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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JfZ making a mess of the web
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Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Noah's Ark - a great story

Noah's Ark - Thunderstorms in the Imajica -- get it?

Here's a great story about a great story!  Noah's Ark ... Thunderstorms in the Imajica ... get it?!  As most people in many cultures know if they didn't sleep during their religious training (aka Sunday school, for you BACs), the book of Genesis tells the tale of Noah's Ark.  This is part of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic teaching.

Yesterday, at a National Press Club briefing in Washington DC, Daniel P. McGivern revealed new images taken last Summer by DigitalGlobe's Quick Bird, the world's highest resolution commercial imaging satellite, of what he believes to be Noah's Ark.

Why do I think this is a great story?  All the angles to it.  Well, McGivern plans on taking an expedition team this Summer up Mount Ararat.  Oh, BTW -- Mount Ararat is in Turkey -- it's not that pile of rubble that the PLO leader calls a compound in Ramallah.  So, anyway, you've got the cultural/religious angle to this story.  Expedition team members will likely be of all three faiths I've already mentioned.

Then, you've got the political angleMount Ararat, itself, has been like a US-USSR Cold War version of a Star Trek forbidden planet with a Federation warning beacon orbitting it for all those decades.  And from the slight discrepancies in McGivern's statements I've read in various news sources around this only-slightly-dry-mudball we call Earth, politix is going to continue to play a part in this upcoming drama.

McGivern is still waiting for official approval from Ankara (Turkey) for his planned expedition this Summer.  In a Zaman Daily article, he plays footsie on what could be a touchy issue with the Turkish government, saying:

"We will not make any excavations, nor will we remove anything. We will simply takes photos, and, if God permits, all of you will see them."

But back in the US, he's a little more excited when he's quoted by National Geographic:

"We're telling people we're 98 percent sure," said McGivern, a member of the Hawaii Christian Coalition. "In one image we saw the beams, saw the wood. I'm convinced that the excavation of the object and the results of tests run on any collected samples will prove that it is Noah's ark."

And even more so, in his own company's press release:

"These new photos unequivocally show a man-made object," said Mr. McGivern. "I am convinced that the excavation of the object and the results of tests run on any collected samples will prove that it is Noah's Ark."

Sorry ... Manufacturing Consent snuck up on me again just now.  It's very likely Ankara will give approval for excavation as one of the expedition team leaders, Dr. Arslan, worked in the Turkish Prime Minister's office -- a little trivia fact not published in the Turkish newspaper, Zaman Daily -- calling him a local mountaineer, instead. Heh.  Anyway, there's the politix of getting anything cool done, eh?

Then, there's the scientific/technological angle to this story.  Two words: Quick Bird.  And surely, the National Geographic society won't be the only organization to write about this in upcoming months.  You've got an archaelogical find from the Sumerian period on your hands here.

Oh, back to the religious angle -- here's a question for Christians.  What would strengthen your faith more, seeing the Passion of the Christ or hearing that scientists found some frozen, but salvageable, DNA samples to test up there on Ararat?

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Mad Mad House

All of us are Alts in some way ...
Click to explore MMH
While most of the talking heads in the media seemed to be re-establishing their decades old love-hate relationship with self-promoting billionaire, Donald Trump, and gossipping over the lies of Amarosa and the other contestants on the reality show, The Apprentice -- in some sort of sick and twisted, post-Enron, kiss-and-make-up PR campaign with american big business -- it was a Mad Mad House around here.

Mad Mad House was Sci-Fi Channel's foray into reality television.  While it hasn't been officially announced yet, it's likely that the success and popularity of this show will enable some form of this series to air again, next season -- just to give you a heads-up -- and in case you're totally clueless about MMH, here's the Sci-Fi show's premise:

People who live in different worlds have to live in the same house.

Did you know that there are practicing vampires in the United States? Or that the Wiccan religion is sometimes called "witchcraft"? And why, exactly, do nudists like being naked?

SCI FI invites you to experience life around the edges, in the colliding worlds of its newest alternative-reality series, Mad Mad House.

Five practitioners of "alternative lifestyles" — a Wiccan, a Naturist, a Modern Primitive, a Voodoo Priestess and a real-life Vampire (known collectively as the Alts) — rule the roost. Meanwhile, 10 ordinary folks move into the House as the Alts' Guests — and compete against one another for the $100,000 jackpot.

Our Guests will live out a Survivor meets The Real World meets The Osbournes lifestyle — and try to get along living under one roof together. The eclectic and unpredictable Alts will challenge them, judge them and eliminate them one by one — ultimately deciding which Guest is most fit for life in the Mad Mad House.

By the way, the show is over.  The final 2-hour episode already aired.  There was a winner.  But, people are still talking about it.  The show has its fanatics.  I live with one -- Helleena!  She answered a few questions for you:

Q. Did you see all the episodes of Mad Mad House?

A. No, I did not unfortunately.  I work until 11pm every Thursday night.  The first time I actually caught the show on Sci-fi while I was channel surfing one Tuesday night.

Q. Which episodes did you see?

A. The first show that I watched was when Brent was eliminated and that was only 20 minutes of that episode.  I missed the episode where Tim was eliminated.  Oh yeah, and the last half of the final episode.  I forgot to set my VCR to record for two hours instead of just one.

Q. Who was your favorite Guest and/or Alt, and why?

A. I don't have a favorite Guest, I liked alot of them.  As for the alts, I can say that I liked them all alot.  But, my favorite one would have to be Fiona.  She just seemed to be very in touch with herself and surroundings. Then again, in the same sense, she can be very mysterious and confrontational. Only when she feels that her space is being invaded. Oh yeah, don't let me forget Art.  He is just neat to be around and learn from. But truthfully, I loved all of the Alts.

Q. Who was your least favorite and why?

A. My least favorite Guest would have to be Kelly and Tim.  Tim was just way to obnoxious, loud, and too out spoken about the other Guests. He never knew when enough was enough and when to shut his mouth ... or to even behave himself appropriately.  Kelly just took everything way too personally.  Either she is a good actress and deserves an acadamy award, or she needs mental help.  Either way, she fits right into her choice of career -- Politics.

As for the Alts, I don't have a least favorite. Like I said before, I loved them all.

Q. What do you think of the way everyone was portrayed on the show?

A. Some where portayed as they should have been.  Eric seemed to love to cause trouble.  Nichole just wanted to please the Alts even if it meant kissing their asses.
MMH did not show the Alts as they really are.  Fiona was portrayed as a bitch, but if you read up on her at her web site, you would find out that she is really not like that at all.  I really wish that they would have shown more about Don The Vampire.  He seemed to be very distant from everyone.  When they did show him, he seemed very interesting.

Q. Which trial was your favorite and why?

A. My favorite would have to be Avacado's trial.  The guests had to play a game, like the kid's game of Memory.  Here is the catch -- he had a few of his friends help.  I know that it had to be a blast to be there in person watching the guests go from person to person trying to match up the fruits that lay under their flaps. That is the only clothing they had on, just the flaps.  Yeah, they were bare-ass nakedThen there was his last trial where they played treasure hunt with edible plants. Each time that they got the right plant, they had to remove a piece of clothing till they were all undressed.  I would just hope that if that was me, that it was warm out.  Oh yeah, and they only had on like 3 or 4 pieces of clothing each.

Q. Which trial do you think was the hardest for the guest to get through and why?

A. Well, there are two trials that I feel that were hard for the guests to go through.
One trial was Ta'shia's (saw it on the re-runs).  Each one of the guests were put in a hole in the ground and had animal parts poured over their heads. GROSS!  The other trial was the drinking of the blood.  That was Don the Vampire's trial.  I really don't know how they ever did that, but I am glad that I was not there.

Q. In your opinion, what was the craziest moment on the show?

A. Well, there are a few.  The night Kelly was eliminated.  It was like, "Boo-hoo,  pity me! No one likes me".  That only proves that she can not handle rejection.
Then there was the shopping trip when Nole ran out of the store with lingerie on with his ass hanging out, right on the downtown streets.

Q. Between Nichole and Jamie, who do you feel should have won and why?

A. Really, I do not know.  During the show Nichole was proving that she was physically able to do the trials.  Then again, she did tend to try to please the Alts too hard (kissing ass).  But when it came right down to it, she proved that she could be a better person by helping out her fellow Guests.  Jamie, on the other hand, only won one trial.  But, she also proved that she had the mind to do all the trials, too.  She really did learn something from all the Alts.  I think that the Alts made a good choice in Jamie as the winner. I am glad that it was them, and not me, picking a winner.

Q. Do you think that you could go through, and do, what the Guests had to do?

A. I really do not know.  I have would have to give it a try before I can really say that it is, or is not, for me.  But like all the Guests on the show, I would walk away with a lot more than I walked in there with.  I think that everyone is unique in their own way.  Everyone should respect that and try to learn from them.


Real life can be alot like the Imajica, I guess.  Yesterday morning, Ta'shia, the Voodoo Priestess, blogged " Jamie Prevails on the Hooks of Art's Reality, and I Tire of Eric's Nichole-Bashing ".  She hammers Eric.  The MMH fans are likely to be at the Sci-Fi channel web site tonight at 9pm, when the winner will be in their chat room.  Thinking about it, I guess if I was most similar to any of the Alts, myself, it would have to be Avacado, the naturist.  Clothes should be optional. 

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Monday, May 03, 2004
Yahoo-ey Political Opinion sites

Buy this book dammit!

I started my review of Political Opinion websites from the Yahoo directory listing, which is alphabetical, so that's the order in which they are listed here first.  The order in which they are listed is NOT a heirarchy of my preferences or recommendations. That's at the end.  I just asked myself the following seven questions concerning the web sites and tried to answer within the range I've specified.  The range of ratings is 1 to 5 and should be explanatory enough with the corresponding word descriptions I have used.  I hope my own political bias will have a lesser affect on the review of the web site by having a range of answers to mostly objective questions -- or questions, if subjective, are not really political in nature.

Rating these websites is just an exercise.  These ratings may prove to be meaningless to what you think is important.  A website could have a very narrow topical scope rating (1), have a geographic appeal or demographic audience the size of my basement (1),  be as updated as grandma's wardrobe (1), but could have a bunch of humorous political cartoons that are still funny and presented well on the site, so bookmark it (5)!

I've purposely omitted whether or not the web site should be categorized as liberal, conservative, or something in between -- I've left that up to you to decide for yourself.  I could have just as easily created a link to the Yahoo /Political Opinion/ directory listing, let you click away at them and discover like I did that half are dead web sites. I hope you find this listing helpful, useful, or interesting.  If you really like a site listed here, make a comment about it so others will know.

1. What is its scope, topically? - very narrow, limited, average, broad, very broad
2. What is its appeal geographically? - my basement, city, county, state, U.S.
3. How current is the site? - grandma's wardrobe, moldy, updated regularly, fairly recent, daily.
4. Is it interesting? - please kill me, yawnfest, not bad, pretty good, edge of my seat.
5. Is it informational?  - waste of bandwidth, within its scope, useful, very useful, bookmark it!
6. Is the site organized? - schizophrenic, junk drawer, navigable, very good, great.
7. Professional looking design? - very lame, okay, pretty good, very good, wow!

Help little kids ... buy the book!

Web Site Scope Appeal Updated Interesting Informational Organized Design
American Newspeak 2 4 2 4 3 3 2
satirical news journal celebrating the Orwellian face of the 1990s with cutting edge advances in the art of doublethink.

AmeriRoots 1 4 2 1 2 2 1
information center for conservative, reform, and libertarian grass roots politics.

ChickenHawk Database 1 4 4 4 3 5
New Hampshire Gazette feature which attempts to identify public persons who tend advocate military solutions to political problems, yet have personally declined to serve in the armed forces during wartime.

Dr. Politics 3 3 3 2 4 4 4
presents the views of Ted Rueter, a professor of political science at UCLA.

Full Disklosure 3 4 4 4 4 4
Nifty PHP-nuke message forum site for politix and some new-age topics

Newtopia Magazine 4 5 5 5 5 5 5
a modern sociological-culture review that examines how our politics and policies are reflected in arts, government, and humanities.

Quarterly Report 2 3 2 3 3 3 2
Political Commentary by James R. Audet

RealClearPolitics 3 5 5 3 4 1 2
featuring political commentary, talk show opinion, polling data, and election analysis.

The Soapbox 4 4 5 4 5 5 5
features views of the left and the right, reader submissions, and a message board.

Vague Politix 2 1 2 4 4 5 5
Fusing pop culture and politics, advocates "compassion with edge, cynicism with heart and flat-out dumb fun.

World Works Symposium 1 1 2 3 2 3 1
ongoing inquiry into how the world works (mindless political ramblings of a guy keeping a good domain name)

My overall observations and recommendations:

Definitely check out Newtopia Magazine.  Their current issue is about Culture Wars.

Definitely check out The Soapbox.  This parody of homeland security web info is very friggin' hilarious.

Pretty cool in their own special way:  Vague Politix, ChickenHawk Database, and Full Disklosure.

RealClearPolitics is informational, but just seems to be a lame ad revenue generating site.

Self-aggrandize at your own risk: World Works, Dr. Politics, Quarterly Report, American Newspeak, AmeriRoot.

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Sunday, May 02, 2004
Iraqi Prisoner torture at Abu Ghraib

It's all fun and games until your pix air on 60 minutes
As a follow-up to The Weasel-in-Chief speaks, here's some important information to consider.  As is the usual case, comments over on Plastic range from "See?  I told you America is evil" to the more useful variety.  Inevitably though, someone finds related information on the topic under discussion and I would just like to highlight some of it.

In an upcoming New Yorker magazine article, Seymour M. Hersh asks, " American soldiers brutalized Iraqi prisoners.  How far up does the responsibility go? "

If you're not aware of it, this story didn't start when 60 Minutes II aired the photos of Iraqi prisoners the other day.  Up and down the chain of command, the military has been investigating these allegations for many months.  It just came to public awareness when those pix became public.  Hersh obtained a copy of a fifty-three page investigative report by Major General Antonio M. Taguba which sheds a lot of light on this subject:

As the international furor grew, senior military officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. Taguba’s report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.

While it may convenient and expedient to point to the obnoxious photos and blame the enlisted personnel from the 372nd MP company in them, believe me when I say that other heads are going to roll, bigger fish will fry, and perhaps even GWB may reap what he has sown in Iraq, come November.

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Saturday, May 01, 2004
Weasel-in-chief speaks

Dubya is a weasel
" I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated, " Bush said. " Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. "
Just when I looked forward to blogging about less serious topics, another steaming pile of shit hits the fan concerning Iraq.

I just knew this story was going to explode sometime down the road back when I watched General Kimmet field increasingly hostile questions about these allegations from the press during his briefing that is sometimes aired on C-Span and cable news.

Photos of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners have surfaced and were aired on CBS' 60 Minutes II show.  These photos were front page news in Europe and in the Middle East, and now they're the big story here.  Personally, I share a deep disgust with the president's foreign policy in Iraq, the mistreatment of our soldiers there, and the fact the weasel-in-chief would even comment on it.

Just to balance out the piling-on effect a story like this inevitably has,
I posted these comments over on Plastic:

Having served in the Army for several years (luckily between wars), I was curious to find out a little more about these Military Police serving in some hell-hole in Iraq. I mean think about it: being in Iraq would be bad enough, but then to be in charge of a prison there too? I'm not making any excuses for professional soldiers who may have acted unprofessionally, I'm just exploring the story a little further to get a glimpse into the possible causes for this abhorrent unprofessionalism.

In October of last year, a writer for the Army's own Stars and Stripes interviewed people from this very MP unit, so I think the article entitled,
It's a whole new world for guardsmen and reservists, no longer 'weekend warriors' may be especially useful.

A survey was taken about the morale of these weekend warriors now serving full-time in Iraq.

Ninety three percent stated that unit morale was either average, low, or very low and eighty five percent stated their personal morale was similarly as bad.

"We are second-class soldiers," Staff Sgt. Richard Thompson said in an interview. "We are away longer from our families. We are assigned to jobs we're not trained to do. Our equipment is lacking."

Personally, I served 3 years in active duty overseas and then several years as a reservist. There is a difference in the attitudes toward full-time soldiers and that of reservists and guardsmen. This is very dangerous now that our country is relying so heavily on these part-time soldiers to carry out so many operations at the same time all over the world.

Poor morale means little retention of trained soldiers. More than half of surveyed soldiers in Iraq said they would not re-enlist because of the way they were being treated themselves. If the soldiers are not being treated well, how do you think they are going to treat the apparent enemy?

"Our generals need to face the reality here," said Master Sgt. C.J. Nouse, 39, from the 372nd MP Company. "Reserve members can't possibly keep this pace up. With deployments to Bosnia and for homeland defense, our families are continuing to suffer. Does anyone care?"

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