Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cool Websites - Kirk and Spock are Gay?

Apparently there's a huge cult of people who entertain the idea that Kirk and Spock were riding each other across the cosmos, going where --at least for them-- no man had gone before. The term "Slash Fiction" actually originated with unauthorized Kirk/Spock stories which emphasized double photon torpedos of love scenes.

The All Ages Kirk/Spock Archive has a collection of poetry, prose and art dedicated to this endeavour. And it is massive. Also, it's "safe for kids"! Here's one haphazard sample from their archives:

"Jim, I've been waiting for you to ask," Spock told his friend, and pressed his lips to Jim's. This made Jim moan and open up to the invading lips and for the first time, Jim felt the alien tongue invade his mouth.Lost in the sensation, all Jim could do was suck on the invader, and hold on for the ride of his life. It was unlike anything he had ever felt and somehow, Jim knew he'd never feel it again because independent of where they went from that point, he knew this would always be their first kiss. --Author: AtieJen

I found this site while searching for a video that I'd heard rumours of in the '80s. Apparently some group of middle-aged housewives had re-edited their collections of Star Trek into an hour-long episode which basically re-invented Spock and Kirk's relationship. Unfortunately, I still haven't found this video --if indeed it does exist. Any leads would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iraq - Bush the Sucker

I would love to play poker with George W. Bush. His ferret eyes and blinking gob-smacked wonderment would be a welcome addition to the felt. Not so much for the scintillating banter, rather, but for the P.T. Barnum feast his withered corpse would serve up. As his stacks of chips diminished with Twin Towers rapidity and mine grew, he'd turn to the house with hat in hand and ask the dealer, "You think you could spot me another 21,500?"

Aside from being a pure and simple idiot, Dubya also plays a strategy that every adept poker player knows and which distinguishes the Winner from the Loser. Regardless of how much you've invested in the hand, every round of betting is a new bet, and you must be prepared to fold when the hand has changed.

Let's say in a game of Seven Stud, Dubya starts out with a pair of jacks showing and he rightly bets it hard, shouting "Mission Accomplished!" in a cute attempt at braggadocio. As the game progresses, it's possible that his opponent could draw and show three kings. If he hasn't improved his hand, Bush should fold immediately. But that's not what the stupid player does. The stupid player thinks, Well, hell. I've already invested nearly 160,000 in this hand. If I fold now, I'd be throwing it all away!

Not so, says the wise player. The money is most definitely lost anyway. And in the face of such overwhelming odds, throwing more money into the pot is a sure way to guarantee a net loss for the evening. What the losing player fails to do in such situations is consider the hand past, as if it were one of the many already decided. He's still locked in the moment, mesmerized by Schroedinger's Cat hidden in the down-turned cards. My fate is not yet decided, he lies to himself. After all, God told him to play this hand, and he intends to see it through no matter what. God wouldn't lie to me, now would He?

Well, guess what, Georgie. He did. And it's time you grew up and realized that the Easter Bunny don't play Stud. Good poker players are decidedly Zen in their philosophy: One hand does not decide the night, and when the moment has turned sour it's best to prepare for the next. Let it go, George. When the deal comes back around you can change the game to Draw, Texas Hold'em, or Partition. Cut'n'Run, even. But save your money, save some lives. Just fold, for chrissake.

Monday, January 29, 2007

War - Brilliant!

The sophistication of Iraqi insurgents has reached a new level. Nine to twelve English-speaking gunmen, dressed and armed as U.S. soldiers infiltrated the provinicial headquarters in Karbala and, after kidnapping 4 U.S. soldiers, they then drove them 25 kilometers away and executed them.

The brilliance in this attack lies not in the score of 4 enemy dead that these fighters achieved; indeed, it was one hell of a risk for such a large number of well-trained, specialized units. But what they may have achieved surpasses the potential damage of a well-armed battalion. From now on, U.S. soldiers will be extremely wary of their own brethren, never relaxing, possibly shooting it out with each other over mistaken doubts.

In other words-- Soldiers' uniforms: $1,200. Weapons: $3,000. Vehicles: $27,000. Enemy self-paranoia: Priceless.

It's not my intention to be callous. I truly do feel for these four U.S. soldiers and their families, just like I feel for the approximately 60,000 Iraqi civilians who have been killed since this conflict began. But to be honest, the deaths of these soldiers don't strike me as an injustice in the same way that the deaths of civilians register as simply tragic. After all, the soldiers are participating members of an invading force. Of course, I do care about my countrymen; we have a common cultural heritage and therefore I can relate to them possibly better than I could to those of another culture. But my concern extends to the opinion that they shouldn't be there.

Also, from a distance, and free from the emotional drum-beating of the U.S. media, I have a decidedly abstract view of the events in Iraq. It's like reading the play-by-play notation of a chess match. Sure, I've got family and friends over there, and I hope that they will return safely, even moreso than I wish that everybody over there could be safe. But I'm certainly not rooting for the Americans to be victorious, no more than we could understand how the average German could root for the Nazis nearly 70 years ago. If this were a cakewalk, then the Neo-Cons and others of their American Taliban ilk would become emboldened to invade other countries, killing even more civilians and U.S. soldiers.

And so it is, with an abstract and rational view of these events, I'm able to simply admire a bold play by someone who isn't necessarily my enemy. This doesn't necessarily make me anti-American. If anything, it makes me pro-American. We never should have gone over there, and it's time for us to get the fuck out asap.

Friday, January 26, 2007

World - The Balls on that Hugo

Sure, it's fashionable for Americans to refer to Iraq as "Bush's War," as if it hadn't been supported by a majority of even the Democrats in Congress, along with the media and general population. Regardless of this myopic view of history --current events, rather-- the fact remains that it was the U.S. --and not only BushCo.-- that began this neauvou Vietnam War, and it's the U.S. that needs world leaders like Hugo Chavez to keep it honest, humble and wise. And thank the gods that he's back in the news this week to poke his finger in the face of Goliath.

Ever since the arrogant manner in which the U.S. defied the wisdom of the U.N. and the world by invading Iraq, it's been clear that the only extant Superpower must be challenged. After all, when you're spread thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can't very well invade North Korea, Iran, Syria, Somalia and Venezuela, now can you? It only seems natural that the leaders of these countries try to bring themselves up a notch. Any nation would do the same.

But only Hugo does it with panache.

It remains to be seen how he will handle his nearly absolute power; history doesn't instill too much optimism on that score. But for the moment, he appears to be a man who sincerely believes in empowering the Venezuelan poor. Revolutionary and charismatic, Chavez also has one huge pair of balls.

After his failed 1992 coup, Chavez was permitted by the Perez government to appear on television to call for an end to hostilities. During the speech, and surrounded by his captors, he quipped that he had "failed ... for the moment."

In September, 2006, Chavez stood before the U.N. General Assembly and referred to Bush as "The Devil." He went on to say that Bush had come to the Assembly a day earlier to "share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world." His words were received with wild, unabashed applause.

Most of my compatriots would think that I'm a traitor for siding with this thorn in the side of my country. But I don't see Hugo as a thorn. I see him as the little pimply guy who faces up to the jock bully and tells him straight to his face to stop acting like an asshole. And if there's any nobility in that jock, he'll respect the moxy. If there's any intelligence in that massive, thick skull, he'll think about the words.

I don't know how he treats his wife or if he kicks stray dogs, but from what I see of Hugo, he seems to be a fine man. Let's hope modern-day Borgias don't slip a little something extra in his coffee.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Society - Who's the Faggot Now?

Free Speech is now officially a rotting corpse. Isaiah Washington, an actor on “Grey’s Anatomy,” has become another willing victim of the Cult of the Politically Correct, ascending to the evil pantheon alongside Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and Rosie O’Donnel. Though there can be no doubt that the offenses committed by the men on this list were intended to be abusive, Rosie was merely careless. And therefore it is right that these men have publicly apologized and agreed to reassess their values while Ms. O’Donnel has merely shrugged.

Still, I lament the loss of the Stoic American. The Cowboy and the Soldier who merely grunted at superficial slights, the Dustbowl Matriarch with leathery skin, and the resilient American Negro—they are all now shadows of a distant past. In their stead are talking torsos behind podiums, spewing outrage or apology. Our modern heroes are unremarkable protagonists in made-for-television dramas about people who fight picayune injustices.

And it’s all just so … anti-aesthetic. This current zeitgeist that obsesses over personal suffering strikes me as an assault on the rugged dignity we once represented. I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with being strong and hard and crass at times, meeting like for like, without responding to mere words as if they were mortal wounds.

Just to be clear on this, it’s necessary to emphasize that I’m not talking about assaults by people who intend to inflict terror and true injury, fag-bashers or skin-head rednecks who surround an Asian woman in a car with her baby beside her. Such people should be hanged by a mob, or at least publicly humiliated and run out of town on a pole. Certain aberrant behaviour, by necessity, must be combatted.

It’s this assault on the general status quo that worries me so. The colorful speech of the past is now laden with psychological word-mines that can explode unexpectedly with any footfall. The new milieu is a regime with robotic thought-police on ubiquitous patrol. The insectoid PC drones prowl public thoroughfares and private recesses, seeking out the bad seeds of society, those who utter the prohibited syllables of an overthrown dynasty. When their minutely attuned attenae detect the slightest murmur of The Proscribed Words, words like ching-chong and faggot and nigger, alarms shriek across the globe. The machines clamber together and form a donut around the perpetrator, their metallic limbs pointing censoriously at this single focus. The wailing permeates the offender’s cranium, inflicting discomfort and unrest. Coded messages are beamed out to the social network: This Will Have Economic Repercussions.

Surrounded, and with no way out, the deviant falls to his knees and pleads mea culpa. He asks for mercy, but the sentence is binding. “You are guilty of thought crimes. Crimes are evil. Therefore, your thoughts are evil. Your mind must be changed.” With head bowed, the pariah walks through the throng as a path spreads before him. Their appendages now point in unison toward his destiny: The Counseling Facility.

So it is, and so it shall be. The Cowboy has been laid to rest.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Psychology - Art and Personality

By the same group who brought you the Brain Sex Test, here's an Art and Personality test that matches your taste to your personality. It's kind of long, and for me the taste part wasn't very accurate. But the personality profile was right on. Not a bad thing to do if you have 15 minutes to spend.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Parenthood – To Spank or Not to Spank

Cathy Sorbo has written an interesting commentary on new legislation that will punish parents who spank their children. This is an issue with which I’ve had to do much soul-searching since becoming a father nearly three years ago.

In general, I think that spanking is unnecessary. Children can be quite reasonable, in their own way, and with patience, repetition and lots of “time outs,” they can usually be educated appropriately. Spanking, more often than not, serves only as a vent for frustrated parents.

However, I live in a busy city, with lots of traffic. And though I have educated my toddler to the dangers of moving vehicles, there was one occasion in which he forgot himself and stepped out into the street. On this occasion I gave him a good sharp wallop. But it wasn’t out of anger. Rather, it was a very calculated, premeditated strategy of education, based on the idea that the quickest and surest way to learn that fire hurts is to touch it one time. Pain, after all, is a very effective teacher.

That’s not to say that pain should be the exclusive means of education. When overdone, it can become quite meaningless. But the shock to him of actually being hit by me on this rare occasion brought the severity of the issue home to him in a way that insured he would never repeat it again.

Going back to the metaphor of fire and pain, burned fingers are not quite as fatal as a cross-town bus over-running tender young entrails. Usually, you only get one chance; there’s not much margin for learning in such a situation. So I decided –on that occasion-- that a small amount of pain was preferable to the unpalatable alternative. I don’t regret it. I suffered for it, more than him, but I think it was the right thing to do.

In other words: When the lesson is as serious as life-or-death, a spanking is a very expedient means toward learning.

It’s possible, though, in retrospect, that a spanking would also have been well-served when the remote control got thrown out in the garbage. But that was a year ago, and the statute of limitations is up. Anyway, I’m getting more exercise because of it. … Well, actually, he’s getting the exercise now.

Society - Sexual Apartheid

Q: Why is it that men can never contract Mad Cow Disease?

A: Because they’re all pigs.

As a man, I am unable to take umbrage at this female chauvinist assault on our character, first and foremost because it is mostly true. Anyone who doubts it has only to compare the men’s and women’s lavatories in any public space. The women’s room is always pristine and fresh-smelling, sans puddles and errant sprays of pee-pee, whereas the men’s looks like a Pollock in urine. The smell alone makes my nose-hair curl just thinking about all the stray bacteria that must be floating in the air. And gods forbid that one should have to do a number two in there. Without an adept sense of balance, the enterprise is tantamount to sitting on strips of fly paper.

That’s why, whenever possible, I slip into the ladies’ room. After all, I happen to be a very neat pee-er. So, why should I have to suffer the iniquities of my ingroup? That’s not to say that I'm not prone to certain moral dilemmas in such situations. Not least of which is how to leave the toilet seat when I’m done.

Common courtesy would dictate that I should leave it down for the next lady in line. But, if the next lady, after giving me the stink-eye, should squeeze past and notice that the seat is down, she may think that I had left it down during my evacuation. And if I should leave it up --ostensibly to advertise my cleanliness-- that may be misconstrued as an inconsiderate abuse of my liberty. After much thought on the subject, I decided long ago that the best course of action is to put the lid down as well as the seat. And in cases where there is no lid, I improvise. Occasionally, I might even inform the glaring woman that I have indeed peed with the seat up.

It seems to me that here we have a system in which the elite pee-ers –i.e. women—are imposing their wills on all men (just because most men are pigs) and are relegating all of us to the hell of specified urinals. And I think that is a gross injustice.

After all, it’s considered a moral aberration these days to designate “colored” lavatories. So, why stop at skin color? What happened to the sexual revolution? If –rightfully—women feel that they should have a clean environment for their biological evacuations, perhaps we should stop designating these areas by sex, rather, and impose a merit system.

In an age of sexual predator lists, no-flight lists and electronic certification, it doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to calibrate a man’s peeing skills and –if he qualifies as a skillful and clean urinator—he should be allowed the luxury of a clean latrine. Rather than “Women’s” and “Men’s,” we could designate our public conveniences as “Refined” and “Pigs.” Certain men, like myself, could be issued an electronic pass that will give them access to the convenience of a clean place of business.

I can only hope that the new Democratic congress will stop running circles around such unimportant issues like the Iraq War and Public Health, and that they will press into more urgent matters like this Old Testament apartheid system which unfairly castigates civilized urinators. It’s time for us, as a people, to stand up for those who don’t sit to pee.

By Special Request

Colorado Bob asked for some commentary on Barcelona. Guess I should get around to that someday. But for the moment, here's an article I wrote a few weeks ago, A Crappy Catalan Christmas. One of these days, when I get around to making a Highlights of Ubiquity section, this will be one of them. Enjoy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rant - Stinking Flu

You know what sucks about having the flu? It's like a time machine that automatically takes you back to the days when you were a kid and people took good care of you and coddled you and didn't make you feel guilty about laying out on the sofa and watching crap tv. It's an oddly pleasant memory that makes you realize immediately those days are gone forever.

When you're older, nobody cuts you any slack. Your partner gets pissed off that you don't help out around the house; your boss indirectly makes you feel guilty for taking a day off --and maybe even insists that you get a doctor's note, when all you really need is rest; your kid still needs looking after; and even your own conscience hounds you about all the things that need seeing to. (That's the super-ego working overtime, right?)

Anyway, that's my long explanation about why I'm not posting anything decent today. You got a problem with it? Get in line.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Internet - Alexa

It's been said that I'm as dense as a porn-star's money-shot; so it's not surprising that Alexa is news to me. This site is like the Nielson Ratings of the internet. Here you can find the most popular websites on the internet and even monitor changes in a Dow Jones spirit. Browse by country or subject. It's a great way to find what's hot or even discover sites that are tailored to your interests.

It's cool. Check it out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cool Websites - ESP Tester

Ever wanted to measure your paranormal abilities? The Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment has an online ESP Tester, which will gauge your ability to predict which of 10 colors have been selected, over 20 trials. Statistically, you should get it right 2 out of 20 times. Four or six indicates a high level of ESP is at work.

I consistently got 0 out of 20, which --according to the website-- suggests that I use ESP to fuck myself up. (That apparently explains my life history.) "Psi-missing" is what they call it. So, at least I have some kind of psychic talent. Now, if only I could cultivate my telekinetic abilities to stimulate that woman on the metro who hounds my fantasies, I might be able to eek more than a dirty look out of her every morning.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Race - Are You a Racist?

The Implicit Association Test, run by Harvard, is an online test that monitors the speed of your reactions, which somehow determines whether or not you are actually a racist. The way it works is: It tests your speed at associating words with both a positive and negative connotation to white and black faces. A micro-second delay in putting a positive word to one racial group indicates a subconscious or conscious reluctance.

Personally, I have to disagree with the methodology, as one's reactions can improve upon becoming accustomed to the task over the duration of the test. In my case, the Negative-Words-Associated-With-Blacks part was at the beginning, while I was still trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. So, I was tested as "moderately racist." Unbelievable. I happen to have lots of Jewish friends and have banged more black chicks than I can count. Pffft.

Still, it is put out by Harvard, so it must be accurate. Right? Whether you agree with it or not, it's an interesting test to try.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Notable Blogs - Mind Hacks

If you like psychology, neuroscience or anything related to the mind and brain, you should make this part of your daily reading. If it makes you groove, you may even want to buy the book.

Check it out: Mind Hacks.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Paranormal - Past Lives?

This isn't exactly late-breaking news, but it's a story that fascinates me just the same. University of Virginia researcher, Jim Tucker, studies the past-life memories of children and has some amazing cases to report. This particular story tells of James Leininger, a 6-year old kid who has vivid memories of being a WWII pilot, James Huston. His recall of facts is so impressive, that he has even attended and been welcomed to a reunion of Huston's old squadron.

I don't know what to think about past lives. The skeptics would say that if you study 1,000 children, you're very likely to find eery anomalies in 10 or so cases. Statistically, it makes sense. Is it possible that, if these cases are more than just statistical detritus, that they indicate some ability to channel into past lives rather than actual reincarnation? In the same way that a television 60 light years away in space would pick up The Jack Benny show only now, perhaps little James simply has a talent that is latent in all/most/some/a few of us.

(Unfortunately, the most legitimate news source I could find on this is ABC News --ahem-- and the Connellsville Daily Courier. If anybody has research suggestions on scouring reliable news sources --outside the realm of subscribing to Lexis-- please share. )

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blogging - Welcome to My New Look

It took one hell of a long time to learn how to do this. CSS coding, templates, upload, download, copy widgets, and bla-bla-bla-bla-fucking-bla. But finally here it is. Let's see how long it takes before something goes pear-shaped.

I will have to say, that I have Colorado Bob to thank for this. He took me through the first few steps of dealing with html and pointed me toward all the good websites for resources and tutorials, which got my courage up for the big leap into CSS. Hats off to the nice man from Texas. I always did like that country, even if they are responsible for that beady-eyed, draft-dodging psychopath at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

And I really should thank Hans at Beautiful Beta for the excellent instructions on how to add a third column to the template. That is one dude dedicated to explaining how it's done.

Anyway, the new look is installed. I still got to figure out how to achieve that delicate combination of profit and taste with the ads, some more good links and articles etc. But for chissakes, get off my back wouldja? I'm busy as hell over here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Author's Note - Hiatus

Just when I was getting into the groove of this blogging thing. I actually had so much material that it was an effort for me to limit my posts to one a day. However, some pressing matters have come up and I must put my writing efforts into them. The most important reason, of course, is that they pay.

I have 4 articles pending for the Metropolitan Magazine here in Barcelona and whatever free time I can garner for myself has to be for them. Give me a week, and I'll be back. Not that too many people will miss my posts; with between 30 and 120 hits a day on this blog, I don't imagine there will be much of a public outcry.

Feel free to check out the archives if you're truly jonesing for a bit of Ubiquity.

But for those of you who will be mourning this brief hiatus, the good news is that I will soon be upgrading the appearance of this blog. With the help of a generous soul named Colorado Bob, I am endeavouring to learn how to modify templates and hope to have a whiz-bang design set up very shortly.

For those of you interested in the process, you can check out how things are coming along at Less Than Civil.

Happy Random Change of the Calendar Year to all of you, and I will see you soon, bigger and better.