Saturday, January 27, 2007

At the Place Where Dreams Come True

This is the new ad campaign shot by Annie Liebovitz for Walt Disney Theme Parks's "Year of a Million Dreams."
David Beckham

Beyonce, Oliver Platt, and Lyle Lovett

Scarlett Johansson

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Sixteen: 1 and 2 Chronicles

These are book you can basically just blow through. 1 Chronicles is mostly just a list of the lineage of every male character we’ve seen up to now, including all twelve sons of Abraham/Israel. There are a lot of touches about the traditional history of the Israelites and their various wars. About halfway through, it becomes the story of King David, retelling the story with particular emphasis on his passing the crown on to Solomon and his order to build the Great Temple.

2 Chronicles pads out the story of Solomon a little more than we’ve already seen. He builds the Great Temple and puts the Ark of the Covenant in it, then regains all of the lost lands and keeps the ways of God. There’s all of that implied love affair with the Queen of Sheba, too. The people rebel against Solomon’s son, and then there’s basically a list of the successors of Israel (it’s here that Israel and Judah split into two kingdoms, as we’ve seen in actual history). No matter how well they worship God, he always finds a reason to be pissed off at them. The Temple is burned by the incorrectly-spelled Nebuchadnezzar, and then King Cyrus of Persia says that the Temple must be rebuilt. Which is a compression of many years of history that is typical of the Bible.

And that’s really it.

Next week: Ezra. I have no idea what happens.

When Is the Alicia Silverstone Comeback?

I miss Alicia Silverstone, and of all the actresses I used to like and who've been, to put it nicely, lost in the shuffle, I honestly expect her to have a successful comeback some day. Like a lot of young actresses (and as an aside, it's both weird and cool to think that she's only four months younger than I am), she got famous initially for being jailbait. But she was so damn good at it! I'll never forget the first time I saw the video for "Crazy," because not only was Alicia so hot (and vaguely sapphic), but it was the first time Liv Tyler entered my grateful consciousness. And then she starred as a crazed Lolita in 1993's The Crush, which is really a terrible movie, but one I can't seem to get enough of. Seriously, it's on cable a lot, and I think I've seen it 27 times... Which I'm sure says a lot more about me than it does about the movie.

It was 1995 that really pushed Alicia into the spotlight, though. She made three movies of varying quality that year. The first was an adaptation of Robert Coover's The Babysitter which, while not entirely successful, was interesting (and she was good in it, at any rate--so was J.T. Walsh, for that matter). Then there was a surprisingly good (albeit in a trashy way) adaptation of Dean Koontz's Hideaway that starred Jeff Goldblum. I remember seeing the movie and saying "That's the girl from the Aerosmith videos!" But the third movie she did that year was Clueless, which became an instant hit. It was a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma with a lot of nods towards Valley Girl. Teenagers picked up on it, but I knew a lot of people in their late twenties who loved the movie; even Roger Ebert gave it a great review. And it was a great movie. Everyone had fallen in love with Alicia Silverstone.

Sadly, it didn't last. She was smart to set up her own production company, but the movie she made, Excess Baggage, was just...boring. It paired her with one-time Next Big Thing Benicio del Toro (this movie stopped that talk for awhile), but the two had absolutely zero chemistry together. And appearing in Batman & Robin was probably a huge mistake, even though I'm surprised people even remember she was in it.

It was around this time that the glare of the spotlight took its toll. The public never lets these people be anymore, and even though Alicia was surprisingly (and refreshingly) reluctant to embrace her fame the way Lindsay Lohan has in the past couple of years, people started to tear her down. Or maybe it was because she shied away from the attention. She always came across in interviews as someone who was serious about her career and didn't think fame was necessary to achieve what she wanted to achieve. She had some weight fluctuations that people pounced on, I remember. And there were suddenly a lot of rumors of lesbianism, as there always seem to be around women who are gaining success. 1999's Blast from the Past, which is a very nice and funny movie, seemed to get lost a bit in the shuffle. I'm not sure people even remember it, or if they do, they seem to forget she's in it.

I'm not a hundred percent sure what happened after this, really. Did she purposely retreat, or were roles suddenly hard to find? I think to some extent (probably not a large one, but to some) she got lost in the wake of Drew Barrymore's comeback. Maybe Alicia wasn't doing sexy or dumb enough roles for people. She held her own in Kenneth Branagh's so-so Love's Labour's Lost, and then retreated into television. She produced and starred in the animated series Braceface for a few years, and it seemed like she just fell out of the national consciousness around that time. Just to show you how short the attention span is towards pop culture, "that time" was just six years ago.

And a brief side-note: doesn't it seem like Reese Witherspoon has somehow had the career Alicia Silverstone was supposed to have? I don't understand what turns the less-appealing, less-talented Witherspoon into an Oscar winner and the wonderful Alicia into less of a star than she should be.

Her first attempt at a comeback was a Darren Star TV series called Miss Match in 2003, which got terrible reviews and which I never saw. I actually hope I can see it on DVD some day, because I didn't realize until just the other day that Charisma Carpenter was on that show, and I needs me all the Charisma I can get. That show got cancelled in its first season.

Recently, she's appeared in Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and Stormbreaker, a movie no one saw but which was intended to launch a franchise. I hate seeing her abused this way; she deserves so much more. I caught Beauty Shop again on cable the other day, and I really liked her in it. She's so cute and warm and instantly lovable, and at the same time, she has a genuine talent. Watch her again in Clueless; the movie still holds up. She's only 30 years old, she's got time. Of all the actresses I want to see come back, I think she'll actually be able to do it.

What Is a Jeep?

"A Jeep is an animal living in a three dimensional world-in this case our world- but really belonging to a fourth dimensional world. Here's what happened. A number of Jeep life cells were somehow forced through the dimensional barrier into our world. They combined at a favorable time with free life cells of the African Hooey Hound. The electrical vibrations of the Hooey Hound cell and the foreign cell were the same. They were kindred cells. In fact, all things are to some extent are relative, whether they be of this or some other world, now you see. The extremely favorable conditions of germination in Africa caused a fusion of these life cells. So the uniting of kindred cells caused a transmutation. The result, a mysterious strange animal."

At least, that's what Professor Brainstine told Popeye about Eugene the Jeep, the strange creature Olive Oyl's Uncle Ben found in Africa and gave her as a present in Thimble Theatre in 1936. His diet consisted solely of orchids, and even though the only word he could say was "jeep," Eugene could only tell the truth. He could also teleport, walk on ceilings and through walls, and cross over into the fourth dimension. He was, in the fourth dimension, the ruler of Jeep Island, but could foretell the future and would appear when Popeye or Swee'pea needed his help. He even helped Popeye find his long-lost father, Poopdeck Pappy.

Eugene the Jeep. Just remembering.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Throwdown 1/26

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Even if I wasn’t in love with her right now, I’d have to congratulate Jessica Biel for waking up and realizing what a little bitch Derek Jeter is. At least, that’s the way it happened in my head. Because she’s just too good for that not to be the case.

2. I think Chance said something in the comments section about wanting me to post sexy pictures of Judi Dench. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I love Judi Dench in the 1968 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so here she is in that movie in her early thirties. I’ve always thought she was beautiful. Those eyes are entrancing.

3. Supposedly, Rachael Ray was drunk at a party and started talking shit about people. My favorite is where she supposedly said “Angelina Jolie is a fucking cunt.” See, now, this is where publicists go too far to be believable. I mean, they are soulless fucks who lie for a living, but the key is not to be so obvious. The publicist said that Ray was at the party, but didn’t get drunk and didn’t say those things. Alright, fine. That’s believable and doesn’t turn it into a big deal. But then, the publicist said this: “In fact, there are several words that are attributed to Rachael that she has never uttered in her life.” Yeah, she’s the one scrappy, obnoxious, short girl from Queens who never called another chick a fucking cunt and got into a fight. See, now that you’ve gone over the top, I’m forced to believe the whole story is true. See how that works, you fucking cunt?

4. I’m sorry, but I think it’s officially time for Hugh Hefner to give up control of Playboy to someone else. He just turned down Kelly Osbourne (left) to pose for the magazine, saying “We don’t airbrush to that extent.” And yet, he wants Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham (right) to pose for the magazine, as though anyone in the world would want to see her naked. Seriously, overlooking my desire to see a punky chick in Playboy for once, I’d rather see the one with a woman’s body naked, and not the one who looks like an alien construction of what they think a woman might have looked like.

5. Hey, you know what sucks? When people pretend they’re cool and up for anything, but then really reveal themselves to be prematurely old, lonely, pathetic, and full of shit at the last minute, pussying out of commitments that had already been made. I fucking hate people like that, and I wish they would all go to hell. Of course, they already tend to live the lives of Fat Lindas (as Yasamin calls them), and that is it’s own sort of neverending purgatory of mediocrity, so there’s that comfort.


6. Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox are going to kiss on an episode of Dirt, because the show is desperate for ratings and Aniston is desperate for attention. First off, this clip is the best the show is ever going to get. And second, who wants to see Courtney Cox make out with a chick who looks like a piece of dried-out leather? It’s not like there’s going to be tongue and shit.

7. I know that everyone gets upset when a child might have some inkling that sex exists, but I just couldn’t work up the indignant anger that so many other people did when Britney Spears took her 16 month-old son Sean Preston shopping with her at Trashy Lingerie. I mean, the kid’s too young to really know what’s what, and it’s not like Britney was standing there saying “What about this one, Sean Preston? Does this strap-on dildo look better on mommy, or should I get the purple one?” Give me a break. Everyone’s so fucking sensitive about children. As though somehow the mere fact of Britney being the kid’s mother is going to make him learn about sex any faster than your kids; they all have televisions, right? Man, when I think about it, I would love to have Britney Spears as a mother. I mean, I learned to take care of myself pretty early, so I’d just enjoy the traveling and mommy having so many young, hot friends who never wear underwear. I’m sorry, but that sounds like an awesome environment to grow up in. At least he won’t be another one of those kids who goes through life afraid of sex, then become a Christian Republican and start fucking underage boys in chatrooms. Because that’s what happens to repressed people.

8. Dakota Fanning is surprisingly poised. She’s got this movie at Sundance right now called Hounddog, and there’s a rape scene in it. Dakota, 12 years old, gets raped on camera. Now, a lot of people (especially, it seems, those who haven’t seen it) are getting really pissed off with more and more hyperbolic descriptions of the rape scene in this movie. I understand, according to Dakota Fanning’s publicist and the actual filmmakers, that there is more implied than you actually see, which is a good thing; implied rape scenes are brutal and scary, graphic rape scenes (like in The Accused, for example) always come off as just another simulated sex scene to me, because it’s all fake and really exploitative. When it’s implied and you can just hear screaming and see one or two shots, that scares the living shit out of me. Anyway, a lot of people have been saying shit about Dakota Fanning’s mother, about how she’s irresponsible for letting her daughter do this movie, and how she should be ashamed of herself. And her mother had that reaction (which I loved) of “do you think I’m a complete moron?” But Dakota herself had a nice little moment when she said that people who attacked the movie “were attacking my family and me, and that's where it got too far. Pretty much everybody who talked about it attacked my mother, which I did not appreciate. That was extremely uncalled for and hurtful.” She also said, adding the cherry on top of the icing here: “I know my mom would take me to see it. You have to prepare your children for things that happen in the world. Everything isn't rosy.” Slam! Oh, man, when a 12 year-old is telling adults to calm down and get a life, that just makes my day. I love Dakota.


9. You know, watching American Idol has always been an examination of the worst America has to offer. Not in terms of bad singing, but in terms of really getting a look at what kind of assholes populate this place. This is just so indicative of how much parents have really failed in telling children that comforting lie that their best is good enough and everyone loves them because everyone is special. It only gets you people like this. This girl really threw me for a loop. I mean, I know it’s always the people with the least amount of talent who take criticism the worst, but this girl totally surprised me with her idiotic and embarrassing reaction to being told “no,” which is probably a word she didn’t hear enough growing up. Parents, remember the words of Mr. Furious: “Tolerance encourages.”

10. Okay, so now Isaiah Washington has had to meet with GLAAD officials just for calling some guy a faggot? This is really pissing me off now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a homophobe, I don’t have any problems with gay people. Where I have a problem here is that, all appearances to the contrary, America really is dominated by a religion, only it’s the religion of Politically Correct. What kind of whiny place is America when people can’t say anything without have to flail themselves in public? I’m sorry, but free speech in this country means that people are going to call you names that you don’t like. And when that happens, you don’t rush to an anti-defamation league, you either return the favor, let it bounce off of you, or suck it up. Shit, I weigh 345 pounds, you think I haven’t been called some names in my life? But I didn’t run to some kind of alliance about it. It’s not like the guy Isaiah Washington called a faggot is being discriminated against, really, is it? Really, seriously, think about it. He just called him a name and made him feel bad. And in life, you’re going to feel bad sometimes. You can’t give words so much power. I even saw a news story where the word was spelled like this: f****t. As though it were some kind of horrible, forbidden word. Well, it isn’t. Neither is nigger. Remember when we used to be allowed to say nigger and spic and kike and fag and God damn it on television? You can’t give these words the power of weapons, or that’s what they become and that’s how they stay. And I see the guy has to go to some kind of treatment center for a psychological assessment? Yes, I’m sure making a big deal out of this and taking it this seriously is going to stop people from saying words like that. Some people aren’t going to be happy until they can just force tolerance on people. Seriously, can we just end this now? Isaiah Washington should just apologize for hurting the guy’s feelings and let’s all move on to vastly more important things. I think homosexuals not being allowed to marry is much more of an issue than what two actors said to each other. Seriously, as if actors really matter.

11. And then Simon Cowell has to go through allegations of cruelty for comparing some guy’s physical appearance to that of a bush baby? I mean, did you see the guy? He looked like that old Peter Lorre caricature from Looney Tunes cartoons. So what if Simon Cowell said something insulting? Are you surprised? Jesus, like we don’t all insult people, sometimes on our blogs, sometimes to their faces? God, it’s like having to listen to a nation of mewling, petulant babies whine. Get a helmet, it’s called life. You do not have the right to never be uncomfortable.

12. And what’s with this asinine story about John Cusack being all indignant about the media not being allowed to show the military coffins? As if, now that John Cusack is angry, we’re all supposed to rally or something? Fucking actors, they have almost no idea of anything outside of themselves, and then when they figure it out, they come across like that high school student taking his first poli-sci class. Yes, we know, now do something about it or shut the fuck up.

13. Katie Holmes: new nose? Tom Cruise seems to be starting his campaign to get her to look exactly like Victoria Beckham, who seems to be his new object of fascination. See?

14. And speaking of Tom Cruise, he’s apparently been told by someone that he’s the Christ of the “church” of scientology. Wow, no wonder he’s such a tool. You just can’t tell some people that they’re important, because then they start believing it and all hell breaks loose. Seriously, the “church” is comparing the Passion of the Christ to the Passion of the Cruise, saying that future generations of alien-worshiping morons will look at Cruise’s media ordeal as a messiah suffering for his beliefs. Wow, what a bunch of stupid assholes. Every time I think the scientologists have said the dumbest thing ever, they just keep talking. On the possible upside, does this mean we’re going to get to see Tom Cruise nailed to two pieces of wood and slowly killed? Because some good should come out of this.

15. Or at least something better than Jennifer Lopez “converting” to the scientology fad. Does she really think it’s going to revive her flagging career? Because it hasn’t done a shred of good for anyone else.

I'm Linking Fantasticisms

Well, apparently Bam Bam Bigelow died this week. That's sad. I loved wrestling when I was a kid, and I always thought he was neat. Man vs. Clown! has the information.

Do you need some cheering up? Well, No Smoking in the Skull Cave asks the question: Did someone say "Monkey Star Wars?"

Postmodern Barney says that Jimmy Olsen is a jerk. Sure, we all knew it, but he's got documentary evidence.

Martians Attacking Indianapolis has a piece about one of the crappiest movies ever made: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. I still like it better than Superman Returns, though. You know what other movie sucks? No Holds Barred. I-Mockery delineates the madness here. Do you believe I actually saw this piece of shit in the theater? Twice? Hey, man, I was 12 years old.

Jay Pinkerton has Tales Written with the Express Intent of Astonishment. And if you want some more comics, I love this one from Culture Kills.

Here Comes Johnny Yen Again with one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I almost posted it here once, but now I don't have to.

Radar Online has a nice list of books to embarrass their celebrity authors, as well as their review of the conservative Daily Show rip-off. Surprise, surprise, it sucks!

Culture Bully has a nice little retrospective of White Zombie.

Popular Mechanics has a list of the 10 Best Special Effects Scenes. Yeah, I don't agree with it either, but it's not my list.

No Smoking in the Skull Cave has a photo piece up on my new favorite Barbie dolls ever.

Culture Kills celebrates the wonder that is Betty Suarez and why we should all love women like her.

Well, the State of the Union has come and gone and knocked us for a loop, so let's link a few thoughts on that. The Rude Pundit chimes in on Bush's indifference, the Associated Press has Bush's childish "I'm the one who decides" rant, and RJ Eskow tells Bush why he's really the one who isn't. Seriously, we should fucking impeach just for saying that, because the tyrant is losing his grip. A nice little cherry on top is courtesy of Zaius Nation, who loves Nancy Pelosi more than I do, though I'd follow her to hell, I would.

In more war news, check out this Wired story on exactly what kind of horrible health problems our soldiers are up against. Is the White House going to be even just a little honest with us about what's going on over there? Did you hear that they've been reporting numbers of abducted American soldiers as combat deaths? Fuckers.

And since we're already handicapping the next election, here's a surprisingly good editorial by Steven Weber about Hilary Clinton's political aspirations. I agree with every word.

And finally, two stories related to the recent recovery of Shawn Hornbeck after four years missing. The first one is merely tangential, but I do hate Sylvia Browne, and lucky for me, so does James Randi. Read the whole thing; Sylvia Browne is a fucking menace. And the second one, at Deus Ex Malcontent, is the most powerful and stunning thing I've read on the internet this week.



Paris Hilton

As you may know, there's a website out there that's purchased all of the items in Paris Hilton's storage space. They were seized because Paris failed to make payment on a $280 bill. And this website is offering video and pictures for, like, $40 a pop, which is way too much money to pay for anything Paris-related. But, this being the internet, this shit is now everywhere. And if you're desperate to see any of the videos or pictures, or read anything about it (and it does make for hilarious reading, because as pretentious and full of herself as you think she is, it's far worse), here are some links for you.

What Would Tyler Durden Do?
Drunken Stepfather
Celebitchy
Egotastic
Faded Youth
I Don't Like You in That Way

I don't know, I still think she used to be hot. And she thinks so too, because just look at how much she loves to show off her tits. They're everywhere!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

State of Anxiety

Lowlights of the State of the Union

I still don’t have the stomach to mess with an in-depth report of President Duh’s State of the Union address from Tuesday. Instead, I’m just going to hit a couple of observations here. Because I think it’s important especially to look at some of the language he uses.

Bush’s Preamble

The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour when decisions are hard and courage is needed.” You have to wonder if he can actually sell that line. I mean, his writers love to pepper his speeches with all sorts of dire statements about the precariousness of our position on the world stage, but I wonder if Bush even knows what the hell he’s saying. Frankly, I’m sick of it, because Bush is the one who caused this position for us with his illegal and unwarranted war on a sovereign nation instead of actually, you know, finding the people responsible for 9/11.

We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies, and the wisdom to face them together.” Oh, please, since when is there a we involved in this? Funny how he’s all into togetherness when he needs approval for his war plans and has to suck up to the Democrats so they’ll let him do what he wants, but not when it comes to sharing the wealth or anything like that. He’s not interested in doing anything together; if another 9/11 happened, he’d step on your face in his mad rush to get back in the air and hide.

Each of us is guided by our own convictions, and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we’re all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes.” Yeah, suck up even more now. Since when is everyone in Congress held to the same standards? I know that privileged boy Bushy has never felt he was held to anyone’s standard, and the Republican zeal in taking down competent Democrats doesn’t really show that, either. It would pathetic to see Bush kissing Democrat ass if it wasn’t just so damn fun. I love how he’s trying to be threatening, too, even though he knows he’s backed into a corner.

Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done.” Perhaps he’s right, but I’ve yet to see that willingness on the part of the Republicans who’ve been in power until recently. This is another veiled threat to the Democrats to play along.

Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them build a future of hope and opportunity, and this is the business before us tonight.” Bush wants to make my life better? Wow, and it only took six years of presidency before he started pretending that was true. He’s been doing such a good job of making my life difficult, fearful, and frustrating.

Bush on the Economy

A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy, and that is what we have.” Um…okay, sure we do. I guess you can prove anything with the right set of numbers. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but Bush is the one who ruined the economy in the first place with his tax cuts. They need to make up that money in taxes so badly that they want to tax you on your health coverage, which means you would be taxed for more money than you actually earned in a year. And who really benefited from that tax cut? Most of the people I know got an extra 300 bucks or so; that’s a low price to buy your economic future with, I think. And the government taxed you on that refund the next year, anyway.

First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. What we need is spending discipline in Washington, D.C.” Okay, every president says we need to balance the budget. We can’t do it without raising taxes. When Bush says that we need “spending discipline,” I have a terrible feeling that he means spending less on arts programs, social services, and government services. It’s not like he’s talking about the war, which is eating money like a termite eats furniture. He says we can balance the budget by 2012 (when it’s not his problem anymore), but he has yet to give us any details as to how.

Next, there’s the matter of earmarks. These special-interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour when not even C-Span is watching. In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion.” It’s almost laughable to hear a war profiteer like Bush (whose family is making a ton off the war) talk about earmarking as a bad thing. I mean, it is a bad thing, I just think it’s funny that Bush is trying to pretend like he does, too. This is the funniest part: “Even worse, over 90 percent of the earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate; they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You did not vote them into law. I did not sign them into law.” It’s like watching Pontius Pilate wash his hands. Bush desperately wants to deflect blame, but he can’t do it without once again kissing Congress’s ass. It’s hilarious, like watching a scolded child. And by the way, Congress has already voted on the ethics issue.

And finally, to keep this economy strong, we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet we’re failing in that duty.” This from the man who wanted to privatize these services as a way to grab more money and cut the responsibility of the government? This from the man who won’t be happy until one CEO is running every part of this country as a single business and retires with a four trillion dollar golden parachute? Again, this is something you can almost directly blame Bush for, and yet he deflects the blame and puts it on others. Here, check this out: “And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true, yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act.” Don’t trip over all of the hypocritical phony concern, Duh. I mean, the first six years of economic administration might as well have been called “Fuck the Children, Spend It Now!”

Bush on Education

Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act preserving local control, raising standards and holding schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.” Even a complete moron knows the truth of this hideous, amoral Act. What the Bush administration has done is hold public schools hostage, withholding the tiny bit of funds they allow those schools if they didn’t meet certain standards. Now, most teachers just teach children to learn how to pass tests to keep the success numbers up. Many curricula have been dumbed down so children can pass. There are many cases of teachers cheating the system on behalf of their students so that they can keep their numbers up. And because we’re apparently not supposed to hold students back anymore, a lot of them are just kicked out of school for the crime of not being taught successfully by those same schools. If the Bush administration’s dream is, as we have seen, to turn everything into a badly-run, top-heavy business, then he’s achieved it with the education system in America. Statistics are much more highly prized than actual learning, which is not going to help us when today’s illiterate children run the country (Bush may be the worst president so far, but trust me, he’s not going to be the worst ever at the rate we’re going now). We should encourage higher standards, and fuck students if they can’t meet those standards; they get left behind. We should nationalize the schools they way they did in Germany and hold everyone to the same academic standards. The No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal, by the way, and I hope it at least gets some serious modification. Really, I hope it isn’t renewed, but I know I’m not going to get that…

Bush on Health Care

I have to admit, I don’t really understand this new initiative where health insurance provided by an employer is going to be considered taxable income. He’s telling us that families with health insurance won’t have to pay any income or payroll taxes on the first $15,000 of their income. But to do this, he just has to make health care taxable income, which means that you’ll actually be paying taxes on more income than you actually pocket. What kind of irresponsible asshole would say that this is going to make health care more affordable? This is a sneaky, bullshit move that’s just going to end up costing you more in taxes than anything else. I mean, wouldn’t it be easier, as several states are now doing, to just raise taxes and make health coverage universal? It really should also be nationalized, the way it is in Canada. What’s so wrong with this? Taxes will be higher, yes, but isn’t that offset by not having to pay hundreds of dollars to go see a doctor? The only argument I’ve ever heard against this is the astonishingly simple-minded “that’s socialism.” So? What’s wrong with socialism? It makes people more responsible for their own governance and their own society. The only thing I can think of is that people associate socialism with communism, which is an economic system and not a government system, or they equate it with the Nazis, who called themselves socialist as a smokescreen to gain fascist government, the same way Republicans call themselves democratic as a smokescreen to gain an oligarchy.

Bush on Immigration

Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.” Bush has called repeatedly for “comprehensive” immigration reform, but I’m not sure even he knows what he means by that. He says something vague about enforcing immigration laws at worksites, as though that ends the matter. He also wants to “resolve the status of illegal immigrants who are already in our country, without animosity and without amnesty,” which basically means extorting money out of them based on how long they’ve been in the country, but calling it something nice so no one gets pissed. I just have a bad feeling that this whole thing isn’t going to get resolved without forcing everyone to carry documentation and giving the police power to check them whenever they feel like it. Which seems like a typical rich WASP pogrom—I mean, program, doesn’t it?

Bush on Energy

It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply, and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel.” It’s hard for me to stomach this shit from a guy who sent us into a war just to make oil more expensive as some kind of favor to his Saudi masters. First off, you can dismiss solar and wind energy, he’s not taking that shit seriously. He’s all about giving people like the conveniently-dead-at-just-the-right-time-but-really-he’s-hiding-on-a-tropical-island-somewhere Kenny Boy Lay millions of dollars to jack up energy prices across America. And that means energy that’s regulated somewhere. As for biofuels and hybrids, you can dismiss that, too. If he was serious about it, we’d have it by now. Not only because it would have been a great way to stick it to the Middle East (since oil is the only reason we even look in their direction), but because it would be cheaper and more efficient for America. When they wanted to develop the atomic bomb, it took only two years to go from concept to Oppenheimer’s fateful and sad “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” If the Bush administration wanted it to be a reality, it already would be. We have some great fucking scientists in the world that would’ve developed it. But since the oil companies hold Bush’s leash, he doesn’t realistically care. He’s afraid to take a hard line against OPEC.

Ironically, you could power whole fleets of battleships with the bullshit and hot air he’s spewing.

Let us build on the work we’ve done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. When we do that, we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.” Except we’re going to keep getting it from the Middle East, right? We’re going to stop buying it from places like Norway and Venezuela, probably. And wait a minute, aren’t you the asshole that walked us out of the Kyoto protocols in the first place? 20 percent in a decade is absolutely nothing. It’s a nice baby step, but we need to ramp this up. Back when Americans used to be patriotic, and were smart enough to realize that being patriotic meant making the occasional sacrifice for the good of the nation, they would’ve jumped at this chance. But since all progress has stopped except in areas of indigestion relief and personal electronics, they don’t care. You’re going to have to force this one on people, and Bush is too weak to do that.

And so as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.” Okay, the other shoe just dropped. What he means is finally letting him drill for oil in Alaska. And what he’s going to eventually say is that you’re supporting terrorism by trying to preserve our planet. Simple as that.

Bush on Judicial Nominations

The lives of our citizens across our nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts. We have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings.” Basically, he’s telling the Senate to stop opposing his choices of abortion-hating cronies for the Supreme Court. This is one hundred percent self-serving.

Bush on His Ineffectual Fight Against Terrorism

We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us, unless we stop them.” Well, that’s the problem with terrorists, isn’t it? We never know anything about with certainty. If we did, we could just drive to their headquarters inside of dead volcanoes or under office buildings or inside Arctic caves and just arrest them, couldn’t we? Bush has been especially idiotic when it comes to terrorists. First, he labels them as “evil,” a childish moral absolute that is not a realistic concept on the political stage. Second, he lumps them all into one group, “the terrorists,” like they all meet together at a big clubhouse and report to one head guy who, in Duh’s mind, is probably one of the villains from Dick Tracy or Challenge of the Super-Friends. They’re not all the same, and they need to be dealt with differently. I imagine being in the CIA right now is like working in retail for one of those managers who doesn’t really know what the fuck they’re doing, so you just completely ignore them and do your job because you know how to do it better than, say, someone whose only military service was posing for pictures in front of a jet. I have to keep pointing this out so people don’t forget, but Clinton was on top of those terrorists like they had glossy lipstick and big hair. The only two terrorist actions that took place in this country in the eight years of his presidency were committed by Americans, not foreign nationals who may or may not have been working for their own governments (I’m just saying, Sir Francis Drake was a pirate, but he had a commission from Queen Elizabeth I that allowed him the safety of British law and to carry out British missions while allowing Elizabeth to disavow any knowledge of his actions; it’s an old, old trick). Clinton’s only mistake as far as terrorists go is that he wrongly assumed that the Bush administration was as interested in protecting America from terrorism as he was. He blames himself for more, but I don’t.

The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing and free-flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.” Does Bush really think that life has gotten more difficult for terrorists? They’re seeing more action and more recruiting than ever before. Now that they have a real war to fight, terrorist organizations are eating this shit up. They’re regrouping and becoming stronger. And we’re really only talking about groups in the Middle East, or that originate there, not European groups (like this Greek group that blew up one of our embassies this week). And by the way, Osama bin Laden. Ring any bells?

By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty.” In other news, Bush wants to kick out immigrants or charge them money to live here, and thinks that reading your telephone and instant message transcripts is vital to national security.

The war is more than a clash of arms—it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance.” Is that “decisive ideological struggle” thing his new catchphrase, because it’s actually more hyperbolically asinine than “I’m a uniter, not a divider.” I think that a good first step would be just pulling out of the Middle East. That’s what the Islamist radicals wanted in the first place; to stop our domination of their countries. Now it’s blown up into some kind of global conflict. You can accomplish so much more with money and words than you can with bombs and bullets; we need to finally stop starving and start aiding the Middle East. And not by setting up Halliburton companies and profiteering, but by giving them money and resources to build their own nations in their own ways. What I think they resent the most is Americans coming in and telling them that because we don’t understand their religion or their society, they don’t deserve our help (or the help of anyone else). This is all a bit idealistic, but I’m trying to come up with something more positive than the unstated Bush administration goal of wiping Islam from the face of the planet.

What every terrorist fears most is human freedom: societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience and live by their hopes instead of their resentments.” It would be nice if we had that kind of freedom in America, too. And if America offered that kind of freedom to Iraq, rather than trying to turn them into an American vassal state, that would be pretty good, I think. Man, do the Iraqis even want this war anymore? The South Koreans didn’t, and neither did the South Vietnamese.

Bush on Iraq

We’re carrying out a new strategy in Iraq.” All this new strategy really does is increase the number of troops to a level it’s already been at. Forget it, we’re not going to win this one. The only way we could win this now is by taking every angry, violent, Hulk-strong brother out of prison and sending them into the Middle East all pumped full of steroids and letting them kill everyone there. Boy, that sounds like a Warren Ellis comic, doesn’t it? I really think this is the level to which we’ve fucked everything up. There is no way we’re going to have anything other than a compromise or an Iranian takeover in Iraq. I’d like it to be different, but that’s what happens when you underestimate your enemy and go in without a plan.

We didn’t drive al-Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe have in a free Iraq.” Think like the enemy, you bitch. Why would they want to set up in Iraq? They could easily come to America and hide out in Nevada or Florida and plan things there. After all, it’s much easier to get black market weapons in America, and it’s closer to the things you want to blow up. You know what our war has done? It’s taken away our sense of safety. How long before we have to live in fear of restaurants and shopping malls getting blown up?

[The Iraqi government] need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and Coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad.” He’s talking about making murder of innocent people—excuse me, collateral damage—not such a big deal. This is the single most chilling sentence in the whole address.

My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options.” Bullshit. “We discussed every possible approach.” Bullshit. “In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success.” Bullshit. And he goes on and on with increasingly baroque language, trying to terrify us into submission and paint himself as some kind of savior. Fuck you, President Duh.

And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.” No, just a failure, I guess.

Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work.” What the fuck does that mean? Like, if we send in 21,500 more soldiers, and a third of them die, the experiment’s a failure? That’s not acceptable. As President, he should be making every effort to keep people from being killed, not talking about them as though they’re an acceptable loss. Am I the only one who has a problem with this?

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others.” Well, there it is: he has no intention of getting us out of this anytime soon. He also wants to increase the size of our active army (which means recalling those no longer on active duty and starting the draft, you watch; he’ll propose it now that he doesn’t have to worry about re-election) and create a volunteer (for now) Civilian Reserve Corps for people with critical skills.

Bush on Foreign Policy

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle, because we’re not in this struggle alone.” Okay. Even though they’re all pulling out of Iraq, with the possible exception of Britain, which is probably going to lead to a no-confidence vote for Tony Blair and his removal from office, and the next Prime Minister will certainly pull out. The United Nations is taking a hard line against Iran developing nuclear weapons. But our efforts in the places Bush lists, like Palestine, Korea, and Darfur, have been ineffectual at best. It’s pretty much lip service, because we don’t have resources to commit to any other possible conflict.

We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa.” You know what would be nice? Is if the Republicans and the Catholics just accepted the reality that people fuck and stop tying up AIDS relief with programs that only promote abstinence.

Bush’s Conclusion

Self-serving and ass-kissing, and no comment needs to be made except for this: Bush is the kind of asshole who cuts off your arm, tells you he did it for your own good, and then puts a Band-Aid on it. We are in serious trouble here, and he has absolutely no clue how to get us out of it, because he doesn’t care.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

3 Poems by Siegfried Sassoon

I don't have the stomach to address last night's Bush ramblings. So today, I'm just putting up these poems about soldiers. These are by Siegfried Sassoon, a British soldier in World War I. They were all published in 1918. This is in honor of the soldiers from all nations who have died in the Iraq War, who have yet to die, and who might be sent overseas again as part of Bush's "Aw, C'mon, Give War a Chance to Work" initiative.

AttackAt dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow’ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

Suicide in the TrenchesI knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Base DetailsIf I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.

Bad Manners of My Execution

So, I think if I were allowed to choose the manner of my execution, I'd choose the gas chamber. I'm pathologically afraid of pain, so hanging or firing squad would be too much for me to face. Besides, except for actually asking for those things, where's the barbarism? Where's my chance to just completely stick it to everyone? So, I think there are only two ways to go.

The first is the electric chair. Because I figure that way I can have an enormous last meal and have a belly full of shit that would just unload all over the place. That's a nice little parting gift to leave behind for the fuckers who have to clean it up. Plus, I could try to wear rubber-soled shoes just to fuck with them. On the other hand, they might not give me all the food I want for my last meal, and the shoes they probably check for. Too much of a, pardon the expression, crap shoot.

So I think that overall I'd have to go with the second choice: gas chamber. Because spectators come and watch you in that big glass case as the gas drops and kills you. I mean, that way you can cry and scream "I want to live!" and really give the media a good time. It's too bad they chain you to that chair. I'd try to get out of it, because I'd be pounding on the glass and screaming, just to piss everyone off. And then you know what I'd do? Start masturbating. Just furiously whacking off. I mean, you know, I'm going to die anyway, so what do I have to be embarrassed about? Seriously, just start pounding my meat as hard as I could, trying to cum all over the glass before I died, yelling obscenities about politicians.

You know, make it as disgusting as it actually is.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Health Report: Week 6

This was an alternately good and bad week for the health. I had a bad week do to a number of different factors. The money situation went from tight to hopeless, so I couldn’t really keep eating as healthily as I had been, and was forced to rely on some of the food that’s been around for a while but which I’m really not supposed to eat. Seriously, by the weekend, I hadn’t just fallen off the wagon, I had eaten the wagon. Besides that, there’s the medicine situation. I take four pills a day (counting a multi-vitamin), and two of those are for my high blood pressure: 10mg a day of Vasotec, and 100mg of Toprol. Actually, they give me the generic for Vasotec, but that’s what my prescription is for. Last Tuesday, when I did the Health Report, my blood pressure was really good: 130/78. That becomes important later.

Anyway, so I had a bad week for food. I had lost 15 pounds, but a couple of them found their way back. I had too much caffeine, which I really don’t ever want to happen again, frankly, because it always leaves me feeling strung out and sick. I’ve had too much caffeine over the years, and basically it’s like the major drug of my life: I’m immune to the high, and now it just makes me want to puke. And my meds were running out. I stopped taking Vasotec last week, because I ran out of it completely. And I skipped a couple of days on the Toprol, trying to make it last.

This leads up to the biggest frustration of the week: going to the doctor. I’m a patient at the DeKalb Clinic, where I was referred in 2002 or 2003, when Student Health Services discovered my high blood pressure. I always knew I’d have high blood pressure, so that didn’t surprise me; I’ve always been fat, and it runs in my family on both sides. My grandmother, who is 75, still had problems with hers being extremely high, and she is ultra-thin. The medication she’s on shifts constantly because it doesn’t seem to work for very long. And my dad (not her son—both sides, see?) has been in the hospital a couple of times because his medication was too weak, or too strong, or his potassium levels just suddenly bottomed out. So, it wasn’t really a surprise. I was seeing Dr. Patel, one of their two cardiologists, but only once or twice a year. For a while now I’ve just called and talked to one of his two nurses, Megan and Jenny (both of whom, I have to say now, are wonderful, helpful, encouraging people), to get my prescriptions refilled.

In September, I called about a refill and a possible follow-up appointment, and Jenny told me that Dr. Patel had resigned. I was surprised and disappointed; I liked Dr. Patel, because he had sat me down and made things very clear to me (which is a necessity for me; I won’t trust a doctor who doesn’t explain things to me, even if it’s technical) that he could give me the medication, but the rest was up to me. Jenny refilled me for several months and told me to call back around the first of the year to see if they had found a cardiologist to replace Dr. Patel. Turns out they still don’t. I called last week, and the Clinic explained that they have a couple of different doctors coming in twice a week from a hospital in Rockford. I made an appointment and went in yesterday.

Now, I want to pause here, because this is important. I want to mention that, because of the situation with the food and the medicine, which left me a little woozy and full of massive headaches. Really, I have not been an overly fun person to be around. Besides that, Toprol’s a beta blocker, so I’ve also been sensitive and depressed. I need you to understand one thing about me here: I am very sensitive to my body and everything it does. When something’s out of a whack, even a tiny bit, I can tell. You’ll have to take my word for it, but it’s always been true. I’ve always been very intimate with how my body does anything. When I was a kid, I had a lot of ear infections. So many that there were fears of my becoming deaf. The doctor told me to pop my ears more often, and was later astonished that I had taught myself to pop my own ears without holding my nose. Can no one else do that? Anyway, I just want everyone to understand that I know what my body does, and when something’s wrong, I can tell.

The DeKalb Clinic turned out to be a hassle. I have no insurance right now and, I didn’t realize, that requires some upfront payment. I have about eight bucks in my checking account, and Becca was already going to pay for the prescriptions, so I wasn’t about to bring up another $85. I hadn’t told the Clinic I was no longer insured (not since graduating in August) because, frankly, I hadn’t thought about it. Every other visit had been under the umbrella of my limited, almost begrudging student insurance. I explained to the woman at reception that I’d been coming for years and was a regular patient, but didn’t realize about the money. The extremely unhelpful woman looked at my record and said: “You haven’t been here since 2005,” as if that settled something. Her tone of voice was spitting in my face and calling me a liar. I told her my situation, that I’d been calling and talking to the nurses—I didn’t tell her that they had originally been giving me free samples for years, because the nurses knew my student insurance didn’t cover prescription drugs—and that my blood pressure was mostly under control. She seemed disinterested in helping me, because the medical profession—the one thing every American needs access to—is nothing more than another American private business that is prohibitively expensive. I was already envisioning writing a post called “DeKalb Clinic (insert address) Wants Me to Die.” I looked at the woman and asked: “So, as far as the medication I need to continue living, am I just screwed?”

The woman made a call and then told me they’d send me a bill and to go see the cardiologist. She had a real glow about her, as though she’d helped me out as a kindness and really felt good about it.

So, I went to see this doctor from Rockford, Dr. Something. I can’t remember his name; even two minutes after leaving I couldn’t remember his name. Things started off well. I was taken into the examination room by Deanna, a nurse I hadn’t met before. I told her what was wrong; that I had missed some dosages, that I’d had some caffeine (even including some coffee with breakfast that morning), and that my blood pressure was going to be high. I could feel it in my body; I know when my blood is rushing faster than it should be, and when it’s too high my eyes start to hurt, which they did. I know what it feels like to be off the meds, and I could feel it just fine, thank you. Deanna was very polite and understanding, and gave me the benefit of the doubt, assuming that since it was my condition, I knew what I was talking about. She was even sympathetic when I lamented that my blood pressure a week ago had been 130/78, and was now 150/98, which is about what it was when my condition had first been discovered (I think the systolic number was higher). We traded some exercise tips, and I told her that I’d lost 15 pounds in the last six weeks because of this new, informal program I’m on. “Wow,” she said. “I know I just met you, but I’m really proud of you.” I felt pretty good, like I was on the right track and doing well. That’s always the way it’s been with me; if I want to stop doing something, I’ll usually just stop. That’s how I quit smoking, that’s how I gave up soda, and that’s how I’m going to stop being fat. Deanna, who really was tremendously encouraging and answered all of my questions, is exactly the kind of nurse you could wish for. She was also a massive help regarding my lack of insurance, and tailored my prescriptions to what’s affordable as far as quantity.

Now, my appointment was for 1:30, and even with the front desk rigmarole, I got to cardiology by something like 1:25. That’s just how I do. When I got there, Deanna informed me that the doctor had yet to arrive. She and I were done with our checkup and chat by about 1:50. I waited in that room for the doctor so long that I fell asleep. Seriously. I decided to try and relax myself to slow my heart rate by meditating. And in the process, I fell asleep in the chair for about 15 minutes. When I awoke, it was 2:21. Still no doctor. And then I heard a knock at the door. And then I just heard talking. Yes, Dr. Something was out in the hallway, with his hand on the door handle (I could hear that), talking with someone else about office politics, medical promotions, the difference between working in Rockford and DeKalb, all kinds of shit that was giving me zero help in getting my blood pressure medicine. When I get pissed off, which I did, I start wondering what I can do to get my own personal revenge. I looked around, even in drawers, but there wasn’t anything I wanted to steal. I mean, prescription slips were there, but it’s not like Wal-Mart carries marijuana, so what am I going to do with those? They weren’t even signed. I shoved some rubber gloves in my pocket. I can use them to clean the rabbit cage.

I already hated him when, after ten minutes of jawing and shooting the shit and talking about his family, Dr. Something walked in an hour late for my appointment. Obviously, none of this was important to him at all. But it was the handshake that cinched it for me. I’m sorry, but I still judge a man by his handshake. And this guy’s wasn’t just weak—it was nonexistent. He didn’t even have the decency to grip my hand back; he basically just let me take his hand and shake it a bit, like I was holding a jump rope. He didn’t return it. You know, that just shows how little a person thinks of you. It’s not the first time someone’s done that to me, and I refuse to deal with those people. Every single non-shaker I’ve had has turned out to be a fucking asshole. Act like a man, for chrissakes. We just met and already you’re trying to make me feel like an ass? Next time, I’m calling someone on that shit: “Shake my hand like an adult and look me in the goddamn eye, you piece of shit.” Fuck, be respectful, or at least polite. It just made me even more unbelievably pissed at this guy and his cavalier rudeness. His limp non-shake told me everything: this dope doesn’t care about me as a person, he sees me as a thing he needs to fix before moving on to the next one and just going home. He’s not mentally here. He does not care.

The first thing he said was: “You really need to start losing weight. It’s unusual for a man as young as you to have blood pressure this high.”

I told him what I had told Deanna: Weight loss program. 15 pounds in six weeks. No Vasotec for a week, no Toprol a couple of times. Caffeine. Hypertension runs in the family (so severely that my trim uncle was refused for service in the army at the height of the Vietnam fucking war). That my blood pressure had been great a week ago.

And it was as though I could see my very words leave my mouth and bounce right off of his face. Dr. Something just looked at my history and said I really needed to concentrate and walking and losing weight. “Yes,” I said. “As I explained…”, and I did it all again. Still nothing. The fucker was just out to lunch in his mind. He just made me sit on the table, listened to my breathing with a stethoscope, and told me I needed a renal ultrasound.

Wow, I thought, that sounds expensive.

He said again that I was too young for my blood pressure to be so high. I wondered if this hamster knew I was 30 years old, because he kept saying it as though I was a child. I pointed out, for the third time now, that severe hypertension runs in my family, that I had been sporadically dosed all week, and that I weigh 345 fucking pounds. Still, he wanted a renal ultrasound to rule out kidney failure. “I don’t think it is,” he helpfully added, “I just think we should be sure.”

Oh, is there a we now? Because up until then I wasn’t sure he even considered me a human being.

He also wanted me to track my blood pressure and come in for a follow-up in two weeks with a list of my results (I do actually check it at home). For an unemployed man, I was suddenly racking up a ton of doctor bills for a simple cardiology check-up and a prescription refill. And then Dr. Something unceremoniously left me alone in the room. I started to think that the stool would look really nice by my desk, because I need a new stool, but Deanna was far more prompt than he’ll ever be. She came back and explained that, since I was uninsured, I should wait for one of the days when the Clinic does its free blood pressure readings and come in then instead of making an appointment. Deanna, thank you. And bless you.

As you may have guessed, I am not making an appointment for a renal ultrasound. Make that, a totally unnecessary and costly renal ultrasound. I don’t need one. This is not remotely a kidney problem. You know how I know? Because I gave up soda seven weeks ago, and now I drink only water. I drink four to seven bottles of water a day and I urinate a lot. Not a diabetic amount, but the normal amount for a guy who drinks nothing but water all damn day. I know when I’ve been eating badly or drinking badly just by the color of my urine, okay? I’m not stupid; I know how my body works. In fact, while Dr. Something was yammering, I was thinking how I needed to take a piss. Like I said, I know when something’s even a little off inside. When I stopped overeating, I could feel the difference. If I were experiencing kidney failure, I would be in actual pain. And the pain is in my head, because of the lack of fucking medication!

I can’t believe that this Chuzzlewit wouldn’t want to give me a week or two back on the medication, and then, after checking my blood pressure, decide whether or not a renal ultrasound was even a remote possibility. He doesn’t listen to me, he doesn’t pay attention to what I’m telling him I know about my own damn health condition, he doesn’t even show up on time. Do you see how little he cared, or do you need another example? He gave me prescriptions for a full year, and says that I don’t need to see him until next January. Yeah, that follow-up in two weeks is with the nurse. Treat and street, I guess. He doesn’t consider me worth his time.

And the feeling’s mutual. Sorry, Dr. Something, but you’re a temp. What you say is meaningless to me. Just give me my meds and go to hell; I’ll take care of my medical problems myself.

Wow, that was long. So, what’s the good news? Well, I’ve moved up another notch on my belt, so my waist is actually getting slimmer. And hey, remember how I said that I was so fat I couldn’t see my penis? Yeah, that wasn’t a joke. But you know what else isn’t a joke? I can now. Hey, old friend.

Hello, balls
Haven’t seen you in a while
And I missed you
But now you’re making me smile
And now I get to see you
Instead of just your memory
Oh lonely balls
You keep me company.


And this is why I’m doing it; because it’s more important to look good than to feel good. Catchy phrase, isn’t it? Actually, I’m doing it for both. Because I want to feel better, and I want to be more attractive. And despite what Dr. Something thinks (or doesn’t), I’m going to do both of those things. And one day, when I’m thin and hot, I’m going to end up in an elevator with Jessica Biel. And on that day, I will unzip my pants, pull out my rapidly stiffening cock, and put it right in her hand. Because that’s the way I’m gonna roll.

Pepsiman!

Man, why didn't we get these commercials? All we got was fucking Michael Jackson.

Oh Frabjuous Quiz Day!

You Were a Peacock

You carry yourself with beauty, dignity, and confidence.
You are able to see the past, present, and future with clarity.


Your Preppy Name Is...

Whittier Pemberton Thayer the Sixth
But most people know you as Topper


You Are Barney

You could have been an intellectual leader...

Instead, your whole life is an homage to beer

You will be remembered for: your beautiful singing voice and your burps

Your life philosophy: "There's nothing like beer to give you that inflated sense of self-esteem."


Your Mexican Name Is...

Don Javier


Your Hippie Dude Name Is:

Drake


You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.


Who Should Paint You: Andy Warhol

You've got an interested edge that would be reflected in any portrait
You don't need any fancy paint techniques to stand out from the crowd!

Monday, January 22, 2007

The History of the Middle East

Part 10 in a series.

Rome in the Middle East

With Rome so vast and powerful, it was inevitable that Middle Eastern history would be in large part decided by military actions with the West. Phraates IV was now king of Parthia, and he went about making his throne secure by killing his entire family. As always seems to happen, though, one member survived: Tiridates. He led a rebellion against Phraates, who fled to the bosom of his greatest enemy: Rome.

Rome refused to recognize Tiridates, and in 20 BC helped restore Phraates to his throne. When Crassus had faced Parthia and was slaughtered, the Parthians had captured his battle flags, a dishonor for Rome. In gratitude for Rome’s help, Phraates returned the flags. This had an immediate effect on the Parthian royalty in a seemingly innocent way. Augustus, honored by Phraates, sent him a slave girl, Musa, for the Parthian harem. She soon became the king’s favorite wife, especially when she had a son. Musa asked Phraates to send his older sons to be educated in Rome, which he gladly did—less sons hanging around meant less threat to his rulership. When Musa’s son became a teenager, she carried out what she had always planned: she poisoned Phraates in 2 BC and put her own son on the throne as Phraates V.

Tensions were high enough in Parthia over the question of Armenia. That kingdom went back and forth between loyalties to Rome and to Parthia, acting as a sort of buffer state, at various times ruled by puppets who were loyal to either country. This went on and on until the year 51, when Vologesus I came to the Parthian throne. He put his own brother, another Tiridates, on the throne of Armenia. In 54, Nero became Emperor of Rome, and he was determined to answer this challenge. He sent a force under a very capable general, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, to Asia Minor. Corbulo was willing to let Tiridates remain king so long as he swore allegiance to Rome. Parthia refused to allow it, and Corbulo invaded Armenia, driving all the way through to Artaxata. In 63, his compromise was forced; Tiridates swore to Rome.

Corbulo himself came to a bad end. Judea revolted in 67, and Corbulo expected to be sent to put it down. Instead Nero, jealous and suspicious of everyone (especially one as popular and capable as Corbulo), sent him an order to kill himself. Corbulo was angry with himself for not rebelling when the army was behind him, but, dutiful to a fault, he carried out the order. Nero sent Vespasian to Judea before being assassinated in 68. Vespasian became Emperor, then crushed the Judean revolt and established friendly relations with Parthia.

Parthia saw a civil war, about which we know virtually nothing due to unclear records. Osroes I became king in 109. Parthia was war-weary and very tired, but Osroes decided it was the perfect time to replace the king of Armenia with someone loyal to Parthia. Emperor Trajan, however, pushed a Roman expansionist policy. He fought a hard and bloody war against the strong tribes in Dacia (modern Romania), added it to the Empire, then swiftly turned his attention to Asia Minor. Osroes, in a sudden moment of clarity, realized what he had done and offered to back down. It was too late, as far as Trajan was concerned. He simply took Armenia and added it to Rome. In 115, he took northern Mesopotamia. In 116, Trajan annexed a region on the Tigris and called it Assyria. The Roman navy soon followed, moving down the Tigris and Euphrates to take Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Babylon, now nothing more than a tiny, insignificant village. The entire Fertile Crescent was now in Roman hands and Rome was at her greatest land coverage: 3200 miles from the tip of Spain to the Persian Gulf.

Trajan is said to have looked out across the Persian Gulf and toward the lands beyond and lamented: “If only I were younger!” He was 64 years old.

The largeness of the Empire made for its own administration problems. Lines of communication were always threatened, especially by Hatra, a Parthian fortress that continued to resist. Meanwhile, the Parthian army was still intact, regrouping in the east. The Jews in Cyrene revolted. Then Trajan came down with an illness and died in Asia Minor while marching back home. His successor, Hadrian, knew that Trajan’s conquests were too far and wide to hold on to, and made a compromise with Parthia.

Hadrian died in 161 and was succeeded by two co-emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. The Parthian king, Voleogesus III, saw them as rivals to one another and, expecting another civil war, seized Armenia. But he had underestimated the emperors. Their appearances were deceiving; Lucius Verus was not just a hedonist, anymore than Marcus Aurelius was just a philosopher. Verus and a force under the general Avidius Cassius marched to Mesopotamia.

In 165, Verus took Seleucia, still the largest Greek city in the east. His order to burn the city put the final end to Hellenism in Asia. Cassius took Ctesiphon and destroyed the royal palace. The Romans couldn’t press their advantage, however, because of a sudden smallpox epidemic. The soldiers fled, but they ended up bringing the smallpox back with them, killing thousands in all parts of the Empire. It weakened Rome so badly that many historians feel it never actually recovered; some date the decline of Rome from the plague, in 167.

In 192, Emperor Commodus, son of Marcus Aurelius, was assassinated, ushering in a period of anarchy and then civil war. Parthia’s king, Vologesus IV, invaded the Roman provinces in Mesopotamia. But in 197, Septimius Severus became Emperor, calmed Rome, and marched to Mesopotamia. His army passed Babylon; it was completely unoccupied. A million people had once lived there. Now it was a town of ghosts.

The Romans sacked Ctesiphon in 198, killing all the men there and carrying the women and children into slavery. But a shortage of supplies forced Severus to turn back. He tried to besiege Hatra, but was forced to retreat from the superior Parthian archers. Mesopotamia was successfully invaded again in 217 by Severus’s son, Emperor Caracalla. He was assassinated before his conquest could be completed.

All the while, Persia was regaining its strength, about to re-enter the stage of history.

To be continued.

I Don't Know, You Tell Me

Supposedly, that's Sophia Loren before she became famous. What do you think? I'm thinking that's a bit of a stretch, but usually my thoughts of Sophia Loren reach this point anyway.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bond...James Bond

Maybe everyone's seen this already, but it's too hilarious for me not to put it up. The next James Bond?


This was from, obviously, ChocolateCakeCity. So are these classic videos:

George Lucas's Singin' in the Rain: The Special Edition


X-Men 3: The Last Standing Ovation


And of course, Brokeback to the Future

Song of the Week: "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

Procol Harum were a really good psychedelic band that is now pretty much only remembered for this song. But what a song it is. It's one of those songs that sounds perfect when you're driving home at 3 in the morning and everything becomes still. For four minutes, all of existence makes perfect sense.

Sunday Hottie 103

MARLEY SHELTON

Seven Things

A meme going around.

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies.
I can't afford to give away copies of anything. And most of the people I give books to don't ever actually read them. Fuck, are my tastes that esoteric? Or does know one want to read Freakonomics or Stupid White Men? Or A Game of Thrones? Actually, I take that back, every year I get a graphic novel and a science fiction book for my dad, and he always read them, every time. Which is why I always get those for him, because I don't think he buys books on his own. Anyway, really what I want to do is write a book that people love so much they keep giving away copies. Maybe the one I'm writing now will be that.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music.
So many in my life, but since they asked for just one: "Somebody to Love" by Queen.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue.
Again, there are many, but to name one: One, Two, Three.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief.
What an odd question. Do they mean actor, singer, what? I could watch Cary Grant do anything and believe it.

5. Name a work of art you'd like to live with.
Well, Jessica Biel, obviously. Yes she is, she looks like she was scuplted by Phidias.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your life.
There's too much to chose from, even with fiction, but I'm just going to say anything by Isaac Asimov.

7. Name a punch line that always makes your laugh.
"What is a Regis Philbin?"

The Hall of Justice

I have all of these posters. Someday, when I have a house, I want to frame them and put them in a hallway, and call it the Hall of Justice. Yes, I'm highly aware of what a geek I am.

Superman

Batman

Wonder Woman

The Flash

Green Lantern

Martian Manhunter

Green Arrow

Hawkman and the Atom

Aquaman

Plastic Man

The Spectre

Black Canary

Dr. Fate

Captain Marvel

Zatanna

Supergirl

Batgirl


Not to be a typical fanboy ingrate, but Red Tornado, Firestorm, and the Phantom Stranger would've been cool, too.