First of all, I'm pleased to announce that my poem "Hiroshima" will appear in the 22 February 2004 issue of Children, Churches & Daddies. Print copies of the mag are $6; but you can see it for free in .html or .pdf format at their website (look for "cc&d" and "writings"):
Thanks to the six people who let me know that the "George Carlin" message was bullshit, even though I still like it. This is why I don't like forwarding e-mail messages. I think it's funny that this was the largest response I've gotten to a single screed, but hey, it's your business, eh? Like I say at least once a week, "just hit delete". You'll also be glad to know that you smeared the reliability of one of my most meticulous sources. Anyway, I won't be doing that again for a while.
Here is some bullshit verified by others; yes, it's "Dirty Kuffar" (dirty white infidel), the rap video made by Mohammad al-Massari, an extremist Muslim cleric in Britain known as "Sheik Terra". It's got a good beat and it's nice to see that much of anger is directed in the right direction, at the totalitarian leaders of the Arab states.
Go a few articles down the page and look for: Dirty Kuffar.
Okay, I'm starting to get the tourist packets in the mail for my next European trip. Some of you might remember a prehensile-screed where I brutalized the stuff I got before I went to Ireland - "Enjoy a round of golf with a cocktail..." How do you hold the golf club? What happened to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, you ask? Those countries were all too cheap to send me any brochures in the mail.
The Austrian Tourist Office in New York sent me a packet of maps and a calendar of events, nothing too exciting, but I did like this request on the cover letter: "Austria offers the riches of Europe in the proverbial nutshell: spectacular vistas, Alpine splendor, pulsating nightlife, sophisticated shopping, classical culture and culinary adventure. If you are satisfied with our information material please consider helping us meet heavy shipping costs with a voluntary contribution by personal check." What?? For a country with "the riches of Europe", that's a strange request. Who do I make the check out to? Richie, should I just send it to you NOW? Sheesh.
As I expected, the Alpine stronghold of Switzerland sent me a thick packet of colorful and amusing material, surpassing any other European country so far. Here are some of the choice bits, courtesy of the Swiss Tourist Office:
First, no trip to Switzerland would be complete without a day at the HEIDI VILLAGE in Maienfeld. Like most Swiss tourist brochures, the map has a lovely illustration of a mighty mountain, named most appropriately THE HEIDI'S MOUNTAIN. There's a creepy picture of two dolls that look sort of like two kids and this rather eerie exhortation: "Visit the Heidi Village or the Alpine pasture and experience Heidi and her grandfather's thoughts and emotions. Take a photo of yourself or a close friend sitting next to Heidi at the table or lying in Heidi's bed." I've never read or seen Johanna Spyri's Heidi, but this makes it sound a little nasty, eh?
I also received a lovely fold-out about the Lago Maggiore in Ticino, or as it's apparently known in die Schweiz, "MAGGIORE!" A series of photographs show the sun coming up over the mountains...rather dull (and dark) but in one photo a HUGE MYSTERIOUS WAVE can be seen crossing the otherwise calm surface of Lago Maggiore. Is this some ancient competitor to the Loch Ness beast in Scotland? On the other side is a photo of a Swiss brass band standing ankle-deep in the lake (one still wearing his tennis shoes) and the deep philosophical comment: "There are few places on earth where you can escape the endless march of time so pleasantly."
Finally, they sent me a lovely brochure called "ZURICH: Downtown Switzerland - LIVE IT, LOVE IT!" While most Americans have (often incorrect) ideas about London, Paris, Madrid, Rome etc., I think Zurich (or as I will now call it, Downtown Switzerland) is an enigma to most of us. Well, let me tell you what the Swiss want you to know about their Downtown. A photo of the Alps from the certainly lovely center of Zurich notes: "Get a crystal-clear view of the lake from high above the rooftops of the attractive Old Town. Now that's life!" A slightly creepy photo of a bunch of people in fish costumes says, "A moving underwater musical is performed in a former factory with colourful deep-sea ambiance." What?? Why didn't Corinne tell me about this "moving underwater musical" before?
Anyway, there is also plenty of information about shopping in Zurich; indeed, the "historical walks of Zurich" seems to list only shops. "Enjoy the intrigue of the small shops in the Old Town!" They write "Zurich has the best restaurant in Europe!" quoting Zagat's, but they never say the name! What a tease. Zurich also has, I'll have you know, "the biggest and most alluring giant slide in all of Switzerland." Alluring? Well, I'll stop ragging on the slightly overwrought Swiss English...after all, it was my lovely Swiss Miss who uttered, instead of "I'll join you," "I'll enjoy you." If nothing else can get you to Zurich, finally, imagine the photo for this caption: "Sun worshippers and bathing nymphs meet for a dip in clean water!" WHOA!
Next time: Italy gets it (if they send me anything.) I think I've already noted a strange remark on the official tourist website for Venice: "To avoid pickpockets, do not carry a wallet." Duh.
The pictures attached this time include one of lovely Switzerland and several (thanks, Mike) of the "World's Worst Album Covers". Enjoy.
And on with the screed: If you'd like to play "20 Questions" with a computer, try out this on-line game (thanks, Jacques):
Excellent game! It only beat me once (a car tire) but I stumped it with neutron star, a boxcar, etc. The amazing thing is that it always figured out what I was thinking of eventually, even if it took 30 or 40 questions.
How about some "up" news? This nasty little battle has been going on since before most of us were born, and it's finally burning out:
** Pressure mounts for Cyprus deal **
US Secretary of State Colin Powell says a power-sharing deal on the divided island of Cyprus is close.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/europe/3442993.stm >
We Americans, of course, have a much bigger problem on our hands. How will the UN save us from ourselves (if they even want to)? Bruno says: "Your country is sinking!"
The U.S. is Now in the Hands of a Group of Extremists
By George Soros
Fundamentalism has spawned an ideology of American supremacy.
Nothing is too small for the Imperialist Touch:
ACLU, Marijuana Rights Groups Sue U.S. Over Ads
But the rest of the world, for good or ill, continues to revolve:
The One-Note Superpower
By Fareed Zakaria
A funny thing has happened. While the war on terrorism has dominated headlines, the great engine of globalization has kept moving.
For example, here's a pair of fish stories for you:
Hungry Cod Swallows Coke Can Off Norway
Piranha Fished Out of River Thames
But let's be honest; the Bushies might be seeing the error of their ways (in an election year.) They tried to be good boys at a recent conference in Switzerland:
William Pfaff: Washington makes nice
By William Pfaff
Even Mr. Rumsfeld has been keeping his big yap shut:
William Pfaff: In Munich, Rumsfeld's silence speaks volumes
By William Pfaff
They realize that in just two years, they've destroyed American credibility in every corner of the globe:
Public relations chief admits U.S. has a big image problem
By Christopher Marquis
U.S. Image Abroad Will 'Take Years' to Repair
By Tom Regan
The Christian Science Monitor
Experts tell Congress 'bottom has fallen out' for US support abroad.
Besides, most Americans couldn't care less, right?
AMERICANS ANNOYED BY "ALL THIS INTERNATIONAL SHIT" ON INTERNET
We have so many other things to do:
New York Driver Nabbed While Watching Porn Movie
But while Bush fiddles, his Rome is burning down:
NATO: We can't be partners with an obsolete alliance
By E. Wayne Merry
The "Eurocorps", the new combined European army operating outside of the NATO authority, is about to try out for the first time in Afghanistan:
Try this EUobserver link: http://www.EUobserver.com/index.phtml?aid=14348&sid=9
The Japanese, who have a defense treaty with the US, are starting to question it:
"An Unjustified Policy of Following the United States"
By Michel Temman
We're confronted with a flagrant constitutional violation. Japan's peaceful post war identity has been blown to bits." Jurist Yoichi Higuchi. Debate rages in Japan after the dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq.
Not that everything is peachy keen abroad. Europe is bracing for a major expansion of ten countries (the equivalent of suddenly adding a pair of new Californias to the the US) on 1 May:
Will the 'big bang' blow the EU apart?
By Giles Merritt
They're also struggling to create a European Constitution; while being decided by the bureaucracy at the highest levels, many members of the EU are demanding the Constitution be put to a referendum; that's democracy at it's best:
Try this EUobserver link: http://www.EUobserver.com/index.phtml?aid=14545&sid=9
When they expand on 1 May, the EU will finally be bordering on Russia, and the Russians aren't too hip to it:
DARK SKIES TO THE EAST
Feb 19th 2004
Strategists in Brussels no longer talk sweetly of encircling the
enlarged European Union with a "ring of friends"
NOW that the German Question has been solved, the Russian Question beckons. Can Russia, after centuries of autocracy and imperialism, be turned into the sort of nice democratic country that gets along easily with its European neighbours? The answer seems to be: not for a while yet, to judge from a policy paper released last week by the European Commission, the European Union's executive body, which suggests that relations between the Union and Russia are close to a post-Soviet low.
See this article with graphics and related items at http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2446825
The Poles are ready to take charge of their "little brothers" and control the gates between East and West:
East set for push west
By John Darnton/IHT
And just when we should be courting the newly-influential Poles, our government is pissing them off:
Poles resent visa rules
By John Darnton/NYT
Meanwhile (surprise) the Swiss are making buck off everyone:
Switzerland Investigates Trading Companies That Profited from Saddam Hussein's Oil
By Marc Roche
Eleven Swiss companies are suspected of having made bribes to obtain contracts.
Ethnic groups are still enjoying killing each other:
What has not happened in Bosnia
By David Harland
And Jews are getting the short end. Well, life is rough all over.
Tackling anti-Semitism in Europe
By Thomas Fuller/IHT
Huge problems are emerging that will bind all of us close together:
USATODAY.com - When will leaders fess up about global economy?*
The evidence of global climate change is laid out for all to see:
By Paul Epstein
The New York Times
BOSTON It seemed incongruous when former Vice President Al Gore gave a speech on global warming on a bitterly cold day in New York City this month. But in fact it was an appropriate topic: New Yorkers may be able to blame the city's current cold spell the most severe in nearly a decade on global warming. Global warming doesn't mean that every place on the globe gets warmer. The weather history that can be read in polar ice-core samples indicates that previous periods of warming affected North America and Europe far differently than they did the tropics the Northern Hemisphere got a lot colder.
Even the great American war machine is beginning to take notice:
How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age...
By Thom Hartmann
While global warming is being officially ignored by the political arm of the Bush administration, and Al Gore's recent conference on the topic during one of the coldest days of recent years provided joke fodder for conservative talk show hosts, the citizens of Europe and the Pentagon are taking a new look at the greatest danger such climate change could produce for the northern hemisphere - a sudden shift into a new ice age. What they're finding is not at all comforting.
And finally, the biggest country on the face of the planet is making another one of those incremental moves that make you wonder:
China challenges the old U.S.-Thai bond
By Stanley A. Weiss
Have a great Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and,
Vive le Screed!
23 February 2004