Glass Maze Every jumbled pile of person

2 Kings 2:23-25

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

Stephen Colbert bit or biblical verse? You decide!

Seriously, this is what happens when you’re not allowed to make revisions.


Torture is Bad Even When You Don’t Call it Torture

Here’s Ron Paul making sense at the latest gathering of clowns:

Well, waterboarding is torture. It’s illegal under international law and under our law. It’s also immoral. And it’s also very impractical. There’s no evidence that you really get reliable evidence. Why would you accept the position of torturing 100 people because you know one person might have information? And that’s what you do when you accept the principle of torture. I think it’s uncivilized and has no practical advantages and is really un-American to accept on principle that we will torture people that we capture.

It’s too bad Paul is so cooky in other ways — he’s smart and consistently reasonable about these sorts of things, certainly more so than most of his peers. Herman Cain sounds a lot more like a GOP candidate:

I agree that it was an enhanced interrogation technique….I don’t see it as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.

I think the lesson for the kids here is that the way to get away with doing bad stuff is through the magic of calling it something else. Example:

Teacher: Young man, I want you to stop talking during my class.

Lil’ Yoo: I wasn’t talking. I was practicing extroverted thinking techniques.

Teacher: What?

Lil’ Yoo: I was thinking with sounds.

Teacher: You were talking to Lil’ Rummy.

Lil’ Rummy: He was extroverted thinking in my direction.

I’d call this Orwellian, but it lacks the panache of something like, say, the Ministry of Love. It’s just dumb.


Greenwald on Drones

Glenn Greenwald on the Obama administration’s drone bombardment strategy:

… at this point, the word “militant” has no real definition other than: he or she who dies when a missile shot by a U.S. drone detonates


The Adventures of Pretends He Understands Football Man

“He’s a one-cut running back,” said Daniels, a little too loudly. “That’s what he’s paid for. Why does he keep dancing around behind the line?”

“Maybe they should send him back to the minors,” said Pretends He Understands Football Man. “Until he’s ready for the big time.”

Daniels blinked, and glanced sidelong at Peterson.

“Yeah,” he said.

Thad looked at his shoes.

Things got quiet.

Peterson cleared his throat. “So who’s in for this Sunday?”

Daniels raised his hand. “I’m going to eat your nachos and watch the Cowboys ruin your day.”

“You’re having a Superbowl party?” said Pretends He Understands Football Man.

Peterson hesitated, and then recovered, quickly. “Yeah!” he said. “Yeah. Sorry, Jeff, I would have invited you, but you never want to come to these things.”

“I’d love to, if there’s room.”

“Sure. There’s always room. We start around 4:00.”

“Great! I’ll be there.” Pretends He Understands Football Man picked up his coffee and smiled around at everyone, then went back to his office.

The rain was slapping against the windows. He sat down and looked at his phone. Don’t, he thought. But he picked it up and dialed.

Three rings, and then her voice: “Hello?”

For a moment, he couldn’t speak. She must not have looked at her caller id.

“Sheila,” he said, finally. “Don’t hang up.”

Silence. He could hear her breathing on the other end.

“I just want to talk to them. Just for a minute.”

Nothing. She was chewing on her lip now, he thought: the way she did, just the two front teeth, the crease between her eyebrows deepening.

“Or at least hear their voices. Please. Put Jason on. I won’t say anything.”

She drew in a breath, like she was getting ready to answer.

But she didn’t. The line went dead.

He held the receiver to his ear for a moment more, then put it down, gently.

After a while, he picked up the newspaper and flipped over to the sports section and sat there until evening, studying.


The Adventures of Doesn’t Curse Right Man

“Shit you, dude!” said Doesn’t Curse Right Man. “Shit you to hell!”

Terry paused, and lowered his brick. “What?”

“That’s right, you better back off, douchehole.”

Terry looked over at Anthony, then back. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“What I’m talking about is putting my foot in your dick.”

“Ass,” said Anthony. “You’re going to put your foot in his ass.”

“Asshole right I am,” said Doesn’t Curse Right Man.


The Adventures of Pretends He Can’t Remember the Last Time He Laughed Man

“I think it must have been when I was child,” said Pretends He Can’t Remember the Last Time He Laughed Man. “Certainly there was little joy in my youth, but I was able them to draw happiness from the most meager of circumstances then.” He shook his head. “No longer.”

“I thought I saw you laughing yesterday,” said Eustace. “At your desk.”

Peter nodded. “Yeah. You were watching something on your computer.”

“Spongebob,” said Derek, heavily. “He was watching Spongebob. Again.”

“No. What you saw was an empty shell of laughter. A memory bereft of its animating spirit. A corpse.”

“There were tears coming out of your eyes,” said Derek, rooting through the bowl of chips. “That was sorrow, I guess?”

“Sorrow, yes. I’m sure you’ve seen a rainbow arcing through grey stormclouds, lighting up the darkest …” He trailed off, awkwardly.

“Yeah, that’s probably not the metaphor you’re looking for.” Eustace flagged down a waiter, and pointed at the TV over the bar. “Hey, can you switch that to the Cartoon Network?”

The waiter shrugged. “Sure.”

Pretends He Can’t Remember the Last Time He Laughed Man checked his watch, surreptitiously. It should be ok, he thought. Nothing on now but Pokemon.


The Adventures of Beginning to Regret His Vow to Only Date Women Named Daphne Man

“So, your name’s Daphne?” said Beginning to Regret His Vow to Only Date Women Named Daphne Man.

“No, Deborah. For the third time, Deborah.” She checked her watch. “Look, I’ve got to …”

“Debby sounds a lot like Daphne, don’t you think?”

She frowned. “Not really.”

“Debby. Daphne.” He drew out each word, inserting spurious syllables. “I mean, I can’t tell them apart.”

“Ok.” She picked up her purse. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

“I’ll bet your parents wanted to call you Daphne,” he said, sadly. “They just lost their nerve.” He took another drink, and then caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar. The face looking back at him was grey, and a little weathered.

Tomorrow, he turned forty.


The Adventures of Wears Two Pairs of Underpants Man

Wears Two Pairs of Underpants Man strode into the examination room and stood across from Dr Patel, arms akimbo. “Let us begin!” he cried.

Dr Patel looked up from her chart. “I actually wanted you to remove all your clothes, Mr Jamison.”

“Removed, and gladly!” said Wears Two Pairs of Underpants Man.

All of them.”

“Yes. All of them. Every stitch. I have shed all vestiges of my sartorial carapace and stand before you now, naked as the day I was born.”

“Your underwear too.”

“Of course.”

“I mean, I need you to take off your underwear too.”

“Done!”

A pause. Dr Patel cleared her throat.

“I mean,” she said, “for this examination. For the examination I’m going to do right now.”

“Yes. The wonders of modern medicine!”

Dr Patel closed her eyes. This was her last appointment today. Just one more to go.

The silence grew uncomfortable.


Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs died last night. I saw the news as soon as it broke and then sat there, stunned, watching Twitter light up. All I felt at first was shock — and then, slowly, creeping in like a slow mist, sadness: deep and visceral and with me still.

I didn’t expect to feel this way. I’ve spent the past couple of years railing against Apple’s increasingly closed ecosystem and calling Jobs a dangerous utopianist. At one point I fled Apple products entirely (and then, rather quickly, came crawling back). My infatuation with the man never waned, but I sort of convinced myself that the admiration at its root had long since died on the vine.

I was wrong. It came rushing back last night, wreathed now in an unfamiliar nimbus of loss.

Which is weird. I don’t have any real connection to Jobs — except, of course, through the beautiful things he made. I remember when I first laid eyes on the Titanium Powerbook, sitting on its pedestal, sleek and compact and absolutely gorgeous. My emotional response to that piece of machinery didn’t make any sense, but the same thing happened over and over again for a decade: the iPod Nano, the iPhone 4, the Macbook Air.

That can’t be why Jobs turned out to be so important to me, though. There has to be more to it than stuff.

And it’s not his wild success, either, or his unlikely second act, or his wealth. It’s certainly not the sloganized ideals that Apple claims to represent. You can admire those things, but you can’t love them.

No, I think it’s this: Jobs embodied everything I want to be. Driven and brilliant and passionate, independent and confident and unbowed by dogma. Utterly consumed by what he believed in, and relentless in its pursuit.

He was a sort of living monument to the notion that you have to care deeply about what you do, and that there’s nothing better or more satisfying than making beautiful things. That anything done passionately, and well, is art.

Jobs was that rarest of things: a man wrapped around an idea. The man’s gone now, but he left the idea behind, and the best way to honor his memory is to live it.

Rest in peace, Steve.


Thompson on Nixon

In 1994, Hunter S Thompson wrote a sort of anti-encomium for Richard Nixon, who’d recently died. It’s bracing, brutal stuff — you feel like Thompson’s hatred is going to burn through the page — but some of it sounds sadly familiar. This, for example, on the failures of objective journalism:

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

And this, on the slow, steady degradation of our political institutions:

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

I think you can argue that the eight years of the Bush/Cheney presidency — and the Delay congress — puts Nixon to shame, at least in terms of damage done. Pound for pound, those guys did more to soil our precious little plot of democracy than anyone that came before them. But it sounds like Nixon was their template.


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