Chatter #67: September 11, 2002

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM

Another Chatter, so soon? Well, yes. It's a momentous anniversary, after all: one year to the day since I had umbilical hernia surgery.

And oh yes, I believe some buildings fell down at the same time, too.

Actually, a lot has happened in the last few days, and this seems like a good time to talk about that—as well as other things. But I'm determined to put this out today, so it may be sort of a rush job. Enough chatter, lets get down to business! I mean, more chatter.

September 9th, Early Morning

I live in the northeastern United States, in the area where the Pilgrims landed; this is where European culture got its foothold on the continent, and is more densely populated than much of the middle of the country. This is a technology center second only to California's Silicon Valley, and although my understanding is that it's not as densely populated as much of Europe, India, and Japan (among others), it's still pretty well settled. There are some rural spots here and there, but not all that many; forests, but not very large ones.

Which makes it all the nicer to catch a glimpse of nature once in a while.

I've seen a lot of Canada geese lately, some in the lovely parks of the city (and even by the road), some flying, some by the highways on my commute. They never fail to make me smile.

But two days ago I saw something far more surprising. Traffic was badly backed up on Route 95; I assumed that an accident had happened, which isn't that unusual. But suddenly I found out why cars were slowing down: a wolf was standing at the side of the road, watching the early morning commuters slowly passing by.

Perhaps he wasn't a wolf; he might have been a coyote. He was a bit small to be a wolf, though he might have just been young. And "he" may well have been a "she", I wouldn't know. But I do know this: it wasn't a dog. This was clearly a wild animal, grey fur with tinges of brown, a thicker ruff of fur around its neck, looking calmly at hundreds of cars going slowly by on a beautiful sunny morning. As I passed I wasn't more than 20 feet from him.

He was standing on the central divider; Route 95 is divided, in some places only by a guard rail, in other places also by grass and trees. Right at that spot the median was particularly wide, and you couldn't even see the other side of the highway; thick stands of trees and brush completely blocked the view. He must have walked there at night, when it was quiet, I guess. I hope he managed to make it safely out, across the road, and away to a safer, wilder place.

This morning I saw a falcon or hawk—some sort of bird of prey, anyway—rising from the ground and flying over my car at about the same place on the highway, but it just wasn't the same.

Here's a map of where I am, if you were wondering:

Sneak Preview

Last time I mentioned that I'd put together a complete copy of the first issue of my Interregnum zine by capturing the graphics from a full PDF scan, inserting them into the DTP version of the original, and then printing the result to a searchable PDF file. I'll annotate that and put it up in the next week or so, but if you'd like to see it before I annotate it, it's here.

The Towers, One Year Later

With all of the incessant media yammer as the anniversary of the attacks approached, it was hard not to think about all that's happened. And I've come to an odd conclusion: I don't quite get it. Almost everyone except me seems a little insane on the subject, and I think I've figured out why: because one year ago today I went into surgery literally a couple of minutes before the first plane hit...and by the time I woke up, the towers had collapsed. And even then, I was groggy and heavily sedated. By the time I was fully out of it at least a day or two had passed.

So I missed out on the shock. The whole thing never seemed quite real to me, even though I'd been to the top of the WTC a few times and remember strongly standing at the base of one of the towers and looking upward. That was a far more powerful memory, because that tower was so high that it really made me feel that it was leaning way over me. Even if I went to ground zero, I don't think that it would really hit me. So all I see is democracy being strangled by a power-mad cabal of Republican criminals, civil liberties being stripped away, and the Presidency being converted into a monarchy—or even Emperorship. And I'm not kidding. Ever noticed that Bush's language gives away the fact that he secretly thinks of himself as king? "I" don't want red tape, "I" want a bill passed, "I" am protecting the American people...this arrogant little coke-head clearly believes that he obtained his office by Divine Right, not by the conspiracy of a criminal elite of the wealthy and powerful. Which explains why his aides try so hard to keep him from seeing protests, and why they had no problem with the astonishingly savage repression of protesters by black-armored, armed cops in Portland recently (the link goes to part one of a four-part article. Be sure to check out part 2, because the photographs of police riot troopers attacking peaceful protesters against the Bush junta is like something out a science fiction movie!).

I have to wonder if most Americans realize that Bush has given himself the power to declare anyone in the world—including ANY American citizen—an "enemy combatant", and that this (in his mind, and that of this rogue Administration) takes ALL rights away from their victims? Secret life imprisonment without a trial or evidence, torture, murder...ALL of that is completely their perogative, based on nothing more than King George saying the magic words "enemy combatant". It bothers me that the American people don't seem to understand this. It scares me that they seem to be doing this secretly, on a massive basis. And it infuriates me more than I can say that the media is simply standing by and accepting it all—hell, a lot of them are cheering it on.

It also amazes me that no one in public life seems to be willing to point out the sheer insanity of this whole "regime change" thing. Even if Bush WERE king, that wouldn't give him the right to change the leadership of other countries! He simply has no authority to make such changes, and of course his attitude completely belies and betrays the concept of democracy. A concept which he doesn't seem to understand, but instinctively loathes.

I sometimes fear that non-Americans have a stereotype of the Ugly American, a stupid, close-minded, smugly egotistical idiot who unquestioningly accepts the legitimacy of the current junta (much like Bush himself). Please know that many, many Americans see through these thugs. After all, the majority of voters voted against them in 2000!

Incidentally, a lot of us understand that basic human rights and civil liberties apply to all persons, not just citizens. But it's true that there are still too many ignorant assholes who don't feel that non-citizens are as human as they are. There aren't as many of these idiotic bigots as there used to be, I think, and there are fewer than the rest of the world probably believes; but even they need to realize that Bush's policies are a direct threat to their own freedom, even if they don't care what happens to darker-skinned people.

Lathe of Heaven

In 1980 PBS broadcast an adaptation of Ursula Le Guin's novel "The Lathe of Heaven", made with the close cooperation of Le Guin herself. The movie totally blew my mind, and was an instant cult classic. And then it totally disappeared. For twenty years. It came back in 2000 on VHS and DVD, and of course I grabbed it. To my amazement, it was even better than I remembered. It had been shot on a shoestring budget, but they'd managed to make even the old special effects very special indeed. Their aliens, for example, still rank among the very best portrayals of a truly alien species I have ever seen.

Recently I heard that A&E was remaking TLoH. I was interested, but concerned. The first movie had been a virtual miracle: intelligent, well-written, and thoughtful, in a era when that sort of movie was dying out (and had never been all that common, anyway). What would a big-budget production look like? Would they dumb the material down?

Answer: they didn't just dumb the material down, they lobotomized, castrated, and dissected it. Huge portions of the plots were simply dumped—the aliens, for example, were completely missing. I was so outraged that not only did I post angry messages on Usenet, but I also vented my rage on A&E's website, the IMDB, and I've even just posted a message on with links to various places to vote against this movie. Fortunately it seems that 99.99% of the fan world agrees with my assessment, so I've yet to hear the usual snotty Usenet naysayer.

Sebastian the Unstoppable

Sebastian is...he's developing at a simply shocking speed. On September 5th I wrote that he was taking a few steps at a time. On the 7th I was sitting on the couch, and Teri came into the room holding Sebastian's arms as they stood facing me: when she let go of his arms he tottered at least ten steps to reach me, and succeeded. I was amazed and delighted, and so was he.
The next day (September the 8th), I put Sebastian down next to our couch and walked over to the kitchen. Turning back, I was amazed to see him walk all the way across the room and raise his arms to be picked up! And from that point on, he's been walking everywhere, with a huge grin on his face. He's amazingly good at it, considering he's only been doing it for less than a week!

Sometime yesterday I also noticed a huge change in his language. He's always been a talkative baby, mostly. Lots of baby talk, repetitive sounds like "goo, goo", and "nen-nen-nen" (which means "no" to him). But yesterday evening I realized that he was suddenly speaking in complex syllables and consonant/vowel combinations. It almost sounded like a foreign language! It's still baby talk, of course, but it's much more complicated than it was only a few days ago. I suspect he'll be talking very soon indeed.

All this, and he's not yet a year old. It's all happening so fast...

New Stuff

In addition to the annotated zine that's I'll be posting soon, I've also been sent some new stuff to put up by past contributors: a detailed NPC and a scenario/campaign setting. It'll all be up before too much longer. I'll notify the email update list as soon as stuff goes up, and will post announcements to Usenet shortly thereafter.

Whoops, almost forgot: the surgery. It's been a year, and although the scar still shows rather badly (Sebastian finds it fascinating, and insists on poking it when he can), and is slightly painful to the poking finger sometimes, for the most part I'm better. Now if I could only lose some weight!

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[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: September 13, 2002. version 1.1