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Monday, June 24, 2002

Alt-Az Axis of Evil

(Ha! I make obscure joke!)

According to this article, Arab information ministers want to set up a "media observatory" to counteract the infidel notion that blowing yourself up and killing as many bystanders as possible constitutes "terrorism" (as Reuters might say).

What a splendid idea. I'd love to work in the "media observatory". I'd be eminently qualified:

"This object is actually an eruption of hot gas from an Arab information minister, flowing outward faster than the speed of sound. The bilious green color is given off by shocked (shocked!) oxygen atoms."

"Here is a suspected black hole, a region of such suckiness that no information can escape, much like an Arab Information Ministry."

Via Charles Johnson

And check this out: this page asserts that the red color of the Eskimo Nebula proves that the Koran is accurate. (This is probably theologically unsound; surely the Koran is its own proof.)

Dudes, 1) that's a color coding, chosen by the astronomers for maximum information transfer, or just to look pretty (although it's true that the nitrogen emission colored red would look red, if seen with the naked eye, but so would the hydrogen emission here colored green), and 2) there are a lot of other red things in the Universe.

(You! You Christians in the back! You can pipe right down now. Your religion has asserted equally goofy crap, so I don't want to hear any snickering from you.)

And Lo, the Lord decreed that the Universe shall be the color of latte, although He is displeased because He generally takes His latte with a bit of coffee in it.

Friday, June 21, 2002

September 11 and the Ecstasy of the Left

On the way to work on September 12, I bought the local newspapers: the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, and the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

The SMH, especially, and also The Australian, carried letters turgid with schadenfreude. The US deserved the attacks, they said, for its crimes throughout the history of time (as one Australian put it).

I had to put the papers aside for several days. I kept buying them, and peeking into the letters section, then had to put them away again. (I just bought them for the pictures...)

But in my brief readings the one thing I read over and over again was that we didn't understand, we had to be made to understand, etc etc etc. I felt bad. I figured I ought to at least make an effort to understand what it was we didn't understand. So I finally sat down and read through the letters.

The writers each had a specific (and yet rather vague) beef with the US. Some of them thought we had interfered too much. Others thought we interefered too little. Some thought we had foisted our soulless
materialist culture on poor, defenseless countries. Others thought we were uninterested in improving the material lot of poor, defenseless countries.

Taken as a whole, this is what they demanded we do:

That we succor oppressed peoples everywhere---but stay out of the internal affairs of other nations.

That we use our considerable military might to force ancient, implacable enemies to sit down and work for peace---but not if anybody gets hurt.

And when military force is inappropriate, we should use our economic power toward this goal---so long as no one suffers for it.

We must also use this economic power to lift nations up from poverty---but don't go imposing our dirty capitalism.

And we must teach the ignorant of the world---but don't go foisting our sick culture on anyone.

We are expected to have the strength, the will, and the compassion to act ---yet not the hubris that imagines we know how to act.

I've written this essay a dozen times since 9/11. I've ended it on a note that fit my mood at the time---bewildered, frustrated, sarcastic. But after all these months, I've finally settled on one mood:

Bite us.

Collectively and severally.

(By the way, for a---sometimes---more intellectual response to the same stimulus, check out

Blaming Ourselves: September 11 and the Agony of the Left

I confess to not having read the whole thing yet. Blokey Aussie Mate Tim Blair wrote a section of the book, in which he guesses the occupations of the letter writers. It makes everything clear.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Why We Blog

At about 11:30pm, Sydney time, on September 11, I was sitting at the computer. Playing Tetris, I think. I was watching Star Trek (Return of the Archons) out of the corner of my eye, when there came a crawl across the screen

...terrorist attacks in the United States...

Yeah, right, I thought. Someone's probably blown up the garden department at K-Mart. I'll just switch on over to CNN and---Holy. Howling. Hell. Both planes had hit but neither tower had collapsed. They did while I was watching.

I stayed up until 4 my time, and finally fell asleep, awakening every 15 minutes to the sound of screams and explosions in my head.

The next weeks were maddening. I stayed glued to the tube and worked from home. I obsessively read every on-line newspaper I could, trying to gain some perspective on things.

I even subscribed to Usenet newsgroups dealing with the attack, which shows you how desperate I was.

But the perspective I gained was not the one I had hoped for. Mainly, I gained perspective on how low the standards were for public punditry---for people who got paid to express their opinions.

Exhibit A would have to be Barbara Kingsolver, checking in from an alternate universe where American Muslims were slaughtered in the streets wholesale, war in Afghanistan was all about "glory", and we all live under the iron heel of W's cowboy boot. For an encore, a few weeks later, she raped the shade of FDR, turning his "Four Freedoms" speech into an anti-war cry. In that speech, FDR painted the coming war as a just struggle to free captive peoples. Kingsolver was all for that, but she apparently believed it could be done by victory gardens and hand-knit socks and "caring", and wouldn't have to involve those nasty men with guns. Roosevelt warned against appeasing the aggressors to buy a temporary "dictators' peace"; to Kingsolver, a "dictators' peace" was any we might win.

Exhibit B is every military expert (or, as Mark Steyn referred to them, "anonymous MoD [Ministry of Defence] pillocks") to appear on the BBC, although in fairness I think these were freelance pillocks. Their little visits followed a pretty predictable pattern:

Newsreader:The Americans, of course, will want to take military action against Bin Laden in Afghanistan...?
Pillock:Of course, of course. Absurd. Never work. Entirely inappropriate. Humint. Kim. Patience. That's what you want.
Newsreader:They will probably begin with bombing...
Pillock:Absolutely. Utter rubbish. Nothing to bomb. Make the rubble bounce. Never work.
Newsreader:Will they send in ground troops, do you think...?
Pillock:Never. Won't take casualties. Need 100,000 ground troops. No fewer. Won't happen. Complete fantasy.
Newsreader:The Afghans are legendary fighters, aren't they?
Pillock:Absolutely! Defeated Soviets! Defeated British! Graveyard of Empires! Appalling terrain! Brutal Afghan winter! Cave complexes! Love death! Fight to the last man! Need 500,000 ground troops! Quagmire!
Newsreader:We've just had a bulletin! Mazar-i-Sharif has fallen!
Pillock:Means nothing. Falls at the drop of a hat. Changed hands 37 times during Soviet invasion. Paris of central Asia.
Newsreader:This just in! John Simpson has liberated Kabul! The Taliban have been routed from all the cities, aid is pouring in, women are casting off their burkas and enrolling in universities, and men are shaving their beards and dancing in the streets. A possibly-democratic proto-government has been installed. The king has returned.
Pillock:Never last. Taliban will wait it out. Infinitely patient. Hide in the hills. Live on rat. Quite tasty, rat. A bit like human flesh. Brutal Afghan winter, have I mentioned that?

Exhibits C through ZZZZZZZ are all the "humanitarian" "aid" "workers" ("Silent Genocide!" "Stop the bombing and start the bribing!"); chickenshit European "leaders" ("Simplisme!" "Garcon de la vache!"); pathetic self-aggrandizing academics ("The Racist War on the Helpless Afghan People has led to the deaths of 50 million innocents, according to the unimpeachable Taliban News Service."); and talentless hack cartoonists ("Real Journalists never keep our research! Do your own!").

I concluded that one did not have to be smarter than a bag of hammers to be a Respected Pundit. Hell, you don't have to be smarter than the bag, which makes me eminently qualified for the job.

So here I am.

About the URL

In case any one is wondering what "Dark Blogules" might be, it is in reference to these babies---dark globules, little clots of dust and gas in which stars may form.

As for "The Machinery of Night", well that's from Howl by Allen Ginsberg:

...burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...

An interesting poem. Enjoy the sodomized-by-bikers imagery!

Monday, June 17, 2002

Opening Night Jitters

I expected this to be less intimidating. After all, there's no one here but me and the blog---no roadies, no audience, no critics---what's there to be nervous about?

Well, there's this tiny window, for one. How am I supposed to type in this? And the HTML---is it going to come out right? Do the style sheets match the plain old HTML? And, of course, there's the little problem of finding something to say.

All this time, wanting a blog of my own, and now taking the plunge, and I am finger-tied. Fortunately, right this instant, I don't have to go on.

This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been an actual blog wouldn't have been any more interesting.