Tommyjournal  archive    February 2004

Sunday  02.29.04

If I wanted to have a kid (yeah, right), I'd start nine months before a February 29.

Tuesday  02.24.04

The other day, musician M gave me a CD of his recent work and wanted to hear what I thought about it. Song number 4 is titled "Jackin' the Dog" and it's about... jacking the dog. In particular, it's about M and his dog D.

I like dogs, but I don't share M's enthusiasm about having sex with them. I would just as soon not hear about what M and D do in private. I could have just left it at that, but I asked myself why I feel the way I do (unexamined life not worth living and all that).

Being gay--and thus being a sexual outcast in many people's eyes--makes you question where norms, taboos, and so on come from. What basis do I have for regarding zoophilia as unseemly? First thing that came to mind was that it's not freely consensual. If the power imbalance between an adult and a minor (or a professor and a student) precludes a free consensuality, the same could be said for a man and a dog. But whoa--if I'm going to use that argument, I probably should be a vegetarian (if I want to be consistent).

Although homosexuality and zoophilia are two quite different things, being revulsed by the latter gave me a little taste, perhaps, of how much of middle America feels about what I do in bed.

But I hasten to point out that M and D could have sex all night long and it wouldn't undermine or cheapen or dilute the value of anyone else's relationships, or otherwise cause society to go to hell in a handbasket.

What timing, that a song about a dog has me examining some of my own norms and sensibilities at just the moment when... well, I really don't want to talk about George Bush. Yes, his call to amend the constitution is tragic, and it's a big deal. But I don't wanna write about Bush today. I'll just let his words speak for themselves. From his
recent interview with Tim Russert:

Russert:   Mr. President, last time you were on this show you said that you wanted to change the tone in the nation.

Bush:   Yeah.

Russert:   This is Time magazine: "Love Him or Hate Him: Why George Bush arouses such passion and what it means for the country."

Bush:   Yes.

Russert:   Tom Daschle, the Democratic Leader in the Senate, said that you've changed the tone for the worse; that it's more acrimonious, more confrontations, that you are the most partisan political president he's ever worked with.

Our exit polls of primary voters, not just Democrats but Independents in South Carolina and New Hampshire, more than 70 percent of them said they are angry or dissatisfied with you, and they point to this whole idea of being a uniter as opposed to a divider.

Why do you think you are perceived as such a divider?

Bush:   Gosh, I don't know...

Friday  02.20.04

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said that Americans
...have been tolerant of homosexuality for years, but now it's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it.
"stuffed down their throats" [giggle]

DeLay also said and prosperity are not worth anything if you don't maintain and protect the American family from the onslaught that is attacking the family, starting with gay marriages.
In other words, the sky is falling.

What does it say about people, that fearmongering is as effective as it is?

Monday  02.16.04

If HIV came with an owners manual, one section ought to warn you that everyone* you tell about being HIV+ will tell someone else, no matter how much they swear up and down that they'll keep it quiet.

*medical professionals excepted

Saturday  02.14.04

An article in today's NY Times says
President Bush's political advisers are completing plans for a more aggressive stage of his re-election campaign, seeking to discredit Senator John Kerry and promote Mr. Bush's record and character with television advertisements and a more visible role for the president himself, aides and Republican officials said.
I'd avoid talking about Bush's record and character if I were trying to promote him, but what do I know about campaigns.

Friday the thirteenth  02.13.04

I found The Dreamers masterful in enough ways that I forgive it its weak points. Not everyone likes this movie, but I'm impressed; it's no mean feat to make a film that is at once tragic, romantic, horrific, and yet uplifting.

The film is set in the late 1960s. In an interview, director Bernardo Bertolucci said he wanted
to give the young generation of today the sense that there is a future, and future means hope.
I wonder how young people of today will react to this film. I wonder, for example, what they will think of the '60s rock and roll in the soundtrack.

Bertolucci wants to remind us that young people in the '60s really wanted to change the world, but that they were also... young. One review said that if you don't love youth, you won't like the movie--and calls the main characters "feckless and callow". What, would the reviewer have preferred to see 20-year-olds with maturity far beyond their years? I give the movie credit for showing both the promise of youth and the frustration and incompleteness of youth.

Bertolucci struggled to get this film released as he intended it, rather than making cuts to avoid an NC-17 rating in the USA. I thank him for standing his ground, and I thank the distributor for ultimately respecting his wishes. I hope this film is well-received; I'd like to see directors make the films they want to make, rather than being inhibited by puritanical American sensibilities.

By coincidence, The Dreamers opened at a remarkable moment. Bertolucci said that at a party after the New York premiere, he
had a few interviews, and in all interviews, the last question was, if I, what I thought about the scandal of the Super Bowl, and I said what are you talking about, and they explained me of Janet Jackson exposing her breast for a second. And they were saying [laughter], and they were saying: the great scandal. I found that that question was a scandal, and they said but why you call it scandal, all mid-America is devastated by the image. I said oh my God, if it is like that, this is the scandal, but I don't really believe it; I don't believe it that millions of people have been calling a TV station protesting. I don't believe it, I think it's created probably, by some very--not even Machiavellic--great PR. I don't believe, I don't believe, that people are devastated for that ridiculous thing.
I can't say for sure whether there are literally millions of them--but sadly, the letters and calls to TV stations are real. America is much more happy to see murders on screen than a second or two of tit.

Sunday  02.08.04

A rule, buried in the fine print on the California DMV's web site:
You agree to adhere to these policies and notify the system operator ( immediately when you discover any violations of these rules. If you are not prepared to abide by the policies of the Legal Affairs Division, DMV, please log off now.
So if I'm not prepared to be a junior monitor and help police your site, I should go away? Fucking legal notices.

Saturday  02.07.04

I visited my jailed friend again today. The
county jail has half a dozen window-with-intercom stations for visiting; when I visit, my friend makes sure he sits at the one that gives him a view of the outdoors.

My friend told me he has a bunkie, by which he meant a roomie. A 19-year-old. I resisted the urge to ask if he was cute.

My friend refuses to take any plea bargain. He denies all charges, even when I talk with him, even when discussing details where he must know that what he's saying isn't credible to me. I understand he's in a serious situation, I understand he's potentially facing a long sentence (an unfairly long one in my opinion--long story) and wants to prevail in court. We used to have open, straightforward talks before he got in trouble, but now our conversations are shaped by the high stakes of the looming trial he faces. I find this both strange and saddening.

To visit a prisoner, you call the jail in advance and make an appointment. I called today at 10:00 and asked what times were available; the officer said "9:00, 9:45, 11:15, ...". I figured there was no point in telling the guy how stupid what he said was. I'm just really glad I'm not in his jail.

Friday  02.06.04

Did you know that Google has terms of service that they think you're agreeing to when you use their search engine? One rule is
You may not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system without express permission in advance from Google.
which I find amusing, coming from a company that crawls the web with automated requests.

I am not a lawyer, but I am skeptical about how binding their terms are. It takes a little effort to find them; there's no "terms of service" link on Google's main search page. I also note that some of the rules are vague, and rely on words in scare quotes (e.g., "offline" searches).

You already knew that Google keeps a record of the searches you make, yes? They say
That information is used to verify our records and to provide more relevant services to users.
whatever the fuck "to verify our records" means.

Thursday  02.05.04

Soo wrote
People who write are hyper-conscious of everything they say and do.
which is largely true in my case.

Web pages on the California DMV's web site have sprouted a curious disclaimer:
The content found herein may not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Schwarzenegger Administration

A couple of days ago marked one year of this little online journal. I wish I'd started it earlier.

Wednesday  02.04.04

I heard parts of speeches made by Kerry and Edwards recently. Both of them sound like such politicians; just about every sentence I heard from them was annoying both in the choice of words and the intonation.

There is a similar (but more dignified) kind of speech, one that sounds commanding but not as pompous or artificial, that I'd call a statesman's style. Sometimes politicians switch into this style after they're elected, and save the icky politician's style for when they're on the campaign trail. Tony Blair's speech is a good example of what I'm calling the statesman's style (I'm setting aside for the moment whether I agree with what he says).

I imagine there are lots of people who find the politician's style of speech every bit as annoying as I do. But it probably gets results, otherwise why would they use it.

Tuesday  02.03.04

oh-two-oh-three-oh-four: a nice day to write about numbers.

From a page on AMD's web site, about their new FX-51 processor:

   Q:   What does the 51 mean?
   A:   This is part of the series designation. The number 51 is arbitrary. It is odd numbered on purpose. The odd numbers are different. They stand out from the norm, much like the processor.

Odd on purpose, but 51 arbitrarily? I don't believe it. Companies with much smaller marketing budgets than AMD agonize over the names of new products.

That FAQ page goes on to say "The numbering for AMD Athlon 64 FX processors starts at 51 and proceeds by increments of two." I reckon they wanted the family resemblance that comes from names having the same first digit, and starting with 51 gives a longer series of 5x names than starting with 53 or 55 would. So much for the final 1 being arbitrary.

"Odd numbers are different" reminds me of Apple's "think different" campaign: not just different, but (implicitly) better--or so they want us to believe.

I like seeing AMD do well--partly because I'd rather see serious competition in a market rather than overwhelming dominance, but also just because Intel has been so smug over the years. And it's tempting to root for a company with entertaining marketing--e.g., the right-hand side of AMD's FX comparison chart. Note: that page has changed since I first wrote this. The right-hand side used to be blank, indicating that there was no competition.

I set out to write about numbers, but I ended up writing about marketing.

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