Tuesday, July 31, 2007

10 Little Things-

There are plenty of things in the world that are REALLY upsetting- war, pestilence, illiteracy, arrogance, willful stupidity & Donald Trump, for instance. But then there are those little things we encounter each day which are tiny on the Cosmic Scale, but annoy us anyway. I humbly offer my own list; please feel free to contribute your own, and then we'll see what we can do about it all...


- 10-mile-a-gallon SUV's with a slew of "I Support Our Troops" magnets plastered all over the back. These folks may be being ironic, but I don't think so.

- The use of the word "impact" instead of "affect", especially in news stories, or on NPR, where they should know better.

- Parents who obliviously block the aisle in the supermarket while having a serious discussion with their 2-year old about what kind of foreign cheese he'd like her to buy this week (an actual incident).

- The person behind you and in the lane to your left on the highway who just has to kick in the afterburners and get it up to 90 so they can get to the exit ahead of you.

- People who blame God for their own bigotry (as in "I have nothing against gay people, but God hates them").

- People who really believe that Fox News is fair and balanced.

- People who, when you say 'thank you", say "No Problem," instead of "You're welcome".

- People who begin a sentence by saying "Well, of course I've never heard/read/watched [insert name of music/show/book here], but..." and then proceed to criticize it.

- The fact that newspapers all seem to have fired their copy editors and now rely on spellcheck.

- turnips.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Freedom to Protest-

Gay Artist Burns $60,000 Koran

Charles Merrill, the artist who recently edited the Holy Bible with a black marker and pair of scissors, has lately burned a rare Islamic Holy Book, The Koran, valued at $60,000.00, in an undisclosed Chicago location. "The purpose of editing and burning Abrahamic Holy Books is to eliminate homophobic hate," Merrill stated. "Both ancient books are terrorist manuals"

There has been a lot of discussion of this on the bookselling email lists over the last few days, and it's an important topic. It has been suggested that book burning, for any reason, is censorhsip, that the artist is arrogant, and that burning a Koran will just offend Muslims and reinforce their perception that the West is out to get them.

All this brings up an interesting question- is book burning as a purely symbolic act of protest (e.g.- burning a single copy of a book to make a point, as this artist did) different than book burning as a de-facto method of censorship, e.g., a means of actually physically removing certain texts from existence, as practiced by the Nazis or some other political/religious groups from time to time?

I'd say yes, and I say more power to Charles Merrill.

Obviously censorship is a bad thing- I don't care if you censor books by burning them, confiscating them, or outlawing them- censorship is evil. However, I don't see any way a reasonable person could construe this symbolic burning of a single copy of a widely-available text as an act of censorhip.

When you have any group of people who have historically spent a lot of time repressing and killing another group of people, I don't worry too much about "offending" them by symbolic protests like this. We need more, not fewer, such protests. The real offense and arrogance is not the burning of a textbook, it is the repression and killing of human beings because they have a different lifestyle.

Protecting the freedom to write, read, publish and distribute books is a noble and worthy cause, and one I will always fight to uphold- but symbolic book burning is just that- symbolic. It is not censorship, and we need to look beyond the act and judge what is being protested. A book is an object, and if burning one symbolically will bring us an inch closer to a day when all human beings are free from repression and have equal rights, then I say give me a match.

Charles Merrill is a well-known artist, gay activist and iconoclast. You can read more about him here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

These Were Your Grandfather's Cornflakes...

Tony the Tiger? This woman would eat Tony for lunch and use his rib bone for a toothpick...

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace- Part 2

Our story so far...

The first Marie Antoinette knew of her "purchase" of the necklace was when the jewelers (most humbly and very, very anxiously) sent her a dunning letter for the gigantic unpaid bill. Then, as they say, all Hell broke loose. The scandal became public; the Cardinal was denounced, and Jeanne was arrested along with just about everybody else who had ever as much as shaken hands with the Cardinal.

Acting against some very good advice, Marie Antoinette insisted on a trial for the Cardinal on the charge that he was guilty simply because he had believed that she was capable of having the sort of "relationship" with him he had thought she had. This, of course, played right into the hands of the Queen's numerous enemies who were only too happy to have publicly broadcast the exact nature of what the Cardinal had thought were the Queen's morals, or lack thereof.

There followed a sensational trial, which was ostensibly about the Cardinal's actions but was really about the Queen's reputation. Jeanne's lawyer was Maitre Doillot, a respected advocate who was in somewhat over his head in dealing with Jeanne. He was the family lawyer of the Paris Police Lieutenant General, and had been recommended to Jeanne by that worthy as a favor -for what we will not speculate, though many others did at the time. The Count Beugnot, himself a lawyer (and another one of Jeanne's former lovers) had turned down her plea that he defend her, and had this to say about Maitre Doillot-

"Doillot had been in practice before the Paris bar for many, many years, and not without renown. Deep in his sixties or beyond, he had retired to his study, where he was still consulted as an eminent jurist. Even a sage old gentleman such as this could not with impunity survive close contact with the Countess de la Motte. She completely turned his head. He believed implicitly all the tales she spun him, became emotionally involved with his client and put up an impassioned defense of her innocence, making his debut in the case with the publication of a trial brief, the most extravagant defense plea ever to flow from the pen of an attorney in all the years since attorneys first began composing defense pleas. Fantastic as a tale out of 'The Arabian Nights', it enjoyed, nonetheless, a sensational success. And to think that it was the composition of a venerable white-wig of seventy summers!".

The Abbe Georgel called Doillot's first plea "a tissue of lies, of striking improbabilities, contradictions and anachronisms". Doillot's own brother agreed-

"The man has either gone stark raving mad or Madame de la Motte has bewitched him as she did the Cardinal".

After much scandal mongering in both the courtroom and the streets the Queen's enemies won and the Cardinal was acquitted. Others were not so lucky- the Count Cagliostro was exiled from France, and eventually returned to Italy where he was arrested and convicted on charges of practicing Freemasonry; he died in prison in 1795.

Jeanne was convicted and whipped, branded, and thrown into the Bastille at which point she may (or may not) have had a fling with its Governor, the poor Launay, who would lose his head at the hands of the mob when they stormed the ancient fortress a few months later.

Jeanne was now a favorite of the anti-Antoinette faction, which was growing quickly in France, and she was able to intrigue to escape the country and made her way, with her husband, to London.

Once there she immediately set out on a plan of revenge against the Queen which took the form of her famous "Memoires Justificatifs de la Comtesse de Valois de la Motte". These contained her own highly slanted version of her life and the Diamond Necklace Affair, as well as some thirty pieces of correspondence she claimed had passed between the Cardinal and the Queen.

"From the moment of my arrival in London," she wrote, "my first and only thought had been publication of my justification for the eyes of all the world... I too would have preferred to spare the honour of the Queen, and I tried to warn her Majesty that I was in Possession of certain letters...incriminating her and exculpating me... All I asked in return was restitution of property rightfully mine which had been seized, after an iniquitous verdict, to enrich the coffers of the King. But I really never considered it likely that the French court would capitulate to those terms, and besides, my main goal was public vindication. To this purpose, then, I eagerly took up my pen, denying my feeble, tortured body even the minimal physical requirements of nourishment and sleep until my memoirs should be ready for publication. Although we were obliged to borrow money to defray the costs of printing, five thousand copies in French have now come off the press, and three thousand more in English; the latter went on sale at a guinea each in New Bond Street shops."

The readers of England and France could not get enough of the Countess's memoirs, although what you thought of them depended on which side of the Royal table you sat on- "a cesspool of calumny" was the verdict of the Abbe Georgel, friend and secretary of Cardinal Rohan. In October of 1789 a "Second Memoirs justicatif", much more barbed and venomous than the first, was rushed to the printers, another direct attack on the Queen by Jeanne, published in French and English and distributed in Paris where it stirred the mobs to a new frenzy.

Mirabeau said of the Countess- "Madame de La Motte's voice alone brought on the horrors of July 14 and of October 5" (the storming of Versailles and the slaughter of the troops there by the 'Women's Army').

Her works spawned a storm of other pamphlets, each one trying to outdo the other in decrying the licentiousness and debauchery of the Queen. Frances Mossiker, in "The Queen's Necklace", notes, however, that's Jeanne's works were the most influential-

"There were other attacks perhaps more obscene, but they were published under noms de plume and therefore were never as pungent and convincing as those signed by a real-life name, a name famous, moreover, throughout Europe ever since the Necklace Trial".

In 1791 the Countess's two volume "Story of My Life" came off the presses, but Jeanne would not live to enjoy its fruits. In early June the London newspapers reported that a London bailiff had appeared at her lodgings to serve an order for her mounting debts. Others said that the men were actually secret agents sent by the Duke of Orleans; that was what Jeanne believed, and to get away from them she barricaded herself in and then climbed out a third floor window, falling to the street below. Badly injured, she lingered in extreme pain through the hot weeks of July and into August, when, on August 23rd, 1791, she died. She was buried a few days later in the churchyard of St. Mary's, in Lambeth.

The Queen against whom Jeanne had intrigued for so long survived her by just two years, one month, and 23 days, before mounting the steps to the guillotine in Paris to the howling delight of the mob.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

And They Can Carry Their Nuts in Both Cheeks-

As promised, we will be getting back to Part 2 of the Diamond Necklace Affair, but first we have this Breaking News from the "OHMYGOD- THESE GUYS ARE NUTTIER THAN CHENEY!!" Dept.

14 Spy Squirrels In Iranian Custody
July 14, 2007 3:38 p.m. EST
Tomasz Filipczak - AHN

Jerusalem, Israel (AHN) -- Iranian authorities have recently arrested more than a dozen squirrels for espionage.

"In recent weeks, intelligence operatives have arrested 14 squirrels within Iran's borders," state-sponsored news agency IRNA reported. "The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services."

Iran claims the rodents were being used by Western powers in an attempt to undermine the Islamic Republic. Iranian police commander Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqadam confirmed the report, saying that a number of squirrels had been caught bearing foreign spy gear within Iran's borders. The rodents were taken into custody 2 weeks ago but few details have emerged about the incident.

Friday, July 20, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Harry Potter Spoiler!!

As the minutes tick down toward the official midnight release of the last Harry Potter book, the secrets of the final plots twists and the fates of the main characters seem to be leaking out all over the internet. But all the other stories you have read are lies. Through our own highly-placed MMB Spy Network, we have learned the truth about Book Seven. For those who do not want to know, stop here. For the rest of you, here is how the book really ends-

Albus Dumbledore makes numerous appearances, flung across the back of Lucius Malfoy, crying "I'm not dead yet!"

Severus Snape sells Hogwarts to Wal*mart which renames it Wal*Warts.

Voldemort starts a second career as a rabidly right-wing syndicated talk radio host.

Hermione gets addicted to painkillers, enters rehab, and becomes a Scientologist.

Buckbeak gets rabies and eats Hagrid.

Professor McGonagall resigns in disgrace after it is revealed that she moonlights as "The Whipmaster Hilda" in an after-hours show at the Leaky Cauldron.

The Dursleys make $6 million selling 10-square-inch chunks of their house on Ebay.


Harry and Ron move to Boston, get married, and open an antique shop.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace-

Since coming to France as a teenager to marry Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette had been mistrusted and resented by both the aristocracy and the common people. But it was the "Affair of the Diamond Necklace" which raised French hatred of their Queen to a fever pitch. Napoleon once said-

"The Queen's death must be dated from the Diamond Necklace Trial".

The trial, and the subsequent Memoirs of its chief feminine player, the Comtesse de la Motte, are credited by many historians with being the gust of foul wind which finally fanned the long-smouldering fire of popular discontent into the uncontrollable conflagration of the French Revolution.

The tale is long, complex and sordid; it has several different versions (depending on whose memoirs you read), and has been told many times, most recently in a beautifully costumed Hollywood version starring Hilary Swank. The movie, which includes a stirring performance by Miss Swank as the Countess, takes some (but not all) of the Countess's claims at face value, which is another way of saying that it takes extreme liberties with what most historians regard as the actual truth.

Although she claimed to be descended from royalty, it is now generally agreed that Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois, Comtesse de la Motte, came of what might be termed "humble origins" and basically talked, schemed and slept herself almost all the way to the Royal Chambers at Versailles.

Jeanne carried on an affair with the Cardinal Louis Rene Edouard, Prince de Rohan, a man more attuned to matters earthly than spiritual. Jeanne also borrowed money from the Cardinal, and was soon deep in his debt. For his part the Cardinal was out of favor with Marie Antoinette, and was anxious to get into the Queen's good graces, if not her bed. Jeanne, who was undertaking her own campaign to gain access to the Queen and have her "family estates" "returned" to her, persuaded the Cardinal that she had the Queen's ear and could arrange reconciliation.

The gullible and perhaps somewhat oversexed Cardinal agreed and the Countess arranged a correspondence between him and the Queen. His letters to Marie Antoinette were real enough, but never delivered; the Queen's return letters were forgeries produced by Jeanne herself, or possibly her husband, or perhaps her "secretary" and lover, the gallant former-cavalier Retaux de Vilette.

The famous and scandalous Count Cagliostro, alchemist, healer and all-round man-of mystery, had been befriended by the Cardinal, and the Cardinal relied on Cagliostro's direction and ability to see into the future to direct his dealings with the "Queen". Cagliostro, who was nobody's fool, went into trances and told the Cardinal that he saw the Cardinal being favored by the Queen and rising to a very high post in the government.

The diabolical farce seemed to reach its climax with a midnight rendezvous in the Grove of Venus at the Palais-Royal Gardens, between the Cardinal and "Marie Antoinette" -actually an actress (or prostitute, or perhaps both, who could keep track at this point?) named Mademoiselle Leguay d'Olivia, who bore a remarkable resemblance to the Queen... and then the extravagant and fabulously costly diamond necklace entered the scene.

Ah, the necklace...

The Diamond Necklace had been made several years earlier "on speculation" by a firm of Parisian jewelers who had assumed they could sell it to Madame du Barry. When that did not work out they tried to interest Marie Antoinette in the necklace, and although she had been tempted, she considered it too extravagant and had refused to purchase it. Now the jewelers, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy because of the interest payments on the money they had borrowed to buy the stones, approached the Countess, who openly boasted about how close she was to the Queen, and asked her to persuade Antoinette to buy the overwrought bauble which was worth as much as a full-rigged warship.

Jeanne shrewdly took the matter to the Cardinal, who was very much inclined to negotiate a purchase he thought would endear him further to Marie. Once more the Cardinal consulted the Count Cagliostro, and once more Cagliostro went into a trance and foresaw the Cardinal enriched and rewarded by the Queen with a post at the highest rank of the government.

More outrageous lies, deception and forged letters ensued, and in the end the Queen agreed to purchase the necklace, or so the lovesick Cardinal and desperate jewellers were led to believe. The jewelers delivered the necklace to the Cardinal, and the Cardinal delivered it to a trusted servant of the Queen (or so it appeared) and then the necklace simply vanished!

Gee, bet you didn't see that coming, eh?

Next: Scandal, Trial, & Revolution!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In the meantime-

I'm working on something new that involves money, scandal & sex, but in the meantime I've updated Monday's post (below) to include a wonderful poetic contribution from Cissy Strutt.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Just Because It's a Hot Monday in July-

[The thing I love most about blogging is the discussion that goes on in the 'comments' section afterwards. This video ended up giving us the following poem, written by Cissy Strutt, based on a phrase invented by Phoebe Fay!]

It took me by surprise
And just like that
I fell in the water
Waddle waddle thwack splat

I thought my stroll
would be a doddle
no thwack or splat
to disturb my waddle

For impersonating Nuns
I have a knack
but every so often
I feel that thwack

Is someone saying
I am too fat?
To put a thwack
In my waddle waddle splat?

In the simple days
A waddle was just that.
Not a waddle waddle
Waddle waddle
Waddle thwack

Waddle waddle
Waddle waddle

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Internet-

-is indeed a wild and wacky place.

Where else could you be Googling asparagus and come up with this picture? Or be reading a story about NASA mis-spelling the name of their own space shuttle , and then click a link in the sidebar and come up with this (it starts kinda slow but keep reading).

And yeah, I can think of better uses for venomous snakes too.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Eenie Weenie Banned in US-

[or, size really doesn't matter according to a US publisher...]

US Publisher Turns away from Cartoon Nudity

SPIEGEL ONLINE, July 11, 2007
By Franziska Bossy and Elke Schmitter

The drawings are harmless really. But a US publisher has decided not to publish a series by children's book author Rotraut Susanne Berner. The problem? Cartoon breasts and a half-millimeter-long willy.

It is rare that a German book generates any interest in the United States. And children's books are usually completely off the radar. The delight was thus all the greater at the Hildesheimer Gerstenberg publishing house when a query came in from the American children's book purveyor Boyds Mills Press for a series by Rotraut Susanne Berner.

"It was really a sensation," Berner told SPIEGEL ONLINE. At first. As it turned out, there were a couple of changes that had to be made before the books could be unleashed on the America public. First off, smokers had to be removed from the illustrations. But that wasn't all. One image shows a scene from an art gallery -- and for realism's sake, there is a cartoonish nude hanging on the wall along with a tiny, seven-millimeter-tall statue of a naked man on a pedestal.

American kiddies, obviously, could never be expected to handle such a depiction of the human body. The US publisher, somewhat awkwardly, asked if they could be removed.

The author, not surprisingly, considers the request to be absurd. The statue's mini-willy, the author points out, is hardly even a half-millimeter long. And the naked woman hanging on the wall? Hardly a realistic depiction of the female anatomy. The US publisher, says Berner, was embarrassed to ask for the changes, but they were even more afraid of how American mommies and daddies might react if junior were exposed to such pornography.

For the author, any kind of self-censorship was completely out of the question. She said she could maybe have lived with putting black bars in front of the problem spots, but "invisible censorship" was out. "If you're going to censor something, then the reader should be aware of it," she told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

But the US publisher would have none of it -- after all, one hardly wants to call attention to one's own deletions. Meaning, that the Hildesheimer publishing house will have to forego the honor of being published in the US -- and American children are safe from shocking German sensibilities.

Many children in the rest of the world, however, have already been exposed. Berner is one of the best-known contemporary children's book authors. And the series, which playfully follows the daily life of children and adults through the four seasons, is already a bestseller in 13 countries from Japan to the Faroe Islands. So far, no other country has been overly concerned about the cartoon boobies and mini-penis, Berner said.

- - - - -

ok, fellow campers, let's take one more look at the enormous dick that's causing all the problems-


oops, sorry, wrong dick. But you knew I wasn't going to be able to resist that joke, didn't you? Here it is-

Oh. My. God. Somebody wrap up the women and children and send them into hiding lest their souls be warped by such gutter porn.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Libraries Strike Back-

Associated Press. July 10, 2007.

MEADVILLE, Pa. - A 1,500-pound wrecking ball broke loose from a crane cable and raced downhill, smashing into several cars and injuring three people before coming to rest in the trunk of a car at an intersection Monday.

The wrecking ball, about 3 feet across, was being used to demolish part of a library at Allegheny College when the cable snapped, police said. The crane operator tried to stop it, but it rolled nearly three-quarters of a mile downhill, damaging more than a dozen vehicles as it bounced from curb to curb, police said.

Most of the damaged vehicles were parked, but the ball slammed into the rear of Alex Habay’s car stopped at an intersection, causing a chain reaction accident with two other cars at the traffic light, police said.

Monday, July 09, 2007

In other news...

You know, I was not quite sure what to post today. Was I going to go political (which I had sworn I was not going to do here) and point out that the Bush commutation of Libby's sentence could be the basis for an Obstruction of Justice charge against The Decider?

Well, maybe not. That is going to show up on State of Denial in a few days.

Instead, since the gardens are, for the most part, going great, I decided to share a poem I wrote about fifteen years ago, which reached final form about five years ago. I posted it on Sideon's blog a few weeks ago, but thought I'd post it here as well. What the hell.

The jealous rocks mutter early,
in the pearly morning light;
grow surly now, sharp words define-
the faults of the morning glory vine.
Which twists and turns,
turning divine, the craggy,
crabby space it climbs.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Random Musings-

Al Gore's son Al was arrested for speeding and the possession of prescription drugs for which he did not have a legal prescription yesterday. I can't help but muse that the news story will be a big boost for Toyota and Al Sr.'s anti-Global Warming campaign, since Young Al was caught doing 100 mph in a Toyota Prius hybrid. Halle Berry, Mama o'God- if you'd asked me before yesterday, I'd have bet big money that you couldn't make a Prius hybrid do 100 mph without strapping a Learjet engine to the back.

The Bush White House is assailing the Clintons for "hypocrisy" for criticising the Scooter Libby commutation. Bush supporters point to a number of pardons made by President Clinton, including that of millionaire Marc Rich, whose wife was a Clinton fundraiser. Well, they may have a point about that that's even more pointed than they are willing to admit- after all, back then Marc Rich's attorney, the man who got him that pardon, was... yes, that's right, all together now- Scooter Libby. I'm so glad the Irony Fairy is alive and well and working overtime.

Hilton Hotels are being sold to The Blackstone Group for $26 Billion. Blackstone opted for the $26 Billion sum after turning down a Hilton offer to sell Blackstone the chain for $20 Billion if Blackstone would take Paris as part of the package.

Speaking of unlikely sums of money- the Massachusett's State Lottery's 'Star Spangled Sweepstakes' -a grand prize of $20 million, was won by a fellow-resident of our own Hatfield yesterday, who bought her ticket at the Hatfield Market, which is just a block and a half down the street. We'd thought about buying one of the $20 tickets, but didn't do it... Thankfully, even if we had it would not have made any difference, because we patronize the Main Street Market, a block in the other direction. That makes me feel so much better, you bet...

I hope everybody had a racous and rambunctious Fourth!!

Monday, July 02, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: July 2nd, 2027

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Paris Hilton today in her landmark trademark infringement suit against Paris, France, which, according to an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, will now be known in the English-speaking world as "Smaller-than-Texas, France". Roberts' opinion went on to state that he thinks Paris(tm) Hilton is "really hot", and asked her to give him a call.

Roger Clemens pitched 6 shutout innings and struck out his grandson, Josiah Clemens, as he propelled the New York Yankees to an 11-3 win over the Los-Angeles-Anaheim-Santa-Cruz-Toledo Angels today. 64-year old Clemens, who ended his annual "Retirement" for the 23rd straight year last month, needs just 3 more wins to hit the 700-win mark.

Vice-President Dick Cheney's office announced that the $650 million, taxpayer-funded Vice Presidential Library has been completed, but refused a Senate request to say where it is today, citing "National Security issues". President Jenna Bush, when asked for a comment, put down her beer and said, "well, yeah, like, I've never even seen the guy either. What's a libriry?".

Apple Inc. introduced its' long-awaited the I-Life machine today. Even though nobody really understands how it works, what it does, or why they need one, thousands of people lined up outside AppleLife stores in major cities around the world today to buy the first copies, priced at $3500 each (software & peripherals not included).

Bagdhad was quiet today after several nights of rioting over the latest decree, mandating that all women wear feather boas, from Emperor Rupert Murdoch I. The latest controversy comes on the sixteenth anniversary of Murdoch's purchase of the troubled Middle Eastern country from Enron.