Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You know what I wanna see?

A photo spread of female bloggers in power suits. The smart, witty, ascerbic ones. Sure, do the makeup, do the photoshop for zits or whatever, do the sexy poses if you must, but do it in killer business attire. Why?

a) it’s way sexier than some cheap-ass bikini
b) it’s not insulting
c) did I mention the whole business suit fetish?

My candidates? LMD, Maine Minx, Popagandhi, Wit & Spit (have to fly her over from Chicago, but hey, it’s my fantasy so can what) Flying Fool of a Took (along with imaginary dog named Dog) La Idler, Jaschocolate, Barffie, rather mad jac, dr lowem and dubdew. I’m thinking Charlie’s Angels type poses, with captions being the best quotes from their blogs. Or maybe very ‘ticket to excess’ lounging on expensive furniture, looking like they own the joint.

A man can dream.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

SomethingSticky: A Six Month Retrospective


mercermachine
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.

It’s been almost exactly six months since my first post, but really, that’s just a coincidence. We’re not exactly punctual here at SomethingSticky. And by we I mean me, but the whole ‘we’ thing makes it sound like I’ve got a team of bloggers slaving away to amuse, inform, entertain and appall you on a regular basis. Which would be cool.

Why a retrospective? Because I believe it’s important to know where you’ve been before you can decide where you’re going. I’ll tell you a secret: I still don’t know what this blog is about. Looking back on its ‘successes’ (not that that’s the right word, but I don’t know what else to call ‘em) two things stand out: First is “We’re That Blogger” which has been called a meme, but if it’s a meme, it’s the most passive meme I’ve ever heard of. The second has to do with stick figures.

Coming from a marketing background, there’s a part of me that automatically wants to duplicate anything I’ve done that people take an interest in and pay attention to. I’m going to resist that urge. One cannot duplicate spontaneity, and those posts I’ve written that people enjoyed most were spontaneous. The second urge I have is to analyze just why those posts were popular, and that one I can’t resist.



We’re That Blogger: Wow.


It’s been an exhausting week. For those who have been waiting for me to add them to the “
We’re That Blogger” post, I apologize. I never expected so many to share so much, and I haven’t had the time to update properly. There are about a hundred now, if you add together those on Tomorrow and those listed on Technorati, Icerocket and the more traditional search engines. Amazing. I’ll get there, little by little.

Cowboy Caleb called it a confession, and certainly there’s nothing wrong with using it as such, but others have used it in other ways as well. It has been used cathartically by some, and humorously by others. It’s been used as a declaration of love, and a declaration of loneliness, and confusion, and sometimes all of these at once.

Popagandhi suggested it may be Singapore’s first literary meme; and I’ve come across some posts (notably hers) that are certainly of literary quality and merit. Others have used it to express fears, hopes, dreams, disturbing secrets, mundane desires and bleak rage.

Mr Miyagi described it as a ‘cannot help but follow’ meme. And it’s true. I can say that because I cannot take any more credit than that last snowflake that causes an avalanche. You see, the reason that the simple words ‘I am’ have struck a chord with so many people is that everybody has something unique to say, every single person on earth. And most of us are just waiting for a reason, for permission, if you like. It’s just so hard to know where to begin, what to put in, how to say it, when to stop. The simple formula represented by ‘I am’ gives that amorphous mass of experience a form to pour into. It really is true that, in order to be most creative, it’s best to create artificial restrictions. Look at poetry in general, and haiku in particular.


Something Stick-like


The other big ‘success’ of SomethingSticky came about during the NKF hoopla.
‘A Threat Too Far’ was a simple four-panel cartoon that ended up in the Straits Times Digital section (under the sub-head ‘Fifteen Minutes of Fame’). Just crude little stick figures and crude little doodled tanks. Honestly, I don’t know why people liked that one so much. Maybe because NKF was acting so childishly by pushing a lawsuit they were doomed to lose, that a childish representation of the whole thing was fitting. Like Rockson said, ‘it’s like score own goal, man’. Idiotic. I’ve always detested bullies.

Anyway, if I could make a living depicting the events of the day in a stick-like fashion, I’d be a happy man. (Any takers? Today? Straits Times? New Paper? My email address is mercermachine@gmail.com . Have your people talk to my people, eh?)


Sticking With It


But the biggest success of SomethingSticky by far has been that I’ve been able to connect with so many people. Sure, I’m not xiaxue (no really,
I’m not xiaxue) but the fact that anywhere from 30 to nearly 200 people visit this blog on a regular basis to see what I have to say is both amazing and gratifying. I’ve met many fantastic writers and people, both in person and virtually, that I never would have if I hadn’t started blogging. People like Expat @ Large, Mr Miyagi, the maine minx, mrbrown, wannabe lawyer, daryl sing, cap’n intrepid, wit and spit, the flying fool of a took, jaschocolate and others (check out the blogroll to the right). And that is worth every second I’ve spent at the keyboard over the past six-seven months.

So maybe I’ve got my fifteen minutes of fame, as the Straits Times Digital article intimated. If so, so what? Sure, it’s nice for people to know who I am or think what I’ve written or drawn is interesting and worthy of a look. I’m a writer after all; I was before I started blogging and if the internet disappeared tomorrow I would still be a writer. But if I never get another hit, I’m still coming out way, way ahead.

Now if only Neil would
kick the bucket….

the other two


the other two
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Photo courtesy of the cute one on the left. As opposed to the cute one on the right.

Friday, September 23, 2005

We three bloggers boldly went.

Expat, Mainebabe and MercerMachine had drinks at Bold, which quite possibly could have the coolest barstaff in Singapore. Myself, I was semi-delirious from lack of sleep, but it was good to just sit and relax and, as we say in Texas, 'shoot the shit'. Expat gets the award for deepest thought of the evening, Mainebabe gets the award for best 'apropos of nothing' comment, and I get the unsettling knowledge that there are those in the world who refer to Americans as 'septics' (septic tank rhymes with yank).

As I am still semi-delirious from lack of sleep, I'll leave a more in-depth analysis of all the witty banter for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The last time

We were a pair,
You with your shattered blue eyes
And me with a song-shaped hole
In my psyche.
Like Gibson’s Straylight,
Turning ever inward
till at last we were irreducible;
which is to say
We were nothing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

On sedition, freedom of speech, racism, and practicality

Racism is pernicious. It is a rampant, destructive weed in the field of human relations. Its roots go deep, deep into the soil of our very being, our culture, our history, our psyche as homo sapiens. It is illogical and unpredictable. It promotes chaos and bloodshed. I should know. It killed my aunt.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone more against racism than me. So when I say that racists should not be locked up for making racist statements, you should understand that this is not a knee-jerk reaction.

It’s not that they don’t deserve it. Personally, I think they should be caned for their atrocious hate-mongering and then forced to serve hard labor in some dirt-poor country filled with people of different skin colors than their own, people who are struggling to survive each day. Maybe they should be forced to care for infants dying of AIDS or starvation in Africa, or clearing landmines in Cambodia. Maybe that would help to wake them to the human condition. Suffering generally does.

But that’s just the problem, you see; intolerance breeds intolerance. Hotheads like myself rarely see the bigger picture, which is why people like me are generally not asked to make decisions affecting millions of people.

Here’s the problem with making racist comments illegal, though: If you force them underground, then what they think and do will be out of sight—but it won’t go away. It’s like dandelions. You can mow them down, but the root system is still there, and next spring they’ll be back in even greater numbers. From a practical perspective, the government is warping and rendering useless a massively useful tool to understand what its citizens honestly think and feel, because they’ve created a climate in which people won’t say what they think and feel. Then those who are spreading real sedition will not be as easily identified and apprehended.

You see, another problem with making racist comments illegal under sedition laws is the fact that, yes, you are inculcating a culture of fear. People will be afraid to say what they really think. They already are. This has only made it worse. With each new case of government/authority intercession in the blogosphere (acid flask anyone?) that fear grows. Ultimately you’re killing off the good with the bad.

And history teaches us that clamping down on freedom of speech is one of the hallmarks of oppressive regimes. In this case, I think the move was well intentioned—but to the rest of the first world it sends the wrong signal. It reinforces that image of Singapore as a place that does not trust its own citizenry to behave in a responsible manner (stick of gum anyone?). Yes, there will always be a few in any society who jam the train door with gum. Yes, there will always be a few in society who make inflammatory, racist comments. The answer is not to arrest those who make racist comments. So what is the answer?

In my opinion, the answer is, on a practical level, to ignore them and on an ethical level to engage them in discourse and try to show them the error of their ways. Should they be held responsible for their actions? Absolutely. But the court of public opinion should be the first recourse, not an unintended victim of more severe measures.

You see, the problem with curtailing freedom of speech using the sedition law is that you invoke the law of unintended consequences. In the short term, you’ll see a little grumbling from, mainly, the blogging community. That’s easy to dismiss. What will be less easy to dismiss is the fact that the young, intelligent group that makes up the bulk of the blogging community is also the young intelligent group that’s likely to be the future movers of Singapore’s business, technology, arts, civil service and government. And if they do not feel they are able to honestly express themselves in their home country, they might well move on to share their talents with other countries who do not sacrifice freedom of speech to expediency, however well intentioned.

Finally, we should consider what the framers of the American Constitution considered in regards to the limitation of power: Today we have a responsible, responsive government who serve under the rule of law. But no-one can guarantee the ethics of tomorrow’s leaders. And just as you would find it difficult un-erode a rock, freedoms revoked, relinquished or curtailed are rarely regained.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Who we are

(Note: when I first posted 'I'm that guy', I didn't realize it would strike a chord with so many people. For all those who have taken the time to tell us who they are, I'd like to thank you. At times funny, moving, bitter and sad, it has underscored the fact that we're all human, with amazingly different experiences that prove just how similar we all really are. I'f I've missed anyone, feel free to email me at mercermachine@gmail.com with a link and I'll add you to who we are; if you've been inspired by this to tell us who you are, let me know as well.)




We're that blogger

I’m the one you said would end up a chain-smoking, loveless, alcoholic lawyer. I’m the guy who sometimes believes you. I’m the guy you once tried to teach ballet to after a couple of drinks.

I’m the girl who squeezed your hand when they talked about boys. Who laughed when they asked you which guy you liked, and even more when they realized there was none. I’m the girl who didn’t believe a single word you said, during, before or after, and still don’t: yet I let you hold my hand on the way to the airport.

It was me, all of it; walking past dead animals and feeling sorry for the poor sods; being asked to collect donations and feeling like I was holding a tin of filthy greed...

I’m the girl who stopped going to church, yet prays frantically whenever I’m scared out of my wits. I’m the girl that hates iced lemon tea and red bull (both together and separately). I am the girl who wrote you 17 letters in one day, yet never had the guts to send a single one.
I am the girl that’s scared of the dark.

I am the girl whose wallet you stole. I’m the girl who bathed in 2 minutes flat because there just might have been sharks waiting to pour down through the shower head.

i'm that girl who has never told anyone about her past and yet wrote it down here for the whole world to see.

I'm the only girl who had no guidance for nine and a half weeks, and then I became the girl who had the last half week of her attachment in Hell instead of an accountancy firm. I'm also the one you gave a limp handshake to the first day of work. I'm now the girl who will shout FUCK YOU the next time I see you.

I'm that guy who finally learn that thoughts are waves and i can relate to trees and plants.

I am the girl who did not understand why barbie looked so "perfect", when there is a flaw in everyone. so I pulled out my magic marker and gave all my barbies birthmarks. EVERYONE has a flaw now.

I’m the girl you called the sweetest girl around. I’m the one who told you that you need to meet more girls.

I'm the cheerleader who listens to Nine Inch Nails. I'm the debate team captain who goes to Detroit Red Wings hockey games. I'm the writer who just can't seem to make the words flow right.

I am the guy who pushed when the sign said pull.

i am the girl who procrastinates over my thesis, i am the girl who belts out sad emo love songs in honor of you when i am alone in my room.

i am the girl who still thinks of you every single motherfucking day.

i am the girl whose hand you loved holding. i am the girl who grinned in the cab when you hung up the phone on her just to have supper with me. i am the girl who lied to you through my teeth.

I'm the guy who recently discovered that happiness is one part decision and two parts caffeine, the one who treats coffee like a drug, taking it once a day, after meal, when required. I'm the guy in the military who didn't greet you (at first) because I'm indignant about having to practice what is acutely incongruent - "mandatory respect", but is beginning to cave because fear outweighs principles.

I'm that boy who sat beside you, threw ants into your hair to get your attention. That boy who waited 7 years till he enlisted and you engaged.

I'm that girl who once loved you. I'm that girl who erased you.

I'm the girl who once dreamt of marrying Neil Gaiman and now thinks she'll never get married at all.
I’m the boy who turned up three and a half hours late for our first official date. To this day I’m still amazed that you waited.


I am the baby you almost gave away. Why? Because you were too young to get married.

i'm the one who has the excitement in her eyes. it was me that was feckless, the one that crashed your car and spent the rest of the day making up lies you could tell your mum so i could get away scot free.

I'm the girl you walked past once, but was just another face in the crowd.

I am nothing...

I’m the guy who bought a pregnancy test kit, and stuffed it in his sidepocket (it stuck out conspicuosly), sat at a bar alone, and drank until he threw up. I’m the guy who likes rainy weather, and the smell of christmas. I am the guy who uses repeat-1 more often than any other mode in iTunes. I am the guy who lights incense cones when the evening is perfect. I am the guy who cuddles underneath the sheets.

I’m the guy who told the old man my name is Johnny when it’s not, because it came naturally to me.

And i'm that one who is walking around in circles, apparently love only lurks around corners...

I’m the one who fed your dog ice cream. I am the girl can do handstands and backflips. I am the girl who laughs when she’s nervous. I’m the girl who broke your nose.

I am the girl you accused of being “not Asian enough”.

I’m the girl who always asks for more mayonnaise. I am the girl who fell asleep on your couch. I’m the girl who set fire to her towel by accident.

I'm the girl who sat up the whole night crying because I didn't know if you were okay and i couldn't reach you. I'm the girl who laughed so hard when you sang Green Eyes and then leaned over and kissed you for it.

I'm the girl who waited till you woke up on the bus and then told you that you had the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen.

I'm the girl who hates beer so gets drunk on other stuff. I'm the girl who passed out in front of Zouk and had to be carried around into the waiting car and woke up remembering none of it. I'm the girl who passed out on your couch once and puked into the pail you put at the side and that was before I fell so deeply in love with you. I'm the girl no one really takes seriously so she smiles and pretends that everything is fine so one no knows how much she truly hurts.

I am the boyfriend who stayed as late at your place as he possibly could, and ran after the very last Number 8 bus, so that he could take the very last Number 51, so that he did not have to take a cab or pay the midnight surcharge.

I am that guy that had crushes with you, you, you, you and you.

I'm the one who breaks my promises, but abides by those i've never mentioned to you before. I am the girl who thinks that relationships should have obituaries, so everyone knows what happened in a succinct line or two.

I’m the girl who sat on the window still and waved to passers-by below. I’m the girl who sat on the kitchen table as you held her close, picked her up and fell together in a heap onto a matteress on the floor.

I'm the guy who thought it was so darn cool you are writing a play. Even if it was for the Hainanese clan. I'm the guy who took your money off your bag. I'm the guy who spends too much and still doesn't know how to spend less or save more. I'm the guy who deliberately left coins under the carpet so one day we will never be bankrupt.

I am the little girl who laughed excitedly and took the bus alone on the first day of school.

I am the little girl who turned around and sobbed inconsolably into her mother’s arms on the second day of school when she realised that boarding the bus alone was not a one-off thing but for the rest of her life.

I’m the one who threw up in (near, around) your recliner, and I’m the one who chopped down the evergreen in your front lawn. I’m also the one who changes your diapers at four in the morning, and the guy who sits with you while you take your shower for a month after you watch a scary movie.



Yeah, we’re that person. Who are you?






Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mr.Wang Said So...


...but I disagree.

Mr. Wang, who MercerMachine generally agrees with, hit a sour note with this one.

An excerpt:

"The ST Deputy Political Editor, Paul Jacob, has a rather sensible article on
the matter of the Seditious Bloggers. Mr Wang can nitpick a little here and
there, but basically he thinks that Paul has got the right Big Picture."

MrMachine can nitpick more than a little, and more than here and there. MrMachine thinks Paul Jacob missed the Big Picture entirely. With Jacob's first line, actually:

"THERE are some things, many actually, that are more important than freedom of speech."

Maybe so. Probably so. But to dismiss the entire issue of freedom of speech in the first line of the article is as ridiculous as George Bush saying that it's unimportant who was to blame for the failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina. Are there more pressing issues? Yes. In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, tens of thousands have to rebuild shattered lives. In Singapore (and indeed the rest of the world) the root causes of racism need to be understood and dealt with.

But both Bush and Jacobs are guilty of dodging thorny, messy, ugly, uncomfortable and above all IMPORTANT issues. For the ST Deputy Political Editor to be dismissive of the issue of free speech is not only baffling, it's frightening.

Let me be entirely, redundantly clear about one thing: Racism is something I've been blogging and commenting about passionately (sometimes overly so) since I began blogging. Like, the second day. I am not defending racists or their comments. Don't believe me? Look here and here and here, for a start. (The second one, you'll have to scroll a bit till you get to the heated discussion, but it's meaty.) Or do a google search with mercermachine and racism.

My point is, when I say freedom of speech needs to be discussed in regards to this issue, I do not say it blithely or easily. It costs me something to admit that racists might actually have a right to make racists comments. And spare me the semantics of 'they can say anything they want as long as they are willing to face the consequences'. I heard that one in the Army, and it wasn't funny then.

A discussion should be held, not on a political or legal level, but on an ethical and philosophical one. What is freedom of speech, and what if any limitations should be placed on it? What are the possible consequences of curtailing freedom of speech? What social responsibility should the blogging 'community' take for those who make wildly inapproriate, hateful, violent or racist comments? Should anything be done at all?

MrMachine says he doesn't know. But he does know that dismissing the questions isn't the answer.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Origin of 'Mercer Machine'


Several people have asked me what the hell a mercer machine is. Good question.

It all started when I was, oh, eleven or twelve. It was when Blade Runner came out, in 1982. Even back then, they had movie tie-in novels. I picked up the Blade Runner tie-in novel (can still remember the cover, black with blood red lettering and the main characters in various poses from the movie. Below the title, however, in parentheses, was the subtitle “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and the author, Philip K. Dick.

Hollywood has really picked up on the Philip Dick phenomenon in recent years, with the Tom Cruise vehicle Minority Report, Screamers, Total Recall and Paycheck. But Ridley Scott was the first with Blade Runner.

How much any of these movies keeps to the spirit if not the letter of their literary parents is open to (intense) debate, but nevermind. We’re talking about the origin of the Mercer Machine.

In ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, the earth has pretty much killed off all its natural wildlife due to pollution and urban expansion (which is why, in the movie, the one stripper android is able to be tracked by her android snake’s shed scale—there ain’t no real snakes). Most people have in their dwellings what’s referred to as a Mercer Machine (so named for its creator).

What this machine does, basically, is amplify a person’s sense of empathy. Without any sort of flora or fauna, no puppy dogs or cute kittens, humanity is becoming more and more remote, emotionless, unempathetic. The line between androids and humans on an emotional level is getting very fine, with advances in android tech and the degradation of human emotion.

That’s what stuck with me from the book, the idea of a machine that would help us to remain human. And that’s one of the functions of the internet in general and this blog in particular for me.

Instead of becoming remote—a stranger in a strange land who looks different, thinks different, speaks different, acts different and so withdraws, this blog has allowed me, as a Westerner in Singapore, to gain an understanding of and to a certain extent even become a part of the fabric of the society of Singapore. I’m as grateful to blogging and the internet and personal computing as Harrison Ford’s character Deckard would have been to the Mercer Machine had they not cut that bit out of the movie.

Monday, September 12, 2005

2 Racists tumble into the cesspool, or 2 bloggers hammered by draconian government?

I find myself extremely conflicted.

By now it's no longer news, but 2 singaporean bloggers were charged with sedition over extremely racist remarks they made online. See here for all the nitty gritty.

I am conflicted because, as anyone who has read this blog will know, I cannot stand racism. A part of me is fairly exultant at the fact that two people who, as they say, 'with malice aforethought' made extremely racist comments are being punished.

The other part of me is sick at the fact that there isn't even a pretense of free speech now.

Sigh. I won't be crying for them. But I might be crying for myself.

moment of zen


momentofzen
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Machineboys


Machineboys
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.

Very cold! Very very cold!
In other news, I'm watching Bush live on CNN, the swearing in of the new Undersecretary of State. This is not something that networks usually bother to broadcast live. He's referring to God a lot, and talking about the 9/11 attacks and terrorism in general.

In other words, somebody finally made him realize that there are lots and lots of people that used to like him, but now not so much. Georgie, they said, you need ta speechify! And Georgie said okie dokey.

So he's playing on those--oh, wait, he just referred to 'Almighty God'. Again.--he's playing on those two Republican strengths, the Religious Right and conservative hawks. I guarantee there will be more of that sort of thing to come. The terrorism comments are a drum he's been beeting faithfully for a long time, but the Christian rhetoric is about to be ramped up, I'll betcha.

The main difference between him and Clinton in terms of speechifying is that while Clinton was actually speaking, you tended to believe him (or at least believe that he believed himself). When Bush speaks-- well, let's just say he's concentrating on getting the words right rather than their meaning.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This Just In

According to a recent poll, 42% of Americans believe Bush did a bad job responding to hurricane Katrina, and an astonishing 35% think he did a good job. So approximately 1/3 of my fellow countrymen and women are delusional.

I guess the old saying is true. By and large, we get the kind of govermnet we deserve.

Way back at the bloggers' convention, I had a conversation with Expat @ Large. He pointed out that Americans tend to see things in black and white, ignoring the subtleties of complex issues. I ventured the opinion that this had to do with the fact that ours was a two party system.

If you look at American politics today, it is positively riven by spin and demagoguery. The Republicans and Democrats are not interested in truth or good governance or serving the people. They are interested in getting elected and reelected. And so they villify each other. Their bullshit, always sterling, has reached truly epic proportions in the last 20 years; Karl Rove, for example, is to political maneuvering what Mozart was to music. I detest him, but even I can admit the man is a genius.

Fox News is another sickening development. Time was, journalists at least gave passing acknowledgment to the idea of fair and balanced reporting. Fox, by airing rabid idiots like Bill O'Reilly, have turned the phrase 'fair and balanced' from a tagline into a punchline.

And to be honest, the Democrats are no better. The same amoral corporations fund both parties, assuring that America is business as usual whoever wins the election, whatever environmental or social consequences there may be.

I said it was astonishing that over one third of Americans are off their rocker, but I shouldn't be surprised. Only a substantial number of idiots would allow such horrible governance to continue, election after election after election.

I feel sick.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

God Says 10 Commandments Outdated

God told me to post an update.

The ten commandments need revision. Everybody knows it, but nobody likes to talk about it. They worked fine for herders back in the day, but this is the 21st century, and nobody’s really coveting anybody else’s manservant nowadays. Well, excepting a few roleplaying leatherboys I suppose, but let’s just leave that one be.

God Himself has done a bit of image refinement since those days; instead of the whole ‘jealous God’ thing, He moved onto ‘turning the other cheek’ some 2000 years ago. In short, our moral textbook is woefully out of date, and He was shocked to learn that nobody had taken the initiative to do some basic revision.

Why I was chosen, only He knows. Maybe it was because I did such a good job saving everybody’s breasts. In any case, there I was on the bus this morning listening to my ipod shuffle when the music cuts out and He starts talking.

“MercerMachine,” He said, “You’ve got some copywriting and editing experience. I want you to do a line edit on the ten commandments.”

“But God,” I said, “I’m not exactly a pillar of morality. Wouldn’t you rather a minister, or maybe the Pope do this?”

“Oh, Me no! Nope nope nope.”

“Okay. What revisions would you like the world to take note of?”

“I thought I’d leave that up to you,” he said.

“Uh, not to question Your wisdom, but—”

“I gave you a brain, right?”

“Yes.”

“Use it. Time for you and everybody else to grow up and take some responsibility.”

“But what if I screw it up?” I wailed.

“Then I’ll send your soul to eternal torment in a lake of fire. No, hey, calm down little buddy! Just kidding! You’ll do fine.”

“God? God?” But He was gone.

* * *

I have to admit, I wasn’t even sure what all the Ten Commandments were anymore. I mean, I grew up in Texas, which is the buckle of the Bible Belt, and I even went to Catholic school for six months, but it just didn’t stick. I can barely remember my own phone number, much less ten rules I have to follow if I want to go to heaven.

A quick Wikipedia search provided this:

I am the Lord thy God
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me
2. Thou shalt not make thyself any graven images
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee
6. Thou shalt not kill
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery
8. Thou shalt not steal
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house
10.1. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant nor his maidservant nor his cattle nor anything that is thy neigbor’s.

As you can see, we’ve got some problems here. First, why is no killing only number 6? Using God’s name as a curse word is worse than murder? Second, you neighbor’s house ranks higher than you neighbor’s wife, which is on the same level as your neighbor’s cattle? Third, who has cattle anymore? And who, if they were interested in worshipping graven images, would bother to grave their own? Much easier to just buy one. And really, there are more than ten, did you notice?

So without further ado and with a distinct lack of necessary pomp, here are the revised ten commandments in accordance with God’s will:


21st Century Decalogue

I am God, the Prime Mover, That which lies on the other side of the Big Bang. I am, by definition, unknowable, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it overmuch.

You will have no other gods before me—because I don’t get hung up on names and labels. All rivers eventually lead to the ocean.

You won’t make yourself any graven idols because, really, you’re just too damn lazy. If you put in that kind of effort nowadays, they call it sculpture.

You will not take my name in vain, because it is not possible to take my name in vain. I’m not that petty anymore. Just be sure to mind the company you are in before you start with the profanities, all right?

Remember the Sabbath day, because if you let them, your employers will have you working 24-7 and you will not have time for the important things like family and community and football.

Honor your caregiver, which would usually be your father and mother, but might well be a maid or a grandparent or a babysitter. Whoever was there to give you comfort, who gave of themselves selflessly to bring you up, honor them, because chances are you were a real brat.

You really, really shouldn’t kill, but if you have to, make sure you do it right. I leave it to you to decide when you have to kill; I gave you a brain and the faculty to determine right from wrong.

You will not go screwing around on your spouse, especially in this age of deadly communicable diseases. If you don’t want to be with this person anymore, get a divorce why don’t ya? If you’re in an ‘open marriage’, why did you bother getting married at all?

You will not steal unless not stealing means you or your family starves. You will not steal from anyone who has less than you. If you are caught stealing, you will not whine about it, especially if you are a politician.

You will not lie unless telling the truth will cause more trouble than it’s worth. You will not lie just to cover your own ass. Especially if you are a politician. Again, I gave you a brain. Use it.

You will not covet your neighbor, their spouse, their material possessions or their life in general, because, really, what does that get you in the end? Go out and make your life into something somebody else would covet.

Ok God?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Home again...

Strange to be back in Singapore. Strange and comforting and a little disheartening. I hadn't realized I missed seasons so much until I felt winter again. Now I'm back in the land of eternal summer, and I want. I want to see the leaves turn and drop. I want to feel that feeling you get when you're in bed under the covers and it's warm, but the room is cold and you don't want to get up, to leave your warm little cotton nest. I miss the golden, liquid quality of light on a late autumn day, hoarfrost on the grass, breath pluming.

Nevermind.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nero fiddled while Rome burned


They aren’t singing ‘Bye bye Miss American Pie’ down in the Big Easy. They’re not driving their Chevy to the levee either, because the streets are under seven feet of water and the levee is not only not dry, it’s gone. 70% of the city is underwater. The dead are lying in the streets. Alligators and poisonous snakes are everywhere. Refugees are stranded without food or water. Some people are looting televisions, others are ‘looting’ diapers, bottled water, medicine, food. There are two ways to describe the aid that has come New Orleans’ way so far: Slow and none. There are dozens of ways to describe what’s happening to the city itself: ruin, chaos, anarchy, disaster…

This is suffering on an epic scale. Scenes from New Orleans would not be out of place next to scenes from the tsunami disaster. An old man, dead, surrounded by wailing, hungry children. Rapes, beatings, fires, tens of thousands of refugees waiting for days without food or water or adequate shelter. They’re still waiting, most of them, and dying, far too many.

The bitter truth is, none of this needed to happen.

The bitter truth is, President Bush took the funding from the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA, and applied it to his war in Iraq. On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune:

"It appears that the money has been moved in the President's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

The bitter truth is President Bush gutted FEMA, the nation’s premier emergency response organization, in favor of Homeland Security (because, presumably, emergencies other than terror attacks don’t kill people anymore). And so there STILL isn't a command center set up, four days later. New Orleans Police don't have food or water.

Hurricane Katrina has also reignited the global warming debate—though why there should still be a debate, I have no idea. President Bush’s own scientists have acknowledged it is real. Global warming means violent weather. Just ask New Orleans. President Bush refused to sign the Kyoto treaty, whose goal is reducing greenhouse emissions. More greenhouse gases, more crazy weather.

Gasoline prices have skyrocketed as refineries along the Gulf Coast and oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have shut down. This is bad for the economy, but actually good for Bush’s cronies in the oil industry. As oil and gas prices rise, so do their profits.

And the Religious Right? That bulwark of Republican sentiment? Here’s what one group had to say about the disaster:

'...a Philadelphia-based outfit called Repent America. In it, Repent America director Michael Marcavage explains: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."'

And on, and on. This hurricane should be renamed Hurricane George. And what did the President do while the largest city in Louisiana was being wiped off the map? He was on a month-long vacation. Well, it was a working vacation. He made a speech in San Diego, trying to bolster support for the war in Iraq. And he played the geetar.

Inept, greedy, irresponsible…

Please, God, let there be as little loss of life as is possible, and let this be a wake-up call to American voters. Let this be how Republicans lose the South and thus the rest of the country that I still love.

(Many thanks to Gumbopages for supplying 80% of the fuel for my current rage against Dubya, and Michael Moore for the other 20%.)

MachineBoy on vacation


MachineBoy on vacation
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Still in Sydney. Great town, reminds me of Chicago a bit. MachineBoy, now 5 1/2 months old, is really starting to interact with his environment. He sees things, tracks moving objects really well, grunges(combination grab and lunge) for items that take his interest, reacts to sounds made by things outside his line of sight... he loves Australia, loves the chilly air, is absolutely fascinated by everything.

We were in a shopping mall the other day and two elderly ladies passed us. He smiled a big smile at them and [redacted] heard one lady say 'He must be five or six months old'. The other agreed and said 'They're so sweet at that age, you just want to suck on them!'

in ohternews, I am still plotting my revenge against the Geobastard.