Saturday, September 23, 2006

Things Fall Apart

Yesterday, my good friend Mike lost the left rear tire off his Nissan Titan truck at 60 mph on the 101 freeway between Westlake Blvd and Hampshire Road. Fortunately, whether by dumb luck or God's grace, no one was hurt. Mike was able to pull his truck off to the side safely, and the tire, while bouncing up quite high, didn't hit any cars and didn't cross over into oncoming traffic. My friends and I, who were heading to lunch with Mike when it happened (two of us in his truck, two in a different car), were all quite amazed at the physics of this mechanical failure and circumspect about the possibilities of a different, tragic outcome. We were all glad that this accident didn't set up some huge chain reaction of mayhem and calamity. It's disconcerting to think that you are just the plaything of randomness; that at some critical point you have no control of events whatsoever; that cause and effect will inexorably go about its necessary business, no matter what you think or do. And yet, chance still cuts you a break from time to time. Why?

It's a mystery.

So, after reflecting on this troubling mystery last night and this morning, I felt I needed a release from the inexplicable, at least for a short time. And, strangely enough, the first thing I saw this morning when I logged on was Tim Fort's kinetic art presentation, a pleasant bit of planned artistic entropy...

which reminded me of that crazy Rube Goldberg Honda ad that aired in April 2003.

Who knew that the contrivances of art and advertising could be so much fun? But all too soon, I'm afraid, I'll be back to contemplating those worrisome existential absurdities. Alas.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tubes, Blogs, and a Scandal

YouTube is definitely the next wave on the internet. To get attention for yourself today, you've got to make a video. These word-ridden blogs are certainly destined for obscurity, if this trend continues. And to think, I just got started. Hmm...

Even Newsweek has an article this week on how the trend has moved toward "mass exhibitionism." Samuelson also notes that this exhibitionism is big business. This occured to me when I signed up with Blogger. Here's a huge community of bloggers that willingly put up Google ads with the hope that they'll collect a little extra change as their blog gets wildly popular. I haven't included Google ads on my blog...yet. How long will I be able to hold out? So far I haven't even been tempted, but then I don't really have a substantial audience. What happens if I get 10,000 hits a day? Will the temptation be too great for me to hold to my principle of not selling out to the capitalist machine? I'll save my lecture on personal integrity, selling out, and the root of all evil for later. That is, until I'm lonely, a girl, and 15 again. Hmm...

For now, let me take you back to an age of innocence--a time when only young rock and rollers with desire, voice, and sex appeal got the chance to make a video. Yes, it's the early 80's, when bands bounced about with cheap special effects and bad haircuts. The lyrics are inconsequential, but the energy is raw and real. I still love to listen to this song, even though I'm no longer a lonely, 15 year-old boy obsessed with a cute lead singer who was on MTV constantly. It takes me back, though, it really does. So, without further ado, I'll just say, "Goodbye to You."

What's in a game?

Since my last post was on a creepy game, I thought another post on some rather fun, uncreepy games was in order. IvyMike turned me on to these two gems:
  • Dicewars: Conquer contiguous territory by outrolling your opponents. IvyMike has strategy tips. [via]
  • Hyper Frame: Challenging mind puzzle is more fun than it should be. IvyMike claims he's got snaps of solutions for almost all the puzzles and will post them soon, but you won't do yourself any favors by cheating. You know how much I hate cheating. [via]
If you need more brain exercises, try Braingle.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gregor Awakes

Well here's a simple game to bring out your worst Kafkaesque nightmare.

Hat tip to melech.ric for pointing the way to the "game" and tapping into our deep-seated existential anxiety. Now, tell me, how often do you awake from uneasy dreams?

"AS Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes." --Franz Kafka (1883-1924), "The Metamorphosis"

Monday, September 18, 2006

Eureka! A Musical Mystery Solved

A little over three years ago in early March 2003, we were driving into the Huntington Library and Gardens, and KUSC was playing the most beautiful piece of music I had heard in a long time. We didn't catch the introduction to the piece--I think because it was wedged in as incidental music during an intermission of a Metropolitan Opera broadcast--so I didn't know what it was. But I was enthralled with a pensive, lyrical oboe cadenza right in the middle of what sounded like a symphony's slow movement.

I thought it might be an orchestral work by Debussy or Ravel, since it had that dreamy, impressionistic sound--so sad, so filled with romance and longing, so evocative of an unfulfilled desire. It surprised me with its simple beauty. A three-note theme from the woodwinds, the flutes calling above the bassoons, and then... the oboe rises up above pizzicato strings, fulfilling the promise of that theme with a melody so lovely, it is like the flow of water through a mountain brook. After this oboe aria runs its course, the orchestra surrounds the theme, fills it out with a swell of sound, only to simplify it again and bring it back to the woodwind's three-note call. But always the oboe returns, as sweetly as it first arrived, repeats its flowing melody, and creates a striking contrast to the previous orchestration. This music had captured my imagination.

By the time we parked our car and were ready to see the gardens, the movement was over, but the piece still hadn't ended. So, I never learned who composed it. And after gazing at the Ellesmere manuscript, smelling the roses near the Tea Room, admiring the springtime blooms in the Shakespeare garden, contemplating the Zen rock garden, and showing Ethan all those golden carp in the koi ponds, I just plain forgot to look it up in the KUSC playlists.

Over the last three and a half years, this simple oboe melody has haunted me. What piece of music was it? Who composed it? I purchased all of Debussy and Ravel's orchestral works, but it didn't belong to them. I did advanced searches on the internet looking for other impressionist composers, but to no avail. In July, I even emailed the KUSC staff, asking if anyone there could help me discover this mystery composer based on the date and time I had heard the tune. No one could help me. Email is just not conducive to humming a theme. And besides, by that time, the melody was beginning to drift into forgetfulness.

Well, today, serendipity returned to me during my 10-minute power nap after lunch. I awoke to the sounds of that very theme, coaxing me out of bed and sending me to the internet to discover the name of this composer and his elusive musical phantom.

"So, who is it?" you ask. "And what's the name of the work?"

Turns out that my guess was close. He's a romantic French composer who came a short time before Debussy (1862-1918) and Ravel (1875-1937). I'll give you one last chance to guess before I reveal.

It's Georges Bizet (1838-1875). And the theme I so adore is from the Andante-Adagio movement of his Symphony in C. You can have a listen to a short sample of the theme on Amazon if you like.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who lost track of this work. Bizet evidently wrote it as a student assignment at the Paris Conservatory when he was only seventeen years old. But he forgot about it completely, and so did history for a time. Musical scholars didn't discover it again until 1935; and on its first performance, it was deemed a romantic period masterpiece.

These musical prodigies never cease to amaze me. Now, I can't wait to hear the whole thing. And I thought I only liked Carmen.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Hike with Mike

Yesterday, Ethan and I went for a 4.75 mile hike in Wildwood with IvyMike. Our goal was to introduce Mike to the sewage processing plant and Lizard Rock. Mike's goal was to get us excited about geocaching. With a bit of sweat, dirt, and bushwhacking, I'd say we accomplished both. Instead of trying to describe this chapparal hike using only words, this time I've got pictures. (I'll try to let them do the talking, but you can't expect me to forgo words completely. Have I written a short blog post yet?)

Here's Ethan and I giving a thumbs up at the teepee as we take a water break and I check out my GPS.

Look! We made it to Paradise Falls. Anyone for a swim in algae-ridden Conejo Valley storm drain water? I didn't think so. Please don't dump your oil, chemicals, or trash in the gutters.

Ethan gives another thumbs up because we just found our second cache of the day. We managed to find four in all.

After passing by the sewage processing plant, Ethan takes a short rest on a bench in the middle of the steepest part of the trail up to Lizard Rock. If you draw a straight line from the right of Mike's GPS on the bench to the top of the snap, you can see Lizard Rock, that tiny spec on the crest of the ridge behind the dried yucca flower stems.

We made it to the top of Lizard Rock! The low point on the canyon trail is approximately 280 feet above sea level according to our GPS. So, from this point next to the sewage processing plant to the top of Lizard Rock, which is approximately 930 feet, we climbed 650 feet. Not bad, I'd say. In the background, to the left and down, you can see the teepee we left behind.

Another snap to verify that IvyMike made it to the top too. He's doing his best Austin Powers impersonation here, I guess. Notice the sewage processing plant 650 feet below. Oh, and note that Ethan is a little less comfortable when dad isn't holding him. It's the last 8 feet of Lizard Rock that gives him the willies. He's thinking, "Hey, Dad, get me off this rock! This isn't a Hitchcock film."

My first money shot. Lizard Rock, late afternoon sunlight cascading down, dried mustard plants in the foreground, the pensive hiker atop, admiring the view. (No, we'd didn't leave Ethan up there.) I expect some comments from Damonomad.

Ethan is heading down toward Mesa trail across the edge of the canyon. Another possible vertigo moment.

And here's what you see from that cliff-hugging trail--our very own sewage treatment processing plant. The wind was blowing in from the West through the canyon, so although it didn't smell bad up here, it was pretty ripe on the canyon floor below.

Here we are above box canyon, which is next to the Santa Rosa valley to the North. Ethan loves following the caution signs for the natural gas pipeline that runs alongside Mesa trail. Here, I think we fear an explosion.

An explosion of a different sort? No, this is just my second money shot. A scenic mountain that only a five-year old truly appreciates and never forgets to comment on. "That's not a rock! It's poo!"

Here we are on the gas pipeline. (This is becoming an unfortunate theme.) Notice that the light has a yellowish hue. This is due to a cloud of smoke from the Day fire that is moving across the sun. Santa Ana winds just started earlier that morning, so I'd say we're officially into fire season.

Just a cute snap of Ethan at the gate on Mesa trail. Next year, I guarantee he won't be able to get under it without crouching. See the smoke cloud coming in?

Mike and Ethan running over the last "speedbump" hill. I think they both are feeling a little tuckered out. Mesa trail runs like a ribbon out to Lizard Rock in the distance.

A snap of the ridgeline above Mesa trail, smoke coming in from the Northwest.

And finally back down to the trail head to rest our weary legs.

Thanks for the hike, Mike! Ethan had a great time and thought you were pretty funny. Next time we'll go find those caches on Santa Rosa trail.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Your Cheatin' Heart

My coworkers and I had a little discussion yesterday on academic cheating, plagiarism, and dishonesty. I didn't really think much about it then, as we were just relating stories of students we've had in our classes who tried to pass off essays that were not their own or who copied homework or exam answers from other students.

But this morning, as I searched for Aristotle's definition of tragedy, I found a link to a "free essay" on this very topic. So I hopped over to this site called that collects essays from a student community for "collaboration" purposes. In its FAQ, the site asks "Isn't the point of this site to help students cheat?" Its answer, of course, is "No." It's there to provide a "reference for students writing papers." Okay, I say to myself, then why call your site "eCheat"? Why not "eCollaborate"?

Then another FAQ, "If I turn in one of these essays as my own will I get caught?" The apparently honest answer to this question reveals a lot about how students view the academic enterprise:
"Most likely not. Most teachers are not very perceptive. However if you are caught the penalties may be severe. If you copy other people's work often you will impair your ability to do complex assignments and will end up hurting yourself. Don't allow the school system get in the way of your education."
This can almost be read as an open invitation to plagiarize. It shows a disrespect for teachers' ability (and/or desire) to ferret out cheating students. It downplays the consequences of cheating by saying only that they "may be severe" and not describing exactly what can happen--failing grade and dismissal from a university. And then, right after making a good point about how students only hurt themselves when they cheat, it offers a loaded statement disparaging the school system as an impediment to an education.

WHAT? I thought the school system was there to help you learn. The books we read and discuss and the writing assignments on those books are there to help you learn. Why does this site feel that making this comment will most effectively persuade those students who would be most tempted to plagiarize not to plagiarize? Why do those cheating students believe that the school system is holding them back? Are the assignments that teachers are handing out so odious and inconsequential to students today that this statement can pass as a generally accepted truth? Do students today value intellectual honesty less today because the school system has victimized them?

And don't let eCheat fool you, it's not all about sharing and collaborating. There's some money to be made. If you click the "Custom and Original Pre-written Papers Available" link, you can pay for their custom writing services to write a paper on any topic tailored to your exact specifications for just $19.95/page, Of course, if you just want an essay they already have in their giant database, you pay only $9.95/page.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised about how some unscrupulous folks are using the internet to exploit this economic niche. Students have always been under a great deal of pressure to produce quality work, and now they are willing to pay for that work when they are feeling lazy or need a shortcut to success. But if they don't want to pay for papers, many students do not seem to have any scruples about simply stealing content right off the web and using it as their own. Why? Because what used to be difficult, is now easy.

I'm just glad I'm no longer in academia, trying to police plagiarism. It does appear that there are tools out there, such as Turnitin and iThenticate, used to fight plagiarism; but clearly, the internet has created a new moral dilemma for the online community about what constitutes intellectual property and how to handle copyright and fair use when information is so easy to reproduce and share. The truth is that plagiarism upsets me because I hated having to confront students who were trying to pull a fast one on that gullible teacher. And I hated hearing the excuses that either blamed me and the system for making the work too hard, or simply amounted to an appeal to moral relativism. And I still believe that intellectual honesty is a virtue and not something that should be set aside at your convenience, when it helps you get what you want.

Political Comment Alert! Unfortunately, we see a betrayal of this virtue all the time in the realm of politics. Politicians will say anything to get into power and to stay in power. The Bush administration has become the champion of hypocrisy by claiming to adhere to strict moral standards, including intellectual honesty, when, in fact, acting in a dishonest way that undermines those very principles. Examples?
  • Manipulating pre-war intelligence to convince Americans that Iraq had WMDs, the intent to use them, and connections with Al-Qaeda terrorists.
  • Undermining environmental scientists who provide evidence that human beings are indeed contributing to global warming.
  • Supporting "intelligent design," as a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution.
  • Convincing themselves that the neo-conservative strategy for changing the Middle East is still working.
  • Rationalizing torture and illegal wire tapping as the only way to protect us from terrorists.
Unfortunately, I could go on and on. But now, I gotta get back to Aristotle.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Real Budget Deficit and Partisan Gridlock

Allan Sloan wrote an important column in this week's Newsweek about how the federal government calculates the budget deficit. The gist of his essay is that the budget deficit number the feds will come out with at the end of September, $260 billion, is not what Sloan calculates to be the real deficit, which is closer to $558 billion.

Why the huge discrepancy? The feds get their number by taking the difference between its revenue, cash coming in, and its expenditures, cash going out. Sloan notes that this is a good number to use when looking at how the deficit affects capital markets because this is how much money the government has to borrow from public investors. But this number leaves out what the federal government is borrowing from various trust funds. To quote Sloan:
"But Uncle Sam will also borrow almost $300 billion from federal trust funds: $177 billion from Social Security, and an additional $121 billion from 'other government accounts' such as federal-employee pension funds."
Sloan reminds us that if we use "real-world math," the math that every accountant in an American corporation must use, we must include this borrowing; and as a result, we get a much higher number.

Sloan's conclusion is that we shouldn't believe the Bush administration's hype about what a great job it is doing to reduce the budget deficit. He suggests that we need to turn this thing around before the financial risks become unmanageable and weaken our nation. How do we do this? He harkens back to the Clinton administration as a starting place:
"The budget situation was improving then and got to be pretty good—though not as good as the Clintonistas wanted us to believe—thanks to fiscal responsibility, a surge in revenues and partisan gridlock that reined in spending."
I quote this section because I wonder if "partisan gridlock" really is the key to "fiscal responsibility." Many partisans, both Republican and Democrat, bemoan their inability to push through their agendas when they must share power. But this may actually be a good thing for Americans, economically speaking, because it discourages spending on frivolous pork projects.

Now, I realize that you cannot really prove that partisan gridlock is the single cause for reduced spending during the Clinton administration. Pork didn't magically disappear during his term. Instead, you could argue that the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise can carry our economic interests and fiscal responsibilities as well as, if not better than, the contentious partisan conflict that held sway in Washington then, and as it still does today. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has shown that it has no interest in compromise and bipartisanship, even though it frequently pays lip service to these "principles." Rather, it uses the Republican controlled Congress as its rubber stamp. It ignores Democratic proposals and compromises. It steamrolls over Democratic opposition. It plays politics with our budget to make its party look good and to insure that its members get reelected.

After six years of total Republican control of the instruments of government, we can see the results of not having a balance of power in Washington--out of control spending on Republican pet projects, an "off-the-budget" war in Iraq that is costing us billions, and continued proposals for irresponsible tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy. The same conservative party that advertises itself as being "fiscally disciplined" has run up huge budget deficits and increased our national debt to $8.5 trillion.

If Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and the Executive branch, I think we might very well see this kind of reckless spending continue, only with Democratic pork projects taking priority rather than Republican ones (even now, under Republican leadership, Democrats still get their pork too). Historically, however, the difference has been that Democrats at least recognize that they have to pay as they go, usually through taxes, rather than ratcheting up our borrowing, which balloons our budget deficits and national debt.

So, at this point, I firmly believe our nation needs a check on Republican power, if only to restore some fiscal responsibility and accountability, even if that means, dare I say it, gridlock. Should the new wisdom be, "A government divided within itself cannot spend"? I think so. For the good of the economy, I say, "Bring back partisan gridlock!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Speaking in Typo

For beleaguered writers everywhere slaving away at their copy, only to be undone by their editor. Here's John Stewart checking in with Stephen Colbert. Comic genius at work.

Wildwood Wonders

Today was one of those glorious mornings in Wildwood Park. After living in Thousand Oaks for 26 years, I've noticed that the Conejo Valley is a battleground between the ocean and the desert. The ocean frequently sends its cool moist air through the canyons to take the chapparal by storm (well, by fog, usually), only to have it beaten back by the arid siroccos blowing off the California desert. Well, this morning the ocean was winning this ongoing struggle.

At 7:00 A.M. I headed out on the service road past parking lot 1 and down into the barranca. As I descended into the misty fog that filled the canyon, the rising sun glowed orange behind the layer of smoke that is drifting across our valley from the Day fire burning in the Los Padres forest 1o miles northwest of Castaic. Scattering the ubiquitous rabbits as I went, I ran alongside the algae-infested creek and up over the optimistically named cascade, Paradise Falls. (Milton would disagree, of course. There's always so much to regain.)

Then, there's the climbing up out of the canyon, past the iconic large wooden teepee, which no self-respecting Chumash native person would be caught dead in, and onto the ill-named Stagecoach Bluff trail. Stagecoach Bluff trail is barely wide enough for mountain bikes, extremely rocky, very steep in places, and edged with prickly pear cactus, spiny yucca, and manzanita bushes. How anyone thought a stagecoach could possibly have traversed such a bluff is beyond me. But it does stir romantic connotations of the wild ol' west, with cowboys, Indians, and ladies in distress. Although today you're much more likely to encounter a lady in distress due to dehydration or rattlesnake than Indian. But we should indulge the old timers from the Conejo Valley who named this trail. They wanted to preserve the Ronald Reaganesque hard-working rancher, straight-shootin' cowboy mystique that the original settlers here idealized (even though from what I can tell they were only simple farmers). And who can blame them now that our valley has completely fallen to the armies of progress, that onslaught of suburban expansion?

So, after traversing the Stagecoach bluff trail, I headed up again, this time toward the top of Lizard Rock. This Wildwood landmark actually has an appropriate name. When you are at the top of the first little hill at the entrance to the park and you look west across the Mesa trail, the outcrop of volcanic breccia actually does look like a lizard's head sticking out from the top of the ridge. Now the trail to the top of Lizard Rock is steep and difficult. It runs along the edge of a cliff on one part, overlooking the Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant. This essential facility often fills the canyon and ridges above with the lovely perfume of chemically treated excrement that only 127,000 residents can consistently provide. If these odors offend you, try to visit the park on a day when the Santa Ana winds are blowing out to sea. You may be dry, hot and thirsty, but the air will be filled with a potpourri of sage, oak, and chapparal grasses. Today, however, since the ocean was winning its epic struggle with the desert, I got a snout full of vile smelling wastewater effluence as I climbed to the top.

But once I got past the cliff, up over the last rocky climb, and through the scratchy dried out mustard plants dangling across the trail, I witnessed something that you can only see maybe a half dozen times during the year. I stood on top of Lizard Rock at 931 feet above sea level and looked out over a landscape that was blanketed in fog. I was standing on a small island of rock in an ocean of white cloud. I looked to the South toward Newbury Park and couldn't see any of the housing developments that surround Amgen. I looked to the East to see the fog flowing into Wildwood Canyon, like an icy sea into a fjord. I turned around and looked North and West toward the Santa Rosa valley and all the ranch houses and farm fields had disappeared, tucked under this white comforter. A flat layer of white cloud had moved up from the Camarillo plain, through the canyons and valleys, and was reaching out with its ghostly fingers, clinging to the sharp ridges of Box Canyon and flowing silently through the undulations of the rugged hills that rim the edge of our valley. I felt fatigued from the climb, but exhilarated by the sight.

And whenever I stand at that height, reflecting on this natural wonder, I always think of these lines from Wordsworth's Ode:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
It may not be paradise exactly, but such a beautiful sight always fills me with a child's sense of wonder. So, with spirit refreshed, "then off, off forth on swing," I headed back down the mountain. I ran past the huge stand of prickly pear cactus, which I like to call the Brer rabbit warren since the rabbits flee to safety there. I flew across the rolling Mesa trail (I like to think I was flying, at least). And I pushed it over the two "speed bump" hills to finish my 4+ mile run at the trail head. I ran it in 36 minutes, 12 seconds today, which is only 19 seconds off my best time of 35:53. Gotta be pleased with that.

One last note: if you want to see the sea of cloud from atop Lizard Rock, you have to find the perfect weather conditions and be there at just the right time. If you go too early or the temperature and weather pattern isn't right, the whole valley, including Lizard Rock, will be inundated with fog. If you go too late, even if the weather conditions are just right, all the fog is gone. On my run, I usually get to the top of Lizard Rock by 7:30, and I only get to see this maybe two or three times a year. I'm guessing the fog in the canyon and valley today lasted until 8 or 9. Our foggy times are intermittant and unpredictable (you never know when the ocean is going to win a battle), so it's impossible to predict when this will occur. I just rely on serendipity and enjoy it when I can.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 Consciousness

I know many folks are tired of all the 9/11 "coverage" in the MSM. And who can blame them when the Bush administration uses 9/11 relentlessly to advance its own devious right-wing agenda?

Still, there's something about 9/11 that seeps into my consciousness like water into a wall. At first you don't even know it's there. You place your palm on the sheetrock. Is it damp or just cold? Then you recognize the glistening sheen of water forming above you. See the pull of gravity around that one drip. That crystalline bead of water that hangs desperately from the ceiling. How long can it hold out? That one desperate drip clinging to ceiling, taught with tension, for what seems like an eternity. And then in a blink, it falls silently into the silver stock pot you brought up from the kitchen.

So, this is what I was thinking at 5:00 A.M. this September 12th, when I awoke from uneasy dreams that swirled around crumbling towers and the dazed looks on ash-powdered firemen and grief-stricken New Yorkers. Here it is 5 years later, and the media has pumped in a deluge of images into my consciousness again, that rainwater in my attic that will leave the brown stains of remembrance that are impossible to paint away. We may want to deny that this has an effect on us. We may want to translate the horror of that day into the comfortable understanding of myth. But the images are too terrible. The sound of the businessmen crashing onto the street are too raw to dismiss. The destruction of such a monumental structure is too compelling to just put aside.

Tragedy and destruction always fascinates and repells us, in turns, especially when it is our own. The 9/11 coverage forces us to relive the day when we were thinking not just about the death of thousands, but our own death. What would we do if we were working in one of the towers? How would we respond if we were a part of the rescue team? How would we live our last moments if we knew our plane had been hijacked? These are the questions that we faced on that day and that we are compelled to face again when we choose to watch the 9/11 story again. And this may be why we get sick of the coverage. 9/11 shook us out of our complacency and continues to rouse us out of our mindless daily routines. 9/11 compelled us to face an abyss more terrifying than the attacks themselves, the abyss of our own inevitable demise. And who in this country is ever comfortable with that thought?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The "War" Metaphor

For those of you interested in language and framing, George Lakoff as an interesting analysis of the "war" metaphor. But most important, I think Lakoff's article nails the true motives for America's "war on terror".

Here's the key paragraph:
"The right-wing strategy was to use the American military to achieve economic and strategic goals in the Middle East: to gain control of the second largest oil reserve in the world; to place military bases right in the heart of the Middle East for the sake of economic and political intimidation; to open up Middle East markets and economic opportunities for American corporations; and to place American culture and a controllable government in the heart of the Middle East. The justification was 9/11 -- to identify the Iraq invasion as part of the "War on Terror" and claim that it is necessary in order to protect America and spread democracy."

These reasons may actually support our national interests, but they are never offered by the administration in support of their wars. Instead, they only sell fear and pander to patriotism. Easier to convince the masses that way.