Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Like Nipples on a Dude

Let's take some time off from News We Can Use and have us a short helping of Useless News!

I enjoy useless news, and what could be more useless than learning that, recently, a homeless 17 year-old Kenyan found a more than 5000 dollar treasure hunt prize while urinating in a Nairobi park? Evans Kamande found a small box, with a piece of paper inside, between the forks of a cactus. The paper turned out to be a voucher for the prize, which Mr. Kamande later collected from the local radio station that had been conducting the treasure hunt.

What possible use could we get from that? Maybe if we played the lottery we could conclude that we might be better off urinating in city parks. But, realistically, what are the odds that a Nairobi radio station would leave a voucher for a cash prize in Denny Regrade Park? So all we get is an excuse to use the word "urinating" repeatedly. But we could have done that without the excuse!

Here's some useless news from Graz, Austria. Professors from the Karl Franzens University there are taking part in a project to bring the news to the homeless of Austria's second largest city that laughter is the best medicine.

That's right. Frolicking, happy-go-lucky, Austrian university professors are spreading the word to homeless people in shelters and drop-in-centers that if they would just laugh more their immune systems would work better. Here is an actual translation of an actual hilarious quote from the "act" of one of these professors: "Phrases such as laughing yourself sick should actually be turned around to read laughing yourself well." STOP, I'm NOT in stitches! I'm well!

Sure, it would be useful if homeless people learned to laugh better. It might also help if they got plenty of sleep and avoided sweets. But how about getting them shelter?

OK, that brings us to news concerning world-famous Australian architect Sean Godsell. This guy designs cheap housing intended to shelter the homeless. His works include a converted shipping container that has been on display at the Smithsonian design museum in New York, and a bus shelter house – a bus shelter by day, a homeless shelter by night.

How does that qualify as useless news? Well, ask yourself, why are these things always in museums and never in use? In order for a shelter idea to be useful, people have to permit it to be used. What good is a bus shelter house when every transit system in the world is so hostile to the homeless that they not only wouldn't want to install Godsell's creations but they would furiously destroy existing bus shelters wherever homeless people rest at them?

Godsell also has designed a park bench shelter. It's a park bench by day and a safe home out of the weather for someone at night. They say the only problem with it is, no city will have it. And when cities don't want something that tends to be the end of it. Except for homelessness itself, of course. That, you can't legislate away.

Which brings us to the least useful news of all. No more useful than that the sun will rise tomorrow. No more useful than that George Foreman has a kid named George. No more useful than my left nipple: knowing that the neighbors N don't want a shelter in neighborhood X. (X can take on any value in the universe of all neighborhoods, and N can be any subset of the residents of X.)

Like, duh.

Guess what, some Kirklanders don't want Tent City 4 in Kirkland! Wow. You could knock me over with a feather. A twenty-pound feather with a three-foot handle.

Useless: "Not in my neighborhood." Useful: "What can I do to help?"

Useful is rare, useless is everywhere.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Bitter Sleeping Pill

Well, here we are. It's the Dawn of a New Day, America Has Spoken, the fat lady has sung, and birds everywhere have flown south for four years.

The good news: expect a resurgence of Fifties-ish-style paranoia to feed a renaissance of the paranoia-genre of horror-scifi movies. With modern cgi technology and the experience of this year's election under our collective-consciousness belt, we can look forward to some terrific movies. Titles like the Attack of the Evangelical Masters, or Night of the Living Neocons, or Invasion of the Constitution Snatchers spring to mind, but I'm sure talented writers could sublimate them way up better than I could. Sublimation was never my forte. Vomit is my forte.

So tell me, do I sound bitter? Good, because I'd hate to sound like I was living a lie or in denial or anything like that. No, unlike 51% of whatever percent of America bothered to vote, I live in the world of Reality, not the world of Bush-Think. So if I'm bitter I'm going to know it, and I'm not going to care if I show it.

I don't mind the country's election choice nearly so much as the transparent mind meltingly bombastic canard of Cheney et al to the effect that George W. Bush now has a significant mandate. He does not. That the numbers of voters that put Bush over the top was a record does not erase the fact that the numbers that voted for Kerry was a record also. For an incumbent running for a second term, 3% is a slim margin. That was no landslide and I would put far more faith in the Bush Administration if it didn't consist of such cowards in the face of the truth that they couldn't even admit it and proceed from there.

If the administration can't rule without propagating fantasy after fantasy, then all of America will get into the act.

Do I sound bitter? Let's see, in news from Texas we've already returned to the days of after-school specials. The decision by voters all across America to affirm the lie that denying marriage to gays is justified has already begun to be followed by orders to require textbooks rewritten to reflect the majority opinion. As if elections determined matters of fact.

The precedent could lead to interesting new forms of oppression. For instance we can expect Texas to hold a state-wide initiative soon to decide Yes On Creationism, bypassing that whole free scientific discussion crap. Then when it passes, they'll announce that the majority has called it true so it's true. Schoolbooks will be rewritten, fools will gloat over the fall of the wise, and it won't be overturned because Bush will have, by then, installed additional fools in the Supreme Court.

In October 2001 I expressed the fear that the terrorists may win, because they might have succeeded in bombing us back to the Fifties. Well, it's happened. "What, Me Bitter?"

Hey, what's the worst that could happen? Sure, a man who's already prosecuted the first totally unprovoked war in American history based on fabrications has his finger on the red button. Sure, an arrogant blasphemer who thinks he's God's all-time favorite president has the power to destroy our environment for the sake of his corporate buddies, and he has the character and temperament to tell us it's for our own good and the Greater Glory of God. Sure, a "servant of the people" that thinks Habeas Corpus, the right to a swift and speedy trial, and the right to be free of unwarranted searches are all obsolete concepts has now got almost complete control of government. But you have to get over it, right?

So in the interest of getting over it, I propose a further slide into irrationality and denial and fantasy. Lets all say black is white and white is black and have us a four-year carnival of lunacy.

The terrorists are on the run. Osama is scared of the terrible visage of George W. Bush, Man of God and Macho Ace National Guard Pilot. If the terrorists do by chance succeed in striking America again, it will have been Bill Clinton's fault. Gays will never endanger our marriages again. Speaking out against a government of liars is an attack on America.

Sweet dreams, one and all.