Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Lottery of Babylon

Elections are being held today in Iraq, the first in what is supposed to be a series of national plebiscites. This one selects a national assembly that is going to draft a permanent constitution, upon which a popular referendum will be held for ratification. There are high hopes for the election, but fears too, given what the situation is like over there.

Everyone knows how high the stakes are, and to make matters worse, they are decidedly stacked against us. Very little can happen at the elections themselves to improve the situation, but a lot can go wrong. This is the worst of situations, because if we win it isn't clear that it will matter. On the other hand, there are a multitude of results that would hurt our cause, and Iraq's as well, at least insofar as the two are the same. Fear and intimidation could ruin turnout. Religious or ethnic minorities could boycott the election. And, in the worst case scenario, the people could legitimately install a backward, insular, fundamentalist regime in the Iranian style. Anything could happen, and while that makes for great TV, it is a curious way to run a country.

Even so, this is something that must take place. We gave our word, as a people, that we would rebuild their country and usher it back into the family of nations. My views on the war are complicated, and I will explain them at some future point, but take it on faith that I am no hawk. Nevertheless, having gone there, we are left with only one choice and that's to see the thing through. Sixty years ago we rebuilt a broken Europe, a continent torn apart by war and inhuman cruelty. We did it for a lot of reasons, some quite selfless, and so not so selfless. But we did it, and we left (kinda). Now we have given Iraq the same promise, and there is nothing to do but live up to it.

Important as the election is to us, it means far more for Iraq. This election is the Iraqi people's first opportunity to pass judgment on our own conduct, and even if the result is not pretty, it is something that must be done. More too, this may prove to be, if it manages to spread the seeds of democracy. You don't expect voting to matter much. The first time you go you have to stand in line for a while, then you have to find your name on a list (they never seem to have me), and when you finally get a ballot, most of the names and issues are probably completely alien to you.

But after it's all over, you've done something important whether you know it or not. Sure, your one vote will never decide any issue aside, perhaps, from who will be dog catcher of Nowheresville, but that is only in the narrowest sense the purpose of the ritual. Voting is an affirmation of our civil religion, the belief that we wield the power ourselves, our chance to muscle ourselves into the throne, if only for a few minutes.

That is the sentiment we need to create. We have come to a broken and impoverished country. We came with missiles, guns, tanks, and fourteen hundred years of cultural division, and yet we say we have come as friends. Liberating the people from a cruel dictator was the first step. Now we have to make sure nobody worse takes over, or at the least if someone does, that the people wanted it that way.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Coming Attractions

Below is a list of movies I've been meaning to add to my collection for a while now. They're not really in any particular order, and it is not meant to be an exhaustive assembly.

Eight Men Out
2001: A Space Odyssey
Seven Days in May
Ninotchka
The Matrix
The Seven Samurai
The Hidden Fortress
Metropolis
The Princess Bride
Gung-Ho

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A sound legal argument

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

- "Honorable" Leon M. Bazile, Commonwealth of Virginia v. Loving, January 6, 1959

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Our Leader



I really hate being in pictures. This aversion does not stem from any particular physical disformity, as while I may be somewhat pedestrian, I am at least not hideous. Nor is it from a misguided sense of vanity. I have my pride same as anyone else, but so long as I stay within the bounds of social acceptability, I have never much cared for the particulars of visual niceties. Even so, posing for pictures has been something I have never become comfortable doing.

As a result, I tend to avoid photographs whenever I can. This is so despite an interest I have in photography itself, both as a medium of expression and a curious application of science that stands, or so it seems, in apparent contrast to the way the world works. It is well that other people figure out how to make photographs and send pictures to my TV, because the process is just short of magical to me.

The photo I've included in this post is from my senior year of high school, about seven years ago. Aside from a few shots at the college graduation, it's the most recent picture I have, and as I changed little over the years, it remains an accurate depiction. I have included it not only to settle any lingering curiosity on the part of any readers, but now that I've posted a shot or two of people I know, it would be somewhat cowardly to refrain from inflicting upon myself the same discomfort. Put up or shut up I believe the expression goes.

This particular picture has always amused me, mainly because of the pose it captures. It always seemed to me reminiscent of the statues in Red Square, godlike figures staring off into the distance, sentinels of the new order. So in posting this picture I want to reaffirm my allegiance to capitalism. It's not perfect, but it's the best economic model we have. For now.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Utopia

Now there's a website that allows me to play out my dictatorial fantasies. Check out Nation States, a publicity site for the sci-fi novel Jennifer Government, which I've been meaning to read for a while now.

The site allows you to create your own country. You get to decide the government type and economic model, then you solve a number of issues that come up at configurable intervals. Your answers to the issues steers your country one way or the other.

My country, Wear Corp, can be seen here. Because of the nature of the issue system, where you choose between a limited number of options located, typically, at the poles, you will find your nation drifting between extremes. My own country is not, perhaps, a perfect representation of my political views, but as it is now highly rated in all three categories (civil rights, political freedoms, and economic power), I must be doing something right.

See? Things would be much better if I were in charge.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I speak the King's English

Hella - (adj) A contraction of "hell of" heard commonly in northern California. Unknown in the barbarous southern regions of the state.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Titular Distinction

I know it sounds kinda weird, but I put a lot of thought into the titles of my posts. Until I can get down a title I like, I can't really proceed with the rest of the entry. This is even more unusual, given that I don't put any thought at all into most of the ensuing text. By that I mean I don't need to think about what to write; rather, the words just seem to flow on their own, and I just type until they run out. That would account, too, for some of the abrupt endings one may occasionally find here and there.

Personally, I think the art of the title is somewhat rather neglected. A good title, in my opinion, should draw a direct connection to the body of the post, but it should also draw a reference to something else the reader might know, a point of reckoning to which he or she may use to examine the entry. This isn't really a very high standard, what with the wealth of phrases our culture generates (or copies), but even so it can be a difficult to practice to follow.

I've tried my best to come up with neat titles, some of them I think are a little clever, but that is my own personal conceit. The degree to which I have actually succeeded may be debatable. Fortunately, the irrelevance of the whole subject would make any debate an unlikely occurrence.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Cave Troll of Casa Ocho



Well, this won't really make much sense to just about anyone else outside of six unfortunate UCSC alumnus, but that is the nature of inside jokes.

Hope things are going well for my favorite monitor monkey.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Pointless Factoid V

An individual piece of bacon is called a rasher. I'm not really sure where they came up with that particular appellation, but there it is.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Damn

School starts back today.

Damn.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Day the Earth Stood Still

I've heard that Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt split.

Who cares?

I mean, honestly, there exists a multi-million dollar industry that serves no other purpose than to catalogue the irrelevant minutiae of thespiatic life. How many times Brittany's been banged, the disintegration of Bennifer, Richard Downey Jr.'s continuing drug abuse, all these and the other assembled trivialities ceaseless relayed to us seem to me so evidently meaningless that I worry for those who think otherwise.

I take this position even as one who enjoys movies and television as a principle form of entertainment. I'll pay the $8.50 to see Harrison Ford in the theatres; I'd almost pay $8.50 to not hear about his relationship with Collista Flockhart. Reality Television has exposed the inherently voyeuristic trend in the American public, and so perhaps it is from this unworthy influence that celebrity affairs are pursued with such ardor. Whatever the reason, it is a practice beneath inebriated gorillas, let alone the populace of a great nation.

This sentiment, I know, is by no means unique to myself. Nevertheless, I today add my voice to the cry. There is only one response to the telling of celebrity episodics:

Who cares?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Everyone is stupid except for me

The National Science Board's new study on Science and Technology in America is out, and the results are not encouraging. Apparently, forty-six percent of Americans (and forty-four percent of Europeans) didn't know that it takes one year for the Earth to go around the sun.

In other news, steps have been taken to sterilize forty-six percent of the American population.

Read the whole report here.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Worthy Cause



Now, come on. Have you ever seen a more worthwhile cause in your life?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The face of addiction

Yesterday night the USC Trojans pummeled the Sooners of Oklahoma and secured the national championship they had been robbed of last year. This marks an end to the 2004 college football season, and the beginning of what, for many across the country, is an eight month drought. These poor souls, deprived of their precious sport, will have to subsist on a thin ration of scouting reports, practice appraisals, and recruiting commitments, awaiting the return of football as feverently as the Jews watch for the Messiah. I know just how brutal the effects of football withdrawal can be, because my own brother is one of the addicts. For my own part I like the sport, but I care little for individual results.

Although my brother has no greater connection to the school than having lived within an hour's drive of it, he has become an obsessive California Golden Bears fan. This condition really only took root nine or ten years ago, though he likes to fancy himself a more established participant, and often predates his alliegance by several years. This is an understandable response to the "old blues" he encounters on message boards and the like, who measure fan loyalty by no other meter than the length of your devotion. Nevertheless, it is somewhat amusing.

The mentality of a fanatic is really something quite unique. Although it goes without saying that he is always rooting for Cal to win a game, the obsession has transformed my brother's obligations, expanding his concerns into a vast lattice of interconnected irrelevancies. First he must support Cal. Then he must support the Pac-10, the athletic conference to which Cal belongs.

The strength of teams is often measured by the strength of their opponents. Hence, if the Pac-10 is strong, that makes Cal stronger (in theory). But it doesn't stop there. Next he roots for Cal's non-conference opponents in games against non-Pac-10 teams, because the better they do, the better Cal's schedule looks. From there, he goes on to support teams that played against teams that Cal played, so long as they don't violate any of the other Asimovic laws of football fandom.

The exponential nature of this process should be fairly apparent; it is with amazement that I find he is able to follow all of these preceedings, and with an attention to detail I doubt his actual responsibilities are blessed to enjoy. I honestly believe that, at some point, a situation will arise where, in Cal's interests it should be more favorable for them to lose than win. At that point, unable to cope with the contradiction, I expect my brother's head to explode.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Idleness

I woke up at 4:30 pm. I love breaks.

Monday, January 03, 2005

How I could have spent the night with a beautiful Rhodes scholar

Apparently, for some reason, my spam filter is under the impression that I don't want to receive messages from MILF's For Me. This particular oversight has apparently cost me the opportunity to experience various depravities, no credit card required, that could really've gone a long way to making this new year start off on the right foot. I'd write Microsoft about this absurd injustice, but it'd probably end up blocked as spam.

I know she must have been a Rhodes scholar because enclosed with playwithme2004's invitation was a spattering of poetry, an excerpt or two I'll provide:

"Joys are our wings, sorrows our spurs.
It is true greatness to have in one the frailty of a man and the security of a god.
A short absence is the safest.

The best answer to answer to anger is silence.
Beauty is not caused. It is.

Energy is an eternal delight, and he who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.
Courage is getting away from death by continually coming within an inch of it."

Wow. She's into toys and anal, she's married but lonely, and she can requote cliches. I can't believe my computer thought this was spam.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

It's January again?

So once again we prove that sequential numbering works. It is now 2005. I actually missed my New Year's event, as my disorganized friends didn't get around to making the calls in time. I hope they had fun. Bastards. Still, I passed the arbitrary boundary between one year and another well enough, surrounded by dozens of other embittered loners on plains of Azeroth.

To be perfectly honest, most of the New Year's events I've ever been to I'd rather of skipped anyway. I don't actually understand the big deal; it's not like this was a surprise. Five follows four, and as I don't expect this year to offer any more lottery winnings than the last, the difference seems academic. It seems to me just another example of how flimsy an excuse people will use to indulge in their burgeoning alcoholism.

Anyway, so now it's January again. Great. Freaking great.

Happy New Year.