Thursday, March 4, 2010

And Now, a Guest Editorial from Ignatius Michelangelo Krakpotus

When stooping to include letters from nuts, you have to go big or go home. Hence, we're starting with a group of women supposedly trying to sell ammonium sulfate.

The Most Reverend Anatta of the Second Church of Deus Otiosus (Akusala), Webmaster and Editor, Samsara Samizdat:

I don’t want to be Captain Alienation or anything, but something happened yesterday that once again reaffirmed my lifelong loathing of computers, profanity, the corporate structure, and quasi-monopolies. Put them all together, and you find yourself stuck on a logarithmic curve of inconvenience and idiocy.

To begin, you need to understand (for reasons you don’t want me to go into—trust me on this) I happen to believe that the Vietnam War was one of the defining events of my generation. Reasonable minds may differ, but those like-minded of us are content to form our own clannish, insular communities at places like (not its real name)…or (not its real name). Fine:

At one of these virtual communities (“The Vietnam Community”), someone asked for recommendations of good books about the Vietnam War. Another person, writing under the name “” gave an extensive list of books, mostly from the strategic/military perspective. I then responded with a supplemental list, that filled in a few blanks from’s list. At least, I tried to.

Mae Clark and Jimmy Cagney. See what
happens when you send too much time
in Amazon's virtual communities?
My post was rejected by Amazon’s computer generated anti-hate mail/naughty word filter, for violating Amazon’s high standards for comments. If you haven’t wasted your time spent any time reading comments at Amazon, let me say that whatever Amazon’s “guidelines” screen out, they don’t include spelling, grammar, aptness of thought, or absence of social graces. That’s why I was shocked that my note was rejected. Here’s my response. See if you can find what’s “wrong:”

First, let me say that I impressed at the dignity and respect that this discussion has engendered. So before I give my recommendations, let me sat that I am an unabashed, unapologetic leftist. That said, I concur with virtually all of the Cool Bunny's suggestions--but with a couple of exceptions. I would not recommend Truong Nhu's “Viet Cong Memoir” (I think there are better books), and did not care for Herrington's “Stalking the Viet Cong.” At all.

[Boring discussion of books removed]

For human rights violations, I liked Bilton and Sim "Four Hours in My Lai," and Chong's "The Girl in the Picture." The latter is a biography of the young girl, running down the road, whose naked body was covered with napalm burns. I was a little disappointed with Sallah and Weiss's “Tiger Force,” though.

[Another boring discussion of books removed]

So--if I had to suggest a single book, the winner(s) would be “Novel Without a Name” (fiction) and “Fire in the Lake” (non-fiction).

Here's the hyperlinks to the books I mentioned:
Novel without a Name;
Memories of a Pure Spring;
No Man's Land;
When Heaven & Earth Changed Places (A Vietnamese woman's journey from war to peace);
Four Hours in My Lai;
The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War;
The Tunnels of Cu Chi: A Harrowing Account of America's "Tunnel Rats" in the Underground battlefields of Vietnam;
A Companion to the Vietnam War (Blackwell Companions to American History);
Ho Chi Minh: A Life;
Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam.


After reading my note several times, the best I could come up with for bad words was “young girl, running down the road, whose naked body was covered with napalm burns” (emphasis added). So, I took out the word “naked.” No soap.

Amazon’s computer said if I had any questions, I should write to . So I did, and promptly got a computer generated message saying that the mailbox no longer exists, and I should go to Amazon’s “self-help” pages, where no doubt answers to all of life’s problems can be found.

After more searching, I found the e-mail address for Amazon’s “customer service,” and tried to write THOSE people about my problem. Unfortunately, Amazon’s screening computer would not allow me to send the e-mail, unless I included an ORDER NUMBER that I had a question about. So, I copied in an order number for some books I have already received, and sent a somewhat blistering e-mail, trying to find out WHAT GUIDELINE I was violating (in the naughty way, I’m sure).

Ms. Kim Phuc (center), June 8 1972.
I did receive a prompt response, which pointed out the error of my ways. Where did I go wrong? The truth is, I didn’t. The filter got hung up on one of the titles of the books: Denise Chong’s The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War. Please note that **I** didn’t type out the entire title, complete with sub-title. That was generated by Amazon’s hyperlink program. But why was that title naughty? Because the NAME OF THE GIRL when pronounced phonetically by Anglo-Saxons is a homonym for a graphic expression for carnal knowledge.

The perfect storm. Here we go:

1. Computers
Mr. Peter Drucker. We have no idea if
Mr. Drucker ever recorded a version of
"Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
In the immortal words of Gene Autry (actually, it was Peter Drucker): “the computer is a moron.” Always was, always will be. You don’t need to master of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem to know that “filters”—like those scams that ostensively keep kids from seeing nekkid people and reading words that mean “sex” and “potty”—can not, will not keep anyone determined to read about potty and sex, or see nekkid people. They WILL, on the other hand, generally make the rest of your computer life a pain in the ass.

2. Profanity
I can’t speak to the rest of the world, but Americans are going to be potty mouths—even if it means being a p*tty mouth, pooty mouth, photty mouth, poty mouth etc etc etc. No matter how clever of an algorithm you think you have, no matter how brilliantly depraved your programmer is at coming up with different ways to “spell” the dreaded EF-WORD, Americans will be able to indicate that their ideological foes are simply people who engage in multiple episodes of sexual congress, if not with their maternal parent, then with numerous permutations of large farm animals--and probably at the same time. In short, you don’t have to say “Senator Jim Bunning is an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker” in so many words, to get your point across. All of our current swear words started out as euphemisms for sex, bodily functions, or insults to the Supreme Being—until they stopped being symbols and began to mean exactly what they stood for. So, new euphemisms were created.

What I mean is, if I’m bound and determined to call Senator Jim Bunning an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker, I am going to find a way to call Senator Jim Bunning an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker, even if I have to spend hours with a thesaurus finding new and better ways to say Senator Jim Bunning is an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker. And no one will miss my meaning—least of all (I hope), Senator Jim Bunning.

So just quit pretending you can stop people like me from doing things like calling Senator Jim Bunning an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker.

3. Corporate Structure
Ms. Kim Phuc in 1997, in front of a
picture of herself, holding her child.
She currently lives in Canada.
I KNOW Amazon exists to sell books, and if they didn’t sell books, they couldn’t afford to set up a special site for people to rant about how Gustav Hasford’s books are all out of print. Nevertheless, I want to point out two growing trends. First, what used to be called “collections” is now called “customer service.” Second, what used to be called “customer service” is now called “FAQ.” In the tension between short term dividends to shareholders vs. building even a medium (forget “long term”) customer base, the customers are going to lose. And that’s bad—not just because I get shitty service, but that style of myopic idiocy is responsible (in large part) for the decline of America’s industrial base in general, and the Credit Collapse of 2008 in specific. But that’s another rant.

Senator Jim Bunning. All references
to Senator Bunning being an
"orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker"
should be taken as hyperbole and
for purposes of illustration only. We
have no reason to believe the Senator
is an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig
porker, and even suggesting that he
MAY be an orgiastic mutherfuckin’
pig porker is both crass and
irresponsible. We sincerely hope no
readers are left with the impression
that Senator Bunning is an orgiastic
mutherfuckin’ pig porker, because
it was never our intention that anyone
seriously consider Senator Bunning as
an orgiastic mutherfuckin’ pig porker.
4. Quasi-Monopolies
So, I don’t like Amazon’s customer service. Why don’t I go somewhere else? Well, I do—but there are fewer and fewer other places to go. As they said about fees banks charge on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: “Why do we [banks] do that? FUCK YOU, that’s why!” And banks get away with it, because ALL banks do that. They’re not the only ones.

Several years ago, I bought something on E-Bay, where the seller grossly misrepresented the quality of the item. I spent some time putting together my complaint, including text from the original ad, and several e-mails I had exchanged with the seller—all documenting what I was claiming was fraud. The seller didn’t even bother to respond (so far as I know). What happened? NO-THING. Then I got an e-mail, asking me if I was “satisfied” with the outcome of the dispute resolution. Fool that I am, I said no, and sent my complaint (complete with supporting documentation) a second time. Not only did nothing happen again, I got a second e-mail asking me if THIS TIME I was satisfied. I got mad, and sent my complaint a third time. That time, E-Bay did something: they stopped asking me if I was satisfied.

Since then, E-Bay has gotten worse. Here’s a quiz: suppose you bought something on E-Bay, and by mistake the seller sent you 15 pounds of weapons grade uranium 235—enough to make an atomic bomb. What’s the e-mail address, postal address, telephone number, window to throw a rock at, etc etc to bring this fact to E-Bay’s attention? You might try, because nothing else works. Why does E-Bay operate like that? FUCK YOU, that’s why.

Another time, I’ll rant about what can be done about this. But let’s just say for now that I find “FUCK YOU, that’s why” not an acceptable basis for objectionable business practices.

What I mean to say is, yesterday I had a terrible day—and wasted a lot of time being terrible.

I remain:
Really cranky.
I. MA. Krakpot.
Batman, illustrating the dangers of going too long without cursing.

NOTE: Batman expose courtesy (ie "lifted from") our learned collegues at Retrospace. We encourage you to both visit the site and not tell the webmaster we're stealing all their best stuff.