Friday, 29 June 2007



So there was a car bomb in London that didn’t go off. I don’t know what to make of that. The news was maybe a little bit surprising, but not at all shocking. Maybe it would still have had the power to shock if it had actually gone off.

I am not crying ‘conspiracy’, but the whole thing is a bit weird. A car bomb at 1 in the morning does not make any sense if the point of a car bomb is to kill as many people as possible. Erratic driving doesn’t make any sense either. I thought that people who want to set off bombs normally try to act inconspicuously. You know, so as not to draw attention to themselves. I read that the bomb was big, but then I read it was not so big, and then I read it was big again. I read there were nails in the bomb, but then I also read that there were no nails, and then there were nails again. “Carnage” seems to be the most common description of what would have been if…

And they are “examining the CCTV in the area”. Ah, yes, good old England, with more CCTV cameras per capita than any other country on our planet.

Certainly some arrests will follow this incident. They’ll be able to trace the car, trace the dna in the fag butts in the ashtray of the car, trace the bomb components… Perhaps there will have been a passport left on the back seat. And, of course, they will find the driver of the car through the CCTV pictures.

Look how well CCTV fights terrorism. We had better put in even more cameras all over the place so we can continue to protect our citizens.





Thursday, 28 June 2007

big brother 1984


Just after I had returned from France, two different friends sent me emails with links to political news stories – both of which have enraged me. I have not been able to write about them because I have had no idea where to start. But here goes.

Darth Cheney

I hope that many of you have already seen the 4-part story that was in the Washington Post. It starts here. I have not yet read the whole thing – it’s very long. What I have read thus far is basically confirmation that Cheney has acted way beyond his powers as vice-president, and has even tricked the “president” into signing orders by allowing him to think that they have already been through all the proper channels and that other advisers have seen them. Several other people are implicated, and others are portrayed as being innocently outside the Cheney cabal. I am not going to attempt to summarise. As I said, I haven’t even read the whole thing yet. It has been difficult because I already loathe Cheney.

I checked the Constitution to see if a vice-president is impeachable on his own. He is.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article 2, Section 4

And apparently the whole process can be very simple and quick, as shown here. It really is time to impeach Cheney.

** Update ** Crooks & Liars is also calling for Cheney’s impeachment.

Inform on your neighbour

This story seems to be less known. I therefore assume that it has not been published in the mainstream media.

The FBI have gone into academia to cow students, researchers and professors into reporting on their colleagues and peers. It seems to be a pilot project focusing on well-known research universities such as MIT. The FBI has provided Defense Department guidelines on what behaviours may be signs that one of your colleagues has been, or is preparing to, pass on classified or sensitive information. The guidelines will assure you that by reporting on your colleagues to the authorities, you will actually be doing your colleagues a favour. Saving them from themselves, as it were.

Again, I am not going to summarise the articles I read; they are here and here.

This attitude of ‘suspect everyone and narc on your peers’ reminds me of two things: McCarthyism in the US, and communism over here. We could soon all be questioned about why we have foreign friends, why we speak other languages, why we are working late, why we are curious about other people’s research, or, in fact, anything at all.

Hello, totalitarianism.

* Thanks to Moscow Mike and Monkey for the initial links. And an extra thanks to Monkey for you-know-what.


Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Wprost Merkel Kaczynski breastfeeding

The cover of Wprost magazine: “Europe’s Stepmother” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel breastfeeding the Polish Kaczynski twins, Prime Minister Jaroslaw and President Lech.

The cover’s message is that Germany, especially Ms. Merkel, is trying to treat Poles and the Polish leaders as small children completely unable to act on their own and somehow dependent on Germany…. There is the impression that Germany, being more powerful, wants to dominate Poland and that the Kaczynski brothers want to stand up to this domination.

Stanislaw Janecki, editor-in-chief of Wprost, as told to Spiegel Online

The Germans are apparently pissed off by the cover. No sense of humour. I think it’s funny, although in extremely poor taste. Not because I give a shit what the press prints about Merkel or how they photoshop her – maybe she should be happy they gave her such fine young breasts – but because I hate seeing women breastfeeding in public without covering up.

As my friend Ricardo said at lunch today: “Breastfeeding is not a spectator sport.”

…and also because I consider the thought of the religious right-wing Kaczynski brothers doing anything remotely sexual exceptionally disturbing.

What I did on my holiday

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

palais longchamp

Palais Longchamp, Marseille


My holiday was very good, but mostly not relaxing because I was with 2 small children for much of it. I don’t know how people with their own children actually cope. As Asshole said, “I hadn’t realised it would be so relentless.”

The relaxing parts of the holiday were anything I did without the children – for example, being out in Paris just with Jono on Tuesday night and Sunday night. And Jono had totally spoiled me by sending a car and driver to pick me up at the airport on Tuesday.


I took the TGV from Paris to Marseille on Wednesday morning. I spent the afternoon with Little Sister and the kids just wandering around the Vieux Port and old Marseille. Asshole and I went out after the family dinner for a couple of beers and an adult conversation that was mostly about guns.

I spent Thursday day with Little Sister and the kids at the natural history museum in Palais Longchamp and in the park behind it. In the evening, Asshole and I went out on our own to have a grown-up dinner. We decided to go for a proper bouillabaisse, a speciality of Marseille. That is food, so I will go into a lot of detail.


If you are not familiar with bouillabaisse, here is the wiki explanation.

We researched our restaurants and made our final choice based on location – only one of the recommended places was near a metro station. I booked an outside table.

Our dinner was very entertaining. We had about 60 different waiters, and I don’t think we saw anyone twice (except the maître d’). I ordered a pastis as an aperitif and the waitress had trouble with my order. “What kind of pastis?” she asked me en français. “I don’t mind,” I said in English. “I don’t know pastis, I just want a pastis.” She had to call over another waiter so they could discuss it. They asked me more questions. “I don’t care, you choose. Just bring me a pastis.” Eventually I got my pastis – no idea what kind it was, but it had been an awful battle just to get a basic drink. Asshole, because he is a cretin, had a beer.

We ordered the basic bouillabaisse with a langouste thrown in. As Asshole was going to be drinking beer throughout the meal, I chose a half-bottle of wine for myself. The waiter complimented me on my fine choice and assured me that it would be perfectly paired with the bouillabaisse. That made me feel rather smug, and it was a beautiful wine, but of course my fine choice had only been a lucky guess.

The bouillabaisse was served in 2 courses: first just the broth, which was very rich and flavourful, and then a huge serving of several kinds of fish + the langouste. It was accompanied by a large plate of toasted baguette slices and a bowl of rouille. More fish and a pot with more broth were placed on a side table, but Asshole and I could not even finish what was already in our bowls. It was a fabulous meal.

Fête de la Musique

The evening of the bouillabaisse, the summer solstice, was also Fête de la Musique all over France. Fête de la Musique is not about music at all – all the music we heard was crap: cheesy French pop, karaoke, and singing waiters (although thankfully not where we had dined). Fête de la Musique is just an excuse for street parties and, in Marseille, an excuse to keep the metro open past 9.30 p.m. There were soldiers with machine guns guarding the Vieux Port station when we went home.


We arrived in Paris on the TGV late Friday afternoon. We dropped our stuff off and then headed straight for the Eiffel Tower, which was at the top of the 5-year old’s “must see” list. It was pouring rain, but there was still a crowd, and the visit was a general ordeal. In fact, I remember at one time thinking, “This could be my hell.”

Friday night ended for Jono, Asshole and me much later at Banana Café. I had worried that Asshole would be uncomfortable in a mostly gay club, but he was all right and I was very proud of him.

A good part of Saturday was spent around Notre Dame and the gardens behind the cathedral. Nephew was pretty taken by the architecture, especially the gargoyles (including the one with the man’s face – thanks, Olive) and the flying buttresses that, I had to explain, don’t actually fly.

On Sunday I went with the kids (meaning also Little Sister and Asshole) to the Louvre. We headed straight for the Egyptian rooms, which nephew loved. It’s pretty fun seeing little kids get really interested in stuff.

Just before 5 p.m., I put all the kids on the TGV back to Marseille and nearly fainted with relief.



Max est partie en vacances

Tuesday, 19 June 2007





les calanques

A girl and her guns

Monday, 18 June 2007

AR 15

This is what I’ll be learning to shoot tonight.

* update *

…and this is what I’ll be getting for Christmas:

pink ar-15

Dear Dane,

Monday, 18 June 2007

Zelený Raoul

Wow! A letter to me on your blog – that’s pretty cool, thanks.

I don’t think it’s wrong that you took the Silly Putty, it certainly sounds like you deserved it. I too remember enjoying Silly Putty, but – ježíšmaria – that seems eons ago. And by the way, I think you are incredibly brave for coordinating and participating in birthday party activities for 11-year olds. I find children in large numbers far too creepy. Were you ever on a tram in Prague when a whole school class got on, on their way to a museum or something?

It’s funny that your first example of “zoning” has to do with supermarkets. The first time I went back to LA, which was in 1993 after my first full year of Peace Corps in Ústí nad Labem (North Bohemia), I cried in the supermarket. My mom thought I had gone insane, but it was completely the opposite. Here’s the story…

First, back in Ústí, there was no such thing as orange juice in the shops. Maybe there was some sort of orange drink, I don’t remember, but not the 100% real orange juice, from concentrate or otherwise, that so many Americans would expect to be able to get anywhere they might be. And then suddenly one day there was – in one really basic German supermarket chain there were suddenly 1-litre tetra pak boxes of orange juice. The news spread like wildfire amongst the small ex-pat community and we all went to buy orange juice. And then the next week it was gone. It reappeared again 3 or 4 weeks later, but it had taught us a lesson about the necessity of hoarding.

So then I went over to The Amerika in 1993 because my sister was getting married. I went to the supermarket with my mom and I counted how many different kinds of orange juice there were. Just pure 100% orange juice in the refrigerated section. Not counting the frozen juice or the less than 100% juice or the orange-and-some-other-fruit mixtures, but just ready-to-drink orange juice – there were 19 different kinds. But that’s not what made me cry.

Towards the other end of the supermarket, when I had already been following my mom round for 20 or 30 minutes, in awe as if I had never before been in an American supermarket, we got to the toothpaste. My mom innocently said, “Max, pick out some toothpaste for yourself to take back with you.” That’s when I lost it.

In the shops in newly post-communist Czechoslovakia, you were lucky if they had a selection of two or three toothpastes. And suddenly, I was faced with an aisle of a gargantuan size, practically a whole side of it nothing but toothpastes, and I wondered, “How can I decide? How can I possibly know which is the right toothpaste? How can anyone need this much choice?” That is what made me cry.

My mom tried, but I don’t think she understood what was going on in my head. She just stroked my hair and picked up a tube of something, probably whatever was on special that day, and threw it in the gargantuan American-sized shopping trolley. My mom’s all right.

Zoning on the government. No kidding, Dane. It’s like a bad comic book most days. I hope you can preserve the ability to take a step back and observe things from an outsider’s perspective.

I don’t know if you know the Czech magazine Reflex. It’s a news weekly on acid, and one of the most widely read magazines in the Czech Republic. It’s the one that has the Cannabis Cup photo contest every year and included a joint tube with this year’s cannabis issue. There is a comic that appears on page 4 of every issue. The comic is called “Zelený Raoul: nekonečný příběh České republiky očima ufona” – “Green Raoul: a never-ending tale of the Czech Republic through the eyes of an alien”. It is brilliant and surreal and irreverent and basically Dane-style “zones” on the government and politics and society. It’s a great thing to read every week – reminds you how absolutely absurd our world is.

Stay connected, Dane. The world is not that big of a place, and you’ll find yourself back in Prague someday.



Zelený Raoul