My friend David Warlick gave me a great tip about searching the Web. Instead of starting with a huge search engine such as Google, start small. Pick an engine with a smaller database, such as Yahoo, and work through its directory, which is arranged by subject and sub-topic. Then, having identified one or two high-quality Web sites, go back and create a search phrase based on frequently found terms in the pages you’ve found. Now proceed to a big search engine and plug in these keywords for your search. Focus is everything: Get the search terms right and you’ll wind up with a much more useful list of results.

I give money to beggars. Am I a sucker? Probably. Yes. I am a sucker. I’m proud to think that I am a sucker and not a mean, judgmental, suspicious tightwad. So in that one tiny respect I think that I am little bit more like Jesus than I am like George W. Bush. And sometimes, that IS the choice we have to make.

I also learned that a twinkie is about half sugar, sulfuric acid is the most produced chemical in the world, sugar is used to clean out cement mixers, phosphate rock and limestone make Twinkies light and airy, Twinkies’ butter flavor is created out of gas, Twinkies contain only one preservative (sorbic acid), and the original 1930 Twinkies were filled with banana flavor, not vanilla.

For the past several years I’ve been actively auditing podcasts while in my car. I’ve tried all kinds of stuff – one time talks, home-made riffs, occasional raves by brilliant geniuses, and regular fragments of broadcast material. I have two criteria: I want to be surprised, and I want to learn.

Lemonade and lies

In a Dashiell Hammett story, the Continental Op looks at a sign in a bar — “ONLY GENUINE PRE-WAR BRITISH AND AMERICAN WHISKEYS SERVED HERE” — and begins to count the lies. I thought of that moment when examining a bottle in the supermarket today. The beverage inside is distributed by Supervalu Inc. The label reads:

ORIGINAL
LEMONADE
FLAVORED BEVERAGE WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS
Old Fashioned Recipe

The old-fashioned recipe?

INGREDIENTS: FILTERED WATER,
CITRIC ACID, POTASSIUM CITRATE,
SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE,
ASPARTAME, POTASSIUM SORBATE
AND POTASSIUM BENZOATE
(PRESERVATIVES), GUM ACACIA,
SUCROSE ACETATE ISOBUTYRATE,
NATURAL FLAVOR, ACESULFAME
POTASSIUM, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA
(TO PROTECT FLAVOR), YELLOW 5.

How many lies do you see?

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Lemonade and lies

Visuals of the World

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Visuals of the World

Homer then and now

The Nation has an extensive report on the experiences of American veterans of the war in Iraq. An excerpt:

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they’d mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon… .

The scene, Sergeant [Camilo] Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man’s brothers and cousins.

A reader of Homer’s Iliad will find nothing surprising in such accounts. Achilles’ character is undone in the course of the Iliad; the warrior who once displayed the greatest concern for his comrades and the greatest compassion toward the enemy descends into self-absorbed brutality. Here is Achilles speaking to the Trojan warrior Hector, before killing him and dragging his body behind a chariot:

               "I wish my stomach would let me
Cut off your flesh in strips and eat it raw
For what you’ve done to me. There is no one
And no way to keep the dogs off your head.“

(Iliad 22, translated by Stanley Lombardo)

Standing on Troy’s wall, Hector’s father and mother witness Achilles’ treatment of their son’s body, groaning and screaming as they watch.

And here we are, twenty-seven centuries later, in the same story.

The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness (The Nation, via Boing Boing)
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Homer then and now