Wednesday, November 30, 2005

File Those Comics!

DesMan... Another filing session has been completed for another six months or so. Sometimes you have to wonder just WHY the hell you bought certain things, you know? Whenever I file the Batman and Superman shit, I just plop the latest batch just before the annuals, one-shots, mini-series and whatever else...There are SO many regular titles with these two characters in them with hop-scotching storylines, I've given up a super-anal-retentive numbering system. As I was going along, I kept pulling out these dumb little one-shots and forgettable minutaie and put them in a stack meant for wee Josiah. I figure there could be nothing more magical than a colorful stack of comics without any sort of context. You just open them up and get swept in by the pictures. That's how it happened with me. A reprint issue of Wonder Woman. It was am 80 Page Giant or some such...but it had the COLORS! The Invisible plane! That magical lasso! Paradise Island! Bullets and Bracelets! I remember her Grecian-style footwear as opposed to the usual red boots...The second foray into super-hero fiction was an issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD teaming BATMAN and WILDCAT. Was it Earth-1? Earth-2? Who cared? I just remember the clean Jim Aparo art. His fight scenes looked liked they HURT! And the ears on BATS...Great stuff...and that was it for me. Yard sales, thrift-shops, mom and pop grocery stores, the smell of newsprint; big, bombastic lettering, stories that began and ended with the dreaded cliff-hanging DON'T MISS NEXT ISSUE many of which I never discovered the resolutions to. (I guess that's where the collector-itch comes in...) And let's not forget those most-excellent television tie-ins for SUPERFRIENDS, The Mighty Isis...and the not-so-excellent tie-ins of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN from Charlton Comics...Ah, those early years of discovery... Any similar tales to share? Hope all is well...GaP

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fatherly Advice

Many thanks for the book. I've always been dubious about past-life experience...but if the theory of dharmic-reclying holds any water, it would make sense...All of us doing the Sam Beckett/Quantum Leap thing the long, hard way---life by life fixing improving ourselves to get that much closer to Nirvana I worked for Attorney George for a couple hours today. I got my head out of my ass to create my Christmas Card and I'll be using his customary printer-dude. Then he warns me that the whole project is going to run me upwards $700. What the hell was he talking about? He was figuring EVERYTHING...postage, etc. And he had this whole dubious attitude, as if I didn't know what I was getting myself into. (I send out a WAD of cards every year as you know...) I guess he's been hearing me bitch and whine about the paycut for so long now...But I got to tell you, this watchful father bit coming from him and Ray is getting a bit tiresome, you know? They must think I'm a fucking retard, unable to fend for myself on ANY level. I guess I must BE an idiot because I let someone live rent-free in my house and I volunteer chunks of my free time to a skinflint lawyer in a some misguided attempt to find purpose. I know I'm a lackadaisical slacker but I'm able to pull things out of my ass to get things done when I have to. So what am I supposed to do? Be more responsible? Get a REAL job? Stop reading comics, listening to music, or watching movies? Grow UP? Interesting. Ray has nothing but admiration for my dad because he shuns humanity, lives like a mountain-man in a dingy, germ-paradise cabin with his two dogs? I guess Ray figures that he's a rugged individualist who shrugs off society's conventions.'s okay for my dad but not for ME. Got it. I don't expect people to understand me...but it would be nice if the father-figures in my life didn't keep underestimating if kicking back and chilling is some sort of character-flaw. And it would be nice if I was basically accepted as I am instead of an abberation because I'm not "practical". Please don't get me wrong. I know both Ray and George care a LOT for me...which is WHY they're offering their fatherly course-correcting advice. But I think it's based on a presumption that I'm COMPLETELY helpless in the real world. I may not LIKE the real world much. (Which is WHY I read comics and dig science-fiction/fantasy/otherworldly entertainment in my movies/television/whatever.) But give me a BIT of credit. I guess it's good to have people to care for me in the first place. And you can't have pseudo-dads without the other annoying parental shit. Elders may understand quite a bit...but sometimes they don't understand you OWN path, perceptions, and experiences...I've learned a lot from BOTH of them. But I've also learned quite a BIT on my own as well...for many years WITHOUT suitable parental models. And I haven't turned into a drug-dealing axe-murderer. Okay. Rant over. Thank you again, my friend...GaP

Sunday, November 27, 2005

This I Believe---by Penn Jillette

A bitchin' essay from Penn of Penn and Teller...On National Public Radio. Food for thought... ----------------------------------------------------------------- Morning Edition, November 21, 2005 · I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire? So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The Atheism part is easy. But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God." Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day. Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around. Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something. Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future. Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-o and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Collector Mania

When does it stop? This is the question I've been asking myself repeatedly over the last few weeks. I have no more room in the flat but I keep buying. Comics, Maquettes, Action Figures..... I'm 44 years old for God's sake and I can't stop myself. I gave in and bought all the Kingdom Come figures (including the Red Arrow exclusive at Wizard World Chicago). Then I had to get the Dark Knight Returns figures. I started on Batman Hush and managed to call a stop after series 1 but now I've just splashed out on the Alex Ross JLA figures (just the heroes not the villains) including the DC Retailers incentive figure of Superman at double the cost! Having calmed myself down a bit I've now just seen the adds for the Darwyn Cooke New Frontier figures and, with the exception of Wonder Woman who looks a bit like a blow up sex toy (check out the mouth if you don't believe me) I'm already resigned to the fact that I'm going to have to have them as well. This is not counting my salivating over the new Hellboy figures that are in the shops, and there's that Mignola inspired Black and White Batman due next year...... AAAARRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I ask again. When does it stop? -- "I'm a Touchstone Guy in a Walt Disney World". Des ---------------- Hey, Des... When it comes to action figures, I used to buy a whole lot more than I used to. But after a few house-moves, I started asking myself just HOW much longer I wanted to be hauling this stuff around with me? Comics, yes...I can see that. Same with books and graphic novels. But having action figures just go be a (near) completist...I began to find it a compulsive trait in myself. So my criteria is this...Do I like the character? If so, how much? When I see the ad in Comic Book News or wherever, do I catch my breath in anticipation? (This is the same rule of thumb that I use when I get newsletters of upcoming music or whatnot? If I don't get that burning urge of...'Gotta go DOWN there and GET IT!' then it invites contemplation. Example: A Power Girl Action Figure or indeed the whole of the Justice Society was a no-brainer. Shit, if they did one of the original Johnny Thunder, Jakeem, and of course, the thunderbolt, I would buy it. I think it HIGHLY unfair that all of the core members were awarded an action figure but NOT Johnny...Hell, if they did a modern version of the JSA...Yep. Sign me up...(I wanted the Carrie Kelly Robin figure but her hair was all fucked up) During the past year, I put back the action figures of The Guardians and Kid Flash(Bart Allen)...Did I REALLY need them? No. Did I regret the decision? No. But hell, what do I know? If you've got the cash and you really WANT them all.. Fuck it. BUT remember, a pile of possessions become an albatross around your neck. As Tyler Durden says..."What you own ends up owning you." True. But I still love my comics and music. I'll have to time my next visit to the UK when I know you'll be around. There's much comic book bonding to done, mate... Oh, Just read GREEN LANTERN:REBIRTH the hardcover. Verily... Geoff Johns can rewrite MY life... Hope you're well, my friend...Get yourself a Fortress of Solitude to put all of your stuff in...I've always wanted a cool trophy room...or a domicile of Immense Wonderment. Remember Aztec Ace(a time-travel comic series from Eclipse)? He had the Anachrony Den... a huge room with every conveivable timepiece you could imagine...How about a giant penny from the Batcave? All The Best, buddy...GaP

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lou Dobbs RULES!

************************************* (From Lou Dobbs Tonight Show aired November 17th, 2005) "And then, an American-owned airline, one of the largest in this country, is about to take thousands of jobs away from American workers. All after our government, of course, bailed them out with millions of dollars in taxpayer money. We'll tell you which airline and what is being done and should be done about it. And then, Congressman Curt Weldon says an investigation into Able Danger could be the most important investigation of our lifetime. One of the nation's former top cops is jumping on board and demanding action as well. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Flight attendants for Northwestern Airlines today were on Capitol Hill trying to save their jobs. They claim Northwest wants to fire 2,600 American flight attendants and replace them with cheap foreign workers. It's just the latest cutback in an airline that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in bailout money from the federal government. Lisa Sylvester reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Northwest Airlines has been outsourcing maintenance jobs to Hong Kong and Singapore. Soon, your Northwest flight attendant may be replaced as well. The Professional Flight Attendants Association held a rally on Capitol Hill objecting to company plans to dismiss U.S. flight attendants on international flights and hire foreign counterparts who could be paid as little as $250 a month. ROB LAUGHLIN, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I've been flying for eight years, and I would definitely lose my job, because we'd lose about 3,000 to 4,000 flight attendants. SYLVESTER: This comes on the heels of a severe round of temporary and permanent pay cuts for Northwest workers. Pilots took a pay cut of almost 24 percent. Flight attendants, 21 percent. Groundworkers, 19 percent. Meanwhile, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland's executive compensation package is nearly $4.5 million. He's also guaranteed an annual retirement pension of nearly $1 million, even as the company is trying to shed some of its pension obligations for the rank and file. Northwest currently owes $3.8 billion to its pension plan. GUY MEEK, PROFESSIONAL FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ASSOC.: If it wasn't for the front line workers, the agents, the mechanics, the flight attendants, the pilots, there wouldn't be an airline. No matter what the name is on the airplane. We are the people that bring the revenue into the company. SYLVESTER: Northwest responded, saying, "Management was the first group to take pay reductions. Salaried employees were also the first group to have their defined benefit pensions frozen." Like other airlines, Northwest has been struggling since the 9/11 attacks. It received a $249 million taxpayer-funded government grant. The company then turned around and bought more than a dozen new planes from the European based Airbus Company. In September of this year, Northwest filed for bankruptcy. (END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: If Northwest outsourcers its flight attendant jobs, there is worry other airlines may follow suit. There's also a major national security concern because U.S. flight attendants are subject to federal screening, fingerprint and criminal background checks. The same would not be true for foreign workers -- Lou. DOBBS: Lisa, this is nothing short of outrageous. A quarter of a billion dollars in federal taxpayer money to bail the airline out. Then the purchase of Airbus aircraft, made obviously not by American workers. Then the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation responsible for nearly $4 billion in unfunded pensioned liability on the part of Northwest. And this airline has the temerity to want to destroy 2,500 American jobs? SYLVESTER: That's exactly right, Lou. And if you talk to these workers, these flight attendants, keep in mind it's their taxpayer dollars that essentially went to Airbus, and now their jobs are essentially on the line here. DOBBS: It is remarkable that Congress has already not demanded hearings on this, and that this administration, of course, which is in favor of outsourcing of this sort, we don't expect them to do anything. But certainly one would expect Congress to intervene at some point in this kind of utter madness. Lisa Sylvester. Thank you very much. And it's worth pointing out Northwest, of course, is not alone in receiving those multi hundred million-dollar bailouts from the federal government. All of the major airlines receive multimillion-dollar payments after the September 11 terrorist attacks. "

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Music Hell

Very interesting that you brought this to my notice. Did I ever mention my infatuation with the Vertigo label? Another coincidence is that I just got "Verve Remixed" which is some fancy remixes from classic jazz on the Verve label! Do you have the Vertigo disc? Man, I would love to hear that. Also there is a three disc Beatles bootleg called "Tuned to a Natural E" that consists of illegal remixes of Beatles faves. Haven't got it yet...but I will. T ------------------------------------------------------------- Tonez... No Vertigo Disc... My interest stems from Andy Votel...whom you'll reading about in the the latest RECORD COLLECTOR when it arrives in your hot little hands...I have Volumes 1 and 3 of VERVE REMIXED. Mostly for the artists doing the remixing rather than the original acts. Nothing against jazz but you know...The marketing is flawless. What better way to get modern music hipsters INTO jazz than remixing the tunes? Motown Remixed is also out. Not sure I really care about THAT, you know? I want BARRY MANILOW Remixed myself. Actually, NO I don't... You saw THE RING, right? I'd like to do a music video version of the dreaded videotape. Clips from videos/interviews with folks like CELINE DION, THE(FUCKING) BEE GEES, any live "BLUES" act from any bar, KENNY G, those pussy "classical" acts from PBS like Andre Rieu or whatever the fuck his name is, the rock-nostalgia infomercials from the same source(oh YES, life was SO great at the sock-hop, Motown, or wearing bell-bottoms and love-beads "PEACE, maaaaaaaan..."), the street-musicians from The Andes Mountains, the video from the dude who sings "Nothin's a-gonna breaka my STRIDE...", anything from ANY AMERICAN IDOL act or alumni...Ashlee Simpson or that ilk, anything from recent PAUL MCCARTNEY, clips from the LAWRENCE WELK show, same with SHA-NA-NA, anything referencing how GREAT VAN MORRISON or JOE COCKER is, any of the pretentious U2 videos featuring the modern Messiah BONO himself, anything from any BOLLYWOOD musical, musicals in general... Then you get the phone call... And then a voice whispers..."Seven days...until your music collection gets replaced by ALL this lame shit..."

Monday, November 14, 2005


THIS IS...So great... Check it out... ><

Saturday, November 12, 2005

This Is America?

Northwest and Delta executives to make millions > from > > bankruptcies > > By Jerry Isaacs > > 19 September 2005 > > > > Over the last several years the top corporate > > executives at Northwest and Delta airlines > negotiated > > retirement packages guaranteeing them millions in > the > > event the companies declared bankruptcy and > defaulted > > on their pension payments to employees. Both > companies > > filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last > > Wednesday, in large measure to escape their > pension > > obligations and seek the bankruptcy court's > backing > > for sweeping cuts in airline workers' jobs, wages > and > > benefits. > > > > Since 2000, Delta has lost $10 billion, slashed > 23,000 > > jobs and cut pay for pilots, managers and other > > employees. Three years ago the company spent more > than > > $44 million setting up trusts to protect > executives' > > pension benefits from creditors in case of > bankruptcy, > > saying the perk was needed to retain executives in > > hard times. Because transferring money to > > bankruptcy-proof trusts typically triggers big tax > > bills for the executives, Delta inflated the > amounts > > to compensate for the extra taxes. > > > > Retiring CEO Leo Mullin, who was paid $13 million > in > > compensation in 2001, was given 22 years of > instant > > seniority—although he worked for Delta for only > > five-and-half years—boosting his retirement > package to > > $16 million. While incoming CEO Gerald Grinstein > took > > a ceremonial pay reduction to bolster the > company's > > demands for sweeping employee wage and pension > cuts, > > behind the scenes other executives were cashing in > on > > the benefits of their golden parachutes. > > > > Former CEO Ronald Allen, who was forced out in > 1997, > > continued to draw $500,000 a year from Delta for > > consulting services up until 2005, although > neither > > the company nor Allen would say whether he ever > > provided any such services. Allen's exit package > also > > included a $4.5 million cash severance payment and > a > > $765,000-a-year pension that continues. He also > got 10 > > years' worth of perks, such as a 2,090-square-foot > > Buckhead, Georgia office, a car and club > memberships > > provided by Delta. > > > > When Northwest Airlines CEO Richard Anderson left > the > > company last year, he took his pension in a > lump-sum > > payment of $3,028,700. Anderson's check covered > three > > separate pensions he received from Northwest: the > > regular pension plan, his excess pension plan and > his > > supplemental executive retirement plan, or SERP. > Other > > top executives at Northwest, including current CEO > > Doug Steenland, also were guaranteed three > pensions. > > > > Union workers at Northwest have a pension plan > based > > on years of service. For mechanics, custodians and > > cleaners—currently on strike against Northwest's > > demands for the elimination of more than half > their > > jobs and the replacement of traditional guaranteed > > pensions with 401(k) plans—that amounts to $85 a > month > > for every year they work. According to the > Aircraft > > Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), a mechanic > who > > retires at 65, after 40 years at Northwest, will > > collect about $40,000 a year. > > > > The company's 2005 proxy statement indicated that > CEO > > Steenland will receive $947,417 a year if he > retires > > at 65. Delta's "supplemental plan" adds > multipliers to > > boost the pensions of the company's four top > > executives, crediting Steenland with 15 years of > > service for every five he works and paying him > pension > > credits at twice the rate applied to regular > salaried > > workers. > > > > The company's four top executives—Steenland and > > executive vice presidents Tim Griffin, Phillip > Haan > > and Andrew Roberts—will receive a total of > $2,476,100 > > in annual pension benefits. This is enough to fund > the > > pensions of 90 flight attendants with comparable > years > > of service. > > > > In addition to their pension benefits, Northwest's > top > > five executives (the above-mentioned, plus > Executive > > Vice President and General Counsel Barry Simon) > have > > taken in $32,000,721 in compensation since 2002, > not > > including other perks such as lifetime health-care > > coverage and travel benefits. The five also sold > more > > than $1 million worth of stock in the months > leading > > up to the bankruptcy announcement, as did big > > investors, like professional financier and former > NWA > > Board of Directors member Al Checchi, who sold > > 1,650,240 shares from April 23 to May 3, raking in > > $8,439,884. > > > > The New York Times reported Thursday that the > timing > > of Northwest's bankruptcy filing allowed the > company > > to protect its assets while executives reneged on > a > > payment of $65 million into the employee pension > fund, > > which is already underfunded by $3.8 billion. If > > Northwest skipped the payment before filing for > > bankruptcy, it would have been in violation of > federal > > pension laws, and the government-run Pension > Benefit > > Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) could have placed a > lien > > on the airline's assets, giving itself a better > chance > > of recovering some of the money. > > > > Instead, the newspaper noted, "[S]ince Northwest > filed > > for bankruptcy first, then skipped the pension > > contribution, the government has no legal power to > > place a lien on its assets. It makes the pension > > guarantor—and the employees and retirees whose > > interests the government represents—into unsecured > > creditors for the $65 million. Unsecured creditors > > generally fare poorly in bankruptcy, recovering > just > > pennies for every dollar they are owed." > > > > If the PBGC takes over Northwest's pension plans > > pilots would suffer the loss of half or more of > their > > pensions because the PBGC caps payments at $45,613 > a > > year for plans canceled in 2005. Other unionized > > workers could also see drastic reductions. > > > > Northwest also wants to freeze its current defined > > benefit pension plans and switch to defined > > contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, which are > cheaper > > for employers but don't provide workers the > guaranteed > > benefits of traditional pensions. > > > > Delta's pension funds are in even worse shape. If > the > > company defaults on its obligations it would set a > > record, surpassing the size of the United Airlines > > pension collapse earlier this year, and further > > staggering the overburdened pension guarantee > board. > > According to board officials, Delta's pension plan > has > > promised benefits worth $17.5 billion, but it only > has > > $6.9 billion in assets. With its bankruptcy filing > the > > company is expected to press for even more drastic > > cuts than it outlined in its corporate > restructuring > > plan last year, when it announced plans to cut $5 > > billion and 7,000 jobs by next year. > > > > The looting of airline workers' pension funds is > but > > one example of how the assets of the major > airlines > > have been squandered over the last several decades > to > > enrich the airline bosses and big investors. It > also > > underscores the widespread parasitism that > pervades > > the boardrooms of corporate America. > > > > The top personnel of the airline industry are > > chosen—and highly compensated—not because of their > > ability to manage complex organizations or to lay > out > > a long-term corporate strategy. Instead a definite > > social type has risen to the top, whose only > > qualifications are its acuity for slashing tens of > > thousands of jobs and guaranteeing the quickest > and > > largest payoffs to Wall Street. > > > > Northwest's CEO Steenland began his career working > for > > the Office of General Counsel for the secretary of > the > > Department of Transportation when the Democratic > > administration of President Jimmy Carter was > preparing > > the deregulation of the airline industry. He later > > joined a top law firm in Washington DC, which > > represented Pan American Air Lines during the > merger > > frenzy that preceded the company's bankruptcy > > declaration, and later represented an investor > group > > that organized the leveraged buyout of Northwest > > Airlines in 1989. > > > > Steenland is particular adept at working the halls > of > > Congress to lift regulations on pension funding > and > > any other restrictions on profit-making, and at > making > > use of the services of the labor bureaucracy to > cut > > labor costs. "Since the biggest input is the > wages, > > salaries, and benefits line, this puts a lot of > > attention on working with our employees in knowing > > what we need to do to survive in the long term," > he > > commented. > > > > Last year, in the midst of concession talks with > the > > pilots union, Steenland hired Barry Simon as the > > company's executive vice president and general > > counsel. Simon was a top executive in the Seabury > > Group, a New York consulting firm whose > > "restructuring" clients have included Air Canada, > US > > Airways, America West Airlines and Continental. > > > > Simon earned his credentials as an executive at > > Continental and Eastern airlines, where he served > > under corporate raider and union-buster Frank > Lorenzo. > > In 1983 Continental filed for bankruptcy—despite > the > > airline's $60 million in cash reserves—in order to > > exploit a provision in the Bankruptcy Code > allowing > > Lorenzo to abrogate his contracts with the unions. > > Simon directed Continental's legal strategy when > it > > emerged from bankruptcy a second time in 1991. > > > > Simon also played a leading role in the bankruptcy > of > > Eastern Airlines, which stopped flying in 1991 > > following the bitter strike by unionized > mechanics. At > > the time, Lorenzo and his team stripped the > airline of > > valuable assets and sold them at fire-sale prices > to > > Continental. > > > > The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of junk-bond > > dealers and corporate raiders in the airline > industry > > like Lorenzo and Carl Icahn (who bankrupted Trans > > World Airlines, among others, and who is now worth > > $5.8 billion—no. 55 on the list of the world's > richest > > people). > > > > Today, after nearly a quarter of a century of > > betrayals by the trade union bureaucracy (from the > > striking air traffic controllers in 1981 to the > > present scabbing organized by the airline unions > > against the striking Northwest mechanics), the > > corporate executives running the airlines feel > even > > less restraint than their predecessors did when > > slashing workers' jobs, wages and benefits and > looting > > company assets to enrich themselves. > > > > Copyright 1998-2005 > > World Socialist Web Site > > All rights reserved > > > >

Would You Like To Play A Game?

--- Russell R------> wrote: > G--... > I think you should have titled it "THIS is America" > and left off the > question mark. There's no doubt that we've got a > screwed up system in > progress. I'm glad you're spreading the picture of > the flag I took in DC on > Sept 24th ... it shows the symbol of America in > 2005. > "More gruel, please sir?" That is a Dickensonian > line that we will have to > trot out for our use when this is over. We'll be > standing at the base of > Steenland or Wilson's castle begging ... unless we > revolt. > The American revolution of 1776 was started over > the East India Company's > insistence that the crown impose a tax on tea. It > was in opposition to > fascist treatment. It is interesting that George II > was a big stockholder in > the Company. > Now we have a government led by corporacrats > imposing unacceptable burdens > on us. While Cheney, Steenland, Anderson, et. al., > enjoy shoveling in as > much as they can, they steal my pension to the tune > of a million dollars. > "They have no pension, let them eat cake." Well, you > know what, it didn't > turn out too well for Marie Antionette. > Keep the faith, brother. > Russ > > Russ... Are you kidding? That's one of my favorite attachments to use. (The flag photo) It looks like it comes from something like ADBUSTERS. I used to subscribe to it but it was SO loaded with fire and brimstome anti-corporate invective...Thing is, it's SO effective that I found myself just getting depressed about the whole world situation. Something like THE SUN is truthful without being borderline nihilistic. I have to tell you, the world-situation is SO far gone that I wonder if the bullshit CAN be reversed. I mean, do you honestly think that people are going magically wake up tomorrow and decide that we MUST clean up the environment for future generations, abolish war, and work for a better tomorrow? I don't. I believe that everything is cyclical and HAS to happen. After all, the Renaissance couldn't have happened without the Fall of Rome and the Dark Ages preceding it...(Although it kind of makes you wonder what the world would be like if the Dark Ages had never occured...Another alternative reality scenario.) Now this is not to say that I will roll over and do nothing...but certain realities have to be acknowledged...and humanity's lust for power and influence...(via money or whatever measurement of said influence) is a BIG one...The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek future is never going to happen. Oh, and when I see the wide-eyed wonder of people who are into astronomy and the possibility of going OUT THERE, UP THERE...the cyncicism kicks in. Sure, the sense of wonder will be there for the pioneers who blaze the trail and more power to them...But once the bankers, lawyers, and corporations follow, we'll just be exporting all of the bullshit that make humanity is so proficient at: The wars, the conquests, the pollution, the exploitation of resources, the GREED,...sorry, Captain Kirk. You might want to just keep going OUT of the galaxy... Just saw..uh, SAW yesterday...a truly demented genius of a horror-thriller movie...I would love to see Steenland waking up chained to a pipe in an abandoned factory with NO knowledge of how he got there...and when he plays the tape-recording that he finds in his pocket: "Hello, Mr. Steenland. You don't know me...but I know you. I want to play a GAME..." It's worth checking out. It must have hit SOME kind of nerve because a couple weeks back SAW II was at the top of the American Box Office...It IS unique...One part SE7EN, one part CUBE, and another part resembling one of the most demented BATMAN-type villians you would ever see...(And BATS has THE most fucked-up rogue's gallery. Joker, anyone? Scarecrow? Two-Face?) Anwyay, thanks for the Bon Mots. Do you have a mailing address yet? There's a thing or two I would like to send along... Thanks for keeping the optomism alive, my good friend and brother... Love and Respect...GaP

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Reason Why I STILL Write Letters...

Cher Ami, Though snail-mail may be a thing of the past, it still says much about the sender who takes the time and effort to select an appropriate note, to transmit into writing what comes from a creative mind and thoughtful heart, to seal and stamp the envelope and to find a post box completing an what began as a thought of another. I appreciated your note - you are a true gentleman of letters, as is said among the most refind of men. Besides, it nice to receive a note and to anticipate the joy of eventually opening it after dinner. It truly constitutes a meeting of friends. The events in France are deplorable. Unfortunately it seems the nation is now paying the price of a very liberal immigration policy which attracted so many to its social welfare programmes. Seems if the reintroduced the Edict of Nantes of Louis XIV, the problems would be solved! Are you still associated with NWA or has their financial picture changed your work?? How is your cold? Charles-Raymond

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Family Values

How are you doing, mate? > G-- --- Jeff P--- > Bloody bonza mate > > Been off for the last 10 days (7vaction) so I've > been busy woodworking > building my office. Also been busy renewing my CFI > certificate (instructor > rating). Mostly trying to hunker down, batten the > hatches and prepare for > the onslaught from NWA. We did a 15% pay cut for > our Christmas bonus last > year and we are doing our Christmas bonus early this > year when we do a 23% > pay cut effective 16 Nov, more carnage to follow, > probably just in time for > Christmas. Yvonne and I are bugging out for the > entire month of Jan and > going back to Oz to celebrate my 50th with my > brother/sisters/parents. We > are also going to look for some land to buy while we > are there, some place > quiet, on or close to the water, and it must be dark > at night so I have a > good view of the stars (no city lights). If thing > get to where we are > working for a song and a dance with no benefits then > I'm going to cash out > with my home and just migrate to OZ, build something > small and cozy for > Yvonne and I and retire early. I love my job but I > refuse to accept that > level of responsibility and constant threat training > to stay current just > for entry level wages. A favorite saying from my > past comes to mind "they > can piss off, the load of wankers". Hope your world > is rosy and bright. > > See ya > Jeff and the rest of the mongrels Jeff... Thanks for the update...Onslaught is right...Our own paycuts begin on 16November...And since sick pay will be affected, I'll be calling in sick on 13Nov. It'll be the last sick call that I can be fully paid for so I'll take great glee in doing a bit of return-buggering... It'll give me time to work on the Christmas card... That's great news about OZ...I take it you still have your citizenship...For England as well? Ray and I were just discussing the concept of family. My dad called from Quebec last week and I have yet to call him back. This bothers Ray sometime but I had to explain to him that while he grew up with a pile of siblings and the idea of a cohesive family, my situation was the exact opposite. I had to create my safety bubble via comics and movies. So Family warmth and togetherness is a vague concept at best for me. Trying to grasp it is like a blind man trying to understand the concept of COLORS... I bring this up because the P---- Clan seems to be JUST that. A clan. A tight-knit family. I saw your interaction with your daughter and her husband...and the grandchildren...and I said to myself: "That's family!" I may not fully grasp it...but I surely do admire it. One of the BIG perks of moving to OZ will be being closer to your OWN parents... Pardon my rambling...I'm a bit under the influence. But not completely pissed... I'll be in touch...Big favor. Could you scrawl a few lines on an OZ postcard and send it my way when you get there? It would be greatly appreciated... All the best to you and yours, mate...GaP

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

--- Steven W--- wrote: > Hi G--- (or is that Paul now?) > >Thanks for the ‘meteor’ card, much appreciated. You > seem to get back to > Scotland more than I do these days! Not fair! > >Hopefully the Northwest thing will resolve itself as > these things often do. > Governments don’t like to be seen to be bailing out > companies but they do, > often on the quiet. > >I thought I had mentioned the tumour. Anyway, it’s > not the sort of thing to > be broadcast is it? It seems, however, that I have a > brain tumour but it is > not, thank God, cancerous. Basically it can make me > a bit unstable on my > feet sometimes (a bit whisky like in that respect), > gives me vertigo > sometimes, and has made me stone deaf in my left > ear. (It’s great I now have > ‘selective’ deafness, much to Clare’s annoyance!). > >I was told I had to have an operation, but that as > this kind of tumour only > grows around 2mm a year there was no rush, 7 or 8 > years would be fine. > Trouble is they got it wrong and it doubled in size > in a year. They then > misread the scan and sent me back onto the street > for another year. Luckily > I had an inkling something was wrong and challenged > them. Seems I was right > and the almighty surgeons/specialists were wrong. A > subsequent scan proved > this to be the case. Anyway, I lost confidence in > them and decided to do my > own research. I came up with an alternative > treatment that they hadn’t > offered me. > >Apparently there is a ‘turf war’ in surgery. Maybe > in the USA where it is > all about money this is common, but it came as a bit > of a shock to me to > find it here too. Anyway, my ‘specialists’ were all > ‘scalpel’ surgeons, > shall we call them. Their idea was to let the tumour > grow for a few years, > take me to hospital for 7 days, give me an 11 hour > operation that involved > cracking open my skull, breaking the water sack > around my brain, cutting out > the tumour, sealing the brain sack with a lump of > gristle from my leg and > keeping me off work for 3 months. There was a 1 in > 100 chance I would die > and a 50% chance my facial nerves would be damaged > leaving me with a face as > if I had had a stroke or palsy. Nice! > >So, having decided to do my own research (2.30 one > morning, couldn’t sleep, > went on internet to see what I could come up with!) > I found out that there > is another treatment for the tumour. It does not > involve cutting open my > head, does not require 3 months off work and in the > end was done with me > back home next day! > > Check out > I did and > it potentially saved my life! > >In fact we now joke about it. My friends were all, > understandably and > flatteringly, concerned. Clare and I had pretty well > sussed it out so > weren’t too bothered. > >So, imagine this. I went to the hospital in > Sheffield around 11 on the > Friday morning. Had a few tests, got bored and left > around 4. Clare had > booked into a hotel in town so I walked there and > collected her. We went > into town, did a bit of shopping, went for a pizza > and some wine, I walked > her home to the hotel and strolled back to the > hospital for 10 pm. > > Next day, Saturday, up at 6 for some tests. Into > surgery around 8.30 (There > were a physicist, a neurosurgeon, two radiographers > and sundry nurses in > attendance.). The operation took place around 11.30. > A bit of blood came > pouring out of where they had placed some clamps on > my head, no big deal but > messy! It was vital my head didn’t move during the > operation so they put a > metal clamp to my skull, through the skin. > > So, back to the ward and within 10 minutes I was > pacing up and down asking > to go home. They said I had to stay in overnight. I > reminded them that I > only lived an hour up the road, why bother keeping > me in? They asked me if > the consultant had agreed and I said (lied) that he > had. In they end they > agreed that I could go at 5pm if there were no > reactions. So, ensuring that > there weren’t, I left at 5. > Picture this, Clare and me (with two ‘bullet holes’ > on my forehead, blood > oozing) strolling down the street from the hospital, > me dragging my case > behind me. Clare had left the car at the hotel, as > she hadn’t imagined we > would be going home that day. So, suitcase in hand, > bullet holes in forehead > and blood on shirt, I clambered onto the bus for the > town centre. When we > got there we remembered that, as we shouldn’t have > been going home, there > was no food in the house. So, suitcase in hand, > bullet holes in forehead and > blood on shirt, we strolled into Marks and Spencer’s > to do a bit of > shopping! What a sight it must have been. One bloke > came up and enquired > after my health. Goodness knows what he thought had > happened. Anyway, back > to the car and off home. > > A friend called up from France on the Sunday morning > to ask Clare how I was > doing, he fell off his perch when I answered the > phone! > > All in all a good laugh! > >The tumour is now shrinking and I was back at my > desk next morning, earning > a crust. > >Thankfully my company gives me private healthcare, > they coughed up the > money. In error they sent me the invoice for > £14,000. Ouch! > >Anyway, that was my little bit of excitement this > year! > >Keep in touch, > >Awra best, Steven. > > PS Never one to miss the opportunity to use an OLD > joke, when one of the > surgeons, in an effort to reassure, told me that a > friend of his had had the > same operation and within 2 months was in > Switzerland skiing I said > ‘Brilliant! I’ve never been able to ski.’ ----------------------------------------------------- Steven... You spin a good yarn, my friend...Sounded like several scenes from a odd independent film...or at least from a Paul Thomas Anderson movie... And speaking of Paul...I don't get your reference to that name. Did I miss something? Anyway... Yesterday, I learned that I'll be getting a Interim Period paycut on 16November while The Company and our representative union hammer out an agreement which will, I'm sure, lead to even deeper paycuts. Yay. Wow, if people thought I was an underachiever BEFORE, think of the selective hearing I'll have NOW... This doesn't come as a surprise to me but it's still galling how front-line employees give up a greater proportion or their paycheck while upper management does a comestic paycut that probably won't even affect the paint-job on their summer homes. Demoralizing. Still, it could be worse. Dubya could have an approval rating above's now at about 30%. Deep sigh of satisfaction...Fucking hick fratboy and his old-boy network of advisors...Keep up the BAD work, champs... All for now, Steven...Keep those holes filled with some solid sealant... Awra Best...GaP

Sunday, November 06, 2005

French Lessons By Web-Cam

Salut, Greg... Had myself a very cool internet cultural experience last week. I was on Yahoo Messenger and my friend from Orschwihr, France hailed me and let me into his web-cam. Now I know Web-Cams have been around for awhile but this was my first experience communicating with one. (I don't have one myself...)But it was fascinating to be typing in (pseudo)French and seeing his reaction to my messages an ocean away. Still, doesn't matter. Chances are, I won't be getting one. The only time I want to see someone's image is when I talk to him or her face-a-face. Still, it was an example of where technology brought me closer together with some good friends... I didn't know you knew Captain Williams. Not surprising. You have similar personalities and outlooks on life. He's a good friend of mine. This morning, I'm going to be shooting the pictures for the Christmas Card. Hope the weather and the wee one co-operates... Hope you and your family are well, Captain...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Infinite Crisis

DesMan... Now THIS is what I read comics FOR...for some heroism, for some inspiration...all set in the framework of a kickass story. I just finished INFINITE CRISIS #1. Dark times in the DC Universe. Thanks to the extreme actions of WONDER WOMAN(murdering a man bent on world-domination...The equivalent of killing a gloating Hitler figure)no one trusts the world's heroes. And that's not even mentioning the Justice League's mindwipe of one of their enemies...The seeds have been sown. Reality is strained to the breaking point. So who better to come in and get our shit together? The original, FIRST Super-hero of ALL time...The ORIGINAL incarnation of Superman who'd been...elsewhere. This is gonna rock HARD. Too bad the FREEDOM FIGHTERS had to die, though. They were always my childhood favorites. Fittingly, even Uncle Sam got his ass kicked...looks like permanently, too...Prophetic? I finally broke down and bought that slip-cased JLA-AVENGERS thing. Nothing like a cosmic super-hero epic to help ease the mundane and sometimes SCARY bullshit of, the mortgage, the approaching winter and the increasing cost of oil, American politics in general...Shit, we really DO need heroes... And in keeping with Dark Times, I picked up the REVENGE OF THE SITH DVD. Will eagerly plumb its extras in the near future... Hope you're well, my friend...Are you back from South Africa? All The Best...GaP

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Getting The Study In Order

Hello, Captain... Well, I'm on the internet yet AGAIN because I want to take yet another break from getting my study into shape. Or it WILL be a study once I finish painting the walls. And soon as I get shelves for the pile of books lying on the floor. And as soon as I get some affordable study-like furniture. I'm not to the point where I'm living from paycheck to paycheck but I'm getting pretty DAMN close. Anyway, I'm trying not to get into that morose mindset as you dig through your possessions where that voice whispers in your ear: "Wow. 37 years on this earth and all you've done is amass a book-collection the majority of which you've never read. Cool. You're stupid. Your life's a waste." Yeah, thanks. Anyway, it LOOKS like progress is happening... Regarding music...I seem to find the stuff that I NEED to hear at a particular time, regardless of the genre. One of my favorite bands, NADA SURF, always seems to put out new music right when I'm at some turning point in my life, at a juncture where I need some REAL answers...none of that trite feelgood soft-rock with DELILAH with a fuzzy-blanket shit. I like my truth and by extension OPTOMISM to have the ring of hard-earned truth to it...No CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE CYNICAL, MANIC-DEPRESSIVE, COMIC-BOOK AND MUSIC-OBSSESSED FLIGHT ATTENDANT'S SOUL for THIS slacker...) Anyway... I would have LOVED to seen you reminiscing with your old Navy buddies. You're a part of a proud tradition, Captain... Today, I'm off to see what I've missed for last week's comics...and to see the ZORRO flick. There's too much nastiness going on the world right now. Need a bit of an escape... I will be in touch...Keep the Faith. And keep up the good work...GaP

The Ape In The Corner Office

A co-worker showed me a write-up of this book and this subject in a recent issue of a Psychology Today. Fascinating stuff...especially when you're in the customer-service field. GaP ---------------------------------------- Book Description Tired of swimming with the sharks? Fed up with that big ape down the hall? Real animals can teach us better ways to thrive in the workplace jungle. You’re ambitious and want to get ahead, but what’s the best way to do it? Become the biggest, baddest predator? The proverbial 800-pound gorilla? Or does nature teach you to be more subtle and sophisticated? Richard Conniff, the acclaimed author of The Natural History of the Rich, has survived savage beasts in the workplace jungle, where he hooted and preened in the corner office as a publishing executive. He’s also spent time studying how animals operate in the real jungles of the Amazon and the African bush. What he shows in The Ape in the Corner Office is that nature built you to be nice. Doing favors, grooming coworkers with kind words, building coalitions—these tools for getting ahead come straight from the jungle. The stereotypical Darwinian hard-charger supposedly thinks only about accumulating resources. But highly effective apes know it’s often smarter to give them away. That doesn’t mean it’s a peaceable kingdom out there, however. Conniff shows that you can become more effective by understanding how other species negotiate the tricky balance between conflict and cooperation. Conniff quotes one biologist on a chimpanzee’s obsession with rank: “His attempts to maintain and achieve alpha status are cunning, persistent, energetic, and time-consuming. They affect whom he travels with, whom he grooms, where he glances, how often he scratches, where he goes, what times he gets up in the morning.” Sound familiar? It’s the same behavior you can find written up in any issue of BusinessWeek or The Wall Street Journal. The Ape in the Corner Office connects with the day-to-day of the workplace because it helps explain what people are really concerned about: How come he got the wing chair with the gold trim? How can I survive as that big ape’s subordinate without becoming a spineless yes-man? Why does being a lone wolf mean being a loser? And, yes, why is it that jerks seem to prosper—at least in the short run?

The Natural History of The Rich

I was contemplating buying THE APE IN THE CORNER OFFICE, also by Richard Conniff. Of course, Amazon tempts you with similar wares...including this OTHER book that he's written. If the everyman REVIEWS are this interesting, then I'll have to check out BOTH books...GaP ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Reviewer: Christopher H---- ( NJ United States) - See all my reviews Conniff, in writing this light, well researched book of comic sociology, makes interesting links between his observations in the natural world for National Geographic and his observations of the rich while working for Architectural Digest. Although I think Conniff, on balance, focuses more on the rich than on the parallels between the animal kingdom and the richs' behavior, this isn't a big flaw, at least to me -- I'd rather know a little more about billionaires' lives than a little more about the sex lives of the bonobos. Overall, I'd recommend this book. Throughout the book, Conniff traces the behaviour of the rich and of various animal species, he shows that territoriality, social hierarchy, pecking orders, and competition for mates aren't just confined to the animal kingdom. Indeed, the natural laws of power and association are two major areas we have in common with our animal brethren. He notes that the rich, as well as animals, know that power, control of resources and social dominance is what it's all about, despite any of their claims to the contrary. One must be confident, have good posture, walk straight, look people right in the eye, go directly after what one wants, and remember it's all about winning-winning-winning. The richs' influential friends, big houses, glamorous hobbies are all signs of dominance, as is a single-minded determination to impose one's vision on the world. Conniff also points out that the softer side of domination is that of association. The rich know that "you are who you know." One must make friends shrewdly, cultivate allies, go to the right schools, live in the right neighborhoods, give to socially desirable charities, throw parties and invite all the right people. For humans, social intelligence is as important for survival as navigational skills are for arctic turns. Knowing the right people, places, pleasures - the sorts of things a rich person should know - is the only reliable badge of admission among the rich. And realize that the rich aren't out to impress the masses - the rich want to impress other rich people, not those far down the pecking order. Wanting to impress the masses is like a peacock wanting to impress a dog. Finally, Conniff explores the age old question, "Is the world inhabited by the rich different?" Of course there are more comforts; the rich enjoy what the world has to offer, and family dynasties give heirs a sense of continuity and tradition. But the downside is that although wealth might not change you, it most surely changes the way people treat you. The rich are used to people sucking up to them, and expect but are suspicious of being flattered by their servants, friends, and potential allies. Also, the rich tend to socialize amongst themselves, and experience a sort of social isolation, going to the same restaurants, vacationing in the same spots, dating other "suitable" rich people, intermarrying amongst themselves. Through all these behaviors, they slowly dissolve anything they have in common with most other people, so being rich can be lonely. They live as birds in gilded cages. Overall, this was a good light read. Recommended. Was this review helpful to you? (Report this) 11 of 11 people found the following review helpful: Animals All, March 5, 2004 Reviewer: R" ( Mississippi USA) - See all my reviews We are interested in what rich people do. They make the big homes, and the big deals, and have the fanciest clothes and the best choice in dates. We enjoy it when they do things that are silly, stupid, or mistaken. In doing so, we are really doing nothing more than our hominid ancestors did in paying close attention to the chiefs of their tribes; they may not have had money back then, but they had the status and they were carefully watched because of it. Interest in the rich is programmed in our genes. Thus it is a delight to find that the rich can be studied as objects of natural curiosity. Richard Conniff usually writes about other species, but has taken the techniques of the naturalist to study the habits of _homo sapiens peconiosus_ (rich people) in _The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide_ (Norton). He writes that instead of animals in the field, he "... had found a new quarry, and they were possibly the most dangerous and elusive animals on earth." Throughout his witty and informative book, he shows a great sense of fun with his evaluation of this extraordinary species. Conniff gives us many views of rich people acting like animals. The analogies are often easily drawn and obvious. This should not be surprising. Successful tribal animals from all species are driven by "the quest for control, dominance, mating opportunities, and, above all, status." The rich are predatory like jungle cats, or busy with penile displays, like monkeys. It seems that many rich men are addicted to peeing in relatively public places as a show of domination. Ted Turner, who shows up often in this book, gave away a billion dollars to the UN, and disdained his fellow rich people who weren't, in his opinion, doing their share, as he quite ostentatiously was. A virtue is more of a virtue if it is performed privately and not for show, but the rich don't play the game that way any more than other primates do; what he had done was make a "bid for status, as plain as the chest-thumping of rival silverback gorillas." The rich maintain that they already have it made and they don't have any need to impress anyone, but that's not the way they behave: "...they usually mean only that they have drastically narrowed down the list of people they are interested in impressing." Other rich people, or ghosts of doubting fathers or teachers. Part of the fun of the book is that Conniff knows a wealth of examples to draw upon, and there is lots to learn about what we usually take to be animals as well as rich people. For instance, in discussing the way rich men have arranged for other men not to make attempts on their wives ("mate guarding"), he informs us about dragon flies. Anyone who has seen dragonflies knows that they spend some of their time flying in tandem, with the male locked onto the female. It is wrong to assume they are enjoying in-flight coitus; probably they already got that out of the way, but the male is sticking to his mate until she lays her eggs so that other males don't get to her beforehand. So various behaviors of the rich (kin selection, altruism, status symbols, territoriality, scent marking, hoarding) amusingly can be found in some much lower species. The ease of the analogies is partially due to the baroque variations of behavior found all over the animal kingdom; one can find some species somewhere doing almost anything, and another doing the opposite. In fact, when analogizing the way rich grooms give presents to brides, Conniff tells about the male hangingfly who presents an edible morsel to a prospective mate, but warns, "The leap from hangingflies to humans is of course perilous." Just so, but such leaps are entertaining as well. Conniff's examination of the rich is not a scientific study as much as it is a bunch of funny stories about how odd those rich people are, stories made funnier by finding that they behave in ways just like other animals do.