jeudi, mai 31, 2007

the list

I generally believe that one's sex life is no one else's business, with a few notable caveats. Most have to do with protecting certain classes of individuals (children and those incapable of consent). I also make a giant exception for hypocrites.

If you're a politician who makes it your business to deny rights to a certain population based on that population's sexual proclivities, then your sexual predilections are also open for examination. I really don't object to what Mike Rogers is doing to hate-mongering, closeted conservative politicos.
People of the Web - Brokeback Hill
Mike Rogers has outed so many closeted gay politicos, he's starting to make Capitol Hill look like Brokeback Mountain.

WASHINGTON - Members of the 110th Congress consider yourselves warned: Mike Rogers is making his list.

Rogers is a muckraking gay blogger who uses his insider's knowledge of Washington politics and broad blanket of contacts to "out" gay politicos — but only, he says, if they are undermining gay rights. Critics call his tactics divisive and politically motivated.

Mike Rogers says his blog exposes hypocrisy in government.

Rogers, a longtime gay activist, started in 2004, using it to yank out of the closet at least two-dozen, high ranking political figures, including senators, congressmen and Bush administration officials.

He's outed so many closeted gay politicos, he's starting to make Capitol Hill look like Brokeback Mountain. All of them, he says, use their positions to actively oppose the equal rights of gay citizens while at the same time, secretly live a gay life.

If you are a gay politico with something to hide, the left hand column of Roger's Web site is exactly where you don't want to see your name. He calls it "the list."

Former Rep. Mark Foley is on the list. Rogers wrote about him in March 2005, almost two years before the scandal that forced him to resign. "I reported on him hitting on younger men, said he was a danger to the community," he says.

Evidence emerged later that the conservative Florida Republican was sending sexually explicit emails to former young male congressional pages. Two claimed to have also had sex with Foley after they had left their jobs as pages.

"For me," Rogers says, "what it's really about is if congressman X thinks that gay people shouldn't have equal rights but goes home and is having sex with men, and not disclosing that, then we have a problem."

Rogers also blogged about Dan Gurley, the former national field director of the Republican National Committee — and a rising G.O.P. star.

Rogers says he targeted Gurley because of a divisive RNC flyer with a photo showing one man on bended knee, proposing to another — an attempt to use gay marriage as a wedge issue in conservative states.

Rogers says the flyers sowed hate — and Gurley, a gay man, approved it. Gurley denies he was responsible for the flyer or its distribution.

"I was aware of the flyer and I raised objections to it," he says. "I actually pointed it out to several individuals, [saying] that I thought it crossed a line, that I was uncomfortable with it."

But Rogers kept the heat on Gurley, linking to a profile Gurley kept on

Dan Gurley has left politics but still calls himself a Republican.
“He was using the Internet to seek multiple partners for unprotected sex,” says Rogers.

Gurley says he had been in line for a job with the Bush Administration, but after Roger's posting, he was told to look elsewhere.

"Who did you blame," I ask him, "Rogers or the administration?"

"I think there is probably blame to go around, including myself," he says.

Gurley says the episode shook him up to the point of re-examining his beliefs, but in the end, he says he's still a Republican.

"For me what it's really about is if congressman X thinks that gay people shouldn't have equal rights but goes home and is having sex with men, and not disclosing that, then we have a problem." — Mike Rogers

People have called Rogers a gay terrorist, but he says, "The only people who say things like that are people who have a vested interest in protecting the closet."

"I feel more sad for [the people I out] than anger," Rogers says. "... That they are in this position, that they are self-loathing, willing to wake up everyday and go to work against the very community they are a member of is quite shocking."

Many gay organizations are troubled by outing but stop short of condemning it. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation "doesn't encourage outing, period," says GLAAD's Rashad Robinson. "But there is an argument that can be made — and many make it — for holding closeted political figures who attack and exploit gay people and our families for political gain accountable for their actions."

However, the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group, disagree. "Log Cabin is strongly against outing," says its president, Patrick Sammon. "It is unproductive and motivated by vengeance. It does nothing to further the cause of equality for gay and lesbian Americans."

In front of the Capitol building, Rogers says, "I think there need to be folks like me standing out here, pointing their fingers and saying, 'Clean up your act.'"

He adds that members of the 110th Congress should keep an eye out for his list.

-Producer: Jamie Rubin
-Video Editor: Tommy Morquecho

no happy meals for you

I've never had a Happy Meal. On the few occasions when my parents actually took me to McDonald's, my mom would order me a Filet-o-Fish (who knew about trans-fats back then?) and that was that.

As an only child, my parents usually took me with them if they were eating out, and I ate what they ate: adult food. Sure, I chose things that I wanted (and didn't normally get at home), like the decadent fettuccine alfredo at an Italian restaurant. But I also came to love bulgogi, latkes, and calamari at a very early age.

I credit my parents for not ordering/ not letting me order a hamburger, pizza, or mac and cheese at a fancy restaurant ... and for introducing me to a whole new world of food and flavors. I also credit my mother for invariably choosing the most exotic ethnic restaurants possible (think Armenian and Moroccan instead of American and Mexican). I plan to do the same for my kids.
De Gustibus: Don’t Point That Menu at My Child, Please
Published: May 30, 2007
IT seems like such a wonderful concept when you encounter it for the first time as a parent. You go to a restaurant as a family, are seated and given menus, and the waitress cheerfully turns to your children and exclaims, “And these are for you!” Their own special menus — kids’ menus! Sometimes these are little laminated things, peewee facsimiles of what Mom and Dad are holding. Sometimes these are placemats that not only tell you what foods are available but also contain mazes and word-search puzzles.

No matter what, the menu offers chicken fingers with French fries. And typically, as you go down the list, macaroni and cheese, a hot dog, a hamburger, grilled cheese and some kind of pizza.

Early in my tenure as a parent, I thought children’s menus were the greatest thing, a quantum leap forward in the human condition. We didn’t have them when I was a child, at least not at restaurants where adults would be happy to dine. (There were always “family” restaurants in the Friendly’s-HoJo’s idiom that offered junior sundaes and burgers.) I was thrilled that someone had come up with this innovation, that civilization had advanced to the point where children at good restaurants were now immediately placated with children’s food, so we adults could plunge worry-free into our adult business of drinking alcohol and eating things with tentacles.

For restaurateurs there are advantages, too. Marc Murphy, the chef and an owner of Landmarc in TriBeCa (and its new sister operation in the Time Warner Center), says doing a children’s menu has helped the bottom line at his bistro, which is known for its neighborhood clientele and value-priced wines.

“It totally drives that early seating for us,” he said. “The kids eat what they eat, and with our wine program, the parents can have fun.” Landmarc serves up the requisite greatest hits — the fingers, the burger, the grilled cheese — and throws in some curveballs, like “green eggs and ham,” flavored and colored with pesto sauce.

As for me, my outlook on children’s menus started to change at some point — probably around the 102nd or 103rd time my children ordered chicken fingers with French fries. Even if the chicken fingers were good ones, made from real breast meat rather than pulverized and remolded chik-a-bits, I was disturbed by their ubiquity and their hold on my kids, who are 11 and 8 years old.

I noticed that accommodationist chefs were making chicken fingers available in Italian, Chinese and Japanese restaurants, where chicken fingers aren’t even culinarily justifiable. I perceived that my children’s chicken-finger meals outside the home were informing their eating habits inside the home, where they were getting more finicky. I heard from other parents that they were experiencing the same thing.

In short, I came to the realization that America is in the grips of a nefarious chicken-finger pandemic, in which a blandly tasty foodstuff has somehow become the de facto official nibble of our young.

For all the fretfulness I’m obligated to express over the health implications of this pandemic — chicken fingers are often fried, and are often accompanied by fries — I’m much more rankled by its palate-deadening potential. Far from being an advance, I’ve concluded, the standard children’s menu is regressive, encouraging children (and their misguided parents) to believe that there is a rigidly delineated “kids’ cuisine” that exists entirely apart from grown-up cuisine.

I grew up eating what my parents ate, at home and at restaurants. Sometimes, the experience could be revelatory, as when I tried fish chowder for the first time on a trip to Boston, or when my mother attempted Julia Child’s Soupe au Pistou.

Other times, dinner was merely dinner, not transcendent but comfortingly routine. And then there were those bummer meals that I just didn’t care for, like stuffed cabbage, but that I endured because my parents offered no other choice. It was all experiential grist for the mill, and it made me — like millions of other Americans of my generation who were raised the same way — a fairly adventurous eater with a built-in sense of dietary balance.

It pains me that many children now grow up eating little besides golden-brown logs of kid food, especially in a time when the quality, variety and availability of good ingredients is better than ever.

We accept that it’s bad not to read to young children lest it affect their “wiring,” and that it’s bad to let them slack off on exercise lest their muscles not develop, but we’re kind of lazy on the palate front. And really, discovering new foods and flavors is one of the most delightful experiences that childhood can offer. Personally, I far preferred it to reading and exercising.

There’s no single seismic jolt that created the adult-child food divide, but we can’t underestimate the influence of the McDonald’s Corporation’s introductions, in 1979 and 1983, respectively, of the Happy Meal and Chicken McNuggets. The instant popularity of these products signaled that there was a ton of money to be made in marketing foods explicitly to kids (even at fast-food restaurants, where kids were already psyched to be).

Since then, the food industry has developed a whole new segment predicated on what the nutritionist Marion Nestle, in her book “What to Eat,” calls the “ ‘kids are only supposed to eat kids’ food’ strategy.”

Ms. Nestle notes that ConAgra manufactures a product line called Kid Cuisine: prepackaged meals in compartmented, TV-dinner-style trays. If you visit the company’s Web site, you’ll find that all 14 Kid Cuisine meals are beige-yellow-ocher in color — a grim hallmark of the genre — and 5 of them are built around an entree in the breaded-chicken-nubbin family.

Realistically, there’s nothing to be gained by pining for that halcyon world where kids weren’t constantly being hustled; the genie is out of the bottle. But if we’re stuck with the children’s menu, there’s no reason it can’t be improved upon and made less of a sop to cosseted little fried-food addicts. And it’s encouraging that some important players in the hospitality industry, like the Walt Disney Company and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, are taking action on this front.

Both companies were motivated primarily by the new national concern over poor nutrition and childhood obesity, but each has produced a response that also addresses the dead-palate issue. Effective last fall, Disney stopped serving French fries automatically with kids’ entrees at its theme parks, “providing equal choice of fries, baby carrots, or grapes, not really pushing one or the other,” said Mary Niven, the vice president of food and beverage operations at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

Ms. Niven is leading her company’s “Well-Balanced Foods Initiative,” which also entails experimenting with new meals outside of the chicken-finger paradigm, such as arroz con pollo, the traditional Latin American dish of chicken and rice, and a baked chicken leg in an Asian-style citrus marinade, served with rice noodles.

Likewise, Ritz-Carlton launched a “Healthy Kids” program for children four years ago. The program not only de-emphasizes fried foods but also gives its chefs a freer hand to create their own kids’ menus. Vivian Deuschl, the vice president for public relations at Ritz-Carlton, who oversees the program, said it was set up in response to changing customer tastes.

A 20-year veteran of the company, Ms. Deuschl said that kids’ menus “started out on a limited basis in the ’80s and picked up in the ’90s as our demographics started to shift, especially at our resorts. We were getting more families, usually ones where both parents worked, so they didn’t want to leave their kids behind on vacation.”

At first, these guests were only too happy to indulge their children with a nonstop fingers-and-fries diet while on vacation. But in the last few years, Ms. Deuschl said: “We sensed a lot of tension. Parents were ordering things off the adult menu for their kids: crab cakes, pastas, stir-fries of vegetables.”

Perhaps no chef has taken the mission more to heart than Tony Miller of Latitude 41, the restaurant of the Renaissance Columbus in Ohio. (Renaissance, like Ritz-Carlton, falls under the Marriott International corporate umbrella.) “We do not have a chicken finger in this restaurant,” Mr. Miller said. The father of a 4-year-old girl, he constructed his “Fun Menu” to appeal to children without pandering to them.

“It features zero fried foods on it,” he said. “We do grilled organic chicken teriyaki, a seared fillet of whatever fish is in season, and a four-once fillet of natural beef with smashed potatoes. I have not received a single negative reaction from adults or kids. Not one. The kids say ‘Man, that’s the best steak I’ve ever eaten!’ ”

Mr. Miller is also shrewd in recognizing that parents are after not dumbed-down or deflavorized food for their kids, but rather smaller portions and prices. At the rates he’s charging — from $5 for the teriyaki to $8 for the small fillet, including beverage — he’s in the ballpark with lots of diners and chain places.

Marc Murphy, the Landmarc chef, said that it’s simply a matter of “not making a big deal of out of it” when it comes to your kids’ food preferences.

His own 3-year-old daughter usually skips the children’s menu at his restaurant, he said, and “eats the linguine alla vongole, with baby clams, when we run it on Fridays.” But it’s harder as your children get older and more exposed to the wider world; that’s when the pandemic claims them. In my family, it’s been a matter of getting back to that simple idea — the kids eat what the parents eat — and cutting off those little fingers.

mardi, mai 29, 2007

next up: nero and his goddamn fiddle

Conspicuous consumption taken to a revolting extreme ...
Hippest Baby Bling
Lauren Sherman, 05.25.07, 12:01 AM ET
New mom Paola Canahuati didn't bat an eyelash when forking over nearly $1,000 for her Bugaboo stroller.

That's because she believes certain high-end baby gear is worth the price, particularly when the baby is her own precious, albeit oblivious, 13-day-old, Aristotles.

"For baby clothes, I've tried to be more economical," says Canahuati, 23, who is currently on maternity leave from her position as a proofreader at the United Nations in New York City. "But when it comes to strollers, changing stations and cribs, I'm willing to spend more. I'm going to be using this stuff for two or three years, and I want the best for my baby boy."

Canahuati isn't alone. Heidi Klum's got a Stokke Xplory stroller (most models run around $999), and Michelle Soudry, founder of personalized baby gear website, sent Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie a $17,000 diamond-encrusted pacifier upon the birth last year of their daughter, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.

In Pictures: Ultra-Expensive Baby Gear

Up next? A-list actresses such as Julia Roberts, Naomi Watts and Keri Russell are expecting children in the next few months. Baby showers thrown by well-heeled friends means lots of baby baubles.

Star Tracks
Kariz Favis, editor-in-chief of Baby Couture magazine, which focuses on high fashion for little ones, says that celebrity has certainly fueled the current rage for over-the-top kinder loot.

"I think it's largely attributable to the better and wider choices that are available in children's fashion and gear," says Favis. "When celebrity parents bought these items, their validation opened up a whole new market for high-end baby gear."

So while not everyone will be springing for a white Hermes Birkin bag (which can cost upward of $20,000) to store bottles and wipes, as model Kate Moss famously did after the birth of her daughter Lila Grace in 2002, you might see some posh moms with Goyard's made-to-order diaper bag, which can cost in the area of $3,000.

Other popular baby brands include Maclaren, the British company known for its prams--including a $4,000 limited edition leather stroller with nine-karat gold accents--and luxury fashion house Gucci, which produces everything from baby blankets to carriers, all with the signature GG print. Dior makes baby booties.

Expensive, no doubt. As such, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a New York City research firm that evaluates the purchasing power of high-net worth individuals, these purchases aren't made in haste.

"There's no question that wealthy baby boomers take as much time to research and buy luxury baby gear as they do automobiles," he says. "Superior quality is a requirement of a luxury good, and that's a major driver. But once you get past the functional benefit, it really is about having the equivalent of Ferraris and Maseratis for your kids."

Happy Habit?
However, high-end kinder candy might be less about showing off for your friends and more about lifting your spirits.

Lorena Bendinskas, co-founder of entertainment marketing company The Silver Spoon, which organizes the annual Dog and Baby Hollywood Buffet charity event, says postpartum purchases make moms feel good. "Buying a nice diaper bag or personalized pacifier,” she says, “makes moms who aren't feeling 100% ... focus on something more positive.”

Others say it has to do more with owning something completely original--or at least highly coveted. “Parents love to be able to make their child's belonging's unique," says Soudry. "There's definitely a craze for personalization."

Yet, even for extreme spenders, it still comes down to the well-being of baby.

Her $1,000 stroller aside, Canahuati's must-have purchase? "Right now," she says, "my biggest concern is choosing the right breast pump."

Now she just has to decide, is it going to be $40 or $400? Good thing there's a not a platinum version.

lundi, mai 28, 2007

woodcuts and petrified turds

I'm not an obsessive collector of anything. Actually, I accumulate things not so much because I love things, but because I love experiences.

That usually means something I've picked up on my travels or been given by friends. Some are displayed. Others, like the woodcut prints from my trip to Prague in 2002 that I haven't gotten around to framing yet, aren't. Although I don't display it, I still have a turtle coprolite that was a gift in high school (nothing says love like the petrified remains of a turtle's bowel movement).

But nothing I own is quite as valuable or (frankly) freaky as the items mentioned in this article. At least not yet.
Op-Ed: Collect-Me-Nots
Published: May 17, 2007
Iowa City

THE owner of Napoleon’s penis died last Thursday in Englewood, N.J. John K. Lattimer, who’d been a Columbia University professor and a collector of military (and some macabre) relics, also possessed Lincoln’s blood-stained collar and Hermann Göring’s cyanide ampoule. But the penis, which supposedly had been severed by a priest who administered last rites to Napoleon and overstepped clerical boundaries, stood out (sorry) from the professor’s collection of medieval armor, Civil War rifles and Hitler drawings.

The chances that Napoleon’s penis would be excised so that it could become a souvenir were improved by his having lived and died at a moment when the physical remains of celebrities held a strong attraction. Shakespeare didn’t become Shakespeare until the dawn of the romantic period, when his biography was written, his plays annotated and his belongings sought out and preserved. Trees that stood outside the bard’s former homes were felled to provide Shakespearean lumber for tea chests and tobacco stoppers.

After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, his possessions toured England. His carriage, filled with enticing contents like a gold tongue scraper, a flesh brush, “Cashimeer small-clothes” and a chocolate pot, drew crowds and inspired the poet Byron to covet a replica. When Napoleon died, the trees that lined his grave site at St. Helena were slivered into souvenirs.

The belief that objects are imbued with a lasting essence of their owners, taken to its logical extreme, led to the mind-set that caused Mary Shelley to keep her husband’s heart, dried to a powder, in her desk drawer. Of course, relic collecting long predates the romantic period; medieval pilgrims sought out fragments of the True Cross. In the aftermath of the Reformation, religious relics that had been ejected from monasteries joined secular collections that freely intermingled belemnites with saints’ finger bones. When Keats died, his hair took on the numinous appeal of a religious artifact.

Napoleon’s penis was not the only Napoleonic body part that became grist for the relic mill. Two pieces of Napoleon’s intestine, acquired by the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1841, provoked a long-simmering debate beginning in 1883. That year, Sir James Paget called the specimens’ authenticity into question, contrasting their seemingly cancerous protrusions to the sound tissue Napoleon’s doctor had earlier described. In 1960, the dispute continued in The Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, long after the intestine pieces had been destroyed during a World War II air raid.

Dr. Lattimer, a urologist, could claim a professional interest in Napoleon’s genitalia. Not so its previous owner, the Philadelphia bookseller and collector A. S. W. Rosenbach, who took a “Rabelaisian delight” in the relic, according to his biographer, Edwin Wolf. When Rosenbach put the penis on display at the Museum of French Art in New York, visitors peered into a vitrine to see something that looked like a maltreated shoelace, or a shriveled eel.

Whether the object prized by Dr. Lattimer was actually once attached to Napoleon may never be resolved. Some historians doubt that the priest could have managed the organ heist when so many people were passing in and out of the emperor’s death chamber. Others suggest he may have removed only a partial sample. If enough people believe in a possibly spurious penis, does it become real?

The pathos of Napoleon’s penis — bandied about over the decades, barely recognizable as a human body part — conjures up the seamier side of the collecting impulse. If, as Freud suggested, the collector is a sexually maladjusted misanthrope, then the emperor’s phallus is a collector’s object nonpareil, the epitome of male potency and dominance. The ranks of Napoleon enthusiasts, it should be noted, include many alpha males: Bill Gates, Newt Gingrich, Stanley Kubrick, Winston Churchill, Augusto Pinochet. Nevertheless, the Freudian paradigm has never accounted for women collectors, nor does it explain the appeal of collections for artists like Lisa Milroy, whose paintings of cabinet handles or shoes, arrayed in series, animate these common objects.

It’s time to let Napoleon’s penis rest in peace. Museums are quietly de-accessioning the human remains of indigenous peoples so that body parts can be given proper burial rites. Napoleon’s penis, too, should be allowed to go home and rejoin the rest of his captivating body.

Judith Pascoe, a professor of English at the University of Iowa, is the author of “The Hummingbird Cabinet: A Rare and Curious History of Romantic Collectors.”

Correction: May 18, 2007

An Op-Ed article yesterday, about collecting relics, misstated Napoleon’s fate at Waterloo. He formally surrendered a month after the battle; he was not captured there.

vendredi, mai 25, 2007

somehow, it's comforting to know i'm not alone

Schadenfreude is delighting in the misery of others. And that isn't the right description for what I'm feeling at the moment. Is there a German word for taking comfort in knowing that others are no better off than you are, even though you don't wish your misery on them?

I ask because I just saw my friend Diana's post on the end of another semester as an MBA student. That post, along with a few phone calls this semester, has confirmed what I already suspected to be true:
  1. B-school is a sucky, sucky thing everywhere.
  2. Other really smart people are overwhelmed by the curriculum.
  3. "Balance" is a fleeting fantasy, because part-time school + full-time work = no time for a life.
Congrats on finishing another semester, Diana.

jeudi, mai 24, 2007

antediluvian delusion

  1. I really hope Eddie Izzard hears about this place, because I'm dying to hear some new material on this subject from him.
  2. I happen to know someone who would love this museum. Yes, she's religious. Yes, we're friends. Yes, she believes in creation and all the other hooha in the Bible.
I have a rule that my natural history museums be grounded in evidence-based science, and not faith. Reactions amongst my other heathen friends has ranged from "I'm speechless" to "look, you're talking about people who believe 5 fishes and 4 loaves of bread are adequate nourishment for 5,000 people ... which actually explains the republican stance on the minimum wage."
Creation Museum Review: Adam and Eve in the Land of the Dinosaurs
May 24, 2007

PETERSBURG, Ky. — The entrance gates here are topped with metallic Stegosauruses. The grounds include a giant tyrannosaur standing amid the trees, and a stone-lined lobby sports varied sauropods. It could be like any other natural history museum, luring families with the promise of immense fossils and dinosaur adventures.

But step a little farther into the entrance hall, and you come upon a pastoral scene undreamt of by any natural history museum. Two prehistoric children play near a burbling waterfall, thoroughly at home in the natural world. Dinosaurs cavort nearby, their animatronic mechanisms turning them into alluring companions, their gaping mouths seeming not threatening, but almost welcoming, as an Apatosaurus munches on leaves a few yards away.

What is this, then? A reproduction of a childhood fantasy in which dinosaurs are friends of inquisitive youngsters? The kind of fantasy that doesn’t care that human beings and these prefossilized thunder-lizards are usually thought to have been separated by millions of years? No, this really is meant to be more like one of those literal dioramas of the traditional natural history museum, an imagining of a real habitat, with plant life and landscape reproduced in meticulous detail.

For here at the $27 million Creation Museum, which opens on May 28 (just a short drive from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport), this pastoral scene is a glimpse of the world just after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, in which dinosaurs are still apparently as herbivorous as humans, and all are enjoying a little calm in the days after the fall.

It also serves as a vivid introduction to the sheer weirdness and daring of this museum created by the Answers in Genesis ministry that combines displays of extraordinary nautilus shell fossils and biblical tableaus, celebrations of natural wonders and allusions to human sin. Evolution gets its continual comeuppance, while biblical revelations are treated as gospel.

Outside the museum scientists may assert that the universe is billions of years old, that fossils are the remains of animals living hundreds of millions of years ago, and that life’s diversity is the result of evolution by natural selection. But inside the museum the Earth is barely 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were created on the sixth day, and Jesus is the savior who will one day repair the trauma of man’s fall.

It is a measure of the museum’s daring that dinosaurs and fossils — once considered major challenges to belief in the Bible’s creation story — are here so central, appearing not as tests of faith, as one religious authority once surmised, but as creatures no different from the giraffes and cats that still walk the earth. Fossils, the museum teaches, are no older than Noah’s flood; in fact dinosaurs were on the ark.

So dinosaur skeletons and brightly colored mineral crystals and images of the Grand Canyon are here, as are life-size dioramas showing paleontologists digging in mock earth, Moses and Paul teaching their doctrines, Martin Luther chastising the church to return to Scripture, Adam and Eve guiltily standing near skinned animals, covering their nakedness, and a supposedly full-size reproduction of a section of Noah’s ark.

There are 52 videos in the museum, one showing how the transformations wrought by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 reveal how plausible it is that the waters of Noah’s flood could have carved out the Grand Canyon within days. There is a special-effects theater complete with vibrating seats meant to evoke the flood, and a planetarium paying tribute to God’s glory while exploring the nature of galaxies.

Whether you are willing to grant the premises of this museum almost becomes irrelevant as you are drawn into its mixture of spectacle and narrative. Its 60,000 square feet of exhibits are often stunningly designed by Patrick Marsh, who, like the entire museum staff, declares adherence to the ministry’s views; he evidently also knows the lure of secular sensations, since he designed the “Jaws” and “King Kong” attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.

For the skeptic the wonder is at a strange universe shaped by elaborate arguments, strong convictions and intermittent invocations of scientific principle. For the believer, it seems, this museum provides a kind of relief: Finally the world is being shown as it really is, without the distortions of secularism and natural selection.

The Creation Museum actually stands the natural history museum on its head. Natural history museums developed out of the Enlightenment: encyclopedic collections of natural objects were made subject to ever more searching forms of inquiry and organization. The natural history museum gave order to the natural world, taming its seeming chaos with the principles of human reason. And Darwin’s theory — which gave life a compelling order in time as well as space — became central to its purpose. Put on display was the prehistory of civilization, seeming to allude not just to the evolution of species but also cultures (which is why “primitive” cultures were long part of its domain). The natural history museum is a hall of human origins.

The Creation Museum has a similar interest in dramatizing origins, but sees natural history as divine history. And now that many museums have also become temples to various American ethnic and sociological groups, why not a museum for the millions who believe that the Earth is less than 6,000 years old and was created in six days?

Mark Looy, a founder of Answers in Genesis with its president, Ken Ham, said the ministry expected perhaps 250,000 visitors during the museum’s first year. In preparation Mr. Ham for 13 years has been overseeing 350 seminars annually about the truths of Genesis, which have been drawing thousands of acolytes. The organization’s magazine has 50,000 subscribers. The museum also says that it has 9,000 charter members and international contributors who have left the institution free of debt.

But for a visitor steeped in the scientific world view, the impact of the museum is a disorienting mix of faith and reason, the exotic and the familiar. Nature here is not “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson asserted. In fact at first it seems almost as genteel as Eden’s dinosaurs. We learn that chameleons, for example, change colors not because that serves as a survival mechanism, but “to ‘talk’ to other chameleons, to show off their mood, and to adjust to heat and light.”

Meanwhile a remarkable fossil of a perch devouring a herring found in Wyoming offers “silent testimony to God’s worldwide judgment,” not because it shows a predator and prey, but because the two perished — somehow getting preserved in stone — during Noah’s flood. Nearly all fossils, the museum asserts, are relics of that divine retribution.

The heart of the museum is a series of catastrophes. The main one is the fall, with Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge; after that tableau the viewer descends from the brightness of Eden into genuinely creepy cement hallways of urban slums. Photographs show the pain of war, childbirth, death — the wages of primal sin. Then come the biblical accounts of the fallen world, leading up to Noah’s ark and the flood, the source of all significant geological phenomena.

The other catastrophe, in the museum’s view, is of more recent vintage: the abandonment of the Bible by church figures who began to treat the story of creation as if it were merely metaphorical, and by Enlightenment philosophers, who chipped away at biblical authority. The ministry believes this is a slippery slope.

Start accepting evolution or an ancient Earth, and the result is like the giant wrecking ball, labeled “Millions of Years,” that is shown smashing the ground at the foundation of a church, the cracks reaching across the gallery to a model of a home in which videos demonstrate the imminence of moral dissolution. A teenager is shown sitting at a computer; he is, we are told, looking at pornography.

But given the museum’s unwavering insistence on belief in the literal truth of biblical accounts, it is strange that so much energy is put into demonstrating their scientific coherence with discussions of erosion or interstellar space. Are such justifications required to convince the skeptical or reassure the believer?

In the museum’s portrayal, creationists and secularists view the same facts, but come up with differing interpretations, perhaps the way Ptolemaic astronomers in the 16th century saw the Earth at the center of the universe, where Copernicans began to place the sun. But one problem is that scientific activity presumes that the material world is organized according to unchanging laws, while biblical fundamentalism presumes that those laws are themselves subject to disruption and miracle. Is not that a slippery slope as well, even affecting these analyses?

But for debates, a visitor goes elsewhere. The Creation Museum offers an alternate world that has its fascinations, even for a skeptic wary of the effect of so many unanswered assertions. He leaves feeling a bit like Adam emerging from Eden, all the world before him, freshly amazed at its strangeness and extravagant peculiarities.

The Creation Museum opens Monday at 2800 Bullittsburg Church Road, Petersburg, Ky.; (888) 582-4253.

mercredi, mai 23, 2007


"La femme est toujours en rut."
"Woman is always in heat."
-Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was an influential nineteenth century French poet. He was also a critic and translator.

everybody run, baby bubba's got a gun!

Get me the eff out of this country. Seriously.

Something's very wrong with this picture ... who gives an infant a Beretta? And don't even get me started on the kid's nickname ...
Baby 'Bubba' gets a gun permit
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- "Bubba" Ludwig can't walk, talk or open the refrigerator door -- but he does have his very own Illinois gun permit.

The 10-month-old, whose given name is Howard David Ludwig, was issued a firearm owner's identification card after his father, Howard Ludwig, paid the $5 fee and filled out the application, not expecting to actually get one.

The card lists the baby's height (2 feet, 3 inches), weight (20 pounds) and has a scribble where the signature should be. (Watch Bubba use his gun permit as a teething ring.)

With some exceptions, the cards are required of any Illinois residents purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition within the state. There are no age restrictions on the cards, an official said.

Illinois State Police oversee the application process. Their purpose, said Lt. Scott Compton, is to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, those under an order of protection and those convicted of domestic violence.

"Does a 10-month-old need a FOID card? No, but there are no restrictions under the act regarding age of applicants," he said.

Ludwig, 30, of Chicago, applied for the card after his own father bought Bubba a 12-gauge Beretta shotgun as a gift. The weapon will probably be kept at Ludwig's father's house until the boy is at least 14.

mardi, mai 22, 2007

death by veganism

I'm a reformed vegetarian (that is, I was a vegetarian for awhile in college, but nowadays, I can't imagine life without a juicy piece of skirt steak at least once a week), but I've never been a vegan. I haven't given much thought to what I'll put in my body when the time comes for me to gestate a living being, other than avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine, mercury-rich fish, etc. I suppose I'll eat more of certain foods to make sure I'm giving my baby what she needs to develop in a healthy way, and that I'll avoid foods that are not so good. And that's where things get complicated, because there are a variety of responses to what's good and what's verboten, and much of it is culture-specific.

For example, in the US, a visibly pregnant woman having a glass of wine is usually scandalous. (In Europe, it isn't.) But in France, a visibly pregnant woman eating a salad is considered irresponsible, because she's exposing her unborn child to all manner of bacteria on uncooked vegetables. (Eating unpasteurized cheeses while pregnant isn't a big deal there, while in the US, doctors get all in a tizzy.)

The good news: I'm not planning on having a child for a while, so there's no rush to get this all nailed down at the moment.
Op-Ed:Death by Veganism
Published: May 21, 2007

WHEN Crown Shakur died of starvation, he was 6 weeks old and weighed 3.5 pounds. His vegan parents, who fed him mainly soy milk and apple juice, were convicted in Atlanta recently of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty.

This particular calamity — at least the third such conviction of vegan parents in four years — may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.

Protein deficiency is one danger of a vegan diet for babies. Nutritionists used to speak of proteins as “first class” (from meat, fish, eggs and milk) and “second class” (from plants), but today this is considered denigrating to vegetarians.

The fact remains, though, that humans prefer animal proteins and fats to cereals and tubers, because they contain all the essential amino acids needed for life in the right ratio. This is not true of plant proteins, which are inferior in quantity and quality — even soy.

A vegan diet may lack vitamin B12, found only in animal foods; usable vitamins A and D, found in meat, fish, eggs and butter; and necessary minerals like calcium and zinc. When babies are deprived of all these nutrients, they will suffer from retarded growth, rickets and nerve damage.

Responsible vegan parents know that breast milk is ideal. It contains many necessary components, including cholesterol (which babies use to make nerve cells) and countless immune and growth factors. When breastfeeding isn’t possible, soy milk and fruit juice, even in seemingly sufficient quantities, are not safe substitutes for a quality infant formula.

Yet even a breast-fed baby is at risk. Studies show that vegan breast milk lacks enough docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, the omega-3 fat found in fatty fish. It is difficult to overstate the importance of DHA, vital as it is for eye and brain development.

A vegan diet is equally dangerous for weaned babies and toddlers, who need plenty of protein and calcium. Too often, vegans turn to soy, which actually inhibits growth and reduces absorption of protein and minerals. That’s why health officials in Britain, Canada and other countries express caution about soy for babies. (Not here, though — perhaps because our farm policy is so soy-friendly.)

Historically, diet honored tradition: we ate the foods that our mothers, and their mothers, ate. Now, your neighbor or sibling may be a meat-eater or vegetarian, may ferment his foods or eat them raw. This fragmentation of the American menu reflects admirable diversity and tolerance, but food is more important than fashion. Though it’s not politically correct to say so, all diets are not created equal.

An adult who was well-nourished in utero and in infancy may choose to get by on a vegan diet, but babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil. Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow.

Nina Planck is the author of “Real Food: What to Eat and Why.”


"That's like going to a brothel and only having a lap dance."

lundi, mai 21, 2007

who knew?

Joe knew:

C. Beck Petite Sirah 2004 is "big fruit" and "inky." It was also the right choice to accompany a filet mignon with caramelized shallots and blue cheese in a demi-glace tonight.

That's because Joe Montana (yeah, that Joe Montana) is a vintner.

dimanche, mai 20, 2007

chicken in mustard sauce

Leo and I made this for dinner with corn on the cob and spinach with roasted red peppers. It's a keeper.
Active time: 20 min
Start to finish: 45 min
Makes 4 servings.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 whole chicken legs (2 lb total) (we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons whole-grain or coarse-grain mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (we substituted 1 TBSP of dried thyme)

Whisk together flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a pie plate or shallow bowl. Pat chicken dry, then dredge legs, 1 at a time, in flour, shaking off excess. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper, arranging chicken in 1 layer.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, skin side down, turning over once, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate, then pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet.

Add shallots to skillet and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and deglaze skillet by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits. Add broth, mustard, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then return chicken to skillet, skin sides up, along with any juices from plate, and cook over moderate heat, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter and boil sauce until reduced to about 1 cup and slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dill, then pour sauce over chicken.

stop blackwater

I've emerged from another semester relatively unscathed and am getting caught up on all manner of things, ranging from back issues of the New Yorker to pop culture to San Diego politics.

I saw three "Stop Blackwater" bumperstickers today and finally got around to seeing what all the fuss is about.
Blog for America » Stop Blackwater in San Diego County
by Terry Williams
Published 05/12/07 @ 12:11 pm.

You may know Potrero as a small, peaceful community nestled in the hills and valleys near the Tecate border crossing in San Diego's back country.

You may know Blackwater USA too, because they are currently under investigation by the House of Representatives for war profiteering and their mercenary activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater is implementing their post-Iraq business plan for providing "homeland security" in the United States, and are proposing a 824-acre military style training facility in Potrero in San Diego County that will employ 60 people, provide paramilitary training to 300 students per week, and is modeled on their 7,000-acre training facility in Moyock, North Carolina. This parcel of land includes Cleveland National Forest acreage, borders the Hauser Wilderness area, and is an environmentally sensitive habitat for wildlife including three nesting pair of golden eagles.

Please support the citizens of Potrero, and oppose the establishment of Blackwater West in San Diego, California by signing the petition being sponsored by Courage Campaign. Over half of Potrero's voters have signed a petition opposing the training camp. Blackwater West is opposed by a wide ranging group of individuals and organizations including Congressman Bob Filner, the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club, Sierra Club-San Diego Chapter, Peace Resource Center, Progressive Christians Uniting, and the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club.

vendredi, mai 18, 2007

john cleese's letter to america

Yes, it's an urban legend. But it's still funny as hell.
To the citizens of the United States of America:

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium," and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour', 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise." You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra'; you may elect to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you find you simply can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up "vocabulary"). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

2. There is no such thing as "US English." We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize."

3. You will relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out Task #1 (see above).

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but to be celebrated only in England. It will be called "Come-Uppance Day."

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric immediately and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling "gasoline") -roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with mayonnaise but with vinegar.

10. Waiters and waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer," and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager." American brands will be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American "football." There is only one kind of proper football; you call it "soccer." Those of you brave enough will, in time, will be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the "World Series" for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e., tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due backdated to 1776.

Thank you for your co-operation.

John Cleese

jeudi, mai 17, 2007


"Wine is sunlight held together by water."
-Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution.

lundi, mai 14, 2007

things i think about when i should be writing a take-home final

  1. I could really use a vacation right about now.
  2. I'm tired of having the Monday blues (several very important things are converging at work — all of which seem to have my name on them — just in time for my computer to have a major meltdown today).
  3. I could really use a vacation right about now.
  4. I hope the photos from the 2005 Peter Hook show at the Casbah weren't (only) on my work computer.
  5. What ever happened to Monaco?
  6. I never saw the "What Do You Want from Me?" video.
  7. God, that was an awful video.
  8. You Tube is pretty cool. Where else would I have access to so much copyrighted stuff for free?
  9. Oooh, I haven't seen the video for "Krafty" in a very long time.
  10. Yeah, it's nice not to be single anymore. Very, very nice.
  11. Wait. What's the name of the non-Peter-Hook half of Monaco?
  12. David Potts.
  13. What has he done lately?
  14. Yeah, that's still a crappy video for a great song.
  15. And that bass line is way too Joy Division for a song that sounds so upbeat. Wait, it's a song that sounds happy but is about the end of a completely dysfunctional relationship. Okay. Everything's as it should be.
  16. It's time to start writing my final, already.
  17. Maybe the New Order bio will say what they're up to nowadays.
  18. Oh, for fuck's sake. Now I really have the Monday blues:
    In May 2007, Peter Hook announced that he and Sumner were no longer working together, which effectively spelled the end for New Order.

chiste de mercosur

La idea del Mercosur era unir el buen gusto argentino, la perseverancia uruguaya, el optimismo brasilero y la humildad paraguaya.

Desafortunadamente, al final termino haciendose con el buen gusto brasilero, la perseverancia paraguaya, el optimismo uruguayo y la humildad argentina.

The idea of Mercosur was to bring together Argentine good taste, Uruguayan perseverance, Brazilian optimism, and Paraguayan humility.

Unfortunately, in the end, it turned out as Brazilian good taste, Paraguayan perseverance, Uruguayan optimism, and Argentine humility.

no sarcasm? no way.

I'm a regular effing Pollyanna. Well, not exactly...

I believe in the power of positivity. And the laws of attraction/ prolepsis (projecting the kinds of energy that you'd like to get back). But I also believe that sarcasm and humor are fundamentally good ways of dealing with a world that often seems more than a little bit off-kilter. That's why I put them out there and surround myself with people who know how to strike the right balance between negativity and denial. I'm annoyed by (and more than a little suspicious of) people who are perpetually positive.

Or, as my "proud to be a negative nancy" boyfriend put it:
that's funny. all this article makes me want to do is complain incessantly about how america is a nation of five-year olds.

does that mean i'm a lost cause?

or maybe there's something to this approach. maybe if i stopped complaining about how corrupt politicians and businesspeople are, eventually the pent-up rage would boil over and i would pick a few of them off with a rifle. and that would be "positive, active thinking" rather than my old, "negative, passive thinking."

this entire nation is one big carny religious revival tent. i paid my five dollars. i saw the geek and the bearded lady. i just want to go back out onto the real world.
Here's what all the fuss is about:
Pastor preaches against complaining
POSTED: 10:00 p.m. EDT, May 3, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- The Rev. Will Bowen tries not to complain. He wants everyone else to stop carping, too -- all 6 billion of us on the planet.

And his message, first preached in a sermon at his small suburban church, has caught on -- even though some critics note complaining serves an important function.

Last July, Bowen challenged worshippers at Christ Church Unity to quit complaining as a way to bring more prosperity into their lives. The congregation is part of the Association of Unity Churches, which offers what it calls "practical Christianity" -- a way of life leading to health, prosperity, happiness and peace of mind.

"When you're focusing your attention on what's wrong or complaining, you're going to get more of what you're complaining about," Bowen says.

Positive thinking is not a new concept, but Bowen's spin came with a contemporary twist: the silicone bracelet. At the July sermon, Bowen handed out about 250 purple bracelets he wanted his congregants to use to remind themselves to stop complaining, criticizing or gossiping. Sarcasm was another no-no.

He challenged them to refrain from complaining for 21 days because, he said, that is how long it takes to break habits. Whenever they found themselves failing they were to switch the bracelet to the other wrist and start over.

"Complaining draws all of its essence from negativity," the 47-year-old Bowen says. "When you complain, you do it typically to attract attention or sympathy. It's you saying, 'There's something wrong with me.'

"You're sending out this vibrational energy into the universe that you're a victim, and the universe responds with more negativity."

Bowen thought the challenge would be easy for him since he's a "positive minister guy." But he broke three bracelets after moving them from wrist to wrist so many times before making his 21 days. It took him nearly three months.

The bracelets and the no-complaining challenge were a hit with church members, who came back looking for more bracelets, which the church gives out free. People at their offices wanted them. Family, friends, students wanted the purple bracelet and to take the 21-day challenge.

By October, reporters came calling. After the initial burst of publicity, the church sent out more than 1 million free bracelets. Requests came in via the church's Web site from around the world -- Russia, South America, Asian countries. Some Pentagon employees began using the bracelets, which they kept on their desks because they were not allowed to wear them, says Tom Alyea, a church board member who has been coordinating the no-complaining effort with Bowen.

"When they find themselves complaining, they move the bracelet from one side of the desk to the other," Alyea says.

But Barbara S. Held, psychology professor at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, says Bowen's approach is misguided. Complaining is an important, necessary tool for some people, she said.

"If we lived in a world in which there was nothing to complain about I think it might make perfect sense," Held says. "But we don't."

Held, author of the book "Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching: A 5-Step Guide to Creative Complaining," says people cope in different ways and some people need to vent. "The tyranny of the positive attitude in America, which Reverend Bowen wants to spread to the entire world" can actually hurt some people, she says.

"The research is compelling. When you force people to use a coping style that goes against their nature their functioning goes down," she says. "I'm not pushing pessimism. I'm saying let people cope in the way they cope and don't make them feel defective."

Still, Bowen's no complaining mission has resonated widely. He does several interviews a week and gets a lot of questions about what exactly constitutes complaining.

He explains it this way: "Complaining is saying, 'Man, that sucks.' What changes things is saying, 'This is not the way I would like it to be. This is how I would like it to be.' It's painting a picture or creating a vista to get people to look in that direction. It's where you want to move toward."

Bowen attributes his campaign's appeal to people "being tired of negativity," and to the changes he says people experience when they move away from complaining. Schools, prisons and homeless shelters have taken up the no complaint challenge, he says.

"When you're not articulating complaints then they have nowhere to go, and your brain literally stops producing them, and you become a happier person," he says.

Since Bowen's appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in March, volunteers have taken orders for more than 4 million bracelets. They've been coming in to the Web site at about 1,000 a day, Alyea says.

The bracelets are free, but the church includes a donation envelope in each packet it sends out. Alyea has contacted some Web sites that have offered copycat Complaint Free World bracelets but laughs about another site that he says "for $3 will send you a bracelet so you can complain all you want."

Bowen will not say how much the bracelets cost the church or what the donations amount to. But so far, contributions are keeping up with costs, he says.

A book, "A Complaint Free World" is due in October, and Bowen's next goal is a nationwide No Complaining day, preferably the day before Thanksgiving.

Held likely wouldn't support that idea.

"If they want to stop complaining and be optimistic and look on the bright side, fine," she says. "But why cram the agenda down everybody's throat? You don't see the kvetchers and complainers saying that everybody has to complain."


"Forecast for tomorrow: a few sprinkles of genius with a chance of doom."
-Stewart Gilligan Griffin

lundi, mai 07, 2007

free association with AKAs

I wore my Queen T-shirt on Saturday. The Trader Joe's clerk struck up a conversation with us about Queen's "A Night at the Opera." That led to a comment about how she still can't understand how people thought Freddie Mercury (aka Farrokh Bulsara) was straight and another conversation about Liberace (Wladziu Valentino Liberace). I told her that his real name was Walter Soucek something-or-other (something "ethnic, maybe Polish").

What I didn't realize is that I was trying to call him Walter Sobchak. If the name's familiar, it's because he doesn't roll on Shabbos and has all sorts of advice, including the infamous "this is what happens Larry ..." line.

In any case, it all comes together when you stop and think about it. Gay men with different stage names, and the whole matter of anatomy and getting off ... brings me to another form of pleasure, "The Joy of Liberace" (it's a cook book, people), that I heard about on NPR this weekend.
Retro Cooking with the King of Bling
All Things Considered, May 5, 2007 · The book for kitchy cooks has arrived.

Liberace — the rhinestone-studded pianist who was known for his candelabra, charisma and dazzle — was also a chef whose recipes were as over-the-top as his clothes. He loved to cook for his friends and his mother, and at one point even owned a restaurant.

Now, 20 years after his death, authors Michael and Karan Feder have compiled more than 80 of his favorite recipes in their new book Joy of Liberace: Retro Recipes from America's Kitschiest Kitchen.

Many of the dishes are the same ones "Mr. Showmanship" himself featured on 'The Liberace Show' in the '50s and '60s. There's the bejeweled Angel Bling Cake Pie, as well as Celery Victor/Victoria and Flamboyant Flambe of Sirloin, among others.

The blinged-out culinary classics are enough to have cooks laughing all the way to the Las Vegas buffet table.

dimanche, mai 06, 2007

you must remember this ...

I'm a big fan of kissing, cuddling, etc.

And I was surprised to learn that bonobos are the only other primates that kiss.
When a Kiss Is More Than a Kiss: Richard Gere, Shilpa Shetty and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Published: May 6, 2007

RICHARD GERE, while not the first person you’d think most likely to invoke the wrath of a conservative religious mob by kissing somebody in public, was at least a passably recognizable symbolic target for Hindu demonstrators last week, when they burned his figure in effigy in cities across India.

If not a wavy-haired, pretty-faced, prostitute-patronizer-portraying American actor, then who are religious firebrands supposed to burn in effigy when a man violates a cultural taboo by kissing a woman in public, as Mr. Gere did? (He planted several lingering kisses on the neck of an Indian actress, Shilpa Shetty, at a televised charity event in Mumbai.)

Surely not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But think again. When Mr. Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative president of Iran, kissed the gloved hand last week of an elderly woman who had once been his school teacher, at a ceremony for a national teachers’ day, he, too, received sharp rebukes from clerics.

Islamic religious leaders accused him of “indecency.” Islamic newspapers noted that under Shariah law contact with a woman with whom one is not related is a crime sometimes punishable by death.

Mr. Gere apologized to those he had offended.

Mr. Ahmadinejad did not. (And left town instead for a scheduled visit with the pope.)

But anthropologists and philematologists (people who study kissing) say the harsh reactions to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s and Mr. Gere’s kisses underline a certain cultural and political mystery about the seemingly simple act of kissing.

Kissing in public (private kissing exists in a different universe of discourse, and for the most part will remain there for the duration of this discussion) is quite often a public statement, they say: Witness the use of the public kiss in the lore of organized crime (to mean soon dead). Or in the political world, the moment in the 2000 campaign when Al Gore passionately kissed his wife, Tipper, (to signify his Alpha-Maleness). Or the mostly forgotten but once infamous kiss Hillary Rodham Clinton planted on the cheek of Yasir Arafat’s wife (signifying many things, not least of which that she would spend a good deal of time repairing relations with Jewish voters).

Vaughn M. Bryant Jr., an anthropologist at Texas A&M University, said that contrary to the lyrics of “As Time Goes By,” a kiss is almost never just a kiss. It is a language with a grammar all is own, which is as strict as the syntax of international diplomacy, he said.

“When people kiss, there are all kinds of hidden rules in play,” he said. “Where they are; who they are to each other; what the relationship between the sexes is in a country; all that gets considered.”

Robert Albro, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., who specializes in the role that culture plays in international relations, said Mr. Gere’s faux pas was an example of a cultural “border clash” that is increasingly common in the era of globalization.

To plant a kiss on the face of an Indian woman in public, he said, would be seen by conservative Indians as a trespass on “the cultural space” of their country.

“Women, in particular conspicuous women such as the actress, bear the burden of cultural identity in many parts of the world,” he said. “They are like the social skin of society itself.”

Kissing is more or less universal. People in all but a few, tiny cultures do it. And wherever people kiss, they practice the same categories of kissing that the Romans first identified: the “basium,” for the standard romantic kiss; the “osculum,” for the friendship kiss; and the “savium,” the most passionate kind, sometimes referred to as a French kiss. (Mr. Ahmadinejad’s was a classic osculum. Mr. Gere’s was probably an osculum playfully masquerading as a basium that, unfortunately for Mr. Gere, may have looked a little too much like a savium on TV.)

Monkeys do not kiss. Apes do, but usually only on the arm or the chest, to show respect. “Except among the bonobos, there is nothing like sexual kissing among the apes,” said Frans B. M. de Waal, a professor of primate behavior at Emory University. “Apes do not practice foreplay.”

The earliest written record of humans’ kissing appears in Vedic Sanskrit texts — in India — from around 1500 B.C., where certain passages refer to lovers “setting mouth to mouth,” according to Mr. Bryant.

There is debate among scientists over whether the kiss is an innately human practice, or one that we fortuitously acquired along the way. Some trace it to the mother who made the first mouth-to-mouth transfer of pre-chewed food to her child; others to prettier biological Eureka-moments. But in general it is agreed that people kiss in private mainly because it is nice.

So what does it mean when people, especially public people like the president of Iran or the world’s second most famous Buddhist, commit kisses in public places?

In the case of Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to press reports, his respectful kissing of his teacher’s hand was a gesture of conciliation with Iranian school teachers, who as a group have recently complained of low wages.

In Mr. Gere’s case, no one seems to know much more than the obvious. They were on national TV, promoting AIDS awareness together. She was pretty. He was Richard Gere. The results are on YouTube.

Robin Hicks, a cultural anthropologist at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., said that when the kissing involves people of different ethnicities — especially a Western man and a local woman, as in the case of Mr. Gere’s kiss in India — the cultural sensitivity of conservative-minded people is often greatly heightened.

“Frankly, I was shocked at his behavior,” Ms. Hicks said. ”He’s been to India so many times. He should have known better.” Mr. Gere, a practicing Buddhist and supporter of the Tibetan cause, visits India frequently to meet with the Dalai Lama.

“On the other and,” she added, “I guess this is one way for cultural anthropologists to get jobs.”

back in the eu

I'm all in favor of France moving toward full-fledged participation in the EU. Even if Sarkozy is a wolf in sheep's clothing, the French turned out in overwhelming numbers to hand him the most powerful presidency in Europe. We'll see if he uses those powers for good.

I hope his enemies are wrong and that he's no Pinochet (who allowed unspeakable acts to occur, but who maintained power because he was successful in stabilizing and improving the GNP and GDP while in office). It may be an unfair comparison, but if he is able to improve the economy, I doubt that anyone will question his methods for quelling social unrest.
Sarkozy Wins in France and Vows Break With Past
PARIS, May 6 — Nicolas Sarkozy, the passionate, pugnacious son of a Hungarian immigrant, was elected president of France on Sunday, promising a break with the past, a new style of leadership, and a renewal of relations with the United States and the rest of Europe.

Mr. Sarkozy’s triumph over Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate, was a huge blow to her party and dashed her dream of becoming the country’s first female president. But Ms. Royal tried to rally her supporters, telling them French politics had forever changed with her candidacy.

With the entire vote counted, Mr. Sarkozy had 53.1 percent and Ms. Royal 46.9 percent, according to official Interior Ministry figures.

Ms. Royal had repeatedly appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Mr. Sarkozy, a conservative who made his reputation as a hard-line minister of the interior, got the majority of the women’s vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company.

Its telephone poll showed that the youngest voters supported Ms. Royal, artisans, shopkeepers and rural voters preferred Mr. Sarkozy, and city dwellers were divided. Mr. Sarkozy’s strongest support came from voters 60 years and older.

His victory set off scattered anti-Sarkozy violence in Paris and some other cities, but for the most part France stayed calm.

Turnout was exceptionally high. Eighty-four percent of France’s 44.5 million registered voters cast ballots, about four percentage points higher than the level five years ago.

In an emotional acceptance speech to thousands of cheering supporters in a rented concert hall in the chic Eighth Arrondissement, Mr. Sarkozy (pronounced SAR-ko-zee) renewed his campaign pledge to break what he called the old, outmoded habits of France.

“The French people have chosen change,” Mr. Sarkozy declared. “I will implement that change. Because that is the mandate I received and because France needs change.”

He vowed to “break with the ideas, the habits and the behavior of the past” and to “rehabilitate work, authority, morality, respect and merit.” Mr. Sarkozy has pledged to remake France by, among other things, slashing unemployment, cutting taxes, keeping trains running during strikes, making people work harder and longer, shrinking the government bureaucracy, reforming pension rules and making it easier to create new businesses.

Widely criticized in France for his strong pro-American sentiments, Mr. Sarkozy sought in his acceptance speech to strike a balanced approach to the United States.

Addressing France’s “American friends,” he said, “I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they need her, but that friendship is also accepting the fact that friends can think differently.” .

He specifically criticized the United States for obstructing the fight against global warming, which he said would be a high priority.

President Bush telephoned Mr. Sarkozy to congratulate him, saying he “looks forward to working with president-elect Sarkozy as we continue our strong alliance,” Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said in a statement.

Foreshadowing activism in the world, Mr. Sarkozy called for a new union of the Mediterranean region, vowed to fight poverty, tyranny and oppression, and forge a new role for the European Union, declaring, “Tonight, France is back in Europe.”

He also struck a conciliatory note, reaching out to the huge swath of French people who seem to fear him, especially in the country’s ethnically and racially mixed suburbs, where he is accused of fueling tensions with his provocative language and an aggressive police presence.

“To all those French who did not vote for me, I want to say, beyond political battles, beyond differences of opinion, for me there is only one France,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “I want to tell them that I will be president of all the French.”

In conceding defeat at her campaign headquarters on the Left Bank, Ms. Royal acknowledged the sadness and pain of her supporters, whom she thanked for their efforts.

“The voters have spoken,” Ms. Royal said. “I hope the next president will fulfill his mission in the service of all the French people.”

But she also said the election campaign had changed the French left forever, hinting at disarray in her party and suggesting the Socialists may seek to form an alliance with the large following of François Bayrou, the centrist candidate. “Something rose up that will not stop,” she said, adding, “You can count on me to deepen the renewal of the left.”

She never mentioned Mr. Sarkozy by name.

With his raw, often divisive rhetoric, Mr. Sarkozy will have to change course to neutralize deep-rooted hostility against him, particularly in the tough ethnic suburbs.

About 2,000 people gathered at Place de la Bastille in central Paris to await the election results, with some burning an effigy of Mr. Sarkozy before tearing it apart.

But within two hours of the polls closing, the scene had degenerated into violent clashes between the police and several hundred people in the crowd who smashed windows and set one vehicle on fire.

By midnight, the square was shrouded in tear gas, with riot police officers cowering from paving stones pitched by young men. Bursts of police water cannons followed.

“Police everywhere, justice nowhere!” some protesters shouted. Others yelled, “Sarko, Fascist! The people will get you!” The base of the Bastille column in the square was left scrawled with graffiti, including, “Sarko 2007 = Hitler 1933.”

Four policemen and one civilian were injured, the police said.

In Lyon, France’s second-largest city, the police used tear gas on anti-Sarkozy protesters in the main square. There were other isolated episodes of protest in cities and towns across the country, including Grenoble, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Metz and Marseille.

Nonetheless, there was no repetition of the orgy of unrest that gripped the country’s troubled multiracial and multiethnic suburbs in late 2005.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sarkozy celebrated. After his acceptance speech, he blew kisses to the crowd before heading toward a restaurant on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Mr. Sarkozy’s wife, Cecilia, who has been notably absent during most of the campaign, was not with him throughout the day.

He was accompanied to his acceptance speech by his two sons from a first marriage and his two adult stepdaughters. Mrs. Sarkozy joined her husband at the restaurant and accompanied him to an outdoor victory party at the Place de la Concorde.

There, 30,000 supporters filled the square where revolutionaries once guillotined monarchists, chanting, “Nicolas! Nicolas! Nicolas!”

Mr. Sarkozy gave another upbeat speech. He clapped as Faudel, a French singer of Algerian origin, performed. Everyone sang the Marseillaise.

“I am very happy because he is the only one who can save France,” said Michele Mault, who is 50 years old and unemployed. “Sarkozy gives hope to someone like me who has no job, and especially to my children.”

The election was a triumph of raw ambition, efficiency and political sleight-of-hand. The French president is an odd invention — part monarch and part elected politician. There is no other elected political office in Europe that comes with as much power and grandeur.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Sarkozy had portrayed himself as an outsider, an immigrant’s son with a foreign-sounding name, a man who never went to one of France’s elite universities. He is also the quintessential political insider, however, a longtime figure in party politics and a member of the cabinet of President Jacques Chirac for much of the past five years. But he succeeded in making himself look like a political outsider, distancing himself from Mr. Chirac, who was seen by the French as old, tired and powerless in the twilight of his 12-year presidency.

Mr. Sarkozy ran an extraordinarily disciplined campaign with a single message: change, but not too much to scare voters.

Ms. Royal’s direct grass-roots appeal to the French people and her pledge to be their “protector” was revolutionary. But Ms. Royal, a former schools and environment minister, found herself in the odd position of being the candidate of her Socialist Party without enjoying the support of its elite.

Her campaign was fraught with mixed messages, defections and shifting strategies. She never seemed to convince voters that she had enough substance.

Twenty-two years younger than Mr. Chirac, Mr. Sarkozy also represents a generational change in French politics, in which World War II and the cold war are not determining factors.

Supporters of the centrist candidate, Mr. Bayrou, who came in third place in the first round with nearly seven million votes, split their vote almost evenly between Mr. Sarkozy, with 40 percent, and Ms. Royal, with 38 percent, according to Ipsos.

Mr. Sarkozy received 63 percent of the vote of those who supported far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round, according to Ipsos. Even though he had urged his supporters to abstain, only 20 percent did so; 15 percent voted for Ms. Royal, and 5 percent cast a blank or defaced vote.

In the most surprising development, 52 percent of female voters cast their ballots for Mr. Sarkozy, compared with 48 percent for Ms. Royal.

Mr. Sarkozy captured the vote of people 60 years and older; Ms. Royal fared well with very young voters — the 18 to 24 year old age group, where she won 58 percent of the vote. But Mr. Sarkozy gained the upper hand in the next age group, those 25 to 34, where he received 57 percent of the vote.

Artisans and shopkeepers also chose Mr. Sarkozy with 82 percent of the vote. Farmers, who traditionally vote on the right, gave him 67 percent. Ms. Royal did better among blue-collar workers, with 54 percent of the vote. The data was taken from a poll carried out by phone on Sunday on a sample of 3,609 people, representative of French registered voters.

Mr. Sarkozy officially will assume office ten days from now, a few hours before Mr. Chirac’s mandate ends. In a formal meeting, Mr. Chirac will hand over the secret codes for France’s nuclear weapons.

There will be a 21-gun salute; the Marseillaise will be played.

The President of the Constitutional Council will read the results of the election. The Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor will make Mr. Sarkozy Grand Master of the Order.

samedi, mai 05, 2007


"He who laughs most, learns best."
-John Marwood Cleese (October 27, 1939 -), English comedian and actor best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for co-writing the TV series Fawlty Towers.

vivir para contarla

A Storyteller Tells His Own Story; García Márquez, Fighting Cancer, Issues Memoirs
Published: October 9, 2002
He had always been the most disciplined of writers, sitting early in the morning before his trusty Macintosh, the magical, poetic words that have defined Latin America spilling from his head. That part never changed.

But then Gabriel García Márquez, the 1982 Nobel laureate from Colombia and the foremost author in Latin America, learned in 1999 that he had lymphatic cancer. He promptly cloistered himself with a single-minded pursuit not seen perhaps since he wrote the 1967 masterpiece, ''One Hundred Years of Solitude,'' in a little more than a year, his only vice a steady supply of cigarettes provided by his wife, Mercedes.

''I reduced relations with my friends to a minimum, disconnected the telephone, canceled the trips and all sorts of current and future plans,'' the author told El Tiempo, the Colombian newspaper, in rare comments about an illness he usually declines to discuss. ''And I locked myself in to write every day, without interruption.''

Now, after three years of researching and writing, García Márquez, 75, who underwent chemotherapy in a Los Angeles hospital and is recovering at his Mexico City home, is poised to release what may be his most-awaited book, ''Vivir Para Contarla,'' or ''To Live to Tell It.''

The first volume of the author's memoirs, it is an emotional, sometimes bittersweet account of the early years of a man so beloved in Latin America that he is universally known by his nickname, Gabo. Much of it is focused on this former banana boom town in northern Colombia that, despite its poverty and isolation, held mysteries and magic that inspired the storyteller.

The 579-page book, published by the Colombian editorial house Norma, is being released in Colombia on Wednesday and across much of Latin America and Spain on Thursday. It may appear in German, Dutch and Italian by the end of this year, and in the United States as early as the end of next year.

For his followers, "To Live to Tell It" is a treasure-trove unlocking the secrets of what inspired Mr. García Márquez and explaining how a rich life populated by colorful characters fueled a vivid imagination that led to some of the world's most important contemporary literature.

"It reads like a novel, but it's at the same time a chronicle of the author's life and a reportage of half a century of Colombia's reality," said Roberto Pombo, a close friend and editor of the Mexican edition of Cambio, the Colombian news magazine owned by García Márquez.

Many readers, of course, already know that this sleepy, oven-hot hamlet of almond trees and multicolored wood-plank homes is Macondo, the fictional town where the abundant, fantastical Buendía family wandered in "One Hundred Years of Solitude." It is a town of war and peace, revenge and violence, love and despair and unending isolation -- a paradise lost and a metaphor for Latin America.

And they know that the hair-raising stories of Col. Nicolás Márquez, Mr. García Márquez's grandfather -- tales of the War of a Thousand Days and fatal duels and country-hewn grudges -- haunted the budding writer and provided him with endless grist for his writing.

"To Live to Tell It," though, goes deep.

The reader learns the precise moment when the 23-year-old García Márquez, then a struggling newspaper reporter, realizes on an emotional journey back to his childhood home that his calling is the pen. "What you discover is that all of García Márquez's works are in the memories that come to him when he stands in front of that house," Mr. Pombo said.

Indeed, Mr. García Márquez recounts, he realized that he would be "nothing else but a writer" who would complete a first novel "or die."

The author explains how some of Colombia's most harrowing history, like the 1928 army massacre of striking United Fruit Company banana workers, became engrained in his consciousness, not only inspiring his writing but his left-leaning views. And how the loss of loved ones pained him.

"Today it is clear: A piece of me had died with him," Mr. García Márquez writes, recalling the death of his beloved grandfather. He goes on to say: "But I also believe, without the slightest doubt, that in that moment I was already a beginning writer who only needed to learn to write."

Mr. García Márquez has spoken little about the book and did not respond to requests for an interview, in part, friends said, because he is ill at ease speaking about his illness.

That has helped generate a flurry of delicious speculation in Latin American literary circles, as García Márquez's followers wondered what writing style he would use and how he would structure the work.

"People just want to know about this man -- it's the magic of Macondo, you know," said Gerald Martin, who is completing a biography of Mr. García Márquez. "This man is so famous and everybody knows him so well, and yet they cannot imagine how he is going to tell this story."

The memoir, an early reading indicates, is written in a straightforward, journalistic style with a few touches of the magic realism that defines much of his work. The book covers Mr. García Márquez's life to the mid-1950's as the elder son of an itinerant pharmacist and telegraph operator drops out of law school to become a journalist.

He is shaped by the often violent history around him, experiencing the chaos of the Bogotazo, the 1948 riots in the Colombian capital after the murder of the populist politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. "I believe I became conscious," Mr. García Márquez writes, "that on that day of April 9 of 1948 Colombia began the 20th century," a reference to the violence that has gripped the country since.

He develops into a street-smart chronicler at newspapers in the coastal cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla. It is a world of world-wise editors with good advice to a young, impressionable writer, and a collection of literary friends who frequent a bar called La Cueva where they mull over writers like William Faulkner, Daniel Defoe and James Joyce.

"We had so much in common," the author writes, "that it was said we were the sons of the same father." The memoir ends as Mr. García Márquez publishes his first book, "Leaf Storm," and leaves for Europe as a newspaper correspondent.

At least two other volumes are on the way, one perhaps taking the reader through 1982, when he is awarded the Nobel, and the other about his relationships with world figures like Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton and François Mitterrand.

For Mr. García Márquez, writing "To Live to Tell It" allowed him to re-explore his childhood while clearing up the myths and inaccuracies written about him since he achieved spectacular fame with "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

"He has wanted to tell that story himself, growing up with his grandfather in that small, nowhere place that was nevertheless magical," Mr. Martin said. "He's been waiting to do this a long time, and now is the time."

As in previous books, Mr. García Márquez depended on an army of relatives, friends and in some cases journalists contracted for the occasion to help gather the details and factoids to help him reconstruct events. "One must capture impressions, memories, go to friends and acquaintances, match statements with memory," Mr. García Márquez told a Brazilian reporter this year.

Renowned for his journalism, Mr. García Márquez dug up mundane details, like the background of the Dominican baseball player he briefly knew 50 years ago, the history of a coastal bordello where he lived, the name of a typesetter who worked at one of his first newspapers.

A friend, Jaime Abello, and Jaime García Márquez, one of the author's brothers, would often find themselves writing detailed reports for Mr. García Márquez, even though the arcane details were only peripheral to the narrative. "Gabo, like a good journalist, always collects a lot of information but he only uses a bit of it," explained Mr. Abello, director of the foundation in Cartagena that Mr. García Márquez created to tutor young journalists.

Mr. García Márquez reread his old newspaper columns and novels and studied books about him and his family, like Silvia Galvis's interviews with the García Márquez clan. He also conducted scores of interviews, many with relatives. "I had the sensation when he would call and ask for a detail that he just wanted our interpretation, that he was perhaps just looking for our angle," said Jaime García Márquez, 62.

Not surprisingly, much of the author's interest focused on reconstructing Aracataca, which has a reputation as a place full of fanciful, imaginative characters with a gift for gab and an appreciation for storytelling.

"That is something innate with the people," explained Robinson Mulford, a writer and literature teacher here. "We sit with our children and tell them stories of our grandparents. We tell them the myths and the legends of the Caribbean."

The young García Márquez seemed to be especially fascinated by stories of death. In the memoir he writes of seeing his first body: a man shot dead trying to break into a home, resulting in a "vision that chased me for many years."

To be sure, this is a writer famously obsessed with death, some say afraid of it. It is evident in his books; nearly all start with a death or a similar theme. Mr. García Márquez's avoidance of funerals is legendary, and the deaths of those close to him -- two brothers and his mother died during the writing of his memoirs -- deeply affect him.

"He once said, 'It is not that I am afraid of death, it is that I have a rage toward death,' " said Jaime García Márquez.

Gustavo Tatis, a journalist in the coastal city of Cartagena, said the author once expounded on his fear of death in an interview. "He said, 'The problem with death is that it lasts forever,'" Mr. Tatis recalled.

Not surprisingly, then, Mr. García Márquez's fixation with death has produced endless conjecture that the author embarked on his memoirs because he feared he would die soon.

To be sure, Mr. García Márquez sacrificed to finish this first volume. The author is a man who loves being close to power, and he is friends with world leaders and has caroused with rebels and diplomats, even playing a behind-the-scenes role in peace talks here. But he forced himself to stay home and he cut back on the journalism that he has said is his first professional love.

Still, those who know Mr. García Márquez said that from his days as a young reporter he had contemplated telling the story of his upbringing and Colombia's tumultuous history. Real life events, some personal, are laced through his fiction. His parent's courtship was the inspiration for "Love in the Time of Cholera" and a small-town murder was the model for "Chronicle of a Death Foretold."

Several friends simply said that the cancer prompted Mr. García Márquez to buckle down. One friend said Mr. García Márquez perhaps "saw a necessity of writing at all times as a form of confronting the illness with force."

Those close to him said Mr. García Márquez's latest work should simply be seen as a celebration of his life, not as a harbinger of death. Indeed, Mr. Abello said that the memoir's title alone tells the story.

"All his motivation is contained in that title, 'To Live to Tell It' -- it is the pleasure of telling the story," he said. "It is like saying life has been worth living."