Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What are we to make of this?

Lynne Cheney divulges that Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are eighth cousins.

Mrs. Cheney told MSNBC on Tuesday that it was 'an amazing American story that one ancestor ... could be responsible down the family line for lives that have taken such different and varied paths.'

Well, let's not pee ourselves about it, they're both career politicians. But nonetheless, yes, it's mildly interesting.

The common ancestor was Mareen Devall, who the Chicago Sun-Times said was a 17th century immigrant from France.

Mrs. Cheney said she discovered the link through family research for her new book, 'Blue Skies, No Fences,' about growing up in Wyoming.

Once again, mildly interesting, the sort of amusing tidbit one might expect from, say, an unpoliticized, slightly clueless hobbyist spouse of an elected official. However, this comes not from Bess Truman or Marilyn Quayle but from Lynne Cheney, known all around as a sharper kind of cookie, and one who certainly checked with Dick before tossing said tidbit out. That makes this announcement, timed as it is during early campaign season, rather more interesting.

The fact that this bit of trivia has already been added and referenced (by somebody) on Barack Obama's Wikipedia page is even more interesting than that. We must assume a political motivation for a repeated emphasis on such a pointless and certainly unsolicited fact -- we haven't viewed the interview yet but we can scarcely imagine anyone asking, "By the way, Dick and Barack...related?" -- but what could it be?

There's little secret that the GOP, for whatever reason, desperately wants Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. (Doubtless, like a one-joke standup comic, they have enough leftover material from Bill's presidency to last them years into the future.) Could there be a strategy to undermine Obama's assumed African-American support by blood-linking him to one of the United States' most thoroughly white citizens? (You don't get more Wonderbread-and-Miracle-Whip than Dick.) Or conversely, are they hoping to season Cheney's flavorless ethnicity? Or perhaps they're trying to make the best of Cheney's painfully low popularity by sharing his curse with Democrats? (Perhaps next they'll announce that John Edwards is Donald Rumsfeld's nephew.)

Oh, all this is terribly far-fetched, of course, we're merely amusing ourselves, or more accurately distracting ourselves from a bleaker period of pessimism than usual. And yet what shall we make of this? Who are the Republicans? What do they want? Why write about growing up in Wyoming at all? Shall our nation endure? We'll ponder it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mandela and David Brent.

This is one of those moments of unintended comedy that only having a genuinely embarrassing national leader can provide:

"Nelson Mandela is still very much alive despite an embarrassing gaffe by U.S. President George W. Bush, who alluded to the former South African leader's death in an attempt to explain sectarian violence in Iraq.

"'It's out there. All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive,' Achmat Dangor, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said as Bush's comments received worldwide coverage...

"'I heard somebody say, Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas,' Bush, who has a reputation for verbal faux pas, said in a press conference in Washington on Thursday...

"References to his death -- Mandela is now 89 and increasingly frail -- are seen as insensitive in South Africa."

Some highlights from this excruciating press conference can be seen below. Viewing it requires a taste for punishment and is not recommended for the easily depressed.

Now quite obviously Bush was not literally suggesting that Nelson Mandela was dead -- to be certain he neither knows nor cares the least thing about Mandela -- but was rather attempting (struggling and failing might be a better term) to say that Iraq's potential Mandelas, i.e. unifying social leaders, are all dead.

The analogy itself is hopelessly flawed, suggesting that Bush has little or no understanding of what Mandela actually did -- he picked the name up somewhere, thought it sounded good. There also hovers the question of how many "Mandelas" might also have been killed in the mismanaged chaos since Hussein's fall, not to mention the rather unflattering implication underlying Bush's statement that those Iraqis that survived Hussein are a pack of do-nothings unlikely to pick up the ball. But at least we can grant Bush enough credit to perceive that he was making no statement regarding the health and survival about the actual Nelson Mandela.

But misunderstandings snowball, don't they... we recall a charming exchange between a former German president and the just-arrived president of India. Attempting to say a friendly "How are you?" in greeting, the German leader stumbled on the language and instead said "Who are you?" To which the President of India, not unnaturally, replied, "I am the President of India." A delicate pause of mutual confusion ensued.

Thus the not-unnatural response to this blundering statement, as we painfully dig our way out of yet another presidential wordslide. Note the wry tone of that headline: "Mandela still alive despite..."

It's not amusing for South Africans of course, in light of Mr. Mandela's health. Nor is it amusing to recall that the President of the United States believes in his own garbled reasoning enough to continue sending people to their deaths. Yet more and more these days we think of David Brent, the self-important, agonizingly foolish office manager created by Ricky Gervais on the BBC's original "The Office." Like Brent, Bush is an inarticulate man fumbling his way through a position of leadership, one who is under the painful delusion that his ignorance makes him entertaining, likeable, and worthy of respect.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States:

Monday, September 17, 2007

We'll go on.



....and so ahem, and yes, we are back on the air aft...

...terference on the waves, airwaves we should say, one of those things you just can't help, exactly, but that's just how it....

...oodness gracious great balls of....

...still having some transmission troub.... the faraway towns, now war is declar...


Are we on?

(Yes, go, talk!)

Stand by for a message to our loyal readership:


Ladies and gentlemen. Our last post, entered in January of this year -- it is now September, for those not keeping track -- addressed a peculiar trend in a certain American town. Shortly after that post was written, Our Founder the esteemed Dr. Hulbeck was chloroformed, blindfolded, dragged into an unmarked white-gray van, urinated upon -- we blush to admit it but we can do no more than report the truth -- and then subjected to repeated physical humiliations by an unseen assailant known only by the codename "Maverick." Why this happened we do not know, nor do we understand why the esteemed Doctor was repeatedly referred to as "Ice."

The deep trauma of this incident sent shock waves through our organization. To compund the problems our in-house tech support guy, Horst, came down with food poisoning. The temp agency sent us a replacement, Frank, with remarkable promptness -- before we'd even notified them, actually -- who, after "auditing" our system, told us that we were not "clear" and that we had to shut down. (We're not technical people here at the Institute, so the jargon often escapes us.)

When Horst finally recovered a great brouhaha erupted and after a good deal of legal wrangling and expenditure of money we have finally become ourselves again.

But all this is by the by. These things happen, after all, there's no getting aroudn simple misfortune. That's the unpleasant thing about the world, that those who would speak freely often lose the opportunity, whether through mischance or intent. Not to blow our own horns here at DHAIP, but one thing we have always striven for is honest and open expression. Things often happen to interrupt that. Sometimes life is the problem. And it is when life is the problem, paradoxically, that we feel most dead.

Death, as we have discovered during our proverbial "time in the desert," is not having a voice. Death is the absence of argument. Death is the choice of passivity. Death is always a choice.


Life, as they say, goes on. We suffer and we endure. We fall and rise again. Misfortune looms over all of us: global warming, nuclear terrorism, cancer, AIDS, Bush. But our imaginations keep us kicking, somehow. Over and over again.

We apologize for our gap in service, and say to all of you, via Wordsworth:


Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream;
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.

Life s real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art and dust returnest
was not spoken of the soul.

The soul, you say? Yes. Atheists know the soul as well as anyone. Better, perhaps. We don't need Heaven; we have the Truth, the Truth we all conspire in, alive, dead, or somewhere in between. Death only enriches it and completes the story. We are REAL, every one of us. You too. Yes: you.


to the faraway towns
now war is declared
and battle come down

to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard
all you boys and girls

now don't look at us
Phoney Beatlemania
has bitten the dust

see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring
of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running but I have no fear
Cos London is drowning and I live by the river

to the imitation zone
Forget it brother
you can go it alone

to the zombies of death
Quit holding out
and draw another breath

and I don't wanna shout
But while we were talking
I saw you nodding out

see we ain't got no highs
Except for that one
with the yellowy eyes

The ice age is coming the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running the wheat is growing thin
A NUCLEAR ERROR but I have no fear
Cos London is drowning and I live by the river

Now get this:

yes I was there too
An' you know what they said -
Well, some of it was true!

at the top of the dial
an' after all this
won't you give me a smile?

I never felt so much ALIVE...

Welcome back, dear readers.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hubbardville, USA.

A complicated few weeks has severely diminished our blogging here at DHAIP, but having run across this fascinating video we couldn't resist posting the link, for any who may not have seen it. Your town is next!

Watch the skies... we repeat, watch the skies!
--The Thing From Another World

Sunday, December 31, 2006

An embarrassingly predictable opinion.

Cheney hails Ford's pardon of Nixon

"Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon, so divisive at the time that it probably cost him the 1976 election, was dealt with squarely in his funeral services by his old chief of staff, Vice President Dick Cheney.

"'It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who led our republic safely though a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe,' said Cheney, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda where Ford's body rested. 'Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon.'"

With all due respect to Vice-President Cheney (which at this stage is little), the notion that pardoning Nixon served anybody but Nixon himself is, to put it kindly, grotesque. It buried information that the American public deserved and needed to know about the extremes of corruption to which a popularly elected president can sink. It allowed a truly twisted individual to lapse into semi-respectable retirement instead of facing internment in a prison or mental institution, whichever the judge found more suitable. It rendered Nixon's assertion "If the president does it, it's not a crime" into a functional truth. It healed nothing -- unless a thin layer of dirt may be said to "heal" a landfill by masking it. It was a great misfortune for America, no matter how idiotically well-meant the intention, and will forever doom Gerald Ford's legacy as one of mediocrity.

Ford, we are willing to allow, was not a bad man, and perhaps, in a low-key way, might have made a decent administrator if by accident he should have ascended to the office at a different juncture. The unfortunate truth is that he was the wrong man at the wrong time. So be it. Rest in peace.

On a related note, we recently screened the 1984 Robert Altman film Secret Honor, a fictional presentation of an evening alone with Richard M. Nixon. The movie, adapted from a play, has a certain stagey quality, and the filming process (16mm blown up to 35mm) lends a slightly 1970s detective-show look to the photography. That said, Phillip Baker Hall gives one of the most mesmerizing performances we have seen in cinema. His Nixon -- inarticulate, at times raving, frighteningly volatile -- runs the gamut from madly comic to horrifyingly touching. The film blends a great deal of fact with a tiny amount of invention, but so powerful is the result one wonders why the invention was necessary: the facts are insane enough. Conspiracy buffs will enjoy the references to such topical subjects as Bohemian Grove and the future President Goerge H. W. Bush, Nixon buffs will amuse themselves by counting all the bases covered, and no one can fail to be impressed by Mr. Hall's brilliant, repulsive, terrifying conviction, in the greatest tragic role written by our times.

"Now the dogcatcher is king!"
--Secret Honor

"Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar? An the creature run from the cur, there thou mightst behold the great image of authority. A dog's obeyed in office."
--King Lear

Monday, December 25, 2006

No peace for the wicked.

Mikhail Bulgakov's great satirical novel The Master and Margarita never saw print during his lifetime; using Christ and the Devil to mock the corrupt culture of Moscow was perhaps not the wisest gambit for publication under Stalin. Bulgakov did not catch many breaks at all as a writer -- his plays were frequently closed in rehearsal and his best writing was relegated to samizdat. His request to emigrate was met by a personal call from Country Joe himself. (Stalin said no.) He died at 49 of an inherited kidney disease.

Still, it is comforting to think that by now at least, sixty years after his premature passing, his reputation is secure:

"A museum dedicated to a Russian writer condemned by the Orthodox church for his authorship of a "Satanic gospel" has been largely destroyed, an official told AFP...

"The Orthodox church said that the book, not published until 26 years after Bulgakov's death in 1940, was 'the fifth gospel, that of Satan.'

"According to Svetlana Kostina, deputy director of the museum, Alexander Morozov, a bitter critic of Bulgakov's work, which he condemned as Satanic, last Thursday locked himself in the museum, situated on the ground floor of a building and demanded that it be evicted.

"He 'threw many objects out of the window, including valuable illustrations of Bulgakov's works, signed by great Russian artists, not to mention several computers,' she said.

"About half the contents were damaged.

"Morozov had been campaigning for years against the presence of the museum, which looks on to a park where the writer lived and where he placed the action of 'The Master and Margarita.'"

It seems there's no pleasing anybody. Christianity and Stalinism are two seemingly opposing doctrines; it's certainly good to know that everyone can find a common ground.

The source of the trouble, it would seem, are the passages that recreate the Master's novel-within-the-novel about the life of Pontius Pilate. The character of Christ, here called Ha-Nostri, comes across as warm, human, appealing, and strangely real in these sections, which must be the trouble. That and the surreal mayhem the Devil and his associates (watch out for that gun-toting cat) unleash upon the Moscow of the 1920s make for an enormously enjoyable read, even for atheists.

But it would seem that neither the book nor Bulgakov mix well with doctrines. The ironies of this new defilement of his memory are layered too rich for further comment. We like to think it would have made a fine, mordantly funny play -- for the right author:

Pilate said in Greek, "So you intended to destroy the temple building and have incited the people to do so?"

Terror flashed across the prisoner's face... "Never in my life, hegemon, have I intended to destroy the temple. Nor have I ever tried to persuade anyone to do such a senseless thing."

"People of all kinds are streaming into the city for the feast day. Among them there are magicians, seers, astrologers, and murderers," said the Procurator in a monotone. "There are also liars. You, for instance, are a liar. It is clearly written down: 'He incited people to destroy the temple.' Witnesses said so."

"These good people," the prisoner began, and hastily adding, "hegemon," he went on, "are unlearned and have confused everything I have said. I am beginning to fear that this confusion will last a very long time.

--The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov, 1891-1950.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Church and state and fire.

On the face of it, a classic case of overreaction:

"A man used flammable liquid to light himself on fire, apparently to protest a San Joaquin Valley school district's decision to change the names of winter and spring breaks to Christmas and Easter vacation.

"The man, who was not immediately identified, on Friday also set fire to a Christmas tree, an American flag and a revolutionary flag replica, said Fire Captain Garth Milam."

... and obviously a gentleman not completely sound of mind. (For the record, in case you didn't follow the link, he survived.) The act was clearly inspired by the famous Vietnam-era incidents in which protesters set themselves afire. But while we recommend self-immolation for nobody, in the context of war such actions at least make a certain skewed sense: real lives are being lost, real blood is being shed. Igniting oneself over purely symbolic issues over church and state, the names of holidays for example, smacks of false drama.

But how soon for us all?

Oh yes, we can smell your skepticism from here, sour as old sweat. Only an idiot or a lunatic would go to such extremes, you say -- lost in a flame-colored dream, sucking the rich scent of gas into his lungs as he stares at the sky, only to awaken to find one Garth Milam, a fine name that, frowning as he busily hoses the maniac down.

And yet a fact lost in the slow crumble of George W. Bush, a decline theoretically symbolized by the midterms (but don't get your hopes up, the opposition is only one health emergency away from losing the Senate again, and anyway no matter what the party a politician is just that, no more or less -- damn these long parentheticals) is that our beloved nation of Amerikansas has been for the past six years on the brink of becoming the Khristian equivalent of the future Iraq -- that is to say, a democracy in name but a theocracy in practice.

Conservative America has, from the election of Richard Milhaus Nixon on, roiled in fury over the social evolutions of the 1960s. Liberal America has, like a closeted gay Republican, alternately flirted with those same values and turned away in shame. The term "hippie" has become a cultural joke, evoking a mental image as quaint as the Disco Stu character of The Simpsons -- a peace symbol, granny glasses, waist-length hair, the musky odors of marijuana use, the blunt-edged voice of Tommy Chong.

What has been forgotten on both sides is that those changes occurred for a reason: the terrifying stultification of the 1950s, when Cold War fears made the smallest of fashion choices a political decision, and Elvis Presley's hips looked as dangerous as the hammer and sickle. Coming on top of the unrestrained wartime propaganda of the 1940s, the future, to some, must have looked as endless and flat as the Nebraska skyline.

Faith in God, faith in the flag, faith in Mom and Pop -- pleasant ideas, no? Those of us who attended public schools, think back for a moment, take a moment to remember rising every single morning to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the feeling of our lead-heavy hands pressed to our pectorals, our bleary adolescent eyes trying hard to wander away from that endless, inescapable red-white-blue, mumbling, murmuring, watching with loathing that one bright-eyed moron in the front row, who every day spoke those words with the same chipper reverence -- God how we hated him! The little prick with his shirt buttoned to the Adam's apple. Understand now: he is your leader. He has succeeded, in all his painful simplicity, whereas you, you, you sad-eyed squirming little dissident, where have you gotten, for all your canny doubts? That ass-kissing fool you detested so badly has scored the White House, the Supreme Court, until recently (and perhaps still) the Congress. Where are you, smarter-than?

A terrorist may blow you up; an oppressive culture smothers you, inch by inch, until the boredom and resentment become a tangible poison of the soul. Has anyone asked whether suicide bombers from Islamic theocracies are motivated not only by hatred of their victims, but of subconscious hatred of their own lives, bounded on all sides by fundamentalism, dogma, and a compulsorily simplistic world-view that subconsciously they know to be more complex? Doesn't Heaven sound better than the endless pressure of a vise?

Let us be honest, for once: we are all intelligent enough to sense, no matter how rigid our background, that the concepts of God, Christ, Allah, Muhammed, Heaven, Hell, and all the rest are, well, just a little bit fishy. Likewise, in the depths of our hearts lie doubts as to whether "our country right or wrong" is really and truly always the best policy. And, deep inside, we ALL need a break from these creepy, ugly brain-crushing dogmas, before we blow ourselves up for one side of the issue or another.

Trust us. If our lives and society become anymore boring, homogenized, and depressingly reverent and respectful, we will all be reaching for the matches.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Against propaganda.

A patently unreliable news story suggests that those calling themselves "optimists" may live longer lives.

"Optimists may enjoy longer lives than people with a dimmer outlook on the future, a long-term study suggests."

They're probably just being optimistic. We submit that we pessimists more correctly comprehend the odds life stacks against us, and so are logically less likely to engage in ostentatious, needlessly dangerous activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, pole-vaulting and bare-knuckle boxing.

Example: two drivers proceed through a vast and trackless desert; the gasometer hovers just above E. Both see a sign that says "Last chance for gas, 100 MI." The smart pessimist stops, thinks "I assume I will be overcharged," and thus buys the bare minimum of gas required to cover the distance, knowing he is covered whether or not the sign is true. The smart optimist slows, thinks, "I might be overcharged," and then thinks, "My car always says E for a good long while before the gas runs out, and besides, there will most likely be another option at a closer distance." He then drives on, carefree and probably whistling. Ten bucks on whose jolly eyes the vultures will be plucking from their sockets.

But, being pessimists, we must also assume that the study is correct and we will probably die sooner. (It's such a paradox being us.) We wish our opposition well, then: the optimists may settle back for their marginally longer existence: bingo night, loud and brashly cheerful assisted-living attendants, and the blissful ignorance of Must-See TV. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Authority's nightmares.

The odd story of John Lennon's FBI files, in which the FBI refused release after claiming for 25 years "that an unnamed foreign government secretly provided the information, and releasing the documents could lead to diplomatic, political or economic retaliation against the United States," poses a small riddle. Given the apparently innocuous nature of the information therein, why on earth should the FBI have kicked up such a fuss?

Our three guesses:

1. A rogue John Lennon fan within the agency wished to suppress information he or she saw as being embarrassing to the pop star. Estimated probability: low.

2. Information of genuine sensitivity was once contained in the file, but discreetly removed and shredded before release. Estimated probability: still low but slightly higher.

3. The FBI felt embarrassed at once again exposing their own ridiculous paranoia about the "counterculture," and the many irrelevancies this led them to collect against people better-liked than themselves. Estimated probability: high.

Lennon's mass appeal is arguably the greatest among the many famous people the US government has, over the years, classed as "suspicious" or worthy of surveillance. The FBI, CIA, and the government in general have always found it difficult to admit the superstitious sense of power that they attach to art and pop culture. They've learned from the best in the game: if Stalin couldn't whistle it, it wasn't music, as the saying went -- and therefore dangerous. (Stalin effectively forbade performances of Hamlet for almost fifteen years before his death; the play bugged him for some reason.) Hitler had his "degenerate" modern painters to rail about; Greil Marcus, among others, has found significance in his early denunciation of the Dadaists.

A backbeat, a splatter, a man in black. The nightmares of Authority are full of them, still are. The highest goal of power is the control of the subconscious, something they have never quite attained. In our dreams, for the moment, we remain free.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Doubt, and why it occurs.

After several days of distractions and reorganization here at DHAIP, we returned to our blog with fresh eyes, and experienced a certain sense of bemused puzzlement over our last post, which seemed oddly random in focus, out of nowhere you might even say. Ever on the alert for subconscious tremblings from within, we immediately plunged into self-analysis.

Strange, you may say? Yes, but it's the way we work. If we have a motto here at DHAIP -- we don't but we're suggesting that you pretend -- then that motto would declare: "Trust your subconscious. It always knows when something's wrong."

Why, in other words, did we bring up a six-year-old, barely substantiated minor news item that has significance only to what are generally considered the "fringe element" of conspiracy theorists?

Put simply the story, on some level, bothered us. Before our patient readers begin snorting and scoffing, let us point out that we do not necessarily suggest that anything happened on September 11, 2001 beyond what the "official story" (as it is derogatorily known among the theorists) has to tell us. But for whatever reason we find ourselves, over and over again, drawn to those nagging details, oh you know them all by now, as familiar as the blurred figures in the Zapruder film: the slow response of the air defense, the molten steel, the pancake collapses, the Building 7 conundrum, the strangely uninformative Pentagon security cameras and the oddly small hole, etc, so forth -- you've heard them all. They even made it onto South Park.

But why? It is certainly not difficult to believe that fanatical and determined terrorists should wish to carry out such an act, nor is it difficult to believe that through a combination of luck on their part and poor leadership on ours, that they should by some fluke succeed. And yet, within the body politic, there are a great many people, many of whom seem quite sane, readier to accept a stranger idea: that someone else should wish to perpetrate such a bizarre crime, and then to blame it on the terrorists as justification for Lord-knows-what. The Reichstag fire, as it were.

Now given that 60% of Americans, according to certain polls, believe that the world was created by God less than ten thousand years ago, along with humans in their present form, and that Darwin was just high or something, this fact may not seem very telling. Yet those Biblical beliefs are the stubborn holdover of hundreds of years, millenia even, of religious dogma; they have roots, deep ones. There is no comparable tradition to explain our mass willingness to embrace conspiracy theory -- except that, with atrocities of the scale of the Holocaust still in our visual memory, our cynicism about ourselves as a species is perhaps at an all time high, or low, as you wish.

Hence we have drawn up a list of possible answers to the question of why doubting 9/11 has become so fashionable:

1. Guilt. The sad fact is that our nation has committed some grievous crimes during its relatively short life, generally in the name of freedom and democracy. As part of our past diplomatic chess games, the Cold War most notably, we have supported monsters, overthrown lawful governments, seized the territory of others without recompense, bombed the helpless, and even, despite our recent rhetoric, funded and encouraged a great many terrorists. Like Dorian Gray, we have striven despite these crimes, to see always in the mirror the fresh-faced goodness of our youth. But soul-sickness and hypocrisy catches up, always, and with the arrival of George W. Bush the illusion has rotted too hollow to be maintained. Thus, like a Dostoevsky character, we fantasize our own complicity in our ills, as a form of psychological penance.

2. Boredom. Modern life is boring, let us confess it. Our market-governed media, with all the star-studded entertainment it provides, cannot begin to fill the void of lives that are doomed to be unfulfilled. There is nothing satisfying or fulfilling about working for the corporations most of us work for, by set laws and according to approved paths, except as a sort of game, futile in the extreme, to see how ably we can provide for our retirement and family. Then comes death. A billion books entitled Who Moved My Cheese or Your Path to Effectiveness cannot make such a way of life a matter of intrigue or fascination. The flashiest software cannot disguise the dullness of its function. No video game can provide a thrill great enough to compensate for the emptiness that descends when the game has done. Thus a tragedy in "real life" becomes an object of morbid curiosity, a scab that can be picked at and dwelt on and worried about endlessly. One version is not enough to work with. There must be multiples.

3. Wish-fulfillment. We have always believed that most Americans secretly long for great destruction and worldwide disaster, for both the reasons listed above. Thus they enjoy planning it out in their heads, and see no reason why those with the power to act on their fantasies would not do so.

4. A sense of mass unreality. We're working on this one. It has something to do with the success of the Matrix films, World of Warcraft addiction, and fear of death. We'll present it when it's polished, but you can probably divine the gist.

5. A genuine anomaly. This would mean that something is in fact wrong with the "official story," something which we have all subconsciously sensed but have not as yet put our fingers on. The many and various theories that have evolved, even the most insane and complicated ones, are therefore distorted reflections of some dark, complex truth. Perhaps by studying them we could thus arrive at a realistic shape.

Let us then be truthful. We at DHAIP, after taking an internal poll, will here make a small confession. To our immense surprise, seventy-five percent of us believe that the United States government, and possibly other governments as well, had some prior knowledge of what was to happen. Whether such knowledge was enough to prevent anything, we do not know. In addition:

Thirty percent think that there was specific knowledge not acted upon. Eighteen percent feel that the inaction was deliberate. Six percent believe that there was some sort of active American participation in the attack. And two percent blame Kevin Federline.

Despite all this, we remain committed to neutrality on the topic, and having expressed our private idiosyncracies, we will put them aside, and now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

We apologize for the length of this post, but we felt the need to clear the air -- how fresh it seems now!