Archive for March 8th, 2004

Spam Fights Back in Hawaii

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People
eat more Spam in Hawaii then in any other US state and it’s been the
popular since it was first introduced during the Second World War.

But now a rival brand, Tulip from Denmark, is trying to unseat it as undisputed
king of canned luncheon meats.

The special edition cans feature a picture of a hula doll on both sides
and have been made the feature of special 6ft displays in local grocery
stores.

Meanwhile, local McDonald’s restaurants in Hawaii have rolled out Spam
McGriddles as a new breakfast offering for islanders.

from Ananova

If Fluffy Ruled the World

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New Crop of White House Interns

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The New York Times has a
front page article
today on
Patrick Henry College ("The Mission of Patrick Henry College is to train
Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture
with timeless biblical
values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding"), an Evangelical
school primarily for kids who were home schooled.

The article mentioned
that about two thirds of
all home
school families identify themselves as Evangelicals, which surprised
us. We had always thought of the homeschoolers as a hodgepodge of sectists
and alternative life style extremists, due no doubt to the heterogeneous
eccentricities of New England variety of kooks and recluses.  Obviously,
in other parts of the country, in the matter of home schools, Evangelism
Rules.

The main point of the article is that the current right-wing regime
in Washington is making liberal use of these kids. For example, of the
currently 100 interns working in the White House, 7 come from 240-student
Patrick Henry College. A former PHC intern is now on Karl Rove’s staff
full-time. It seems that the ideologically pure Christian home schooled
kids are gaining power and pull in the burgeoning neo-conservative movement.

The Dowbrigade has long been an opponent of home schooling, except
maybe for kids living at McMurdoo Research Station near the South Pole.
Our objections are basically two-fold.

First, as a professional educator, we realize how difficult, complex
and many-faceted being a good teacher is. It takes years of training
and experience to just get adequate at it, and many people never get
beyond that point. If your kid needed brain surgery, you wouldn’t do it yourself,
would you, just to avoid the germs at the hospital? That’s basically what education is, after all – non-invasive brain surgery.

And just like even
the best doctors don’t like operating on family members, even the best
teachers falter when trying to teach their own flesh and blood.

The Dowbrigade, for example, teacher extraordinare, recently ignored
his own advice and tried to teach his teenaged son to drive the family
car. What an unmitigated disaster! The entire exercise ended with the
Dowbrigade himself getting thrown out of his own car by the State Trooper
during his son’s driving test.  Lets not go there.

In addition, some people, despite great
intelligence, compassion and energy make terrible teachers,
and
trying
to be a parent,
care giver,
domestic manager and educator all at the same time makes each role
more difficult.

And second, we are strong believers of the benefits of education as
an introduction to society, to working and competing with others, to
experiencing diversity and learning tolerance for people who look, and
act, and think differently than you. Although a family is a beautiful
things and can be the center
of a person’s existence, in an open society it must be balanced with
a commingling, an interaction, a mutual learning and exchange of ideas
with other people, other families, and other traditions.

People need to read more than one book, to speak more than one language,
to study more than one religion. Not to BELIEVE in more than one religion,
but to know more than one in detail.  People need to consider more
than one viewpoint if they ever hope to escape from the echo chamber.

Over the last four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed
one or more Patrick Henry interns in their offices or on their campaigns,
according to the school’s records.

"I would definitely like to be active in the government of our country and
stuff," Mr. Olmstead, 19, said as he sat in a Christian coffeehouse near
the campus, looking up from a copy of Plato’s "Republic."

"I would
love to be able to be a foreign ambassador, and I would really like to
move into the Senate later in my career."

from the New York Times

Godless Coin Worth Millions

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An 1866 "No Motto" silver
dollar is seen in this undated photo. The rare silver dollar that was
part of an extensive coin collection stolen at gunpoint from a member
of the du Pont family more than 35 years ago has been recovered. The
1866 “No Motto” silver dollar, which lacks the inscription “In God
We Trust,” is one of only two known to exist. It is worth at least $1
million, according to coin experts. (AP Photo/Courtesy American Numismatic
Rarities)

from the AP

Breast Wars Heat Up – Protest a Bust

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It’s difficult these days to stay abreast of the culture wars. As regular
readers know, breast discrimination is one of the Dowbrigade’s causes
celebres
, along with psychopharmacology and the Church of the
Days Later Savings
. Frankly, considering most of our lawmakers and
enforcer are male, the fact that male breasts are not only OK in
public but are prominently featured in billboards, in print advertising
and on television while the female variety is verboten is, well,
gay. After all, the only guys we know who actually squirm and feel
uncomfortable around well-formed female breasts are, well, gay.

So let’s call a spade a spade (as well as see how many other groups
can we offend here). Letting men take off their shirts in public while
women
can’t is a sign of the alarming penetration of the homosexual agenda
into the upper reaches of the news and media ruling class in America.
Getting women to bare their breasts in public is a valiant stand in favor
of traditional values, healthy attraction between a man and a women,
and a blow against gay marriage. So get with it folks, let this be the
Summer of Liberation for Unleashing Beautiful Bouncing Breasts (SLUBBB).

Here is the AP
articl
e about the latest battle in the breast wars, a
protest march in Daytona Beach, Florida. Of the thousands of breasts
expected, only about a hundred showed up.  Arrests were made.

Daytona Beach officials had warned the protest would violate city ordinances
against public nudity, disorderly conduct and obstructing sidewalks.
The nudity ordinance requires a "full and opaque covering" of
the nipple and aureola of a woman’s breast, in addition to half of
the surface of the breast below the aureola.

But after a federal judge refused to stop police from arresting female
protesters who doffed their tops, only about 50 women made the march.

And only one, organiser Liz Book, took off her shirt. Book was immediately arrested
and taken to jail, though a bare-chested man who marched was unmolested.

"I don’t ever want to see another woman arrested because someone showed
her breasts," said Book, a 42-year-old Brownie troop leader. "Our
breasts are not criminal."

from the AP

QOTD

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“In other news, the Kerry camp is reported to be close to asking former Vice President Al Gore if he’d please endorse George Bush, the way he did Howard Dean….”

Bruce Tinsley as Mallard Filmore

The Saga of Number 5

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Although less famous than its counterpart in Egypt, the mummification
tradition of the Incas was equally effective, technologically advanced,
and central to the worldview of the culture that
produced it.

Unlike Egypt, archeologists in Peru are constantly discovering mummies
by the dozen.Today’s
New York Times
contains an
article
about a recent
find of 26 near the site of road construction outside of Lima. Recently
they have been turning up just below the summits of the very highest
of the
Andean
peaks,
sacrificed,
mummified
and perfectly
preserved in the sub-zero temperatures.

Which is not to say that all, or even most Peruvian mummies are found
at high altitude. Although the Incas were primarily a mountain culture,
they and older, costal cultures like the Paracas, Mochica and Chimu,
also practiced mummification, and the techniques worked so well for the
same reasons they did in Egypt – the lack of humidity or temperature
changes  over time.

The Dowbrigade has mixed emotions on the subject of Peruvian mummies,
as we at one point in our career actually had a run in with one, known
by the archeological sobriquet "Number 5".

At that time, twenty years ago, we were teaching English literature and linguistics at at the National University
of Peru, in Trujillo, a nice colonial city on the Pacific coast 500 kilometers
north of Lima, and living in Crazy Joe’s hostal in the nearby resort
town/surfers hangout/fishing village of Huanchaco.

Actually, we were the only one living in Crazy Joe’s Hostel, Crazy Joe
having skedaddled back to Glendale, California where he needed to deal
with some murky legal shit which we always suspected involved Crazy
Joe in the role of defendant. On his way out of town he asked the Dowbrigade
to look after the shut-down hostal, water the plants, and tell people
to go away.

As we were recently separated from wife #1, the Peruvian Princess, we
accepted. It was actually a pretty nice place, not too big, with a beautiful
garden, and two doors from the ocean. The central feature was a sturdy
brick stockade, thick-walled and windowless, with massive oak doors reinforced
in metal and set behind a wrought-iron grill.  Inside, Crazy Joe
kept his collection of Peruvian textiles (those familiar with the full
dossier of the Dowbrigade may remember that this is one of our deep
loves and areas or arcane expertise).

Crazy Joe’s collection was far and away the most extensive and intense
we had ever seen outside of a museum.  In addition to numerous superb
pieces of Paracas and Incan textiles unearthed by and bought from huaqueros,
informal
archeologists or grave robbers and cultural criminals, depending on ones
point of view, Joe’s collection had one thing that no one else had.

During his peripatetic travels up and down isolated valleys in the high
andes, places you can only reach in 4-wheel drive vehicles followed by 1-3
days on horseback, buying one or two pieces of textile art off of poor Indian
farmers who may have had them in their families for generations, he discovered
that some of the best pieces appeared to be of recent vintage.

Upon investigation and several subsequent expeditions he discovered a
tiny village high in the mountains where literally every family was involved
in textile production and many of the techniques and designs that had been
thought to be lost forever were alive and well.  They were producing
textiles as fine and intense as the classic masterpieces adorning museums
in Europe and North America.

Of course, the location and identity of this village was Joe’s most closely
guarded secret. Every six months or so, he would disappear for a week or
ten days and return with a dozen more of these gorgeous tapestries, each
about 3 feet by 6 feet.  What colors! The designs and intensity of the
weave were stunning.

He had over 500 of these rugs, and the entire collection was easily worth several
million dollars. Joe told semi-believeable stories about selling individual
pieces to famous rock stars in LA for many thousands of dollars, and we were
fairly sure he was slowly transferring his stash from Peru to the states
without paying the appropriate taxes.  This may have been the source of his legal
problems back in CA, but as the guy also has numerous weird sexual proclivities
(he wasn’t called Crazy Joe because he was zany), we were never sure.

Anyway, there we were all alone in a hostel on the beach, teaching at
a national public university in a nearby city which was closed more often
than it was open, by strikes of one of the "three estates"; one or more out of
the faculty or the students or the maintenance and clerical workers were
usually
on strike. For months our only duty was to stop by union headquarters one
a day and sign the logbook.  Checks showed up nice and regular, as though
nothing unusual was going on. Socialism – a worker’s paradise.

So one day on the beach, we meet another weird Gringo scientist.  he happened
to be an archeologist from New Jersey, or more accurately now from
the University of North Carolina, who was in Peru to finish his doctoral
research on lithics in some obscure northern culture we had never heard of
and which had disappeared over 2000 years earlier.  Turns out lithics
is the study of stone tools, which is about the limit of technology among
this group,

Jack the Archeologist and the Dowbrigade became fast friends, and colleagues
in fact. He had been given an office in our university, as the closest major
program of archeology to his actual excavations. This made him the only other American at the National University. He would hang out in the
field for two or three months at a time, digging stuff up, and then would
come back to Trujillo to label, catalog and pack all of the samples for shipment
back to the states. He told me he already had over 100,000 stone tools.

Frankly, they just looked like rocks to us. But Jack was engaging and weird,
and we began to regularly play chess, smoke doobies, exchange reading material and occasionally
girlfriends.  Eventually we invited him to take a room at the hostel
for the brief periods when he was working out of his office at the university.

Then, on one of his expeditions onto the flank of the Andes where he was
digging, his crew discovered a series of mummies.  They were primitive,
and consisted mostly of bare bones, but by their arrangement and condition
he could tell that efforts had been made to preserve them.

Four mummified skeletons were found in normal Peruvian burial position;
knees to chest, arms crossed, in large ceramic urns buried in the earth.  But
as they were preparing to leave the site the final time, one of the diggers
noticed signs that a large boulder in the middle of the burial pattern was
not there naturally.  His interest piqued, Jack decided to wait one more
day for a cold cerveza at Crazy Joe’s Hostal and see what, if anything, was
under the boulder.  He should have left well enough alone.

The following morning, after extended efforts and calls to a nearby village
for reinforcements, they finally got the boulder to roll.  Sure enough,
underneath was a final skeleton. Number 5 was clearly different from the
others.  For one, Jack could tell it was of a fairly old man, at least
in his 50s, at a time when most people died by 30.  All of the other
skeletons appeared to be children or young adults.  For another, the
bones, when laid out, indicated a man about six feet tall, which was gigantic
for that race at that time.

Didn’t Jack watch any Boris Karloff movies as a kid, we asked him later.
It should have been obvious that somebody had wanted Number 5 to stay firmly
in place under that boulder, and that moving him was NOT a very good idea.
But Jack was pretty much a classic scientist, and did’t believe in ghosts.
Not at that point, at any rate.

What followed was a real-life horror story which rivals anything we have
read by Poe or King, in content at least, and if we have refrained from
recounting it or writing it down before now it was out of fear of not being able to do justice to its
sheer horror and realness. How could we ever get our readers to realize that
this actually happened, and caused a number of very sane and rational doctors and scientists to seriously question their beliefs if not their sanity? But it
did.

Misfortune, mysteriously moving objects, accidents, apparitions, damning
coincidences and even several deaths were to appear in the wake of the
remains of Number 5 over the following
few months.  It
became clear that something very ugly and dangerous had been brought back
up to the light of day when they rolled that boulder.

Eventually Jack came around to the realization that the only way to put the evil
genie back in the bottle was to take what was left of Number 5 back to
the dig and re-insert him in the same
hole he came out of,
with some kind of local shaman throwing a few spells in there to make sure
he stayed where he belonged. Just as soon as Jack got him back from the
laboratory at the Polytechnic Institute in the capital, where he had taken
all five skeletons
for X-ray analysis by a group of forensic anthropologists, the only lab in
the country with the equipment to do the job.

Unfortunately, several of the workers at the Polytechnic lab, including
the lady doctor who actually examined Number 5, met untimely ends just
at that
time, and when Jack went back for the results and the skeletons,
guess what? No one seemed able to find Number 5. Gone, vanished, out and
about? Who knows?

Jesus, it gives us the creeps just remembering this story.  We are
literally sitting here shivering and sweating as the memories come flooding
back. A good time for a stiff drink, and we hate alcohol. Perhaps someday we will be able to write down all the truly horrifying
details of this bad trip, but quite frankly  20 years is not enough
distance to feel completely at ease.  After all, Number 5 might be
a regular reader of the Dowbrigade News.