Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 November, 2005

Word of the Week

Just because I love music.

lulliloo (lull'-i-loo) v.t. and v.i. to welcome with a joyful song; to sing a joyful welcome
|| Palmer, 5:06 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

On the Gramophone

This week we've got a bit of music from the Middle East. Mohammed El-Bakkar was born in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in 1952. He appeared on Broadway in Fanny and then formed Oriental Ensemble, becoming famous for his belly dancing music. So get ready to shake that thang! Check out "Zenat El Haflat (Girlish Laughter)".
|| Palmer, 5:05 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

28 November, 2005

First It Was Mother Theresa

While I'm on the topic of religion, it has been announced that Christopher Hitchens' next book is to be on this very topic.

God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion by Christopher Hitchens: Will explain why religion does more harm than good in the world, and how society would benefit if faith remained personal rather than public.

Should be an interesting read.
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Statue Cries - Reason Flees

A statue of the Virgin Mary out in California is leaking a red liquid from one of its eyes.

"I think that it's incredible. It’s a miracle. Why is she doing it? Is it something bothering her?" asked Maria Vasquez, 35, who drove with her parents and three children from Stockton, about 50 miles south of Sacramento.

Ms. Vasquez - it's a statue! It's not alive, it is not a woman thusly nothing can bother it. Living things get bothered, not statuary. Ky Truong is all depressed because there's a liquid on a statue but at least he's become a prognosticator:

"There’s a big event in the future — earthquake, flood, a disease," Truong said. "We’re very sad."

How far into the future, Ky? These things happen all the time.

Is there a staute of Athena somewhere with a liquid running down its face as well that portends a bad olive crop? Why isn't the whole world laughing at people who think that certain statues are "alive"? We all know how meaningful Mary's stain was. I expect such ridiculous things from religious people and apparently the author of the article partakes of such things as well. To wit:

Thousands of such incidents are reported around the world each year, though many turn out to be hoaxes or natural phenomena.

So, many are hoaxes and natural phenomena which leaves the rest as genuine miracles. Nice bit of science there AP. Got any proof that any of them are miracles and not hoaxes/natural phenomena? Even one?
|| Palmer, 8:35 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

No Extermination Needed, No Doctor Necessary

The BBC is highly unamused over the soft-core pr0n flick, Abducted by Daleks.

BEEB bosses have gone ballistic after discovering the Daleks are starring in a PORN FLICK.

Dr Who's foes capture three naked "disco babes" in the 18-rated DVD.

They chase the girls around their spaceship and grope them with their plungers.




A trailer can be found here.
|| Palmer, 8:23 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

2006 APT Season

American Players Theater has announced its 2006 season:

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder
Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Now, Caesar sounds good - all that stuff about crying havoc and faults in the stars'n'stuff.
|| Palmer, 6:22 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Genocidal Regimes Need Lobbyists Too

The genocide in Darfur continues as does the near-total indifference of the United States – it's government, its media, and its people. The estimated death toll moved into the six-figure range last month:

More than 100,000 people are now believed to have died in the Darfur region of Sudan since the United Nations Security Council set a 30-day deadline last year for the Khartoum regime to begin to resolve the crisis in the area.

Humanitarian agencies and the African Union are warning that the situation in Darfur is again deteriorating, with five AU peacekeepers killed in the past week and parts of the region inaccessible after an aid convoy was ambushed and the staff stripped and beaten.


And what about those African Union troops?

The AU yesterday [22 October 2005] missed a new deadline to increase troop numbers in the region to more than 7,000, mainly because it remains dollars 173 million short of the money it needs to finance the operation. It is also short of fuel and is being hindered by the Sudanese government, which has refused to allow a consignment of Canadian-supplied armoured personnel carriers to enter the country.

So what is my government doing? According to Nat Hentoff:

But Reuters, reporting from Washington on Nov. 2, disclosed that "U.S. lawmakers stripped out $59 million in funding for African Union troops struggling to keep the peace in Darfur. The money was taken out of a foreign funding appropriations bill."

I have heard no protest about this cut from George W. Bush, who, following former Secretary of State Colin Powell, unequivocally declared that genocide is taking place in Darfur. And where is the Congressional Republican leadership?

Even the right-wing think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute, via a task force co-chaired by Newt Gingrich concludes:

Our task force addressed Darfur directly, recommending a series of immediate initiatives for the United States, the UN and others, including establishment of a no-flight zone. Although the outcome document did not address this issue, it is clear that international action is still urgently needed. African Union troops in Darfur are unable to protect themselves, let alone those they were sent to protect.

The AU cannot quell the conflict alone and we can't even give them a paltry $59 million – chump change for our nation. What's worse, as Hentoff notes, is that, despite being a genocidal regime, the leaders of Sudan deserve what all power-hungry folks do: a lobbyist.

"There are indications that the U.S. State Department is shifting its policy toward Sudan. Instead of putting more pressure on this Khartoum government, (Condoleezza Rice) granted them a waiver to hire a U.S. lobbyist (Robert Cabelly). For $530,000 a year, this lobbyist will represent a regime we have accused of genocide." (This letter was co-signed by 105 members of Congress.)


Mr. Cabelly – have you no shame? Ms. Rice – have you no shame? Our government won't even give the Pentagon's table scraps to the AU to stop genocide! What needs to be done? Do forged documents alleging the Sudanese government is seeking WMDs and has ties to Al-Qaeda need to surface?

We really don't care, do we? We didn't care much about Yugoslavia nor about Rwanda. You'd think that a film like Hotel Rwanda could stir up some conversation about something other than how great Don Cheadle's performance in it was. I've never seen Hotel Rwanda but I have seen a lecture given by Roméo Dallaire, the head of U.N. peacekeeping forces in Rwanda. He and his soldiers had the misfortune of being able to do virtually nothing to stop the slaughter of 800,000 people over the course of 100 days. (For my fellow Wisconsonians - that's half the population of the Milwaukee metro area in less than a football season.) His tales were just grotesque. Such as pregnant women having their bellies cut open with machetes and having their fetuses butchered. Yet we collectively stood by and did nothing. Where were we? What sports star was on trial? What actress' nipple slipped?

Congress is willing to put down martinis and drop golf clubs to rush back to Washington in a bid to "save" the corpse of a woman animated only by feeding tubes and respirators but can't be bothered with genocide. Families are being riven apart at gunpoint, women are being raped, and people are being murdered yet all our government is willing to do is to hire a lobbyist to state its position on the situation in Darfur. For over half a million dollars a year, Robert Cabelly will sit at the table and say "What you're doing is wrong".

According to this article from the Washington Post, Cabelly's hiring infuriated at least one member of Congress:

This did not sit well with Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who has been spearheading the drive in Congress to stop the slaughter in the Darfur region. Wolf took to the House floor last week to condemn the agreement -- "Where will the lobbying wheel of fortune stop next?" he asked -- and to blast the State Department for waiving sanctions on doing business with Sudan so Cabelly could get the contract.

At least someone is outraged.

Read this story by Dallaire:

The sergeant is there with a couple of hundred people congregating. He calls back to the headquarters to get transport to pull them out of there into safe sites -- not safe zones, as my military colleagues prevented me from implementing. They wanted me to implement a safe zone during the genocide -- take southern Rwanda, put a wall across, and the Tutsis can be safe inside there. The Tutsis couldn’t make it there because there was a roadblock every 100 meters.

Suddenly, from one side of the village comes a group of young boys, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and they’re shooting at him and the people he is defending. And from the other side there is a group of girls coming, and behind them are boys shooting at the sergeant, at his troops, but, most importantly, at the people they’re supposed to be protecting.

What does the sergeant do? Do you kill children? This is one example of the moral and ethical dilemmas in which we find ourselves in many of these conflicts. They’re not high-tech, but they require a depth of intellectual rigueur, they require values and people who know to go beyond themselves and potentially sacrifice themselves -- not because the order or mandate is there, but because morally and ethically that’s the right thing to do.


It will be December soon so remember: the Christmas spirit is not what you drink. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate next month, think and act upon the right thing to do. If you cannot donate money, at least contact your representatives in government. Don't know who they are? Go here and find out. For my fellow Madisonians, here's the relevant contact info:

Senator Russ Feingold
Washington Office:
SH-506
Washington, D.C. 20510-4904
Phone: (202) 224-5323
Fax: (202) 224-2725

Main District Office:
1600 Aspen Commons, Rm. 100
Middleton, WI 53562
Phone: (608) 828-1200
Fax: (608) 828-1203
Webpage

Senator Herb Kohl
Washington Office:
SH-330
Washington, D.C. 20510-4903
Phone: (202) 224-5653
Fax: (202) 224-9787

Main District Office:
310 West Wisconsin Ave., #950
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Phone: (414) 297-4451
Fax: (414) 297-4455
Webpage

Representative Tammy Baldwin
Washington Office:
1022 LHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515-4902
Phone: (202) 225-2906
Fax: (202) 225-6942

Main District Office:
10 East Doty St., Ste. 405
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 258-9800
Fax: (608) 258-9808
Webpage

And don't forget that the conflict in Rwanda spilled into Congo.
|| Palmer, 2:23 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

26 November, 2005

Dworkin Rolls in Grave



Andrea Dworkin is no doubt rolling in her grave.

Australian researchers are about to publish a study which says that "mainstream pornography in Australia doesn't represent women as sex objects". Indeed, it "shows them as active sexual agents". In addition to looking at the pr0n itself, the study showed some surprising results about the consumer:

Interim results released in 2003 on the content of pornographic movies found super-size breasts scare some men, conservative voters love dirty magazines and adult videos have realistic plots.

Dr Alan McKee said those initial results had shattered the "dirty old man in a trenchcoat" stereotype of pornographic consumers.

Of the 320 respondents who said they used mainstream porn, 20 per cent were younger women, 33 per cent were married, 93 per cent believed in gender equality and 63 per cent considered themselves to be religious.


This is just a brief article, of course, and I haven't read the entire study so I'm not sure what else it reveals. (Nor have I read the report of the Meese Commission on Pornography.) Plus the study looks at mainstream pr0n and not some of the more hard-core stuff which portrays, amongst other things, rape. For any locals, one anti-pr0n argument comes in the form of the film Not a Love Story which features scenes shot right here in Madison. A bit out-dated, perhaps, but it still embodies many of the arguments made against pornography.

Personally, I like pictures of nekkid fraus and I haven't seen any definitive proof that consumption of pr0n makes individuals rape, undergirds our "rape culture", et al. Then again, I haven't read all the literature on the subject.

There was a recent poll done in the UK which has some surprising (for me, anyway) and disturbing results. For instance, 22% felt that, if a woman had "many" sexual partners, then this placed some of the responsibility for being raped on the woman. Just prior to the outcry about such attitudes on various feminist blogs, a very interesting dialogue appeared on Alas! (A Blog) in an entry called "On victim-blaming and control". Especially revealing for me were the comments of "Q Grrl". Q Grrl holds the standard view of rape as having absolutely nothing to do with sex. Some choice quotes:

"Rape is a social control — whether it is stranger or aquaintance [sic] rape."

It is a socially condoned use of force that works to control women’s sexuality and women’s role in the social fabric."

Again, rape is not so much an individual act, but a socially condoned act."

If you are not actively working to deconstruct a male sexuality founded on rape (virgin/whore dichotomy for women), then you are indeed benefiting from the fact that many men do rape."

"…do men have better employment opportunities, access to resources, access to recreation, access to politics, access to legislative opportunities because women are threatened with rape if they use public space in the same way men do?"

This last one humored and disgusted me greatly. She maintains that women don't run for political office for fear of being raped. Are there any women readers here who can personally vouch that, while they want to run for office, they don't because they fear rape? Have any female politicians gone on record as saying that they recognized the threat of rape in running for office but ran anyway? And how does one go about "deconstructing male sexuality"?

Does anyone else find it odd that the she claims rape has nothing to do with sex and is all about social control, yet its male sexuality that is the problem? I can't help but think of Steven Pinker's comment:

But the fact that rape has something to do with violence does not mean it has nothing to do with sex, any more than the fact that armed robbery has something to do with violence means it has nothing to do with greed.

How can one keep a straight face and say that an act of sex has nothing to do with sex yet is rooted in sexuality? Is rape really like quantum physics where all of our notions of common sense and causality are thrown aside? This webpage features some statistics about rape compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice. Take this statistic:

The income level of the "average victim" is very low with most victims coming from homes with incomes under $10,000 a year. Women from low income households are 4 times as likely to experience violence of any sort than women in the income bracket above $50,000 (Craven, 1996).

If rape is only a form of social control imposed on women by men, then why are "average" victims poor? In other words, if rape is about protecting patriarchy, as Q Grrl seems to assert, then why are wealthier women, who would be more of a threat to patriarchy, raped less frequently? Maybe this is a subterfuge by us men. We let those uppity women who slip through the cracks go so as to give the illusion that there's equality, that there's no "rape culture". You know how cabals work – just watch The X-Files. And why do men rape girls? Are these rapes preventative? Do men seek to rape young girls so they know from the outset who is in control and that they learn their place early? Or perhaps such sexual abuse involves (gasp!) sex – perhaps just like when men rape adult women.

The following statistic comes from a West Virginia University webpage:

75-90% of all sexual assaults on campus are alcohol or drug-related (Warshaw, 1988; Califano)

Somebody explain to me the patriarchy's mechanism which brainwashes college men into raping college women when the either they or the women are drunk or both. Perhaps the Lockean contract negotiations by which a man is to gain consent for sex with a woman breaks down after a couple dozen beers and a few shots of tequila which transform our "rational agents" into puddles. Other animals on this planet rape as well – it is not a uniquely human endeavor – including birds, insects, and some of our fellow simians. Are these creatures mere actors in a patriarchal tragedy as we men are supposed to be? Many on the Left, including feminists, like to chide the Bush administration for its "American exceptionalism", i.e. – that America is a totally unique instance in the history of mankind. Yet many of these same people turn around and invoke exceptionalism for our species. I get the impression that many of these folks think that, because we are really good tool-makers and have morality, that we have nothing in common with those creatures who sit more towards to roots of the evolutionary tree than we do. Despite the many great accomplishments of mankind such as McDonalds, reality TV, and the Brazilian wax, we are still apes. Unique in many ways, to be sure, but still apes. Our shit stinks too. Jane Goodall was on Democracy Now! yesterday and gave a few examples of how various animals are like us humans. (Her justification of the statement that pigs are intelligent involved a porcine computer user. It forced me to wonder about certain human computer users I know…) I think it would behoove us to occasionally stop anthropomorphizing animals and instead look at how we are like them. I have read nothing that gives credence to the idea that our slates were wiped clean when we became homo sapiens. Indeed, the situation only became more complicated. Just because sex is natural does not mean that every instance of it is good and healthy. Arsenic occurs naturally too. It is quite a feat of the intellect of our species that some of us can take an act of sex borne out of sexuality and remove the sex from it.

Pinker also refers to feminist Wendy McElroy:

As the equity feminist Wendy McElroy points out, the theory holds that "even the most loving and gentle husband, father, and son is a beneficiary of the rape of the women they love. No ideology that makes such vicious accusations against men as a class can heal any wounds. It can only provoke hostility in return."

If you're going to go around labeling all men rapists and/or beneficiaries thereof, how can you reasonably expect to go about "deconstructing male sexuality" other than by the Ludovico Treatment? I don't have the answer to stopping rape but one thing we can do is stop telling 18 year-old men entering college that they are rapist scumbag tools of the patriarchy. Another thing we can do is roundup all those people who think that having had many sexual partners makes a woman partially to blame for her rape and give them a collective punch in the nose. How stupid are you? What does this have to do with rape? I think the best way to teach men not to rape isn't to just teach that message but to instill healthy attitudes about the motivations that lie underneath – both about sex and power because I think rape is about both.

Since rape is overwhelmingly committed by men, we need to address their sexuality, not as a tool of the patriarchy, but as part of our humanity. We can start by getting rid of this attitude that sex is nothing but a way to get an infection and an unwanted pregnancy instead of teaching that a good, healthy sex life is a near-imperative. Saying that sex should wait until marriage is another way of saying that sex is awful and that you need reinforcements to handle the fallout. We have poll after poll which indicate that 90%+ of men (99%+ for teenaged boys, no doubt) are masturbationaholics yet talking about onanism is virtually taboo. Just ask Jocelyn Elders. We need more people like her. There should be compulsory masturbation laws for boys. Women have lactation rooms where they can go pump breast milk – give men rooms where they can go jack off. (And women too.) They don't need to be fancy or particularly comfortable. A plain, small room with a couch, some magazines, and a tissue dispenser will do fine. Let's legalize and regulate (and tax) prostitution too. It should be an honored and respected vocation. Nobody puts down restaurant owners for fulfilling a basic human need for money so we shouldn't be doing that to prostitutes. Imagine a school system that doesn't hide sexuality and actually educates kids on it. Boys get spontaneous erections. Johnny Second-Grader will be sitting in class and then pitch a tent for no reason at all. He'll be embarrassed and ashamed, seeking to hide it. And I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut that he has absolutely no idea why he feels that way. Imagine all the teenage boys going into a classroom with a male teacher who, instead of preaching abstinence or giving a clinical description of the mechanics of sex, welcomes the young men in adulthood and to the Masturbation Club. Why does our society generally shame kids when they become sexually mature or just ignore the event and let them figure things out on their own? All joking and exercises of the imagination aside, I think it is absolutely absurd to separate sex from sexuality with all the precision of a surgeon. Sexuality is more than sex but without it, it's not sexuality.

We must also remember that men rape other men and boys as well. I find it dubious to say the least that a Catholic priest having his way with an altar boy is somehow an expression of power over women. What about male prisoners who rape fellow inmates? Are they all gay? Or do they rape only in a bid for power? I'm inclined to think that power is often involved but also that sex is also a motivating factor since there are no women available. When ostensibly heterosexual men rape other males, we include sexual desire in our explanations. (Not that the sexual desire of a man for a boy is considered good or healthy.) But when heterosexual men rape women, the glaringly obvious desire of these men to have sex with women is whisked away by Q Grrl & her ilk and left out of any explanation for the behavior of those men.

Why do some men not rape? Never having raped a woman, I can vouch that I never stood to the side and thought, "Well, I just let those other guys rape and I'll reap the benefits of their actions". I am part of the same patriarchal culture as the rapists so why do I not rape women? I watched the same television programs and the same movies produced by this "rape culture" so what happened? I tend to think of this "rape culture" idea as being like "Intelligent Design". That women are not considered equals, indeed – they are treated like chattel, etc. is so anathema to everything they believe in that it is surely evidence that of a intelligence behind it all. And so it's a conspiracy behind which is men. Andrea Dworkin said that "forced sex is not incidental to male sexuality but is in practice paradigmatic." Male sexuality is inherently and thoroughly evil, in other words. "Rape culture" advocates remove sex from male sexuality and add a nebulous puppet master. Sexuality, whether male or female, is a vast spectrum of attitudes, desires, and, consequently, actions. I would argue that the desire to have sex with someone is amoral as is the act of coitus when devoid of context. (Consensual sex is good while coerced sex is bad.) People are neither entirely good nor bad. Rape is an act of violence and about power. But it's also about sex and the breakdown of moral restraint. Everyday millions of people who would never think of walking into a store and stealing a CD commit theft by downloading music. Regardless of the actions of the recording industry, it is theft. No one is physically hurt in the process and the consequences are much less dire than are those of, say, rape. Yet the moral concept of "stealing is wrong" breaks down and greed prevails. I'm not trying to trivialize rape but rather I'm saying that a similar breakdown happens with regards to rape and that one component of rape is fulfilling the desire for sex. Just as no one has the right to steal music, no one has the right to have non-consensual sex. Men who rape are deplorable. In addition, it is also deplorable when individuals and the media place the onus of rape on a woman instead of a man. No woman wants to be raped thusly her clothing, level of intoxication, and sexual history are not relevant.

There are over 6 billion people on this planet and this isn't the case because sex is a choice on par with chocolate or vanilla. It's because our desire to express our sexuality is primal, deep-rooted, and pervasive. While I'm not saying that men are nothing but a bunch of brutes who can only be trusted to put their penises in a bodily orifice, I find this bit of hyperbole closer to the truth than the image of a celibate priest. The challenge of preventing rape involves a number of things. Perhaps the easiest changes we could make are in our legal system. Make it mandatory that DAs bring rape cases to trial, for instance, and ensure that the bullshit like a woman's sexual history are excluded from the proceedings. And while teaching men to be respectful and not to rape is a necessity, you can do that until you're blue in the face but it still won't be enough. Jesus was pretty clear about being nice to one another yet this doesn't stop many Christians from treating their fellow human beings like crap. We huddle around our televisions and watch a National Geographic show featuring two lions clawing at each other over a lioness and think "we're not like that". We humans are just like that. It is the height of arrogance to think that sexual competition just disappeared in an evolutionary poof of feminist logic. Today we deny men are by their natures more aggressive and more competitive than women (generally) and are off on some fool's errand to wipe an imaginary slate clean only to write "I WILL NOT RAPE" on it. Instead we ought to think about ways to set up a system of checks & balances to deal with male aggression and competitive drives. No woman, excepting if she were a true pacifist (a truly untenable position) would have a problem with one man being aggressive in her defense. The trick is to divert, restrict, and harness male impulses towards such desirable ends because we can't get rid of the impulses themselves.

Whew! Got waaay off track.
|| Palmer, 4:15 PM || link || (1) comments | links to this post

25 November, 2005

Friday Skin

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24 November, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 012

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Perhaps your family passes on the names of loved ones to subsequent generations. This poem by Andrei Guruianu speaks to the loving and humbling nature of sharing another's name.

Grandfather

Dead before I came into this world, grandfather,
I carry your name, yet I've never met you.
I hear my name, and know
that somehow they refer to you.
When I scribble those six letters
fast, to sign some document
or print them neatly in a box,
I feel your presence flow with the ink
stain and burn through the paper,
forever imprinted in my mind.Late summer nights
gathered around the dinner table,
leftovers being cleared away,
faces clouded in cigarette smoke,
I hear voices pass the word
back and forth in reverence.
Somehow I know it's not me
the little one grabbing for attention.
They speak of you, Andrei,
the one I've never met,
whose name I carry.

Reprinted from "Paterson Literary Review" by permission of the author. Andrei Guruianu is a reporter for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. Poem copyright © 2003 by Andrei Guruianu. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
|| Palmer, 8:00 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

23 November, 2005

The Cinema Shows

In addition to tasting some fine beers as of late, I've also been to the cinema to see the latest Harry Potter flick and Mirror Mask. While both films are fantasies with teenage protagonists, that's about all they have in common. First, let me begin with Potter.

Goblet of Fire was a really fun movie and I enjoyed it immensely. This time around, we are not shown the horrors Harry experiences living with his aunt & uncle and there's no Quidditch match. In their steads the audience gets the Tri-Wizard Tournament and boys & girls "discovering" each other. The TWT provides plenty of scary moments and great action while the flowering sexuality of the kids makes for some humorous moments such as when Harry dribbles water out of his mouth while making eye contact with a hottie across the room.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all around 15 in the film and there's plenty of teenage awkwardness to be found - giggling and gawking at the opposite sex, finding a date, etc. I felt so glad sitting there in my chair that I wasn't in high school anymore. The lurch towards adulthood in Prisoner of Azkaban is now a run. This was punctuated at the end of the film with the death of one of the kids. It was an emotionally wrenching scene with the boy's father hovering over the motionless body crying from the depth of his soul. It brought tears to my eyes. Just as the students begin noticing each other in new ways, the role of adults in the story changed too. Hagrid has gone from mentor to light comic relief in a much-reduced role. The kids are becoming more self-reliant and look to each other more often and less to the adults. While the books can go on forever, the film has a limited amount of time to get everything across so the paucity of screentime devoted to certain characters is understandable. Even though I wish Hagrid and Prof. Snape got more time onscreen, the story was still immensely enjoyable.

I appreciate stories aimed at kids that know that people don't just suddenly become adults when they turn 18 and somehow are magically endowed with adult powers and understanding. While 15 year-olds see and understand the world differently and more naively than adults, they don't need to be coddled. Kids are naturally curious and want to know about the world and stories should be a part of this process. Such stories should give glimpes of all aspects of life, both positive and negative. While I'm not suggesting that all stories are equally appropriate for adults and kids, stories aimed at young folk shouldn't pure give the illusion that life is a bowl of cherries. Innocence is lost at birth and every stumble towards adulthood should rightly be filled with knowledge of what's to come.

I was initially drawn to Mirror Mask because Neil Gaiman co-wrote the screenplay. While I'm not a big fan of his work, he's no hack so at the least I'd be seeing a fantasy film that goes beyond the run-of-the-mill. And the movie did not disappoint.

The story concerns Helena Campbell, a 15 year-old girl and aspiring artist whose parents own and run a small circus. We are introduced to Helena as she is lying in bed shirking her work responsibilities for the circus. She is confronted by her mother and wishes she were dead. Shortly after this common parent-child confrontation, Joanne – the mother, falls unconscious during the show and is hospitalized. Struggling with guilt, Helena wakes up in a dreamworld which was lovingly rendered in CGI. Truth be told, its gorgeous. There is a mix of normal buildings with fantastic ones. Helena meets a juggler named Valentine who becomes her partner and comic foil. Everyone wears masks and there are several strange creatures including sphinxes that seem to wear masks that are human faces. And so, with Valentine in tow, Helena goes through a voyage of self-discovery with teenaged tenacity. She is mistaken for a princess and arrested. After she's found to be the wrong person, Helena learns that dark powers are encroaching on those of light and she undertakes the task of finding the charm which will awaken the Light Queen who was put under a spell and fell into a magical slumber.

It was an enchanting story and was beautiful. I give the production crew credit for making a wonderful other world whose visual appeal didn't overshadow the story which interspersed the adventure with some good humor. And to top it off, books play a prominent role and there's a really cool library. If that wasn't enough, Stephen Fry plays the librarian.

Mirror Mask is no longer playing in Madison. Hopefully it will return to the cheap theater as it most definitely deserves a longer run than it enjoyed.
|| Palmer, 5:49 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Quaffing

On Monday night I went out to Cafe Montmartre with some friends. They were all excited about the discounted wine prices but I stuck to beer. (Does this make me a prole?) It's certainly not that I dislike wine but I just can't drink a lot of it, especially the red, drier varieties that my compadres indulged in. One glass of the stuff and I've had my fill. Besides, there was the Nectar From New Glarus to be had. But then I discovered that Capital's new Island Wheat was available on tap and I just had to try it. (It won't be available in bottles until the spring.)

While I'm a lover of beer, I am no expert. Giving me the specific gravity of a brew to 100 decimal places would do little for my appreciation of it. I just know what I like, for the most part. The Island Wheat was pretty tasty but not tasty enough. Maybe the stuff I quaffed was from a bad batch, I dunno. I just know that it had a nice crisp and subtle flavor to it but it was too subtle. To be sure, I expect I'll be drinking some of it next July when I'm outside in 100 degree sun having a cigarette thanks to the tyrrany of the Left and it will prove to be remarkable refreshing. But, after one pint, that's about all I can say about it. No doubt I'll drink more to refine my opinion during the harsh winter months, though. I'm of Northern and Eastern European extraction. My ancestors didn't mess around with crisp, clean beers when they were freezing their asses off at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains or in the Black Forest. No, they drank heartier brews that pushed back the cold and Capital has plenty of those such as their Oktoberfest and Autumnal Fire.

A couple hours in, a woman named Maggie someone-or-other (I think) started playing music which seemed to capture the attention of everyone in the joint except us. While I don't want to be harsh considering we heard only a song or two, I found the music to be exceptionally boring. Heck, maybe it was also the mood of my group that made us anxious to escape from her rather joyless tunes. Charles having recently broken up with his girlfriend, was looking for escape as was the Chili Princess who was seeking our help in finding ways to dump her current beau. And Maggie X's music didn't help. I did my best to avoid listening but I couldn't totally escape it. The songs seemed to be of the I-am-woman-hear-me-mope variety. Think these lyrics to the tune of "The Roof Is Leaking":

I got knocked up and
had an abortion
My new man wants me in bed
doing contortions
Oh, men are assholes and
I'm sittin' here cryin'

Blah blah blah. Maggie, if you're reading this, please send me a link to some of your stuff so I can give it a better listen. Anyway, we left and went to The Caribou where we had some Capital Amber and let the Packers get my hopes up that they might actually win. Aaron was bartending and was his usual grumpy self. (I suspect he's even grumpier now that he cannot smoke on the job.) The Amber was mighty fine. And so, while I was disappointed with my first run-in with their Wheat Ale, I shall definitely try it again.

While I'm on the topic of beer, this looks humorous and tasty:



But others are unamused:

But Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, isn't laughing.

"I guess some people are going to get a chuckle out of it. I don't see anything funny about it," Buttars said. "Anytime someone (tries to) sarcastically exploit issues of morality in those kinds of ways is very unappealing. But it doesn't bother me, whatever they put on there."


I'm glad the label doesn't bother him. Obviously the bullshit that is "Intelligent Design" doesn't either.

Wasatch also makes this brew:



My sentiments exactly.
|| Palmer, 2:32 PM || link || (1) comments | links to this post

Word of the Week

I chose this week's word based on the falling temperatures and the fact that I saw my first snowfall of the year last week up north. Additionally, it snowed here in Madison last night:

brumal (broom'-all) adj. wintery.
|| Palmer, 9:22 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

22 November, 2005

This Way to the Great Egress

Iraqi leaders at a conference in Cairo are seeking a timetable for American troop withdrawl:

The participants in Cairo agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation" and end terror attacks.

From Juan Cole:

The other surprise of the Cairo conference is that the negotiators accepted the right for Iraqi groups to mount an armed resistance against the foreign troops. The participants were careful to condemn universally the killing of innocent non-combatants. They decried "takfir" or declaring a Muslim to be an unbeliever.

Oh great. "Thanks for getting rid of that darned dictator. Now, if you don't mind, we're going to have folks try and kill you now." Bush can't even invade a country and install a government friendly to the U.S. right.
|| Palmer, 5:33 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

"I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words"

"I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words. So put that down. I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something." —George W. Bush, speaking to reporters, Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 2005

Another Downing Street memo may soon work its way out into the daylight. It is being reported that Tony Blair had to talk Dubya out of bombing the Al-Jazeera studios in - no, not Afghanistan; we've done that already - but in Qatar. From The Evening Standard:

According to unnamed sources quoted in the Daily Mirror, the memo - stamped Top Secret - records Mr Bush suggesting that he might order the bombing of Al-Jazeera's studios in Qatar.

And it allegedly details how Mr Blair argued against an attack on the station's buildings in the business district of Doha, the capital city of Qatar, which is a key ally of the West in the Persian Gulf.


If Bush doesn't like propaganda, perhaps he might think about eliminating it closer to home. A good start would be the studios at 1211 Ave Of The Americas.
|| Palmer, 5:14 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

On the Gramophone

This week we have a long lost classic by Louis Armstrong. It probably would have remained lost had it not been for Britney Spears who covered the song and made it a hit. Here's Louis Armstrong's original "Oops! I Did It Again".

hehe
|| Palmer, 5:11 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

21 November, 2005

Don't Know Much About History

I came across a very disturbing story today about a high school history teacher named Joseph Enge. He teaches (at least I think he still does) in Carson City, NV and is a Fulbright Scholar and Madison Fellowship award-winner. From Common Voice:

Meet Joe Enge.

Joe is an award-winning, 15-year veteran history teacher in Carson City who has, among other things, written two history textbooks and served on the 1997 task force which drew up Nevada's history standards. But according to school district administrators, he's a "bad" teacher.

You see, Joe has this crazy idea that American history should include our colonial period, as well as the Revolutionary War period. You know, where the Founding Fathers fought for independence from England and wrote the greatest governing document the world has ever known - the United States Constitution. You know, that period of time which gave us patriot heroes such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Hancock.

And Joe has REALLY ticked off the local school district bureaucrats and the education establishment.

You see, unbeknownst to most parents in Carson City, the school district believes that high school American history should start with the Civil War era, not the days of America's Founding. Indeed, the curriculum forced on history teachers at Carson High School ignores pre-Civil War history completely - other than a little optional "refresher" at the beginning of the school year or if you're in an Advanced Placement class.


After I let the anger dissipate, I am forced to ask, "Why?" Why would a school eliminate the genesis of our country from an American History class? I can just see the kids who graduate from that class looking at 1, 10, 20, or 100 dollar bills and shrugging as they'd have no idea who those men were. Do the history guidelines mean that the school won't teach the Constitution? Why in the name of fuck would you not want to teach students about the founding of this country?! This isn't about what to teach about the Revolutionary period. This isn't about teaching the Founding Fathers as deities vs. Founding Fathers as oppressors. Those sides won't even have a chance to be argued over because the Carson City school board doesn't give a hoot about the creation of the United States of America and its lasting effects. How can you learn about the Civil War if you have no understanding of the events that preceded it? What are they going to tell the students – "Welcome to the first day of class. One day, some cannons fired at Fort Sumter…"? Obviously the school board doesn't care about American history. Do you suppose they'll modify guidelines so that math classes start with trigonometry instead of algebra?

And where are the right-wingers? If you don't fart the correct way, they call you unpatriotic and damn you to hell you've committed an affront unto God. Yet some clowns out west want to remove the Founding Fathers from the curriculum and right-wingers are absolutely silent? WTF?! Come on you conservative Christians! Heed the call and defend the men whom you think made the United States a Christian nation by leaving "God" out of the Constitution! And why is Pat Robertson not admonishing Carson City to not look to the Christian deity if there's a natural disaster? This is just sad. I relay the following at the risk of sounding like an old fart. Which I'm not. Yet.

When I was growing up in the 1980s, I attended public schools in Chicago. There was no Junior High nor any middle schools. Grades K-8 were elementary school while 9-12 were high school. In order to get into the 9th grade, one had to graduate from the 8th. Yes, I got a diploma and got to wear a mortar board at the ceremony and all that good stuff. In order for me to graduate, I had to pass a test on our Constitution. My entire 8th grade Social Studies class prepared me for the test. We started off in the late 15th century and learned about the Age of Exploration. Then came the Colonial Period of our country's history followed by the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States. We spent the final quarter of the year studying the Constitution article by article, section by section, amendment by amendment. The wonderful quality of this class didn't dawn on me for a little over year when I entered the 10th grade. By this time, I had moved from Chicago to rural Wisconsin and found that most of my peers had basically no idea what was contained in the Constitution outside of something about owning guns.

I am used to debates about how American history is to be taught. For instance, should Christopher Columbus be portrayed as a brave explorer or as a greedy racist who helped instigate genocide? Of course, this question won't ever come up in Carson City's high schools because Columbus is being stricken from class. But I can also understand arguments about what is to be taught. There is, after all, only so much time in class to be had. But I am shocked that there is a debate like this about whether or not our country's first 100 years should be taught or not. Beginning an American History course in 1861 is absurd. You teach history so students will be better able to understand the present. Those students will learn about the Civil War, an event that had an enormous impact on our present. But they will not learn about other events that also had great impacts, including the one that had the greatest impact – the founding of our country. Even if you don't delve into the Enlightenment, students need to study our founding, including our State Papers. There would be no outcry over the effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans if Jefferson hadn't bought the area in the Louisiana Purchase. What about the Monroe Doctrine? How about Polk and the acquisition of California? The Missouri Compromise? The Civil War, the titular beginning of our country for Carson City, didn't just happen spontaneously, it didn't start in a vacuum.

As far as I'm concerned, Carson City students who do not somehow learn about those missing years of our history shouldn't be allowed into college.

Support Mr. Enge and his students by signing this petition.
|| Palmer, 3:15 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Who Prelude

You can get a glimpse of David Tennant as the new Doctor online now. The BBC has posted a prelude to next month's holiday episode, "The Christmas Invasion", as part of an effort to gather donations for charity.
|| Palmer, 1:30 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Ann Bartow - Computer Genius

Ann Bartow recently had an entry over at Sivacracy about stupid computer prompts and error messages that she found at this site. She encourages readers to go there to see 'Many more illustrations that interface designers think users are idiots".

Ann, I hate to break it to you but programmers don't sit around thinking of new error messages to foist on users to make them feel like idiots. Either you're paranoid or you have no understanding of programming & computers. Stupid as the messages you point to are, they're quirks - probably the result of a lack of time, testing, and money - not malicious attacks on the ability of users.

Truth be told, many, if not most, users, on the other hand, are idiots when it comes to computers. Check out this site of "Computer Stupidities". Here's a couple classics:

Customer: "I received the software update you sent, but I am still getting the same error message."
Tech Support: "Did you install the update?"
Customer: "No. Oh, am I supposed to install it to get it to work?"

...

Customer: "I'm having trouble installing Microsoft Word."
Tech Support: "Tell me what you've done."
Customer: "I typed 'A:SETUP'."
Tech Support: "Ma'am, remove the disk and tell me what it says."
Customer: "It says '[PC manufacturer] Restore and Recovery disk'."
Tech Support: "Insert the MS Word setup disk."
Customer: "What?"
Tech Support: "Did you buy MS word?"
Customer: "No..."

While I cannot personally vouch for any of the stories at that site, I can tell you that they certainly fall within the realm of experience that I had working various help desks for 5 years or so. Ann, let me tell you some stories illustrating the supreme mastery of computers that many users have.

User is having a problem and I instruct him to close all windows. He gets up from his seat and closes all the windows of his house.

I needed a woman to click on the Start button and she said she couldn't find it nor had she ever heard of such a thing. After about 5 minutes, I'd gotten her as far as seeing the Taskbar - that grey bar usually at the bottom of a Windows desktop. I ask her to look for the clock so I can tell her to just go to the opposite side of the nice grey bar and find the Start button. After 10 minutes - 10 fucking minutes of my life wasted because she was a moron - the problem was finally solved. You see, a display of numbers giving you the hour of the day was "the time" for her. A clock, on the other hand, was a round thing with stick-like pointers that go around in circles. So she sat there for 10 minutes starring at a set of numbers that showed the time of day and she steadfastly denied it was a clock.

Dozens of times in my career, I encountered users of Windows who had never used the right mouse button. No biggie. But there were users who, upon right-clicking for the first time in their lives and seeing a context menu pop up, immediately turned off the computer thinking they had broken it.

Thinking CD drive tray was cupholder - true.

Unable to find the "Any" key - true.

I've helped dozens of users who were completely amazed that the Send button on an e-mail message actually sent the message to the recipient. And then there are the countless others for whom the concept of cutting & pasting will forever be foreign.

Ann, take support calls at a help desk for 6 months and tell me who's more idiotic: programmers who don't have the time, resources, or inclination to cover all the bases or people who don't understand that clocks tell the time regardless of their shape.
|| Palmer, 1:13 PM || link || (2) comments | links to this post

Pic of the Day



Via Sivacracy.
|| Palmer, 11:22 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Foaming at the Mouth

Oh, this is rich. Check out the maniacal rantings and ravings of a Christian warrior nearly foaming at the mouth.



Two things to watch for besides the pandemonium she stirs up are 1) the look on the face of the little girl and 2) what she does with the money. No matter that the lucre was tainted by Lucifer himself, you can bet your sweet ass that the Christian warrior took it.
|| Palmer, 11:21 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

19 November, 2005

Varmints!

Today is opening day for hunting deer with guns here in Wisconsin. While our state has issues with the deer population, including vast numbers potentially infected with Chronic Wasting Disease, we don't seem to have the problems that Minnesota has:

...a big buck broke several windows at the state Capitol before bounding just a few feet away from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his startled security detail.

"They're just everywhere. You see them every day," said Kathy Lantry, a city councilwoman who represents the area Pig's Eye Lake area. "They've become like rats."


Happy hunting for those out in the woods this weekend and my condolences to all the hunting widows out there. No doubt there's some beefcake out there for you ladies. Check your local listings and casinos.
|| Palmer, 12:11 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Triumph on TBS!

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog will be featured on the TBS special, Earth to America, tomorrow at 7PM CST.
|| Palmer, 11:02 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

Some enterprising folks at MIT have done a study on the effectiveness of aluminum foil helmets against mind control signals. After testing 3 different types of foil helmets, they concluded:

The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, These bands are supposedly reserved for ''radio location'' (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites (see, for example, [3]). The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations.



Earlier this month the paranoid contingency spoke up and criticized the study.

First and foremost, Rahimi et al. only considered simple radio frequencies. As I explained in detail in chapter 4 ("Psychotronic and AFDB Theory") of my book [2], only psychotronic energy can affect the brain in any coherent manner. Simple EM fields have only trivial effects -- such as causing indistinct sensations of a supernatural presence [3] -- over short distances. Only by converting electromagnetic energy into psychotronic energy using a psychotron-based device can the forces of mind control access from afar the neural network of a brain to both implant and extract thought complexes.

Now, how could those MIT folks have neglected the psychotronic energy?
|| Palmer, 7:42 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

18 November, 2005

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 6:38 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

17 November, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 011

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here David Wagoner, a distinguished poet living in Washington state, vividly describes a peacock courtship, and though it's a poem about birds, haven't you seen the males of other species, including ours, look every bit as puffed up, and observed the females' hilarious indifference?

Peacock Display

He approaches her, trailing his whole fortune,
Perfectly cocksure, and suddenly spreads
The huge fan of his tail for her amazement.

Each turquoise and purple, black-horned, walleyed quill
Comes quivering forward, an amphitheatric shell
For his most fortunate audience: her alone.

He plumes himself. He shakes his brassily gold
Wings and rump in a dance, lifting his claws
Stiff-legged under the great bulge of his breast.

And she strolls calmly away, pecking and pausing,
Not watching him, astonished to discover
All these seeds spread just for her in the dirt.

Reprinted from "Best of Prairie Schooner: Fiction and Poetry," University of Nebraska Press, 2001, by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Good Morning and Good Night, University of Illinois Press, 2005. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
|| Palmer, 2:23 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

16 November, 2005

Gallifreyan Herald

Some news from the Doctor Who world.

Firstly we have:



This is the new Cyberman! Yes, the Cybermen will return next year with a new look. They're more robotic now and perhaps more menacing as well. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until next spring or summer to see them on the tele.

The holidays are approaching swiftly and, in addition to a special Christmas TV episode, the folks at Big Finish are releasing a book of holiday-themed short stories called Short Trips: A History of Christmas. One of the stories, Stewart Sheargold's "The Feast", is available for free! (PDF)
|| Palmer, 5:44 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

15 November, 2005

The Stormwatch Brews

It looks like I should prepare for some blustery winter weather. The area was put under a winter storm watch last night which lasts until this evening. Tonight we are to get 2-4 inches of snow with winds gusting up to 60MPH.

Now, when I say this area I mean Eau Claire. I'm up here this week for business. Snowstorms aren't really a problem for me. Driving in them, however, is. I think the storm warning we're under extends south to Jackson County. Thusly, if I get a bit south of here, there shouldn't be a whole lotta snow. We'll just have to wait and see.

I'm up here with a couple co-workers, Dan & J.D., to upgrade some PCs. There were supposedly 25 to be done but we found yesterday that there are, in fact, only 17. This is a very good thing as it took me a little over 7 hours to upgrade one PC yesterday. Of course, this is wholly ridiculous as the only thing that really needed to be done to the guy's machine was to have Office 2003 installed. Why the DNR has it set up that a computer needing Office upgraded has to be completely wiped and reimaged is beyond my comprehension. The guy uses a very hefty piece of mapping software so he had nearly 20GB of data that needed to be backed up. This took forever and a day because it had to be backed up on a slow external drive via USB 1.1. We are scheduled to bascially do 2 PCs a day and be done tomorrow. But now I'm behind. Luckily, I stayed late yesterday and managed to get through part of the process on the 2nd PC I was scheduled for yesterday and got the data back up for the PC that is scheduled for upgrading this morning. Hopefully I can get 3 boxes knocked out today. I believe that J.D. got 3 done yesterday. He wants to leave tomorrow right after we finish which I'm amenable to. If the storm is done by then, I'll be happy to bust outta Dodge tomorrow night. Otherwise I'll leave Thursday morning.

This out of town routine lasts until Xmas. I'm in Madison next week but am off to Wisconsin Rapids the week after that.

Well, I'm gonna shower, grab some coffee, and head next door for another day of fun.
|| Palmer, 6:48 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

On the Gramophone

I recently made a trade for a bootleg concert by the California Guitar Trio. CGT are a, um, trio of guys who studied guitar under the tutelage of Robert Fripp of King Crimson. The show I received is a great set and I've been listening to it quite a bit lately so it is CGT that gets this week's nod. Check out "Zundoko Bushi". It's a bit of a hyrid being based on a tradition Japanese folk song with some generous splashes of King Crimson thrown in for fun.
|| Palmer, 6:17 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

12 November, 2005

Oota Woota, Solo

Here's a nice page with some female Star Wars fans showing their, um, love for the series by dressing at Leia in Return of the Jedi.


|| Palmer, 10:36 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Trailers etc.

A trailer for Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming film, The Fountain, can be found up the the Apple site.

Fox Searchlight has been promising to release the first installment of the Russian sci-fi/fantasy, Nochnoy dozor (Night Watch), here in the States for a while yet it's still listed as "Coming Soon". Perhaps some of my fellow Madisonians can recall seeing signs for it at Eastgate Cinemas this past summer which advertised a summer release. While not yet released here, the second chapter, Dnevnoy dozor (Day Watch), is nearly ready for release. A trailer is available here.

Finally, Oliver Stone's next film, which is about 9/11, has started filming. So far, there doesn't appear to be any conspiracy angle involved.
|| Palmer, 10:24 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

11 November, 2005

The Choice Is Made

I spent Tuesday night at the High Noon Saloon with some friends to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Four Star Video Heaven, the best video rental store in the known universe. Along with Charles & the Chili Princess, my former co-workers from DHFS, and James, a friend of Charles' and a former co-worker of mine from the DOC back in the 20th century, I quaffed a few tasty Winter Skals and gabbered. All at once, it dawned on me that it was Tuesday and I petitioned my interlocutors for the use of a cell phone. James stepped up and I called home to have Stevie TiVo that night's Frontline. It was airing an episode called "The Last Abortion Clinic" which you can watch here. Charles commented that he had no idea I was interested in the issue. I replied, "Well, when you're girlfriend has one, you'll be interested too."

The title of the program refers to an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi which is indeed the last such clinic in the whole state. In addition to profiling the clinic, the folks who work there, and those who use its services, the program also looks at the pro-life forces in the state. It also looks at an abortion clinic in neighboring Alabama which many people from Mississippi go to. Roe v. Wade is the jumping off point but it was the Supreme Court's decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that provides the proximate backdrop for the struggle over abortion rights today. While affirming Roe v. Wade, the decision created the "undue burden" test for abortion laws. Essentially – and I hope I'm not misstating the case here – the Court said that states can impose laws which restrict abortion as long as they do not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking them. The concept is quite nebulous and, as the program showed, pro-life forces have been imposing burdens on women seeking abortions since hoping to find friendly courts that have an exceeding liberal definition of "undue".

One of the most notable elements I saw was how the pro-life folks in Mississippi were very confident, indeed, almost boastful, and very pleased with the legislation that the state has enacted. Contrariwise, the women who actually staff the abortion clinics profiled seemed almost defeated. The show ends with the head of the Alabama clinic saying something to the effect that there was a war on and that the pro-choice side was losing.

The show caught my attention immediately because, as regular readers know, my girlfriend had an abortion recently. That abortion isn't just a woman's issue is highlighted by the controversy surrounding Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito. Alito was as a lower court judge who dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey as it made its way to the Supreme Court. In his dissenting opinion, he opined that women, in most circumstances, must notify the father of the pregnancy they plan to terminate. Many on the Left react to the notion of such laws with a resounding "Fuck that!". While I agree with the objection that such a law could bring undue harm upon women whose husbands are not amenable to her choice, the tone of the responses in the blogosphere is what concerns me. Of the blogs I've read, the tone is almost misandronous, if not truly so. The worst behavior of men is brought up to justify a position without regard to men whose behavior is, well, "normal", for lack of a better word.

My experience with abortion was probably the average experience for men. (At least those of us who stick by our women.) I spent most of the process in the waiting room while my girlfriend was with a nurse or doctor. We then watched a video with information about the procedure as per state law. In it, the doctor at the clinic, well, one of them, anyway, read through the checklist of bullet points which we had in our hands. It was funny how he mentioned several times that what we were doing was mandated by our anti-choice legislature. The final bit for me, as I recall, was to sit there while The Dulcinea laid on the table with her legs open and the doctor probing around inside terminating the pregnancy. From there, we went to another dimly lit room where The Dulcinea could recover for a spell before going home. In the room with us was another woman, probably around 40, who had just had an abortion. And she was alone. While she didn't seem distressed because of this, I did think to myself how awful it was that she was there by herself.

Over the course of the 3 visits to the clinic, I think I saw one other man. Several women were there alone while others had a friend or relative with them who was also a woman. While it is almost certain not the majority of women were not there for abortions, it did reinforce the notion in me that men generally are completely divorced from just about anything to do with the health of women's generative organs. I felt desperately out of place. It seems like, when women have a problem with an arm, their stomachs, or their eyes, men are helpful and involved, but, when it comes to their naughty bits, we shy away and want nothing to do with the matter. It's weird because one would think that a woman's health should be a concern to the husband or boyfriend – every aspect of her health including her naughty bits.

Sitting there in the operating theater – OK, it was just a small room – I didn't really feel like I was being unfathered. It felt like I was there while The Dulcinea was getting a broken limb splinted. The sense of fatherhood really didn't factor into the situation for me other than relief at not having to deal with it. Most assuredly this was due in some measure to me not being the one who was pregnant. Perhaps the knowledge that it was a blastocyst that was being removed, not anything resembling The Dulcinea or me, that contributed. It was just vaguely surreal to be in that situation. Prior to this, abortion was always something that happened to other people. It was other women who had unplanned pregnancies by other men. But, this time, it was me, your humble narrator, in that room at that clinic. Afterwards, when The Dulcinea and I were in the parking lot, she expressed her thanks to me for having been by her side and for having been so supportive of her.

As I sit here listening to the final movement of Beethoven's glorious 9th (one of the most beautiful and, well, joyous, pieces of music ever), I am glad that I did not become a father. I am glad that abortion is legal and safe. But, having watched "The Last Abortion Clinic" and knowing what kind of man is looking to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, I worry that abortion may become illegal and unsafe (for most women, at least – is there any doubt that rich women will be able to have abortions performed by doctors even if the procedure were to become outlawed?) soon. While the vast majority of the repercussions of abortion as a medical procedure belong to women alone, abortion as a general issue facing society very much involves men. Pro-choice men need to standup for themselves as fathers, potential fathers, and as men who don't want to be fathers. But more importantly, men need to stand up for their wives and girlfriends, for their friends, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts – for women hundreds of miles away that they'll never meet. If abortion was to become illegal, it could be your sister that's found dead in a hotel room with a coat hanger next to her body. It could be your daughter becoming a mother when she is still but a girl. Part and parcel of being pro-choice, in my opinion, is rejecting abstinence only education in schools. It does not work! Birth control and knowledge of it does. More power to anyone who practices abstinence but there aren't 6 billion plus people on this earth because the drive to procreate is easily undermined. Pro-choice woman AND men should be concerned and should make their voices heard or else have their choices made for them.

National Abortion Rights Action League
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin
|| Palmer, 9:50 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Must-See Documentary on Anti-Semitism

This documentary sounds like an interesting documentary - and frightening as well. It's a about the apocryphal "Protocols of the Elders of Zion".

Director Mark Levin ("Slam"), surprised and dismayed by the lunatic fringe reaction to Sept. 11 -- that it was a Jewish conspiracy -- began to wonder how such a noxious idea came about. His investigation led him to that bible for anti-Semites, the fraudulent "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

The book was concocted in Russia at the end of the 19th century by the czar's secret police, and purports to lay out a plan for Zionist domination of the world. That the document is a forgery has long been known, but to this day, many neo-Nazis, Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers count it as authentic. The book is frighteningly popular in the Arab world.


The director interviews a radio host named Frank Weltner who has a website called "Jew Watch". I won't link to it out of spite, but know that it has the byline, "Jew Watch is a Not-For-Profit Library for private study, scholarship, or research. This is NOT a hate site. This is a scholarly research archive of articles." It then has a picture of Lenin next to one of Michael Chertoff inviting the viewer to see how much they look alike. A brilliant scholarly oberservation indeed.

I'll have to keep an eye out for it. If no theater shows it, perhaps Hillel will.
|| Palmer, 1:43 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served in our armed services!

The Library of Congress has a Veteran's History Project where you can hear and see the stories of our vets.



To find out how Armistice Day became Veterans Day, check out this page over at CNN.

Initially, Armistice Day was to be a day to honor veterans of World War I. But following the tremendous calls to arms and human sacrifice during World War II and the Korean conflict, veterans groups urged Congress to consider a day to celebrate U.S. veterans of all wars. On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
|| Palmer, 10:30 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Friday Skin

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10 November, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 010

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The poet and novelist Marge Piercy has a gift for writing about nature. In this poem, springtime has a nearly overwhelming and contagious energy, capturing the action-filled drama of spring.

More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

Marge Piercy's latest book of poetry is "Colors Passing Through Us" (Knopf, 2003); her new novel "Sex Wars" (Morrow/Harper Collins) will be out in December. Poem copyright © 2003 by Marge Piercy and reprinted from The Paterson Literary Review with permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
|| Palmer, 9:42 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

09 November, 2005

We're Not in Kansas, Thankfully

PZ Myers bid farewell to Kansas yesterday as the Kansas Board of Education again made the state a laughingstock by changing the science standards to allow for creationism.

The proponents of these changes don't have any idea what the fossil and molecular evidence says, and they are misrepresenting it. There is no credible evidence against common descent and chemical evolution; those concepts are being strengthened, year by year. What does this school board think to gain by teaching students lies?

The editors of Scientific American magazine had their own take:

It wasn't enough for them to undermine the teaching of biology by falsifying a scientific controversy over evolution. No, the Board of Education went as far as to redefine what science is: it's no longer just a search for natural explanations for natural phenomena. Now it's a search for... well, that's a bit hard to say. Any sort of explanation, apparently. Pixies, ghosts, telekinesis, auras, ancient astronauts, excesses of choleric humor, they all seem to be fair game in the interest of "academic freedom." Oh, and God, of course. The Board might not say that because it could get them into trouble with the Supreme Court, but can anyone say with a straight face that getting God into the science classes isn't the goal of the people who pushed for these changes?

In a turn of events in Dover, PA, 8 Republican school board members responsible for introducing "Intelligent Design" into area classrooms lost their bids for re-election. From the Washington Post:

Voters came down hard Tuesday on school board members who backed a statement on intelligent design being read in biology class, ousting eight Republicans and replacing them with Democrats who want the concept stripped from the science curriculum.

The election unfolded amid a landmark federal trial involving the Dover public schools and the question of whether intelligent design promotes the Bible's view of creation. Eight Dover families sued, saying it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.


It's difficult to gauge exactly how much of an impact these developments will have. I mean, it's not like Americans have a particularly great grasp of science anyway. Take a look at this report on the public's understanding of science. Here's are some choice excerpts:

In 1990, approximately 24 percent of US adults were able to provide an explanation of DNA that included its role in heredity (see Figure 2). By 1999, the percentage of adults giving a response that clearly identified DNA as being responsible for heredity increased to 29 percent.

A whole whopping 29%! Not even a third. The other 71% are just the kind of people we want deciding issues such as those relating to, say, stem cell research.

During the last decade, national samples of adults have been asked to agree or disagree with the statement “Lasers work by focusing sound waves” (NSB, 2000). The percentage of American adults who where able to correctly identify that statement as false increased only modestly over the last decade, from 36 percent in 1988 to 43 percent in 1999 (see Figure 2). By the end of the twentieth century, a majority of US adults still did not understand the composition of a laser.

So that's how CD players work...

In 1997, 11 percent of US adults were able to provide a correct explanation of a molecule, and 13 percent were able to provide a correct explanation in 1999 (NSB, 2000).

National studies find that only half of US adults know that the Earth rotates around the Sun once each year (NSB, 2000). One in five US adults say that the Sun rotates around the Earth, and 14 percent of US adults think that the Earth rotates around the Sun once each day (see Figure 2).

OK, 20% of Americans have opted out of the Copernican Revolution. And these people should be voting - why?

Studies of US adults over the last decade have found that only one in 10 adults have a scientifically correct understanding of radiation (NSB, 2000).

Uff da.
|| Palmer, 10:34 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Daily Kos as Rumormonger

A recent entry by someone using the pseudonym "casualworker" made an entry up at Daily Kos claiming, "Pat Robertson, who recently blamed Ellen Degeneres for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, today blamed Warren Beatty for the tornado last night in Indiana and Kentucky". The first part about blaming Degeneres is false. And every link I've followed about the latter assertion provides no evidence whatsoever and merely repeats hearsay.

Don't misunderstand me here, I think Pat Robertson is a greedy, lying, power-hungry wacko, but one needn't use falsehoods in order to demonstrate that he has these qualities.
|| Palmer, 10:19 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Word of the Week

I chose this week's word because the Dane County Farmer's Market alfresco variations have ended while the indoor market starts on the 12th at the Monona Terrace.

costermonger (coss'-ter-mong'-ger) n. a hawker of fruit or vegetables.
|| Palmer, 8:15 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

08 November, 2005

Rural Mythos

When I moved from Chicago to the boonies of west central Wisconsin as a lad, I was regaled with various stories of the rural life. One such tale that I heard several times from different people concerned a deerhunter. The hunter came upon a bazillion-pointed buck only to have his shotgun act like an M-16 and be rendered useless. The buck, seeing the human predator helpless charges forcing the hunter to seek safety in a tree. Ever the predator, the guy jumps down from his perch and wrestles the deer to the ground whereupon he kills it with his own two hands.

Another story I heard frequently was about cow-tipping. Cow-tipping is when bored rural youth sneak up to sleeping cows and push them over. Well, the probing eye of science has investigated the fable of my former interlocutors for the benefit of city folk and declared it a rural myth.



As the above graphic shows, it's all a matter of physics.

Newton’s second law of motion, force equals mass multiplied by acceleration, shows that the high acceleration necessary to tip the cow would require a higher force. “Biology also complicates the issue here because the faster the [human] muscles have to contract, the lower the force they can produce. But I suspect that even if a dynamic physics model suggests cow tipping is possible, the biology ultimately gets in the way: a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body."

So there you have it - another rural myth exposed.
|| Palmer, 10:27 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Love Thy Neighbor (Or Why Do So Many People Dislike Me?)

I know that I'm unpopular but I never knew just how unpopular I really am. Check out the results of a survey done this past summer. The survey was done to gauge the views of Americans towards Islam and Muslim-Americans in the wake of the terrorists bombings in London. While it was heartening to see that my fellow citizens don't generally hate Musilms, I was taken back by the data in this chart:



It shows that "...just 35% express favorable opinions of atheists; 50% have a negative opinion of atheists." And "These opinions have been quite stable in recent years." I wonder what it is that would cause 50% of my fellow citizens to have a negative opinion about us atheists. Did they have a bad childhood experience or some such thing? Maybe it has to do with this wonderful parable attributed to Jesus: "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Luke 19:27)
|| Palmer, 9:35 AM || link || (3) comments | links to this post

On the Gramophone

I have no motivation for this week's selection other than it's an incredibly ethereal and beautiful song. This is Lothlorien's take on the traditional "She Moved Through the Fair.
|| Palmer, 8:27 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Come One, Come All!!!

I want to extend an opportunity to all female readers:

While Vincent Gallo is asking a million dollars for his sperm, I want to extend a special offer to my female readers out there. I will give you my sperm via natural insemination FOR FREE! Yes, you heard me right - FREE! How can you beat that?! If you are not fully satisfied with your insemination, I'll keep doing it until you are! Look at Gallo's offer:

Price includes all costs related to one attempt at an in-vitro fertilization. (A $50,000 value) If the first attempt at in vitro fertilization is unsuccessful, purchaser of sperm must pay all medical costs related to additional attempts. Mr. Gallo will supply sperm for as many attempts as it takes to complete a successful fertilization and successful delivery. Sperm is 100% guaranteed to be donated by Mr. Gallo who is drug, alcohol and disease free. If the purchaser of the sperm chooses the option of natural insemination, there is an additional charge of $500,000. However, if after being presented detailed photographs of the purchaser, Mr. Gallo may be willing to waive the natural insemination fee and charge only for the sperm itself. Those of you who have found this merchandise page are very well aware of Mr. Gallo's multiple talents, but to add further insight into the value of Mr. Gallo's sperm, aside from being multi talented in all creative fields, he was also multi talented as an athlete, winning several awards for performing in the games of baseball, football and hockey and making it to the professional level of grand prix motorcycle racing. Mr. Gallo is 5'11" and has blue eyes. There are no known genetic deformities in his ancestry (no cripples) and no history of congenital diseases. If you have seen The Brown Bunny, you know the potential size of the genitals if it's a boy. (8 inches if he's like his father.) I don't know exactly how a well hung father can enhance the physical makeup of a female baby, but it can't hurt. Mr. Gallo also presently maintains a distinctively full head of hair and at the age of 43 has surprisingly few gray hairs. Though his features are sharp and extreme, they would probably blend well with a softer, more subtly featured female. Mr. Gallo maintains the right to refuse sale of his sperm to those of extremely dark complexions. Though a fan of Franco Harris, Derek Jeter, Lenny Kravitz and Lena Horne, Mr. Gallo does not want to be part of that type of integration. In fact, for the next 30 days, he is offering a $50,000 discount to any potential female purchaser who can prove she has naturally blonde hair and blue eyes. Anyone who can prove a direct family link to any of the German soldiers of the mid-century will also receive this discount. Under the laws of the Jewish faith, a Jewish mother would qualify a baby to be deemed a member of the Jewish religion. This would be added incentive for Mr. Gallo to sell his sperm to a Jew mother, his reasoning being with the slim chance that his child moved into the profession of motion picture acting or became a musical performer, this connection to the Jewish faith would guarantee his offspring a better chance at good reviews and maybe even a prize at the Sundance Film Festival or an Oscar. To be clear, the purchase of Mr. Gallo's sperm does not include the use of the name Gallo. The purchaser must find another surname for the child.

Notice all of the restrictions? Now look at my offer:

FREE SPERM! I don't care if you are a natural blonde with blue eyes or not. I will integrate very happily with those of extremely dark complexions.

And, if you act now on this exclusive offer, you'll get the added bonus of having me perform cunnilingus on you. Yes, you heard right! Not only will you have my penis thrusting in and out of your vagina giving you spirals of orgasmic pleasure, but you also get my tongue massaging your vulva & clitoris. But wait - there's more!! I don't want to neglect your other hole so, if you desire, I will finger your anus for extra pleasure!! Yes, I shall pleasure both of your holes!! But that's not all! I'll even cook you a pre-coital prandial delight AND I'll do the dishes. Could it get any better?! Yes it can! As an added bonus to this already exclusive offer, I shall even snuggle in the afterglow, if you choose. How much would you pay for all of this?

~~a pre-coital dinner
~~I do the dishes
~~my tongue licking your pussy and clit
~~my cock in your pussy
~~my finger in your asshole
~~afterglow

$5? $10? Why pay when I will do it for FREE! So act now! This offer is only good for another 40 or so years!**

**Please consult this chart to make sure you are at or above the age of consent in your area to be eligible for this exclusive offer. Offer potentially void on women I deem unattractive or those who have a terminal STI.
|| Palmer, 8:24 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

07 November, 2005

I'm Suddenly in the Mood for Sushi

If it weren't for the $500 price tag, I'd (ahem) be up for some sushi down in Chicago. Sushi, that is served on a nekkid woman.
|| Palmer, 5:38 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

A Little Burlesque...



Cherry Pop Burlesque performs again this coming weekend at the Club Majestic. The show is entitled "Happy Spanksgiving: All the Turkey and Undressing You Could Want". For more info, go here.
|| Palmer, 5:35 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

A Little Sumpin' For My Homeys

While I may have alabaster skin, I like some rap music. Especially when it's done by Yoda.
|| Palmer, 5:22 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Movie News

A trailer for Steven Spielberg's latest, Munich, has been posted at the film's official webpage. While I'm not the biggest fan of Spielberg's, I am, however, a huge fan of his cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski.

Uma Thurman is shooting a movie called Super Ex-Girlfriend which, I believe is based on a comic book. I guess the prospect of this film doesn't particularly thrill me outside of Uma:



Ooh la la! (More pics here.)

Roger Ebert's re-review of Dark City is notable for a couple things outside of his well-deserved encomium. Firstly, he rakes on a series of movies that I really don't like - The Matrix:

I believe more than ever that "Dark City" is one of the great modern films. It preceded "The Matrix" by a year (both films used a few of the same sets in Australia), and on a smaller budget, with special effects that owe as much to imagination as to technology, did what "The Matrix" wanted to do, earlier and with more feeling.

And is doesn't have Keanu Reeves in it. The second interesting bit is that the article notes that Ebert contributed commentary for a forthcoming director's cut of the the film on DVD. I find this very odd as I would swear that director Alex Proyas says in the commentary for the current version of the DVD that there is no director's cut to be had because he got the cut he wanted. Harumph.
|| Palmer, 1:37 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Wilkerson Says Cheney Approved Torture

Former chief of staff to the Secretary of State, Lawrence Wilkerson, spoke on NPR last week saying that he'd found a "visible audit trail" which traced prisoner abuse by our G.I.'s to Dick Cheney's office. A partial transcript can be found up at the Washington Post's website. Here's a bit of it:

"Mr. WILKERSON: I'm privy to the paperwork, both classified and unclassified, that the secretary of State asked me to assemble on how this all got started, what the audit trail was, and when I began to assemble this paperwork, which I no longer have access to, it was clear to me that there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of Defense down to the commanders in the field that in carefully couched terms -- I'll give you that -- that to a soldier in the field meant two things: We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war.

The full interview can be heard here.

For a bit more on this issue, check out the Frontline episode called "The Torture Question".
|| Palmer, 11:55 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Blowin' In the Wind

I'm sure most everyone knows about the riots in suburban Paris that have been ongoing for well over a week. And I've referred to riots in Denmark. Well, now the violence has spread to Belgium and Germany.

As was expected, the Muslim insurgency did not stop at the French borders. Last night five cars were torched in Berlin. The cars were set alight in five different streets of Moabit, an immigrant neighbourhood of Berlin, and the Tiergarten area, only a few kilometres away from the seat of the German government. The German police are investigating whether the incidents can be linked to the events in France. Meanwhile, the Berlin police announced that they will step up their presence.

In Brussels, too, five cars were destroyed by fire last night. The cars were parked in Sint-Gillis, one of Brussels’ Muslim quarters. Sint-Gillis is the area surrounding Brussels’ Midi Station, where the Eurostar trains from London arrive. It is barely three kilometres from the European Parliament. The Belgian authorities admitted that cars had been destroyed, but is reluctant to give more details because “the Brussels Fire Brigade is providing no further information in order to avoid knowledge of these acts of violence spreading.” Believe it or not, that is the official explanation.
|| Palmer, 10:37 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

06 November, 2005

Saturday at the Symphony and Elsewhere

Yesterday I made a return voyage to Milwaukee. I had a ticket for the symphony's performance that night and would spend the day with Miss Pamela and Bill. Pam was ill with a cold but was on the mend so she was amenable to the Third Ward to check out the grand opening of A Woman's Touch. (AWT is a sexuality resource center here in Madison and they've expanded to Milwaukee. I like to think of the Milwaukee shop as the "satellite office".) It was a dreary day so why not check out some dildos, erotica, and eat some free chocolate from Gail Ambrosius? Walking in, I found that the store was a bit bigger than the one in Madison though the selections were pretty much the same – scented candles & oils, lube, condoms, lingerie, pr0n videos, how-to books, books with naughty pictures, etc. I ended up buying a couple things which I shan't mention here as some of my (ahem) booty will be given to The Dulcinea and she reads this space so I don't want to spoil the surprise. And of course there was the chocolate. Mmm…I had bit of raspberry-chocolate heaven. We didn't stay too long as we were going to check out the Rembrandt exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum and Pam & Bill had to head to Bill's parents' place for dinner. Our early departure was probably a good thing because the unholy trio of chocolate, pr0n, and hotties perusing the shelves of vibrators could have gotten me into trouble.

It had been nearly two years since I'd been to the Art Museum so I was looking forward to it. The Rembrandt exhibition featured not only his works, but works by his students and contemporaries of the Netherlandish art scene. When it comes to art, I'm more of a I-know-what-I-like kinda guy and have a limited art history background. Bill, however, is a painter and was an art major in college so he's my go-to guy for stuff like this. I went to him with a few questions. I'm not the biggest Rembrandt fan around and my attitude didn't change much but it was still cool to see his works. I mean, he's Rembrandt! I will say that I really liked "Landscape with the Good Samaritan", though. Oh, and his ditties about the Crucifixion were neat too. Instead, I enjoyed the works by his contemporaries more. For some reason, I wanna say that David Vinckboons' painting were the ones I enjoyed the most but I honestly cannot recall. The very Baroquey still lifes of fruit bowls were really cool. I liked how bits of the fruit had been eaten away by insects or whatever predator it was. There were lots of landscapes in the exhibition and I'm just not a big landscape guy. They were pretty, to be sure, but nothing particularly moving. Done with that, we wandered around parts of the rest of the museum, including the section featuring German artists. (Wisconsin is, by all accounts, the most German state in the Union.) Some gorgeously painted steins and some neat paintings. There were some works by a German Expressionist whose name I cannot recall that I really loved. I should try and figure out who that was…There is also a section there of works by regional artists and there was one piece in particular which caught my eye. I think the artist was from Evansville but can't be sure. It's this blue, moody street with a figure in the foreground dressed a bit like a jester with its back turned to the viewer. The outfit is all yellow and orange and contrasts with the rest of the scene. Good stuff!

Around 5, Bill and Pam had to bail to catch dinner at Bill's parents' home. We said our goodbyes in the dark and the rain and I was off to Water Street to find a temporary home until it was symphony time.

I found shelter at the Water Street Brewery. I got me a pint of Oktoberfest and watched the Badgers get their asses handed to them in the 4th quarter. Since I was going to the symphony primarily to hear a work by a German composer and was drinking a German-style bier, I ordered the super-sausage platter for dinner. A nice hearty meal to beat back the rain and chilly weather raging outside. A couple wursts, sauerkraut, and spaetzle. Quite tasty! The joint started hoppin' and I took my leave. I went to my car and grabbed a bit of reading material and then found a nice seat at the Marcus Center. Before long, a pre-concert hoolie began in which Carmina Burana was discussed. It didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know about the history of the piece but I found out how it's being sampled today. The gentleman started by saying the exact same things I said to The Dulcinea when introducing the piece to her. You may not know the piece but you've heard it. Or, more precisely, you've heard the opening part, "O Fortuna". It was featured in the film The Omen, perhaps most famously. The presenter contacted Orff's publisher who said that the rights have been given out for use in film, commercials, etc. well over 500 times. He also played snippets of a few techno songs that used samples from it. Pretty much everyone has heard one part or another of Carmina Burana whether they know it or not. Soon enough, showtime neared and I took my seat.

One thing I didn't expect to happen was for me to fall in love. Yes, I've fallen in love with Associate Concertmaster, Samantha George.



Isn't she just dreamy?! With her long, wavy red hair and that sexy black dress…mmm…Oh Samantha, let me catch a ride on your violin strung upon your bow. I'll float on your melody and sing your chorus soft and low. I'm not sure what an Associate Concertmaster does, exactly, besides sitting next to the first violinist. But she does it oh so well.

Anyway, back to the music. The program featured Stravinsky's Chant du Rossignol and one of my favorites, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. I wasn't familiar with the Stravinsky piece but it was quite good. Also known as The Song of the Nightingale, it was based on Hans Christian Anderson's story, "The Nightingale". It was fun as a local actress came out and read the story aloud during the performance. But I was there to hear Orff's masterpiece, Carmina Burana. In submitting it to his publisher, he wrote, "Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin

The history of the piece, in brief: Orff was introduced to a collection of 13th century poems that were discovered in 1803. He chose a couple dozen of the poems and wrote his piece around them. Written mostly in Latin (as well as Middle High German and Old French), the poems selected by Orff concern Fate, spring, the vulgar activities of tavern life, and courtly love.

The performance last night was, to say the least, awesome! Not only do you have the orchestra, but also the MSO Choir, the Milwaukee Children's Chorus, and tenor, soprano, and baritone soloists. It's a BIG production. And, having had several years of Latin, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing a massive chorus singing in that tongue. You just can't beat the roar of the orchestra with the bombast of tympanis while a massive chorus sings in Latin about the fickleness of Fate. The movement concerning spring has a melody as catchy as any song by The Beatles with very naughty lyrics such as:

"Shopkeeper, give me colour
to make my cheeks red,
so that I can make the young men
love me, against their will.
Look at me,
young men!
Let me please you!"

You can bet your sweet ass I was looking at Ms. George during this part with a copulatory gaze. Actually, my eyes teared-up during this section. It was just one of those odd emotional moments. The music was fantastic and, in my mind, I had visions of young maidens dancing around a fire just like in The Wicker Man, and…and…I dunno. It was just a strange but wonderful moment.

The part about taverns featured lyrics that showed that tavern life hasn't changed much in 800 years.

"The poor man drinks, the sick man drinks,
the exile drinks, and the stranger,
the boy drinks, the old man drinks,
the bishop drinks, and the deacon,
the sister drinks, the brother drinks,
the old lady drinks, the mother drinks,
this man drinks, that man drinks,
a hundred drink, a thousand drink."

The only part that would be out of place today was "Cignus ustus cantat (The Roast Swan)". The tenor, John Osborn, did a fantastic job as the swan bemoaning its fate. His performance was imbued with a bit of humor and his singing wasn't overly dramatic.

The section about courtly love was great too, though of a very different tone than the rest of the piece. Very beautiful and I must say that the Milwaukee Children's Chorus did a great job. A reprise of "O Fortuna" closes out the piece. The audience went crazy apeshit bonkers and gave everyone a well-deserved standing O. In fact, some folks applauded after the movement about spring, which is a definite no-no at classical concerts but I think conductor Andreas Delfs didn't mind one bit. Speaking of Mr. Delfs, if it weren't a classical concert, I would write that he was up there shaking his bum. I mean, he was at the podium waving his baton like a madman, turning every which way – the man wasn't still for a moment.

And so it was a great time. The weather sucked, however. It was cold and rainy the whole day. The drive home was a bit perilous as I ran into some patches of heavy rain – I think I hydroplaned the whole way. Just a reminder that winter will be here anon.
|| Palmer, 1:21 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post