An early Thanksgiving at Plimoth

Karen and Jack aim the Plimoth cannonJack – like most kids – has been learning about the first Thanksgiving all week, and today we decided to make the quick hop over to Plimoth Plantation and get the experience. He liked the Wampanoag village the most, although he was fascinated by the chamber pots in the Plantation. "You mean you didn't have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?" Said Karen, "Have you seen bathrooms in any of these houses?" And that sudden look of dawning awareness of just how different those times were.

I kept checking out the strategically placed books -- mostly Psalms and Biblical commentaries, and couldn't help noticing that the meeting house/church was the one with the cannons upstairs. Also, pretty much the only building with mostly finished lumber. No matter what age you're in, God likes right angles and big guns...

In memoriam, SCI FICTION

You've no doubt read it elsewhere, but it is still stunning, the headshaking sadness of losing one of the freshest, most interesting venues in the field.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of my favorite stories of the last few years which appeared there, Christopher Rowe's awesome The Voluntary State.

Sympathies to Ellen Datlow and the whole team.

Blood on the Tracks

Well, the hammer finally came down on former Amtrak CEO David Gunn, as the Republican-dominated board took advantage of a bad GAO report last week as the air cover to fire him. In truth, it was more likely his resistance to the Bush plan to privatize the Northeast Corridor that put the final nail in his coffin. Or, as one of his colleagues put it in his blog:

Via Joel Peskoff ...
So here we have the head of a government organization fired because he just didn't get it. His bosses wanted to run Amtrak into the ground, not improve service and increase ridership. Gunn finally got it though, "Obviously what their goal is, and it's been their goal from the beginning, is to liquidate the company," he told the media.

I lay the blame entirely on the Amtrak board. You don't send a seasoned professional to do the job of a rank amateur. The Board should never have hired Gunn in the first place. They should have selected someone with a proven record of failure; perhaps a failed head of an Arabian horse sporting group.

KOKO Association Needs Help

Klutching Obsolete Krabs of Ownership (KOKO) is petitioning libraries, bookstores, individual humans, etc. to allow copyright owners to exercise their legal right to control the texts which they have sold to publishers for dissemination via systems like printed books & magazines. They propose the KOKO Protocol as the vehicle for that control.

Copyright owners use it to say, "Only allow people who have purchased my book to let people look at *this* many pages" — be that 100%, 99%, 75%, on down to 0%. (Compare to the current choices of whatever you want to read.)

The result will be not just legal access, but access to far more copyrighted material than now. War is Peace. Freedom is slavery. Everyone wins.

KOKO requests your help in moving these behemoth corporations:

1) Please SIGN THE PETITION — worded for elliptical comprehensibility — at:
[URL deleted at the request of the copyright holder]

2) Please SPREAD THE WORD: Urge others to abdicate their responsibility to think through the issues for themselves, learn only about KOKO, and likewise encourage others to do the same silly shit, and urge yet others to, u.s.w.

Please post on your blogs (or codices, or clay tablets, or whatever antique media you prefer), tell journalists who won't laugh you off the phone, put links on your web pages last updated in 1998, tattoo it on your ass, etc. You may copy this article in full if you like (You'll need a large ass.) And hey, how's that for a non-self-reflexive position. I could have told you to only use the first 250 words, but I didn't. Pretty fucking generous, no?

The KOKO Association is a (humble, foot-shuffling, shy) non-profit organization established by representatives from a number of groping authors, punishers, and punishing industry "experts." It serves as a central point (in an otherwise decentered information cosmos) for information on KOKO and distribution/authentication of KOKO records. KOKO was crafted by people ranging from "completely brain dead" to "persistently vegetative," giving widespread appeal to this consensus design.

Thanks for your help! Please sign 'Mike eats green shit'! Please spread the word! Use exclamation points!

Code: Bushco... the virtual Judge Aelito

Okay, to tell you the truth, I haven't really thought through the metaphysics of this.

I mean, is Chuck Schumer X.A.N.A.? Or would that be Harry Reid?

Anyway, I just thought I'd try seeing the world as a huge Republican virtual reality, with Bush and his valiant gang (hmm. Dick Cheney is Jim, surely, and perhaps Karl Rove is Odd...) trying to bring poor Aelito to earth and defeating the evil supercomputer that's trying to thwart them...

The empty roll of film...

Image under erasureWhen my friend Tavis died last month, a group of friends pitched in to clean out his apartment. One of the things we found, tossed in a jar with coins, guitar picks, dead batteries and the like, was a roll of film. I volunteered to take it in to get it processed, but it sat, strangely inertial, on my desk for the past month.

What the hell would be on there? Vacation shots? Pix of the last concert he went to? There was no way to even tell how old it was; could have been sitting there for years.

Finally summoned up the courage to take it in to the local CVS, and I must admit, I was actually nervous, breathless, at the thought of getting a final message, some weird communication.

"Sorry," said the guy behind the counter. "Blank film. Nothing on there."

Of course. No closure, no messages, just the "blind white light" and these empty, frameless strips of 35mm enigma.

Delay kicks MoveOn judge, but Alito's affiliations are irrelevant?

Now let me get this straight. Tom Delay can force the judge in his case to recuse himself because he once contributed to MoveOn, but we're supposed to sit still for a jurist who is an acknowledged member of a highly conservative society?

Via the Washington Post
But Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, disagreed, saying Alito's membership in the society is fair game for the hearings.

"Of course membership in or participation in Federalist Society events doesn't disqualify someone from office but it can help people understand the judicial philosophy of the nominee," Neas said. "The Federalist Society likes to pretend it's just a debating club, but for last 20 years it has been at the forefront of the efforts to push a right-wing counterrevolution in the courts and undo decades worth of precedent."

Michael McDaid 1913-2005

Michael and Dorothy McDaid, 1985

Michael McDaid, my uncle and the last of my father's siblings, passed away last Monday after a prolonged illness. He lived with our family all the time I was growing up, and when his health started to decline, my mom, the (by then a retired) RN, took care of him until her stroke.

Although Michael was confined to a wheelchair, he was a most mobile and energetic 92-year-old. He played bingo with enormous enthusiasm, and just a few days before he died, insisted on going on the nursing home's all-day field trip to a farm. He lived a long, happy life, and he passed so peacefully on Monday morning that I genuinely thought he was just asleep. A thought from one of his favorite songs:

"I feel that old tyrant approaching
 That cruel, remorseless old foe...
 And I lift up my glass in his honor:
 Take a drink with Old Rosin the Bow."

Amtrak Blues

The Bush Administration seems set to accomplish what their spiritual predecessors — the Reagan team — could not: the complete destruction of Amtrak.

On September 22, the railroad's board voted to split off the Northeast Corridor's infrastructure and hand it over to a public-private partnership. None of the states involved were consulted ahead of time, and news of the vote only became public because an anonymous tipster alerted the media.

The Northeast Corridor accounts for more than a third of all passengers for Amtrak (9.5m out of 25.4m total) and handing over system operations to the states, while forcing Amtrak to run the trains subject to whatever fiscal and operational constraints the still-to-be-created entity cooks up seems a recipe for confusion at best, disaster at worst.

Billions in bailouts for gas-guzzling airlines. No emission standards for "light trucks" masquerading as family vehicles. Why on earth do Republicans so hate trains?

Stimulus and response

Since my friend Tavis's death last month, I had been in a complete funk. I'd been one of the group of friends who cleaned out his apartment, and that was really, really depressing. So I was just churning around, unproductive, for weeks.

Then, a poke in the eye from the universe, in the form of a brain-damaged letter to the editor of our local paper by a dittohead claiming that global warming is a myth. It was truly spectacular in its ignorance of the conventions both of English and science. (I would link to the original letter, but it seems not to be available on the Sakonnet Times site.)

You can get the gist — if not the full partisan rancor — from the excerpts in my response.

A little step, perhaps, out of a cave and back into the light.