Thursday, March 30, 2006

Am I Blue?

Blue is cool.  Blue is hot.  Blue is a word which marketers use with ever increasing frequency to describe the next best have-to-have technology.  Consider Bluetooth--the state of the art in wireless technology, or BluRay--the newest thing in high-definition video.  Now there's Bluetec--the latest, and arguably most important--of the new blue technologies.  Bluetec is the brand name for DaimlerChrysler's next generation diesel technology. 

Experts are divided on current diesel engines.  On the one hand, they get three times as many miles per gallon.  On the other hand, they emit eight times the amount of pollutants.  So for the environment it's a push, with the advantage slightly in favor of standard gasoline engines.  Currently, gas-electric hybrid engineering is the technology of choice for the green-minded consumer.

That's all about to change.  One advantage standard gasoline engines have had over diesel is three decades of ever more stringent government standards which have forced automakers to reduce greenhouse emissions.  Thus diesel technology is playing catch up.  However, the learning curve won't be nearly so long because of all the technological and engineering pioneering on gas engines.

DaimlerChrysler is set to introduce Bluetec to the United States in the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2007.  Mercedes will begin importing the E 320 with a Bluetec engine, with an SUV to follow (I've heard they're going to call it the GL class). 

Currently Bluetec promises to deliver 30 percent better fuel efficiency and 20 percent fewer greenhouse gasses through a combination of filtering and a catalytic converter which adds ammonia to the nitrous oxide (I don't begin to understand the chemistry) to make the exhaust more enviornmentally inert. 

But I personally like this technology better than hybrid technology because it's more solid state and stands a chance on reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  Hybrids still use GAS.  Until hydrogen powered vehicles are available, a Bluetec will be the next car I buy.  So, I plan to save my money and, unless I lose my job or some other unforseen circumstance, I'll purchase a Bluetec vehicle--either a Cherokee or a Mercedes GL.  So in the meantime, I need to re-cathect* with my T-bird.

*Cathexis:  investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Persecution Complex

Evangelical Christians are having a difficult emotional time living in a pluralistic society.  400 of them met in Washington D.C. over the past few days to bemoan secularist opposition.  There they regailed themselves with stories of Christian persecution.  In fact, one self-loathing Jew called Christians the "Jews" of today--comparing their treatment with that of the Jews in Europe from 1930-1945.  The rational response was succinctly stated by the Rev. Robert M. Franklin, a minister in the Church of God in Christ and professor of social ethics at Emory University:

"This is a skirmish over religious pluralism, and the inclination to see it as a war against Christianity strikes me as a spoiled-brat response by Christians who have always enjoyed the privileges of a majority position."

Another conference attendee remonstrated the liberal media: "The media doesn't understand (conservative Christians') inability to compromise on principles."  Jeez leweeze Evangelicals, if only you explained your totally intractable point of view, maybe they'd have some sympathy. 

So, let me see if I understand the situation here: a conservative Christian president has just appointed two conservative Christian judges to the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress are lead by Christian conservatives.  Wow.  Sounds like the concentration camps are right around the corner...

Monday, March 27, 2006


Seattle gunman Kyle Huff spray-painted "now" on sidewalks as he approached the house where he would shortly massacre six innocent people.  That has got to be credible evidence of command hallucinations.

My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.

As for Mr. Huff...

Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.

Job 3:3

Friday, March 24, 2006

Contra Catholica 1

I note that my intuition was at least 50% correct yesterday, that slain Tennessee pastor Matthew Winkler's wife will be charged with his murder.  Time will tell if her defense will be his molestation of their daughters.

Now on to something completely different.  I confess to an anti-Catholic prejudice, or maybe even bigotry.  This animus is limited to Catholic theology, which I generally disagree with, and Catholic politics, which I currently universally condemn.  I do, however, wholeheartedly believe that Catholicism is a legitimate path to salvation.  And, of course, I love, respect and admire all of my Catholic relatives.  So, while I love my Catholic bretheren, I hate their politics.

I ran across this Blog the other day and it made me quiver with fury.  I don't have time to parse every logical blunder or downright lie therein, but I will indulge myself a few responses.  "Under heavy fire from advocates of gay adoption, [the Boston Archdiocese] has acted on principle."  So, by demanding that the Archdiocese comply with established law, "advocates of gay adoption" have somehow diminished the religious rights of Catholic Charities?  That is a straw man argument.  Of course, restricting the right to worship is unconstitutional and unconscionable.  But nobody has a "right" to discriminate, and nobody has the "right" to broker adoptions.  Religion does not equate with adoption.  The state has the obligation to enforce the law.  And citizens are obligated to follow them, even those with which they disagree. 

Furthermore, Catholic Charities has indeed placed children in gay households in its 103 year history.  This wasn't an issue two years ago, or four years ago, or ten years ago.  It is only an issue NOW, after Pope Benedict decided that it was "gravely immoral" (and I've tried to find out exactly where this was said, although it's been widely reported, I can't cite it).  But my question is, if it was okay three years ago, why must it now suddenly cease?  My view: 1. Benedict said so and O'Malley (archbishop of Boston) takes his marching orders from the Vatican, 2. the REASON it must cease is to deflect attention from the ongoing child molestation scandal which has plagued the church for the past ten years.  Perhaps the Vatican correctly anticipated that if they took a hard line against gay marriage and adoptions, it would cause an uproar and that uproar would serve to underscore the notion that the church isn't soft on gays.  So, it could be nothing more than a PR campaign. 

Let me quote here from Blackstone's commentaries on English law (which is the foundation of American law):  "But while [catholics] acknowledge a foreign power, superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects."

This is, of course, anti-American as well as anti-Catholic, but it illustrates what I consider to be the central theme of anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States (at least historically so).  That no matter what, a Catholic will always owe the greater allegiance to his Church than his country, and that his opinions will change in accord with whatever dictate he receives from Rome.

So, while I acknowledge this to be a form of bigotry, it's difficult not to hold such a belief when 1. Benedict says that gay adoption is anathema, and his prelates in the United States discontinue it, even though it has not overly troubled them up until that edict from the Pope. 

Fair enough.  They're free to make their own rules.  But they can't pick and choose which secular laws they wish to obey.  That the Boston Catholic Charities chose to discontinue their adoption practice is testiment to their true religious conviction, but also to their religious freedom.  They were free to say no.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Crime Speculation

The pastor of a church (not sure what denomination) in Tennessee was found shot to death in his parsonage after he didn't show up for services on Wednesday evening.  His wife and three daughters are missing.  For a picture of the family, click here and then click on one of the thumbnails off to the right side of the page. 

I'm sorry but I'm going to have to take a "blame the victim" approach here.  I speculate that the minister's wife fired the shots that killed him and it was because she believed him to be molesting his daughters.  If so, it's also possible that her belief might be a complete delusion caused by insanity. 

It's always interesting when men of the cloth are murdered.  In 9 out of every 10 cases I've read, the perpetrators suffer from significant paranoid delusions.  My intuition tells me that  in this case, the minister's vocation had nothing to do with his murder.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

O, Canada!

Ferries sink all over the world, but almost nowhere do they do so with no loss of human life.  Apparently, Canada is the exception to the rule.  Now granted, there were only a hundred or so persons on board, rather than the thousands of passengers typical in stories from the south seas or the Indian Ocean or the Baltic; and the ferry didn't go down in a storm, but zero is still O--there can be no upward adjustment when one of the numbers is zero.  Kudos to Canadian mariners. 

Friday, March 17, 2006


Copyright laws are very straightforward.  How they are being interpreted though is a bit more Byzantine.  Dan Brown, as is being universally reported, is in court in England on a charge of plagarizing Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Leigh and Baigent.  In scholarly works one can lift ideas with proper attribution (such as a footnote or a textual note) so why should it be different with fiction?  Copyright, at least in the U.S., protects completed works from being reproduced in whole or in part.  Thus, you can't take sections of completed works, characters, settings, plot devices, etc. and use them in another work.  In the Dan Brown case, however, Leigh and Baigent are suing based on Brown's use of their speculative theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife, and that after Jesus' death, the Magdalene settled in the south of France and sired a lineage which persists up to this day, and which has been protected by a variety of secret societies, including the Knights Templar and the Priory of Zion. 

Though Brown's book recites this theory, he gives full credit to Leigh and Baigent.  Furthermore, it forms a small portion of the "completed work."  The characters, plot, events, settings and textual conflicts in the novel go far, far beyond Leigh and Baigent's work.  The Da Vinci Code stands on its own as a work of fiction.  Certainly Dan Brown was cognizant of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, he mentions it in his novel.  But ideas, in and of themselves, are not copyrightable.  It is within my rights as an author to cite other authors' work for analysis, discussion and/or inspiration.  Having read both works, the conclusion I have reached is that Brown's best ideas are his own, that his use of the theories presented in Holy Blood, Holy Grail is innocuous and does not rise to the level of plagarism.  Having CITED the work in question it cannot be plagarism in that word's common definition and meaning.

Let's also look at Leigh and Baigent's motives.  There have been two other works which have copied far greater portions of Holy Blood, Holy Grail than The Da Vinci Code.  One of them is Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.  The other is an episode of The Secret Life of Jules Verne.  Neither of those two works, to my knowledge, were sued by Mssrs. Leigh and Baigent.  It was only Dan Brown, with his 40 million copies world-wide, who attracted the lightning-bolts of their solicitors.  Where deep-pockets are concerned, you'll always find blood-suckers. 

Come back soon for my analysis of the Larry Cohen/Fox lawsuit over The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it will answer the question why Alan Moore refuses to have his name associated with V for Vendetta.  Don't miss it!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bird Flu 2

Bird flu has spread to Sweden.

Watch this story called The Bird Flu Reality Check and tremble in your shoes.


One of my coworkers was disturbed by yesterday's post.  She raised some valid concerns.  First, I don't believe that all shoplifting is pathological.  It's always antisocial, but there's a big difference between kids testing boundaries and developing their consciences and their sense of morality with what Winona Ryder and Claude Allen are alleged to have done.  Such conduct is performed in spite of conscience (if it still exists) in an attempt to destroy it.  It's proto-psychopathological, degenerate behavior.

I wonder if strong families help guard against this kind of degeneracy.   More responsibility towards others may turn one aside from morbid internalization.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Low Crimes and Misdemeanors

Petty theft, as opposed to treason, which is a high crime performed for the most egregiously venal motive, personal financial gain, is almost always pathological.  When Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting, the news organizations trumpeted the headlines all over the world.  But have you heard the one about Claude Allen, though?  Claude Allen was President Bush's domestic policy advisor.  He was a White House intimate, a person who advised the most powerful man on earth.  Claude Allen is also an alleged petty criminal, who allegedly swindled Target out of more than $5,000 worth of merchandise

What makes otherwise successful people resort to this kind of public indecency, this maladaptive and apparently uncontrollable urge to behave in deplorable ways?  What makes them flirt with discovery, and the public humiliation and destruction of one's reputation which inevitably follow?  Like bulimia, masturbation or self-mutilation, it hides in secret.  It's a festering miasma of hidden rage, deep and gangrenous.  Like a reservoir of pus it lurks under the surface, growing hotter and more pestilent, until it expresses itself in the only way it can: an eruption of self-destructive conduct.

It is the desire to be caught, to flirt with danger, but also to be caught, to get away with it for a while, but also to be caught, that drives such a deeply disturbed, proto-psychopathic mind.  The only difference between such a one and Theodore Robert Bundy is scale.

Monday, March 13, 2006


"Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed. To you it ought to be sufficient that you acknowledge the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, the sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders." 

--Martin Luther

Stay away from Pate

An article in today's Slate magazine about swans dying of avian flu have put the issue into the forefront of my mind.  Last summer was the first I'd heard of it.  I ignored it.  My mind justified the ignorance by saying "it's a third-world problem..."  So racism helped me keep my head stuck in the sand. 

However, recent stories such as the one in Slate, and the stories that the virus has jumped to cats has me pulling up my sandy head and panicking. 

The danger for human beings is that we have no natural antibodies for this strain of flu.  In Indonesia, there have been 29 confirmed cases of avian flu, of which 22 have proven fatal. 

That's a very high percentage of fatality.  Likewise, if the flu begins to be passed from person to person, then it will quickly decimate the world's population.  Currently, all confirmed cases were contracted from infected birds, though there have been cases where it may have been contracted through proximity to an infected person--though the infection doesn't go beyond that. 

So it's still contained.  But I see a chained monster ready to be unleashed on a very vulnerable population. 

The CDC has the most current information, and from there you can link to the WHO and other government sites that can help you prepare.  But, they'll also scare your pants off.

In the meantime, I'm going to stay as far away from birds as I can, particularly ducks, which can carry the virus without dying of it themselves.  So, no more walks around Greenlake for the forseeable future.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Disney's Decline

The Shaggy Dog opens today.  I don't know about you, but it's a miss on my list.  Tim Allen is a talented guy and I'm sure that he and all the artists involved tried their best.  But when guys in Armani suits come knocking, bearing skads of filthy lucre, who can say no?  Thus we have this remake.  The Disney of yesterday made its reputation on clean, wholesome, family-oriented entertainment.  Let's be honest: Their movies were square even in the 60's and 70's when they were made.  The Disney of today makes its reputation snickering up its sleeve at its former reputation.  Their films have all the technical expertise one would expect from an A-list film, the timing is right, the images clear, the camera stable and firmly affixed to its tripod, which all cameras should aspire to.  But there's no soul.  These films are as pretty and empty as Seattle would be after a neutron bomb explosion.  The filmmakers have no conviction because they've got mixed motives.  They can't make quality family entertainment because their corporate managers have no desire to do that.  The only raison d'etre is the filling of bank accounts and to do that, they must be hip.  Everyone wants to be hip, don't they?  It is souless, bankrupt, bereft entertainment that is as sharp and unappetizing as aluminum foil.  That is because their people in charge of the company are souless, bankrupt, bereft of style, grace or substance.  The Disney Studio of the past has transformed into the Disney Corporation of today.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Booming Toward Bethlehem

I am a member of the Baby Boomer generation (1946-1964), as I was born in 1958.  Having spent a good deal of my youth recovering from a serious chemical dependency issue (successful) and then trying to find a career in the arts (not so much); I have reached the age of 48 without a robust retirement portfolio.  I paid into an IRA for several years before I qualified for a 401(k) plan through my work.  The best investment has been the 401(k) without any doubt.  After ten years it has grown exponentially, doubling itself, then tripling itself.  I now have, between my IRA and my 401(k) almost seventy-five grand saved. 

This ain't much from the standpoint of my parent's generation, who all went into retirement with three quarters of a million in their bank accounts and could also count on social security to provide for them.  The number crunchers in Washington realized that 75 million people would be entering the system roughly over a period of 20 years starting in 2008, when the first boomers turned 62.  They realized that social security would have a difficult time meeting the demand.  Thus George Bush's attempt to privatize or reform the program.  His attempt failed, but at some point so will the program. 

Although I have a rather modest nest-egg, I'm far better off than the vast majority of my 75 million fellows.  The US Department of Labor states that the median (not the statistical average, but the numerical mid-point of the number range) for boomer households is $2,000 in retirement savings.

The average is $46,000, but that takes into account people who have tens of millions of dollars in savings.  The super-rich bring the average up for everyone else.  Even the Dept. of Labor acknowledges that there are wildly varying amounts in retirement accounts among households with similar incomes and expenses. 

What does this mean, objectively, for me?  (This is, after all, a me blog written by a member of the me generation.) 

Retirment is going to be a beyatch.  I think the answer may be a kind of communal living situation, investing in property with friends that we then share.  I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot of Golden Girls arrangements in the future.  I thinkthat we boomers have got to find a new template upon which to base our golden years--that the template our parents created will not work for us.

And even less so for generations to come.  I predict that in a hundred years retirement as we know it will cease to exist; that the only individuals who will be able to retire before they are no longer physically able to work are those who work for the goverment.  That can be avoided, of course, if present young people get smart and begin to save as soon as they can, even if it's just a handful of dollars a week.

Monday, March 6, 2006

The Oscars

No, I didn't watch.  The televised Academy Awards always fill me with a mixture of dread, revulsion and panic.  They are never funny enough and always too embarrassing.  I fall for cheezy "in Memoriam" moments, tears moistening my banal cheeks, as though these were people who actually meant something in my life--rather than being refracted light through tinted celluloid--or in the alternative, millions upon millions of eight-digit sequences of microscopic pits, read by a laser and transformed into imagery upon a cathode-ray tube. 

I did see some of the films.  Capote was especially good.  I thought Brokeback Mountain was beautiful, but I was more taken with The Mysterious Skin, which was far too extreme to find popular appeal.  My friend Jack wept copious tears at Brokeback Mountain, but I did not share his emotional experience.  However, an emotional experience was there to be had, judging from his reaction.  That's why it's always good to go with someone else to a movie.

My friend Robert is my favorite person to go to a movie with.  He can make sense of things in a way that really impresses me.  For example, he summed up Capote beautifully by saying, here was was a writer who exploited these killers for his own ends, and ironically, they wind up knowing that, and forgiving him anyway.  When you're facing death, nobody has time for a grudge, believe me.  Again, when Robert and I went to see Napola (AKA Before the Fall), he succinctly described the Napola as a school that trained killers.  That the filmmakers were presenting a society wherein there was no room for anyone who could not kill.  His description encapsulated the theme of the film beautifully and right on target.

I wish I could be so astute.  But my emotions get in the way.  It all becomes a blur of suffering and desire. 

Speaking of suffering and desire, what did I do instead of watch the Oscars?  I watched the Sci-Fi marathon of all five Hellraiser movies after Hellraiser 4--in other words, all the Hellraisers that went straight to video.  Now there's suffering and desire! 

I have to say that I was quite moved by Hellraiser 5--Inferno.  I was quite taken by the themes in the movie.  My suspicion with these five Hellraisers wasthat they were written as standalones, and reworked to fit into the Hellraiser universe.  So Pinhead makes an appearance in each of them.  Inferno worked as a kind of variant on Jacob's Ladder and Angel Heart.  It was an excellent story, though it does not fit into Clive Barker's thematic core--the Cenobites are almost Lovecraftian in their pitiless need to make human beings suffer the most excruciating pain in their flesh and their souls.  Pinhead almost becomes a moralistic figure in this film.  I've read that Barker hates this film--but be that as it may, the film works and is worth watching and even owning.  I cannot say that for the rest of them.  The thing, of course that connects the Hellraiser series is not only Pinhead, but the Lament Configuration: a puzzle box, one of three hundred created by a French toymaker.  When you solve the puzzle, the box opens a gateway to a dimension where the Cenobites exist, a kind of hell.  Cenobites are human beings transformed by pain and desire into otherworldy creatures who give such agony that it ceases to have any relevance at all, and becomes indistinguishable from pleasure.

It is a remarkable creation.  If Barker had created this alone he could be considered a genius.  But that he's created half a dozen other alternate realities, as fully imagined and detailed as this one makes him a paragon.