I loathe voicemail with a passion some people reserve for child
rapist/murderers. I hate getting it, I hate leaving it, I hate
listening to it, I hate the whole thing. I need to steel myself to listen to it, which means I end up engaging in one of two dodges: (1) Pretend it doesn't exist and then listen to several days' worth all at once. Not an effective strategy; important information is missed. Callers are either perplexed or enraged at you. (2) Call the caller back and tell them you see they called but didn't get a chance to listen to their message yet. This has the benefit of being true (if you stretch the definition of "didn't get a chance" to include "are too neurotic") and tells them you'd rather listen to their lovely voice live. The downside of this tactic, of course, is if you get their voicemail, you are in the somewhat absurd spot of telling their VM you haven't listened to their VM.
Text messaging, on the other
hand, rules - at least it does until I decide I hate it and another
bright shiny object gets my attention. It's text, which I love for lots of reasons, it's instant but time-shiftable, it requires brevity, and it tells you when the person's phone got it. Email is a distant second. If you want me to get your
message now and respond in a timely manner, text me. Unfortunately,
there are still some people who can't text, so I have to leave the
voicemail on - for now.
How did we get into this mess? Once upon a time, computers were not consumer goods, video entertainment required a movie projector, and a phone message was when someone
answered and wrote it down. Then the Rockford Files invented tape answering
machines and people spent the 70s enjoying the novelty of speaking
after the beep. The 70s were full of boring shit that people found
novel, no one knows why.
Deep inside the lower intestines of
the CIA during the Reagan years, some
lab monkey decided it would be a good idea for everyone to have
voicemail, so the Agency could leverage its electronic interception intelligence
capacities, or some shit. Basically, they can eavesdrop on everybody's
messages by breaking into the computers your voicemail is on, an idea both creepy and clever at the same time. Like good
little sheep, Americans obediently adopted voicemail as the way to
leave rambling, incoherent, barely audible messages for each other, in
lieu of actual work. I am ashamed to admit I participated in the
In the last decade of the 20th century, voicemail grew out of control and mutated into
monsters like automated attendant systems, which the CIA has no use for and therefore
you're allowed to make fun of, sheep. Cooler, even more surveillable
communication forms like email and IM (which go through the
government's own computers) were developed at the same time, making voicemail seem quaint. The final
insult was the voice-navigated automated attendant, which is lampooned
openly on commercial television and requires you to enunciate all your
personal information in a clear, loud voice on a crowded commuter train
and goes back to the start if you inhale at the wrong moment or call
the whole thing a bleeding pustule.
Here's my solution:
should be able to charge people for leaving you a voicemail. The user
should be able to modify it for each caller - the more boring and
irritating the caller is on VM, the more they must pay. You could
exempt some people from the charge, ban some people from leaving VM at
all, and limit the length and frequency of messages for each person.
You can only collect the cash if you can prove you listened to the
whole message, say by pushing a button when prompted. If you liked pain and needed money, you could take yourself off the do-not-call list and allow telemarketers to voicemail spam you. They should love it, given they would know you listened.
Second, automated attendant systems must be shunned. If a company doesn't have a great website that has everything you need already, they go to the wall. Retain automated attendants until poor people all have computer access too, but voice navigation must be optional, live customer service easily available and any menu system with more than 5 choices should be punished with a stint in Gitmo. This is war, people.
I went to a tropical paradise for the weekend, either as an escape from how I have been feeling or in the misguided hope I'd have so much fun I'd forget all my troubles. Instead, I spent a lot of time sleeping in a very comfortable bed in a very nice hotel while outside the weather was 76 and sunny. Oddly, also, my return was delayed a day, which also happened last time. Now I am back.
The Republicans are once again pushing the Global War on Terror as their issue going into the midterms, and the principal component is a rhetorical and legal crackdown on "illegal" immigrants.
This issue works well for them. Moron-Americans are still feeling uneasy and jumpy because some brown guys killed a bunch of Americans on 9/11. The clear solution to this is to put other brown people in jail. It is irrelevant - even ridiculous - to say that Mexican and Central American immigrants have nothing at all to do with Muslim, Arab hijackers. (Anyway, no one, black or white, likes the Mexicans to begin with.) These are the Americans, after all, who believed at the outset of the Misadventure in Mesopotamia that the majority of the hijackers were Iraqi. Feeling threatened, Americans are in a punitive mood, which means that checking the wrong box on a form results in you being barred from the country for years, because you "broke the law" - hence also the scare quotes on "illegal" above. As far as Moron-Americans are concerned, once those magical words are invoked, the small amount of thinking they engaged in ceases. Deport 'em, torture 'em, shoot 'em, whatever.
I think this also shows how marketing-driven the GOP is, in contrast to the Democrats. I can only see something like this immigration push emerging from a focus-group and polling study. It's absolutely amoral and wrong-headed, but it works, so they do it. So different from the fumbling, earnest manner in which liberals and Democrats arrive at consensus on issues by working through different viewpoints on how it affects "real people." You know what? Real people don't give a shit about that. They want to stick it to the imaginary enemy and go home to their TVs. Dems and libs try to think up rational, thoughtful solutions to problems, and then peddle them to Americans who are nearly wholly irrational in their political thought and can't focus on anything longer than 45 seconds.
You don't have to give up your principles to win, Dems. You just have to stop being such nerds and learn that however you can market your programs and yourselves, you do it.
#1: What, you got a problem with me cursing?
Guy #2: Nah, nah, it's just that, you know, sayin' "holy fuck" is like
talkin 'bout Jesus's mom fuckin' his dad and it's not cool to talk
about Jesus's mom fuckin' people.
Guy #1: Dumbass, Jesus's mom didn't fuck anyone. She was a fuckin'
virgin. How do I know this and you don't? You're the Christian.
Guy #2: What are you talkin' 'bout? How could Jesus have been born if
his mom hadn't screwed his dad? Wait, who was Jesus's dad again?
Guy #1: Dude, are you serious?
One of the hallmarks of public Christianity in America right now is that they don't believe any of the things they say they believe.
They talk about love but they are preoccupied with hating gay people and anyone who isn't a Christian.
They talk about charity and vote for people who demolish social welfare programs as "evil."
They ask, "What Would Jesus Do?" and then venerate wealth and privilege.
They also say "Abortion is murder", but they don't really believe it. How do I know? You can test it for yourself by finding your favorite/nearest "pro-lifer" and asking the following series of questions:
Q: Is abortion murder? A: Absolutely.
Q: Is it morally permissible to use force to stop a murder from occurring? A: Yes.
Q: Is it morally permissible to kill someone who is about to commit a murder and there is no other way to stop them? A: Uhhh [seeing where this is going now], I ... guess so.
Q: Is it morally permissible to shoot an abortion doctor who is walking into a clinic in order to perform abortions? A: ...
See, they don't really believe that abortion is murder. If they did, they'd be clear that killing abortion doctors was morally acceptable. But they're uncomfortable applying their rhetoric to reality in such a concrete way. What they really believe is that sluts who have sex should be forced to have children and suffer other negative consequences [like cuts in social welfare programs - hey! synergy!], and instrumental to that, doctors who perform abortions should do jail time. But compared to their usual "pro-life" beliefs [murderers should be executed as quickly as possible], it's clear that they don't mean what they say.
Of course, there will be a small percentage who say "yes" to all four questions. If you encounter one of these, and if they own guns, you may someday get to be on TV saying, "Oh yeah, I'm not surprised at all. He always was one of those who you thought would snap."
I was saying to a friend today it's convenient to have everyone die the same time of year; makes grieving more efficient. Just watch, next person to go will probably be in July, fucking up the schedule.
As an atheist, should I be getting anything out of all this? Okay, it hurts. That's about as profound as getting hit in the head with a baseball bat. It's random, too. As far as I can tell, painful and random things are just to be endured, and it's fine not to come away from them with any deep insights.
"Are we losing our lodestar, which is the Bill of Rights?" [Bob] Barr
beseeched the several hundred conservatives at the Omni Shoreham in
Woodley Park. "Are we in danger of putting allegiance to party ahead of
allegiance to principle?"
Barr answered in the affirmative. "Do
we truly remain a society that believes that . . . every president must
abide by the law of this country?" he posed. "I, as a conservative, say
yes. I hope you as conservatives say yes."
But nobody said
anything in the deathly quiet audience. Barr merited only polite
applause when he finished, and one man, Richard Sorcinelli, booed him
loudly. "I can't believe I'm in a conservative hall listening to him
say [Bush] is off course trying to defend the United States,"
Far more to this crowd's liking was Vice
President Cheney, who stopped by CPAC late Thursday and suggested the
surveillance program as a 2006 campaign issue. "With an important
election coming up, people need to know just how we view the most
critical questions of national security," he told the cheering crowd.
[principal author of the USA PATRIOT Act,] now a Georgetown law professor, urged the CPAC faithful to carve out a
Bush exception to their ideological principle of limited government.
"The conservative movement has a healthy skepticism of governmental
power, but at times, unfortunately, that healthy skepticism needs to
yield," Dinh explained, invoking Osama bin Laden.
the crowd to a raucous ovation when he judged: "The threat to
Americans' liberty today comes from al Qaeda and its associates and the
people who would destroy America and her people, not the brave men and
women who work to defend this country!"
Mueller was a forty-year-old man of the world, a Rhodes scholar from the days before Britain's wartime suspension of those prestigious grants to Germans, but he had never sensed what he felt now in this hall. As Hitler spoke and the audience reacted, it prompted these thoughts in Mueller: "Was it the crowd, which inspired him with this mysterious power? Was it floating from him to them?" His note said, "Fantasizing hysterical romanticism, with a brutal core of will."
Taunting the government, Hitler said that when the day came, the Nazi Party would not have to stage a Putsch. It was growing steadily stronger, the government was growing weaker, and all that would be needed when the right time came would be a little "horn-blowing," and the Bavarian government would fall. .... Hitler gave everyone in the hall the opportunity to consider themselves martyrs. [...]
[W]e'll come unarmed - but we will come! (frenzied applause). And then you can shoot into our midst, if you can find German soldiers who will shoot German men who want nothing more than to confess to being Germans on German soil! (frenzied applause).
Later that night, at home working on his notes, Mueller reflected on what he called Hitler's "fanaticism for its own sake." Thinking of the manner in which Hitler was putting forward only himself and his party at a time when Germany was engulfed by the crisis in the Ruhr and the failure of the mark, he later observed, "What blatant selfishness, what brutal simplification! ... Hitler is only interested in the future of his party, the future of his own will to power; but he succeeds in convincing his listeners that that is the only thing that matters, for the future of Germany."
- Hitler: The Path to Power, Charles Bracelen Flood, pp 350-1, Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
Emphasis supplied. My edits in brackets. Just who does Dinh believe are the "people who would destroy America", separate from al Qaeda and its associates? Names?
Two women fall in love with each other, build a life together for 20 years, are married joined in civil union, and one of them dies, prematurely and tragically, in the arms of the other. Then, as their families and friends try to help the survivor with funeral plans, you're shocked to realize so concretely that the law of 49 states and the federal government regards them as nothing more than roommates and a large chunk of society views them as dangerous and diseased.
It's obscene and revolting. It is exactly as immoral and unjust as racial segregation was. The tortured fears and irrational arguments used by the bigots are nearly parallel. And the next motherfucker who opens his mouth about the gays in front of me is going to get his fucking jaw broken.
I can't go back to blogging about everything and nothing yet, but I just had to pick my head up off the table for a moment for this:
Dick Cheney directed his aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby to use classified material to discredit a critic of the Bush administration's
Iraq war effort, the National Journal reported on Thursday.
Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, faces perjury and
other charges in the leak of the identity of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, a move that effectively ended her career at the CIA.
Betraying the country for political gain is like mass murder for a pack of smokes. Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby and their co-conspirators should be occupying cells near Aldrich Ames'.
Over and out; I am leaving to attend a funeral tomorrow and might not return until all the liquor runs out. Key an SUV with a W sticker on it for me today, okay?
We met on my first day of college. I think she was the first person I met and definitely the first friend I made. I had just dropped my bags off in the dorm and went outside to see who was hanging out. It had just started to rain, and I stood under an awning with a couple of people who happened to be there. One was this very cute black woman with a wide, innocent smile and a t-shirt that said, "Fuck Art, Let's Dance."
We were attracted to each other but figured out pretty quickly that we were better friends than lovers.
She was an imp. She took the silly seriously and considered the serious silly. She was usually right about that.
She loved popular culture, television and cartoons. I would go to her and her partner's house and she and I would lie on the floor watching Space Ghost Coast to Coast and old Bugs Bunny on the Cartoon Channel. We had some dialogue memorized. We'd giggle all night long while her partner dozed on the couch, waking up every once in a while and saying how nice it was to hear us laugh.
She was a natural entertainer and teacher. She loved attention, but worked for it in a way that didn't make you feel like she a show-off. She earned it.
She was unfailingly polite and warm to everyone. She adopted a personal style that was designed to make people feel comfortable, to break down defenses. She worked at it.
She and her partner had the best and longest relationship of anyone I know. I am so happy I got to be best man at their civil union.
She told me when we had just left college, I think, that she wanted to be a policymaker. Deep down, she wanted to remake the whole world. We should have let her.
She helped me through so many personal crises and crazy relationships, and never once called me an idiot, as I deserved.
People talk about a smile lighting up a room. Her smile filled it with warmth, too. Some smiles only come out when other people are in range. Her smile came from who she was as a person, so it was always there.
When at a time of our lives that our contemporaries were eager to go out to fight injustice, she saw better that it would be more effective to trick it, subvert it, use jujitsu.
Because she was a lesbian living in a somewhat rural community, I was always afraid she would get gay-bashed. It never occurred to me that she'd go this way.
I don't subscribe to the notion of an afterlife, or spirits. She's not smiling down on us or whatever. She's gone. She's still an example to me, though.
That's the Pearson Cherry from casketdepot.com, available for the low price of $2,495 delivered. I got the opportunity to help carry one much like it this afternoon, and I will tell you, those things are built sturdy. It would make a fine addition to any home as a conversation piece, or perhaps it could be turned into a large coffee table, including storage space, by attaching a glass top. I didn't get to lie in it (they acted surprised at my suggestion that we take the body out for a second) but maybe it could also be a spare bed in a guest room. Stand it on end, add a lock and it's a gun cabinet.
Absent other uses, though, it seems a tad excessive. Does anyone get $2,495 worth of pleasure from looking at a highly polished wooden and metal box for a few minutes? (Not to mention the Marcellus Masterpiece, $12,195 in hardwood.) I'm typing this on a $49 pine table from Ikea and thinking, give me four of these and a few brackets from Lowe's and with a bit of sawing and nailing - boom! Done.
What do poor people do when they die? The Nationwide Discount Funeral Services offer from americancasketstore.com seems like a good value - the $1,995 basic package includes everything you need for a simple graveyard funeral without a viewing or visitation, including a casket. (Blue or pink, echoing baby colors at death, cute.)
My long-standing preference has been to forgo the box entirely. Bag me up and throw me in the trunk. Forget all that waxy-faced embalming stuff - a regular old corpse can't look any worse than those freakish horrors - and keep me on ice until the funeral party. The rest of the idea requires I own a fair bit of land, I think, and I still have to research if it's even permitted under Pennsylvania law. Hold the event on open land one weekend night. Clergy, prayers of any kind, and religious talk are all banned; violators will be crucified. Make a ten-foot pyre of gasoline-soaked logs and lay the carcass up there. Everyone then proceed to eat, get drunk, get high, dance and weather permitting, fornicate. Antics like taking funny pictures while posing with the body, stuffing mushy poems in the pockets, or trying to get it to eat or drink something are encouraged. At midnight, anyone who wants to can line up and, on command, fire flaming arrows into the pyre. You may need to find some kind of chemical that burns at really high heat and add that, too, so everything is reduced to ash. The next day, let the sentimental types take some of the ash home with them and then cover the whole mess with dirt.
If anyone asks me to speak at the memorial service, I will have to do a portion in a Simpsons voice. Val would have wanted it that way.
I am going through the normal stages of grief: food, alcohol, driving fast, and pointless frenetic activity.
I am writing about Val but it's hard. Easier to talk about her.
I drove back to Philly last night from Vermont, because I wasn't doing any good up there, because I need a suit, and because I have work to do. Going back tomorrow.
I notice that there is a certain strange procedure to home deaths:
First, some people are in the room with the dying person and some are elsewhere in the house. The ones in the room announce the death to the others. Then there follows some confusion whether the person is really dead.
A hospice person shows up and confiscates the narcotics. This person may or may not declare life extinguished.
A time passes with people sitting in a room, or house, with a corpse in it. Alcohol is drunk. Someone reassures someone else that it's okay to laugh. Phone calls are placed to relatives.
A vehicle arrives and two men carry the body out. People often lose it then.
The survivors are left with little to do for the time being. Sorting bank statements and trying to write the obit can pass the time.