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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Monday, January 29, 2007


From page 6 of The Sunday Times, 28 January 2007.

Update: advertisement propaganda repeated on 25 February 2007, The Sunday Times, page 7.

This is a long-term effort that will require mindset changes in our homes, workplaces, and society at large, on the value of family life and parenthood. But I am confident that we will get there, through the combined and sustained effort of parents, employers, the media, the Government, and all Singaporeans. (Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Chairman of the Steering Group on Population, and Minister for Trade and Industry)

In other words, Simon says...

Breed, sheeple! Breed!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Metrosexual Test

I am 17% Metrosexual.
Metro-What? Git Off My Lawn!
I need some advice. I need to STOP BUYING MY CLOTHS AT WAL-MART!!!! I will never land a decent woman unless I shave this nasty facial hair, and spend more then $5 on a haircut.

Hippie Test

I am 17% Hippie.
So Not a Hippie.
What? Am I a Republican? Why did I even bother taken this test?! I guess I’ll back to my George W. Bush fan club and tell them I just wasted 10 minutes of my life. At least I don’t stink, man.

What Tarot Card am I?

You are The Devil

Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession

The Devil is often a great card for business success; hard work and ambition.

Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really "Satan" at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius. These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. This is a card about ambitions; it is also synonymous with temptation and addiction. On the flip side, however, the card can be a warning to someone who is too restrained, someone who never allows themselves to get passionate or messy or wild - or ambitious. This, too, is a form of enslavement. As a person, the Devil can stand for a man of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad man, but certainly a powerful man who is hard to resist. The important thing is to remember that any chain is freely worn. In most cases, you are enslaved only because you allow it.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bush didn't start it — Clinton did

Tom is the author of the comment above. I concur.

Amy Proctor (thanks, Amy!) wrote a fascinating post concerning former President Clinton and the war on Iraq. The complete post is well worth reading, but here's an excerpt:

The war in Iraq is not “Bush’s war”, it is America’s war and it has been since the early 1990’s.  In 1998, then President Bill Clinton on the eve of presidential impeachment hearings signed into law The Iraq Liberation Act which committed U.S. money to supporting the overthrow of a dangerous Saddam Hussein and laid out U.S. policy as supporting a free Iraq.

[ . . . ]

Then on December 16, 1998, Pres. Bill Clinton ordered a U.S. strike on Iraqi military and security targets partnered with British forces.

[ . . . ]

Now the U.S. military strike against Iraq occurred on the eve of Clinton’s impeachment hearings resulting in their postponement. The four articles of impeachment charged Clinton with perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power in the Monica Lewinsky affair. The timing of military action in Iraq appeared to be a tactical maneuver by Pres. Clinton to avoid the humiliating proposition of becoming the first President in U.S. history to be impeached (which is what later happened), under such embarrassing circumstances.

[ . . . ]

Where are these Democrats today, and why are they opposing the Clinton law and initiatives that they so vehemently supported in 1998?

[ . . . ]

Should Bill Clinton arrested on war crimes for civilian deaths suffered by the strikes in Iraq and Bosnia? If not, how can liberals so hypocritically demand that action for Bush?

"Clinton Lied, Nobody Died" is a phrase common on bumper stickers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Nobody died? Oh, really?

What about the US missile strike on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade?

What about the timing of the US military strike against Iraq on the eve of Clinton's impeachment hearings?

Here's an excerpt of an interview with Richard Miniter, a Brussels-based journalist and author of Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror:

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: In sum, how many times did Bill Clinton lose bin Laden?

RICHARD MINITER: Here's a rundown. The Clinton administration:

1. Did not follow-up on the attempted bombing of Aden marines in Yemen.

2. Shut the CIA out of the 1993 WTC bombing investigation, hamstringing their effort to capture bin Laden.

3. Had Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a key bin Laden lieutenant, slip through their fingers in Qatar.

4. Did not militarily react to the al Qaeda bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

5. Did not accept the Sudanese offer to turn bin Laden.

6. Did not follow-up on another offer from Sudan through a private back channel.

7. Objected to Northern Alliance efforts to assassinate bin Laden in Afghanistan.

8. Decided against using special forces to take down bin Laden in Afghanistan.

9. Did not take an opportunity to take into custody two al Qaeda operatives involved in the East African embassy bombings. In another little scoop, I am able to show that Sudan arrested these two terrorists and offered them to the FBI. The Clinton administration declined to pick them up and they were later allowed to return to Pakistan.

10. Ordered an ineffectual, token missile strike against a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory.

11. Clumsily tipped off Pakistani officials sympathetic to bin Laden before a planned missile strike against bin Laden on August 20, 1998. Bin Laden left the camp with only minutes to spare.

12-14. Three times, Clinton hesitated or deferred in ordering missile strikes against bin Laden in 1999 and 2000.

15. When they finally launched and armed the Predator spy drone plane, which captured amazing live video images of bin Laden, the Clinton administration no longer had military assets in place to strike the archterrorist.

16. Did not order a retaliatory strike on bin Laden for the murderous attack on the USS Cole.


Further reading (check out, in particular, terrorist attacks during Clinton's watch).

Here's something else that the liberals, Democrats, Michael Moore want to sweep under the carpet and hope we forget:

All these only reinforce my belief that Democrats are nothing but lying, cowardly, opportunistic sacks of shit.

Oh, yes, and racist as well.

A Freudian slip? The words of an Old Testament prophet ring true here:

       Can the Ethiopian change his skin
              or the leopard its spots?
              Neither can you do good
              who are accustomed to doing evil.

              (Jeremiah 13:23)

Of course, this should come as no surprise to anyone versed in the history of the United States. Prior to the Civil War, the Democratic Party resolutely defended slavery. In fact, they were commonly referred to as the "Party of Slavery" in the 19th century, and vigorously supported, among others, racial segregation, the Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and lynching. At the constitutional convention, Southern Democrats demanded constitutional protection for slavery. They pushed to stretch the constitutional protection for 80 years, finally starting the Civil War over it.

A self-confessed ex-liberal, Clark Baker writes:

the Civil War wasn’t between whites and blacks, but between Republicans who wanted to end slavery, and Democrats who did not. And as ugly as the Democratic Party’s roots and legacy of slavery, the KKK, Jim Crow, and Disenfranchisement is, why does the party still exist today?

The first clue of this information blackout comes directly from Democrats. Although the Republican Party proudly discloses their Abolitionist roots on their website, the Democratic Party (DNC) website ignores their slavery agenda, excluding the entire period between 1848 and the 20th Century. Instead, the DNC boasts the “longest running political organization in the world”, the “Democratic cause” (slavery) and their dominance in urban (e.g., black) politics - as if Democrats had nothing to do with the brutality used to round up blacks.

This is a synopsis of what the DNC website missed.

During the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates in 1858, in which Lincoln represented the views of the abolitionists, Stephen Douglas, Democrat candidate for the Senate said:

I am opposed to taking any step that recognizes the negro man or the Indian as the equal of the white man.  I am opposed to giving him a voice in the administration of the government.  I would extend to the negro, and the Indian, and to all dependent races every right, every privilege, and every immunity consistent with the safety and welfare of the white races; but equality they never should have, either political or social, or in any other respect whatever.

While the Democratic Party in the 21st century have — forced by defeat in the Civil War — abandoned slavery, their fundamental beliefs remain unchanged: certain segments of society (or most of it) are not their equal, and these lesser folks require the "benevolent" ruling hand of wisdom and foresight of the Democrats. Hence their opposition to school vouchers — parents are not qualified to decide which school their child attends; corporal punishment — parents cannot be trusted to spank their children (but teachers can demand that students be put on Ritalin); and their support of fundamentally flawed policies such as affirmative action — minorities are not intelligent enough to be admitted into universities solely on the basis of academic merit; and socialized health care — the choice of which private health insurance plan to purchase is too complex a choice for most people.

Consider the reaction of Republicans and conservatives towards Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. Now compare it with Democrats threatening to revoke ABC's FCC license if they aired a docudrama with a contrarian position, Path to 9/11. What their actions essentially evince is this: people cannot be trusted to form their own opinions and make their own judgments. Above all, they must be shielded from information anathema to the Democratic Party's agenda.

The Democrats' key beliefs also explain for their support for illegal immigration into the United States, and consequent opposition to immigration reform and enforcement of immigration and labor laws. Illegal immigrants have no rights, possess no collective bargaining power, and thus, are forced to accept whatever wages set for them. As a result, employers of illegal immigrants exploit these vulnerabilities, often making them labor under unsafe conditions, and paying below minimum wage. Consider the improvement in working conditions and wages after an INS raid on a chicken-processing plant in Georgia sent hundreds of illegal workers packing:

The plant, Crider, was forced to hire Georgians--many of them black, and many from off the welfare rolls:

...for local African-Americans, the dramatic appearance of federal agents presented an unexpected opportunity. Crider suddenly raised pay at the plant. An advertisement in the weekly Forest-Blade newspaper blared "Increased Wages" at Crider, starting at $7 to $9 an hour -- more than a dollar above what the company had paid many immigrant workers. The company began offering free transportation from nearby towns and free rooms in a company-owned dormitory near to the plant. For the first time in years, local officials say, Crider aggressively sought workers from the area's state-funded employment office -- a key avenue for low-skilled workers to find jobs. Of 400 candidates sent to Crider -- most of them black -- the plant hired about 200.

Interestingly, there was a lot of friction between these new workers and the Crider management. Two sides to the story, I suppose, but it seems to me that Crider was disappointed to work with actual employees who could demand their rights and speak up and who expect an ice pack when they get injured on the job. It's much easier when your processing plant is staffed by powerless, compliant drones who you can threaten to send back to Mexico and who therefore dare not organize or even gripe.

(Source 1, Source 2)

Nick conjured a pithy image which perfectly describes the workings of the Democratic Party: they get the people addled to the government's teat; then, never weaned, the sheeple are led wherever their masters want them to be.

I have a more dramatic scene in mind — a quote from the transcript of the 2004 TV adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot:

FALLEN PRIEST [kneeling before the master vampire]: Did I do the right thing with my life? Was I misled? You know, don't you? Is there a God?

BARLOW (master vampire) [cutting his palm and thrusting the bleeding cut in the FALLEN PRIEST's mouth]: Whoever feeds you... is your God.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Asphalt is unforgiving

That was a nasty crash you took this morning. Make sure you keep those gashes clean, dry, and bandaged. You really got me going when you went unconscious in my arms, and stopped breathing, dude. I was about to summon whatever hazy vestiges of CPR training I remember from my last first aid refresher course. In all probability, that helmet probably saved your life.

Get better soon.

(I still think you should have taken that ambulance ride.)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Metamorphosis Two

       October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or of shutting a book, did not end a tale.
       Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: "It is simply a matter," he explained to April, "of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Theatre of the absurd

Click to watch on a larger window (recommended).

Is not a uniform suffering preferable to one which, by its ups and downs, is liable at certain moments to encourage the view that perhaps after all it is not eternal?  (Samuel Beckett)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

VW T1 Bus

Insane mutant VW bus (although its relatively low speed around the turns makes me suspect the other cars are dogging it).

Monday, January 15, 2007

BSE-afflicted senator attacks

Senator (Democrat) Barbara Boxer gets personal with Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice — and sends feminism back into the dark ages.

Click on the image (or here) and watch the video clip (1:23) from Good Morning America. Note the reaction on Dr. Rice's eyebrows.


RICE: I can never do anything to replace any of the lost men and women in uniform, or the diplomats, some of whom . . .

BOXER [interrupting]: Madame Secretary, please, I know you feel terrible about it; that's not the point. I was making the point about who pays the price for your decisions. Now the issue is who pays the price? Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand, with an immediate family.

New York Post has this to say:


Simply breathtaking.

We scarcely know where to begin.

The junior senator from California apparently believes that an accomplished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman.

The Washington Post reports:

Rice tried not to be baited. A ferocious Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), noting that the childless Rice is not at risk of losing her own offspring in Iraq, displayed a 2005 quote from the secretary saying she had "no doubt" about a troop reduction in Iraq. "You had absolutely no doubt about how great it was going," Boxer said.

"Senator, let's not overstate the case," Rice soothed. "I don't think I said it was going great."

Mark Finkelstein has an interesting take on how the Associated Press chose to word their article:

AP Going Victorian?: The Associated Press used this phrase to describe Boxer's slap: "Even Rice's status as a single woman was fair game." Single woman? In an age in which 30% of all children, and over 70% of black children, are born to single women, how oddly Victorian of the AP. Was this just a slip, or was AP reluctant to use the expression "Rice's status as a childless woman" because that would have cast Boxer in an even crueler light?

Speaking to a news anchor later, Dr. Rice commented:

"I guess that means I don't have kids. Was that the purpose of that?" Rice said. "Well, at the time I just found it a bit confusing frankly. But in retrospect, gee, I thought single women had come further than that. That the only question is are you making good decisions because you have kids?"

Perhaps, insecure before the august intellect of Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Barbara Boxer assumed that marital status and reproductive success fall under qualifications and/or achievements in curricula vitæ?



This reminds me of an old post by takchek:

I even met with our Education Minister when he visited Teachers College. Of the questions he asked me, two stood out: "When are you going back to Singapore?" and "When are you going to have babies?" It hit me that I had never spoken to the Minister when I was teaching in Singapore. I wondered: am I valuable to the country only after I leave? (Dr. Jocelyn Yen Yen Woo)

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why a little learning is a dangerous thing

An advertisement on the front page of The Straits Times The Shitty Times, Saturday, 13 January 2007, by Mazda Motor Singapore:

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

(Alexander Pope)

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

A little background for those unfamiliar with this quirky contest:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. (Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830))

Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest (hereafter referred to as the BLFC) was the brainchild (or Rosemary's baby) of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the source of the line "It was a dark and stormy night." Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was best known for perpetrating The Last Days of Pompeii, Eugene Aram, Rienzi, The Caxtons, The Coming Race, and — not least — Paul Clifford, whose famous opener has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle Snoopy. No less impressively, Lytton coined phrases that have become common parlance in our language: "the pen is mightier than the sword," "the great unwashed," and "the almighty dollar."

Conscripted numerous times to be a judge in writing contests that were, in effect, bad writing contests but with prolix, overlong, and generally lengthy submissions, he struck upon the idea of holding a competition that would be honest and — best of all — invite brief entries.

The rules to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are childishly simple:

Each entry must consist of a single sentence but you may submit as many entries as you wish.

Sentences may be of any length (though you go beyond 50 or 60 words at your peril), and entries must be "original" (as it were) and previously unpublished.

2006 Results


Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Jim Guigli
Carmichael, CA


"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"

Stuart Vasepuru
Edinburgh, Scotland



Christy, lounging in the gondola which slipped smoothly through the enveloping mist had her first inkling that something was afoot as she heard pattering hooves below (for our story is not in Venice but Switzerland with its Provolone and Toblerone) and craning her not unlovely neck she narrowed her eyes at the dozen tiny reindeer, pelting madly down the goat trail.

Irene Buttuls
Lytton, B.C


She looked at her hands and saw the desiccated skin hanging in Shar-Pei wrinkles, confetti-like freckles, and those dry, dry cuticles--even her "Fatale Crimson" nail color had faded in the relentless sun to the color of old sirloin--and she vowed if she ever got out of the Sahara alive, she'd never buy polish on sale at Walgreen's again.

Christin Keck
Kent, OH


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe who had so much equity (because our story, dear children, is set in Miami's hot real estate market) that she upgraded the exterior to blue suede siding as a tribute to her idol, Elvis, moved her kids to a bootee out back, and then reopened the place as the "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" motel (but you'll have to wait until you're 18 to read any further).

Barbara Bridges
Sierra Madre, CA


It was a dreary Monday in September when Constable Lightspeed came across the rotting corpse that resembled one of those zombies from Michael Jackson's "Thriller," except that it was lying down and not performing the electric slide.

Derek Fisher
Ottawa, ON


The victim said her attacker was nondescript -- 5' 10 and 3/4", 163 pounds, with Clairol #83N hair (a hint of #84N at his temples) -- and last seen wearing Acuvue2 contacts, a white Hanes 65/35% poly-cotton t-shirt with a 3mm round Grey Poupon stain on the neckband, Levi's 501s missing the second button, and Nike Crosstrainers with muddy aglets.

Linda Fields
Framingham, MA


It was within the great stony nostril of a statue of Landrick the Elfin Vicelord that Frodo's great uncle, Jasper Baggins, happened to stumble upon the enchanted Bag of Holding, not to be confused with the Hag of Bolding, who was quite fond of leeks, most especially in a savory Hobbit knuckle stew.

Camille Barigar
Twin Falls, ID


While Hector and the heroes of Troy trembled behind the ramparts as cowboys below the walls raced up and down the beach, six-guns blazing and cries of "yee-hah!" filling the air, other cowboys across the sea were laboring gamely but in vain to throw a palisade around Wichita, Kansas, thereby adding veracity to the old homily of history that it is easier to cow a fortified city than to fortify a cow city.

Christopher Backeberg
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


The McCain boys strode off proudly to fight in the Civil War, one for the Union and one for the Confederacy, neither of them giving a single thought to who would play them in the television movie of their story, which would be decided more than a hundred years later by 20-something casting agents who kept getting the Civil War and World War II mixed up.

Carmen Fought
Diamond Bar, CA


A single sparkling tear fell from Little Mary's cheek onto the sidewalk, then slid into the storm drain, there to join in its course the mighty waters of the Los Angeles River and, eventually, Long Beach Harbor, with its state-of-the-art container-freight processing facilities.

Bill Mac Iver
Berkeley, CA


Her angry accusations burned Clyde like that first bite of a double cheese pizza, when the toppings slide off and sear that small elevation of the oral mucosa, just behind the front teeth, known as the incisive papilla, which is linked to the discriminatory function of the taste buds except, where Clyde was concerned, when it came to women.

Pamela Patchet Hamilton
Beaconsfield, Quebec


Despite the vast differences it their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.

Dennis Barry
Dothan, AL


Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking.

Dan Winters
Los Altos Hills, CA


"Send a message back to Command Central on Earth and ask for their advice, which we will be able receive immediately even at this great distance, thanks to the ingenious manipulation of coherent radiation through a Bose-Einstein condensate and the bizarre influence of the Aspect effect, which enables us to impart identical properties to remotely separated photons," Captain Buzz told the feathered Vjorkog at the comms desk, "and tell them our life-pod is going to explode in eight seconds."

Christopher Backeberg
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


It was just another day at the office aboard "StarCruise" until David spotted a tiny speck in his passenger window, approaching from the direction of the Masai Nebula and making a right angle with bisector of the isosceles formed if you joined Bendy's Star, Planet Anet, and White Hole 14437-5A, but sighed peacefully as it turned out to be the reflection of the fluorescent light swinging loose above Captain Mudlove's head.

Talha bin Hamid
Karachi, Pakistan


As Johann looked out across the verdant Iowa River valley, and beyond to the low hills capped by the massive refrigerator manufacturing plant, he reminisced on the history of the great enterprise from its early days, when he and three other young men, all of differing backgrounds, had only their dream of bringing refrigeration to America's heartland to sustain them, to the present day, where they had become the Midwest's foremost group of refrigerator magnates.

Dick Davis
Circle Pines, MN


Herr Professor Doktor Weiss' reputation was made when he conclusively proved the fraudulency of the Mayan codex that claimed to show that that ancient people knew the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter to an exactitude unknown until modern times, in his article, "Bye, Bye, Mesoamerican Pi."

John L. Drost
Barboursville, WV


His mistake, Shut-eye McBlamaway reflected, was not in standing up to a gang of desperadoes and rustlers on the high country, but in standing up to a gang of desperadoes and rustlers who had just left the set of a Sergio Leone shoot, and were thus equipped with those guns that never run out of ammunition.

Samuel Goldstein
Los Angeles, CA


Butch glared balefully across the saloon at Tex, who had been stone dead since the scorpion he had unwittingly sat on had bitten him on the butt some half an hour or so ago, little suspecting that this was going to be his toughest staring contest since the one against old Glass-eyed Juan, during the great sand-storm of '42, at the height of the Arizona conjunctivitis epidemic.

Geoff Blackwell
Bundaberg QLD Australia


Grand Prize Winners from past years here.

For those hungry for more punishment, here's the first chapter of Paul Clifford (1830). Be glad, I had to write a 16 (or was it 18? I can't remember.) page paper on the entire book for one of my classes.

Each year, when the results are released, my mentor professor would carry around copies for distribution. At the end of class, we would file out teary-eyed, flushed, even perspiring, from an hour of non-stop laughter. Upon inquiries from clueless freshmen, we would mutter stone-faced, "The reading," and hurry away, leaving them at the mercy of their fecund imagination.

Ah, good times :-X

Oh, what the heck, let's all be masochists! One more :-)

Withdrawing his hand from her knee, the English professor stormed, "Ending a sentence with a preposition is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put," although she had merely looked at his hand and asked, "What are you doing that for?" in a sentence intended to end the proposition.

Carl C. Partlow
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Friday, January 12, 2007

2006 Word of the Year

The 2006 results (PDF) from the American Dialect Society are out:

Word of the Year


to pluto / be plutoed: to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.


macaca / macaca moment: treating an American citizen as an alien — a reference to a campaign remark by former Virginia Sen. George Allen that some say marked the beginning of the end for his re-election hopes.


prohibited liquids: fluids that cannot be transported by passengers on airplanes; “bodily excretions of a disgusting nature.”

surge: a large, but brief, increase in troop strength.

murse: man’s purse.

Most Useful


climate canary: an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon.


data Valdez: an accidental release of a large quantity of private or privileged information. Named after the 1989 oil spill by the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska.


flog: a fake blog created by a corporation to promote a product or a television show.

boomeritis: afflictions or injuries of Baby Boomers, caused by their age.

sharrow: an arrow-like design painted on a roadway to mark a bicycling route.

Most Creative


lactard: a person who is lactose-intolerant.


snowclone: an expression whose structure is borrowed to create new, similar expressions. Examples: X is the new Y (“blue is the new black”) and X is dead; long live X! (“the king is dead; long live the king!”).


to julie: to organize an event. Also as a noun. From Julie McCoy, the character of cruise director on the television show The Love Boat, which ran from 1977 to 1986.

Fed-Ex: nickname for K-Fed, a.k.a Kevin Federline, soon-to-be ex-husband of Britney Spears.

Most Unnecessary


SuriKat: the supposed nickname of the baby girl of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.


the decider: with the definite article, a person who makes decisions for other decisionmakers, as spoken by President George W. Bush.


Fox lips: lips colored and lined with makeup to seem more prominent, said of female anchors on Fox News.

Most Outrageous


Cambodian accessory: Angelina Jolie’s adopted child, who is Cambodian.


sudden jihad syndrome: an outburst of violence from a seemingly stable and normal Muslim.


macaca: an American citizen treated as an alien.

firecrotch: a person with red pubic hair.

tramp stamp: a tattoo on a woman’s upper bottom (or lower back).

Most Euphemistic


waterboarding: an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused with water to simulate drowning; reported to be used by U.S. interrogators against terrorism detainees.


surge: a large, but brief, increase in troop strength.


lancing: the forced public outing of a closeted gay celebrity, after ‘N Sync singer Lance Bass.

lyric malfunction: obscenities scrubbed from the Rolling Stones’ Super Bowl performance.

Most Likely to Succeed


YouTube: as a verb, to use the YouTube web site or to have a video of one’s self be posted on the site.


carbon: in combining forms about reducing waste emissions, used as shorthand for air pollution.


m-, man-, men- as “man-fixes” in compounds and blends such as moobs, manboobs, murse, man purse, mancation, man crush, manmaries, menaissance, etc.

macaca moment: an ethnic or racial gaffe caught on video.

the decider: with the definite article, a person who makes decisions for other decisionmakers, as spoken by President George W. Bush.

Least Likely to Succeed


grup: a Gen-Xer who does not act his or her age.


pwn: to “own” someone; to defeat, beat, or best someone. From mis-typing in online gaming.


stay the course: to continue an action or undertaking despite it being less successful than desired.

New Category: Pluto-Related Words


to be plutoed, to pluto: to be demoted or devalued.


dwarf planet: new International Astronomical Union designation for Pluto and other not-quite-planetary bodies in the solar system.


pluton: originally chosen by the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union as a category for trans-Neptunian objects, like Pluto, that did not warrant designation as true planets. However, the term was already in use in geology to refer to a large mass of intrusive igneous rock believed to have solidified deep within the earth. Another candidate name was plutonoid.

small solar system body (SSSB): object in the solar system that is neither a planet nor a dwarf planet (e.g., a comet or small asteroid).

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item” — not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Founded in 1889, the American Dialect Society (ADS) is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it. ADS members are linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, historians, grammarians, academics, editors, writers, and independent scholars in the fields of English, foreign languages, and other disciplines. The society also publishes the quarterly journal, American Speech.

Not all words chosen for a particular year are destined to become permanent additions to the vocabulary. Y2K in 1999 and chad in 2000 are examples of prominent terms that faded quickly. An explanation of which words are likely to succeed may be found in Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success by Allan Metcalf, published in 2002 by Houghton Mifflin.

The American Dialect Society began choosing Words of the Year in 1990. A full account of the previous choices may be found on the American Dialect Society's website.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

100th Post

Ugh! Steve Jobs. I don't know whether to hate the man or to love him. Anyone who knows me is aware of my utter disgust toward cell phones. A lot of it has to do with being trapped in train carriages with loud-mouths blabbering about their latest stock acquisition colonoscopy, or being run off the road by goddamn mini-van / SUV-driving soccer moms clucking on their cell phones. I have steadily resisted owning one of these Satanic devices for decades. Digital leashes, I call them; Pavlov would be pleased.

But Steve, what have you done, Steve? You took an iPod; threw in a 3.5-inch multi-touch / wide-screen; dreamt up the sweetest cell phone interface ever; shoehorned a browser, email capability, maps, widgets, accelerometer, proximity sensor, micro-ICBM; slapped the Apple logo on it; blessed it with your coffee-laced-breath — still warm from Il Fornaio; and infused OS X into the veins of this digital manticore.

My gawd, I am about to genuflect.

And then, to top it off, you have, on your website, the gorgeous Sidney Bailey talk about a bicycle ride up Page Mill Road to Skyline Boulevard, one of my favorite rides (1), (2). This is really unfair, Steve! You know my irrepressible love for bicycles and my savage hatred toward cell phones. OMG, what are you trying to do? Make me buy one of these sexy, portable microwave ovens, fry my brain, and wander around like a Trekkie with a Bluetooth-enabled Borg implant?

I am still holding out. Make me one with a built-in taser, a survival kit, GPS navigation (with SiRFstarIII or better, mind you!), a 10-megapixel camera, submersible to 100 meters with built-in strobe, 2-hour video capability, and 168-hour battery life — then we will talk.

I still hate you.
You hear me, Steve?

By the way, I was wondering... you think I can trade in my 400 MHz 1st Generation Titanium PowerBook (2000) for some store credit?


(Brownshirts) in lockstep

Updated 12 January 2007.

       A couple of months ago, stuck indoors enduring the haze, I came across this:

When you're in a town like this, all covered with smoke, you forget that there's a world outside. Nothing amazing happens here. And you get used to that, used to a world where everything is ordinary. Every day we spend here is like a whole lifetime of dying slowly.  (Furi Kuri.  Dir. Kazuya Tsurumaki.  Ginax, 2000.)

Why am I writing about this now, months later?

In an IM conversation with Elia Diodati, Troodon observed:

Life in Singapore is so different: I just realized I no longer am used to living in Singapore. People hate their jobs; people have no dreams, no goals. The biggest thing in their lives right now is to get married and buy a HDB flat.

Let me relate a recent visit to a local doctor specializing in sports medicine. Given the amount of cycling I do, it may come as a surprise to many that I have two torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL). I.e. one in each knee (Thank you, SAF). Explaining to the doctor the reason for my unhappiness over my reduced quality of life — cycling more than a century (100 miles / 160 km) results in pain — I was met with the following rebuff:

Why do you want to cycle more than 160 km for? Got nothing better to do, is it? Cycle one round round Singapore [125 km / 78 miles] more than enough already! Why you want to do so much for?

A visit to another specialist proved to be an even more disappointing experience: he thought a 20 km (12.5 miles) ride around East Coast Park sufficiently qualifies as a long ride. These doctors seem to possess the same attitude as the local teachers and educators: they dislike it when their charges question them. Life mirrors the classroom (or is it the other way round?). Just try questioning a public official or a figure of authority.

       Having returned from a place where centuries and mountain passes (a Sunday's mountain bike ride can easily clock 5000 ft / 1524 m of climbing) form the banter of cycling conversations, you can imagine how baffled I am by such a mentality. While people are training for "The Terrible Two," a double-century (200 miles / 320 km) with more than 17,000 feet (5182 m) of climbing, over there, I am to be content with the local version of the holy grail: a ride up Mount Faber (actually a tiny hill 348 ft / 106 m high), or South Buena Vista Road (I go through twenty times more turns from my apartment in Santa Clara to Santa Cruz, some of them hairpin, reducing radius, and off-camber curves). Mediocrity, thy fiefdom lieth here.

       Troodon goes on to say:

Being in Singapore in the last 2 weeks has confirmed my suspicion that quite a few Singaporeans love to not think for themselves. They like things as they are, [in their] huge reality distortion field.

To be fair, this is the predictable — unavoidable — end result of a populace, which, from cradle to grave, is told what to read; what to watch; what to say; when to say; where to say; how to think; what to think; who to date and marry (institutional eugenics of segregating non-graduates from graduates. I.e. the Social Development Service (SDS) from the Social Development Unit (SDU)); when to rut; how to rut (Section 377 of the Penal Code *undergoing partial repeal); when to use protection ("Stop at Two" campaign); when to do it bareback ("Have Three or More, if You Can Afford It" campaign); and, upon expiring, how long one remains buried before state mandated exhumation (15 years). A comment by oracle monkey echoes similar sentiments.

       As Fyodor Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor points out, freedom bears the heavy price of responsibility, conscience, and regret; or, "Anyone who can appease a man's conscience can take away his freedom." Without the possibilities afforded by choice, one is spared these burdens. After all, suffering and unhappiness are easier to bear when they are deemed unavoidable. In this Disneyland with the Death Penalty of shiny happy people, the adage, vita non est vivere sed valere vita est, cries in the desert alone.

       "Reality distortion field," this reminds me of a post by an expatriate's son: while in Singapore, he attended a local primary school. Each morning, when the pledge was recited at assembly, he kept silent. One day, his form teacher noticed this and demanded that he follow the actions of the rest. When he protested that he is not Singaporean, but a foreign citizen, she snapped, "Nevermind! Just follow what the rest are doing!"

       And these are the people who are tasked to teach creativity to the next generation of Singaporeans. That's akin to hiring a painter to fix a termite-infested house. Uniquely Singapore.

       In his book, Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get A Date, Robert X. Cringely points out that, most of the time, innovators come from those at the periphery of society, because they are exactly that — misfits, mavericks; and that the best thing society, and the rest of us, can do to foster their success is to simply stay out of their way.

       Prostrate at the altar of Mammon, the Singapore authorities are trying to play catch up by including "creativity classes" in its school curriculum. This, coupled with a chintzy exhibition on the lives and achievements of Nobel Prize winners, and the endless blaring of new catch phrases such as "entrepreneur," entrepreneurship," "creativity," "innovation," et cetera, pumped through the media, operate on the premise that creativity can be sown, grown — and harvested — like culture on a petri dish. Having someone who was educated under the old rigid system, hobbles around under (and is shackled by) the old rigid system, teach creativity is tantamount to employing a blind man to teach photography.

       The president of John Hopkins University, William R. Brody, opined:

Ditch the idea that patents and licenses are the only measure of success in the research world, and fund more basic research — even if it fails.

Urging Singapore to shift its approach towards research, Johns Hopkins University president William Brody said the Government should have a more open-minded view of the sector, beyond just dollars and cents.

"The thing is that Singapore always makes investments that are driven towards economic return," said Prof Brody, who is in town for the International Academic Advisory Panel meeting. "Much of the research that's funded is in the applied development, as opposed to basic research."

But unlike the former type of research, where outcomes can be achieved in, say, three years, basic research is a more uncertain game.

"Basic research is long term and (its success is) very much harder to measure. Much of basic research fails. If it's not failing, then you're not going to get groundbreaking discoveries," he said. Conducting such research is thus crucial as it trains talent in the process.

"Technology transfer is not about patents and licenses — it's about people," said Prof Brody.

Citing Sun Microsystems and Cisco as examples of highly-successful companies that have their roots in technology developed at Stanford University 15 years earlier, he said: "It was a project that had no apparent commercial value at the time, but it ultimately spawned two multi-billion-dollar companies."

Such a shift in approach would require the Government and Singaporeans to change their attitudes, he added. "It requires people being comfortable with failure, and investing in research without having a clear economic return." Patents and licenses, he felt, are poor indicators of performance.

(Hat tip: takchek)

Unfortunately, some quarters might find the task of encouraging JHU's president, Dr. Brody, to publicly recant his sentiments to be difficult, if not impossible.

       On the other side of the pond, UK's video game industry mogul, Ian Livingstone, has some brickbats of his own to toss:

Ian Livingstone, Eidos' supreme commander of worldwide product acquisitions, has criticised developers in Singapore.

[ . . . ]

Livingstone opined that Singapore lacked "the ability to think outside the box to create new intellectual property, new game-play and new characters". Then, just to add insult to injury, he bemoaned: "The tendency here [Singapore] is to make copies of previous games, rather than to think about what the world hasn't seen before or what new games haven't been done before. [There must be a] unique selling point that differentiates them [game developers] from everyone else.

       These tired hawkers of empty words and bankrupt phrases peddle the fool's dream that — to borrow my ex-housemate's scathing bon mot — if you flap your arms long and hard enough, you will fly to the moon. What worked for propaganda — i.e. brute force — may not, does not, work for creativity. One does not, cannot, instill creativity; one can only let it flourish — where it will.

       Meanwhile, the brain drain continues.

       Majulah kita sendiri.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


9 AM. The grass cutters have just done their job. Strolling along the footpath, I noticed a frog, sliced in half along its length, still twitching in the grass. Meanwhile, life goes on merrily: the maids push the prams, walk the dogs; people yak on their cell phones; a security barrier rises and lowers for each shiny new car...


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Yes, your engine may purr, but can it sing?

Or, what happens when the Renault Formula One engine management technician gets bored and has access to the tune up computer.

"We are the Champions."

"God Save The Queen."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Exoticism. Sanctimonious charity. Narcissism.

       I must confess to being incensed whenever I encounter maudlin drivel from fucking hippies tourists encountering the poor for the first time in the Third World. They would wax lyrical about the awful conditions the people live under; how it tugs at their heart strings; how the experience has forever altered their perspective on life; so much so that they become reformed citizens of the world upon returning to their nine-to-five, "get me a double latte, non-fat, with caramel and a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, while I'm texting on my Blackberry" world — for about, oh... two weeks. The hypochondriacs among them would even tout a trip to their general practitioners for sleep aids, so traumatized were they by their bowel-shaking awakening to the realities of an unequal world.

       I am not advocating a position of jadedness or insensitivity to the sufferings of others here, but rather, through the exposure of thinly-veiled, self-congratulatory and narcissistic indulgence masqueraded as compassion, I hope to reveal the dearth of sincerity in these apparent acts of sympathy. Cobbling together a few pages of kitsch; a couple paragraphs of saccharine slobber; tormenting your colleagues (or recipients on your address book) with a handful of photographs — its subjects stripped of their dignity for your own show and tell session; or, perhaps even sending $18 a month to some poor hole in the ground village which you have deigned to grace with your presence on vacation; hardly qualifies as a sincere act of charity, or even empathy.

       Robbing the poor of their dignity, fashioning their plight as a stool to clamber upon their high horse, they romanticize the downtrodden, the deprived, and the poor; and, in the process, gorge on a buffet of self-righteous indignation. In The Middle Passage, V. S. Naipaul dissects one such example:

“I will tell you about the poor people in Bombay,” she insisted. “They are more beautiful than the people in this room.” But now she was beginning to lie. She spoke with passion, but she didn’t even believe what she said. The poor of Bombay are not beautiful, even with their picturesque costumes in low-caste colors. In complexion, features, and physique the poor are distinct from the well-to-do; they are like a race apart, a dwarf race, stunted and slow-witted and made ugly by generations of undernourishment; it will take generations to rehabilitate them. The idea that the poor are beautiful was, with this girl, a borrowed idea. She had converted it into a political attitude, which she was prepared to defend. But it had not sharpened her perception.

These are not some band of Merry Men; out in the streets, they lie; they cheat; they steal, rob, rape, pimp, murder, etc — sometimes from opportunity, more often from necessity. The Nobel laureate, V. S. Naipaul, repeatedly cautions against falling for the myth of the gracious poor and deprived; that, more often than not, it is "a society without standards, without noble aspirations, nourished by greed and cruelty." In short, the idea is a re-manifestation of the noble savage, in the age of globalization.

       The sentimentality over the sordid conditions in which the poor toil under are matched only by the gushing of how different their lifestyles and cultures are — the politically correct child for "quaint" being "unique." This fascination with the exotic is tempered by a detachment no different from observing wildebeest lumber from vanishing waterhole to vanishing waterhole in a drought, all from the comfort of an air-conditioned Range Rover on safari — or a living room sofa with Discovery channel. Poverty existed in these countries before your arrival. Poverty will continue to exist long after you leave. Neither the pathos of their situation nor the nobility of their struggle increases just because they have the dubious fortune to pass under your gaze.

       At the end of the day, what is being practised in these vapid dribblings amount to nothing more than an infatuated encounter with the Other — exoticism — and indulgence with pastoralism, leading to a sanctimonious charity of the worst kind: self-serving, narcissistic compassion:

"Oh, look what I saw on my travels! Poor wretched people living in slums and eating from the streets! My heart bleeds for them! Their plight have really changed me! I will be sure to tell my latte-sipping crowd of the sea change in my world view. Meanwhile check out my 10-mega-pixel pictures of these poor SOBs on my Flickr account!"

The subtext here being that the existence of the wretched bears no other significance apart from serving as an abject lesson on being grateful for one's more fortunate position. I.e. "Look at them poor devils! Boy, am I glad I'm not them."

       These people may be poor, they may be struggling, but their struggles are for survival. There is dignity in that. There is, however, none in exploiting a spectacle of toil and suffering as a prop for narcissistic epiphany and self-righteous indignation; the currency may have changed, but it is robbery all the same.

       The next time you pretend to be some reincarnation of Che Guevara, spare the rest of us from your masturbatory fantasies.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Dominic! It's 7:30 AM! Where are you?

It's bad Juju to flake on the first ride of the year, dude!

BTW, here's an unnamed trail I discovered this morning by Seletar Reservoir. It isn't kind to tall riders though :-P

Monday, January 01, 2007


Befitting the last day of the year:

My mistakes are part of my biography, my story, part of who I am. I carry my biography like a load in my rucksack. I have to carry it. But the rucksack does not carry me. What carries me are my next visions, goals and enthusiasm. What I did yesterday gives me no joy. (Reinhold Messner)

We are all heroes of our own novels, after all. (Alex Shoumatoff)

Forsan miseros meliora sequentur.

Happy new year.

For the lone wolves

       There was a boy who grew up in a little hamlet of St. Peter's, located in Villnöss valley in South Tirol, northern Italy. With no swimming pools and no football fields in the tiny village, his father, a schoolteacher, often brought him climbing. This boy made his first summit, a peak of 3000 feet in the Geislerspitzen range, when he was five; at thirteen, he had overtaken his father.

       His love affair with the mountains sparked, the teen spent more and more time in the crags — he would run for hours up alpine meadows to build stamina, and even more practicing moves on a ruined building in the village — and correspondingly, less and less time with his books. Predictably, when he failed his school exams, he bore the unbridled wrath of his father, an angry patriarch given to violence with his children. As the years pass, the father will repeatedly, vehemently, beat into his stubborn son's head that a career doing what he loved and did best — climbing — was unfeasible, impractical, impossible.

       The son never heard him. In his own words, "In the family... there was only one chance. To break, to be broken, or to be stronger than the father." By his 21st birthday, he was soloing the Dolomites.

       His family had hopes of him being an architect, and so, grudgingly, this amateur climber enrolled in Padua University. Nevertheless, he continued to spend the majority of his time on the rocks (which explained for his desultory academic progress).

       In 1969, he earned his diploma in architecture, but much to his father's chagrin, he opted for a humble (and financially unrewarding) profession of teaching mathematics at a local secondary school, solely because it allowed him to do what he truly wanted — climb. For, it is in the mountains where this young man's true gifts lay. A year ago, some of the world's best climbers at Mont Blanc halted their ascents and peered through binoculars, aghast, as he climbed up Les Droites, then regarded as the most difficult ice wall on earth, in 4 hours. The previous record was 3 days, with the previous three expeditions meeting with disaster and death. That this young climber's speed is preternatural would be demonstrated to the world again and again. In 1974, he scaled the north face of Eiger in 10 hours. On a 1979 expedition to Ama Dablam, he rescued Edmund Hillary's son, Peter Hillary, and two companions. What took the New Zealanders two and a half days to climb, he covered in 6 hours.

       Apart from his gift of uncanny speed (another climber, Nena Holguín, gasped, "he moved like lightning across the snow. You know how deer are light-footed—he would seem to spring; it seem like he hardly touch the ground") he also possessed incredible self-sufficiency. And self-reliance:

In an essay he wrote when he was 27, he decried the siege tactics that allowed even an unskilled climber to conquer a mountain bolt by bolt, issuing a plea for both the mountain that cannot "defend itself" and for the climber, who was being cheated of the opportunity to test the limits of his courage and skill. Titled The Murder of the Impossible, the essay, now considered a minor classic, argued that the wielders of expansion bolts and pegs "thoughtlessly killed the ideal of the impossible." His characteristic minimalism — he is adamant he has never put an expansion bolt in a face of rock, as he has never used bottled oxygen — was, therefore, a brash demonstration that the principles he preached could be put to spectacular practice. His landmark high-altitude alpine-style climbs liberated both the individual climber, by showing alternatives to the hugely encumbered and expensive classic expeditions, as well as the mountains themselves.

This tore up the rule book for high altitude mountaineering: gone was the use of supplemental bottled oxygen; gone were the big teams, porters, sherpas, crevasse ladders, fixed ropes, pitons, bolts, and staged camps. This philosophy came to be known as climbing "by fair means." He would leave base camp with a rucksack, climb as fast as possible, and then descend.

       And self-confidence: in 1978, he stunned the climbing world by being the first person to solo an eight-thousander alone — Pakistan's 8125-meter Nanga Parbat. Prior to that, he pulled off a historic feat, something that medical experts said couldn't be done: climb to the top of Mount Everest without using supplemental oxygen. Doctors and climbers regarded the human body incapable of surviving above 8600 meters without bottled oxygen. In Germany, at least five doctors on television appeared before, going and telling everyone they can prove climbing the biggest 8000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen was not possible. On 8 May 1978, he stood on the 8850-meter summit of Mount Everest — without bottled oxygen. Even his father became a believer: sitting in the local bar, upon hearing news of his son's success on Everest, he exclaimed, "I knew he would do it!"

       Two years later, he would return to shake the world with an even more astounding feat: he soloed Mount Everest without oxygen, climbing to the summit and returning in a little over 3 days. No rope, no buddy, just a small rucksack. There were no other climbers on the mountain. A climbing legend, Sir Chris Bonington, opined, "That solo ascent is the most remarkable attempt on Everest ever. Add to it what he achieved later and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest mountaineers of all time."

       On 16 October 1986, standing on the summit of Lhotse (8501 meters), he became the first man to climb all fourteen 8000-meter (26,240 feet) peaks on the planet — and all by fair means.

       Today, he is acknowledged as the undisputed world's greatest mountaineer.

       Who is he?

       He is Reinhold Messner.

       In pursuing his heart, Reinhold Messner changed the world of climbing. He tore up the rule book for high altitude mountaineering — and replaced it with his own:

Messner, 62, is not only the greatest high-altitude mountaineer the world has ever known; he is probably the best it will ever know. His 1980 solo ascent of Mount Everest by "fair means" — without sherpas, crevasse ladders or supplemental oxygen — remains the most primal test conceivable of man against the earth. (James Graff, Time)

       What is most admirable (at least to me) is that Messner did all these for one reason and one reason alone — himself. "I am Sisyphus," he has written, " and the stone which I push up the mountain is my own psyche." He did not do it for fame. He did not do it for riches. And, to the rancor to many of his countrymen, neither did he do it for country:

At a local festival held to honor the success of the 1978 Everest expedition, Reinhold was asked why he had not carried his country's flag. "In my answer, I said I didn't go up for Italy, not for South Tirol, not for Austria, not for Germany," Reinhold said, laughing hard enough to sputter. "I went up for myself. I took out my handkerchief: 'I am my own home and my handkerchief is my flag.' Nobody's going up for somebody on Everest. You go by yourself, and you handle it yourself."

At another time, Messner proved more colorful:

"All this nationalistic chanting makes me angry. I cannot stand it. I am not an anarchist, but I am anarchistical. Nature is the only ruler. I shit on flags. I do not need a national feeling. We are not something special. The time of the flag has been over for 50 years. And we know what tragedies nationalism brought to Europe in the last century."

Perhaps there's method in his madness: Nena Holguín, referring to his unprecedented solo ascent of Mount Everest in 1980:

Reinhold had already soloed about 2000 mountains at that point. People don't think of it as easier, but it's easier sometimes to do things alone because there is nobody you have to cooperate with, as long as you can get past the aloneness. He likes to do things exactly at his own pace and his own style. It's easy to do things alone if you already know you can do them. He trusted himself entirely.

       But being the lone wolf has its price: Hans Saler, a member of the ill-fated 1970 Nanga Parbat expedition where Reinhold's brother, Günther perished, wrote in an open letter, "Our silence had to do with loyalty, a foreign word for you. You are an excellent climber, but a good comrade? NO!"

As evinced by Saler, even his detractors acknowledge their respect for Messner's achievements, however grudgingly. Douglas Scott, a British high-altitude alpinist has this to say:

Everyone likes to bash the icon, so I would take all this with a pinch of salt. Messner did not climb new routes in the Himalayas. He did what had already been done - with lightweight equipment and without oxygen. But he broke grounds in terms of style and his solo ascents of Nanga Parbat and Everest were great steps forward... He is a real mountain man with mountain intelligence. He has his detractors, but much of it is envy.

       In his unbridled pursuit of his passion, Messner blazed a path so bright — so long, so wide — that, perhaps, for many generations, others can only follow. In the words of Jürgen Winkler, a distinguished alpine photographer, "Reinhold Messner is un homme extraordinaire. There is no second person in the world like Reinhold Messner."

"He had nobody's footsteps to follow," says Ed Viesturs, an American climber who completed the fair-means ascent of all 14 [8000-meter] peaks in spring 2005. "After Messner, the mystery of possibility was gone; there remained only the mystery of whether you could do it."

"Messner set the agenda for mountaineering after all the big peaks had been climbed," says Ian Parnell, one of Britain's top alpinists. "He set out the rules that we are still using today."

       Acknowledged as the greatest mountaineer in history, Reinhold Messner, also a writer (an author of over 40 books), lecturer, photographer, European parliamentarian, owner of a vineyard and several organic farms, now lives in Schloss Juval, a fully restored 13th-century castle perched on a 3000-foot-high-cliff, guarded by soaring, snow-streaked mountains, overlooking Senales Valley. With his lucrative endorsements, highly paid lectures and book royalties, he is worth millions. Today, the 62-year-old spends his time writing books, making documentary films, contributing to well-known specialist magazines (e.g. Alpinist and Gripped), advocating the preservation of wilderness, mountain farming, and building and running a series of mountain museums. Not bad for a stubborn village lad who chose to follow his heart and refused to "grow up," eh?

If you look at my life, then one thing is clear. I did one activity at a time, with all my willpower, all my money and all my time. Complete commitment.
         (Reinhold Messner at Castle Juval, his home in South Tirol, Italy)