I’m a little bit depressed today. On Sunday, I will be celebrating my 29th birthday for the second year in a row (don’t any of you dare use that other “t” word). There’s something about birthdays that end in “0” – a birthday that I will not be celebrating on Sunday, mind you – that make people look back at their lives, accomplishments, etc. I guess I’m supposed to come up with some profound reflections about what it means to turn 29 again, and think about the lessons I’ve learned and where I’ve been. I’m not going to do that. It’s boring, and I’ve got more depth than my own belly button. All I really want out of life is a few good friends, and endless supply of great beer, and a shitload of cash. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. So far, I’ve only managed to get my hands on the first one, but once my gambling habit finally pays off, I imagine my life will be complete.
I know I should just be happy that I’ve made it this far. Many people aren’t that lucky. But I like to complain and feel sorry for myself, so I’m going to bitch and groan about how I’m going to have to start spending money on things like wrinkle cream and calcium supplements. Breast cancer and osteoporosis are things that are now very real. My “biological clock” hasn’t started ticking yet, but I imagine that it will within the next few years. I think I’m feeling pain in my lower back. Just this morning, I told a “back in my day” story. What's next? Calling children "whippersnappers" and complaining about how the corns on my feet hurt? Yuck.
But I’ve hardly grown up. I still like cartoons. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is still my all-time favorite book. I still get in water balloon fights with the neighborhood kids, and really do think the happiest place on Earth is Disneyland. I remain, as ever, steadfast in my refusal to act my age (which is still 29).
So that’s about all the “reflecting” I can stand. Maybe I’ll have something more interesting to say when I turn 29 for the twelfth time. Check back with me in ten years.
(I warned you I was going to get annoying about this)
Here's the script for a draft of Gangs of New York from 1993. I haven't made it the whole way through yet, but from what I've heard and read, a lot of changes have been made since then, so the movie may not resemble this script at all.
''I don't know if people really understand the issues. I mean, why would you vote for a party that would not give you clean air or clean water and a safe environment? We have a Democratic Party that's of, by and for the people, versus a Republican Party that seems to be of, by and for corporations.''
That's right, kids! If you don't vote for the same party as Barbara it's because you're stupid and you "don't understand the issues"! Hey Babs, why would YOU want to vote for a party that wants to tax the snot out of hard working people so that they can hand free cash and services to lazy lay-abouts? But I guess all those Republicans nationwide that ran campaigns promising dirty water, filthy air, and un-safe living conditions must have struck a cord somewhere.
And yes, yes, I'm well aware that not everyone who utilizes public services and welfare is a lazy lay-about taking advantage of the system, but a lot of those who do are. If you doubt this, I'd be proud to take you on a tour of my neighborhood. Just don't wear red or blue and try and get here before dark and carry a gun if you've got the right permits and don't dress too flashy or park your car too close to the boulevard. Oh yeah, and it will help if you strap your wallet to your body and remove all jewelry.
By the way, my district is hard-core Democrat. Maxine Waters' job is as solid as if she were named "Kennedy".
The trend is most dramatic in Muslim societies, and some of the strongest anti-Americanism is in Egypt and Pakistan, according to the study by the US-based Pew Research Center.
Now there's the difference - our pundits and media are running around telling everyone how wrong it is to not differentiate between Muslims and Islamo-fascists, and rightly so. Their media are telling them that we're Satan and that we want to have their children for snacks.
Most people in most countries liked American television, films and music, and thought the spread of American science and technology was beneficial, the survey found.
So, they like the frosting, the cake, and the Pepto-Bismol, just not the people who make them. That's fair.
Mr. Engel's latest is about football - American and British - so there's not much there (I don't really like either). As usual, though, he's missed the mark in his observations.
Cast your mind back to the 80s. In those days the difference between the UK and the US was that in a British city a football ground was the only place one ever felt endangered, and in an American one it was the only place one felt safe.
Okay, I spent about a third of the eighties living in Europe, so maybe I missed this one. Or maybe I was just too young to realize that my life was constantly in danger but for when I attended sporting events. In fact, I seem to remember reading about people who went to football games just to escape the lurking fear that they would be killed, mugged or maimed at any second....
...in American society, which gets more po-faced and repressed by the week, it seems to me that college football violence is a symptom of something rather than a disease.
"Po-faced and repressed"? Someone help me out here - just what in the world does "po-faced" mean, anyway? And repressed? By the week? Like we mark our calendars every Saturday - "must be more repressed tomorrow. Buy chastity belt and lower skirt hems". Next week, I'm going to cut the heels off of my shoes and start tying my hair in a bun. Every day.
I decided to do some digging on a group called the Earth Liberation Front after reading this article yesterday. I mostly did so because I like to laugh at stupid people, but I also wanted to get a look at how these people represent themselves and justify the sorts of tactics they employ. I found their official website. It nearly made me vomit. They've got a section on "the politics and practicalities of arson", which promises "down-to-earth advice and comprehensive how-to's about devices, fuel requirements, timers, security and more". There's also the text of a comminque claiming responsibility for three separate acts of destruction.
I also checked out their "FAQ" section. Surprisingly, there weren't any questions like "why are you guys such enormous fuckers?" or "how many times were you dropped on your head as a child?", but it was still pretty telling. And pretty damn funny. Here's a sample of a few of the questions, along with the "answers" ("answers" meaning that I am totally making up the response):
What is the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)? A rag-tag band of cells comprised of nitwits and spoiled middle and upper class brats plagued by their own guilt.
What approach has law enforcement taken to stop the work of ELF? The capitalist pig oppressors have confiscated materials, jailed operatives, and monitored the activities of members - all because we like animals and nature and will blow things up to acheive our ends.
How and when did the group begin? The early nineties, when Dirt First! kicked us out for being too extreme even for them.
Where is ELF based geographically? If we told you that, we'd have to kill you now, wouldn't we?
How is the organization structured? It isn't. We don't want to make it any easier for the pigs to find us.
How many members are there in ELF? Are you kidding? How many people do you think there are in this country that are actually that crazy?
What if someone is injured by an ELF action? Has that ever happend? Screw them. They're capitalist pigs. They don't deserve to live.
Is the ELF primarily an environmental organization? No. We are primarily a terrorist organization. But we do like hugging trees.
What is the ideology of ELF? To destroy the homes and businesses of every person who opposes our viewpoint.
Do ELF actions alienate other groups and individuals within the environmental movement? Good God, I certainly hope so.
Why don't ELF members come forward and publicly take responsibility for their actions? Because The Man would throw us in prison, thus inhibiting our direct-action abilities. That, and we're total cowards.
One man's "economic sabotage" is another man's reason for throwing a pathetic asswipe in jail. I am so going to go out and buy like, ten things that I don't need just to piss these people off.
The wind is blowing so fiercely that you realise that something must be wrong. You notice that the streets have emptied as you walk; everyone seems to have retreated into their homes. The wind is really hurting you now; you realise it is a sandstorm. Just for effect, thunder claps in the distance. You decide to head back to your hotel.
"Something must be wrong"? Yeah, buddy. You're in Baghdad, for goodness' sake.
A 1980 Oldsmobile pulls up and a bearded man in his 50s barks, "Meester. Get into the car." His car radio fills the street with the sound of referendum results from across the country. One hundred per cent, one hundred ... You remember that Baghdad is the city that finished off even Alexander the Great. The sand is burning your eyes. You have nowhere else to go. You cross your fingers, bid farewell to life and get into the car.
It is at moments like this that you question the wisdom of taking a package holiday in Iraq.
Times like that? Most of us can "question the wisdom" from the comfort of our own homes. But just when you start to think this guy is the biggest idiot in the world, he bumps into even bigger ones:
"If I was going to Iraq to shoot a bunch of people, everyone back home would say I was a hero. But because I'm coming to hang out with the people and see what they're like, they think I'm a suspect character."
-Sean from New York
Not a suspect character, Sean. Just a moron. He continues:
"You can't say the US is any better than Iraq. We have no right to lecture anyone, ever."
Yes I can. The US is better than Iraq. Besides, that's a bit like saying "you can't say that Beverly Hills is any better than Watts"? If you're looking to score some crack or maybe get shot, Beverly Hills is infinitely worse than Watts. Otherwise, there isn't a very difficult choice to be made.
"I think Saddam is a great man and the USA is a great big global bully. My theory is that he should be given Kuwait. It's perfectly logical if you look at the map."
Hannah, a "frightfully well-spoken Englishwoman"
My theory is that England should be divided between Scotland and Wales. It's perfectly logical if you look at the map. Hannah also thinks that Saddam is handsome. Clearly there is something terribly wrong with this woman.
On his day of tourism in Baghdad, Hari writes:
At times like this, I began to experience what I quickly identified as my John Pilger moments. If I didn't know better, I would swear that Saddam Hussein had deliberately scattered the most dignified, stoical Iraqis and - especially - the cutest doe-eyed children in our paths, and trained them to say lines riddled with pathos about sanctions. As I looked at these kids on the streets, it was tempting to work up a satisfying rage about sanctions and piously denounce all this as the work of my own government. Instead I just took a valium and lay down for a few hours.
Which is much more productive, as far as I'm concerned.
(Thanks to unashamed Yes fan Mr. Briffa for the link)
But of course I condemn terrorism, if terrorism means the murder of innocent people for the sake of gaining political influence, or for inflicting punishment or simply to advance an argument. I condemn all kinds of terrorism -- that of a nation-state, no matter how mighty, as much as that of a solitary sniper gunning down innocent men and women. But in practice, it is only the powerless who receive retribution for it.
"Terrorism" is seen only in one context: the effect, but never the cause, as though suicide bombings, the Moscow theater hostage crisis, the Kurdish rebels' frequent attacks on the Turkish army and more were all born in a vacuum.
In an interview with a National Public Radio station two months after the deadly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I reiterated to a thoughtful host: "We must try to see through the pain of the innocent thousands killed on that dreadful day. We cannot be so blinded by our anger to the point that we fail to see how violence begets violence. If we are keenly interested in bringing terrorism to a halt, we must have the courage to examine its roots."
Again, we didn't deserve it, but really we did.
I sank into my chair in disbelief when I heard how many people were poisoned by Russia's use of gas in retaking the theater in Moscow. But I admit it: I also lamented the death of the 50 rebels. Condemn me if you wish, but I couldn't hold back my tears when I saw the images of more than 10 Chechen women, clearly young, crouching on their knees, some gazing heavenward, all dead.
And condemn me if you wish, but I'm going to go lose my lunch.