Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No-Win Win: UbuKubu Me?

This is a reincarnation for me. I'm trying Linux again. I have to.

So far I've been lucky. I have avoided Windows Vista, the latest shuddering horror from Microsoft. I have two desktop computers, one an HP/Compaq and the other one something I built. I was getting a little skittish about both of them. The Compaq has been performing well since some time in 2004, which means it could blow up at any second. Compaq hardware is often proprietary, and I am not a hardware person, so there is no telling what would happen if I had to try a major repair.

Recently I replaced a battery on the motherboard of my homebrew box, and did the same for the Compaq, and boosted its RAM from one 512MB stick to two, both new, for a total of 1GB now. That worked. I'm relieved. RAM seems to be one of the first things to go, along with hard drives. Having renewed the RAM I'm probably safe for a while. I back up my data to multiple external hard drives daily, so I'm OK on that front, but you never know what will happen next.

Computers are tricky.

As for my home built box I built, it seems to be running fine. I'm a little surprised at that. I used to get parts of the screen image blurring on me, kind of smeared. It would come and go. Then one day the display quit. Black screen. Dang.

I opened the case and pushed the video card into its socket. It didn't seem loose, but that was about all I could do. Surprisingly it worked. Must have been loose. The display began working again, and has been fine since. The only other real issue is the power supply. These apparently are the absolute main cause of hardware problems, and this is an old one.

The original computer died and took the hard drive with it. To be safe I decided to rebuild the whole thing. That's when I bought the Compaq. Had to have something, but it wasn't high powered enough for doing photo processing. So I went ahead with the rebuild: a new motherboard and processor, 1.5 gigs of RAM, new video card. Pretty much the whole shebang but for the old case, optical drives, and power supply. It has been working fine for about four years, just like the Compaq, but I worry about both of them.

I've been seeing strange problems over the last few months. Different on each box, but disturbing. I get error messages on shutdown, and the Compaq decided on its own to do a sudden reboot every now and then. Disturbing.

My research pointed at ZoneAlarm, a firewall I'd been using on both computers. A component called TrueVector may have been a problem, documented by others, from a couple of years back, so it was strange that I was getting it. Luckily only the Compaq was crashing.

Spooky though. And both computers had problems.

I replaced the ZoneAlarm free firewall with one from Comodo. I gather that the ZoneAlarm for-pay product is really good. I'd been using the free version, and if it was causing the system crashes and so on then I didn't want to buy anything from this company. I dumped it. Comodo is highly rated. I'm using that now. It seems to be good. Maybe better than ZoneAlarm. I'm not smart enough to tell, but it seems to work.

I still get the odd notice of something or other not closing properly on shutdown, and that has been annoying me. I downloaded and ran the Eusing Free Registry Cleaner on the Compaq. Doing something like this is always risky but this is getting to be a test of wills. Me versus the computer. The registry cleaner cleared out a bunch of stuff. Hundreds of invalid registry entries. All gone now.

Only now I have problems with Opera, my main web browser, and some OpenOffice documents. No doubt I'll find other problems with other programs.

This is not fun. The Compaq has other issues too.

It came with a second hard drive partition, devoted to system backup. In other words, in case of a catastrophic failure the user could restore the operating system from the second disk partition. Unless the problem was the hard drive. Makers are too cheap to send a damn 50 cent Windows installation CD. I deleted all that, but now I'm stuck with 4 gigs of disk space hanging off the side.

Then when I upgraded from the original Windows XP home version to a purchased copy of XP I got two prompts at startup. One was for the XP, and the other was for XP. Only one is real. I can probably edit the master boot record somehow, but don't want to mess with it, so it's the two prompts.

I tried starting over, including formatting the disk. Not quite good enough. The extra partition is still there and so is the second prompt. I'd have to do a low level format and haven't wanted to bother. The time may be near though.

And it's only a matter of time before new hardware is due. Then I'll have to load whatever abortion Microsoft comes up with next. Considering how evil Vista appears I can't imagine the fun. Hardware makers are screaming because Vista is so dead in the marketplace. They need sales. The sharks are circling.

We are doomed. Some of us.

There is Apple. The pod people. A true monopoly, in charge of operating system, hardware, and applications. It's an all or nothing choice with them. Nice to have that choice, but once in you may never get back out, and truly expensive. If Apple had 90% share instead of Microsoft they'd own the whole world by now.

That leaves Linux. Or BSD. Consider BSD equivalent to Linux. I don't really care. For me most of it is out of bounds, suitable for server rooms. I've been there and won't try the low level stuff again.

Once upon a time, about 1995, I bought a book on Linux. It had a Slackware CD in the back. I repartitioned my hard drive and installed it in the new partition. It worked. In command line mode. Fine. Great in fact.

Then I installed the X Windows system and spent the next month or so trying to get it to work. There was one little obscure issue with the text mode mouse driver that took ages to uncover and about three seconds to fix. I had lost a month of my spare time but X worked fine. This was in the days of window managers only, before integrated desktop systems. It was different from Windows 95, not as polished, not as fun, not all that useful, but I wanted to learn. It was OK.

When Caldera Network Desktop came along, I bought it. It was wonderful. It worked. It looked good. I was sort of happy.

The problem with Linux has always been the same as with my favorite word processor XyWrite. XyWrite was called a word processor kit. It could do just about anything, and do it faster than you could follow, but you had to spend years learning how to program it. Linux is like that. Still is, though today things seem to be improving.

Caldera Network Desktop worked fine, in that sort of sort of way. I spent a year and a half total trying to get Linux to the point that I could switch to it. Weeks would go by on one little thing. Just configuring Emacs so it didn't look ugly took forever, and I never did get it right.

But I was determined. I would do it.

Not.

The turning point came when a new version of Gnome came out. This was after I'd switched to Red Hat 4. I didn't want to wait and buy a new version of the whole operating system, wipe my disk, reinstall, and hope for the best, so I found the updated packages and loaded them.

Didn't work. Surprise, surprise.

There was a dependency problem. I must have spent a month or more tracking down the package I needed to make the other packages work, and I never could. After a year and a half of this it was time to give up. I left Linux. The real issue was that I couldn't do much with it anyway. I could create a text file and save it, and navigate the filesystem, and I did connect to the internet through my dialup connection. But that was about it.

There was very little software available (thousands of packages, most of them utilities), and no interoperability with the majority of the desktop computing world. Before web applications.

I did other things, but kept following Linux. Every now and then some new piece of software would be developed, and eventually a Windows version would come along, and I'd start using it. Right now I use very little that the normal Windows user would recognize. For browsing: Opera and Firefox. For document formatting, spreadsheets and graphic mockups: OpenOffice. For writing: Emacs. For web development: Ruby on Rails. For desktop publishing: Scribus. Email client: Mozilla Thunderbird.

That covers 95% of my work. For image editing I use PictureWindow, a Windows application. For image viewing I use IrfanView, and that's about it.

All but PictureWindow, IrfanView, and Opera are Linux applications which now run under Windows, and all are free.

Today the jump to Linux may be very small. I'm hoping. I don't want to stay on the Windows train when it hits the wall. I bought a new computer from ZaReason with the latest version of Kubuntu preinstalled. It was way cheap. The operating system was free. I love it.

Kubuntu is based on Ubuntu, which is now the most popular Linux distribution. Download either if you have a gig or so of free disk space and several hours, then burn your own CD. Or you have them send you a free CD. Either version will boot and run from the CD so you can try without mucking up your setup. Or you can do the standard dual boot thing and have Linux running natively as an alternate to Windows.

It's still early for me. I've remembered a lot from 10 years back but I'm not at the command line anymore, and the whole environment is new. It's all graphical now, almost all of the time. Linux, with the right desktop environment, is now more polished than Windows. All of the familiar options are there, and some extra ones, but the tools have different names and they are in different places, and they work a little differently. But I'm willing to adapt. This is the future.

After 15 years of development Wine 1.0 is due out this summer, so most Windows applications will now run under Linux. This is good. I don't need much, but bringing along a few things would be nice.

Kubuntu feels solid. Well built. Like a professional product. Windows is none of these. Windows is a cardboard box, beat up and taped up back together. Windows is crap. Too bad. Windows has gotten to the point that it's collapsing under its own weight. Crud only piles so high.

The designers of Linux and KDE (the K Desktop Environment) were careful. They think things through, then build. I've been following KDE since the beginning, about 1998 or so. It's been a long time, and they've been working carefully. They get things right before release.

Linux systems are built by people who care. By definition. Microsoft was founded by people who were good at selling. Its true they worked hard at first, putting in long hours and sleeping under desks. That might be necessary some times in some places for a while but it isn't the basis for a real business, and especilly not for software. Microsoft is huge now but they are still trying to throw things together on the fly. That won't work. It hasn't worked. It isn't working.

See Vista. There is no way to make up for lack of design and professionalism by hiring more people and working them harder. Nothing beats intelligence and care, which is what the whole Open Source/Free Software ecosystem has going for it. For them software is something to build proudly and shared so that others can make it better. For Microsoft it's a source of money.

The Microsoft philosophy is to shove something out the door and collect the dough. For the open source world software is a tool for the profession to build with. Legal and medical knowledge are tools. Attorneys and doctors don't hoard proprietary knowledge in secret, doling it out in small bits. The same knowledge is there for anyone. Using it appropriately is the hard part, the part they get paid for.

It's like that in the open source world too. They're willing to compete on the basis of being smarter or better informed or more conscientious, but the tools are there for all to try.

Sounds good. I'm trying to find time to get at my new Kubuntu box because I have a lot to catch up on. I think it will work this time.


References:

Caldera Network Desktop
Comodo
Compiz
Eusing Free Registry Cleaner
GNU Emacs
IrfanView
Picture Window
Kubuntu
Rat Head Linux (Spoof alert!)
Ruby on Rails
Slackware
The FreeBSD Project
Ubuntu
Wine
XyWrite
ZaReason, Inc.
ZoneAlarm


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Thought So

This is about why things are better than ideas, and maybe not.

This is about business, whether or not money is involved. That sounds strange but business is more than money. Hucksters have been saying so for years. Making money is easy they say, don't worry about it. Easiest thing in the world. Or, if you do the right thing the money will follow. Inevitably.

The real message is underneath, snaking around, sniffing for your wallet. What they really want is the money, your money, but they don't want you to catch on.

This reinforces what I just said. Really. Business is about more than money, and in a way money isn't the point, even if it is. If you focus on money, and only on money, you will fail. You can't help it. Money is the wrong thing to focus on.

I've always felt that competitions were pointless. Take a sport. Sprinting. Say you want to compete. You want to win. The idea is to win, and you want to do that. So what's the most efficient way to win? Kill off the other competitors. Get real. Anything else would be stupid.

How much time do you really want to spend training? Do you really want to find out after years of effort that the kneecaps you were born with prevent a win? Screw that. If you want the trophy then blow away everyone else. Walk to the finish line. If no one else is running then you have it made.

Want to make lots of money? Don't see the point in earning an MBA and spending decades clawing to the top? Rob banks. Do a bunch in one day. Bing. End of story. Vacation time. Forever.

So if the whole idea was the payoff then things would be simple. Cut the crap and grab the whole pie.

But it doesn't work that way. In case you hadn't noticed.

There are reasons why you can't rob a bank when you need money. Or rob the guy sitting beside you on the bus. The whole law enforcement thing is not what I'm talking about either. The real reason is that it doesn't work. Like trickle-down economics, being a robber baron was tried once and it failed, left behind by history. You may have heard of it. Called the Dark Ages. People learned slowly, but they learned.

We're beyond that now. The reason is efficiency.

Hitting someone over the head and making off with their loot sounds like an efficiency. But it doesn't work as a general way of doing business. Even if only a few of us try it. Tends to disrupt everything else. Causes system-wide failures. So we don't do it. Business is about more than money. Where have you just heard that before?

One way or another you have to inspire people. Give them a thrill. Make them want to join your side. Then make your side big so everyone can join, or most everybody. Make some money on the side. If you focus completely on money then you lose focus on everything else. Then you fail. And then you don't make any money. At all.

There is a split right down the middle of this game. On one side you have things and on the other you have ideas. Generally speaking things are easier. Its easier to base a business around providing things than around providing ideas. It tends to be easier to set up, easier to administer, and more profitable. Sort of.

Think about things versus ideas.

Things are easy to grasp. You reach out your hand and grab one. People like to touch stuff. It's built in. That's one reason we use the phrase "grasp an idea". We are that way. We want stuff we can pick up and play with and bite and throw.

Things are discrete. You know where an apple starts and where it ends. You know how big it is and what it weighs. You're familiar with its texture and flavor and color. A thing gives you several dimensions to judge it by, and you don't have to think about it either. You are hard wired.

If you have something today you have it tomorrow. You know what it is and where. You can paint racing stripes on it, give it a name, and trade it for something else, even if it's a cat.

So you want to set up a business? It's easier if you sell things. You don't need a creed. No need to take sides or argue a case. Just say here is this here thing, it does this and doesn't do that, it comes in these colors, lasts this long and costs this much. Buy it and do what you want with it.

But wait, there's more.

Once you own this thing you can use it all the time or only now and then. Get tired of it now, put it down now and find it waiting in your closet next year. It'll still be good.

Buying, selling, using, storing: all simple. Things are tidy and clean. As long as a thing works it's always new because every time you use it the situation is a little different. Every backyard game is different, and so the football is too, sort of, even though it's the same. But different.

But maybe you have more competition selling things. Everybody can sell the same things as you.

So ideas, now, how about them? Maybe tougher.

Each idea is unique. No mass production.

Ideas are slipperier. Juggling them can make your head hurt. You have to work to get a grip. Each one is different so each one is unfamiliar, harder to customize because you have to know it inside and out, where it came from and where it is going. No size, no shape, no taste, no smell, no texture, no color.

You can't have crates of ideas waiting in the back room. There is no volume discount. Every idea is hand crafted and requires its own care and feeding regime.

Ideas go stale, or age out, or fade away. Ideas are tough to fit into a business model. You can't order from a catalog, in every possible size and color, to keep them in stock, just in case. And an idea is new only once, no matter how good it is. It comes with its own environment and doesn't feel different if you use it on the beach instead of at the office. There is no way to paint racing stripes on an idea.

On the other hand, ideas thrive among people. Ideas have a life of their own. They bring people together. They are almost the only reason to keep living.

Check out a major league baseball game. If it's not baseball that moves you, then pick opera, or quilting, or a church service. Then bind. You bind to ideas.

If it's a baseball game you aren't there for the seats, or the restrooms. It's the idea. Your team versus theirs. Or a good team versus another good team. The idea of sport, life, a struggle. To see excellence and its acting out. Or some other reason, but a reason all the same, one full of life. Reasons are ideas.

It's the group though. Maybe you're just sitting there at the game surrounded by others and enjoying that, or maybe you help to run things, but it's ideas that bring you to a group and hold you. You have a place. You have friends and enemies. You have meaning. Commonality. Sharing. Purpose. You can make better sense of things with others. This is why an idea appeals to you as a buyer.

As a seller of ideas things are hard.

Ideas are new only once. Ideas are always hard to keep alive. They are so slow to sell. There is only one of each idea, but anyone can make infinite copies, without asking first. Ideas are a hard breed, as you know if you've tried to create a new one. And people shy from any idea too unlike any other they know about.

This can be a hard sell, very hard.

Selling ideas is a poor way to make a living. It's better to rob banks if you want money. Except that robbing banks is even worse. Like democracy being the absolutely worst form of government except for all the others.

The key to ideas is the group. A society. A clan. A band of disciples. A congregation. A family. A community.

Find the right idea and the right way to share it with the right people and you have a self sustaining system. Even one idea can start the process. An idea which forms a core and then draws in a community. The pull of more and more people keeps communities growing. Feed in a few more of the right ideas and the community will reach critical mass and grow on its own.

If you gently manage the habitat, tend the ecosystem, you may make it, but not by cutting throats.

The system can grow and remain fresh based on ideas. Those ideas that remind us of why we are alive, that bring us the pleasure in being together. Do it right and some money will come along for the ride. Maybe a lot, maybe not.

That's another story. Think about whether you would rather be J.K. Rowling or a flower seller.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kewtsi Pooing For Dollars

Once again I find myself behind the times. Hey, I could claim to be on top of things, then walk around like I had an ego up my butt, you know, sort of sniffing at some higher air, but I'd still be clueless. Just like most of us.

Out of curiosity yesterday or out of boredom I hunted for news of my high school class. They should have had a reunion last year. I'd like to wait until my 50th before actually attending a high school reunion. By then I'd finally have something worthwhile to talk about. No, I'm not working on my portable, safe, back yard fusion reactor which needs only a few more months, or a year, two or three years, tops, before it's ready, and will sell for $27.50, or no more than $57.75, worst case. I'm talking about surviving. Getting old, getting past all the early crap, and talking to anyone else who has made it. By then we won't care about trying to impress anyone.

There was a good quote that floated by a month or two back, but I let it go by without making a note. It was something like: When you are young you are obsessed about what people think of you. At middle age you are proud to show others that you are doing things your way. In later years you realize that no one ever even noticed you.

That's when I want to get there. When things have cooled down to a nice even glow.

I didn't locate anything about my class. I even hate to think of "my class". Buncha losers. But I did find a rudimentary web site devoted to an annual reunion of all classes at the high school I attended.

Right. They've taken to forming an annual herd in the gym for some reason. The photos were more depressing that the reality would have been. No life in them. In a real situation there is always at least one good looking woman, or some guy telling a joke. Some life. Not in the photo. They were all standing like zombies and most of them were old. Sure, lots of them were from classes even before mine, but I realized that a lot of the people there would look like my former classmates now look. Not like me.

I can still scare people occasionally. I used to pass for someone 15 to 20 years younger than I was. Not quite so much any more, but aside from some gray hairs in my beard and nose and a few more wrinkles around the eyes I don't look any older than some hard-ridden 35 year olds. Which in itself could be a good reason to attend a high school reunion. Be surrounded by people your own age who look old enough to be your parents. Who cares if you've never amounted to much. Get old enough and people stop caring how many toys they have, or how big the house is and start fearing death. So if you're youngish looking and in good health you've got them aced.

The main thing is, though, as dumb and slow as I am, these people were a lot worse off, the ones in the photo. They made a point of going and congealing into a puddle inside an old high school gym with other losers so they could stand and listen to the rancid old school fight song and feel like they still belonged to something. Mindless. Pointless. Like me, true, but more so.

I keep missing opportunities but yet I'm not quite as pathetic as they are. Just sort of pathetic.

You get an idea how dumb you are when you hear a really good comedian, or read a stellar novel, or sit through a movie so compelling that you forget to breathe. Especially the comedians, who can take something absolutely ordinary make it bizarre and alien. And make stuff shoot out your nose.

Try it sometime. Go grocery shopping and stop in front of the canned beets and come up with a five minute monologue that will make people go crazy. That is genius. It is not easy.

Sometimes you can be sort of bright and sort of creative and pay close attention and come up with something worthwhile, or at least grab it when it goes by. The really great ones, the masters, the geniuses among us, pull things out of blank, empty space. I don't think I'll do that even once. But maybe if I pay enough attention, maybe then, just once, please, I might be able to grab something when it swims by.

Like Eric Nakagawa, "a software developer in Hawaii, [who] posted a single photo of a fat, smiling cat he found on the Internet, with the caption, "I can has cheezburger?" in January, 2007, at a Web site he created. It was supposed to be a joke. Soon after he posted a few more images in the same vein: cute cats with funny captions written in a silly, invented hybrid of Internet shorthand and baby-talk. Then he turned the site into a blog, so that visitors could comment on the postings. What happened after that would have been hard for anyone to predict." So saith Business Week.

Now that can't be hard, can it? I mean, even I could do that. I hear that he was unemployed at the time and first hosted "I Can Has Cheezburger?" on a $6.95 per month site. And this was January, 2007. Not long ago. Very late in life for the internet. You would have expected this around 1993 maybe. But even by the late 1990s you normally didn't get much beyond Hampsterdance. Somehow. Things are speeding up.

The boys who did YouTube weren't the first to do web videos. They just got something right, or reintroduced the right idea at the right moment. Something. I, like you, am still clueless.

By July of 2007 "I Can Has Cheezburger?" was pulling in around $5,600 a month and made it to number 26 on the most-linked-to blogs list on Technorati.

I could handle that.

Maybe I'm not paying attention. In fact I'm sure of it, or I would be rolling in dough right at this moment.

So instead I listened to "Ben Huh Chief Cheezeburger On The ShoeMoney Show", an audio recording of an interview with the new cheez head. Eric Nakagawa and his partner sold out. The site now belongs to Ben Huh. He has eight staff: three moderators/posters, two full time developers, two part time developers, and one editor. The site gets 7000 submissions a day, of which about six see daylight. It gets around two million hits a day, and 80% of them are direct, coming from people who know where they are going, and go there directly, with great vigor. The staff is totally focused on making the site interesting and easy to use. This is smart since the visitors provide the content.

How about a great business model? It's spreading to all sorts of businesses. The average person gets a thrill when something they submit is used. Then the site owner gets the money. And then everyone is happy.

Now there are three sister sites as well: "Loldogs 'n' Cute Puppies" (dogs), "Pundit Kitchen" (politics), and "Graph Jam" (stories told through graphs).

One moral of the story I got from the ShoeMoney interview: have fun. Maybe you could call it a business plan.

I've heard this one before. A big problem, maybe the biggest, is to break out of one's own prison. Your thoughts keep you boxed in, and that's why most of us never start those new businesses or shock people with originality. Here's the rule: If you start out to have fun you will, and maybe make money too. If you set out only to make money you probably won't do that, or have fun either.

There is a reason why we go through life seeing only the ordinary, being only ordinary. Because we have to. No one can be creative every minute. You can't question every assumption, every social convention, every habit all the time. People blind since birth who have been given sight as adults can't handle it. Their nervous systems don't know what to ignore, so they get a lot of noise but can't pick out the signal.

The way to do something original is to destroy part of your life but not too much of it. You can't be either totally creative or totally mundane. Either way you will die. Explode from overload or expire from boredom. The right way seems to be to get to a level adequate to handle the mandatory needs of life, and then to engage in extraordinary play with the rest.

Now just let me go back in time about two years and see if I can get to this cheezburger thing first. Then I will be the one going home with the golden hairball.










References:

Bloggers Bring in the Big Bucks: How a personal obsession can turn into a popular favorite and maybe even a full-time job. (Business Week)
FatCatBlog.com
Graph Jam
Hampsterdance
I Can Has Cheezburger?
LOLTrek
Loldogs n Cute Puppies
Pundit Kitchen
The Definitive Lolcats Glossary
With 'LOLcats' Internet Fad, Anyone Can Get In on the Joke. (Wall Street Journal)


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Miley in Greerland.

I saw a small kerfuffle last week about an entertainer I know nothing about and whom I do not care about. How cool is this? Just the same, it got me thinking again about some things that have been riding around in my head for a couple of decades.

The entertainer is Miley Cyrus, who portrays a character named Hannah Montana. That is really all I know. Catchy name. Better than "the Olsen twins". So what? More kid stuff.

Recently, as everyone knows (even me), Annie Leibovitz photographed Miley Cyrus, and the photographs (or a photograph) appeared in "Vanity Fair" magazine. And then everyone went nuts. I don't care about the photo. I saw it. Even now that my cable TV has gone away I've managed to run into this image all over. I still don't care.

I consider myself repulsive. Just so you know. I'm a piece of meat out wandering around, and obviously cannot, if repulsive, feel that I have the right to pass judgment on everyone else who is not as lovely as I am. I pass judgment humbly, always remembering that I am an ugly person.

OK, so I think that Miley Cyrus is only another piece of meat.

Meaning piece of meat as in piece of meat. As a package of wet organic chemicals. I don't care. Most people are like that, just anonymous humanoids, and she is one of them.

Every now and then I'll see a woman who shorts out all my circuits. This happens maybe a half percent of the time. Being a guy I tend to fall in love several times while walking down any two blocks anywhere, but the really stunning women are rare. I'll see one maybe once in every 10 blocks or so. She ain't one of them, this Miley.

I don't care how old she is. For me a woman isn't a woman unless she has lines in her face. The corollary is that if a woman started out uninteresting she won't get sexy by growing old. I am not sexually thrilled by children. I am not thrilled by children in any way at all. I was once a child and could not wait to stop being one. For me, that is the whole story.

Women have a totally different perspective on things. I have no idea what it is, but some of it bugs the hell out of me. Mostly because most of them hold mutually contradictory opinions and will argue any point from a minimum of two or three sides.

Germaine Greer, the Australian feminist, recently spouted off about the Miley Cyrus "incident". She illustrated several things that have been eating at me.

One thing she did not say explicitly, but still implied, continuing a line from way back in the 1970s if not earlier, is that women can't do stuff because they are oppressed, and they are oppressed by men, who should get with the program and give women what they deserve.

Screw that.

Here's why. If womankind (a group comprised of about 3.25 billion individual women) are somehow unable to do anything at all because men (a group comprised of about 3.25 billion individual men) are "holding them back" and "oppressing them", and the only way that women can rise above this is with the help of men, then there is no hope whatsoever for women, because they are incapable of doing anything on their own. Think it through and that's the only possible conclusion, and it's completely crap.

The truth is that almost 100% of the other people on earth see you (and me) as at best either a nuisance not particularly worth the trouble it would take to exterminate right now, or a resource to be exploited when convenient.

No one loves me, or you. If you want something or want to be something you have to find a way to make it happen, and if you get really lucky then no one will care what the hell you do and you will just go do it. Usually there will be at least dozens of people competing with you or trying to stop you for one reason or another. At a minimum they will be telling you that you are a worthless piece of crap and you can't do it, and don't deserve even to draw breath.

Depending on where you live, what you look like, and what group people think you "belong" to, someone else may try to stone you, blow you up, hang you, or get nasty and do something really unpleasant.

This is life. Not because someone is a woman, or not, but because it is the way it is for no particular reason that I know of, and the central fallacy of feminist thought is that women are a special case somehow, as noted above.

In the Guardian ("guardian.co.uk") Germaine Greer rants about this photo of Cyrus, if we may get back to the subject.

First Greer classifies the photo as art, but says that "in western art most of the women portrayed semi-clad or totally nude are children," something I have never particularly noticed. Children? Get real.

From an Amazon review of Greer's book "The Beautiful Boy", her aim was to "'to advance women's reclamation of their capacity for and right to visual pleasure' by encouraging women to gaze with desire at naked boys, mature enough for sex but too young to shave."

OK, so we've got the hypocrisy engine revving loudly right at the starting line. It's fine for women to feel lusty about boys but wrong for men to have feelings about young women? Do I have that right? Yep. And I still disagree with the contention about western art as child pornography.

"When Botticelli paints the yet-to-be-enjoyed goddess of love emerging from the sea," Greer says, "people come from all over the world to gape at her." Well wouldn't you? Botticelli painted this in 1482. That is 526 years ago, and people are still finding meaning it this painting. There must be more there than a naked girl or it would have been tossed out centuries ago. Anyway, photography produces much better pornography than oil paint on canvas.

Look at the picture and see if you can find any naked female children. I dare you.

Then Greer says that a young adult woman in a sexy pose is rare and weird, contrasting the now fully adult model Kate Moss with Miley Cyrus. How weird is that?

If this was true, then many marriages would end before they even began. My own grandparents were married over 60 years and neither one of them had a habit of sneaking out of the house to raid my grade school for fresh meat, even though it was only a block away. They were adults and acted like it, as almost everyone does. It's called growing up. Adults are attracted to and appreciate adults, and as you get older, the meaning of who is an adult ages with you.

Do the relatively young of our species have nicer bodies than us old farts? Duh, yeah. But even if you like to look at smooth skin or a tight butt every now and then, it's about as evil as taking a deep breath of fresh air on a spring morning. Nice, but....

Next Greer states that 15-year-old girls are full of sophisticated cooking sexual urges and way ahead of dim-witted adults, and then she says that these same girls have to be trained to be sexy and then can't be reformed again: "When the time comes she is likely to reject approaching womanhood, desperate to keep her thighs skinny, and nearly as desperate to acquire hard, high breasts." No comment other than to note that this is so convoluted and self-contradictory that I don't want to mess with it.

Following this Greer takes issue with the art of photography, claiming that posing is itself pornography, and that lighting and color evoke a "palette strongly redolent of the dirty postcards of yesteryear" which of course few of us have seen, so we obviously can't be nostalgic for them. And which, like all fashions in art (let's assume for a moment that even pornography is art), go stale. I think that H.L. Mencken was one screaming good writer, but he came from a different age. Even though I can appreciate his passion and envy his facility with words, I don't want to copy him. People don't do things that way now. It's not fun, it's not fresh, it's not real. It's boring.

If you want pornography you want something that looks real. Pornography has basically no meaning. It's a blunt instrument. To have meaning requires depth, and depth and nuance kill pornography. Dirty postcards from the 1850s are so stale as to be only baffling, so this argument is false.

OK, then. Greer goes even farther off the deep end by claiming that Miley Cyrus looks puffy, unclean and unkempt, and this means she looks like she's just had sex, which is sexy. Go back to square one for a second. Miley Cyrus is just an anonymous female biped. Someone or other may think otherwise, but probably not very many of us. Not me. Not in this photo. I've seen another photo or two of her and she's an ordinary looking little girl. Just an ordinary looking little girl. I do not fantasize about her as Greer does.

"The subject of Leibovitz's photo could be a child prostitute from Casablanca, vintage 1900, the camera in the hands of a sex tourist who is about to toss a few coins to the doorkeeper." Or she could be an accountant, or a bowling instructor, or just an anonymous female biped, or a college student playing around at posing, or a rich entertainer trying out something new to see how it feels, and making a few bucks besides.

Oops. We're getting close. Greer keeps building on this prostitution idea. She thinks that the Disney corporation is the real pimp. Disney could have prevented all this. Maybe Disney even wanted this fuss: "the brouhaha has been timed for the very day the magazine appeared on the newsstands" instead of, say, a year before, or eight weeks after, or never, in case no one cared. So when would a fuss arise if not when the magazine is published? One wonders. Sounds like a conspiracy to me, kids.

But it gets even worse. "Her parents and minders were present and apparently saw nothing amiss in the offending photograph." So how evil is that one? Dang. Not even her parents cared. So I should get even more worked up then?

Then Greer gets totally wound up and basically claims that all schoolgirls are sluts, and all entertainers, and that every kind of job is prostitution and therefore bad for everyone, and on and on, and then there is a final period on the end of the final sentence and that's about it.

According to the always-correct Wikipedia "In December 2007, [Miley Cyrus] was ranked #17 in the list of Forbes Top twenty earners under 25 with an annual earning of US$3.5 million. In April 2008, Parade and Us Weekly reported that Cyrus earned $18.2 million in 2007." Sounds like she's in it for the money. Anyone want to burn her at the stake as an evil prostitute?

What I still don't understand is what the issue is. Why do some women begin foaming at the mouth when someone else gets a job and makes a lot of money? Do I respect Miley Cyrus? No. I don't even know who the hell she is. I don't respect Britney Spears or Madonna either, but then who the hell am I? They are all in business and doing pretty well.

Are they crazy? Probably, by some measure. Are they bent? Probably, by some measure. Are they happy? None of my business. Are they successful business women? Yes, all of them. If they don't like what they do they can change. All of them have enough money. It's not like any or all of them or any of the hundreds of thousands of female entertainers in just this one country are being held in cages and fed raw meat every now and then, and taken out for display whenever their handlers feel like it.

I personally have no respect or disrespect for any of them. My opinion is completely irrelevant and I am a total nonentity. Someone like Germaine Greer knows better. She used to be a celebrity. She knows how far below Miley Cyrus she ranks. Greer can't even sing or dance or tell jokes, or act.

Showbiz is a tough line of work. You have to be insanely good and insanely lucky. No one, not any one at all just stands up and holds out a basket for people to throw money into. Showbiz is a killer field. It's much tougher than it looks, which is partly why the pay can be so good. But most people work hard for a whole lifetime and never manage to make a living at it. So why does Germaine Greer have a problem?

I think she may hate women, and hate her own life too. And I think that maybe she's found a niche, and that niche is the whiney one. It's easy for someone like her to sit at a keyboard and complain instead of running an auto repair shop or driving a truck or being a doctor or an actress, or even a porn star. She just never wanted to get serious herself, so now she's found a vein of ore she can burrow along, following one bogus idea after another and pretending to string them together into a finely-fashioned argument.

I don't know a lot of people. Never have. But of the people I've met I've found that just as many women as men are complete buttheads. Nothing is more delicious to me than discovering a person who thinks clearly, thinks well, thinks deeply, and thinks often. I don't give a flying rat's ass if I agree with them or not, as long as they are honest enough to keep looking for the truth, and to keep accepting it when they find it, no matter what it looks like, and I try to do that too.

So everyone. Shape up already. Who cares if some twit sits for a damn photo session?

Footnote: I don't know about you, but I always thought that Germaine Greer was kind of a babe herself. Of course she's a lot older now, but still not all that bad. Heh.

References:

Germaine Greer: "The Beautiful Boy".
Guardian.co.uk: "We like our Venuses young".
Botticelli's Venus.
Miley Cyrus at Wikipedia.