Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Christmas Hoax

The Christmas Hoax:
Jesus is NOT the "Reason for the Season"
by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

What is the real "reason for the season?"
Excerpted from
Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled
by Acharya S

The December 25th birthday of the sun god is a common motif globally, dating back at least 12,000 years as reflected in winter solstices artfully recorded in caves. "Nearly all nations," says Doane, commemorated the birth of the god Sol to the "Queen of Heaven" and "Celestial Virgin." The winter solstice was celebrated in countless places, including China and Persia, the latter regarding the solar Lord and Savior Mithra's birth. In Rome, a great festival called "Saturnalia" was celebrated from December 1st to the 23rd. The winter solstice festival in Egypt included the babe in a manger brought out of the sanctuary.

Regarding the date of the "Christmas Feast," the Catholic Encyclopedia ("Christmas") remarks:

The well-known solar feast...of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date....

The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in Cypr., "De pasch. Comp.", xix, "...O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born... Christ should be born." In the fourth century, Chrysostom, "del Solst. Et Æquin." (II, p. 118, ed. 1588), says: "...But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December... the eight before the calends of January [25 December]... But they call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord...? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice." Already Tertullian (Apol., 16; cf. Ad. Nat., I, 13; Orig. c. Cels., VIII, 67, etc) had to assert that Sol was not the Christians' God; Augustine (Tract xxxiv, in Joan. In P. L., XXXV, 1652) denounces the heretical indentification of Christ with Sol. Pope Leo I (Serm. xxxvii in nat. dom., VII, 4; xxii, II, 6 in P. L., LIV, 218 and 198) bitterly reproves solar survivals--Christians, on the very doorstep of the Apostles' basilica, turn to adore the rising sun.

Ancient Greeks celebrated the birthday of Hercules and Dionysus on this date, as the ancient authority Macrobius (c. 400 AD/CE) maintained. Even the Greek father god, Zeus, was supposedly born at the winter solstice. The "Christmas" festival was celebrated at Athens and was called "the Lenaea," during which time, apparently, "the death and rebirth of the harvest infant Dionysus were similarly dramatized." This Lenaea festival is depicted in an Aurignacian cave-painting in Spain, with a "young Dionysus with huge genitals," standing naked in the middle of "nine dancing women." The Aurignacian period extended from 34,000 to 23,000 years ago. In The White Goddess (399), mythologist Robert Graves states:

The most ancient surviving record of European religious practices is an Aurignacian cave-painting at Cogul in North-Eastern Spain of the Old Stone Age Lenaea. A young Dionysus with huge genitals stands un-armed, alone and exhausted in the middle of a crescent of nine dancing women, who face him. He is naked, except for what appear to be a pair of close-fitting boots laced at the knee; they are fully clothed and wear small cone-shaped hats. These wild women, differentiated by their figures and details of their dress, grow progressively older as one looks clock-wise around the crescent...

By using the term "Dionysus," Graves is not stating that it was written on the walls of the cave. He is using it to describe an archetype that is very ancient.

The Greco-Syrian sun god Adonis - the "Adonai" of the Bible - was also born on December 25th, a festival "spoken of by Tertullian, Jerome, and other Fathers of the Church, who inform us that the ceremonies took place in a cave, and that the cave in which they celebrated his mysteries in Bethlehem, was that in which Christ Jesus was born."

Nor is the winter solstice celebration a purely "Pagan" concept, as the Jews also observed it in reference to the birth of their god, Yahweh. The "Feast of Illumination," "Feast of Lights" or "feast of the Dedication," occurred in winter (John 10:22-23; Josephus's Antiquities XII, 7.7)¹ and represented the "ancient Hebrew Winter Solstice Feast." The reference in the gospel of John states:

"It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter..." (RSV)

The passage in Josephus's Antiquities (XII, 7.7) refers to the eight-day festival celebrated by the Jewish hero Judas Maccabeus (190 BCE-160 BCE), the "festival of the restoration off the sacrifices of the temple." This 8-day festival is called by Josephus simply "Lights," as in the "festival of Lights." Known as "Hannukah," this "feast of Lights" represents a "restoration" of the ancient temple sacrifices.

Regarding this Hannukah feast, in The White Goddess (469), Graves further says:

The rabbinical account is that this eight-day festival which begins on the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev, was instituted by Judas Maccabeus and that it celebrates a miracle: at the Maccabean consecration of the Temple a small cruse of sacred oil was found, hidden by a former High Priest, which lasted for eight days. By this legend the authors of the Talmud hoped to conceal the antiquity of the feast, which was originally Jehovah's birthday as the Sun-god and had been celebrated at least as early as the time of Nehemiah (Maccabees, I, 18).

The citation in Graves concerning the antiquity of this feast should be 2 Maccabees 1:18, which states:

Since on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev we shall celebrate the purification of the temple, we thought it necessary to notify you, in order that you also may celebrate the feast of booths and the feast of the fire given when Nehemiah, who built the temple and the altar, offered sacrifices.

The biblical figure Nehemiah is reputed to have lived during the fifth century (fl. 430 BCE), and 25th of the month of Kislev (November/December) is indeed the time of the celebration called Hannukah/Chanukah. As 2 Maccabees recounts, during this earlier sacrifice by Nehemiah, the Persians to whom he had sent for the sacred fire had only given him a "thick liquid" (oil?). After the liquid was sprinkled on the wood, the sun - previously hidden by clouds - beamed brightly, causing a great fire to blaze up, "so that all marveled." At this point, the priests offered fervent prayers to the Lord God.

From the account in the biblical book of Ezekiel concerning the Temple priests holding secret rites - sacrilegious in Ezekiel's opinion - we know that there is an esoteric tradition within Judaism that is not made known to the masses. Graves is apparently suggesting that this esoteric tradition included the knowledge of Jehovah/Yahweh as a sun god - as asserted and demonstrated by numerous authorities and researchers - and that, as a sun god, he too was typically considered as born on the winter solstice. It would appear, therefore, that this "festival of Lights" and "feast of the dedication" was a winter-solstice celebration based on the solar aspect either of the old Israelite gods or elohim, as they are repeatedly termed in the Old Testament, or of the Jewish tribal god Yahweh. (These inferences make for further studies by interested parties. The solar attributes of the main Jewish god Yahweh are brought out in detail in The Christ Conspiracy and Suns of God.)

In addition, Indians for millennia have celebrated the winter solstice, as a cardinal point, the new year and, presumably, the birth of the sun god. In the Indian solstice celebration--a "great religious festival"--there is "rejoicing everywhere." As in the West, the Indians "decorate their houses with garlands, and make presents to friends and relatives," a "custom of very great antiquity." One way the Brahman priests of Orissa have celebrated the solstice is by carrying images of "the youthful Krishna to the houses of their disciples and their patrons, to whom they present some of the red powder and tar of roses, and receive presents of money and cloth in return." Thus, in India the winter solstice has been as much a major holiday as it was anywhere, which is to be expected in a land permeated with sun worship for millennia.

Regarding the Persian sun god Mithra and his sacrifice, in the 19th century respected Christian author Rev. J.P. Lundy remarked:

"For let it be borne in mind that it was precisely at the season of this sacrifice, near the beginning of the new year, that the birth of Mithra was celebrated over all Persia and the world, in temple-caves, on the night of the 24th of December, the night of light. Even the British Druids celebrated it, and called the next day, the 25th of December, Nollagh or Noel, the day of regeneration, celebrating it with great fires on tops of their mountains. In fact, all nations, as if by common consent, at the first moment after midnight of the 24th of December, celebrated the birth of the sun-god, type among the Gentiles of Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, as the Desire of all nations and the Saviour of the world."

Lundy was thus well aware of the sun gods, whom he deemed "types of Christ," indicating Christ's solar nature as well.

Concerning the winter solstice festival in Ireland, the author of Christian Mythology Unveiled relates:

"The Baal-fire feast, or meeting, was a great festival in Ireland, on the 25th of December, and midsummer eve. Baal, or Bel, was a name of the sun all over the east."

It is important to note that the "December 25th" birthdate only applies to the age and hemisphere in which the winter solstice falls on December 21-24. In other ages, the solstice month is different, changing with the precession of the equinoxes every 2150 years.

The December 25th birthdate is that of the sun, not a "real person," revealing its unoriginality within Christianity and the true nature of the Christian godman. "Christmas" was not incorporated into Christianity until 354 AD/CE. In reality, there is no evidence, no primary sources which show that "Jesus is the reason for the season."

Happy Solstice!

Excerpted from "Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled"

¹ This citation contained a typo that unfortunately ended up in the "Reason for the Season" video. As here, it should be Josephus's Antiquities, XII, 7.7, rather than book XIII.


Obamaville: Springs Tent Community Has Sign Tying President To Homelessness

A tent community in Colorado Springs became the subject of controversy last week when an unknown person had a sign created that read 'Welcome To Obamaville: Colorado's Fastest-Growing Community.' The sign hung on a gate outside the tent community until this weekend, when it was replaced with a sign that read 'Please Help: We Need Firewood, Propane And Canned Food.'

KRDO, News Channel 13 in Colorado Springs, interviewed Spencer Swann, who designed the 'Obamaville' sign after being commissioned by a person he would not name. He said that the idea was to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. 'You mention his [Obama's] name, you get some attention, I think that was the whole idea behind it' Swann said.

Swann did not comment directly on whether the sign was intended to play off of 'Hoovervilles,' the name given to tent communities of homeless people during the great depression. Colorado Springs has been battling an epidemic of homelessness so significant that the city has considered banning camping within city limits due to 'safety concerns' from rampant tent communities.

Freedom Rider: “War is Peace” Prize

Freedom Rider: “War is Peace” Prize
Tue, 12/15/2009
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Barack Obama is nothing if not a man of “firsts.” America’s first Black president has earned the dubious honor of possibly having delivered the first resoundingly pro-war speech to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. “The new peace prize winner told the world that peace isn’t worth working for and is off the table for his consideration.”

“Barack Obama rejected the very need for peace, mocked previous winners, and attempted to change the very definition of the word.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, who award the Nobel Peace Prize, created world wide feelings of dismay, shock and anger from the moment they announced that Barack Obama would be the 2009 honoree. How could the man who is waging two wars, who is responsible for the largest military budget in world history, be given the same honor that went to luminaries such as Martin Luther King, who fought tirelessly against militarism?

Barack Obama’s actual speech at the ceremony was worse, much worse than anything that could have been imagined when this honor was announced two months ago. His words were so horrific, so bereft of any of the ideals of peace makers, that he single handedly made the once prestigious Nobel Peace Prize worthless. If the winner speaks about the urgent need for military action and denigrates the very need for peace, then surely the wrong person was honored.

Obama’s acceptance speech was an offensive, sorry spectacle of lies, and trite, badly written language that came straight from a Bush era speech writer. It is fitting that he added insult to injury when he snubbed his hosts by skipping the traditional luncheon with the king of Norway. The committee’s foolish decision earned them this well deserved slap in the face.

The new peace prize winner told the world that peace isn’t worth working for and is off the table for his consideration.

According to Obama, peace is kind of nice if the circumstances permit, but humans have been fighting for eons, so war is the natural state of affairs. Naïve peace lovers should allow him to do as he pleases without complaint.

“His words were so horrific, so bereft of any of the ideals of peace makers.”

“So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.” Peace prize winners are supposed to tell the world that peace is not only a possibility, but an imperative for humanity. They usually tell us how they have overcome powerful interests to bring peace in situations where it didn’t seem possible. They tell us not to listen to the nay sayers who claim that peace is an idealistic impracticality. They give us true hope for the future and encourage us all to work for seemingly impossible goals. Instead Barack Obama rejected the very need for peace, mocked previous winners, and attempted to change the very definition of the word.

Obama could not have made these claims and twisted the meaning of language without telling a long list of whopping lies. “A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.” Both statements are untrue. Hitler could have been stopped by diplomacy if “democratic” nations like Britain and France had moved against the Nazi interventions against the elected government of Spain. They also chose to continue their capitulation when they cravenly handed over Czechoslovakia on a silver platter. Non-violent action might have stopped Hitler before his armies were ever on the move.

As for al-Qaeda, Obama has no way of knowing if they would enter into negotiations with the United States. Neither he nor his predecessor ever sought to negotiate with them. Obama gets credit for being a very intelligent man, yet he can’t manage to find a way to establish diplomatic contacts and discussions with what is essentially a small group of individuals with very few arms. Despite what Obama says, peace talks and treaties have also been conducted from time immemorial. Endless war results from choices made by the Obamas of the world. It is never an inevitability.

“According to Obama, peace is kind of nice if the circumstances permit, but humans have been fighting for eons, so war is the natural state of affairs.”

Obama’s speech was filled with falsehoods that are obvious to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history. “America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.”

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Salvador Allende, and Manuel Zelaya were all democratically elected, yet they and their respective governments fell victim to the United States and/or to its proxies. As for friends of the American government, they have been and continue to be dictators, torturers and invaders. As for “closest friends”, Saddam Hussein was a friend of the United States when he actually possessed and used weapons of mass destruction.

Having been emboldened by the peace prize committee which seems not to believe in peace any longer, Obama lost what little shame he had left. He had the gall to criticize Somalia, a nation destroyed by America and its proxy Ethiopia. “America alone cannot secure the peace … This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering.” The famine and suffering in Somalia is the result of terror inflicted by George W. Bush and now Barrack Obama. The United States deliberately intervened when Somalia was on the mend and recovering from years of bloodshed. It is outrageous that the faux peace maker would have the nerve to even mention Somalia in his speech. Then again, he had the nerve to accept his undeserved honor, why not make the most of it by insulting the intelligence of millions of people.
“The Obama doctrine sounds an awful lot like the Bush doctrine.”

Obama now has his own noxious “doctrine” to inflict upon the world. “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.” It sounds an awful lot like the Bush doctrine, which means that the United States can do anything it likes wherever and whenever it likes. Of course Bush and now Obama claim they are defending their nation when they send drones to kill people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A war never begins with a tyrant honestly announcing his tyranny. Every war is just to those who choose to wage it, no matter how specious their arguments.

It is disheartening to see the entire world fall under the sway of Barrack Obama. Is no one immune? Black Americans swoon with unwarranted feelings of race pride. White progressives forget the most basic rules of political engagement. Now a group of Norwegians get the vapors because Bush is out of office and his successor is black, and we are all subjected to loathsome speeches from an American president who says he doesn’t seek empire even as he does just that.

Perhaps the peace prize committee did the world a favor after all. We now know not to live by their pronouncements and decisions or assume they have some superior knowledge which escapes the rest of us. They are part of that class which decides who is and is not worthy of honor and special consideration. When all is said and done, we depend on ourselves and our convictions. We know what peace is and we know what it looks like. In the future, Thorbjørn Bagland and the rest of the Norwegian Nobel Committee can return to the obscurity they so well deserve and we can return to the serious business of working for a peaceful world.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at

The strange consensus on Obama's Nobel address

Friday, Dec 11, 2009
The strange consensus on Obama's Nobel address
By Glenn Greenwald

Reactions to Obama's Nobel speech yesterday were remarkably consistent across the political spectrum, and there were two points on which virtually everyone seemed to agree: (1) it was the most explicitly pro-war speech ever delivered by anyone while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize; and (2) it was the most comprehensive expression of Obama's foreign policy principles since he became President. I don't think he can be blamed for the first fact; when the Nobel Committee chose him despite his waging two wars and escalating one, it essentially forced on him the bizarre circumstance of using his acceptance speech to defend the wars he's fighting. What else could he do? Ignore the wars? Repent?

I'm more interested in the fact that the set of principles Obama articulated yesterday was such a clear and comprehensive expression of his foreign policy that it's now being referred to as the "Obama Doctrine." About that matter, there are two arguably confounding facts to note: (1) the vast majority of leading conservatives -- from Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich to Peggy Noonan, Sarah Palin, various Kagans and other assorted neocons -- have heaped enthusiastic praise on what Obama said yesterday, i.e., on the Obama Doctrine; and (2) numerous liberals have done exactly the same. That convergence gives rise to a couple of questions:

Why are the Bush-following conservatives who ran the country for the last eight years and whose foreign policy ideas are supposedly so discredited -- including some of the nation's hardest-core neocons -- finding so much to cheer in the so-called Obama Doctrine?

How could liberals and conservatives -- who have long claimed to possess such vehemently divergent and irreconcilable worldviews on foreign policy -- both simultaneously adore the same comprehensive expression of foreign policy?

Let's dispense first with several legitimate caveats. Like all good politicians, Obama is adept at paying homage to multiple, inconsistent views at once, enabling everyone to hear whatever they want in what he says while blissfully ignoring the rest. Additionally, conservatives have an interest in claiming that Obama has embraced Bush/Cheney policies even when he hasn't, because it allows them to claim vindication ("see, now that Obama gets secret briefings, he realizes we were right all along"). Moreover, there are foreign policies Obama has pursued that are genuinely disliked by neocons -- from negotiating with Iran to applying some mild pressure on Israel to the use of more conciliatory and humble rhetoric. And one of the most radical and controversial aspects of the Bush presidency -- the attack on Iraq -- was not defended by Obama, nor was the underlying principle that produced it ("preventive" war).

But all that said, it's easy to understand why even intellectually honest conservatives -- including neocons -- found so much to like in "the Obama Doctrine," at least as it found expression yesterday. With the one caveat that Obama omitted a defense of the Iraq War, the generally Obama-supportive Kevin Drum put it this way:

I really don't think neocons have much to complain about even if Obama didn't use the opportunity to announce construction of a new generation of nuclear missiles or something. Given that he was, after all, accepting a peace prize, it was a surprisingly robust defense of war and America's military role in the world. Surprisingly Bushian, really . . .

Indeed, Obama insisted upon what he called the "right" to wage wars "unilaterally"; articulated a wide array of circumstances in which war is supposedly "just" far beyond being attacked or facing imminent attack by another country; explicitly rejected the non-violence espoused by King and Gandhi as too narrow and insufficiently pragmatic for a Commander-in-Chief like Obama to embrace; endowed us with the mission to use war as a means of combating "evil"; and hailed the U.S. for underwriting global security for the last six decades (without mentioning how our heroic efforts affected, say, the people of Vietnam, or Iraq, or Central America, or Gaza, and so many other places where "security" is not exactly what our wars "underwrote"). So it's not difficult to see why Rovian conservatives are embracing his speech; so much of it was devoted to an affirmation of their core beliefs.

The more difficult question to answer is why -- given what Drum described -- so many liberals found the speech so inspiring and agreeable? Is that what liberals were hoping for when they elected Obama: someone who would march right into Oslo and proudly announce to the world that we have a unilateral right to wage war when we want and to sing the virtues of war as a key instrument for peace? As Tom Friedman put it on CNN yesterday: "He got into their faces . . . I'm for getting into the Europeans' face." Is that what we needed more of?

Yesterday's speech and the odd, extremely bipartisan reaction to it underscored one of the real dangers of the Obama presidency: taking what had been ideas previously discredited as Republican or right-wing dogma and transforming them into bipartisan consensus. It's not just Republicans but Democrats that are now vested in -- and eager to justify -- the virtues of war, claims of Grave Danger posed by Islamic radicals and the need to use massive military force to combat them, indefinite detention, military commissions, extreme secrecy, full-scale immunity for government lawbreaking, and so many other doctrines once purportedly despised by Democrats but now defended by them because their leader has embraced them.

That's exactly the process that led former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith to giddily explain that Obama has actually done more to legitimize Bush/Cheney "counter-terrorism" policies than Bush and Cheney themselves -- because he made them bipartisan -- and Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin made the same point to The New York Times' Charlie Savage back in July:

In any case, Jack Balkin, a Yale Law School professor, said Mr. Obama’s ratification of the basic outlines of the surveillance and detention policies he inherited would reverberate for generations. By bestowing bipartisan acceptance on them, Mr. Balkin said, Mr. Obama is consolidating them as entrenched features of government.

"What we are watching," Mr. Balkin said, "is a liberal, centrist, Democratic version of the construction of these same governing practices."

Most of the neocons celebrating Obama's speech yesterday made exactly that point in one way or another: if even this Democratic President, beloved by liberals, announces to the world that we have the unilateral right to wage war and that doing so creates Peace and crushes Evil, and does so at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony of all places, doesn't that end the argument for good?

Much of the liberal praise for Obama's speech yesterday focused on how eloquent, sophisticated, nuanced, complex, philosophical, contemplative and intellectual it was. And, looked at a certain way, it was all of those things -- like so many Obama speeches are. After eight years of enduring a President who spoke in simplistic Manichean imperatives and bullying decrees, many liberals are understandably joyous over having a President who uses their language and the rhetorical approach that resonates with them.

But that's the real danger. Obama puts a pretty, intellectual, liberal face on some ugly and decidedly illiberal polices. Just as George Bush's Christian-based moralizing let conservatives feel good about America regardless of what it does, Obama's complex and elegiac rhetoric lets many liberals do the same. To red state Republicans, war and its accompanying instruments (secrecy, executive power, indefinite detention) felt so good and right when justified by swaggering, unapologetic toughness and divinely-mandated purpose; to blue state Democrats, all of that feels just as good when justified by academic meditations on "just war" doctrine and when accompanied by poetic expressions of sorrow and reluctance. When you combine the two rhetorical approaches, what you get is what you saw yesterday: a bipartisan embrace of the same policies and ideologies among people with supposedly irreconcilable views of the world.

Norwegians incensed over Barack Obama's snubs

Nobel peace prize: Norwegians incensed over Barack Obama's snubs
Gwladys Fouché and Ewen MacAskill, Wednesday 9 December 2009

Barack Obama's trip to Oslo to pick up his Nobel peace award is in danger of being overshadowed by a row over the cancellation of a series of events normally attended by the prizewinner.

Norwegians are incensed over what they view as his shabby response to the prize by cutting short his visit.

The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre.

He has also turned down a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.

According to a poll published by the daily tabloid VG, 44% of Norwegians believe it was rude of Obama to cancel his scheduled lunch with King Harald, with only 34% saying they believe it was acceptable.

"Of all the things he is cancelling, I think the worst is cancelling the lunch with the king," said Siv Jensen, the leader of the largest party in opposition, the populist Progress party. "This is a central part of our government system. He should respect the monarchy," she told VG.

The Norwegian Nobel committee, which awards the peace prize, dismissed the criticism. "We always knew that there were too many events in the programme. Obama has to govern the US and we were told early on that he could not commit to all of them," said Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee.

Although Obama will not lunch with King Harald, he will see him on a visit to the royal palace.

Peace activists opposed to the Afghanistan war are planning a 5,000-strong protest in Oslo.

The visit will test Obama's rhetorical skills as he seeks to reconcile acceptance of the Nobel peace prize with sending an extra 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan.

White House officials said that Obama, who was planning to work on the final draft of his speech on his flight from Washington to Oslo, would directly address the issue of the irony of being awarded the peace prize while escalating the war.

The Nobel peace committee has been criticised for awarding Obama the prize before he has any major accomplishments in international relations.

A White House official said that it was not necessarily an award that Obama would have given himself.

President Obama hits a low of 44 percent approval

Rasmussen: President Obama hits a low of 44 percent approval
Michael Krebs.
Dec 14, 2009

A new daily tracking poll released by Rasmussen Reports shows President Obama at his lowest job approval percentage yet - just 44 percent of Americans approve of the work he is doing for the country.

With the health care debate struggling in the Senate and climate talks falling apart in Copenhagen and a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama is facing challenges from multiple sides - many of which he created.

Now, a new daily tracking poll from Rasmussen Reports released on Monday shows a steady downtrend among American voters - with just 44 percent of Americans approving of the job President Obama is doing. The poll also reflected a minority of Americans that are strongly in favor of the embattled president - only 24 percent of those polled said they strongly approve of the work the president is doing.

Additionally, with the health care debate galvanizing the Senate, Rasmussen showed a steady resistance among Americans to the ideas presented by the Democratic Party establishment - 56 percent of those polled are opposed to the health care measures being discussed in Congress.

President Obama also appeared to be losing the Independent voting population.

"Seventy-two percent (72%) of Democrats now offer their approval while 80% of Republicans disapprove. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, just 36% approve," Rasmussen reported.

Barack Obama Anagram of the Month

Barack Hussein Obama:

Nu-Mao, his abs are back.


Ex-Microsoft employee remembers the last sound he heard at Microsoft: Bing!
Scott Rose
December 16, 2009

How one Microsoft employee didn't "bing" good enough for Steve Ballmer.

About The Video:

At a time when Americans are scared, jobless, and homeless, we wanted to create a comedy that would resonate with how Americans are feeling. We are Scott Rose and Ernie Brandon, a screenwriting duo in Los Angeles, and we don't have anything to give back to America except for belly laughs. This video is a teaser for our new comedy screenplay about what it means to be a little guy in the land of giants. This is our Christmas gift to the working class.

Category: Comedy

SI names Derek Jeter 2009 Sportsman of the Year

Monday November 30, 2009
SI names Derek Jeter 2009 Sportsman of the Year
Story Highlights
Jeter is the 56th honoree and the first Yankee to be named SI's Sportsman
In 2009 he led the Yankees to their fifth World Series title in his 14 full seasons
He also passed Lou Gehrig's franchise mark for hits, which now stands at 2,747

NEW YORK ( -- In what has already been a banner year for Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop can add another honor: Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award. Jeter was chosen as the magazine's 56th honoree (the Dec. 7 issue will hit newsstands on Wednesday) and becomes the first Yankee to be named SI's Sportsman.

Jeter's selection caps another outstanding season for the 35-year-old team captain and future Hall of Famer. In 2009 he batted .334 while leading the Yankees to their fifth World Series title in his 14 full seasons, their first since 2000 and their record 27th in franchise history. On Sept. 11 he passed Lou Gehrig's franchise mark for base hits, which now stands at 2,747. In 2009 Jeter led the American League by reaching base 289 times, finished second in the league in hits (212), third in batting average and on-base percentage (.406), fourth in runs (107) and eighth in stolen bases (30). He was named an All-Star for the 10th time, including the sixth time as a starter, while winning his fourth AL Silver Slugger as the best hitting shortstop in the league and his fourth Gold Glove as the league's top defensive shortstop.

In 15 postseason games Jeter lived up to his reputation as a clutch player, batting .344 with a .432 on-base percentage, three home runs and six RBIs. He batted .407 in the World Series to lead the Yankees to a six-game victory over the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies. During the Series, Jeter was named the American League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best hitter in each league, and the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best displays skill on the field while giving back to the community off it.

It was that combination of on- and off-field achievement that helped make Jeter this year's Sportsman. Said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Terry McDonell, "Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class; he does numerous good works for the community with his Turn 2 Foundation, which is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he's extremely generous with not just his money but with his time, which in many cases is more valuable. He also had another signature year on the field."

Jeter is the first baseball player to win the award solo since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were co-winners in 1998, as were Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001. The Boston Red Sox won as a team in 2004.

The Sportsman of the Year award has been given annually since SI began publishing in 1954. The first winner was track star Roger Bannister, and subsequent honorees include Arnold Palmer (1960), Muhammad Ali (1974), Chris Evert (1976), Wayne Gretzky (1982), Michael Jordan (1991), Tiger Woods (1996 and 2000, the only two-time recipient), Lance Armstrong (2002) and Tom Brady (2005). Last year's winner was record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

Tiger Woods?!? The REAL Athletes of the Decade

E of S Nation: Have an Edge of Sport Christmas and support a good cause! Get any Dave Z book from the Teaching for Change website, and you support one of the most important non-profits working today. Teaching for Change strives to make sure that our children actually have access to our people’s history in the classroom.

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Dave Z

Tiger Woods?!? The REAL Athletes of the Decade

By Dave Zirin

It feels almost liberating to say the words "Tiger Woods" and "outrage" in the same sentence, without referencing any of the sleaze of the past month. This particular outrage involves the Associated Press and their naming of Woods as "athlete of the decade."

Even worse is their top four - which includes, in order, cyclist Lance Armstrong, tennis player Roger Federer and swimmer Michael Phelps. This list is so bizarre, so male and so near-Caucasian, it seems to have been conjured by Glenn Beck.

But let's leave aside for a moment the country club pursuits and plethora of testicles defining the list. The fact that there is no soccer or basketball player immediately brands it a sham. And the thought that a golfer - any golfer - would be No. 1 is absurd. Golf is not a sport. It's a game. It's darts. It's billiards. It's the World Series of Poker with walking. I believe that anything that you can gain weight while performing, or anything you can do at a world-class level while smoking, just isn't a true athletic competition.

Otherwise the AP should've included people like the Great Takeru Kobayashi, who held the competitive hot dog eating record for six straight years. In 2001, he doubled the old mark, scarfing down 50 weenies in 12 minutes. Disgusting? Sure. But no more vile than the amount of acreage and water needed to maintain a golf course.

Even more obnoxious is the presence of Lance Armstrong and the absence of Barry Bonds in the top five. Armstrong won every Tour De France from 2000-2005. But it's been rumored that the man has done more illegal pharmaceuticals than Keith Richards. Bonds didn't receive a single vote despite becoming the all-time home run champion, and the first player to have 500 home runs and 500 steals. If an anabolic odor cost Bonds, it should cost Armstrong as well.

So who really deserves to be in the top five? Considering all mental and physical athletic variables, my No. 1 is soccer star Ronaldihno. By combining speed and an unholy stamina, the Brazilian has become the sport's consensus player of the decade. He has achieved this while representing a country where soccer ranks somewhere above oxygen.

My No. 2 two choice is Serena Williams. Serena has won 10 majors this decade, which is impressive enough. But she's also risen to the top as an African-American in the lily-white world of tennis, while also playing out from under the shadow of her sister Venus. And she rose to the top with a powerful and decidedly un-ladylike style that was as audacious as her infamous catsuit.

My third pick is Kobe Bryant. In addition to four championships, he may go down as the greatest scorer in the history of the sport not named Wilt Chamberlain. Consider Kobe's decade. In addition to four titles, he scored 81 points in a game, had four straight 50-point games, and nailed 62 points in three quarters against Dallas, outscoring their entire team.

Fourth on the list for me is Roger Federer. Federer's numbers overwhelm the senses. Fifteen Grand Slam titles, 22 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances, and 237 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1. Yes, the AP got that one right.

For No. 5, I go with Ray Lewis, middle linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens - one of the great players in league history, as well as the epitome of controlled adrenaline. He belongs on this list.

That's my top five. And to the AP: Thank you for offending us all with a Tiger Woods story that has nothing to do with his zipper.

Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at .

Woods voted top athlete of the decade

Woods voted top athlete of the decade

Even after a shocking sex scandal that tarnished Tiger Woods, it was tough to ignore what he achieved on the golf course.

He won 64 times around the world, including 12 majors, and hoisted a trophy on every continent golf is played. He lost only one time with the lead going into the final round. His 56 PGA Tour victories in one incomparable decade were more than anyone except four of golf's greatest players won in their careers.

Woods was selected Wednesday as the Athlete of the Decade by members of The Associated Press in a vote that was more about 10 years of performance than nearly three weeks of salacious headlines.

Just like so many of his victories, it wasn't much of a contest.

Woods received 56 of the 142 votes cast by AP member editors since last month. More than half of the ballots were returned after the Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home that set off sensational tales of infidelity.

Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor who won the Tour de France six times this decade, finished second with 33 votes. He was followed by Roger Federer, who won more Grand Slam singles titles than any other man, with 25 votes.

Record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps came in fourth with 13 votes, followed by New England quarterback Tom Brady (6) and sprinter Usain Bolt (4). Five other athletes received one vote apiece.

Woods, who has not been seen since the accident and has issued only three statements on his Web site, was not made available to comment about the award.

Few other athletes have changed their sport quite like Woods. His influence has been so powerful that TV ratings spiked whenever he played, even more when he has been in contention. Prize money has quadrupled since he joined the PGA Tour because of his broad appeal.

A new image emerged quickly in the days following his middle-of-the-night accident, when he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree. He became the butt of late-night TV jokes, eventually confessed that he "let my family down" with "transgressions" and lost a major sponsorship from Accenture.

Even so, AP members found his work on the golf course over the last 10 years without much of a blemish. Woods took an early lead in balloting, and continued to receive roughly the same percentage of votes throughout the process.

"Despite the tsunami of negative publicity that will likely tarnish his image, there's no denying that Woods' on-the-course accomplishments set a new standard of dominance within his sport while making golf more accessible to the masses," wrote Stu Whitney, sports editor of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader.

"The only proof needed are the television ratings when Tiger plays in a golf tournament, compared to those events when others have to carry the load."

Woods tumbled from the pinnacle of his sport in just about three weeks. The 10 years that preceded that fall, however, represented perhaps the greatest decade in golf history.

He won the career Grand Slam three times over, including one U.S. Open by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach and another U.S. Open on a mangled leg in a playoff at Torrey Pines. He twice won the British Open at St. Andrews, the home of golf, by a combined 13 shots.

Woods won 56 times on the PGA Tour this decade, a rate of 30 percent that is unprecedented in golf. Nine of those victories were by at least eight shots. He was No. 1 in the world ranking for all but 32 weeks in the decade, that when he was revamping his swing.

He did his best work in the biggest events.

Along with his 12 majors this decade — he has 14 overall, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus — Woods was runner-up in six other majors. He won 14 times out of 27 appearances in the World Golf Championships.

Woods finished the decade with $81,547,410 in earnings from his PGA Tour events, an average of $482,529 per tournament.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2010

The Stooges, Genesis, ABBA Lead the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2010
Dec 15, 2009

The Stooges, Genesis and ABBA lead the list of accomplished artists that will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year. The class of 2010 also includes the Hollies and Jimmy Cliff.

Iggy Pop says his band has been patiently awaiting this honor for some time. "We've been rejected seven times, and we would have set a record, I think, if it happened again," the Stooges' frontman tells Rolling Stone. "It started to feel like Charlie Brown and the football. I had about two hours of a strong emotional reaction after hearing the news. It felt like vindication. Then I kind of scratched my head and thought, 'Am I still cool? Or is that over now?' "

The news was quite surprising for the Swedish pop group ABBA. "I didn't think this would happen, because we were a pop band, not a rock band," says Benny Andersson, who helped found the group in 1970. "Being a foreigner from the North Pole, this feels really good."

The Hall of Fame has earned a reputation for convincing long dormant groups like Talking Heads and Led Zeppelin to perform at induction ceremonies. Though Graham Nash hopes to play with the Hollies for the first time since 1983 ("I'll be there with bells on," he says), an ABBA reunion is less likely; the group split in 1983 and has refused all offers to reform ever since. "It's very tricky because Agnetha [Fältskog] is not flying," Andersson says. "The people who are really fond of ABBA for what we did, I think we are doing them a favor by not going out." He said he wouldn't completely discount a performance, but wanted to talk it over with the rest of the group. "It's 99 against 1 [odds], though."

A reunion of the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis, who haven't played together since a one-off in 1982, is more likely — however Phil Collins' recent medical problems have left him virtually unable to play the drums. "I don't think he'd be itching to play early 1970s Genesis music at the moment," says Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks. "Peter [Gabriel] is a bit elusive, but I'll probably talk to him soon and see if he has any concept of what he wants to do. I don't feel a great need to play. I'm happy just to drink."

Cliff, known internationally for his work in the 1972 The Harder They Come and its iconic soundtrack, becomes the second reggae pioneer to join the Hall, after Bob Marley, who was inducted in 1994. Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" is one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The 25th annual induction ceremony will be held March 15th. The event, which is returning to New York's Waldorf Astoria, will be broadcast live on Fuse. The Hall of Fame will also give the Ahmet Ertegun Award (an honor for non-performers) to record executive David Geffen and songwriters Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry, Jesse Stone, Mort Shuman and Otis Blackwell.

Out the Rabbit Hole: "A Heartbeat and a Guitar"

KUCI: Out the Rabbit Hole
Tuesday, December 08, 2009, 8:00:00 PM

A Talk with Antonino D'Ambrosio about his book "A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears."

If you ask most people to name important folk protest records of the sixties, they probably wouldn't name something by Johnny Cash -- or even think of Johnny Cash as a folk protest singer. But Cash did record an album that certainly fits that bill. And those who are aware of it, do acknowledge its power and intensity. It, however, has remained obscure for all these decades. The reasons for that are part of a larger fascinating and compelling story full of controversy and drama. It's all captured in a wonderful new book called "A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears." Hear a discussion with the author, Antonino D'Ambrosio.

Babewatch: Rihanna on GQ Cover

Ventura’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ show probes 9/11

Ventura’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ show probes 9/11 mysteries
By Stephen C. Webster
Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has seen some stuff that will blow your mind.

Or, at least that's the tagline to "Conspiracy Theory," his new show on US cable station TruTV. In episode two, the one-time wrestler and movie star goes after one of America's greatest sacred cows: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It is, as far as this reporter can tell, the first time a syndicated program on U.S. cable has given a serious look at arguments made by members of the 9/11 truth movement.

In the show, Ventura speaks to key 9/11 truth figures such as former BYU professor Steven Jones and William Rodriguez, a nationally-acclaimed hero credited with saving dozens as he tried to escape from the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11.

Ventura explores theories ranging from the missing black box recorders to the possibility that previously-planted explosives brought down the WTC towers.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the WTC tower collapses, maintains there was no recovered evidence of explosive materials. An electronic FAQ to the government's theory is available online.

Almost without saying, the program leans heavily toward the conspiratorial-minded. Yet for many viewers, this may be their first exposure to such claims.

According to a TruTV press release, "Conspiracy Theory" hit the airwaves with the brunt of 1.6 million viewers, driving an 82% increase in the network's viewership over 2008. In only its second week, "Conspiracy Theory" is TruTV's most successful new show launch yet.

6 Worst Fast-Food Burgers

6 Worst Fast-Food Burgers (and What You Should Eat Instead!)
David Zinczenko, with Matt Goulding
Thu, Dec 17, 2009

A hamburger isn't, by itself, a terrible nutritional choice. Topped with some lettuce and tomato, ketchup, and mustard—and placed in a relatively small bun—a burger is a high-protein treat that shouldn't pack too much fat or too many calories. But just as country music went from skinny little Hank Williams playing honky-tonks to Garth Brooks touring stadiums—and just as baseball went from wiry Jackie Robinson stealing home to muscle-bound Barry Bonds stealing homers—so have our burgers evolved from lean and simple to very fat and complicated.

How hard has it become to decode the once-simple hamburger? Get a load of these. With Eat This, Not That! 2010 we've unearthed the biggest fast-food burger bombs in America, and offer reasonable and delicious alternatives.

Worst Cheeseburger with Everything
Wendy’s Double with Everything and Cheese
700 calories
40 g fat (17 g saturated, 2 g trans)
1,440 mg sodium

In the pantheon of fast-food burgers, this cannot compete with the atrocities wrought by the Double Whoppers and Six Dollar Burgers of the world. But there are too many burgers at Wendy’s to end up with this mistake. Take the Double Stack below—with small chili—for example. With 37 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, it might be the most satisfying $2 meal in America.

Eat This Instead!
Double Stack with Small Chili
550 calories
24 g fat (10.5 g saturated, 1 g trans)
1,640 mg sodium

Worst Burger and Fries
In-N-Out Burger Hamburger and French Fries
790 calories
37 g fat (10 g saturated)
895 mg sodium

You’re heading into dangerous territory whenever you add fries to your order at In-N-Out. Sure, they’re trans-fat-free, but that won’t protect you from the 400 greasy, gut-bloating calories they carry. Instead, skip the fries and get serious about your burger. In-N-Out was offering up the low-carb treat long before other restaurants started making money off the Atkins craze. Take advantage of their prescience—and the 150-calorie savings—by simply tacking the phrase “protein style” onto your order.

Eat This Instead!
Protein Style Double-Double with grilled onion, ketchup, and mustard
440 calories
30 g fat (16 g saturated)
1,080 mg sodium

Worst Plain Cheeseburger
Five Guys Cheeseburger (plain)
840 calories
55 g fat (22.5 g saturated)
1,050 mg sodium

Even if you get the regular (i.e., bi-pattied) cheeseburger naked, you’ll still be taking in more than 250 calories and 20 grams of fat extra over the seemingly decadent bacon and sauteed mushroom burger. That’s because what Five Guys calls a “Little Burger,” healthy people call a “normal burger.” Plus, if you limit yourself to a single beef patty, you can get away with a couple of indulgent toppings like cheese or bacon.

Eat This Instead!
Little Bacon Burger with Sauteed Mushrooms and A1 Steak Sauce
575 calories
33 g fat (14.5 g saturated)
920 mg sodium

Worst Burger Brand
Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger
890 calories
54 g fat (20 g saturated, 2 g trans)
2,040 mg sodium

What’s scary about the basic Six Dollar Burger is that with the exception of the bunless version, this is the leanest of the Six Dollar Burgers. That’s not a compliment—the rest of the line is just trashed beyond repair with egregious piles of bacon, guacamole, and teriyaki sauce. When at Carl’s, choose a Big Hamburger instead. Sure it’s big, but it’s not so big that you’re going to have to spend the next 3 days recovering. In fact, kids’ burgers aside, this is the only hamburger offered that won’t cost you in excess of 500 calories.

Eat This Instead!
Big Hamburger
460 calories
17 g fat (8 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,090 mg sodium

Worst “Original” Burger
Hardee’s Original Thickburger (1/3 lb)
910 calories
64 g fat (21 g saturated)
1,560 mg sodium

Shockingly, this is one of the least offensive of the Thickburgers. If you really need 1/3 pound of meat for lunch, make it the low-carb version and save yourself 490 calories. Or, choose a Double Cheeseburger, instead. It’s far from a model of sound nutrition, but the same could be said of Hardee’s itself. So if you want a burger with substance, you need to settle for the lesser of many evils.

Eat This Instead!
Double Cheeseburger
510 calories
26 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,120 mg sodium

Worst Fast-Food Cheeseburger in America
Burger King Triple Whopper Sandwich with Cheese and Mayo
1,250 calories
84 g fat (32 g saturated, 3.5 g trans)
1,600 mg sodium

This Triple Whopper is triple trouble. You could remove two patties and still be looking at more calories than you should tussle with in one sitting. And the fact that it’s got more trans fat than you should eat in a day only adds insult to injury. The problem with BK burgers is that not a single one comes without the heart-harming trans-fatty acids, despite their long-standing promise to (someday) make their menu trans-fat-free. Your best bet when dealing with the King is to choose a chicken sandwich instead.

Eat This Instead!
Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich with Mayo
490 calories
21 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans)
1,220 mg sodium

Great Quotes: Orson Welles

"I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time."
- Orson Welles

Big Ten Expansion Will Hit College Football

Big Ten Expansion Will Hit College Football Like a Tidal Wave
Pete Misthaufen
December 14, 2009

ESPN reported recently that Wisconsin athletic director and former head coach Barry Alvarez told the Wisconsin athletic board that the Big Ten will soon make a big push for a 12th member.

The idea of the first Big Ten expansion since 1993's addition of Penn State is looming very large, indeed, and the impact will be felt in more than the Big Ten and the Big East or Big 12 when they lose a team.

Indeed, a Big Ten expansion (with maybe a change in name to the Great 12 or something) will set off a chain of events that will largely reshape the college football world.

First off, since Notre Dame will most likely not agree to membership in the Big Ten (and I will leave it others to discuss that relationship), it leaves the Big East and Big 12 as likely targets.

The Big 12 has Iowa State, Missouri, and Nebraska, while the Big East has Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, and West Virginia. This is a good discussion of the Big Ten expansion possibilities.

The name of the game is television, and increasing television market share will be a key factor at hand.

The First Wave: The Big East Scenario

If the Big Ten goes east, then the Big East will again be looking to raid Conference USA (or maybe even the MAC).

In its last expansion, the Big East grabbed one good football and basketball school (Louisville, which has since declined greatly), one good basketball school (Cincy, which now plays good football), and one geographic school for Florida recruiting (USF, which has never finished in the final polls).

So, the Big East's targets will most likely be schools like Memphis (which recently hired former the former Big East commissioner as a consultant to get Memphis into an AQ conference), East Carolina, Marshall, Central Florida (jilted by the Big East last time), Temple (a Big East member only a few years ago), and Buffalo (the only SUNY school with a FBS football team).

Given its situation with its eight non-FBS playing schools, the departure of Rutgers or Pitt may actually force a resolution of the Big East's supersized nature, freeing the Big East to expand to 10 or 12 teams.

CUSA most likely would then invite Louisiana Tech as well as a Sun Belt team or two to join the rebuild the conference.

With a Big Ten expansion to the East, the first wave would most likely end there, with no other immediate consequences for the conferences further west like the Big 12, MWC, and Pac-10.

The First Wave: Big 12 Scenario

If the Big Ten decides to go south instead, Missouri would be the most likely new addition.

As such, the Big 12 would need a new school to fill a void in the Big 12 North.

The MWC is the most likely conference target for the Big 12, and three schools are really the most logical possibilities.

BYU is a large university with a large stadium and a three-decade history of playing on the national stage in college football. BYU has a lot of alums and followers throughout Big 12 country and could actually bring pretty good-sized crowds to away games (BYU brings about 10,000 or so fans for games at TCU, for example, and brought 15,000 or so to the game against Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium).

Colorado State is a decent sized state school, but would bring little to the Big 12 it does not already have.

TCU would seem a prefect fit, but it will not happen.

First, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech would all strongly object. They have already fallen way behind TCU and would only be hurt more by having to lose to Frogs every year.

Second, a divisional realignment would need to take place. While this could be solved by having Tech or Oklahoma State move to the Big 12 North (where either team would have a much easier time winning), it still would not be a simple matter.

Third, the Big 12 already owns the Dallas-Fort Worth media market. While some have argued that this is changing, the Big 12 still believes it does not need a team in the region in order to dominate one of the largest media markets in the country.

Fourth, adding a fifth Texas school would really hurt the Big 12 North schools with their Texas recruiting.

Now, Utah could also be a target, but the Utes are looking most likely looking west for their move. Plus, the Utes lack the large number of travelling fans.

So, if BYU went to the Big 12, the MWC would immediately invite Boise State into the conference.

The WAC would further decline in relevancy but could do nothing about it.

So, again, the first wave would be over with no impact on schools in the south or east.

The Second Wave

With the Big Ten expanding to 12 teams, the pressure will increase on the Big East and Pac-10 to also go to 12 teams.

First would be the direct pressure. Already Big East schools have the easiest path to a BCS game, needing only to play seven conference games to get there.

Of the eight Big East schools, only Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia have anything that resembles even a decent football tradition, with the other five schools looking largely like jumped up CUSA schools (oh, but most of them are...).

There are already rumors of pressure being applied to the Big East to expand to 12 football teams and such will increase.

Likewise, rumors of a Pac-12 in 2011 have been going around already. With the Big Ten going to 12, the Pac-10 would most likely follow suit as well, finally get around to its long discussed expansion.

The most likely targets are Colorado and Utah, for reasons that have been discussed elsewhere.

Poaching a MWC and Big 12 team would again cause immediate changes to the football world, as both conferences would again scramble to maintain status.

Realigned Football World

So with three BCS automatic qualifying (AQ) conferences expanding in 2011, the results will reshape the college football world.

The MWC and CUSA would be the most directly impacted, as both conferences would be gutted of some of their top schools.

The ripple effects could completely devastate the conferences, along with the Sun Belt, MAC, and WAC.

A 12-team Big East would most likely invite schools like Central Florida, East Carolina, Marshall, and Memphis from Conference USA and Temple or Buffalo from the MAC as mentioned above.

As such, Conference USA would lose most of its Eastern Division.

But that would not be the only impact on CUSA, as the MWC would attempt to rebuild the conference in order to continue at its near BCS status.

And if they wanted to maintain that status, it is likely that they would need to also go to 12 teams, which might be particularly hard after losing three programs.

A large-scale MWC expansion would hurt both the WAC and CUSA's West Division. Both conferences would likely drop down to further irrelevancy after these raids.

Possible conference realignments:

Big East

Memphis, Central Florida, Marshall, and Temple

North division: UConn, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, and Marshall

South division: Central Florida, Cincy, Louisville, Memphis, South Florida, and West Virginia

Big Ten


River division: Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio State, Penn State, and Purdue

Lakes division: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin

Big 12

BYU and Colorado State (both going to the Big 12 North)

Big 12 North: BYU, Colorado State, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Nebraska

Big 12 South: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech


Add Boise, Fresno, Houston, Nevada, SMU, and Tulsa

West: Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV

East: Air Force, Houston, SMU, TCU, Tulsa, and Wyoming


Colorado and Utah

South division: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC

North division: Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Washington, and Washington State

Fallout on Non-AQ Conferences

With these expansions, conferences such as the WAC and CUSA will be especially hit hard.

A 12-team Big East will essentially be WV, Pitt, and a bunch of former CUSA teams.

The rebuilt MWC 12 will grab from both CUSA and the WAC.

The remaining teams of the WAC (Hawaii, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Idaho, Utah State, Louisiana Tech) would be hard pressed to stay together, as Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State would likely go with the remaining CUSA schools (Tulane, Southern Miss, East Carolina, UTEP, UAB, and Rice).

CUSA would then add a few schools from the Sun Belt (Arkansas State, Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, and Troy are all possible invites) to rebuild the 10- or 12-team CUSA.

As such, the four remaining WAC schools would either need to go independent or consider dropping down to FCS level.

The Sun Belt could restock with some of the schools looking to move to FBS status in Texas, such as UT-San Antonio and Texas State.

Will the MWC Survive?

For the MWC and TCU, it will be challenge to maintain its bid for BCS automatic qualifying status.

But it would be, in essence, the only realistic source for a non-AQ BCS at-large bid, even if it did not become the seventh BCS AQ conference.

Some might even argue that the MWC could be the conference to lose out in the case of these conference realignments.

Given that the MWC appears to be ready to invite Boise State this offseason to begin play in 2011, the WAC will already have lost its best team well before some of these other realignments occur.

Even if BYU, Colorado State, and Utah leave the MWC, a conference with both TCU and Boise State will be a real contender. Add in Houston and Fresno, and the conference may come out okay in the end.

TCU, unfortunately, will be a victim of circumstances beyond its control again. After being left behind by the demise of the SWC and the Big East raid of CUSA, TCU finally has a home. It would be unfortunate if the Frogs were left behind again.

Sure, TCU might find a spot in the Big 12 instead of Colorado State or BYU.

However, the Rams looks like the necessary team for the Colorado market, one of the top markets for the Big 12 currently, and one that will assume increased importance if Missouri goes to the Big Ten.

BYU has a much bigger following and a much bigger name than TCU, besides bringing in a new market for the Big 12.


Any Big Ten expansion will have serious, long-term consequences for the world of college football. We will see a lot of realignment and maybe the end of certain conferences.

A move to 12 teams by the Big Ten, Big East, and Pac-10 would mean seven more schools would receive BCS status.

If a 12-team Mountain West Conference received the coveted seventh spot among BCS conferences as well, then 19 schools currently on the outside would receive the BCS gold star of quality.

At 85 BCS conference teams, it is likely that the spot for non-AQ schools will disappear.

With 85 teams, there should also be a serious move at dividing the FBS in two as well, just the 1978 division that created I-AA (now known as FCS).

The tidal wave of Big Ten expansion will completely reshape the college football world.

Robalini's College Bowl Plan - 2009

Robert Sterling

Well, New Years is almost here, and it's time for me to pick up a hobby horse for the third year in a row: a push for a college football playoff to decide a champion over the current BCS system.

This year, once again, the absurdity of the current system appears almost too blatant. Five teams are undefeated, and when the Bowl games are over, 2 or 3 teams will remain so. So let me repeat what most sport fans think: there is something terribly wrong with a system where someone can go undefeated the whole year and not end up as champion.

The solution, therefore, is a playoff, which is how every other major sport (professional and college) decides its annual champ. My playoff plan meets the four main goals I laid out two years ago:

1. Respect the traditions of the big four bowl games as much as possible, even more so than the current system does;
2. Make sure that the big four bowls actually are a central part of crowning the championship;
3. Allow bowl games with notable histories of their own to be included in the mix; and, perhaps most important:
4. Create a playoff system that produces an actual season championship.

With that in mind, here's how my playoff plan (perfected after two years of testing formulas) would play out in 2009, aided by game simulations found at (That's right, not only am I pushing for a playoff this year, I am totally geeking out on a playoff simulation.)

The playoff would involve sixteen teams, so the champions from all eleven conferences can be included. The other five spaces would include the top ranked independent team if it's in the top 25, then the top AP ranked teams that weren't conference winners, limited to one per conference unless the team was in the top 10. This year, it would be Florida, Iowa, Virginia Tech, BYU and Oregon State.

For the first round (held this year December 19th, with two of the games on December 16th and 18th) the sixteen teams would be put in upper and lower brackets. In the upper bracket would be the winners of the six BCS conferences, the highest ranked non-BCS conference champ and either the highest ranked Independent if it's in the top 25 or the highest ranked non-Conference winner. The two brackets would then be placed in order of their AP ranking. Here's how'd it look in 2009:

Alabama (1, SEC)
Texas (2, Big 12)
TCU (3)
Cincinnati (4, Big East)
Florida (5)
Oregon (7, Pac-10)
Ohio State (8, Big Ten)
Georgia Tech (9, ACC)

Boise State (6)
Iowa (10)
Virginia Tech (12)
BYU (15)
Oregon State (16)
Central Michigan (25)
East Carolina

The teams would then pair off in eight opening round playoff games, with the one seed playing the 16, two playing 15, etc. Below is how it'd look this year, with's results for the game:

Cotton Bowl (Dallas) Big 12 Host - Texas (2, Big 12) - East Carolina
Texas 51 - East Carolina 13

Florida Citrus Bowl (Orlando) Big East Host - Cincinnati (4, Big East) - Oregon State (16)
Oregon State 49 - Cincinnati 38

Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) - Florida (5) - BYU (15)
Florida 54 - BYU 7

Hall of Fame Bowl (Tampa) Big Ten Host - Ohio State (8, Big Ten) - Iowa (10)
Ohio State 22 - Iowa 7

Holiday Bowl (San Diego) Pac-10 Host - Oregon (7, Pac-10) - Virginia Tech (12)
Oregon 33 - Virginia Tech 10

Liberty Bowl (Memphis) SEC Host - Alabama (1, SEC) - Troy
Alabama 81 - Troy 7

Peach Bowl (Atlanta) ACC Host - Georgia Tech (9, ACC) - Boise State (6)
Boise State 65 - Georgia Tech 29

Sun Bowl (El Paso) - TCU (3) - Central Michigan (25)
TCU 16 - Central Michigan 3

The big shocker here, of course, is the upset of undefeated Cincinnati by Oregon State.

The remaining eight teams would then be matched in the four major bowls played on January 1-2, with teams picked to best fit the traditions of the bowl games. Here's how it would turn out in this simulation, with the results below:

Rose Bowl - Oregon (7, Pac-10) - Ohio State (8, Big Ten)
Ohio State 35 - Oregon 20

Fiesta Bowl - Texas (2, Big 12) - Oregon State (16)
Texas 49 - Oregon State 13

Orange Bowl - TCU (3) - Florida (5)
TCU 32 - Florida 26

Sugar Bowl - Alabama (1, SEC) - Boise State (6)
Alabama 52 - Boise State 19

Perhaps the biggest surprise from above: TCU beating Florida, a surprise even if it's higher ranked than the Gators.

On January 14-15, the semi-finals would be played, with Alabama facing TCU on Thursday, and Texas vs. Ohio State on Sunday. (Normally, the top ranked seed would placed the lowest, but I give the Rose Bowl winner a pass against the top ranked team.) Here's again how it would turn out.

Alabama (1, SEC) - TCU (3)
TCU 26 - Alabama 9

Texas (2, Big 12) - Ohio State (8, Big Ten)
Texas 17 - Ohio State 0

At this point, TCU fever would be off the charts. Could a non-BCS team actually win the college football championship? Here's the result for the game, played the night before the NFL conference championships:

Texas (2, Big 12) - TCU (3)
TCU 20 - Texas 13

And no, I didn't fix anything for this result: the computers at did all the work for me.

In short, as this simulation shows, this system really works well. It strengthens the value of the traditional big four bowls. It strengthens the value of eight traditionally noted bowl games. And it ultimately creates a playoff system that would likely boost college football television revenues substantially. That's probably the biggest key of all, and why I think my proposed system would be a smashing success.

Chronic Citizen
Chronic Citizen: Jonathan Lethem on P.K. Dick, Why Novels are a Weird Technology, and Constructed Realities
Erik Davis
December 18, 2009

While mainstream literary figures sometimes praise their fellow writers, rarely do they present themselves publicly as hardcore pop culture fans. Since the publication of his novels Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude, as well as his reception of the MacArthur Fellowship in 2005, Jonathan Lethem has become a successful and widely-praised author of playful and intelligent literary fictions. He has also become probably the most visible fan and proponent of the science fiction of Philip K. Dick. A few years ago, Lethem was commissioned by the august Library of America to edit a volume of Dick‘s writings for the publisher‘s definitive canon of American letters. The initial volume, Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s was the best-selling title out of the gate in the history of the library, and two more lethem-edited volumes of Dick‘s work followed (Philip K. Dick: Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s and Philip K. Dick: VALIS and Later Novels).

Lethem began his own writing career drawing heavily from genre fiction, both SF and hard-boiled detective novels. But he avoided getting stuck in what some SF writers refer to as “the golden ghetto,” and his later work achieved mainstream recognition for more realistic, psychological, and crisply detailed tales largely rooted in a slightly altered version of the Tri-State area that is his home. His latest book, Chronic City, is a dark and druggy take on Manhattan — an anxious, funny, and disturbingly charming book infused with cannabis, conspiracies, astronauts, nihilistic artists, virtual objects, and pop culture mania. Though very much written in Lethem‘s mature voice, the book is also infused with the spirit of Philip K. Dick, who remains Lethem‘s first and most important influence.

ERIK DAVIS: How did you first encounter Philip Dick?

JONATHAN LETHEM: I first saw his books in my friend Carl‘s house. His dad was a science fiction fan. I was already reading the old classics — the Heinlein and Asimov and Bradbury that were on my mother‘s shelves. But those books were written and packaged in a style that was very ‘40s and ‘50s. And these Philip K. Dick paperbacks from the ‘70s looked like a whole other flavor of stuff.

The first ones I saw were A Scanner Darkly and the Bantam reissues of Ubik and A Maze of Death. And I just immediately connected it with psychedelia and was drawn to it. I was thirteen or fourteen when I was devouring his work and just wanting to read as much of it as I could. By the time I was about eighteen, I had read every Dick book that had been published to that point. One way or another, I found them. I just identified with him totally, and it rearranged my thinking.

I moved to the Bay Area. It was like the husk of a plan, to go and meet him. But he died, so I went anyway. I tried to look for meaningful traces, including hanging out with Paul Williams and helping him with the Philip K. Dick Society. So it was a very shaping obsessing. I kind of apprenticed myself to the guild of Philip K. Dick.

ED: As a pop culture fan, and an intense Phil Dick fan, I find it incredibly satisfying that this author that I‘ve loved since I was a teenager is now getting his props. On the other hand, I cannot deny that there is something a bit sad about losing the esotericism of the cult. You yourself are a true fan, but one who has been instrumental in Dick‘s current canonization. How do you feel about that?

JL: I have a very divided conscience. I mean, just as an eyewitness, it‘s something to be incredibly proud of. It‘s almost unprecedented: the creation of a real canonical literary reputation when the person is dead and out of print, and when there was a pretty definite ceiling on how far he‘d ever gotten while he was still alive and in print.

For people familiar with Dick‘s personal experiences, his biography and his temperament, the ironies in that are deep and bitter and complicated. You inevitably think: if he‘d been alive, he would‘ve screwed this up. He would‘ve found some way to make it impossible that he could be treated with such simple reverence, because he was so distrustful of any form of institutional authority. He had a particularly deep, bitter and twisted suspiciousness about traditional literary authority and about academia. And frankly, to some extent, it‘s academia that‘s driven his acceptance in a canon.

When I was a kid and I discovered Philip K. Dick, I felt that I‘d made this kind of soul mate contact with his work. It‘s a defining experience, and it feels like it‘s innate. For me, that experience was absolutely bound up in finding these books that were out of print. The books almost seemed like fictional artifacts. I couldn‘t believe there was such a writer. I still remember thinking his name seemed weird or that his titles seemed preposterous to me. It was like a secret reality unfolding in my life.

There‘s something about the essence of his writing that creates that feeling. And I think it‘s still creating it for let‘s say the 14-year-old equivalent of Erik Davis or Jonathan Lethem, who‘s discovering this book in the shiny expensive Vintage paperback editions. I still think there‘s something innately self-marginalizing, self-cultifying (if that‘s a word) about the writing. You feel like you‘re the only one who understands it, and he‘s the only one who understands you. It‘s like a cognitive version of a love affair. You‘re making this intimate connection with this other mind. He projected that into the work.

ED: In a way, Dick is the ideal highbrow-lowbrow saint. The academics will analyze the social critique, the metafiction, the dense weave of allusions, the importance of the themes as they relate to emerging problems of simulation and consciousness and existential anomie. And at the same time, there‘s a pop level that‘s most obviously manifested in cinema, a steady stream of Hollywood films which are mostly pretty corny. And both those levels of recognition have shaped the context that allowed the Library of America to say, “Okay. This guy gets the canon badge.”

But because I‘m one of these cultists, I have to believe that there‘s something more to it. It‘s because his books say something about our time, even more, in some ways, than his time — the ‘60s and ‘70s. Why are we hearing these books now? What are these books telling us?

JL: I‘ve always agreed with the view that — with science fiction — its predictive powers were the least important or least relevant aspect of its public profile. I always loved stuff like Orwell‘s 1984, where he explicitly said “It‘s 1948, reversed.” I liked writers that were doing allegorical, satirical, fantastical versions of everyday life.

That suggests that Dick‘s work is dated to the ‘60s and ‘70s. And I thought of him very much in this framework, and not as an extrapolative writer. He certainly doesn‘t have that kind of rigor or scientific chops that you find with someone like Bruce Sterling. But I think that Dick saw the makings of the contemporary reality we experience so profoundly. And this speaks to the difference layers of reality in his work — the way time moves at one clip according to the calendar, but other ways in terms of mental time, psychological time, social time, American historical time. Like if you look at the terms of this absurd, hysterical healthcare debate — it‘s basically McCarthyism again, the Red Scare. “Socialism is coming to get us.”

Dick looked around his world with a kind of skinlessness. He existed in the world and it just permeated him. Mid-‘50s America was overwhelmingly alive in his vision, in such a way that he saw it simultaneously as a present and as a future. He saw the makings of the late capitalist experience embedded in that mid-century triumphalist post-war moment. And it‘s as though he experienced it all, in all its absurdity and its tragedy, as this overwhelming vision. And he just jotted it down as frantically as he could. And the books are so raw with that perception that they still feel like a desperate attempt to record an arriving moment. I think that‘s the experience of reading Philip K. Dick. He seems to be frantically trying to transcribe an arriving reality that is urgent and totally fresh.

What‘s missing from both the academic and pop movie descriptions you mention is that Dick is an immensely personal writer. In his own way, he‘s a Beat or a proto-Beat. He‘s like Henry Miller. One of these gargantuan, slightly egotistical but insecure, garrulous personas that just pour themselves onto the page, and says, “Love me or hate me. This is what I feel. And these are the kind of women I find sexy. And oh my god, I hate them. They‘re consuming me. And I feel really stupid today, but I‘m going to tell you about....” And he just gives himself. And as anyone who‘s ever tried to write literary novels or stories or a memoir can tell you — it‘s not a small thing to pour yourself onto the page. And when it‘s accomplished, totally, you end up with the kind of monumental writers that many people find also unpleasant or toxic or unreadable.

ED: Dick set many of his tales in what we might now call a “posthuman” future of cognitive-enhancing drugs, psi powers, and other amplifications of human capacity. Many of the developments he envisioned in his own unique way are now edging ever closer to reality, and there are many enthusiasts. While not exactly bleak, Dick had a generally more dark and satiric — and often funny — take on cognitive enhancement. Was he a pessimist or a realist? How would you characterize his particularly lesson about human for today‘s enthusiastic transhumans?

JL: While I‘m hardly an expert on the reality of cognitive enhancement or the transhuman impulse as it‘s working itself out on the contemporary frontier, I suspect Dick had little to offer in the way of a “lesson” for aspirants, except in the senses that were relevant while he was coming of age as a writer — that‘s to say, when the breaking news in the framing of such matters involved names like Freud, Kinsey, Norbert Weiner and, well, A.E. Van Vogt. Dick‘s concerns were ultimately both epistemological and deeply moral — in the sense that a philosopher would use the world moral, not in the sense that, say, Joseph L. Breen would. You know, love, empathy, “what is human?” and so forth. For contemporary voyagers, these matters remain as Dick delineated them: exquisitely local, negotiated on the human-to-human, or human-to-self playing field according to an infinite number of variations and contexts. No sweeping paradigms will do here. We‘re all walking down the street conducting our self-Turing exams every time we pass a homeless person, or greet our spouse at the breakfast table.

ED: For proponents of the Singularity, we are on the verge of massive technological transformations that involve some version of artificial or machine intelligence. Dick had a very particular take on intelligent machines, like Joe Chip‘s conapt or suitcase psychiatrists. While these devices are clearly fantastic and absurd, they also express some real insight and concerns about the cultural consequences of machine intelligence. Does Dick‘s take seem relevant now, thirty years later? What would he say to our contemporary gadget fetishism and addiction to information machines?

JL: My best guess about such matters is that each technological transformation, up to and perhaps including the Singularity, is going to work itself out vis-à-vis “the human” according to the deep principles of all media. Defined in its largest sense, as including things like cinema, theory, drugs, computing, moving type, music, etcetera, media is utterly consciousness-transforming in ways we can no longer competently examine, given how deeply they‘ve pervaded and altered the collective and individual consciousness that would be the only possible method for making that judgment. And yet -— we still feel so utterly human to ourselves, and the proof is in the anthropomorphic homeliness that pervades the ostensibly exalted “media” in return. We humanize them, shame them, colonize and debunk them with our persistent modes of sex and neurosis and community and commerce. We turn them into advertisements for ourselves, rather than opportunities for shedding ourselves. At least so far.

ED: You‘re pointing toward the psychological dimension of Dick‘s writing. Even when you are looking at the futuristic aspect, what‘s really being extrapolated is a certain kind of dreamlike, subjective response to changing technological conditions. And all that is intensified by Dick‘s own psychological sensitivity.

JL: Dick was supremely labile. He has the power to put himself, as a writer, at the mercy of his own inventions. He could construct realities and then immerse himself in them as though helpless. So he conveys the experience of the mind-altering or the reality-transforming better than nearly any writer who ever lived. As a creator of fantastical, preposterous kinds of realities that are nevertheless grounded in a critique or an insight, he was the best at two things: at making these things a kind of a reality; and then, at experiencing that reality as though it were a given. His characters — his proxies within the space of his own fictional world — are totally subsumed in it. There‘s no mastery exhibited. They‘re reading it. They‘re experiencing it. They‘re surviving it. They‘re not objective tour guides. His character is a sufferer who moves through these worlds.

ED: Given Dick‘s obsessions, it seems inevitable that he would wind up asking religious questions. These came to the head with the so-called “VALIS trilogy” he wrote toward the end of his life: VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. In the ‘70s, when he was read in kind of a proto-Marxist way by some critics, his later works were often dismissed at the works of a crazy man, even though the religious elements and visionary questions in his writing are evident from the get-go.

Today, some people continue to dislike these more explicitly spiritual works and prefer the more socially and critically dynamic ones of the ‘60s. Others see them as a crowning gesture. Did you have a sense of satisfaction in getting these three books included in the Library of America series?

JL: One of my goals was to get what I felt was the majority of Dick‘s masterpieces into the Library‘s three volumes. And for me, VALIS is probably one of his five greatest works. Leaving aside context, the voice, the form, the velocity, the humor, the emotion — it‘s a great novel. It would be a great novel in any writer‘s career. It had to be canonized if he was going to go into the canon. So the minute I knew we could do more books, I started scheming about how to make VALIS a part of the project. I like all three of the books that have been described as a trilogy, although I‘m skeptical about the whole trilogy idea. Besides VALIS, I think Transmigration of Timothy Archer may be among his greatest works. And Divine Invasion is rock solid.

ED: With your own new book, Chronic City, I can very much sense the way that Dick has marked you as a reader, as a writer, as a person in the world.

JL: In the process of editing these Dick books, I felt myself recapturing a feeling of intimate kinship that came from the very beginning of wanting to be a novelist — a feeling that I wanted to, in some way, project a relationship to Dick‘s writing. I wanted to find a way to extend my own feelings about it into fictional space. For me, this is a book that‘s suffused in his influence.

ED: Chronic City is a dark book. What does it mean to embark on a book that, while it‘s entertaining and there‘s plenty of nice people in it that you kind of want to spend time with, is also suffused with meditations on dread and the conundrum(s) of contemporary reality?

JL: Well, at the outset, if I started with that as a goal, I‘d never do it at all. You have to start in a kind of innocence. You have to think, “I‘ve got this funny idea.” You know, “What if there was this character who didn‘t know he was doing such and such. And that would be fun.” You start in a kind of willful naïveté about the breadth of your ambition as a survival trait — it‘s the only way to get in.

But I felt that this was a book, like Fortress of Solitude, where I wanted to disburden myself of a lot of anger. I think it‘s a response to living in a pretty dreadful moment — a series of dreadful moments in the last ten years. And it‘s a book about complicity, too — about going along with how wrong it all is because you find it entertaining or good enough or necessary, in various degrees.

ED: There is also an extraordinary amount of pot smoking in this book. Why so much?

JL: Confession compulsion? I don‘t know. One of the main subjects in my work is friendship, the experience of hanging out with people, of what it‘s like to really adore someone, argue with them, be obsessed with them — you know, compare your life to theirs, day in and day out. Chronic City is very much a book about friendship, and so I was trying to capture a certain vein of deep and silly and exhausted and slightly outlaw time-spending that is typified, for me, by getting high, with a certain personal group of people, again and again and again. Which isn‘t so much the stuff of my days right now — it can‘t be, you know — it‘s an older feeling. But it‘s one I hadn‘t ever gotten down the way I wanted to.

ED: Part of the experience I have of novels these days is that it seems like the more awake and aware and acute they are, the more they are aware of their own fragility in the face of other kinds of narrative technologies. The most obvious example is simulation — immersive worlds that we can go into and reproduce behaviors that are more or less storylike. The fundamental character of a massive, open-ended, multi-player role-playing game is utterly different at this point than the character in a novel. How will novels stand up?

JL: I‘m far too close to one pole to illuminate. But I‘ll say that — in the face of certain kinds of rival technologies and rival frameworks for experiencing what we might call self-admitting false realities — novels are a class of virtual reality experience that has some very particular and innate bottom lines. And I happen to like those. As I see the rivals emerge, I feel that novel-making and reading becomes one option on a very large menu, and in some ways a rather antique or humble or lumpen example. But I also think some of the things that make it that are also deep strengths that are becoming more and more highlighted.

We talked about what makes Dick so compelling and personal — what made us each take him so personally when we discovered his work. And in some ways, those are elements that are innate to this very strange technology — this gigantic pile of sentences stuck between two hard covers, that someone makes this incredible commitment to read. It‘s a bizarre commitment, very unusual the first few times you make it — to just sit and follow, in order, each of these sentences and make the artificial reality come to life yourself by reading. It‘s a crazy technology, very specific and weird. Now may not be the time to take it for granted. Instead, maybe we should point out that by doing this, you do achieve a kind of weird mind meld.

ED: There are a number of Phil Dick-ian moments in Chronic City where we‘re on the edge of realizing that something we‘ve been taking for reality is a construct or is a convenient fiction. There‘s a palpable sense that recognizing this construct to its fullest extent would thrust you one into the cold vacuum of space. at the same time we are immersed in more and more media constructs every day. So as we edge closer to the anxious recognition of the reality construct, there are also more technologies of distraction that try to cover that over or displace it.

JL: The reason I tend to write from the complicit point of view is I‘m always struck by the deeply personal nature of the alliance we make with these opportunistic distraction mechanisms, the substitute realities that are offered to us, the way that we build ourselves into them. And that‘s why I always think that Dick was such an insightful writer — because he always took it personally. He was always aware of his own wish- fulfillment impulses, his own yearning to be consumed and seduced. And it‘s why his role as a fiction maker and as a liar was allied to his fascination and distrust of fictional realities, of marketing realities, of commercial realities and political realities — because he saw that they‘re rooted innately in storytelling and in emotional necessity. And that there are all sorts of things that turn out to be ideological all the way down to their bones — the family structures that we come up inside are themselves a form of storytelling, a form of myth-making and persuasion. We sell ourselves on versions of existence that are tolerable. We‘re all marketing.

ED: Towards the end of your book, I sense a deep ambivalence about the necessity of consoling fictions. Right next to the rage and the desire to expose the machine is a complicit adoption of conventional realities and more constructive views.

JL: Absolutely. What are the tolerances for the exposure of sustaining fictions in any given life? At some point, you‘re going to settle. You‘re going to make a snow globe and live inside it.

Erik Davis regularly posts to His most recent book was The Visionary State: A Journey through California‘s Spiritual Landscape.