John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Monday, December 25, 2006
Merry Christmas

The inspiration for the name, Thunderstorms in the Imajica, partially came from the weather in central Florida, but also because central Florida is the land of theme parks, like Disney.  Clive Barker described his Imajica as consisting of five different worlds, or physical realms of existence, in which Earth was the only unreconciled place. Travel among the reconciled dominions was possible and commonplace because they still believed in and practiced the ancient arts of myth and magic, whereas that knowledge of what we call magic had been banned as being too dangerous for us.

It was replaced by organized religion; and their secret societies, like the Tabula Rasa, were set up in perpetuity to protect mankind from the dangers of this greater knowledge because of the disasters that followed the last time reconciliation was attempted here -- when god (Hapexamendios) sent his son to Earth to perform magic (miracles) and reconcile Earth with the other dominions.

Like many good fiction books, Imajica is about 900 pages long and is an epic tale.  While it can be as violent as the Bible, the sex scenes are better because they haven't been censored by organized religion. 

Here's an entertaining video I found this morning concerning Christmas:



Currently listening to:
By Museum

Friday, December 22, 2006
Monkey See, Monkey Do

A) Surprise
B) Fear
C) Anger

A) Disgust
B) Fear
C) Surprise
A) Disgust
B) Contempt
C) Anger
A) Contempt
B) Slight happiness
C) Controlled anger
A) Fear
B) Disgust
C) Sadness

Take this quiz.

Can you properly identify the emotions associated with these five facial expressions?  The correct answers will be in the comments.  See how well you did with this quiz.

This fairly simple quiz is just a small part of the larger body of work done by Paul Ekman, PhD.  Retired in 2004, Dr. Ekman was professor of psychology at University of California for many years.  His main focus of research was in non-verbal communication and interpersonal deception.

As one can imagine, reading faces and detecting lies would be useful skills to possess in law enforcement activities.  Dr. Ekman has created training programs and consulted with the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies over the years.  For details of this training, see his web site.  For a more difficult challenge of your own abilities than the five faces above, try this realistic interactive test.

Akira made this for me
This area of psychology suggests that there are universal emotions displayed by all the people who inhabit Our Little Spinning Ball of Mud.  Researchers, like Ekman, first categorize human emotions down into a basic set of seven: sad, angry, surprise, fear, disgust, contempt, and happy.  Not only do those seven emotions exist universally, but also the way we express them with our face has been apparently hard-wired into the genetics of our species over the span of many thousands of generations in our family of poo-flinging, grumpy monkeys.

When I took a minute to ponder this concept, I had two initial thoughts.  The first one had to do with the constititutional travesty that happened about two months ago, when the Democrusader happily signed the "Millitary Commissions Act of 2006" into law.  Among other things, this heinous law codified the Bush administration's strategy of torture for intelligence purposes and exempted them from certain criminal prosecution.

If CIA interrogation of suspected terrorists involves torture, wouldn't that simply overload the suspect with displaying fear, anger or contempt?  You could never pick up on honest emotions displayed by the suspect, and therefore, you could not really tell if that person was lying or telling the truth.  That's probably why experienced interrogators have constantly reported that torture is a useless tactic for gathering information because the person will simply make up wholesale lies in the hope that you will hear what you wanted to hear and stop torturing them.  Some people think the Bush administration is evil.  I think they are also misguided and incompetent, as well.

On a lighter note

I took the interactive facial test.  At first, I had some real difficulty getting the right answers.  It took me several times before I realized I had to carefully look into the eyes of the image displayed in order to see the quick flash of the emotional face and interpret it correctly.  I did really well after that.

The second thought I had about this subject had to do with the fabled "Women's Intuition."  It's quite clear to me now.  Women can read non-verbal communications, interpret and discover interpersonal deceptions far better than men because of the obvious reason.  When in conversation, women look at men's eyes while men look at women's breasts.

Feel free to visit my Amazon Wish List.  If you're feeling generous, please buy me a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink," where he explores this topic much further and in a more useful way for everyday life.


Currently watching:
12 Monkeys (Special Edition)
Staring Joseph Melito

Thursday, December 21, 2006
What was asked of us

While most of the people in the United States are busy shopping, meeting with family, and preparing holiday meals, there is a tiny minority of Americans who will not be so uplifted by the holiday spirit this year.  These people are the men and women serving in the military all over the world, and especially in the dangerous theaters of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.  While president Bush once again urged the Amercian people to go shopping more today, he will also be contemplating the decision to send more troops to Iraq, the meat grinder of Baghdad and Al-Anbar province, during his vacation time down in Crawford, Texas.

In addition to more shopping, we Americans must realize we have another calling:

This war on terror is the calling of a new generation; it is the calling of our generation. Success is essential to securing a future of peace for our children and grandchildren. And securing this peace for the future is going to require a sustained commitment from the American people and our military.

We have an obligation to ensure our military is capable of sustaining this war over the long haul, and in performing the many tasks that we ask of them. I'm inclined to believe that we need to increase in the permanent size of both the United States Army and the United States Marines. I've asked Secretary Gates to determine how such an increase could take place and report back to me as quickly as possible.  

Apparently, it is not just those radical extremist leaders with hateful ideologies that invoke the holy to motivate their faithful to support the plan to go kill their enemies.  Bushworld wants us to spend trillions of American tax dollars over a generation and waste an even greater American treasure -- a generation of youth doing what the Bush/Cheney administration has asked of them.

Investigative journalist Trish Wood just recently published a book entitled, "What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It."  The introduction is written by Bobby Muller, the founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, now called Veterans For America.

"Veterans for American (VFA), formerly the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, is uniting the new generation of veterans with those from past wars to address the needs of veterans, service members and their families and their larger concerns about the impact of war.  An advocacy and humanitarian organization, VFA is committed to advancing policy and elevating public discourse on the causes, conduct and consequences of war."

As a military veteran myself, I joined the VFA some time ago and I occasionally blog there.  Mostly though, I simply read and learn about issues.  I support the good work they are committed to do everyday for the benefit of the combat veterans coming back from Bush's War on Terror.

In order to understand the passion with which Bobby Muller speaks and to get an idea about the book, "What Was Asked of Us," I urge you to watch the BookTV (real video) presentation with Trish Wood, Bobby Muller, and Iraq War veteran Garrett Reppenhagen.  With over one million service members having served in these war zones since 2001, it should be required viewing for all Americans.

In addition, you can hear an interview with Trish Wood and some of the actual oral histories told by Iraq war vets featured in the book on C-Span Radio's American Political Archive (real audio).  Hearing these stories from the Iraq veterans themselves will give you a personal understanding about the conditions in Iraq and not soon leave your memory.

Perhaps a patriotic act would be to go shopping.  Buy two copies of this book.  Keep one for yourself and donate the second one to your local public high school library, so the kids that volunteer to fight Bush's long war can go into it with their eyes wide open to what will be asked of them.  The government doesn't speak the truth.  The media doesn't speak the truth.  The veterans are speaking the unvarnished truth.  Make it your calling to pass on their stories and help educate the youth.


Currently listening to:
Master of Reality
By Black Sabbath

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
It's the thought that counts

If anyone complains that they didn't get a Christmas present, explain to them it's because Santa was tragically killed this year.  Suck it up and stop whining.

And hey, don't blame me for this image -- I didn't make it. Someone did, but I don't know who it is.  It was emailed to me from a friend who knows that I don't do Christmas.  I haven't done Christmas for many years, except when forced by the occasional girlfriend.

Fellow Blogdriver, Gloria, made an astute comment about gift giving last week.  It did make me wonder about something.  What does this gift I have received say about how that person thinks of me?

So, even though I don't do Christmas, I sometimes receive gifts.  A very good friend of mine stopped over the other night and was bearing gifts.  Shock and awe.  I'm very grateful that he thought to be so generous and kind to me.  He can't help it.  That's his nature.

Not that I'm a Christmas Grinch -- I've been officially classified by most of my friends as "grumpy" -- but a few days after my friend's surprise visit, I started to analyze the gifts he gave me:

  • 2 large bottles of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
  • a CD of comedy "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas"

So, it's official now.  I've become poor white trash.

It's okay.  I'm letting that epiphany settle into my consciousness with as much dignity as I can muster to delude myself.  One of the reasons I came to the poor white trash (pwt) conclusion happened when I examined the liquor bottle.

The first clue was that it is a large plastic bottle, instead of glass.  It says "Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey" on it.  Walking over to the kitchen sink to view the label more clearly under the light, I was heartened to see "genuine Kentucky," a nice graphic of a jockey holding the reins of a horse, and "distilled in Kentucky" under that.

Okay. I get it already. It's from Kentucky. Then, in small print under the shiny golden label, I see "WINN DIXIE LIQUORS" and my self-esteem wafted away like a puff of smoke.  I was unaware the grocery store sold generic booze.

Here's my plan

I am happy and grateful that I have friends.  I am happy and grateful that one thought enough of me to give me a gift during a holiday season in which I don't even participate.

To prove these things, I will drink the bourbon for the next week or so and simply put "Repair self image" on my list of New Year's resolutions.  Besides, after listening to Jeff Foxworthy, I now realize that being poor white trash is a step up from being a redneck.

By the way, my birthday is in February.  Plan ahead.


Currently listening to:
Redneck 12 Days of Christmas / Here's Your Sign Christmas
By Jeff Foxworthy

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Happy Holiday Travel

 We are safer, but we are not yet safe.
So, you want to spend some time with friends and family this holiday season ... and you have to fly there.  Good luck.  If you thought the check-out lines at the Walmart were long, where you bought those crappy little gifts, I hope you shipped them to your destination.  Big Brother's Charlie McCarthy, CNN, advises you to "know the rules, be flexible."  Obey.  Conform.  Stop bleating.  Please stay focussed and only concern yourself with following these rules, so that you won't stop and question the complete stupidity and uselessness of you waiting in line to remove your shoes, take off your belt, test your phone, or dump that liquid.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is such a frackin' sham.  Created under the Department of Homeland Security, it is nothing more than a government black hole for your tax dollars, accomplishing nothing, and even worse -- it's just a feel-good propaganda tool of the government.  U.S. media is only too happy to fill up their mindless hours of news segments with official crap from the bureaucracy.

What got me on this rant?

I watched C-Span's BookTV tonight.  For those of your who aren't junkies, BookTV broadcasts authors' presentations on their book tours, usually at libraries, universities, civil organizations, and bookstores.  It's rather interesting, if you like non-fiction books.

One broadcast segment tonight was for the book that came out in October of this year, entitled "Unsafe At Any Altitude," by authors Joseph and Susan Trento.  If you are interested in post-911 topics, government cover-ups, or just fly often -- buy this book.  Simply checking the happy face website of the TSA with a Christmas wreath around its seal should tell you a lot about this do-nothing federal bureaucracy.

And the sham goes on.

When 9-11 happened, the FBI and Justice Department covered up their own inadequacies and failings from public scrutiny by spotlighting.  Spotlighting is a psyops method where you shift blame by simply moving the spotlight and public scrutiny to another entity. When someone accuses you, you simply point out the failings of another.  And, if the weight and power of the U.S. federal government decides to spotlight one of its own powerbroker insiders, the media can get mindless in its bloodlust sucking up the chum.

Apparently, the FBI decided to blame-shift Argenbright security, a private corporation contracted by the airlines.  While that part of the story is more complicated to explain than I have time and space here to use, let me just put it this way -- it was easier for the FBI to blame the failings of security screeners working for Argenbright than it was to explain why the FBI didn't know that the CIA had lost or allowed known terrorists off their leashes.

Fun Facts

Before 9-11, private companies like Argenbright contracted with the airline industry to provide airport security and passenger screening.  It cost the airline industry about $700 million a year.  Now, under the federal bureaucracy of the TSA, this same workforce and service costs about $6 billion each year.

Independent performance testing has shown that TSA security is only catching about 50% of the security violations that their previous non-government screeners used to catch.  These tests weren't done using nail clippers.  These tests were using bombs, and knives, and guns as test items.

The so-called No-Fly List maintained by the TSA is compiled from the input of some 16 other government agencies and contains over 55,000 names.  The utter uselessness of this final measure to insure your safety is simply breath-taking.

I feel totally confident about one thing concerning the TSA.  As a federal bureaucracy, the TSA will still be spending billions of dollars every year long after George Bush is dead and buried, just like the multi-billion dollar DEA does for the memory of president Richard M. Nixon.

The cover-up of 9-11 related information is clear.  The FBI seized videotapes all over the country that Tuesday.  Why were federal agencies so easily able to ID the hijackers so quickly?  They had known about them for some time.  Several of them were from the Saudi Intelligence service who were actually double agents for al-Qaeda.  That's why the Bush/Cheney White House protected the Saudis from all inquiries about 9-11, and still does to this very day.

In one final insult to truth and reality, president Bush awarded the Secretary of the TSA, Norman Mineta, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday. "Good job, Normie."


Currently listening to:
Who's Next
By The Who

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