Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Year of Living Dangerously
Here are my predictions for 2004:

-Dean says in a Sunday morning interview that "Al-Queda" is Arabic for Halliburton.
-Kerry, Kucinich, Sharpton, Edwards, Clark, Liebermann, Gephardt, and Mosley-Braun all combine to create a Voltron-like super candidate to try and defeat Dean before the NH Primary. The Kucinich piece is responsible for forming the head of this super candidate.
-Voting irregularities in the NH Primary make way for a Kucinich victory. After the election, Gov. Benson mandates that all individual paper ballots be replaced with tablet PCs.
-Dean, aiming to reclaim the advantage, says in South Carolina that he won't run on Guns, God, and Gays but will talk about a gun wielding gay god.
-Halliburton spins off Iraq in an Initial Public Offering. Iraq shares close at $2 the first day of trading.
-Dean, driving his Ben & Jerry's sponsored Chevy, cruises past Dale Jr in the final lap to win at Darlington and takes over as overall NASCAR points leader. His popularity in the South remains low.
-Wildfires consume the Neverland Ranch. The whereabouts of Michael Jackson is unknown.
-In the first flight since the Columbia disaster, Bush pilots the Space Shuttle Atlantis into orbit where he successfully deploys a giant Mission Accomplished sign visible to all on the Earth's surface. Bush then lands the Shuttle at Baghdad International Airport, delivering turkey to the troops. Democrat Nominee Kucinich ridicules the photo op at the Democratic National Convention.
-A surge in shark attacks dominate the summer news headlines. Kucinich blames Halliburton.
-Rush Limbaugh retires as host of his popular radio show in order to take on a full time gig as the spokesman for the pharmaceutical industry. His compensation is made up entirely of pills.
-Dean announces a third party challenge. His running mate is a Bush voodoo doll which he sticks repeatedly.
-Five days before the election, Kucinich reveals that he has captured Osama Bin Laden in a raid he organized using private mercenary forces, made up mostly of ex-French Foreign Legion. Poll numbers show Kucinich ahead of Bush and Dean. Shares of Halliburton tumble.
-Three days before the election, Dean reveals that he has uncovered Saddam's storehouses of WMD by a deft use of a helicopter, a GPS unit, and 2 minute search of the Geocaching website. Dean moves ahead of Bush and Kucinich in the polls.
-On the eve of the 2004 Presidential Election, Bush reveals that he has captured Michael Jackson and a dossier of incriminating evidence that was in Jacko's possession. Attorney Mark Geragos moves to plea bargain. Bush surges ahead of Dean and Kucinich.
-In a bizarre election night, Kucinich wins the popular vote but loses the election to Bush when late night recount results in Vermont swing the electoral college advantage away from Dean. Kucinich and Dean both challenge the result.
-The Supreme Court rules that due to criticism of how it handled the 2000 election, it has granted jurisdiction to settle the matter to the Halliburton Board of Directors. After a closed door session, with Cheney in attendance, the Board of Directors affirms that Bush is the election victor.
-Dick Clark, as always, ushers out 2004 in Times Square.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Political Airheads
Thinking about the "inflate-a-mate" figures that people put out on their lawns this Christmas season (no, I do not have a blowup doll fetish if that's what you are thinking), I wondered whether politics could stand to benefit from utilizing this display of lawn ornamentation. Rather than expressing support for a political candidate by putting up a sign of the candidate's name, people could instead put up an oversized, illuminated, inflate-a-mate done up in the likeness of their particular candidate of choice. For example, people could blow up a Dean doll and stake him to their front lawn, a Kerry doll (with characteristic oversized head), or a Kucinich doll outfitted with a low wattage bulb. Displays like this could revolutionize and revitalize politics.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Inflate Yourself a Very Merry Christmas
I have to admit, I do like all the illuminated, Christmas themed "Inflate-a-Mate" figures that people have placed in their front yards. The Santas, snowmen, what-have-yous, etc, etc.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I am the Cult of Personality
Straight from the land of the 'stans comes the world's most egocentric ruler. His name is Saparmurat Niyazov, but he is better known as Turkmenbashi or "Leader of the Turkmen". His rule over Turkmenistan is one part comical, one part ruthless. What follows is an incomplete list of his achievements.

-Has his own URL: www.turkmenbashi.org
-Has written a bible of wisdom and guiding principles for all Turkmen to absorb and reflect on - called the Ruhnama.
-Has a promotional video available to promote the greatness of his Ruhnama work.
-Has a television station called "The Era of Turkmenbashi". On Turkmenbashi TV, viewers can watch unlimited programming dedicated to Turkmenbashi. One particular program, a western-style soap opera titled Turkmenbashi, My Leader, offers viewers a rich story "in which a Western woman moves to Turkmenistan and falls in love with it there."
-News programs begin and end with colorful verses dedicated to Turkmenbashi. The news presenter begins with:
"Good evening, nation of (Turkmen president) Turkmenbasy (Nyyazow) the Great! We start our Watan news programme by reciting these verses of Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy the Great, our teacher of patriotism: My sovereign country and my beloved homeland, You are the song of my soul and the spell of my tongue, My sovereign country and my beloved homeland, The crown is jewelled high on your proud head".
And the end of the news broadcast, the presenter signs off with this pearl of Turkmenbashi wisdom:
"Dear people, we would like to wind up our Watan news programme by reciting this sacred edict of our Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy the Great: May the world last forever and my great land within it, My green flag, fly high in the sky, Hello, my beautiful and young country, Have a prosperous life in the golden age".
-Has a city named Turkmenbashi. Find out what the weather is like in Turkmenbashi here.
-Like all good egocentric dictators, Turkmenbashi decorates the countryside with pictures of himself and luxuriates in splendid palaces. Here's some photos of him rubbing elbows with his people.
-Has renamed the months of the year in the calendar. January is now known as Turkmenbashi.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Here's another good webpage devoted to the great Turkmenbashi.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

An Ancient Irish Invasion
The strangest things happen at Home Depot...

I use a money clip, and on it I have my name inscribed. However, my name is spelled out using the letters of the ancient Irish written language known as Ogham (pronounced "oh-am"). Interestingly enough, when I produced this money clip to make a purchase at Home Depot, the cashier recognized the writing and proceeded to launch into a fascinating historical discussion.

His tale began with what for him was the source of his theories and discoveries: America's Stonehenge. This site, located in Salem, NH, is dated to be over 4000 years old and contains stone layout and construction suspiciously similar to sites in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales known to be of the ancient Celtic people. Indeed, this makes the existence of America's Stonehenge somewhat controversial as it mucks up the waters regarding early American inhabitants, indigenous peoples, etc. For the Home Depot cashier, this was of great meaning to him. He was a native American himself, a member and descendent of an Indian tribe that resided in the area of the St. John River (today separating Maine and the province of New Brunswick, Canada). This man had visited the "America's Stonehenge" site and had felt a connection with the place on a deeply personal level. It was from that moment that this man set out to discover other linkages that suggested contact and cultural crossover between native American peoples and Celtic migrants.

One of the more interesting details he laid out concerned the origin of the word Monadnock. As defined, Monadnock is used as a name and a term: A mountain or rocky mass that has resisted erosion and stands isolated in an essentially level area. The origin of the word has been put forth as Indian, from interpretations as:

meaning "spirit place or, possibly' "bad" as signifying the difficulty of the ascent. Another authority gives the interpretation "at the silver mountain."


residual hill on an erosional plain.

Yet the Indian Home Depot cashier considered Monadnock not an Indian word at all and knew no Indian who thought so either. Yes, the Indians may have used this word to describe the mountain to the early English settlers, but it was not their word to begin with. They had in fact learned it from Celtic visitors. As proof, he said to go look up Gaelic words for the sounds "monad" and "nock" and see what I'd find.

Indeed, online I found the Gaelic word "monadh" defined as mountain, heathy expanse, mountain range; the Gaelic word "nochd" defined as naked, bare, exposed and to be sure, the Gaelic word "cnoc" defined as "knoll, hillock.
Certainly it is quite suspiciously interesting that these Celtic words describing mountains that are bare, or mountains that are hills would sound alarming similar to Indian words that described bare mountains, or a mountain that was a hill....

So he dug deeper, learning of interesting evidence that suggested cultural mingling and assimilation between Indian tribes of North America and Celtic migrants of Europe. He detailed how natives of the East Coast look less Asiatic than their western counterparts (like Navajo, Nez Perce, Apache, et. al) and also wondered what may have contributed to the genetic inheritance of the so called "Black Irish" (namely that cultural mingling allowed for contribution of native American genes into the Irish stock, producing the dark hair and resistance to sunburn, etc known of the Black Irish).

Indeed, could this trans-Atlantic cultural mingling have occurred so many centuries ago? One possible bit of evidence to suggest it did relates to the story of St. Brendan - an Irish monk who sailed in a leather boat (called a currach) to Iceland and perhaps even Newfoundland, back in the 6th century. In a bid to prove the possibility of such a journey, historian Tim Severin constructed such a boat using ancient techniques that St. Brendan would have used and armed with texts of St. Brendan followed the historical route - indeed ending up in Newfoundland as well.

The Indian man of Home Depot laid it all out. Celtic migrants and American Indians had centuries of cross cultural contact. They shared genes, shared languages, shared customs. The site of American's Stonehenge was a meeting place of the Indians that held great meaning for millennia. When the Celtic migrants arrived, they recognized the importance (perhaps sacredness too) of the site and added their contribution to it by adding the Stonehenge-style stonework layout.

The Irish in America, centuries before Columbus. My head buzzed with this knowledge as I left the Home Depot.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Nice Guys Finish First
Talking with my wife about Howard Dean, it occurred to me what he is greatly lacking is a sense of humor. Dean is trying to position himself as this election cycle's John McCain. Namely a straight-talking, no-nonsense tough guy. The thing with McCain though was that he was funny as well - either with off-the-cuff statements or with dry subtle offerings that he sprinkled throughout his statements. (Heck, his profiling of the recently tabled energy bill as one that benefitted "Hooters and Polluters" is priceless). With Dean, he's as stiff-necked as it gets. Can you imagine him hosting a Saturday Night Live, as Sharpton, McCain, and Guiliani have done?

Which makes me think that Dean is toast as far as the 2004 election is concerned. Dean may have his positions well honed, and his responses crisp and sharp, but I wonder if his lack of personability may end of deep-sixing his chances. Sure people may vote for him simply because they hate Bush, but by and large the majority of voters like voting for the nicer guy. Its why a personable Reagan beat a dour Carter and the dry mid-westerner Mondale. Why Bush Sr. beat the robotic Dukakis. Why the hip, personable Clinton beat the nice, but un-hip Bush Sr. and the nice, but un-hip Dole. (One of the chief mistakes of Dole's political handlers was keeping Dole's humorous side bottled up during the 1996 campaign. Dole's image has brightened since Viagara and post-retirement late night comedy appearances). Not to mention the personable Bush Jr. beating the nice, but robotic Gore. (As with Dole, Gore improved his image after the election defeat by growing the beard and appearing more relaxed. One wonders if Gore would have made a close election less close if he had revealed this side of himself to voters during the 2000 election).

In the era of television politics, we gravitate to politicians who are telegenic. We also like our politicians a bit nice, a bit funny, a bit hip, and a bit off the cuff. Dean may be all of those things, but he's not really showing us that, and my prediction is that in an election between him and Bush, the juxtaposition of his pissed, wooden demeanor compared to Bush's folksy lack of polish will work against him.

The Thrill of Wonderful News
I don't think it is necessary for me to comment on how I feel about the capture of Saddam. Just go and read what Iraqi bloggers have to say. Visit The Mesopotamian and then just use his links to other Iraqi blogs. Salam Pax's post I think is very interesting. He's very curious to hear what Saddam will say when he is put on trial. What stories he will spin to justify his years of brutal rule. Plus, the picture posted by Zeyad on Healing Iraq pretty much sums up world events succinctly.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Beyond Red & Blue
As you know, I am fascinated with the Red State/Blue State divide within the US that is discussed in various ways regarding its cultural and political divisions. This site believes the divide is characterized too narrowly and instead provides a more varied discussion of regional differences. Whereas New Hampshire would be characterized as simply a "Red State" in the aforementioned context, this new approach shows that NH is split into two distinct regional subgroups that indicate greater political and cultural variability within the state. Indeed, people in parts of New Hampshire share affinities that people in Wyoming also share, while other parts of New Hampshire reflect attitudes that you might recognize in say downtown Portland, Oregon. In the end, the discussion provided here shows how truly diverse the politics, culture, regionalism and so forth are that are within the US.

The Frozen Tundra of Arafat Field
Organizers in Irvine, CA have put together a Muslim Football League tournament to happen on January 4th. The event is set up to promote cross cultural understanding, but with team names such as Intifada, Soldiers of Allah, and Mujahideen, local Jewish groups are up in arms.

At least one thing is certain, I seriously doubt that anybody will throw a Hail Mary.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Deck the Halls with Piles of Crap
May the gadget commercials emerge! Indeed, this time of year is the Superbowl for clever inventors. I think Black & Decker has taken the lead in the marketing of their gizmo gifts. Consider for instance the samba music and the hip gyrating that is spontaneously generated the moment someone uses the Gizmo cordless cheese grater. How is it possible that do I not own this indispensable and entertaining item already? As for new weapons development in the War on Hermetically Sealed Containers, consider the benefit in owning both the Gizmo cordless can opener and the Lids Off automatic jar opener. Never be thwarted by cans and jars again! On the other hand, there is no need to discuss the seasonal blooming of the electric razors. Braun, Norelco, and the bulky Remington offer nothing new in the way of designs or advancements in the realm of men's grooming. And what about annual favorites The Clapper and Chia Pet. How possibly could there even be a Christmas at all without one of these venerable gifts snug under the tree?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The Last Great Comic Strip
Here's an interesting story on what has happened to Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson.

Blood on the Road
I think this MP3 offering from Scissorfight, a song titled Riverhorse, is pretty cool.

Here's also a heavier offering from them titled Proving Ground. It has some elements that reminded me of White Zombie.