Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why We Love


from the Times --

PARIS, Sept. 29 — A French high school philosophy teacher and author who carried out a scathing attack against the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in a newspaper commentary says he has gone into hiding under police protection after receiving a series of death threats, including one disseminated on an online radical Islamist forum.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday called the threats “unacceptable,” adding: “We are in a democracy. Everyone has the right to express his views freely, while respecting others, of course.

from --
n : small carnivorous mammal with short legs and elongated
body and neck

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Scenic Route

La Scene a Croute
Walked 11,200 steps yesterday according to my Step-O-Meter, about seven miles. Got myself fairly tired. Traversed El Cerrito, Albany, and Berkeley. Reached Afikomen, our Jewish bookstore. Got an interlinear Art Scroll siddur. Said "Modeh ani" (I give thanks) this morning for the first time ever. Kinda nice.

This is me

being pithy
Politics is the modern religion. It is something for people to fight about when the outcome can make no difference.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Odd Joke

About Women
A man who wants to leap on a woman and do all manner of indecencies on her person is a cad and a masher, a lowlife, someone regularly stopped by the police. However if the same man wants to perpetrate the same indignities and outrages on the same woman over and over again, year after year, then she introduces him to her parents.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


is broadening
I used to despise the Democrats and the Republicans. Now that I have lived in France for a year I have contempt for the Gaullists too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

On the Disappearance

of the American Left
There is a widespread fear that the Left in America has disappeared. For my part I have not met a left-identified person in decades who could use "wages", "labor", or "union" in a sentence. Oddly, once the left stopped representing the largest social group in American society, they "disappeared". Go figure.

I do not consider it a coincidence that the fraction of national income paid as wages and salaries has declined every one of the last twenty six years, and that no contemporary activist could conduct a fifteen minute conversation with a working person on any meaningful subject. Curiously, people working for crappy wages who can barely house their children and who have no medical insurance do not consider whether gays can marry to be the foremost issue before the nation.

Fewer than eight percent of American workers belong to a union, and half of those few are in sweetheart unions. Yet unionization appears exactly nowhere on the agenda of the left. How surprising is it that the majority of the American people are correspondingly indifferent to the claims and protestations of the left? I confess that I share the general disdain.

Overseas, the left's antipathy to Israel is an open repudiation of the principles and values of both the French and Russian Revolutions. It is also a betrayal of the Jews, victims of fascism then, and victims of fascism now.

The left's drift into support for religious fundamentalism abroad while despising it at home is staggeringly irrational. No rationale for this postion appears except an automatic sympathy for whatever a conservative government dislikes. They are in effect letting Bush do their thinking for them.

Standing for no one at home and nothing abroad, how can the left not disappear?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What I Learned on TV Today

Katrina Coming to Town Near You
90% of people killed by hurricanes die by drowning. Main cause of death is storm surge, immense sea waves driven against the coast. Hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise in Northern Hemisphere. A hurricane making landfall headed north onto Gulf Coast is worst on its eastern side where 150 mph winds drive the surge onto the coast. On the western side the winds are coming from land to sea, diminishing storm surge. Katrina was headed for landfall twenty miles west of New Orleans. Hours before hitting the coast it veered right and came ashore twenty miles east of the city instead. The storm surges on the east side of the storm, along the Mississippi coast, were more than twenty feet of water. Had the storm not veered, those storm surges would have been in New Orleans. 1,836 people died in the storm. Had there been twenty feet more water than there was, everyone remaining in New Orleans would have drowned, 120 thousand people. It was that close.

Bad News

Fight Club
Second viewing amid clouds of scotch tells us that living space furnished from Ikea symptomatic of anomie and psychosis. Quick survey of my living space not promising.

The Boeing Plant

In Washington
It occurred to me while driving by the Boeing plant in Washington how bizarre all that is. These people actually build a whole airliner out of parts and expect it to fly. That strikes me as just insane hubris.

A Long Ago Recollection of

Even Longer Ago

I once did a bit of inadvertent archaeology in the old country, in Galil Elyon (Upper Galilee) when I lived on a kibbutz in 1977. Two Druzes were sent to dig a grave and I was assigned to poke through the dirt they dug up. The graveyard was near where there had been an 18th century Turkish mill. Earthenware pots had been used to carry grain and meal to and from the mill. In the course of the years many of the pots broke, and were tossed aside. Shards of those pots were what I found when the two men dug the grave. It was nothing to bother the Israel Antiquities Department about, but it was fun.

I never found among those dozens of potsherds even two pieces that fit together. The ancient pots and vases one sees aplenty in museums is each the product of a huge amount of work to put it back together and then to restore whatever could not be found. Almost certainly more work is spent restoring these things than was involved in making them. And we just brush past them with glazed eyes because there is just too much for us to see and still leave in time to beat the traffic.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Joys of Racism

Racial Inferiority is the Key to a Good Life
Curiously mythmakers generally credit those they despise with the qualities they would most like to have. It would be nice to be so good with money one could get it as a matter of course. It would be nice to be especially large in the sack. I would like to be childishly simple and happy all the time. Rich, hung, and happy is definitely the way to be.

The Vagina Monologues

Eve Ensler is a cunt.
Or so she claims in her famous one woman show, which I recently saw on DVD. I wonder how likely it is that she will succeed in restoring the word, shorn of its pejorative tone, to common, even polite, English. Her theory is that by adopting it as their own, women can make it a warm fuzzy thing again.

However celebrated Lenny Bruce's attempts to defang "nigger" were, it remains the unspeakable "n-word" forty years later. I suppose that Ensler's similar efforts with "cunt" will be similarly fruitless.

Whatever the social consequences, the linguistic ones are worse for Ensler's likely failure than Bruce's actual one. "Nigger" was never more than a slangily slurred version of "negro", which is no more than Spanish for "black".

"Cunt" is an authentic Anglo-Saxon word which has no synonym in English. Every other word is either a borrowing of a Latin word, or a slang that has become so familiar that it has been forgotten that it is a slang.

Curiously there seems to be no Anglo-Saxon male equivalent. Penis, like vagina, is a borrowed Latin word. "Dick", "prick", "cock", "Johnson", and so on, are all slangs.

The notion that English has no word for man's most treasured possession is endlessly amusing.

Ensler only tangentially addresses the subject of sexual repression in the youths of women now no longer young. This is a promising and interesting subject. But Ensler isn't interested. She is focussed on vaginas, not on the women who have them. Absent the women, it is just a discourse on an organ. Without the women and their sex lives and sexual feelings, the subject is of no greater interest than the "Pancreas Monologues" or the "Liver Monologues" would be.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Is Sharapova an American?

who just won the US Open Women's Singles Tennis championship, came to the United States at the age of nine and grew up in Bradenton, Florida. She speaks unaccented English. She owns houses in Florida and California.

But she maintains Russian citizenship and plays for the Russian Davis Cup team against, among others, the US Davis Cup team. She says she is a Russian.

So is she an American because she has been here a lot, or is she not because she has a fundamental identification and commitment to Russia, not to America?

Does immigration status make one an American? Or is it a commitment to, and identification with, the United States that does it?

It is a slight question for purposes of tennis players. It is a larger question for purposes of a still-growing Muslim population. Are people who despise the United States really Americans? Are they entitled to any consideration beyond the bare letter of the law?

According to an article in the NY Times today, more are coming now than before 9-11. Why are we still admitting them as immigrants?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I visited Seattle over the weekend and the only thing I could remember about the place was a line from "Frasier" in which Niles opines, "You would think that a city this size would have more than just two boites."

It was disturbing that the futuristic Space Needle now looks dated. That there should be an enormous megalopolis on the west coast of which we are but dimly aware is a sad reflection on our California self-absorption. We are somewhat exonerated by Seattle's unconsciousness of Vancouver.