Wednesday, January 14, 2004

le parcours

Things have been bumping lately over at the Maximum Leader's blog, so go peruse the past few days' worth of posts, many written by the ML's minions (note to Smallholder: I, too, rated Abraham Lincoln).

Interesting Vulture culture rants here and here.

Talk about meta-meta- : the Marmot writes on the Korea Times writing on Koreablogs.

US patience with South Korea continues to drain away. By the way, Mr. Schroepfer, was it you who posted the link to that hilarious animation showing the singing bird on a wire? I laughed my ass off at that and want the link, but after searching your site up and down, I couldn't find it. Do I have the right blog? That animation deserves a spot on my sidebar.

"Aaaaaaaarmy training, sir!"

Have I not said that the Chinese are way more imperialist than we'll ever be? Their strategy is and has been: you were ours, and we'll make you ours again.

Brainysmurf disagrees that China's all that imperialist.

Drambuie Man examines why Japan's ramping up the militancy and whom South Korea should blame.

I haven't been following the whole "Let's get a man on Mars!" business, but Peking Duck is a good jumping-off place. Some blogosphere bigwigs aren't too keen on this-- just look at Andrew Sullivan:

There is, within this administration, a deep antipathy to questioning certain shibboleths. I wonder who has dared to tell the president that his space program ideas cannot be funded responsibly and so should not be funded. I bet no one.

Conrad declares Wesley Clark a buffoon.

From Winds of Change: the Army is low on ammunition. I wonder how this came to pass. Are we firing that many rounds these days? And following the Maximum Leader's link on the subject to Kim du Toit, we read:

The Pentagon has contracted with Winchester and Israeli Military Industries to supply additional quantities.

That would be the Winchester "white box" .223 Rem they're planning on using, and I sense a potential fuck-up brewing.

Here's the money quote:

"We can't just go out and buy our ammunition commercially," [Army General] Kern said. "We maintain very tight quality controls. Our ammo has to work, at 40 below zero or 140 degrees."

Well, never mind 40 below, General. You may want to make sure your ammo works at room temperature, first.

You see, Winchester's Israeli-made "white box" .223 is notorious for having "hard primer" misfires -- ie. you pull the trigger and hear click instead of bang. I happen to know this because over the past week or so I've been shooting quite a bit of the budget Winchester ammo: currently, I'm getting about 5% misfires (yep, five out of every hundred, which is why I bought an ammo can of reloads to practice with, rather than more IMI stuff). To be quite frank, a 5% failure rate is unacceptable, even as range fodder.

Let's hope that the Army-destined I.M.I ammo is indeed made to more exacting standards.

I don't see why the Army didn't give the contract to an American company in the first damn place. I bet the Remington ammo factory at Lonoke (Ark.) could easily have been ramped up to handle the demand.

But at least this is better than training by pulling the trigger and shouting "BANG!", as the soldiers used to have to do during the Clinton Administration.

Remark about Spam haikus: Dr. Burgess-Jackson needs to credit his sources. Then again... I just Googled the Spam haikus, which have been around for years, and basically came up with a bunch of sites claiming "source unknown" or something similar.

Some BravoRomeoDelta wisdom:

...every play to the middle contains within it seeds of a future uprising by one's own loyalists.

I saw the phrase "Golem run amok" in this post by democritus over at Tacitus, and it conjured up memories of the only explicitly Jewish science fiction novel I've ever read: He, She, and It by Marge Piercy. It's not a bad book, actually-- very readable. It does, however, include one corny scene in which the female protagonist fellates a robot. I could've done without that.

An absolutely fascinating post over at Cobb re: "Liberation vs. Social Power." Quote to chew over:

What African Americans must deal with sooner or later is that black politics is changing. It is no longer exclusively about human rights or civil rights, but about social power and influence. This is inevitable given the educational and economic advances made by blackfolks. We are moving from 'Let my people go' to 'Let my business grow'. Since there are some 36 million of us, there are going to be blackfolks throughout that spectrum, but the motion is towards the politics of social power. 'The People' not under the oppressive thumb of Jim Crow are spreading out and becoming many people, and many people have many politics.

Annika dangles warm weather in front of me, talks a bit of shop, then wonders:

Why are guys always so passive-aggressive when it comes to their jealous feelings?

My take: penises are all about probing and invasiveness, locking S-foils in attack position, firing quantum torpedoes, shouting "Dead for a ducat!" and stabbing Polonius through the arras. Penises don't just invade; they serve to mark territory. Look at the Washington Monument, one of the biggest penises around: imagine George Washington buried face-up with a 555-ft stone erection for all to admire. Look at the Most Phallic Building Awards.

George Carlin noted that bullets, missiles, and bombs are all shaped like dicks. "It's the urge to project the penis into human affairs: it's called fucking with people." I give Carlin credence here.

So the human dong is saddled with a cruel paradox. It wants to invade, but it also wants to occupy. Alas, it's designed mainly to invade, and occupation is generally accomplished by impregnation: Lemme leave a little token of my appreciation. It'll slow you down for nine months so I can nail you repeatedly, bless your slow, fat ass.

Obviously, this strategy provides no guarantees-- hence the weird possessiveness, the hormone-generated jealousy that men feel. A penis is, after all, only a piece of plumbing: it can't follow a woman everywhere, and this frustrates the hell out of it. If it were up to the penis, it'd detach itself from the guy, leap into the lady's warm spaces, curl up and just sleep there.


Or at least until it once again got the itch to invade.

Anyway, that's my perspective on the jealousy question. Look crotchward for all answers to the mysteries of male and female behavior. Genital shape seems to be a major clue to how the sexes behave: the forward-thrusting, probing nature of maleness, and the flower-petal-shrouded, blooming-and-closing nature of femininity.

Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis posts a link to someone who's chewed over the various hypotheses re: the lack of WMDs in Iraq.

Glenn was disturbed by this "Don't Drink and Drive" ad. I've got more of a stomach for looking at such things, but I still don't recommend following Glenn's link unless you're ready to see some rough stuff. And you WILL feel sorry for the young lady whose life was ruined.

Via Satan's Anus: cool.

Also excreted by the Anus: a digital Maginot Line? Oh, that sounds like a challenge to me.

Den Beste on continued press bias. Take your news with a grain of salt.

Drudge has the goods on anti-Bush rhetoric here. Pay special attention to Margaret Cho's ravings.

The blogosphere is all over this one:

President Bush ordered the Pentagon to explore the possibility of a ground invasion of Iraq well before the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, an official told ABCNEWS, confirming the account former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gives in his new book.

The official, who asked not to be identified, was present in the same National Security Council meetings as O'Neill immediately after Bush's inauguration in January and February of 2001.

"The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces," the official told ABCNEWS. "That went beyond the Clinton administration's halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force."

Uh-oh. Spalding Gray has gone missing. I hope he turns up OK: he's one of my favorite monologuists.

Meanwhile, Ted Nugent appears to be having some trouble with a chainsaw.

An interesting Salon article by Heather Havrilesky (no link; this is premium content) about "The Apprentice," the show where young business hopefuls attempt to curry favor with Donald Trump and end up working for him. I caught the first episode of this show before I left for Korea and found myself morbidly fascinated. To me, it's way more compelling than, say, watching the chromosome-deficient trogs who bash each other on Jerry Springer. A quote from Havrilesky's article:

When they're not falling all over themselves at the thought of all the power and fame and complimentary hand soaps that could be theirs, the contestants are murmuring self-help platitudes and management clichés at the camera without the slightest hint of irony. Thus, despite a somewhat shaky premise and a dorky start, "The Apprentice" has quickly established itself as a spectacle starring some of the most polished yet least self-aware characters to bask in pop culture's thin light since Austen's "Persuasion."

I wish I could have continued to watch this show, because, like "Fear Factor," there's a certain rawness about it. Shows like "Survivor" (of which I've admittedly seen maybe half an episode) or "The Real World" are all about focusing on the human dynamic, the nasty interplay, but it's all for no goal aside from winning ("Survivor") or keeping sane ("The Real World"). Such shows are a more complicated version of the childhood pastime where you toss two or more insects in a bottle and watch them fight each other. No higher purpose enters the picture; actions have no real consequences or deeper meaning beyond the strictures of the show itself. Nothing orients the people on these shows except getting through the day, or getting past the next contest.

"Fear Factor," on the other hand, showcases people who do indeed have to face real difficulties. People are actually biting into bull testicles on this show, or swimming inside a sunken ship to retrieve glowing tags, or using a paintball gun to shoot a target while flying through the air at 40mph. "Fear Factor" is intense. "Survivor," to my mind, isn't. The shit hits the fan when Joe Rogan shouts, "GO!" "Survivor" is the lab; "Fear Factor" is the Colosseum.

The appeal of "The Apprentice," aside from the show's predatory premises and the Trump-induced veneer of power, is similar to that of MTV's awesome show "Tough Enough," another reality series I enjoyed watching. "Apprentice" and "Tough" are both highly goal-oriented reality shows; the main difference is that, whereas the folks training their hearts out in "Tough Enough" (a series about securing a job in the wrestling world of the WWE) evoke sympathy, the ladies and men of "Apprentice" remind me of barracudas.

In other news... held a contest called "Bush in 30 Seconds," in which contestants submitted commercials making political statements against Bush and his legacy. Salon has an article about this contest (again, no link to premium content), and notes the Republican outrage that two of the submitted ads-- out of over 1,000 submissions-- compared Bush to Hitler. Personally, I think the Bush-Hitler comparison is asinine, but it's also asinine to be that upset at the entire contest because of two measly submissions (cf. part of Margaret Cho's rant as cited in my Drudge link above). The winner of the "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest is a subtle commercial that deals with a concern shared by both right and left: Bush's fiscal profligacy. To quote the Salon article:

The commercial that triumphed over more than 1,000 other entries -- and that will run 30 times on CNN during the week of Bush's State of the Union address, and possibly during the Super Bowl as well -- was a subtle, elegiac and nearly wordless indictment of the burden Bush is shunting onto future generations with his deficits. It was made by Charlie Fisher, a 38-year-old advertising executive and father of two from Denver, a fiscal conservative who was a registered Republican until 1992.

Over a minor-key acoustic guitar tune, Fisher's "Child's Pay" spot shows a series of stoic, worn-looking American children laboring at low-wage adult jobs -- a boy washes dishes, a girl in a baggy pink maid's uniform cleans a hallway, another works in a factory. It ends with white words on a black screen: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"

Regarding the Hitler ads and the resultant furor:

MoveOn apologized for the Hitler ads, but slammed Republicans for hypocrisy. Founder Wes Boyd issued a statement saying, "We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process. In the future, if we publish or broadcast raw material, we will create a more effective filtering system. Contrast this with the behavior of the RNC and its allies when supporters of President Bush used TV ads morphing the face of Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) into that of Osama Bin Laden during the 2002 Senate race. and the Voter Fund exist to bring the public into the political process and produce a more fact-based election process. We regret that the RNC doesn't seem to embrace the same goals."

But it may turn out that RNC hysteria only helped MoveOn. Monday's awards show, packed with more than 2,000 MoveOn members who paid $35 each to attend, crackled with genuine drama and was swarmed with reporters, even if some of them fought their way into press gaggles to ask questions like, "Is it really fair to compare Bush to Hitler?"

And something questionable from the article:

Many on Monday were convinced that the nation will soon awake to Bush's perfidy. Michael Moore extolled the organizing power of the Internet and told the crowd, "The people are on our side. The majority of the people support a progressive agenda."

I don't think so. I think people are going to see two candidates, Democrat and Republican, and understand their choices to be: economy or national security? Obviously, the issues aren't that simple, but those two ideas will be at the heart of the choices we'll have to make in November. And I'm further betting that more people will fall on the side of national security, assuming, as I do, that we'll find our way out of the economic quagmire somehow.

In South Korea, no one had better hear you scream.

Dirty dealings in Korea? Say it ain't so!

And when people aren't publicly insulting Roh, they're raiding his aides' houses.

This is promising:

The government is leaning toward accepting a Bank of Korea proposal to introduce larger denomination bills and update the designs by 2006, but is opposed to possible currency devaluation if the current bank notes are replaced with lower denominations under another central bank plan.

For those who don't know: the most commonly seen and used forms of cash are the 10-, 50-, 100-, and 500-won coins; and the 1000-, 5000-, and 10000-won bills. You can get something called a su-p'yo, a printed document somewhere between a check and a money order, that's usually doled out in 100,000-won denominations. Otherwise, lacking su-p'yo, you have to deal with a fat wallet bulging with 10,000-won bills (each currently worth about $8-9). I think it'd be reasonable to introduce 20,000- and 50,000-won denominations.


Some skeptics raised doubts over higher-denomination banknotes, however, citing the widespread use of credit cards and the fact that most commercial transactions are carried out at banks and other financial institutions.

If you're a foreigner and having trouble getting a credit card in Korea, let me turn your attention to these posts by Goldbrick here and here and here and here.



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