Monday, May 31, 2004

Put the Carpenter In

From John Moe's list of Kerry's Top 20 VP candidates, over at McSweeney's:

4. Bill Clinton, former President

Pro: Oh man, that would be awesome—could you imagine? He'd be all like "Yeah, I'm back, so suck on this, y'all" and everyone would be all "No way" and he'd be all "Way"
Con: None


14. Ann Coulter, columnist

Pro: Flattering position would silence her exposing of the true evil liberal agenda
Con: Is composed entirely of spiders and deadly snakes writhing beneath a latex "skin"

"Um, no we, um, didn't."

A Pentagon e-mail said Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites)'s office "coordinated" a multibillion-dollar Iraq reconstruction contract awarded to his former employer Halliburton, Time magazine reported on Sunday.

The e-mail said Feith, who reports to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH (White House) tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's (vice president's) office."

"Vice President Cheney and his office have had no involvement whatsoever in government contracting matters since he left private business to run for vice president," said Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for Cheney.

(And the best part is, no one will notice. The media will still be talking about, as my local Chicago TV news put it, "why Al Gore *doesn't* want you to see 'The Day After Tomorrow.'")

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Did you say "the children"?

If you have a decent interweb connection, check out this game. It features Hulk Hogan, Mr. T and Fat He-Man fighting Bush and his team of RoBeasts. Also, Darth Rumsfeld, who took me a while to beat with that spinning lightsaber of his. You get more characters as you go along, and Screamin' Howard DEAN was obviously my favorite.

It's also pretty informative, if a bit heavy-handed, on exactly why Bush has been such a horrible president, aside from all of that war business. Sent my way by The Jenny, official member of the Nati Crew.

(I really think the Nati Crew deserves its own website. Someone get on that.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

What I Write About When I Should Be Getting Work Done

What is there was a super-hero whose power was that other people had the super-powers he imaginged they had? Mostly it would be things like, if he ran into a girl he liked on the street, she would be able to sense the last time he masturbated. Or, his mom would have a tingly alarm sense that went off whenever he slept in too late.

Al Gore Speaks

A selection of prepared remarks by Al Gore. Read the full transcript at

In my opinion, John Kerry is dealing with this unfolding tragedy in an impressive and extremely responsible way. Our nation's best interest lies in having a new president who can turn a new page, sweep clean with a new broom, and take office on January 20th of next year with the ability to make a fresh assessment of exactly what our nation's strategic position is as of the time the reigns of power are finally wrested from the group of incompetents that created this catastrophe.

Kerry should not tie his own hands by offering overly specific, detailed proposals concerning a situation that is rapidly changing and unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating, but should rather preserve his, and our country's, options, to retrieve our national honor as soon as this long national nightmare is over.

Eisenhower did not propose a five-point plan for changing America's approach to the Korean War when he was running for president in 1952.

When a business enterprise finds itself in deep trouble that is linked to the failed policies of the current CEO the board of directors and stockholders usually say to the failed CEO, "Thank you very much, but we're going to replace you now with a new CEO -- one less vested in a stubborn insistence on staying the course, even if that course is, in the words of General Zinni, "Headed over Niagara Falls."

. . . .

We desperately need a national security team with at least minimal competence because the current team is making things worse with each passing day. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers, and sharply increasing the danger faced by American citizens everywhere in the world, including here at home. They are enraging hundreds of millions of people and embittering an entire generation of anti-Americans whose rage is already near the boiling point.

We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.

Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.

George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately.

. . . .

So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

1986: January 28th.

Play-Doh with my cousin Jeff. We would make vague, crude shapes, smudged with fingerprints. Blue space shuttles with pinched fins, resting atop yellow and green rocket boosters. The boosters fell away after lift off and we smashed up the clay into balls to signify them burning up in the atmosphere as they floated back down to Earth. That's what my mom said happened to them anyway, when I asked why the shuttle looked different when it landed. I don't know what happened to them, really; I guess they just float around in space, in orbit around the Earth, forever and ever, which seems pretty dangerous to me, at least if someone is going to keep sending people into space.

Jeff's booster rockets were balled up and combined with mine. Jeff flew his shuttle into space, but mine didn't make it that far. It exploded in the sky, first losing a piece of its hull as big as a pinch from my thumb and forefinger; its flight shifted into slow motion, the shuttle drifting to the side, starting to fall. Jeff's shuttle went into rescue mode, flying fast from space back to Earth, but I told him it was too late. My shuttle exploded, breaking in two, then in four, and more until it was bits and pieces raining down into the ocean, a.k.a. the kitchen table.

My mom came into the kitchen, for I don't remember what. She might have been listening, or it might have been chance.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"The space shuttle just exploded," I told her. "It's falling into the ocean." Jeff didn't say anything.

"You shouldn't play things like that," Mom told me. "That's not the kind of thing you should play."

"Well, Jeff's shuttle is going to to come save it," I said. I took one of the larger shuttle-chunks and converted it into an escape capsule, in spite of the fact I knew the real shuttle didn't have an escape capsule, in spite of the fact I knew it wasn't real.

Two years before, my mom had also warned me of my play habits. It was after her dad's funeral, maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks. It was the first funeral I'd ever been to, and it might as well have been the first person who'd ever died as far as I was concerned. I'd been in the living room with my He-Man figures and they'd come home to Castle Greyskull (then an imaginary Castle Greyskull, before the real one appeared on my birthday) to find Mekanek had died peacefully, in his sleep.

Mom sat on the couch, watching television.

"What are you doing?" she'd asked.

"Nothing," I'd said, automatically nervous from the attention.

"People dying isn't something you play," she told me. "You shouldn't play that."

"He's really asleep, and they only thought he was dead," I told her. "It was a trick." I was a quick thinker, I was.

"Well. Don't play that anymore."

I said I wouldn't.

notes stuffed in the door of my apt. building, pt. 1

leave me your phone # AINSLIE.

we need to meet up.

rm. 111

Saturday on the Train

For those who don't know, I'm one of the two chaps in this photo.

Taken by Jill A. Brooks.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


Heads up--I've heard whispers about this issue stirring up again in the past few weeks, but this is the first information I've read that revealed dates.

There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately.

It goes on to say: "College and Canada will not be options. In December 2001, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration," which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan which implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter. Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year."

Saturday, May 22, 2004


Found this on Neil Gaiman's blog. I linked to the Chernobyl pictures once upon a time, so I wanted to pass on the update.

Chornobyl "Ghost Town" story is a fabrication TOP
e-POSHTA subscriber Mary Mycio writes:

I am based in Kyiv and writing a book about Chornobyl for the Joseph Henry Press. Several sources have sent me links to the "Ghost Town" photo essay included in the last e-POSHTA mailing. Though it was full of factual errors, I did find the notion of lone young woman riding her motorcycle through the evacuated Zone of Alienation to be intriguing and asked about it when I visited there two days ago.

I am sorry to report that much of Elena's story is not true. She did not travel around the zone by herself on a motorcycle. Motorcycles are banned in the zone, as is wandering around alone, without an escort from the zone administration. She made one trip there with her husband and a friend. They traveled in a Chornobyl car that picked them up in Kyiv.

She did, however, bring a motorcycle helmet. They organized their trip through a Kyiv travel agency and the administration of the Chornobyl zone (and not her father). They were given the same standard excursion that most Chernobyl tourists receive. When the Web site appeared, Zone Administration personnel were in an uproar over who approved a motorcycle trip in the zone. When it turned out that the motorcycle story was an invention, they were even less pleased about this fantasy Web site.

Because of those problems, Elena and her husband have changed the Web site and the story considerably in the last few days. Earlier versions of the narrative lied more blatantly about Elena taking lone motorcycle trips in the zone. That has been changed to merely suggest that she does so, which is still misleading.

I would not normally bother to correct someone's silly Chornobyl fantasy. Indeed, correcting all the factual errors and falsehoods in "Ghost Town" would consume as much space as the Web site itself. But the motorcycle story was such an outrageous fiction that I thought the readers of e-Poshta should know.

Mary Mycio, J.D.

Legal Program Director
IREX U-Media
Shota Rustaveli St. 38b, No. 16
Kyiv 01023, Ukraine
Tel: (380-44) 220-6374, 228-6147
Fax: 227-7543

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Doing the Right Thing

The Detroit Zoo will become the first major zoo to stop exhibiting elephants on ethical grounds because they can develop arthritis and stress-related ailments in captivity, officials said on Thursday.

"Elephants seem to be intelligent and even social in ways that are similar to humans," Kagen said. "Elephants can suffer from similar things to what we suffer from when we're in difficult environments."

Confined to zoos and circuses, elephants develop physical problems and neurotic behaviors such as rocking back and forth and aggressive behavior, he said.

"If we don't feel like we can (keep elephants), then the question is, who can and how?," he said. "For us, there really is a big question about whether elephants should be in captivity at all."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


In case anyone didn't know, Jessica Crispin runs a really swell blog and website over at Bookslut:

Dear Comix Revolution:

Thank you for having every single comic book I needed, as well as several others that I didn't even know I wanted. Also, thank you for creating an atmosphere where I can go into a trance and just grab, hand over my books to a clerk, and be signing my receipt before I realize that the amount just read out to me was in dollars, not cents.

Much love.

Dear Bookcase Store to Remain Unnamed:

Four weeks? Are you kidding me? I was all ready to hand over a full two week unemployment check for you to make my apartment into one giant library, but then you told me it would take four weeks minimum to fulfill my order. I nearly cancelled on CB2 when they told me it would take them four days to deliver my dining room table. There's just no way I'm going to spend that much money without instant gratification. But your bookcases are very pretty. You make me sad.

Dear Borders Bookstore:

You know, I only stopped by because I had too much iced tea at lunch and you have reasonably clean bathrooms. It just so happens that your display with theReporters Without Borders magazine caught my eye. It was very shiny and pretty, and the first page I looked at was a Leonard Cohen photograph. Had to have. But then I can't just buy one magazine, even if it is ridiculously priced. I have to stock up. But I would like to specifically address this to the clerk I handed my money over to. Yes, you, asshole.

First off, it would be nice if you hadn't rudely cleared your throat at me while I was browsing your magazine section, even if I was preventing you from putting up the new issue of Budget Living magazine. Second, grumbling about customers (of which you had about four while I was there) while you're ringing me up, bitching at the new employee because she was having trouble scanning one of those weird Discover credit cards, and then rolling your eyes at me for buying Black Book, telling me I was only buying it because there was a cute boy on the cover... all of these things make you a bastard. I was buying Black Book because of Anthony Bourdain. I would just like to thank you for reminding me that I should always just pay the 25 cent transfer, get off at the Main stop and give my money to the lovely people at the newsstand. And next time I have time before a movie, I'll just go to the bar in the theater (yeah, there's a bar in the movie theater) instead of buying magazines from you. Motherfucker.

Dear Michael:

Thank you for the comic book recommendations over lunch. I am now broke.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Rocket Man

I took in "The Rocket Man" tonight, at the House Theatre, with Meredith, who is in town for some sort of debate team hullaballoo. (And just a brief aside, Meredith will henceforth be known as Professor Smith, or simply The Professor, as that is apparently what she is.) It's written by Phillip Klapperich and put on by the same group of kids who did "Death and Harry Houdini" and "San Valentino and the Melancholy Kid" earlier in the season. The House is doing a swell job putting on live theatre in Chicago and they take risks while staying true to the good ol' Unities. The Rocket Man differs from their previous shows this season in that it wasn't written by Nathan Allen, who served as director this time around, but it still does a lot of neat things.

While the 3D sequence is the most obvious standout of the show, I think the use of dance is more noteworthy. I'm not a dance expert by any means, and I don't know the strict definition of "interpretive dance," but Meredith seems to think that's what it was. I'm more inclined to call it "metaphoric dance," but I don't know if that's a real thing or not. It occurs a few times throughout the play, most notably when Earthling Doug meets Martian Ylla in a dream-world, and later when Doug tries to escape from his Martian captors. The sequence with Ylla is beautiful and it's apparent that both actors have had some ballet training. It's a lovely representation of the first searching and exploratory time you sleep with someone, and it flows with the narrative of the play as a whole. I would have liked to have seen more dancing, or perhaps simply more dance-like rhythmic motions, perhaps in the early Martian sequences, or more prevalently in Doug and Ylla's dreamtime meetings.

The 3D sequence, on the other hand, is neat, but it sticks out and seems unnecessary. I applaud the House for trying new things, and the sequence itself is very well done, but it seems superfluous. It's a trick they might come in handy in a later production, and certainly would seem to be a natural fit in a play that plays reverent homage to 50's sci-fi culture, and it is perhaps a way to avoid staging a scene so similar to those that have come before, but it does little besides go beyond the "wow, neat" factor.

One of the big hurdles they faced in staging this production was the fact that the script calls for several rocket ship blastoffs. They're cleverly done as it is, and it's especially neat when the crew of the rocket ships and those observing the blastoffs switch places, but I can't help but feel there was a better way to do it. I suggested to The Professor using actors in place of the styrofoam rockets, but that might have proven more distracting, or even hokier than necessary if the "rocket costumes" looked even clumsier than someone flying around the rocket ship models; still, while it seems like they're in the ballpark with the method they use, it seems like there could be something better. Again, they took on a challenge, and I respect the methods they used and their ingenuity.

Overall, it's a strong story and the actors are outstanding. The tickets are trading cards of the cast and crew, as with the other shows of the 2003-2004 season, and the themes presented in Houdini and San Valentino run through Rocket Man as well. I was especially taken by Ylla, played by Carolyn Defrin. She plays a Martian girl taken in by the idea that love will always wait, and Doug, played by Chris Mathews, who feels that love can't wait forever. They make a swell pair and I hope to see them both, and the entire cast and crew, when the 04-05 season kicks off in August with a play called "Cave With Man."

"The Rocket Man" is playing through June 26 at the House Theatre at the Viaduct, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago. Give them a call at 773-525-0596 and enjoy their spectacular science-fiction goodness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Yanked from Atrios:

"Sometimes it's so simple. Here's a message from Terry, who used to run the weblog Nitpicker until he got busy doing other things:


As many of you know, I am currently in the apolitical position of Army public affairs specialist in Afghanistan. I only recently arrived, after waiting for 2.5 months at Ft. Riley, Kansas, but that's another issue. I'm writing you all today because I'm going to take many of you up on your offers and rudely ask a favor of those who made no offer.

When I first mentioned on my blog, Nitpicker, that I was going to be deployed, a large number of you asked how you could help me, what I would need for Afghanistan. The truth is, there's not much. However, I just went on my first mission with a civil affairs group and found a way you might be able to help me out.

It seems that the children of Afghanistan want nothing more than they want a pen.

It was explained to me that the villages through which I traveled (near Kandahar, where I'm based) are so poor that a pen is like a scholarship to these children. They desperately want to learn but, without a pen, they simply won't. It's a long story. I won't bore you with it. Trust me, though, when I say that it would be a big deal if even a few of you could put up the call for pens for me. Anyone interested in helping out could either send some directly to me or go to these sites and send them, where you can find them for as cheap as $.89 a dozen.

You can send them to me at this address:

Terry L. Welch
105th MPAD
Kandahar Public Affairs Office
APO AE 09355 '

I edited out his site list - he linked to Officemax and Office Depot. Office Depot was making it very difficult to enter a military shipping address, so I went through Office Max. Spend a few bucks - send a few pens.

...Office Max does require a delivery address phone number, but I just put in my own. I put in "Armed Forces" rather than Armed Forces America or Armed Forces Pacific..."


If you were into the State on MTV or the flick Wet Hot American Summer, catch Stella this Friday on Comedy Central. They're Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain and they're all swell, funny gentlemen.

It Seems So Big

create your own personalized map of the USA

I made a map of visited states using World 66. I didn't count the states only flown or driven through. For you global wanderers, you can do the same with an international map.

Found via KellySue.

Connecting to the Chicken

Playing around with the chicken--the jumpy nature of the webcam gives ample opportunity for "stock footage" usage, and a few times it confirmed my suspicions when the chicken shifts position completely between "jumps" of the camera. So no, Meredith, I'm afraid there is no army of people in chicken suits, as we had hoped, once upon a star. Nonetheless, Burger King gets a high five, despite being one of those evil fast food corporation type jammies.


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel.

He did jumping jacks for me.


Thanks to Annie for finding the website that pretty much sums up our culture in the 21st Century.

I feel strange.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Train Story

Oddly enough: after you told me the story of how you saved a pigeon from behind a CTA Transit Card machine, I found myself on the el at Howard, on the red line, waiting for the train to leave. The car was mostly empty when I stepped in, and I took my seat near the doors, in the first row that faces forward, as I always do when I have the opportunity. I was sitting and staring down at my bag, not wanting to read, not sure of what to write, but not wanting to go through the ride in silence, either. The doors were still open. There was a rush of wind and a breeze on my face, then a thump against the window above me. I heard flapping wings and I lowered my head, instinctively maybe. I turned around to follow the flapping and saw a pigeon inside the car. It had perched on the bar, on the silver bar, on top of one of the seats. Someone sprang into action with their magazine, attempted to guide the bird toward the doors. It flew up an thumped into another window. Two people were on it now and the bird headed back my way. I saw it, full on, wings spread, and tiny, clawed, red legs spread out in front of it. It was flying at my face and I ducked again, felt the breeze across my forehead again, and the bird thumped, unseen, against another window.

I couldn't see where it was right away so I stood up and carried my bag across the aisle, standing opposite the doors the thing had flown through in the first place. The magazine people herded the bird further and it finally caught sight of the sun and flew out into the open again. It was another run-in with nature for me, one more in a weekend that had been full of them.

No one in the train talked about the bird, or even smiled at one another knowingly. I don't know what they thought, but I realized I was the guy who ran from the bird, and not the one who sprang into movement, the one who helped the bird escape or helped his fellow passengers from being locked in a train car with a pigeon. I often daydream, when I'm in an enclosed space with a small number of people, about what might happen if some disaster took place and the only people left on Earth were those in my train car. I think about who would become the natural leader of the remnants of civilization, about the couples that might pair up.

I realize I was the one who ran from the bird, while someone else took action.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Friday, May 07, 2004

I hope he still has his beard

Saddam's Interrogation Logs:

"I tried to break the will of SH by showing him an Iraqi newspaper editorial calling for his trial and punishment. SH told me that our Psychological Ops folks obviously printed a fake newspaper. I told him I swore that I bought the paper at an off-base coffeehouse. He insisted it was a fake. I told him I crossed my heart. He said he did not believe me. I asked him what I needed to do to prove to him that it was a real newspaper and he suggested taking him to the off-base coffeehouse to see it firsthand. I asked, but Gen. Farley said absolutely no way. SH didn't say anything else aside from asking how much my PsyOps newspaper subscription cost and if there were any PsyOps coupons in it. I asked where the WMD were and he suggested I look in my copy of PsyOps Weekly."

Coming Soon

"Spreading Inabnet"

Starring Mickey Rourke.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Oh, The Fun We Had!

I just started to sleepily type in website addresses I usually look at daily, and I got as far as the "ann" in before I caught myself.

Just when you think you're finished grieving, it's the little things that remind you . . .

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Go Look

Russ Kick is the author of Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies, and several other books. He also runs the very, very good website, The Memory Hole.

Kick carries many news stories that don't show up on CNN or the NY Times, and a few that do--he published the photos of Iraqi soldiers being humiliated and mistreated and beaten to death by American soldiers, and he published photos of the coffins of American soldiers coming back from Iraq.

The photos are chilling, and they're important.

Saturday Night

Sometimes Saturday Night Live is really, really good. It's been a weird episode tonight, with a lot of things going awry--it's one of the episodes that really benefits from being live. In a skit with Horatio Sanz as Billy Joel driving erratically, garbage cans, dogs, and debris were being thrown at the car. A mailbox was tossed onto the hood and it got stuck there, blocking the five actors in the car from view. Sanz leaned out of the window and tossed it aside, revealing a few of the actors smiling despite themselves. During Weekend Update a heckler started yelling at Jimmy Fallon--Jimmy deflected him, but he looked cranky for the rest of Update. They tried to introduce a new character for Rachel Dretch that is supposed to always bring conversations down with depressing facts. She flubbed one of her lines--mentioning the recent North Korea train explosion and saying the North Korean is "sensitive" instead of "secretive." Jimmy Fallon is sitting next to her and Sanz is across from her, and they both start giggling. After every depressing fact the camera does a close up on Dretch--on the next close up she broke and laughed out loud, setting off the rest of the actors at the table--Amy Poehler and host Lindsay Lohan. They did their best, but for the rest of the skit they kept laughing. Amy Poehler eventually just put her head down and wouldn't look at the camera. A giggle here and there is normal, but none of them could keep it together during this skit--they were just laughing openly throughout.

Amy Poehler has showed up a lot in this episode, which is nice to see. I always liked her in the Upright Citizens Brigade and Wet Hot American Summer, but she seems to only play supporting roles on SNL. She had a skit playing a young girl having a sleepover towards the end, which she always plays well. When the doorbell rings signalling her guest's arrival, she runs around her step-dad's couch for a good thirty seconds just yelling his name. Sanz played her step-dad Rick, in an unusually subdued performance. He usually hams it up, but he kept the spotlight on Amy in this skit, and I think it was the strongest I saw all night. Sanz only started to laugh once.

SNL has been particularly good the last two years, and I think Tina Fey is one of the funniest and smartest comedy writers I've seen in a long, long time. I hope MEAN GIRLS does well for her. Lohan was good in this episode too, and it was the first time I'd seen her in anything.

I'll get off my comedy-nerd box now. Go watch SNL and stop saying it's not funny anymore. This is easily one of the best casts and writing teams the show has ever had, and easily THE best where my own sensibilities are concerned. It would be nice if Will Forte had more to do, however.