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Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

a flood

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

there was a time when other people's disasters had little effect on me. that time is over.

i'm not sure it's a change for the better.

since i became a parent it has been much easier for me to put myself in someone else's place. to imagine how i would feel if it were my son and daughter laying dead, victims of a mindless act of nature.

the images pouring in from india, sri lanka, thailand, indonesia and other flooded coastlines are washing over me with unexpected power. mothers wailing, being pulled away from their lifeless children. unidentified bodies in mass graves, wrapped in white, forever unclaimed by family and friends.

i hear the reports of the destruction, worse with each passing hour, and i want to cry.

but i don't.

because while part of me is eager to empathize, to embrace fellow humans in a time of tragedy, another part vehemently insists that that response amounts to capitulation in a no-win situation.

you know why men don't cry? because we're afraid...afraid we won't be able to stop. god knows there is much to cry about. every day the act of living is enough to drive the strongest to their knees.

if it doesn't, it's because we who are less than strong keep the impulse at arm's length. we compartmentalize and sublate and deny outright. we refuse (or fail) to take the time to give grief its due. there'll be time later, we forestall, and besides, if others see us break down, they'll know how dire the situation really is.

in reality, the situation is dire every day. for millions of people fighting disease, suffering neglect, dealing with nameless tragedies great and small. the wolf is always at the door, and the best we can do is delay the inevitable moment that the door breaks down. the day when the wolf comes for a parent, a friend, a child. worse, it may not take them right away, instead making us wait for and watch the end, as if in slow motion.

the end, as it manifests itself today in the indian ocean basin, won't be over for a long time. the toll, having risen past catastrophic, will proceed to epic. on this side of the world, good people who care will grow numb to the ongoing reports. others will simply grow tired of hearing them. we'll move on, while survivors a world away will struggle to cope.

they face the prospect of burying their dead, avoiding starvation, preventing an epidemic, somehow rebuilding their lives. in the face of utter devastation, they'll have to deal with memories like these...

(from the washington post) Haggard with unkempt, jet-black hair, Emi, who like many Indonesians uses one name, recounted how she and her family had dashed from their home in fright Sunday morning when the earthquake rocked the province, followed quickly by the onslaught of the dark sea.

As the water poured across Panglima Polim Street, many tried to outrun it. But the wall of water came too fast.

"Then, people started yelling, 'The water is coming! The water is coming!'"

Emi's two grandchildren, she said, were drowned instantly.

"The water kept rolling us, rolling us," Emi continued, tugging anxiously on her brown-and-white sarong. "I ended up on a rooftop hanging on. My husband ended up in a tree."

From the branches, he clung desperately to the hand of their son. But the boy slipped away, dropping into the churning waters, vanishing.


i don't know how they'll manage. i don't know how they can go on without their children. i don't know how that father will ever be able to convince himself that he couldn't hold on any longer...that it wasn't his fault. parenthood allows me a glimpse of how i'd feel in his place. but i don't let myself look too long.

because i am afraid of what i might see.

the wolf is always at the door, and it scares me. not for myself. that i can handle. but for those i care about, those i might not be able to protect. i fear for them.

rum punch

Thursday, December 23, 2004

frick. i said i wasn't going to write about rummy...but apparently i can't help myself.

where to begin?

as secretary of defense, donald rumsfeld is smug, incompetent and indifferent--classic characteristics of a bush cabinet member.

on rummy's watch, the war in iraq has devolved from unjustified and ill-conceived to a daily train wreck of immorality and unstemmed violence. ask yourself: how is it possible that following the act of saddam hussein, the u.s. is now considered the bad guys in this drama? mind you, this nauseating turn of events has occurred after the administration declared an "end to major hostilities" and "mission accomplished."

to sum up, rummy's "plan" entailed too few troops to secure the country, insufficient equipment to support those troops, and no exit strategy. the capper? he couldn't be bothered to sign the condolence letters to the families of troops killed supporting his folly.

in the face of all this, as widely reported, several "influential" republican senators are still backing rumsfeld. the rationale is that "a change in pentagon leadership would be unwise at this time of war in iraq."

oh. of course. we wouldn't want to change the leadership that has done such a bang-up job to this point, would we? it makes one wonder what rummy would have to do, how much more egregiously he would have to screw up, to be handed over to the justice department. (tsk, except the attorney general in charge of torture would probably just hand him back a "medal of freedom.")

frankly, if any of us did our jobs the way rummy has done his, we'd be up on charges. a mob would be pounding at the jailhouse door, carting a large tree and waving a noose.

but this administration stumbles blithely forward. or sideways. or backwards. it's hard to tell from one day to the next.

meanwhile, thankfully, some republicans recently have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and recognized it as a train. in the past week senators mccain, hagel, collins and lott collectively expressed "no confidence" in rumsfeld. this break from the party line is significant in that while rumsfeld is a problem for us all, he is a monster of the republicans' making. and he is theirs to bring down.

that prospect is appealing for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the unqualified support rumsfeld still enjoys from the white house. according to chief of staff andrew card, "secretary rumsfeld is doing a spectacular job, and the president has great confidence in him."

uh-huh. that figures. the job rumsfeld is doing is every bit as impressive as the job done on us by the president.

meanwhile the grinder in iraq is running full bore. good people are dying, and doing so at the bidding of people who have no business taking orders at a drive-through window, let alone giving orders that are a matter of life and death.

rummy is clearly punch drunk. it's past time to kick him to the curb.

post holiday letdown

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

ha! i've stolen a good idea from my friend gonzo. all the posts i would write if it weren't for the holidays.

thanks, gonzo. your royalty check is in the mail.

no, really.

1. rummy and the egg nog all over his face. any question what this post would've been about? i didn't think so. so let's just stipulate the sarcasm and ranting that would've followed.

2. barry bonds, jason giambi, steroids and asterisks. (hint: i'm in favor of the asterisks, opposed to the rest.)

3. bush and his "medals of freedom" awarded to 3 utter failures. woo-hoo! the dollar ain't the only thing being devalued in america.

4. the seattle sonics. they should be one of the worst teams in the league. instead, they're currently one of the best. coach nate mcmillan either shopped early for smoke and mirrors, or he sold his soul to (insert devil of your choice here).

5. the makers of celebrex, aleve, and other drugs that may kill us. hey, nobody's perfect, but don't hide the data, huh?

6. the very idea of a legitimate election in iraq.

6.b. the very idea of a legitimate election in king county, washington state.

7. global warming, and the bush administration's insistence it doesn't exist. i would've also thrown in a withering attack on bush's environmental record across the board.

8. recent shark attacks in australian waters.

9. a look back at 2004, with a sincere discussion as to why 2005 has to be an improvement


feliz navidad, y'all.

X-Mas List

Monday, December 20, 2004

I guess you could say this a wish list - a list of all the posts I wish I could write, but due to a number of forces beyond my control, I am simply unable to. The question is: Will Santa come to the rescue of this increasingly desperate Jewboy?

1. Review of U2's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. I will say here that U2 continues to stand head and shoulders above most pop/rock artists, particulalry in terms of their consistency in making music that is uniquely theirs, of high quality, The Edge remains one of the most interesting guitarists out there, and Bono's voice is perhaps the best there ever has been in the genre.

2. I am frickin' thrilled to be a Seattle Mariners fan right now!

3. I am frickin' disgusted by the United States of America!

4. Winter Solstice - in the Pacific Northwest, this is a VERY big deal, the returning of the light.

5. Hannukah - still crazy after all these years.

6. The hidden meaning of parking lots. (This one will make it to T-Floss soon.)

7. Egg Nog - If I didn't like it so much (especially with freshly grated nutmeg) I'd be sickened by it.

8. Winter seasonal brews - wishing Knuckles would write on this because I'm not getting out enough to sample.

9. Salmon and the gauntlet.

10. In Heavy Rotation: Buddhism, or Brushes with Gary Snyder and Pema Chodron.

Missing Muse Revisited

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Back in September, I reported on experiences shopping for cell phones and rate plans that so consumed me I was unable to post here at Transcendental Floss as regularly as I care to. This initial post was followed by this post, reporting that the solution to the problem was to not get a cell phone after all.

Well, several months later and I have emerged from another brush with Wireless Communications Obsession Disorder - an official diagnosis soon to appear in the DSM. I am now the not so proud owner of a Nokia 3120, and a 1-year contract with Cingular. Notice no link to Cingular. Way too soon, after a nightmare caused by their porting my wife's cell number from her previous carrier before she had her new phone, for me to actually recommend them.

ugh. Worst post I have ever written.

Suffice to say, I hope to be writing more often, and more better. Ok. So I'm rusty! Good grief.

war is swell

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

during the viet nam war, photographers and journalists were all over the theater of battle, documenting the horrors and sending scalding images back to the evening news in the u.s.

where are those journalists and images today? what do americans know of the events being waged on their behalf?

take the recent fight for fallujah, for example. according to the irish examiner (they seemed nonpartisan), over 600 insurgents were reported killed, along with dozens of u.s. personnel. hundreds more on both sides were wounded.

who would have thought it possible that this kind of devastation could occur in a vacuum?

a recent google image search of "battle for fallujah" found five (5) photographs.

a similar search of the broader "fallujah" returned 918 images, most of which are more innocuous than web cam shots of your local freeway at rush hour.

what's your point, you ask? who wants to see photographs of death and destruction?

come on. americans love death and destruction. nascar fans live for massive wrecks. movie-goers demand big body counts. video games, once the warm, wholesome purview of mario and ms. pac man, spew blood by the buckets.

the media is missing out on an historic opportunity. not "to do their jobs." heaven forfend. but to sell! to jack up their circulation and make a killing during sweeps. to make money the old-fashioned way...on the pain and suffering of thousands.

instead, they're sitting idly by and wasting the chance of a lifetime.

the media are bleeding heart liberals. no, the media are soulless conglomeratons. whichever viewpoint you subscribe to, the bottom line is the same.

support our troops. only 18 more shopping days 'til christmas! how 'bout those patriots?

war is swell.

the game is afoot…in somebody’s mouth.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

let’s play a game.

it’s called, “who do you believe?”

the board and pieces for this game are provided by our country’s current adventure in iraq. the players include the cia, the bush administration, the media, and you.

here’s how to play:

something happens in iraq. it doesn’t matter what. something momentous, something small. an individual something (we’ll call it an “event”), or a whole series of somethings (we’ll call those a “trend”).

for the purpose of our game, we’ll pick an “event” summarizing a “trend.” (ooh, isn’t this great?!?)

the “event” is a recent report from the cia’s station chief in baghdad. according to the new york times (yes! a member of the media! you’re very good at this game...), the chief characterized the situation there as “bad and getting worse.”

read it for yourself. go ahead, i’ll wait… (log-in required)

ready to go on? excellent.

okay, now since the new york times is often disparaged as having a “liberal bias,” we also consulted fox news online. the people at fox, some say, are right wing toadies, so they should have a totally different view of the chief’s report, don’t you think? let’s find out...

well, the main page didn’t say anything about the cia station chief in baghdad, so i did a search of the site. as you can see, it turned up nothing. so apparently, according to fox news, this story is not news.



moving right along…

what does the bush administration say? well, npr and the times reported that scott mclellan, a white house spokesman, said he could not discuss intelligence matters. me, i see that as a punch line, but you can make of it what you will.

let’s summarize.

according to the new york times, the cia chief in baghdad says the situation there is not so great. fox news doesn’t say anything about the chief’s report. the white house source has no comment, leaving one to discern the facts for oneself.

who hasn’t had a turn yet? oh…you!

knowing how smart you are, i figured you’d want more information. so i googled this story for you. cia station chief baghdad, i typed.

here are the results.

as you can see, the first page consists of reports of the station chief being removed from his post…in december of 2003. nothing on the current chief, except a pick-up of the times’ story in the minneapolis star tribune.

then, on google, i clicked “i’m feeling lucky.” because i figured you were feeling pretty lucky right about now.

here’s the result.

okay, you’ve read what was available. based on your reading: who do you believe?

do you believe the cia chief, as reported in the new york times? do you believe fox news and the white house, which is to say, go about your business, there’s nothing to see here? do you believe the people at the minneapolis star tribune, who apparently believe the story in the times?

the clock is ticking. the pressure is on. based on all the information you’ve gathered, what do you conclude, and why? think about your answer for a moment, it says a lot about who you are.

aaaaaaaannnnnnhhh! time’s up!

who do you believe?

Farewell, Tom!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Tonight, I watched network news on a weeknight for the first time in so long it may be the first time this millennium. Network news seems obsolete to me. But tonight NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw signed off for the last time. I decided to watch. Here's a blow-by-blow report with commentary.

First off, Brokaw made it through without choking up, and where he started to, he brushed it off rather quickly. From some other NBC show to promo tonight's show, he didn't make it through as well.

The lead story was Iraq. Nothing new reported. Next was the UN scandal with Sen. Coleman (R-MN) calling for the resignation of Kofi Annan, of which nothing more was reported than what wasn’t shared in a 10-second soundbyte of an earlier promo on MSNBC. Using Colin Powell as a segue, another non-news story reported gunshots fired in Port-au-Prince, Haiti but were unsure whether the shots were fired at the Capitol or near. No segue. Bush was in Halifax, Nova Scotia today spewing some drivel about how Canada was early to sound off on the Hitler challenge and kept Germany off our shores back then. Not sure what the President's point was (well, I am but, um, Hitler was on the march, Saddam was not) nor the import of the story. Tom said something in two lines about Ukraine voting that was entirely non-consequential like the show thus far.

During the commercial break, I switched over to an NRA satire piece on The Simpsons and was late back to NBC. I recall that Tom started a "Fleecing America" feature, so this may have been another one of those stories. Today, Americans have been given the legal means to check their credit once per year with each of the three credit reporting companies. (For those living West of the Rockies, visit annualcreditreport.com. Others will have to wait three to nine months.) Following was a Census Bureau factoid, 1/3 men and 1/4 women aged 30-34 are single, up four times since the 1970s.

During the commercial break, I switched over to the Simpsons again. More laughs. But then the Simpsons went to commercial so I made it back to NBC to catch the commercials: Lipitor (a drug), Bayer (a drug), Stouffers ("food"), and an NBC Today promo.

The first story after the break was one that had been pimped prior to the previous two commercial breaks. Not bad, ESPN usually teases no less than 20 times before airing the one-line story.

More on Iraq... not about the 1252 killed but about some of the over 9500 injured. This was a piece put together by Brokaw's replacement, Brian Williams, who I only now noticed has a rather crooked face. His nose goes one way, his chin the other. Kudos to NBC for going with quirky good looks rather than straight up good looks. Anyway, Williams closed his story about Ward 57, Walter Reed (Center?) on amputees with a personal nod to Tom, "Back to you Tom one last time." Tom bobbled the exchange the way the South Dakota football team fumbled... Ah, I'll stop, does South Dakota even have a state university system?

One last commercial break: Procrit (a drug), One A Day (a vitamin), USPS (the spot with the catchy cover of the Guthrie "Mail Myself to You" song, free download from Amazon), Nexium (a drug), LL Bean (old people clothing), and a King 5 News (Seattle) promo.

Drugs, drugs, drugs. No wonder I don't watch network news anymore. It is obviously geared for people over fifty given the advertising. I've not seen recent studies but a battle between me and my advertising and media professors was often over how TV commercials could also break viewership of a show and not just the quality of content. They felt advertising should be about the product and its own content had no impact upon its audience or the show's audience. I differed. My argument: Think of how many non-football people will watch the Super Bowl. Think of how many people will not watch shows that carry questionable taste in advertising. Think of how many people aligned their views with or against Benetton when they started their multi-racial/AIDs campaigns.

Back to the news, Tom closed up the show thanking his viewers for their forbearance when he erred, giving props to all the people behind the scenes, and sharing his enduring lessons from his years at NBC, which included the biggest pimping of the Greatest Generation (without saying the GG phrase) this side of Pluto (not a planet, huh?!). The show closed with a photo montage of Brokaw from then to now set to a piano bit by either Bob Hope or the red, white and blue clothes wearing guy from D.C. whose shows air on PBS every now and again. (I forget his name, but it's not "Tim Russert" who has a name whence he came to prominence I have since always confused with piano guy's.)

Well, I am not sure there was a single worthwhile story that conveyed info that most of the general public did not already know. I didn't learn a single thing except the Census Bureau factoid. Oh, I forgot to mention, after the worthless Ukraine voting "report", Tom gave the Wall Street report which thankfully seems to have been toned down since I last watched network news.

All in all, I liked Tom Brokaw. He was my second favorite anchor and was my first until Peter Jennings came into his own. Dan Rather? Ha! He was "old" back when I started watching network news. I've rarely watched CBS network news since. Last time I think I turned to CBS for any news was during the Connie Chung era. Say, wasn't she being groomed to replace Rather? My, how times change. Haven't heard word one from any feminist group about NBC choosing a man, but then I have heard CBS may turn to -- um, I forget her name, too, but she was an ABC... -- oh, CBS may turn to Diane Sawyer as their network news figurehead. This I say in comparison to the uproar in college football about the recent firing of a black coach.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah, network news, who needs ya unless world events are making history before our eyes?!

P.S. Say, Blogger? You killed off my links! Don't do that. You have new competition to ponder.