Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send thoughts and comments to luap.jkt at gmail, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.

28.2.11

The Vultures Are Circling

Reader Note: Over the next couple of weeks, we will be traveling quite a bit, so please forgive us if the updates get a little spotty.  We will, however, be bringing you reports on various cities around Indonesia, including Medan (Sumatra) and Denpasar (Bali).  Thanks for your understanding.

Indonesia is one hot property right now.  There is a huge interest in investing here.  The economy is red-hot and foreign capital is pouring in.  In fact, there is so much coming in, that the foreign investors are putting heavy pressure on the Bank Indonesia (central bank) to adjust its policies to make them happy.

There are a number of reasons for this.  Indonesia is next door to China, which, unless you've been under a rock for the last 10 years, has become at least the second largest, if not the largest economy in the world.  China, because of its own meteoric growth, has been sucking up resources globally like a black hole eats stars.

Indonesia has a vast natural wealth that the world has been happy to exploit for centuries.  Not only does the land support a rich agricultural sector, but the country is rich in gold, coal, oil, nickel, iron, silver, sulphur, rare earths, and dozens of other commodities.  The massive rain forests here used to provide tons of lumber from mahogany and teak, though so much was stripped out in the 1950s that they are desperately trying to protect the fraction of old-growth forests, and the vast number of rare species of beasts that live here.

One of the primary resources making money right now is coal.  Used both for energy and for things like coke for concrete, nearly every Asian country is competing to lock up a 20 or 30 year supply.  Additionally, the recent floods and disasters in Australia have put Indonesia's nearest competitor out of business, at least for the time being.  Thus, demand and prices have shot up.

Another hot interest here is Indonesia's own growth.  Because the country is making so much money, and because the wealth, at least ostensibly, is filtering down to the common folks (finally), there is big demand for power, roads, shipping infrastructure, and all the related building that goes with it.  In Jakarta, the boom has brought with it a massive influx of people to the capital.  This has strained the existing infrastructure to the breaking point.  Even in the three years I've been here, I have witnessed the traffic go from bad to nighmare.

Two abortive attempts to build a monorail have left pylons standing unused around certain parts of the city.  The bus system is pushing overcapacity, with some routes almost unusuable due to waiting times and crowding.  There's a plan to install an MRT with the first line scheduled to open in 2014, but by then the city may be completely impassable, assuming that graft and corruption don't kill the project like the monorail.

Because the country refuses to automate anything, good for labor bad for mobility, the tolls roads that lace Jakarta and surrounding areas, are at virtual stand-stills during rush hour, which for intents and purposes, is daylight hours.  Combined with Indonesian's disdain for traffic laws, the whole system teeters on collapse.

For all these reasons, the vulture captialists are circling the country, waiting to pick off unsuspecting prey.  If you are not familiar with vulture capitalism, then you really need to read John Perkin's book, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman."

The basic modus operendi is to swoop in to developing countries in desperate need of infrastructure, offer massive loans to build power plants and industries that really do nothing to put folks to work, but seem like good deals at the time.  Later, as the country's economy begins to cool off, folks find that a few corrupt individuals have made off with all the dough and left the country with a crushing debt.

At that point, everyone is convinced by a few talking heads that the debt must be restructured, which really just increases the burden, thus making everyone a slave to their jobs and houses just to survive.

The only way out is the same one that home-owners in America haven't yet figured out en masse, if they can't produce a contract, you don't owe the debt.  The people are carefully groomed so that it never occurs to them that they never incurred the debt, or the original contract holder no longer holds the paper, having sold it off four or five times over.  So, in fact, there is no debt.  But no one ever figures that out.

That's part of the reason the democracy movement is so important.  See, if the people think they elect representatives, who then incur a massive national debt, then the people think they actually owe it because the voted for the scumbags.  In steps George Soros, et al., to push democracy, which is a huge scam of perportions so vast that no one thinks it can be a scam because of the sheer size of it.

In fact, it is the root of all this crowing about 'democratic' revolutions.  See, it there is a king, a dictator or a select few oligarchs, then the people can overthrow them and repudiate any debt as being the sole responsiblity of the few or one who are thrown out.  But, if the leaders are 'democratically' elected, then the banksters can claim that the debt is owed by the entire population, thus we must all cling to our jobs in order to survive, or the banksters will reclaim everything we owe.  Keeps us little people in line, right?

The Middle East is one of the few remaining strongholds of monachs and dictators.  South America has already been tamed, though Equador is a fine example of the people telling the banksters to go jump off a cliff and taking control of their country.  At any rate, the Middle East is being cleansed of autocratic rulers so that they can be effectively enslaved by the banksters, who hate sovereign individuals, sound money and especially sharia banking (interest free).  It is the compounding interest that eventually enslaves the populations under a crushing debt that can't be paid.

Bottom line, I hope that Indonesia doesn't cave to these blood-sucking bastards.  I hope that it continues it long tradition of 'just deal with it,' and so doesn't slide down the road of borrowing to build that has captured the people of so many nations, including my own.  With so many billions of dollars flowing into this country, and the constant temptation and barrage of marketing, it's hard to say who will win.  If I had my way, I would pass out copies of Perkin's book and show people what to watch out for.

We shall see.

Every day, I battle amazing hordes of cars and motorcycles, trying to get from one end of the city to other on time.  In moments of weakness, I actually wish that something could be done, but then I remember that the cost is more than most will bear, if they know it up-front.

So, for now, I suffer.  And Indonesians, who are notorious for just tolerating the uncomfortable because the effort to change it is even more repulsive.  With the ingenuity and creativity evident in this country, there is no doubt that home-grown solutions can be found that don't involve vulture capitalists.  Let's just hope the impulse for the simple short-term solution doesn't overcome the current devil-may-care attitude.

There's something to be said for controlled anarchy.

26.2.11

Thank God It's Jum'at!

Sehelai catatan bagi Indonesian readers:
Maafkan kami selama-lamanya memakai bahasa Inggris. Kami tahu bahwa banyak orang Indonesia membaca situs web ini dan kami sangat berterima kasih bagi anda datang di sini. Di masa mendatang, kami akan mencoba menulis beberapa artikel di bahasa Indonesia bagi anda, termasuk tinjauan 'Laskar Pelangi.' Kami sedang mencoba memperoleh uang dengan tulisan kami oleh sebab itu kami berharap anda mengerti. Kami mencintai Indonesia dan cinta yang tinggal di sini. Jangan tersinggung jika kami memakai bahasa Inggris begitu banyak. Terima kasih untuk visitng dan kami berharap anda akan menulis kepada kami dengan komentar anda.

So, with that said, let's start the friggin' weekend, shall we?

Here on the Far Side, we worry a lot about the state of the world during the week, but danged if we ain't gonna cut loose a little on the weekend.  After all, a boy's gotta play once in a while.

Our mother is a real dog fan.  We can't stand the animals, but there you go.  We're cat people around here.  We think dog is delicious and spicy and we'd eat it again if someone would bring a plate over to the house.

Anyway, Mom says that if you don't take dogs out once in a while, they get stupid.  We think that pretty much sums them up, in any case, but she's the expert.

Anyway, we just love living here and Indonesia is a really cool place to live (metaphorically, since it's alway summer here), and we love our wife sooooo much!  But, damn if we don't need to get out once in a while and mingle with our fellow countrymen, even if they're Canadian.  It's hard to find Texans, or even Americans, around here.  We're up to our blessed assurance in Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, and Frogs (go figure...guess they don't like France as much as we do).  We've even found a few Germans and Cubans (!) lying around.  Guess we'll have to settle for Kanuks when the going gets tough.

Living overseas is a richly rewarding experience.  You meet a truly diverse group of folks, every day is a learning experience, and you get to eat things that PETA would be all up in your stuff about back home.  Sure, there are the occasional SNAFUs and jam-ups.  Nothing is perfect.  We even miss winter sometimes.  Well, really we miss those fall northers that clean everything out and let you throw open the doors and windows and get some fresh air in.

When we think about home, we think about manicured lawns and no one hanging out in da hood.  Everything is sanitary and the only thing missing is the paper band around life saying, "Sanitized for your protection."  If you don't get out and see how the other half lives, you tend to forget that there are other ways of looking at problems and alternative solutions to things.

By the way, the next time you're out grilling up a couple of slabs of beef on a Saturday night, try this: use coconut shell for the fuel.  It makes a really tasty flavor that is hard to characterize, and it is a nice break from hickory and mesquite.  A good Indonesian sate has bite-sized pieces of meat on a bamboo skewer, which are grilled on a hibachi with a guy fanning the coconut flames with a kipas, which is a woven fan made of palm leaves.  After grilling, dunk them into sweet soy sauce mixed with crushed red onions, chili peppers and garlic (goat and beef), or a spicy peanut sauce (chicken).

Damn if it ain't some good eatin'.  One secret to good sate is to put one piece of fat among the delectable morsels of flesh.

One thing we have introduced to Indonesians is a decent Texas taco.  Oh, sure, they have kebab, which is more or less like a burrito with Mediterranean spices, but the locals really love our down-home tacos with a good Texas sambal sauce.  The only thing missing is a decent corn tortilla, but we're working on that one.  Next we are introducing beer-battered onion rings.  Should be a major hit.

One thing we can rightfully complain about is, enough with the rice.  We are up to our eye-balls in rice.  The rice is killing us.  NO MORE RICE!

Don't get us wrong.  We grew up in Houston, which back in the day, was a major rice producer.  Now the paddy out Katy way are covered with middle class McMansions that flood everytime you flush the toilet.  Serves 'em right for building a house in a field that was designed to flood.

But having rice every damn meal, and not just a helping, but a HUGE damn bowl full, is just too much.  Our body isn't designed for that kind of starch assault.  Being of Irish decent, we like a good spud or two, but can't we use ANY OTHER GRAINS?

Traditionally, Indonesian food, and really most southeast Asian food, is supposed to be eaten with the hands.  Other than sticks, they really didn't have utensils until the European colonization period.  So, instead, you use the sticky rice to make a scoop on your index and middle fingers.  Then you gather up some of the goodies and suck the whole thing into your salivating mouth.  Try it the next time you go out to a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant.  I'm sure the staff will enjoy showing you.

It's actually kind of amusing to watch upper-middle class folks sit on the floor with a dozen bowls of food in the center and each with a bowl of sticky rice.  They didn't have tables here until the Portaguese showed up, which is why the Indonesian word for table is meja, same as the Portugese.  And does anyone really know how to spell portigeuse?

One highly offensive food we have found here is called jengkol.  It looks like a lima bean on steroids.  It's the size of a cat's kidney and not only smells offensive when it's being cooked, but like asperagus, it 'seasons' one's urine and breath for a day or two afterwards.  We try to avoid it whenever possible.

How we got on to this food thing is a good question.  Our guess is that we're hungry, though it's 3am local time.  But we are enjoying a fine Panther Stout, which is put out by the Bali Hai brewery.  They make one of three dominant lagers in the country, the others being Bintang and Anker.  To our tastes, the Bali Hai lager is the best, with Anker a close second.  Most folks buy the Bintang because it's cheap and because the locals like to mix it with anggur orang tua, or 'parental grapes.'

Therein lies a story.  Anggur orang tua is a wine made from red flame grapes and aged about 10 minutes.  It's seasoned with clove and other spices, which gives it a mediciny taste.  It is usually served over ice mixed one-to-one with beer.  The concoction is not unpleasant, but it leaves a nice headache in its wake.

Other local 'medicines' include arak, which is a liquor made from oranges, and the high-end versions are pretty close to Gran Marinier. 

One of the more unusual brews is called cap tikus, or mouse piss.  It is distilled from coconut milk and the real, traditional version has a fetal deer in it, not unlike the mescal worm.  The liquor and the creature are steeped together for two weeks, leaving the cap tikus a pink color (normally clear to cloudy white).  Supposedly, it imbues the liquor with the 'essense' of the deer.  Variations include other critters, with bat being the most common.

One other concoction of note is darah kobra, or cobra blood.  It begins with a mystery brew containing fruit and flowers, with a reddish tint.  You then behead the cobra and immediately drain the blood into a hi-ball glass with the mystery fluid (that looks something like transmission fluid).  The snake is then gutted and the spleen squeezed into the mix.  A quick stir, and viola!

It's quite good, actually, and goes really well with the sate kobra you are about to eat.  The snake you just drank is diced and skewered, grilled and dunked in spicy peanet sauce.  We highly recommend it!

So, enough of all that.  It's Friday for some of our readers, and already Saturday morning here.  Time to get things together for the weekend.  It's payday and the fridge is full of delicious food and beer.  No time like the present to dive in!

Happy weekend, and may all your meals include rice!

25.2.11

To Everything There Is A Season

As humans, we live in paradigms.  We model the external world around us and come up with concepts that seem to explain what might otherwise be random Universe playing jokes on us.

In science, we had Pythagorean geometry, then Newtonian calculus, followed by Einsteinian relativity, and now Quantum Mechanics, with its sacred Planck unit.

Religion has had as many models as there are cultures.  There have been the multiple deities, the single deity and the agnostic models.  All in some way are anthropomorphic and lead more or less back to self-worship.

Every aspect of our existance has had a model, a paradigm, to explain the way things work.  Our brains are hard-wired to find patterns in everything, and we try to make rules from those patterns, which hold until mounting exceptions lead us to making new sets of rules.  The failure of the old paradigms is rarely pretty.  People cling to them because we fear the One True Constant of the Universe: Change.

In the legal and business realm, we have labored under the Corporate paradigm.  A few hundred years ago, we began creating artificial 'persons' to use in the course of doing business.  The idea was to create entities that would outlast the life-span of the individuals who created them.  If the business model worked, why must it die with the originator?

Over time, those entities acquired the rights of human beings.  They were granted 'civil' rights (those which can be given or taken away by humans) and developed 'corporate' existance.  'Corporate,' of course, means 'in the flesh.'  In other words, corporations became physically manifest, much like the gods of old taking on physical form to interact with humans.

We developed the 'corporate veil,' which shielded the individuals running corporations from liability for the actions of the 'person.'  And what usually happens when humans are divorced of responsibilty for their actions?  They typically lose all moral and ethical balances.  It's the same problem as if removing the concept of 'hell' from religion.  Without punishment, what's to compel people to follow?  Humans will eat their mothers for lunch if there is no punishment for wrong behavior.

By the time we arrive at today, corporations have received supra-human rights with almost no responsibility.  They are, in every respect, merely a replacement for monarchs.  They are run by self-selected autocrats for the sole purpose of enriching the 'corporate' body.  They exist above legal, national and ethical boundaries.  As OJ Simpson showed us, justice is for sale, and there are few deeper pockets than corporations.

Like royalty, they marry and divorce (we call is M&A, but it's the same thing).  They have white knights and black knights.  They have blue-bloods (divisions and subsidiaries) that are beholden to the sovereign.  And they are immune from sanction for their actions.

Throughout history, Mankind has sought ways to centalize power without losing sight of humanity, and it has failed miserably at every turn.  We have tweaked and trimmed so that every conceivable permutation has been tried, and yet the mere act of accumilating power has created monsters that are all but impossible to destroy, a la Frankenstein's Creature.

What we can hope is emerging today is a new paradigm, one in which the finest aspects of communism (with the little 'c'), cooperatives and democracy (again with little 'd') are joined in a new Enlightenment.  I can hear the howls about being a 'commie,' but bear with me here.

Having been a Benedictian monk for a time, I have experienced first-hand genuine 'communism' and cooperative living.  Monasteries could be a model for the future of humanity.  Small, self-organizing communities come together around a common goal, becoming self-sufficient in the necessities of life, while trading with other co-ops for specialized goods and services.

If one looks at monasteries, which are a paradigm that has survived for millenia, they tend to grow and produce enough food and water for the community, and above that specialize in some product or service.  There are monasteries that produce very fine beer, wine and liqueur.  Some are famous for cheeses or cakes.  Others produce fine arts and crafts.  They sell their specialty items to earn the money to trade for yet other goods and services that they lack.

What I forsee as the future paradigm to strive for is a blend of the monastic model with the new age of networks.  Using the internet, there is no need for corporations or any of the trappings that go with them.  If you are reading this article, then the power to sell yourself and your goods worldwide is sitting right in front of you.

All we need to do is dismantle the centralized paradigm of power and wealth, and bring it back down to the neighborhood/village level.  Policing, security and the rules of communal living are all kept at the local level.  Each community sets its own standards and lives or dies by the success of its own paradigm.  If one community sees gambling and prostitution as the Golden Promise, like Amsterdam, then so be it.  If the next community over wants to be pious and intolerant, and it works for them, great!  If you live in one, but prefer the other, you move.  Simple as that.  If you live in one, but prefer to vacation in the other, everyone wins!

Just as in the Old West, each community establishes its own rules and standards.  They then contract someone to act as sheriff, who in turn, can deputize others in times of trouble.  If someone doesn't like the way things are done in one place, then they don't have to go there.  They can still buy the goods and services of the town through co-operative networks.  No need for hate laws over vast populations, because folks are free to associate with whomever they want in their areas, and they must abide by the rules of other areas when they travel.

While all of this sounds very retro, in fact it meshes perfectly with modern technology and communications.  Private companies provide transportation, cargo and freight handling, and manufacturing.  Employees are hired by contract and whatever compensation they get is based on their own negotiating power.  Everyone, from the top down is responsible for the products and services provided.  There is no limited liability or corporate veil.  By the same token, consumers are on their own.  No suing McDonald's because the coffee was hot.

The key to all this is 'personal responsibility.'  We have spent centuries trying to pawn off our duty to ourselves and others by delegating the responsibility to others.  Consequently, the act of delegation has given enormous amounts of power over to centralized brokers, who have used it against the very people who were hoping for protection.

Every effort at security ever tried over thousands of years has failed.  Every one of them.  Rome was sacked.  Babylon vanished.  Jerico fell.  Castles crumbled.  Forts destroyed.  Not a single one has withstood a concerted effort to breach it.  So why do we keep giving away the store for something that doesn't exist?

The ideal situation is the Enlishtened Village.  Folks grow their own food and stores for hard times.  They purify enough water to serve their needs.  They specialize in skills and crafts that they use to compete in a global marketplace.  They have ideas and get others to invest in them by contract.  And for defense, every man, woman and child is armed to the teeth and trained in their use.

It is a model that has served monasteries for millennia.  It was quite successful in the Old West, until the feds came along and stole everything by promising 'security.'  In fact, the united States were conceived as a cooperative of communities, who delegated certain powers to a central entity.  That was their one big mistake.  Keep the power at home.  Though the model was quite successful for a time, there are always those who are not happy until they own all the nuts AND the tree they fall from.  That kind of ambition is what must be checked, and how!

Sure, in its broadest strokes, this is a simplistic idea, and really the concept is simple.  How we institute it and grow it into a world of enlightened people living peaceful and fulfilling lives will be for us to decide collectively.  I'm just one lone nut in the jungles of Borneo here.  But, I see these concepts in practice every day in Indonesia, and I have lived the model as a monk.  I know it works, and has worked since history began.

What is certain is that what we have now does not work.  It always ends in death and destruction, with millions living their lives as slaves to corporate and government interests, which are often at odds with the needs and desires of the individual.

The Libertarians call it Enlightened Self-Interest.  I have to agree with the broadest outlines of the idea.  If you allow me to do whatever I think is best for me and mine, and I give you the same latitude, and we respect each other's rights to pursue Enlightenment, then how can it be wrong?

Let the family first, then the community in which it lives, be the final arbiters of what is good for the individual.  Mass government creating mass corporations that rape and pillage the planet for the profit of the few is a self-defeating paradigm.  History has show us this as long as there has been history.

Time to re-think our weltenschauung.  There are many ideas that have yet to be tried on a global scale  The time is ripe for fresh thinking.

24.2.11

Bugs Baradei And Qadaffy Duck Show

Today, we take off the conspiracy glasses, through which we normally see the back-room deals behind the headlines, and put on our history glasses that allow us to see the threads that bind current events to historical trends.

For history buffs, this is one of those fun exercises that put the screaming headline news into the perspective of centuries of history. When we're done, we are better able to see the context of current events and, consequently, the players behind the scenes who are manipulating our reality.

One very fine historian, whom I highly recommend, is Daniel J. Boorstin, who sadly died a few years back. He was a master at showing the common thread of events that lead to current events.

At any rate, let's see if we can't pick up a thread or two in the tapestry of time that will put some perspective on Middle East events.

Over here, we find James I of England, who was cornered by the blue bloods of the time into signing the Magna Charta in AD 1215. This was the first major challenge to the Divine Right of Kings in history. It basically pulled the main support column out from under the absolute sovereignty of monarchs and started a trend towards democratization and constitutional governments.

Next, we pick up the thread of Martin Luther and his commonly-called Ninety-Five Theses. This was a direct challenge to the Roman Cathloic Chruch's hegimony in Europe, and was predicated on the radical new technology of moveable type, used famously by Guternberg to disseminate the Bible in the common tongue to thousands of people.

Like printing the US Constitution, people were able to look in the Bible for themselves and see that all the supposed power of the Holy See was not mentioned anywhere by the Gospels. This was a major blow to monarchical power.

This wave of Rome bashing emboldened Henry VIII to go head-to-head with the Roman church and ultimately declare the Church of England a separate authority, thus throwing gasoline on the fire of the Protestant Revolution (a term composed of the words "protest" and "revolt"...sound familiar yet?)

Luther's challenge was to the concept of 'pleniary' and 'extraordinary' indulgences, which the Roman church conceived whole-cloth out of its supposed supreme power over the Earth. The idea was that one could buy one's way out of 'purgatory' (another made-up concept) by buying or performing indulgences, which vastly enriched the Roman church.

Luther had the gall to point out that there was absolutely no Gospel foundation for either indulgences or purgatory. The people, naturally, were a bit miffed that they had been so deeply misled. Ultimately, this caused the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, which led to World War I.

In World War I, we have this rogue character names T. E. Lawrence, who you may know as Lawrence of Arabia. Though Lawrence was acting of his own volition, the Powers That Be found him to be a useful stooge, as he was leading the disparate Arab tribes to unification under King Faisal, who in turn was friendly to Western powers.

The Western powers, rememvering Hanibal and the Ottoman Empire, had sought for centuries to control the Middle East, which was a key trade route and a hot-bed of growing Muslim power. Being both an economic and religious threat to Western interests, the Middle East was key to diffusing any threats before they reached the outskirts of Europe.

Meantime, over in the Americas, a radical group of thinkers and tinkers had successfully rebelled against the English throne and established a reworking of the ancient concept of 'republic,' borrowing from Roman and Greek political thought.

The success of the American Revolution led to the French getting uppity, followed by the Australians, and finally to Ghandi in India. These revolts were devastating to the British Empire, which today is reeling from the blows, as its economy collapses under the weight of empire without resources.

Since the British Empire, through its naval dominion and lack of domestic resources, had cobbled together nations out of vastly differring cultures, it was vital that the empire be able to project force at a distance in order to maintain these artificial 'nations.' Examples include Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and others. Without the ability to rape and pillage other continents, England was just a small, insignificant island off the west coast of Europe.

As the British Empire unwinds, after 300 years, so do the many manipulations it has perpetrated on the political world. Just as the Austrio-Hungarian Empire splintered into a hundred different countries (leading to the Serbia-Kosovo war a while back), and the Soviet Empire blew apart into dozens of 'Stans,' so too, the British Empire's death is causing major upheaval in the world.

As we continue pulling the threads, we see two themes coming apart: one is the absolute power of monarchs and the other is artificial countries cobbled together out of historical enemies for economic and political expediency.

The thread of monarchy, begun in 1215, with James I, continues to this moment as Moroccan and Saudi Arabian kings desparately cling to their thrones. The secular version of kings, commonly called dictators, are similarly being overthrown, as the common people begin to perceive 'the man behind the curtain.'

They are also doing a head-count and finding that, gee, there are a billion folks over here, and twenty over there.  Why do they get all the goodies?

One after another, they will continue to fall, just as the British colonies did before them. It is the inevitable outcome of history.

We have seen these same impulses in Asia, as the Chinese dynasties collapsed and the Japanese emporer became mortal again.  Even the Catholic Church is further unwinding as the corruption and decay behind two millenia of absolute rule are displayed for all to see.

The artificial 'nations' forced, like opposing poles of magnets, to come together, are now flying apart. British constructs, such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Libya, and many others, are again splintering into their historic tribal affiliations.

Similarly, the Holy Roman Empire, reborn as the Austrio-Hungarian, then the Third Reich, and now the European Union, is blowing itself apart. These artifical constructs, based not on cultural unity, but on political expedience, are all crumbling, as the brick and mortar of empire decays.

There has been a major trend over centuries to democratize power and wealth. The masses, tired of the genetic crap-shoot that is monarchy, and weary of highly centralized power in the hands of moguls and bankers, the effects of which are the same, have taken to the streets to wrest power out of the hands of the few and into the hands of the individual.

As we pull all of these threads together, we can start to get a glimpse of the tapestry of history that is unfolding in today's headlines. Though this survey is hardly comprehensive, nor is it exhaustive, it does allow us to see some of the Big Picture, that looks so complicated at the level of pixels, but which make a good bit of sense when we draw back a little.

It's like looking at a Georges Seuurat painting. Up close, we perceive only discreet dots of color, but standing back, we can see hundreds of people engaged in various activities on a Sunday afternoon in the park.

Perhaps a bit of perspective removes some of the fear of current events, though it certainly does not lessen the profound loss of life, nor the major upheaval to the world order. It is the nature of humans to do everything they can to preserve the status quo, while at the same time wishing to change things for the better. This dichotomy within our souls is perhaps the grain of conflict in our outter reality. The impulse for change or not is further motivated by good or evil intent. We must be wary of the motives of those pulling the strings of history behind the wall of illusion we call 'reality.'

Just as Seurat's points of color blend at a distance to create the illusion of an image, or even the way pixels combine on your screen to give the illusion of text, which is further an illusion of abstract thought, we must maintain a broad enough perspective on history so that we are not slaves to it.

Slavery comes in many guises, both from outside and in. The shackles we place on ourselves are no less real than those put on us by others. The key to our freedom is having the proper perspective on things.

Even Death itself fears Knowledge.

23.2.11

Stirring Up Hornets

Well, seems I stirred the hornet's nest with the Cheesehead article.  Can't say that makes me unhappy.  I always like a good debate.  We got a few responses from it, with most running along the lines of this fellow:

Interesting little rant on public service employees.
You are, however, quite wrong.
Obviously there are problems with all government bureaucracies.
Would you have been one arguing against public water projects in the 1860's and public education of children at the turn of the century?
Not totally sure if you ever benefitted from public education, getting a fire put out or checked out a library book.
Few of the Texans I live among who are still in the country know where the library is.

Before I start picking a fight about the educational level of Texans, will point out that you mentioned the few who still live in the States, which tells me most of them are pretty smart and have bugged out. I suppose a little background is in order.

I received a private Catholic education from kindergarten through my first college degree. The second I received from a very fine public institution called the University of Houston.

My father was a state legislator for 14 years, and as such, I spent my formative years meeting some of the giants of 20th century American politics, as well as being a political prop. My father's political protege was Ron Paul, whom you may have heard of.

My father was also a history teacher and had a Master's in American history from the above-mentioned University of Houston.

I had American history pounded into my head from the moment I could sit up. I have also spent 40 years of my 50, working in film, TV and theater, so I have seen unions from the inside out.

In addition, I spent 15 years in the Texas independence movement, and consequently spent many hours in libraries learning the law and studying Texas history. So I know a little about libraries, archives and the Dewey Decimal System.

Finally, I have lived in Indonesia for three years, and before that I lived in Ireland, Germany and Spain, so I have a pretty broad view of socio-political issues and experience in how other countries do things.

All that by way of saying, I know what I'm talking about and I speak from experience, not just blowing hot air, though I do so love to spout off once in a while.

With that said, I would like to address the good reader's points individually, if I may.

Would I have argued against public water projects in the 1860s?

I'll side-step the War of Northern Agression issue, which would normally get tied up in the argument at this point, and jump directly to my answer, "Yes." Why?

Thumbing through my pocket-sized copy of the Constitution of the United States of America, annotated, which I keep in my private library here in my home office, I find not a single mention of 'public water works.' Therefore, they were/are illegal.

The next point is, I fully support the neighbors getting together and deciding to pitch in to pay for the community water system. I even support their right to join together and issue bonds to help with the project, if they so choose. Even more, I urge folks to hire a drilling truck to come out and poke a hole in the backyard. Think of the peace of mind that brings, and the fluoride it doesn't bring.

Oh, I forgot. That's illegal and there's an army of paper-pushers and goons to kill you, should you decide to take responsibility for your own water.

Final point. I live in one of the largest cities, by population, in the world. My neighbors have goats and chickens for their private food supplies. I also have a connection to the public water supply, but just outside my office door is a trap door in the floor that provides access to the house's private well. Should the city water supply prove unreliable, as it does quite often, I can flip a lever and turn on the pump to get water from directly beneath my feet.

I have indeed benefitted from a public education. I get paid by one daily. I also received a subsidized university degree from a fine public institution, which I paid for myself, working 30-40 hours a week while carrying a full load. Greatest decision I ever made.

Have I ever had a fire put out? Yes. I lost everything in an apartment fire some years ago, then promptly received a bill from the city for the service. The corporation that owned the complex filed for bankruptcy that same month and sold itself to another division to avoid being sued. Thankfully, my private insurance pulled my bacon out of the fire, literally and figuratively, when two government-sanctioned entities (fire department and corporation) tried to screw me seven ways from Sunday, after I had just lost everything and very nearly my family, as well.

Have I ever checked out a book from a public library? In addition to being one of my favorite destinations on a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid, I wore out several library cards and did hours worth of research in the stacks and archives of the central public library in Houston, Texas (along with hundreds, if not thousands of my fellow Texans). I have written and produced documentaries that were quite successful using materials that I discovered languishing in the bowels of libraries. In fact, one of my fortes is research and archival parsing. I've made quite a bit of money off of libraries over the years.

I also have a rather extensive private library. My mother, being an English teacher, has literally thousands of books stacked around her house. I personally have maybe two thousand books both here in Indonesia and back in Texas. The titles and authors span all of Western civilization and many are in the original languages, since I speak roughly 16 or 17 whence last I checked (my father forced me to take Latin in high school, too).

Some of the richest grounds for research and study that I have found are private libraries and archives. I do support the public libraries, and I donated my father's papers to the excellent library at the Univeristy of Houston, which is a public library. I think the public should freely donate and support the libaries, but they shouldn't be robbed at the point of a gun to pay for them. And with the advent of the internet, it seems that brick-and-mortar libraries are becoming extinct, once every last document is scanned and published.

I am sorry that you, dear reader, know some uneducated Texans. I suggest that they are probably Yankee transplants, like the Bush family. The Texans I know are some of the most well-traveled and well-read people I have ever met. They also happen to be some of the best teachers in my acquaintance. Indonesia would greatly benefit from having more of us around, I think.

You made some very good points, dear reader, and I am grateful that you took the time to both read and respond, as I am to all who wrote in with their concerns. In my experience and education, there is nothing that government can do, that private interests can't do better, cheaper, faster, and which adds to the overall economy, rather than drags it into the dirt.

Furthermore, if a private interest came to me and demanded money while pointing a gun at my head, I would be justified in shooting first. So, it works out better all around.

In the end, I remain unconvinced. The best government is virtually non-existant. It is one of the big attractions for me living here in Indonesia. The discussion brings to mind the old oxymoron:

"Hi! I'm with the government and I'm here to help!"

When you hear that, you should grab your wallet and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

By the way, did I mention that Houston has one of the best arts scenes that I've found anywhere in the world. Whether you want live theater, symphony orchestra, ballet, opera, contemporary music, or any other fine arts, Houston offers a world-class selection. In fact, in Hollywood, there is a significant representation from Texas, both in front of and behind the camera. We're a rather creative lot, which is a key factor in determining IQ.

22.2.11

The Reason We Call 'Em Cheeseheads

Sorry, I have no sympathy for Wisconsin's public employees.

Here they are, taking OUR money while organizing unions to negotiate taking MORE of OUR money for doing what?  NOTHING!

They do absolutely nothing productive for society, yet they want collective bargaining power to get regular raises, pension plans, medical coverage, and the rest of the goodies in the package.  In other words, they want all the things the real working stiffs ain't getting, and they want it NOW!

Forget it.  Get a real job.  Start a company that makes something useful.  Grow food and sell it at the co-op.  Do anyting but sit on your widening blessed assurance, taking money from good, hard-working people.

Public service employees have no business forming unions.  They are not productive and add nothing to society.  They rubber stamp forms and file your life in little envelopes and shuffle paper between departments.  They do these useless tasks by sucking taxes out our paychecks, which we earn by DOING something.  Our jobs add goods and services to the general economy and actually have some value.  Public service jobs do not.  The only thing they create is more bureacracy, so that they can fill more useless positions so they can create more paperwork, so they can justify their budgets, so they can create more useless positions.  It's a massive circular scam.

And they want to organize and negotiate to stuff their pockets with all the benefits that you and I, the productive workers, can't have unless we are productive and efficient.

Do I dislike unions?  Not really.  I come from Texas, which is a Right To Work state.  That means I can not be descriminated against because I don't want to join a union.  I think they have their place and I have seen them do good things.  But, I have also seen the flip-side.

I have seen an entire orchestra that shows up to work on a Broadway play that doesn't use an orchestra, but because of union rules, the production must hire so many musicians.  They come in at the appointed time, plunk their butts down and eat donuts and read the paper for four hours, then go home.

I have seen warring unions, over a hockey game no less, who refused to take scenery from the stage door, across 25 feet of no-man's land, and put it in a truck.  Because union A supported the local hockey team, and union B favored the Canadian one, they held up a multi-million dollar show and a great number of people.

I have seen stupid, nay, assnine rules, that stipulate a crew of three to hang a light plot.  One man at the top of the ladder, one man to 'spot' or hold the ladder, and one just in case the guy at the top drops something.  Then the third guy can pick it up and run it up the ladder.

I have been present when a person is required to park a pickup truck in a parking lot with a large sack full of money on the floor board.  They then get out and walk away, while someone else walks up, gets in a drives away.  That money is to ensure that there are no problems with the union bosses, who sit in smoke-filled halls guarded by Guidos with sub-machine guns, and decide who gets worked over next.  Pay the protection, and there's no need for the Guidos to bust you up.

For all the good that unions do, there is an equal and opposite force for decay and destruction.

When it comes to public servants, and I stress the word 'servant,' there is no reason or excuse for them to have any collective bargaining rights.  They should be thankful we peel off a few bucks (at the point of a gun) to pay their time to push paper around.  There is not on single, redeeming value to any of their jobs, and if they feel the need to get rich and have a perk package, then get out and get a real friggin' job and work for it like the rest of us.

"Wait," you say, "what about teachers and cops and the jobs like those?"

Education should be the sole responsibility of the individual.  It should be completely private and the state shouldn't have any business getting involved, except to enforce contracts.  That's it.  Teachers get paid by the people using their services and their pay is based on how effective they are at their jobs, not by seniority and how many Guidos they have backing them up.  We shouldn't even pay legislators to stipulate cirricula.  The schools set their own and they are rewarded by the success of their graduates.

Cops?  Nope.  No unions.  OK, so we need hired guns to run around shooting us if we don't follow some rediculous law or another, or refuse to pay taxes for a collective bargaining scam, but if they don't like the pay, then find a real job.  Finding stooges in uniforms is easy.  The army's been doing it for years.  All the cops really do is show up after the fact and fill out forms.  More paper-pushing.

Show me a law, and I'll show you yet another usurpation of my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happines, the enforecment of which requires the hiring of more useless paper-pushers and goons with guns to steal my hard-earned money to pay for it.

Unions in the workplace?  Yeah, sure, OK.  As long as I am free to negotiate my own compensation package without coersion to join what amounts to a non-governmental taxing authority, which in turn hires its own useless paper-pushers and gun-toting goons.

Unions have done some good.  We have Labor Day, which is an American institution now.  We have paid holidays and sick leave.  But all of that is now law, which requires the aforementioned paper-pushers and gun-totoing goons.  My lawyer and I are perfectly capable of negotiating those things on my own behalf.  If I am worth it, the employer will agree to my terms.  End of story.  My contract with the employer secures my hard-won bennies and the courts are in place to protect my interests.  I don't need a union for that.

As for the public SERVANTS in Wisconsin, get over it.  If you don't like it, get a real job, negotiate your own packages and do something that benefits society.  Having collective bargaining in order to get more money and benefits, which necessitates gun-toting goons coming to me and yanking my money out of my pocket is just plain wrong.

Every state should ban collective bargaining for public servants.  They have one of the biggest benefits available in our society: the right to take home MY money.  If that's not enough for you, then too bad.  Go get a real job and pay for the paper-pushers and goons like the rest of us.  You already have more holidays than most of us get, save for banksters.

That it's taken this long for one of the legislatures to stand up and say enough is really astounding.  That the useless tax eaters are upset is just astounding.  They have forgetten where their money comes from.  They should be blessing all of us at the tops of their lungs everytime they put a mouthful of food into the bellies of their families.  After all, we paid for it.

After the busting the unions for public servants, the next step should be penalizing legislators for every law they pass.  What's the bet that would greatly increase the quality of laws and reduce the quantity.

As for Congress, we can simply dispense with them.  They are redundant and double dipping from the lobbyist larder while they're at it.  And take the useless presidency with you.

21.2.11

Playing Chess With A Poker Face

There is, beyond our common perception, a massive game of chess being waged.  The stakes are enormous.  The winner becomes the capstone of the 'unfinished pyramid.'

The scale of the game is almost beyond comprehension.  It has been played over centuries and moves at a glacial pace.  The vast majority of humans on this planet are just pawns.  We mean nothing to the players.  Our lives, our fortunes, our families are just dust in a passing wind to the people who play this game.

You and I don't have a hope of joining the game, even if we wanted.  Huge fortunes buy one a spectator seat, and maybe even the chance to serve coffee once in a while.

Most people are not aware that, at the highest levels, there are only about 10 people who matter in the whole world.  These 10 people are the only ones who can personally guarantee, with their fortunes, transnational transactions.  They are tense moments when nations exchange wealth, and for a few precious seconds, someone must guarantee the transactions with real wealth.

The largest of these transactions, at least to date, was $7 trillion and took place about two years ago.  It was underwritten by a single individual, guaranteed by gold, and lasted a full 3 seconds.  Reportedly, 37 people died in the process.

The only name I am aware of is the Throne of England.  I say the throne, because the faces on the board change every so often, but the seats do not.  I suspect a few of the others.  One in New York, two in China, one in the Middle East.  These 'seats' have battled each other across time and space.  Nothing occurs on the board which is not planned down to the minutae.

To us 'dust,' it appears as if things get out of control.  It looks like there is a spontaneous uprising across the Middle East, but the moves have been carefully executed over a hundred or more years.  It looks as if economies are collapsing.  It feels like chaos is increasing and that events are spiraling out of control.

But, the 10 'seats' are not threatened.  They haven't even broken a sweat yet.  Everything is going exactly according to plan.  They don't even bother to hide the game.  It is so huge, so impossible, so monstrous, that us folk down here don't even look at the 'seats.'  They can't possibly exist, so we can't possibly see them.  It's rather the ideal way to hide something.  Put make it so big, that when you put it in front of someone's face, they can't see it.  It simply becomes part of the landscape and disappears.

If you know where to look, you can catch glimpses of it every now and then.  Occasionally, a thread is visible or a dropped stitch allows just the smallest amount of light through.  If you don't know what you are seeing, then you can't put it into context.

One way of doing things, at the coffee-fetching level, is with a kind of dollar you and I will never use.  It was issued in World War 2, and it's a gold bearer bond.  The most common kind come in denominations of $100,000.  They are in individual plastic sleeves and look like any dollar bill, but they are yellow and have a lot of zeros on them.

They come in boxes of $1 million face value.  The box is made of dark wood and has an engraved plate on top.  The plate is gold with a black coating.  The etched lettering shines on the black background like the promise of uxorious bridegroom.

These boxes are held by certain families in various parts of the world and get traded around in a level of commerce most of us will never experience.  These families are the rooks, bishops and knights.  They do the bidding of the 'seats' and are granted a taste of the power and wealth.  Remember the special occasions when you were a kid and dad would let you have a dram of wine or champagne?

The 'seats' are vastly wealthy.  They control the wealth of nations, even entire regions.  They don't hold paper, except that the paper is title to your life and all that you think you own.  Every utterance they dictate becomes the reality we live under.  Kings and titans come to them on bended knee.

In the Middle East now, a move has been made.  Since we can't perceive the board, we can only speculate on the purpose.  We must watch to see what moves are made to answer.  That will give us a small clue as to whether the queen is in check, or if some pawns will be lost.  There does seem to be a major offensive in progress, but whether it is on the part of white or black in unknown.

What we see as global revolution is just heated action on one corner of the board.  It's conceivable that a false move will place one of the 'seats' in jeopardy, but it is doubtful.  These are master players with centuries of experience.  Every move possible has been foreseen and the counter moves plotted far in advance.

The 'seats' must be thoroughly entertained by the action.  No doubt they have ordered another round as they cozy up to the table to watch the outcome.  They derive great satisfaction from watching the pawns duke it out.  There's always some small amount of chance remaining in any plan, so they are licking their lips in anticipation of the bloodshed as they wait to see their grand design unfold.

Some point to the banksters, others to the Freemasons.  Maybe you think it's the Rothschilds or the Rockefellers.  Mere water boys all.  The 10 'seats' run the game, and no one is allowed to take a seat at the table.  It has been full since the beginning.

Will it end?

Certainly.  All things that exist must end.  When or how is anyone;s guess.  We can hope that what is sweeping the world at the moment is a mass awakening to the control of our lives and all that we know.  We can hope.

However, most people don't see, nor do they want to see, the game.  It is far too much for them to grasp.  They prefer to live in homes they think they own, raise families they think are theirs, go to jobs they think they have.  To destroy that illusion would surely kill them.

It's possible some random event could upset the table and the play would be forever adjourned, but it is hard to imagine what it is that could be that large and that random.  But, we shall see, as with all things.

Is there still hope?  Always!

Without hope, there is nothing.  It is the source of all reality.  It is the one force to which even the 'seats' must bow.  Hope is the foundation of all that exists.  Even Love must serve Hope, because Love is the offspring of Hope.

In the meantime, we can only try to perceive the game and the players, and hope that a result will come soon, so that we can move on to something far more interesting.

Into Dante's Inferno

Mount Patuha/Kawah Putih
Tangkuban Perahu

It can be fun being the one of the few, if not the only white guy around.

Now before you get your PC panties in a bunch, listen up. The Indonesian slang for Europeans and Americans is bule (BOO-lay), which is a bastardization of the word 'albino.' It literally means, 'white person.' And since I am constanly called bule, I think we can dispense with the self-righteous 'tolerance' crap.

OK, so when I leave the city, I often go places that most visitors don't go. Come to think of it, I live in the city in a place where most visitors don't go. Being one to travel the 'blue highways,' those seldom travelled back roads that tourists shun, I frequently find myself in unusual and fun places.

On top of that, I become a minor celebrity, of sorts. Just yesterday, a group of women wanted to have their picture taken with me. I was more popular than the horseback rides and only slightly behind the center of attention for the park we were visiting. But I'll get back to that.

Our weekend excursion took us to Bandung, which is about two hours east of Jakarta. It's a great little city in the Indonesian hill country, though increasing popularity has caused a mini-boom in the last few years. Bandung is famous for, among other things, its factory outlet stores. Here, you can buy designer-label clothing and accessories for pennies on the dollar, or fractions of rupiah if you will, compared to other parts of the country, and especially outside the country.

You see, Indonesia is the low-cost provider to America's low-cost providers. All those jobs that were jacked to India and China are then farmed out across Asia, with clothing and textiles being one of the mainstays of Indonesia.

You can buy Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, London Fog, Giordano, and dozens of other 'labels' direct from the factory. I picked up a nice Burberry casual shirt for $2. Needless to say, Indonesians being the thrifty shoppers that they are, Bandung is very popular as a weekend get-away and shopping haven.

For me, the big attraction is not the city, cities are everywhere and they are pretty much the same throughout the world, but the natural beauty available just outside the town.

Our first stop Sunday morning was Kawah Putih, which means 'White Crater.' This is a beautiful nature park about two hours south of Bandung. It's on the pricy side, $22 for a car and 8 people (Rp.150,000/car and Rp.15,000 per person). You can park below for free and take an ankot to the top for only $2/person plus admission, instead of paying the car fee.

It's in the center of a forest preserve at the top of a mountain. It's particularly nice, because though there are vendors and hawkers, there are no shops and souvenier stalls, just open parking and restroom facilities (10 cents per use).

After parking, you stroll across the parking lot and climb over a ridge, then down into the crater of an extinct volcano. At the bottom is a lake that is ash grey and relatively warm. It is cradled within the steep walls of the crater and there is a sulphurous smell from escaping gases.  In fact, there is a sulphur mine in the area.

The day we were there, it was refreshingly cold with a stiff breeze. What made this humorous to me, was that the Indonesians were bundled up like Eskimos, while I was in T-shirt and shorts. I thought it was a long-awaited and refreshing break from the year-round heat of Jakarta.

There's a rough-finished landing that goes right up to the water's edge. The few trees near the water are scraggly and pitiful, but there is a lush forest just a few feet up. Around the area, local craftsmen play a traditional Sundanese musical instrument called a kecapi (kuh-CHA-pee). It looks something like a zither and is played with one hand strumming while the other plucks. It's quite a pleasant sound and made the atmosphere all that much more other-worldly.

Returning to the parking area, we went down a separate path. This one led to an excellent waterfall. The hike is somewhat arduous, espacially for flat-landers, but the sight is well-worth it. The falls are several meters high and cascade in a picturesque fashion down the side of the mountain. Warning: on a cold day, this place is even colder, due to the mist kicked up by the falls.

I should mention that these areas have absolutely no amenities for handicapped. Though 80% blind, I was able to manage fairly well, but wheelchairs will NOT have a chance.

After leaving the park, we turned further south and within 10 minutes, we were in the middle of a vast tea plantation. The bushes covered the area like a lush green blanket for as far as you could see. Along the road, we came to a stretch with very large old trees lining the sides. Here, a number of tent flies were strung up and vendors sold rice and noodles.

We had a pleasant 'second breakfast' on the roadside, looking at the tea fields. From our resting spot, we looked across the tea to a small hill in the near distance that had a number of waterfalls. The area is also famours for broccoli and strawberries. We bought 2 kilos of strawberries for less than $2.

After the break, we turned around and headed down the mountain again. Then we turned west to another park near Bandung, maybe one hour to the southwest. After climbing through endless villages and roadside vendors, we crossed an invisible barrier. Suddenly, we were into a beautiful old-growth forest, with massive trees and endless bands of monkeys watching us pass.

Near the peak, we turned into the main gate of Tangkuban Perahu. Entrance for a car and the same 8 people was only Rp.13,000/person, or about $1.50. The car was Rp.10,000, or about $1.20. They tried to charge me extra because I am bule, but because I can speak Indonesian and sing the national anthem, they relented.

After paying, we drove up the long and steep road to the top of the mountain. There were stunning views and plenty of monkeys to make the time pass quickly. At the top, we got down in the first parking area. A short hike brought us to the lip of the volcano, with a stunning view of the inside of an active mountain. It last erupted in 1983, so that adds a certain sense of excitement to the whole thing, thinking it could erupt and splatter you all over creation at any minute.

At the south end of the crater is a bubbling, seething pool of volcanic water, ash and effluvium. The sulphurous smell, called belerang in Indonesian, was quite strong here. The wind was brisk and powerful, nearly causing me to misstep more than once. A quick hike brought us to the very edge of the caldera.

The panoramic view is quite stunning. You can take in the entire crater, with its steaming, ash-gray lake at the bottom, and the steep sides that look as if they were sheered off by a massive chisel. A small, 3-foot high fence separates the visitor from doom.

After a few oohs and ahhs, and photo-ops with a dozen women in their jilbab, we drove down to the lower parking area to see Dante's Inferno from other perspectives.

Here, there are a couple dozen horses for hire, though most are ponies by Texas standards. Vendors wander around hawking every kind of oleh-oleh, or souveniers, imaginable.

Around the rim of the crater, there are dozens of precarious overlooks and each one offers a Kodak moment. There's also a tower with a panoramic view of the surrounding area, which is breath-taking, to say the least.  Wheelchairs can find a couple of perches that are accessable, however the tower is not.

From here, a wide path leads down to the Gates of Hell. Volcanos are considered by Indonesians to be dwelling places for powerful spirits. The sulpher waters have healing properties for folks with various skin ailments, as well, though you can't bathe in them. Your skin will boil off in short order. Folks dip out the water and cool it first. You can also buy eggs cooked in the heat of the volcano, which are considered to contain healing powers, as well.

The hike to the bottom is rather arduous, and the return trip even more so. The path is rough and strewn with rocks and loose gravel. At the bottom, you come to a large, roiling pool, and it's somewhat difficult to breathe. It's something like standing next to a 1,000 matches as they are lit.

Somwhere in the area, though I didn't have time to find it, is a sacred gua (GWA), or cave. People come to pray in the cave for all sorts of blessings. The volcano spirits apparently have the power to confer blessings and luck, as well as destruction if they are not appeased.

Along the way, there are dozens of shops selling every kind of craft imaginable. You will want to negotiate every penny, as prices usually double or triple for bule. Offer half of the stated price and walk away if he won't bargain. Two doors down is his cousin selling the same thing, and he WILL bargain since you didn't bite the first time.

After you've taken a few thousand photos, bought all your oleh-oleh and you can taste the sulphur in your mouth, it's time to go. The drive out is just as refreshing and relaxing as it was coming in, with monkeys inspecting your car as you pass.

Sun-burned, wind-burned and exhausted, we wound down the mountain and headed home. It really is amazing what you can find a quick drive out of the city. In both locations, I was the only bule around, so that made it somewhat more entertaining for me. My Indonesian friends just sat back and laughed as I spent a good half hour in photo session. And not a single tip did I recieve.

Exhausted, I fell into bed last night, ready to face another week in the rat race.

HINT: If you are asthmatic or sensitive to dust, you might want to bring a face mask, especially on windy days.  I spent a considerable amount of time cleaning dirt out of my eyes and nose, and one of our party, who is asthmatic, had trouble breathing.

20.2.11

The 10 Weirdest Films of All Time

We here at Far Side Global Headquarters try to keep the weekend columns on the lighter side. The world is full of bad news, so why not put a little spark out there? We will return to our usual grousing and complaining on Monday. Fair enough?

OK, you asked for it (not really, but we can blame you anyway). Due to the overwhelming popularity of the first Top 100 list (yeah, we know it only had 10), we are adding our take on the really, truly weird. Orson Welles figures prominently in this list because his movies were, well, just weird.

To make it on this list, the film has to have some redeeming qualities. Good production value and acting help, but it can be just a legacy of weirdness, also. In a couple of cases, we just chose the weirdest of a weird director's filmography, because we only have ten slots here.

No, "Reefer Madness," nor any of its ilke made it on our list, because all propaganda is weird and we don't like it, so we don't promote it in any way. That's why you won't find Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi flicks on here, either. Just too weird, you know?

So, log on to Netflix and get your credit card ready, here comes a list of must-see weirdness for the whole family!
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10. Rhinoceros (1974) - Tom O'Horgan dares to sit in the God Seat and take on Eugene Ionesco in head-to-head combat. The German playwrights of Ionesco's era were a strange bunch, and their products are even stranger. O'Horgan is afraid to go it alone, so he brings in Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Karn Black to watch his six. The result is a brilliant rendition of the classic minimalist play, but it doesn't lose a single, precious drop of weirdness in translation. The central character watches his circle of friends and acquaintances turn into rhinoceroses, one by one. It's a metaphor for political movements, especially Nazism and Communism, and it works, if you know what the message is. Still, this is just one plain weird movie and well worth a rainy afternoon of your time.

9. Touch of Evil (1958) - This one has it all! Charlton Heston as a Mexican cop, Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican madame, Orson Welles as a small-town Texas sheriff, a young Dennis Weaver in a small role that inspired Alfred Hitchock's "Pyscho," and one of the longer uncut shots in cinema history (and the only one spanning two soverign nations). Not only is the story weird, but Heston as a Mexian cop has got to be the all-time weirdest casting decision ever. The accent alone will send shivvers down your spine. The motel scene with Heston's screen wife and Dennis Weaver has all the elements of "Psycho" packed into just a few minutes of screen time, with a Mexican gang thrown in to make it even more weird. Welles, of course, takes the God Chair, writing and acting credits, though we hear the Chair was re-enforced for this one.

8. The Trial (1962) - Yup, Orson again. This time, he wrestles with Franz Kafka and produces one of the all-time strangest flicks we know of. Once again, Welles sits in every chair on the set, not that we're complaining, of course. Anthony Perkins heads the cast as a mild-mannered clerk who gets tangled up in a bureaucratic nighmare, which twists and turns and contorts until it's hard to figure out what the truth is, or if there is even any truth at all. Naturally, that was Kafka's whole point, which is why his name became an adjective. Welles does a masterful job of blending halucination with reality until its all one big opium cloud. Perkins' acting is up to par and we feel his confusion, anger and frustration, as things go from bad to weird. The weirdest part of this movie is that once you finish, you look around at your world and see the movie come to life before your very eyes. You'll want to watch this one with your lawyer.

7. Crash (1996) - The question becomes, "What was David Cronenberg smoking, and when did he smoke it?" This movie is one of those pycho-sexual mind-blowers that's just too weird for words. A TV director gets into an auto accident and ends up in a world of sexual weirdness where people get off on watching staged car wrecks and touching each other's scars and disfigurements. Only Cronenburg could come up with this and it fits into his well-respected filmography of weirdness. This is also one of his least-known works, which is not surprising, if you make it to the last reel. James Spader and Holly Hunter top the cast list, with Holly playing a role unlike anything we've ever seen her do. James tends to drop back into his "Sex, Lies & Videotape" character, every now and then. The scene at the re-enactment of Jimmy Dean's death is just beyond weird. Where does Cronenberg come up with this stuff? It's almost as if he lives it...

6. Myra Breckinridge (1970) - OK, imagine you have a book by Gore Vidal, and a list of stars that includes Mae West, John Huston, Raquel Welch, Jim Backus, John Carradine, Farah Fawcett, Andy Divine, and even critic Rex Reed in his first and only on-screen role, and yes - even Tom Selleck in his film debut!  This probably wouldn't be first on your list of weirdness for a rainy Saturday afternoon, but buddy, this one is weird.  Rex Reed is transformed at the hands of a drug-addled surgeon into Raquel Welch (in front of an audience cheering along).  Raquel then goes on a series of adventures as she tries to break into the Hollywood elite, meeting strange characters and having very weird adventures along the way.  No collection of weird is complete without this title, but be warned, you're going to have to work to find it.  This movie is so weird that Gore Vidal wrote in Esquire Magazine it "proves that God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry," because the director Michael Sarne was reduced to slinging pizzas after the film's release.  Now, THAT's weird!


5. Zardoz (1974) - Sean Connery was fresh out of the 007 franchise, and John Boorman had written this really weird story about a post-apocolyptic world which had based itself on one of the few surviving books, "The Wizard of Oz." Connery, wanting to shake off the Bond Bubble, needed something to break the spell, and this was just weird enough to do it. He's a long-haired barbarian, carefully groomed to be Destroyer of Worlds. He flies around in 'godheads,' gets lost in crystals, is haunted by some weird floating head guy with a penciled moustache and an Egyptian head-dress. Connery's job is to destroy the Immortals, who have grown bored of thier lives, to the point that some have become 'apathetics.' His job is to introduce a little death and destruction to snap everyone out of their centuries-long doldrums. To get a handle on this flick, you'll need to read the book, "Wizard of Oz," by L. Frank Baum, not watch the movie. And yes, there is a BIG difference.

4. Eating Raoul (1982) - Paul Bartel takes pen in hand and sits in the God Chair, as well, for our next selection. Bartel's list of weird flicks includes, "Lust in the Dust,' which takes honorable mention on this list. Bartel and Robert Beltran head up the cast. The subjects are an LA couple who are self-righteous, pretentious and despise the immoral swingers who live all around them in the apartment building. They also want to open a restaurant, by the way. They find a way to clean up LA's swinger scene AND get money for their restaurant, all in one easy solution! This flick has something for everyone: wine lovers, swingers, cannibals, and mushroom lovers. As weird as it is, it is really funny, and you'll never look at your frying pan the same way again. The toy closet and, of course, the title character Raoul, are hysterical. But the whole thing is pretty darned weird, when you think about it. This is definitely a flick for the well-rounded collection of weird.

3. Edward Scissorhands (1990) - In the realm of weird, Tim Burton's God Chair will end up in the Smithsonian. He is the Sultan of Strange, the Wizard of Weird and the God of Gravitas. This particular film stands out for its complete artistry with non-sequitur. Borrowing from Mary Shelley, Vincent Price, in his last filmed performance, plays a mad inventor who lives in a castle on a hill in the middle of 50s suburbia. Where else? Johnny Depp is the Creature, and an all-star cast of misfits fills out the superb cast, including Alan Arkin, who we love in anything. Everything about this movie is just plain weird. The cookie-cutter pastel suburbia, the choreographed "go to work" scene, the topiaries, the costumes. It's kind of like "The Women's Room" meets "Frankenstein" and they kick ass on "Leave It To Beaver." It's a Gothic novel twisted into a Burton-esque landscape. We happen to think Burton is one of the greatest minds in film, and this one shows why. But, it doesn't change the fact that the movie is just...weird.

2. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958) - No list of weird would be complete without Ed Wood in the God Chair. This guy's mature work looked worse than our childhood films. But, you gotta hand it to this guy...he's got staying power. We're not even going to try to describe this flick. It's so far out there, so disjointed, so bizzare that it's hard to believe a single person could have this scrambled of a vision. Ed must have suffered from dylexia, ADHD and myopia all at the same time. It's notable, of course, for Boris Karloff, who was just a weird guy. It's also notable because Philip Glass wrote a weird opera with nearly the same title. This is one of those movies to watch when you need inspiration, because if this guy could become famous making this kind of weirdness, well, we all have a fighting chance.

1. Liquid Sky (1982) - On our list of all-time weirdness, this one takes the cake and eats it, too. Slava Tsukerman hunkers down in the God Chair and takes us to New York City, which is a weird place, where aliens in a dinner plate arrive to load up on heroin (why they don't go to Afganistan, we don't know). In the process of cranking on the residents of a brownstone, they discover that the opiates produced by the brain at the moment of orgasm are far superior, and so invade the body of a young, nubile, bisexual punker. She then proceeds to become a world-class nympho, sucking up every orgasmic brain stem she can get her hands on. This flick is notable for its make-up and the music score, which we find haunting, though we haven't heard it in years now. Having no budget also made Slava very creative with special effects and the camera work is highly unusual and creative, as well. We are taken places most of us would never go. We see things most of us would never see. And we are thankful it's just a movie. This movie is equally fun because no one knows about it. We have met maybe a handful of folks who have seen it, and half of them only because we tied them down and forced them to watch, a la "Clockwork Orange." None have ever recovered from the experience. If you're a Fan of the Freaky, this movie is for you. It takes weird and flogs it into submission.

As mentioned above, our Honorable Mention goes to, "Lust in the Dust." Watch the flick, you'll soon understand why. Nuff sed.

So, that fills out our Weirdest Films list. Now, you may be saying, "Hey, these are pretty mainstream for the Far Side." We hear you. But, this list, we felt, should be accessable to most folks. Weird implies "different, but not too far outside the norm." At some future point, we'll publish our Top 10 Most Subversive Titles, which will include almost nothing you have ever seen, and likely never will, because even with our "Good Housekeeping" stamp of approval, you probably won't got watch it. Only us professionals know about them, and we rarely speak of such things among the uninitiated.

We'll also be bringing you our list of Double and Triple Features with Obscure Connections. This is a great list for film buffs and can fill out a rainy Saturday with infinite entertainment options.

How's that for a tease?

Happy viewing, and don't forget to tell your friends about the Far Side. We're here almost daily, bringing you content you won't find any where else. Thank God for that.

18.2.11

NO ONE Expects The Inquisition!

Before I launch into today's tirade, I want to express heart-felt gratitude to George Ure (urbansurvival.com) and Dr. Henry Makow (savethemales.com), who both put up a link to this blog the other day. I got about a month's worth of traffic in one day and made $5! Both of the above sites are linked in the sidebar under 'More Good Reading.' Thank you, gentlemen!

Now, on to the matter at hand.

There seems to be a cycle in religions, where every thousand years or so, there's a purge and reform kick.

The Roman Catholic church (as opposed to the Irish and Othodox flavors) went through such things twice, though the second time was a bit more civil. The original Inquisition, which focused primarily on Spain, was enacted to purify the faith after the invasion of the Moors from Africa. It was a powerful movement and it was not afraid to use violence, torture and coersion to get what it wanted. It also got a little out of hand.

It was also fighting this new thing called 'science,' that dared to defy the church's dictates by, look shocked, observing the real world.

I know that last bit is terrifying. If people started looking at the real world, it would undermine faith, destroy governments and topple the New/Old/Middle World Order. We just can't have that.

Galileo was tortured, excommunicated and kept under house arrest until his death because he would not recant his simple observation: there are things in the Universe that do not revolve around Earth. (gasp!)

Buddhism has undergone schisms and upheavals. There are as many sects of Buddhism as there are Buddhists, it seems. In Thailand alone, there are the forest monks that practice a certain way, and there are the 'other' monks who do their thing. The Zen and Tao schools are offshoot attempts to purify the faith. Nicheren in Japan was a heretic, whose monasteries still survive, though he didn't. (nam myoho renge kyo)

Now, it appears that Islam is facing the same impulse. There are the dominant sects: shi'ite and sunni, but there are also minority sects, such as the Indian version called 'ahmadiyyah.' Indonesia is primarily Sunni, with a significant portion of Shi'ites, and a tiny minority of Ahmadiyah.

Now, if you are not up to date on Islamic sects, allow me to try to boil it down. The Sunni, which is short for an Arabic expression meaning, 'people of the way,' believe they are of the purest observance. They constitute that majority of Muslims worldwide.

Shi'ites, or shia muslims, are 'the followers of Ali.' They believe that members of Muhammad's family have a special standing and holiness that is above others. It is similar in concept to the Levite priests of the Hebrews, in that a genetic link to a certain family brings aditional power and holiness.

The Ahmadiyya are followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), an Indian Muslim who claimed to have been the messiah foretold in the Qur'an.

Add to this mix a group that calls itself the FPI. They are a self-appointed group of fanatical purists here in Indonesia who perceive themselves as the 'cleansing force,' the purifiers whose job it is to straighten out anyone who doesn't believe or doesn't follow the straight and narrow. The FPI are notorious for 'raiding' nightclubs and brothels, and beating the living crap out of anyone caught in the grips of iniquity.

Their power rests largely in fear and intimidation, and because of sympathizers within government who are unwilling/unable to control them. In fact, just yesterday, the FPI met with the National Police and said in no uncertain terms that if the Ahmadiyyah are not banned completely, they will revolt against the government, topple the PTB and cause all kinds of havoc and mayhem.

The National Police thanked them for their input.

A couple of years ago, the Ahmadiyyah were banned from openly practicing their religion, so they took it underground. Obviously, the FPI was able to cram through legislation that violates the country's consitution.

That, apparently, was not enough, since last week a mob of around 1,000 men beat and stabbed four Ahmadis to death in eastern Java. The leader, though videotaped, has not been identified and no one had seen him before the morning of the mob scene, when he was giving out blue arm bands and insiting a riot.

The just stinks of the Palindrome Man's colorful revolutions. The Palindrome Man loves to take existing divisions and stir the pot a bit, but that's an argument for another time.

Two days later, a mob showed up to a Muslim boarding school and proceeded to beat the crap out of a handful of students and a couple of security guards. The school is Sunni, but the clerics who run it are suspected of being sympathetic to Shia.

Another incident involved a Christian man, who was accused of blasphemy (yes, it's against the law), and subsequently found guilty. A group of folks thought the sentence was too light and proceeded to burn down a couple of churches and beat a few people silly.

It appears to the untrained eye that the Sunni and Shia can agree that other sects are heretical, but abscent other groups to unify over, then they take to beating each other up. This is well in evidence in the Middle East, both in years past and in recent events.

People are always afraid of change, and some take it to extremes. There's also the power factor. The dominant group sees its power and influence being leached away by schismatic factions, and they react with hate and intolerance, usually violent, to prevent the downsizing of their bloc.

We saw this with the Catholic church, which ruled Europe with an iron fist for centuries. The kings of other countries couldn't be seated without the blessing of the pope. That's power. But, as we all know, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The Roman church began a series of wars as a means of social control, that we commonly call the Crusades. When that wasn't enough, and people began to react against such things, it created (or at least sanctioned) the Inquisition, which was not afraid to use horrific devices and means of torture to extract 'confessions' of heresy. The 'confessors' were then purified by bar-b-queing them on stakes.

Eventually, christianity broke into a million pieces with groups disagreeing about how many angels could fit on the head of a pin, or whether Jesus owned his clothes.

The whole Middle East situation is predicated on the presumption that a man named Abraham, or Ibrahim, had two wives, and each of them had a son. Isaac went on to head up the Hebrews and Ismael went off to the east and became the ancestor of the Arabs and other semitic peoples, now predominantly Muslim. Each claims rightful decendency from Abraham/Ibrahim, and each is willing to slaughter the other to prove it.

It does set up a rather interesting irony: the Israelis bombing Palestine into the Stone Age is actually a supreme act of anti-semitism, which they are always accusing everyone else of being who criticize the 'jews' or Israwl's despicable treatment of the Palestinians.

So, what it comes down to, is that the Inquisition of the Catholic church, or the Salem witch hunts, or McCarthey-ism, actually caused more damage than it repaired, because ultimately people were reviled by the torture and the abuses in the name of purification.

The FPI and their brethern could tear a page from that experience. Violent opposition usually has the opposite effect, causing people to take up the cause of the underdog, out of sheer sympathy, if nothing else.

The Prophet, Jesus, Buddha: they all preached peace and forgiveness. Jesus was slaughtered by the jews in an act of cleansing, because he dared to preach against the established order. The reaction of the jews created a movement that has lasted 2,000 years.

Is that really what Islamic reformers want? Why not lead by example? You draw more flies with suger than with salt. Perhaps living the word of the Qur'an might attract more, and better attention thatn mob justice, beatings and arson.

Fear and intimidation only go so far, but they usually create an equal and opposite reaction. The FPI could be sewing the seeds of its own destruction with their intolerance and violence. They might want to consider, just for a moment, a Buddhist concept called, 'kharma.' What goes around comes around. People who convert of their own free will are more likely to be true believers and good followers.

Something to consider when you're out there with torches and pitchforks.

Something Jesus said is rather appropriate, as well. 'Before you go to clean the dirt from your brother's eye, first remove the dirt that is blinding your own.'

17.2.11

American Idle

It's official. America is now bankrupt. There can be no equivocation or hem-haws about it. The country now owes its entire annual output of all goods and services from all people and machines and factories to the banksters.

On top of that, Obama has the audasity to submit a $3.6 TRILLION federal budget for the coming year, beginning in September. Hey BUDDY! There probably won't be a country to run come September!

Let's see here...300 million people, divided into 3.6 trillion dollars, comes out to $12,000 per person, working or not, or just sucking up resources as a government employee. In other words, Banny wants HALF of the average working American's annual income to run the federal government for ONE FREAKIN' YEAR!

Quick! Run to the kitchen, grab a glass and fill it with sodium fluoride sludge and slam it! Because any red-blooded, thinking, non-pacified human being would be outraged, not to mention scared to death, just about now.

Over on the US Debt Clock, which is a sobering site to see, we notice that the entire unfunded liabilities of the US federal government is over $112 TRILLION! Let that sink in for a minute. According to their calculations, which on a bad day are bound to be better than my best days, the average American is on the hook for over ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

According to the Census Bureau, the average American (that works) can expect to earn a little over $1 million in their LIFETIME.

So, to sum up a bit, the US National Debt is now equal to the sum total output of the nation's economy in one year, PLUS folks are on the hook for another million or so to fund Social Security, Welfare, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.

As far as I can tell, and I'm no economist, but it looks like there is absolutely no wealth left in America. It's all officially debt, and you and I don't have a gnat's ass of a chance to get out of hock, at least through the end of our kids' lifetimes.

Do you feel an Egyptian night out coming on yet? No? Then let's keep going shall we?

About a dozen states are on the ropes, financially. Forclosures are running at record highs with more and more folks getting upside-down on their mortgages. Jobs are vanishing and the Bone-heads in CONgress hear from the Fed Chairman that they won't be coming back, at least any time soon. Food and energy prices are soaring with nothing but more bad news on that front. And there's a couple of wars, with more in the wings, to pay for, as well.

There is no way this is sustainable. You can stick your head in the ground. You can deny and obfuscate. You can rant and rave about 'America, love it of leave it.' You can't change the debt. Piles, mounds, scads, and oodles of debt.

The only way to pay it off is to print more money, which since that's controlled by a private corporation, the money would have to be borrowed to pay the debt, which is akin to getting a new credit card to roll over your old ones. And that's all fine and good for some amount of time (granted it's gone on for YEARS now), but at some point, debt must be paid of repudiated. When that time comes, there will be hell to pay, one way or another.

It will either cause massive inflation, as in Zimbabwe or Argentina, or it will cause depression, the likes of which would make the former Great Depression look like fun. The only other option is that every man, woman and child work for one year without pay, so that the debt can be brought down to something more reasonable, which is unreasonable.

Sure, you can say, "It can't happen here! This is America!" Yeah, they said that in Rome, they said it just before the fall of the Byzantine Empire, they said it before the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It all goes away at some point. Empires are unsustainable.

Eventually, all empires must expend so many resorces, to project power to maintain the level of fear necessary to hold empires together, that they crumble under the weight of their own glory. What normally happens is that empires face challenges on multiple fronts, and so must split their energy. This process leaves the core unprotected and vulnerable. It then only takes the flick of a finger and the whole thing collapes overnight.

Citizens of the USSR went to bed one night in one country, and woke up the next day in another. It's that fast. The Visigoths and Vandals sacked Rome in a week. Oh sure, people spoke Latin for another 1,750 years, but the empire was long gone by the time the language died. Egypt changed in 18 days. Tunisia took even less time to crumble.

It's going to happen to America. I know that's really hard to comprehend, but the empire will die and something else will replace it. It will happen, whether you like it or not. The writing is on the wall, or at least on the balance sheet. The country has dug itself a massive grave in the ground of debt. ONE MILLION DOLLARS PER MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD.

There's no way out of it.

Already, the Vandals are at the gate (Chinese). America's bonds are losing their investment grade status, while countries like Indonesia are about to gain that status. The vultures are circling waiting to pick up the juicy bits before the carcass gets full of maggots.

Can't happen, you say? It already is.

A $3.5 trillion federal budget is a dream. It can't happen. You are looking at the end of empire in that one bill. Lopping off a hundred billion here and there, as the Tea Partiers are singing about doesn't even begin to solve the problem. There's no wealth left. There's nothing to pay for it. Even Ron Paul can't pull this crate out of its death spin.

I could be wrong, but I'm usually not. I've read enough history, studied enough economics and pondered the trends to great length. Short of discovering an asteroid made of gold and bringing it home tomorrow, there's no solution but to dissolve the federal government, repudiate the debt and let the States fend for themselves.

The odds favor the prepared mind. The time for preparing is fast fading in the rearview mirror.

To borrow another metaphor, the king is in check and there's only one move left. But after that move, it's checkmate. From out here, we can see the whole board, and it looks pretty grim. From what I can see, the only move remaining is to seceed from the Union, and the free States form a new order of things. It won't solve the problems, but it will sure slow the impact a little.

And thos corporations that are going transnational? They're just the rats jumping ship. The wise boater will follow them while there's still lifevests available.

16.2.11

By The Way, The Sky Is Blue

One good reader sent me an email last night saying, 'the truth is on the internet, 9/11 was an inside job.'

Fish need water to live.

I'm one of those weird people. I don't take anyone's word for anything, especially if that word is coming from anything near government. Being the son of a politician, I learned enough from the inside out to know the whole game is completely, totally and unquestionablly rigged. Worse than rigged, it's a complete sham.

Futhermore, a certain family whose name is synonamous with 'shrub' is so deep in it, that 9/11 could have only happened on their watch. And if I hear another one of them claim to be Texan, I'm going to puke.

Anyway, back to being weird. I was in New York a couple of years before 9/11, and I was standing on the plaza between the two towers when I noticed thousands of cracks. One of the people I was with said that those appeared in 1993, when the first attack occured. That piqued my curiosity, and later I went down in the garage to see for myself where the bomb had gone off.

I was in a van at one of the lowest levels of the underground parking, snugged up again one of the central support columns. It was a huge bomb, if desciptions of the damage are anything to go by. In hindsight, it occurs to my suspicious mind that 1993 was a test run to see what it would take to bring down the towers. It was also a convenient excuse to have crews go through every inch of the building without drawing much attention. So it you're wondering how they could have planted the explosives, there's your answer.

It also came out that the FBI gave the bomb recipe to the poor numbnuts that were stirred up to do the job. The FBI also gave them explicit instructions on how to build the bomb, where to park it, when to do it, and gave them money, wine and women to keep 'em going. Don't believe me? Look it up. The docs were obtained by FOIA.

Another reason I'm weird, and maybe it's just my media/news background, but the minute I heard about the first tower, I tuned in CNN and popped in a Beta-D on the direct feed from the bird (I recorded the satellite feed). I later analysed the video and found what I already knew: explosives going off floor-by-floor. I knew it already because, as an editor, I have a trained eye to catch split-second changes in images. Back in the day, I could spot things in one-sixtieth (1/60th) of a second.

I recorded hours of footage and watched most of it frame-by-frame. In addition, having done training videos on things like controlled demolition and documentaries on the contstruction of high-rise buildings, I have learned a few things about architecture and explosives.

Poo, you say. What do I know?

Well, the nature of producing a video means that first, I spend many hours of intense study to learn about the subject. Then, I spend more time with an SME, or subject matter expert, and we work together to develop the script. I have to know what to shoot and what order these things have to go in, in order to do the first-rate job that my clients demanded.

I then spent weeks reviewing the footage, editing the videos and polishing the product. In some ways, I got better training than many folks, short of actualy hands-on. I followed processes with pain-staking detail, shooting multiple angles. I watched the footage over and over, sometimes a single edit could take an hour to perfect. Then the client would spot some little detail which meant I had to choose a lesser take with no mistakes, but I learned every little detail.

In other words, I knew what I was looking at, and how to analyze the footage.

In November of 2002, I was in Long Island and Throg's Neck shooting another video. I had a helicopter (getting permits that soon after the attacks was a story in itself) to do some aerials over Long Island sound and Brooklyn Bridge. We spun over Ground Zero a couple of times, so I shot some tape on it. I also spent a day off at Ground Zero, poking around and shooting some footage.

I put together a little video I thought was pretty open-and-shut on the whole thing. I took multiple angles, before, during and after. I was able to spot and highlight small details that would escape most people's attention. I showed it to a few people.

I was damn near tarred and feathered, then drawn and quartered. At the time, no one wanted to hear anything that made all the flag waving a little less nationalistic. Within minutes of viewing some of the feeds, I knew what was going on, but people weren't ready to hear or see it then.

All of that work is sitting in my film vault 10,000 miles away now. And now it's popular to show how it was all an inside job. I gave up my quest and left the States eventually. Couldn't do it any longer.

There is nothing worse than knowing the truth and no one will believe you, much less look at any evidence you have amassed. Everyone wants to live in Snow White land, where the institutions that they have entrusted their lives to are not evil, conniving death mongers.

We don't want to associate the Sand Creek Massacre or the Dresden Holocaust as products of our own power and complicity. After all, if We the People gave the government power, then We the People are responsible for what it does with that power.

The next time you vote, think about how many people you are killing with your choice. Makes that moment a little more important, doesn't it?

I have only voted two times in my entire life, and both times were straight Libertarian tickets, with the exception of Ross Perot.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what my government is capable of, and I want nothing to do with it. Maybe it's time for everyone to start taking a clear-eyed look at what is being done, and HAS been done, in our names. Take off the rose-colored glasses and crack open a non-sanitized history book. You won't like what you see, but that's the point. If the toilet's dirty, you flush it.

Like Victor Frankenstein, it's time for us to take responsibility for what we have created. We gave life to an unequalled evil by doing...NOTHING. The time is come to do SOMETHING.

As an expert in media and TV, the best thing I can tell you to do, at least at first, is TURN OFF THE DAMN TV! Then, stop drinking fluoride. After that, you're on your own.

One reason I got out of the news business is that I was stringing for a Not too Bright Channel in South Africa, in the days of apartieid. I was sent to the scene of a 'race riot.' Turns out, it was two families throwing rocks at each other because one accused the other of stealing a chicken. In orther words, it was black-on-black and had nothing to do with 'The Struggle.' Being on the clock, I shot some footage and dutifully uploaded it, along with my notes on what had occured. The next night, a man with a Broke Jaw introduced my footage as the latest fighting over equal rights.

I quit that night.