Sunday, May 29, 2011


Apparently President Obama didn't actually sign the four-year extension of the Patriot Act. After all, he's in Europe. It would be inconvenient.

Instead, he authorized having it signed by the Autopen, which is used to reproduce his signature on things like letters from the White House.

Making history. Indeed.

Inquiring minds begin to wonder: We've got the TOTUS (Teleprompter Of The United States) and the ASSUS (Automatic Signature Signer of the United States) on this side of the Atlantic.

Maybe Obama could just stay in Europe, and leave TOTUS and ASSUS to run things over here?

Monday, May 23, 2011

President speak with forked tongue

OK, okay. Everybody and his brother, including Mr. Netanyahu, seems convinced that President Obama really truly meant that Israel-Palestine negotiations should start with the indefensible pre-Six-Day-War borders. Has nobody explained to this man (I mean our leader, not Israel's) that you don't start negotiations by announcing what one side has to give up? My grandfather the horse trader could have taught him a thing or two. But then, my grandfather the horse trader could have traded Abbas a blind mule in return for giving up the right of return and recognizing Israel...and he would have made the PA leader think he was getting a good deal. It's really unfair to expect the constitutional law professor from Harvard to dicker as well as a semi-literate poor white man.

But that's not the forked tongue part. That came during his speech to AIPAC.

First: I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.

Very next paragraph: And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.

So...Israel can't be expected to negotiate with Hamas/Fatah, except Israel must negotiate with Hamas/Fatah ?!?!?

Oh, well. Every so often I start to get upset about the President's predilection for backing Israel into a corner before peace negotiations even start. Then I remember that it's all froth upon the water, because as even he agrees, you can't negotiate with somebody who will accept nothing less than your total destruction.

But it's poisonous froth. Israel's position is perilous enough without creating the world perception that America no longer supports her.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yes, but which 1967 borders?

Everybody I know is jumping up and down and screaming about Obama's comment that Israel should return to "the 1967 borders." I'm curious about the ambiguity here. Does he mean the borders of May 1967, when Israel was about 9 miles wide in the middle and had the West Bank and the Golan Heights looking down on them? Or does he mean the borders of July 1967, when Israel had Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and all of the Sinai? See, there was this little war in June 1967. It changed the shape of the map quite a bit.

A purely intellectual question, this. There is no peace process. Israel cannot make peace with people whose avowed object is to destroy Israel. As long as Palestinian kindergartens teach their children hatred and "martyrdom," all this haggling about borders and settlements is like the Federal government going after medical marijuana while an apocalyptic drug war sweeps up from Mexico and across our southern borders....Oh, wait. That's happening too. Um, it's like cutting $53 billion from the budget when we're over 14 trillion in debt?...Oops, another bad analogy.

Where are the grownups when we need them?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's here!

The wide-format printer, that is. It's... um... large. Very large. And heavy. All I've accomplished so far is scrubbing the place where it's going to sit, because it's pretty clear I'm not going to be picking this sucker up every week to dust under and around it. And I have retired to the living room to peruse the 150 page manual.

Fortunately, a quick glance at the manual reassures me that I don't have to absorb anything like 150 pages of information. Wide borders, lots of space between paragraphs, lots of diagrams, and the usual safety instructions for morons. Like,

"This printer weighs 43 pounds. If you use a stand for the printer, make sure it can support at least 43 pounds."

"Take care not to spill liquid on the printer."

"For California customers only: The lithium batteries in this product contain Perchlorate Material." Which raises rather more questions than it answers. Is Perchlorate Material dangerous only in California? Or do they ship non-Perchlorated batteries to the other 49 states? And this thing plugs into the wall, in fact they're quite frantic about using the provided power cord and no other - so what the heck are the batteries for?

And, my personal favorite: "Do not drink the ink in the cartridges."

Enough hard thinking for one day; I'm going out for Mexican food with husband, one of my many brothers-in-law who happens to be in town, and the Elder Spawn, who just arrived after a hectic day at work and fell on the couch saying, "I need a drink. And food. And did I mention a drink?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A magical evening

Okay, it's not my favorite opera. In fact, it's probably my least favorite Mozart opera. The music is great, but the pompous, misogynistic libretto always annoys me. So this weekend's performance offered a threefer. A ballet choreographed by Stephen Mills. Mozart's music. And no words! Just ninety minutes of wonderful dancing and innovative scenes (they used shadow-puppet type screens for things like the serpent at the begining and Pamina and Tamino's trials by water and fire at the end.) Papageno was brilliantly done, with a flock of dancers in brilliant tutus following him as his "birds" - a lot better than having him carry the traditional cage. The pas de deux of repentance and forgiveness between Pamina and Sarastro brought tears to my eyes.

Just one quibble, and it's a minor one. Sarastro is supposed to be a great, wise, benevolent magician, the foil to the evil Queen of the Night (which always leads me to speculate: if he's all virtue and she's all vice, how did they get together to beget Pamina?). Anyway, I've never heard a Sarastro who was half as impressive as the Queen of the Night, but I thought that might be the fault of the pompous, mystical, misogynistic lines he's given.

Alas, even in ballet he just isn't very convincing. Maybe that's because of the intrinsic difficulty of portraying Good vs. Evil. (After all, in Paradise Lost, Lucifer has all the best lines.) Then, the costuming for this production didn't help: difficult for any man to look great and impressive in a white dress and ballet slippers. When he was joined by six priests in slightly shorter white dresses and they all started pirouetting around the stage I found myself thinking that it's been a long time since I read Greenmantle, and that triggered what they reminded me of: whirling dervishes.

Anyway, apart from the whirling dervishes, it was a fine ballet and I hope it has many more performances. Even Steve enjoyed it, though being ignorant of the plot he seldom had any idea what was supposed to be going on. I did try to explain to him that the "plot" of this particular opera is of such mind-numbing stupidity that it's impossible for the human brain to retain it, but he kept squinting at the program notes and trying to make sense of it. Having heard the opera enough times to know there is no sense to be made, I was able to just relax and enjoy the dancing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The joy of digital printing

I'm getting a wide-format printer!!!

I'm in the middle of making my second art quilt using digital photos (the first is lying around waiting for me to add some hand embroidery and beads and stuff, which is why I haven't posted any pictures of it yet) and have decided that I really really love incorporating photographs into my work and want to do more of it. A lot more. And being limited to an 8x11 size is frustrating in a lot of ways, not least being that I frequently want to print non-rectangular images and these get pretty darn small when you squeeze them down inside an 8x11 rectangle.

So...Wide format. Pigment inks. It's in the hands of FedEx even as I write this.

The possibility of being able to print nice large 16x20 images has revived my interest in digital photocollage; I did a lot of that some years ago but eventually lost interest because I couldn't print the collages out large enough to make the imagery really part of the quilt. I like to play around with masks and layering and subtle merging of images, and something like the photo above would only look like a small dark blotch at 8 x 11. This would be even worse:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Champagne and Fireworks

That's how Austin was feeling last night, when the news of Osama Bin Laden's death was announced. Who says revenge is a dish best eaten cold? I would have preferred this revenge served up hot and sizzling on September 12, 2001. But even after nearly ten years, it's pretty tasty. It's not an end to much of anything - I'm sure the Taliban and Al-Qaeda aren't going to beat their AK-47's into ploughshares just because Dear Leader is gone - but it's a tasty morsel all the same.

It would have been even tastier if the President had used this as an occasion to announce, "Our work here is done and we're bringing our troops home from Afghanistan." Sounds so much better than "We've been here for ten years and we're not making any progress and we're leaving," which would be my second-choice announcement. Oh, well.

(Now if I were Osama, I'd have stashed away, oh, 40 or 50 non-event-specific videos ranting against the Great Satan with instructions to release them slowly over the next ten years just to keep Americans doubting and worrying. Let's hope Bin Laden wasn't as sneaky as I am.)
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