The Snoozeletter @

Vavaughia Snipes "ain't no victim." And his mom approves.

This past Monday, I started a new job. A group of us basically distill long and often poorly-written news reports into four or five sentences that your local radio news guy can read on the air. Most of the time, we just cut down long boring news stories into short boring news stories. But sometimes the distillation process results in a story that possesses a certain... je ne sais quoi. On Thursday, I wrote this one for the Charlotte, North Carolina market. When my editor looked at it, she immediately promoted it to the National Wire:

Teacher Charged With Committing Sexual Offenses With Special Needs Student

(Shelby, NC) -- Shelby police charged a former teacher at a special needs school Wednesday with having a sexual relationship with one of her male students. Nichole Chapman's former student, Vavaughia Snipes, declared, quote, "I ain't no victim." Snipes said he became friends with Chapman when she confessed to having marital problems. He said their sexual encouters took place at his family's home, and that his mother approves of the relationship.
FIRST THEY CAME for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the brown-skinned people,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a brown-skinned person.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

--paraphrasing Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

Stop SB1070

click poster for more information
Arizonans Shoot Selves In Foot. (Feet?)

Re: Ariz. immigration law makes Census count tougher (USA Today)

OK, so lemme get this straight...

[1] On April 23, Arizona's mostly-white lawmakers gave the police broad power (SB1070) to detain anyone suspected of being in this country illegally. (Translation: Hispanics.)

[2] As a result, Hispanics (even legal ones) are now understandably terrified to deal with anyone from the government. (Hell, I wouldn't want to spend the night in jail, even if it *WAS* a mistake.)

[3] So Hispanics tend to avoid [a] returning their Census forms, and [b] answering the knock on the door when Census enumerators come to call. (National mailback rate: 72%. Arizona's rate: 67%.)

[4] That means Arizona's population might be underreported by as much as TWO MILLION PEOPLE, or MORE THAN A THIRD OF THE POPULATION.

[5] Since the Census serves as the basis for the annual distribution of FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE BILLION DOLLARS (yeah, that's BILLION with a "B") in federal aid, Arizona stands to lose a hefty chunk o' change over the next ten years.

[6] Way to go, Arizona!
W.H. Auden.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message: "He is dead."
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves.
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can come to any good.
Zsike's Secret Wish. 

Re: Kanovits, Erzsébet ("Zsike"): 11 February 1946 - 22 May 2010.

I can't believe it's been more than 19 months since I wrote Skyping Zsike. Back then, my sister-in-law was expected to pass away at any moment.

But Zsike had a strong appetite for life, and she was determined to stick around for as long as she could find some small enjoyments in her daily routine. And her younger sister, my wife Anikó, became her lifeline to the outside world. Nearly every morning before Anikó left for work, she contacted Zsike via Skype, and they discussed everything under the sun. Zsike was able to pour out her heart to Anikó, who lightened Zsike's load unflinchingly. This selfless sisterly love was an inspiration to witness.

I tried to help, by documenting our life in photographs, and sending the results to Zsike. She was delighted to have this window into Arizona from her flat in Budapest. Even though Zsike and I didn't really speak each other's language, we used an online translator to send short messages back and forth. According to my bilingual wife, the machine-generated results were often comical, but Zsike and I didn't mind. We stubbornly decoded strange emails without Anikó's help, thankyewverymuch.

A few months ago, Zsike's pain became really bad. Anikó frantically called doctors all over Hungary, until she found one who was able to perform a relatively-rare procedure. Luckily, it was successful, and Zsike was pain-free for awhile. She and her doctor were even interviewed on a Hungarian television program to discuss this revolutionary technique.

But the operations and chemotherapy were obviously taking their toll. Earlier this week, Zsike confessed a secret wish to Anikó, "It would be nice to go to sleep and never wake up."

During the last three months, I've held a temporary job with the U.S. Census. But last week, I was offered a permanent position, writing for a radio network. That's when I announced that Friday was going to be my last day at the Census. Zsike was thrilled that our precarious financial situation was becoming a little more stable. I could see the relief in her eyes.

So Friday was my last day... and Zsike's, too. She would have smiled at the irony. Or maybe she planned it that way, I don't know. In any case, she got her secret wish. Although we are now shedding tears because we miss her bright spirit, we are also comforted by the fact that her suffering is finally over.
Kanovits, Erzsébet ("Zsike"): 11 February 1946 - 22 May 2010.

Anikó + Zsike, circa 1956
Anikó + Zsike, circa 1956

14 February 1999  14 February 1999

24 February 2010  24 February 2010

                                      Skyping Zsike

                        Update: Zsike's Secret Wish
Max is b-b-b-back! 

Max HeadroomMax Headroom: The Complete Series (including the elusive Episode 14, never shown on ABC-TV) will be released on DVD August 10.

For completists, here's a link to the original British movie (VHS).

And here's the Art of Noise CD that contains a 6:42 collaboration with Max, entitled "Paranoimia." ("Let's have a little taste of that old computer-generated s-sw-s-sw-swagger.") [3:19 video clip.]

Other links: Wikipedia entry and my previous blog posting.
George Carlin saves the planet.

George Carlin: Jammin´ in New YorkVideo clip transcription from the Jammin' in New York DVD:

You got people like this around you? Country is full of 'em now. People walking around all day long, every minute of the day -- worried about EVERYTHING! Worried about the air, worried about the water, worried about the soil. Worried about insecticides, pesticides, food additives, carcinogens; worried about radon gas; worried about asbestos. Worried about saving endangered species.

Let me tell you about endangered species, all right? Saving endangered species is just one more arrogant attempt by humans to control Nature. It's arrogant meddling. It's what got us in trouble in the first place. Doesn't anybody understand that? Interfering with Nature! Over 90 percent... over... WAY over... 90 percent of all the species that have ever lived on this planet -- EVER LIVED -- are gone. Whsssht! They're extinct. We didn't kill them ALL!

They just... disappeared. That's what Nature does. They disappear these days at the rate of 25 a day, and I mean regardless of our behavior. Irrespective of how we act on this planet, 25 species that were here today will be gone tomorrow. Let them go gracefully. Leave Nature alone. Haven't we done enough?!

We're so self-important. So self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. "Save the trees; save the bees; save the whales; save those snails." And the greatest arrogance of all: "Save the planet." WHAT? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven't learned how to care for one another; we're gonna save the fucking planet?

I'm getting tired of that shit. Tired of that shit. Tired! I'm tired of fucking Earth Day. I'm tired of these self-righteous environmentalists; these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren't enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for their Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet. They don't care about the planet. Not in the abstract, they don't. Not in the abstract, they don't. You know what they're interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They're worried that some day in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn't impress me.

Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked! Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doin' great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what? A hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that's just a-floatin' around the sun?

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages... and we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet... the planet... the planet isn't going anywhere. WE are!

We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet will be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance. F-f-f-f-f.

You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash. How the planet's doing... you wanna know if the planet's all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilauea, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.

The planet will be here for a long, long -- LONG -- time after we're gone, and it will heal itself. It will cleanse itself, because that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed; and, if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: The-Earth-Plus-Plastic. The Earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the Earth. The Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question, "Why are we here?"

"Plastic... assholes!"

So. So, the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now. And I think that's really started already, don't you? I mean, to be fair, the planet probably sees us as a mild threat. Something to be dealt with. And I'm sure the planet will defend itself in the manner of a large organism, like a beehive or an ant colony can muster a defense. I'm sure the planet will think of something. What would you do, if you were the planet trying to defend against this pesky, troublesome species? "Let's see... what might... hmm... viruses! Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh... viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction."

Well, that's a poetic note. And it's a start. And I can dream, can't I? See, I don't worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we're part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? "The Big Electron." The Big Electron... whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn't punish, it doesn't reward, it doesn't judge at all. It just is.

And so are we. For a little while.

Thanks for being here with me for a little while tonight.
Young babymakers are such SHEEP.
New Moon
Jacob, Isabella top U.S. baby names (UPI)

You may or may not know that these are the names of two main characters in the "Twilight Saga".

Good thing they weren't named Dickwad and Slutwhore.
News/Weather/Traffic (hyper-local edition). Click images for more info:

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I can be had, cheap. Very cheap. 

Read me in electronic form! On the Kindle, or on your iPad. $0.00 / $2.99 / $2.99 / $0.99:

Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul FREE EBOOK!facebookworm - dispatches from a social networking - an eMail screenplay collaboration between Hungary and L.A. (includes first draft script `The Fall In Budapest´)The Avian Quartet

UPDATE - also now available in the UK, Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, Australia, Austria, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico, Canada and China.
You won't see me follow you back home.

The Left Banke: There´s Gonna Be A StormWalk Away Renée
Performers: The Left Banke
Writers: Michael Brown, Tony Sansone, Bob Calilli
Sample (after 1st click, it's only :30)

And when I see the sign that
points one way
The light we used to pass by
every day

(Chorus) Just walk away Renée,
You won't see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my
block are not the same
You're not to blame

From deep inside the tears that
I'm forced to cry
From deep inside the pain I
I chose to hide (Chorus)

Now as the rain beats down
upon my weary eyes
For me it cries

Your name and mine inside
a heart upon a wall
Still finds a way to haunt me,
though they're so small (Chorus)
Ve vill need to see your papers, please. 

With the recent steep descent into fascism here in Arizona, Anikó and I feel that it's become necessary, just for our own defense, to carry a proof of citizenship with us at all times.

So we've just applied for U.S. Passport Cards.

Passport Card

Update: With guys like Joe Arpaio enforcing the laws, can a new Kristallnacht be far behind? Show your solidarity at the National Day of Action Against SB1070 (Saturday, May 29).
Also see: Arizonans Shoot Selves In Foot. (Feet?) and FIRST THEY CAME...
La Cucaracha.

La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque le falta
Marijuana que fumar.

Ya la murio la cucaracha
Ya la lleven a enterrar
Entre cuatro zopilotes
Y un raton de sacristan.

The cockroach, the cockroach
Now he can't go traveling
Because he doesn't have, because he lacks
Marijuana to smoke.

The cockroach just died
And they carried him off to bury him
Among four buzzards
And the sexton's mouse.

Ref: The Straight Dope and Titanic.
Cronenberg's best. You sick f*ck. ;-)

Videodrome (1983) says: Love it or loathe it, David Cronenberg's 1983 horror film Videodrome is a movie to be reckoned with. Inviting extremes of response from disdain (critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the least entertaining films ever made") to academic euphoria, it's the kind of film that is simultaneously sickening and seemingly devoid of humanity, but also blessed with provocative ideas and a compelling subtext of social commentary. Giving yet another powerful and disturbing performance, James Woods stars as the operator of a low-budget cable-TV station who accidentally intercepts a mysterious cable transmission that features the apparent torture and death of women in its programming. He traces the show to its source and discovers a mysterious plot to broadcast a subliminally influential signal into the homes of millions, masterminded by a quasi-religious character named Brian O'Blivion and his overly reverent daughter. Meanwhile Woods is falling under the spell, becoming a victim of video, and losing his grip--both physically and psychologically--on the distinction between reality and television. A potent treatise on the effects of total immersion into our mass-media culture, Videodrome is also (to the delight of Cronenberg's loyal fans) a showcase for obsessions manifested in the tangible world of the flesh. It's a hallucinogenic world in which a television set seems to breathe with a life of its own, and where the body itself can become a VCR repository for disturbing imagery. Featuring bizarre makeup effects by Rick Baker and a daring performance by Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) as Wood's sadomasochistic girlfriend, Videodrome is pure Cronenberg--unsettling, intelligent, and decidedly not for every taste. [ essential video; Criterion Collection]

The Fly (1986) says: David Cronenberg's 1986 remake of the science fiction classic about a scientist who accidentally swaps body parts with a fly is both smart and terrifying: an allegory for the awful processes of slow death and a monster movie with a tragic spin. Jeff Goldblum gives a masterful performance as a sweet, nerdy scientist whose romance with a writer (Geena Davis) makes him more fully alive. Next thing you know, a tiny oversight in an experiment causes him to transmogrify, gradually, into something more like an insect than a human. This is Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) country, so expect The Fly to be a gross-out, but in the way that disease corrupts the body and can make a loved one unrecognizable on every level. This is one of Cronenberg's best films, and certainly one of the important movies of the 1980s. [ essential video]

Dead Ringers (1988) says: Like many other films by Canadian director David Cronenberg (especially Crash), Dead Ringers presents the cinematic and psychological equivalent of an automobile accident--you dare not look, but you can't turn away. The film marked a directorial breakthrough for Cronenberg, who was able to continue some of the themes explored in his earlier horror films while graduating to a higher, more critically "respectable" level of artistic sophistication. The film is loosely based, amazingly enough, on a true story about twin gynecologists who routinely traded each others' identities, lives and even lovers. Utilizing innovative split-screen technology (years before computer manipulation made such trickery much easier), the film stars Jeremy Irons in flawless dual roles as the identical brothers Beverly and Elliot Mantle. Their ability to instantly switch identities leads them to a shared relationship with a well-known actress (Genevieve Bujold) and, ultimately, a physical and psychological tailspin that sends them both to the brink of madness and death. The scenario suggests that both men are halves of a whole, and that one cannot exist without the other. But when Beverly pursues a kinky, drug-addicted affair with the actress, his more self-controlled brother is helpless to prevent their mutual decline. In this way Dead Ringers becomes a fascinating and stylistically clinical study of duality, and Cronenberg doesn't shy away from the dark and unpleasant aspects of the story. (One look at the movie's display of bizarre gynecological instruments and you'll know why women find this film particularly--and unforgettably--disturbing.) [ essential video; Criterion Collection]

Naked Lunch (1991) says: You are now entering Interzone, William S. Burroughs's phantasmagorical land of junk, paranoia, and crawly things. Best travel advice: "Exterminate all rational thought." In David Cronenberg's superbly shot, unnerving warp on the Burroughs novel, the novelist himself becomes a main character (played in an implacable monotone by Peter Weller), with elements from Burroughs' life--including the shooting of his wife during a "William Tell" game, and bohemian friends Kerouac and Ginsberg--added to frame the book's wild visions. This is, ironically, a somewhat rational approach to an unfilmable book (and it makes a hair-curling double bill with Barton Fink, another look at writerly madness, with both films sharing Judy Davis). Cronenberg is a natural for oozing mugwumps and typewriters that turn into giant bugs, of course. But in the end, this is really his own vision of the artistic process, rather than Burroughs's hallucinatory descent into hell. [ essential video; Criterion Collection]

Crash (1997) says: Adapted from the controversial novel by J.G. Ballard, Crash will either repel or amaze you, with little or no room for a neutral reaction. The film is perfectly matched to the artistic and intellectual proclivities of director David Cronenberg, who has used the inspiration of Ballard's novel to create what critic Roger Ebert has described as "a dissection of the mechanics of pornography." Filmed with a metallic color scheme and a dominant tone of emotional detachment, the story focuses on a close-knit group of people who have developed a sexual fetish around the collision of automobiles. They use cars as a tool of arousal, in which orgasm is directly connected to death-defying temptations of fate at high speeds. Ballard wrote his book to illustrate the connections between sex and technology--the ultimate postmodern melding of flesh and machine--and Cronenberg takes this theme to the final frontier of sexual expression. Holly Hunter, James Spader, and Deborah Unger are utterly fearless in roles that few actors would dare to play, and their surrender to Cronenberg's vision makes Crash an utterly unique and challenging film experience. It's rated NC-17, so don't say you weren't warned!

eXistenZ (1999) says: Director David Cronenberg's eXistenZ is a stew of corporate espionage, virtual reality gaming, and thriller elements, marinated in Cronenberg's favorite Crock-Pot juices of technology, physiology, and sexual metaphor. Jennifer Jason Leigh is game designer Allegra Geller, responsible for the new state-of-the-art eXistenZ game system; along with PR newbie Ted Pikul (Jude Law), they take the beta version of the game for a test drive and are immersed in a dangerous alternate reality. The game isn't quite like PlayStation, though; it's a latexy pod made from the guts of mutant amphibians and plugs via an umbilical cord directly into the user's spinal column (through a BioPort). It powers up through the player's own nervous system and taps into the subconscious; with several players it networks their brains together. Geller and Pikul's adventures in the game reality uncover more espionage and an antigaming, proreality insurrection. The game world makes it increasingly difficult to discern between reality and the game, either through the game's perspective or the human's. More accessible than Crash, eXistenZ is a complicated sci-fi opus, often confusing, and with an ending that leaves itself wide open for a sequel. Fans of Cronenberg's work will recognize his recurring themes and will eat this up. Others will find its shallow characterizations and near-incomprehensible plot twists a little tedious.

Associated Press Stylebook 2009Associated Press Stylebook 2009, 43rd ed. (website, 44ed=June);

Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (website, 16ed=September);

Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, 3rd ed. (book, website, errata, PDF);

Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing (HTML, TOC, Writing Timeline, Index, Help, Credits).