March 31, 2007

And Now the Next Stop on the Angry Bus

Google Maps weirdly replaces pictures of real, Katrina-smacked New Orleans, with bygone happy days New Orleans, then both backpedals and weasels around some more, which is likely to cause a bicycle crash.

The explanation is improved imagery detail. Also interesting in today's Google Maps: the growing populated area around Chernobyl, the construction of the KingDome, and there were some great shots of the missile bunkers in Cuba, I understand.

Swapping the post-Katrina images and the ruin they revealed for others showing an idyllic city dumbfounded many locals and even sparked suspicions that the company and civic leaders were conspiring to portray the area's recovery progressing better than it is.

advertising
After Katrina, Google's satellite images were in high demand among exiles and hurricane victims anxious to see whether their homes were damaged.

Now, though, a virtual trip through New Orleans is a surreal experience of scrolling across a landscape of packed parking lots and marinas full of boats.

Reality, of course, is very different: Entire neighborhoods are now slab mosaics where houses once stood and shopping malls, churches and marinas are empty of life, many gone altogether.

Here's a new kind of sentence: Congress plans to get to the bottom of it.

And Here I was About to Mellow Out


Newsweek
Poll
conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. March 28-29, 2007. N=1,004 adults nationwide. MoE± 3.






.


"Which one of the following statements come closest to your views about the origin and development of human beings? Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process. OR, Humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process. OR, God created humans pretty much in the present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."






.




God Guided
The Process
God Had
No Part
Created In
Present Form
Other (vol.)/
Unsure


% % % %

3/28-29/07

30 13 48 9


48% of America: there is no excuse for this. "God guided the process," the perfect reasonable compromise, compatible with all kinds of Christian theologies - MOST OF IT, in fact. Tolerant. Somewhat thoughtful. Passably cognizant.

Yet your commitment to self-blinding, willful ignorance is stronger. At least, in the aggregate, it isn't getting worse.

Matthew Dowd: A Bush Goon Turned Sad Snitch Asks for "Gentler Politics".

I wanted to include this fellow Matthew Dowd in the world's longest welcoming line, the line of ex-Bush officials who gain clarity, full of righteous venom for the worst president in American history, who have woken up to the endless national crisis of law breaking, corruption and diseased policy that is the ethos of this adminstration.

“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”

In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.


But, you know, this one is a former Democrat, Rove's poll reader, a turncoat and active vandal taking out America's future to deposit in Bush's buddies' banks, who now, watching his son deploy to this god-forsaken war, wants to kiss and make up with the rest of the country by calling for gentleness in politics.

He said the president’s announcement last fall that he was re-nominating the former United Nations ambassador John R. Bolton, whose confirmation Democrats had already refused, was further proof to him that Mr. Bush was not seeking consensus with Democrats.
What originally clued you in, Unrecyclable-Plastic-Walgreens-Bag-Full-of-Old-Tampons-Head?

Let me be the first of the rest of America to respond to your kindly overture for gentle politics: fuck you. Fuck your self-serving candy-sucking ass. You just now came to this startling realization? Bullshit. Thick, steaming whole corn-fed bullshit. Fuck your weakness, your cowardice, your idolization of power, your intellectual and real dishonesty, your years of fucking over the poor and the middle class and the upper middle class and even the rich who didn't present their buttered asses to your man-god W, fuck you for your endless slander of men and women who showed real courage in war, or the political courage to stand against what you knew was morally indefensible, fuck you for your pushing America into weakness and humiliation, for your relentless assault on our birthright of freedom to concentrate power with this steaming pile of carroty-orange rabbit shit we call the President, who you described in these terms:
“When you fall in love like that,” he said, “and then you notice some things that don’t exactly go the way you thought, what do you do? Like in a relationship, you say ‘No no, no, it’ll be different.’ ...He is now calling for “gentleness” in politics. He said that while he tried to keep his own conduct respectful during political combat, he wanted to “do my part in fixing fissures that I may have been part of.”
Yes, all patriots can agree: too late, asshole. Fuck Mathew Dowd and the horse he rode in on, and that horse's lover, his mother.

In Which I Just Wanted to Know which Network Connections Checkbox to Uncheck.

10:38:23 AM DELL Unfortunately the only thing we can do is try a system restore.
10:38:47 AM jamie bollenbach That would eliminate most of my software.
10:39:51 AM jamie bollenbach I've done them before, and found them useful, but it's kind of a cannon for a mosquito here isn't it?
10:40:08 AM DELL System restore will not eliminate your software.
10:41:32 AM jamie bollenbach It will not eliminate open-source software I've downloaded and installed in the last three weeks since I installed earthlink?
10:41:54 AM DELL I apologize what I meant to say was it will but you can always go back and reverse it.

Can Someone Explain This?

Dr. X posts this from the Carter Center for Clueless Indulgence of Authoritarian Enemies of Our Great Nation:

"Pelosi to Syria. Anyone? Anyone?

"Her website is silent. I don't understand why, as Democrats score on the GOP again and again, that she would offer this target to let them get back in the game.

"I have been brainstorming about what might be the real reason for the trip. My best guesses so far:

"a) She is an android designed by the CIA to explode when she shakes hands with Assad.

"b) She has discovered fresh evidence on what happened to Kanaan and is rushing to help Syrian intelligence clear up this mystery.

"c) She seriously thinks she will accomplish something.


"It's that last one that concerns me."

March 28, 2007

No, Really.


Sort of.

Labels:

Meebo Chat Tool

Experimenting over to the right with the Meebo chat tool. If it works, supposedly anyone can chat, right here, either from any IM system right on the blog or by just typing in the Isenchat meebo area on the sidebar.

Update: First tests are pretty impressive. It works easily, no sign-in or downloads required, and it's private between the chatter and chattee. I don't think groups work yet on this page, but multiple windows appear if you sign into Meebo. So far, it's small and efficient. Give it a whirl if you see First Sea Lord online.

The Secret Spy Climb of Nanda Devi

A Seattle pediatric surgeon is still a bit haunted by his unprecedented 1960's climb of Nanda Devi, the Himalyan mountain known as the Goddess, with secret CIA spy equipment to place on the summit. Plutonium spy equipment. Plutonium the Sherpas kept warm with. Plutonium they lost in an avalanche. Plutonium that is still lost.

March 26, 2007

This Is Good

Dr. X posts this from Cowboy's Liquor on Dyer Street:

"There are some excellent and inexpensive tequilas here I had not tried before. The Patron I'm sipping tonite has notes of spice and a velvety mouth feel. I think I am understanding Jerry Lee Lewis better than I did earlier this evening.

"I had not known he was expelled from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie after a boogie-woogie performance of 'My God is Real'.

"Probably isn't true. Should be, though."

Just in Time for the Election

Dr. X posts this from that ammo shop on S. El Paso Street:

"You know what's making a lot of sense to me right now? Cyborg feminism."

Anchorage's Sister City

Dr. X posts this from the Marty Robbins statue in El Paso:

"Quite Anchorage-like. Geographically remote. Beautiful mountains. Military base on the side. A lot like Colorado Springs, too, but I have to give El Paso the edge because of the superior Mexican food..."

March 25, 2007

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: Stop. You Are Actually Killing Me.


4AM. I never see 4AM from the sunny side, the farmer side, the knowing-where you are and not finding mysterious bruises on the inside of your knees side where you get up instead of throw up - except on a case, and my country was calling and I had stupidly picked up the phone, and an hour later fried Spam and two rubbery powdered egg piles gazed back at me from the aluminum tray reflecting my own snarling contempt for all things which exist at unholy hours of the day. The potatoes had more eyes than a Hindoo vegetable god, if there was one, and the coffee was as thick and old and gummy as bunker oil. There was a pile of hardtack biscuits and WWI canned milk on the table, of interest chiefly to starving historians with dysentery. I looked up to find who had perpetrated this war crime and caught a glimpse of the cook: more cheerful expressions graced the janitor's face at Gestapo headquarters. Frankly, I'd vomited better food at a quarter-star cafeteria in a Boise tannery. But the meal at the base left plenty of stamps in the ration book, and it was a glory compared with the Depression, where for a month in 1933 I ate a wallpaper paste and onion skin soup that made Chaplin's shoe dinner look like a Waldorf salad.


I was poor, then. I once found a large hat and moved in. I couldn’t afford pants, so I wrapped a piece of string around my waist to have somewhere to put my thumbs. Later, I had a rough evening in New Orleans when I bet my cardboard belt - leased - on a nag named Wood Products Assembly and the rental boys came looking to collect. I drank coal dust coffee, took a job as a professional sidewalk smeller (something to do with cement curing) and once ate a pillow I'd carefully shaped like a delicious turkey. I got started detectiving after a job in Chicago where some swells paid me to stare at party-goers who outstayed their welcome until they became uncomfortable and left. It was only when I got The Case of the Drunken Rockefeller Spendthrift, mostly partly perpetrating the crime involved, that things turned around for me, if not the late young Mr. Rockefeller.

This morning I was grouchy in Alameda - a condition I recommend avoiding at all costs- when I boarded the U.S.S. Entername, a rust-streaked, smoke-belching WWI tin can, which never received a proper moniker due to a clerical error in 1918. It had one working 4 inch gun, a wooden torpedo-shaped slug instead of a torpedo, and some goateed bohemian jailbirds crewed her like they were worried about how Swann's Way would turn out. Squat and surly, her pumps showering the harbor, she was a stray dog peeing on California, and the cause of my visit, the civilian corpse dangling from the radio antenna, just added a thick pink frosting of charm on the cupcake of loathing. I clambered up the gangway holding onto my hat against the wind, cursing the day I first heard the word "Slagophurm," whose exiting exhaultation by the stiff now twisting in the breeze had pulled me here to a cardboard breakfast and the sorry sad-sack south-end of the north-bound seahorse of the war.

I was planning to give up my rusty .45 to the sailor but his bloodshot eyes, froggy air and a thick waft of Mary Jane told me he'd reefered-up good and the material world was no longer his concern. I offered it to him anyway, butt first, and he giggled like a 2 year old who'd been recently informed of the concept of underpants. On the jackstaff someone had raised a flag featuring a large, beige, hairy ass. The nasty old boat was cursed like a tax collector in a gypsy park.

A wirey, copper-colored man with a rusty beard and scattered silver hair wearing scrambled eggs on his hat and an 1890 suit came up to me with an outstretched hand and cheerful expression, the cracks spreading across his red, wind-whipped face, the irrepressible kind of joe that if the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse showed up he’d bring them hot chocolate, with marshmellows, and offer directions to the local elementary school.

"Captain Kane. Welcome aboard."

"Mack Brain. Thanks. Dead guy trouble, eh?"

"Yes, Sir. Normally we'd handle this internally, of course. But when he was found he was still alive, mumbling the curious word 'Slagophurm.' A short investigation turned up your work on - BELAY THAT, HORTZ! WELD THAT SECTION TO THE PORT SIDE! YOUR OTHER PORT!! - excuse me, similar cases in the area. "

"You want the Slagophurm case not figured out for twelve years, I'm your man."

"Quite. Well, anyway we're stumped, and we don't take civilian murder kindly in the Navy."

"This is the for-real Navy?" I said carelessly. Kane bristled like a wire-haired bristling terrier, and I felt like I'd kicked a kitten. "I mean, your ship's in active commission?"

"War, Sir, necessities of war."

After they lowered the corpse down from the radio antenna and I'd picked around a bit, rifling through his pockets for clues, I pocketed a silver dollar that was going to waste, but I was filled with ennui, suddenly, a gooey, heavy gray flood like a cloudburst of lukewarm poi. This was the longest string of unsolved murders in San Francisco since the 19 oughts when Malmsey Warper the All-Natural Radium Mineral Water King did in his estranged wife's entire extended family, one a fiscal quarter with his own product, which went on for years because A) they were Mormons and there were quite a few, and B) no one realized at the time radioactive mineral water was going to kill you.

I was looking right at the stiff's address book, seeing only stars and lines and squiggles. Total indifference. So his name was Pete Kneemaster. So he worked at somewhere in South San Francisco call Biffleson's Drug Importers. So he was covered in a mysterious red-brown dust. So he had a ledger page in his right pocket which suggested 3 or 4 hundred thousand dollars was being concealed at Biffleson's. So he had a pocket camera with undeveloped film in his right hand, and had arranged his body to spell something on the deck below with his own blood draining out. I couldn't be bothered to look down.

I was sedate as as settee. I was as grey as a Poupon. I was as litost as lemur dying of consumption. I had less motivation than a sauna rock with a considerable trust fund. At that moment, if Rita Hayworth stood lecherously two feet away from me wearing nothing but pink silk, a handful of cash and a disreputable hotel key, I would have made that noise of ultimate ennervation: I-unnunhnah.

"What is it, Brain?" asked Kane.

"I-unnunhnah." I said.

Somehow, captain of the 3rd worst ship in the Navy as he was (falling short of the U.S.S Tainted Meat Scow and the U.S.S. Sinky Whatshisface) he understood.

"Drink?" And offered a flask.

I have no idea why Capt. Kane was drinking Maine's Best Discount Watermelon-Mint Schnapps but I spit out alcohol fecklessly onto the deck and all over the dead guy, and the Captain's suit, and the pink horror dribbled onto my last clean white shirt, and I was about three seconds from leaping over the side to an ignoble death in the lead-rich mud of the East Bay when the ship's air raid siren sounded and everyone stared running around waving their arms like a girly bunch of extras from Golddiggers of 1933, except with 50 caliber machine guns, and from out of a gray misty grayness a sputtering little J-3 Piper monoplane bore down on us firing some pea shooter of death directly at Kane and me and we dove for cover behind a mounted raft while every working ship's gun lit up in the vague direction of Berkeley, precisely where the plane wasn't, leading later to a heartfelt personal apology from Admiral Nimitz to the parents of two fifths of the North Oakland middle school water polo team.

In the meantime, there was nothing so life-affirming as someone suddenly trying to murder you, which means you are at least important enough to be in someone's way enough to have you killed. An enemy meant that you were real. I was touched, and felt like crying, so instead I emptied the clip from my .45, except pointed West where plane was actually heading before the mists soaked it up like a good-quality kitchen sponge.

"Did anyone get the number on that plane?" I asked, yelling through the deafness and the yellow smoke and the smell of cordite.

Nopes echoed round the deck.

A pomegranate-headed sailor spoke up: "Had a name on the side though: Slago Industries." He hand his hand pointed in the air.

"Slago Industries. Son of a randy milkman!"

I stood there, limp-hatted, a penny postcard of a thunderstruck chump. Perhaps in the last decade I could have looked through the phone book to the entry just above Slagophurm. And then I looked down.

On the deck right below Pete the stiff was the word he'd wriggled out in blood in his last moments, written in letters 4 feet across by swinging his body around and watching where his last life-juice splatted, a giant bloody pen-corpse scribbling out a final shopping list for justice.

S L A G O

About then a Dusenberg so long it seemed to arrive about the same time it left pulled up to the dock area. Out floated a svelte and curvy silhouette that would have got my attention even without the semphore flags she was waving to get my attention: Lovey Wickersham. She wore a red pin-striped white dress like the Circus had come to new Orleans, with a fox-fur wrap and black patent leather shoes so high heeled the lines on the back of her stockings threatened to rub together and catch on fire. She was a side of bacon on a bread line, a cherry tart on a pile of cash, a fresh tall tomato so soft and slim and curvy and proud, moving like a taffy machine and strutting like a model.

"Mack! Darling! I..." she yoo-hooed, cooingly.

"Lovey! I know what Slago...

Suddenly I espied - because I do the Times crossword - a sniper on the roof on one side, and on the other ruffian gang of lugubrious Longshoremen sneaking towards her, waving bats, and on a third, a pack of fierce Weimaraners starting their curious attack.

"Get in the Car!!" I shouted.

She turned, but it was too late for that. The Weimaraners found their ground between her and the Dusenberg, threatening bodily injury by becoming visciously aloof. The sniper squeezed off a round, tearing one of the semphore flags beyond cost-effective repair. Then the Piper came back out of the fog, flying recklessly low, straight at her. The longshoremen began hurling suggestive remarks.

"The water, jump in the water!" I yelled.

"No!" piped up an alarmed sailor, "Sharks!" he said, pointing out the dorsal fin.

"Shit!" she said.

Then she adopted a position like she was about to jive dance her way out of trouble – reminded me of a still photo of Cab Calloway. The dogs barked, or perhaps, being Weimaraners, declaimed.

It may not have been in the cards for the U.S.S. Entername to turn the tide against the Japanese, or torpedo an aircraft carrier, or not accidently torpedo itself, which is why it was here being repaired, or even make it out of San Francisco Bay the following week without sinking from a faulty main shaft bearing, but she had one good fight in her, the Battle of Alameda Naval Station. And she gave it all she had.

When it was over, the sniper's body lay moistly on the roof, and the sidewalk, and floating in the bay. The evil longshoremen writhed in a pile underneath a wooden torpedo rolled down the dock by the reefer-loving sailor. Out of ammunition after the entire destroyer's gunfire had been directed at the sniper, a quick-thinking Ship's cook had dumped the corpse of Peter Kneemaster and a fifty-five gallon barrel of tartar sauce (an object which brought up more unpleasant eating in the Depression) into the water to distract the sharks, which was going to make for an interesting coroner's report. The twisted wreckage of the Piper stuck 40 feet off the ground on the telephone pole, where, gunless and frantic, I had to taunt the pilot using the Ship's bullhorn into distraction at a key moment by making loud aspersions about his sister, which as it turned out later, happened to be true. In fact, I had her number: Gomorrah 6501.

And Lovey, Lovey was alive, having coaxed the dangerously disengaged Weimaraners into the back of the Dusie with a egg salad sandwich. She waved to the crew and the only crew's cheer in the miserable 24 year career of the U.S.S. Entername raised and echoed into the fog.



"So what now?" Lovey asked later, as we headed back over the Bay Bridge.

"Slago Industries....And Where is it?" This last I addressed to our passenger.

In the back of the car the Weimaraners were relentlessly irritating the injured, dazed Slago Industries pilot by refusing to be petted. It was well that Lovey Wickersham was an amateur dog trainer. Not only had the Weimaraners entirely not killed her, although it was not clear how they were supposed to do that in the first place, but they were at her service, waiting for instructions. And the pilot in back, his blond moustache askew as his lazy left eye, was a friendly soul, in spite of trying to kill us, and wanted to everyone to like him. Especially dogs.

Cindy the Weimaraner was gazing out the window, moving slightly away from the pilot, Milton. Hard to miss the pilot after the crash, he still wore goggles and a silk scarf in the cabin cruiser, another disappointed WWI trainee.


As he tried to pet Cindy the dog she gave him a look that would have frozen hot tea. The other 5 dogs were no better. No wagging. No kisses. Only puppyish pomposity.

Lovey drove the Dusie over the bridge and into the city, the big engine humming like Vienna Boys Choir waiting for something to do, Milton was practically begging the dogs for attention: "Cindy-windy! Who's the doggie-woggie? Cindy? Cindy. Cindy!" A soft, grey, sleek silence. " "Goddamit, Dog!"

I leaned over the seat. "Where's Slago Industries, Milton?"

But Milton was obsessed. The canine affront was intolerable.

"Cindy, come here!" Nothing. Milton starting rocking back and forth in sheer frustration, slamming his fist on the ceiling.

"Now now, Mr. Killer, " said Lovey, "Don't scratch the car."

"Slago Industries, Milton..."

"Alright, alright, just call the dogs on!" said the still-bleeding pilot.

"Nookies!" said Lovey, brightly, and the dogs began to lick Milton like a fresh pork chop.

======

We'd dropped Milton off at what I liked to call 1 Flatfoot Plaza - the Dusenberg and Lovey and the cute but remote dogs worked their magic - Lovey was never loveylier; I hadn't so many helpful cops since the Myckaby Boys tried to burn down Bernie’s, San Francisco's biggest donut shop, as revenge for putting away Maw Myckaby, the notorious bakery arsonist, who burned down a baker's dozen of bakeries and two cake shops until she was finally caught trying to crush an elephant ear stand with a bulldozer; we never found out exactly why. Two-timing baker love, I’d guessed, but the cops just shot her.

Milton had spilled where Slago industries was, although I suppose we could have just looked it up in the phonebook. Lovey and I headed to Richmond, a little industrial town on the East Bay so rough I'd once seen fifteen bodies piled up around a malfunctioning bubble gum machine, and so depressing they had a special “Ego Control” spa and sent Hollywood starlets there sometimes to recover their senses by gazing for hours at painted bricks. We followed Milton's directions to an huge old brick warehouse with a tiny white sign that said: Slago Industries.

It was getting late in the day. The place was quiet as a dead insurance salesman, a non-sound I'd heard at least thirty times in my line of work. Gloom descended gloomily on the gloomy town; refineries, warehouses, dirt streets - it made Crumples the bartender look like Shirley Temple.

"There's a light on," said Lovey, pointing to a top window.

I didn't have the patience for patience just now. I pulled out the .45 and fired a round, the gun's report huge in the evening. It would have made more of an impact if some gun wasn’t already going off somewhere in town every two or three minutes, but a somewhat withered, elderly face peered out of the upmost window, with a expression sour enough to pickle an opera company.

"You. Open..." Lovey put a fragrant, soft hand on my shoulder and shut me up.

"We're terribly sorry sir," she said sweetly, "it was a silly place to clean a gun. May we come in?"

To my amazement, the old coot came down and opened the door.

He looked me over like I was a Goya etching of Napoleonic war crimes. "Come in. I am Dr. Richard Tarde, but some people call me 'Rich.' I'm pleased, in a sense, that you're still alive." He creaked like the step on the stairs you try to avoid to not wake your parents. I kept my rusty .45 on him.

"You won't need that," He said, waving his hand dismissively.

"I do if I need to shoot you," I said. "Like if you don't tell me what this is," and handed him the ancient brown bottle of Slagophurm found originally in the pharmacy in the Sunset district," and why innocent people keep using it for their last words."

"Innocent! Haw Haw!" He said, laughing like some people cough up bits of lung.

"What is it?!"

"That is not uncomplicated." said Dr. Tarde. “Please come with me to our reception area.”

He was thinner than the shadow of a thin man viewed edge on, with a grayish, blotchy skin that hung like a wet shirt on a bird cage, at least, that’s what I extrapolated from my view of his neck as we ascended the stairs.

We came out into a room that looked like Henry Ford’s bachelor lounge, for bachelors that had fought in the Boer War. Oil portraits of generals, doctors – and famous economists – hung on the wall. Tarde indicated that we should sit down, offered us a Port that tasted like leather and cherries and formaldehyde.


"Tell me, Dr. Brain, do you like money?"

"It's easier than beating people up for stuff."

"What if, hypothetically, 25% of everyone in the world were to beg to give you a dollar?" Dr. Tarde looked at me like a diminutive giraffe sizing up an acacia tree.

"A measly dollar to save their lives."

"Don't you think the term measly is unnecessarily perjorative?" I said. It had been a long day, and I remembered when a dollar could rent you a mansion in Detroit for a month, complete with passively aggressive butler.


"People beg for what Slagophurm promises."

"For example, me, now," I waved my gun a little. "What the Dickens is it? Why are so many people dead? Why am I here now, fuming and hungry, about to shoot you for stringing this out so long?"

"It's not a thing. It's a business plan." Dr. Tarde adjusted his bifocals so far down his nose they could catch deciduous nose hairs. The room was tall and dark, books and specimen jars displayed everywhere. A lone bulb lit his craggy face, like a scene from the Civil War Veterans Association's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

"Looking at that bottle, Lovey, a gooey brown business plan," I said.

She wrinkled her nose.

Years of investigations had honed my senses. I felt a lecture coming on. Feeling along my .45, I released the safety.

"Who started Coca Cola, Dr. Brain?" Tarde asked.

"Pharmacist. Georgia, in bad business straits, I think."

"And Pepsi?"

"Same, right?"

"And Dr. Pepper?"

"Amazing how much cocaine they used to put in soda pop," I said.

"You may look like a giant lemur in worsted wool, Brain, but you've got a brain, Brain. Slagophurm. It is a business system, Brain. A 100 year plan. What we do is simple. We make problems, and we cure them. Once it was malaria and quinine – our mosquito breeding experiments were pioneering. Our monopoly our quinine- and gin- piled up cash like the dead in Calcutta. Later, we were in opium shipping. Its benefits are obvious. 50 years ago, it was cocaine in the soda water, marketed as a cure for opium addiction. Everyone bought. Then the cocaine was banned. We thought we’d be ruined. And then we discovered marketing for the masses. Everywhere, the Gibson girls, the logos, beaten into the masses’ tiny brains by repetition and the corruption of desperate artists. It was successful, but nothing like the opium profits.

“We owned the soda industry. So we simply worked with the mob to get alcohol banned."

I attribute the fact I didn't shoot him right then to the intervention of Jesus.

"And in fifty years, we plan to make Americans remarkably fat - with colas of course, as well as something we call a 'suburb,' and our designs for “Speedy Food” restaurants with names like “Biggie MacCheesey’s” and “Taco Clarion” and “Connecticut Fried Chicken” and open a string of diet books, drugs, expensive contract health clubs. Our studies indicate the American buttocks may expand to twice their present size, or even larger if Operation Ubiquitous Cheeseburger goes into efficient operation. When that happens, we supply all the needs of their fresh misery.”

"And now. Why kill us now? Why do people die now?"

"Compared to the market involved, World War II is barnyard fisticuffs, donkeys beating on pigs with sticks. A few lives of people who were interested but were not perspicacious enough to come on board is nothing. Of course, the plan for today was long ago in place- I cannot tell you the details, but it rhymes with 'bigarettes'. You can join us and profit beyond your dreams, or you can expose us and die. You did go to Medical School? "

"If by that you mean did I lie drunk on a Dominican beach near a copy of Grey's Anatomy for several months, then yes."

"Come on board Brain, we could use a little medical muscle; I find Doctors with suspicions about tobacco's many health benefits need regular persuasion. Consider it, Dr. Brain, consider a future of profits, expensive cars, fine dining and walks on the beach. " The old goat was animated like he'd just discovered the amphetamine bush. He may have been evil, but he was genuine. He really wanted me in on his little club.

"Slagophurm. Hmm."So how do I get in on this racket?"

"Mack!" said Lovey, astonished.

“Excellent!,” he said, smacking his hands together. “We’ll start you tomorrow, there’s a young fellow named C. Everett Koop I need you to ‘visit.’” Then a shadow crossed that already shadowy face. ”But about what about your young lady? Isn’t she rich already? How can we trust her?”

“Oh I can trust her.“ I kept my eyes on him as he rummaged around for some papers near an oak file cabinet next to the grand staircase. Then he turned.

“Dr. Brain, I notice you haven’t lowered your gun.”

“Well, Dr. Tarde, actually I don’t want your filthy money. Well, actually I do want your filthy money. But Mack Brain isn’t for sale. Not that he isn’t for rent. But not for anything immoral. Well, that’s not really true. Actually, that’s kind of why people pay me. But I never do anything really, really wrong, particularly on a genocidal scale, just for money even in large amounts, even if I will certainly compromise my passing general ethical principles for a good payday if no one gets hurt, or rather, if no one who doesn’t deserve it, or who has a good attorney, gets hurt too seriously in such a way that I would feel so bad about it I wouldn’t enjoy all the new money I’d gotten. And I would never strike a lady who wasn’t trying to kill me at the time. Gee, I just wish everyone could be nice to each other. Also, I love freedom.”

“Then, Dr. Brain, we are at something of an impasse,” he said with astonishing composure considering he just pulled out a silver derringer and grabbed Lovey by the arm while bringing the gun to her head. I made the mistake of hesitating to shoot him, clouded as I was by the unfamiliar problem of considering my moral universe.

And here Lovey made an amazing maneuver. I feel that I should remind you that Lovey had the kind of cleavage that would make Gable drop Olivia De Havilland on the stairs. She pulled what can only be described as a Perils of Pauline move, clasping her hands together, gasping, and looking away while turning deftly to perfectly present the recessing folds of delight to Dr. Tarde, who despite being old enough to remember oogling Mary Lincoln, was not dead, and looked down long enough for Lovey to kick him in the back of the head with those platform heels of hers, knocking off his glasses and unbalancing him forward, until he tumbled down the stairs, with an “Oof!” and an “Ow!” indicating each landing on the four stories.

We ran down after him, my gun drawn and Lovey picking up the silver derringer, until we found Tarde crumpled up on the first floor like yesterday’s Arts section in the Chronicle.

“Brain…save me…Brain…I am dying…Slagophurm must go on…” He was begging, wheezing like a steam tractor, “…nothing personal, but would you…”

“Yes?”

“Get…a …better doctor?” And he died.

“Well, he’s pretty dead, I guess. Know what time it is?” I pronounced.

“No. This won’t stop these people, you know. Tarde is a one old fish in a division of Coelacanths. Slagophurm is big, Mack, and Slaggo Industries is only a little piece.. Actually, I think I have 400 shares.”

“Slagophurm is bigger than any of us. But we do whatever the hell we can wherever the hell we are. That’s how we stop them, all the crooks, all the bullies, all the goons and princes that see the human race as a cattle auction. But hey, that was a nice move, Toots!” I said.

”Remember it,” She warned.


The Complete Rebar for Tootise Rolls stories are at IronCandy.blogspot.com.

Labels:

The Royal Navy is all A-hoo This Week

An oxygen explosion on the Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless kills two British sailors north of Prudhoe Bay.

What is the Royal Navy doing in Prudhoe Bay? I had to dismiss the thought that they were finally finishing up the Franklin expedition.

The actual First Sea Lord, John Band, better get on task. BTW, here is a wiki list of the First Sea Lords.

March 24, 2007

I Need a New Homepage

I've been using My Yahoo! for years now, and I'm getting fed up with being presented news headlines and sports scores from two-weeks-ago. (A friend of Isengard.gov, who recently transfered out of the My Yahoo! group, explained to me that the design of their feed system is, if I remember his expression correctly, retarded.) What are my fellow Eisengeisters using these days for a homepage service?

Thank God They Solved E8!

As any schoolboy knows, E8 is the 248 variable symmetrical mathematical object that has stumped mathematicians for oodles of decades. It is, and I regret to say that I cannot independently confirm this, the theoretically largest such symmetrical object.

It has now apparently been solved, with 60 times more data than the human genome, using numbers that if written out as digits instead of equations would cover Manhattan.

Meanwhile, across the street, we have been unable to figure out how to get the pedestrian cross signal to operate in a reasonable amount of time.

Bong Hits 4 Iraq

The cancellation of a high school play teaches students to hate the Man.

Admittedly, students performing a play going over letters from Iraq soldiers is going to be inflammatory, if by inflammatory you mean presenting the truths of our time, and the meaning of serving in the military in a conflicted war, a subject of some passing interest to high school students.

It probably would cause strife and conflict: a rather paler version of the actual war these students may consider fighting. So we have established that the principle is a turd, not because he has concerns or even because he vetoed the play, but because he argued the following.

“He told us the student body is unprepared to hear about the war from students, and we aren’t prepared to answer questions from the audience and it wasn’t our place to tell them what soldiers were thinking,” said Sarah Anderson, a 17-year-old senior who planned to play the role of a military policewoman.

I'm usually nearly alone in arguing strong rights for students, but I'm looking at the long run: high school is our most profound civic training. Americans must be raised to expect freedom for themselves and tolerate it in others, and not in theory, in practice. The more we squeeze them with random drug testing, random searches, ubiquitous data collection, daily clamps on expression, the more we teach that trust is one way from them to us, the more we go for the moment of the illusion of security over the practice of liberty, the less our national culture will value the practice, the ordinary expectation of liberty. And, as is already happening, the more alienated, fragile and timid our young citizens grow - here I speak anecdotally, but in young college students I'm noticing both a decent general education, but more and more expectation of being told what to do. A good principle in this situation would have figured out how to manage to let the play go on, provided an open forum and access to a comparable event with pro-war themes, and made clear what the lines of appropriate behavior were so that voices from all sides could be heard. Hard? Impractical? Welcome to democracy. It's ultimately a practice of political and social organization, not the simple fact of voting.

Freedom of expression for students 16, 17 and 18 during a war gets more important, not less. Even in a volunteer army, boys and girls, they'll be recruited, they'll fight, they'll watch their friends die. A lot of progressives/ liberals are starting to argue for a draft. I understand the reasoning, and even share it to an extent, but it's an easy argument for us to make. If the rationale for an American war is so delicate it cannot survive the critique of a gaggle of high school thespians, let me suggest that the war is probably misguided.

(As a side note, I'm one of those civil libertarians who would be entirely okay, even encouraging, to a religious-themed play, as long as attendance wasn't mandatory, and it was clear other religious views had access to the facilities, which in most real-life circumstances, is not the case. )

It's been a while since the country has bothered arguing about the idea of high school students' free speech. I'm just happy for that.

Meantime, the big hit in the country is The 300.

I reflect that it was the Thespians that stood by the Spartans at Thermopylae.

Never Mind the Manouvers

First Sea Lord expresses his concern over the fleet, the inflatable fleet in this case, getting pantsed by the Iranian navy.

Orders to our boarding parties: that you command an inflatable gunboat is not an excuse for being inattentive. She is still, Sirs and Madams, a rubber vessel of the Royal Navy!

Let us hope this may be resolved peacefully.

March 23, 2007

Hair Triggers in the Brainfield

NYT article on diagnosis, in a review of a book by a Dr. Groupman, who writes for the New Yorker.

I like the summary of the summary of thinkin' trouble.

The doctor instantly and semiconsciously assimilates the relevant data, compares it with past cases and comes to a decision. “The mind acts like a magnet, pulling in the cues from all directions,” Dr. Groopman writes.

Along the way subtle influences can skew the decision. In an emergency room that takes in a large number of alcoholics, a scruffy patient in insulin shock might be misdiagnosed as a drunk. Dr. Groopman, using case studies, illustrates common logical fallacies like “availability” and confirmation bias.

Availability is the tendency to reach for the plausible explanation nearest to hand and ignore competing theories. Confirmation bias occurs when doctors selectively highlight evidence that supports what they expect to find. Then there’s commission bias, the urge to act rather than do nothing, even when nothing is preferable.

One and a half-words: neo-con.

Of course, these and many others are common thinkin' problems, and I reflect that now that this quick description of thinkin' problems is at hand, I will indulge my availability bias and apply it my instant theory that the endless assault on the concept of free will, summarized in the recent NYT article on recent psychology and law, indulges this bias, ahem, freely.

There have been lots of popular articles recently on this general subject, in politics and law and of course, in brochures for expensive medications. They tend to go like this: we have demonstrated that (in a famous example) people rationalize their own motivations for simple actions, such as a hand movement, when the brain impulses that control this movement travel faster than conscious decisions could have operated. Another recent study argued the same for politics, essentially, that because we demonstrate here that people are influenced by emotional image manipulation, rational political decision making is meaningless.

Therefore, they argue in some version of the same thing, there is no free will.

Summarizing such a highly complex and at best ephemeral phenomon like free will (or free won't, some scientists say), as a result of pharamaceutical market pressure, this research area is now I think, deeply flawed by market pressure.

There is a lot of money to be made from arguing that the mechanism of thinking - our stew of electrically active goos- is the cause of all action, that the bicycle rides the bicycler. If true, you can sell lots of bicycles.

Why so vehement? If we lose essential cultural concepts of freedom to sloppy, economically convenient arguments, if we lose essential cultural concepts of equality to boutique genetic enhancements for the wealthy, if we lose essential human processes of creativity and productivity to robotic analogues of humans, we have no future at all: no democracy, no brotherhood, no meaningful work, no rational inquiry, no spirituality, no inventive work, not even play. Dogs to our betters, dogs even to our machines, forever. Rights without actions are meaningless. If these trends aren't challenged, the 2500 year struggle for universal empathy and individual human worth will be over, and that sickness of alienation and gnawing irrelevance we know too much now will be all that people ever experience. Like global warming, a little less diffidence from scientists, a lot less casual economic corruption and a more rigor in working on the problems in front of us would be welcome.

The poles of human experience will be bored indulgence and endless menial servitude, propped by a fatalistic ideology based, horribly, in the very scientific processes that worked to liberate us, which will merely replace millenia of hierarchical religious ideologies which served the interests of elites.

Forgive me for the unprompted buckshot, but the BBC reported yesterday in India there was a march of child laborers, opposing -for some reason- the $35 billion a year child-labor/ child slave industry. What have do these relentless attacks on free will in the clothes of science have to offer them? Accept your fate, your choices are illusory? Or, we will get around to helping you when our social pre-conditioning creates favorable conditions for enlighted-self interest quasi- compassionate behavior on our part? In the meantime, wait for robots to work cheaper than you, then you will be free, or um, dismissed and without economic value.

My point is not to arrest the science, but in a culture where we are in real danger of losing the vast bulk of cultural production to marketing and branding, where all our deepest impulses, feelings and experiences are endlessly shoveled into the boilers of the sociopathically greedy at unprecedented levels in history, the culture of democracy must be strongly maintained, strongly defended, sacrificed for. The defense of equality and liberty under law cannot be weak, but this is insufficient. The cultural and social priority of equality and the liberty and dignity of individuals only becomes more urgent in this climate, not less.

And no science can fail to follow cultural drives of its society - if our culture eradicates everything but economic productivity as a social value, our science will only work to support economic productivity.

Samuel Johnson: "All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience, for it." One thing we might say is that complex societies which assumed that free will was a universal social condition tended to generally avoid genocidal initiatives. Sort of.

I offer this next anecdote not as a science, or even as evidence of free will, but as an interesting bit of experience. Students in my drawing classes improve remarkably when they respond to "making deliberate, conscious choices" as a drawing strategy. In other words, I don't say "draw the line exactly this way," I saw "choose consciously - at each moment -precisely which type of line you are drawing, and observe carefully it's effect within the drawing. " This is combined with "making sure that you are consciously aware of what the drawing actually is, and what the subject actually looks like."

This extends to all techniques. Asked later about problems and successes in work, almost invariably, the success or failure of the artwork is in its connection to conscious awareness, which can apparently be greatly affected by the student's focus and deliberate choice-making. At the very least, the student's belief that he or she is making conscious choices contributes vastly to the amount of dense visual information in the artwork. What we usually think of as bad or amateurish artwork is the presentation of a very small amount of visual awareness; in a drawing this is exposed, in a digital work, the lack of awareness can be easily hidden by the nature of the application. *

At the very least, belief in free will creates a more powerful, more productive, more meaningful and engaged culture, and belief in fundamental equality leads to both the dissemination of this power and a more compassionate culture. Compared to this pre-conceived future of marketing hegemony, robotic economics, and genetic enhancements for tiny elites, a Skinner box looks like a cozy fire and a cup of hot chocolate.

Count if you will the biases in my thinking. I'm choosing to go back to the studio. Or maybe a movie.


*Which is why, I think, in spite of its extraordinary power and potential, digital technologies have produced only a few impressive artworks - and these usually by traditionally trained artists. I was interested to hear the other day of big video game development school in Washington that doesn't let the students touch a computer for an entire year.

March 22, 2007

Okay, I hate global warming...

... and yes, I think oil companies are money grubbing bastards.

But you have to admire the sort of commercials the biggest profits in US history can buy you.

Radio Free Santa Cruz

Dr. X posts this from Freedom, California:

You can now stream all 2,850 might watts of KPIG to your desktop, free. I highly recommend it.

March 21, 2007

More Bong Hits

Ripped off from somewhere, maybe the Washington Post (the issue being, can a school official censor student speech off school grounds):

"So if the sign had been 'Bong Stinks for Jesus,' that would be ... a protected right?" asked Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"Suppose that this particular person had whispered to his next-door neighbor, 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus, heh, heh, heh,' " contributed Stephen Breyer.
"What if the sign said, 'Bong Hits Should be Legal'?" queried John Paul Stevens.
Anthony Kennedy got really psychedelic. "Suppose the banner said, 'Vote Republican'?"

The Surprise

Dr. X posts this from Le Havre:

"Behold Jack Aubrey's little terminator. One sweet ride, and armed to the teeth."

March 19, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

Sing it to the cloudy skies, brother, if you love your freedom.

This phrase was written on sign in a public event in Alaska by a high school senior. A to-do ensued.
This actually important Juneau free speech case pits an obviously too cool high school student against Ken Starr. Yes, Ken Starr, and it's going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pleasure and Progress

As a rule it was the pleasure haters that became unjust. -WH Auden

Allow me to pleasure myself by quoting me: the side that has the most fun tends to win.

Now I don't recall a presidential election when I was this pleased with the candidates. Even as someone who thought early on that John Kerry was the strongest candidate against Bush in 2004 (it is not to be forgotten that he was a stone's throw, or a day later or earlier of winning), I am thrilled to get beyond the Mondale/Dukakis/Kerry wing of dour, nagging, abstemious Democrats.

Complain all they want, one reason the Republic party hated Bill Clinton was that he was a stark reminder that people like big-hearted, back-slapping liberals more than rapacious, amoral businessmen and death-worshiping evangelical buzzkills. This principle interestingly enough, does not extend sufficiently to Senator Clinton. But boy wonder Edwards has grown up, Obama is a rock star, Bill Richardson is the teddy bear with (actually) the best resume, and Gore, peaking in popularity is the ringer in reserve.

Lesson: you can be as radical as you can be if you keep it fun, and more importantly, inviting. Americans want to be part of a great nation - and will generally RSVP when invited to come along. It was true of the New Deal, it will be true of global warming if we don't give in to despair.

I have a recommendation based on the minor earthquake that Comedy Central has been in the politics of the United States. Even if progressives can count a thousand gaping black holes of human suffering, and know that the doom of the species lurks around the corner of Hubris and Mine, our hearts must be light, our parties must welcome everyone (BYOB); the progressive and liberal movements must become the inflatable bouncy castle of democracy.

It's time to take advantage of a small but critical cultural shift, the reconquering of political comedy. First to go is the impression that progressives are surrounded with eggshells. This is a social: do not make people regret or fear talking to you.

Living inside the American progressive movement's skull is a scrawny, puritanical troll in a cordory sports jacket obsessed with self-denial as a path to purity, who beats on the inside of the skull with a hickory switch when ever he senses temptation. This troll resembles Ralph Nader.

Banish this troll to East Lansing, feeding it only vegan oat-bars.

Whosomeever wears the cape of Captain Buzzkill will lose the people in the long run, and for good reason. The hatred of pleasure - particularly in others- is the mark of an ideologue, and a potentially brutal one at that. It was why the anarchists and the communists were busying shooting each other when they should have been offing Franco's goons.

The feeling progessives should create for voters is the feeling of going to a dreadful office party that turns out to feature an introduction to your favorite movie's writer, your six best friends from college, and an impromptu ceiling rope performance expert all-girl retro-burlesque gymnasts on open bar night. There must be dancing. There must be responsibly excessive drinking. There must be smoking, at least in the parking lot, and only with American Spirit cigarettes.

If I can't dance, I don't want your revolution. -Emma Goldman

I'll take decadence over ideology any day. We are our best social and economic reformers when we embrace humanity rather than nag it, when love of human beings motivates us, not the dry, usually insufferable satisfaction of moral advantage.

(Not that we at Isengard.gov ever indulge in that sort of thing.)

This pans out in policy by concentrating on building humanity rather than correcting it. The CCC created brotherhood in desperate economic circumstances. The ill-conceived housing projects of the sixties were like writing a check to assuage guilt. We must choose social justice over disengaged policy. We must


Pleasure. Love it or leave it.

March 16, 2007

If the Shoe Fits

Dr. X posts this from an Internet cafe on that little island just outside the jurisdiction of Singapore:

"Interesting to watch China sit down and start to think about how property, corporatism, and freedom interact. I was always taught that capitalism and freedom go hand in hand, and this is a fundamental premise of libertarian conservatives like Milton Friedman as well as many liberal civil libertarians. It's nice to have rights, but it's a little easier to defend them if you can appeal to economic self interest to do so.

"But it's a little more complicated than that. This post from Macroblog offers several views, but this is the one that caught my eye, from Daron Acemoglu:

Many societies counted as "democratic" using standard measures are really
"dysfunctional democracies" where traditional elites dominate politics through
control of the party system, political influence, vote buying, intimidation and
even assassination...

So, why haven't democracies been more successful? I believe the answer lies in recognizing two things. First, there are different kinds of democracies. And second, it's important to consider that economic growth and democracy have a very different relationship over the long term -- that is for periods as long as 100 years -- than over the short or medium term.

... it's true that autocratic regimes can generate growth for certain periods of time by providing secure property rights and good business conditions to firms aligned with political powers. But modern capitalist growth requires not only secure property rights, but also creative destruction, that is, the entry of new firms with new ideas and technologies that replace the successful firms of the past. Creative destruction requires a level playing field, which democracies are better at providing because they have more equal distributions of political power than autocracies or monarchies.


"Anyway, back to Singapore - a few days ago Morgan Stanley analyst Andy Xie weighed in on this, writing that 'a strong government and a strong private sector cannot coexist - in Singapore it's all about the government taking intiatives'. He was, of course, fired immediately. And his boss has resigned suddenly."

March 15, 2007

Not Entirely Chillin' at the Motel Mush Inn


It says more about me than Anchorage that I get a slight flood of nostalgia when a crime becomes something peculiarly Alaskan, some particularly desperate and deluded combination of Elmore Leonard and Jack London that is, in a city with a rapid loss of characteristics, inescapably Anchoragian.

I ran into a woman here in Seattle a few months ago who was talking about how much she enjoyed the landscape on her short trip to Alaska, except she was utterly terrified of the motel she'd got on the Internet.

"I locked and bolted the door. We just hid in there all night. But it had these weird theme rooms," she said.

"Was it by any chance the Mush Inn Motel?" I asked. It was. The Mush Inn, that legend of violence, sex stings, and random shootings, is the Casablanca of Concrete St.

The Mush Inn is infamous, going back to the coke-crazy construction days of the Pipeline era. Year ago it cheerfully advertised the Africa Room, the Fantasy Room and other specialty theme rooms in those classic slide still ads on TV. It looked to my eleven year old self like a fun place. And it is, in the strict sense of too much fun.

The latest incident at the Mush Inn Motel finally got a significant public official to file a lawsuit.

Begich and Shell both suggested the motel might need to better screen its customers. The clerk said he already does, and pulled up computer files showing the names of people banned from renting rooms.

"I always put a reason why," he said of the blacklisted names.

One person who wasn't welcome back had taken the key and TV remote, the computer said. Another refused to pay the rent.

Another name on the list was Rodney Averill....

"08:18 AM Shot fired and someone died," read his file. "Do not re-rent ..."

Goodness. But the crime in question had a je ne se quoi, a deep Anchorageness, that sets it slightly apart from any number of American crimes. Blowing a grand on coke in a theme hotel room before losing a fight for your life is part of it, especially when the hotel has malamutes and/or leopard prints all over the walls. Perhaps the fact that such a depressing hotel next to the airport has theme rooms - and has been in business for decades - suggests a fantastic, utterly deluded optimism , or simply the fact that for a very long time, this deadly place to do naughty business was advertised on television.

The shooter got off: self-defense. And so ended Mr. Hubbard. Only Sammie the party girl knows the truth, but she disappeared. The appeal of this moment is that it is probably the end of Anchorage the frontier town, forever.

Averill said he didn't know Hubbard before that night.

According to the charging document, Averill and others were partying in a room at the motel. Over the course of the evening, Averill bought over $1,000 worth of cocaine, according to the charging document. A woman named "Sammie," later identified by police as Samantha Tuttle, 23, was with them.

Tuttle left for a while, then returned with Hubbard and another man. Hubbard accused Averill of taking Tuttle's wallet, the charging document said.

A witness told police that Hubbard kept trying to punch Averill, that they fell onto a bed and he heard a gunshot.

The lesson? If you're going to blow a grand on blow in Anchorage, pick a cement barn with less history.

March 13, 2007

Isengard.Gov in Cherokee

I believe, but am not certain, that my at least wikifamous quip in re: the hoi polloi, has been translated into Cherokee:

hia blog Isengard.gov waselvhi hia $100 PC aselvhi tsinusdi alenidohv nasginai awi agina ale hia hoi polloi. hia gedvi uwenvsv nahna wasesdi hia gotlvhisodi didolagi hia hilvsgi ikanetsa, "*nasgi unelagi itsula nanai Isengard.gov gvdisgvi hia agoi hilvsgi ikanetsa hoi polloi hawinaditlv s gotlvhisodi gadvgvi "hia tsutsataquu yvwi," utli gvyelvdi gvnawosgv hia nasgi nigesvna ale utli igai hoi-polloish gadvgvi "hia asquanigohisdi-," "hia galvquodisgv-alenidohv idigagoti," hia "agisgvi gigv-dvdadanilvgv tlanusi galitsododi unatseli usquoli nahna hia gasohi hia gatlisanv ugodidi," ale "hia diganotsali atsilvquodi!," nasgi nadvne nasgi nigesvna, hawinaditlv ale uwasaquu, adasehedi na itsula agilyoasdi smarty-gutlvvsgv. na anasgvti nasquv gotlvnv navi unatselidv unadotlvhi unvtanidasdi."[33]

The best part of this: "The Aristocrats!/hia diganotsali atsilvquodi!"

Finally, some New Yorker cartoons that actually made me laugh out loud.

Okay, so technically they're not exactly New Yorker cartoons, but one man's submissions to the New Yorker's cartoon caption contests.



Still, I do think he's on to something...

March 12, 2007

The Romance of Old Singapore

Dr. X posts this from the Fullerton:

"Wha a beautiful and wonderful place. Late Thursday night my wife and I were relaxing in the moonlight, sipping cool beverages and listening to a jazz trio explore the work of Nat King Cole. Nearby a monkey played at the edge of a reflection pool, while farther off a peacock could be heard rounding up his harem for the night.

"Gazing out over the palm trees I felt a profound sense of centredness, but also of loss.

" 'What are you thinking, dear?' asked Mrs. X.

" 'Well,' I replied, 'I was just thinking of the magnitude of the British military failure against the Japanese on the Malay Peninsula in 1942. We're accustomed to thinking of the Battle of Singapore as a discrete event, but it was really the culmination of a series of battles in which the British showed they had learned nothing from the events of the past two years. The Japanese, with inferior numbers but superior air power and mobility, forced the British steadily back, until finally, here, on this isolated island at the southern tip of Asia, they could retreat no further.

" 'And did they then turn and mount a heroic defense? Did they lure the Japanese, Stalingrad-like, into urban warfare, where their air superiorty and mobility could be neutralized? Did they deceive the enemy as the their whereabouts? Did they actively counterattack to throw the enemy off balance and slow their momentum?

" 'No, and Percival, meekly, went under a white flag, to the Ford Motor Factory, to capitulate. When he asked for a bit more time, Yamashita just stared at him in contempt. Percival did have the decency to go into captivity with his men. At that moment the wretched Lord Bennett was turning his command over to a brigadeer, and hopping on a boat for Australia.

" 'It is all forgotten now, darling, in the hubbub of the malls, the din of traffic, and the clamor of the stock exchange. The world rushes onward, and a wise man would let the memory fade.

" 'But here, in this place, is where the rottenness of the British Empire first showed for all the world to see. Quietly, slowly, imperceptibly, its elites had gone from hard men willing to sacrifice all, to ordinary men, the best acting like good civil servants, and the worst like cads. It must have been a sad moment for the Chinese here to see that it had all been a facade - when their worst enemies came calling, that this was the best account the British could give of themselves.'

"I cannot exactly recall her reaction to this, but let me add some additional thoughts. From that moment on, the leadership of the Chinese community in Singapore must have understood that they were on their own, come what may. Lee Kuan Yew is a hard man and has been much-mocked for this, but the soft men of his generation are all dead. It is much easier to understand him if you look at where he came from - a history of British colonization, Japanese military occupation and atrocities, and the fight against the communists in the 50s.

"Singapore is a strange place, but I think it is most interesting as a touchstone for conservative thought. You can tell pretty quickly what kind of conservative you are dealing with by how they react to Singapore. Thatcher loved it, despite the fact that it is the quintessential nanny state (85% of housing is built by the government). It is corporate, family-centered, and has less crime than virtually any other large city. Others, such as William Safire, have taken a different view, noting its dictatorial tendencies and brutal suppression of dissent.

"It is easy, being an American, to share Safire's views. I wish I could tell you it was a relief to come home. But stepping off the plane and meeting the black-uniformed security people, submitting to questioning about my holiday-making, going through the umpteenth inspection of my personal effect, I cannot say I felt any palpable lifting of the weight. It saddens me deeply to have to admit that."

March 11, 2007

Must Be Getting Too Tough to Find Underage Hookers (of Either Sex) in Houston

BBC NEWS | Halliburton plans move to Dubai

March 10, 2007

The Laird Recommends: Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

Really, a very very (very) good film.

The Lives of Others

Set in the East Germany of 1984, a methodical, perfectionist Stasi agent takes an assignment to detect betrayal on the part of a a True Red, patriotic playwrite. It's suspenseful and heart-wrenching, but also uplifting and (in a very dry way) hilarious.

It's worth noting that it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film this year, even thought the (multi-Oscar-winning) Pan's Labyrinth was also nominated.

Robot Brains Not Providing Customer Service?

Humans may be reached using the following call center strategies at the ambiguously-named gethuman.com.

March 09, 2007

Rudy "No Shame" Giuliani

Mystery Deepens About "Firefighters For Rudy" | TPMCafe

March 07, 2007

Today's infographic

Complete Hobo Names for the Isengard.Gov Editorial Staff

Dr. X: Popeye Van Clausewitz

The Laird: Billy Wets-Alleys

The Undersecretary: Spotty Mummybag Tom

The Sum of All Monkeys: Six-Smokes Larry, who always has six smokes (this in addition to previously established nomenclature)

The Viceroy: Gus Moonboots (of the Hamptons Moonboots )

The Corresponding Secretary: Toothy Sally Ozarks, who travels the South, sleeping in abandoned dentists' offices.

First Sea Lord: Skipper Pickles of the Arctic

The President in Exile: Furious Fists Winston

Popmonkey: One-Third-A-Shoe Jones

The Counselor: Amblin' Andy, The Handy-Dandy Folksinger

Dead Media

While reading about the brilliant Arabic scientist Al-Haitham, who laid the foundations of optics while under house arrest for failing to control the Nile in the 11th century, and may have influenced the development of perspective by Brunelleschi 400 years later, I stumbled on an ancient (1997!) post on dead forms of media. Here's a snippet...

DEAD OPTICAL NETWORKS

Roman light telegraph;
Polybius's torch telegraph ca 150 BC
Moundbuilder Indian signal mounds
Babylonian fire beacons
Fire signals on the Great Wall of China

Amontons' windmill signals (1690)

OPTICAL TELEGRAPHY:
Johannes Trithemius's Steganographia (ca 1500?)
Dupuis-Fortin optical telegraph (France 1788)
Chappe's "Synchronized System" and "Panel Telegraph"
(France 1793)
Claude Chappe's French Optical Telegraph (France 1793)
The Vigigraph (France 1794)
Edelcrantz's Swedish Optical Telegraph (1795)
British Admiralty Optical Telegraph (1795)
Bergstrasser's German Optical Telegraph (1786)
Chudy's Czech Optical Telegraph (the Fernschreibmaschine)
(1796)

As I bask in the breezy glow of my new Dell laptop, and think fondly of CP/M on the family's fancy Kaypro, I reflect on techn0-hubris, and consider the Apples of the Mall. They toil not, neither do they spin.

March 06, 2007

We Can Only Hope There Are No Moose in Iraq

"The moose would start to move, and then the helicopter would back off and try to keep the moose out in the open," Larsen said.

White bet the cow would head for open space. But close to losing consciousness, the moose did just the opposite.

"As the animal got closer and closer to going down, an animal sort of loses its thinking -- its ability to rationalize what's in its best interest," Larsen said. "Apparently at that point the moose ... decided to come toward the helicopter. As the moose came toward it, the pilot couldn't maneuver out of the way, and the moose ran into the tail rotor."

The chopper at this time was hovering, Larsen said. With the tail rotor damaged, the pilot was able to abruptly bring the craft down without causing greater damage, "which is not an easy thing to do," Larsen said.

March 05, 2007

We're on the new Blogger...

A trivial matter.

I just had to invite myself to the blog (under a different email), accept the invitation, create a new blogger account, hold off on upgrading the new user to a google account, sacrifice a virgin goat, log out, log on with my google account, give admin permissions to the new user, remove permissions from my google account, log out, log in as the new user, say "yes dammit, upgrade my blog!", do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about, merge the new account with my existing google account and...

Voila!

I don't understand why people feel the need to call tech support for computer problems. I mean really, what could be simpler?

March 03, 2007

Then It Got Weird(er)

Dr. X posts this from that place that sells those sandwiches at the airport:

"Newsome's latest screwup is brilliant, and one of the better no-win political situations I have ever seen. Newsome's options are:

"1) Flip-flop and denounce gay porn. This would work great, except, stay with me here, a lot of gay people live in San Francisco. If you'd like to be mayor of San Francisco, then you'd probably like to have some of those gay people support you. So if you denounce gay porn the question becomes 'what part of gay porn are you against? The porn part? Or the gay part?' Or, put another way, 'what are you trying to control, my sexual preference or my choice of entertainment?'

"2) Defend his actions and reiterate his support for gay porn. This would be principled and admirable, but 'Newsome Defends Gay Porn' is not the ideal headline. In any case it's very un-Kennedy-like, and Gavin tries to avoid doing things that are un-Kennedy-like.

"3) Pretend to be confused and uninvolved. Blame the process. Point out that your office does 2,000 of these things a year and you read none of them. This too, raises questions, such as: 'why do you do that?' and 'why did we elect you'?

"I'd be genuinely curious to know what our better-connected friends (especially our mayor friends) think Newsome should do. Not for the good of the party, of course, but for his own career."

Disappearing for a Week

Dr. X posts this from that place that sells noise-cancelling headphones at the airport:

"I'll be visiting a dictatorship where freedom of speech is restricted next week, so I may or may not attempt to post. See y'all when I get back."

Neutral my ass

Prince Hans-Adam II (Johannes Adam Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marko d'Aviano Pius von und zu Liechtenstein) was walking home last night after a particular lousy dinner party at the Annan's when he spotted foreign soldiers with slung rifles hurrying across the dark cobblestone streets of Vaduz.

Thus uncovered, the covert Swiss operation was thwarted and an elaborate denial campaign was embarked upon by the Zurich controlled MSM.

We must not be fooled. It is time to open our eyes to the Evil and Violent government in Zurich which hides underneath the umbrella of neutrality while plotting world domination.

March 02, 2007

Why I Never Wear My Superman Costume at the DMV

BBC - US woman crashes into test centre

March 01, 2007

We Also Collect Hobo Names

1. P. Winslet Sternobalm
2. Dollarless Dollarby
3. Tiffany Dumpsterroll
4. Shakey the Shakin' Shack Shackleford
5. Binkey Curb-Hitler
6. Anton "Triple-Face" McLaughlin
7. Gormless Gordon
8. Orion, Lord of the Fry-Hunt
9. Brimley "Spork" Witherspoon, estranged father of Reese Witherspoon.
10. Feckles.
11. Jukes the Tape Deck Nazi
12. "Bus-Stop" Gummy
13. Barbara Bush-Bait
14. "Tugboat" Anistazi
15. Ford Chevrolet, the Artificial Dichotomy of the Wrecking Yard
16. Brad Van Cokebottle
17. Angry Jay Mittens
18. Twince the Average
19. Hanky-Stick Ankles
20. Nicola the Inexpensive Wallingford Prostitute
21. Woodrow Stool Chucker
22. Sugar Beets Rollings
23. Barry Beige-Boxers
24. Magic-Marky Mark
25. Larry Walks-in-Traffic
26. The Turtleneck Jesus
27. Acheem, The Libyan Stone-Balancer
28. Wu Tube
29. Clitus Ziplocker
30. Stoned Phillips
31. Al "Absolut" Alki
32. "Shotgun Thighs" Sherry
33. The Secretary General of the Hobo Nations, Thermos-Thermos Gerry
34. Mitzi Gaynor
35. Whimsical Wendy, Mythical leaver of underwear in the woods
36. "Boxcar-Swede" Bjorn
37. Real Patrick, The Spongebob-Themed Tent Camper
38. Egregious Eggbert
39. Dull-Knife Elroy, of the seven fingers
41. Discount-Weed Trevor (Self-Titled)
42. Sal "Sobby" McVerysadpants
43. Trashbag Tuxedo Jones
44. Howard Sterno
45. Railway Rickles, the Insult Hobo
46. "Pizza-Cutter" Piazarelli
47. Jeff Koons
48. Harry Helpful
49. Larry Library-Stacks
50. Old Yeller

For extra fun, try reading through John Hodgman's original list, and see if I accidently repeated any Hobos. It would be entirely possible to check. Too much work for me.

51. Palmsey Sweatsocks
52. Morey The Eel
53. Klaus FortyBags
54. Steve Adorable
55. George Phillips-Head Will
56. Dangerous DougFeitman
57. Aggrieved Ashely
58. Pickles, the Comte Du North Bend
59. Railtagger Ray Hilton
60. Posse Electronicus, The NBC feature news crew
61. Snowy McDowell
62. Charles Hesistant
63. Brainy Brian
64. Spleeny Stephen
65. Fingers Fitzroy
66. Toesy Rose
67. Eric Elbows
68. Triceps Patty Ostler
69. Xiphoid Process Bill
70. Mary Magnum Lynn
71. Single-Malt Walt
72. Ungainly Gary
73. Gummy Beara
74. Karl Compuserve
75. Wireless Wiggams
76. Ho-Chi Meningitis
77. Michael Dukakis
78. "Wake-Up Cleveland" Grover
79. Open-Container Toshiko
80. Marthamble Miriam
81. Jimmy Three-Farts
82. Riley the Re-Re-Roofer
83. Terrence "Bad-Plaid" Withertoon
84. Muckles the Drag Regent
85. Informative Peter Post-It
86. Comb-Over Finklestein
87. Lugubrious Tom
88. Scrapies, McSweaty, and Beerstein, Hobos-At-Law
89. Stanley Steamer
90. Pius Pete the XIIth
91. Brian Buffalo-Wing
92 . Drumstick Daria
93. Harry Half-Biscuits
94. Charlie "Honey-Nuts" Cheerios
95. Antsy Adams
96. Donut-Hole Stephanopolis
97. Harold Hamshank
98. Childe Chickpea
99. Helen Kellogs
100. T-Bonaparte