Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Bible I could get behind.

RU Sirius interviews Douglass Rushkoff. Fascinating interview, and much, much more at the link.

Thou Shalt Realize the Bible Kicketh Ass:
What if The Bible were happening right now? That’s the question Douglas Rushkoff has been trying to grapple with in Testament, a series of graphic novels that transpose Biblical stories into contemporary narratives. The series, created in collaboration with artist Liam Sharp flashes back and forth between contemporary and Biblical times, portraying struggles between total control freaks and revolutionaries. Various gods and goddesses form a sort of Greek Chorus — philosophizing and commenting on the action. The “Testament” series is a startling attempt to bring Biblical mythology back to life.

...RU: As someone who has never read the Bible, and who has found myself bored by every attempt that I’ve made to do so, let me ask you — why do you think this is such a powerful book?

DR: Well, I think the reason you get stuck is because you’re not the original intended hearer. I mean, if you’re not from that time and place, it’s really hard to get the jokes. Or the sense.

That’s why so many religious people are confused. They look at the stories literally, without realizing that each of Jacob’s sons is meant more as a satirical embodiment of one of the tribes. Today’s readers think of it like these guys are really the patriarchs of each of these tribes, rather than story devices.

Plus, if you don’t know all the Egyptian customs, then all the stuff that the Israelites do differently doesn’t come through. In one section they build a big arc but don’t put a god on the top. To a hearer of that era, they’d know this was radical — because all the Egyptian arcs had gods on top. Or they’d know that slaying a calf in April is a really big deal, because that was the Egyptian New Year’s month when the calf was to be revered.

On a deeper level, the Bible works because it’s very gently trying to break the bad news: that our relationship to God has changed from that of believing children to that of lonely adults. It’s telling the story of how a civilization grows up, and learns (or doesn’t learn) to take of itself with no parent telling it what to do. It’s about how to stop engaging in child sacrifice; how to develop legal and monetary systems that don’t exploit people. And, most of all, it’s about how to stay alive and conscious in a society that’s trying to make you dead and asleep.

...Basically, when the Israelites were under attack, they decided that rather than just having the best and most powerful god, they had the only god (what historians call the “one God, alone” cult). So they needed their own creation story. They cobbled together some of the best ones, gave them a decidedly Jewish context (the spoken word itself has creative power) and put it at the front.

...As far as real reality, I think there’s a whole lot of stuff we accept as given circumstances that are actually social convention — belief systems. Not the sum total of reality — like rocks and planets and physics — but certainly the nature of power, money, relationship. The way we interact is guided as much by our beliefs as our nature. And our perceptions of the world are, as Robert Anton Wilson would say, just reality tunnels.

...So many of our greatest challenges as a civilization still hearken back to our inability to operate an economy on a system other than the scarcity model. We could make enough energy or food. It’s not a technological problem. It’s an economic problem. An economy based on artificial scarcity — on the hoarding of resources and meting out of commodities — doesn’t know how to cope with abundance. Or even sustainability. How do you maintain centralized authority if people aren’t depending on the central authority for everything?

...But the vast majority of responses — particularly from rabbis — has been positive. They’ve been looking for someone to tell Torah stories the way they actually appear in Torah — but to do so in a way that gives these horrific and sexy scenes some context. It’s one thing for a layperson to blog the Torah on Slate, and it’s quite another for a media scholar (if I’m allowed to call myself that) to do it in a fictional work with informed interpretation. That’s another reason the rabbis like it, though — it’s attempting to carry on the Midrashic tradition of Torah commentary in a contemporary medium, rather than around the table at the house of study.

The other great thing has been the responses from magick types and Crowley fans who really had no idea the Bible was filled with all this sex magick. They’re now looking at Torah as source code rather than some enemy’s dictates.

Retired Cop releases "Never Get Busted Again" [for drugs] DVD

HA - HA !!! Gosh, it's almost as if the drug war makes no sense! But that can't be true, because my government would be sure to tell me. Right?

Via the Guardian: Retired narcotics officer tells public how to hoodwink drugs police
...If anyone knows the dos and don'ts of getting busted, it is Barry Cooper. Mr Cooper, who made more than 800 drug arrests in his time with the Permian Basin drug task force, plans to begin selling the DVD on Tuesday. It is, he says, directed solely at marijuana dealers, not at dealers of harder drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

He told his local newspaper, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, he was following his conscience because he believed the war on drugs, specifically marijuana, was counter-productive. "I know I won't be accepted by my peers here in East Texas, but in other areas of the country I will be celebrated," he told the paper.

"When I was raiding houses and destroying families, my conscience was telling me it was wrong, but my need for power, fame and peer acceptance overshadowed my good conscience."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The utter crap absurdity of the "ticking time bomb" scenario.

Ticking Bombast, via Reason:
Let’s say you’ve caught a suspect and you’re sure he’s a terrorist, and you’re sure there’s a nuclear bomb somewhere in Manhattan, and you’re sure he knows where it is, and you’re sure this particular terrorist has been trained to resist torture just long enough that you could never get the true location of the bomb out of him in time. But you’re also sure this particular terrorist is a pervert! And he tells you that if you’ll rape your own child in front of him, he’ll tell you exactly where the bomb is and how to disarm it. And you’re sure that he will, because your intelligence is that good in exactly that way.

Wow! Fascinating hypothetical, huh? And it’s only slightly more far-fetched than the more familiar ticking time bomb scenario, in which you must torture the suspect to save all those innocent people. Both versions have to be laid out awfully precisely. In my scenario, I even assume the nuclear terrorist has been trained to resist torture for a time...

So how come we hear so much about the torture quandary and nothing about mine?...

The answer is simple: State agents don’t have any ambition to rape their own children.

This is a clue to the real misdirection of the ticking bomb scenario. It’s always presented as a “What would you do?” dilemma, but in truth it has nothing to do with you. The proper question is: “What should we allow officials embedded in the security bureaucracy to do with impunity? What shall we let their bosses order without legal repercussion?”

...Here’s another poser: Suppose you’re an innocent suspect whom your captors are convinced is a terrorist. They don’t believe your protestations, so they decide to torture you into a confession. The more you protest your innocence, the more frustrated they get that you won’t “crack.” What do you say to get them to stop? How do you get them not to decide they need to hurt you even more?

That puzzle has two features that make it unpopular with torture advocates. It asks you to sympathize with the victim rather than the perpetrator. And for too many people, it isn’t a hypothetical at all.

I've got to find ways to work the phrase "like throwing a battery at a dying hobo" into conversations.

Hilarious, via comedian Patton Oswalt:
I'm not a huge fan of "so bad it's good". 99% of the time it's just something shitty.

But every now and then, every 1% of the time, you get something truly psychotic, wonderful and other-worldly. Like TROLL 2.

I won't describe the plot 'cause it doesn't exist. I won't make fun of the shittiness of the actors because it'd be like throwing a battery at a dying hobo. But I'll warn you not to smoke too much pot before you watch it, or you'll laugh yourself five new assholes.

You've been warned.

Iraq and the military.

More at the link. All worth reading. Fred Reed:
It’s all but official: The war in Iraq is lost. Report after leaked report says so. Everybody in Washington knows it except that draft-dodging ferret in the White House. Politicians scurry to avoid the blame. One day soon people will ask aloud: How did we let 3000 GIs die for the weak ego of a pampered liar and his desperate need to prove he's half the man his father was?

The troops from now on will die for a war that they already know is over. They are dying for politicians. They are dying for nothing. By now they must know it. It happened to us, too, long ago.

The talk among pols now is about finding an “exit strategy.” This means a way of pulling out without risking too many seats in Congress. Screw the troops. We must look to the elections. Do we really want an exit strategy? A friend of mine, with two tours in heavy combat in another war, has devised a splendid exit strategy. It consists of five words: “OK. On the plane. Now.” Bring your toothbrush. Everything else stays. We’re outa here.

...Face it. The soldiers are being used. They are being suckered. This isn’t new. It happened to my generation. Long after we knew that the war in Vietnam was lost, Lyndon Johnson kept it going to fertilize his vanity, and then Nixon spoke of the need to “save face”—at two hundred dead GIs a week. But of course Johnson and Nixon weren’t among the dead, or among the GIs.

I saw an interview on television long ago in which the reporter asked an infantryman near Danang, I think, what he thought of Nixon’s plan to save face. “His face, our ass,” was the reply. Just so, then, and just so now. Screw the troops. What the hell, they breed fast in Kansas anyway.

Soldiers are succinct and do not mince words. This makes them dangerous. We must keep them off-camera to the extent possible. A GI telling the truth could set recruiting back by years.

...You are being suckered, gang, just as we were.

It is a science. The government hires slick PR firms and ad agencies in New York. These study what things make a young stud want to be A Soldier: a desire to prove himself, to get laid in foreign places, a craving for adventure, a desire to feel part of something big and powerful and respected, what have you. They know exactly what they are doing. They craft phrases, “Be a Man Among Men,” or “A Few Good Men,” or, since girls don’t like those two, “The Few, The Proud.” Join up and be Superman.

Then comes the calculated psychological conditioning. There is for example the sense of power and unity that comes of running to cadence with a platoon of other guys, thump, thump, thump, all shouting to the heady rhythm of boots, “If I die on the Russian front, bury me with a Russian cunt, Lef-rye-lef-rye-lef-rye-lef….” That was Parris Island, August of ’66, and doubtless they say something else now, but the principle is the same.

And so you come out in splendid physical shape and feeling no end manly and they tell you how noble it is to Fight for Your Country. This might be true if anyone were invading the country. But since Washington always invades somebody else, you are actually fighting for Big Oil, or Israel, or the defense industry, or the sexual ambiguities who staff National Review, or the vanity of that moral dwarf on Pennsylvania Avenue. You will figure this out years later.

Once you are in the war, you can’t get out. We couldn’t either. While your commander in chief eats steak in the White House and talks tough, just like a real president, you kill people you have no reason to kill, about whom you know next to nothing—which one day may weigh on your conscience. It does with a lot of guys, but that comes later...

Hi JM!

9AM Officers Had Probable Cause to Administer a Field Civics Test

Girl: So, I'm really scared because I got jury duty. I don't want to be in the same room as a criminal.
Paralegal: Well, maybe they're not a criminal. That's the point of jury duty.
Girl: But... Aren't they guilty if they were arrested? I mean, the police don't just go around arresting people if they're innocent.

1355 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York

Overheard by: sam

via Overheard in the Office, Dec 21, 2006

Japanese SuperEater Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi VERSUS a goddamn Kodiak bear.

There really isn't anything more you can say, is there?

Via Warren Ellis.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

God Bless America.

I find myself swelling. With patriotism.

Again, via Scott Adams and the Dilbert Blog:
Just when you thought all the news was depressing, The Daily News reports that Miss USA Tara Connor was spotted dancing sexily and making out with 18-year old Miss Teen USA in clubs. Miss USA also allegedly tested positive for cocaine.

...I suppose Trump’s argument is that Miss USA has not been upholding a proper image. But who would you rather have representing your country – a do-gooder who yammers about world peace, or the hot chick who’s trying to pin Miss Florida against the bar? America is all about freedom, not imposing your views on others. I say let Miss USA be free, like the great nation she represents. If we start restricting Miss USA’s right to party, the Taliban has won.

Religious Discrimination

Via the Dilbert Blog. Cracks me up...
When it comes to discrimination against people’s choices, the only exception is a person’s choice of religion. You can’t discriminate because someone picked the wrong religion. And here I’m only talking about the big name religions. You can still pick on the little religions.

If a guy shows up for a job interview and tells you his religion requires him to wear a stuffed rhino penis as a hat, you can show him the door. But if he says his prophet walked on water, or rode to heaven on a flying horse, you slap a name tag on his cubicle and hope for the best. If he thinks he might have reincarnated from a caterpillar, sign him up. If he says he’s wearing special underpants to ward off evil, put him on the fast track.

In all fairness, I don’t think there’s any correlation between religion and job performance, so it wouldn’t make sense to allow religious discrimination. I just want to feel safe when I walk down the street in my rhino penis hat.

The definition of awkward pause...

3PM All that is Covered in the Illustrated Syllabus

Teacher: Okay, so now that you know the basic rules of the computer lab, I have to ask you one more question... Do any of you ever check out the NMBLA website? [Silence.] Well I do, frequently... I want to know who the enemy is. Also, I like to look at the new Russian brides on Fridays.

Boston, Massachusetts

Overheard by: Cupcake1

via Overheard in the Office, Dec 19, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"War on Drugs" still a retarded idea.

It's not a "war."
And if it was, then the government would be losing.
To a buncha people high on drugs.
Via the LA Times:
Pot is called biggest cash crop

SACRAMENTO — For years, activists in the marijuana legalization movement have claimed that cannabis is America's biggest cash crop. Now they're citing government statistics to prove it.

A report released today by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Boyz in tha Hood for a... different... generation.

Group called Dynamite Hack redoes NWA's Boyz in tha Hood.
A few years old, but I cracked up. NSFW. [Not Safe For Work].

Soul piano-playing Japanese youth phenomenon!

Okay, well maybe not "phenomenon"... but it's still kinda awesome. This is the son of one of my English teachers playing Nate James' "Justify Me" and singing it in English, which is just all sorts of neat 'cause he's just in Elementary school. The coolest thing is that he's kind of a rambunctious lad, and not the most attentive in class, and I never would have known he had the talent and skills he's got... goes to show you, you never know... Enjoy!

A few more mochitsuki pics...

...from Akemi, the English teacher at Katsuura.


Almost felt like I had some coming... but I laid down till it passed. [Sinfest is awesome.]

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I love reading PostSecret

(PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.)

Hi Kev! Hi Spence!

Hi JM!

Hi... me.

I can't even remember why I was trying to take this picture...

...but Sandy made it cute anyways.

Few more training pics...

From last weekend's battle royale training session with Ry and Jon. See here for the first post 'bout it.

Ry posted up these, and a few others, with his insightful commentary, on his Flickr accout - Photos from The Foamy Green. Go there to see more, or just check out his other cool photos.

Tradin' knees with Jon.

Ry working the pads.

Shame this one turned out blurry, because this might be - apologies to Ry - the prettiest punch I've ever thrown. In a picture, anyways...

Training the knees.

Marukatsu Matsuri

After the mochitsuki, the town of Katsuura had a fun little area matsuri/festival. There was vocal choir, the Camelia Brass Band, a puppet play, the throwing of the mochi that we had pounded in the morning, and a bazaar of games for the kids [and adults like me and Sandy who refuse to grow up.]

Throwing the mochi.

The band was really good, but the best part of it was the drummer, who was living out his rock n' roll fantasy. The red felt, fur lined cowboy hat [above] and the horse head mask [below] attest to that.

Sandy the cotton candy sugar fiend.

Curling... actually much harder than you'd think.

As is ring toss...

But golf, on the other hand...

...not a problem!
Couple more pics at this link.


On Saturday was the annual mochitsuki - or mochi rice pounding - at Katsuura Elementary school. You pound steamed rice with a big wooden mallet and then shape it into the traditional mochi rice cake.

No child labor laws in Japan. Get to work!

Getting ready to have a go...

They also use this high speed contraption to pound the rice.

C'mon, how adorable is this?

Sandy asserting her authoritah!

Now when was the last time you saw these two working together in harmony?
Sandy liked this pic because it looked like she was about to hit me in the head.

My moment of shame.
I failed to keep the mallet wet, so the rice wouldn't stick to it, and ended up accidentally pulling the whole ball of mochi out of the pestle and it fell on the ground.
Everyone laughed and I hung my head in sadness.
Later, they all said "That has never-ever-ever-ever happened before!"
I blame my overdeveloped sense of enthusiasm.

Then the rice is separated and rolled into rice cake balls.

The children love me and swarm about me!
Like a pride of lions would swarm the injured gazelle, for example.

The children love the shaved bald head.

I'm horrible with names, and probably only know a dozen student names... so I always think of this incredibly adorable young man as "Mullet Boy".
Great kid. Nice, friendly, smart... but, you know... mullet.

Me begging for mochi from my students.

How adorable!
The kids are cute too.

The Merry Xmas sign at the school - made out of plastic PET bottles. How clever.
A couple more mochitsuki photos at this link.

Christmas in Fukutsu

Our small little city doesn't have a wealth of Christmas decorations... it is Japan, after all... but Sandy and I did a drive around the other night to check out the lights folks had put up. It's far less ubiquitous and expected here in Japan, so it makes it, kind of... much more impressive and significant when people go to the trouble put up lights and decorations.

Hello Kitty Christmas decorations.
Thank God for Japan, or we'd have never had these.

Our city is fairly small [pop. about 56,000] but the park is still decked out with a pretty nifty Xmas display.

"Look Kringle, I want good stuff this year!"

C'mon, how cute is she? She even did "big eyes."


Santa climbing up the side of somebody's house.
Not the most flattering angle for a picture, I'll admit.

The Christmas tree in front of the city's train station.

Weren't sure if these next three were somebody's house or an inn or a restaurant, but they went to town on the lights...

It's important to make sure the outside of all the gambling establishments and pachinko parlours are decked out for the birth of the baby Jesus.
Apologies for the "taken from a moving car" picture.

This house was pretty impressive with the lights.

This is actually in our apartment complex.
We have let down America and let the Japanese out-decorate us.
It's just they're so much better organized than us. They are like robot-machines! From the future!
No... okay... Sandy and I just can't be bothered. But we appreciate those that do decorate.
Many more Christmas-y light photos at this link.