Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Setting the bar

Dennis Miller, referring to the current crop of politicians in Congress:

"The last time I saw the bar set that low was at a dwarf's wake."

Monday, March 29, 2010

We the people?

At the very beginning of the U.S. Constitution, before it starts in on the specifics of governance, it lists the reasons for its existence.

To form a more perfect union
To establish justice
To insure domestic tranquility
To provide for the common defense
To promote the general welfare
To secure the blessings of liberty

Six things. One would hope that all specific procedures and laws ensuing would harken back to one or more of these general goals. One would expect, for example, for congress NOT to pass a law which does away with our armed forces.

One could argue that the fifth reason authorizes the current nanny state. Perhaps even the second reason, too - if you assume "Social Justice" as well as legal justice.

Today, the only tenet the government really adheres to doesn't appear on that list: "To redistribute wealth."

Some of you may have gathered from my past writings that I personally prefer the belief that the government is best when it is concerned with finding ways to facilitate personal liberty and individual initiative rather than coming up with actual social programs and then pushing that agenda, a certain group of people having decided this or that program will make all citizen's lives somehow better.

My opinion, however, doesn't automatically mean most Americans don't want a nanny state, womb to tomb care from their government. I recognize that. All I can do is fight for my idea against THEIR idea, by trying to garner majority support. I don't mind having to do it that way; it seems very congruent with the concept of democracy, and I like democracy (with certain modifications.)

The only thing is, it seems like the two concepts (nanny state versus individual liberty) are not things that can really coexist: the more social programs and other things the government thinks up that are in their opinion good for me, the more necessary it is for them to take personal liberties away from me. Little by little, chunk by chunk.

The pendulum seems to have swung very much in favor of Uncle Sam as nanny right now. This is probably not surprising since there are a lot of new inhabitants who don't remember having a lot of personal freedom, who mostly come from countries with governments who are not that big on personal freedom for their citizens anyway. It is also not surprising since, because of past government social programs, more and more of us don't have a lot of money left anymore and the current government entitlements look pretty good. Best not to try to look too far into the future, though; nobody is dumb enough to think the current entitlements are financially sustainable, let alone add more stuff to the dole menu.

I also have this theory that there should be a balance between Capitalism and Socialism, if only to produce jobs for those who might WANT to work rather than suck up a dole. However, that is not likely to happen again until the nanny cycle has run its course. Only when the government has drained all the producers of all their money, only when the government has printed so much worthless paper that $20 might buy you a pack of chewing gum, only when "entitled citizens" are suddenly forced back into productivity and self-responsibility again in order to survive, will the cycle of capitalism will resume.

Like that ol' Phoenix, capitalism always rises, of necessity for human survival, from the ashes of the false and cruel dreams of socialism.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Universal suffrage: how is it working where YOU live?

Should people who are so uneducated and parochial that they are incapable of understanding issues or broad ramifications still be allowed to vote?

If someone is not personally affected by an issue (such as apartment dwellers voting on a school bond issue that will be repaid only by property owners) still be allowed to vote on that issue as they are now?

If a county is made up mostly of an Indian reservation (containing thousands of people who do not pay taxes to that county) still be allowed to vote in county elections and, because they vote as a racial bloc, staff all county elected offices with only Indians, whose salaries are paid by the non-Indian taxpayers in the county?

People without real comprehension of the issues being voted on often tend to vote in special-interest blocs. This means they often vote for a candidate because of his race or other perceived identity with a voting bloc. Even voting for someone because they are a Republican seems to me to be rather sheep-like and counterproductive. People who vote in these various blocs, regardless of the candidate's abilities or agendas, seem to be subject to manipulation by those various special interest groups. Should a person be required to attend citizenship classes and demonstrate comprehension of the issues before he is allowed to vote?

Felons don't vote. Is this fair? The theory is that they don't measure up to the standards of citizenship. It occurs to me that certain other groups don't exactly measure up either, in terms of knowledge and fairness.

What say you?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What causes war?

What is the most general, all-inclusive short answer you can think of?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The literacy continues

In "A Series of Unfortunate Events", a 13-book series by Lemony Snicket, in book three, "The Wide Window", we see the three unfortunate orphans remanded by Mr. Poe to their "aunt" Josephine who lives in a rickety house perched, ready to fall down the cliff at any moment, high atop a ledge overlooking Lake Lachrymose. Her husband, their non-uncle Ike, has recently perished in the lake - not because he went swimming too soon after eating but because of the infamous Lake Lachrymose Leeches. The children find Josephine, who is really the children's second cousin's sister-in-law, frightened of almost everything imaginable, from doorknobs exploding to not turning the stove on because it might catch something on fire. There is nothing "aunt" Josephine is not totally and unreasonably frightened of. The children ask her about her deceased husband Ike.

"Yes," she said, in a faraway voice, "he was my husband, but he was much more than that. He was my best friend, my partner in grammar, and the only person I knew who could whistle with crackers in his mouth."

Later, over cold cucumber soup, 13-year-old Violet asks her if perhaps it might now be better if Aunt Josephine simply sold the rickety house.

"Oh, I could never sell this house!" ... [here the reader, and the children also, one assumes, briefly think the reason is because Ike and Josephine had such happy memories in this house] ... "I am terrified of realtors!"

Ah, well. Do you care to know if the house collapses into the lake? Would you like to learn how the children battle the Lake Lachymose Leeches? As we all used to end our short book reports in junior high school, THEN YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO READ THE BOOK ! Then we would sit down and be happy with our C+ grade.

This series was made into a very VERY compressed movie starring Jim Carey as the terrible Count Olaf. As I recall, the very short part about the house and Aunt Josephine starred Meryl Streep.

The children try to keep their series of unfortunate events in perspective. As Lemony Snicket explains, this means if you have a pimple on your nose, for example, it is still much more inconsequential than getting eaten by a bear.

This series of books will not teach you perspective, since the children are ALWAYS being eaten by some bear or other.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The rest of them that I didn't show before. Well, ALL of them.

1. Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's, a novela by Truman Capote) Young country girl from small texas town comes to New York and becomes a pseudo-socialite. Lives in an apartment and lives as a leech off rich older men. Becomes friends with writer who lives upstairs. Likes to say things that shock people, especially with (mostly lies) of her personal life. Does she find the home she's looking for?

2. Captain Ahab (Moby-Dick, a long classic work of fiction - some is based on author's experiences - by Herman Melville) Crusty semi-deranged monomaniacal whaling ship captain chases white whale mostly all over the world in order to exact revenge for the whale taking the captain's leg off on an earlier voyage. The whale wins.

3. Tom Joad (The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck) An "everyman" in the Great Depression gets out of prison and flees with his extended family when they lose their share-cropper home in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. They head west in an old truck overloaded with their belongings. Grandpa croaks enroute and gets buried along Route 66. They seek work as fruit pickers in California and are constantly screwed over by the farm owners. Tom and Jim get crossways with anti-union busters. Jim is killed. Tom gets the living crap beat out of him. They dance, and more.

4. Sofie Western (Tom Jones, a classic by Henry Fielding) Set in 18th century England. Tom Jones is a bastard living with wealthy benefactors. The book is about his adventures when he is turned out on his own. He has sex with everything that moves and much that doesn't, including his own mother, but not really. Eventually finds out who his father is/was and gets accepted in society and gets to keep Sophie. This is a funny, though pretty dirty, book written 200+ years ago.

5. Friday (Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Dafoe). Shipwrecked 17th century Scottish sailer lives on remote island for 28 years, grows wheat and makes bread. Rescues black man from cannibals and keeps him as his loyal sidekick, still on the island. Calls the man Friday, just as if this wasn't insulting, because that was the day of the week he rescued the guy. Teaches Friday how to speak English and then makes him wait on him mostly. Gets rescued. Goes back to Scotland and gets eaten by cannibals. Kidding. Actually I think he dies from bagpipe poisoning. Don't rightly remember. Don't care. Liked Dafoe's book about the frisky girl Moll Flanders much better.

6. Jack Dawkins (Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens) Much better known as the Artful Dodger, a young pickpocket who lives with a gang of orphans (remind me to go into more detail about the word "orphan" with regard to a misunderstanding the Pirate King of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" had) headed by a good-hearted but criminal man named Fagin. Earlier, Oliver is put in an orphanage and basically abused and underfed, then sold. Then ends up with the gang of orphan thieves. As with all of Charles Dickens' child hardship stories, the boy makes good in the end and goes to live with Bob Crachit. I think. By the by, did you know that Mrs. Crachit (in the best version) was played by Susannah York? Worked for me, I'll tell ya.

7. Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson) To begin with, I feel I should remind you that Robert Louis Stevenson despised Henry David Thoreau. That just needs to be repeated at every opportunity. I don't particularly like either one of them, or, for that matter, ANYONE who insists on using three names. Young Hawkins lives with his mother who runs an inn and one day this blind seaman comes to live at the inn and when he dies, the boy finds a treasure map in his pirate chest and Long John Silver would gladly kill him to get the map, but the boy and some friends sail off to the island of Hispanola to find the treasure and if you want to know if they found it our not you will have to read the book. Hispanola is the island that holds the Dominican Republic and Haiti today. No treasure in Haiti. Long John Silver opened a seafood joint in Port-au-Prince, but went under. It was Haiti, after all. Something about an apple barrel, too.

9. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee) A tale of three children one summer in small town Alabama during the Depression. Black man with bad arm gets falsely accused of raping a moron dog-ugly white girl and Atticus the lawyer (who is also the father of two of the kids in the story) defends him. Although Atticus clearly proves the black man's innocence, the white jury convicts him anyway, and he is later shot and killed escaping from jail. Then the girl's white trash father breaks the boy's arm on Halloween. Arthur "Boo" Radley is a mentally deficient man living next door. In the movie, Robert Duval debuts as Boo. He kills the racist white trash father who broke Jem's arm. Sheriff says that's okay, we'll just forget about it. The other kid, Dill, is visiting a relative from the town for the summer and becomes friends with Jem and Scout. Dill chews only with his front teeth, but this is not really important to the story. Atticus shoots rabid dog.

10. Lara Antipova (Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak) Love story about a Doctor who is really a poet. The Russian Revolution takes place. Zhivago leaves his wife and takes his lover Lara to Siberia to the frozen-solid family home. Many compromises and accommodations have to be made to survive. Lara and Zhivago have a daughter together. They all get separated. Zhivago sees Lara years later through the window of a streetcar and runs after her. So he finally finds her, but dies of a heart attack from running after her. I'm not making this up. The girl grows up like an orphan in the Soviet Union and plays the balalaika very well even though she's had no lessons. They (Lara and Zhivago and the commissar and maybe others) put messages for each other in a loose brick in the house in the city. I think Lara 'does' the commissar, but you never know for sure. Or if you do, I didn't read that part. A balalaika has three stings. Oh, this book is set in Russia. After the revolution, it is set in the USSR.

Oh! Too EASY, Drill Sgt! Is that what you say? Is it? Ok, try these on for size, smarties:

11. Jim Casey (See Grapes of Wrath, above. Casey is the friend who gets killed by the union busters.)

12. Santiago (Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway) Old man in pre-Castro Cuba fishes for a living in a boat in the sea. Is befriended by a little boy and they fish together. A big fish is caught. You had to be there, I guess.

13. Ginger and Merrylegs (Black Beauty, Anna Sewell) Black Beauty and even Ginger are shocked that Merrylegs the pony bucks off the boys who switch him with switches while riding him. Merrylegs is not repentant though. Snorts at the thought. Black Beauty and Ginger are separated and Beauty is sold and meets a white horse who has been a calvary horse in the Crimean War. His rider was shot off his back, he said. Hard to verify this horse's story. Before that, there is a fire in a stable started by a dumbass with a pipe. And then a fat bad-riding doctor runs Black Beauty practically into the ground one night and he gets put up wet and gets sick. Black Beauty, not the doctor. But the mistress lives. Yay! A boy pulls wings off flies in a window, and a poor horse who is pulling a heavy brick wagon slips and falls and is whipped and beaten to make him get him up. I didn't like those parts. Ginger and Merrylegs are horses, by the way, and they all talk. Sort of like Gulliver's Travels in that regard.

Note: A calvary horse is one who has been to the Holy Land.

14. Humbert Humbert (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov) Mother has boyfriend but he likes her daughter. Make that "is obsessed" with her daughter. Sick sick sick. Ptooey. Humbert Humbert is the perv.

15. Yossarian (Catch-22, Joseph Heller) World War II tale of a bomber crew in Italy. Yossarian is the bombardier. Every time they go out on a mission, the odds of them getting shot down go up. They want to get out of there alive. There are a lot of catches that stop them from getting out of their nightmare. The only way they can get out is to be crazy. If a person tells his commander he WANTS to go on more bombing runs, then he is crazy - because no one would want to do that. But when they say that, they send them out on more and more runs to give them their wish. That there is the catch #22. It was kinda dumb, but there is an Italian girl, so that makes it more interesting. Not Sophia Loren, though.

16. Oliver Mellors (Lady Chatterly's Lover, D.H. Lawrence) Mellors is a crude gardener who apparently turns his lady employer on. "Thar she shits, and thar she pisses" he says. That's the only part I remember. This is an English story and author, of course. You would like this if you like crudity a lot and can make yourself believe a refined wealthy lady would fall in love with an uncouth idiot.

Note: Some have said he wasn't an idiot at all and that I am mistaken. Perhaps. Perhaps my memory is bad because I was 13 when I last read this and was just looking for the dirty parts.

17. Nick Papadakis (The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain) Drifter goes to work in a highway gas station and restaurant owned by an older Greek man with a younger wife. Try not to guess what happens. Ok, so they become lovers and decide to kill the hardworking older Greek cuckold and take his restaurant. They get him juiced up and put him in the back seat of the car and push the car over the side of a cliff. That part really reminded me of "Double Indemnity" 'cause they pushed that guy over the edge of a cliff in a car too. I think. Maybe not. Anyway there is a motorcycle cop who keeps snooping around and a poor cat who climbs a ladder and gets electrocuted. But they finally get what they want and are off free and clear with each other and have the restaurant and everything, but as they drive into town they have a car accident and she dies in it. After all that trouble. Nick Papadakis is the Greek husband, in case you didn't pick up on that. I can't remember what the hell the story had to do with a postman. I hated this book.

18. Ashley Wilkes (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell) American Civil war tale about people who were on the wrong side of the war and thus got screwed over really badly. The heroine has the outrageous name of Scarlett O'Hara and she loves Ashley Wilkes but he loves her sister. Rhett Butler loves Scarlett but she couldn't care less and marries him. In real life, union general Sherman burned Atlanta, just because, and so they do that in the book too. Ms. Mitchell was not nearly as original as you may have heard. Scarlett finally sees the light and takes a shine to Rhett Butler but he tells her, "Frankly my dear, I don't really care that much anymore." Or words to that effect. Because of the war going super-poorly for the South, Scarlett gets really poor and they have no food and Scarlett has to grub around on the ground and eat roots and stuff and she can hardly even support her two slaves, who, frankly, aren't that helpful either. So, then Scarlett says, mostly to herself, I guess, "As god is my witness, I'll never be poor again!" Which struck me at the time as mostly an idle threat since Scarlett had never been to college. There was quite a lot more to this one.

19. Randle Patrick McMurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey) Takes place in a looney bin in Washington state. McMurphy is a small-time criminal who gets committed to the crazy hospital. The action is quite interesting as McMurphy interacts with other mental cases who are kept drugged up and bullied by the head nurse. This idea was later ripped off in a movie called "Girl Interrupted" starring Winoa Ryder and Angelina Jolie. If you're interested. McMurphy rebels against the head nurse, not realizing she can give him a bad report and keep him locked up in the looney bin for a thousand years. When he learns that the others are there voluntarily and only he is committed, he becomes somewhat unhappy. The Indian Chief is strong enough to rip the water fountain off the floor and run it through the barred window and he escapes during the night. In the movie version you can see him running off across the fields to freedom as someone plays the handsaw in the background. In the book, you can't see him running off or hear the weird saw music in the background. Before the Chief escapes, McMurphy gets his brain fried by electroshock treatment and is vegetableatized, but the Chief smothers him with his pillow before leaving. Said smothering was both to put McMurphy out of his misery and to pay him back for giving the Chief a stick of gum and teaching him how to play basketball. This book is much better than I am probably making it sound.

20. Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte) This is a 19th century classic written by a great British author, so I will try to pretend I liked it so you don't think I lack culture in the arts. If you still think I do have culture, that is. Most of you have read my blog for too long to think that, though. Like most classic 19th century English books, this story has a moral. So did Black Beauty, though I didn't inflict it on you. The moral to this book is to wait for the movie. The book is about 800 pages long, more or less, so that should warn you off. The book is narrated by the title character, and, boy, can she narrate. She starts off with her childhood, which is probably more logical than starting with her death, and she has a lot of it. She is prone to fainting. Or fainting until prone. Whichever. But women fainted a lot in the 19th century. They even had fainting couches, but that is another story. Not wanting to spoil this for you, I will just tell you that she survives childhood, gets educated, and then gets a job. She works for this Rochester guy who owns a big house but dresses like a woman sometimes. This is A-OK with Jane, though. Bronte describes Rochester as "self-willed" and I wonder who isn't. She does things like this often enough to make me think that I too can be a writer if you can just say anything at all like that. Rochester has a young "ward" named Adele. Wink wink nudge nudge. After a bit, Jane tells Rochester she loves him and he feels her too. She agrees to marry him and they get ready to marry and she has her wedding dress and everything. Only thing is, he is already married, but he says they can go to the south of France if she wants and live together. Well, Jane says thanks just the same and hits the road in the middle of the night. Then she gets older. Considerably later in her life after more adventures, Jane returns and finds the house has been burned down by Rochester's crazy wife who goes to the roof and commits suicide. One can't help but wonder why she didn't simply sit still and burn to death. At least I wondered about that. Jane wants to become a missionary to India but wants to make sure Rochester, who humiliated her, is ok. This makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Sure. Well, when she arrives, in addition to the no more house, she finds he has lost a hand and his sight. Wink wink nudge nudge. "And what have YOU been up to, mister?" she says. No she doesn't. I just made that part up. Actually Rochester has lost his eye and his hand in his fire rescue attempts (guess he didn't know the bitch was up on the roof, eh?) But Jane finds his eye and hand and returns them to him. "Lost" them, get it? Trust me, my version is MUCH more entertaining than Bronte's. They never tell where he was living. I figure since the house burned down, this all must have taken place in the barn or chicken coop. He is worried that Jane will be repulsed by his repulsive self, but she tells him, no, this is still better than being a missionary in India. At least that is the impression I was left with. Spoiler alert: this book never really ends.

1. Holly Golightly (1961)
Audry Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

2. Captain Ahab (1956)
Gregory Peck (Moby Dick)

3. Tom Joad (1940)
Henry Fonda (Grapes of Wrath)

4. Sofie Western (1963)
Susannah York (Tom Jones)

9. Atticus Finch (1962)
Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird)

10. Lara Antipova (1965)
Julie Christie (Dr. Zhivago)

11. Jim Casey (1940)
John Carradine (Grapes of Wrath)

12. Santiago (1958)
Spencer Tracy (The Old Man and the Sea)

13. Humbert Humbert (1962)
James Mason (Lolita)

14. Yossarian (1970)
Alan Arkan (Catch-22)

19. Randle Patrick McMurphy (1975)
Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Big books in big movies played by big actors

I don't know how many more variations I can squeeze out of this one idea, but I'm not done yet.

A lot of successful movies have been made out of successful books. That goes for most of the books on the previous characters list post.

Name the actor who played the book character (who was on my previous character list) in the movie of that book.

Special rules: If there wasn't a movie made, or if the movie wasn't well known, or the actor wasn't well known, then we will skip that character. But at least 11 of the books and the characters made it to the big screen. There were some remakes, so use the year for the movie.

Here are those 11 characters again who were played in big movies of their books. Who were the big actors who played them?

1. Holly Golightly (1961)

2. Captain Ahab (1956)

3. Tom Joad (1940)

4. Sofie Western (1963)

9. Atticus Finch (1962)

10. Lara Antipova (1965)

11. Jim Casey (1940)

12. Santiago (1958)

13. Humbert Humbert (1962)

14. Yossarian (1970)

19. Randle Patrick McMurphy (1975)

Real Characters: answers, (I think)

I don't read that much fiction anymore, but have read a book or two in my time. This post is about some of the characters in a few of those books. See if you can match the characters to the books and also (for extra credit?) name the authors. Caution: the characters may or may not be the MAIN character.
1. Holly Golightly
Breakfast at Tiffany's. Truman Capote.
2. Captain Ahab
Moby-Dick. Herman Melville.
3. Tom Joad
The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck.

4. Sofie Western
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Henry Fielding.
5. Friday
Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Dafoe.
6. Jack Dawkins
Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens.
7. Jim Hawkins
Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson.
8. Edmond Dantes
The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexander Dumas.
9. Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee.
10. Lara Antipova
Dr. Zhivago. Boris Pasternak.

Answers to 11-19. Well, these were much harder. I'm not done with you yet. Here is a list of the authors who made these characters up, but not in order. You will have to supply the matching book the characters appeared in before you get credit for this.

Ernest Hemingway
Vladamir Nabokov
James M. Cain
Margaret Mitchell
Charlotte Bronte
Ken Kesey
D.H. Lawrence
Joseph Heller
Anna Sewell
John Steinbeck

Now put the characters into the proper books by these authors.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Real Characters

I don't read that much fiction anymore, but have read a book or two in my time. This post is about some of the characters in a few of those books. See if you can match the characters to the books and also (for extra credit?) name the authors. Caution: the characters may or may not be the MAIN character.

1. Holly Golightly

2. Captain Ahab

3. Tom Joad

4. Sofie Western

5. Friday

6. Jack Dawkins

7. Jim Hawkins

8. Edmond Dantes

9. Atticus Finch

10. Lara Antipova

Oh! Too EASY, Drill Sgt! Is that what you say? Is it? Ok, try these on for size, smarties:

11. Jim Casey

12. Santiago

13. Ginger and Merrylegs

14. Humbert Humbert

15. Yossarian

16. Oliver Mellors

17. Nick Papadakis

18. Ashley Wilkes

19. Randle Patrick McMurphy

20. Edward Rochester

My Answers. I hope yours are the same.

1. "They threw me off the hay truck about noon."
The Postman Always Rings Twice. James M. Cain.

2. Call me Ishmael.
Moby-Dick. Herman Melville.

3. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens.

4. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger.

5. When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee (pictured above)

Update: Harper Lee was "Pictured Above" in the original post without the answers. Now she is "Pictured Below" this post. For a long time I assumed she was a man.

6. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen.

7. It was a bright cold day in April, and all the clocks were striking thirteen.
1984. George Orwell.

8. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
Murphy. Samuel Beckett.

9. Whether or not I turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
David Copperfield. Charles Dickens.

10. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.
The Sound and the Fury. William Faulkner.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Classic first lines of famous novels. Name the book. Or at least name the author. Or both if you are really good...

1. "They threw me off the hay truck about noon."

2. Call me Ishmael.

3. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

4. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

5. When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

6. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

7. It was a bright cold day in April, and all the clocks were striking thirteen.

8. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

9. Whether or not I turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

10. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell. Ah, just don't ask...

The U.S. is always trying to come up with new and better weapons systems. Some of them never see the light of day. Many of them are just plain stupid.

According to BBC News, who got it heresay from a group called the Sunshine Project, who supposedly got it through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the Pentagon was working on several odd weapons of mass confusion back in 1994 at a research facility in Ohio. Of course the BBC reported it with a very serious face, as if it were gospel truth they had checked and rechecked personally. The BBC is DEFINITELY not biased against the U.S. or the U.S. military.

Supposedly, the U.S. researched:

A "gay bomb" which would make enemy soldiers fall in love, or at least become sexually irresistible to each other. While we then killed them, I guess.

Another was supposed to be something that made the enemy all get really bad breath. The BBC article actually said, "... make them "obvious" by giving them bad breath." I don't know what that means. Maybe if you were in a dark room with them and had to feel for them to kill them, you would know who the friendlies were. Like that. You just smelled their breath before you gutted them in the darkness. I don't know. I will give you the address of the BBC and you can write to them and find out what they meant by "obvious."

Then there was the diabolical weapon that would attract swarms of wasps to sting the enemy. But not sting the pure Americans, I guess. That's just crap that the BBC made up - I'll bet it was really the Royal Army that made up the wasp weapon. Americans would never do stuff like that.

The insane attacking rats was a bit far fetched though, even for the BBC. I called a friend at the Pentagon who works in Special Weapons Division, and he said, "It's important to point out that only those proposals which are deemed appropriate, based on stringent human effects, legal, and international treaty reviews are considered for development or acquisition."

Then, off the record: "Besides, you should know by now that the BBC is full of shit. Did they tell you the one about the chemical we dropped on a herd of sheep that caused massive flatulence? They didn't even know about that one, I'll bet."

URGENT UPDATE: Apparently the "A1e Flatulence, Aerial Inducement" weapon actually was real and was about to go into production when it was discovered (just in time) that certain Slavic countries, apparently potential enemies, namely Bulgaria, actually enjoy the smell of farts.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


*American Association Against Acronym Abuse
SOH (Sense of humor)
GSOH (Good sense of humor)
SOHF (Sense of humor failure)
LSHITIPAL (Laughing so hard I think I peed a little)
SoHo (South of Huston)
AAK (Asleep at keyboard)
AB (Ass backwards)
QCD (Quarterly charm deficiency)
QFT (Quit fucking talking)
QT (Cutie)
FAWC (For anyone who cares)
FBKB (Failure between keyboard and brain)
FCOL (For crying out loud)
FDGB (Fall down go boom)
FISH (First in, still here)
TABOOMA (Take a bite out of my ass)
TAF (That's all, folks)

There are over 23,000 more of these shown in this dopey dictionary I found today. I will list the rest in my next post. Probably.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A guide to growing your own penicillin: treat illness, save lives, make bundles of money. No more running to the doctor like a wimp!

Disclaimer: the title of this post is a joke. Here you will learn to make penicillin if you want to, but you must not sell it. And if you use it, you are on your own. This post is only for fun. (Ha ha.) If you need an antibiotic, go to a doctor. Use only as directed. I only saw the title on a google article and thought it was funny. My alternative title was "Turn Mold into Gold" but that was a bit too disgusting. Second alternative title was "Fun with Flora" but that was too suggestive for my gentle readership. Be warned!

It occurs to me that some of you may not realize that stale bread is your friend. Or perhaps you are the kind of person who, when performing the annual cleaning of the refrigerator, throws away that old forgotten lemon which has turned a fuzzy blue on one end? You may not even be a connoisseur of blue cheese.

Try not to think of Athlete's Foot as I continue to assure you that fungi is your friend. (Of course I meant "are".)

Most people credit Alexander Fleming with discovering penicillin. In truth, penicillin has been used as an antibiotic for at least two thousand years; they just didn't call it that. It was noted by scientists before Fleming (Pasteur and Lister, to give two examples) that bacteria wouldn't grow on penicillin. Indeed, if one placed bacteria in a petri dish containing a solution of penicillin, the bacteria would die. The import of this little chance discovery has had earthshaking implications. I don't need to tell you that.

If you are taking notes, penicillin is mostly effective only against gram positive bacteria (staph, strep) and is not that effective against gram negative bacteria (or other fungi, for that matter.)

In ancient cultures, including ancient Greece, molds were used (topically) to treat infections. Sometimes this worked if they got the right mold. Of course, they didn't know WHY it worked, and neither were they able to identify and extract the active ingredient.

As early as 61 BC, soldiers used to store oil cakes for long periods of time and take them into battle to treat infections caused by wounds. These were also used topically, as a poultice, rather than ingested.

I don't want to insult your intelligence, because all of you already know how to grow mold. Whole wheat bread (better than white bread), citrus (lemons, oranges) are what you are looking for. The blue veins in bleu cheese are already penicillin mold - just cut them out and rub them on the wound (or bind them on the wound) or eat them. (I'm not suggesting you do any of this, that's for sure. You must make your own choices. My suggestions are only if you are out in a jungle with no doctor available, but have access to a French cheese gourmet shop nearby the jungle.)

Grow the mold in a moist (humid) dark environment with air but not too much air. (A bit close and oppressive like a greenhouse. Or a ziplock bag, I guess.) You are trying to culture a mold called penicillium chrysogenum (formerly called penicillium notatum). This mold excretes Penicillin, but you are not likely to master the art of extracting only the penicillin part in your kitchen lab, so this technique is limited primarily to putting the entire mold on the infected wound as is. It is at your own peril that you do this, or if you decide to take it internally (decide to eat it or make a broth and drink it.) This is also not the time to discover you are allergic to penicillin.

I can't stress too often that, where modern medical science is available, a purer form of this crud is preferable. But what if you are shipwrecked on an island with a bad wound and only a piece of old bread? Huh? See? Or what if the nuclear holocaust has contaminated all the drug stores and you are the only person still alive and have just stepped on a rusty nail in the debris? Just think about that, and this post really becomes useful.

Before the discovery of penicillin, moldy cheese was used as a cure-all by some folks. In fact, it was the "miracle drug" before the real miracle drug of (extracted and refined) penicillin. Eating moldy cheese would cure almost anything (except moldy cheese poisoning.) In ancient times it was believed, since moldy cheese cured so many things, that cheese protected one's soul. Some ancient cultures (not cheese cultures) wore cheese bracelets and necklaces to guard against evil spirits. The mold on them probably repelled evil spirits only by their evil smell.

To this day, the word "cheese" is invoked immediately before having a photo taken, in order to guard against trapping the subject's soul.

Would I lie to you?


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