April 29, 2005

That About Covers It

"Parker has an explanation - a relatively convincing one - for the retreat of Galbraith's politics. The story behind it is the Democratic establishment's loss of nerve. Too many party intellectuals and politicians drink cocktails on Martha's Vineyard, in Parker's view, and too few spend time on the shop floor learning what issues are important to those sweeping up or manning an assembly line or tending the convenience-store cash register from midnight to six AM. Thus, the mass base of the Democratic Party has withered, and without a mass base Democratic politicians listen too much to their rich contributors and turn into Eisenhower Republicans - people who are above all interested in balancing the budget."

- J. Bradford DeLong, 'Sisyphus as Social Democrat', Foreign Affairs

It seemed appropriate to resurrect this. (c) 2003 J. Bollenbach

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: The Obscure Greek Word Conspiracy

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I lit my pipe and watched the suck of the yellow flame into the dark whiskey and pine smelling leaves, and I felt the rainwater soak into the hole in my left Oxford, the black one. The brown one was waterproof. I stepped into the booth for the phone to ring, waiting for the smoke to cover up the smell of the apparantly incontinent alcoholic Turkish fishermonger who last used the place, to, it seemed clear, complain to a herring merchant in the Dardenelles about the bad batch he just received.

The phone appropriate tinkled.

"Brain? Mack Brain? Dr. Mack Max Marion Brain?"
"Spit it out, Chief."
"Did you just spit something out or are you being strangled?"

Fourteen quick burps from what sounded like a BAR rifle that woke up on the wrong side of the bed popped on the other line.

"You're being strangled AND shot?"

Then there was the distinctive rumble of a 1928 DeGrise Steam Shovel warming up, and the menacing clank of its chain linkage and bucket assembly betoke no beneficent intent.

"Just my &%$#ing luck. Okay. Do you want me to call the cops or just come right over?"
"Alright, just hang on. What? Operator? Collect?"

I dropped in a Buffalo nickel and considered taking my own sweeet time for that cheap bastard. But Hedy Lamarr needed him alive.

Unfortunately, the line went dead before I had an address. The guy had money, so it was probably in the toney part of town. That narrowed it down: a rich neighborhood with an operating steam shovel. I hailed a cab, calling it a monument to modern transportation, then I got one to stop and handed the driver a $5 and popped one of those special go pills the Fly-Boys used. I topped off with some more cough syrup, took a drag on the special Jamaican pipe tobacco, tossed the bottle out the window and off we went. If only I had been sober to begin with.

It was not so much that the cab was fast, as that the curvature of space-time began to warp inward somewhere on the up side of Pacific Heights. Yet, I'm a grown man. I'm the first to admit that the driver might have motivated to speed by a fare as high as the moon screaming to shut up so I could listen for a steam engine because Roosevelt needed the Finnish robot scientist to tell Hedy Lamarr about the electro-atomic relay coupling before he was strangled by Nazi spies disguised as an Esther Williams' swim dance troupe. In frustration I may have fired a couple of .45 rounds through the roof. But it was hot. I needed the air, and the air was also were the chartreuse were-elephants and Errol Flynn dressed as Marie Antoinette were dancing their mysterious dance of the all-knowing nothingness. This was also the moment I was the catalyst but not legally responsible for accidently shooting some bum poet named Kerouac in the elbow.

Finally, above a sandstone Edwardian Mansion rose a cloud of yellow dust from the suspicious collapse of the sitting room. The interior lights exposed the steam shovel's remorseless steely bucket whose jaws opened and clanked shut and opened again. Menacing!

I left the cab, or rather the driver poked me out of the door into a street puddle with a broom handle. My legs were wobblier than an overweight belly dancer, and after a brief ecstatic vision of the loving reunion of Krisha and Mary Magdelene in a Helsinki sauna bath, I collapsed like a bag of mechanics' laundry on the ornate red door.

The door opened. It was Herb Caen. That guy really did know everybody.

Suspecting he was a collaborator, I screamed "You'll never last in this town!" before passing out to a another vision: it was the city in the future. Guys had long scruffy hair and were beating drums. Girls were running around nearly naked, dancing in the street. "F" on 1, "A+" on 2, I thought. But then a giant blimp flew over, with gondolas brimming with weapons, machine gunning everything in sight. The enormous tail had a giant smiling Hitler wearing a dashiki and blue sunglasses and straw hat and making an "OK" sign, as drums exploded, houses burned and the girls ran away, breasts jiggling in terror.

I was unconscious. One thought: "I can't...let....all...of. ..this...happen!"

I awoke to green velvet room with an enormous Turner painting of an avalanche wiping out a aristocratic picnic. "Scotch and Soda," said Herb, handing me a glass sardonically. No one could hand over a glass sardonically like Herb. He was so casually debonaire I once watched him take out a squad of fascist infantry in Spain with a cocked eyebrow. So what was he doing running around with the secret Esther Williams death squad?

My head felt like it had two old people whose property taxes had just been raised living in it. My religious ephinanies took a back seat to an overwhelming desire for a can of Clammato. But I reached for my .45 and discreetly pulled it on him when his back was turned to reach for the spare soda dispenser.

"Brain. Relax. I was the one who called you.
We were lucky they left the keys in the steam shovel after they locked us in here. We have work to do."

That's when I noticed that my gun had been replaced with a bottle of hair tonic. No sense pulling the trigger unless I wanted to improve his appearance. A door opened and Dardenella suddenly slinked in, wearing a tight silk bathrobe with giant shoulder pads which I knew from previous experience could be used to store ammunition, lunch or penicillin, depending on the circumstances. She looked gorgeous, good like a cool summer lake in hot August weather full of women who looked just like her.

"Brain. Darling! You're here, you're alive!" She rushed over and squeezed me. "Closer, Closer!" She cried.

"If I was any closer, you'd need a obstetrician. Now what's going on, Schnookum-lips?"

"That nazi-cootch Coulter escaped with the help of the fake Esther Williams, her transvestite swim team and the atomic robots and kidnapped Hedy Lamarr, the X-47 electro-relay design and also Eleanor Roosevelt and are fleeing as we speak across to Lake Lucerne in Switzerland in a new german submarine-dirigible."

"Hmm. That's exactly what I thought you'd say."

Caen wrly pointed to a spindly blue gyrocopter, armed with flares and depth charges.

"Time's a wastin'. Here's a manual and a thermos of Manhattans."


That is spit out vegan donut funny.

April 28, 2005

Saruman v. Cheney

Looking at the Laird's excellent Orthanc on the Washington mall graphic, I note that I think I would rather have Saruman as VP.

There was a time, for example, when he wasn't unspeakably evil.

Another Candidate for Beatification

I had not heard of the artist Stetson Kennedy until this Freakonomics book came along. In a nutshell:
It was in the late 1940s that he took it upon himself to infiltrate, under the pseudonym “John Perkins,” the KKK and other terrorist groups. Evidence he gathered was instrumental in jailing a number of terrorists, and also led to such additional books as The Klan Unmasked, Southern Exposure, and Jim Crow Guide. Some of these were translated into a score of languages around the world.
He also convinced the producers of the 'Superman' radio show to air KKK secrets, make them the villain of choice for little kids, thereby utterly discrediting them.

Admirable Conceptual Art

This is getting in the face of The Man in a good way.

Great Circle Route

As our band gets ready to return to the states (touchdown 7:55 Friday night PST), just wanted to show you their route home. Most people wouldn't expect a flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco to go by the Aleutians, but it does (and right over Japan as well). A curved line is the shortest distance between two points on a sphere (more here).

April 27, 2005

Another Good Book

I was going to write a whole thing about Machiavelli here, but here's just one quote:

"No matter how powerful one's armies, in order to enter a country one needs the goodwill of the inhabitants."

Pinnacles of ignorance, indeed.

This is the best Machiavelli book.

Microsoft -$20K a Month for Ralph Reed

Ick. They touched the horrible little rabbit pellet.

PS- Stewart tonight on the New Airbus:

"The French-made plane can hold up to 800 passengers, or 400 Americans."

We've brought in the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield to explain just how big this plane is:

It's a big plane, I tell ya. Even when it's on time, the tail is still fifteen minutes late. Boy it's big. You get on, then to get to your seat you gotta wait for the little subway. Huge. It's so big it's engaged to Jennifer Lopez. It's so long Peter Jackson had to release it on DVD. Enormous I tell ya. You have to join the mile-long club. It's got girth, girth I tell ya. Madonna's calling every day now. A big plane, big plane. You'd expect a sky mall, but a Wal Mart? Damn it's big. From New York to Boston, they don't even bother taking off. Vast, a vast plane. It's bigger than the list of the chicks who lost my email. It's bigger than the dreams of a little boy, and even bigger than the alcoholic father bulldozer driver who crushed those dreams. Boy, it's a big plane.

Get Me the Pope on the Phone

The least he can do is beatify John Stewart. The man is a national treasure.

The Solution is to Spend More Money

"Rumsfeld also discussed a prototype version of fortified leggings the Army wants to try. At $9,400 a pair, they use air conditioning technology and weigh 38 pounds..."

Seriously, where did they get this guy?

I must admit, I had never heard of the Feed and Forage Act until I read this.

Good Book

Favorably blurbed by the estimable Malcolm Gladwell, I've started in on Freakonomics and declare it a big success. Support human intelligence, buy a copy today. ****

National Anthem

You've seen it before, but it fits.

April 26, 2005

Thank You NPR

For telling me this story.

If we can't have socialism because it saps the will to work, perhaps this story will convince someone that it's worth trying for kids. It boggles the mind that this person has had to worry about how to feed his family, and probably still does not have a decent retirement plan.

Upon Further Review...

I will have to find another excuse for my errors in judgment.

Welcome to the Isengard. Gov City Directory

Community and Wild Men Outreach Project

Dept. of Intergovernmental Relations
Wormtongue, Grima Ext. 4327
Rove, Karl Ext 7638

Council of Elders Defunct. See Office of the White Wizard

-Is that Saruman Always Pacing Around the Top of the Tower?
-What Are Isengard's Convention and Tourist Facilities?
-The Order of the White Hand Has Just Decimated My People. Can My Miserable Life Be Spared?
-Where are all the Trees?
-How Can I get to Barad-Dur From Here?
-Me kind of like Elves. Must We Destroy Them All?
- Can We Get Anything Other Than Maggoty Bread After 3 Stinking Days?
Office of Cultural Communication and Subjugation Affairs

Dept. of Metal and Wheels

Office of Special Plans
Wolfowitz, Paul Ext 3249
Emergency Services
Fire - Please Help. Many Things Are Still Not on Fire
Armies of Orcs and Wolves
Elf Control
Community Hobbit Watch -Help Monitor These Irksome Pests
Orc-Uruk'Hai Interdepartmental Relations

Nazgul Parking

Solid Waste Services - Note: The Hole in Bowels of the Earth is Full - Please Use the New Municipal Transfer Station

Office of Legal Affairs - Note: The Great Power in the East Has Made Changes in Our Legal Staff, Ask for New Extensions

Isengard Forest Service

Anger Management Programs

Dept. of Orcs and Rec

Chamber of Unspeakable Evil Commerce

Employment Services
Foundry (New Listings!)
Human Relations

Treasury (Now Dragon Free!)

Town Hall

Wizard Resources

Weather Requests
Ominous Darkness Over Sky
Ominous Snowstorm
Ominous Sunny and Mild
(Note: Lending Arrangements with Minas Tirith Have Been Discontinued)

PLEASE HAVE PATIENCE WHILE OUR STAFF UPDATES OUR LINKS. From All of Us in Orthanc, Thank You and Remember to Spend Your Vacation in the Mines With Us.

Okay, maybe not in the same league as the "Hindberg announcer guy"...

... but a strong lesson in "don't mess with old ladies" nonetheless.

April 25, 2005

Become Suspicious When Toddler Hoists The Piano With One Hand

Dr. Eric Small, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on sports medicine, said adults should gently ask youngsters about possible steroid use.

"Talking about supplements and steroids needs to start in the third grade," Small said. "If you wait till ninth grade, it's too late."


Father: Son?

Son: [Chewing top off a glass bottle of Coca-Cola.] Yeah?

Father: May I ask you a question?

Son: [Straightening his bent titanium bike frame.] Sure. I 'spose.

Father: Are you by any chance indulging in the cosmetic pharmacology of overindulgence in anabolic steroids?

Son: [Finding the vise stuck, drives his forehead through it.] Uh, no.

Father: Well, okay then.

Hangin' in Hong Kong

Our soujourners have departed Malaysia and are now settling into Hong Kong for the week. They are staying in this lovely hotel:

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The New York Times says it's good, and it was built by the Boy Scouts!

Chatting Overseas? Don't Be Rude - Say Hello to the NSA

As if Micheal Bolton wasn't already an abomination, Boltons are clearly bad news. UN Nominee Bolton has been going for U.S. citizen's names from NSA montioring.

Worse, there's nothing unusual about it. The NSA is listening AND spilling.

"Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra"

Not the motto on the City of San Francisco flag I would have suspected, but perfect for our purposes.

Imagine ol' Sharkey as the mayor of San Francisco. Here he is shown discussing FY2006 Muni budget adjustments.

The Greatest Geopolitical Catastrophe of the Century

Which of these was, according to Putin, was The Greatest Geopolitical Catastrophe of the Century?
  • The starvation of 7 million Ukrainians under Stalin's forced collectivization program?
  • Mao's Great Leap Forward, which starved tens of millions of Chinese?
  • Hitler's murder of 6 million Jews, 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, and countless others?
  • The inability of the United Nations and national governments to prevent the killing of 800,000 people in Rwanda?
  • The fall of the Soviet Union?
No points for guessing, but jeez, whatta Maroon.

Now That's an Obituary!

From the Daily Telegraph

The Earl of Shaftesbury
(Filed: 21/04/2005)

The 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, whose death aged 66 was confirmed yesterday, demonstrated the dangers of the possession of inherited wealth coupled with a weakness for women and Champagne.

Shaftesbury, who disappeared last November prompting an international police investigation, was tall, debonair, affable and rather shy. He tried after his own fashion to be true to the liberal philanthropic family traditions of his ancestors, notably the first Earl (1621-83), founder of the Whig party in Parliament, and the 7th Earl (1801-85), the great 19th-century evangelical social reformer.

He served as president of the Shaftesbury Society, which the 7th Earl had founded, and - as a keen music fan - was chairman of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1966 to 1980.

He was also respected as a conservationist. On his 9,000-acre estate at Wimborne St Giles, Dorset, he planted more than a million trees and, in 1992, was joint winner of the Royal Forestry Society's National Duke of Cornwall's Award for Forestry and Conservation. He also served as president
of the Hawk and Owl Trust and as vice-president of the British Butterfly Conservation Society.

It was said, after his mysterious disappearance from a Cannes nightclub, that the 10th Earl, like Gladstone, had been devoting himself to helping vulnerable young girls working in nightspots on the French Riviera to start new lives. But as the mystery deepened, it seemed that his interest was more than merely philanthropic.

Indeed, Lord Shaftesbury had always exhibited a weakness for exotic women. At Eton he had famously penned an article for the college magazine in which he described English debutantes as "round-shouldered, unsophisticated garglers of pink champagne". His subsequent amorous career was notable for his avoidance of the species.

He met his Italian-born first wife, Bianca Le Vien, the ex-wife of an American film producer and 12 years his senior, during a skiing holiday. They married in 1966, but divorced, owing to his adultery with an unnamed woman, in 1976. The same year he married a Swedish-born divorcee, Christina Casella, the daughter of a diplomat, with whom he had two sons.

That marriage, too, ended acrimoniously, in 2000, and he embarked on a string of short-lived and expensive love affairs with younger women distinguished by their exotic looks and equally colourful past histories.

He became a familiar figure in some of the loucher nightspots on the French Riviera, where he cut a curious figure in leather trousers, pink shirts and large red-and-black spectacles; he was notable for his habit of flashing his money around as he bought drinks for a succession of nubile female companions.

In 1999 he had begun a relationship with Nathalie Lions, a pneumatic 29-year-old whom he had met in a lingerie shop in Geneva, where she was working as a model. They became engaged, and he paraded her around London, Barbados and the south of France, maintaining that she was a member of the Italian royal house of Savoy. He admitted to lavishing some £1 million on her in cheques and expensive gifts, including a £100,000 Rolex watch and an Audi TT sports car.

But their relationship came to an end in 2002 after it was revealed that she was, in fact, a French nude model and former Penthouse "Pet" with silicone-enhanced breasts.

Later that year, he married Jamila M'Barek, a Tunisian divorcee with two children, whom he had met in a Paris bar where she was working as a hostess. She separated from him in April 2004, claiming that he had become an alcoholic and "sex addict", regularly overdosing on Viagra and having testosterone injections. Among several bizarre stories, she alleged that, on one occasion, she had returned unexpectedly to their flat in Cannes to find her husband in the company of a large Arab gangster and two Arab women who were rifling through the wardrobes. Her husband was on a stool singing and dancing; the women left with a car-load of her belongings.

In August 2004 Shaftesbury was reported as having taken up with a 33-year old Moroccan hostess known as Nadia. He installed her and her two children in their own flat and, a month later, asked her to become the fourth Countess of Shaftesbury.

On the evening of November 5 2004, Shaftesbury left the Noga Hilton Hotel in Cannes and, as was his regular habit by this time, entered a basement hostess-bar nearby. Within 24 hours he had vanished, setting off an international criminal investigation.

The saga of "le Lord disparu" sent the French media into a frenzy, and spawned a multitude of theories. In February his estranged wife, Jamila M'Barek, was arrested by French police and allegedly admitted that she was present when the Earl was killed in her home; but she insisted that she was only a witness to a fight involving her husband and his killer. She and her brother Mohammed have both been placed under investigation for murder, which is a step short of formal charges under French law.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper was born on May 22 1938, the elder son of Major Lord
Ashley, elder son of the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury KP, PC, GCVO, CBE. Lord Ashley, who died in 1947 before he could inherit the earldom, had shocked London society by marrying the model and chorus girl Sylvia Hawkes. After their divorce she went on to marry Douglas Fairbanks Sr, followed by Clark Gable. Anthony was the son of his father's French-born second wife, Françoise Soulier.

He was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, and, as a young man, was a keen climber and skier. He succeeded to the earldom aged 22 on his grandfather's death in 1961.

The 9th Earl had, by prudent financial planning, arranged matters so that his heirs would avoid death duties. The young earl therefore came into an estate which included the family's 17th-century home and large estate in Dorset, several other properties and a collection of art and other valuables. By the 1990s his wealth was said to be in the "low millions".

It was another ancestor, the 3rd Earl, who had bequeathed to his wayward descendant the wisest counsel: "The extending of a single passion too far or the continuance of it too long," he observed, "is able to bring irrecoverable ruin and misery."

Shaftesbury's body was found in the south of France on April 5; yesterday it was announced that DNA tests had confirmed his identity.

By his second marriage, Lord Shaftesbury had two sons, the eldest of whom, Anthony Nils Christian, Lord Ashley, born in 1977, succeeds to the earldom.

Relax, Take This

I padded across the spa's Italian marble floor in my robe. "Here," said the coiffed proprietor, "we have some wonderful herbal supplements for your tea. It's a perfect way to get ready for your massage."

Hmm, "Virtual Buddha" the bottle said. She poured the contents into a cup of tea and I had a taste. Not bad - peachy, sweetish, warming. Virtual Buddha had a nice little flavor. As she wandered off I discretely checked the label - Polygala (don't know what that is), asparagus root (ok, probably not bad), and...ginseng. Ahh, ginseng. Red ginseng, panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, Spirit ginseng - that's a lot of ginseng. For the amped-up virtual Buddha who needs to drive his big rig late into the night, apparently.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Big Sur is full of seekers who want results (there's a seeker born every minute), and enlightenment is so...fickle. The spa can't be working through every damn thing with you, they're busy. So they provide a little pharmaceutical assist.

I put down the teacup, slightly less than half-finished. After a vigorous massage - not so much a massage, on reflection, as a ruthless physical spiritual interrogation - I resisted manfully, but eventually cracked and confessed considerable sympathy for Lattimore's translation of The New Testament, The Screwtape Letters, and the Cathar heresy. Finally, I collapsed completely, screaming "Rinzai sucks! Soto rules!" The Inquisitor, up to his ass in Emersonians and syncretists, had me sign a lurid confession, post bail, and depart on my own recognizance.

I say, after a vigorous massage, I drove briskly home, as clear as a Scientologist after electroshock, untroubled by drowsiness or confusion of any kind.

And when I got home I slept for about 12 hours. Probably best for all concerned that I didn't drink the whole thing.

Will Pricey Gas Save Boeing?

When they're not in the 747 giant laser cannon, f-22 subcontractor, tax evasion, sexual shennanigans or new death gel business, you might recall that Boeing was once a large civilian jet builder.

They gambled recently on the new 7-E7, now the 787, an sort of unsexy plan for better gas savings, about 30%. With the Giganto-Airbus looking somewhat less wonderful in a pricey gas environment, Air Canada just made a huge order. Will Seattle be saved?

April 24, 2005

Van Gogh Geist?

Van Gogh dug Eisen. He also liked some of Hiroshige's compositions, and copied his plum tree composition.

Wohlforth Wins LA Times Book Award For Science

A Hearty Heisengeistian Huzzah! for Charles as he walks away from a LA party with the 2004 Times award for Science and Technology book of the year. His presenter, brilliant astronaut Sally Ride. Not Angelina Jolie. Ah, well.

From the LA Times-

"A nonfiction environmental book, Charles Wohlforth's "The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change," won the science and technology award.

"From his vantage point on the undermined ice of a too-warm Alaskan winter, Charles Wohlforth gives an interesting, informative, introspective, philosophical and beautifully written account of the consequences of climate change," the judges said. "His story combines the research efforts of scientists studying global warming with the insights and experiences of the Inupiat — the Eskimos of the Arctic Ocean coast … to interpret the whispered warning from 'the white world' of the far north."

More at wohlforth.net.

April 23, 2005

The Only Radio Station You Really Need

KPIG, Freedom, California. Playlist is here.

[Update: David Byrne's webradio station is here.]

Quality Cheesecake and Bad Popes

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Alexander VI (Borgia)-

Rodrigo Borja


Roman mistress Vannozza dei Catenei
poisoned cardinals
enriched 9 illegitimate children

- Lucrezia left in charge when he was out of town

- Cesare model for Machiavelli's Prince, carved out a personal empire out of church real estate with dad's help

8kb jpg portrait of Pope Sergius III, artist unknown

Sergius III and Sarah Silverman

When the antipope Christopher seized the throne by force, the Roman people revolted and threw him from the papacy. They then invited Sergius to come out of retirement and take the ring. He annulled all the ordinations of Formosus. Restored Saint John Lateran after it was destroyed by fire. First pope to wear the papal tiara. His papal flag contained the Croat Coat of Arms in the shape of a falcon.

One of the worst popes in history, his reign begins the era known as the pornocracy or the rule of the harlots, the darkest period in the history of the papacy. His mistress Marozia was the mother of Pope John XI, the aunt of Pope John XIII, and the grandmother of Pope Benedict VI. In addition to Christopher, he killed Pope Leo V in order to obtain the throne, and once in power he had the body of Formosus exhumed, tried, found guilty, and beheaded.

John XII And Debbie Harry

“On 6 November a synod composed of fifty Italian and German bishops was convened in St. Peter's; John was accused of sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest, and was summoned in writing to defend himself."

And The Moral of the Story: Beautiful, Talented Women are Far Better Than Bad Popes

April 22, 2005

It's Official: Information Is Making Us Stupid

BBC reports that too much information can lower your IQ by 10 points, which is twice as much as getting stoned.

Next - do too many emails make you hungry?

Portland To FBI: Drop Dead

I suppose that would be the NY Post's headline about the City of Portland and the FBI ending cooperation over the anti-terrorism task force. You know, the one rapidly making over the United States of America into a sort of police state with customer service. The NYT story goes like this.

Partly personality, partly civil liberties, it's rather unusual these days for a major US city to basically tell the FBI to piss off, you proto-fascist penis pleasurers.

Interesting. Interesting.

And Step on It Mack

I neglected to mention a small but significant lifetime highlight in Chicago - leaving my room for the swanky lobby of the Inter-Continental Hotel, grabbing a cab, realizing that we had too many people, got another cab, and then, the glory, the epiphany, when I was forced to say-

"Follow that cab!"

Unfortunately, neither cab had any idea where the Chicago Cultural Center was.

Hmm. This suggests a test. Are cameras even necessary any more?

The Bruise show at Schuba's, whose stage had a great sound system. I was sitting at the table to the left, with Isobel and Jim.

I got a great Chicago hot dog, went to the zoo and saw this particular lion roaring, and after going in this door to the Art School, and then around to the proper entrance, I saw a big bunch of paintings of all kinds, many famous, and then I went to the station, no the above ground one, and rode the L.

Bringing a camera along is so 2002.

Adorable Kitten Takes Down the Man

I will be the first to admit that posting "weird news" events is the lowest form of blogfotainment.

This one is about a cat that shot his owner with a 9mm.

April 21, 2005

Marla Ruzicka

There was a true tragedy in the Iraq car bomb death of SF human rights worker Marla Ruzicka, who worked for Global Exchange, and who had been trying to count the numbers of Iraqi civilian deaths as the result of the war.

Just last week, she had again demanded in an op-ed piece a full accounting by the US Government. She had come into the possession of documents which directly contradicted Tommy Franks' claim that the US made no such accounting. More at her organization's web site.

Her death appears to be awkward for the media - it's difficult to claim righteous tragedy for the death of an attractive young American woman killed by insurgents without discussing the nature of her house by house, person by person inquiry- How many Iraqi people died? Who did this happen to?, she asked, directly, with a giddy driving cheer, again and again and again.

I fear that because of her politics, like Rachel Corrie, her primary desire seemed to be the search for the ugly truth of political violence, and therefore her name will be swept aside with a dismissive sneer. Even CNN reporting this story mentioned quickly only what she did, not the all important number, information, incomplete, for which she died.

My contempt for the right wing only grows.

"The Mice Appeared Unconscious.."

Artificial hypothermia With hydrogen sulfide to prevent stroke damage.

From the warning label, if, as was right, poets govern'd our lives.

Take thou this vial, being then in bed,
And this
distilled liquor drink thou off;
When presently through all thy veins shall run
A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse
Shall keep his native progress, but surcease;
No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou liv'st;
The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade
To paly ashes; thy eyes' windows fall,
Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;
Each part, deprived of supple government,
Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death;
And in this borrow'd likeness of shrunk death
Thou shalt continue two-and-forty hours,
And then awake as from a pleasant sleep.

-Friar Laurence - Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, Scene I

April 20, 2005

A Little Lat

There is a very fine Malaysian cartoonist named Lat who has roughly the stature Schultz had in this country in his prime. In addition to his artistic talent, he brilliantly communicates the uniquely good-natured vibe of Malaysia. In 1994 he was awarded a "datuk," roughly the equivalent of a knighthood, and about the highest honor a Malaysian cartoonist could aspire to. He's won many other awards as well.

I imagine the wife and kids are about to this stage now:

The image “http://www.lambiek.net/artists/lat/lat_fiercemum.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Give Lat credit also for managing to stay out of jail while mocking The Man in a pretty authoritarian country. There's a nice little bio of him here, with some additional examples of his work.

In Honor of Pope Ratzinger I

INTERVIEWER: "I understand you had an audience with the Pope."

YOGI BERRA: "No, but I saw him."

INTERVIEWER: "When you saw the Pope, what did he say?"

YOGI BERRA: "Ya know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, 'Hello, Yogi.'"

INTERVIEWER: "And what did you say?"

YOGI BERRA: "I said, 'Hello, Pope.'"

April 19, 2005

The Windy, Hippieless City

In Chicago, First Sea Lord Notes:

I partied in the vicinity of a rock star as dear friend Isobel, singer for the unrealized, two gig Manoog's Isle, my final rock band in Alaska, reemerged as the intense and magnetic lead singer of the 3 piece british Bruise. They were playing a small but excellent gig at Schuba's in Chicago, and much fun was had damaging beer and with Isobel and Jim. 8 Bands, 8 dollars, only two sucked. Not bad.

I saw about 12 in Chicago last week, and not to cast any aspersions, only Missile was an outstanding rock band actually from Chicago. I think that's the problem. They were all rock bands, sounding like victims from three too many years playing gigs to the overflow from Sports bars. The midwest rock spirit was embodied admirably by the gentleman leaning out the 87 Omni and yelling the words to "Dirty Deeds done Dirt Cheap" at the top of his lungs, and a band that I was convinced was a earnest neo-nineties Christian rock band until it was positively demonstrated otherwise.

Chicago Highlights:

Chicago is a real city. A city's city.

The Art Institute. G0. It puts SAM and SF MOMA to a sorry shame. One shocker near American Gothic is the original painting for the 1940 movie Picture of Dorian Grey, which is deeply, deeply, pervy. The building is packed full of little kids, looking at naked people's naughty bits -which are naturally all over the place- and yet Chicago has not been smitten under the wrath of vengeful God.

Lake Michigan is the wrong color.

The city is a completely artificial construction. Nature is not to be seen. Fortunately, the architecture is the most ambitious, and in many ways successful, in the U.S. (The Library has a two story copper owl frieze) Particularly the interiors, designed for a cold climate with long interior, interconnecting hallways and vestibules. A lesson or 9035 for Anchorage, which as far as architecture goes, got everything but the new Native Hospital terribly, terribly wrong.

I recommended to CEO of the largest art supply firm in the world that someone start distributing Tombow pencils properly. Later, I drank too much (particularly a nearly perfect red wine whose namely sadly escapes me) at an amazing Brazillan restaraunt with a Brazillan/ Jersery girl with truly emerald green eyes. Nowhere, but memorable.

Chicago does in fact have the best hot dogs - near the 87 Omni incident, I bought the single cheapest compelte meal I've had in years , 2.89 for a dog (they include hot pepper relish, a quarter pickle, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and ONLY mustard,) fries, and a can of RC.

If you want to hear the Chicago accent, ask a cop anything.

My Chicago sojourn ended today with a shock of realization, a cultural twister- although it rivals Portland Seattle and SF as a Democratic stronghold, there are simply no hippies in Chicago. Not a sausage, vegan or otherwise. Yet in spite of how suit and tie Chicago is, there are no barber shops. Curious.

Finally, as you walk into the rich neighborhoods, the dogs shrink.

April 18, 2005

On DVD Tomorrow: The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood

My two favorite Errol Flynn movies are to be released tomorrow: The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood. (I've got both on order.)

Both were directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood), both are in black and white, and together they represent the best pirate movies ever made.

In Captain Blood (1935), Flynn plays Peter Blood, a consciencious doctor who is enslaved and transported to Jamaica for treating a rebel during the English civil war. As we all know, it's a hop, a skip, and jump from slave to pirate captain! Olivia de Havilland (at her most stunning) is the love interest, and Basil Rathbone is his French rival, Captain Levasseur.

The Sea Hawk (1940) casts Flynn as the Sir-Francis-Drake-esque Geoffrey Thorpe: the one man who can save merry olde England from the sorry fate of Spanish domination.

Though most fans favor Captain Blood, I think because it is much more of a pure pirate movie, I have to tip the balance in favor of The Sea Hawk, if but for the fact that it has a better villain. Though Basil Rathbone is wonderful in Captain Blood, there isn't enough of him. The Sea Hawk treats us to one of my favorite movie villains, Henry Daniell as the traitorous Lord Wolfingham.

Even if you haven't seen The Sea Hawk, you'll recognize Daniell's Lord Wolfingham. Christopher Guest patterned his performance as Count Rugen (the "six fingered man") in The Princess Bride on him, and precisely preproduced Daniell's voice.

April 16, 2005

As Cocaine Blows Out the Bathroom, So These Are the Days of Our Lives

The Elbow Room in Unalaska closes, and with it, a big part of the Alaska in our minds.

April 14, 2005

The Laird Recommends: The Pickwick Papers

In 1836, a popular English illustrator named Robert Seymour agreed to let a 24-year-old writer, who published under the name "Boz", provide the text to accompany his humorous illustrations of cockney sportsman, to be published in serial. The writer's real name was Charles Dickens. Over the next two years, Dickens produced fourty installments of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, subtitled, "containing the faithful record of the perambulations, perils, travels, adventures, and sporting transactions of the corresponding members." (Seymour committed suicide after finishing work for the second installment.)

I'm only 100 pages into this 850 page book, but I hereby declare it a hoot. In brief: four gentlemen, the poetic Mr. Snodgrass, the amorous Mr. Tupman, the sporting Mr. Winkle, and their leader, the inestimable Mr. Pickwick, set out from London for a journey about the English countryside. Hilarity ensues.

Here, from the introduction of Mr. Pickwick in chapter one:
A casual observer might possibly have remarked nothing extraordinary in the bald head, the circular spectacles, [...] during the reading of the above resolutions; to those who knew that the gigantic brain of Pickwick was working beneath that forehead, and that the beaming eyes of Pickwick were twinkling behind those glasses, the sight was indeed an interesting one. There sat the man who had traced to their source the mighty ponds of Hampstead, and agitated the scientific world with his Theory of Tittlebats, as calm and unmoved as the deep waters of the one on a frosty day, or as a solitary specimen of the other in the inmost recesses of an earthen jar.

April 13, 2005

Just When I Thought I Understood France

"France pays homage to an actor who represents the force of American cinema and the power of emotions that he invites us to share on screens throughout the world," Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said as he presented the award to [BRUCE FREAKING] Willis in an ornate salon at the ministry.

 Click for Large Photo

April 12, 2005

A Quick Note from Kuala Lumpur

1. We are all well and happy and overfed.
2. It is damnably hot.
3. It sucks to be a young Chinese kid.

For the first, oh, I don't know, seven years of my life, when our extended family got together on special occasions, I would be surrounded by a bewildering array of aunts, uncles, cousins (first, seconds, thirds) and godparents. The idea that each of these people had names was very nearly unbearable. After a couple of days in Malaysia, I'm feeling much better about my problems.

Here, of course, deciphering family relations is sort of like chanting the digits of pi: arcane, not at all worth doing and at the same time terribly important.

It's not enough to know that Khoo is your uncle. Saying "Uncle Khoo" is unattractive shorthand that, if it isn't out-right insulting, is awful darn close. The right name is something like: "Father's third youngest brother Khoo" or "Mother's second sister Lee" or "Mother's father's second wife who-had-two-boys." It's just wrong, I tell you. It was bad enough watching Mrs. Dr. X go through it (oh, no! don't you know better? I'm the second OLDEST brother's cousin!) but to seem them trying to inflict this nonsense on a two-year-old (Toddler X) was just unfair! I quickly formed a cabal with the sensible Singaporean Uncle ("Call me Steven" was his name, bless his heart!) in deciding that no names should have more than two parts and at least one of them should be in English. Or Approximately English.

Next stop, on to Palestine where I hope to put my brand of no-nonsense, screw-your-family-history, fie-on-5000-years-of-tradition clever problem-solving skills to good use. (Also, need to stock up on hyphens soon.)


and your

Zen Koan From the BBC

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uses a surprise visit to Iraq to warn against incompetence and corruption.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uses a surprise visit to Iraq to warn against incompetence and corruption.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uses a surprise visit to Iraq to warn against incompetence and corruption.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uses a surprise visit to Iraq to warn against incompetence and corruption.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uses a surprise visit to Iraq to warn against incompetence and corruption.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld uses a surprise visit to Iraq to warn against incompetence and corruption.

April 10, 2005


Doing some research today I learned something I had never quite gotten before. I had always thought the Massachusetts Bay colonists were essentially chase out of England - apparently not so. I knew they were religious (who wasn't in those days?) but I had never seen it put quite this way:
No Christian community in history identified more with the People of the Book than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the Biblical drama of the Hebrew nation. They themselves were the children of Israel; America was their Promised Land; the Atlantic Ocean their Red Sea; the Kings of England were the Egyptian pharaohs; the American Indians the Canaanites (or the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel); the pact of the Plymouth Rock was God's holy Covenant; and the ordinances by which they lived were the Divine Law. Like the Huguenots and other Protestant victims of Old World oppression, these émigré Puritans dramatized their own situation as the righteous remnant of the Church corrupted by the "Babylonian woe," and saw themselves as instruments of Divine Providence, a people chosen to build their new commonwealth on the Covenant entered into at Mount Sinai.
Well, maybe they're exaggerating a bit? Time to go to the source, David Hackett Fischer, who is to pre-Civil War America what Roger Ebert is to cinema - the only person a layman really needs to pay attention to.

And he says, yup, that's right:

The great migration developed in this spirit - above all as a religious movement of English Christians who meant to build a new Zion in America. When most of these emigrants explained their motives for coming to the New World, religion was mentioned not merely as their leading purpose. It was their only purpose.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony, by the way, was unique among New World colonies. It was demographically balanced, consisting mainly of family groups (in the Latin American colonies men outnumbered women by 10:1 or more, and even in Virgina it was something like 4:1).

Not just anyone could come along. In some instances the Massachusetts Bay settlers rejected people who wanted to come with them, and in others insisted on letters vouching for the individual's good character.

Eagle Has Landed

Word from the far east is that the expedition has successfully crossed the Pacific (a journey of 20+ hours). They begin their travels near the town of Penang, a coastal trading community north of Kuala Lumpur.

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Penang has had a Chinese community since the 18th century, governed by its own social structures, trade associations, and clans. The Clan House of the Khoo family, Khoo Kongsi, is a star attraction (L is related to the clan, though not technically a member).

More on this story as it develops.

April 08, 2005

The Panzers Lose Their Mojo (Thrice)

To my knowledge, there were three occasions when well-equipped panzer divisions ran into infantry units unsupported by armor and were stopped cold.

The first one you know about - Bastogne. Special credit for being surrounded, though the paras were trained for that.

The second one is famous in Russia, unknown in the west - the defense by the 316th Rifle Division of Volokolamsk Highway <--(check out this link!!!). Probably the greatest achievement of the three because 1) they were the last speed bump before Moscow, and 2) they didn't have the kind of artillery and anti-tank capabilities of the Americans.

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The tactics were unorthodox but worked well - they let recon units and relatively small German forces move forward, but any time the Germans tried to move down the roads in force, they met ambushes. The Russians abandoned the concept of a "line" creating instead pockets of resistance and harassment. This map shows units being hit, retreating, reforming, and renewing resistance 3 or 4 times.

The third, the battle for Hill #314, should be famous in the States but isn't. Two months after the Normandy landings, Hitler ordered a major armored assault led by 1st SS Panzer (the "A" team of the blitzkrieg) with the goal of driving to the beaches. Three panzer divisions hit one ordinary American infantry division (the 30th), and basically got nowhere. Hill #314, held by one battalion of infantry, was in the middle of it. They held the position by not panicking, and (in true American style), calling in gobs of artillery. The greatest threat to their survival was the batteries on their radiophones running down.

The author of the piece linked above was writing in 1958, but he could be talking about Vietnam or Iraq: "Portent of the future?? Small units, disorganized, separated and isolated by surprise attack, can fight and can win against superior numbers, despite the absence of a well defined front line. The key factor is superior leadership, for men fight no better than their leaders. The determining factor is, in the final analysis -'plain old fashioned guts'!!"

April 07, 2005

Science and Nazism

A report on an uncomfortable realization that among ordinary German scientists Nazi collaboration was normal, even enthusiastic. The picture of a few mad Nazi scientists performing insane experiments does not reflect a far larger and more quiet collaboration between science institutions and fascism. From an editorial in Nature.

What it suggests to me is that the technocratic desire to continue research, and the mere momentum of day to day business, can permit the deepest evil.

Eisengeist Far East Expedition!

M. (Corresponding Secretatary), my wife, and the (mysterious) wife of Dr. X (along with Junior X and Baby X) are off to Malaysia tomorrow. No, seriously. We hope to have reports from the CS, and will await them with baited breath. (If that means what I think it does.) In the meantime, Dr. X will finally have the free time to pursue his interest in Icelandic Cimema.

Trailer Online

Trailer for A Man Like Me is here (for context see comment on Icelandic post below).

April 06, 2005

Old Man of Chad

Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Nature

Meet your grandpappy and mine, the earliest known, probably bipedal, hominid from SEVEN million years ago (Lucy was about 3.2 million back, and in some scenarios was not directly on the family tree).

For comparison, here is the lovely Kari from Mythbusters, suggesting significant progress in 7 million years.

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Evolution. Accept with glee.

Your Papers Are Not in Order

I took the day off to talk to the government. The wife and kids and I went down to the passport office to apply for a passport for the baby. Babies have to have passports, you see, there's no telling what they'd get up to if they didn't have proper identification at all times. In fact I'm told several baby-nappings have been resolved quite favorably when the child hailed a police officer, showed a valid passport, and was returned safely to hearth and home.

But there was a line.

First up was an old man who needed a new passport. His old one had expired, but he'd brought it along. He walked with a cane. But he had not filled out the application. Can't have a passport without an application. OK, is there somewhere I could sit down and fill out the form? No, this is a post office, there are no chairs. Figure it out at home, old man.

Next up was a father trying to get passport renewals for his two sons, aged 14 and 16. Ha! He didn't know that all applicants over 14 must appear in person. Next.

We were up. This should be a cakewalk, I thought. We've got the kids, we've got our forms all filled out and signed. Ha, what a fool. We signed the forms. It says very clearly in 8-point print that the form is not to be signed until the oath is administed! Sorry, can we sign again? No. Can we show you valid ID proving that these are our signatures? No.

So we went and re-filled out the form, got back in line, waited, took the oath, signed the form, and went home. If all goes well, our little baby will be able to prove his identity instantly any time any representative our national security services wishes it. God bless America.

I hear Kuala Lumpur's lovely this time of year.

Clinton to Run for Icelandic President - Iceland Review's Entry into April Fools

This is a slightly amusing story about Clinton running in Iceland, notable because it is the only piece of Icelandic humor I have ever read. It is the one place, in, I stress, my experience, that the Icelandic politically xenophobic phrase "Ísland fyrir Íslendinga" has been used in a funny or amusing way.

I'm sure there is more. I thought it might be funny, because as we all know Old Norse, which is very close to modern Icelandic, and Old English (I'm talkin' Beowulf, not Chaucer) were mutually intelligible.

It begs the question: who is the Icelandic Yakov Smirnov?

Quite silly, I yclef it.

April 05, 2005

Guess who I ran into while getting drunk?

Okay, not nearly as cool/famous as Jesse L. Martin.

Still nice to see the man
a) Drinking inside my corner bar
b) Smoking outside my corner bar

Alas, I didn't have the guts to walk up to him and say "Who do I have to kill to get your job?"

For those who don't know, Adam Savage is the co-host of the Discover Channel series Mythbusters.

If you don't watch this show, I pity you.

First I Must Insist on Seeing Your Papers

Heads up - you will now (2007) need a passport to get back into America from Canada. Or you will be trapped forever in...Canada.

The Monty Problem

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In Panzer General, there are five campaigns, two for Germany (one going forward and one going backward), and one for each of the allies. Three are good clean Panzer fun - the Americans, Russians, and advancing Germans get to charge ahead, exploiting the advantages of the initiative. Even the German retreat campaign is 'fun', in the same way riding a bicycle in San Francisco traffic is fun - it's exhilirating until something bad happens.

But there's one campaign that's no fun at all - the British advance into Europe. It's the same as the American campaign, but without American air power and artillery. The first couple of scenarios are playable, but then, like Montgomery, you come to a place called Caen.

Caen was a meatgrinder, and probably the most controversial operation of Montgomery's career. The town is seven miles inland from the Normandy beaches, and he hoped it could be captured within 24 hours of the landings. But a month later the British were still bogged down around the town. Montgomery kept planning and attacking, planning and attacking. Operation Epsom, Operation Charnwood, Operation Goodwood - they all gained ground, but at a terrific cost. Volumes have been written on the bloodbath, but it was a hard battle to win, and he did eventually win it.

Montgomery's detractors say his methodical approach made it too easy for the Germans. (They also say he was a closet racist and committed atrocities in Ireland, but there's no pleasing some people.) His defenders (notably him) say he was supposed to tie down the German armor around Caen and did so, making the American breakout possible. Furthermore, he was facing very tough opposition from the 1st SS Panzer division and a fanatical garrison of Hitler Youth.

As Patton fans we're used to dissing Montgomery - Patton himself said “war requires the taking of risks, and Monty simply won’t take them.” But a German General who fought him, Wilhelm von Thoma, said: "I thought he (Montgomery) was very cautious, considering his immensely superior strength, but he is the only Field-Marshal in this war who won all his battles. In modern mobile warfare the tactics are not the main thing. The decisive factor is the organization of one's resources to maintain the momentum."

One other insight into Montgomery: When he took over the 8th Army in Africa, by his own account, he was told the main goal was force preservation - retreat to Egypt, retreat into the Sudan or Palestine, if necessary, but don't lose The Army.

His response: he told his army they were there to fight, and all withdrawal plans had been burned. Then he neutralized Rommel's genius for maneuver by drawing him into a set-piece battle of attrition.

Grant would have been proud.

Satellite Reconnaissance Reveals...

Things that are longer than they are wide in Vacouver, Washington.
The characteristics of these sites indicate two distinct types of installations. Several of them include medium range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Walla Walla, the Ballard Locks, Okanogan, Winlock, or any other city in the northwestern part of the United States, or British Columbia.

Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already in my hand, Oregon's Intergovernmental Relations Director Cranston Snord told me in my office that he was instructed to make it clear once again, as he said his government had already done, that Oregon's assistance to Vancouver, and I quote, "pursued solely the purpose of contributing to the the defense capabilities of Vancouver," that, and I quote him, "training by Oregonian specialists of Vancouver residents in handling defensive armaments was by no means offensive, and if it were otherwise," Mr. Snord went on, "the City of Portland would never become involved in rendering such assistance." That statement also was false.

But now further action is required--and it is under way; and these actions may only be the beginning. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of regionwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth--but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.

To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Vancouver is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Vancouver from whatever city or state will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Oregonians attempted to do in their Longview blockade of 1948.

But it is difficult to settle or even discuss these problems in an atmosphere of intimidation. That is why this latest Oregonian threat--or any other threat which is made independently or in response to our actions this week--must and will be met with determination. Any hostile move anywhere in the world against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom we are committed--including in particular the brave people of West Kelso--will be met by whatever action is needed.

Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right--not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in the Pacific Northwest, and, we hope, down the West Coast as far as the Bay Area. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

Thank you and good night.

The classics through a shredder for Viagra

Below is an excerpt from a piece of spam that came over the transom today. Random garbage? Or classic literature through the eyes of an editor with severe attention deficit disorder?

barbarians on the right side, and the Stewarts were barbarians on the resolved to move into the prison, where Mr. Micawber had now cravat took Peggotty down a little, and inspired her with a greater weather-side; and tho during the colloquy with Claggart they of I was in that state of subjection to the thought of my friend that it The word recalled us to some wisdom. Alan ran upstairs and returned At first she wouldnt come at all; and then she pleaded for five Tut, tut, child. said the Duchess. Everythings got a to him, this concealment, into which I am so unhappy as to have had been wise; but Alan went into that matter like a business, or I Captain, this struck him as a most immodest presumption.

This text followed a price schedule for erectile supplements, and clearly was placed there to confound certain spam filters.

What confounds me: if you Google on some of the fragments above, you are taken to one of several sites selling grey market antidepressants. Are they trying to make a statement about Dickens?

And what marketing maven supposed that people would pay twice as much for a product called "Viagra Soft?"

Return of Quality Cheesecake/Beefcake

Guess who I ran into at the deli today!

Oh, yeah! Jesse L. Martin, a man who actually sang with Jerry Orbach when they both starred on "Law and Order."

Handsome fellow, warm and friendly. Your correspondent actually blushed.

April 04, 2005

PC Sword, Real Stabbing

The question of PC gaming swords turning into real property has also turned into real violence, as a man is stabbed over the sale of a pretend electric sword.

Next, online character pimping.

Download this Now (before the Man takes it down)

Norwegians With Attitude: Banned by the Feds!

Adorable Kittens Score Moral Authority

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I now erode the running gag on TTH about adorable kittens, (Adorable Kittens Turn State's Evidence) by explaining: the news is always a little false, an elevation of one thing among an infinity of things- tragedies, glories, ordinaries.

With it's intrinsic self-importance, a headline elevates any ordinary event far, far out of proportion, turning the expansion of the scope of conflict into a political or economic advantage. So, adorable kittens are not the main topic of the nation's discourse. We have chosen not to write ceaseless headlines about them. Most of the money isn't in kittens.

What if it were? Hence, Adorable Kittens Fall off Warm, Boring TV into Piranna Bowl. The gag argues that Adorable Kittens are about as legitimate as 90% of our news currency.

A recent adorable kitten inspection revealed a warm, sticky, sappy little shred of hope for the real world. Baghdadgirl.blogspot.com, a 13 year old girl in Iraq who really does love adorable kittens, writes of them, posts cute photos (she somehow missed "Hang in There") escaping in the process the violence, fear and dread, giving this most ordinary obsession of young ladies an indescribable poignancy. On it, sweet random people encourage her, praise the silly kittens, and still whiny Americans chastise her for being upset about her father's car window getting smashed by a US soldier, or impling her fear is misguided, as if war wasn't really about hurtling metal into human flesh at high velocity. It is an acidic national characteristic to do what we wish and demand to be liked.

But on her blog recently was this little feedback item:
I know you probably get stuff like this a lot but I'm an American teenager (14) and I really like your blog. I was never in favor of sending troops over there and I'm still not. Until I saw your blog I had viewed Iraqis and all other Arabs as mindless killers and evil people. I'm very sorry. Very, very, very sorry. You have opened my eyes to see that Muslims are regular people and the terrorist are a very few. Every group or religion has a bad person in it. Sure, America has horrible people (like Bush) but it's the same everywhere. Anyways, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you very much for opening my eyes and getting the bigger picture of things. Thank you.
Clarity, sorrow, love and hope. All from kittens.

April 03, 2005

Hey Sum

I assume you can account for your whereabouts at 10:30 Friday night?

As if the Future Mattered

See Paul Krugman's explanation of the non-crisis in social security and the upcoming (real) one in healthcare in the latest New York Review of Books. A quick summary:

"1. Talking heads and other opinion leaders perceive the issue of an aging population not as it is—a middle-sized problem that can be dealt with through ordinary changes in taxing and spending—but as an immense problem that requires changing everything. This perception is, alas, fueled by books like The Coming Generational Storm, which blur the distinction between the costs imposed by an aging population and the expense of paying for medical advances.

"2. Because the demographic problem is perceived as being much bigger than it really is, the spotlight is off the gross irresponsibility of current fiscal policy. As you may have noticed, right now everyone is talking about Social Security, and nobody is talking about the stunning shift from budget surplus to budget deficit since Bush took office.

"3. The focus on Social Security— the one part of the federal budget that is actually being run responsibly—is, in practice, offering the architects of our budget deficit an opportunity to do even more damage.

"4. Finally, we're not having a serious national discussion about the bigger problem of paying for health care, and we probably can't in today's ideological climate."

April 02, 2005

Spend Billions, or Walk.

British MPs burn the Pharms, for bribery, despicable marketing, and turning ordinary human behavior into treatable pathology.

Tim's New Blog

Adventures in India

I'm trying to get his goat sacrifice photos on the web today. Stay tuned!