If I haven't forwarded a screed in a while, it's because I've been watching and waiting. With the "war" nearly over (and let's hope the Afghans will now reject any kind of war, whether our kind or a terrorist one), most of the really interesting shit is now going to start in this country. Keep listening to a whole new kinda USA, courtesy of John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney (oh, and let's not forget the dummy in Dick's lap.)
Also, as I noted before, the international news sources are mysteriously cut off...Deutsche Welle no longer broadcasting in English, and ITN off the air completely. Unified currency in Europe, Ebola outbreak in Africa? Sorry, but USA Today is still concentrating on THE CAVE.
Here's my first contest, 500 words or less: What's Osama up to right now? E-mail your entries...I'll be the sole but impartial judge...just don't say "sipping Arak next to Omar's pool in Islamabad" (that's my entry.) Anyway, just in time for Christmas, here's some stupidity that makes you feel like, yes, 2001 was just as ridiculous as the other few dozen years before it. Please don't send me a message if it's too long...just hit the 'delete' key and remember, ignorance is bliss, especially thanks to AT & T Broadband.
First of all, who can't resist a little Christmas Death Squad humor?
Merry Christmas From Your Death Squad
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - A unit of Colombia's ultra-right death squads, blamed for some of the worst massacres in a 37-year war, has sent Christmas cards to its fighters wishing them peace and a prosperous New Year.
The e-mail letter, signed by a regional block of the outlawed United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, features a blonde girl donning a white angel costume with wings standing in front of a richly decorated Christmas tree.
"It is the month in which we sow our hopes to achieve a peace that is so craved for by all Colombians. And with Christmas come our new projects and hopes for the next year,'' the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said.
Funded by business leaders and ranchers fed up with attacks and blackmail by left-wing guerrillas, the 8,000-member paramilitaries are blamed for horrific human rights abuses -- such as using chain saws and sledgehammers in the past to torture and kill rebels and suspected rebel sympathizers.
The "paras,'' as they are known locally, are branded a terrorist organization by Washington.
Colombia is gripped by a war that has killed 40,000 people in the past decade. The three-way conflict pits leftist rebels against the armed forces and paramilitaries.
But just so you don't think the Columbians are the only ones who have a sense of humor,
Police Unveil New Officer Dolls for Children
By Sarah Tippit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Look out, G.I. Joe.
Here comes "LAPD Patrol Officer West,'' a tiny, sinewy action figure doll dressed just like a Los Angeles police officer right down to his tiny die-cast metal gun, handcuffs, pepper spray and black boots -- all for $39.95 and available in time for Christmas.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), a union representing about 9,000 Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers, has begun selling the dolls, dressed in authentic LAPD uniforms, via the department's Web site in order to raise the profile of law enforcement officers in the community, a spokesman said.
"These action figures are not only great gifts for law enforcement officers and children, but they are also a great way to show pride in the law enforcement heroes that are protecting our nation right now,'' said LAPPL President Mitzi Grasso.
"The extensive planning and design that went into these figures to make sure that they are realistic representations of police officers makes them quality gifts,'' Grasso added.
Standing one-foot (.34 meters) tall, the dolls are the first in a series of "LAPD Elite Force Action Figures'' that will come complete with 1/6-scale weapons and accessories. Also in time for the 2001 holiday season, the LAPPL has introduced a female companion for West, "Patrol Officer Sommers.''
New officer dolls will follow each quarter, the union said in a statement, including officers assigned to K9 dog units,SWAT teams, narcotics, air support, horse-mounted patrol,bicycle detail, riot control and motorcycle patrol.
The dolls follow a massive recruiting campaign launched last summer by the scandal-plagued force, involving radio spots, print ads, theater and bus shelter promos and 50 billboards. The campaign aims at attracting more recruits by spotlighting the good, caring actions of the department's officers.
Recruitment and retention of qualified personnel has been a major problem for the department since the city's Rampart station corruption scandal broke in September 1999. In that scandal, an officer who was accused of stealing cocaine from an evidence locker began detailing pervasive corruption at the Rampart station.
More than 100 criminal convictions have been recorded in the scandal, which is expected to cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in legal and settlement costs.
The LAPD currently has fewer than the 9,000 officers required to patrol the nation's second-largest city, and about 800 below its level of two years ago.
Recent figures show that the department needs to recruit between 16,000 and 27,000 applicants just to hire the 1,000 extra officers it needs to meet city standards because applicants face an extensive screening process.
Locals and faraway friend alike will also enjoy these interesting directions to an interesting movie.
>Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story
>In 1995, Shawn Nelson, an unemployed plumber from San Diego, CA, stole a
>tank and ran amok through his home suburb of Clairemont. �Cul de Sac: A
>Suburban War Story� investigates the tank rampage and the decline of a
>20th century suburban landscape that's �reached the end of its useful life.�
> >Directions to C-level:
>1. Find yourself in front of Full House Restaurant, 963 N. Hill Street in Chinatown.
>2. Locate the alley on the left hand side of Full House.
>3. Walk about 20 feet down the alley (away from the street).
>5. Notice dumpster on your right hand side.
>6. Take a right and continue down the alley.
>7. Exercise caution so as not trip on the wobbly cement blocks underfoot.
>8. The entrance to C-Level is located 10 yards down on left side, behind a red door, and down a black staircase.
And why worry when you can count on the emotional integrity of great art?
Madonna Presents Top Art Prize to Empty Room
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Pop superstar Madonna on Sunday presented one of the world's most famous art prizes to conceptual artist Martin Creed for his controversial creation 'Bare Room with a Light that Switches on and off'.
To win the 20,000 pound ($28,600) Turner Prize, Creed fought off competition from a video about two gay cowboys, a dusty storeroom piled high with junk and a film of a disheveled alcoholic being brought a cup of tea by his wife.
The Turner Prize, won in the past by an elephant dung painting and pickled animal carcasses, invariably stirs tabloid controversy, receives a critical battering and attracts up to 100,000 people annually to London's Tate Britain museum.
The choice of Creed, whose other works include crumpled pieces of paper, looked set to enrage traditionalists, who condemn the Turner as a national joke which makes a mockery of modern art.
Creed, 33, unconcerned by all the fuss, understood why some people laugh at his work, admitting recently: "I can see why some people take the piss out of me.''
But the judges admired his ``audacity in presenting a single work in the exhibition.'' They also noted its "strength, rigor, wit and sensitivity to the site'' and said his work was ''engaging, wide-ranging and fresh.''
The Turner, which has always reveled in controversy, won added glamour this year with the presentation by Madonna, who is an avid collector of contemporary art and a major fan of Mexican surrealist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo.
Madonna recently loaned Kahlo's "Self-portrait with Monkey'' to a Tate Modern surrealist exhibition.
Mike Nelson's dusty storeroom piled high with junk had been the hot favorite with bookmakers to land the prize.
They reported the heaviest betting year since Tracey Emin bid unsuccessfully for glory in 1999 with an unmade bed covered in condoms, soiled knickers and champagne corks.
The Turner judges have always been masters of publicity with their annual selection being mocked by critics but fiercely defended by avant-garde supporters as cutting edge art.
In 1995, Damien Hirst won the notorious prize with a pickled cow and calf, a win that launched him on the road to stardom as the "bad boy of Brit art.''
In 1998 Chris Ofili won with elephant dung paintings that later sparked outrage when exhibited in New York.
Ah, the sanctity of Art. But there's more hewn from the same vein...
Artist Mangles Language to Win Prize
LONDON (Reuters) - British "Bad Girl'' artist Tracey Emin should probably stick to creating works of art instead of talking about them.
The controversial artist dazzled judges of the Plain English Campaign with a sentence so puzzling that on Thursday it earned her the "Foot in Mouth Award'' for the most baffling celebrity quote of the year.
Emin, who made the 1999 Turner Prize shortlist with an unmade bed featuring grubby sheets covered in condoms, cigarette ends and champagne corks, was talking about her new novel when she told the Observer newspaper:
"When it comes to words I have a uniqueness that I find almost impossible in terms of art -- and it's my words that actually make my art quite unique.''
It was a sentence that both perplexed and impressed the Award judges:
"All we look for with this award is a quote that leaves us baffled. This quote does that in a unique way,'' said Plain English Campaign spokesman John Lister.
The Plain English Campaign and its lighthearted awards were formed in 1979 to fight gobbledygook and verbose, unclear and just plain baffling public information.
Past celebrity winners recognized for their ability to twist the English language into knots were soccer star Glen Hoddle and actress Alicia Silverstone.
Okay, I don't know whether the next one is funny or not. I mean, isn't Kofi Annan technically the guy who's in charge of Planet Earth? When aliens invade (and since 11 September, I think we can all shift from "if" to "when"), isn't Kofi the one who negotiates with the extraterrestrials? Imagine Bush Jr. doing that...whoa.
UN Chief Tickles Elmo on Sesame Street
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Unruffled, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave the high-pitched fluffy red muppet Elmo a lesson in "conflict resolution," calmed down his monster friends and received a group hug in return.
Taping a segment of ``Sesame Street,'' Annan showed his playful side in exchanges with the high-spirited Elmo when his friends Telly, Zoe, Rosita, Grover and Lulu fought over who gets to sing the alphabet song.
"Is there a problem I can help you with?" Annan asked. "That depends," Elmo replied "Who are you?"
Using skills acquired as the world's top diplomat, he suggested they all sing the song in unison.
"I think there is a child in each and every one of us,'' the soft-spoken Annan told Elmo at a "press conference'' after the taping Thursday at a studio in Queens.
"Sometimes I say that is the most charming part of us,'' Annan said. "There is innocence. There is purity. There is laughter and it is very important for us. Keep it simple and it brings you back to earth.''
In turn, Elmo asked Annan, who goes to Norway on Monday to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, where he was going to put "your trophy.''
Invited to come and visit to advise where to place it, Elmo replied: "You should put it right at the foot of your bed, so every time you get up you can see it. But you have to ask your wife if that's OK."
Most celebrity guests on "Sesame Street'' are athletes or entertainers. But first ladies Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush have made appearances.
No date was given for the airing of the program which will appear on public broadcasting stations sometime during Sesame Street's new season, beginning on Feb. 4.
And last but not least, I've made a promise to myself to exit this year, 2001, in a complete haze. When it's all over on 1 January, I'll be flying over the Rockies Mountains remembering this one:
It's the National Hangover Day!
LONDON (Reuters) - In Outer Mongolia, the best cure for a hangover is to eat a pickled sheep's eye in a glass of tomato juice.
Or you can do it the Puerto Rican way -- rub lemon under your arms.
But Britain has opted for a more traditional cure -- the hangover remedy maker Alka-Seltzer said on Friday it would celebrate its 70th anniversary by declaring January 1 to be National Hangover Day.
Bleary-eyed revelers should "reach for the fizz" -- and they don't mean champagne -- as the best New Year's Day remedy.
An Alker-Seltzer statement gave drinkers more handy tips:
-- Pace yourself
-- Women should not try to "Keep Up with the Boys"
-- Eat before and during alcoholic consumption
-- Drink plenty of water before you go to bed
And, failing that, the Puerto Rican and Outer Mongolian solutions apparently work wonders.
Pray for peace,
12 December 2001