June 30, 2004

Operation: Go West - "With Traffic" Edition

We inch ever closer. Everyone on this end is at condition: green, repeat, condition: green, which is to say that Landlady, Co-Workers, and Multiple Supervisors all think it would be a fine idea and wish us luck. There are even some people in Santa Monica that think it would be a great idea, but none of them are... Landlords.

And it's still a bit early to be talking to... Landlords... in Santa Monica so we're in a bit of a holding pattern, which I dislike equally whether it be something an actual plane I'm in is doing or just a metaphor for something else.

And it's a holding pattern filled with unexpected melancholy; every time we do something, we're quiet and reserved about it, since it... May Be The Last Time We Do This In Chicago. I have lunch with a friend and then there's practically a big tearful scene when we part ways... because Who Knows If We'll Ever See Each Other Again.

I spoke to friend Bill in Santa Monica, who was absolutely ecstatic about the move, which cut through the melancholy a good bit last weekend. But that was quickly replaced by panic as he set my thinking a'right on a few matters of scale. Apparently even though "Pasadena" and "Santa Monica" are just three inches apart on the smallish map I bought, it still takes some three hours to get from one to another.


Of course, that's With Traffic. Of course, there's ALWAYS traffic, and ALWAYS bad. So I can see that With Traffic will shortly be one of those useless modifying phrases I love most dearly here, like "With Wind Chill" or "Lake Effect." I love, for instance, to hear what the temperature would be without Wind Chill; this being how cold it is in some ideal, Platonic Chicago where wind is not a factor. I'm sure it will be the same for travel times in L.A.

Posted by Chris on 06/30/04

Synchronistic Word of the Day

I'm subscribed to Merriam Webster's Word of the Day email, and occasionally I suspect that their daily pick is not exactly random.

One of today's CNN headlines:

Teacher charged with having sex with 14-year-old student

And today's Word of the Day:

neophilia: M-W's Word of the Day

Posted by Chris on 06/30/04


I agree with what you're saying. Thanks for sharing the info with us.

Posted by: webcam at March 3, 2005 9:16 AM

The Onion's Citizenship Tips

Last one:

  • Make an effort to "follow" politics, much the way you would follow, say, sports or the career of J-Lo.

    Posted by Chris on 06/30/04
  • June 28, 2004

    Two Questions...

    ... that occurred to me while I was at the Taste of Chicago this weekend. How does the urge hit some people to paint themselves silver and start doing a "Living Statue" act in public?

    Maybe they're going about their day job and suddenly think, "You know what I'm really good at? Standing very very still in a big crowd of people!"

    Or maybe one of their co-workers observes, "Say, Bob! I don't think I've seen you move one inch since lunch! Just checking to make sure you're still alive! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

    Maybe that stays with them, and starts them thinking: "If only there was some way to make a living at this!" So they take some weekend work as an art-class model, then maybe as one of those living store displays, but that's just not enough. Pretty soon they're buying silver paint. Maybe hanging around malls and standing really, really still for long periods of time. To increase their endurance.

    I don't know if this is how it happens. I'm just guessing.

    But perhaps a more interesting question than that: how does the urge hit some people to stop and watch someone doing a "Living Statue" act? And to drop money in their hat to make them "spring to life?" Sure, it's a skill, but is it a skill on the order of, say, juggling, or card tricks, or playing the accordion? It's not exactly a spectacle that thrills the eye, is it?

    Is the idea to catch them blinking, or breathing, and then they're reassured? "A-HA! I'm NOT crazy! That's a real guy up there!"

    Posted by Chris on 06/28/04

    The role of Fear Itself will be played by...

    For those that find Michael Moore's movie to be little more than anti-Bush propaganda, Frank Rich in the New York Times has an interesting perspective on the apocalyptic press conferences of John Ashcroft:

    While F.D.R. once told Americans that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, Mr. Ashcroft is delighted to play the part of Fear Itself, an assignment in which he lets his imagination run riot.

    His creative gifts were in particular evidence in that televised pre-Memorial Day warning that al Qaeda would hit us hard by the year's end. Flanked by the F.B.I. director and photos of seven wanted terrorists, he enlisted us all as junior G-men — "be aware of your surroundings, remain vigilant" — even as he sowed the seeds of hopelessness that would bind us to him with fear. "Unfortunately, we currently do not know what form the threat may take," he said. "And that is why it is so important that we locate the seven individuals."

    Mr. Ashcroft's show looked plausible enough when it led the evening newscasts. Only on further examination did it prove to have more slanted evidence than "Fahrenheit 9/11." The seven individuals he had asked us to help track down are not believed to be in the United States, other officials soon told The New York Times. Six of the seven culprits, in fact, were recycled from previous warnings, one of them dating back to a similar Ashcroft press conference of 28 months earlier. Maybe C-Span 3 could be turned into a Justice Department TV Land to rerun the old Ashcroft episodes.

    I've been thwarted twice when trying to see "Fahrenheit 911," as it's been sold out both times. Good for Moore, frustrating for me.

    Posted by Chris on 06/28/04

    i have one word for you: Fandango

    Posted by: mary at June 28, 2004 4:36 PM

    Indeed - and it was in fact Fandango that allowed us in to see it tonight. Go figure. And I'd always been more of a Moviefone man myself, ads nonwithstanding.

    Posted by: Chris at June 28, 2004 10:20 PM

    June 25, 2004

    "Shut up," they explained.

    God bless Molly Ivins:


    Posted by Chris on 06/25/04

    A Frank Exchange of Views


    Leahy is lucky - if he was just a Halliburton employee, Cheney could probably have had him "disappeared."

    Posted by Chris on 06/25/04

    June 24, 2004


    Just a few notes and questions for the good folks over at The Chronicles of Riddick:

  • Every single line uttered by the title character was in the format of, RIDDICK WALKS PAST CAMERA WHILE UTTERING POTENTIAL LOGLINE. Let's vary that up a little bit next time.

  • I suspect that somewhere back in the history of this project, while it was being written, someone wisely said "You know what would be interesting? Since the last movie was PITCH BLACK, and Riddick's whole "thing" is that he can see in the dark, let's put him on a planet that has really really bright hot sunlight for a while. See the irony? That way, he'll have to get someone to help him out, because he'll effectively be blind, even WITH the goggles. And that will work against the whole "loner" thing he has going, which will be an interesting character thing."

    But then everyone got busy with the casting and the design and all that and rewrites began to get pushed to the back burner. And that idea, along with others, kind of got lost along the way. A great thing would have been Riddick having to rely on hottie-tottie Kyra to see, even though he'd come there to save her. Oh well.

  • Do two movies really constitute a "chronicles?"

  • What do Elementals do? Besides float around and appear indistinct?

  • Why are the Necromongers destroying everything anyway?

    Posted by Chris on 06/24/04
  • June 23, 2004

    On Picking One's Battles

    I'll be the first to assert that the MPAA is ludicrously inconsistent in its film ratings, but it hardly seems like another piece of the right-wing effort to discredit and silence Michael Moore that "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been given an "R" rating. It's a movie that apparently features graphic, actual violence - why wouldn't it receive an R?

    True, 15 and 16 year olds stand a good chance of spending some time in Iraq, but they can see the film in the company of a parent - or, if their parent believes Moore is a blowhard, over at a friend's house on HBO.

    Posted by Chris on 06/23/04

    AFI news

    Let's all agree that whenever the American Film Institute decides to compile and reveal another list, well, hooray for the movies, but it's not exactly "news." Let's reserve the AP wire for other things.

    Posted by Chris on 06/23/04

    One can't but wonder, tho, if you didn't define a "song" as requiring both melody AND lyrics, if some of those, oh, throw-away ditties by John Williams might not be somewhat more well known and recognizable, and worthy of a "top song" rating. I'd wager that the opening bars of a certain 4th episode might just trump quite a few of these...

    Posted by: Maybe I'm King Now? at June 23, 2004 5:00 PM

    Fourth episode chronologically, or numerically? Well - I guess they're both the same anyway.

    Posted by: Chris at June 24, 2004 9:47 AM

    Alphabetically, I think. Or maybe if you take the inverse tangent of the sum of the cosine and Pi.

    Posted by: Maybe I'm King Now? at June 24, 2004 2:34 PM


    dKosopedia, the free political encyclopedia. Especially nifty on that site is the MemeTank.

    Also, from Fattyfat: Chicagoist.

    Side-note regarding the Jack Ryan story I see on Chicagoist right now: Come on. Who among us hasn't invited actress Jeri Ryan to some sordid sex club? Let he who has not invited her to have public sex cast the first stone!

    Posted by Chris on 06/23/04

    June 22, 2004

    Salem's Lot

    Unfortunately there is nothing in this mini-series to recommend it over the 1979 version (also a made-for TV miniseries, and directed by Tobe Hooper [Poltergeist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974)]), which is a shame, mainly because of the A+ cast they assembled.

    Unlike many other Stephen King adaptations, this wasn't really a movie that begged, practically PLEADED, to be remade anyway. Hooper's version was far scarier than a mini-series in the 70s had a right to be. The image of those vampire kids scratching at the window still stays with me, as does that of gravedigger Mike Ryerson jumping down into Danny Glick's grave and opening the coffin (Marred in the present version by unfortunate editing).

    Salem's Lot 1979 holds up better than Pet Sematary, I think, or The Stand, and a lot of the others. For another production to be worthwhile they'd have to bring something to the table other than just the novelty of remounting it.

    But apart from a few interesting updates - Matt Burke is now gay, Ben Mears was an embedded journalist in Afghanistan - and a few nods towards Stephen King's increasing tendency to provide subtle connections between all his stories (A "Dud" character has been introduced just as in "Dreamcatcher," there are more than a few resemblances to "Needful Things"), there is nothing new here, no good reason for it to have been made.

    Frustratingly, the filmmakers occasionally seemed to be on the verge of using the tireless vampire metaphor and the modern updates to say something meaningful about the "origins of domestic evil," also the subject of Ben Mears' book in the film. They set themselves up time and time again to comment on racism, incest, prejudice, religion (the priest's faith is not enough to stand up to the evil) or even war (Mears' book about Afghanistan resulted in several soldiers being court-martialed), but fail to follow through, instead running back to the old cliches.

    The resonating subtext of the story is that in order for a vampire - and all evil - to flourish, it has to first be invited in. The filmmakers call this out but do little with it.

    The most unfortunate update was changing main vampire Barlow from a wordless, Max Shrekified servant of Straker (not even crediting the actor in the previous version) into Rutger Hauer (almost in a mere cameo), full of European worldliness and charm. One of the best lines in the current film is that the evil in the house is mindless and moronic - a description that fits the 1979 Barlow, but not the 2004 version.

    They give themselves four hours, but the main problem with this mini-series is time management. In all that time they still have a hard time keeping up with only a slightly large handful of characters. The priest's fall from grace is instant, and then unexamined. The most potentially heart-breaking and horrific scenes of Marjorie Glick are barely inserted. The events in the Marsten house are marginalized and seem unimportant. The movie was wildly uneven in tone and plot.

    There are not stand-out performances (because the script doesn't offer anyone the chance), but stand-out moments. Rob Lowe was at the service of the project, but mostly untapped. And I'm not sure I buy Andre Braugher as old enough to have been his teacher, but Braugher makes up for it by providing the best scene in the movie. And Donald Sutherland's Needful Things proprietor removes any memory of James Mason.

    There are two highly memorable creepy effects to be called out, however - I don't remember if King wrote the description of the vampire crawling through the air vent, but it was amazingly visualized. And in the time of Buffy we have seen thousands of vampires staked and watched them conveniently turn to dust - but Barlow's death scene and the "rewinding" of his body through his previous physical forms was fantastic.

    Posted by Chris on 06/22/04

    June 21, 2004

    The Office at the Bottom of Chicago

    That feeling I got when I realized the car was not where I left it, after I realized it hadn't been stolen, but towed, was not so much indignation (as I might have felt a few years ago) but just plain resignation.

    It was a feeling like when you land on the GO TO JAIL space in Monopoly. It just seems inevitable in the context of the game you're playing, something ruled by chance more than anything else. Ah, they towed me. O.K. I guess I was due. I'd landed on GO TO CENTRAL AUTO POUND on the Chicago Revenue Department Monopoly Board, but I'd had quite a few good turns around the board lately - even enjoyed the FREE PARKING space more than I might've.

    Still, accepting attitude or not, it seems to me when they take your car they ought to leave some sort simple indication of what's happened. Some sort of reassurance that it's not been just stolen, but OFFICIALLY stolen. Something like a big "C" scratched into a nearby telephone pole with the end of their sword, or maybe a single glove with that initial left on the ground, in the style of notorious jewel thief Charles Litton. Also useful would be some next steps. Like, where do I go to get it?

    We found out it had been towed when a group of snickering youth happened to have witnessed it ("Just five minutes ago!"), and we got a passing cop to radio in the license plate. Yep, your car was towed, he said, shaking his head disapprovingly at me.

    We were to go to the Central Auto Pound, which lies several miles below Wacker Drive. You have to descend several levels below the city, more than you'd think you'd actually be able to, to get there. The cop gave us walking instructions, but I'd been there before; it was a place where compasses spun uselessly, were no sunlight made it through, where the twists and turns left you insane. So we got a cab to take us there.

    The minute we gave him our destination, he rolled his eyes and told us in a heavy accent of HIS trip there to ransom this very cab. We gave him the piece of gold they had placed under our tongues at the funeral and he took us to the Office at the Bottom of Chicago.

    It's a group of simple trailers behind a foreboding fence. And behind the trailers are all the cars they've caught today, some of them in small, smashed pieces. I expected a bunch of Road Warriors to be circling the place, trading gasoline. I expected the 28 Days Later zombies to come running out of the darkness. Somewhere around there would be King Rat, the one all the other rats report to. After the Apocalypse this will be someone's palace. It feels like the end of everything, the kind of place you could disappear, all the more so for it being quite late.

    There is only one guard, but he means business. No you MAY NOT walk to the car together to get the purse - only ONE of you, and it MUST be the registered owner. It's as if some further humiliation awaits that must be faced alone. Over the fence towards the river there is what sounds like a huge group of unruly men, perhaps betting on dog fights; the guard doesn't seem to notice.

    On one side of the trailer is the most complicated wheelchair access ramp in history. It looks like something the Swiss Family Robinson would have created for the world's shortest treehouse. I imagine it to be the result of the city having been slapped with the mother of all discrimination suits back in the days of Daley Senior; he then brought in some off-the-books contractor to make sure no differently-abled person was ever kept from paying their fine again.

    I expected the office itself to be like the interior of the Whale in "Baron Munchausen," a dark, dripping place illuminated only by candles, where people and dreams crawl to die. Instead there is wood panelling and upbeat soul music. The walls are decorated with several Xeroxed-versions of the same message: $160. "$160" is everywhere. There's no question of what the fine will be - for it will be $160. It's the theme of the whole exhibit there - $160 in different sizes and fonts, for that is what you owe. $160 is what it will cost you to square up with us. $160. $160 is what it will cost you, $160 is a lot of money, be prepared to give us $160, checks for $160 are fine, and so are credit cards as long as they are in the name of the Offendor, and the amount will be $160.

    That is, it will be $160 IF you are up to date on ALL tickets and ALSO your multitude of stickers. And this is not counting the ticket for the actual offense (Ha) that led them to tow you in the first place, although you can take care of that later. In the game that is driving in the city, it also seems fair that this is the space on the board where you may NOT PASS GO unless you are totally even with the Dept. of Revenue.

    And instead of there being an ogre behind the desk, there is Nicest Bureacrat in the Whole City. Despite it being around 2 AM, he is pleasant, trading greetings and simple instructions. At first this is a surprise, but then it makes sense. Because what does he have to get mad about? You are in his domain. No argument will be accepted - there is only the payment for $160, and then your car will be free.

    Posted by Chris on 06/21/04

    So... Your car got towed?

    Posted by: Brian at June 22, 2004 10:06 AM

    Sorry - I have a problem with first and second person. What I meant to write about was YOUR car getting towed.

    Posted by: Chris at June 22, 2004 11:06 AM

    Operation: Go West status report

    All critical flags are green for Operation: Go West, with an arrival date in Santa Monica of September 1. I spoke to Landlady a few days - WAIT. WAIT. Did I say September FIRST? OF THIS YEAR? Holy shit - that's just two months and a week away! What the hell am I doing? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, THIS IS ALL HAPPENING TOO FAST-

    OK, wait. Panic is normal, panic is natural. Let it pass, it will all be OK, don't focus on the fear, fear is the mind-killer that eats the soul, I will let it pass through me, OK, I'm fine.

    I spoke to Landlady last week (well in advance of her deadline) and said why YES, we can be out at the beginning of September. And without hesitation she replied good, that she had it rented for that date. So. Just like that, we're out of that particular apartment. No matter what happens to Operation: Go West.

    And: A more careful examination of the financial spreadsheet gave me the happy news that I'd calculated wrongly, but in my favor; so it turns out that why YES, there will be enough money for the U-Haul, and perhaps even enough for a trailer hitch for the car, which we reason may last longer in L.A. if it is not forced through another cross-country trek in its twilight years.

    Did I say will be? Well, yes, but not without some pain for a few months.

    And wife Ami has just this morning informed her company, given notice at her job of seven years and HOLY SHIT WHAT ARE WE DOING, SHE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A JOB OUT THERE YET, SHE HASN'T EVEN GOTTEN HER RESUME UPDATED, and I'm asking her to quit a perfectly good job that she's worked so hard to advance in? For seven years? I've NEVER held a job for seven years!

    OK, the panic is normal, it's natural, let it pass, it will all be OK. OK, I'm fine.

    Did I say ALL critical flags were green? Actually, no - some flags are the more ambiguous color of beige, which means while we have located several promising-looking apartments in Santa Monica (and also in many places adjacent to other places) online, we have not actually spoken to anyone at all in California. No one there knows we're coming. That seems like something we should "close on" very quickly. To that end we're taking a scouting trip there in two weeks. Let us pray for no heavy reality-adjustments.

    Finally: As I have considered this Operation for so many months, nay, years, I've really only focused on the enormous effort of paring down our possessions, of finding cardboard boxes all over again, of the inevitably clumsy Landlady Endgame, and the tremendous pain in my ASS of packing and moving; I was sure I was ready for it. But I neglected to consider the most difficult part of all - taking our leave from the people we've come to love so much in nine years in Chicago. So far I have already had difficult conversations when I informed two friends. There are more to come like that. Oh dear.

    Posted by Chris on 06/21/04

    emoticons take over where words fail:

    : (

    Posted by: Mary at June 21, 2004 4:52 PM




    :: cleaning out dining room of saddened guests ::

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 22, 2004 11:56 AM

    June 18, 2004

    Blog with Trembling Fingers

    Some excerpts from another great article, With Trembling Fingers by Hal Crowther, sent by friend Amy:

    I struggle against the suspicion that so many of my fellow Americans are conceptually challenged. I want to reason with my neighbors, I want to engage these lost Americans. What makes you angry, neighbor? What arouses your suspicions? Does it bother you that this administration made terrorism a low priority, dismissed key intelligence that might have prevented the 9-11 catastrophe, then exploited it to justify the pre-planned destruction of Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with al Qaeda?

    And this is from Hermann Goering during the Nuremberg trials:

    "It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."
    Posted by Chris on 06/18/04

    A few things

  • I dreamt the other night that I was at a small Guns n' Roses concert, and Axl Rose was actually a nice guy. This defied my expectations, and I suspect there was someone else playing the role of Rose, as often happens in my dreams.

    For some reason I was leaning against the keyboards on stage during a break, so that meant I had to play them during the next set. I must have looked a little dismayed when I learned this, because whoever was playing Axl comforted me by saying, "Just have a good time, dude. My only rule is, when people throw things at you, you have to hang on to them so we can check them out later." For some reason I assumed he meant CDs in jewel cases that people would throw at us, and I was wondering if I'd be issued any protective headgear. I also wondered if these would be demo CDs of aspiring bands in the audience, or people returning their Guns n' Roses merchandise in a vehement way when the concert sucked.

  • Dear Expedia,

    It makes me feel like an idiot when automated phone systems require me to speak my responses instead of just hitting numbers. Who are you fooling here? I know it's a robot I'm speaking to, let's cut through the charade and use the universal language of math.

  • I saw The Magdelene Sisters last night, and it's put me right off working in a convent-run laundry. I mean I have TOTALLY stricken that from my "to do" list now.

    Posted by Chris on 06/18/04
  • June 17, 2004

    Three Things Moviefone Gets Wrong

    1. Movie trailers just don't work over the phone. Even if it was a movie solely about telephone conversations, they still don't work. It sounds like someone is holding a phone up to the television. I understand the desire to cram advertising into ever literal and abstract space in the universe, but this is a slot you're going to have to do without. Get rid of them.

    2. Theatre codes? I need to memorize another set of numbers to use your service? Tell you what - when you get "Webster Place Theatre" to rename itself the "Moviefone Express Code 561 Theatre," then I'll start using them. Or how about you grab my phone number from caller ID or GPS or something and give me the nearest theatre automatically.

    3. The spelling of "phone." It's not "fone," that's just WRONG. It's P-H-O-N-E, people. No, I'm kidding, that's not the third thing. The third thing is, give me an option to get past the laid-back cheeseball D.J. persona and on to the hurried, I'm-late-for-the-show persona, that just wants to give me the info.

      Posted by Chris on 06/17/04

    June 16, 2004


    Ready to be good and creeped out, and not in the fun zombies and werewolves way, with the animated corpses and the revenge from beyond the grave and the scary monsters?

    Then read "Paranoid Shift" by Michael Hasty. Be warned - it's quite the orgy of evidence, and if you're like me, then your mind starts to rebel against it after a certain point. When someone starts talking about the military-industrial complex and Nazi connections, I begin to edge a little farther away from them. But not so far away that I can't hear.

    But that edging away is exactly what he's on about.

    Much like Michael Moore's films, at MINIMUM - and by that I mean if you are the sort that really wants or needs to minimize these sort of assertions - many of these points AT LEAST deserve a lot more probing into than they get.


    By Michael Hasty
    Online Journal Contributing Writer

    January 10, 2004—Just before his death, James Jesus Angleton, the legendary chief of counterintelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency, was a bitter man. He felt betrayed by the people he had worked for all his life. In the end, he had come to realize that they were never really interested in American ideals of "freedom" and "democracy." They really only wanted "absolute power."

    Angleton told author Joseph Trento that the reason he had gotten the counterintelligence job in the first place was by agreeing not to submit "sixty of Allen Dulles' closest friends" to a polygraph test concerning their business deals with the Nazis. In his end-of-life despair, Angleton assumed that he would see all his old companions again "in hell."

    The transformation of James Jesus Angleton from an enthusiastic, Ivy League cold warrior, to a bitter old man, is an extreme example of a phenomenon I call a "paranoid shift." I recognize the phenomenon, because something similar happened to me.

    Although I don't remember ever meeting James Jesus Angleton, I worked at the CIA myself as a low-level clerk as a teenager in the '60s. This was at the same time I was beginning to question the government's actions in Vietnam. In fact, my personal "paranoid shift" probably began with the disillusionment I felt when I realized that the story of American foreign policy was, at the very least, more complicated and darker than I had hitherto been led to believe.

    But for most of the next 30 years, even though I was a radical, I nevertheless held faith in the basic integrity of a system where power ultimately resided in the people, and whereby if enough people got together and voted, real and fundamental change could happen.

    What constitutes my personal paranoid shift is that I no longer believe this to be necessarily true.

    In his book, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower," William Blum warns of how the media will make anything that smacks of "conspiracy theory" an immediate "object of ridicule." This prevents the media from ever having to investigate the many strange interconnections among the ruling class—for example, the relationship between the boards of directors of media giants, and the energy, banking and defense industries. These unmentionable topics are usually treated with what Blum calls "the media's most effective tool—silence." But in case somebody's asking questions, all you have to do is say, "conspiracy theory," and any allegation instantly becomes too frivolous to merit serious attention.

    On the other hand, since my paranoid shift, whenever I hear the words "conspiracy theory" (which seems more often, lately) it usually means someone is getting too close to the truth.

    Take September 11—which I identify as the date my paranoia actually shifted, though I didn't know it at the time.

    Unless I'm paranoid, it doesn't make any sense at all that George W. Bush, commander-in-chief, sat in a second-grade classroom for 20 minutes after he was informed that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, listening to children read a story about a goat. Nor does it make sense that the Number 2 man, Dick Cheney—even knowing that "the commander" was on a mission in Florida—nevertheless sat at his desk in the White House, watching TV, until the Secret Service dragged him out by the armpits.

    Unless I'm paranoid, it makes no sense that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sat at his desk until Flight 77 hit the Pentagon—well over an hour after the military had learned about the multiple hijacking in progress. It also makes no sense that the brand-new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sat in a Senate office for two hours while the 9/11 attacks took place, after leaving explicit instructions that he not be disturbed—which he wasn't.

    In other words, while the 9/11 attacks were occurring, the entire top of the chain of command of the most powerful military in the world sat at various desks, inert. Why weren't they in the "Situation Room?" Don't any of them ever watch "West Wing?"

    In a sane world, this would be an object of major scandal. But here on this side of the paranoid shift, it's business as usual.

    Years, even decades before 9/11, plans had been drawn up for American forces to take control of the oil interests of the Middle East, for various imperialist reasons. And these plans were only contingent upon "a catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor," to gain the majority support of the American public to set the plans into motion. When the opportunity presented itself, the guards looked the other way . . . and presto, the path to global domination was open.

    Simple, as long as the media played along. And there is voluminous evidence that the media play along. Number one on Project Censored's annual list of underreported stories in 2002 was the Project for a New American Century (now the infrastructure of the Bush Regime), whose report, published in 2000, contains the above "Pearl Harbor" quote.

    Why is it so hard to believe serious people who have repeatedly warned us that powerful ruling elites are out to dominate "the masses?" Did we think Dwight Eisenhower was exaggerating when he warned of the extreme "danger" to democracy of "the military industrial complex?" Was Barry Goldwater just being a quaint old-fashioned John Bircher when he said that the Trilateral Commission was "David Rockefeller's latest scheme to take over the world, by taking over the government of the United States?" Were Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt or Joseph Kennedy just being class traitors when they talked about a small group of wealthy elites who operate as a hidden government behind the government? Especially after he died so mysteriously, why shouldn't we believe the late CIA Director William Colby, who bragged about how the CIA "owns everyone of any major significance in the major media?"

    Why can't we believe James Jesus Angleton—a man staring eternal judgment in the face—when he says that the founders of the Cold War national security state were only interested in "absolute power?" Especially when the descendant of a very good friend of Allen Dulles now holds power in the White House.

    Prescott Bush, the late, aristocratic senator from Connecticut, and grandfather of George W Bush, was not only a good friend of Allen Dulles, CIA director, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and international business lawyer. He was also a client of Dulles' law firm. As such, he was the beneficiary of Dulles' miraculous ability to scrub the story of Bush's treasonous investments in the Third Reich out of the news media, where it might have interfered with Bush's political career . . . not to mention the presidential careers of his son and grandson.

    Recently declassified US government documents, unearthed last October by investigative journalist John Buchanan at the New Hampshire Gazette, reveal that Prescott Bush's involvement in financing and arming the Nazis was more extensive than previously known. Not only was Bush managing director of the Union Banking Corporation, the American branch of Hitler's chief financier's banking network; but among the other companies where Bush was a director—and which were seized by the American government in 1942, under the Trading With the Enemy Act—were a shipping line which imported German spies; an energy company that supplied the Luftwaffe with high-ethyl fuel; and a steel company that employed Jewish slave labor from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

    Like all the other Bush scandals that have been swept under the rug in the privatized censorship of the corporate media, these revelations have been largely ignored, with the exception of a single article in the Associated Press. And there are those, even on the left, who question the current relevance of this information.

    But Prescott Bush's dealings with the Nazis do more than illustrate a family pattern of genteel treason and war profiteering—from George Senior's sale of TOW missiles to Iran at the same time he was selling biological and chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein, to Junior's zany misadventures in crony capitalism in present-day Iraq.

    More disturbing by far are the many eerie parallels between Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush:

    A conservative, authoritarian style, with public appearances in military uniform (which no previous American president has ever done while in office). Government by secrecy, propaganda and deception. Open assaults on labor unions and workers' rights. Preemptive war and militant nationalism. Contempt for international law and treaties. Suspiciously convenient "terrorist" attacks, to justify a police state and the suspension of liberties. A carefully manufactured image of "The Leader," who's still just a "regular guy" and a "moderate." "Freedom" as the rationale for every action. Fantasy economic growth, based on unprecedented budget deficits and massive military spending.

    And a cold, pragmatic ideology of fascism—including the violent suppression of dissent and other human rights; the use of torture, assassination and concentration camps; and most important, Benito Mussolini's preferred definition of "fascism" as "corporatism, because it binds together the interests of corporations and the state."

    By their fruits, you shall know them.

    What perplexes me most is probably the same question that plagues most paranoiacs: why don't other people see these connections?

    Oh, sure, there may be millions of us, lurking at websites like Online Journal, From the Wilderness, Center for Cooperative Research, and the Center for Research on Globalization, checking out right-wing conspiracists and the galaxy of 9/11 sites, and reading columnists like Chris Floyd at the Moscow Times, and Maureen Farrell at Buzzflash. But we know we are only a furtive minority, the human remnant among the pod people in the live-action, 21st-century version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

    And being paranoid, we have to figure out, with an answer that fits into our system, why more people don't see the connections we do. Fortunately, there are a number of possible explanations.

    First on the list would have to be what Marshal McLuhan called the "cave art of the electronic age:" advertising. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Karl Rove, gave credit for most of his ideas on how to manipulate mass opinion to American commercial advertising, and to the then-new science of "public relations." But the public relations universe available to the corporate empire that rules the world today makes the Goebbels operation look primitive. The precision of communications technology and graphics; the century of research on human psychology and emotion; and the uniquely centralized control of triumphant post-Cold War monopoly capitalism, have combined to the point where "the manufacture of consent" can be set on automatic pilot.

    A second major reason people won't make the paranoid shift is that they are too fundamentally decent. They can't believe that the elected leaders of our country, the people they've been taught through 12 years of public school to admire and trust, are capable of sending young American soldiers to their deaths and slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent civilians, just to satisfy their greed—especially when they're so rich in the first place. Besides, America is good, and the media are liberal and overly critical.

    Third, people don't want to look like fools. Being a "conspiracy theorist" is like being a creationist. The educated opinion of eminent experts on every TV and radio network is that any discussion of "oil" being a motivation for the US invasion of Iraq is just out of bounds, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist." We can trust the integrity of our 'no-bid" contracting in Iraq, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist." Of course, people sometimes make mistakes, but our military and intelligence community did the best they could on and before September 11, and anybody who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist."

    Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin of JFK, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a "conspiracy theorist."

    Perhaps the biggest hidden reason people don't make the paranoid shift is that knowledge brings responsibility. If we acknowledge that an inner circle of ruling elites controls the world's most powerful military and intelligence system; controls the international banking system; controls the most effective and far-reaching propaganda network in history; controls all three branches of government in the world's only superpower; and controls the technology that counts the people's votes, we might be then forced to conclude that we don't live in a particularly democratic system. And then voting and making contributions and trying to stay informed wouldn't be enough. Because then the duty of citizenship would go beyond serving as a loyal opposition, to serving as a "loyal resistance"—like the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, except that in this case the resistance to fascism would be on the side of the national ideals, rather than the government; and a violent insurgency would not only play into the empire's hands, it would be doomed from the start.

    Forming a nonviolent resistance movement, on the other hand, might mean forsaking some middle class comfort, and it would doubtless require a lot of work. It would mean educating ourselves and others about the nature of the truly apocalyptic beast we face. It would mean organizing at the most basic neighborhood level, face to face. (We cannot put our trust in the empire's technology.) It would mean reaching across turf lines and transcending single-issue politics, forming coalitions and sharing data and names and strategies, and applying energy at every level of government, local to global. It would also probably mean civil disobedience, at a time when the Bush regime is starting to classify that action as "terrorism." In the end, it may mean organizing a progressive confederacy to govern ourselves, just as our revolutionary founders formed the Continental Congress. It would mean being wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.

    It would be a lot of work. It would also require critical mass. A paradigm shift.

    But as a paranoid, I'm ready to join the resistance. And the main reason is I no longer think that the "conspiracy" is much of a "theory."

    That the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was "probably" the result of "a conspiracy," and that 70 percent of Americans agree with this conclusion, is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That the Bay of Pigs fiasco, "Operation Zapata," was organized by members of Skull and Bones, the ghoulish and powerful secret society at Yale University whose membership also included Prescott, George Herbert Walker and George W Bush; that two of the ships that carried the Cuban counterrevolutionaries to their appointment with absurdity were named the "Barbara" and the "Houston"—George HW Bush's city of residence at the time—and that the oil company Bush owned, then operating in the Caribbean area, was named "Zapata," is not "theory." It's fact.

    That George Bush was the CIA director who kept the names of what were estimated to be hundreds of American journalists, considered to be CIA "assets," from the Church Committee, the US Senate Intelligence Committe chaired by Senator Frank Church that investigated the CIA in the 1970s; that a 1971 University of Michigan study concluded that, in America, the more TV you watched, the less you knew; and that a recent survey by international scholars found that Americans were the most "ignorant" of world affairs out of all the populations they studied, is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That the Council on Foreign Relations has a history of influence on official US government foreign policy; that the protection of US supplies of Middle East oil has been a central element of American foreign policy since the Second World War; and that global oil production has been in decline since its peak year, 2000, is not "theory." It's fact.

    That, in the early 1970s, the newly-formed Trilateral Commission published a report which recommended that, in order for "globalization" to succeed, American manufacturing jobs had to be exported, and American wages had to decline, which is exactly what happened over the next three decades; and that, during that same period, the richest one percent of Americans doubled their share of the national wealth, is not "theory." It's fact.

    That, beyond their quasi-public role as agents of the US Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Banks are profit-making corporations, whose beneficiaries include some of America's wealthiest families; and that the United States has a virtual controlling interest in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, the three dominant global financial institutions, is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That—whether it's heroin from Southeast Asia in the '60s and '70s, or cocaine from Central America and heroin from Afghanistan in the '80s, or cocaine from Colombia in the '90s, or heroin from Afghanistan today—no major CIA covert operation has ever lacked a drug smuggling component, and that the CIA has hired Nazis, fascists, drug dealers, arms smugglers, mass murderers, perverts, sadists, terrorists and the Mafia, is not "theory." It's fact.

    That the international oil industry is the dominant player in the global economy; that the Bush family has a decades-long business relationship with the Saudi royal family, Saudi oil money, and the family of Osama bin Laden; that, as president, both George Bushes have favored the interests of oil companies over the public interest; that both George Bushes have personally profited financially from Middle East oil; and that American oil companies doubled their records for quarterly profits in the months just preceding the invasion of Iraq, is not "theory." It's fact.

    That the 2000 presidential election was deliberately stolen; that the pro-Bush/anti-Gore bias in the corporate media had spiked markedly in the last three weeks of the campaign; that corporate media were then virtually silent about the Florida recount; and that the Bush 2000 team had planned to challenge the legitimacy of the election if George W had won the popular, but lost the electoral vote—exactly what happened to Gore—is not "theory." It's fact.

    That the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was deceptively "cooked" by the Bush administration; that anybody paying attention to people like former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, knew before the invasion that the weapons were a hoax; and that American forces in Iraq today are applying the same brutal counterinsurgency tactics pioneered in Central America in the 1980s, under the direct supervision of then-Vice President George HW Bush, is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That "Rebuilding America's Defenses," the Project for a New American Century's 2000 report, and "The Grand Chessboard," a book published a few years earlier by Trilateral Commission co-founder Zbigniew Brzezinski, both recommended a more robust and imperial US military presence in the oil basin of the Middle East and the Caspian region; and that both also suggested that American public support for this energy crusade would depend on public response to a new "Pearl Harbor," is not "theory." It's fact.

    That, in the 1960s, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously approved a plan called "Operation Northwoods," to stage terrorist attacks on American soil that could be used to justify an invasion of Cuba; and that there is currently an office in the Pentagon whose function is to instigate terrorist attacks that could be used to justify future strategically-desired military responses, is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That neither the accusation by former British Environmental Minister Michael Meacher, Tony Blair's longest-serving cabinet minister, that George W Bush allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen to justify an oil war in the Middle East; nor the RICO lawsuit filed by 9/11 widow Ellen Mariani against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Council on Foreign Relations (among others), on the grounds that they conspired to let the attacks happen to cash in on the ensuing war profiteering, has captured the slightest attention from American corporate media is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That the FBI has completely exonerated—though never identified—the speculators who purchased, a few days before the attacks (through a bank whose previous director is now the CIA executive director), an unusual number of "put" options, and who made millions betting that the stocks in American and United Airlines would crash, is not a "theory." It's fact.

    That the US intelligence community received numerous warnings, from multiple sources, throughout the summer of 2001, that a major terrorist attack on American interests was imminent; that, according to the chair of the "independent" 9/11 commission, the attacks "could have and should have been prevented," and according to a Senate Intelligence Committee member, "All the dots were connected;" that the White House has verified George W Bush's personal knowledge, as of August 6, 2001, that these terrorist attacks might be domestic and might involve hijacked airliners; that, in the summer of 2001, at the insistence of the American Secret Service, anti-aircraft ordnance was installed around the city of Genoa, Italy, to defend against a possible terrorist suicide attack, by aircraft, against George W Bush, who was attending the economic summit there; and that George W Bush has nevertheless regaled audiences with his first thought upon seeing the "first" plane hit the World Trade Center, which was: "What a terrible pilot," is not "theory." It's fact.

    That, on the morning of September 11, 2001: standard procedures and policies at the nation's air defense and aviation bureaucracies were ignored, and communications were delayed; the black boxes of the planes that hit the WTC were destroyed, but hijacker Mohammed Atta's passport was found in pristine condition; high-ranking Pentagon officers had cancelled their commercial flight plans for that morning; George H.W. Bush was meeting in Washington with representatives of Osama bin Laden's family, and other investors in the world's largest private equity firm, the Carlyle Group; the CIA was conducting a previously-scheduled mock exercise of an airliner hitting the Pentagon; the chairs of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were having breakfast with the chief of Pakistan's intelligence agency, who resigned a week later on suspicion of involvement in the 9/11 attacks; and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States sat in a second grade classroom for 20 minutes after hearing that a second plane had struck the towers, listening to children read a story about a goat, is not "theoretical." These are facts.

    That the Bush administration has desperately fought every attempt to independently investigate the events of 9/11, is not a "theory."

    Nor, finally, is it in any way a "theory" that the one, single name that can be directly linked to the Third Reich, the US military industrial complex, Skull and Bones, Eastern Establishment good ol' boys, the Illuminati, Big Texas Oil, the Bay of Pigs, the Miami Cubans, the Mafia, the FBI, the JFK assassination, the New World Order, Watergate, the Republican National Committee, Eastern European fascists, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations, CIA headquarters, the October Surprise, the Iran/Contra scandal, Inslaw, the Christic Institute, Manuel Noriega, drug-running "freedom fighters" and death squads, Iraqgate, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, the blood of innocents, the savings and loan crash, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the "Octopus," the "Enterprise," the Afghan mujaheddin, the War on Drugs, Mena (Arkansas), Whitewater, Sun Myung Moon, the Carlyle Group, Osama bin Laden and the Saudi royal family, David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States, is: George Herbert Walker Bush.

    "Theory?" To the contrary.

    It is a well-documented, tragic and—especially if you're paranoid—terrifying fact.

    Michael Hasty is a writer, activist, musician, carpenter and farmer. His award-winning column, "Thinking Locally," appeared for seven years in the Hampshire Review, West Virginia's oldest newspaper. His writing has also appeared in the Highlands Voice, the Washington Peace Letter, the Takoma Park Newsletter, the German magazine Generational Justice, and the Washington Post; and at the websites Common Dreams and Democrats.com. In January 1989, he was the media spokesperson for the counter-inaugural coalition at George Bush's Counter-Inaugural Banquet, which fed hundreds of DC's homeless in front of Union Station, where the official inaugural dinner was being held.

    Permission to reprint is granted, provided it includes this autobiographical note, and credit for first publication to Online Journal.

    Posted by Chris on 06/16/04

    Friendblog II

    Am I King Yet?

    Well? Is he? You be the judge.

    Posted by Chris on 06/16/04

    AAAAAAH! Exposed to the light of day! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Posted by: AragornSoS at June 16, 2004 3:05 PM

    Operation: Go West status report

    Operation: Go West is almost dead out of the gate, I am sad to report. Our efforts to move to Santa Monica are consistently butting up against reality.

    It embarrasses me to say it, but I VASTLY UNDERESTIMATED the cost of renting a U-Haul for a one-way cross-country trip, and that, amazingly, could be the undoing factor. I was basing my estimate on all previous truck rentals; which is to say, renting a 14' truck for 24 hours to move across town. U-Haul's site helpfully pointed out my error in judgement, however, bringing my wild imaginings down out of La-La Land.

    Incidental costs keep mounting, too. Did I mention I lost my cell phone in Cambridge? And will need to buy another? Yes. Did I blithely train my way to N.Y.C. this last weekend, although it was a fairly economical trip? Yes. It isn't looking good. Operation: Go West is turning into Operation: Stay Where You Are, Jackass.

    VOICE OF OLD CANCELLED CREDIT CARD FROM THE GRAVE: You know what occurs to me? How this would be easier if only you hadn't cancelled me back then.

    ME: Shut up.

    VOICE OF OLD CANCELLED CREDIT CARD FROM THE GRAVE: No, seriously. Wouldn't it have made sense to hang on to me? And poor Suze tried to tell you.

    ME: I said shut up!

    VOICE OF OLD CANCELLED CREDIT CARD FROM THE GRAVE: But you were so proud of yourself! Remember how excited you were?

    ME: I'm not listening.

    VOICE OF OLD CANCELLED CREDIT CARD FROM THE GRAVE: Just hang on to it for a little while, everyone said. In case something comes up. Well - something's come up, hasn't it?

    ME: Please... leave me alone. You're dead, you can't hurt me.

    VOICE OF OLD CANCELLED CREDIT CARD FROM THE GRAVE: Hey - forget about me! I'm just a ghost! But... you can always... apply for another one, right?

    (The music rises in an ominous crescendo)

    ME: No... NOOO...

    VOICE OF OLD CANCELLED CREDIT CARD FROM THE GRAVE: Hey! If it makes you feel better, when you make the call you can always use your Sydney Greenstreet voice!


    I dreaded my talk with Landlady because I'd put it off for so long. We needed to extend our lease with her, but by months only. But the problem was, we weren't exactly sure when we'd need to leave. I'm lucky enough to have a job there already, but Wife Ami has to do the needful and find one. Landlady was very understanding, though, and indicated we could extend, as long as we gave her two months notice, and let her know as soon as possible.

    Then I came back from Cambridge to find a notice on my front door that my apartment would be up for rent on August 1st.

    A quick phone-call to Landlady revealed what has always been revealed about her when the rubber hits the road, which is that she is a nice person but let's not ever mistake her for the kindly old inn-keeper type. She hadn't heard from me, so she protected her interests. Fine - it's only fair. Well - let's not say fair, but let's not act like we've been woefully wronged.

    I left it with her that we were shooting for September 1st, and she left it with me that we couldn't go any later than that - or we'd have to sign on for another year. Again - it's fair.

    (As I go through this with her, imagining the travails yet to come, and who are we kidding, why don't I just go ahead and create a category called "I Sue To Get My Deposit Back, '04 Edition," in the forefront of my mind is the notion that waiting for us somewhere across the country is her counterpart, who will be identical to her in every respect, or worse, I will wish he was. The entire saga is here: Our Feudal Lords.)

    Another little fact revealed to me yesterday: after two years or so of stalled talks, rumors, speculation, the occasional burst of activity, and mainly a lot of sitting around doing nothing, the real estate division of the company I work for has finally pretty much decided on when we'll be moving the Chicago office over to the other side of the building. That date: September 1st.

    I am determined to manage this Operation with grace, despite these and other little clues the Universe keeps sending my way that it ain't gonna happen this year. iPod's first selection yesterday was "Sweet Home Chicago." This morning it was "Say Goodbye to Hollywood."

    Posted by Chris on 06/16/04

    I am sad to hear of your trials, but I must say that there is a glimmer of joy in "Operation Stay Where you Are Jackass" if only because you are such a good friend, so funny and smart and I always have fun hanging out with you and Ami, and I'd miss Camping, and New Year's Day, and Playing Golden Eye and being in your movies and all that shit. I was so sad to hear of your moving, I literally cried a little bit. I don't even say that to be funny. You're one of the first people I really liked in Chicago, (which is why I picked on you the moment we met) and I would hate to have our friendship dissolve because of uncrossed miles.

    Anyway, I hope you find happiness and relief from all this stress.

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 16, 2004 10:50 AM

    It's simple. Don't go. Chicago loves you. California is full of jerk-heads.

    Thus endeth the discussion.


    Posted by: Brian at June 16, 2004 12:12 PM

    NOOOOOOO! Now begins the me feeling awful about even wanting to leave. What good friends I have here, with the leaving of the warm and friendly messages, and the precious dog.

    By the way - get V*I*A*G*R*A for cheap!

    Posted by: Chris at June 16, 2004 4:47 PM


    Posted by: friend jessica at June 17, 2004 9:36 AM

    Yes, don't go west. It's naf.

    Go east! You might find your cellphone again. There's history, there's culture (not Mickey Mouse/painted cow rubbish statues on State Street). Some of those states are also thinking about having democracy reinstated...

    But Chicago's nice too. Come to think of it, it's the only good thing about Illinois.

    Posted by: isaac at June 17, 2004 4:47 PM

    Yes, go East. Massachusetts is small, beautiful and dedicated to protecting the sanctity of the American marriage.

    Posted by: Maggie at June 17, 2004 10:51 PM

    Massachusetts is Chicago's bitch.

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 18, 2004 9:33 AM


    Pointed out by FattyFat:


    Posted by Chris on 06/16/04

    June 15, 2004

    Some thoughts on the Cambridge Trip

    I took the plane to Cambridge, MA last week, and then had a chance to take an Amtrak train to NYC for the weekend with Friend Thomas.

  • Thomas Goodfriend, as I know him, has an apartment in the Village, and was willing to usher me all over the city for two and a half days of delirious fun. I've been to NYC three times, and every time I just can't believe I'm really there. It's always a surreal, incredible experience. If I could live there? If such a fantasy could ever be reality? Holy holy!

  • The purpose of the trip to Cambridge was to move the I.T. infrastructure of one office over to another. I spent several days playing erector set with server racks along with Thomas Goodfriend, and also incidentally discovered the origin of that peculiar form of madness that affects some I.T. people, wherein they have a desire to take pictures of their server racks.

    The origin is: when you spend your day dealing with abstract network issues, it's good to get your hands on something physical.

  • In a time of building out a server room, there is much talk about how many "U"s you're taking up. There may be no U in "team" but there are many Us* in a server room. BUT YOU SHOULD USE THEM SPARINGLY.

  • I have discovered the perfect antidote to airplane travel: train travel. No one to harass you about seatbelts, no one AHEMING loudly when you don't watch the seatbelt n' emergency exit presentation, none of this crap about being oversold, none of this pure bullshit about turning off your electronic devices (in fact that have power outlets for them), and you can get up and pace the length of the train if you want. And there's a dining car. And it's beautiful and calming. None of this incredibly overwrought attention to security; in fact, I get the impression they almost don't know I'm there, that the train is just this force of nature compelled by physics to cross the country, so if I want to ride, why not.

  • But back to planes - I was given a survey to fill out on the United flight, and I just stared at it, dumbfounded. AS IF! I thought. As if it MATTERS what I think to this behemoth of an airline that's been bailed out once! Where to START?!?

    But I wasn't starting on the survey, which basically wanted to know if the attendants were smiling widely enough and if the drinks were on time. The survey missed the point. If air travel is ever going to be anything less than traumatic and inhumane, I am convinced they have to go BACK TO FORMULA with the whole idea. GO BACK TO WILBUR AND ORVILLE.

    AIRLINE EXECS: take a train ride and get some ideas! Creating an "alternative" airline with a cute little name isn't the answer!

    *A "U" is the unit of measurement for the vertical height of a server in the rack, named after the well-known librarian and tesselation expert Ulysses U. Ugandas, who once shelved an entire seven-volume set of "Fall of the Roman Empire" into a space previously taken up by a thin volume of (bad) poetry. In his spare time he was a contortionist.
    Posted by Chris on 06/15/04
  • Three Things Forcing Me to Hate

    1. I condemn the people who made the expense-reporting tool for my company to a Hell of having to use it.

    2. I condemn any programmer of software that authorizes my computer to steal focus. Twelve times today I have gone to enter text into some field only to look up and find I was typing into some other application for the past ten seconds.

    3. And, as always, I condemn those that would continue to place an "Insert" key on my keyboard. I consign them into the ninth circle of Hell, where they must forever type apologies to the world that overwrite the apologies of the person next to them.

    Posted by Chris on 06/15/04

    June 14, 2004

    I'll never be a travel writer

    Which is a shame because sometimes I think that would be a cool way to make a living. I go to Cambridge, MA for a week, with a weekend trip down to N.Y.C., and this poor blog gets shoved to the bottom of the pile like the socks you get for Christmas.

    I see some online pharmacies have moved into the comments section in my absence. Well, at least SOMEONE was using the place.

    More later - but I couldn't stand the big blank page, so I had to put this up.

    Posted by Chris on 06/14/04

    I guess those pharmacies are really more well read than we thought. I like how they throw in an obligatory "nice site" so you don't realize it's a bot. OSAMAISAHOTTIE.COM: "nice site!"

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 14, 2004 9:22 AM

    The artificial intelligence is getting scary. Pretty soon there will be no difference between us... and THEM. How do you even know that this is really ME posting this?

    By the way: Have you considered some generic V*I*A*G*R*A?

    Posted by: Chris at June 14, 2004 9:29 AM

    I enjoy reading your writings on a daily basis. You are funny and smart. Are you able to knock down walls with your huge monster schlong? If not, try our all natural, fifty nine chemical supplement...

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 14, 2004 10:14 AM

    June 4, 2004


    Ebert's review of "Deadline:"


    I was an A/V lackey at a law firm for a bit, and it happened to be the one where Scott Turow works. I had the chance to hear him give a talk on the death penalty, and it was a calm, dispassionate look at the process, and how capriciously it's decided who dies and doesn't.

    Posted by Chris on 06/ 4/04

    June 2, 2004

    Elephant / The Day After Tomorrow

    Day After Tomorrow

    Somehow Roland Emmerich seems to have polished his act a bit in this film, his act being "Depict American Landmarks Being Impressively Demolished." There's plenty of that, and "Day After Tomorrow" is predictably guilty of treating everything in the northern hemisphere besides N.Y., L.A., and a bit of D.C. as flyover territory, but it's not exactly the line-up of meticulous miniature destruction that "Independence Day" was.

    Also, what do you expect from this movie? A nuanced, balanced look at the socio-political ramifications of thousands of cultures and monuments in the northern hemisphere being flash-frozen? And I happen to admire the way it chose NOT to deal with the politics of global warming. I paid $9 to see unmanned Russian tankers floating down Fifth Avenue, not hear Dennis Quaid preaching about fossil fuels. The fact that the words "Kyoto Treaty" were sneered authentically by (Vice) President Cheney in the film seemed more than I deserved by this script's standards.

    Something else about Quaid - along with Kurt Russell I think he's an underrated action hero, but he does not fare well in the "character" moments in this film, which is to say the moments when he is assigned the daunting task of dealing with the unwanted human subplots. Usually I blame the director and screenwriter, but at this point any actor that signs on to a Roland Emmerich blockbuster should expect to be shouldering the responsibility for "emotional truth" alone.

    Sadly, as adorable as Emmy Rossum is, she was indulging in action figure acting here: press the button on her back and she gives a doe-eyed look. Well - she's young and unaccustomed to the ways of Emmerich.

    Still - couldn't they have come up with a good reason for Quaid's character to make the trek to Manhattan? Couldn't he have been leading a team looking for, oh, I don't know, another vital paleoclimatologist, or a high-ranking cabinet official unfortunately caught north of Quaid's red slash mark of doom on the map?


    From one extreme to the other. I am not a fan of the genre of film that employs long tracking shots of characters walking, walking, just walking, for the purpose of - well, I guess not imposing false emotion through cinematic grammar? "Elephant" featured so much of students walking, walking, walking down the halls of their enormous school, that it was more screensaver than movie.

    I'm not a fan of this effort not to artificially manipulate a filmed story by not editing very much AT ALL. As if choosing long, unbroken shots is not just as much of a choice or a manipulation. I don't ooh and ahh at the meticulously choreographed long, long shots of "Goodfellas," "The Player," "Bonfire of the Vanities," I thought there was WAY too much of Jackie Brown just walking in "Jackie Brown," and I alienated everyone in Facets by saying Godard's "Weekend" sucked for this reason. I don't call for long long shots to be banned, I just think it's a strange technique to be held in such high regard by filmmakers.

    All filmmaking is artificial, and all storytelling is manipulation; even this movie, and even "Dogma" movies. You can try to minimize it, and God bless you if you're not afraid to leave something ambiguous, but even by trying to remain objective you've already chosen a certain point of view. And I note that Van Sant didn't shy away from supposing the two teenage killers might be lovers.

    I understand Van Sant's desire to simply present the actions of the students leading up to and during a Columbine-like massacre without imposing narrative shorthands - and I do agree that it's brave. I do admire the message that there may be no underlying meaning to such an act. But if this movie is not a story he's telling, then what is it? A "tone poem," that most most useful of phrases for film students?

    Van Sant is cool, Van Sant is pushing the edge, I like Van Sant's movies. (In independent filmmaking circles one must periodically qualify any dissent with this mantra, much as you must constantly assert to Republicans that you DO support the troops and you DO love America.) But I see no way around creating tension in a story like this. Did he intend for me to cringe every time the students moved into a new room because I was sure they were about to get their heads blown off? Because that's what those long Steadicam shots and cross-cutting back and forth through the day achieved for me. I haven't felt so much tension traveling down long halls since "The Shining."

    NOTE: I suppose based on the results of last week's rant I can expect Gus Van Sant to personally leave a polite comment here any day now so that I can complete my journey to the Asshole Side. No - it will probably be Emmy Rossum. I loved you in "Songcatcher," Emmy, I really did.
    Posted by Chris on 06/ 2/04

    Get Out Your Monocles



    Posted by Chris on 06/ 2/04

    12 Questions

    Although how they can ask them in a time of war is beyond me:

    Tom Dispatch

    Posted by Chris on 06/ 2/04

    Eight Queens

    How amazing this Internet is. Why, just the other night I was faced with the generalized problem of placing n "non-dominating" queens on an n by n chessboard, and lo and behold, the Free Dictionary served up this solution:

    The Eight Queens Problem

    Posted by Chris on 06/ 2/04

    thank god there are no diseases that still need curing so we can focus on hypothetical chess issues.

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 2, 2004 9:17 AM

    Good lord, woman - didn't you pick up on the fact that the Eight Queens are a metaphor!??! A METAPHOR?!? For something very important?!?!

    My GOD I weep for America's youth.

    Posted by: Chris at June 2, 2004 9:35 AM

    Do you have photos of my dog or what?

    Posted by: friend jessica at June 2, 2004 10:05 AM

    How can you ask for photos of your dog when we're at war? WE'RE AT WAR.

    Posted by: Chris at June 2, 2004 10:32 AM