Reading a statement by a Wal-mart vp gave me a minor epiphany. This post on Boing Boing: Corn plastic may not be as green as you might think describes how Wal-Mart is touting this new biodegradable packaging, but it needs special conditions for the stuff to really biodegrade. Instead of throwing the stuff in your compost bin, you have to bring it to a large facility where the compost reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days. Since these facilities are not widely available (113 places around the US), chances are that much less than 100% of this stuff will get properly composted.

"Wal-Mart's (VP of private brands and product development Matt) Kistler says the company isn't about to take back used PLA for composting. 'We're not in the business of collecting garbage,' he says."

There you have it. He has accidentally clarified the best way to make packaging sustainable. Any place that sells disposable products or disposable packaging ought to be responsible for disposing of it in a sustainable way.

This is how they moved to keep cans and bottles off roads in Michigan. (I don't know if we were the first, but try to find another state that gives you a whole dime for each can.) Every store that sells soda or beer cans is required to take back those cans for deposit. It's gross dragging bags of dripping cans into a grocery store, but it keeps those cans from migrating all over the woods and roadsides and landfills. Hell of a lot better than before. Now I don't know what they do with the plastic or aluminum reclaimed in the process, but at least this shows the importance of forcing business to reclaim the messes that they cause. Want your business to avoid all kinds of yucky reclamation areas inside your place of business? Then make sure you sell products with minimal packaging.

I suppose other people have thought of this before, but it's really obvious when you think things through.


Here's what it will sound like when American Idol winner Taylor Hicks meets President Bush:
"Mister President, as the executive officer of the Soul Patrol, I'm makin a citizen's arrest! Wooo!!! You have the right to remain silent, but you can sing or whistle or borrow my harmonica and blow up a storm if y'all want! I'm goin to Hollywoooooood, yeah! You're goin to the International Criminal Court."
Sony Bravia tv commercial (balls bouncing down SF street):

Israeli pamphlets falling from the sky:


Mazen Kerbaj is "comicblogging" from Beirut, Lebanon. Sounds like a weird way to document the experience, but it works.

The captions for each frame are:
21 july 2006

i am at home in sin el fil

thinking of evan

prisonner in a house

playing playstation all day long


and asking everyday: why can't i go see
farid / yasmina / simon / etc.

what can i answer?
Anti-creationist pun crock performed by dinosaurs:

"Dance Like A Monkey" by The New York Dolls.
[Wow, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is even in there! Several million bonus points for style.]


RiffTrax is a new series of unauthorized commentary tracks to famous movies. Others have done this before, but probably none as successfully as Michael J. Nelson, the former host and head writer of MST3K, now creator of RiffTrax. First target is Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse. Only $1.99 per download. :(

Why not subscribe to The Spoilers alternate dvd commentary podcast instead?


Tidbits from Noam Chomsky's latest book, Failed States:

From Ch. 4:
"In 1981, Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard University, explained the function of the Soviet threat: ' you may have to sell' intervention or other military action 'in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has done ever since the Truman Doctrine.'" [...a few pages later...] "Huntington's observations about the need to create misimpressions to control the domestic population illustrate what should be the merest truism: professions of benign intent by leaders should be dismissed by any rational observer. They are near universal and predictable, and hence they carry virtually no information. The worst monsters--Hitler, Stalin, Japanese fascists, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, and many others--have produced moving flights of rhetoric about their nobility of purpose. The same holds for 'Peace Institutes' and 'Endowments for Democracy.' If we are serious, we will ask about their actions, paying little attention to their words, an elementary observation that has inspired rich literature from Pascal to Zamyatin to Orwell."

From Ch. 5:
"The evidence concerning Washington's actual stance and role, virtuous declarations aside, is clear and compelling, surely by the standards of complex world affairs. Nonetheless, it is always possible that Washington's actions might have an incidental positive effect. It is hard to predict the consequences of striking a system as delicate and complex as a society with a bludgeon. This is often true of even the worst crimes. As noted, Osama bin Laden's atrocities are reported to have had a positive effect in spurring democratization in the Arab world. The terrible crimes of imperial Japan led to the expulsion of the European invaders from Asia, saving many millions of lives--in India, for example, which has been spared horrifying famines since the British withdrew and was able to begin to recover from centuries of imperial domination. Perhaps what many Iraqis and others see as another Mongol invasion will end up having positive consequences as well, though it would be disgraceful for privileged Westerners to leave that possibility to chance."
Is this World War III?
Is Iraq or the Middle East now blossoming into WWIII? Or did the Cold War count as World War III? In that case, is this one World War IV?

Here's a straightforward, definitive answer to all of those questions. If there's any debate about whether some conflict is a world war or was a world war, then it's not a world war. When it's a full-on world war, then "all signs point to yes" as the Magic 8-Ball says. You will pretty well know when it's a world war.

Did anyone call it WWIII when the Cold War was going on? Not enough to notice. Is Iraq or Lebanon now a world war? Let's see, the Coalition in Iraq includes the US, UK, Poland, Mongolia, dwindling numbers of Italians, dwindling numbers of South Koreans... Did you know that the nation with the largest number of troops per capita sent to Iraq at one point was Mongolia? It's true.

Even if you count Israel as a client state of the US, even if Hezbollah is totally a puppet of Iran and Syria, even if you throw in five or six more Middle East nations, you don't have a world war yet. No, there has not been any third or fourth world war. If you have to ask yourself the question at all, then the answer is no.
Why I Entombed My Marketing Witch, and Other Current Projects
I wish I could write about positive experiences, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. I spent way too much money on a marketing consultant based on demonstrations of her mad skillz in witchcraft. Let's call her "Kathy V." She really is a talented illusionist. Kathy took me to Save-A-Lot and resurrected a chicken right inside the package in the meat department. It grew a head back on it, but the thing was still featherless and footless, so it had a hard time ripping its way out of the plastic wrap. You can imagine what kind of scene that created. We backed away as if we had nothing to do with it.

So anyhow, Kathy held a séance at her "office" in Parma, where she produced ectoplasmic manifestations of Lovecraft and Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini and Edward Bernays. I said, "You had me at Lovecraft." I didn't know who Edward Bernays was, but the other three looked convincing. Their reactions seemed real, because they weren't all: "Wooo, we are here to provide you with wisdom." Lovecraft screamed for two minutes and then cried the whole rest of the time. Dumas tried to comfort him. He yelled at us for disturbing them. Bernays and Sabatini kind of hung back and stared at their fingernails. (Stared through their fingernails?)

I guess it was smoke and mirrors in her office, or whatever the modern equivalents are. She must have had an accomplice at the Save-A-Lot who planted the live chicken under all those other packages. Come to think of it, that's pretty sick because they must have plucked a live chicken, cut off its feet and shrinkwrapped it.

So I engaged her services as a marketing consultant for Dungeons & Dayjobs. She made some more wild displays of witchcraft in her office, like summoning the ghost of Janis Joplin just to entertain us. Janis was all combative. After "Piece of My Heart," she refused to keep singing a cappella so finally Kathy hauled out a karaoke machine and the ghost sang over a few generic versions of her greatest hits. Oh and the other thing Kathy did, this wasn't even a good illusion, it was just so weird and intense that you figured she must be hardcore. Kathy set fire to her curtains. It stunk. The kind with rubbery white backing on one side to reflect the sunlight. Then she stood back while flames scorched her ceiling tiles, and finally she pulled them down with her bare hands and beat out the flames. I guess the magic was supposed to be that she didn't need to go to the hospital to have her burns treated. But her hands did look burned.

So what's Kathy's big marketing plan? She hired her burnout nephew Tommy to paint a billboard for me. They chose a sign about 50 feet high, above some trees on I-94, the one that says Christ Died For Your Sins. Not that the sign was 50 feet tall -- I mean you had to look above the treetops to see it about 50 feet off the ground. The sign was only about half the size of a sheet of plywood. The placement of it was outside the usual field of view as you're driving. I didn't expect a lot of highway travellers would see my book cover and buy a copy. But I have to admit, it was a good likeness of the cover photo.

Next day I start getting emails and phone calls from the church group. Kathy didn't buy the sign or rent it. She just had Tommy paint over it. I called her as soon as I found out. She said, "Controversy, man. This is going to end up in the paper. Even if they paint over the sign right away" (which they did) "you'll get lots of attention. Maybe it'll make tv news in Lansing. Haven't you ever heard the expression, 'There's no such thing as bad publicity'?"

That sounded cool for a minute. In the end, there was no tv coverage and nothing in the local paper. It turns out bad publicity is when you spend money on something and the decision-makers in your local media are disgusted enough or dignified enough not to be caught up in your stupid publicity stunt.

What else was on the marketing plan? Five hundred fluorescent yellow handbills, distributed at biker bars, the hot air balloon festival and Jackson's Juneteenth celebration.

I said, "What the hell does this have to do with Juneteenth?"

Kathy said, "There are a lot more African-American sci-fi and fantasy fans out there than you'd think. Have you ever heard of Octavia Butler?"

I said, "Yeah, she just passed away."

"No, I'm talking about the sci-fi author. She's only fifty something. She's not that old." Then Kathy explained how fluorescent yellow flyers always catch people's attention. I needed a marketing consultant for this?

As you can imagine, we had some disgreements over her fees as a marketing consultant. I discontinued her services and paid her the cost for printing handbills. I figure she can eat the cost of the paint or whatever for the billboard. It wasn't my fault she chose to paint it where she knew it would get removed.

Kathy put a curse on me, which translated to Tommy setting fire to my compost bin at about midnight. Luckily he tripped over a lawn flamingo. Then the neighbor's dog barked and growled at him. He got so scared, he couldn't see the latch to open the gate, so he pounded on the kitchen window asking for help. The compost bin wouldn't stay lit, so that part of it was good. But now we got this court date, so that's a pain. I hope Melinda doesn't try to sleep through it. Lord only knows what kind of "contempt of court" fines she'd rack up for failing to appear as a witness.

I went to Kathy's office before work and tried to nip it in the bud. I told her she could get arson conspiracy charges for putting him up to it. She blasted a fireball at me. I can't explain how she did that, but it was pretty slow moving so I stepped out of the way and it burned through the screen. She still hadn't replaced her curtains.

I'm pretty sure she does have some limited skills at witchcraft, because she's been trapped under a block of sidewalk up Cooper Street two months now, and when I go back to check, I can still hear her rattling around down there. They were doing construction and left a bulldozer on site with the sidewalk all torn up. I was able to dig a shallow hole where the sidewalk was gone, lay her in it and use the dozer to put a section of sidewalk back over top of her.

I don't think it's a "Tell-Tale Heart" situation where I'm hallucinating her scratching, because I'm totally not feeling guilty about it. And because last week when I stood at the bus stop across the street from that spot, I watched people walking over her section of the sidewalk. Some of them looked down or looked around at the houses when she hollered or knocked. I'm afraid a dog might start digging at the side of it, but it would probably take a long while to move enough dirt for her to escape.

Tommy wrote a nice thank-you note from the Juvie hall in Hamburg. Since his aunt Kathy has been entombed, she hasn't been able to maintain the curse that she used to control him. What kind of person would give their own nephew anal warts? That's low even for a witch.

Other projects I'm currently working on include a short story called "The Pangborn Stalemate" about a 1930s G-man's embarassing reaction after he finally unmasks The Dark Phantom, and a non-fiction piece inspired by Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz synchronicity: Queensryche over Disney in The Secret of NIMH: Mindcrime. I'm going to try to find as many terrifying coincidences as I can between Secret of NIMH and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime. It's meant to show that you can take any good movie and any good album and manufacture extra meaning in them, like interpreting tea leaves or ink blots. In that vein, I'd also like to do DUMBO Side of the Moon and possibly Toby Keith's Shock'N Y'all/Triumph of the Will.



How bad does it have to get? An article on the last page of A section in the Ann Arbor News showed a photo of a crater stretching all the way across a street in Lebanon, maybe 40 feet wide. (Not the photo shown here, but similar.) Above the photo was a secondary headline (continued from the front page): "Fears mounting that violence could spiral out of control."

How many 40 foot wide craters in the middle of streets does it take before you would believe that violence has spiralled out of control?

One of the headlines on Democracy Now on Thursday was "Israel Launches Heaviest Bombing of Lebanon in 24 Years." Other sources wrote or talked about it in similar terms. I guess that explains it. Like Clinton's on-again, off-again bombing campaign in Iraq, it's hardly a major story when Israel bombs Lebanon again. But the heaviest bombing in 24 years, that's news.

Does this mean that the media is jaded, or they know how jaded their audience is, or is it reasonable for us to hear about decades of violence and yawn about it? I've been one of the yawners too. A wise wicked witch of the west once said, "What a world! What a world!"


The full Dark Side of the Moon synched with the Wizard of Oz. Apparently the album is only 43 minutes long, so it ends before the movie does. Watch it on Google Video before they pull it down.


"Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins."

Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp., Inc. (147 F.Supp.2d 668) This the kind of writing I can never get away with at work.

"Defendant begains the descent into Alice's Wonderland by submitting.... A more bumbling approach is difficult to conceive--but wait folks, There's More!

"Plaintiff responds to this deft, yet minimalist analytical wizardry with an equally gossamer wisp of an argument...

"But at the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig.

"Now, alas, the Court must return to grownup land.

...."In either case, the Court cautions Plaintiff's counsel not to run with a sharpened writing utensil in hand--he could put his eye out. IT IS SO ORDERED."
Lilo & Stitch / Leela & Nibbler
Lilo & Stitch came out in 2001, depicting an apparently male alien creature who is incredibly destructive and dangerous in spite of how cute he looks. The creature is adopted as a pet by a girl whose name is two syllables long and uses the letter "L" twice. After making only cute noises through the first half of the movie, Stitch eventually reveals that he can talk and he occasionally says smart things. He plunges the protagonist into danger.

Nibbler's first appearance on Futurama came in the fourth episode, which aired in North America on April 13, 1999. Nibbler is an apparently male alien creature who is incredibly destructive and dangerous in spite of how cute he looks. He is adopted as a pet by a girl whose name is two syllables long and uses the letter "L" twice (Leela). After making only cute noises through the his initial appearances in the series, Nibbler eventually reveals that he can talk and he occasionally says smart things. (At least as smart as the other characters, which is not a very high bar to vault over.) He plunges the protagonist into danger.

I'm not the first person to point out the possible rip-off, but I am probably the saddest.

* Actually Nibbler first appeared as a shadow in the pilot episode, but this is not clarified until much later.
Paul Krugman: Left Behind Economics: "There's a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better - like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers - that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004.

In short, it's a great economy if you're a high-level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport."
Melinda won the "Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take A Joke" Award in the Church of the SubGenius's 2006 Bobbie Awards.

Martha Stewart has not yet issued a ruling on whether that is a good thing.

Wednesday has ongoing contests for t-shirt slogans and designs. I'm getting totally carried away with the slogans. Some of them I'm even proud of.

My current favorite:
Ask your doctor if Beyoncé is right for you.

Owl Dirty Bastard rapped about drive-by hooting.

When I grow up, I want to be a human resource.

Guns are as American as condors, bison and passenger pigeons.

War is Peace. Ignorance is Strength. Guns save Lives.

Guns save lives, except when used as directed.

Ask your doctor if Shakira is right for you.

Whosoever believeth in me shall blah blah whatever.

For God so loved the world that he gave blah blah whatever.

Do unto otters as you would have them do unto ewe.

My nurse says Thorazine is a journal about the god of thunder.

My other t-shirt is a Trans Am.

Why would a good God damn?

More human than resource.

And I seem to get a decent amount of votes with simple clichés taken out of context or song lyrics like:
Go figure.
I found out the hard way.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Lend me some sugar; I am your neighbor.

Here's a page with all my submissions. You can't vote for them on that page, apparently, but you can go to their front page and vote on random selections there.


Benjamin Ferenccz, a former chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials who successfully convicted 22 Nazi officers, believes that a "prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation."


"The people ask me what we mean by stable government in Cuba," the new military governor, General Leonard Wood, wrote in a report to Washington soon after he assumed office in 1900. "I tell them that when money can be borrowed at a reasonable rate of interest and when capital is willing to invest in the island, a condition of stability will have been reached." In a note to President McKinley, he was even more succinct: "When people ask me what I mean by stable government, I tell them, 'Money at six percent.'"
- From Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer

Do you suppose that's what GWB meant when he praised the leader of a coup during the 2000 election? "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent." [Emphasis is all mine.]

Chalmers Johnson blurb on the back cover: "After reading Overthrow, no American--not even President Bush--should any longer wonder 'why they hate us.'


Trippy Jim Henson performance on The Tonight Show, 1974.

There's a glimpse of some monsters from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (fast forward to about 3 min 04 seconds, and again at about 3:30). Wonder if that constitutes fair use?