Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms. The two-hour broadcast from a community gathering in the heart of the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City included three members of al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc, who took questions from outraged residents demanding revenge for a series of car bombings that killed some 200 people Thursday.
With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relegated to the sidelines, brazen Sunni-Shiite attacks continue unchecked despite a 24-hour curfew over Baghdad. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts, however, that it's not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority - or the will - to stop the cycle of bloodshed.
As noted here, if you've seen Hotel Rwanda, that opening sentence just made you shudder. Neighborhoods are forming their own militias and digging trenches across entry roads. People are panic-buying ammunition because everybody believes all hell is about to break loose. If al-Maliki goes to Jordan to attend the summit with Bush, his government is likely to fall.
And there we stand in the middle of it all, without the faintest idea what to do.
In its endless attempt to make people neurotic, the NYT has an article today on the etiquette of certain email sign-offs, where I learn that the closing of "Best, Becks" that I frequently use with friends is considered curt and rude. I always figured it was a number of steps up from the "Thanks, Becks" that co-workers get but, apparently, even the friendlier of my sign-offs still falls in cold bastard territory.
My 18 year old brother is all into Ayn Rand now. Can't he experiment with something less likely to leave him messed up for life, like drugs?
I quote from The Romantic Conception of Life, the illustration in which, though you cannot see it because I lack access to a scanner, exceeds in quality those on Wikipedia:
For those whose attention could not be easily tamed, [Johann] Reil recommended the amazing device of a Katzenclavier—indeed, a piano made from cats. One would first voice the instrument with suitable animals, which would, then,One wonders: why specifically a fugue?be arranged in a row with their tails stretched behind them. And a keyboard outfitted with sharpened nails would be set over them. The struck cats would provide the sound. A fugue played on this instrument—particularly when the ill person is so placed that he cannot miss the expressions on their faces and the play of these animals—must bring Lot's wife herself from her fixed state into prudential awarenessBut, with his own imagination stimulated, Reil went even further. He observed that "the voice of the jackass is even more heartbreaking". Too bad, he reflected, that despite its small talent, the animal nonetheless suffered from "artistic caprice".
More reporterbot miscues here, some (the weatherman has Tourette's, right?) kinda bizarre.
Philosophers of language: Go!
An HIV-positive man accused of knowingly exposing three women to the virus has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison.
Robert Richardson II, 30, apologized at his sentencing Wednesday ... he deceived the women by telling them his health problems were from a heart condition. Richardson said he didn't lie, and that he did have a "HAART" condition -- short for Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy....
Link to the Flikr photoset of poorly apportioned apostrophes, in honor of the Apostropher. (And a link to "scare" "quotes" photoset, cuz that's just how K-Gro "rolls") Or this could be an open thread. And that's "just" my "opinion"!
My nine-year-old had to write an autobiography for school last week. When he showed me the first draft, it was completely about hockey. I told him he should at least put in something about his family, it being an autobiography and all. A couple of days ago, my ex forwarded me the finished product. This is the final paragraph.
Family is the hardest thing to write about. Mostly because they are soooo embarrassing. My 2-year-old brother is a pain. No wonder they call it the terrible twos. I have a dog (a black lab named Aurora) and two cats (Molly and Maggie). They always say dogs chase cats. For me, it is the other way around. Cats sometimes have to be in a closed room. My parents are weird. Who has a dad that grosses them out, a mom that embarrasses them by saying not-so-funny jokes, and a step mom that is just plain out weird? Yeah. Less than desirable. But, my mom takes me to hockey games. My step mom cooks, and my dad pays the cable bill. So, I guess alright. Well now I hope you are a bit more self confident, and a bit less jealous of other people.
The little shit.
It's a good holiday. I'm thankful to be alive, to be cancer free, and to have almost a complete set of internal organs. I'm thankful for family and friends, both fleshy and otherwise, and for the kindness that hasn't gone out of the world.
Churlishly, I'm thankful that I'm not being held incommunicado. Hopefully, I'm thankful for the recent sparks of concern in this country.
Enjoy the day, folks.
I was nosing around bear world and learned that you homosexual types are some crazy dudes. A ten level scale for evaluating beard length? Y'all are so choosy that you're giving straight women bulimia. But I thought everyone should know that they're also being captured by the Ursine Gaze. And though I'm not a bear, I really wanted to play with the bear code maker, so that's Kotsko's code in the title, best as I could guess it.
Okay, if Ben W-lfs-n is as young as he claims to be, then how was he the lead singer in this '80s video? Somebody gots some 'splainin' to do.
Via MeFi, with links to several more winning videos in the comments.
An atheist with a bit too much caffeine in his system decides to go door-to-door spreading the word in Salt Lake City, after being awakened one too many Saturday mornings. It's fairly pedestrian right up to the point where he begins quoting XTC. That, and "You didn't factor Yaz into your plan to ring my bell at eight o'clock in the morning."
Elevated from comments:
I'm applying to graduate school, having been out of school for almost ten years, and I figure since so many of you are academically connected you might have some advice for someone in my position applying to a Masters program. (Apart from, like, "don't.") Who should I find to write a recommendation? What should I write in my personal statement? What, apart from filling out the application, ought I do (or not do) to help my chances?
More on the Six Imams from the Times and the Star Tribune, including the note a passenger passed to a flight attendant. A little prayer, a little politics and the next thing you know you're stuck in the Twin Cities.
Before passengers boarded, one became alarmed by an overheard discussion. "They seemed angry," he wrote in a police statement. "Mentioned 'U.S.' and 'killing Saddam.' Two men then swore slightly under their breath/mumbled. They spoke Arabic again. The gate called boarding for the flight. The men then chanted 'Allah, Allah, Allah.' "
A few years ago, I resolved to pare my email addresses down to the essential few: my personal account, my Unfogged account, my work account and an account for purchases and other spammy things. But, just as any filing/organizational system I try goes to hell because I inevitably think "but this is unique and important in some way, so I need a category devoted exclusively to it," (which leads to there being no filing system other than piles of "slightly different from each other" things), I spawn email addresses willy-nilly, and now have more than ten. (Example: when I was signing up for a Yahoo group on cancer this summer, I didn't want to use my personal account, which might be visible to search engines, and I wasn't going to join people's painful personal discussions as "Ogged," and I didn't want my cancer messages coming in with my "Borders Rewards" messages, so of course I thought I needed a new account. Over the course of a few years, there are inevitably several instances like this.) How, savvy dwellers of the internet, do you deal with your email?
So I just got home and on my way in decided to stop by the mailroom to see if I had any magazines. About a month ago, our building ended their practice of leaving slips in our mailboxes if we had a package that was too large to fit and instead installed a flat-screen TV that displays color-coded apartment numbers indicating what type of oversized package awaits (blue for FedEx, green for USPS, etc.). Even though it was late at night, I noticed that there were still about two dozen apartment numbers on the list.
At this point, one of my neighbors walked into the mailroom and I mused aloud: "You know, it would be really easy to rob a bunch of people in this building over the holidays. All you'd have to do is mail overstuffed envelopes to a handful of apartments from some fake organization and then check the screen after a couple of days to see who hadn't picked it up. Then you'd know the owners were out of town."
Shockingly, even with my "Not that I'd ever do that, of course!", my neighbor was less impressed by my creativity than I had hoped. At least I assume that by the way she ran out of the mailroom, having decided she really didn't need to check her box after all.
The at Unfogged email addresses appear to be working again, so if you want to harangue the bloggers privately, you may once again do so. If you sent something within the past few hours, it does seem to have gone through.
Via mrh in comments, the Kramer apology from Letterman.
Six imams were taken off a Minneapolis to Phoenix flight, because other passengers were "suspicious." Bad enough, but if this is true (and it's CAIR's spokesperson making the claim, so I have no idea if it is), then this is even more outrageous than usual:
Hooper said US Airways refused to put the men on another flight.
I know it'll never happen, but there really, really needs to be policy supported by all the airlines that if you're scared of another passenger, you can get off the plane and get a refund, but that no one else will be removed because you're an ignorant chickenshit.
Yglesias's explanation for the plan to replace the dollar bill with dollar coins makes me want to cry. The mining lobby? Seriously? If he'd posted this on April 1st, I wouldn't have believed it. Among the tears I shed for the death of good government, I mix one for myself, because I friggin' hate coins. They're heavy and they make noise and get lost. We don't need more coins, we need no coins. Let the math wizzes figure out how to make change. But I'm sure that in a few years, the ascendant paper dyeing lobby will have foisted bills of mixed colors and sizes on an unsuspecting public.
Bush and Putin's thoroughly 'wizard' outfits
A friend of mine (no, really, this was a person numerically distinct from me, though we are both one in number) opined that he'd gotten into habits of loneliness and that one step in remedying the malady was to call people more often, presumably to talk to them or even arrange to be in their company and maybe even perform together some coordinated activity or other; it was unclear what exactly was to follow on the telephonic connection's being made because no sooner had I comprehended his meaning than my mind began to swim in confusion. Call someone? I don't know about you, dear reader, but as far as I'm concerned, calling someone on the phone is the last thing to become doable. Conversing in person or via IM are the first, then email, and then, finally, the electric telephone. (Naturally I employ a double standard here and am completely happy to accept calls whenever.) Before the commonality of phones that tell you who it is who's calling you, I would be able to say that I wouldn't want to talk to anyone on the phone who wouldn't be able to tell simply from my greeting (which, we'll stipulate, would not include my announcing my identity) who was calling; now, however, making that condition pick out the right people would involve too much complicated hashing-out of sources of evidence and whatnot to make it worth the bother.
Talking on the phone, even to propose coordinated action in physical proximity, is, like, totally fraught, man.
I want to be offended when Republicans derisively talk about "San Francisco values," and I am a little bit, on behalf of The Gays, but mostly I think "you're not kidding, brother."
The mission of the Global Orgasm is to effect change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy. Now that there are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti- submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, the time to change Earth's energy is NOW! Read more about the fleet buildup here.
The intent is that the participants concentrate any thoughts during and after orgasm on peace. The combination of high- energy orgasmic energy combined with mindful intention may have a much greater effect than previous mass meditations and prayers.
The goal is to add so much concentrated and high-energy positive input into the energy field of the Earth that it will reduce the current dangerous levels of aggression and violence throughout the world.
I think what most annoys me about things like this is that they're not completely wrong, but they make the right parts sound so stupid; I can't hate them and I can't support them. But I do love the link about fleet deployment in the middle of it all. Too bad Derrida is dead.
We've all heard that Jewish and Italian men are "smothering" or "need their mothers," and we've heard that WASPs are "stoic" or "aloof." These are imperfect ways of trying to describe something that we really should pay more attention to, particularly in coupling relationships. Call it the spectrum ranging from Autonomy to Interactivity. Some people call each other to talk about what they'll have for lunch, and some people think that's unbelievably infantile. "Who the hell helps their significant other shop for underclothes?" A lot of people, as it turns out.
How much interaction you need or expect isn't something you can change overnight, and usually isn't something you should change. You just need to be on the lookout for big differences with whoever it is that you're interested in. I think the "we clicked/had chemistry/had a lot in common" categories sometimes intend this dynamic, without actually discussing it. And when it is discussed, it's usually in very judgemental, value-laden language like the examples above.
So, if you're a big Interactor and every-bit-of-your-day reporter, don't settle down with someone who's going to think you're a baby who needs too much attention. And if you're big on Autonomy, avoid people who are going to tell you how cold and distant you are all the time.
Slightly behind the pop culture curve here, but it recently occurred to me just how much Derek Jeter is the American Dream, at least as it's conceived by a lot of people. He's a rich professional athlete, the well-respected and well-liked captain of a marquee franchise. He's won team and individual honors, and has a reputation for playing hard and coming through under pressure. He has his own charitable foundation. He's half Irish-American and half African-American, and quite handsome. He's dated Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel and some Miss Universe or another. I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone else who has these things going for him, to this degree, without also having some baggage or nasty behind-the-back whispers. Michael Jordan always had a mean edge beneath the charm, and later there was the gambling problem. Brad Pitt, maybe? But being an actor isn't as cool as being shortstop for the Yankees. Tom Brady? Pretty close, although even now it's like no one has heard of Tom Brady.
Michael Richards reveals the true heart of the Seinfeldian universe.
Seriously, if you watch the video, it's hard to imagine more badly misreading a situation. It seems he almost realizes that he's in deep shit, lamely tries to make it seem like edgy shock comedy, and then just decides to be stubborn. Career over, funny guy.
(Labs, of course, will be feeling bad for him any day now.)
First, after having been very successful at keeping myself going to the gym for a year or so, I haven't been for the last two weeks. Could people do me a favor and browbeat me into getting off my ass at lunch today?
And second, a friend was just diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Anyone out there thinking about quitting smoking, I'd take it as a personal favor. His wife died of breast cancer ten years ago, so this will be the second time his kids (in their early twenties) have to go through the same thing. His second wife, who he married a year ago, was recently widowed as well, and she's pretty destroyed.
Update: Nothing's certain, of course, but it looks as though Chris is dying this week. I haven't done this often -- deaths in my family since I was old enough to be helpful have mostly been among the very old, where everyone was expecting it and it wasn't terribly sad. Can anyone give me advice on what I should be doing for his wife and kids to make this easier? Buck's much closer to him and the kids than I was, which makes me the natural person for practical help rather than emotional support, but I'm not sure what to volunteer.
Today I was chatting with my friend and another guy and somehow we were discussing how most everyone is a terrible shot in a stressful situation. (I know, it came up because we were discussing Indonesian people who go to a bomoh to get a spell put on them, and then get a tattoo on their foreheads signifying that they're invulnerable. The fact that they may get involved in a firefight or two and walk away unscathed greatly enhances their claims to magic powers. We're not always discussing gunplay.)
So I said, yeah, that's why people say that when someone is trying to force you into the trunk of their car at gunpoint you should just run away, as the chances of you getting shot after you get a few feet away drop precipitously, and whatever they were planning to do later is worse anyway. The other guy we were talking to wanted to know if I had ever actually been in those circumstances, and I said, god no, that would be the scariest thing ever. Cue my friend: "I'm usually on the other end of those situations."
I've decided he's both scarier, and better-looking, than I thought. Probably it's best not to inquire
too deeply even superficially into the thinking there.