Upon us all, upon us all a little rain must fall.
...Just a little rain.

I think it's fair to say that this morning, many Australians have a spring in their step, a smile on their face, and a little more hope than they've had over the last few years. Particularly those Australians who live on the land.

The reason for this increased optimism? Something as simple as rain.

Australia is in the midst of the worst drought for 100 years, and its impact has been far reaching and severe. 100% of New South Wales and the ACT has been drought declared. The majority of Queensland, South Australia The Northern Territory are drought declared. Large parts of Victoria and Western Australia are in the same boat. There are parts of western NSW that have been drought declared for over seven years. Farmers have been hit extremely hard, with many relying on Federal Government assistance as their only means of income. For a long time, the only access to fresh drinking water has been water trucked in, to fill empty water tanks.

Yesterday, rain fell over huge portions of Australia - and this time, the rain didn't fall only near the coastal fringe, but reached deep into the country to provide some welcome relief to those who desperately need it. Even better - it was just about the perfect type of rain for these bone dry regions - falling fairly lightly, but steadily. Heavy rains could have caused severe and devastating erosion, the rain simply running off the dry soil. This rain soaked into parched land, the first moisture it has seen in years.

In October last year, a major newspaper ran a story from Brewarrina, in North Western NSW. The front page picture was of three year old Lucy Geddes, and it was one of those photos that seems just perfect. Standing near an old barbed wire fence on her parent's property, a gust of dry wind blows her red hair across her face. Yesterday, Lucy experienced rain for the first time in her life. The last rain her home saw fell when she was being born.

The drought is not yet over - yesterday's falls are certainly a step in a positive direction, however it's predicted that at least another 300mm of rain is needed before this parched land can truly be healed. Up to 88mm fell in some areas of NSW yesterday, falls of between 30 and 70mm in some areas of Victoria are the best rainfalls these regions have seen in twenty years. So our farmers keep looking to the sky, hoping that the needed follow up rains will eventuate, and that they can begin to rebuild their shattered industry. Even once this drought breaks - and with signs that the El Niño weather patterns that have impacted Australia so severely are breaking up, this is looking more hopeful - even then it will take grain producers at least a year to begin generating an income, livestock producers will likely have to wait two years for cash to begin to flow in again.

However, at least now people have been reminded, that it will rain again. Many people would have been looking at the skies, wondering just how long that was going to take. Not a day would have gone by for people in drought affected areas, when their thoughts didn't turn to the hope for rain. Now, that hope has been answered, and they can begin to look forwards.

In my home city yesterday, there wasn't a single person I spoke to who wasn't happy to talk about the rain for a while. In my office building, you'd catch people just gazing out of the windows, as though they could hardly believe that it was all real. Several people I spoke to related stories the same as mine, from the night before - waking at around 3 or 4am, and hearing the rain outside. Lying there in bed, happy not to go back to sleep straight away - just listening.

It's amazing how such a simple things as rain, can boost the spirits of just about an entire nation.

So angry.

Lack of sleep does things to people, I'm telling you.
Although it isn't so much a lack of sleep thing.. because I got up at what, 12? 12:45? Something like that. It's almost midnight now. I shouldn't be sleep-emotional for a few hours yet. That usually happens late at night, like three or four in the morning.
So why am I angry now? Why do I want to hit something?

Maybe it's Adobe Photoshop making me feel like an idiot. Maybe it's the knowledge that there is work to do and I'm not doing it. Maybe it was seeing that ex-boyfriend look-alike at Seneca today. Maybe it's blah blah fscking blah.
Who knows? Even trying to figure it out makes me mad.

Blind, senseless anger.
Thou art the enemy of the world.

The only way to stop being angry is to accept the fact that you're angry. You can't get angry at your anger; that just takes you around in circles. I'm running around like a hamster on a wheel at the moment and telling myself what I'm supposed to be doing is just making me go faster.

Music isn't helping...
Music always helps. The steady rhythm of it alone brings me down from hysterics. Yet I'm still angry. Still mad at everything, and nothing, at the same time.

What only makes it worse is that I can't be mad at anyone. Well, maybe my Dad... but I won't get into that. I'll go on for hours and it'll only make things worse -- not to mention take up space.
I'm wondering if I should go to bed. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes I go into my room and instantly want to hit my pillow. Once or twice I've thrown my stuffed animals around violently until I recovered myself and then tearfully apologized to them. I hate feeling like this, especially if I don't understand it. It gets into the whole circle concept again.
I think this might be one of the pillow-beating nights. It's not quite so bad as to be a stuffed animal abuse night. Though if my stupid excuse for a little brother comes out here again my mood might go from bad to dangerous.

I'm blaming the pills.
Stupid hormones. It's all your fault.


You know what nobody talks about
in public anymore...cunt farts.

There I was traveling up the Dual Highway towards the center square on a rainy Friday night, wondering how the hell I was going to find the Maryland Theater when I'd never been to it before, with random directions given quickly over the phone while the rest of the world was gearing up for the annual Guinness toast. I was half sad that I'd miss the toast, I'd never participated in it before but Guinness is my drink of choice and Friday is pub night with my friends. Still it was well worth skipping a night at the pub mingling with drunks and friends to navigate the dark streets of Hagerstown tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you
there will be no pyrotechnics tonight.

I found what looked like a terrific spot on Franklin street..but as I pulled into the snow surrounded spot I realized that while it was just the right size it was in fact the entrance into a fire station. The cop behind me pulled by me really slow then drove on by. I was thankful there weren't too many other cars on the road, they were all at the bars by 9pm afterall, so I could pull on out and into the spot on the other side of the snow pile. It was a lucky spot. Now, if I could just find that damned theater.

I'm curious George.

So wearing my work clothes and bundled tightly against the rain I hurried down Potomac Street. I figured that heading towards the Library was a good idea, as I could see hordes of people coming from that direction. The early show would have let out by then, so I wasn't too late. I could picture my brother waiting anxiously in a crowd, or worse outside on an empty street. I knew that if the latter were the case he'd give me a pissed off look but wouldn't say anything. I should have left earlier, damn my internet addiction! But I spotted the crowd and knew I was safe. Hustling at night on the opposite side of the street from most of humanity is not my ideal situation. Downtown Hagerstown isn't the safest place on Earth. Just this week some guys working the snow plows heard screaming while clearing the streets on Mulberry. When they moved the huge mound away from the storm drain, and wasn't that smart thinking, they found a young 19 year-old in his underwear hurt and confused below. He'd been attacked most likely, robbed of his clothes and left for dead in the sewer. And here I was alone at night, crossing the street as fast as my legs would take me.

I am not fine.

Three blocks later I see some traffic cops with bright reflective yellow stripes and white gloves in the roads, and a glorious horde of humanity. I don't think I've ever seen so many people in one place in Hagerstown before. Some were going, some were coming...most were just standing around in a line that wrapped around the corner. I crossed the square and approached this crowd with hesitation, where should I look? Would he be at the back of the line or the front? Would he be in line at all? He'd called me about fifteen minutes earlier asking where I was, he was probably in that crowd somewhere worried I would be late. Slowly I moved up it's length, searching each face eagerly, hoping his would be the next.

It's like watching flies fuck.

Halfway up the crowd I realized these people thought I was a line jumper. I could see it in their irritated faces, they just wanted to scream "the line ends back there you dumb bitch!" Still I moved on, my eyes roaming over each face just long enough to judge their height and build but not long enough to make eye contact. Eye contact in this kind of situation is intimidating and can lead to trouble. People are cold and wet and worse, they want to get indoors to see the great comedian they've paid good money to laugh at. It's not every day someone like him rolls through our little world, I wasn't really that surprised that all of the county had turned out for it. And the cream of the crop it seemed, or at least most of it. The mullet sporting yokels were there too, but they were few among the yuppies.

Pretentious cocksucker.

Worried that I won't find him in this multitude I slowed down and let my gaze drift around a bit. The line wasn't moving so my need to hurry was lessoned a bit. Everyone knows that when you stop looking for something you finally find it. This principle is true for car keys as well as lovers. Apparently it's also true when trying to find your brother. Across the street from the theater, the crowd and the black WQCM van, under a yellow street light slowly taking a drag on a cigarette was Jake. Next to him was the tiny red head I recognized as his friend Jenny. Relief swept through me and I ambled towards them, carefully stepping into the slippery street and jaunting past a female traffic cop with a whistle in her mouth. There were relieved smiles waiting for me instead of anger and we waited further for the other half of the group, debating whether or not to get in line or if we should just wait them out since we had tickets already. We ended up finding a shorter line and easing into the building, heading up the stairs to the balcony. Jake's 6'4" length was squeezed into the tiny old fashioned theater seats but he didn't complain. He sat with his knees practically to his chest, his coat thrown over his lap and smiled excitedly. I leaned forward and looked at the empty stage that held only a microphone and a guitar.

Soft names lead to soft people.

We chit-chatted for a bit about my pending trip to my first gathering. Was I excited? Yes. He was glad I'd befriended Spackle, he was a good guy. Who else would I meet? He didn't know them all, couldn't remember the names of everyone he'd already met. He was excited about his own pending move and we smiled and talked until the lights went down and our show began. On the stage emerged the opening act, David Blair, a funny comedian who was helped out by a local who kept screaming "Free marijuana!" at opportune times. He was a good sport and used the bloke to keep the comedy going. Unfortunately he gave the redneck a bloated ego and when the real reason everyone was there came on stage he promptly yelled this again. But George is a seasoned comic, he's been at it for years. He just rolled on through his first joke without missing a beat, sucking the life out of the would-be-comic. He jumped from one topic to the next, which he touted as being his style, entertaining with one vulgarity after another. And we laughed. He pounced on the yuppy parents that have those contraptions they carry their kids on their backs with so they can browse through stores with their hands free. We laughed, all except the people to my left.

Goodnight, I hope you enjoyed the show.

I noticed that when he set in on the jokes about the yuppies and the mildly upper classed individuals, they didn't move. Didn't crack a smile. Didn't clap their hands as loudly as Jake and I did. But George does not discriminate, and he moved on to lower classes, likening America's downfall to the stupid people that vote. The Jerry Springer watchers. The laughter was loud from every direction. He talked about genitals, he talked about body functions, he talked about presidents current and past; he talked and he talked for two straight hours. And we laughed. When I could see that Jake was tired from having to fix twenty-odd computers in the last two days, and his eyes were drooping, George Carlin wrapped up his show.

Centered quotes by George Carlin.

Today's Headlines

US News

96 Dead in Rhode Island Concert Hall Fire
A pyrotechnics show at the start of a concert by the band Great White triggered a fire at the nightclub The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, quickly consuming the club and resulting in 96 deaths. The sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited the soundproofing foam that covered the rear of the stage; the fire consumed the club in three minutes. Attorneys representing the owners of The Station claim that the pyro show was done without permission of the club owners.

Staten Island Oil Barge Blast Kills 2
A barge unloading gasoline in Staten Island exploded with tremendous force Friday, shaking businesses and homes around the city as a thick cloud of black smoke rose to the sky, bringing about visual memories of 9/11. Two people died in the explosion, which authorities are calling an accident, not an act of terror.

Emails Reveal Concerns About Space Shuttle Columbia
NASA engineers at Langley Research Center in Virginia sent scores of frustrated emails both during and after the last flight of the space shuttle Columbia, decrying the lack of investigation into potential damage due to debris. The emails, made public yesterday, make it clear that the engineers were greatly concerned about shuttle safety, and that blame for ignoring these warnings falls higher in the chain of command.

International News

Inspector Orders Iraq to Dismantle Disputed Missiles
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix yesterday ordered that Iraq start destroying all of its Al Samoud 2 missiles and anly illegally imported rocket engines which exceed the allowed range of 92 miles. The destruction of the weaponry must begin within a week, giving US president George W. Bush the March 1, 2003 deadline he has been waiting for to begin military action against Iraq.

Non-Aligned Movement Divided on Iraq
In the days leading up to the Non-Aligned Movement summit on Monday, member nations are divided on the current state of affairs in Iraq. Arab members of NAM want a soft resolution "encouraging" Iraq to comply with the UN resolutions, while other nations feel a statement demanding that Iraq comply should be made. Both sides, however, are in agreement in condemning the United States' plans to invade Iraq and disarm the nation by force.

United States to Send Food Aid to North Korea
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said today the United States will announce in the next week a new food donation to North Korea despite a developing crisis over the country's nuclear weapons programs. "We don't use food as a political weapon," Powell told reporters, reaffirming a long-standing U.S policy. "You go through all the politics, and there are kids out there that are still starving." The United States donated more than 150,000 tons of food to North Korea last year, more than any other country, but in 2003 there have been no food donations from the United States to North Korea.


FCC Decision Hurts Baby Bell Stock Prices
Shares of US local telephone providers fell Friday after federal regulators reaffirmed rules requiring the Baby Bells to provide low-priced access for their competitors to their phone networks. However, if the companies install fiber optic cables for high-speed internet usage, these lines won't have to be shared. The net result is that the large long distance carriers like AT&T and Sprint have guaranteed access to the local phone networks, ensuring their survival and continued growth.

US Consumer Prices Rise 0.3% in January
The Consumer Price Index showed a 0.3% jump for the month of January 2003, making it the largest one-month increase in almost a year. Gasoline and other energy prices were the catalyst for the increase, reflecting concerns about the global oil market.

Stock Markets Up For Week, Look Forward To Economic Numbers Next Week
This week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to 8018, a rise of 110 ponts from its week ago close; the Nasdaq rose to 1348 from its week ago close of 1310. A bevy of economic numbers could trigger a bigger rise next week, including numbers on existing home sales and new home sales as well as indicators on consumer confidence and a summary of the fourth quarter's domestic product for 2002.

Science & Technology

Hubble Looks At Coldest Place In Known Universe
On Friday, images from the Hubble Space Telescope depicting the Boomerang Nebula were released. Located in the constellation Centaurus, the nebula is roughly 5000 light years away and is the coldest place in the known universe, hovering at a temperature only one degree above absolute zero, colder even than the background radiation that permeates the universe.

Attacks Expose ATM Vulnerabilities
A pair of Cambridge University researchers have discovered a new attack on the hardware security devices employed by banks that makes it possible to retrieve ATM PINs in an average of 15 tries. Although this technique has not yet been used in the wild, the technique would potentially allow a cracking team to recover 7000 PINs in thirty minutes.

Microsoft Rolls Out Privacy Technology
On Friday, Microsoft introduced its Windows Rights Management Services, a series of technologies that allows companies and governments to carefully control who can see their documents and emails. The procedure is based around a sophisticated public key-based encryption system. This technology will be fully integrated into the next version of Microsoft Office, which ships this summer.


Double Transplant Teen Has No Brain Activity
Double transplant recipient Jesica Santillan, 17, has no brain activity, said a Duke University Hospital spokesman early Saturday. Although the hospital has not officially declared her brain dead, an EEG showed no brain activity and a blood flow scan showed no blood flow to her brain. Santillan received a heart and lung transplant on February 7, but the operation was botched because the organs didn't match her blood type; a second surgery was done Thursday with matching organs.

Five Children Die of Flu-Like Symptoms in Virginia
Five children have died in the past week in southeast Virginia as a result of a flu-like sickness that has local doctors baffled. The children had no contact with each other and in each case took different medicines. The symptoms were simliar, however; all of the children had a sore throat, wheezy breath, coughing, ear infections, and low fevers.


Kobe Bryant's Near Unstoppable Streak Continues
Kobe Bryant scored forty points again last night as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Portland Trailblazers 92 to 84. This was Bryant's eighth straight game with 40 or more points, and twelfth straight game with 35 or more points. The Los Angeles Lakers have won ten out of twelve games and have moved into sole possession of the final playoff slot in the Western Conference.

Ferguson Considering Staying at Manchester United Beyond 2005
After postponing retirement after the end of last season and signing a contract keeping him as Manchester United's coach through 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson today stated a desire to continue coaching at Old Trafford beyond the end of his contract. Ferguson also apologized to The Times Magazine for occasionally losing his cool, including last weekend's incident where he booted a football shoe across the locker room, cutting David Beckham's forehead.


No Big Winners Expected At Grammys
With eight artists (including Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, and Norah Jones) leading the nominations with five apiece, no artists look poised to dominate the awards show in a trend that has been apparent since Santana's dominance at the show three years ago. In the critical album of the year category, though, Bruce Springsteen's album The Rising is seen as the clear favorite.

Michael Jackson Interviewer Contradicts Himself
Thursday night's special depicting behind-the-scenes footage of Martin Bashir's huge ratings-winning documentary on Michael Jackson shows that Bashir repeatedly contradicted himself between what was said in the interview and what appeared on air. Among these was an about face where Bashir told Jackson "Your relationship with your children is spectacular and in fact it almost makes me weep when I see you with them," but during the documentary said "They are restricted. They are overly protected. I was angry at the way his children were made to suffer," in reference to Jackson's children. The whole situation brings into question the integrity of modern documentary production.

And Now, Some Typical Daylog Fare

Go back. Read through those headlines above. Look at the myriad of ways the United States is being damaged by continuing to pursue a war with Iraq.

Most nations in the world are condemning the United States even considering a war. Prices are skyrocketing. Stocks are dropping. Basically, the United States hasn't even entered the war yet and on diplomatic and economic fronts, we've already lost.

Even more interesting to me is the fact that I can't eludicate why exactly we are over there. The only reason I can state is that this is an action to prevent Iraq from obtaining weapons similar to what the United States has in abundance. We're saying, "You can't have what we have, and if you think you can, we'll bomb you and kill thousands of your civilians." That's simply murderous.

Open up your history books, ladies and gentlemen. One hundred years ago today, Teddy Roosevelt was President of the United States. His general policy was to speak softly and carry a big stick. We're about as far away from that policy as can be right now... we're carrying a very big stick, but we're sure not talking softly.

Since World War II, the United States has not been in a military conflict that was actually necessary. The Korean War and the action in Vietnam were both vestiges of McCarthyism. The Gulf War was fought so America could save a few dimes on oil. All of our other minor military actions were mostly to cover up botched CIA secret operations.

Maybe now's the time the United States should look into the nation's past. What was the policy in the middle of our longest periods of peace? The policy was generally isolationism: we spoke softly and carried a big stick (well, the stick wasn't very big until recently, but I digress).

Maybe now is the time to return to an isolationist approach. Let's let the other nations of the world make their own decisions, and only deal with them economically. If we don't agree with their policies, don't trade with them; if we agree with their policies, offer them trade benefits. We have the financial wherewithal to influence policy just by doing that.

If the United States adopted a hands-off policy in world affairs, the continued anger that the rest of the world shows towards us for our continued policies of interference would strongly decrease. In addition, saving money on all of these military operations would allow our nation to spend money on things of importance, like improving education, spending money on basic research through the National Science Foundation, and developing a lifelong health care system for all Americans that actually works.

Or maybe I'm just dreaming, and we truly have handed the nation over to a militaristic junta.

I went to visit my son at his college yesterday. It was a happy/sad day for me. I look at him and I feel so proud of him. He's independent, and doing well at school, and happy to be living in the city. He walked me around the school, showing me different things, explaining how his days are spent and he's so confident and comfortable in his surroundings. Makes me feel like I've really done something right

Then I went home and felt so sad. I realized that he's not really mine anymore. He is truly his own person now, and while he may still ask for my help or advice now and then, he doesn't really need me anymore.

When my kids were small, I sometimes daydreamed of the day when they were all grown up and my house would be my own again...when I would no longer be tripping over toys and washing crayon off the walls. I'd take those days back now if I could.

Ah, well. Someday I'll be a grandmother!

i don't generally daylog, but i was struck by this thought earlier today and wanted to share it.

just over 6 months ago, i applied for a job at an aeronautical college in qatar. i didn't really fancy it much, teaching english to a bunch of would-be pilots and aircraft engineers, but they were offering to pay stupid amounts of tax-free dosh and it would make it very easy for me to save up to fund my ma. i never got anywhere with the application, so came to do my ma financially supported by my family. boy am i glad i didn't get the job. not because of how much i am enjoying what i am learning, but because i daren't imagine what my life would be like right now if i had gone to qatar. i heard earlier this week that there's an english school (i believe they said it was in kuwait, but don't quote me on that) paying bonuses to their native english-speaking staff who stay on and carry on teaching. stiff upper lip or what? if i was out there right now, i would be working out how best to bribe a pilot student to fly me home to safety. i complain about my current stress levels caused by having no money and piles of books to read and lengthy assignments to write and grades to improve on and no time to spend with friends or family... if i'd gone to qatar i would be quaking on a 24-hour basis for fear that george and tony decided to say, "sod the opposition, let's nuke the buggers." kind of brings it home to you, when you spin it around that way.

perspective is everything.

I remember where I was when I heard.

I was sitting in the Aj6 office when I logged into E2 to get some information to help in writing an educational programme. The front page's news section said that ephealy had died.

I'd been noding for a few months by then; I'd made level 2, and had a fairly good feel for the site. I'd also read quite a lot of ephealy's writeups, as many of them ovelapped into areas I'm interested in. I didn't always agree with his analysis of historical and biblical events, but I still thought they were worthwhile. I'd even got a ching! from him back in May.

I spent a long time staring at the monitor before someone in the office asked me what was wrong. I said that someone I didn't really know had died. It sounded strange then. But I felt that I'd encountered ephealy in his writing, and I really felt a loss. Like a part of something I felt was really valuable had gone forever.

I mourned, in my own little way. I kept the Cool Man Eddie message "ephealy just cooled your writeup on Cogito ergo sum, baby". I put /me misses ephealy on my homenode. I made more of an effort to speak to noders in the catbox, and to comment on their writeups.

Yesterday evening, The Debutante mentioned that ephealy wasn't, in fact, dead. Rather he had faked his death in order to avoid harrassment.

This made me feel very weird. For a fleeting second I was angry, but that rapidly went away and left me feeling stangely empty instead. I didn't doubt he had good reasons. I began thinking that we each encounter hundreds of other noders every day. Lucy-S said in yesterday's daylog that we never show our true selves on E2. I think that she's wrong; we don't have anyone else to show. Sure, the E2-me and the everyday me are different, but they are both entirely me.

But noders are more than themselves. To quote John Donne:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.

When ephealy 'died', Everything2 was diminished and I felt that loss keenly. now he's back, we are in some sense restored, and perhaps we have grown too, learnt a little more of what makes this place what it is.

And so, gentle noder, learn from this that you make a difference to hundreds of people every time you write a node; remember that you are loved in ways you aren't aware of. And contribute to this great project of ours with head held high and a joyful heart. We're changing people -- including ourselves -- every day. It's what we do.

At any time in life, I find myself facing things that seem horrific and daunting. One day I realized that all humans are selfish, and was depressed for a week. Another time I felt lonely, and wondered if I was doomed to hermitage.


Yet I have survived these things; surpassed them on the spiritual journey that is life. I will continue to survive. Who do I believe this? Because I have realized that every stage in life is just that, a stage. There will be an end to my temporary tribulations, and each test brings a quickening of the mind. I can hope.

I have realized one can hope for change, and be dissapointed. Sometimes the change never occurs. There are two sources of hope besides this.

  • always Hope for the next piece of the puzzle. Oftentimes I am depressed very much by what seems to be a crippling piece of intelligence - at one time I felt that no one I knew was capable of higher levels of conversation. These people have not changed. But I have met new people, new circumstances; I have aquired enough pieces of the puzzle to see how the contrast of the light and the dark create a stunning tapestry.
  • every day Hope for adaptation; humans can adapt to almost anything, as was proved in the Holocaust. I have gotten used to the idea of not being able to satisfy my delusions of grandeur. I can live with that. Sometimes that which seems most terrible is a mouse in hindsight.
  • Hope is so powerful because sometimes in focusing on a problem we allow that problem to define us; we allow that blackness to taint everything so that we can not even remember the light - as a case in point, people in unhappy marriages have trouble remembering any happy point in the entire marriage. Hope allows us to remember the light that has come, and hope allows us to see the light that will come.

    But back to my original two problems. In the case of the first, I realized that a divine will could allow us to transcend our selfishness. The second problem was resolved when I discovered E2.

    Last night was one of the best nights I've had in a long time. I keep telling myself not to blow it off as just something that teenagers and friends do every once in a while.

    Class got out quite early, almost by two and a half hours, and there was lots of time to kill before the urge to sleep would hit and I would have to go to bed. Mom came and got me after I stood outside in the pseudo-cold for a half hour, and dropped me off at the card shop on her way home.

    Yeah, the card shop, where all the little boys (and girl) go on Friday nights and Sunday's to play Magic and laugh at each other and have a good time. Where I've spent quite a few weekend days just whiling away the time with my favorite bunch of guys, the D&D and DDR group. We're all a little crazy, but that's okay, because it's most of the time the good kind of crazy that everyone can appreciate.

    Everyone I know always acts surprised when I show up unannounced, like it's a big thing when a girl walks in that door intending to either play or just hang out and act like a boy for a night. I guess it is, too, since usually I am the only one without a penis there (unless one of the little kids that hangs around is actually female, and we can't tell because s/he is too ashamed to admit it).

    The whole shebang was over too quickly for me, I had wanted to hang out and have fun for a while longer, so I phoned my mother to tell her I'd be home around midnight and to please go to bed and not wait up for me again.

    Five of us decided we would hang out for a while, and walked to various houses to drop off things (or people) and by the time we walked to my house it was just me and the boys.

    And by the boys I mean the two very specific ones that I happen to spend so much time with because they're better than all the girls I know, because they do not freak out when you hug them or touch them or make inappropriate comments about sex, and they listen when I talk to them and tell me what they think, even if I don't want to hear what it is they have to say, and it is usually good that I listen and take the advice they give.

    It's not as though we haven't hung out around my house until all hours of the morning talking and laughing and being silly, making my neighbors yell at us or think we're some strange homeless kids who sometimes wander into the neighborhood, but last night was different, somehow. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, unless you would count the fact that we were huddled under a blanket for a lot of the time, or shaking heads, or cuddling while lying on the cold cement sidewalk and shivering. There was really, nothing different at all to make last night stand out from all the other nights.

    Except that it was last night.

    On my way into the Snack Shop, which sells cheap liquor and cigarettes and is mockingly called “The Crack Shop” by snobby college students, I ran into a homeless man squatting against the building. A scraggly, gray beard covered most of his lower face. The rest was covered by a knitted hat and dirt embedded into his wrinkles. There was a sudden sympathy and fear in me at that moment, as he asked for spare change. I looked at him, knowing there was change in my pocket. Change and a twenty, but I replied, “Maybe on my way out.”

    Behind the counter, the perpetually drunk cashier asked, “Can I help you?

    “Yes, a pack of Marlboro Menthol Milds…” and he smiled. Smiled at my young face and I smiled back.

    Four twenty,” he said after checking my ID, and I almost laughed to myself. Almost laughed at the lame jokes friends at home would tell. Four twenty, four twenty in a haze of marijuana smoke. Four twenty, which I paid for with my twenty-dollar bill and a quarter.

    Outside, I saw that the old man was still squatting by the door. He didn’t ask for change from the two African American teens that nearly plowed over me on their way through the door. He just looked at the ground, ashamed maybe. After all, the two gentlemen pulled up in a Mustang, and I walked. I could maybe relate. Under my coat, a Goodwill find, I hid a tattered emo sweater, and my shoes… Converse All-Stars with holes through the canvas. Maybe I looked like I could relate. I bent down and gave him all the change I had, a little over a dollar. “Here you go,” I said. But I wanted to say, “I wish I could do more. I wish I could give you my coat. I wish I had some gloves for you. Do you need a place to stay? Exactly how many layers of holey sweaters are you wearing? And what is your name? Do you need a hug?” No, I didn’t say any of that. I just left with sixteen dollars in my pocket, as he counted the change in his hand--Would it be enough? And I wished I could have given him the rest. Others would have laughed, “Oh, don’t waste your time… he’ll only spend it on booze!” And he would, maybe. But could I blame him? I had just broken my last twenty until spring break on an addiction I don’t need. I would also buy a little rum or vodka if I was 21. I would drown myself, just like him, but for other reasons. I would drink myself beautiful for frat boys I could never face while sober. I would drink myself happy, forgetting my recent fight with my mother. I would also drink, and I suddenly had more respect for the homeless man. He would drink to stay warm and forget his real problems. He would drink himself into a warm corner in some alley. He would drink to stay alive and make life worth living. And I couldn’t blame him for begging for change. I couldn’t blame him at all.

    The Twits, The Gamma Rays & They Might Be Vaginas at the Espy

    As I had nothing better to do I decided to walk down to the Espy after finishing the bottle of vodka I had at home. Some people would think it is too far to walk, but they're wimps as it only takes a bit over an hour (including stopping for dinner.)

    The public bar at the Espy was stinking hot as they closed the front door when a band was playing (at least it wasn't as hot as the show I went to before Christmas.)

    The Gamma Rays (a surf/fuzz rock band) played first and seemed to be a hit with the ladies. Kaos (formerly of the Fuck Fucks) was on drums and the band mostly played instrumental numbers.

    Fred Negro also joined the band for the Brian Wilson song "In My Room".

    They Might Be Vaginas (banned in Queensland) were meant to play last but the lead singer said they would be too pissed by then so they played next (I doubt they would be able to follow the Twits anyway.)

    People from T.M.B.V.
    The Fuck You Man
    Bob - "Touch me I'm Bob!"
    Stumpy in crotchet dress
    Three different drummers including Stumpy
    The dancing cowgirl for the first few songs

    TMBV is a cowpunk/rock band who hail from Brisbane where Stumpy (real name Andrew) runs a cult video rental store and plays with the band in his spare time. Saying the band was discordant would be putting it nicely as they seemed to be more interested in screwing around (they were still funny to watch though.)

    They also played an impromptu "They Might Be Negros" gig with Fred who joined them to sing some I Spit on Your Gravy songs - "Burger Shop Slaughter", "Piranha" and "The Goink" (no one asked them to sing "Harassment" this time.)

    During the later parts of their set The Fuck You man managed to destroy part of his bass guitar in the ceiling fan when he was riding on the shoulders of an audience member. Someone else also grabbed the microphone and kept calling out for security when Stumpy lay on the floor naked for one of his songs (the other band members just kicked him). Thankfully Stumpy didn't make good his threat to felch mustard out of the rectum of an inflatable sheep - did I mention the bar pretty much cleared out while they were on? The band also kept abusing each other - "Stumpy's a registered sex offender!", "What would we know we're from Queensland!"

    Before the Twits came on, Fudge "Kill Cunts!" the no. 1 Twits fan seemed to be a little under the weather as he sat down on a chair for most of their set and hardly tried to grab the microphone at all (the band dedicated a song to him.)

    Also good was the bloke who talked to the audience who's only claim to fame was that he once got a blow job from Olivia Newton-John in Richmond many years ago.

    For some reason The Twits played "Get Fucked Cunt!" as there first song (they must have got sick of people asking for it all the time), and then the followed on with some of their newer songs including a version of the Beach Boys' "Heroes and Villains"

    The funniest part of their set was when they almost broke up and Chris cracked the shits. They also managed to drink their rider during their performance (and then some) as Fred hates bands who don't finish their beer riders.

    There ended up being a fairly big crowd towards the end and everyone looked to be having a good time, especially Bob and The Fuck You Man from TMBV who sung along with some of the songs. I think they were finished when I left but the crowd kept wanting them to play more (you have to know when to give it a rest I reckon.)

    It would seem that the Israeli military has taken advantage of the media focus on Iraq to enforce its campaign on the occupied territories.

    While the Iraq situation is at the centre of media attention, the violence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Nablus amplifies. Reportedly 30 Palestinians dead in less than a week to include unarmed ordinary civilians and a medic who tried to reach a sick patient.

    Was this surge in attack due to palestinian gunmen or a suicide bombing? that's usually the reason given, but this time apparently not, since it is reported that in Israel the situation has been at its most calm for months.

    The escalation of violence has been so severe that it is becoming an international concern. The United Nations commissioner for Human Rights expressed his extreme concern, and said the following in a statement -
    "Such indiscriminate use of force in civilian areas can never be justified,"

    The Israeli military operation was looked on disparagingly even by the US State Department, a spokesman said -
    "We remain very concerned about civilian casualties... especially among Palestinian children and young people,"

    "These casualties continue to result from Israeli military actions."

    A spokesman for B'Tselem, one of Israel's most respected human rights organisations said -
    "As soon as it became clear to us that there were going to be elections in Israel followed by a probable war in Iraq it was very clear to us that these months would be very difficult in the occupied territories. One of the only things that can restrain Israeli policy in the occupied territories is international public opinion."


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