July 31, 2004
No Joking About K-2
Some wag once suggested that serious climbers should climb the second-highest mountain on each continent, since they are, as a group, tougher than the highest mountains.
K-2, first climbed 50 years ago today.
July 30, 2004
My employer, Omniva Policy Systems, has gone into receivership. I will be contracting for them during the transition.
HOW CAN WE GET THIS BANNER?
How do we get this at the top of the page?
MY TOUGHEST CLIMB
There have been so many mountains in my life, but the Laird's stinging rebuke brought to mind one of the most serious miscalculations in my career of alpine dilettantism.
I had decided to make the leap from team climber to solo climber, sharing Messner's deep moral conviction that if one is to dice with death, it is best to do so alone.
My first objective was the Sphinx of the Peninsula, the Forgotten Mountain, a bleak promonitory known mainly for its role as a Nike missile base during the Cold War - Mt. San Bruno.
San Bruno. Just saying the name aloud brings to mind its savage, even bullying, nature. Where Tamalpais hides danger like a courtesan with a dagger in her robe, Mt. San Bruno displays its primitivo for all to see. Scarred, defaced, its summit covered with antennae, it looms over SFO like the chin of a washed-up boxer.
It was Christmas Eve, and I meant to bag the mountain that very day. Like Everest or K-2, the journey to the mountain is nearly as dangerous as the ascent itself - in this case a traverse of some unpleasantness in Daly City was required. I moved swiftly toward my objective even as police officers in flak jackets shooed away curious and energetic locals.
Once on the mountain I gained fresh respect for its unique challenges. Ancient paths crisscrossed and diverged, and I often wondered if my relentless forward progress was toward the summit, the saddle, or the parking lot.
It soon became apparent that my engagement in the civil matter in Daly City had put me dangerously behind schedule. Afternoon was wearing on and the summit was nowhere in sight. I determined to push on, come what may.
At the summit, surrounded by television transmitters and radio towers, I viewed the magnificent sunset over the Pacific, looked north at graceful Mt. Tam (feigning innocence half in shadows), and south at the peninsular ridge, extending into fog and night. Sunset on San Bruno! How many can say they have experienced such a sight?
But now I was confronted with the choice that faces all climbers who ignore basic turnaround times. I could attempt a dangerous descent down a dodgy route in darkness and probably go, like Mallory, into that good night, or attempt an unprotected bivouac at altitude. Caught on the horns of a dilemma, I paused briefly to prepare my will.
As darkness began to make even that endeavor problematic, I heard an engine, and the darkness was cut through by two white high-beams.
"Hey! The park is closed now," shouted a friendly female ranger - "I'll give you a ride down!"
I have always climbed by fair means. But descending? In descending mon ami, there are no rules.
George Will, Nader Voter
He says both parties are the same, except when they're completely different. Well, it's a nice rhetorical exercise.
If I may editorialize a little, drawing a moral equivalence between the arrogance of neocon intellectuals and democratic thinkers is very modern, and very wrong. As a colleague says, "well I killled a man and you parked illegally - we're both criminals, so don't be judgmental."
Going on: "[Kerry's] biography suggests more banality than menace, although banality in high office can be its own kind of menace."
Given the choice of the current administration or banality, I will take banality in a heartbeat. And if George Will doesn't like it he can take his weird political aesthestic to France, where it belongs.
My Fucking Fair Trade Coffee
A certain I don't know what of the West Coast, ably captured in this Onion bit.
July 29, 2004
Licorice The Hamster Saves America
I was a total sucker for this story from Alexandra Kerry. In case you missed it, this was brilliant politics for humanizing the Wonk's Wonk, hilarious, short, touching.
We were standing on a dock waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all her animals including her favorite hamster. Our over-zealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched as Licorice, the unlucky hamster bubbled down to a watery doom. That might have been the end of the story. But my dad jumped in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR. There were some reports of mouth-to-mouth, but, I admit that’s probably a trick of memory. He was never quite right after that, but Licorice lived. Like I said, it may sound silly. We still laugh about it today. But, to us it was serious and that’s what mattered to my father.
The subtext, and I'm thinking it was choosen deliberately, the overzealous goldren retriever reminds us of Bush. Licorice, and us, were sinking.
Hail to Licorice the Hamster. We honor your sacrifice.
"Goddamn, He Makes Me Want to Boogie"
I saw the speech an incredibly well organized D (!) event in downtown Seattle. This was what the elder of the African American fellows next to me was saying in the middle of the stunning Kerry speech, while the younger guy kept going: "He's saying it! He's saying it! Godammit, He's FINALLY SAYING IT!" and began actually boogying. That was it, that's what it felt like.
I've never seen a room full of Democrats so thrilled (in Seattle, it's often a rather backbiting lefty crew in person) At least with the base here, it totally killed, starting with Alexandra Kerry's "Licorice the Doomed Hamster" story, which I must admit had me with idle thoughts of getting her phone number. (Fat chance, G.) The CNN had the conservative analyst from the New York Post saying "I think we've just seen the inaugural address".
KERRY CONFIRMS WIFE'S COMMENTS
Stating "Indeed, they are independently confirmed to be as big as church bells".
Victorious March of Erik of Northumberland With Head of Phillip the Unpleasant
Unknown Master of Ballard, Aprox 1312-1327
12" by 9", oil on board. Collection of The Hermitage Annex, Port Angeles, Washington.
Little is known of either Erik of Northumberland or the events depicted by the unknown Master of Ballard in this work, but it is commonly assumed by historians that this event, reputedly near the ancient fortress of Caerphilly in Wales, may have been an inspiration for The Groesome and Bluddy Deth of Wankeroose Philip and hir Daeposement, a famous late 14th morality play by Franciscan scribe Llllaycloophulllaiem of Cardiff, depicting the defeat of an infamous Welsh tyrant and moneylender by an equally brutal but welcomed invader of Viking descent named Irik or Errik of Angleterre in certain fragamentary Icelandic sagas, such as Irik, Lawgiver of Blood. It's best known surviving sentence is translated:
To Irik Gave Vortol the Weregild in Obescience, a Chest of Silver and Entrails
But Irik Held His Fast His Countenance, and Made a Rich Soup
This Errik was known for his famous bear faced armor and, as can be seen, was one for the ladies. His famous "grat ruddy hooge fuk-off beird" was the subject of a nearly lost Scottish ribald song, for the lute and now-forgotten Grendel pipes, whose drones reached nearly 2o feet, which told the story of Errik's supposed wooing of Violet Platagenet, the "Fair Loos Princess" of York, and the loss of the key to her Chastity Belt in the aforementioned beard.
The Master of Ballard here foreshadows the renaissance with an inconsistent application of perspective which was actually known to Roman painters. He depicts Erik in his traditional green and bear armor, and shows the supplication of monks, and the entreaty of important local merchants such as Michael of Normandy, an important fish-monger and pornography trader, for favor. A small fraction of his 1000 ship-bourne pikers follows at the right.
A large bear, clearly a pagan symbol important to the half-Christianised Erik, is shown gently sitting next to the young nude woman, and a rose bush seems to celebrate Northern of England. The pile of human remains in the foreground probably symbolizes Phillip's habit of quartering peasants for putting human waste in his tributary corn, a tradition of rather crude practical jokes which began early in his reign after Phillip harrangued peasants for dancing and carrying on after eventide; this remote Welsh community may have in fact originated the first putting of manure in a bag and lighting it on fire before knocking loudly and running away.
July 28, 2004
Undecideds for Kerry
"Cap'n" Cook from The Cook Political Report points out that polling ties have a significant number of undecideds, who as a rule do not favor incumbents - far, far from from it. This helps account for the risk of democractic overconfidence, a problem I last remember from 1996.
On other hand, note Krugman on Jeb Bush turning down independent audits of the voting machinge process in Florida.
July 27, 2004
SO BEAUTIFUL, SO DANGEROUS
TERESA HEINZ REVEALS WHY SHE MARRIED PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER KERRY
KILLER WHALE COMES TO SENSES-ATTACKS SEA WORLD TRAINER
"Shamu went nuts." Experts say the damage could have been much worse had Shamu had access to a shotgun, chainsaw or opposable thumbs.
July 26, 2004
It Was All Something of A Bother
If memory serves, it was back in Ought One on the notorious floating ice slopes of the Ross Perot Ice Shelf in the little explored Canadian Hawaiian islets, Westeast of Port Uranium, where the Viceroy, the Undersecretary and I were reduced to boiling our gortex shells for a pesto base during one particularly devastating minus 100 howler. In accordance with the preaaranged plan xeroxed near the TransAmerica building, I had telexed Dr. X for the instructions on the Geneto-Ray but the Red Crested Awk stubbornly refused to turn into a San Clemente minature mammoth, dooming our plans for a unique cardigan manufactory, and forcing us to consider the dreaded Plan B.
Plan B. How the very appellation sent icy chills to the bones, in this helped as well by the actual icy chill. Most men would rather shave their small intestines than consider Plan B. But on the verge of death, when dreams of loving charted accountants no longer nurtured the will to live, the very brave, or the very desperate, or the very bravely desperately brave would be forced to consider Plan B, even as the very name brought a taste to the mouth like sucking on Zinc lozenges dipped in fresh salmonella.
Of course it involved the meat generator, a heavy duty Cuisinart, a Rush tape and the suspension of certain culinary taboos. We can only thank God that at the very moment of our ungodly doom on that godfrosaken floating icebarge a fully loaded C-130 was shot down in the immediate area by water-borne radical Disney Marketers with heat-seeking memos, just saving our Sherpa, Walter Mondale, from a fate worse than death, but not sparing our other Sherpa, Sarah Silverman, from a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau and certain additional attentions.
And as we pulled the pallets of Tang and Doritos from the icy yet increasingly orange water, how we laughed and laughed and laughed in foodie joy and at Walter Mondale's comically endearing expression, knowing now that he would continue to live in liberal shame, as would we, and Sarah, now gamely sporting the mini-mammorth wool bikini, delivered a string of sharply placed obsenities at our collective expense.
A TRUE HERO
Someone put a bunch of Blackadder scripts up on The Internet.
J: (places two manuscripts on the table, but picks up the top one)
Here it is, sir: the very cornerstone of English scholarship. This book,
sir, contains every word in our beloved language.
E: Every single one, sir?
J: (confidently) Every single word, sir!
E: (to Prince) Oh, well, in that case, sir, I hope you will not object if
I also offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafribblarities.
E: `Contrafribblarites', sir? It is a common word down our way.
J: Damn! (writes in the book)
E: Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I'm anus-peptic, phrasmotic, even compunctious to have
caused you such pericombobulation.
J: What? What? WHAT?
G: What are you on about, Blackadder? This is all beginning to sound a bit
like dago talk to me.
HEROIC CLIMBS, VOL. 16
The Laird has apparently forgotten our heroic ascent of Mt. Tamalpais under the most horrific conditions.
We climbed during one of the coldest summers in memory. It was an audacious plan - we meant to travel light, in the alpine style, eschewing the "siege tactics" of other, less-committed alpinists. Of course, we used no bottled oxygen, choosing instead to "climb by fair means." The route was tough and not without risk - we followed an ancient track that had not been graded in literally weeks. Tempers frayed as we neared the Death Zone - at one point someone even mentioned Bret Easton Ellis. At that altitude there is no margin for error, so the discovery that we had run out of energy bars cast a pall of terror over the entire party. Unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of failure, we rushed the summit, making it to the parking lot just moments before they ran out of condiments at the hot dog stand.
Sure, we make light of it now, but we are altered. There is something different about us...something to do with death...
July 25, 2004
FIRST SEA LORD SEA SAFETY SEA ALERT II
Also please note that pirates are operating in the Straits of Malacca, and are proving a might troublesome. Take all necessary precautions, such as keeping your powder dry, and careful management of false signals; in particular, do not fall for the old "look, what's that behind you!?" ploy - we've lost far too many ships that way already.
ALERT! PRIORITY SEA SAFETY INFORMATION FROM FIRST SEA LORD
Were you aware that over 200 supertankers and large container ships over 200 meters in length have sunk in the last 20 years due to monstrous huge radically unsurfable waves 10 stories high? It is imperative to all in the organization that we take these simple steps to avoid huge 90 foot waves:
1) Stay well inland, such as Oklahoma.
2) If 1 is not possible, and sea travel is a must, use of a nuclear submarine operating at depths below 1000 feet is recommended.
3) Take the presence of thousands of 40 foot waves as a sign that bad weather is approaching.
4) Rather than using mere 300 meter supertankers, try using the new 3000 meter garagantutankers.
5) When your container ship turns turtle, try gluing the containers of bean bags together as a life raft.
I hope you will join me in extra vigilance, and in enjoying another year of safety at sea.
By Order of the First Sea Lord
FINALLY, A MOVIE THAT MATTERS
Many have tried, most have failed. It's harder to make a surfing movie than it looks. But today I viewed on the big screen one of the finest examples of the genre ever created, the new history of big wave surfing, Riding Giants.
The early surf movies were disastrously bad - type "Frankie and Annette" and "surfing movie" into Google, and Microsoft Explorer uninstalls itself. That bad.
You didn't really get good surfing movies until Bruce Brown showed up with The Endless Summer films (1966 and 1994). Those movies were good because they showed good surfers surfing in interesting places, but they were light.
Brown's movies did have one thing in common with "Beach Blanket Bingo" - no big surf. You can only watch so much of this before you start hunting around for the newspaper.
Riding Giants traces the story of the other guys - the guys who were "surfing while other people were evacuating" - the big wave surfers. Guys like Greg Noll, the first man to surf Waiamea, and who, at Makaha, surfed a wave considered the largest ever attempted up to that time (1969 - the same year Ray Genet did his first winter ascent of McKinley; and, oh yes, man walked on the moon).
The movie introduces you to Jeff Clark of Half Moon Bay, who discovered the break at Mavericks in the mid-70's and surfed it alone, every day, for 15 years, before finally convincing a couple of other guys to try it. Now Mavericks is a legend in big wave surfing and all the great surfers are there when it's going off. Bizarre that it took so long - someone in the movie likens it to discovering Everest back behind Mt. Whitney.
And you get to meet the inimitable, incomparable, inconceivable Laird Hamilton, of whom I have blogged before.
See the damn movie. Every kid in America should have their Britney/Justin/J. Lo crap taken away, their bling-bling confiscated, their face slapped, and be required to watch this film. Then this could be a great nation again.
It is a sad commentary that neither political party has the will to do this.
And the soundtrack rules, too.
July 24, 2004
They're SO Cute
Go to Google and type in, exactly and in quotes, "9/11 Commissioners Report" and hit "I'm feeling lucky."
THEY WERE MUSICIANS
THE NEW DICK CHENEY
The National Enquirer is reporting that Bush's new running mate will be Rudy G. Unlike the New York Post, the Enquirer is extremely accurate in these matters. You know why? Because they're willing to pay for the story, like Starsky and Hutch used to with Huggy Bear. While "serious journalists" surf the net for stills from the latest beheading video to put on the front page, the Enquirer's out there, spreading the sugar and getting the dirt.
Rudy G. would make it a much tougher battle - might even make W. the favorite again...
AN IMPORTANT REFERENCE
Anyone who doubts the power of the Internet, or Hee Haw, needs to see this.
Granted, the signal to noise ratio is low, but any show that has had Johnny Cash, Alison Kraus, Roy Acuff and Ray Charles as guests is not without merit.
July 23, 2004
It Depends on What the Definition of I's Is
I'm sorry, but I cannot countenance the new name of the blog. "I's" would be the possessive, rather than the plural, which leaves us with either Is or eyes, or perhaps..."Ayes N' Guise" is nearer to't.
Microsoft has a "long-term commitment" to outsource jobs to India. Coincidentally, I have a long-term commitment to open source software.
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Farewell to Illinois Jacquet, the last of the great big band sax players. They are re-running an NPR bio show on him down here - catch it if you can, it's worth it.
I know of four truly legendary jazz saxophone solos, and two were by Jacquet. (The others are Lester Young's final performance with Billie Holiday on "The Sound of Jazz", and Paul Gonsalves' transcendent 27 choruses at Newport with the Ellington band).
Jacquet broke into the music world in a big way in 1942, when he was only 19 years old, with his solo on Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home." It doesn't sound like much when you listen to it now, because you've heard so many jazz and rock soloes that were influenced by it. But its free, rhythmic, expressive quality was new at the time, and Jacquet made a career of getting the crowds crazy playing it.
Later on he played a wilder, screeching, honking solo for the "Jazz at the Philharmonic" series that inspired a generation of bad R&B and rock sax players.
In 1999 I picked up a live album by Wynton Marsalis and friends, covering Duke Ellington material. Great dance music. And there was Jacquet again, 57 years after "Flying Home," still blowing the sax in a big band, getting people up on their feet and dancing to the good stuff.
Why I'm Thinking of Changing My Name to "Frank Murkowski"
Anchorage Daily News | Another Mike Miller sends obscenity-laced responses to e-mails: "The e-mail said, 'Oh, go f--- yourself.' It went on to say the author answers smart people first and the people who give him money 'firstest.' "
Anyone In The Audience Ever Get Hit By A Car?
July 22, 2004
Well, I Guess He'll Be Torturing Prisoners At the Stateville Prison From Now On
US Army is now admitting that they received a prisoner from the amateur spook they supposedly had no dealings with in Kabul. Wait...there's going to be video.
IS THAT THE BOTTOM OF THE COOKIE JAR I SEE?
War Funds Dwindling, GAO Warns---The hard-hit Army faces a $5.3 billion shortfall in funds supporting deployed forces, a $2 billion budget deficit for the refurbishing of equipment used in Iraq and a $753 million deficit in its logistics contract. The Army also needs $800 million more to cover equipment maintenance costs and $650 million to pay contractors guarding garrisons.
ARMSTRONG'S SECRET CANCER TRAINING
I heard a very interesting interview with one of Lance Armstrong's coaches. The subject of Armstrong's testicular cancer came up. The coach said that going through the cancer treatment benifited Armstrong in 3 ways. First, before his cancer he had a great deal of upper body muscle mass that he didn't need. This was pretty much eliminated as a result of the cancer so it allowed Armstrong to re-sculpt his body. Second, it trained him to be able to endure the unendurable. Lastly, each of his opponents knows that Armstrong can undoubtedly endure more pain and hardship then they can. This comes in very handy is cycling apparently.
July 21, 2004
DON'T LOOK BACK #2
You are the most promising cyclist of your generation. You've bested better-known riders in this year's tour, and are, in fact, the only one left in a position to challenge for the yellow jersey. An accomplished climber, you look forward to today's time trial up the legendary Alpe d'Huez. As the riders start off, 2 minutes apart, you reflect: perhaps you can make up some time against the aging American - surely his recuperative powers are diminishing, and he's been pushing very hard in the mountains the past few days.
Your ride goes well. As you near the summit you hear screams, crazy shouts. You look over your shoulder. Lance Armstrong has made up two minutes on you and is about to pass your sorry Euro-ass.
Better luck next year, kid.
The Straight Dope on Venture Capitalism and Technology
July 20, 2004
BBC on Military Voting
This article on US military voting, from a US military news publisher must be both brilliant and right because it's sort of along the same lines I've been thinking. The point is that in spite of the basic conservatism of the military, the substantial personal impacts of Iraq and the perceptions of the use of power may quietly shift military voters away from Bush, weakening him with a critical constituency.
Another thought - it's been three years since 9/11. Three years after Pearl harbor Mussolini was gone, France was free, and Hitler was nearly spent.
Osama is still hiking in Pakistan.
TEXAS TWITS TURNED BACK
"A Texas woman charged with violating obscenity laws for selling a sexual toy and explaining to her customer how to use it has had the case against her dismissed, court officials said on Monday.
"Joanne Webb, a mother of three and a former schoolteacher in the town of Burleson near Fort Worth, was facing up to a year in jail after she sold a vibrator at a private party to two undercover police officers posing as a married couple."
Given the abundance of human resources of the Burleson Police Dept., perhaps they'd like to offer some volunteers to serve in our overstretched forces in Iraq, hmmmmmm?
Perhaps they'd like to take the place of this 68-year old man.
TURN THOSE TANKS AROUND BOYS!
We've got a new UN resolution to enforce!
Don't Make Me Go All "Rape of Nanking" On Your Ass
July 19, 2004
FAVORITE DOOHAN MOMENT
Captain 's Log. Stardate 4525.6.
A small disturbance between the Klingon crew
and members of the Enterprise crew
has broken out aboard Space Station K-7.
I am forced to cancel shore leave
for both ships.
I want to know who started it.
Freeman, who started the fight?
I don't know, sir.
I know you. You started it, didn't you?
No, sir, I didn't.
I don't know, sir.
"I don't know, sir."
I want to know who threw the first punch.
All right. You're all confined to quarters
until I find out who started it. Dismissed.
Scotty, not you.
You were supposed to prevent trouble, Mr. Scott.
Who threw the first punch?
I did, Captain.
You did, Mr. Scott?
What caused it, Scotty?
They insulted us, sir.
Must have been some insult.
Aye, it was.
You threw the first punch.
Chekov wanted to, but I held him back.
You held --
Why did Chekov want to start a fight?
Um ... well, the Klingons, sir ...
Is this off the record?
No. This is not off the record.
Well, Captain, uh ...
the Klingons called you, uh ...
a tin-plated, overbearing,
swaggering dictator with delusions of godhood.
Is that all?
No, sir. They also compared you
with a Denibian slime devil.
I get the picture.
After they said all this,
that's when you hit the Klingons?
No, uh ... I didn't.
You told us to avoid trouble.
Well, I didn't see
that it was worth fighting about.
After all, we're big enough to take a few insults.
What was it they said that started the fight?
They called the Enterprise a garbage scow ...
that's when you hit the Klingons?
You hit the Klingons because they insulted the Enterprise,
not because they ...
Well, sir, this was a matter of pride.
All right, Scotty.
Scotty, you're restricted to quarters until further notice.
Thank you, sir.
That'll give me a chance
to catch up on my technical journals.
July 16, 2004
EENIE MEENIE MINEY MOE...
Iran now implicated in 9/11:
"Citing a recently discovered December 2001 memo buried in the files of the National Security Agency, the commission report states that Iranian border inspectors were instructed not to place stamps in the passports of Al Qaeda fighters from Saudi Arabia who were traveling from bin Laden’s camps through Iran, according to U.S. officials and commission sources familiar with the report."
Wonder what other buried memos will turn up before the election?
If you're wondering where Rumsfeld is, I'll bet dollars to donuts he's in a situation room looking at this map.
TUM TA TUM... We'll just send seven aircraft carriers to hover off China and do exercises...nothing to see here... LA DEE DEE...
Since Today's Topic is Art...
I thought I'd share with you my review of the new Will Ferrell movie, Anchorman:
It's really, really awful.
Now that you have your expectations set correctly, go see it.
Only one more specific comment: there are so many cameos by actors of a certain clique that none of them is more surpising than the fact that Owen Wilson never appears.
Dr. Z on Bush: "He sucks."
Dr. Z's Mailbag:
"Note to all you concerned Americans who are unhappy about my reference to President Bush's self-glorification in the last Mailbag: If this guy gets re-elected the Redhead and I seriously considering moving to New Zealand ... which would give you another reason to vote for him. "
Here is insane Bobby Fischer's insane website with his insane plea for a refuge: "He urgently requests at immediate offer of political asylum from a friendly third country. "
I seem to recall Ezra Pound pulling the same stunt, but he got some nice quiet time in a leafy, shaded, restful insane asylum. Fischer may not be that lucky.
In Caravaggio, some level of technical accomplishment is noted.
Hmmmm. - Dr X
Let me rephrase: you've heard of naturalism? Not really real, until
Caravaggio. (This is still the 1500s, recall, correct
perspective hasn't even been around all that long). A good
comparison is this contemporary Titian
- the change is the fully intergrated naturalism around the whole
canvas . In other words, Caravaggio was arguably the first
painter, and maybe the first person, to see light and dark and space
the way we think we see it now - and now that I think about it, this
kind of naturalism is kind of sociopathic, which is too cute but there
you are. A perfect example of how brutal the clear eye is is my
friend Ann Gale's work.
These pieces take months and months - and frequently sell (at
Hackett-Freeman downtown SF, don't ask how much) well before they're
I'm very far from the first person to point out that perspective is brutally cold, mathematical, and somewhat anti-human, (and a little bit mistaken,
in the name of full disclosure) liberating enough against the church,
but as a norm became its own orthodoxy, which lead to its rejection by
modern art, which in about 30 years had urinals in the galleries and
much much later opened up a whole can of Warhols, which has lead to the
new orthodoxies of sterility and recontextualizaton, which... oh hell.
Which is why I look at cheerful Gothic paintings recently, when you can find something other than an icon. I'm through being cool, and I'm going to go look at the best thing that happened in 1492.
ALSO "From now on..."
"...he'll be playing chess in the Stateville Prison.'
BBC NEWS: Japan holds ex-chess star Fischer
Caravaggio - Model of Painterly Restraint
Of course, if the paintings are among the most extraordinary of clear-eyed technical accomplishments there is some evidence of passion in Caravaggio's personal life, as excerpted from a paper on "Black Hole Personality" disorder. The ball-game referred to below was an early form of tennis and involved at least 4 swordsmen.
"After some years of apprenticeship in Milan, Michelangelo Caravaggio left for Rome. The first years in the capital were hard, meager and grim. At first, Caravaggio was employed by a Sicilian painter, Lorenzo, for whom he worked long hours for a pittance. Afterwards, he was engaged by the miserly Monsignor Pandolfo Pucci. Caravaggio nicknamed him 'Monsignor Insalata,' because all he fed his employee was vegetable salad.  At about that time he became seriously ill and was hospitalized in Santa Maria della Consolatione, where he stayed quite a while; it was there that he painted some of his earlier works, including, quite probably, Bacchino Malato, the sick Bacchus, with himself as model.
"Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Cardinal Del-Monte bought Caravaggio's painting "The Cardsharps", and subsequently invited Caravaggio to join the homosexual menagerie of young musicians and painters that he kept in his mansion. Caravaggio's homosexual preferences are evident from his paintings, and are known from other independent sources. We also have ample evidence of the painter's quarrelsome, violent sword and predilection for brawling. He had the psychopathic trait of ever looking for stimuli, be they creative or merely sensation-rousing. He would throw stones at his landlady, hurl artichokes at a waiter, and fight a notary at Piazza Navona, over the amorous attentions of a woman.  Caravaggio killed one Ranuccio Tomassoni after a quarrel in a ball game. This happened in 1606, after which he was banished from Rome. In all likelihood, his journey from Milan to Rome in 1592 was actually a flight following a murder he committed. His short fuse and pathological need to seek violence and dispute landed him in trouble all his life. Oftentimes he abused and assaulted his benefactors. Consequently, he was frequently obliged to flee from one place to the other, and even his death was the result of a skirmish.
"In August 1603, the painter Baglione sued Caravaggio for disseminating defamatory poems about him. The courts decided for the plaintiff and [End page 67] Caravaggio was jailed. He was released by the intervention of the French ambassador since he was engaged in painting the side-wall of the Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. In October 1604, he was arrested again for assaulting a police officer, and in 1605 he injured a lawyer in the face and fled to Genoa. After his banishment from Rome, following the murder of a ball-game partner, he fled to Naples and thence to Malta. He was made a Knight of the Maltese Order of St. John, only to be expelled from it following his offending the Grand Master. He fled to Sicily, was fatally wounded in Naples, and died in Civita Vecchia on the 18th of July, 1610. This history of murder, assault and courting of violence would shame many a violent psychopath in a contemporary maximum-security prison. Indeed, we hypothesize, by a rather problematic post-facto inference, that Caravaggio suffered from an ever hungry, insatiable 'black-hole' personality."
I should add that His final wound involved the loss of his boat, with all his possessions, which may have broken his will to live.
"From now on..."
"...I guess she'll be making canapes in the Stateville Prison"
BBC NEWS: Five months in jail for Stewart
DON'T LOOK BACK
Day one in the mountains - Armstrong drops all his key rivals.
July 15, 2004
IT TAKES A BIG MAN
To admit that he's been wrong about black holes for 30 years.
NOT TO BE DUALISTIC...
But isn't all art the tension between, on the one hand, a raging passion bordering on the psychotic (Caravaggio), and on the other the cold, steady, technical eye needed to master surface (David Bowie, or, if you must, Ingres)?
I think you find utter mastery at both levels in the artists GRAG (generally recognized as great). Velasquez's Los Borrachos has plenty of surface, but the more you look, the more you find yourself staring into a grinning but meaningless existential void. Or Michelangelo showing us the face of The Damned:
Get too close to the sun, of course, and you get burned. The artists I used to like, inspired by Lorca's "Theory and Divertissment of the Duende" were those barely holding the ragged edge. The poets Cesare Pavese and Randall Jarrell. Van Gogh. Kurt Cobain. Of course they all killed themselves (including, arguably, Lorca, who chose death by fascist), which points to a limitation in the aesthetic: experiencing their art comes perilously close to ghoulish voyeurism. Sylvia Plath was a great poet with or without the early exit, but the head-in-the-oven thing really sucks in those adolescent girls.
So, as one becomes jaded by promiscuous fatalism (the same porn over and over), one retreats, and there are really only two ways to go. We can fall into sentimentality and romanticism ("Sorrows of the Young Werther", making passion and death a kind of light entertainment, and making real passion or vision virtually impossible), or retreat into sterility and surface.
Of the two vices, sterility and surface are preferred in modern times. Like aunt Edna who's on valium but insists nothing is wrong, we use Warhol's soup cans or...(well, I was going to cite Lichtenstein’s BLAM! here, but now realize it's a little darker and more serious that I remembered - dig that black body falling into space)...anyway, we avoid the facts, we use sterility as a crutch, a placeholder, a placebo, an aesthetic methadone.
We're left with Hiroshige, Hokusai, Hockney, Hopper, Robert Hughes, and the occasional Rauschenbergian goat.
I'm not saying it's right, but I do dig it.
Why No One Want Make Hulk 2?
A Truly Critical Victory for Privacy
CAPPS II - which would have run automatic comprehensive background checks on all airline passengers, is apparantly dead. But keep your eyes peeled...
July 14, 2004
QUESTION FOR TROUBLE MAN
Q: Are you related to Mr. T?
A: Trouble-Man is related to The Original Mr. T, from whence he took his moniker.
The World's Most Accomplished Porn
Don't ask how I got this: James Joyce's Extremely Naughty Letters to Nora. Note: these are extremely naughty, if literate. I post these in the name of historical completeness.
It's the Little Things That Make You Want a Violent People's Revolution
Gary Trudeau characterizes Bush at Yale. Caution: this does very little to change your inner instinct that Bush is an alcoholic, sadistic preppie obsessed with dominating people.
The Begining of the End of Commerical Aviation?
This BBC story on environmental threats from aviation got me thinking about the future of flight.
I am begining to think that large numbers of commercial jets operating on fossil fuels cannot be sustained more than three decades as a primary transportation network, through a combination of environmental costs in warming, which are rapidly becoming visible, security risks, urban space opportunity costs, and probable economic unsustainability as petroleum is depleted.
So I'm wondering what the future is. Nuclear aircraft seems unlikely - is there a way for fuel cells to power aircraft economically (I'm imagining electric high efficiency props) ? I like the thought in the article about superfast rail for journeys under 400 miles (think of the massive subsidies going to support aviation, particularly when you think of opportunity costs). It really has every advantage, particularly in point to point delivery times; fast rail would get you from city center to city center. A related thought is that wise or not I'm betting on a return to nuclear fission as a primary electrical power generator - whether we have the fuel or not, global warming's effects are going to force rather panicky energy decisions.)
In the short run, I think this bodes well for Boeing's 7E7, which is efficient, rather than the big Airbus, which is, well, big.
So the future, I think, is a bit slower, more specialized. The huge growth in cruise ships might actually position a return to shipping as a saleable alternative for transoceanic journeys, particularly if they are big floating destination malls, which they are. If it gets back to a four day Atlantic crossing as opposed to a day flight, why not? And far, far, far cheaper in fuel. My business model? The journey is free - as long as you shop, rooms at hotel rates.
That old fascist Lindbergh, who evolved into an environmentalist, a racist one, but whatever, once said that he had to ask himself whether he ultimately wanted a world with aircraft, or a world with birds. And he realized that the answer was birds.
Thoughts? Which reminds me, I've got a free flight on Alaska coming up....
July 13, 2004
That Election Postponement Looking More Likely
If you've been following Rasmussen Reports, you know that there has been an infuriating stability all year in the Bush/Kerry numbers, with neither side getting ahead by three or more points for more than three days. It's finally broken today, with a fragile Kerry lead, backed up by most of the reported polls at pollingreport.
As much as I enjoyed the internal GOP memo on a post-convention bump, I agree with the Rasmussen point about the country being unusually polarized; convention bumps on both sides will be more limited, I'm guessing around 5-6%, if that. We're seeing one with Edwards obviously, but I'm not certain it's going away. I don't see Bush's support going under 39% in any circumstances short of photos of him blowing a goat he bought with a $45 Million personal check from Bin Laden, which would take him to 37%.
What is happening is that Edwards demonstrated that undecided voters can be swayed, if temporarily, for truth and justice, etc, if it wears a smile and nice suit. We'll have to despair about this another time, and in the meantime, unleash the Edwards (let's hope super trial lawyer Edwards is thinking of Kerry as his client). More seriously, Edwards is an effective populist, which is where Bush is, after being in office, weakest.
Another sadly positive factor was the persistent majority saying the economy is getting worse, which if you happen to buy your groceries with a hard micropercentage of GDP, is sort of wrong, but if you're looking for work, recall Paul Kruger's point about an unchanged percent of adults working. For most Americans, the economy is at best not getting worse, but it is getting far less secure psychologically, and I think, in reality. And long term insecurity is already showing up in shaky retail sales.
Does an artist care about shaky retail sales? Well, sure, I'm basically in retail. (I also remember a leading economic indicator from a homeless fellow - if the discarded cigarette butts are getting shorter, look for a recession).
Another surprising factor is that Kerry is closing in on Bush with raised money, about $180 mil to 210 (You had to enjoy Bank of America being "unable to process" Kerry's donations for about a day last week- and in my conspiratorial moments...) But there was a small point that had me very worried, which is now past- Oregon. Oregon was dead split a month ago, even leaning Bush. This has shifted to about an 8 point Kerry lead. That's now past.
Kerry is leading at the moment, Nader is actually taking votes away from Bush as well(!), and the quiet point is that there is no question that it is possible for Kerry to win. What can go wrong? Everything. And I don't discount the possibility of illegal domestic security action of some kind. But we now know that things can also go right.
July 12, 2004
It's one thing to put a Coke machine into a MMRPG. Even better to put in one that's out of order...
ONE FOR THE "I'LL BE DARNED" DEPARTMENT
Bill Millen, a Scottish piper who hit the beaches on D-Day played himself in the movie "The Longest Day". Strangely, while he states he played "Highland Laddie" during the actual event, he played "The Blackbear Hornpipe" in the movie. Go figure!
THANK YOU FOR ADDING VALUE
Roman landmarks to be covered with advertisements.
Wow. It's Already a Case for Troubleman
30 people trapped in Congo uranium mine collapse, you know, the one that was closed in 1960. One of several back stories is that cobalt minerals used in cell phones and laptops are mined here, real blood minerals - thousands of people have been killed over the illegal markets. And I'm sure any excess uranium is going right in the trash where it belongs.
Troubleman, where are you?
On a brighter note, if you find yourself needing to purchase diamonds, or coltan for that matter, you can go Canadian.
July 11, 2004
The SECRET ORIGIN of TROUBLE-MAN
"I'm not wearing THAT!" Travis recoiled when he saw his to be super-suit for the first time.
Dr. Lahey rolled his eyes, losing patience with Travis' vanity, though he kept telling himself that this was a fault of youth that there was nothing he could do about, but to keep explaining to Travis why what he thought about how the project reflected on Travis Harvey did not matter. "Travis, listen to me -- are you listening? -- When you have spend seven years and millions of dollars for research, you can wear anything you like. Until then, the project team and the directors get to decide what you wear while using Tauscher Labs equipment. Get it?"
Travis rolled his head back and to the side, unable to come up with a response. Then, Travis looked into space, thinking, and said, "Maybe it won't look as stupid with the armor on it."
"There is no armor," Lahey said slowly and quietly, supressing his anger. "Just the gloves and boots.
Travis started to look worried. "Not even a...like a belt -- a super belt?"
"Belt?" Lahey couldn't hold back any longer: "YOUR NOT WEARING ANY PANTS!"
Travis lashed back. "No armor?! If I wanted to get regular beatings by uneducated hoodlums, I would have played wide receiver in the NFL!"
Lahey smirked, "Well isn't it just too bad you didn't get drafted? Maybe you should have stuck to just one sport, or even two, in college."
"Yeah, if this is any indication, I would have been drafted by the Bucaneers and made to where the old uniform." Travis and Lahey laughed, and the tension diminished.
"Okay, Sport." Lahey grabbed the unitard from the table, bunched it together, did a pass-fake, then tossed it to Travis, who nearly fumbled it.
"Ummm..." Travis mumbled, "I suppose that the Tauscher Institute insists that the suit have a big letter 'T' on the front, huh?"
"You are 'The Tauschernaught', are you not?
Travis winced. He didn't bother to state yet again that he thought the name was stupid, and too obviously something the Labs PR people had insisted upon. He thought to himself that there's nothing dumber, nothing that screams "my mother dressed me" than to wear an outfit that emblazened with the first letter of this first name. "Yeah, I guess I'm 'The Tauschernaught'," his voiced trailed off.
Travis would have his revenge on the Lab PR staff. Six days later, he donned his 'T' outfit, put on the Tesla-gloves and electro-boots, plus targeting monacle, and was driven by a police-scanner equipped Tauscher Labs van to his first crime scene: a robbery at a small liquor store. When he got out of the van, he felt like he was going to deliver a pizza, or a singing telegram. "Just walk in, dressed like an idiot, and stop a crime in progress," he thought. "This is whack."
As Travis entered the liquor store, feeling too awkward to be as intimidating as he wished he was, it occurred to him that at least in a superhero costume, there's no question as to what your there for.
There were three teenagers in the store, each armed with a pistol in one hand, and as much booze as they could carry in the other. The store owner (he assumed) was face down behind the counter. They were startled for an instant, eyed Travis, then the biggest of the three junior Hellions cracked a smile, then started laughing. The other two followed suit, looking at each other, and pointing with their guns.
Finally, the biggest one said, "Man, that is one ugly costume, bitch. What's that 'T' supposed to stand for?"
The kid had almost come up with the idea of 'Turd', but Travis responded before he could complete the thought:
IN CASE YOU THOUGHT WE WERE HAVING AN ELECTION THIS YEAR
Maybe next year...
In his letter, Soaries pointed out that while New York's Board of Elections suspended primary elections in New York on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election."
Here's a new game. Go to your personal profile and enter some interests. Then view your profile and click on the interests. You're looking for an interest that only one other person has. For example, I entered Rare Earth as one of my favorite bands, and found that my soulmate is this guy in Bangkok. Which would be a concern if I really liked Rare Earth.
July 10, 2004
The Whiff of Panic
Guardian article on the internal memo going aroung the GOP over Edwards - it sounds like a bit of a panic.
July 09, 2004
MEN, IT'S REAL: TAKE COUNTERMEASURES
Conspiracy to unman you using chemicals is progressing nicely. At this rate, we'll all be wearing tu-tus this time next year. It goes without saying that this is why they killed Brando.
I HATE STATEN ISLAND NAZIS
Just for kicks? Well, I guess they'll be lighting flaming swastikas at the Stateville Prison from now on.
July 08, 2004
It has come to our attention that the Iraq insurgency is not, as we had said earlier, a few hooligans and malcontents out looking for trouble. It is, in fact, a large and well-organized rebellion against a foreign occupying power, led by those who were disenfranchised by the attack on their nation. We regret the error.
July 07, 2004
Bruckheimer Does Camelot
How could it miss? Well, Ebert thought it was ok, anyway. Here is an excerpt from his review:
"That the movie works is because of the considerable production qualities and the charisma of the actors, who bring more interest to the characters than they deserve. There is a kind of direct, unadorned conviction to the acting of Clive Owen and the others; raised on Shakespeare, trained for swordfights, with an idea of Arthurian legend in their heads since childhood, they don't seem out of time and place like the cast of "Troy." They get on with it.
"They even keep straight faces in the last shot, as the camera audaciously pulls back to reveal Stonehenge. That gives audience members a choice; they can think (a) 'A-ha! So that explains Stonehenge!' or (b) 'What a cheap shot to use Stonehenge as a location when it has nothing to do with anything,' or (c) 'What's that?' "
What Is Wrong With this Music Service?
I was looking for some more delightful Mediaeval Baebes sorts of sweet goth choral music, and stumbled across this page, which is letting me listen to excellent Joglaresa stuff free and easily and apparantly legally - how is this possible?
The Baebes themselves, are planning a US West Coast tour this coming fall or spring. Goth girls singing renaissance choral pieces with a punk rock attitude? - I'm so utterly there.
Three Huzzahs for Smarty Pants Seattle
It's Official - Seattle is A-Number One Smarty Pantsburg....
And we like more sailboats....
...Kerry Outpolls Bush Here 77 to 9 percent, yes NINE, percent (Seattle Times 5/4/04).
We have our nanny-state problems, our bourgeiosy legionnaires, our creme brule anarchists, our DEEPLY INGRAINED PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVENESS (comes the fascist clampdown, our response, mark my words, will be to refuse to respond to any federal orders, and not say anything about it) but does anyone wonder why I'm turning down the community college professorship in the rural Midwest? On the dating scene recently, I'm having trouble with my relative lack of education - I cannot keep up with the required reading.
And finally, I tried, but cannot help, piling this on: Alaska is still number 1.
Where's the Kaboom? There was Supposed to be an Earth Shattering Kaboom!
July 06, 2004
WONDER HOW THE SUPREME COURT WILL HANDLE THIS
Ambushing registrars and tracking down executives at their homes and offices, a literary publicist has uncovered conflicts of interests and security flaws inside the companies that make electronic ballot machines...
Her conclusion: there will be so many problems with the more than 100,000 paperless voting terminals to be used in the November presidential election that the fiasco will dwarf Florida's hanging chad debacle of 2000.
July 05, 2004
KERRY'S RUNNING MATE
I say we dispense with politics as usual. We have Kerry announce that Marcus Aurelius will be his running mate. A professional actor will be hired to memorize the Meditations, and quote from them as required:
Interviewer: As a Roman Emperor, you have been even richer than the Bush family. What are your views on personal wealth?
MA: "Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go."
Interviewer: What are your views on the Bush administration's attempts to use torture in its war on terrorism?
MA: "The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong doer." [I'm sure his Germanic campaigns were conducted humanely...]
Interviewer: Some believe this country has the greatest empire since Rome, others believe we have gone soft. But there is no doubt we are fatter and less popular than at any other time in our history. Your views?
MA: "Thou sufferest this justly: for thou choosest rather to become good to-morrow than to be good to-day."
Interviewer: Any other thoughts for America's leadership?
MA: "Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good."
July 04, 2004
STARGATE QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Richard Dean Anderson, on learning from the aliens his team is trying to help that the replibots have reversed the polarity on their time dilation machine and are now using it to accelerate their replication within the target zone by a factor of 100:
"What is wrong with you people? Time machines are nothing but trouble! Even we know that!"
I kind of oversimplified the plot - here's a better summary.
Shell CEO: We're Apparantly Going to Need Those Extra Planets
The CEO of Shell "sees little hope for the planet," on global warming. Funny, I don't recall taking hallucinagens this evening.
July 03, 2004
Using the time freed up this morning from not watching a Marlon Brando movie, I discovered this online Scottish audio archive, including Mike Myers' immortal "piper down".
July 02, 2004
BRANDO OUT OF EISENGEISTE "BEST LIVING ACTOR" COMPETITION
A little quiz here.
It is a sad commentary that I have seen two Brando movies in my life (Apocalypse Now and The Godfather), but got 8 out 10 on the quiz...
BLACK GOP SECRETARY OF STATE SINGS GAY ANTHEM TO WORLD DIPLOMATIC LEADERS
Bet you never thought you'd live to see that headline.
The Russians sang Yellow Submarine, BTW.
Speaking of Painting....
I'm in the middle of a major rework of my painting website with a designer - it's incomplete, but the painting section is up. The text and fonts are stand ins (and not totally oriented correctly), and there are no readings in yet.
But I would appreciate feedback on the basic design, interactivity, and appearance of the pieces.
BTW, This was the "Reubens" composition.
Goodness...100 New Planets.
Hubble scientists report discovery of a hundred new planets. What did you do today?
When Optical Illusions Attack
Better, I think, to hire professional graphic artisans to paint your roads.
July 01, 2004
I, THE JURY
THINK IT OVER
This lady (??) makes a lot of sense.