Saturday, March 31, 2007

USDA's Secret Plan to Enforce NAIS

Please, copy the following, send it to everyone you know, post it to blogs and newsgroups, and send it to your state and federal Representatives and Senators. It is very important that you do so...

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USDA Internal Handbook Advises Animal-Identification Staff to Address Farmers “at the Sixth Grade Level”

The USDA’s confidential “NAIS How-To Handbook,” intended for non-public distribution to Federal and State NAIS personnel, reveals an aggressive campaign to implement NAIS in the face of farmer opposition by strictly controlling communications, manipulating media coverage, concealing the original NAIS program documents, and discrediting opponents.

A USDA “NAIS (National Animal Identification System) How-To Handbook,” most recently revised in February 2007, instructs all State and Federal NAIS staff aggressively to promote the supposedly “voluntary” premises ID program. The goal of the campaign and the How-To Handbook is to “increase . . . premises registration results” and to promote during 2007 not only “continued growth in premises registration,” but also the “adoption of animal ID and tracing.” (Handbook, p. 1; USDA’s NAIS Community Outreach bulletin, Feb. 2007, p. 1.)

The Handbook demands uniformity and strict adherence to four “key messages” that staff are to present to audiences of farmers when promoting NAIS. As described by the USDA, these “key messages” “are organized into topic categories and supported with concise sentences. They are designed for an audience reading at the sixth grade level.” (Handbook, p. 41.)

The Handbook originally was designed for a meeting in Kansas City in late October 2006, attended by a total of 132 “State ID Coordinators, Federal ID Coordinators, and members of various livestock industry associations.” (NAIS Community Outreach bulletin, Dec. 2006, p. 1.) The meeting was designed to train all NAIS personnel to adhere strictly to “a communications campaign currently being implemented at the National level.” (Handbook, p. 3.) After the original USDA mandatory NAIS plan, set forth in the Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards of April 2005, met with an unexpected level of strong opposition from farmers and animal owners, the USDA hired a public-relations firm to analyze the opposition and repackage NAIS with a more congenial-sounding message. (Presentation by Dore Mobley, USDA/APHIS information officer, at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s “ID Expo,” August 2006.)

The apparent upshot of the professional public-relations advice was USDA’s completely new marketing campaign for NAIS, implemented in the fall of 2006. Crucial components of the marketing campaign included the Oct. 2006 Kansas City meeting, the Handbook and related promotional materials, and the release of the “NAIS User Guide” in November 2006.

When the USDA launched its new public-relations campaign for NAIS in the fall of 2006, the agency at the same time removed from its website the original NAIS documents, i.e., the Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards of April 2005. The common criticism of NAIS as “Orwellian” relies in significant part upon the USDA’s expungement of the Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards from the USDA site. The November 2006 “User Guide” stated that it superseded all previous program documents for NAIS. (User Guide, front cover.)

The “new” NAIS approach: emphasize “voluntary,” but aggressively pursue the maximum number of premises IDs and prepare for individual animal ID and animal tracking. The declared purpose of the Handbook is to “increase . . . premises registration results” (p. 1). Its primary goal is to “contribute significantly toward NAIS premises registration totals,” and reach “NAIS premises registration goals” (p. 4). Animal ID staff are told to emphasize “which messages hit home,” that is, which messages increase premises registration (p. 6). Staff are told to avoid wasting effort on strongly anti-NAIS audiences and instead direct effort toward “On The Fence” or “Pro-NAIS” “targets,” to maximize the number of premises signed up (pp. 7-8). Staff are advised not to “invest[ ] time” in “Anti-NAIS producers” and instead “locate and motivate more favorable individuals” (p. 9). While staff are to tell farmers that participation in premises ID will not compel them to participate in either individual animal ID or animal tracking (Handbook, p. 42), at the same time, staff are to pursue the second and third components of NAIS, “adoption of animal ID and tracing,” during 2007. (NAIS Outreach bulletin, Feb. 2007, p. 1).

USDA promulgates a unified, monolithic message to be used by all NAIS staff. The main purpose of the Kansas City meeting, the Handbook, and the USDA-promulgated advertising and outreach materials has been to focus the NAIS State and Federal staff on a consistent strategy and to prevent staff departures from the USDA-mandated NAIS “message.” As the USDA tells Federal and State NAIS staff, “The Handbook is designed to complement a communications campaign currently being implemented at the National level” (p. 3). The goal is to “change the perceptions of individuals who may be misinformed or confused about the details of the NAIS program.” Staff must use “uniform messages” (p. 4) and carefully follow the instructions on the “APHIS-led communication and information network” (p. 5). Federal and State NAIS staff must conform to “the key messages USDA will use at the national level” (p. 12). “USDA spokespersons are using the messages provided in the Appendix [of the Handbook] to provide consistent information at the national and local level. These messages will be used in speeches, print materials, media interviews and elsewhere” (p. 14). With apparent unconscious irony, at the very time the USDA is enforcing staff adherence to the precise assigned “messages,” the agency simultaneously acknowledges that a common objection voiced by farmers to NAIS is that the program “sounds like Big Brother government” (p. 7). Should it appear that all government presentations on NAIS are beginning to sound alike — well, they are all alike, precisely alike, and it’s by careful design.

USDA instructs Federal and State staff on how to manipulate media coverage of NAIS. The USDA makes clear to NAIS staff that spontaneous responses to the media are not acceptable. As to Federal NAIS employees, we are told, “Federal staff are not authorized to handle media interviews.” Federal staff must refer all media matters to the USDA Legislative and Public Affairs Office (p. 16). Staff are encouraged, however, to use such controlled channels as op-ed pieces, letters to the editor to correct “misinformation,” and canned interviews with experts; the USDA urges staff to rely on the “complete message control” available by communicating through a NAIS website (p. 17). The properly authorized expert communications staff are encouraged to pitch canned pro-NAIS stories to the media, to attempt to influence media editorial content through attending editorial board meetings, and to compose “opinion pieces” “to explain the value of premises registration” (p. 19).

USDA reveals results of its NAIS “Opposition Analysis” and creates standardized responses to the NAIS opposition. The NAIS How-To Handbook’s treatment of the “NAIS Opposition” carefully portrays this opposition as nameless and faceless, and avoids specifying the exact points upon which the opposition arguments are based. The USDA implies that the opposition consists of insignificant “groups and individuals” who are just somehow “mistaken”: “The opposition’s information is largely based on misinformation and misunderstanding, but their zeal and emotion appeal is real” (p. 22).

Although the USDA studiously avoids naming its NAIS opponents, in fact they include: a growing list of groups such as the Northeast Organic Farming Association, R-CALF, the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, the National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders, Community Farm Alliance of Kentucky, Rural Vermont, Cattle Producers of Washington, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association. Some of these groups have sponsored the introduction of antiNAIS legislation in at least 9 states in the 2007 legislative session. Similarly, the unspecified “individuals” opposed to the USDA’s implementation of NAIS in fact include medical doctors, information-technology professionals, financial planners, entrepreneurs, lawyers, public-interest lobbyists, and former government employees.

The USDA’s Handbook repeatedly refers to NAIS opponents’ “misinformation,” but fails to specify any statement of the opponents that is other than completely accurate. The USDA’s most detailed list of “opposition” statements, on pp. 23-24 of the Handbook, dates from January through August 2006 and does not identify any specific individuals as sources for the statements. The websites from which the statements are taken permit comments and postings by visitors, and the USDA’s quotations are not attributed to random visitors, more formal opposition statements, or any other particular source. One statement, the last under “Theme 3: Civil Liberties” (p. 23), obviously refers to the Real ID Act (a common ancillary topic of discussion on many NAIS opposition sites), and not to NAIS at all. Indeed, nearly all the statements the USDA quotes under “Opposition Themes” (pp. 23-24) are in fact quite accurate for their time frame of Jan. - Aug. 2006. During those months, the operative NAIS documents were the Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards, which did indeed impose a fully mandatory NAIS by 2008/2009 and did indeed require the participation of all common livestock species, the microchip or RFID individual identification of nearly all animals except factory-farm chickens and pigs, and the reporting of all animal “movements” and changes of status (birth, death, sale, purchase, slaughter, and all travel off-premises) within 24 hours. Only in subsequent documents did the USDA begin to waver as to some of the original requirements of the Draft Strategic Plan. And not until the USDA’s release of the User Guide in November 2006 did the USDA’s stated policy become “voluntary” rather than “mandatory” NAIS.

Even the USDA’s most comprehensive public-relations campaign can’t sell a bad NAIS system to justly skeptical farmers. The USDA’s Handbook, like its User Guide and its present NAIS approach generally, repeatedly speaks of needing to “correct” or adjust farmers’ attitudes or beliefs about NAIS. Why doesn’t the USDA actually examine the possible flaws in the design, the reasoning of, and the justification for NAIS, and abandon this unwanted and unwarranted intrusion of bureaucracy and technocracy into the lives of farmers and animal owners? Why is the USDA, as is so obvious throughout the Handbook, concerned only with appearance or “perception,” and not with reality?

For all that the USDA may think that farmers function “at the sixth grade level” (Handbook, p. 41), farmers seem to be just too smart to be lured by even the USDA’s most prettily baited NAIS hook. In January 2007, the USDA conducted NAIS “focus groups” in Sacramento, California, Springfield, Missouri, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (NAIS Community Outreach bulletin, March 2007, p. 1.) The participants in the “focus groups” were all livestock producers. The purpose of the “focus groups” was to gauge farmers’ responses to elements of the unified USDA NAIS public-relations campaign, particularly, the new NAIS promotional brochures and the USDA-imposed “key messages” for promoting NAIS. These farmers thus received only the USDA pro-NAIS messages and no “opposition” information. By the USDA’s own admission, these farmers, even after intensive exposure to the USDA’s well orchestrated campaign, would not accept premises registration. The USDA’s “key findings” about the attitudes of the focus-group farmers after they had received the USDA’s (and only the USDA’s) side of the NAIS story are:

“Respondents view NAIS as unwanted government intervention.”

“Current NAIS messaging and brochures will not necessarily motivate producers to register premises.”

So, after several years and multiple millions of dollars’ worth of pro-NAIS propaganda, farmers still want no part of NAIS. Perhaps the USDA should begin to entertain the notion that farmers might not be so “misinformed” after all. Maybe farmers are simply justifiably mistrustful of a government agency that insists on treating the very people it is supposed to serve like children.

Mary Zanoni, Ph.D., J.D.
P.O. Box 501
Canton, NY 13617
315-386-3199
mlz@slic.com

Monday, March 26, 2007

I am such a giant nerd

I'm thinking that if I ever get a gun, just for fun, just for a show piece, I want a little derringer like the one up Ezra's sleeve in "The Magnificent Seven," silver with a pearl handle (which I realize you can't really see in the image below)...



but I want it engraved somewhere with "non timebo mala " ("I will fear no evil") like the Colt on "Supernatural."



Totally giant nerd = me.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Potter Puppet Pals





Easter Egg:







This... is very wrong...

Because I need some funny...

And if these work, here's the whole episode "Tall Tales" (yes, it's that good - watch, get hooked, tune in on the CW, Thursday nights, 9 o'clock eastern):







Yeah, yeah, my obsession continues...

SPOILER SPACE...

F
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H
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Watched the ep of Supernatural that I missed Thursday, "Heart"... Now, I'm watching "Tall Tales" - the funny episode of the season - because "Heart" is a total bummer. More torture for Sammy's battered little psyche and through him for Dean too... Totally sucks to be them. It started out all fun, "yay! we're going to get to kill a werewolf!" and went seriously downhill from there. Totally a wow!-I-can't-believe-Kripke-just-did-that episode. (Kripke is the creator and executive producer of the show.) Sam falls hard and fast for this girl, Madison, and she for him, only they very soon figure out that she's one of the werewolves that they are in town to kill. They think they figure out a way to cure her, execute the plan, and at first it seems to have worked. Sam relaxes a bit, falls even more in love with her and after all day in bed with her, he wakes up to find her - in werewolf form - climbing out her bedroom window, off to kill some innocent people. Sam's frantic. When they track her down the next day, she's freaked because obviously the cure didn't work. And at that point they were out of options. So she begs Sam to kill her, which very reluctantly, he does, even though Dean begs him to let him do it instead so that Sam won't have that weighing down on him. It's a hard couple of scenes to watch. I could totally have killed Madison myself for asking that of Sam - she only knew him for a few days after all, and she has *no idea* what killing her is probably going to do to him now, and she really should have done it herself before asking that of Sam. Some spectacular acting on the part of everyone involved though. Seriously, seriously spectacular.

the only amusing scenes in the whole ep:



And here's the omg final scenes:



Weird thing is that next week's ep looks like another funny one... At least, I don't see how they could possibly make it serious... But unless weeks and maybe months have passed between this one and next week's, I don't see how Sam will be able to get over the events that transpired in "Heart" that quickly. I don't think I've ever seen someone in so much emotional turmoil on tv ever as in that last scene, which is even more serious if you watch the show and you know everything that was behind *all* of that... Now, Dean will just bury it somewhere in the back of his mind, like he does everything else... He doesn't talk much, at the very least not while the wounds are still fresh... Sam had to practically pull teeth to get Dean to talk about their Dad's death at the beginning of Season 2, and then it still took like a dozen episodes for Dean to tell him what their Dad had said to him just before he dropped dead... and even that was only because he was so incredibly scared by the manifestations of more weird powers in Sammy. Huge, unhealthy problem there, this not talking and burying psychological issues - but still, Dean could believably go from total devastation to fun times in a week. Plus, in this case, he's mostly upset cause his little bro got so hurt over what happened. Sammy on the other hand... he should have some issues from this...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yay!

The season 1 "Supernatural" DVDs I had ordered last week arrived this afternoon... Yay!

I did a lot this week (reading 200+ pages, two midterms, an essay, taking care of the house and all the animals since my parents left Tuesday morning - with an ample amount of help from Maria) and yet, I still feel incredibly lazy... Ah, well, I'm refusing to care about it beyond this.

My Latin class was canceled this afternoon, so all day today, I sat in with Maria, who is here babysitting me (haha) while my parents are away checking out the house site in VA with the builder. Because of school, I couldn't go with... Maria and I watched "Supernatural" almost all day as the mail arrived around 2:00.

Unfortunately, because we were watching the DVDs when the new episode of Supernatural aired at 9pm, my DVR took that moment to malfunction during a crucial program for the first time in six months and didn't tape it. We figured this out just in time to catch the last 10 minutes of the episode. From what we saw, it was a heart-breaker and the boys will have psychological scars from what transpired in this ep, which no doubt will come back to literally haunt them at a later date... Oy! what an ep to miss! Just like the last time my DVR decided to malfunction, during the season premiere of "Supernatural" last fall. That one, I had to wait more than two months to finally see it when the CW reran it over the holidays, and the whole while I was wondering what the heck was going on... most frustrating... On the bright side this time, the CW has the entire episodes up on their website for free viewing a few days after the ep airs for the first time. So yay! By the end of the weekend, I should have managed to see it.

In honor of my DVDs arrival, I'm posting another vid from myspace... I didn't make it. I don't make vids. I'm just embedding it here:

Carol of the Supernatural

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And one more... a fan-made promotional vid:

Supernatural Promo

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Propertius

We're reading Propertius' Elegies (his love poems) this week and next in my Roman Lit class. Really, really enjoying it! Propertius seems to me to have been the coolest Roman guy I've ever heard of... A sampling of his poetry (dedicated to his girlfriend, Cynthia) so you may see why, excerpted from "Propertius in Love: The Elegies" by Sextus Propertius, translated by David R. Slavitt, published by the University of California Press, Berkley, CA. 2002.:

I.2

What good is it, promenading that way, your coiffure amazing,
your couture an impressive shimmer of Cos
silk as your skirts swing this way and that? What good
are expensive Syrian attars you splash on yourself?
Fabrics, finery, foreign frippery, gold gewgaws...
they only distract from your own real beauty. Naked,
Love admires nakedness, beauty that's unembellished.
See how the untilled meadow sends forth its floral
displays, how ivy is richest when it runs wild in the woods;
look at arbutus that's splendid out in the lonely
hollows where nobody prunes it; and water runs purer and sweeter
in brooks without the contraints of dams and dikes.
The prettiest shores are those where the beaches are unimproved
and the wet pebbles gleam like so many jewels,
just as the finest song is what the untutored birds,
who need no training or artifice, warble and trill.
Think of Leucippus' daughters, Phoebe, whom Castor loved,
and her sister, Hilaira, whom Pollux adored:
do you think they titivated, accessorized, or used makeup?
Did Marpessa, Evenus' daughter, resort to the wiles
of fashion to fan her husband Idas' ardor and Phoebus
Apollo's, and have them fight, competing to win her favor?
Did Hippodamia primp and improve on her looks to win
her Phygrian husband? The only aid these beauties
wanted or needed was what their chaste and modest sould
projected in those delicate hues a painter
as refined as Apelles would claim were those of his portraits.
And you are in every way their equal, believe me.
For a girl to be adored by a man, as I adore you,
is a rich adornment - and Phoebus bestows upon you
the beauty of his songs, and Calliope lends her lyre.
A charm that is all your own enhances your words,
your looks and gestures, and Venus approves and her sister goddess
Minerva. Love of my life, you are wholly splendid-
or would be if you believed me and yourself and abandoned
these wretched fashion tips and beauty tricks.

I.19

Death isn't what I fear, or the grim underworld. That debt
the flesh owes to the pyre I'm willing to pay.
Still, Cynthia, dearest, I fret at the dismal thought
that you might not be one of my grieving mourners-
which is worse than death itself, for Cupid's grip on my soul
is such that even my dust will long for your love.
In that region of endless darkness, Protesilaus' shade
remembered his love for his wife Laodamia, yearned
for the joy of touching the warmth of her body once more with his ghostly
hands, and that brave soldier, the first to fall
at Troy, contrived a visit to Greece, his home, and her.
Like him, I shall be a shade that still feels passion
and, even having crossed the shores of death, will be yours.
Whatever women may flock to greet me there
of the famous daughters of Troy who died in their city's ruin,
not one, I think, will compare to you in beauty,
Cynthia dearest, or please me so well as you always do.
You will, I hope, remain behind me on earth
for many years, but to me your gracefully aging body
will always be dear and the cause of my longing tears.
And if you could then be aware that these ashes of mine can feel
and long, still, for one of the living, death
would not be so bitter a thing. But I fear that you may ignore me,
spurning my grave, or even that heartless Amor
may come to dry your tears and distract you with someone else,
for even a faithful girl may yield to persistence.
But let us not be morbid. Instead, let's love and be happy
for the time we have - that we know is never enough.

What's not to love about this guy? I could go on and on about these poems, but I won't because the reasons I love them are fairly self-evident. And these two poems aren't the half of it! This guy... well, it's as if the traditional roles of Roman men and women are reversed in his poetry. To hear him tell it, Cynthia is a lady about town. She dresses to the nines, has affairs with other men, and travels all over the place. While Propertius stays at home, pines when she's gone, begs her to stay, and adores every second of her existence. He's jealous of his rivals for her affection, can't understand what they might have that he doesn't, but he doesn't try to make her stop her affairs by force, but rather with words, tears and begging. Does that sound like a Roman man to you? 'Cause it doesn't to me... And I like it quite a bit. Of course, this is what he says in his poetry, who knows what reality was for the two of them.

I'm also quite amused by the following:

I.20

To reciprocate for your constant love, Gallus, I offer
this poem as gift - a cautionary tale
I urge you to read and remember. It tells of the perils of lovers
and how, where you least expect it, disaster lurks,
for this is the story of Hylas, the Argonaut, and the sorry
turn of events at the River Ascanius. You
have a friend, I think, who is equal to Hylas in looks and bearing.
You two can go for a sail or stroll by the bank
of an Umbrian stream or stop to bathe your feet or admire
that woods and recount to each other the local legends,
but you must be on your guard for the dangerous Nymphs and Dryads
who may at any moment emerge from the water
or appear from the woods to reach out with lustful hands to grab
and carry your boyfriend away... Poof! And he's gone,
and you're running from brook to brook in an endless and useless quet
as Hercules once did, heartbroken, searching
for Hylas: he never found him and there on Ascanius' cold
and desolate bank, the hero wept bitter tears.
But first, let us set the scene: the Argo they built at the dockyards
at Pagasa put out to sea on its way to the Phasis;
it has passed the Hellespont and the Mysian cliffs and is beached
on a peaceful and welcoming shore where the ground is soft
with a carpet of leaves; and Hylas, Hercules' great and good friend,
has gone inland in search of the fresh spring water
the ship will need. Now, two of his crewmates, the brothers, Zetes
and Calais, in a sporting way, pursue him,
playing a rough-and-tumble game of woodland grab-ass
that's half in fun. And Hylas feinting, dodging,
and darting this way and tat escapes them again and again.
They grab him and kiss him, but once again he slips free,
and at last Pandion's sons, the Northwind's noble descendants,
give up, let Hylas go, and he climbs the slope
of Mount Arganthus to find the shaded spring-fed pool -
the Pege they call it - dear to the Bythnian nymphs
who love its pristine beauty, the silence, the sweet smells
of the apple trees no humans have touched and the flowers,
the vistas of crimson poppies with clumps of white of the lilies
that grow here and there by the bank, and Hylas, enchanted,
defers his chore for a time to pick himself a bouquet.
Then at the edge of the water, he kneels and sees
in the surface beneath his face the reflected boughs of the trees,
and patches of sky, and it's gorgeous. He's poised for a moment,
about to scoop up water to fill his skins, when the Dryads,
stricken, in love with the boy whom they think delicious,
forget the steps of their ritual dance and turn to him
and grab, and he slips and the ground gives way, and he falls
into the yielding water. He tried to shout but he sinks
in an instant under the water's surface. His friend
Hercules hears the splash and calls out, "Hylas!" again
and again, but only an empty echo answers,
fainter and fainter, and that, too, dies away. The lesson,
Gallus, is clear. At Tivoli, Baiae, at all
those posh resorts you like to go to together, be careful,
trust no one, and watch your ass, and his.

First of all, I love that Propertius would write such a thing for a friend. While understanding and fully aware of ancient perspectives, as a twenty-first century American reader, in a country that is as prudish as ours, it strikes me as something quite special that a guy so obviously in love with the ladies, and one lady in particular, would write this for a friend currently engaging in a homosexual relationship out of concern for the safety and continued happiness of his friend (whether the Romans would have seen it as special in the same way or not, is something I'm not caring about at this second - I'm thinking not, but c'est la vie).

Second, his language amuses me... At least, the language of the translator amuses me. Ever since my prof read it out loud in class and we all burst out in blushes and hysterical giggles, I wanted to know what the Latin phrase for "woodland grab-ass" was, so I looked up this one poem in Latin (thank goodness it's online)... It would have to be somewhere in these lines:

hunc duo sectati fratres, Aquilonia proles 25
(nunc superat Zetes, nunc superat Calais),
oscula suspensis instabant carpere plantis,
oscula et alterna ferre supina fuga.
ille sed extrema pendentes ludit in ala
et volucris ramo summovet insidias. 30
iam Pandioniae cessit genus Orithyiae:
ah dolor! ibat Hylas, ibat Hamadryasin.
-Propertius I.20


"Carpere" means "to pluck, to seize, to lay hold of, to grab." I wish I had access to a better Latin-to-English dictionary than the ones I can find online because if "ass" or "woodland" are in there, I can't find 'em, nor anything that would necessarily strongly imply them... But there are quite a few words that I can't seem to find, even after taking off anything that could possibly be a suffix. However, after looking up most of the words that I didn't already know, I can tell you that the translator definitely didn't translate anything approaching word-for-word... so I'm thinking it's creativity on the part of the translator. But I'm still amused. If you know Latin and can explain the above better than I just did, please post a comment and let me know.

Third, I'm glad he wrote this because according to my prof, it's pretty much the only place in classical literature where the story of Hylas is recorded. Older versions, which must have existed at one time, have not survived evidently.

Fourth (and it's most definitely because I watched Queer As Folk), when he says "At Tivoli, Baiae... posh resorts" et cetera, I think Ibiza, South Beach, and Fire Island... Looks like not all that much has changed in gay culture in the last 2100 years. ::is being cheeky::

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Colin on "Scrubs"

Colin Farrell was in an episode of "Scrubs" a few seasons back. This is when I got addicted to the show... It was reaired tonight and I missed the first ten minutes... Courtesy of YouTube, I present the following:



Unfortunately, the rest have had their ability to be embedded disabled by the person who posted them, so there are only links. :(

Colin 1

Colin 2

Colin 3

Colin 4

Colin 5

And this is a shorter version of one of the above clips, but here and not at YouTube:



There's more in the episode but it doesn't seem to be posted... :(

Monday, March 19, 2007

::sighs::

Spring Break is pretty much over. In 12 hours, I'll be getting out of my second class after my first mid-term exam of the semester. The only good I can see in this is that the semester is over half done with... and yet, that's not entirely good because I still have almost half the semester to get through... including about a dozen more short papers, several tests and exams, a 15 page term paper I haven't even started yet (and it's due in about a month), and that's not even counting the reading... Oy, the reading!

I had tried to be resolved in working ahead over break, but I didn't even get through my homework for the next week let alone anything beyond that. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I wanted to but every time I looked at my books, I just couldn't touch them, didn't want to and I was too easily distracted by things that were far more fun. I did do my Latin work though because I do consider that fun. But that's about it... Maybe I should look into being a linguist or a translator or something... ::sighs:: I don't know... I just want this semester to be safely and happily over with so I can have fun until late August. Hopefully by then I'll be ready to make the final push through to graduation. I'm skeptical that that will be the case. I've got senioritis bad!

At the same time, this break has been very nice. It's like an early winter thaw that starts to wake everything up for spring again. I've started looking at things I haven't looked at in months. I got the knitting done that I mentioned earlier this week. I've been starring at my spinning wheel and fiber stash with longing (especially that alpaca from Ilana and the purple wool/mohair blend from Greensboro). And I've taken stock of my dye stuffs and I've got a lot! So I really need to get spinning.

The flowers are blooming full force (or nearly) again. We have a yard full of marigolds and hibiscus. The roses aren't around at the moment because I pruned them all about a month ago and they haven't come back totally yet, but soon they will be covered in blooms. The marigolds have all gone straight into our freezer in the garage for a dyebath as soon as I have the time to get to it. I've planted zinnias and cosmos from seed and so in a month or so, with sunshine and luck, I'll have those too... All of these plants can be used in natural dyes. (I'm going to have fun this summer!)

On the other hand, come noon tomorrow, a cold front from Canada will be shutting all that down again as school comes back full force. With everything I put off over break still needing doing, I'm not going to have any more time for the next month and a half than I've had for the previous two and a half.

Why, oh why do they have to have mid-terms the week *after* Spring Break?!? Don't they know that no one studies during Spring Break? ::frustrated sigh::

I'm going to bed and hope that things look less bleak in the morning...

I will get through school... I will get through school...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jared Leto was in town...

Jared and the rest of 30 Seconds to Mars was in town this week for "Taste of Chaos." They rock, I don't care what some people say. And Jared is still one of the prettiest men I've ever seen, even with a broken nose and half his face covered in a scraggly beard.



And I was there for this with Maria and Laura, and since I found the video, I'm posting it... We couldn't see nearly well enough, but we were there:



I love "The Kill." As you can tell, especially at the beginning, the lighting for the stage sucked, because that should be a lot more visible and it's not. As I've said before, the only band member I could see from my perch high up in the stands was Jared and he looked like an amorphous white object moving around the stage. I wonder at how good the sound is on the above video... very strange when the picture is so dodgy.

This is closer to what it looked like from where we were:



But here's what was up on the JumboTron:



The sound of the crowd doesn't show up well on the above video, when we were singing, but it was really loud...

A half-hour before that, I stood about 18 inches from him as he walked past me from their truck to the dressing rooms. Be still my fangirl heart... And the year before, I just have to reiterate, he held my hand steady while he signed my laminated back stage pass. That, of course, was even more exciting...

My friend Mia went to the show this last week... At least I'm pretty sure she said she was... I'll have to be sure to ask her how it was when I see her in class tomorrow...

Boo-hoo, Spring Break is over...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Oy vay... The debate over 300...

::rolls eyes and sighs:: ... Evidently, the protesters haven't read my blog.

The following is reproduced in its entirety for the convenience of readers:

Iranian anger at Hollywood 'assault'
By Majid Joneidi
BBC News, Washington

The Iranian community in the US and Canada is very keen on e-petitions as a form of protest.

The latest issue to grip Iranian expatriates is the Hollywood blockbuster 300. According to the protesters, it projects an "irresponsible" and "distorted" image of ancient Persia.

The film, which has broken US box office records, is a special effects-laden depiction of a battle in which a small Spartan army resisted a Persian invasion.

It is based on Frank Miller's epic graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.

The film shows the Spartan king and his army of 300 - white, muscular soldiers - strongly resisting Xerxes and his savage Persian army of hundreds of thousands.

Loud opposition

The film has stirred controversy among Iranians across the world, but it is the expatriate community in North America that have been the loudest voice opposing an "assault on its culture and tradition".

Iranian bloggers started their campaign against the film a week ahead of its opening.

Bloggers have taken offence at the way in which the Persians have been depicted in the film and the way the battle of Thermopylae has been narrated.

Award winning Iranian blogger and journalist Omid Memarian has been among these voices. He is worried about what he sees as historical discrepancies in the film.

"Not only does it give the wrong outcomes to battles, it grossly misrepresents the Persians and their civilization.

"It is unfortunate that very few curriculums in the US cover world history and it is very easy to misdirect the general public on historical facts."

Mr Memarian is also concerned about the film's balance.

"Let's not forget that Cyrus the Great, Xerxes's grandfather, drafted the first declaration of human rights in 539 BC, freeing hundreds of thousands of Jews from Babylonian slavery."

Iranian officials have joined the angry protests and some are seeing it as part of a wider campaign against Iran.

Javad Shamaqdari, a cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was "plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization".

He branded the film "psychological warfare" against Tehran and its people.

A daily Iranian newspaper, Ayandeh-No, recently carried the headline "Hollywood declares war on Iranians".

Image problems

Omid Memarian is not surprised at the reaction to the film due to what he calls "skewed media coverage on Iran and anti-Iranian rhetoric which has escalated in the US".

Warner Brothers, the film's producers, has been quick to explain that "the film [is] a work of fiction, loosely based on an historical event".

A statement by the company said: "The studio developed this film purely as a fictional work with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences; it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement."
Some bloggers and commentators have opposed the petition against 300 on the grounds that there are bigger battles to fight - such as opposing what is seen as the increasing threat of military action against Iran.

Salman Jariri, a Farsi blogger, published an open letter addressed to the protestors.

"The actions of leaders of third world countries has a more destructive effect on the westerners' perception of these countries than Hollywood productions," he said.

Google-bomb

One Iranian blogger in Canada has an alternative to the petition.

Pendar Yousefi, who blogs from Toronto, is "Google-bombing" the film.

His "bomb" aims to divert internet traffic searching for 300 to a web site that introduces the various aspects of Iranian culture through art.

Mr Yousefi, who is upset with the way ancient Persians have been depicted in 300, has called on Iranian cartoonists and artists to send him work that will help educate people about the Persian empire.

A number of artists have obliged and some 600 Iranian blogs and websites have established permanent links to Mr Yousefi's site.

Story from BBC NEWS.

Published: 2007/03/16 11:08:55 GMT

© BBC MMVII

*************

I appreciate the view of Salman Jariri because he is exactly right. I can think of very few people (because there would unfortunately be a few) who would be likely to see "300" and take it as historical fact. The grotesque, faceless mass of Persians in 300 bothered me a bit too, but I realized that how the Persians were being depicted was not really the point of the film. They were shown that way, if in any conscious way, to highlight the overwhelming odds against the Greeks, and to highlight the cultural differences between the two, which, I don't think anyone would argue, were profound.

A few other points:

- Of course the image of the Persians presented in 300 is distorted. The movie is a stylized history... *everything* is distorted! ... Including the abs of the actors... which brings me to my second point...

- "The film shows the Spartan king and his army of 300 - white, muscular soldiers - strongly resisting Xerxes and his savage Persian army of hundreds of thousands." ... What do they have against white, muscular soldiers... They were pretty hot... But perhaps I've answered my own question. ::is being cheeky::

- How are the results of battles being distorted? The Spartans all died at Thermopylae, did they not? Archaeologists have even confirmed that final rain of arrows that was recorded by Herodotus, or so they say... And while the Greeks were not immediately successful in defeating the Persians, they did force Xerxes I to withdraw his army from the Peloponnese within a few months. And ultimately, the Greeks did succeed in throwing off the yoke of Persian oppression (because, let's be honest, the Persians were trying to absorb them into their great empire, which would be reasonably construed by the Greeks as an attempt at oppression by the Persians)... Of course, this was not only due to Greek valour, but also to internal problems in the Persian empire (corruption, over-taxing of resources, etc), which eventually led to its decay and relatively easy complete overthrow by Alexander +/- 150 years later. And a large part of the Greek resistance to the Persians was their perception that Persians were all treated as slaves by their kings, and that therefore, the Greeks, as citizens of what they considered a free and democratic society, even when they had kings, were superior to the Persians. This was why the Greeks so loathed the very idea of giving earth and water to Persian emissaries. They figured, why should they, as free men, submit to a king who treated his subject with so little respect? This was the ancient Greek perception, was it not? I thought that was reflected rather well in 300. Whether that was true or not from the Persian perspective is certainly up for debate. I'm not a scholar who focuses on the Persian side of things, except for their roll in the history and development of the Jewish religion and identity, and where Alexander is involved. I don't think anyone would deny the grandeur of the Persian state, but I would venture a guess that the security, freedom, rights, and standard of living for the *average* Greek citizen (that's *citizen* by their own definition - free-born male Greeks) was probably higher than that of the *average* citizen of the Persian empire (of course, I don't know this for sure, for the very reasons described just above, and I don't know if the Persians had a different standard of what constituted citizenship). I mean, just because Versailles was pretty is no reason to assume that French peasants weren't starving, if you take my meaning.

- Xerxes I was not his grandfather. Xerxes I was known for being a just as much of a nut, especially toward the Greeks, as his predecessor Cyrus the Great was know for his compassion and benevolence. To quote some evidence from wikipedia (I know, I know, not a reliable source, but still...): "When the body of Leonidas was recovered by the Persians, Xerxes I, in a rage at the loss of so many of his soldiers, ordered that the head be cut off and the body crucified. This was very uncommon for the Persians; they had the habit of treating enemies that fought bravely against them with great honor... However, Xerxes I was known for his rage, as when he had the Hellespont whipped because it would not obey him.[42]" See... Xerxes I was a nut! He also did murder his generals when they brought him news or gave him advise of which he didn't approve... This was actually a generally bad habit of several of the later Persian emperors, right on down to Darius III, from what I understand. Such tyrannical behavior was a weakness of the empire, and something that modern leaders should keep in mind (when I say this, I'm actually thinking of Bush, first and foremost, for firing people in his inner circle who disagree with him - tsk, tsk, tsk. But, of course, it can also be applied to several other national leaders of other countries...).

- As to these accusations: "Javad Shamaqdari, a cultural advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was 'plundering Iran's historic past and insulting this civilization.'/He branded the film 'psychological warfare' against Tehran and its people./A daily Iranian newspaper, Ayandeh-No, recently carried the headline 'Hollywood declares war on Iranians.'" Not only do the Iranian people who are offended by this need to lighten the fuck up (to use the vernacular), but they need to answer for insults to other civilizations and people's before they start this argument... Who engineers intentional distortion on a daily basis of the history of Europe and the United States for their own political gains, twisting the minds of modern Iranian people to suit their needs through propaganda? ... That would be the Iranian *government*, thank you... And do we, the American people complain about this with even a fraction of the vehemence being shown in these protests? No... Why? Because we're strong enough to take the criticism from people so far away who really don't matter all that much to us at this point (at least, they don't mean all that much to me, I tell you). Plus, the propaganda is mostly lies, so it really doesn't matter all that much in and of itself either... At least, I think this is what the attitude is... We might get huffy, but for the most part, we ignore them. And I'm not even going to get started on the lies the Iranian government perpetuates among its own people about the Jews.... And I might add, Hollywood is not run by the American government (thank God!) (and while we're at it, it's not run by Zionist Jews either, Iran. If it were, I'd have my dream job running a studio, directing my minions to do my bidding as far as historical films go... not to mention, I'd have a hell of a lot more money...) and as has been stated, they did not intend for 300 to be taken as historical fact or modern or historical social commentary. It's a movie... It's fiction and it admits that without reservation... Take a chill pill, relax, and calm down, k?

Oh, and... What Jon said:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

And indeed, Supernatural *was* better!

Supernatural is my new favorite show!

I'm sure this will change at some point as I've been going back and forth between Supernatural, Prison Break and Bones since September. They're all great shows, but right now, I'm going to gush about Supernatural.

This week it was all about a haunted highway and a psychotic ghost that chases people and kills them in the woods near where he died. The boys had to kill the ghost before it hurt more people. Pretty freaky! Won't say anymore as I do not wish to spoil...

The strange thing is that I hate horror movies... can't stand them, too scary, won't watch them. But I love tv shows like Supernatural. The only thing I can figure is that it is because usually the bad guys die or are at least out of the way within the hour and the heroes always walk away pretty much none the worse for wear. With horror movies, that doesn't always happen... in fact, usually the exact opposite happens - the bad guy gets away and everybody else is dead or psychologically scarred for life (including the audience!). Supernatural takes a lot of those horror movie plots and turns them on their heads. They also do the urban legend thing, folklore and mythology... It's scary *and* it's funny... For me, a totally killer combination in a tv show.

It's all about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester (yes, like the gun...), on a quest to kill the demon who killed their mother when Dean was 4 and Sam was 6 months old (in November of 1983 - Sam is a few months younger than me! :D ). After their mother's death, their father, John, became a demon hunter, raised them on the road and taught them how to kill demons and other things that go bump in the night. Now that they're all grown up, that's what they're doing... Sam, at first, wanted no part of it. He couldn't even remember his mother or the fire and demon who killed her. He just wanted a normal life. But then the demon came for him again and this time killed his fiancee, Jessica, right in front of him, and he couldn't do anything to stop it. Ever since, his father's and brother's crusade is also his. I won't say more than that because that's just what's revealed in the first episode. If anyone reading this happens to want to watch the first season unspoiled, I don't want to ruin it for them. Oh, and did I mention that Dean drives a really hot, restored, classic, black 1967 Chevy Impala? He does... It's a very hot car...

Some of the funny from the 1st season:
Supernatural- Best Dean quotes from Season one

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More funny moments:
Supernatural

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I'd post some of the scary bits too, but out of context, they probably aren't all that scary... The above posted might not even be funny out of context, but I think they have a higher chance of being funny than the scary bits have of being scary...

But this is a good intro to the mythology...
Supernatural intro

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Anyway, I've bought the first season DVDs from Amazon... They should be here by early next week at the latest. I highly recommend checking the show out, although it is one of those shows where if you haven't watched it from the beginning and you don't have someone to explain the backstory, it might be difficult to jump into it. But there is an excellent online resource for fans called Super-wiki. It's like wikipedia, but just for Supernatural.

::annoyed sound::

Okay... I've given "Smallville" a lot of leeway this season... It's been stupider than any previous season, something I didn't think possible considering the previous season, but I think they may have just crossed the line...

Lana is pregnant... with Lex's baby... has been since at least November when they told us about it, and by that time, she was already having morning sickness and fainting if she stood up too quickly, and she had indicated that she'd known for a while but just couldn't come to terms with it enough to tell anyone because she was freaking out (so more than likely at least in her second month by then, if not her third)... Don't know how much time is supposed to have passed in the show's timeline since then, but I think it's safe to assume it's been at least a few months (no way that they could have crammed the entire season since November into less than two months). But she hasn't started to show yet (which I find the least unbelievable thing that I'm listing here, and even so I find that pretty unbelievable), but since then they've had Lana get kidnapped, drugged, thrown down a flight of stairs and chased by a madman with a gun on more than one occasion... She's been in the hospital at least a half-dozen times. Through it all, the baby is perfectly healthy. Every time, I've thought there's no way that the baby could survive the stress, let alone the physical injury over and over again! And yet, it has (we were just shown a sonogram... and really, for a baby that size, she should be showing, but she's still her skinny little self. They aren't even putting her in baggy clothes or doing any of those other little tv tricks! Honestly! How are we supposed to suspend our disbelief if they won't meet us halfway, huh?).

As if all that's not unbelievable enough, they're sticking her in her wedding dress right now, and you know what? She's wearing a corset. And not one of those fake, couldn't-hold-anything-in-if-the-world-depended-on-it Fredrick's of Hollywood corsets. No, no - a real corset, with lots of rigid fabric and boning. Tightened so much she winced... a lot... think Keira Knightly in "Pirates." Not happy, "ow, that hurt!" wincing. ::sighs:: Yeah... I can't imagine that her doctor and the very overprotective, won't-let-her-do-*anything*-in-her-"delicate-condition" Lex would have agreed to this for the sake of fashion... and I can't imagine that the baby wouldn't protest just a *tiny* bit to that either... But whatever... This show is getting nuttier by the episode...

If it weren't for how amusing Chloe and Jimmy are, and Tom Welling's baby blues and biceps, and Michael Rosenbaum's all around hotness, I'd probably stop watching... I really just hate the writers and Lana... The rest of it is pretty good.

Oh, and Clark was being careless about his powers in not-secure places *again*. ::rolls eyes:: And they were sloppy with the editing for the first time that I've ever caught. They did the fake wind, blowing Chloe's hair and other little things as Clark ran out of the room at Super-speed, but we couldn't actually see Clark do that as we usually do. In one frame, he's there, and in the next, blink, he's gone.

Ah, well, I have faith that "Supernatural" will be better...

randomness...

I really love banana pudding...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

random thought...

I wonder if some of the stories of dragon attacks in Medieval European mythology might be traced to Vikings with their sometimes dragon-headed, most often wide-sailed (likened to dragon wings perhaps?) ships?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Devil Rays Spring Training

My dad, Josh and I went to a Devil Rays Spring Training game this afternoon. It was pretty cool. Perfect day for baseball - not too hot in the shade, and sunny.



The field is out in St. Pete right on the water, just down the street from the Pier, so the breeze is really nice.



I got a new hat:



I like my hat... :D

The Rays lost 8 to 11 against the Phillies. Somewhat disappointed at that, but the Rays *do* suck, so it's a surprise when they win. But they're the home town team so I love 'em anyway.

busy fingers...

Some might not consider it a chore because it's very necessary to finishing any knitting project, but I hate weaving in ends... usually... I find it tedious and tiresome... generally. The last few days though, I've actually felt like doing it, so I've been weaving in ends on all the knitting projects I've done in the last four months. All of them were sitting, literally in my face, piled next to my computer monitor for weeks and months. So I picked up my darning needle today, and went to work and I was quite productive.

My Fetching mitts are finally done...





And I finished the first of the placemats I'm making for a breakfast set. It's light blue and yellow stripes. Very proven├žal. (No picture though...) I need to figure out how to carry the yarns better though so I don't have 26 ends to weave in on the other three... That many is just daunting!

And I finished the three round dishcloths I made back in December. Here's the prettiest of them and the only one that I needed to block:



Now, I no longer have any outstanding projects to finish (except for the 1864 shawls that are waiting for yarn that is suitable for stripes and the rest of the placemats for my set). and I'm free to start on something new. Don't know what I'll do next. I need to rip out a few things I've re-thought so I can use the yarn for other things. I need to make a hat for Susan's friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and I think I might have enough yarn to do that... And I need to make the other three placemats for that set. So that's probably what I'll start on next: the hat and the placemats. It'll keep me busy (like I need help with that) that's for sure.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Wow!

I just realized that as of next year, I will have known all my friends from high school for 10 years. This is amazing to me. It doesn't feel like that long ago. I'm surprised. I think I have to do something to commemorate this occasion, especially since several of my friends are leaving at the end of the summer to go off on adventures in other parts of the world for a year. Maria will go to South Korea for a year of school abroad, and Zinzi to New Orleans for grad school at Tulane. A party, I think, is certainly called for. I write this down here in the hopes that I don't forget it.

::sighs::

I really love Pride & Prejudice... And I really want my very own Mr. Darcy (and if he has an estate like Pemberley, I'll consider it a bonus, not a requirement). If anyone finds one, will you send him my way?

300

Just got back from seeing the late, late showing of "300" a little while ago... It rocked! It rocked hard! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did my dear friends, Zinzi, Laura and Maria. And I just might need to see it again. (Very annoyingly, the theater would not take the free ticket that I got with my "Alexander Revisited" DVD... It's a mainstream, nationwide theater chain, but it won't take the free pass. They suck... but I still have a free ticket, if I can find a theater which will accept it.) I won't give major spoilers - if you want them, just look up "Battle of Thermopylae" in a search engine and you'll find out how it all turns out - although, the point is not how it ends, but the journey that gets them there. It was magnificently done, imho. (I deal with stylized history well, rather than when movie-makers claim they've done everything accurately, and yet I, a non-expert, can still find obvious and even blatant mistakes.) It was grotesque and exquisite, and I adored it.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see David Wenham in it. He played Faramir in "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy" and the side-kick friar guy in "Van Helsing." He was great... He plays the narrator of the movie, but his character is also actually there at Thermopylae too.

Oh and... This might be really obvious and not at all unexpected, but I have to say it anyway... All the Spartan guys in the movie run around for the *entire* two hours in leather briefs with the occasional sword belt, helmet and/or cloak. The scenery is very pretty.

LOL! I have to share this... After leaving the theater my friend Zinzi, who is herself partially of Phoenician decent (which isn't Persian, I know, but she likes to think that it's all the same thing), commented on all the pretty Persian women in Xerxes' harem, asking if we had noticed them. I said, "Not really, I was a bit distracted by all the half-dressed Greeks, who were ripped like Jesus, running around." She just laughed, in a isn't-Rachael-silly-to-only-notice-the-hot-guys kind of way. But Maria and Laura looked at me like I had two heads and laughed because of that. They had apparently never heard this turn of phrase before: ripped like Jesus. Dear Laura went so far as to say something like "Yeah, Rachael, when I think Jesus, I think of how buff he might have been" (read that sarcastically). Well, I said, I didn't make up the phrase, it's legitimate slang, I'd just never had occasion to use it before because I'd never in my life seen so many men who one could say were... ripped like Jesus... cause they *so* are in this movie. Zinzi backed me up, laughing that neither Laura nor Maria had ever heard that before, and added something like, "Haven't you all ever noticed in all the art? He's always got six-pack abs and impressive arms and everything?" Apparently, that's not the first thing they notice when they look at a classically figured crucifix. Go figure... But to prove this, in case there was any doubt, I looked up the phrase at the "Urban Dictionary". It says and I quote, "1. Ripped like Jesus: someone that is buff, strong, cut, Jesus was a carpenter and was probably really strong. 'Damn, that man is ripped like Jesus.'" See, didn't make it up. Legitimate slang. I would like to point out that the guys in this movie are so impressively built that five minutes later when we reached my car, and I think I asked something about the actress playing Leonides' wife, because I'd seen her before in another movie, but I couldn't remember where (she was in "The Brothers Grimm" and "Merlin"), I'm pretty sure that Laura said, "There was someone other than Gerard Butler's abs in that movie?" And we laughed. She said this without realizing what she had said I think... I think she had only meant to say "someone other than Gerard Butler," but ah well, her meaning was felt anyway.

If you want to stay out of the politics, skip down to "Spoiler Space."

Some might say that this movie has all kinds of political implications for modern Americans right now, since a major issue is trying to get support for a war that the majority of Spartans think is ill-fated (re: the "surge" that Bush wants to try right now). Well, see that all you want, I suppose, but I don't wish to see it that way at all. I say that that to do so is just projection on the part of the audience. I say, it's merely coincidence that "300" is being released right now, closely coinciding with what's going on with Bush's little plans for world domination because this movie has been in the works for longer than the Iraq War has been going on (script drafting, green-lighting, financing, casting, crew assembly, filming, editing, etc. must have taken longer than 4 years beginning to end), and I'm sure the graphic novel on which it is based has been around even longer (although, I haven't checked). That said, the Spartans are represented fairly well considering the extremes of their culture, so different from our own... Their mentality *maybe* reminds just a little tiny bit of modern Jarheads (especially if you've seen the movie "Jarheads"... they say "hoo-ha" or something like it *a lot* in "300" too), if I choose to see it that way (which, mostly, I don't). And "300" does have interesting points to make about patriotism, valour and sacrifice for one's country, but these are themes I would hope most Americans can appreciate to some degree whether in war or peace, since we are a country by the people and for the people and purportedly a free one at that, built by people who loved this country and what it is, was and could be, and what it's supposed to stand for so much that they fought and died for it and for all of us, their fellow citizens (wow! this is a run-on sentence, but I'm too tired to fix it). This is the mythos on which we, as Americans, have been raised, have we not? It is an expression (not *the* expression, but *an* expression) of our patriotic ideal, is it not? I can't see how any American could object to that - it's merely supporting our soldiers and our veterans, something I think we're duty bound to do, whether we agree with the purpose or actions of a war they fight/fought in or not.

And furthermore, the Iraq War can't really be completely equated with Thermopylae, because if it were... well, dears, I'm very, very sad to say (heart-broken, as a matter of fact) that if that's the case, we share more in common with the Persians in that conflict than we do the Spartans, and we don't want to be the Persians in that movie. Really, we don't... They aren't the good guys and they don't win in the end (you remember "Alexander," right?). So no, 'tis better to watch "300" as a general, non-specific kick-ass war movie with lots of blood (lots and *lots* of blood... rivers of it...) and excellent special effects, loosely based on an historical event and not meant to directly reflect on anything going on at the moment... but if you must say it has something to do with modern America, please say that it tells us that we should love and give all support to our troops, even if we disagree with what some of them do (Abu Garib) and with what our "elected" leaders have them doing.

...

::sighs:: And I tried not to get too political in this assessment... I really wanted to leave it out, but now that that's written I just can't erase it all. Although, I'm refusing to say anything more about my conflicting feelings over the actions of our president, George the Unready (bonus points if you get why I think that's a really appropriate title), in dealing with all issues around and within the Iraq War... 'cause my feelings do conflict with each other in these matters and I'd really just rather focus on the pretty half-naked men in "300" than these other issues right now... That said, on to the spoiler space.

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'Cause I can't help myself, I have to comment...

There were these two guys in the movie (two of the Spartans obviously because the Persian armies were basically a grotesque faceless mass of orcs [no, really, they kinda looked like orcs when their masks came off])... I was so hoping that they would live because they were flirting very cutely for the entire time they were on screen together... maybe three incidents comprising four or five minutes of screen time all together, tops. Some people might call it "banter," but I say what they were doing, *that* was flirting, my friends... Ancient Greek warriors... that was definitely flirting...

One of them was Astinos... He was the son of the captain of the king's guard, and it was his first battle (for which he was very well prepared, I must say I was impressed) and the other guy wasn't much older, but a little... He was Stelios, one of Leonides' best warriors, and he's the one who does a lot of the really cool things in the trailer (he does that jump through the air to strike at one of the Persians and he's the one protecting himself with a shield while fiery bits of shrapnel are raining down on the Spartans.) Neither of them lived, and I was very sad to see them go. ::sniffle, sniffle::

::the *real* spoilers are below::

And I don't see why Astinos had to die when he did... everything went into slow motion as one of the Persians came up out of the mist on a horse and chopped his head off... Honestly! Stelios had speared a charging rhinoceros a few minutes earlier and killed it dead (With one spear! That's an awesome arm there, yo!), but he couldn't grab another spear and get the guy on the horse before he reached them? Because he totally could have... he was standing at Astinos' shoulder when it happened and the entire Spartan army saw the Persian guy coming from mile away, except for Astinos, who turned too late at the last minute... Bummed me out, I tell you.

But still, I was quite happy with the movie. ;D

Friday, March 09, 2007

My Inner-Self report...

I love astrology... it tells me so much about myself that I already know. ;D ::cheeky::

Got an "inner-self" reading for free from tarot.com (which also does awesome tarot readings). Quite right on for me... There are other free sample readings that you can get from that site if you sign up. It doesn't cost anything unless you want something that isn't free or you purchase "karma coins" for future readings. This is what the report says, based on date, time and place of birth:

Source

Chapter 3. Your Inner Self and True Nature

You have two very different sides to yourself. Sometimes you are the playful, curious child, and at other times you are the serious, detached adult. Few people can vacillate between these two extremes as much as you do. Actually, your detachment and objectivity is evident even when you are joking. If you lose touch with your lighter, playful side (possibly in later life) you will become increasingly bitter and cynical. Your deeply conservative nature (discussed below) holds your restlessness in check, and you are actually less willing to bend than one would imagine from your initial appearance.

Serious, disciplined, and quietly ambitious, you are driven to prove yourself and to achieve material accomplishments and success. Your work, your position in the world, and your contributions to society are very important to you. You will persevere through enormous hardship and frustration in order to reach a goal you have set for yourself, and you often sacrifice much in the area of personal relationships and home life in order to do so.

You have a thoughtful, quiet, and self-contained disposition and do not readily show your inner feelings and needs. You seem to be always in control, capable, efficient and strong. You are often the person in the family or group who is given more responsibility (and more work) than the others. You are highly conscientious and even as a child you possessed great maturity, soberness, and worldly wisdom.

You are basically a pragmatic realist, and though you may have all sorts of dreams, ideals and colorful theories, you feel that the ultimate test of a concept is its practical usefulness. You have an innate shrewdness and business sense, and there is a bit of the cynic in you as well.

You are clear-headed, detached and objective, and are not swayed by emotional dramatics. Often you are authoritarian -strictly fair, but without mercy. You have a great respect for tradition and even if you do not agree with certain laws, you will abide by them or work to change them, but never flagrantly disregard them. Careful and conservative, you play by the rules.

You are subtle, understated, quiet, deep, not easy to know intimately, and never superficial. You are a modest person and sometimes overly self-critical. Giving yourself (and others) permission to feel, to play, to be spontaneous and silly and to be weak and vulnerable sometimes, isn't easy for you.

Your strong points are your depth and thoroughness, patience, tenacity, and faithfulness. Your faults are a tendency to be rigid and inflexible, and too serious.

You crave intense experiences and are attracted to aspects of life that are strange, unfathomable or taboo. You may hide your interests or inclinations, except from those who know you very intimately. You are rarely content with yourself and your life, and you have an inner urge to be continually going farther or deeper than you ever have before. You also have a strong interest in social power and the role that money and economics play in people's lives.

Astrological influences analyzed in Chapter 3: Ascendant in Gemini and Sun in Capricorn
Sun in Capricorn
Sun in 8th House

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Knitty!! Yay!

I love Tahoe.

I also love the "guy-friendly" version of Fetching, Dashing. Personally, I don't think they look all that butch, but whatever...

Queen of Cups and Clessidra are also charming!

This Palette looks *super* *fun*! Totally a project for this summer... perhaps that purple mohair blend I picked up at Yarns, Etc in December...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Two bits of not-good news

US mulls backing 'medicine rice'
Authorities in the United States have given preliminary approval to a plan to grow rice genetically modified to produce human proteins.
Rice plants including human genes involved in producing breast milk would be grown in the state of Kansas.

The company behind the proposal, Ventria Bioscience, says the plants could be developed into medicines for diarrhoea and dehydration in infants.

Critics say parts of the rice plants could enter the food chain.

Under the proposal, which received preliminary backing from the US Department of Agriculture last week, Ventria would plant rice over some 3,000 acres (1,215 ha) of farmland in the mid-western state.

The company said it would take precautions to ensure the seeds did not mix with other crops.

'Dealing with an unknown'

But critics say that bad weather such as high winds or human error could lead to problems.

"I'm really concerned about this, because I think firstly there is this potential for this rice to get into the food supply, and secondly, it hasn't been tested," said Bill Freese of the US Center for Food Safety.

"It hasn't gone through a drug review process. So we're dealing with an unknown here - something that could cause harm to human health."

With controversy growing, the US Department of Agriculture has yet to give final approval, says the BBC's James Westhead in Washington.

And even then, our correspondent adds, there are huge regulatory hurdles before food containing human DNA could actually be sold to consumers.

The public has until the end of March to submit objections to the plan, the Associated Press news agency reported. If final permission is given, Ventria will begin planting rice in April or May, company president Scott Deeter said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/6422297.stm

Published: 2007/03/06 10:27:18 GMT

© BBC MMVII

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I'd get on your computers and write to the USDA if I were you... This is bad, bad, bad... The USDA has already fast tracked the approval of GM grasses that they were not going to allow based on preliminary testing after it was discovered that the test fields contaminated adjacent national grasslands. Irresponsible and reckless... They have no idea what this rice could do to people because no one has tested it, but in the mean time, the open fields it's grown in could contaminate the food supply and no one would know about it until long after the fact, long after we've all eaten it. If they want to grow GM things like this, it should be in enclosed hydroponics labs where there are security measures in place to ensure that no fertile pollen or seeds escape to contaminate the food supply. Why would that be so difficult for them to do? We're talking technology that already exists - hydroponics - and it's the kind of thing responsible people should do to protect the health of the general public. Simple, or it should be...

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Just released on NoNais.org is the news that Australia is implementing a plan to tax livestock owners based on their own manditory version of NAIS. Now that their program is fully implemented, on top of the cost of fees, tags, testing, etc, the government of Australia now wants to add an additional tax to pay for "emergencies" caused by "exotic" disease outbreaks... Yeah, right... That's why... The big "What if?" Suuuuurrrrreee... This is BS and we all know it... The government of Australia sees something else that they can tax and they've found their excuse in fear and they're doing it because they can. Sickening. Don't think for even half a second that the US government won't do the *exact* same thing if they get their wish that NAIS becomes manditory... They will. And it will get even harder for small farmers to make a living.

More about Australia's new tax:

Taxing small landholders:
the only way to protect livestock

The Cooma Rural Lands Protection Board is defending a decision to rate small landholders, saying it is the only way to protect livestock producers from exotic diseases.

Rates were previously only charged for holdings of 10 hectares or more but that has now been reduced to four hectares.

Board chairman Barry Bridges is dismissing objections from some small landholders who accuse the board of a cash grab.

“They do receive benefit whether they think they do or not … they will be looked after if we get an exotic disease outbreak,” Mr Bridges said.

“Whether they are commercial or not doesn’t make any difference … I believe anybody who owns any animal should have to pay some sort of animal health levy to ensure the disease-free status of our country.”
-ABC News

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lactose intolerance and early European humans...

Early man 'couldn't stomach milk'

A drink of cows' milk was off the menu for Europeans until only a few thousand years ago, say researchers from London.

Analysis of Neolithic remains, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests no European adults could digest the drink at that time.

University College London scientists say that the rapid spread of a gene which lets us reap the benefits of milk shows evolution in action.

But intolerance to milk remains common in modern times, say nutritionists.

In order to digest milk, adult humans need to have a gene which produces an enzyme called lactase to break down lactose, one of the main sugars it contains.

Without it, a drink of milk proves an uncomfortable experience, causing bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

Today, more than 90% of people of northern European origin have the gene.

Skeleton study

Working with scientists from Mainz University in Germany, the UCL team looked for the gene that produces the lactase enzyme in Neolithic skeletons dating between 5480BC and 5000BC.

These are believed to be from some of the earliest farming communities in Europe.

The lactase gene was absent from the DNA extracted from these skeletons, suggesting that these early Europeans would not be tolerant to milk.

Dr Mark Thomas, from UCL, said: "The ability to drink milk is the most advantageous trait that's evolved in Europeans in the recent past.

"Although the benefits of milk tolerance are not fully understood, they probably include the advantage of a continuous supply compared with the 'boom and bust' of seasonal crops, its nourishing qualities, and the fact that, unlike stream water, it's uncontaminated with parasites, making it safer.

"All in all, the ability to drink milk gave some early Europeans a big survival advantage."

Milk exposure

The big question for scientists now is how the human population changed and took advantage of milk consumption.

One theory suggests that small groups who could tolerate lactose became dominant because they could then farm cattle for milk.

But the UCL team says it is more likely that the genetic mutation allowing the digestion of milk arose at some point after dairy farming began.

Dr Thomas says the absence of the gene in the remains studied supports this theory.

If lactose tolerance had come first, the farmers would have already have had the gene.

As they did not, he suggests the genetic mutation took place at a later point.

He added: "It's likely that the gene variant arose in one individual somewhere in northern Europe, and was such an advantage, it spread quickly.

"This is probably the single most advantageous gene trait in humans in the last 30,000 years."

Today's intolerance

Anna Denny, a scientist with the British Nutrition Foundation, said 'lactase deficiency' affected about 5% of white British people, and a larger proportion of those from some ethnic minorities.

In some parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, the vast majority of people are lactose intolerant to some degree.

Once diagnosed, the usual way to control its symptoms is to restrict the amount of milk products eaten every day, although nutritionists say that eliminating dairy products entirely is usually unnecessary.

Anna Denny said: "Lactose intolerance tends to be dose-related and some people are more sensitive than others, consequently only about a third of the people with lactase deficiency are actually lactose intolerant.

"Patients with severe lactose intolerance can usually eat yogurt, hard cheeses and lactose-reduced milk and all are encouraged to eat these as a source of calcium and other nutrients."

Story from BBC NEWS.
Published: 2007/02/27 00:09:23 GMT
© BBC MMVII