March 30, 2005

Blogging is So Hot...

...even Pepys has one.

Twang! Fooosh! Thwump!

Traditional archery sales talk, in this case mostly classic "D "style longbows, is kind of a nice antidote to the overdense, underwhelming and heavily taxing IT prose. I would recommend browsing some of the following sites after a long session of shopping for anything powered by transformers, batteries, or gasoline.

It's also interesting to realize that making something as incredibly ancient and simple as a longbow is a subtle and technically involved craft. I genuinely appreciate being humbled by two sticks and a string.

Traditional English Longbows

Selfbow and Northwest Archery (for arrows)- Brother and sister in Washington State, among the best traditional yew bows in the world.

Archery Supply Sources

The Bow and Arrow Man

Longbows and Bowmakers

The Archery Center

Turbows -Inexpense (But I've heard excellent) Traditional custom longbows from australia.

I Suddenly Feel So...American

The NY Times ran an article about Ajax, Amsterdam's home soccer team. It seems that the team's unofficial nickname is "The Jews" for no reason other than that there used to be a lot of Jews in Amsterdam. This leads to typical soccer hooliganisms like when the supporters of opposing teams yell "Jews to the gas!" and "Hamas! Hamas!" I'm guessing (hoping) that this is exactly akin to the "Tomahawk Chop" and we have nothing to fear but the loss of good taste. Right?

The Ajax fight song: "De herdertjes lagen bij nachte, zij lagen bij nacht in het veld, daar hoorden zij engelen zingen: AJAX! AJAX! AJAX!"

"The shepards lay by night, they lay by night in the field, then they heard the angels cry: Ajax!" Maybe this works better in Dutch.

Check out this freaky collection of Ajax fight songs which includes the Hava Nagila (sort of) and these two ditties, which I believe are clear enough:

He, He

Waar komen Joden toch vandaan?
Israël hier ver vandaan
Wonen daar ook super joden?
Ja daar wonen super joden
Vinden joden voetbal fijn?
Als ze maar voor Ajax zijn

Sensibly, the list also includes the requisite Queen anthem. Some fellow has even written a book (Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe During the Second World War) sorting out "The Holocaust, the Second World War, the Jewish community of Amsterdam, all seen through the filter of football."
Ajax's own web page has a related section written in Approximately English.

Anyhoo, if any of you feel the need to buy me (another) nice present, let me suggest

this jersey from team Karl Marx Stadt.

White River Truck Repair and Yard Art, Standing Tall For Freedom

An Indiana business gets harassed by the Man for openly selling cement versions of Venus and David.

Way to shake it.

Child Development Instruction

Here's another reason why every child should have access to a sandbox.

March 29, 2005

Reviews are out...

...for Frank Miller's Sin City

My Favorite of the blurbs was this one:

"Film noir on steroids; a movie so cool you’re not supposed to be concerned about its total lack of moral grounding. Nor its profound sexism. Nor its misanthropic nihilism."

To which I must respond:

"Well, duh."

The Laird's New Toys

As some of you know, the FSL and I have taken up archery. I wanted to post pictures of my new equipment, along with the vital statistics.

Irish Jon, a fixture at the archery range in golden gate park, did most of the work on these, and taught me how to fletch.
  • 23/64" diameter ceder shafts
  • 28" draw
  • 4 90-degree turkey feather fletches
  • 125 grain field tips
  • 11/32" snap nocks

This is quite a value for it's very low purchase price. BTW, should I ever go missing for a very long period of time, I have instructed my wife to only entertain suitors who can string it.
  • InterNature Viper Deluxe Longbow
  • 68" long (unstrung)
  • 50 pounds at 28" draw
  • Flat, figerglass laminated limbs
  • 1" limb reflex/deflex
  • Name: "Copperhead"


It's been so long since I've posted new headlines.

March 28, 2005

My Terry Schiavo Post

Read what Andrew has to say (subhead: 'Hypocrisy').

March 27, 2005

As Promised

From "Ink and Incapability" (not "Amy and Amiability"):

"Well, it is so often the way, sir, too late one thinks of what one *should* have said. Sir Thomas Moore, for instance: Burned alive for refusing to recant his Catholicism, must have been kicking himself, as the flames licked higher, that it never occurred to him to say, 'I recant my Catholicism.' "

March 26, 2005

Content Management Systems

I have about three months to build an online database of short essays and other documents. It's confusing, because there are a lot of options.

I originally planned to build it using Netobjects Fusion, back from the dot-com dead. $200 gets you an easy-to-use package with good site management tools and many site templates that have been built for you. No HTML skills required (good, because I have none). The results are basic, but better than I'd get using Frontpage or GoLive in the time allotted.

But maybe I'm behind the times. Maybe I need a wiki. I could use Open Wiki, an open source XML-based wiki package for Windows. Alluring because of its apparent simplicity and RSS support, which Fusion doesn't have. But the code is not being maintained, and the homepage is kind of a disaster.

Twiki looks like a more serious product - it's designed for Intranets but can be used for websites, too.

But why settle? Why live with a bare bones Wiki when I can use an open-source content management system?

PostNuke looks impressive. I really would like to provide an RSS feed, and it can do that. And it would let me scale up and let others contribute to the site, but with administrative tools to help prevent wiki-wackiness. And, "it is easy to install, easy to understand/use, and easy to administer. Anyone from the novice to the expert can install and adminster a PN site." Why consider anything else? Well, here's one reason.

And why use PostNuke when the original developers are all now working on Xaraya? It is massively buzzword-compliant, and the supporting documentation includes in-depth examples. This Swiss hedge fund ditched Cold Fusion and now uses Xaraya. Installation looks...possible... Once it's running...holy crap.

Or should I go with Mambo, which is taking the Linux community by storm?

You guys will help me get Apache and MySQL up and running, right? Comments welcome.

Don't Ask What Else They'd Like Back

Nearly a quarter of western Germans and 12 percent of easterners want the Berlin Wall someone says here, "German nostalgia makes me nervous." No sound, but this is one reason I laughed (guiltily) at Eurotrip.

March 25, 2005

Perfect 20 Years Ago

A bittersweet memory tonite, on the long commute, with the radio playing "Gimme Some Lovin" by the Spencer Davis Group.

By 1985 I'd determined that current music was a complete waste of time, and I'd be better off mining the past. I went through Cream, Led Zeppelin, Traffic, and kept going back, into the early days of the British Invasion - The Yardbirds (I had a bootleg of their last tour with Page running amok) and the Kinks, but mostly the early Winwood. In 1985 I knew pop music had taken a severe wrong turn, and I knew it happened somewhere after the Spencer Davis Group.

On Memorial Day I was cranking the stereo at home, watching the game on TV. Celtics - Lakers, World Championship, Game 1. The pregame hype was all Magic-this, Larry-that, Kareem blah blah blah. And Scott Wedman took over the game. Scott freakin' Wedman!

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

You have to understand about Scott Wedman. He'd been an all-star once, but he was getting old. Couldn't start for the Celtics even if he'd been in his prime. He was too white, too slow, couldn't take it to the hoop, couldn't play much D...

And the Lakers tried to guard him, they really did. But he just kept coming off picks and shooting, slipping away from his man and shooting, appearing out of thin air and shooting. He didn't miss. Not once. And Steve Winwood was in the background singing, I swear, "so glad you made it, so glad you made it..."

When it was over Wedman had gone 11-for-11, four from three-point land. "Thank God we held him to 11 shots," smirked Pat Riley. The whipping was so bad (148-114), they called it the Memorial Day Massacre. The Lakers, led by Kareem, took an oath to never be embarrassed like that again. They got their act together, shut Wedman down for the rest of the series, and won the Championship.

The next year the Celtics came back and beat the Lakers, deploying Bill Walton, the tactical nuclear reserve center, for 5- and 10- minute stretches. Wedman got his second championship ring, and as near as I can tell, went home to Kansas City.

A few days later I was walking home from work through Harvard Square in a rainstorm, a terrible downpour. No one on the street but me...and Bill Walton, coming toward me. "Way to go Bill!" I didn't expect much back, I'd met sports stars before.

Walton looked back at me - paused in the rain - and gave me a big grin, pumping his fist.

And not long after I was into the Grateful Dead, playing "For the Faithful" over and over on my long commute:

Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac.
I can tell by the way you smile he's rolling back.
Come wash the nighttime clean,
Come grow this scorched ground green...

Davy Jones Called. His Locker is Full.

About the time I was wondering whether any tankers don't explode, a tanker explodes.


NYT story on the uncomfortable similarites between the current real estate market and the internet boom.

The question of the day is: how many prime rate points will it take to puncture the balloon?

And the technical questions for Dr. X are: if the dollar devalues another 20% or so (which seems very likely), won't this tend to compound problems of mortgage-holding institutions whose real estate holdings themselves start falling - as the value of their debt declines as well? Can they cover the bases by buying other currencies? And won't that drive a spiral of currency decline?

I am of course deeply concerned about our nation's economic health. On the other hand, I rent. And I suspect that some real estate relief in San Francisco would be welcome as well, if they entire economy didn't collapse.

Next painting, I sell for Euros.

Great Poseiden's Balls! Do Any of These Things NOT Explode?

Shipbreaking threatens beaches worldwide
The Breaking "Yards" in Bangladesh

The tanker Polar Texas, currently being broken up by broken men in Bangledesh who often die for the privilege of their work, is the chief suspect in a small but significant spill in Puget Sound. The spill was just a few months ago. The case is under investigation - my ideal outcome: ConocoPhillips is prosecuted for destroying evidence by sending Exhibit A to Bangladesh and having it destroyed by hundreds of abused workers with mallets, torches and hacksaws.

Fingered by the chemical signature of the oil, the Polar Texas is notable for having been struck by lightning and exploding in 1979. Then, they fixed it.

The Viceroy originally listed the super-neat SeaLinks site, which allows you to watch real-time shipping traffic in a densely populated, environmentally-sensitive area near you. For fun, combine the transceiver's ship name and a Google search (remember to attach M/V and look in quotes, as in the "M/V 50 Cent," ) and you can often find an image, ownership, history, tonnage, and probable cargo of whatever happens to be threatening your beach at the moment.

March 24, 2005

I Don't Know Much About Ships

But you gotta admit that's a pretty cherry atomic icebreaker there...

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The First Sea Lord Expresses His Displeasure

Speaking in my pretend professional capacity, I am amazed at the growing reports of alarming sea hijinks.

About the time I was going to post this appalling story about unreported tug collisions, small explosions, near misses and falsified documents among Conoco's brand new Polar tanker fleet (you know, the one you see out the window in Valdez, Port Angeles or San Francisco), this tidbit about a Dutch submarine having offed a french fishing trawler um, surfaced.

It occurs to me that the primary maritime accomplishment (as opposed to launching cruise missles, which, let's face it, could be done from a Grumman Goose) of the world's insanely expensive submarine fleets has been to accidently sink a couple of trawlers. They could try sending them after the real, modern pirates who keep running off with ships, but how do you stop a 12ft. 100hp rubber galleon with a torpedo?

Mike Dukakis Explains it All For You

An admirable man, with a clue, interviewed here.

"We lost the fourteen poorest states in the county. And we lost them in 2000. There’s something wrong when the Democratic Party is losing the fourteen poorest states in the country."

March 23, 2005

O Canada, Glorious and Free...

Republicans on the [Florida] House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

Where Are All the Kids? We Need More Kids!

Army's falling a little short of quota. According to the CIA World Factbook 2mm males reach military age annually in the U.S. As of today there are around 1.4 mm people in the U.S. Armed Forces...

Banksy Strikes Again

Wooster Collective: A Celebration of Street Art

Thanks to Bruhaha for the link.

March 22, 2005

Hard to Discern the Competitive Advantage

The Chinese channel is great, especially the ads. Big Marketing has discovered the Chinese demographic, so there are very slick ads from Allstate, Wells Fargo, and The Lottery, featuring smiling Asian-Americans in beautiful homes taking care of their children and thinking dreamily, yet prudently, of the future.

And then there are the tofu commercials.

I had never seen a tofu commercial before. A girl came on the screen and was obviously touting the virtues of this particular brand, Golden Gate tofu. Intrigued, I asked my wife what they were saying about it. "They say it tastes good."

Oh, those subtle Asians.

Turns out there is a difference. Golden Gate tofu is soft, with a custard-like texture and clean flavor. Don't settle for second-best!

Ebay Search: Reliable Ship Engines

What the hell is going on? Another ship engine goes out and two big fat oilers in Alaska come within 1.3 miles of each other, and were at serious risk for a head-on, which might have made the Exxon Valdez look like Dairy Queen chocolate dip.

A tanker takes at least a mile to stop.

The Only Intelligent Comment So Far

"They're drilling in the Alaskan wilderness? That's too bad. Someone really ought to look into passing laws to put such places under federal protection so this doesn't happen again."

Our Food is Drifting Again

Another ship in Alaska, this one a fish processor with 200 people on board, is interupted moments ago in it's drift towards doom on Kayak Island by the Coast Guard.

It should be noted they also got a towline on the one that hit the rocks in the Aleutians.

Good luck to them all.

March 21, 2005

Ring Around the Rosie

A report suggests the Adminstration even blew the modest smallpox vaccination program.

Back When their Problem Was Just Anti-Unionism, Racism and Misogyny

A rather cogent essay, mostly on Social Security, from an old-school Washington state Republican, ruing the anti-central government, fiscally responsible ways of the past, in no uncertain terms.

It's like some kind of crazy dream.

Paul Allen's No One Experiences Music Project

A remarkable O'Geary building and many millions of Paul Allen's clams have not been able to make the Experience Music Project here in Seattle work. This series of stories in todays' Seattle PI is an interesting history of failed whimsy, and the inability of Vulcan corporate stoolies to run a non-profit business successfully.

Why such a failure? They try to run it like a business: worthless hype, inflated costs and ticket prices, an unfocused mission, vastly overpaid senior staff, ridiculous and dysfunctional attempts to restrict information and extend centralized control, unimaginative curation that's already rerunning exhibits, and what appears to be a complete misunderstanding of the place of a cultural institution in a community. More expensive than any museum in the U.S., they seem shocked that the Seattle rock community, let alone this city itself, is indifferent.

The whole place supposedly celebrates the popular, accessible roots of rock. But unlike say, a museum, or, say, a rock club, the exhibits can't really show you much about rock music. And unlike Cleveland, there are things to do in Seattle besides going to an ill-conceived rock museum, like going to a rock show for $8 and buying everyone a round of beer.

Now what to do with the building...

First Sea Lord Naval Reports- The Mongol Shipping Menace

Here is the pride of the the Irish navy. Yes, the Irish navy. I surprised myself by realizing that it had never occured to me that there was an Irish navy. It is not on its face an irrational enterprise. This one, the Eithne, even has a helicopter. A shameful moment for the First Sea Lord.

On another note, I hope the Irish navy considers whether it is capable of dealing with the threat of Mongolian shipping. You may recall that Mongolia, building on its naval tradition (a tugboat hauled over from Russia in 1938) , is now registering vessels. It is already the most amusing flag of convenience for North Korea, has already lost a ship, and is getting in trouble for coke smuggling.

That Old Liberal Trick: Counting

Keith Olbermann responds to an e-mailer who says the nation is giving up on liberal media and watching FOX News:

"Three quarters of the country has cable, and another much smaller figure has satellite television, so any cable network necessarily has something of a ratings disadvantage compared to stations carried over-the-air - but nothing like that which is imagined, and nothing which could explain the viewer totals for Monday, March 11th, 2005, between 6:30 PM and 7:00 PM EST:

ABC World News Tonight: 9,630,000
CBS Evening News: 8,110,000
NBC Nightly News: 9,810,000
Fox News (Brit Hume): 1,013,000

"Now, remember, despite the many nuances among them, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC are all seen, from the far-right perspective, as left-wing hogwash, or worse. So let’s look at the ratings once again, and throw in the 394,000 who were watching CNN, the 169,000 watching MSNBC, and the 121,000 who were watching CNN Headline News.

Dying Network Newscasts: 28,234,000
Fox News (Brit Hume): 1,013,000

"Looks like a 28:1 victory for the dying liberals over the ascendant conservatives..."

Of course this leaves him open to Argument B: 'See, I told you the liberal media dominates the airwaves. This is why FOX News is so important.'

They Sharpen Pencils, Don't They?

The pencil is no childish adornment of civilization, but rather its very foundation. Any artist or engineer will tell you that few are so foolish as to undertake any important enterprise without a good pencil at hand; it remains the most direct connection between the human intellect and material action. Even today, with a surfeit of darn fool electric brain contraptions clogging up America's laps, preventing sex, a pure smooth shaft of hard grey graphite seamlessly encased in even-grained, fragrant cedar wood and delicate, yielding paper becomes the soft, white marble and skillfully wielded, driving chisel of creation itself.

Not to suggest anything.

Recently at the Daniel Smith Art Store to requisition pencils of high quality for particular purposes, I woke up the Laird - a noted world class amateur pencil expert -by telephonic signal to receive the highest quality pencil information. It would simply not do to purchase such an important instrument without the very best advice, in that, due to certain deficiencies, one was faced with pencil choices other than the oft-lauded De Staedtler and the secret velvety asian mystery of the Tombow.

The Undersecretary was in great need of pencils, and we dared not fail him. After some consultation, the Laird advised the (high end) Faber-Castle HB. I found out moments later the wisdom of this choice, as an artist friend at the counter informed me that whilst inferior pencils are assembled (shamelessly) with three miserly drops of glue to hold the wood segments together, Faber Castles are glued seamlessly along the length, producing superior stress resistance and smoother sharpening.

I tell this as a humble plea for the Laird - favor us, sir, with your pencilly expertise, so that it may inform the very world.

TOPIC A - Is my love for the common Bic Disposable Mechanical 0.7mm (NEVER 0.5mm - I am no Lord Popinjay Stripeypants, Esq., sir) pencil with the eraser-top clicking mechanism sadly misplaced?

OK, I'm Not Proud of This...

But I saw Eurotrip on tv tonite and laughed my ass off. ****

March 20, 2005

Another Day, Another Tornado

We're not in Kansas any more, but that doesn't mean we're safe!

March 18, 2005

It's Official

The last wise man is dead.

"I view the United States of these last years of the twentieth Century as essentially a tragic country, endowed with magnificent natural resources that it is rapidly wasting and exhausting, and with an intellectual and artistic intelligentsia of great talent and originality. For this intelligentsia the dominant Political forces of the country have little understanding or regard. For its voice is normally silenced or out-shouted by the commercial media. It is probably condemned to remain indefinitely, like the Russian intelligentsia in the nineteenth century, a helpless spectator of the disturbing course of its nation's life."

March 17, 2005


As I continue my Panzer General adventures, a few random points on doctrine.

For me the history of modern warfare begins with the German Operation Michael toward the end of World War I.
"In Operation Michael, 69 German divisions were massed against 32 British divisions, and in some places the British were outnumbered four to one... Artillery was massed in levels never before seen. For comparison, in 1915 at Loos, artillery pieces averaged one per 60 yards. In the 1918 Operation Michael, one gun was placed on average every 12 yards. Continuing this trend, the Soviets in World War II massed artillery one gun per every 3 yards. In contrast to earlier offensives, artillery bombardments were brief and shocking. The enemy artillery was first eliminated with shells and poison gas. Enemy headquarters, communication centers, and supply depots were targeted. Forward trenches were then devastated, machine gun posts being prime targets. Trenches of the Battle Zone were then bombarded...

During Operation Michael, the British massed 30% of their troops on the front line. Instead of the desired effect of stopping the attack with overwhelming firepower, the troops were annihilated by artillery fire. In the sector of the XVIII Corps, only 50 of 10,000 front line troops survived the bombardment and subsequent attack.
The Germans achieved a stunningly easy breakthrough, quickly recapturing most of the land the British had won at the infamous Battle of the Somme in 1916 (British Day #1 casualties in that battle: 58,000). But, lacking mechanized infantry and good logistical support, the Germans couldn't follow through. The Australians came up and plugged the gap, and that was that.

This may seem long ago and far away, but when the Croatians ran the Serbs out of the Krajina they were employing very similar tactics, taught by U.S. advisors.

The specific principles the Croats were using were known as AirLand, and were first officially employed in the Gulf War.

But the the first and leading U.S. exponent of the AirLand doctrine was Major General John S. Wood, who commanded the 4th Armored Division. As every schoolboy knows, the 4th Armored was the pointy end of Patton's stick (<-- this is a cool link), leading Operation Cobra (the breakout from St. Lo), running amok through the German rear areas, and later liberating Bastogne as an encore.

And yet, AirLand was not the dominant mode of operational thought in the U.S. Army until after Vietnam. Even in World War II, Patton and Wood reported to men steeped in General Grant's style of war - pin the enemy down, and bleed him to death (ok, this is an unfair characterization because Grant well understood the importance of mobility, and chose a strategy of attrition because it played to his strength and Lee's weakness).

Now Grant is making a comeback. Even though AirLand is the new black, the current U.S. strategy in Iraq is better explained by principles of attrition rather than maneuver. You see, the problem with AirLand is that, while astonishingly successful at destroying a relatively immobile enemy in a set-piece battle, it is of relatively little use in a guerilla war, or in an urban setting ("not much fun at Stalingrad..."). That's why Saddam Hussein planned the current war as he did - to avoid America's doctrinal preference.

Now we have the war Saddam Hussein wanted. But it is a war well-suited to old-school American doctrine. This fellow has the right idea: "The American way of war has, typically, been attritional, relying on the strengths of its industrial society to provide machines, personnel, firepower, mass, and technology.11 Because its national strengths have matched the demands of what Martin van Creveld calls 'trinitarian wars,' the United States has been fairly successful.12 Where it has been unable to bring these strengths to bear against its enemies, it has been relatively unsuccessful."

I'm still not thrilled about our chances, but things are looking up. Hussein was a disciple of Stalin, but he knew a little Mao, too. Those old-school communists understood that to win against a superior opponent (and that was practically all they faced in their early days) you have to survive, decentralize, wear down the enemy, and above all, win the political battle.

The events of the past few weeks seem to have woken the Bushies up and made them realize that Hammes is right - from here on in the main event is a political one (props to the Syrians for staging a huge counter-demonstration with Hezbollah to slow things down in Lebanon). There will still be plenty of casualties of course - the attritionists will have a field day. But in the end the war will be won or lost in the souls of a billion people in Europe and the middle east. (Good luck with that, Karen.)

And AirLand goes back in the box, waiting for the next shooting war against a real Army.

March 16, 2005

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: The Tinkly Shell Game of Atomic Empires

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

THUD! -I had to admit, it felt strange - SMACK - beating the crap - WHAP - out of Franklin Roosevelt - with a tire iron -BAM - what with him - BIFF - in the wheelchair and -OOF -being the Joe in charge of America. I even had moments of doubt that - UFF- it wasn't the fake Roosevelt I that had located in flagrante-UGH- with a Gilbert and Sullivan soprano and sometime -SCHMITT -Finnish Masseuse named Rosalita Bjeregrensen-PONK!- in a dime an hour Marina hotel -CLAAAANG!, and about the time I cracked a pool cue over his head and stuck the shards in the wheels so they would either lock or make a cool motorcycle noise, he finally stood, where I could see that he was only 5' 3," and was hopping about like a fork in a stuck toaster.

I also couldn't help but notice that my Geiger counter was ticking like like an extra-tickey stock ticker on Black tickey Tuesday. And I could help but notice the 2 inch dent in his head, and the bolts falling off his spats.

"Yes, You have guessed, meaty human- I am Cyclotronic 6B, a Radium Robot-Man! You have damaged me! Must repair! Get vacuum tubes tied!" He was steaming mad, or, simply, steaming.

I knew it! It couldn't be the real Roosevelt who ordered innocent Americans into camps?

He raised his arm to strike, knocking off an appalling painting of two waifs with eyes as big as plates by some guy named Keane that was giving me the heebie-willies something fierce. The Robot fixed his deadly ironic robot gaze at me and fired a small rocket from his cigarette holder, which flew out the window and blew up some Okie's fruit stand. A lucky break for him - he went on to invent the smoothie.

"You have nothing to fear but Me itself!" His spectacles began shooting some kind of ray that turned the wallpaper somewhat more tasteful. But hydraullic fluid was now leaking out of it's nose and pants.

"You can trust your car to the man who wears a star!"shrieked Cyclotronic 6B Radium Roosevelt, rotating his arm like wagon spokes and destroying everything in the room except me and Rosalita and a half empty-jar of Helm's Mayonaisse which I didn't want explained. Feathers flew out of pillows and stuck to Rosalita as she ran around the room away from the deadly Roosevelt Arms.

Hmm. Mayonnaise. That's exactly what it had taken took to get Heinreicha Coulter the Nazi assassin to talk. After five or six hours of threatening, cajoling, bribing and slapping her around with nothing but a set jaw and 28 rounds of Deutchland Uber Alles for our efforts, Dardenella had walked in with an egg salad sandwich and Heinreicha began wimpering like an admonished wiener dog puppy left in a hatbox. Her father had been verbally humiliated by a Dusseldorf deli assistant manager when she was six, over a question of dressing. All I'd had to do was wave the sandwhich at her face.
" Where are they!?"
"Are you sure? Sure you're not hungry....for delicious egg salad??!!"
"With pickle bits?"
"Aaaaach! I vill tell you. Take it away!"

Thus Henreicha lead me to the Marina Coin-Op Auto Motel. Dardenella stuck her with a couple hits of heroin she kept conveniently in her purse, and dragged her to tender mercies of Hoover's FBI for further interogation and make-up tips. Hoover, apparantly, was an autumn.

But in the meantime Radium Roosevelt was chasing Rosalita and me towards the Palace of Fine Arts in the night, leaving a trail of glowing drops on the street and chugging like a 4 cent steam engine. "Have you a towel? You aren't nuts/ to clean up your guts/ that I disembowel/ Burma Shave!!" quoth the evil mechanical man in a questionable electro-New England accent as we ran, me firing a few rounds from my trusty- in the sense of predictably useless -.38 Police Special. This thing was about as special as a sale on week old eclairs. The bullets just enraged Roosevelt still further, polishing him if anything. "Your New Deal is Death!" he promised.

The night air that we ran in a total death panic through was soft and flowery, and the stars twinkling over the end of the pier where were about to meet our doom at the hands of a Radium powered Democrat. Rosalita grabbed me tighter than Rita Hayworth wearing a rubber glove as an evening gown.

"I'll never have the chance to be emotionally undemonstrative again," stated the dedicated Finn at the end.
"Don't worry, Toots, I'll take this metal monster down," I said, raising my $15 ball point pen with a hope of jamming it into Roosevelt's UV joint, if I ould find it in time. He HAD to have a UV joint. Right?

Steaming, arms rotating at about 200 RPM, one glowing red eye hanging down by a spring, collar unsprung and tie askew, the robot came closer."This is a date which will end in tragedy!" it said, and then, the arm rotation slowed down, and it became unstable, wobbling like a Wobblie wasted on wood alcohol. A shredded hydraullic hose popped out , and sprayed gallons of glowing fluid on the pier. Then, the infernal contraption simply cried "Fireside Chat!" and fell into the water, leaving a column of bright green steam to rise into the night.

But this begged a bigger question. Assuming this wasn't the real Roosevelt, what had those palookas done with the President?

Speaking of Abusing a Dead Duck

Wolfowitz has been nominated to head the World Bank.

Soon we may hear of World Bank projects to fund highly efficient projects contributing to the supply of "involuntary contract labor."

PS, on a real note, goodbye fresh water for those who can't pay.

Forget Gay Marriage

What are we going to do about this rampant scourge of homosexual, necrophillac ducks?

"Rather startled, I watched this scene from close quarters behind the window until 19.10 hours during which time (75 minutes) I made some photographs and the mallard almost continuously copulated his dead congener. He dismounted only twice, stayed near the dead duck and picked the neck and the side of the head before mounting again."

Let it never be said that my contributions to the public discourse are slight or without weight of true substance!

March 15, 2005

A Little Thing Called Accountability

At risk of inducing a "schadenfreudgasm," we present World Com Chief Goon and world class low-life Ebbers, shortly after his conviction today on all nine counts of fraud, facing up to 85 years.

For the tens of thousands who lost work and pensions, for the hundreds of thousands doing hard time for pot or check kiting or petty theft, for the kind of economic damage ten thousand vandals couldn't pull off in a hundred years, may he rot.

March 14, 2005

A Real Sport

Oh you did the Iditarod, eh? Me too, with a sawed-off finger.
While in Rohn, one of the race veterinarians looked at it, and was a little taken aback by what he saw. "I had some nerves sticking out, drying out, and getting in my way," Buser recalled. He asked the vet to cut the nerves away. The veterinarian reluctantly agreed and made the snips. Cutting a nerve, even a dried out nerve sticking from the stump of a finger, can be a very painful experience. "He just looked at me and said, 'You're one tough S.O.B,'" Buser said.

"What did you learn today?"

Many liberal elitists believe that educational television is something only government-funded organizations like PBS can provide. To counter that attitude, I want to share with you highlights from today's schedule of a privately-held educational television network, TLC - The Learning Channel


A Baby Story
"Baby Richey" After their first son dies from a heart defect, a couple give birth to another boy.

A Wedding Story
"Melissa & Patrick", Episode #10. The bride was seriously injured in a boating accident.

A Makeover Story
"Dog Grooming Gals" [no description available]


BTK Killer Next Door?
Friends and neighbors discuss the man who has been charged with being the BTK serial killer.

When Surgical Tools Get Left Behind
Surgeons accidentally leave their tools inside a patient.

March 13, 2005

Rhymes for "Orange"

"Porn Itch"
"Lauren Ridge"
"Floor Binge"

Send checks to the appropriate address.

March 12, 2005

Notes on Piccadilly

I watched Piccadilly tonite, and there is no hope of putting together a coherent review, but it is very much worth your time. I come to it, of course, because of the great reviews and the opportunity to form a judgment about Anna May Wong. She is beautiful in Thief of Bagdad, but it's an eye-candy role. Could she act? If so, her performance in Piccadilly is the one she must be judged by. It was her biggest starring role in something other than Revenge of the Daughter of the Third Cousin of Fu Manchu's Step-Brother. She had considerable input into her look and choreography. If she did anything great that survived, this has to be it.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
A few random notes:
  • The restored print looks great.
  • The movie was filmed in London in 1929, and if you don't know what Eliot meant when he referred to the "twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres," it's a good way to find out. It puts you on location in the clubs where thousands of Bertie Woosters knocked back a few and danced the night away.
  • The camera work is inventive and carefully thought-out. The tour of the kitchen is revelation, really creating the illusion of a hand-held camera.
  • The acting is more naturalistic than in Thief of Bagdad.
  • Charles Laughton has a cameo as "customer upset with a dirty dish"
  • The owner of the club goes to investigate the cause of the dirty dish. We first see Anna May Wong dancing in the scullery. She is hotter than Sofia Vergara drinking Pyro Diablo in a steambath.
  • The owner asks her to dance for him at the club. She says (I am not making this up): "They wouldn't let me dance again sir - there was trouble between two men along of me - knives, policemen..." Unaware of the concept of foreshadowing, he hires her anyway.
  • There's a fine 1968 book about silent movies, The Parade's Gone By. Neither Anna May nor Piccadilly is mentioned. But in the interview with Louise Brooks she explains Wong perfectly: "I discovered...that everything is built on movement... Garbo is all movement...she's so perfect people say she can't act."
  • Emasculating cross-dressing scene, check. Now I know why it played the Castro, anyway...
  • A British Film Institute flyer on the film is here.
  • Her second dance is so hot it makes her first dance look like an accident at a sno-cone factory. Nice cinematography as the camera focuses on her shadow for much of it.
  • Her seduction scene makes her second dance look like a training video for nuns.
  • All in all a remarkable film, a great discovery. The director, Ewald Andre Dupont, deserves as much credit as Wong. Her performance is the best thing in this movie, but it would be worth watching even if her performance had been just average. It's visually interesting, well-paced, and it surprises you.
I want to take a quick stab at the persona Wong was trying to create in Piccadilly, because she's clearly up to something in this film:

If you think of her as an Asian flapper, that's a good start. She'd been that in LA five years earlier. Like the flappers, she's not much into commitment. But she's not carefree and she's not one of the boys - she's serious and feminine. She's street smart and tough, and when she senses that the club owner is weak, she squeezes him for all he's worth. There's definitely a little Mae Westian "hello, sucker" in her act.

What's her motivation? Well, she's poor - she self-consciously covers a hole in her stocking during her first interview with the club owner. She's talented, and knows it. And she's got a fish on the hook. When those are the cards you're holding, mercy, humanity, and close human relationships become somewhat secondary considerations.

Next week: why Anna May Wong's nose was underrated.

A Little Respect for the French

As every schoolchild knows, the British retreat from Tobruk might have turned into a complete rout, but for the heroic stand of the Free French at Bir Hakim. Americans have their own "we are not here to surrender" story (McAuliffe at Bastogne), but we don't hear about this one much.

The French in North Africa started with a couple hundred men and ONE 75 mm cannon. They formed up at Ft. Lamy in Chad, then travelled 400 km and captured the Italian garrison at Kufra, a huge propaganga victory at the time.

But DeGaulle, their leader, had a long war. Churchill thought him the man of destiny, Roosevelt had little use for him. DeGaulle spent much of his time easrly in the war fending off intrigues from Vichy rivals, Roosevelt, and even MI5.

It's easy to see why the French loved him:

"Finally, in October 1944, Roosevelt and Churchill recognised the French Committee of National Liberation as the provisional government of France and de Gaulle as its leader. De Gaulle curtly responded, 'The French government is happy to be called by its name'. De Gaulle had won and, in the process, inflicted on the American President his greatest personal defeat of the Second World War."

March 11, 2005

They Will Meet SCO in the Losers' Bracket

Marvel's suit against City of Heroes: dismissed.

Now It Can Be Told

You may recall I had little involvement back in 1998 with a computer game called Panzer General II. I was thinking about it again the other day, because for me, that was the apex of the turn-based strategy game. Playable with almost no learning curve on game mechanics, intuitive, and pretty good-looking, too:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

So last Saturday night, with wife and kids safely a-bed, I found myself wondering what ever became of PG2. I'd heard the developer had gone bankrupt.

Browsing around a little I found dozens of fansites with active forums. People still play this game. They draw new maps, invent new scenarios ("Anzio", "The Guns of Navarone"). Someone (nickname: "007") even hacked the game, made it playable for modern machines, and put it up on the Net, another shadowy PG2 fanatic.

I couldn't believe it. I downloaded it and tried it out. Bim bam boom - my machine ran it without a hitch and it was 1998 again, and I was at Salerno, trying to bust out before a battery of German 88s blew us off the beaches. It was a near-run thing - I was rusty, and the Americans have crappy tanks, but good old American air power kept the Tigers at bay and I won the first battle.

This game doesn't let up. You get a congratulatory message, some prestige points to spend on new units, and now you're at St. Lo. St. Lo's a bitch, though not as bad as Caen. You're either on very predictable road routes - there's always a Panther or an 88 at the other end - or you're hacking through the bocage and giving up all hope of a rapid victory. As I set up my attack force I realized only one thing can win in this situation - gobs and gobs of artillery. I signed up for three batteries of 155 mm Long Toms and blasted my way across Normandy.

It was all coming back to me now. Doctor X's IPA Doctrine: Infiltrate, Penetrate, ANNIHILATE... The three D's of reducing a dug-in opponent: Deny air support, Denude them of artillery, Destroy their tanks...then they're just little men in holes. Grant knew the score: "The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving."

Progress was swift - by the time I'd found, struck, and moved my way through Arracourt and Metz, the Germans were high-tailing it to the Eastern Front where they had better chances of survival. Then I beat the Russians to the secret weapons depot at Dessau, and that bastard Truman relieved me before I could put it in overdrive and head for Moscow.

The war was over. I felt empty, wondering what I'd do with my life. Back to the States, I guess. Marry my sweetheart. Find a little cottage in Oxnard and settle down. Get into uncle Sol's insurance business...

Hmm, I thought I'd turned off that light - noooo, that would be the sun... I'd been up all night! I looked up and my wife was staring at me, enraged. She pointed out that my behavior guaranteed that I'd be a complete zombie for the little tea party she'd organized for some of her friends, due to start in four hours.

War is hell.

Bollenbach at the Seattle Art Museum Sales Gallery

(Artists of Ballard) Opening: Seattle Art Museum Sales Gallery, 5PM June 9th.

5 paintings, 3 sculptures in a sort of Artists of Ballard group show. (Yah, sure, dat's sure some picture' you got dere. Did ya just draw dat up like dat?) Something less than getting in the actual museum, but I'm not complaining.

You've seen it before: this 36" by 48" painting is very, very, very,very blue, and 52% of it was shown out of focus in Art in America. It will retail in the $2500-$4000 range, or rent for something like $100 a month. I have no idea how to price the smaller pieces, except perhaps by area. (In a ordinary gallery the gallery usually takes 40 or 50%. It's a little better here). If I sell everything, I can get a pony.

As Patrick O'Brian said, there's nothing that motivates an artist like the prospect of immediate gain.

Attention Nerd ADL

Israel Defense Army frowns on Dungeons and Dragons

In related news, Dungeons and Dragons players have adopted the official position: Israeli Army paragon of Lawful Evil.

March 09, 2005

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Gang of Four Tour Dates

As mentioned earlier, there has been a reunification (rereification?) of the Gang of Four, a band that seems more and more relevant 20 years after they were last heard from (1984). Tour dates for San Francisco are the 2nd and 3rd of May at the Fillmore, the 5th in Portland, the 6th in Seattle, and Wasilla on the 12th. I'm sorry, that last bit was a lie.

Might be worth checking out the show reviews first, but damn, these guys have been the perfect anti-soundtrack of the Bush Administration; punk rock from when cold observation and dark, righteous anger still served humanistic ideals, and one of those bands that influenced nearly everyone.

Zen and the Art of Poking Things With Sticks

On a more cheery note of evolution, among my favorite human characteristics is our instinct to poke things with a stick. This alone, I argue, was a key evolutionary advantage that enables human beings to survive in situations where, when creatures cannot poke things with a stick, they are inevitably poisoned, crushed, infected, or devoured.

This still leads to bad decisions, like the guys years ago on the Kenai who went into a bear cave and poked the bear with a long stick, which, as it turned out, was not long enough. But there are instances where poking bears with sticks is necessary for survival:

Shelton describes many cases where people have climbed trees to escape predacious bears (both black and grizzlies) only to discover that the bears climbed up after them! Shelton's studies show that the bear was often able to climb the tree and pull the human out of it! Human tree climbers who survived a "tree-climbing bear attack", did so by poking the bear with a stick or other object. Persistent stick-poking--not inability of the bear to climb the tree--was what saved the day. Anyone who has spent much time in the bush knows that bears are very adept at getting treed packs out of trees.

There is something essential to being human here - where as a bear would just smell, lick or bite something first, our instinct is to poke it with a stick, thus satisifying our curiosity without suffering immediate consequences. I argue, undistracted by facts, that most technology arises out of the impulse to poke things with a stick:

A) The stick to the spear to the atlatyl to the bow and arrow to the gun to the cannon to the nuclear weapon.

B) The stick to the plowshare to the John Deere.

C) The stick in the sand to the charcoal to oil painting to the camera to the television to Photoshop.

D) The stick to the log to the raft to the boat to the HMS Victory to the USS Lexington to the Space Shuttle

I say, Sir, that if you are not a master of your stick, you are a master of no thing.

March 08, 2005

Social Displacement, Baboons, and Cultural Consumption

The recent discovery of complex convultions in the brains of the new "Hobbit" human species in Indonesia naturally gets me thinking about the remorseless, robotic commodification of human experience.

Normally, there is a direct relationship between the size of a monkey's brain and the size of their social group - bigger brain, bigger group, a relationship so strong that, as David Attenborough pointed out, you don't even need to know the species to know how big the monkey's social group is. So if baboons hang out with about 25 baboons, it's not too big a stretch to connect this to humans, who social groups seem to be idealized at about 150 individuals. Big brain monkey, big social groups - and most people's meaningful social worlds are roughly that size. Or, more to the point, were.

I've thought for some time that the rise of of the turbo-celebrity culture is related to the techonological displacement of human relationships. In other words, the spaces of our minds which would normally be dedicated toward dealing with our fellow 150 primates starts to get taken up by recognizable people we know only from electronic images and sounds. Naturally, this happens under commodification pressure; you can't own your friends, but it's a good business to replace friends with purchaseable personality. (March's Scientific American has a fascinating model of social networks being modelled in a Sim City- like environment to explore different smallpox scenarios. It's particularly interesting how certain individuals function as super social hubs. )

I saw a recent study that suggested that substantial television viewing A) displaced social relationships, and much more disturbing, B) did NOT make people less happy. In other words, the commodified electric personality displacement is entirely successful, with as relatively simple a technology as television. Our celebrities become our social network. A commodity - a televised personality - becomes a primary social relation.

(The gods of appropriate music at this cafe have begun playing the Gang of Four -This Heaven Gives Me Migraines. I'm glad the young people still know great music. LATE ALERT ALERT !!!!- THE GANG OF FOUR HAVE REFORMED AND ARE PLAYING IN SEATTLE IN APRIL AT THE SHOWBOX! )

As fun and awful and informative and lying as it can be, television has already changed what we are as creatures, looking toward screen faces rather than faces. I don't see any reason at all to hope that technologies with far greater capacities for social displacement will do anything but further isolate us .

They will be pushed heavily, but not from any real social benefit. There is money to be made in commodifying all of human experience, in building a culture that consumes our natural impulse to love, that reifies our emotions, that reduces individuals to a small nexus of consumer desire. The very ability of human beings to produce economic value may fade - it's becoming a little hard to imagine a future job for anyone but whores, capitalists and priests.

Art, which paved the way for remaking the human countenance into tradable commodities, now slightly resists this trend. But built solidly into myself is this very displacement, the electronic image for the real, that has long since become normal, 150 bluish images on which to gaze forever, when even negation is exhausted.

If electronic media really has displaced our in-built need for social networks, turning it all off will feel as painful as shunning, as exile, and loneliness and emptyness will descend. The skills to resocialize will be difficult to learn, if we ever knew them. The marketer's dream world rises: if you want to feel like a human being, you're going to have to pay.

March 05, 2005

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

May I suggest that we mark July 8-10 on our calendars? If so, we're going to need to get the tickets shortly...

That'll Leave a Mark

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Mavericks went off this week, I tried to play hooky but couldn't get over there. It looks dangerous, I know, but it's safer than other extreme sports. In contrast to mountain climbers, most big wave surfers are still alive.

March 04, 2005

Guilty Pleasure

An online novel called The Foresight War, by this madman. I read chapter one and I think I'd better stop now...

No Apology Required, IMO

On Wednesday, the [Alaska] House of Representatives passed a revised resolution that formally urges Congress to allow oil exploration and development in the coastal plain of ANWR. The House had already passed a resolution on the topic in January, but the Senate failed to accept that version and sent over its own, which deleted language mentioning the Gwich'in people and their long-standing reliance on the Porcupine Caribou Herd in the ANWR area.

The change didn't sit well with Salmon, a Gwich'in born in Fort Yukon who opposes oil drilling in ANWR.

During discussion on the House floor of a failed attempt by Democrats to reinsert the language, Salmon said the Gwich'in had lived in the region for 12,000 years and would be there another 12,000 years "unless you people kill us."

March 03, 2005

And Hire Me a Daily Kos, Whatever That Is

"U.S. News & World Report reported last week that several senior Republican senators — upon hearing that "blogs" had uncovered the Dan Rather scandal, helped to defeat Tom Daschle and pushed for the resignation of CNN executive Eason Jordan — demanded that "blogs" be added to their official Web sites. Even though, as a Capitol Hill Web consultant told the magazine, most of them hadn't the slightest idea of what a 'blog' actually is."

I believe this is our first link to Fox News...

March 02, 2005

Silent Era Poll

There is an immense silent film website known as Silent Era, which polls visitors on the greatest silent movies ever made. The current Top 10:

1) The General (not Greed or Metropolis, or something by Chaplin!?)
2) Sunrise (never seen it, but apparently need to)
3) Metropolis
4) City Lights
5) Nosferatu (back in the 70's I saw negative reviews, but that view has changed)
6) The Gold Rush
7) La Passion et la Mort de Jeanne d'Arc
8) Greed (need to see this)
9) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (I didn't think it was that good)
10) Die Buchse der Pandora

March 01, 2005

Coming Up on the Outside, the Dark Horse

Closing in on the North Koreans, the president of Turkmenistan... He also has my favorite job title: "He has been named president-for-life, his portrait hangs everywhere in Turkmenistan, and streets and towns have been named in his honour." Is there a book? You betcha!