April 28, 2003
Exclamation of Surprise!

I discover that I have been linked to by SullyWatch. I would direct one's attention to the article itself, but there seems to be trouble of some sort with the individual archiving. There's a lot of that going round on Blogspot. Either that, or I'm just...clicking it wrong?

This is a great moment; who would ever have guessed my ill-tempered verbal assault was worthy of notice?

Thus, like the serpent Jormungand, do I rear up, spewing venom over all the earth.

Can fame and fortune be far behind?

(Yes.)

Posted by aloysius at 11:48 PM |
Facts

So I'd planned this morning to vivisect Andrew Sullivan's weekly Sunday Times piece, just for laughs, especially in light of the shocking revelation not long ago that Republicans as a whole don't like gays all that much, all in all, really, pretty much. I mean, who knew? Unfortunately, he hadn't posted it to his site yet. I attempted to find it on the Sunday Times site, but either I'm even more inept than I think I am, or it was designed by a team of autistic howler (ass)monkeys, for I couldn't find it on my own, and their search engine wanted me to give them money before it would show me anything. And while I like a good vivisection as much as the next man, I don't like it nearly enough to actually _pay_. Do I look like I'm made of money to you? No? What about marzipan? Possibly butter?

Well.

So there was no bloggery this morning, no sirree, which was a shame as the article apparently carried the juicy title of 'Ominous fault lines open under Bush’s feet'...Instead I felt clever as I did my real analysis homework; Radon measures aren't all that hard to work with. Pretty much any measure you can build out of a Radon measure, as near as I can tell, will also be Radon. I went out, basked in the fresh air and sunshine, and as I did so I stumbled upon an open-air production of Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre at the foot of a monument in Volunteer Park by a group from Cornish College of the Arts, which just goes to show you the difference between Seattle and Iowa, where all I'd be likely to stumble across is swine feces. Enthusiastic performances by some foxy, foxy homos, high camp with prostitutes played by men in drag, but somewhat disjointed, and without a single clear artistic vision. Sometimes sort of classical-minimalist, sometimes more absurdist. But enjoyable enough. All but for the two teenaged girls sitting just upwind of me who insisted on smoking their foul tobacco cigarettes and gossiping bitchily rather than paying any attention to the play itself. I made a note of them in my Palm Pilot: it reads 'crowing assbastards'. As perhaps you can tell, I like to use the word 'ass' in compounds. It's a hobby. They were nearly the archetypes of the people who sit behind you in the cinema and don't turn their mobile phones off. Only ranker.

Home at last, I find my Official Arch-Nemesis[TM] Sullivan, who is as disgustingly right-wing on most things as I am disgustingly socialist, has indeed gotten his posting on! There's a little bitlet on his Daily Dish called 'The Clincher' (Clencher? As in, clencher of my teeth and buttocks as my entire body spasms in pain and illogic?) which needs some addressing. The Telegraph reported the discovery of documents in Baghdad that claim an al-Qaeda envoy paid an official visit on Iraq in 1998. Sullivan says that, 'if verified' (a nice ass-covering, there), this would pretty much demolish the anti-war crowd. Speaking as one of them, I don't think this is entirely true. Consider. This visit happened in March 1998, long before 11 September, before even the bombings of US embassies in Africa, as the Telegraph freely admits. There is so far no evidence that this visit was ever followed up. There is as yet no evidence that Iraq materially aided al-Qaeda in any way. There are still strong indications to the contrary. (I.e., Osama bin Laden calling for Hussein to be overthrown and killed.) But let's be generous. Suppose such evidence is found--and it's genuine: that still will not chance the morality of the war in the slightest. You can't justify your actions with things you don't know until afterwards.

Suppose you're high on pixie sticks and espresso, pulling your car out of the driveway, hungry for blood, when you 'accidentally' back over your neighbour's kid twelve times as an example to the rest of the block. Suppose afterwards you learn said neighbour's kid was actually a cat-molesting neo-Nazi who dealt smack to nuns. (Who knew? Certainly not you. He was always such a quiet boy.) Does that make it retroactively more moral to have pulverised the kid?

Well, no, of course not. Don't be silly.

Whatever new information may come to light now cannot be used to justify something that's already been done. Otherwise you aren't acting on logic at all, but on faith: faith that you'll find some just cause, after the fact, to rationalise the thing you've already set your heart on doing. That's like killing someone because you believe Jesus told you to do it. Or because you believe your dog told you to do it. It's not rational. In an individual, we'd call it insane.

Just believing isn't enough to carry an argument. Otherwise al-Qaeda would win hands-down. They believe. On what grounds do we argue with their conclusions? We believe they're wrong when they say that, for example, the world ought to live under a tyrannical oppressive theocracy and make women second- or third-class citizens. So how do we decide which of the two competing belief systems, theirs or ours, is the one we should support? Do we decide on the basis of whose faith is the purer? Of who is freer from doubts? Of who can shout slogans the loudest? Or do we look at these 'fact' things we keep hearing so much about? Like, do we possibly attempt to amass evidence and come to some logical conclusion from it? Maybe? Perhaps? Just a little?

Let us consider the facts. Before the fact, the US had no evidence that Iraq actually had any significant chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons capability. The US had no evidence tying Iraq to al-Qaeda. The US had no evidence that Iraq represented any kind of a security threat. In fact, the US just wanted a convenient target it could blow to bits as an example to other nations. The administration has freely admitted so, as I'm sure everyone has heard by now. They lied. Let me just repeat that.

They lied.

The case they attempted to build before the invasion was a sham. They had no evidence of weapons of mass destruction or of al-Qaeda connections when they were selling this war. When they claimed that they did, they were lying. They spoke untruly. They prevaricated. They opened their mouths and discharged a thick warm stream of the feces of untruth. The evidence they offered of weapons of mass destruction was pretty well debunked by Unmovic. They didn't even bother to offer any evidence of al-Quaeda ties, just repeated the same empty claims over and over in the hopes that, like a commercial, repetition would jam it into people's heads as God's own truth. Those who supported the war were supporting a great big fat juicy perky plump-thighed incontinent rank sweaty leprous lie. I am now going to repeat the word 'lie' several times for emphasis.

Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.

(Which is not to be confused with Lie, as in Marius Sophus Lie, of Lie groups fame.)

By any rational standards, the anti-war movement was absolutely in the right. No compelling evidence was presented to justify the government's claims. No just cause was presented that would stand up to scrutiny. Rejecting the war was the only reasonable thing to do. An unjustified war is an unjust war.

Which brings me back to Sullivan, saying quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard (in the last five minutes)...

My view is that, after 9/11, we have little option but to launch a pre-emptive strike and hope for retroactive justification.

Yeah. That's really stupid. I mean, that's so stupid, I'm not even sure how to argue with it. Let's just cross our fingers and pull the trigger? Why don't we just declare war on everybody? I'm sure they've all done something...

But I understand why people demand proof before such action.

What, because the alternative is to live governed entirely by paranoia and propaganda, completely pissing away all the qualities of rationality, objectivity, and free thought that make western civilisation worth living in?

This new finding - and I bet there will be more like it - strengthens my position, I think.

That it's okay to be as irresponsible and bloodthirsty and rash and arrogant as you want, so long as you can think of a halfway convincing excuse afterwards?

It's clearer and clearer that we did the right thing. And this debate is even more important to have now when we can look at the evidence than before, when we couldn't.

Of course. It's vitally important that we save the debate on whether we should kill some people and trash their cities until after we've killed and trashed. That makes it so much harder for people to dissent.

If only there were a National Bitch-Slap Anyone Who Says Something Patently Untrue and Illogical Day...

(Metaphorically bitch-slap, of course.)

Write your Congressperson. This is an idea whose time has come.

Posted by aloysius at 12:30 AM |
April 26, 2003
A Confession

I have a confession to make. Unfortunately, it probably isn't a very interesting confession for anyone who isn't keen on maths. The whole thing revolves around the differences between two subbranches of mathematics which may in fact be indistinguishable to outsiders...Spend enough time in graduate school and one begins to forget that the entire world is not in fact made up of mathematicians.

But first, a headline: 'Bosnian Police Capture The Masturbator'.

Police in Bosnia say they have caught a prolific burglar who they dubbed The Masturbator.

The man had allegedly broken into scores of offices to spend hours on telephone sex lines.

'The Masturbator' sounds to me precisely like the sort of villain we'd have seen on Doctor Who had FOX produced a new series. I mean, what sort of crack-addled glue-sniffer casts Eric Roberts, as anything other than perhaps a floor lamp?

But I digress!

I've been feeling filled to the brim with a certain mathematical angst recently, not unlike my mug is now, if by 'mathematical angst' I mean 'tea'...

...It occurs to me that not all who may be reading this necessarily know me already. I should then explain. I'm a first-year Ph.D. student in mathematics at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Ever since I decided to go into maths, I've had my heart set on being an algebraist. Modern algebra bears little resemblance to the algebra we teach to schoolchildren. Modern algebra is what you get when fiendishly clever Europeans spend 150 years trying to escape from any contact with the diurnal world.

If you were lucky, and not an American under about 21, it's plausible that in high school, or your local equivalent, you were taught at some stage various properties of arithmetic, like the Associative Law, and the Distributive Law, and so forth. Algebra is what you get when you throw away numbers and take some of these laws as axioms, then study the objects that obey them. From a very small set of axioms, one gets a very large, even pervasive, class of mathematical beasts with a very rich theory describing them. The simplest sort of algebraic object is a group. A group is a set of things--what these things are doesn't matter in particular--along with a function or rule, called a binary operation, for taking any two of these things and getting a third thing from them; if we write this operation multiplicatively, as ab=c where a, b, and c are elements of our group and we mean by this that plugging a and b into our operation, in that order, yields up c (just imagine a, b, and c are ordinary rational numbers we're multiplying together), to qualify as a group three axioms must be satisfied:

  • The Associative Law: (ab)c=a(bc) for all a, b, and c in the group.
  • There exists some element e in our group such that for all elements a in our group, ae=ea=a. e is called an identity.
  • For every a in our group there exists an element a-1 such that aa-1=e=a-1a.

A simple example is the set of integers under addition, with identity 0.

But I'm digressing! The point is, as soon as I had my first abstract algebra course as an undergraduate, I knew algebra was the field for me. So I went into maths, and got into graduate school, and have been slogging away since late September in algebra, real analysis, and complex analysis.

See, here's where it gets complicated. Although I came in knowing I wanted to be an algebraist, one needs to pass a number of qualifying, preliminary examinations ('prelims') in order to become a real, honest Ph.D. candidate. Three, to be exact. And here at the UW, we have exactly five to choose from: algebra, real analysis, complex analysis, linear analysis, and manifolds. So one is obliged to learn some analysis, no matter what. Analysis, by the way, is sort of a jazzed-up version of calculus, although it covers so much territory it's hard to sum up. So I bit the bullet and went for reals and complex, even though by longstanding tradition algebraists hate analysis. (Although it's not unusual for analysts to like algebra. Everyone likes algebra.)

And here's where the trouble begins. When we got to the Lebesgue theory of integration in real analysis...I started to enjoy it. Measure theory is keen! And functional analysis has some interesting properties...Dual spaces...Now we're on Radon measures, which have some dead nice regularity properties, the sort of measures every locally-compact Hausdorff space dreams of having...And sometimes, in sick moments of twisted brain-wrongness, I think to myself, 'Gee, maybe I'd like to be an analyst.'

I even invented a piece of terminology on the current homework set. It probably won't catch on, I know, but it couldn't hurt to try. I decided that if m is a Radon measure on a locally-compact Hausdorff space X, then any open set O in X such that m(O)=0 should be called 'melancholy'. Because it's sad. Open sets shouldn't have measure zero; open sets should be big. I think 'melancholy' is a much better term for them than the other suggestion I've heard, which is 'fr-izz-eaky'. So the next time you see a null, open set as you go about your daily business, be kind to the poor thing: it's melancholy.

I live with a burning shame now, and fear; I feel hunted, marked somehow. What if my algebra chums find out I like analysis? What will they do to me? Will I become a pariah? Neither one thing nor the other? What would my parents say? What would the Church say? Can I control this impure lust? Can I defeat it, and go on to live a healthy, algebraic life? I still like algebra, after all (well, except for filthy unclean commutative rings)...Maybe I just need to represent more Lie algebras. But what if I'm weak? And Radon measures can be so, so good...Oh, the temptation. It's like living in Far From Heaven.

Only silly.

I'm sure God will smite me soon.

Posted by aloysius at 12:12 PM |
The Earth Moved

Seattle had an earthquake early Friday morning!

Port Angeles, Wash. — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 hit deep beneath the Olympic Mountains early Friday, jolting much of western Washington.

...

A preliminary magnitude of 4.2 was recorded at the Pacific Geoscience Centre in Sidney, B.C., north of Victoria, but that was later revised higher by the U.S. data.

The quake hit at 3:02 a.m. PDT (6:02 a.m. EDT) with its epicentre 50 kilometres in Olympic National Park. It was in the same deep geological structure as the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake that shook Seattle on Feb. 28, 2001.

...And I slept through it. What an incredible anticlimax. My first earthquake, and I'm not conscious to enjoy it.

If I sleep through a volcano, I'm going to be pissed.

I'm told, by the way, that if Mt Rainier did erupt, it would take about four hours for the lava flow to engulph and destroy Seattle in a scene of apocalyptic infernal horror the likes of which have seldom been witnessed. If it should happen, I'll be sure to have my camera ready.

Posted by aloysius at 12:15 AM |
April 25, 2003
'Santorum' should be a genitive plural.

George Dubya weighs in on the Santorum Situation:

"The president believes the senator is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes," [spokesman Ari] Fleischer said.

Bush also believes Donald Rumsfeld is 'a wily diplomat', Dick Cheney is 'a compassionate man', Trent Lott is 'full of love', Ann Coulter is 'a subtle thinker', Rush Limbaugh is 'not a not-talent ass-clown', Martin Luther is 'a good Catholic', Johannes Gutenberg is 'that guy from Police Academy', and Noam Chomsky is 'a sort of buttered pastry made from figs in the Louisiana bayou'.

On an unrelated note, the Guardian today announces that

Tony Blair took repeated secret advice from the former American president Bill Clinton on how to unlock the diplomatic impasse between Europe and the US in the build-up to the war on Iraq, the Guardian can reveal.

Given Republicans' attempts to blame everything, including Enron, on Clinton, I imagine Bush's reaction to this would be not entirely unlike his reaction were Blair to unzip his trousers, remove his manly organs, and beat Bush about the head and neck with them until he was covered in little mushroom-shaped bruises.

Posted by aloysius at 05:40 PM |
Kafka Before Bedtime

Bizarrely homoerotic illustration on page 106 of Amerika with S&M bondage undertones. I am disturbed. Drawn by one Emlen Etting. I learn that he was a homosexual married to a woman with an aristocratic Italian father and a Brahmin mother.

You know how you're not supposed to eat cheese just before bed?

Posted by aloysius at 12:05 AM |
April 24, 2003
Bush Gives the Glad Hand

One of George Bush's favourite portraits of his presidential self was painted by a former gay porn star, who performed under the name Tony Sinatra. Here you can see Dubya shaking hands with the artist. Quoth the Gay Porn Blog,

Does George know where that hand has been?

(I found this via Eschaton, which you should all follow regularly, unless you don't feel like it of course, because it's just jam-packed with yummy tidbits of this sort. Packed with jam, even. Like a doughnut. A big, beautiful doughnut.)

Posted by aloysius at 09:34 PM |
At Last, a Blog about Hog!

Reliable sources (he says pretentiously) inform me that the Muscatine Journal, of Muscatine, Iowa, recently reported the following item:

MUSCATINE, Iowa ­ Scott Graver got himself tied up in a bit of trouble after arriving at the Muscatine County jail early Saturday morning.

The day started to go downhill for Graver, 36, around midnight when police came to the Muskie Motel on Park Avenue to arrest Las Vegas resident LaVaun J. Larue, 72, on three warrants stemming from traffic violations.

After taking Larue to jail, officers returned to the motel for a follow-up investigation when they smelled the odor of marijuana coming from another room. According to Lt. Grant Pickering, the officers went to the room where Graver was staying and arrested him on possession of a controlled substance.
According to a police report, Graver, who a spokesperson for the Muskie Motel said was not a registered guest, was taken to the Muscatine County Jail and processed at 2:16 a.m.

As Graver was changing into jail garb, a street officer noticed Graver had a bag of marijuana tied around his penis, the report said.

Quoth the Reliable Source: 'I wonder where he stuck the bong?'

Posted by aloysius at 06:27 PM |
Dreamingness

I finally had a decent dream again last night; I think the trick is to fall asleep reading. It seems to stimulate the faculties. Lots of drugs in this one. Strange visions in clouds. Fun for the whole family.

Inspect the Log of Dream...It is very unlike a Log of Cheese.

Posted by aloysius at 09:51 AM |
April 22, 2003
Why Do Canadians Hate Us?

This is why.

Deborah Wolfe, a Canadian citizen who was just breast-feeding her son and changing his diaper while en route between Houston and Vancouver, says her "subversive" actions led to her being threatened with detainment, RCMP involvement and legal charges for terrorist action against a U.S. citizen in international airspace while on an American flight during a time of war.

...

Wolfe began to nurse the baby again, using her own bib and blanket. She says the man got out of his seat, walked over to hers and stood staring at her. She says she approached him afterward and twice asked if he had a problem with her feeding her son.

"He marched past me and to the very back of the cabin to talk to the flight attendant," she wrote. "He told her, 'This woman just assaulted me.' ... He then explained that the asking of two questions by a 'foreign national' in international airspace made him feel the victim of terror and as such he wanted to file an assault charge."

She says the flight attendants also began to call her and her travelling party "foreign nationals in international airspace on an international flight during a time of war." And she was informed both of the complaint and that it could be upgraded to a Level 3, which meant possible mandatory detainment by U.S. authorities for 24 hours, RCMP involvement and criminal charges for an act of war upon an American.

Fly Air Canada. They have prettier planes.

PS...Turtablism is, I'm told, 'the act of spinning vinyl records on turntables and "scratching."'

Posted by aloysius at 08:34 PM |
Dean Blasts Santorum

Presidential candidate Howard Dean speaks out for basic human decency on his website today...

In an interview published yesterday with the Associated Press, Rick Santorum, the third highest ranking Republican in the Senate, compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. I am outraged by Senator Santorum's remarks.

That a leader of the Republican Party would make such insensitive and divisive comments-comments that are derogatory and meant to harm an entire group of Americans, their friends and their families-is not only outrageous, but deeply offensive.

The silence with which President Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Sen. Santorum's remarks is deafening. It is the same silence that greeted Senator Lott's offensive remarks in December. It is a silence that implicitly condones a policy of domestic divisiveness, a policy that seeks to divide Americans again and again on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.

It is a policy that must end, and it is a policy that will end with a Dean Presidency. This Saturday, April 26th, marks the third anniversary of the signing of the Civil Unions bill in Vermont. I signed that bill because I believe no human being should be treated with less dignity than others simply because that person belongs to a different category or group. I also believe that, as Americans, it is our duty to speak up when others are treated wrongly-especially when others are treated wrongly by a member of the Senate leadership.

I urge all Americans, and members of both parties, to join me in condemning Sen. Santorum's remarks. They are unacceptable, and silence is an unacceptable response. By standing up against such divisive rhetoric-whether one is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight-we can begin to achieve the American ideal of equal rights for all people.

There are, indeed, differences between Democrats and Republicans. I am delighted beyond measure that Democrats are finally articulating them. How any homosexual could even dream of supporting the bigoted and homophobic leadership of the Republican Party is beyond me.

Rick Santorum is, indeed, amazingly creepy, and does not believe the right to privacy exists; as Andrew Sullivan quite articulately puts it on Salon.com:

In fact, Texas law allows anyone to have sex with their dog in private, if they are so inclined. (In the same year that Texas passed its current anti-sodomy law for gays, it repealed the law against bestiality.) You can even have same-gender gay sex with your dog and the law in Texas will protect you. It's only if you're gay and want to have consensual sex with another adult in private that the law draws the line. Now, recall what Santorum specifically said. His concern was that allowing gay people to have sexual privacy would lead to "the right to anything." Anything. Yep. That means for Santorum, the right to practice bestiality in the privacy of your own home isn't part of the slippery slope toward Gomorrah but a gay couple's private relationship is. And the awful thing is that I don't think I'm misreading him. I think he thinks that a gay man's sex life is the moral equivalent of -- no, worse than -- an animal's. And this is the young face of the Republican Party in the Senate.

(And if my citing Sullivan in a favourable light should shock you, remember: 'The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.' Though elsewhere Sullivan does grossly exaggerate, as usual, the impact MP George Galloway's possible payoffs by Iraq might have on the anti-war movement. Sullivan calls the repercussions 'epic'...I don't see how, exactly. Galloway's always been a bit creepy; from where I'm sitting, it seems as if the inspirational anti-war voices in Parliament have been Robin Cook and Tam Dalyell. Robin Cook has given some kick-ass speeches since quitting the Government, which you might still be able to watch on the BBC News site. Anyhow, the point is, Galloway isn't in the driver's seat of the anti-war movement, and anti-war people can be creepy, too. Don't conflate one individual with the movement; that's like thinking Santorum speaks for Sullivan because they're both pro-war, to bring this back to a semblance of topicality.)

PS: Hog. Do other people use 'hog' as a slang term for 'penis'? Is it just an Iowa thing? Is it just a 'me and two other guys I know' thing?

Posted by aloysius at 07:27 PM |
Time of Reflection

So I was all set to put myself to bed early this evening and sleep the sleep of the just, when I suddenly realised I'd forgotten something. The University of Washington has decided, with the world in the state it's in, that we should have a time of reflection over the war in Iraq this Wednesday, appropriately called the Time of Reflection: The War in Iraq. As the colon suggests, this is apparently a sequel to a previous time of reflection held in October of 2001. As the e-mail informs me,

As you know, instructors are encouraged to use class time on that day to address related issues. Although they are not required to alter their course content for the day, faculty are encouraged to use the lens of their disciplinary expertise to explore these issues where appropriate.

And technically I am an instructor. So technically, since I only meet with my students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am encouraged to possibly consider exploring some of the issues raised by the Iraq war today, even, potentially, if I so chose. Which is tempting, in one way; some of my foxy, foxy pupils in quarters past have come to class wearing 'Not My President' T-shirts emblazoned with unflattering George Bushes, so I'd be unlikely to be lynched if I started to spout off. On the other hand...

Instructors are free to respond to the day in any way that uses our academic context to respect a full range of perspectives.

Which is a bit of a problem, since, if anyone cared to voice the perspective that possibly George Bush wasn't as bad as all that, and that we've done a wonderful thing in Iraq, I'm not sure I'd be able to stop myself vaulting over my desk and delivering a mighty wedgie while shouting 'Blow it out your arse-trumpet, you reactionary capitalist bourgeois sea-haddock of oppression,' and then breaking out into a rousing rendition of William Blake's 'Jerusalem'.

(Contrary to the impression you may be getting, it is possible to have a quiet and sensible discussion with me, so long as I can get the invective out of my system first. I do like a bit of invective.)

Which brings up an extremely pressing and ubiquitous problem in this modern world: how does one carry on a reasoned, democratic, and civilised discussion with people who are more or less immune to persuasion? Politics is becoming a religion in America, if it wasn't one already: huge numbers of people are simply accepting things, big and important things, on faith, rather than attempting to think critically about them, or gather evidence, or subject these things to the sort of intellectual and experimental scrutiny one would generally hope to apply to big and important things in general, like, say biology, or foreign policy. People are told that Saddam Hussein has Al-Qaeda ties, that he is connected with 11 September, that he has weapons of mass destruction, that the US has hard evidence that, for whatever reason, it can't actually tell us about just yet...It sets up the notion that there are certain priviliged forms of knowledge, like divine revelations, that the Great Unwashed Masses simply aren't cleared/sufficiently holy to share in, and must just take the Cabinet-level clergy's word for. And lots of the media parrot these things: it's a pervasive phenomenon. There are consequences for unbelievers: heretics don't care about national security, or hate America, or want to kill our troops. They're demonised. Naturally, like the Pope, our President is infallible. (Also like the Pope, he was not elected by the laity.) Naturally, since we have the Word of God/Wolfowitz, we must be right, and any other nation on Earth that disagrees must be wrong and dirty and evil like the French, and must be either shunned or converted, or, if they happen live near convenient oil deposits, blown up. For their own good. We are always selfless and noble, and everything we do is for their own good. Our leaders preached compassion(ate conservativism); but sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is to bloody the ol' righteous sword a bit and do some smiting. And while things may seem a bit harsh in this world/election cycle, and certain (poor) people may have to make some sacrifices, it is Promised that all our suffering now is for the highest of causes, and we'll all reap our rewards in a later, more exalted phase of existence, of cheap oil, low taxes, and a democratic, America-felching Middle East. Really. Trust us.

Or burn in bleeding-heart big-government liberal hell for all eternity, or at least until Jeb Bush runs.

It's exceedingly difficult to talk someone out of their faith; I've been trying for years, and haven't managed it once. This is very unfortunate, if said faith preaches that you are yourself a naughty heretic and that the Inquisition of Homeland Security would like a few words if you please.

George Bush as a Borgia Pope, wearing a hat shaped like a giant wang: I can picture it now.

Would Howard Dean then be Martin Luther, or Giordano Bruno?

Post Script: On an unrelated note, here is mockery of Rush Limbaugh. It is pleasantly full of invective.

Posted by aloysius at 01:09 AM |
April 21, 2003
Rothko

Let my 15 minutes of fame begin: see me comment in another person's blog!

I fail to really understand the point of Rothko.

Not that Rothko. The art one.

Posted by aloysius at 05:45 PM |
America Hates Science

I'm sitting in my office in Padelford Hall right now (a grotesquely ugly building, built to withstand sieges, but some lovely views of the Cascades and Lake Washington from the upper storeys; shame I'm in the basement, with a view of the escalator) and we've just been e-mailed a bit of a warning by one of our faculty. Given the horrible things that have happened to international students leaving the country and being denied re-entry, he's suggesting that every international student planning to leave the country for any reason, for any length of time, even if they have a valid visa, should get from the Powers That Be a letter affirming they're real live mathematicians being supported by the department...He says:

According to Steven Olswang, Vice Provost for International Education, "there is not [a] mechanism to obtain, prior to departure, a guarantee of the right to re-enter the United States."

In other words, if you leave, they don't have to let you back in. Even if you're from a cooperative US ally like Poland, which sent special forces into Iraq. Sort of a 'you scratch my back, I'll wipe my boots on yours' arrangement, I suppose.

Here's an article on it, a month old now but still very representative.

Her study is among scores of research projects that have been hampered or derailed by new security procedures for screening foreign visas, enacted in response to 9/11. Hundreds of international scientists, some eminent in their fields, have been blocked from entering the U.S., slowing research on diseases such as AIDS, West Nile virus, Alzheimer's and leukemia, and in areas such as space science, nutrition and genetic mapping.

Even research to combat chemical and biological terrorism has been stalled by the visa jam.

...

But interviews with dozens of scientists and educators around the country reveal that the problem persists - and may be getting worse, especially with the Iraq war heightening security concerns.

Visa delays and denials are disrupting research at all institutional levels, from public universities, to the National Institutes of Health to the prestigious Mayo Clinic. World-renowned scientists who had visited the U.S. with ease in the past are suddenly finding themselves locked out.

...

But scientists and educators complain that consular officers are using vague, arbitrary standards to decide which visa applications to refer for security reviews, trapping legitimate foreign researchers in a frustrating backlog.

...

American research has become increasingly dependent on foreign talent because too few U.S. students pursue science, educators say. More than 40 percent of doctorates in the physical sciences go to non-U.S. citizens.

...

Educators say a number of foreign students who have encountered long delays have given up and enrolled in universities abroad. William C. Stwalley, head of UConn's physics department, said he believes "most, if not all" of the Chinese physics students denied visas have opted for schools in Canada, England and Australia.

It goes on and on...There's a whole catalogue of research programmes--cancer research, AIDS treatment, a West Nile virus vaccine, Alzheimer's research that could prevent Ronald Reagan from constantly shitting himself, not to mention security projects and particle physics--that have been crippled by State Department refusal to let the researchers back into the country. I fail to see how highly-educated, secular scientists can conceivably represent much of a security threat. What's the State Department afraid they'll do, exactly? Hijack aircraft with their pockets full of lethal chalk? Least-squares-fit Manhattan into rubble? America has become so paranoid it's begun to choke to death intellectually on its own bile.

Canada: it's where it's at. (Tautologically, even, if you define 'it' to be 'Canada'.) Let us all move there now. You know you want to.

Posted by aloysius at 12:49 PM |
April 20, 2003
Cafes I Have Known

Being verily shagged out by the political bloggery of this past week, today I felt like doing something innocent, apolitical, ideologically-neutral, and dear to my heart, which is to talk about tea, and the various places you can find it in Seattle. Why tea, you ask, and not coffee? For is not Seattle famous as the espresso capital of America? Well, yes, it is. However, I feel that tea has many advantages over espresso: it tends to be substantially cheaper, for one thing, and also tea does not taste like roasted ferret's ass. So, without further ado, and in more or less descending order, except when they are not...

1. Victrola: Far and away the nicest place I've found in Seattle to sit and have a nice cup of tea and do some reading, or maths, or try to write 50,000-word novellas in the space of a month. Conveniently, it's also about three blocks from my apartment. For the punnishly-inclined, they serve loose-leaf Serendipitea, coming at a reasonable price in little two-cup pots, and including, besides the old favourites, lapsang souchong and a charming coconut-infused brew called Burroughs' Blend. The cafe's name refers to the Victor Talking Machine Company's line of Victrola phonographs, which revolutionised the industry in the early twentieth century, and the place likes to keep a sort of Twenties ambience going at times, with lots of boogie-woogie, swing, and jazz bands dropping in, for free, no less. Their sandwiches, however, are small, reminding one of the privations of the Great Depression brought on by laissez-faire capitalism. Comfy, relaxed, some cute staff, often some good art on the walls, and best of all, without a lot of attitude over its own hipness. (*cough* Java House in Iowa City *cough*) What more could a chap ask?

2. The Ugly Mug: Lurking up the University District, on 43rd Street, I only discovered this place comparatively recently, which is a pity, because it's the nicest cafe I've found in the University District. It looks a bit like the nicer sort of grandmother's living room, the sort of grandmother with old, but comfy, sofas, plush draperies, lots of light, a bit of clutter, and probably a deep appreciation for the great job Howard Dean has done as Governor of Vermont all these years, and for his actually rather centrist agenda that can appeal to voters of all stripes. They serve Blue Willow teas, a most excellent choice indeed, and the lapsang souchong flows freely. Excellent food, if you feel like lunching. I had the most fantastic soup there on Wednesday, pumpkin tomato: like the bourgeois, it was rich; like Marx's dialectic, it was spicy and flavoursome; and like the International Socialist Organisation, it was full of nuts. (Pistachios, if I'm any judge.) If you ask nicely, the staff may even make bad puns for you.

3. Still Life in Fremont: So much tea. So much. Can't remember the brand offhand, but there are shelves and shelves of glass jars of it, including the regrettably uncommon blackcurrant, which goes well with Still Life's custard. In addition to a well-stocked pastry shelf, Still Life does very nice soups, counterbalanced by good, heavy bread. There is even a Vegan chili, if you so desire. The staff tend towards friendliness and small beards, and may engage you in conversation when business is slow if they see you reading Kafka. While it is also popular with the monied classes, like the Fremont neighbourhood as a whole its commercialism, like its Bohemianism, is rather tongue-in-cheek; witness the sculpture of Lenin nearby, outside a burrito restaurant. It represents the fundamental conflict faced by a socialist in today's world: do we want to bring about an egalitarian society, or do we want to have nice things like Dell flat-screen monitors and expensive, European porn? Come here when feeling ideologically conflicted in that special way only soup can cure, and to be surrounded by wood.

4. Blue Willow Teahouse: You may think you've seen tea before. You haven't seen jack. This is a shrine to tea; this is where tea wants to go when it dies. Blue Willow imports teas of exotic and flavoursome sorts, and while each pot may cost a bit--and may bring you under surveillance by the FBI because of tea's proud history of consumption by Bolsheviks and Arabs--you get almost more than I can consume myself in one sitting. Almost. It is a well-appointed, glamourous sort of place, the sort of place one would take Howard Dean to listen to him espouse his views on universal health care, fiscal responsibility, and civil rights, before rushing out and convincing all your friends and relatives to vote for him, because he has all the positive features of Ralph Nader, and the potential to actually win.

5. Cafe Europa: This is a very quiet and out-of-the-way place, for when one is feeling the urge to get away from it all and possibly eat turkey where no-one who thinks you're a vegetarian can see, conveniently located only a few blocks from Volunteer Park, where one can take in a lovely view from the top of the brick water tower, or cruise for anonymous sex in the undergrowth. The tea is Tazo, bagged, but it comes in big, friendly mugs, and while Tazo seems to specialise in greens and herbals, there's always Earl Grey. The panini are costly, but not as costly as the Ugly Mug's, nor as costly as another four years of a Bush presidency would be. George Bush is likely to run his 2004 campaign on fear, by and large, painting the Iraq war as a blow for American security despite all the evidence to the contrary; the trouble with this strategy is that everything Bush is likely to say will be a great big lie, as most everything he's said for the past few years has been, and it'll be such a Big Lie that people will hardly dare to dispute it. How can truth compete with paranoia? The rhetoric of Bush is the sort of rhetoric I blasted in my critique of Andrew Sullivan, hysterical, no-questions-allowed fearmongering, which Bill Clinton, a truly canny and articulate political thinker of whom I think more fondly with each passing day, recently describedas follows:

"Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us," said Clinton, who spoke at a seminar of governance organized by Conference Board.


"And if they don't, they can go straight to hell."

6. Parnassus: This student-run cafe in the basement of the UW Art Building I would vote Most Likely to Be Staffed by Bolsheviks: there's a little art gallery on the walls, cheap hummus sandwiches, an air of studious privation and improvisation, and all the profits go to fund art students and heroic portraits of Trotsky. Best of all, it's located just off the beautiful and soothing Quadrangle, although, very unfortunately, being underground, you can see nothing from within. The people here understand all too well that the language we are being trained to use for our post-September 11 world--with words like 'homeland', 'Islamo-fascist'--is Orwellian doublespeak, specifically crafted to prevent us from even formulating an opposing view, let alone mobilising behind one. The worst is when someone on the Left, like Dan Savage, begins to adopt this same language, through fear, panic, or what-have-you, and lends it legitimacy. We cannot allow ourselves to think in these fear-laden, dualistic, charged terms, not if we hope to take back America from the 'upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or “PPs”' as Kurt Vonnegut describes them, who have corrupted our national identity. We cannot let them define the parameters of the debate.

7. Bauhaus: As Lincoln said, 'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.' Unfortunately, you can come close, as the last few years have amply demonstrated; the Bush junta seems to have drawn inspiration less from Lincoln and more from W.C. Fields: 'Never give a sucker an even break.' Unless we want to spend four more years deep-throating Dick Cheney's withered and pustulent schlong, we have to actively work to change the language America uses to talk about terror and conflict. We have to stamp out these dualistic, hysterical and emotionally-charged terms.

Next time, don't say 'homeland'...Just say 'domestic'.

Oh, and there's tea, too.

Posted by aloysius at 06:57 PM |
April 18, 2003
Gates McFadden...

...Star Trek: The Next Generation's Beverly Crusher, worked as a choreographer on both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, two of my bizarre childhood favourites.

How cool is that, I ask you?

(Even Matthew Waterhouse has an entry at the IMDb. Who, if you'll look closely, seems to sport an erection while languishing in the Master's web of hadron power lines in 'Castrovalva'. It's just a simple transposition from 'hadron' to 'hardon'.)

Posted by aloysius at 05:52 PM |
Turkie Talk

Some days ago, as some in my hypothetical audience might recall, I made the following pronouncement:

Andrew Sullivan is a great big shrill petty vindictive dissembling rabid wilfully blind right-wing lapdog with his tongue wedged so far up George W. Bush's suppurating rectum that he now shits for our Fearless Leader.

It was quite rightly pointed out that this was a somewhat intemperate phrase, given that this is, whether I think of it that way or not, something of a public forum, and bound to be cached on Google long after I have returned to dust. Suppurating recta could be my legacy to future generations. Do I want the faceless hordes of Internetdom for generations to come to witness me thus, talking out of my asshat?

I have given that some thought. Hurling unsubstantiated personal abuse is certainly not something, on reflection, I ought to do. I could remove the posting altogether, and watch in the future that I don't thoughtlessly say baseless and obnoxious things in a public forum again. I considered that. Yet that option would fail to satisfy, because, fundamentally, I think 'shrill petty vindictive dissembling rabid wilfully blind right-wing lapdog' is a pretty accurate description of Andrew Sullivan, as he appears in his blog and in some of his dead-tree journalism. So, rather than back up, I have decided the only acceptable course now is to press onwards, into bold new realms of adjectival invective, and this time live up to the potential of blogging for criticism and analysis by offering up firm and perhaps irrefutable evidence for all of my claims, with almost Weierstrassian rigour.

First, some background. Andrew Sullivan is a columnist, of British origins, imported to the United States; he is both gay and conservative in a number of distressing ways. I was introduced to his Internet presence first some years ago, and did not develop an overwhelmingly positive impression of his work, given that I am almost obscenely leftist and he is, well, not. I soon lost interest and gave him no more thought until the last month or two, when I began to delve deeper into the world of bloggishness, and found blogs like Eschaton, for example, occasionally referencing him disparagingly as a source of Bushian propaganda. There were, I learned, whole websites devoted to nothing but contesting his various claims, and to giving him such endearing nicknames as 'Ol Milky Loads'. To see what all the fuss was about, I began to sample Sullivan's Internettery myself, the end result being the incensed tirade above.

As you may have gathered, I think poorly of his recent work.

Many of the things that I find disagreeable about his journalism are on display, in less virulent form than on his blog, in this article from the Sunday Times of 6 April. Primarily, a sort of intellectually-dishonest, and, yes, shrill, misrepresentation of the facts as I understand them.

Get a cup of tea, or something. This may take some time. I'm not going anywhere.

All set?

The thrust of the article is that the Left should embrace the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein, and join in the crusade to rid the world of what he refers to as 'this new fascism' or Islamo-fascism, a term Sullivan uses later, and to which I'll come presently. If he was attempting to appeal to a liberal audience, however, he chose a very odd way to begin, for in his second sentence he's already referencing notable arsebucket Nicholas de Genova of Columbia University, who you may recall made headlines by publicly calling for a US military defeat in Iraq, and about whom the 99.999% of the anti-war movement who do not want Saddam Hussein's dick up their ass became mightily sick of hearing roughly five seconds after he hit the headlines, the same way Star Trek fans hate to hear about the guy at the convention wearing Spock ears and Captain Kirk pyjamas carrying a Klingon dictionary and wanking onto photographs of Gates McFadden. Sullivan immediately begins the construction of a false and simpleminded dichotomy, partitioning off liberals into the De Genovas of the world, and the 'other liberalism' he exemplifies with one Paul Berman, which has seen the need for this new Crusade:

There you have a core belief of some in the left-wing anti-war movement. Such sentiments help explain why at almost every anti-war rally, president Bush is routinely portrayed as Hitler on posters but Saddam is almost completely absent. And, given his ideology, and that of the far left, why wouldn't De Genova feel that way? The rhetoric of the "anti-war" movement has consistently argued that this is indeed a criminal war: that it is being conducted by an illegal president for nefarious ends - oil contracts, the Jews, world domination, etc etc. When you have used rhetoric of that sort, then why shouldn't you, when push comes to shove, support the enemy?

But this is not the only face of liberalism at this time. And as the war continues, and its military success, despite the best efforts of the BBC, begins to become apparent, the other liberalism is beginning to assert itself. The Village Voice last week ran a column by one Nat Hentoff, an old lefty, civil liberties enthusiast and journalistic lion of the campaign against the Vietnam War.

...

But Hentoff saw something else. He saw that any liberal who does not rejoice at the destruction of Saddam Hussein's despicable regime is no real liberal.

Note the identification first of De Genova with the 'far left', and then both of these with anti-war rhetoric in general, as if it's just a slippery and somewhat shallow slope from one to the other. This is a recapitulation of the first Sullivanism to make me wish to shit nails in recent days, his gross misrepresentation of the anti-war movement and his identification of all its components with the lunatic fringe. I, along with tens of thousands of others in Seattle (including the Math Department here), and hundreds of thousands in New York, and millions in London, was vocally opposed to the war in Iraq, and my political views, and those of all but a tiny handful of others', are in no way related to De Genova's. We did not hope for 'a million Mogadishus'; we hoped the war would never begin, and once it did, we hoped it would end as quickly and cleanly as possible. The whole point of being against war is that war kills people and breaks stuff. Whether it's American people and stuff or Iraqi people and stuff, we still didn't want them or it killed or broken, and to demonise anti-war protestors as America-hating Saddamophiles out for blood is not only false but vicious, scaremongering, and full of bile. The war, and for that matter Bush himself, was frequently referred to as 'criminal', it's true, but only in the land of Bush must criminal acts be avenged by the deaths of the criminals.

And if launching a war without a reasonable immediate danger and without the sanction of the UN Security Council isn't criminal...

So Sullivan mischaracterises the left, as he has so often, and adopts the Bush 'with us or against us' mentality. Is that all? Not hardly!

He next, albeit briefly, attempts to wallpaper over the closet in which so many of Bush's and Rumsfeld's et alii skeletons are hidden, the skeletons of Reagan and Thatcher, who propped up Saddam's regime in the Eighties both militarily and financially. Quoth Sullivan:

He also saw that the liberal fig-leaf - the way in which leftists could absolve themselves of responsibility for the Iraqi horror - was just a fig leaf. I refer to the United Nations...

He fails to explain why, exactly, Iraq should be the fault of leftists; it seems to me the implication he makes is that by failing to support a war, the left is tacitly condoning the regime. Neatly shifting the blame from the conservative governments who gave the Ba'ath regime weapons, money, and support to begin with. Though that's tangential...

The hallmark of Sullivan's piece is an anti-intellectual identification of distinct ideas or movements. First, De Genova and the anti-war crowd as a whole. Next, Sullivan blithely lumps every extremist Arab movement together under the banner of 'Islamo-fascism', which is a catchy term, it's true, but also completely misleading. Saddam Hussein was a secular dictator who kept the bars open for many years and took inspiration from Stalin. Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, and the Taleban want a strict fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. Hussein and Al-Qaeda are natural enemies, as are Syria and Al-Qaeda; Syria is, like Iraq, a secular Ba'athist state, and Syria offered the US some invaluable assistance in the war against terrorism in the aftermath of 11 September. Sullivan does not want to admit, it seems, that there are more than two sides to any conflict, or indeed that there can be more than one conflict, the war against Islamo-fascism being so vast as to eclipse or subsume all others. And he repeatedly identifies this Islamo-fascism with the fascism of Hitler and of World War II.

Good liberals, as they did in the 1930s, should not shy away from confronting this new fascism. In fact, given their political legacy, they should feel doubly responsible for confronting it.

The invocation of Hitler is the last resort of the hysterical. It renders any kind of reasoned discussion impossible, because Hitler and the Nazis have become practically the archetypes of evil for our society. It's like Islamic extremists' denouncing the US as 'the Great Satan': the language and imagery being used are too powerful to allow for debate or discussion or dissent. Trying to connect Saddam Hussein now to the iconography of Nazism, in his language here, and in his comparisons of the liberation of Iraq to the liberation of Japan and Germany, is a crude and inherently undemocratic tactic, undemocratic in that it is specifically intended to render any sort of diagreement on any grounds morally untenable.

Sullivan claims:

Liberalism cannot co-exist with terror or totalitarianism. One must vanquish the other. And when you look at what we are learning about Saddam's Iraq - its horrifying brutality, its deep alliance with terrorism, its genocidal core, its fanatical anti-Semitism, its contempt for human freedom and human life - you see what, at the deepest level, this war has been about.

Whatever this war was about, and the jury will I suspect still be out on that subject years from now, it was not about freedom, or justice, or compassion. It was not a righteous struggle to free an oppressed people. Was it about terrorism? Was it about weapons of mass destruction? Was it about protecting the American people from an imminent threat? Was it about revenge for 9/11? The administration has claimed so many things, none of them truthful. If it was about liberation, why now? Why so suddenly? When did we grow a conscience? And why couldn't we wait until we'd built up enough troops to secure Iraq after we conquered it? Why didn't we have the troops to protect the hospitals, at the very least? If we're an army of compassion, why have we delivered the Iraqis into chaos? And if our hearts are so big, why haven't we put a tenth of the money spent on this war into rebuilding Afghanistan? Why do we invade Iraq and not North Korea, whose people are at least as oppressed? (Because North Korea could put up a fight?) Sullivan might call this a cowardly buck-passing, falling back on questions to avoid having to take a stand. But these are important questions, and if this cause is a just one, they should be easy to answer.

Strangely, no answers are forthcoming.

It's dishonest. It's unethical opportunism masquerading as a noble sentiment. If Sullivan won't or can't perceive the contradictions and mendacity of his call to arms, he's a bigger fool than even I am, and that's saying something.

Shrill, dissembling, rabid, wilfully blind, right-wing lapdog. I've missed out on petty and vindictive, I know, but it's dinnertime, and I crave pizza; you can find countless examples in Sullivan's blog, in his attacks on the New York Times and on Paul Krugman, in the series of smug anti-awards he passes out on his site. I've done my part for blog journalism for the day.

It's time to wallow in socialist sin.

Posted by aloysius at 05:38 PM |
April 17, 2003
Amerika

The other day, I began reading Kafka's Amerika. I don't get nearly as much time to read as I'd like these days, so the odds are good that I'll be working my way through it for the next few weeks. I mention this solely so I can title this 'Amerika' rather than 'America' without appearing to draw some kind of sick parallel between the United States and Stalinism.

With that being said...

I've always had an uneasy relationship with the country of my birth. I'm not particularly patriotic; I thanked the Queen Mother when I graduated from the University of Iowa--none of the ISO members applauded--and I have a large Canadian flag hanging on my bedroom wall. I have, once or twice, claimed to be Canadian while abroad; but what self-respecting US citizen hasn't? Lots of times, I get the feeling that America doesn't necessarily like me much, and other times, I wonder if perhaps I don't much like it. This is one of the latter times.

This evening I was checking up on my favourite weblog, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light. There were two new postings, on the chaos in Baghdad and the burning of Iraq's National Library, and on how Donald Rumsfeld's war plan left US forces too weak to prevent this, and on how Rumsfeld might not want to prevent it in the first place: with essentially all the records destroyed, there's no evidence left to contradict the administration when it lies again about Iraq's supposed stockpile of biological and chemical weapons, and hints this elusive stockpile has been moved to Syria to give the US an excuse to ravage that nation next. It's...obscene. The US has just destroyed a civilisation, killed thousands of its people, burned its books, smashed its history, and thrown millions of lives into a terrifying lawless uncertainty. And why? What's it all for? Each reason the Bush junta offered the American people for this war was a lie. And they weren't even good lies. And it's not just me, in my radical leftist dream-land, saying so. My father, a habitual Republican and gun enthusiast, didn't buy the administration's case against Iraq for a second. Their claims were all so transparently false.

Yet somehow, on large segments of the population, they worked.

What's it all for?

Was it for oil? Was it to give the stock market a nudge? To keep Americans in such hysterical blindness that PATRIOT II can slip past them? To bring about a Pax Americana? Was it to give a bunch of old white rich men a chance to cock-slap the entire world?

These are not new thoughts. People were saying such things long before the war began, people who know vastly more than I do, and have vastly greater insight. If blogging is the future of journalism, then that future belongs entirely to those people, who can assimilate, research, analyse, and disseminate, who can keep alive news stories that might otherwise be squashed, and who can say all the things that Ari Fleischer doesn't think Americans should say in a time of eternal war.

There are a lot of these people.

Yet America still went to war. And 59% of Americans continue to believe that Saddam Hussein bears 'Some', 'Most', or 'All' of the responsibility for 11 September.

Which brings me to the matter I wanted to discuss to begin with. I'm not a journalist, and I'm politically naive; I have nothing to add on any of that that's worth adding. One of the few things I feel qualified to blog about is the very subjective experience of being an American right here and now. And it's a frightening experience. I live in Seattle, which is flamingly liberal, and a hotbed of anti-war sentiment. Ironically, the loudest pro-war clamourings I heard from a Seattlian came from Dan Savage, nationally-syndicated sex columnist, flaming homo, diehard liberal, and editor of the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger. Though before the war began, even he had changed his mind, because of the sheer ineptitude of Bush's diplomatic lead-up. There were protest marches; lots of my fellow graduate students went, even some of our faculty. Even the mathematicians here are flaming liberals. If one is going to be an American right now, Seattle is one of the places in which one would be well-advised to do so. Yet Seattle, it seems, is not entirely representative. Not even slightly representative. And neither is New York, somehow, or San Francisco. No matter what we do, the Bush administration pays no attention, and God help us all, it's somehow swindled half the country--in places like Iowa, for example--into supporting it.

One feels, at times, a sense of futility. If one is me. America has become this vast, impersonal, capricious and hostile force, a Juggernaut steered by Bill O'Reilly bearing down upon me, something incomprehensible and pervasive and panic-inducing as Kafka's bureaucracies, and as arbitrary; and sometimes I'm afraid of what will happen next. I've even started reading the Globe and Mail on my Palm Pilot on the bus in the morning, so I can pretend for a few minutes I'm somewhere else, in this magical, idyllic land where the Liberals have just won in Quebec, and the Prime Minister is getting in some good golfing with Bill Clinton in the Dominican Republic, and where, sure, there's SARS, but to make up for it, there's lots of hockey, and films about curling...

Is this common, to feel anxious about and a bit threatened by being an American? Although I never voted for Bush or lent my support to any of his adventures, do I still share in some national, collective guilt? Does this feeling have a name? Are there support groups? Are there pills other people take for this? Is there a cure?

Possibly Howard Dean.

So that's it, then. That's essentially all I had to say. It's late now, so I'll go to sleep, and this panic attack will, with luck, have passed by morning. It isn't hopeless, after all. I'm too young to be that cynical. Terrible things have happened, and terrible things will soon follow, and North Korea may have ballistic missiles pointed at me, and Jeb Bush may be Dubya's chosen successor, but there are also a lot of angry Americans out there who aren't rolling over, and 2004 is not too terribly far off.

They say it's always darkest before the dawn...

But then, they also say you'll go blind, and we know what a winner that one was. We'll just have to wait and see.

'Time will tell. It always does.'

Posted by aloysius at 02:40 AM |
April 14, 2003
Thundering Hypocrisy

In Saturday's Guardian, Donald Rumsfeld speaks.

On one of the bleakest days since the invasion began, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday shrugged off turmoil and looting in Iraq as signs of the people's freedom.

"It's untidy, and freedom's untidy," he said, jabbing his hand in the air. "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things."

Apparently it is a hallmark of freedom that people can burn their libraries, loot their museums, and pillage hospitals, but not engage in consensual homosexual intercourse. We have to draw a line somewhere, after all. I mean, what would Jesus say? What matters 5,000 years of human civilisation and the welfare of millions of people, when men could, by mutual agreement, be pleasuring one another in the privacy of their own homes somewhere in Texas, and bathing their decent God-fearing communities with deadly Gay Rays?

Let's keep our priorities straight. As it were.

Posted by aloysius at 09:59 PM |
Sylvester McCoy Speaks!

Sylvester McCoy compares the Doctor to Jesus:

'It's that classic tale of the little man against great odds. That, and the other classic story of someone from outside our world coming down to help us. That makes it very attractive to human beings. I don't mean to be sacrilegious, but Jesus came down from outside the world to save us and it's that kind of area. Science fiction has a quasi religious quality to it. People who are attracted to sci-fi are often not religious in other ways but are attracted to this idea of hope for the future, so it's a kind of religion in that way.'

Apparently he was also the runner-up to play Bilbo Baggins in _The Lord of the Rings_. How much would that have rocked?

(Answer: a lot.)

Oh, have you heard Tom Baker impersonator Jon Culshaw prank-calling Sylvester McCoy?

'Have you been in the pub?'

'For several millennia.'

And while I'm on the subject, have you seen the video of Leonard Nimoy's 'Ballad of Bilbo Baggins'? Which must rank as a classic amongst terrible, yet oddly compelling, surreal booty-shaking pop culture meltdowns? Mr Nimoy has been a busy man.

Posted by aloysius at 09:16 PM |
April 13, 2003
The Dirtiest Turkie of Them All

Andrew Sullivan is a great big shrill petty vindictive dissembling rabid wilfully blind right-wing lapdog with his tongue wedged so far up George W. Bush's suppurating rectum that he now shits for our Fearless Leader.

That is all.

Posted by aloysius at 06:49 PM |
Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?

The CBC reports:

MONTREAL - Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest said Sunday he will press charges against four people after he was hit with two pies.

and...

The four are reported to be associated with a group called Les Entartistes, which has threatened to throw pies at all three main party leaders in the campaign.

And who can fail to love an article with a title like 'Charest Creamed on Campaign Trail'?

"We represent no political party," said a man with a red clown nose, who spoke on behalf of the pie throwers.

I think the world has become some kind of satire. Some bits of it are just darker than others.

Posted by aloysius at 04:05 PM |
Philistines II

From Le Monde:

La Bibliothèque nationale de Bagdad, qui renfermait des documents originaux exceptionnels, a été incendié par des pillards après avoir été volée, a constaté un journaliste de l'AFP sur place. Situé face au ministère de la défense, qui, lui, n'a pas été touché par les flammes, le "Palais de la Sagesse", bâti en 1961, abrite également le Centre national des archives. Cet incendie intervient après le pillage vendredi du musée archéologique de Bagdad, qui renferme la plus importante collection d'oeuvres du riche patrimoine irakien.

The cultural loss is incalculable. Iraq has a long and rich history, of which it has every right to be proud. A lot of that history has just gone up in flames, or been carted off by rampaging mobs. When a new Iraq emerges from this chaos, how much identity will it have left?

Posted by aloysius at 03:50 PM |
April 12, 2003
The God Game

Play Battlefield God and see how rationally self-consistent your religious views are!

I am extremely self-consistent. Though, mathematically speaking, no system can prove its own consistency...At least not an interesting one. So saith Gödel. Mad as a kite, but a fascinating thinker. A good account is to be found in Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach. Read it now.

Posted by aloysius at 07:53 PM |
Fremont

Here are some photographs of interesting things to see in the Fremont neighbourhood, which I took back in the autumn.

Here, apropos of nothing, is the Aurora Bridge, seen from beneath, from the Burke-Gilman Trail.

I took that on my way from Fremont proper to Gas Works Park, called such because back in the dizzay, it was the site of a coal gasification plant, whose rotting carcass still adorns the park, and whose toxic chemical output has rendered the park soil hazardous if eaten. I love it; it's like postindustrial archaeology.

Here is a view of downtown Seattle from Gas Works Park. Note how much prettier my city is than yours.

Between I-5 and Gas Works Park, on Lake Union, is moored the hulk of an ancient ferryboat, the M/V Kalakala. In the Thirties, the Kalakala was built on the burnt-out hulk of an old steamship, as a streamlined Art Deco ferryboat, not unlike a large seagoing aluminum slug, and had a long and glamourous career until newer and larger ferries put her out of work in the Sixties, when this quite striking vessel was sold, towed to Alaska, and turned into a seafood processing plant. Eventually she was abandoned, eventually discovered by a starry-eyed idealist, towed back to Seattle in the late Nineties, and sits here still, the Foundation which had hoped to restore her now bankrupt. Which is a terrible, terrible pity. I'd love to see her restored.

Just in time to be torn down when Communism fell, Emil Vontov created a striking bronze statue of Lenin in Slovakia, surrounded by stylised flames and rifles, walking into a stiff breeze of capitalist decadence. Lewis Carpenter of Issaquah found him lying face down in a puddle, fell in love with the poor abused Bolshevik, bought it up and brought him back to Seattle, where Lenin now stands proudly outside a burrito restaurant. The juxtaposition is breathtaking.

Certainly there are symbols of subverted US imperial power as well. The hull of a US military rocket from the Fifties somehow wound up in a junk shop in Belltown, and fell into the hands of the street artists of Fremont. The result is something from a Flash Gordon strip, which is perched on top of some sort of furniture or clothing or something store, and bears a motto in absurd bastardised Latin which I won't repeat.

And last but certainly not least, this concrete Troll beneath the Aurora Bridge, feasting upon a Volkswagen, decked out each Halloween in spiders and body piercings. Poor Volkswagen...


Posted by aloysius at 06:27 PM |
Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas

Consider this inscription:


S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

Which may or may not mean something like 'Arepo the sower holds the wheels at work,' which, having consulted my Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar, would mean 'opera', an accusative, is possibly a cognate accusative...Which I don't understand all that well, but I doubt the palindrome was invented for grammatical purity. And as palindromes go, this is a doozy. Read each row left to right, going down. Or start at the bottom, read right to left, and go up. Or read down each column from top to bottom, going right, or from bottom to top, going left. This inscription occurred all over the Roman Empire, and possibly had Mithraic origins, but was adopted by Christians at some point, passed into European folklore, was adopted by imaginary, fictitious Hermetic mages, wound up on Anton von Webern's gravestone, is referenced in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum and indeed inspired Terry Pratchett to name the marketplace outside the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork 'Sator Square'. (It's a 'magic square.' Get it?)

And it's just neat.

Now listen to Latin radio broadcasts from Finland. And read Sluggy Freelance in Latin. And if you ever need to say 'My ass is on fire' in Latin, it's 'Culum meum ardet.'

Posted by aloysius at 04:55 PM |
Philistines

The Iraqi National Museum has been looted, and 170,000 relics dating back to the dawn of civilisation have been stolen.

It's like the Taleban and the Buddhas all over again. Only this time, it's pretty much America's fault. Iraq contains thousands of archaeological sites dating back to the earliest human civilisations. It was the site of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, and Chaldaea; its inhabitants invented a positional sexagesimal numeral system, were perhaps the earliest users of agriculture and written language, likely originated the mythologies appearing in corrupted form in the Old Testament, and developed, by some fluke, electrical batteries over two millennia ago. In short, it's one of the most important regions in the world, archaeologically. And now that's being destroyed.

In the capital, looters ransacked the Iraqi National Museum, smashing display cases to grab treasures dating back to thousands of years to the dawn of civilisation in Mesopotamia. "They have looted or destroyed 170,000 items of antiquity... They were worth billions of dollars," said the deputy director, Nabhal Amin, weeping openly.

Maybe the stolen items (and how many were destroyed?) will turn up on eBay, along with autographed vials of Donald Rumsfeld's thin and watery semen.

Fuck you, Don.

More here.

Posted by aloysius at 03:56 PM |
April 07, 2003
Sell Me!

I'm listed on BlogShares!

Posted by aloysius at 11:17 PM |
Iceberg

So last night Sam told me I absolutely had to slog downtown to a shop called Twist, on 5th Avenue and Pike, to see this really fantastically fabulous...thing. He refused to specify what this thing was, or what made it fabulous. I had to take it on faith that I would love it, and love it so much that I would want to hug and steal it.

So, being the trusting soul I am, I trudged downtown on a smelly bus next to some homophobic teenagers in the pissing rain (where you should imagine, when I say 'pissing', not a fine healthy young buck voiding his bladder hither and yon, but an aged man with an uncomfortable prostate condition dribbling painfully), and, having no sense of direction, I wandered in a little circle before at last I located this Twist, in whose entryway this magnificent thing was said to lurk...

And I saw it. And I photographed it.

And was it all worth it? Hell yes.

Just look! And look again! And then look at the first one, only bigger!

This is, far and away, the finest cyber-penguin I have ever seen. I want to see a whole flock of these majestic beasts waddling across the surface of Telos on the BBC. Now.

UPDATE: After further study, I have come to believe that the Cyber-Penguin wishes to mate with a Volkswagen. All of you with eligible vehicles should drive them to 5th and Pike at once. I wish to cross-breed him with a Jetta.

Posted by aloysius at 05:37 PM |
April 06, 2003
Turkiesee

Several centuries later, Tennessee is still stuck in the Middle Ages.

McNelly said he shared those concerns, though he is not against evolution as a theory. Like Treadway, he said he believes students should be taught both creation and evolution theories.

``With creationism not presented as a theory, there's a large gaping hole in the books,'' McNelly said.

The large gaping hole is in the spare ass he passes off as his head. This is exactly the sort of loose, woolly, incoherent and illogical lapse of reason one finds anywhere that frowns on booze.

On the bright side, there's an entry in the index to Miles Reid's textbook Undergraduate Commutative Algebra for 'anal germs'. They appear on page 33.

Posted by aloysius at 06:30 PM |
April 05, 2003
Powellganda

My father forwarded me an e-mail the other day, which seems to be circulating fairly widely at the moment.

When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush. He answered by saying that, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

It became very quiet in the room.

Which, on the surface of it, seems like a fine and upstanding patriotic quip from Mr Powell, which may indeed reassure one that the Bush administration is not composed entirely of baby-strangling oil junkies, and makes one think perhaps Europe is overreacting, probably under the influence of those damnable French. Unfortunately, it's also untrue. This is a distortion of an exchange at an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland, where Powell spoke; he was asked a question by the former, not current, Archbishop of Canterbury, who did not accuse Bush of empire-building, but suggested perhaps America was relying too heavily on military force and not on what was called 'soft power', i.e. humanitarian aid, diplomatic persuasion, and so forth. So, yes, the administration is full of baby-strangling oil junkies after all, and Europe is, in fact, right.

There's a transcript here on the State Department website.

Posted by aloysius at 04:20 PM |
April 04, 2003
Abstract Algebrass

Today, I achieved a state of perfect bliss and harmony. The cosmos and I became as one. I saw at last the goal towards which I have been struggling my entire life, what you might almost call the very purpose of my existence.

Ass is a piece of mathematical terminology.

Given a commutative ring R, and an R-module M, Ass M is the set of all assassins (or associated primes) of M in R, that is, the set of all prime ideals p in R such that there exists an x in M with p = Ann x: an assassin is a prime ideal which, happy day!, turns out to be the annihilator of some element of the module. (Which means p is the set of all elements r in R such that rx=0.)

But that isn't really important, is it?

What is important is that I can use the word 'ass' in maths.

I am complete.

Posted by aloysius at 05:52 PM |