Friday, July 28, 2006

Higher Place

I got this in my company e-mail inbox, this morning. The names have been changed to protect the enraptured.

To All

This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. My utmost prayer on this day is that all service rendered to DRAFT over the last two years was pleasing in the sight of God and I am forgiven for all disobedience. I ran the race and finished strong.

As I leave this place, I keep in remembrance the laughter, the nights of tearful prayers, the relationships, the knowledge (but more important the understanding) and above all the testimonies of those that have tasted the goodness of my God. I know within the depth of my regenerated spirit, that this season is over and God’s next assignment awaits me.

To those that I have worked with and those that are afar, I love you with the love of Christ because I have come to know, to perceive and understand the essential love: that He (Christ) laid down His own life for us.

If you thirst, water is available.
If you hunger, the living bread is available.
If you seek, you’ll find
If you knock, the door will open.
If you ask, He’ll answer.

Love Always


Mechanical Dershowitz

I was tipped off to this article by a rather odd blogger, by the name of Mechanical Crowds, who's taken an instant dislike to me, for some reason. I can't see why seeing as I'm such a delightful fellow.

He's a rather odd, defensive individual who clearly feels that the conflict that is currently raging in the Middle East is a product of the Arabs' ignorant and duplicitous policies, over the past 60 years. While I can't dispute ignorance and duplicity in a lot of Arabs I've met (myself included), I also can't dispute ignorance and duplicity in a lot of people I've met. It's simply a fact about humanity.

The article was penned by Harvard Professor, Alan M. Dershowitz, a staunch defender of the Israeli cause and well known as a celebrity legal adviser, for people like Mike Tyson and Klaus Von Bulow. He knows his shit. In this case, I suspect he also knows his shit IS shit.

The flaws in his 'continuum of civilianity' proposal, is that if you start judging the Arabs that way, you also have to start judging the Israelis that way. Which would make Arab suicide attacks on Israeli civilians, a more acceptable form of resistance, because, as you know, most Israeli citizens are on military standby. And I don't believe it suicide bombing is acceptable (more importantly, it's not effective, either). What makes Dershowitz' theory palatable to supporters of Israel is that they always work with the assumption that there can never be a moral equivalency between Israeli soldiers and Arab terrorists. And yet the FACTS are undeniable, even by someone as blatantly biased as Herr Dershowitz, who earlier in his career, based a lot of his assumptions on the since-discredited and publicly dishonored Joan Peters, who tried to maintain that 19th century Palestine was a barren and unpopulated wasteland. Here are the facts:

FACT: Israel is a nation founded in 1948 with defined borders which DID NOT INCLUDE the Gaza strip, the West Bank nor did it include Jerusalem. Israel acquired these territories after the 1967 War and Israel has no legal right to these occupied territories.

FACT: Due to the 1948 War some 700,000 Palestinian civilians were forced to leave their property and these refugees have never been allowed to return to their property. Refugees from war are entitled by international law to return to their land of origin.

FACT: LAND ACQUIRED BY WAR IS INADMISSIABLE ACCORDING TO INTERNATIONAL LAW. All settlements built on these occupied lands are illegal according to international law. These settlements must be dismantled, vacated or returned.

FACT: Israel has never offered to return to pre existing 1967 borders in exchange for peace in any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I just want you bitches to see this

Yup, it's true: one does become obnoxious when things go well for one. I can't wait to see the fall that comes after my pride. Still, 732!

I'm Rick James, bitch!!!

Must life have meaning to be lived?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Finally, a relationship I can get excited about

Ask her to do anything and she will here. Try "wrestle" and "doggystyle" for some really funny stufff. Finally, for an even better girlfriend experience, turn the volume to mute.

Bowman 2

This flash-based game is super-addictive. Play it here.

Lessons to be Learned From 66 U.N. Resolutions Israel Ignores

This is an interesting article from the Washington Report, circa 1993. It's amazing to me how one side of this conflict can blame the other based on the events of 3, 6 or even 12 months ago while the older history is forgotten or relegated to irrelevance.

By Donald Neff

There is a disturbing lack of historical perspective to the Clinton administration's efforts during its first days in office to shield Israel from United Nations sanctions. Like former Secretary of State James Baker's repeated assertion that both sides must want peace for it to occur, the Clinton-Rabin agreement ignores the sorry record of the 26 years since Israel's conquest of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. During that period Israel has unequivocally demonstrated that it does not want peace in exchange for territory. Its insistence on expelling Palestinians who oppose the occupation and on establishing Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are only the latest manifestations of its desire to retain them. Equally important in revealing its true policy is Israel's successful record of resisting American and other peace initiatives over the years.

These include defeating such imaginative initiatives and tireless mediators as the U.N.'s Gunnar Jarring in the late 1960s, Secretary of State William Rogers' major peace proposals of 1969, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy of the mid-1970s, the lackadaisical journeys of Secretary of State George Shultz in the 1980s, and the intense Bush and Baker efforts of 1991 and 1992. The one success was Jimmy Carter's Camp David process.

However, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was unique. It came at the expense of the Palestinians, which was by Israeli design, and in exchange for Sinai, to which Israel never laid claim. Moreover, Israel received in return for signing the peace treaty with Egypt commitments from the U. S. that have now reached a level of economic and military aid unsurpassed in our history.

The result is that Israel has managed to retain what it has wanted most: East Jerusalem and the West Bank. After so many diplomatic initiatives, it seems fair to conclude Israel does not want peace on any terms but its own.

An end to expulsions is only the latest demand of the international community on Israel, whose defiance goes back to its very beginnings. There remain on the books of the United Nations a collection of resolutions criticizing Israel unmatched by the record of any other nation.

These resolutions, which now number 66, contain the international community's list of indictments against the Jewish state. The basic issues were all spelled out even before the 1967 Security Council resolution calling for a land-for-peace settlement.

Core Issues and Major Themes

The core issues, as contained in resolutions passed before 1967, remain the Palestinian refugee problem, the status of Jerusalem, and the location of Israel's boundaries. These are the basic issues. They spring from 1948, not 1967.

The early U.N. resolutions call for Israel to repatriate or compensate the original 750,000 refugees of 1948-9 and to renounce Jerusalem as its capital and regard it as a corpus separatum, an international city dominated by neither Arab nor Israeli. (The U. S. position on Jerusalem is slightly different and, not surprisingly, closer to Israel's. It says Jerusalem should not be a divided city and its final status should be decided by the parties.) Finally, the original U.N. partition of Palestine awarded Israel an area only about three-quarters of its current official size. Israel's increase was gained at the expense of the Palestinians in the earlier conquests of 1948.

Other unreconciled issues from this earlier period include such sticky situations as a demilitarized zone that Israel had shared with Syria near the Sea of Galilee. Israel forcefully and unlawfully occupied this zone in the 1950s and 1960s, in defiance of its 1949 armistice with Syria. This deception predates Syria's complaints about Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights in 1967. The zone is now integrated into Israel's economy and infrastructure. But Syria retains a legitimate claim to it as disputed territory to be decided only after negotiations.

Aside from the core issues—refugees, Jerusalem, borders—the major themes reflected in the U.N. resolutions against Israel over the years are its unlawful attacks on its neighbors; its violations of the human rights of the Palestinians, including deportations, demolitions of homes and other collective punishments; its confiscation of Palestinian land; its establishment of illegal settlements; and its refusal to abide by the U.N. Charter and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

A History of U.S. Vetoes

There is another major area, largely ignored, that at some point must be faced. It involves the serious distortion of the official Security Council record by the profligate use by the United States of its veto power. In 29 separate cases between 1972 and 1991, the United States has vetoed resolutions critical of Israel. Except for the U.S. veto, these resolutions would have passed and the total number of resolutions against Israel would now equal 95 instead of 66.

These resolutions would have broadened the record by affirming the right of Palestinian self-determination, by calling on Israel to abandon its repressive measures against the Palestinian intifada, by sending U.N. Observers into the occupied territories to monitor Israel's behavior and, most serious, by imposing sanctions against Israel if it did not abide by the Council's resolutions.

Such a list of resolutions passed and resolutions vetoed is unparalleled in United Nations history. The list in itself forms a stunning indictment of Israel's unlawful and uncivilized actions over a period of 45 years and of America's complicity in them.

Yet references to this damning record are totally absent from the vocabularies of American leaders as they go about saying they are seeking peace. If they are really serious about peace, then at some point they must act with the same firmness they displayed toward Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. Had they approached Iraq with the same timorous tactics they are applying to Israel, Iraqi soldiers still would be in Kuwait.

The point is that aggressors have always answered the question of whether they want peace by their actions. If the United States really wants peace in the Middle East, it must insist that Israel abide by the judgment of the world community as expressed in resolutions by the United Nations. The U.S. can do this at any time simply by forsaking the use of the veto and joining the world consensus. Anything less makes a sham of the peace process, and is demeaning to leaders of a democratic country.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Juve down, Milan reprieve

If they appeal one more time, they'll get points added on..

The Italian appeals court confirmed on Tuesday that demoted Juventus will start next season in Serie B but reduced the penalty points imposed on the club for their involvement in a match-fixing scandal from -30 points to -17. AC Milan have been reinstated in the UEFA Champions League but must go through the early qualifying phases and Fiorentina and Lazio are back in Serie A. Juventus plan to appeal this verdict again.

Gallery of 'strangest statues in the world'

Et, voila!

Fox Undercuts Wesley Clark's Sane Words

From the always excellent Media Hounds, a website dedicated to monitoring the rants and lunatic raves of Fox News.

Former NATO Commander Gen. Wesley Clark provided a few minutes of sanity on Fox News Monday (July 24, 2006), but the hosts of "Dayside" did their best to undermine him while he spoke and then followed Clark's appearance with a blood-thirsty guest of the type that has dominated Fox News coverage of the crisis along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Clark, who is a Fox News military analyst, has been a rare guest on "Dayside." The "Dayside" crew is unlikely to invite him back after Clark delivered an articulate, well-thought-out appeal for an approach to the Israeli-Lebanese crisis that reduces civilian casualties, avoids direct U.S. ground troop involvement, and tries to permanently remove Hezbollah from the area along Isral's border. Clark was callling for a NATO force of 10,000 non-U.S. troops that would have the authority to police the area.

Clark followed Dan Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the U.N., who has almost been a regular on the show since the fighting started. This time, Gillerman pushed the "World War III" rhetoric and had the "Dayside" audience in a fighting mood by the time Clark arrived.

While Gillerman said the U.S. should isolate Syria and Iran, Clark said isolation is the wrong strategy for the U.S. (as opposed to Israel) because it causes the U.S. to lose influence on the countries. When a member of the audience asked if the U.S. was considered a serious threat by Syria and Iran after the Iraq war and the lack of public support for it, Clark said those countries do still fear American power, even if operations in Iraq have not made the U.S. look stronger or given the U.S. more influence in the region.

"I see some of our audience shaking their heads. They don’t agree with you," said Huddy, although the camera did not specifically show that. Then she specifically asked for a question or a comment from someone who wanted to disagree with the general. Was she deliberately trying to undermine Clark?

Instead, the question had to do with Gillerman's claim that World War III is upon us. Clark rejected the World War III view of the conflict, and instead sad it is a strategic opportunity for the U.S. to move Hezbollah from that region "if we play our cards right" by sending in a NATO force quickly with a broad enough mandate to accomplish it.

Later, a member of the audience challenged Clark and said she agree with Gillerman that the world is in World War III. "We simply don't appreciate or fear the threat we have from radical Islam. They want to destroy us," she said.

Clark was well-prepared to respond. " I think we have to be careful of labeling things World War III," he said. "We're not in the same position of Israel. ...We don't want to get drawn into a head-to-head conflict if we can avoid it. That's why we should be talking to people."

Huddy did her dirty work again, interrupting Clark, "Can we talk to people like Syria and Iran? How?"

"Yes you can," insisted Clark. "And here’s the thing. You cannot occupy those countries, you cannot simply declare World War III unless you want to raise an army of 12 millon men and march into the Middle East and occupy it, and we’ve already seen the example of Iraq. This is very, very difficult. So this is not like World War II with Germany and Japan. This is entirely different. We should use the military sparingly, as a last resort."

Again Huddy, who rarely challenges a conservative guest, asked Clark how the U.S. could "have diplomacy ... with countries like Syria and Iran. ... These are countries that have been on the record saying let's destroy the United States."

"If you agree with people, the dipolomacy is different. When you don’t agree with people, it’s even more important to talk, to box them in, to understand what they want, to help them see the world differently. Keep the force in reserve,. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up raising a 10-million man army to invade the Middle East and that’s something we don’t want the United States to do and I don’t think your viewers want all their children to spend the rest of their lives in uniform."

After he finished, a woman said, "I disagree with the general, and I agree with Juliet. We’re dealing with people that want to kill us. It's like if somebody's holding a gun to you how can you just talk to them?"

Clark again was ready with a response. "They’re not holding a gun to our heads," he said. "We are there. It’s our military that’s in Iraq. It’s the Israelis that are there with the most powerful vorce in the region. Iran has no way of reaching us except through Hezbollah terrorists. We’re tracking those people in the United States. I’m not saying there’s no threat, but I’m saying don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a head-on conflict like Germany and the United States in World War II. It’s not there."

It was a brief interlude of intelligent discussion. After a break, "Dayside" went to Capt. Chuck Nash, a retired Navy captain, who helped stir up the audience's taste for blood.

"We are being international chumps if we think we can go in and talk to these people," he said. Later, he added that Saddam's WMD's could be in Lebanon.

Maybe that explains why Nash never made it past captain.

What was wrong with that last article?

The article doesn't answer why it's "right" to bomb civilians. I understand that Hezbollah's strategy involves routinely using civilians as human shields, but there's a reason for that: they are a militia, formed in 1982 to provide underground resistance against the then (and still partial) Israeli invasion of Lebanon. They cannot compete against the third best army in the world, on any battlefield and must resort to underground, guerilla-type sorties. Even when a similar organization, Hamas, gained legitimacy by being elected in Gaza, Israel and the U.S., refused to recognize them as such and engage any kind of diplomacy with them. They were akin to the French Resistance in WW2.

What the US and Israel fail to understand (in the case of the Israel, they ignore, but in the case of the George Bush-led US, they are simply deluded) is that Hamas and Hezbollah are popular movements, composed and endorsed by the Arab street. If you destroy them without resolving the underlying principles which caused them to emerge, others will spring up in their place. Democracy isn't simply about the choice of the people, especially if the people feel they're being treated unjustly.

Which leaves one fact, unaddressed: that the US and Israel have now deemed it acceptable to kill civilians, in order to get to terrorists. This appalling slide down the moral spectrum is unprecedented and the world is failing to see this. Even if you are Israeli, and I understand that they've gone through a lot with weak, disingenuous Palestinian leadership as well as openly hostile Syrian and Iranian neighbors, the motives behind this attack strike against the very basis of even our most generous definition of morality: even if your aim is to destroy evil, take care lest you become what you seek to destroy.

Why Israelis believe they're right

Much of the world sees the Israeli attacks on Lebanon as disproportionate. But for the vast majority of Israelis, including some former doves, the war against Hezbollah is deterrence in self-defense.

By Samuel G. Freedman

July 25, 2006 | In the current issue of its Tel Aviv edition, the magazine TimeOut offers the latest variation on Saul Steinberg's famous cartoon of a New Yorker's view of the world. The foreground on the Israeli illustration shows the cafes of the Shenkin district, Tel Aviv's equivalent to SoHo, and the tree-lined expanse of Rothschild Boulevard. Just past the Yarkon River, the city's northern boundary, these delights give way to a landscape marked by Patriot missile batteries, exploding bombs and incoming rockets, some launched from Tehran, Iran.

As so often in Israel, gallows humor explains something essential about the national temperament. In the case of TimeOut's cover, the relevant temperament is Israel's unity in supporting the war against Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in south Lebanon. Anyone who finds it surprising that 95 percent of Israelis endorse the aerial bombardment of Lebanon with its hundreds of civilian casualties, as a recent poll by the newspaper Maariv found, should consider the implicit punch line of TimeOut's visual joke. The battlefront in this war comprises a good deal of sovereign Israel. What might look to much of the outside world like "disproportionate" military action seems to the vast majority of Israelis like deterrence in the cause of self-defense.

All the violence that Israelis have endured since the collapse of the peace process in September 2000 has given them quite an acute understanding of how seriously to take any given attack. One of the mordant jokes created during the al-Aksa intifada was a drawing of a "ruler of attention and shock" with calibrations showing the psychic impact of various Palestinian acts. Throwing a rock at a settler's car rated a mere 1.5 on a scale of 10. A suicide bomber blowing up a bus scored 8.5. The idea of a rocket hitting Haifa, much less 800 of them falling all over northern Israel, did not even occur to the satirist.

Now that precisely such an onslaught has occurred, many Israelis have begun likening the war with Hezbollah, which is really a war with Iran, to the nation's 1948 war of independence. It is being fought not in the occupied territories, as were the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and both intifadas; it is not being fought outside the country, as were the Six Day War in 1967 and the Lebanon war in 1982. The kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on Israeli land was merely a prelude to the larger agenda. Haifa, Safed, Nahariya, Tiberias, Nazareth, Rosh Pina, Kiryat Shmona -- Hezbollah's targets are all inside the internationally recognized boundaries of Israel.

It doesn't take a right-winger to view the stakes as existential. "This is a different kind of war, and an old kind of war," rabbi and author Daniel Gordis, a peace activist during the Oslo period, wrote last week. "Rage has given way to sadness. Disbelief has given way to recognition. Because we've been here before. Because we'd once believed we wouldn't be back here again. And because we know why this war is happening."

Orna Shimoni, whose son was killed during Israel's occupation of south Lebanon after the 1982 invasion, was one of the founders of the "Four Mothers" campaign that called for withdrawal. Even she, in a commentary for the Israeli Web site Ynet News, endorsed the current attacks. "It is clear that we were attacked inside our own sovereign territory, with no provocation at all," she wrote. "There is no question that we must now strengthen both the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and our political echelon to allow them to obtain two main objectives: Bringing our kidnapped soldiers home and disarming Hezbollah, and pushing that organization away from the Israel-Lebanon border."

Why would longtime Israeli doves such as Gordis and Shimoni adopt such seemingly hawkish positions? One way of answering the question is to say that the old templates for analyzing the Israeli-Arab conflict no longer apply. In the traditional view, the warring parties were locked into a "cycle of violence" caused by the competition of two national movements for the same finite piece of land. Compromising on the territory, releasing the West Bank and Gaza from Israeli occupation, would finally terminate the cycle.

Compromise might have worked had the conflict indeed remained one that, like the Cold War, pitted two rational, secular adversaries against each other. But in Hezbollah, as well as in Hamas, Israel now faces an opponent that holds to the absolutism of religious doctrine, specifically the messianic martyrdom of jihadist Islam. The assaults by Hamas from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon both came after Israeli withdrawals to borders accepted by the United Nations. For six years in south Lebanon and one year in Gaza, there has been no occupation, and Ehud Olmert built a centrist governing coalition in Israel on the promise of pulling out from most of the West Bank.

Maybe the people so ready to assail Israel now should have been watching more closely a few months ago when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran convened a conference devoted to the exterminatory premise of a "world without Zionism." Maybe they should have been listening more closely when Ahmadinejad declared his desire to "wipe Israel off the map." Instead the conference was pooh-poohed as the same old demagogy, a populist giving the red meat to his base, and the translation of the speech was dissected by Iran apologists as if the only relevant question was whether the president's Farsi phraseology meant altering the map with a gum eraser or white-out.

Plainly, Ahmadinejad took himself seriously, as seriously as one presumes Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah took his own reference to attacking "occupied Palestine." By which he meant not the West Bank and Golan Heights but, well, Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The reality of such a threat, backed up by 12,000 missiles and rockets, makes for a certain sort of consensus in Israeli society. Yes, dissident notes have been struck by the politician Yossi Sarid and the historian Tom Segev, and, yes, about 2,000 Jewish and Arab Israelis took part in a peace march on Saturday in Tel Aviv. Supporters of Israel's overall strategy have been vigorously debating the effectiveness of its aerial bombing tactics. No thinking person would welcome the destruction and carnage in Lebanon.

But decisions to go to war do not get made blithely in Israel. It has no death cult. It has an army of conscripts, not volunteers. When even one soldier dies, those six degrees of separation touch a vast share of a small nation's population. And somebody comes up with yet another astringent joke to ward off the dread. One of the latest, recounted by Gordis in his recent essay, was a skit on a television newscast. It had one Israeli telling another, "Mi-po ani lo zaz," this is the only place where Jews can be safe. When the camera pulled back from the men, it showed they were standing in London.

The road to Couples Porn

It really stinks. I don't like my co-workers much and I have even less responsibilities than I did in my previous job, despite a promotion from copywriter to senior copywriter. When I say I don't like them, I mean I don't like them on a professional level, not a personal one. One of my supervisors changed a word I wrote in an ad, from 'dazzled' to 'blown away'. These kinds of things are my call, as the main copywriter on the ad (senior copywriter, no less). Do I sound bitter?

There also seems to be a distinct lack of common sense, pervading the premises which I can only attribute to weak management. Maybe it's inexperience, maybe it's people doing things the wrong way for too long, which can be contagious or maybe it's just sheer incompetence in all the wrong places. The bottom line, something is seriously wrong with the fabric of this place. The account team don't like the creative team (I mean, really don't like us) and the creative team don't respect the account team. I know this sounds like 'business as usual' for all you advertising veterans, but this is more than normal. These are serious cracks in the infrastructure and not really conducive to an effective agency environment.

People seem more prone to talking and less prone to actually getting the stuff done. The funny thing is, no one seems to notice and, according to our ranking and profits, we're one of the more successful agencies in New York. Maybe I'm just an idealist (I'm certainly not a perfectionist) and am overly sensitive to things not being just right.

Who am I kidding? I AM an idealist, but I can also be right sometimes. It's all fucking lip service in this business, which shouldn't surprise me seeing how I work in ADVERTISING.

God, why can't I just start my own successful porn production company specialising in erotic content aimed at couples?

Grant me this one wish!

Match 22

Not being a stranger to humiliation and at the same time, irresistably drawn to it (no doubt, some expression of masochism and repressed self-loathing due to a poor relationship with my mother, a distant slash absent father and few sources of positive reinforcement growing up) I signed up for, 2 weeks ago. I put some fairly uninspired ramblings up about wanting someone "curious" and "bright" and "attractive" along with a couple of undistinguished pictures of me, smiling. The same smile that causes small children to clutch their mothers' skirts and once caused Robin Williams to leave the Union Square branch of Forbidden Planet. Yeah...nuff said, eh?

The tally so far is this: emails sent SEVEN, emails responding to my emails TWO, unsolicited emails ZERO. Girls who wrote back: cute Egyptian girl with a good sense of humor (I know, hard to believe) and a rather polite Japanese girl who, after maintaining radio silence for two days after she read my email, sent me a polite response with all the safe generalities about how "she always happy to meet people in neighborhood". Not being the sort to acknowledge subtle sledgehammers to the ribs, I wrote back and this time, got a fitting nothing in return.

Which got me to thinking (well, actually, I think all the time...what I did was I switched from thinking to picking on myself, which is more entertaining than it sounds): what is it, that women want?

After much contemplation, I think I've figured it out and it's safe to say, I haven't got it:

1. Good-looking guys. Left-side/ right-side symmetry, piercing eyes, strong chin, striking profile, whatever you want to call it, women respond to it and I don't got it.

2. Familiarity: be that religious, social, racial familiarity (I haven't tabulated the number of caucasians who are only looking for caucasians, but it's pretty telling. To be fair, a lot of other ethnicities are looking for caucasians too; they're very much a mega-brand that stands for wealth, status and opportunity) or background familiarity or failing that, the fucked-up girls gravitate toward guys who look like their fathers.

3. Simple guys: you can group confidence under there, the ability to be relaxed and detached and all sorts of other indicators that while the lights are on, the engine isn't running, an absence of demons, turmoil or inner struggle. Relaxed people are attractive. The only problem is that some people are too stupid to know they shouldn't be relaxed. They get laid anyway.

4. Popular guys: at first, I wanted to say cool guys but while that's accurate, it's not comprehensive. Fo shizzle, chicks LOVE them the bad boys, the ones with the ink, the rebels and the instigators, the non-conformists and the ones who have a problem with the world. But they love them even more when they have friends and a community and a family and a share on Fire Island. Loners don't sell.

5. Good bodies: women are as shallow as men and when a guy has a killer body, it counts for him even if a lot of the other traits aren't there. They rationalize: sure, he has his faults but with a body like that, I'll come as soon as he takes his shirt off and my friends will lust their slutty asses after him, too.

6. Flawed guys: I don't mean not having the stuff I listed in points 1-5 (those aren't flaws, if you don't have them: they're deal-breakers and you're fucked), I mean stuff that women can work with. Like a record or an inability to hold a job or guys who only watch sports or who can't maintain a conversation. A project that chicks can throw themselves into, whole-heartedly while simultaneously assuring them that they are better than their boy.

Let me stop you here. I've got more points to cover but the coming points are different. Ladies, once you start checking points seven through ten off your list, it means that you are in the phase of life we call 'settling for second best', known in some circles as 'adulthood' or, alternatively, 'Why I'm sick of man-boys who cheat on me and steal money from my purse'.

7. Men with money: It's nice, isn't it? Money is pretty sweet, especially when it belongs to somebody else who doesn't know the value of it and is using it to get your attention. All women love that, except the ones who have money, which means that they are angry that they don't have that in their lives. You see, money doesn't just buy you things, it's like the score in a video game: rack up more or get some poor sucker to spend more of it on you, and you win. Money is the ultimate 'Well, at least he has...'. And it's easier to face life knowing you're stiull going to nice restaurants and not craving Louis Vuitton bags. Finally, rich men just love to be cheated on with poor men who have points 1 through 6!

8. Successful men: Those represent achievement and the future and women immediately think of ways to breed them. Not have sex with them or marry, breed them. It's natural selection at it's finest, albeit with an urban twist. And if women could think of a way to mate with these men and then kill them, hide the carcass and rejoin, the rest of their lives, they would without batting an eyelid. There's a precedent for this sort of behavior in nature. Women know that.

9. Needy men: also sometimes known as men who are devoted to one women. Not men who pretend they are or are afraid of getting caught or "respect" women too much. I'm talking about men who simply don't have the urge to go out and propogate, which, let's face it, is a pretty innate male characteristic. These men, cuckolded beyond repair, represent a very prized female bounty: a submissive partner who places her needs above his own.

10. Gay men: Women may deny this but it's to no avail. If men gave women everything they wanted and everything they asked for and acted in the exact way women wished they would act...they would be gay men. Let's face it, the differences between the sexes, the very source of their tension is the reason men and women are together. They're both attracted to something on a physical level, attached to it on a practical, mental level while repulsed by it on a psychological level. The difference is that women would be happier with a gay man than men would be with a gay woman. Because, in life, women value the form while men value the substance. It's a very striking irony.

Before I get all the hate mail, accusing me of being a misogynist, let me place this one gigantic disclaimer: men are no peaches either and I'm aware of a lot of our inconsistencies and inadequacies. But this post is about my experience and the conclusions I drew from it as they pertain to ME. I'm not speaking for all men and certainly not any women, I'm merely commenting on how women react and interact with me. If other men agree with me, I can't help that, so before you ladies fire off your lava-coated, molten rocks of criticism, show this to a man and ask him what he thinks...and then debate HIM. After you're done with that, I'd be happy to discuss things with you.

He probably took most of the blows intended for me, anyway:)

Monday, July 24, 2006

"So was you shook when you saw me, nigga?"

Black Betty, that is SOLID GOLD!

The 'Cursor' Kite

Senator Ted Stevens, you are a fucking idiot.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sorry to my vast audience (all eight of you) for not blogging much, the past few days. The weather, the dearth of inspiration and a sudden attack of the flu have inhibited my natural instinct to blog about the daily goings-on, at the slightest drop of a hat. I'm also patiently waiting for my brand new MacBook, and once that arrives, even my bowel movements will be recorded with meticulous detail.

After that promise, eight becomes one...including the writer of this blog. Good thing blogs don't operate on a ratings system, otherwise I would have been canceled in the first week, due to poor viewership. Or worse, sold to UPN.

So the interesting things that happened this week:

1. It rained like we were in an Amazon jungle, last Friday. This summer has been a tremendous disappointment, weather-wise. I haven't even been to the beach yet.
2. During said rain, I saw a pretty girl running through the rain while using her MacBook Pro to shield her head, because she didn't have an umbrella. I noted how, had that been me, I would have used my head to shield the MacBook Pro. After all, that's easily worth three grand, while my head isn't worth the space it occupies.
3. I got sick last night and spent an horrible night, battling a slight temperature, sore throat, nausea and a hyperactive saliva gland (don't ask). I also hallucinated a bit and had quite an erotic dream involving a former co-worker of mine. I work up and resisted the (quite powerful) urge to call her and ask her if she wanted to get a drink this week.
4. It's been around three months since I last had sex. Being a sexual camel, this isn't a big number and I've certainly gone longer without. It was interesting to note, however, that while the 'force is strong in this one', I don't have any interest in casual sex and my recent fantasies involve watching pornographic material, imagining I'm watching it with a girlfriend and then relieving myself to the fantasy of her. I have porn on and I fantasize about watching it with an imaginary girlfriend. Yeah, that's normal.
5. I got a letter from the USCIS (Immigration) saying that my background check was still pending with the FBI and that if I didn't hear back in six months, I should call them again. Fucking discrimination. I'm going to file a lawsuit at the end of the month (called a 'writ of mandamus') and I'm also going to give this place six months from July 19th. Meaning if, by January 19th 2007, this thing hasn't been resolved, I'm going to pack my bags and head off to the UK. I'm not saying they don't discriminate against middle eastern men over there, just that I'm so thick, it'll take me months to realise it.
6. I spent last Friday having dinner with an old friend/ girl-friend and then we went to another friend's house for a party. Friend-having-party was in a foul mood because her Egyptian boyfriend's parents didn't want her marrying their son (because she's older than he is and because, apparently, she drinks). It made for an interesting evening, to say the least. I wish I cared what Egyptian parents thought of me, maybe I'd have turned out differently. I don't think I'd ever date or marry Egyptian, in any event. They're the most disingenuous race of people I've ever had the displeasure of running across. I'm not surprised the FBI is discriminating against them. I would, too.
7. I'm planning a trip to Disingenuous-Land around the end of the year. It'll have been over two years since my last trip. I don't miss it that much though I do miss the family. I just don't recognize myself over there, though it would be nice to catch up with old friends.
8. Work is still retarded. I get no time to come up with new lines, so I thought I'd try a new tact: I dedicated myself to finishing all my assignments in 48 hours, which I did. The result is, my boss immediately gave me a new assignment with an even shorter timeline. I don't see me being here much longer.
9. Going to the beach next weekend. The only problem is I know the girl inviting me to go to the beach with her, wants to get in my pants, bulging waistline and all. I'm not really into that but at the same time, I'd like to go to the beach. My solution? Three bottles of wine and if I have to screw her to get to the beach, I will. I always wanted to be a porn star and this is good practice.
10. My neighbor, the eternally lava-hot Tanya, is in Europe this weekend. I bumped into her on the train last week and we had a really enjoyable conversation. At least, it was enjoyable from my end. From her end, the least of my achievements was to prove to her that her strange, shady neighbor from downstairs actually had an ounce of charm and wit. Whether that's enough to convince a woman to date you and let you look at her naked is another story. She is top of my list, though: she's smart, she's assertive and she's devastatingly beautiful. Chances of it happening are pretty slim, mainly because I won't outright ask her if she'd date me (if she said no, I'd either have to move or start wearing a disguise) and even if I did, I doubt I'm her type. I doubt I'm anyone's type and this isn't me being diffident or modest. I've become a strange dude. If you don't believe that, you must not have read points 1 through 9.

Friday, July 21, 2006

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pacu vs. Sheephead

A few days ago, there was a story in the media about a strange-looking fish with 'human teeth'. It turns out this is a known species of fish known as the Pacu, which has a wide mouth and molars on it's lower lip. You can see it here. It's not even the strangest looking fish on the block: the Sheephead fish (above) has both upper and lower molars and boy, do..they...look...creepy!

Marissa Miller is criminal

How to win friends and influence booty

Time, I'm convinced, has not engineered my recent bout of clarity. I'm just going through a period where my mind is unusually clear and prescient. And the conclusion that I've reached is that I'm a bigger idiot than even I thought I would be, during my last moment of clarity.

First of all, I get myself into the craziest schemes. From tattoos to ridiculous purchases to visa-marriages. All in the name of alleviating boredom. Boredom, which is self-imposed because I don't trust that people can provide me with inspiration. This exile lasts for several months. Until I get horny or lonely or conclude that I derive even less inspiration from myself than anyone else. So I emerge from my shell and focus on socialisation/ fornication. But my desperation and exile-accentuated diffidence betray me and I can never play it cool. Which scares people away and cements my own feelings that people don't inspire, they conspire. So I withdraw once again and simmer in my own alienation. It's all highly destructive and unstable.

It's that brief moment in time before my second withdrawl (coitus duo interruptus, if you like) that my mind takes on this sage-like prescience, only over my own shambolic life, and I see things a lot clearer. It's because my brain starts moving a lot faster, the side effects of which are good and bad: impulsiveness, difficulty focusing but an amplified ability to think on the fly, increased creativity (you should see some of the lines I've come up with for work; a lot of them aren't useable but they draw from a seriously deep reservoir), impulse shopping, nervous spasms, inability to sit still for two seconds..

Or I could have just told you my mania is back. Which means that in two months, I'm going to be back in the dark throes of depression.

In the meantime, I'm so horny that I have to close my eyes when I'm in an elevator with women. Creepy, isn't it?

Sex, at times like this (meaning this part of my cycle), allows me get rid of that manic energy. The problem is that my brain isn't equipped to go out and solicit it because the rules are you have to play it cool. And there's nothing cool about my demanour right now.

My brain won't slow down and I don't trust myself to be cool. Which means I never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Did you hear about the gay midget?

He came out of the cupboard.

You've been 'Dooced'

British secretary in Paris becomes Online 'cause celebre'
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British secretary working in Paris who says she was fired because her Paris employer objected to her Weblog has provoked an old and New Media storm.

Unmarried mother Catherine Sanderson -- "La Petite Anglaise" to 3,000 regular readers of her Internet diary -- is launching legal action in France, claiming unfair dismissal against accountancy firm Dixon Wilson, British media reports say.

The "old fashioned" firm was never named in her blog. Sanderson, 33, also remained anonymous -- except for her photograph on her blog.

Now Sanderson claims to been "dooced" -- the New Media term for getting fired for what you write in a blog after a Web designer lost her job for writing about her job and colleagues on her site.

The rise and fall of "La Petite Anglaise" has added a new dimension to her tales of life with "Mr Frog", the French father of her three-year-old daughter "Tadpole" and office life with her "old school type" boss in the firm and other senior partners with "plummy Oxbridge accents," the UK's Press Association says.

Sanderson told the Daily Mail she was "made to feel like a naughty schoolgirl called up before the head" when Dixon Wilson suspended her.

Sanderson claims she was dismissed for "gross misconduct" because her blog, clearly carrying her picture, risked bringing the company into disrepute. She was also accused of using office time to write her blog.

Among references to her work at the accountancy firm was, under the heading "Titilation" the moment she revealed her cleavage during a video conference and descriptions of the office Christmas party.

At this event she revealed that her boss had committed the "unforgivable faux pas" of pulling a Christmas cracker before the senior partner.

One boss she describes as "very old school... He wears braces and sock suspenders (although I don't have any firsthand experience of those), stays in gentlemen's clubs when in London, and calls secretaries 'typists.'

"When I speak to him, I can't prevent myself from mirroring his plummy Oxbridge accent. His presence at this precise moment is both unhelpful and potentially embarrassing."

As news of Sanderson's dismissal was revealed, her blog "hits" more than trebled to 10,000, PA said.

On Wednesday more than 220 followers of her Web site recorded their comments on her dismissal. Most condemned her employers for targeting the world of the blogger and urged Sanderson to keep fighting.

But a few warned her that being online carried the same degree of responsibility as any other form of communication.

Now the course of her legal challenge -- one of the first involving bloggers' rights -- can be followed by a global audience if she chooses to continue her Bridget Jones-style saga, PA reported.

Originally from York, northern England, she has always worked in Paris, saying she started her Web site on a whim one day, after reading The Guardian's guide to Weblogs "and becoming engrossed in the adventures of Belle de Jour."

According to the British media reports she is now fighting for compensation from a French industrial tribunal of more than £54,000 ($98,000) -- two years' pay.

Dixon Wilson refused to comment on the case but according to the Daily Mail one senior partner at the firm was said to have been "incandescent with rage" about what she had written about him.
'Matter of principle'

Sanderson says she is fighting the case as "a matter of principle" to establish her private right to blog.

On Wednesday Daily Telegraph Paris correspondent Colin Randall, who first wrote about the plight of "La Petite Anglaise," used his own blog to ask whether print journalism is about to be smothered by the online age and "the march of the New Media."

One blogger responded: "I find it interesting that bloggers claim to be `the New Media' and then complain about being terminated from their positions at companies for being bloggers: would you expect to be terminated if you `moonlighted' for the traditional media?

"Say you worked for a large corporation, and in your spare time you wrote an anonymous 'insider's view' column for the Financial Times. Would you expect anything less than termination upon discovery?"

But another asked: "Where does the influence your employer has on your day-to-day life stop?"

On Sanderson's own Web site the vast bulk of correspondents supported her, but one blogger warned: "You do have to be so careful with publishing these days, and it's a mistake to think that blogging, because it is so easy, is any different."

Another wrote from Canada: "I do not intend for this to sound mean-spirited, but seriously, did you not see this coming?"

Sanderson told the Daily Mail she planned a book and had had "already worked out some proposals for publishers."

One of her supporters wrote encouragingly on her Web site: "You, Petite, are about to become infamous!"

People only listen to themselves

This won't do any good.

That's because "we" have to follow a "strategy". The "terrorists" must be "defeated". Drop the bombs but we need to show "restraint" about it. Don't target civilians but if the democratically-elected Lebanese government can't handle the foreign militias, then it's ok to bomb civilians to pressure the terrorists. I'm sick of the hypocrisy. I'm sick of the biggest cartel in the world, namely the West, applying the rules to other members or their cartel, but not to others. I am sick of words that people only pay attention to when it comes from someone on their side. I'm sick of being sick as well as the whole, friggin' human race.

How to dress like Uncle Mo

Those of you who have actually met me know that I'm a pretty snazzy dresser. It's not uncommon for heads to turn (men and women) when I make an entrance in, say, a club or a YMCA. The personality has an awful lot to do with it but the threads is the reason why.

To help the upcoming generation be all they can be (from a sartorial sense), I've decided to share some of my secrets. This week's profile is a website called which, as you can probably decipher, is dedicated to retro clothing. If you're hanging out with some friends and you want something that says classy and distinctive and yet hardly trying-to-look-this-good, go for a vintage bowling shirt. Having drinks with the ladies and want to evoke the Rat Pack sophistication? Try one of their classic martini shirts. Mix it up with some plain chinos and a pair of black shoes and you've got yourself a look for the ages. Oh, and there's some stuff for the dolls there, as well.

Next week, I'll help you pick out casual urban wear that doesn't look like you're copying some guy in Williamsburg.

The Stella Im Hultberg portfolio is really impressive. It's got this gentle defiance about it. I dig.

A Christian organization in New Zealand devoted to promoting beating children has produced a booklet with instructions on how to hurt your child. A spokesman said the brochure was written for a Christian audience and outlined the biblical philosophy of child punishment. Many Christians did not want to see smacking banned as that would take away parental authority, but he conceded the brochure would appear as "total nonsense" to non-Christians.

Arkansas to pardon cap'n Jack Sparrow

State is ready to pardon Keith Richards. Rocker was charged 31 years ago with reckless driving

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) -- The state of Arkansas is prepared to pardon Keith Richards for being a reckless driver, 31 years later.

The state Parole Board on July 3 approved an application for clemency submitted on behalf of Richards, the 62-year-old guitarist for the Rolling Stones, by Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The board posted the official notice Tuesday, and the pardon will be forwarded to Huckabee within 30 days. When the governor signs it, it will clear Richards' record in Arkansas.

Richards was arrested July 5, 1975, as he, bandmate Ron Wood, a security guard and a fan traveled from Memphis, Tennessee, to Dallas, Texas. The group had stopped in Fordyce, Arkansas, for lunch, then got back on the road with Richards driving.

A Fordyce officer saw the car swerve -- Richards said later he bent to adjust the radio -- and stopped the vehicle. Police said they smelled marijuana and took the four to City Hall.

Richards was charged with reckless driving and possession of a concealed knife, and the fan was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The knife charge was dropped, and Richards pleaded guilty to reckless driving and paid a $162.50 fine.

Fran Curtis, a Stones publicist, said she knew nothing about the application for clemency. Messages left for Richards' manager, Jane Rose, weren't returned.

Huckabee plays bass guitar in a band called Capitol Offense that performed for the RNC, in 2004 in New York City.

The governor said he got the idea for a pardon when he realized that Richards' impression of Arkansas "was marred by a misdemeanor traffic stop."

During a Stones concert in Little Rock in March, Richards asked whether anyone in the audience was from Fordyce, adding, "I used to know the chief of police there."

Virtual Kama Sutra

A nice collection of Kama Sutra sculptures that you can scroll around. Not safe for the work place yo. Courtesy of Will.

Bush gropes Merkel

Cheeky Monkey...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Laying things to rest

A few years ago, I ended contact with a girl named Catherine. The ending was bitter and acrimonious, as you can probably tell from this earlier post, and despite the passage of time (four years now), the matter has never really escaped my consciousness. I think today, finally, I could put some closure on this because after four years of twisting it around in my brain, I see a complete picture. Or, as complete a picture as I'm likely to arrive at.

I don't know if the fact that I've held on to an acrimoniously-ended relationship as long as I did is a testament to my obsession with understanding my failings or an indictment of my inability to get past events in my life, emotionally. My favorite answer is both. There was a truth I needed to reach, a truth I could accept as such and not just a justification that we hypothesise, find the facts that lend credence to it and force ourselves to accept and forget, for the sake of our peace of mind. I think I'm there. I hope I am. I'm desperate to get past this but not desperate enough to replace one ill-fitting justification with another.

First up, she definitely made mistakes, some of them unforgivable. She led me on, she took me in, she focused on me entirely and then she withdrew with such force and lack of explanation, it was like a vital organ had been ripped out through my chest. Then, I was given the outsider treatment, the cold eyes that pretend they've never seen you before. Those are harsh because you immediately (and over the coming few years), proceed to recall all the vulnerable moments you allowed her to be a part of and you become ashamed at your own weakness and enraged at the force of her betrayal. The shame, and the rage, are natural. The shame, and rage, I've covered before.

What's new today is my part in all this. What I failed to see at the time and what I failed to understand, even though it was right there, and what I failed to allow myself to accept, because it would have meant forgiving her. Maybe you understand truths like that, not after a certain distance from the event, but at a certain point. Maybe the pain of rejection and hurt will always trump our ability to see what's in plain view. I don't know. All I know is that it's as clear to me now as it wasn't back then.

She had life to live, whereas I didn't which made it easy for me to give up my life to be with her, but not so easy for her. She moved to New York and she wanted to experience life; she wasn't done experiencing it, in fact, she was just starting off. Being in any kind of relationship is no way to do that, in fact, it defies the point. It's too restrictive and involves compromise, which is never on the cards for someone who wants to experience life. To take it in, indiscriminately, whatever it may bring. You learn from life and the hunger for learning can never truly be put aside. I, of all people, should have known that.

She moves here, she reaches out to me, a familiar presence whom she felt comfortable with and engages in a sexual relationship. To me, it felt right, even though I initially had my doubts about it. To her, it was a comfort bridge, something that made a big move from Boston to New York, easier. She felt confident that we could relapse into friendship once it was over-in retrospect, a horrendous mistake. I saw it as her moving here to be close to me.

How humiliating it is to admit something like that. I mean, the ego on me, really. It might be an understandable assumption but out here in the cold, hard light of blog scrutiny, it doesn't make me feel any less humiliated.

By the time she withdrew (with panicked swiftness and uncharacteristic clumsiness), it was too late. My own insecurities and refusal to believe that I hadn't done something wrong had kicked in, and I lashed out every way I knew how. I tried to see it from her point of view (I remember, sitting in my apartment, trying) but I just couldn't. All I fixated on was how crudely she's withdrawn and how cruel it felt.

I made peace with her at the time and decided to keep my distance, a dignified retreat that allowed me to wallow freely in self-pity. Then, on a trip to Egypt, I discovered she'd told someone that I had pursued her aggressively and wouldn't take no for an answer. That set me off again and I hurled fury-laced emails at her, wishing her the worst kind of deaths. Her lying about it so blatantly, I can now put down to a desire to save face, but at the time, it represented her mendacious, vindictive nature and confirmed my own victim-like mentality. That I had been played and boy, was I humiliated.

Since then, we haven't spoken a word to each other. I ran into her on the street, a few weeks ago and we barely acknowledged each other. It's better this way because there's nothing to be said. She fucked up and I didn't understand. I wouldn't want to verbalize my lack of understanding any more than she would her recklessness with my feelings.

There's a really poorly thought out Arabic proverb (adhered to with fury these days, in the mess that is the Middle East) that says "The instigator is the more guilty party" which, in plain English, means if you start it, it's on you. While there's a neat righteousness to it, it's not something I can subscribe to. We're all judged on our actions in this world, but everyone knows the subtle workings of our own mind. I contribute to everything around me and a lot of times, I take advantage of it. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the outcome of things with that girl are as mine as the choices that I poured into the whole regrettable episode.

That's one lesson but it's not the biggest lesson. The biggest lesson, for me, is that people need to live their lives and you can't try and slow them down. In fact, it's best to not get in their way at all. If you can show someone that, that could be the foundation of a lasting relationship. If you, or they, feel that they can't, it's best to get out of the way. There is no stemming the tide of human passion. If it's a passion they can share, they'll invite you on board. If it's a passion they need to fulfill on their own, no amount of flagging down will cause them to take you on. And if they do, they'll hate you for life.

And it's probably for having those passions that you were attracted to them in the first place. It's ironic how you can love someone for something and then when they cite the same thing as a reason for being away from you, you resent them for it. I remember, early on in our friendship, understanding Catherine's need to get out of her shell, explore her passions and succeed away from the insulated reality of her past. I understood it so perfectly and then just like that, I forgot it.

I always used to say I never trusted a girl who'd never had her heart broken. Now, I'm going to modify that a little. I only want to be with a girl who's connected with her passions, at her own pace and decided there's room for me.

Get a Life

"Get a Life", published in the mid 1990s, is about a character named Monsieur Jean. He's a minor literary figure and translator, leading the bohemian life of a bachelor in Paris. As the book progresses, he's slowly realizing that he's getting to the age when living in a crappy apartment and never being able to sustain a relationship isn't as much fun as it used to be, and the not-so-bohemian life his friends are turning to is looking a lot more attractive. (He has a recurring nightmare, or fantasy, of a castle of bachelors besieged by an army of women who keep throwing babies at them.) Eventually, he finds himself taking care of a friend's kid, fumbling at domesticity and thinking about letting down his own "drawbridge."

Falsely Accused

July 18, 2006 | Shortly before Thanksgiving 2004, I took my three kids camping in Mistletoe State Park near Augusta, Ga., with my best friend and his two kids. After six years in Savannah, my family was about to move to France for my wife's new job as an administrator for an American company. We had all been camping together before and figured the trip would be a great getaway from all of the packing, painting and stresses of moving, and would allow the kids to be together for one last time. Our wives decided to stay home to organize the packing and spend some quiet time together to say goodbye.

For us, camping has always been a back-to-basics experience. We pack in all food and supplies to our remote site and take out trash and whatever is not consumed. For toilets, we dig holes with entrenching shovels and cover our traces. We teach our kids respect and responsibility in the forest. And we teach them to have a good time.

During the three-day weekend trip, we fished and cooked kielbasa, hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire. We pitched our tents near the tip of a small peninsula jutting into Clarks Hill Lake, where red clay beaches rimmed our site. We scoured the water's edge for mussel shells and arrowheads and skipped sleek stones on the water. The days were clear and cool, with high blue skies and wisps of moving clouds. Although the nights were cold, the weekend was as perfect as we could have hoped for.

The kids ran from one thing to the next with abandon, one minute scavenging wood for a fire, and the next returning breathlessly to tell us they had spotted a deer. At night, the tall pines sawed in the wind as my friend, whom I'll refer to as Rusty, melted aluminum cans in the campfire using a tin can as a crucible. His crude alchemy and the sudden sense of the world as laboratory lighted our imaginations as he poured the quicksilver-like liquid over the rocks ringing the fire. The kids grew excited and impatient, studying the metal-coated rocks and waiting for the aluminum to cool into odd-shaped medallions they salvaged as mementos.

Later, after the kids had gone to bed in their tent and the cold descended, Rusty and I sat in our camp chairs, having a beer and warming our boots a little too close to the fire. I still wear that pair of Wolverines with the half-melted soles. And every time I put them on, I think of what happened when we returned from that weekend and how it changed all of our lives.

As usual during the trip, we took several photos. Because I forgot my digital camera, I bought a disposable camera at a gas station on the way to the campground. I took pictures of the kids using sticks to beat on old bottles and cans and logs as musical instruments. I took a few of my youngest daughter, Eliza, then age 3, skinny-dipping in the lake, and my son, Noah, then age 8, swimming in the lake in his underwear, and another of Noah naked, hamming it up while using a long stick to hold his underwear over the fire to dry. Finally, I took a photo of everyone, as was our camping tradition, peeing on the ashes of the fire to put it out for the last time. We also let the kids take photos of their own.

When we returned on Sunday, I forgot the throwaway camera and Rusty found it in his car. He gave it to his wife, whom I'll call Janet, to get developed, and she dropped it off the next day with two other rolls of film at a local Eckerd drugstore. On Tuesday, when she returned to pick up the film, she was approached by two officers from the Savannah Police Department. They told her they had been called by Eckerd due to "questionable photos."

One officer told Janet "there were pictures of little kids running around with no clothes on, pictures of minors drinking alcohol," she recounted for me in an e-mail. "I asked to see the pictures and was told I couldn't. I explained there must be a mistake. I was kind of laughing, you know, 'Come on guys. There must be an explanation. This is crazy. Let me see the pictures.' The officer told me that he personally did not find [the photos] offensive and that he had camped himself as a kid and knows what goes on." But the officer also told Janet that "because Eckerd's had called them and that because there were pictures of children naked, genitalia and alcohol, they would have to investigate."

Janet asked the photo lab clerk what was on the photos and the clerk "replied very seriously that they were bad, that there was one that looked like a child's head had been cut off, one with children drinking beer and pictures of naked kids." As she drove to her house, Janet said, "I was in shock and felt sick to the pit of my stomach and was trying to process all of it." She called my wife, who was driving home, and explained what had happened. Sensing how bad this might become, my wife pulled her car to the side of the road and fought the urge to throw up.

Neither my wife nor I, Rusty nor Janet has a criminal record of any sort. Yet over the next several weeks, the Savannah Police Department and the Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) investigated us for "child pornography" and then "sexual exploitation of a minor." We suffered the embarrassment of having DFCS interview our family, friends, employers and our children's teachers, asking them whether we were suitable parents and what kind of relationship we had with our kids.

During that time, my wife and I, our children and friends, lived in a kind of suspended animation, a limbo of unreality where our privacy was invaded and we were stripped of our sense of dignity and seemingly our rights. To be accused unjustly of any crime is a terrible thing. But to be accused of using your own children for pornographic purposes or sexual exploitation bears a special taint because no matter how highly people think of you, they don't know you in your most intimate moments, which forever leaves you open to suspicion.

Being investigated for child pornography is so grave that people might assume it has to be based in fact. And yet I would learn, as so many other horrified parents have, that it can begin simply by somebody picking up the phone.

"It's not going to be a big deal," Rusty told my wife, not long after we all heard the news. But after Rusty's initial visit to the police station to explain the photos to the officers, our optimism began to wane. "It was evident the police did not view us as innocent until proven guilty," Rusty told me in a recent e-mail. "I sought out the officer in charge of the unit that investigates these 'crimes,' and when he finally agreed to meet with me he was rude, unprofessional, and very accusatory before hearing from anyone involved."

The police, however, didn't file any charges against us. But they had digitized six of the photos and sent copies to DFCS for further investigation, which is standard practice in such cases. The officers wouldn't let Rusty see any of the photos in the station, and so we had no idea what was on them, as we had allowed the kids to take photos of their own. One of the photos, an officer said, showed a child drinking beer.

After our case was turned over to DFCS, we began what seemed like an excruciatingly long period of waiting to hear what would come next. As the days ticked by, Janet told me, "It was impossible for me to function, concentrate or focus on work. I couldn't eat, felt sick and scared." My wife and I began to question even our routine judgment because of a sudden awareness of being observed by some unseen entity that seemed everywhere and nowhere at once. A hug or a quick goodnight kiss with our little girls and boy suddenly seemed questionable. Were my hands in the wrong place? Did that kiss on the corner of the lips of my 3-year-old look more than merely innocent to someone? A pat on the bum as our kids ran past suddenly seemed dangerous through our second-guessing, suddenly all-critical eye.

Each intimate moment entailed a profound searching, an almost paralytic invasion of our deepest privacy. We began to observe ourselves until each moment became one long scrutiny and the pressure it created in our daily lives grew and grew. We feared that if we were found guilty, our children would be taken away and put in a foster home. We worried about my wife's new job in France because we might have to stay in the U.S. to fight any charges. Everything was pure assumption because DFCS didn't communicate at all and so we were left to imagine the worst.

Our friend Rusty stood to lose his prominent job in government, which he had held for years, simply from the appearances of the investigation. "I waited in constant anxiety of the wildfire of whispers about my arrest for being a child pornographer, molester or worse," he said. "It was terrifying."

At this point, our children, who were already stressed by the upcoming move and leaving their schools and friends, were unaware of what was happening. Like Janet and Rusty, we tried to keep it that way by not discussing the case around them. But our kids knew by our blank stares and depressed demeanor that something was seriously wrong. As the pressure grew, my wife and I began to lose our tempers more often over small, simple things. I would explode when my daughter spilled a glass of Juicy Juice at the dinner table or overreact and deny everything when the kids would ask us if there was something wrong. And then I would be overcome with guilt and shame at my inability to take control of what was happening to us.

At night, my wife and I lay side by side in bed in the darkness, staring up into the ceiling, unable any longer to find words in the face of the vast, voidlike possibility of losing our children based on pure accusation. It was a secret too painful to keep but impossible to talk about to anyone else. We felt ashamed simply by association with the charge. As a journalist, I have lived for weeks in terrible conditions in war refugee camps and been under fire on the battlefield. But those weeks of waiting and wondering what would happen to our family were by far the most stressful I have ever experienced.

On the advice of my wife's mother, a former Florida public utilities commissioner, we contacted Mills Fleming, a local lawyer who was also a childhood friend of my wife. We needed expert help navigating the accusations. He told us that when he contacted the Office of Child Protection at the Chatham Department of Family and Children Services, the agency was surprised and annoyed that we had retained a lawyer. We were shocked it wasn't routine.

But that was the least of his revelations. We soon discovered that we had no right to retain a lawyer on our children's behalf. DFCS would become protector of our children and judge as to the validity of the charges against us. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty had been turned on its head: The burden had been placed on us, not the legal system, to prove our innocence. Our most basic right and instinct as parents -- to protect our children -- had been usurped by a single accusation.

Over the next few weeks, our only communication with DFCS was through Mills. He told us the agency would call on Thanksgiving and announce what they were going to do about our case. We had planned to leave for the long weekend but stayed home and waited for word from DFCS. They never called.

Afterward, I spent the days taking the kids off to school and preparing the house, climbing up nearly three stories on a ladder to paint. At times I became so lost in an absorbing daydream of sorting through the events that I almost stepped right off the ladder. Terrified at my complete lack of awareness, I would force myself to focus. I would dip my brush into the paint and drift off into the possibility of what might happen if a police officer or sheriff's deputy appeared at our front door with papers to take our children. As I stroked the brush along the boards, I became lost in intricate, heated conversations that led to arguments that devolved into helpless anger. We had no understanding of the process and the DFCS bureaucracy seemed some large, amorphous beast threatening us from just beyond our view.

I began to feel dangerously angry. When my anger and fear were such that I was having difficulty coping, I called my brother in North Carolina, who knew nothing about the charges. He is two years older than I am and we have always been close. I thought he might help me put things into some sort of perspective. I wanted to call him numerous times but I hesitated because of my shame. I wanted to solve this on my own.

But now I felt I was starting to come apart and feared I might do something that could wind me up in jail. I had no choice but to call. But he wasn't home and when his answering machine came on, the sudden realization of what was happening to me, and the reason I was reaching out to him, caused me to simply break down and cry. I hung up without leaving a message and he told me later that from the crying on the phone, he was certain someone close to us had died.

As Christmas approached, our lawyer felt that the DFCS investigation into sexual exploitation of a minor was running aground because the agency began airing the possibility of charging us with a lesser crime. Now they wanted to hit us with "endangerment of a child," the result of letting the kids be near an open campfire. The suggestion seemed absurd, given that nearly every weekend of the year, parents across the country go camping with their children and roast marshmallows over an open fire. My wife, our friends and I felt that DFCS was on a fishing expedition, but one with potentially dangerous consequences.

The agency had requested to interview our children at the Children’s Advocacy Center, a safe haven used for questioning children who have been sexually or physically abused, or have witnessed violence. But we resisted because we were not allowed to have a lawyer present and we had heard horror stories from teachers who had witnessed sessions of children being fed leading questions and being directed what to answer by caseworkers. We requested that any interviews be taped. DFCS relented and switched the meeting to the Office of Child Protection.

The change in venue and charge against us was seen by our lawyer as a stand-down. He felt DFCS realized it had a weak case and the interviews were essentially a procedural hoop the caseworker had to jump through to satisfy bureaucratic demands in order to exit the case. I was angry at what appeared to be an absurd game with our lives. But Mills told me I had to get a grip because my anger could undermine our case. Although I heard him, acting accordingly was another matter.

Finally one weekday afternoon, my wife and I, our friends and our kids convened at the Office of Child Protection of DFCS to be interviewed. We had still not been charged with anything and the investigation remained open-ended. When I picked the kids up from school, I explained on the drive back where we were going and why. I struggled because while I wanted them to know everything that was stake, I didn't want to frighten them. They were full of questions. They wanted to know who these people were, why they wanted to talk about our camping trip and what kind of questions they would ask. The questions were the same ones I had myself and yet hearing the children pose them brought back all the absurdity of the situation and my anger quickly surfaced. I blurted out, "I don't know! I don't know! But these people can take you away from us!"

"They can take us away?" one of them asked.

"I don't know!" I yelled. "I don't know anything!" And when I looked in the rearview mirror I could see tears running down their faces as they began to cry.

The Office of Child Protection was housed in a new building, recently relocated from downtown Savannah into a poor neighborhood. Directly across the street was Hitch Village, one of the city's most notorious housing projects in a city that in several recent years has been ranked among the most dangerous metropolitan areas in the country. As we stepped into the elevator -- all dressed in our best, all combed and neat because we knew now how much appearances mattered -- our families suddenly seemed so vulnerable.

The waiting room was neat and sterile and empty except for us. No window. No attendant. No one to tell us what to do or expect. We weren't even sure if we were in the right place. But after a moment we decided to sit in the chairs that lined the walls, a surveillance camera with its wide-angle lens staring down on us. Magnetic strip readers were mounted beside each door along the hallways and from time to time someone would emerge from one door, slide their card through a reader on another and quickly disappear into it. I was struggling to find some calm and balance, but I didn't trust anyone's judgment anymore and was seething at this moment so lacking in logic.

When our caseworker, Patricia Oney, finally appeared, the amorphous bureaucracy that for weeks had haunted us suddenly had a face. That she appeared gentle with the kids and intelligent and caring gave me a small ray of hope. She explained that we would go one at a time, beginning with the kids, and she and our 8-year-old daughter, Sophie, Noah's twin, disappeared into the maze of cubicles hidden behind the card-reading doors. As we were soon to learn ourselves, the interviews were not recorded on video or tape.

Sophie has a keen memory for details and when she returned, and Noah went in, she recounted the questions that had been posed. They ranged from whether she could distinguish between "good touch" and "bad touch" to whether, after the kids went to bed while camping, the fathers made sounds outside the tent that, in the words of my daughter, "sounded like things they shouldn't do."

When our son returned, he didn't want to talk about what happened except to question why he was being asked about good touching and bad touching. One after another the kids went in. Eliza, our 3-year-old, has wispy, bright-blond hair. As she disappeared behind the door, I couldn't help wondering what it was they might ask her and, given what had happened so far, how it might be construed. We sat in the waiting room, trying to occupy the remaining kids while waiting. There was a gravity to the moment that the children were aware of and everyone was mostly quiet. As each of the kids reappeared from their interviews, they seemed relieved.

When my turn came, I followed Oney back to a cubicle where an assistant sat with pad in hand. As we sat down and began to talk, the assistant seemed to take notes. But as it went along, I noticed she hardly wrote anything. Though I was tempted to call her on it because it seemed absurd that this might become the official record, I didn't want to antagonize them and remembered the lawyer's intuition that DFCS was looking for a way out. But I was thinking about how accurately she had noted what the children had said.

Oney's main concern seemed not to be with the photos or with our behavior as parents, but rather if I had any questions about what had happened and about the process as a whole. Although I had nothing but questions, I refrained from asking them. I wanted to put the camping trip in context. Because the police had only sent six photos to DFCS, and not the rest of the roll, Oney had never gotten the full story.

Also, by now, I had seen all of the photos, including the six in question, as the police had allowed Rusty to take them home with him. There were explanations for each one. The photo of a child whose head had been "cut off" was simply one where a child's head fell outside the border. The photo of a child drinking beer was actually one of Rusty's daughter carrying a broken beer bottle she had found and planned to put into her makeshift xylophone.

I began explaining to Oney that by camping, our aim was to take our kids out of their normal routine and to teach them to appreciate not only nature but the luxuries our daily life afforded. As I told her that we dug holes for latrines and covered our traces, Oney, who said she had never been camping, seemed genuinely surprised. When she asked me about the danger of my son drying his wet pants with a stick over an open fire, I explained that when I took the picture, I was no more than a few feet away and he was safe.

As I felt my anger rising, I told her I couldn't believe anybody would find a photograph of a 3-year-old making her way into a lake to skinny-dip titillating. I had wiped my daughter's bottom thousands of times, and for me that photo was nothing more than trying to capture a fond memory. I acknowledged the difficulty and necessity of her job, but explained that for me this was clearly a case of the system gone astray, and I was angry that it had gone as far as it had.

Oney responded by asking for the names of friends, family, employers, teachers and any others she might interview to discern what type of people and parents we were. We decided it was best to call everyone in advance so they would know to expect a call. I watched my wife break down and cry on the phone with one of our children's teachers, ashamed at having to explain why DFCS would be calling.

Janet felt the same way. "I was so embarrassed having to tell [my youngest daughter's] teacher," she wrote. "I was the room mother for the class, did lots of things with all the kids and was very involved at school." "Can you imagine telling your boss, 'I'm being investigated for child pornography and child endangerment?'" Rusty wrote. "This was incredibly embarrassing and increased my fears this would get out beyond our control."

Oney had told me she would be paying a visit to our house. Our lawyer said she could look anywhere -- in our drawers, closets, attic -- without a warrant or without specifically stating what she was looking for. So before she came, we scoured the house top to bottom, looking for anything that might arouse her suspicion or interest.

On the mantel in our living room was a handmade book of photos done by a friend who is a professional photographer. Besides mundane photos of the kids, it contained a few of my wife in the nude when she was several months pregnant with Eliza. We hid it. I scanned the book titles on the shelves, never having thought until now of their having questionable contents. On the refrigerator, we had 1950s-style magnets with humorous sketches of a man holding up a mug and saying, "Beer: Makes you see double and feel single," and another of a man holding up a condom and saying, "I'm just two people short of a ménage à trois." They had been given to us years before as a gag gift from a friend. We hid them. We realized we no idea what could be deemed unfit. My wife was born in Haiti and she had a beaded voodoo flag hanging up in our room. I took it down.

Janet and Rusty went through the same nerve-racking process. On the day Oney was to show up at their house, Janet noticed her neighbor's 3-year-old son playing naked on the swing set in their yard. Janet was so paranoid that Oney would show up right then "that I panicked, went to the neighbor, and told her that I was having a visit from DFCS and could she please remove her naked son from my yard. I was upset that I was put in the situation that I had to tell her."

My wife and I decided, given my anger at the situation, it was best that I not be there during our home visit. So I drove around the neighborhood and sat in the car until Oney left. In the end, she didn't even search the house. She told my wife the investigation was closed, that the case against us was unsubstantiated and no further action would be taken. My wife said Oney seemed apologetic but offered no apology. The same scenario was played out at Janet and Rusty's house. Despite the fact that the case was unsubstantiated, a record of the accusation and ensuing investigation will be kept on file for three years -- in case, we were told by our lawyer, other complaints should be filed against us. Our children's records will show the incident until they are 21 years old.

Shortly after our case ended, we moved to France and I slipped into a depression. Perhaps it was something akin to the helplessness that victims feel. Or perhaps it resulted from suddenly being released from the constant and intense pressures of moving, combined with the fear and anger we had been feeling for so long. But I felt violated and exposed and vulnerable. In the mornings, we would awake and prepare our children and then hurry them to school. And on many days when I returned home, instead of getting to work writing I would go into the bathroom, sit on the toilet and cry uncontrollably.

For months, I felt as though I was moving almost unconsciously through daily life, numb to the world and yet overly sensitive to everything. Finally one day, six months later, unable to bear the sense of helplessness and unjustified shame about what happened to us, I sat down at the computer and began to write about it. And I began to feel something shift inside me, a subtle but distinct change from a sense of powerlessness to taking back some sort of control of our lives. I wrote in a fury, and when I sent the story to my wife, she sat in her office and cried. I sent it to our friends who had gone through this with us. Although seven months had passed, they still had not come to terms with what had happened. Rusty's boss had been understanding, but they said their children still talked about it in the most unexpected moments. "My youngest daughter will say, 'Why did they think that, Mommy?'" Janet said. "'Why did they think we were drinking beer and doing things wrong?'"

I set out to answer those kinds of question myself. As I did, I discovered there are simply no uniform standards for police officers, teachers, childcare workers -- or photo lab employees -- to tell lewd and illegal photos from harmless family pictures.

Following passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, established in 1974, states established laws that required police, lawyers, and social and medical personnel to make "good faith" reports of perceived child abuse or neglect. It is an important law, having arisen out of the fact that one in 10 children brought to hospital emergency rooms was a victim of physical abuse. But the law, under which child pornography falls, contains no provision for training personnel to identify abuse or pornographic photos. As a result, false and damning allegations have risen by the thousands in the past three decades. In fact, in most states it's a misdemeanor for law enforcement officers and health providers not to report.

In Georgia, state law defines sexual exploitation of a minor, which includes pornography, as "knowingly to employ, use, persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any minor to engage in ... any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual medium depicting such conduct." Yes, no charges were filed against us. But that somebody could interpret our camping photos as knowingly pornographic, and cause the state to investigate us for intending to exploit our children, was what was so agonizing.

Dr. Douglas Besharov, a child abuse expert at the Maryland School of Public Affairs, and the first director of the U.S. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, estimates that out of the nearly 3 million child abuse reports made every year, seven in 10 of them are without merit. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 60 percent of child abuse or neglect reports are "unsubstantiated." While there are no separate statistics concerning child pornography, there have been dozens of cases similar to ours documented in recent years.

For instance, in Dallas in 2003, as the result of a complaint by an Eckerd drugstore employee, a 33-year-old woman was charged with "sexual performance of a child," a second-degree felony punishable by 20 years in prison, based on a picture of her breast-feeding her 1-year-old son. Although the district attorney dropped the charges in the case, the parents had to fight for weeks to get their two children back from the Dallas County Child Protective Services.

I realize no one would argue with sincere efforts to protect children from harm. As a parent, I know all too well the real dangers our kids face on a daily basis and I applaud any efforts to make their world a safer place. But our experience underscores the harm that is being inflicted on children and parents by investigations based on uninformed definitions of pornography or abuse.

"If we get down to the bottom line, there is no clear-cut definition," said Dean Tong, who wrote "Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused," after being jailed and then spending 10 years and $150,000 to clear himself of abusing his young daughter. Now a forensic consultant in thousands of false-accusation cases across the country, Tong told me that even most police officers are not well enough trained to interpret the law, let alone photo lab employees. Tong said that when facing the slightest doubt, law enforcement officers "err on the side of the child," noting the potential results: "I see families stripped and ripped apart in the middle of the night."

I called Lt. Harry Trawick of the newly consolidated Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department to ask about my own case. He is the former head of the Special Victims Unit, which deals with child pornography. "A lot of times [photo lab employees] don't know what pornography is," he told me. Although he wouldn't comment on any specific case, Trawick said the department is "fairly aggressive" in investigating reports of child pornography and that, "generally, our officers are going to act with an abundance of caution" in favor of protecting the rights of children. He said the department has made a number of important convictions based on reports from photo labs. He added that he's unaware of any training programs that photo lab employees are required to undergo to identify child pornography and said the employees often call the Special Victims Unit for an explanation of the law.

But Helene Bisson, director of public relations for the Jean Coutu Group, which operates the Rhode Island-based Brooks/Eckerd drugstores, told me that employees had "videos we have to view and information sessions," though she wouldn't specify the depth of training involved. "As far as Eckerd's is concerned we do have very strict guidelines," she said. "It's Eckerd policy to report all incidents of child abuse and child pornography."

"With all due respect, they don't have a freaking clue," said Tong. "I'm not saying most of these cases are witch hunts," he said. It's just that without strict guidelines for identifying child pornography, photo lab employees must resort to "their subjective discretion and opinion," and that's the root of the problem. "If we required the same concern for accuracy in reporting child abuse as other types of crimes, we would see far fewer innocent people falsely persecuted," Tong has written. At the very least, a pair of trained legal eyes -- those of either a lawyer or a public official with specific expertise in child pornography -- should look at the evidence and make an informed decision before starting this demeaning, costly and painful process.

Besharov also said that the current law should be amended to grant immunity to those who in good faith deem a situation not to be child abuse or pornography. That way, those who report cases of abuse of questionable merit, simply to err on the side of mandatory reporting laws, might feel less pressure to do so. In our case, maybe the responding officer, who initially commented that he didn't find the pictures pornographic, would have dismissed the case at the drugstore and not reported us to child services.

It has been over a year and a half since the day we got the call from Janet. Time has finally granted me some distance from the terrible ordeal, and my wife and I have become lost in the immediate demands of life in another language and culture. We live in a small village of about 400 people, what a French friend jokingly refers to as the "bled," the Moroccan-Arabic word for the "boondocks." The surrounding countryside is mostly farmland and in the searing summer heat the air smells of rosemary and lavender. The fall brings out the truffle hunters and wild boars. My wife's commute to work is about two minutes up a steep, stone-paved street that has been worn shiny by centuries of foot traffic. From her office perch high up on the hillside, you can look out across the cherry orchards covering the valley and hear the shouts of the 30 or so children playing in the village schoolyard below. Our kids among them.