March 4th, 2008

Chris Keeley

Excellent Insight to Our Current Condition

 Dear Friends,
In the parlous times in which we find ourselves, sadly, much of the problems are of our own making.  The media is one of the biggest reasons for that; the Congress shares as well; and, of course, Bush/Cheney are in many ways at the head of the pack. 
One important contributor to the problem is our ignorance of the reality of what is really happening because the media does not provide us with that reality.  A relatively new book by a veteran reporter, Mort Rosenblum, AP for decades, recounts what is involved.  It is:  "Escaping Plato's Cave: How America's Blindness to the Rest of the World Threatens Our Survival".
I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I am finding it difficult to read because of the many ways that the truth never got through to us in the last several decades.  It could have been so different.  In any event, get it, read it, and do what you can to right the ship of state.  If we take on very much more water we shall founder.
Bob/Joanna Martin
Chris Keeley

Kadrey's Butcher Bird -- free download

Kadrey's Butcher Bird -- free download
John sez, "Night Shade Books has made the entire text of Butcher Bird available as a DRM-free download, in a wide variety of formats. Kadrey is the author of one of the quintessential cyberpunk novels, Metrophage (which you can also read online.)"
Spyder Lee is a happy man who lives in San Francisco and owns a tattoo shop. One night an angry demon tries to bite his head off before he's saved by a stranger. The demon infected Spyder with something awful - the truth. He can suddenly see the world as it really is: full of angels and demons and monsters and monster-hunters. A world full of black magic and mysteries. These are the Dominions, parallel worlds full of wonder, beauty and horror. The Black Clerks, infinitely old and infinitely powerful beings whose job it is to keep the Dominions in balance, seem to have new interests and a whole new agenda. Dropped into the middle of a conflict between the Black Clerks and other forces he doesn't fully understand, Spyder finds himself looking for a magic book with the blind swordswoman who saved him. Their journey will take them from deserts to lush palaces, to underground caverns, to the heart of Hell itself.
Link (Thanks, John!)

See also: Kadrey's Butcher Bird: Dante meets RE/Search

Chris Keeley

In a rare instance, a male hyena returns to the cub den and socializes with the cubs. This male is o

In a rare instance, a male hyena returns to the cub den and socializes with the cubs. This male is of high social rank. The females usually do not let males near the cubs. 

Photo: Heather E. Watts

Spotted hyenas, also known somewhat disparagingly as laughing hyenas, live in a hierarchical social structure. Here, high-ranking hyenas get first bite at an African Cape buffalo. The lower-ranking hyenas in the outer circle must wait. Their complex social structure belies their reputation as odd-looking, scavenging misfits. And they are not always scavengers; they often bring down prey on their own

Photo: Kay E. Holekamp
Chris Keeley

This is Your Brain on Drugs

Savvy marketing, not good medicine, has created a boom in antidepressants.

Reviewed by Clancy Sigal
Sunday, March 2, 2008; BW03



How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation

By Charles Barber

Pantheon. 280 pp. $26

Tony Soprano takes the antidepressants Prozac, lithium and Xanax. His mother is on Prozac, and his son takes Lexapro. Lorraine Bracco, who plays Tony's psychiatrist, in real life suffers from depression and has "partnered" with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to help sell Zoloft.

Take your pick of 30 such antidepressants with soothing names and M&M-like colors -- Wellbutrin, Paxil, Celexa, BuSpar, Elavil, Vivactil, etc. -- and you're liable to see, in direct-to-consumer TV and newspaper ads, a Superbowl champ or film actress flacking for Big Pharma.

According to Charles Barber, since the early 1990s mental illness has gone from shameful to shameless, from unspoken and unspeakable to "a newfound faddishnes s." This profit-driven popularization deliberately blurs the line between true psychosis -- which Barber, who worked for 10 years in New York City homeless shelters, knows a lot about -- and simply feeling lousy. "In its improbable odyssey from the back wards of asylums to the boardrooms of corporations," Barber contends, "psychiatry has gone from invisible to visible" and is losing its soul in the process.

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Chris Keeley

(no subject)

Martian avalanches

This incredible photograph depicts avalanches near the north pole of Mars. Snapped by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, it's the first ever image of active avalanches on the Red Planet. From NASA:
"It really surprised me," says planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar Spitale of the University of Arizona who first noticed the avalanches in photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Feb. 19th. "It's great to see something so dynamic on Mars. A lot of what we see there hasn't changed for millions of years..."

The full image reveals features as small as a desk in a strip of terrain 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) wide and more than 10 times that long, at 84 degrees north latitude. Reddish layers known to be rich in water ice make up the face of a steep slope more than 700 meters (2,300 feet) tall, running the length of the image.

"We don't know what set off these landslides," says Patrick Russell of the University of Berne, Switzerland, a HiRISE team collaborator. "We plan to take more images of the site through the changing Martian seasons to see if this kind of avalanche happens all year or is restricted to early spring."
Link (Thanks, Paul Saffo!)
Chris Keeley

Multi-Million Dollar Homes Burned Down Outside Seattle

Multi-Million Dollar Homes Burned Down Outside Seattle

And in Washington state, three unfinished muliti-million dollar homes burned down on Monday in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville. A sign left at the scene of the fire indicated it was set by members of the Earth Liberation Front. All of the homes were unoccupied. No one was injured in the blaze that caused an estimated seven million dollars in damage. The homes were marketed as being located on a Street of Dreams. Some environmentalists had opposed the new luxury development because of its close proximity to the Bear Creek, which is home to endangered chinook salmon. The fire occurred while a 32-year-old violin teacher named Briana Waters is on trial in Tacoma Washington. Waters has been charged with acting as a lookout during a fire set at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001.

Oil Prices Reach New High; Warrant Buffet Says U.S. Is In Recession

In economic news, the price of oil reached a new high Monday, topping $103 a barrel for the first time ever.
Some analysts are now predicting the price of oil could jump to nearly four dollars a gallon by this summer. Meanwhile billionaire investor Warren Buffet said the U.S. economy is essentially in a recession.

Warren Buffet: “I would say by any common sense definition, we are in a recession. We haven’t had two consecutive quarters of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth, but I will tell you that, on balance, most people’s situation, certainly their net worth has been heading south now for a considerable length of time…”

Chris Keeley

The problem is that none of it is true.

 Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction

In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.

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Chris Keeley

Migraine Art

Migraine Art

Many years later, as a young doctor, I read a little book (really two little books) by the great neurologist Heinrich Klüver, “Mescal” and “Mechanisms of Hallucination.” Klüver not only culled many accounts from the literature, but experimented with mescal himself, and described geometric visual hallucinations typical of the early stages of the mescal experience: “Transparent oriental rugs, but infinitely small … plastic filigreed spherical objets d’art [like] radiolaria … wallpaper designs … cobweb-like figures or concentric circles and squares … architectural forms, buttresses, rosettes, leafwork, fretwork.”
Chris Keeley

The urge to binge mindlessly, though it can strike at any time, seems to stir in the collective unco

The urge to binge mindlessly, though it can strike at any time, seems to stir in the collective unconscious during the last weeks of winter. Maybe it’s the television images from places like Fort Lauderdale and Cabo San Lucas, of communications majors’ face planting outside bars or on beaches. 

Or perhaps it’s a simple a case of seasonal affective disorder in reverse. Not SAD at all, but anticipation of warmth and eagerness for a little disorder.

researchers have had a hard time understanding binge behavior. Until recently, their definition of binge drinking — five drinks or more in 24 hours — was so loose that it invited debate and ridicule from some scholars.

the vast differences in the way people from diverse cultures behave after excessive alcohol. In contrast to nearby tribes, for example, the Yuruna Indians in the Xingu region of Brazil would become exceptionally reserved when rendered sideways by large helpings of moonshine. The Camba of eastern Bolivia would drink excessively twice a month. Sitting in a circle, they would toast one another, more lavishly with each pop.

In a Japanese island village, Takashima, people knew a drinking occasion had gone completely off the dials if villagers began to sing or, wilder still, to dance. Aggression, sexual or otherwise, was unheard of during these sessions.

Western cultures are more likely to excuse binge drinking as a needed mental vacation. “An awful lot of cultures have institutionalized bingeing as a kind of time out like Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve, a culturally recognized period where a certain amount of acting out is acceptable,” said Dwight Heath, emeritus professor of anthropology at Brown.

Not to say that would-be bingers, when ordering that first tray of Irish car bombs for the table, think about discharging a cultural tradition. They have their own reasons. And those, too, shape subsequent drunken behavior.

In a series of studies in the 1970s and ’80s, psychologists at the University of Washington put more than 300 students into a study room outfitted like a bar with mirrors, music and a stretch of polished pine. The researchers served alcoholic drinks, most often icy vodka tonics, to some of the students and nonalcoholic ones, usually icy tonic water, to others. The drinks looked and tasted the same, and the students typically drank five in an hour or two.

The studies found that people who thought they were drinking alcohol behaved exactly as aggressively, or as affectionately, or as merrily as they expected to when drunk. “No significant difference between those who got alcohol and those who didn’t,” Alan Marlatt, the senior author, said. “Their behavior was totally determined by their expectations of how they would behave.”

Chris Keeley


Ah, what can we possibly say about the man/bear that is JULIAN SCHNABEL that hasn’t been said before somewhere, somehow? Having ascended to the uppermost echelons of the Art world on a silver cloud, the man who Basquiat hated (really, he did) has become an institution unto himself and now wears the hats of filmmaker extraordinaire and real estate mogul to boot. His appearance in LA at GAGOSIAN GALLERY last week for the opening of “Christ’s Last Day,” his solo show of gigantic paintings reproducing a series of random vintage X-Rays that the artist found last year while directing “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” sent ripples through the otherwise fragmented local scene who clawed their way to catch a glimpse of the mighty hairy one last Thursday nite. Among them was GARY BASEMAN, who got a lot closer than most non-female admirers. HAVE A LOOK:

“Christ’s Last Day VI,” ink on paper

Chris Keeley

ARRIVE ALIVE, an anti-drunk driving organization that plans to install these stickers of—to borrow a

ARRIVE ALIVE, an anti-drunk driving organization that plans to install these stickers of—to borrow a phrase from Kanye—”drunk & hot girls” in sexually explicit states of drunkenness in men’s & women’s bathrooms in major cities in what must be an attempt to deter “Girls Gone Wild” types from getting behind the wheel after a nite behind the Margarita bong
Chris Keeley

Works by Youssef Nabil

Works by Youssef Nabil
John Waters, Paris 2005 Youssef Nabil... John Waters, Paris 2005 (hand coloured silver gelatin print, edition of 10). From Works by Youssef Nabil at Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, SA. "...Nabil was born in Cairo in 1972. He studied literature at the Ain Shams University in Cairo and started taking photographs in his early 20s. In the 1990s he worked as an assistant for David LaChapelle in New York and later for Mario Testino in Paris. Between 1999 and 2002 Nabil worked with Middle Eastern magazines photographing Arab celebrities. He had his first international solo exhibition at Centro De La Imagen in Mexico City in 2001. In 2003 he exhibited on the African Biennale of Photography in Bamako, Mali and was awarded the Seydou Keita Prize for portraiture." More works by Youssef Nabil at his Personal Site.
Chris Keeley

King Abdallah (Jordan) speech at Princeton

From : Ray Close
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

February 29, 2008
Princeton University

Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim

Fifty-seven countries are not at peace with Israel today.

Fifty-seven countries out of 193 countries in the world.

Fifty-seven countries with a total population greater than Europe and the United States combined.

Fifty-seven countries, representing one third of the members of the United Nations.

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Chris Keeley

U.S. strategic policy

Concerning current U.S. strategic policy in the Middle East, especially the seemingly intractable problems of dealing effectively with Iraq and Iran.

I believe Charles Kupchan and Ray Takeyh have made some extremely significant points in the L.A. Times article posted below my comments.

For the past two or three years, the Bush Administration has been presenting every important feature of its Middle East policy as part of a master plan to contain the threat of hostile Iranian encroachment on a region that the United States now openly declares to be its legitimate and permanent sphere of influence.  For exampIe, in explaining the new $20 billion arms deal with GCC countries in August 2007, Deputy Secretary of State Nicholas Burns announced that:  "It says to the Iranians and Syrians that the United States is the major power in the Middle East and will continue to be, and is not going away." Even the American policy position at the 2007 Israel-Palestine conference at Annapolis, for the first time in the history of the Middle East Peace Process, included the suggestion that containing hostile Iranian ambitions was a parallel and equal objective.

The immediate and most apparent purpose of this aggressive posture has been to intimidate Iran's leaders into acting more subservient to their new colonial masters --- a totally unrealistic expectation.  It also has less obvious but more sinister explanations:

     1. It is an attempt to forcefully remind America's Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, that they are dependent on the United States for protection against a dangerous and predatory Iran, and that integration into an American-led regional defense structure is therefore essential to their survival;

     2. It dovetails comfortably with Israel's strategic vision and its preference that America concentrate its attention on Iran as the principle threat to peace and stability in the region.  If in the process it prevents peaceful accommodation between Arabs and Iranians, and heightens tensions between Sunnis and Shiites everywhere, so much the better.  If Israel's Arab neighbors are divided, insecure, and dependent on America for their military defense, and if their attention is focused on a threat from Iran, that's the best of all worlds for Israel.  Not coincidentally, this fits very neatly into the Bush Administration's past and present neocon-inspired strategic outlook toward the entire Middle East.

     In reality, however, America's efforts to organize the neighbors into a defensive barrier against Iran has already had at least three major negative effects in terms of U.S. strategic interests.  Viewed from Iran's perspective, the geopolitical and military threat to Iran's national interests thus posed by the U.S. has led very naturally to these consequences:

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Chris Keeley

American Diplomacy Guest Editorial: Taking the King's Shilling

American Diplomacy Guest Editorial: Taking the Kings Shilling

American  , March 4, 2008


A State Department "town meeting" last October, at which many Foreign Service Officers expressed strong resistance to the possibility of being required to serve in Iraq, received much national media attention. Although volunteers were eventually found to meet the needs in Iraq for this year, debate continues about "forced assignments" of diplomats to war zones. In an American Diplomacy editorial ( /1012/ed_fsduty.html)), the journal's editor opined that FSOs resisting Iraq assignments should "stop whining and do your duty." Our associate publisher, in another editorial ( /0103/cott/cotter_rigors.html), was less judgmental and stressed some longstanding issues that contribute to current assignment difficulties, but nonetheless concluded that "all Foreign Service employees accept the terms of their employment which include willingness to serve wherever assigned." We are pleased to present the view of a third retired FSO in this essay, which was originally published in the February 2008 issue of the Foreign Service Journal, and is used here by permission. He finds that the "king's shilling" is debased currency in today's State Department. — Ed.


Guest Editorial: Taking the King's Shilling

By David T. Jones


We all need to go to the C Street entrance of the Department of State. We need to look again at the Memorial Plaques on the east and west sides of the lobby and review the names associated with our generation-ago venture in Vietnam (33 on the east side; seven on the west). They range from the still-renowned John Paul Vann, made famous as one of David Halberstam's "best and brightest," to those who were known only to family and friends.


In so doing, we need to appreciate again that taking the "king's shilling" sometimes incurs personal liability, requiring us to go places we would not otherwise serve. For a period in the late 1960s, every unmarried entering Foreign Service officer who had not already undertaken military service was assigned to Vietnam. These officers were primarily detailed to the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program. CORDS operated in the provinces to support local officials in their campaign to win hearts and minds. Perhaps today one might call them Provincial Reconstruction Teams.


By 1971 or 1972, it was clear that the war was lost. Even those who believed in the effort to defeat communism and feared the prospect of toppling dominoes throughout the region sensed that was the case. The inspiration taken from John F. Kennedy and reinforced by his assassination, to "bear any burden" and "pay any price," had dissipated. National elections had rendered a clear verdict that the price was now too high, the burden too heavy. And while the consequences of defeat were unknowable, they were deemed endurable.


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