make it okay to insult the Principal.

So Snopes weighs in on the question about the images of cheering Palestinians; they say they were real.

Those wacky Californian peaceniks.

Steve points out that Bovine has returned. And about time, too!

This may be very sick and wrong, but I have a secret desire for Sam The Drummer to climb out from under my bed at night and recite the missing chapters from Truman Capote's "Answered Prayers" to the accompaniment of his midnight blue 5-piece Ludwig drum set whilst I emerge from the deepest depths of dreamless sleep in terror and bewilderment.

dwl points to the long but meaty Limbs of no body; World's indifference to the Afghan tragedy.

If you read my article in full, It will take about an hour of your time. In this hour, 14 more people will have died in Afghanistan of war and hunger and 60 others will have become refugees in other countries. This article is intended to describe the reasons for this mortality and emigration. If this bitter subject is irrelevant to your sweet life, please don't read it.

Why are we so rotten to each other? Is it just that there are too many of us?

Ms. Lieberum

Gretchen Lieberum writes:

First, I'd like to express my deep sadness in regard to last week's attack on the U.S., and how I fear it will effect us, as well as the rest of the world. I hope it breeds as little hatred, prejudice and violence as possible. I truly hope that all of your friends and loved ones are safe.

On a happier note, after many months of work, my new album is finally done! It is called "Brand New Morning", and consists of 12 songs. I have made five new songs available to download on my page at mp3.com. I've also got some new pictures up, and by the end of the week, my new web-page should be at least up, if not done (www.gretchenmusic.com).

I have been debating whether or not I should move ahead with promoting my album, which I mastered on the weekend before the attacks. I've decided to go forward, simply because music is the one thing that keeps me sane and happy, and I am really excited about sharing these new songs with all of you. Also, two of the new songs feel somewhat relevant at this time...

Brand New Morning is about persevering and moving on after personal tragedy. It can be found in the "Soul" section of mp3.com Lost Our Way deals with my sadness and frustration in regard to the current state of the world, but ends on a hopeful note. Part of the melody is based on a Pharoah Sanders song from his album "Karma". DJ Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5 plays on this one. It's under "Acid Jazz"

As for the rest of the songs.....

Blue September has a dramatic torchsong-meets-Portishead quality. Cut Chemist also does an amazing job on this one. It's under "trip-hop" Rapture of the Blue is a jazz vocal ballad listed under..."jazz vocal"! Brazen Girl is the song that was featured on the show "Felicity". I wrote it as a kind of love song to my friends. It's listed under "acid jazz".

So that's it. I am currently trying to raise the money to actually print the CDs (I don't want to create a DAM CD until I have the real thing available as well) so your support will be very helpful to me! Thanks so much for your ongoing support and words of encouragement. Take care, and enjoy!
-Gretchen Lieberum

And good music it is; if you liked "3 a.m." you'll like these new things too.

Logical fallacies.

Backup Brain points to Rally round the flag: "I love Old Glory. I just wonder if I can take it back from the creeps who've waved it all my life."

Note that Forthright's Phrontistery has moved to a new site.

"It won't surprise you to hear that Afghan Kebab House II was completely empty this afternoon when my friend and I went in for dinner." (The Hoopla 500 in general is highly recommended; thanks to ftrain for the pointer.)

On the speakers: Moxy Früvous's cover of "Spiderman". Memorable.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Ooh, I haven't posted to this here Weblog today, have I? As Ian says, "Nimda".

It seems to be rather fizzling out at the moment, or at least not growing ferociously the way Code Red (II) did. You can sort of seeing it showing up around 9am Eastern yesterday, on the Internet Weather Report graphs, but it's not a Huge Deal. Make sure you've applied the relevant IE patches and IIS patches (if applicable). Don't open attachments that come unexpectedly in the mail (duh!).

I'll probably have time for other subjects tomorrow. One brief note: when I said "Yeah, well" about Ann Coulter, I definitely did not mean to express agreement with what she said! It was more "Yeah, well, people say dumb and odious things".

Just to clear that up...

Tuesday, September 18, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Hanging around in a list or two where people know about animation and art and stuff, I'd heard about "My Neighbor Totoro", and when I casually looked it up on Amazon and found that it's only ten bucks, I ordered it (or, actually, asked M to include it in an order of Pokémon comics for the little boy, so Amazon probably now thinks M is into Japanese animation). It is in fact extremely cool; both lovely escapism and rich oddness.


It's warm and uplifting and fun and all that sort of stuff, but it's also not the insipid happy happy joy joy stuff of modern American kid-targetted culture. The Totoro and friends are wonderful, but also pretty scary, with enormous toothful mouths, really loud roars, and huge rolling eyes. The Nekobus would eat Barney for lunch...

I bought it for myself, but the kids love it also; I think the little boy's watched it about eight times by now. So it was a good investment! Highly recommended for parents, children, and anyone who's ever been either one.

On the other hand, I rented Austin Powers (the original, "International Man of Mystery"), and wasn't very impressed. I mean, it had a few funny bits and all, but I can think of lots of other things (including frivolous / silly / unproductive things) that would have been a better use of the time. It was basically a lot of dumb and/or silly gags (too many involving the so-funny noises that humans make when they excrete) strung together with an incoherent plot. It's wasn't really effective as a spoof of spy movies, or as anything else. The "one million dollars!!" joke was a good idea, but poorly executed (doesn't every comedian know not to tell the same audience the same joke twice?).

So should I rent "The Spy Who Shagged Me"? Or is it exactly the same?

In world news, there's a letter making the rounds signed "Tamim Ansary". I can't vouch for its authenticity, but it says some pointed things:

...I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps."

Beneath the Veil: Inside the Taliban's Afghanistan, a CNN report (by an incredibly brave reporter!) from before last Tuesday.

A petition, asking the leaders of the West not to misbehave.

Religion's misguided missiles (Richard Dawkins isn't a big fan of religion):

If death is final, a rational agent can be expected to value his life highly and be reluctant to risk it. This makes the world a safer place, just as a plane is safer if its hijacker wants to survive. At the other extreme, if a significant number of people convince themselves, or are convinced by their priests, that a martyr's death is equivalent to pressing the hyperspace button and zooming through a wormhole to another universe, it can make the world a very dangerous place.

Anti-Terror Push Stirs Fears for Liberties; Rights Groups Unite To Seek Safeguards.

Oh, and veering back to the personal and mundane, I finally bought a digital camera, after all these years. M persuaded me to buy it for myself as a birthday present; so I'm doing my bit to shore up the economy! It should arrive in a week or so; I'll try not to use up too much space here on the Web with pictures of children and cats and things...

Monday, September 17, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Why do you kill us? Do we deserve to be killed?

Those that we love and trust tell us that it is right to kill you. You should speak to them.

Why do you tell those that love and trust you that it is right to kill us? Do we deserve to be killed?

You deserve to be killed because you have killed us. We kill you in order to survive.

We have killed no one!

Your brothers have killed us. It is the same thing.

Brothers, why do you kill them?

Those that we love and trust, those that you also love and trust, tell us that it is right to kill them. You should speak to them.

You who we love and trust, why do you tell our brothers, who also love you and trust you, that it is right to kill these people?

Because they have killed us. We kill them in order to survive.

Why do you kill us?


So the Big Tub of Water is closed up for winter, an elaborate and ritualized process involving chemicals and valves and water. The pump and the filter are in the basement, and the floor is wet. The leaves are thinking about falling.

How do you break a cycle of retribution? (Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not what happened last Tuesday is primarily part of a cycle of retribution.) There are Jubilee years, where at least some debts are forgiven, and some properties returned, every fifty years. There is Aeschylus's Eumenides, where the Furies of endless vengence are tamed into the beneficent Eumenides by the rationality of Athena:

And nevermore these walls within
Shall echo fierce sedition's din,
Unslaked with blood and crime;
The thirsty dust shall nevermore
Suck up the darkly streaming gore
Of civic broils, shed out in wrath
And vengeance, crying death for death!
But man with man and state with state
Shall vow The pledge of common hate
And common friendship, that for man
Hath oft made blessing, out of ban,
Be ours unto all time.

Common hate is fine when what you hate is disease, or poverty, or ignorance. How do we stop hating each other?

Religions (successful religions) generally aren't into endless cycles of vengance, or at least can be quoted out of context to that effect. Saturday's Daily Muslim Wisdom from BeliefNet was pretty On, I thought:

The recompense of an ill-deed is an ill the like thereof. But whoever pardons and amends, his wage is the affair of Allah. Lo! He loves not wrong-doers.

-- Qur'an, Surah 42.40

But the first person to pardon has a really hard job.

A reader writes:

Ann Coulter is fucking scary; Maybe as scary as Osama bin Laden.

Yeah, well. She was upset. Unfortunately she gets to use the big bullhorn even while upset. And maybe she likes the attention. Is Rational Discourse Another Casualty of Tuesday's Attacks? Afraid so. Send it a Get Well Soon card.

Not everyone is irrational. Bruce Schneier has some rational things to say, and he quotes some others.

Are we all Buying Some Stock today? Not clear how rational that whole thing is.

More places to give money and get information and all: Yahoo portal page, Sept 11 Fund.

Were those images of cheering Palestinians faked, using old footage from a different event? Or where real enough that the cameraman who filmed them is in fear of his life? Fog of Battle.

Except when I sit down to Think About Things, all seems awfully normal. Which is good, mostly. Feeling terrible has its function (to remind us that things are not as they should be), but it's also unproductive (not conducive to making things more as they should be). What can we actually do to fix things, once we're no longer immobilized by horror?

Friday, September 14, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

So Amazon makes it real easy to give money to the Red Cross. And to various other charities. There's appropriate technology. How much more would you (would I) give to charity if it was just a little easier?

Helping.org has a good list of usual-suspects sorts of charities.

Council on American-Islamic Relations:

We at the Council on American-Islamic Relations along with the American Muslim community are deeply saddened by the immense loss of human life from Tuesday's tragic events.

Lawyers Group Wants Moratorium on Attack Lawsuits:

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America urged its members yesterday not to file lawsuits stemming from Tuesday's attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, saying it was the first time the group had sought such a moratorium.

Congress Mulls Stiff Crypto Laws:

For nearly a decade, privacy mavens have been worrying that a terrorist attack could prompt Congress to ban communications-scrambling products that frustrate both police wiretaps and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Tuesday's catastrophe, which shed more blood on American soil than any event since the Civil War, appears to have started that process.

For quite a few hours, I would have willingly signed up for the encryption-key registry, and the UPC code on the forehead, and the GPS transmitter implanted under the left shoulderblade, on the slightest pretext of security. But I think I'm past that stage now.

At the end of Ventus, which I've just returned to Bill (it's an excellent book; good nano-flavored hard SF, very Iain M. Banks ish in various ways), the happy ending is that the AIs that rule the planet, and have their agents in every drop of water and every blade of grass, are content now, and will take care of the people and the ecology, and Everything Will be Great. It's a nice fantasy: let the AIs (or the government, or the Lord) know everything about you, and take care of you. Sort of like being a kid! But it's hard to get a government you can trust as much as a (good) parent...

Zeta Magazine (which I stopped subscribing to the other year because it was just so unremittingly strident) has a number of brief "this was terrible, but it was our own fault" pieces that may be worth reading, including the (oddly named, is it a reprint?) On the Bombings from Noam Chomsky:

Again, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.

Steve has been posting various interesting and relevant links the last few days. See for instance StratFor.com, which posts interesting free news snippets, as well as wanting to sell stuff ("Got room for a global intelligence agency in your office?").

So how do you tell false rumors (of which there are many) from suppressed stories (of which there may well be many)? And of the supressed stories, how do you decide whether to be glad or afraid of the supression? This morning the news was saying "two groups of five people, some with false identification and some carrying knives, were stopped from boarding planes bound for the west coast in New York"; now they're saying "one person has been arrested and a few detained for questioning at some airport, but it's no big deal and may not even be directly related to the attacks". So which is it?

This morning a reporter on some talk show gave a firsthand account of a SWAT team rushing onto a plane about to take off in New York, and forcibly removing a few people. Why haven't we heard any more about that?

This morning the little daughter (all dressed in red, white, and blue), took a bag full of water-bottles and brand-new socks to school. She's at the age where she loves to Help Others, even if she's too young to really understand the awfulness. Not that us older people can either.

I'm still having a hard time talking here. In the rest of life I think I'm at least outwardly back to normal, talking about work-things and home-things, smiling and laughing now and then. It's tougher in this medium, for me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because this is a place where I'm used to really thinking about real things (or important or interesting irreal things), so it's harder to hide. And also because I do (I admit) put on an ironic and irreverant, maybe a somewhat smug and glib and foolish, face here. And that's not a face I want to wear right now.

Also, of course, this is a place where I'm mostly concerned with myself. And myself doesn't seem as all-encompassingly important today.


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