Monday, September 29, 2008


I concede beforehand that this is not earth-shaking. It's not even particularly consequential. But this bugs me.

NEARLY 3,000 YEARS after the death of the Greek poet Homer, his epic tales of the war for Troy and its aftermath remain deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. These stories of pride and rage, massacre and homecoming have been translated and republished over millennia. Even people who have never read a word of "The Iliad" or "The Odyssey" know the phrases they have bequeathed to us
- the Trojan horse, the Achilles heel, the face that launched a thousand ships

Now, granted, this is not from a literary journal of any kind; it's from the Boston Globe. And, granted, the article has a lot that's useful about it. But still. I said in the title that this was nitpicking, and a nit is a nit. "Is this the face that launched a thousand ships/and burned the topless towers of Ilium?" is not from the Iliad; it's from Christopher Marlowe's play, Doctor Faustus. Now you could, I suppose, claim that the phrase traces its thematic roots back to the Iliad, but it's a stretch, and it's not what the author meant. And anyway, the burning of topless towers comes from the Aeneid, not the Iliad.

OK. Pedantry break is over. Back to work.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

And the Lion Will Lie Down With the Beach Ball

From an issue of The Watchtower:

I can't do it justice. Just go over to TBogg and read the commentary provided by him and his readers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

TSA: Protecting You From Your Own Possessions

So it's not bad enough that my crappy little plane last night had a broken reading light above my chair, or that water was dripping down on me, apparently from the air conditioner. No...that was just the appetizier. The real treat came when I got home, unpacked, and discovered that the TSA, during a random and routine search of my checked baggage (they were kind enough to put a slip of paper in my bag to let me know they had been there), decided that my underarm deodorant and cologne posed a threat to national security and needed to from my baggage.

Thanks, guys! Thanks for all you do to Keep America Safe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Obama Will Raise Your Taxes!!!"

Pig-lipstick, sez I. Take a look at this graphic from CNN. It's pretty clear--pretty brutally clear--where the money is going to come from...and where it's going to go.

Republicans like to crow about how Democrats favor "income redistribution," but they love it just as much. They just want to redistribute it in a different way: upwards to their already Very Comfortable friends.

I mean, honestly. Giving 45 thousand extra dollars to people already making over 600 thousand dollars? While graciously giving $300 a year to people who are barely scraping by? In what world does that not qualify as obscene?

God Bless Craig Ferguson

Sometimes it takes a convert--or, in this case, a naturalized citizen--to explain your religion to you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

John McCain Bought Me My Desk

Are any of you watching this craptastic smorgasbord of nonsense tonight?

You know, I kind of liked ole Mike Huckabee out there on the campaign trail, even if he didn't believe in evolution, and thought the world was 6,000 years old, and all that. He seemed like a decent enough sort of person--a mensch, in a southern Baptist kind of way, if such a thing is possible.

Well, that's gone.

At the convention tonight, Huckabee told a heartwarming story about a teacher in Little Rock who wouldn't let her students have a desk in the classroom until they could tell her how they could earn one. The students tried various things, like "get good grades" and "behave," but none of these were the right answer. Finally, at the end of the day, she had a parade of veterans, in uniform, bring in the desks, and she said, "you don't have to earn your desk, because these folks earned them for you, and don't you forget it."

And oy, such tears you could see in the audience. They were verklempt, in a doughy, white, middle-American kind of way, if such a thing is possible.

But let's dry those eyes and talk a bit, shall we? First of all, that's a terrible trick question and a lousy teaching strategy, and the lady should be fired or at least Seriously Warned to Cut It Out. But whatever. It's a quasi-religious/patriotic parable of sorts, and ole Mike has a license to tell those, so we'll let it pass.

The more serious point here, though, is that this was all a set up to talking about John McCain's sacrifice, and how he deserves a desk in the Oval Office, and so forth, because he helped buy our freedom with his service. And it's clever, for sure. Nicely put. It works. But is it honest?

I'm not saying McCain didn't sacrifice for his country, because God knows, he did. And I'm not saying he's wrong about us getting fat and soft and weak in an increasingly dangerous world, because we probably are. But to say that his service--in that particular war--"earned those kids' desks" is to say...quite a lot. Because let's face it--his job during that war was to drop bombs on a bunch of peasant farmers thousands of miles away from this country, who had never done the people of this country one single harm, nor ever intended to, nor ever could have, had we not gone over to their house with our terrible toys. The only danger the people of Vietnam posed for our country was in the fevered imaginations of crazy politicians (until, of course, we turned them into enemies worth killing). Had we never lifted a finger against them, I doubt that anything very much would have changed in recent world history. Vietnam would have been united and communist, which it is anyway. The Soviet Union would still have fallen. But we would have had about 56 thousand fewer dead people then we have now...and a country that was, perhaps, less fractured.

So--honorable service, absolutely. Honorable sacrifice, yes, beyond words. Honorable fight in the cause of freedom...not so much. Not his fault, perhaps, as a soldier, but certainly ours, as a nation. And we should own up to it. Because when we can't (and we can't) we keep making the same bloody mistake all over again.

I wonder in what future decade an American politician will be able to say that out loud, and if I'll still be alive to hear it.


Somehow, even though it comes as no real surprise, I find this grindingly depressing:

There was a flutter of attention when McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told a group of Post reporters and editors yesterday that his team was having to rework the vice presidential acceptance speech because the original draft, prepared before Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen, was too "masculine." While we all wondered to ourselves what might make a speech masculine or feminine, no one batted an eye at the underlying revelation: that the campaign was writing the nominee's speech before knowing who the nominee would be.
Since political speeches used to be written to reflect the thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and plans of a candidate, even if the candidate did not write the actual words, one has to stop and wonder what these speeches are intended to do now--now that they are written before a candidate even emerges. Whose thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and plans are being reflected here? The RNC's (and if so, as interpreted by whom)? John McCain (and if so, how is this speech supposed to be different from the one they're writing for him)? The speechwriter himself? Or some cabal of handlers and spinmeisters, whose job it is to decide which ideas will "sell" out there among the base?

I guess the nice thing is that, if various scandals and skeletons render Governor Palin unpalatable, they can simply dump her and replace her with some other right-wing puppet. Then all they'll have to do is change the pronouns again.

Now that's what I call discipline: the message is all that matters; the actual humans are irrelvant.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Iron Lady

While we're on the subject of book banning, here's a little tidbit from the political past of Sarah Palin:
Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to
fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

Cuz you're either with us or against us, right?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fight the Power

Because our young people learn all they need to know about sexuality and puberty from watching television, a brave woman has decided that the kids in her community should not be subjected to this book. To keep the tykes from reading it, she has withdrawn the book from her local library and is refusing to turn it back in, even under threat of jail.

Here is what the School Library Journal (those communists) has to say about the book:
Grade 4-8-A wonderful guide for young adolescents setting sail on the stormy seas of puberty. Packed with the vital information they need to quell fears and make wise decisions, this "sex manual" uses of clever cartoons to enliven and expand the text. Frank yet playful, they portray a reassuring array of body types and ethnic groups and illuminate the richly informative, yet compact text, allowing readers to come away with a healthy respect for their bodies and a better understanding of the role that sexuality plays in the human experience. Birth control, abortion, and homosexuality are given an honest, evenhanded treatment, noting differing views and recommending further discussion with a trusted adult.

In defense of her actions, which she considers civil disobedience, the woman has this to say:

"Children are not meant to be sexually active."

Right. Because once you become informed about a subject, you simply HAVE to participate in it. It's beyond your control.

Well, at last. Now I finally understand why I tried so hard to invade Poland after studying World War II in High School.