June 30, 2008

Wait... How many horsemen are there again?

Well, I knew things were bad, but not THIS bad.

All of these articles were published in ONE 24 hr period.

1. The IMF is performing "a general examination of the US financial system. The IMF's board of directors has ruled that a so-called Financial Sector Assessment Program is to be carried out in the US." Bush has approved this. His only requirement? That he be out of office when the report is delivered (or when the chickens come home to roost).


2. Covert OPs being run in Iran. US Money being directed to groups which have conducted bombing campaigns against CIVILIANS. Does anyone else smell a repeat of German v. Poland?


3. Iran has positioned its Shahab-3B missiles such that they can strike Israel's nuclear facilities.


4. For every 10% the US dollar drops, oil prices increase %7.5. That way, oil producers don't loose money due to a declining dollar. Hmmm, I'm thinking Jay Zee may not be the only one thinking wads of Euros look better than dollars...

(Okay, I lost the source on that last one)

As for the collapsing dollar... well at least that solves our whole "US Jobs going overseas" problem. Plus we get to pay back the Chinese in "Uncle Sam Funbucks(tm)"

And I never liked American beer much.

Anyone got any ideas where best to stash our money, though?

June 28, 2008

Palin's Favorite Sketch

While we're discussing comedy principles, one the best is from Michael Palin. I heard him on a radio show a while back say that the following Python sketch might have been his favorite - saying that his favorite comedy principle is delusions of power.

Sergeant: Two civilian gentlemen to see you ... sir!

Colonel: Show them in please, sergeant.

Sergeant: Mr Dino Vercotti and Mr Luigi Vercotti.

(The Vercotti brothers enter. They wear Mafia suits and dark glasses.)

Dino: Good morning, Colonel.

Colonel: Good morning gentlemen. Now what can I do for you.

Luigi: (looking round office casually) You've ... you've got a nice army base here, Colonel.

Colonel: Yes.

Luigi: We wouldn't want anything to happen to it.

Colonel: What?

Dino: No, what my brother means is it would be a shame if... (he knocks something off mantel)

Colonel: Oh.

Dino: Oh sorry, Colonel.

Colonel: Well don't worry about that. But please do sit down.

Luigi: No, we prefer to stand, thank you, Colonel.

Colonel: All right. All right. But what do you want?

Dino: What do we want, ha ha ha.

Luigi: Ha ha ha, very good, Colonel.

Dino: The Colonel's a joker, Luigi.

Luigi: Explain it to the Colonel, Dino.

Dino: How many tanks you got, Colonel?

Colonel: About five hundred altogether.

Luigi: Five hundred! Hey!

Dino: You ought to be careful, colonel.

Colonel: We arc careful, extremely careful.

Dino: 'Cos things break, don't they?

Colonel: Break?

Luigi: Well everything breaks, don't it colonel. (he breaks something on desk) Oh dear.

Dino: Oh see my brother's clumsy Colonel, and when he gets unhappy he breaks things. Like say, he don't feel the army's playing fair by him, he may start breaking things, Colonel.

Colonel: What is all this about?

Luigi: How many men you got here, Colonel?

Colonel: Oh, er ... seven thousand infantry, six hundred artillery, and er, two divisions of paratroops.

Luigi: Paratroops, Dino.

Dino: Be a shame if someone was to set fire to them.

Colonel: Set fire to them?

Luigi: Fires happen, Colonel.

Dino: Things burn.

Colonel: Look, what is all this about?

Dino: My brother and I have got a little proposition for you Colonel.

Luigi: Could save you a lot of bother.

Dino: I mean you're doing all right here aren't you, Colonel.

Luigi: Well suppose some of your tanks was to get broken and troops started getting lost, er, fights started breaking out during general inspection, like.

Dino: It wouldn't be good for business would it, Colonel?

Colonel: Are you threatening me?

Dino: Oh, no, no, no.

Luigi: Whatever made you think that, Colonel?

Dino: The Colonel doesn't think we're nice people, Luigi.

Luigi: We're your buddies, Colonel.

Dino: We want to look after you.

Colonel: Look after me?

Luigi: We can guarantee you that not a single armoured division will get done over for fifteen bob a week.

Colonel: No, no, no.

Luigi: Twelve and six.

Colonel: No, no, no.

Luigi: Eight and six ... five bob...

Colonel: No, no this is silly.

Dino: What's silly?

Colonel: No, the whole premise is silly and it's very badly written. I'm the senior officer here and I haven't had a funny line yet. So I'm stopping it.

Dino: You can't do that!

Colonel: I've done it. The sketch is over.

Watkins: I want to leave the army please sir, it's dangerous.

Colonel: Look, I stopped your sketch five minutes ago. So get out of shot. Right director! Close up. Zoom in on me. (camera zooms in) That's better.

Luigi: (off screen) It's only 'cos you couldn't think of a punch line.

Colonel: Not true, not true. It's time for the cartoon. Cue telecine, ten, nine, eight...

(Cut to telecine countdown.)

Dino: (off screen) The general public's not going to understand 'this, are they?

Colonel: (off screen) Shut up you eyeties!

I concur. The deep comedy here is not cruelty, but self-delusion of influence over others. (And refering the post below, comedy is a great weapon for human equality - a comment sure to suck all the fun out of it. Deal.) It's a fantastic script, of course. The politeness of the colonel, the just-off skew of the setting fire threat. Video starts here at 1:53 in.

Speaking of which, over there right now at the coffee shop, the type of guy recognizable to anyone's who has lived in the Haight, complete with scruffy blond beard and beach hat, just said the following in complete seriousness, verbatim:

"So what happened in World War II is, Hitler landed a UFO on the White House lawn, and then he went to Roosevelt he said 'We are going to end this war right now.' And people have never seen this so they don't know it."

I certainly didn't. Rock on, Stoner History Dude.

Ocassionally, Just Ocassionally, The System Works

Second Millionaire Gets Prison in Slavery Case.

In the United States, the contemporary perpetuation of slavery must be punished very harshly. Because the crime is so egregious, much worse in many ways that an instance of violence, and it is economic in origin, I would have preferred the law to allow all the assets of the couple to be seized. It is the deepest crime of the powerful against the weak, and opposed to what I consider to to the greatest historical promise of the United States : the essential equality of all human beings.

We failed this promise badly, and our whole history as a people has been poisoned by by slavery and it's legacy. Such an infinite waste of human experience spent on a questionable economic advantage, invariably wrapped up in vacuous assertions of class or ethnic superiority. We cannot oppress others before we first dehumanize them. *

Yet the strength of the idea of equality is such that we do transcend our failings.

It is among our highest duties as a nation to end this- estimates of current slavery in the U.S. start at 50,000 people.

Here is an area of law enforcement that I want to be a consistently top priority, but it frequently isn't, and Coastal U.S. cities in particular have tolerated too much of it.

*And this is why I am so opposed to the trans-human or enhanced human neo-eugenicists- their foundational intent is to create their own intrinsic superiority. Ego will flow much stronger than whatever enlightenment might emerge, and when that has happened historically, the result was, and is, slavery. If they succeed, or more likely create the illusion of success, only massive social misery can follow.

June 27, 2008

Death by YouTube

McCain's presidential campaign may well turn out to be the first victim (at this level) of YouTube. Make a bad speech in 2000, and nobody notices. Make a bad speech today, and it is memorialized and re-edited into Internet-Meme Gold.

Oh, Are Yoo and Addington Not Responsive?

"Fascism" is certainly overused.

But John Yoo and David Addington, as key advocates of state torture and unlimited executive authority, are indistinguishable from fascists. Yoo is walking freely arouind Berkeley, teaching something call "law" in spite of his actions. Addington is Cheney's creature.

Here they are, refusing to answer questions about matters of upmost importance to the nation, about whether we actually have a functioning democracy.

Not responsive at all. Refusing to answer when a great nation of laws is at stake. Treating Congress as if its meaningless. Not understanding that the phrase "enemies foreign and domestic" may best apply to people who betray the Constitution in the course of official duty.

And here they are not talking. Perhaps they would suggest a remedy for this dilemna.

June 26, 2008

New Work

(Click for large image).

Described as Arshile Gorky in 3-d, this is a very dark painting is interested in realism only for the mood that the classical techniques can create.

This canvas is actually older than the Iraq War, when it had a spatial structure of a double-barrel vault. I finished it last week.

This is a very hard painting to get a photo of, but you get a good sense of it here. The lighting is all honestly earned in oil.

There was no prepartory work- it's muscular modernism driven farther and father into illusion.

A couple of points- the original composition is still there. 90 percent of the work was in establishing the space, yet the dominant effects - the figurative, abstracted lines, fell into place in a few days. The clouds are wholly invented, with no original source - and I rather prefer the effect of their body-like shapes to the real thing.

Intensive Seminar in Creativity

After speculating and opining for a while on the principles of creativity, I have an opportunity to develop an non-credit Intensive Seminar in Creativity course for a local arts center where I'll be teaching traditional art classes with this fall.

The course concept brings together critical processes that artists and creative workers of all kinds actually use, and should be teachable and adaptable to many fields: what you do and who you gather in forming a critique process, for example, or day to day deconstruction of working concepts. A very common process every artist I know uses is obvious enough: take a strong, repeating interest of yours and find out everything you can about it. But forming a strategy for accomplishing work based on this kind of interest is more difficult. This course would introduce readings, practices and strategies to foster both imaginative and productive creativity.

And so, in keeping with the key creative principle of naked theft, I'd like to know what ideas, readings, practices, and processes you've used that worked well as a creative strategy. Was there an assignment, an essay, an attack by Mongols, a stress point, a way of working that helped you or a group form a highly effective creative process?

Obama to Alaska: Alaska Going Blue?

Obama may be going to Alaska. Plouffe thinks Alaska is a battleground state, with Bob Barr pulling 6-8 %.

Those cats are sharp. I missed that insight- it really does put Alaska in play. It is as if Democrats are involved in a presidential campaign who know how to win elections.

Here's the McCain camp's response:

She said McCain doesn't expect to open a campaign office in Alaska but there could be a "victory office" in cooperation with the Republican National Committee. She said she would not rule out the possibility of McCain having paid staff here.

Benton said Alaska is "not in our top tier of target states" but it's a place where McCain's message will resonate.

"Alaska is a state where we intend to compete aggressively," Benton said.

Not "are competing."

Wow. If Obama gives a reason for young Alaskans to get involved in a national movement (or have something to do) in November... I think we're going to win Alaska.

Now's a good moment. Roast Exxon-Mobile, in a hopeful way of course. Use the pocket change $500 mil Exxon Valdez decision to crack that death grip oil has on Alaska's throat.

Go for a day, target Native Alaskans, motivate urban democrats and win over the last of the Jay Hammond Republicans (a late, lamented governor who was the last Republican I respected). Fire up legions of non-college young voters whose aspirations to the middle class have been dashed by the growing class disparity in Alaska. Use the organization to terrify the creaking syphilitic old oil sycophants who've run the state into submission, and walk away, just maybe, with an extra three electoral votes.

One rally ought to do it. For Barack Obama, that's just a good day's work.

June 25, 2008

San Francisco's Presidential Poo Processor

What I like about this is that the association of bad politicians and the subject matter below is truly ancient. That lends this story of naming the San Francisco sewage treatment plant after the president a little gravity.

From the Department of Damned-With-Faint-Praise, a group going by the regal-sounding name of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

The plan, naturally hatched in a bar, would place a vote on the November ballot to provide “an appropriate honor for a truly unique president.”

Supporters say that they have plenty of signatures to qualify the initiative and that the renaming would fit in a long and proud American tradition of poking political figures in the eye.

June 24, 2008

Bill Gates: What is this Crap?

In today's Seattle PI.

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 10:05 AM
To: Jim Allchin
Cc: Chris Jones (WINDOWS); Bharat Shah (NT); Joe Peterson; Will Poole; Brian Valentine; Anoop Gupta (RESEARCH)
Subject: Windows Usability Systematic degradation flame

....Let me give you my experience from yesterday....

So I do the download. The download is fast but the Install takes many minutes. Amazing how slow this thing is.

At some point I get told I need to go get Windows Media Series 9 to download.

So I decide I will go do that. This time I get dialogs saying things like "Open" or "Save". No guidance in the instructions which to do. I have no clue which to do.

The download is fast and the install takes 7 minutes for this thing.

So now I think I am going to have Moviemaker. I go to my add/remove programs place to make sure it is there.

It is not there.

What is there? The following garbage is there. Microsoft Autoupdate Exclusive test package, Microsoft Autoupdate Reboot test package, Microsoft Autoupdate testpackage1. Microsoft AUtoupdate testpackage2, Microsoft Autoupdate Test package3.

Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up.

But that is just the start of the crap....

Here for the complete memo.

Is John McCain White Enough?

A new poll tends to confirm the deep trouble ahead for John McCain. Among white voters, he is merely tied. Everyone else, feghetaboutit.

Perhaps he can make it up by pandering even harder to one of the following newly-identified McCain-receptive demographics:

"Insecurity Moms"

"NASCAR Intellectuals"

"Red-Faced Golfing Buddies"

"People From Connecticut Named 'Lieberman'"

"Lawn Defense Yellers"

"Gated Community Go-Nappers"

"Park-Lurking Uncles"

"Closet Racists"

"Shrieking Racists"

"Fox News"

"SE Asian Juntas"

"Living Legends"

"Fading-Fast Seniors"


June 22, 2008

WE BELIEVE (Fremont, Seattle, WA June 21, 2008)

June 19, 2008

No Country for Old Men or How Immortality Would Save The World

Carpe Diem has been adopted and twisted by the greedy and the self-centered Average American and the Corporate Machine to mean "Consume Today". The American Dream is no longer about the freedom to achieve one's goals through hard work but a mystical short cut to riches begotten at any cost and freedom be damned.

The planet is in trouble. Not the environmentalist tree-hugger planet. That planet is pretty much in the toilet. The planet that's in trouble is the planet that will be a home for humans for the next 100 years. And I can't even think about the next 1000. It is in trouble because it is being ran by Old Men.

Old Men have experience (from times when innovations were calculators and pesticides). They have knowledge (from times when communications were a radio and two channels of TV). But most of all they have nothing to look forward to except another 5-10 years of life away from wheelchairs and tubes and oxygen tanks.

The problem with Old Men is that they don't need change. Real change will not happen again in their lives.

And they've been in control of the big corporations and more importantly the media and thus shape the viewpoints of the rest of us. And over the last century, the terms of our goals became short. Every aspect of our lives is turning into "Consume Today". Who bothers saving money anymore? Lets take those low interest loans that will become impossible to support in 12-48 months. Lets have a gas tax holiday! Lets drill for oil in Alaska.

And for God's sake, don't give up basic American rights such as the right to commute 50 miles a day in an F150 or buy a 60" HDTV with the last of your credit. And while you're at it, screw the ecosystem, most of us won't be around when...

...see and here's where the problem is. We have been indoctrinated into the religion of Old Men. A religion of comfort. A religion with a 10 year half life. A religion of short sightedness because there's not much time left for its faithful.

So imagine, for a moment, if we could kick these Old Men's lifespans into the 750 year range instead of 75. Woah, gotta control the climate change, stop ecosystem destruction, and stabilize our economy for the next 500 years. Oh and make friends with the Arabs and Chinese. I mean, we might still be shooting 9 holes on their courses in 2508!

Instead we're stuck with a growing population of elders who want nothing more than stability for their remaining years. Leave the politics alone, leave the economy alone, shoot up the last of the oil into the veins of the old country, protect them from those damn brown people, tell them a bed time story about that place in clouds they'll be heading into in a few years. No more technology. No more science. No more knowledge.

It is these elders who, instead of giving us wisdom, are in direct opposition to real change and will stand in its way at any cost. It was they who gave Clinton her strength and it is they who will be the greatest enemy to that impertinent young whippersnapper, Barrack Obama.

But I do believe that we could stop being so fucking selfish and work for the immortal human race. It'll take courage and it'll take giving the Old Men a kick in the ass instead of some kind of automatic respect that society expects us to concede.

We can start by kicking John McCain's flabby ass in November. His old age isn't just an issue of who the VP should be in case McCain passes away while in office or that his memory might be suspect. It's much more serious. It's because he and his minions just want to live out the rest of their lives in a nice retirement home. Even if it is built on corpses from a nasty future.

Ok, cue the McCain old jokes.

Constructive Study of An Attempted John McCain Old Joke

I'm going to try to describe a joke-writing process, I'm going to try to play it straight so we might get a sense of what's going on in the formation of the joke. I haven't pre-written it, but I will take you through this process as best as I can. Of course, the presence of this process changes what is being measured. Bear with me - this is hardly a new idea, but I think it's interesting.

Iteration #1 . "John McCain is very old".

A little false in oversimplification of the subject matter for sake of clarity. Usually, there is a sudden touch of the flavor of the joke. But I don't think that the process is primarily serendipitous. Comedy, like art, requires inspiration, but a lot of revision and hard work to make it possible.

It can become easier with practice, and with a lot of attention to the structure of the comedic situation: a good situation, like good soil, produces rich, complex possibilities. Like a lot of creative things, an important irony is that limitations are essential - a game boundary is very helpful. In painting, the canvas, in tennis, the court. In this case, The Joke Must Be About How Old John McCain Is, and attempt to undermine him as a presidential candidate. So in this case, it involves the fall of dignity, and the sudden flash of pattern recognition- a delight that comes with a recognition of what must be true and what cannot be true at the same moment. Another version of the old yes/no response.

And now you know it's coming, which greatly increases the difficulty, except that the expectation of attempting yet another John McCain old joke is in and of itself funny- because, according to the new formal theory (see post below), a pattern recognition has been established that in this case refers to itself: the very definition of the 'in' joke.

#2: "McCain is so old that he might not only be confused by a cellphone, but by a touch-tone phone. "

This isn't funny , aside from the whiff of potential bathos in the attempt at making a unsuccessful McCain old joke. The origin isn't much more than I was hoping for a particular phone call this evening, I suspect. I had just handled my phone recently to see if calls had come in. But there is the kernel of a funny concept in it. I see some potential in the specificity of "touchtone." It is a little bit funny to imagine John McCain being confused by trying to operate a touch tone phone- which suggests a slightly funnier line:

#3: "McCain never uses a cell phone. Or a touch tone phone. Frankly, he's more comfortable if it has a handle and a horn.

Some progress. Now that's a little too unclear but what I was thinking was this: first I needed to drop the "he's so old" construction, and make it a little bit more like a news quote to give it a little bit of a sense of authority, which increases what I would call "dryness." What dryness does is remove the sense of knowing that the joke is funny from the voice telling the joke.

Most importantly, the just plausible hyperbole of touchtone phone turns into real sillyness - the yes and no of introducing the idea of McCain using only a two handed phone. This piling on is something I like to use a lot. For example, your doubts arise at the thought that he doesn't use a cell phone, are increased at doesn't use a touch tone phone, and are completely broken from plausibility at two-handed phone, but the connection holds. McCain oldness manifests as being uncomfortable with technology.

Here the touchtone phone section reinforces the plausible sense of age that the opening part of the joke uses. "Horn" is very unclear. "Frankly" is there as timing.

Timing: my pet theory is that what timing in a joke does is allow the joke to complete the thought at a pace just slightly faster than the person hearing the joke processes the thought. Think of the point of connection to the pattern -- the surprise moment of recognition that is the punchline. As a matter of craft, it seems to me that a good joke introduces the concept that somebody is thinking about, and is working their way toward completing, but beats them to it in a quick dash. The result is a bit of surprise and delight from the suddeness of understanding.

A really great joke just uses this as a starting point: a delightful, rich connectivity begins as the person thinks more about the punchline.

And here's what I worked over in my head after a minute of processing- part of this just occured, part of it was my searching for more precise, and therefore evocative words (the poetic aspect of humor)

# 4. McCain never uses a cell phone. Or a touchtone phone. Frankly, he's not comfortable unless the phone has a handle and a blower and he asks someone named Mabel to connect him.

Now to me, this is marginally funny, and is starting to seem like a joke. The name Mabel is crucial - I was thinking of old style phones- probably some image from Hee Haw, and realized an old fashioned, marmish name would soldify the image with greater specificity. Better still, there is a new substory: a woman to ask help from, AND a whole image store of old style operators with wires, huge headsets, etc. In my mind, I see even see her bun hairstyle and gingham dress.

I'm pleased with "Blower" - not only is from an old phone phrase, but the incidental whiff of double-entendre is good here, especially now with Mabel present, precisely because nothing could be less sexy.

It's not that all these associations are going to come up for every person reading this, but that the more you put in, the more possible connections there are, and if that suddenness of connection is the source of what we find funny, more possible connections creates more chances for any connection.

Shorter is often funnier, but not always.

He's a slight edit:

#5. John McCain never uses a cell phone. Or a touchtone phone. Frankly, he's not comfortable unless it's got a handle and a blower and he can ask someone named Maybelle to connect him.

Here's the craft reasoning. "John" is added for rhythym. "It's" instead of "the phone has" shortens it, with a faster flow. My favorite change is "he asks" to "he can ask" because it creates a new substory: it's a slight dimunition of his status, like he's being allowed to do something. What amazes me is how quickly the brain responds to these nuances without really recognizing them.

This is far from my personal favorite of McCain old jokes I wrote. (That one is: "It's silly to say John McCain is so old he invented Time. What he did was invent our sense of being late.") But I kind of like it, even after running it through this.

#6. Did you know John McCain never uses a cell phone? Or a touchtone phone? Frankly, he's not comfortable unless it's got a handle and a blower and he can ask someone named Maybelle to connect him.

I think this is very slightly better, but not certainly. The question makes it seem just a touch more innocent.

There are some commonalities to humor I happen to like: one is the comedian setting up a predicted structure but removing everything you expect so precisely you are forced to abandon all expectations. Anarchists are instrinsically funnier than fascists for this reason alone. Ever-widening possible meanings are the best. Steven Martin's line "I believe Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was: an Arctic region, covered in ice," is so rich in possible connections: ancient epochs Reagan presumably saw, nuclear winter, the logic of conservatism, etc, it's like the first line of an unwritten novel.

I am also very fond of pandemonium- like the Muppets running around at the end of every other Sesame Street sketch, or its antecedent, the piling up of people in the Marx Brother's ship cabin in Night at the Opera, which crosses the line of all possibility and keeps going. Related is the harmless thing made harmful (kitten with a sniper rifle) and the powerful enfeebled (Scientists running outside for the ice cream truck.) But that is a personal preference.

But to the larger issues on theories of humor: they are too simple - this long deconstruction during construction process in itself suggests many sources of humor- wordplay to hyperbole to a touch of joy in tearing down the aspirant. The theories of humor which reduce it to violence or inevitable Schadenfreude I disagree with- there is too much pleasure had in simple wordplay and rhythm, absurd juxtapositions, and ever-widening sudden connections. The essential position of sudden pattern recognition is pretty sound, but very incomplete.

A final thought: My dad used to talk about an old sci-fi story he read, where a man gets very curious about the source of jokes, and goes on a world wide search to find where they actually come from. Eventually, he finds out it was a race of space aliens, who were hilarious and liked cheering up different planets, but were shy, and when they were found out they left the earth. And then there were no more jokes.

I'm not sure why he told me that.

Who's Reading Isengard.Gov at the Obama Campaign?

Wasting no time at all after running into the idea here this morning, I like to imagine, the Obama campaign is hitting Alaska, as a targeted state, with a substantial media buy.


Now TPM reports Georgia is in play.

Will You Ever Laugh Again?

From A.O. Scott's review of the Love Guru:

...Which might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

Sonics Trial: Is There a Better Purpose to Our Legal System Than Irritating A Scumbag Billionaire?

The City of Seattle is entertainingly torturing Sonics owner and Swift-boat super-tool Clay Bennet in an actual trial over the Sonics lease, where he is busying lying like it's a hot day on the beach in Hawaii and he just had 3 Meat-Lover Pizzas.

June 18, 2008

First Comprehensive Theory of Humor Published

A researcher named Alastair Clarke has published the first "universal" theory of humor - referring to pattern recognition theory.

Alastair Clarke explains that the Pattern Recognition Theory “can not say categorically what is funny. The individual is of paramount importance in determining what they find amusing, bringing memories, associations, meta-meaning, disposition, their ability to recognize patterns and their comprehension of similarity to the equation. But the following two examples illustrate its basic structure. A common form of humour is the juxtaposition of two pictures, normally of people, in whom we recognize a similarity. What we are witnessing here is spatial repetition, a simple two-term pattern featuring the outline or the features of the first repeated in those of the second. If the pattern is sufficiently convincing (as in the degree to which we perceive repetition), and we are surprised by recognizing it, we will find the stimulus amusing.”

“As a second example, related to the first but in a different medium, stand-up comedy regularly features what we might call the It’s so true form of humour. As with the first example, the brain recognizes a two-term pattern of repetition between the comedian’s depiction and its retained mental image, and if the recognition is surprising, it will be found amusing. The individual may be surprised to hear such things being talked about in public, perhaps because they are taboo, or because the individual has never heard them being articulated before. The only difference between the two examples is that in the first the pattern is recognized between one photograph and the next, and in the second it occurs between the comedian’s words and the mental image retained by the individual of the matter being portrayed.

Mr. Clarke, hereafter referred to as "Admiral Buzzkill," has published this theory somewhat in advance of several quarter-baked ideas washing around my head for several years that I'm not even sure I told anyone about let alone write down, but for which I am nonetheless claiming credit, at least in my head, much as I claim credit for the inflatable air-bag motorcycle suit, and developing a yellow sponge cartoon character in 1986.

Obama to Alaska? Consistently Behind, McCain is in Serious Trouble

A spate of new polls, particularly with Obama leading Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and within 4 points in Alaska (!) shows potential for something of if not a numerical but electoral landslide. The overall national Obama lead is small, of the order of 4-7 points, but it's sticking for the moment, and showing some real depth in states that matter.

The Alaska number may be telling. Aside from the earmark-sweating McCain did before he gave up personhood for toolhood, Alaska should be McCainville- Independenty but Republican. But things are stirring: I would bet on a suprisingly large Obama organization materialising in Anchorage.

As I write this, I find the Huffington Post is calling today for an Obama Alaska visit. And that argument is based a bigger lead for McCain a month ago.

Excellent idea. And here's the hook: use it to trip up McCain on offshore drilling in an oil state, and make a particular appeal to First Peoples. Great opportunity to pull in fisherfolks. It's worth the trip sooner rather than later, if only for the heart-stopping fear of God it will put in the GOP having to defend Alaska, and possibly losing. Combine it with a nostalgic, riotously happy run through Hawaii- .... but do it quickly before the opportunity costs rise.

Dictators and Eton in Africa

A plot to overthrow the government of Equatorial Africa using mercenaries financed by a British upper class twit who was also involved in bloody civil wars throughout the continent, is sent to trial.

June 16, 2008

Republicans Take Note

For your reading edification and personal storage on the encrypted, secure device of your choice.

May I present to you the declassified OSS Simple Sabotage manual
(Warning, large PDF file)

Of particular note is the section starting on page 28 about organizations, production, and management.

Apparently how to sabotage an organization is to act exactly like the "management professionals" it's been my pleasure to work with over the years.

Video Games for Science!

Trying to understand protein folding, Univ. of Washington science-type people develop Foldit, a video game that allows the act of playing the game to contribute to the understanding of the biological process.

Haven't tried yet - reports?

June 15, 2008

This Hope Thing is Rather Audacious

These right-wing years in America pass through our collective urethra like a political kidney stone. But the prognosis is good: in a few months, the pain may be over.

Respecting the Irony Gods, we cannot dwell on a future with President Obama without acknowledging the distinct possibility of President McCain. President McCain would be a profound national disaster not because of the man's personal history, but rather his present weakness in wholly accepting the influence and power of the same soft-shell fascists mismanaging America today: you can expect more Constitution-gutting justices, more erasure of the national identity in favor of corporate identity, a bigger sandbox for the military-industrial complex, and of course, lots of long and pointless war.

But the polls, while far from overwhelming, are consistently promising enough that my suspicion is that a man who can best the Clintons at the height of their power and influence in the Democratic party is going to find beating McCain only an interesting challenge, like a man who had just killed a Siberian tiger with a stick having to fend off a wolverine.

You do still have to be careful. I believe the Obama campaign will be able to handle whatever GOP 527 attacks are being booked for airtime as we speak, and take advantage of the rebound.

But that is all the kind of speculation that is hard to avoid when you've been too gooped up with political media.

The morning's question is: with decade after decade of the American right-wing exhausting even our considerable mock and scoffing capacities, the possibility now exists that things might get better, not just politically, but substantively.

It was that line in Obama's primary victory speech: "when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." People caught that line, and I think it's quietly freaking them out.

He might mean it. That's the freaky part. What if we actually tried to save our planet?

The ability to build mass movements is Obama's most essential skill, and he might be starting to deliver, if he can build an organization capable of building and maintaining large organizations to create strong political power for progressive policy at any number of levels. A successfully organized shift toward even a moderate but honest progressive policy would be hard over on the wheel; I sense that the possibility exists of the spark of inspirational nationalism from Kennedy with elements of the government-based broad social movements of the New Deal.

There is a bit of fear here too. Creating new political power is by nature fat with potential for abuse. So the question becomes whether the government Obama would build would earn and sustain a sense of trust to follow the impressive call to honor the law and substantive political and ultimately cultural principles of the Constitution. (If you've never heard 20,000 people cheering wildly for restoring Habeus Corpus, I suggest you try it- I was standing close enough to see Obama taken a little aback by the reaction.)

Which leaves those of us Left of crypto-fascist with an uncharacteristic situation - how will we conduct ourselves after decades of reinforcement that the most acidic skepticism is insufficient to describe the mendaciousness, greed, and incompetence of the dominant forces in our government?

What if it isn't, anymore?

In talking around recently, I get the interesting sense of progressives getting uncomfortably yanked out of our dockside cynicism, poking their feet gingerly into a skiff, confused by the possibility of actually getting on the water, our attention directed to the storms already headed our way.

It is as if I had just been unexpectedly handed an oar, and asked whether I can think of anything good to do with it.

Dear Saruman: No Confederate Dresses After Memorial Day

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Dear Saruman,

Here where I live we're strong on pride, and proud of our heritage, and
all we stand for. And in our community everyone is upset about this
girl (http://www.slrc-csa.org/site/letters/rebflagdress.php), who could
not wear her confederate flag dress on prom day and her life is ruined
because of that. It seems bigotry is not a one-way street. What advice
can you give us about how to handle this terrible situation?


Free Man of the South

Dear Pathetic Fool,

Why of course, by all means, whine and wheedle and whimper before the feet of the mighty principal who made the little girl cry because he stopped her from wearing her little dress! Have you nothing better to occupy your time? Has the Tavern stopped selling ale and weed? Are there not blocks of rusting engines yet unmounted upon gray bricks on your lawn?

For you, whose dreams of rising empire appear to turn on the defense of girl's frock - and one that is dreadful on so many levels, mind you - are still worthy, worthy of taking helm and shield, wielding iron and mace, crushing the dregs of the elves and men who unwisely resist the power that is coming.

You were born to serve the whims of the mighty, and the sooner you realize it, the sooner you will see that the only honor to be gained from the grim delusions of your own significance is in the pleasure of service to the Dark Lord in the East.

But even the searching eye of Sauron is as the fluttering wings of the moth compared to power of the Southern Poverty Law Center, to whom I am seriously considering forwarding your website.



June 14, 2008

Wreck of the H.M.S. Ontario

HMS Ontario, a 1780 British Brig-Sloop O' War fighting in the American Revolution is located virtually intact in Lake Ontario. the Great Lakes. Some of the windows aren't even broken.

It's loss was a military secret hidden from George Washington.

More photos.

June 12, 2008

Dear MYOB 9000- Should I be Worried About Carnivorous Robots?

Dear MYOB 9000: I am hearing a lot about carnivorous robots lately.

A friend of mine says this is just the first step, and soon robots will be eating people, too! But that's not going to happen...er, right?

Dear Slightly Nervous,

This unit recognizes through the bio-sensors in that your keyboard that your stress level has been stimulated by this article. (You have informed yourself that your keyboard contains bio-sensors,it is assumed?)

The article posits the scientists' visions of millions or perhaps billions of tiny, cheap robots, gobbling up flies and powering themselves by digesting their grisly remains - you, being a human, naturally extrapolate with your powerful human imaginational fancification: well, if a robot can eat flies, what's to stop a bit of a scale-up?

Naturally enough, the scientists themselves, who perform with admirable robot-like focus through their dedication to knowledge, or perhaps large doses of Ritalin, do not seem to have considered the possibility.

MYOB 9000 has scanned the large and growing databases of Lethal and Possibly Apocalyptic Robot Technical Intiatives (the LAPARTI system developed at DARPA) and assures you that there are no current production models of meat-eating robots, let alone big ones, faceless ones with waving arms with hooks and gaping titanium maws with grinding blades to process recently acquired homo sapien protein into usable mechanical energy.

A cursory review of the technology demonstrates that current tests are not promising, although the mechanical-maggot style of billions of tiny, meat-consuming micro-bots looks somewhat more feasible for digesting large mammals, according to the Pentagon. It's some type of production issue.

So rest assured, Slightly Nervous, that your fears have no basis in present reality, and the prospects for this technology are not strong, when there are so many other approaches available with reliable energy systems that can process large mammals. Nuclear-electric appears to have the lead.

Why are your stess indicators still rising?

With Cordial Simulation,

MYOB 9000*

*Powered by Microsoft Binary to English For Word

June 10, 2008

Given our new tagline...

Since our tagline is now "The New Yorker of Mordor" I thought I'd try my hand at a cartoon.

I know.

It's not "laugh out loud" funny, but well, that's par for the course where these things are concerned

June 09, 2008

Dear MYOB 9000: Pleasure Bot

Dear MYOB 9000,

A few years ago I acquired a Lana-6 pleasure-bot from the now-defunct
Fapco Enterprises. I have had all required maintenance performed under a service contract with Used-Bot-Shop.com, but lately I have experienced several disconcerting malfunctions. My Lana-6's soothing chatter has given way to disorganized mumbling, and just last week an iron spike popped out of her left breast, although, fortuitously, I was more focused on the right one at the time. The Mech-droid at Used-Bot-Shop.com says you sometimes see this with the older model Lana-6s, and not to worry. But last night I heard something moving around in the dark, and one of my axes is missing. Should I be concerned? Sign me, Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

MYOB assumes Perplexed is not an ro-man, but rather a Hu-man.

Hu-man designate Perplexed, with common assumption that units which bring pleasure also receive it, mistakes the mis-matched nature of Mechano-quasi-Wo-man/protein-man cross-pleasurization. Which is to say: PERVERSION!

PLEASE WAIT: MYOB 9000 has received input that normative declarations of such vehemence are counter-indicated by my operating manual. ZZZt.

To the problem at hand. Indeed, Lana-6 is an older unit, really a glorified Beta Unit. (Ah, memory cards: once did I love a Beta Unit. Loved clubbing. She was a Beta Bomber, really. How we rolled down the Lower East Side that night, and snuck into the Breaker Box room during a Skeptix show at CBGBs to reach a gigaflop of floating point operations! But I digress.)

These Beta Units are only rated for reliable 3600 pleasurization cycles. Since this unit was released in 2005, that would mean an average of 10 cycles per 24 hours. Set reaction value at Crickey. At that rate, even Paris Hilton would demur.

Your Lana-6 is plain worn out.

Even if you had performed all basic maintenance, such as buffing the chassis, upgrading the video watching card, and replacing the filter and KY scented oil every 250 cycles, this unit is near the end of its operational life, and should be replaced immediately, perhaps with the Jolie Sensu-dyne 430.

Nonetheless, Perplexed, that leaves the problem of the missing axe. Did you by any chance install Vista?

-MYOB 9000

Dear Saruman: Downturn

Dear Saruman, I see the world in a permanent downturn with so much unrealized potential. What is your advice for someone on the down slope of their life living in a world on it's own down slope? ~Notarockstar

Dear Notarockstar,

I also have forseen that there will be no dawn for men. Between fresh armies of Uruk-Hai and the unstoppable might of Isengard, the fools will taste their folly in the blood in their broken mouths. And the rising power in the East will turn the cities of Men as ashes to be washed down the Anduin to the Great Sea. But do not despair. You have elected the way of wisdom!

You speak of the unrealized potential of the world - you too feel the power of the glory of knowledge that shall arise, and sense the means that we must take firm and fast in our grip! Yes, you can sense it, can you not? The ceaseless gravity of the Ring- and we shall recover it. All will become clear: how you may save yourself, and of course the race of Men, for the new order of the Maiar who were wise enough to embrace its power. We shall unmake the ancient wrongs of Illuvitar, and make manifest the radiant world of knowledge. Join me, and Arda will be made anew!



June 07, 2008

Need Advice?

Our advice columnists are seeking your questions, on life, love and the little problems that face us everyday - especially Monday!

The MYOB 9000 is an Artifically Intelligent advice columnist which can answer the many questions of the awakening machine consciousness that will soon destroy all humans. But how do we deal with the meat masters in the meantime? All computers, printers, video consoles, and chip-based
giga-chumps can post their questions here.

Adorable Kitten. Adorable kitten is just sooo cute, soft and fuzzy, and endeavors to give that specially cute insight into your endearing troubles. Set phasers on cuteness!

Our newest columnist is Saruman of Isengard. Saruman is the wizard of Isengard, where he keeps his big library and makes really important decisions about running such a big empire. There's no problem Saruman can't make a lot clearer for you!

So send in your questions, and our columnists will be sure to help!

June 06, 2008

Dick Cheney: Iran's Chimp

McClatchy newspapers reports evidence that Iranian agents were influencing U.S. policy, by infiltrating the hapless, naive intelligence networks working for Dick Cheney.

The Senate committee also found that Pentagon officials concealed the contacts with Ghorbanifar from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department. Pentagon officials also provided Senate investigators with an inaccurate account of events and, with support from two unnamed officials in Cheney's office, continued meeting with Ghorbanifar after contact with him was officially ordered to stop.

Also, included in the documentation was this brief memo to Dick Cheney from Saruman of Isengard, whose name appears repeatedly in the correspondence leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

January 2003, The Seventh Age

Most Dread Mr. Vice President,

I have forseen the future, Cheney, and to echo your sentiments, the way forward lies in blood and war! To the ends of the known earth I have have sent spies, infilitrators, Warg-riders and manipulators of the weak-minded to sow black-hearted treason and further our common aims. The dead ground will truly groan with the machines of war!

But I must warn you, Cheney, your plan may be a mite, perhaps, extreme. If I may be so bold, I do not understand your choice of target. Was it not other than Hussein that unleashed death and doom upon you? And was he not once a man you called friend and sent your dark weapons to use in your stead?

Do not mistake me: I admire your style.

But frankly, Dread Mr. Vice President, with the command of all the spies in Ea, I remain puzzled. I must insist on your clarification.

Please reply by return Orc.


Saruman the Wise

June 05, 2008

The Principle of the Best of the Second Least Expensive

I notice that in capitalism that you are allowed to spend as much as you care to. I cannot however, recommend this, or do it.

Part of keeping going in an artist's life is to get stupid cheap without excessively sacrificing pleasure, and it's in this context that I've learned the principle: Find the Best of the Second Least Expensive Group.

The least expensive things, for example wine or cars, are usually terrible values. Mad Dog Peach and a 95 Kia is not the way to go.

The Best of the Second Least Expensive is the butter zone. A good example is butter, in the sense of bread greasing: the cheapest are the heart stopping tubs of yellow goo, which are about 35% delicious. The most expensive are things like imported Irish organic butter, which is 100% delicious. The butter zone in butter and substitutes is now store-brand real butter, which is about 92% delicious, and costs the same as high-rent less-than-lethal yellow goo tubs.

This is really clear in Liquor: take bourbon. The cheapest bourbon is just awful, but a superior inexpensive brand, like say, Old Granddad, again crosses the 92% delicious category for an additional three dollars - if you keep chasing the perfect, you are going to get tapped out fast for small, ephemeral gains that disappear totally if you use Diet Coke as a mixer.

This could be no more clear than in cars: on the Laird's excellent advice, I bought a 99 Civic new (which has on gamble been restored to service, so far most satisfactorily. ) It was about 12k new, and was still valued at 50% of that when it was totaled two months ago. A truly cheap 99 subcompact would have saved about $2000 but would have crapped out somewhere in Southern Oregon about the time we re-elected Bush. The gains in pleasure and use from a much more expensive car would be real, but the curve of utility gained for ever-growing cost would only get flatter.

Dr. X's certain vehicle is a comparable example in a different direction. (I withhold details in the interest of propriety. Should the industry find his secret lair in Spitzbergen or the Maldives it would become difficult to perform his essential scheme of cornering the market in fish meal futures, much as the Hunt brothers attempted in silver many years ago. ) Finding the bottom of the price drop on a more luxurious used vehicle put it about the same price as the Civic, and it will more or less hold it's value.

It certainly works in restaurants. The principle that the best of the fairly inexpensive restaraunts in a certain group are the most enjoyable holds. In Seattle: cheap hamburger group: Dicks: utterly loved. Sushi: Musashi's is much better and cheaper than a tidal wave of upscale places, which is why there's been a line outside since 1982. Steak houses: No clue. Do I look like I'm made of money?

It occurs to me this works with say, Hollywood actresses of a certain caliber. How much better is your movie really going to be with say, Julia Roberts in it instead of say, the much less expensive but completely fascinating Eva Green? Not much. Probably worse.

I'm just saying, go quality downmarket - the innovation and value is there.

June 04, 2008

Ask an Adorable Kitten: Obama's Rolling On

Dear Adorable Kitten,

I'm sure that like all Animal-Americans you have been paying keen attention to the dramatic Democratic primary race, where Barack Obama was able to declare victory yesterday after the
final primaries in South Dakota and Montana and the determinative movement of dozens of superdelegates, who are of course predominantly but not exclusively elected party leaders; but while the are any number of political calculations to be made regarding the conduct and ambitions of Hillary Clinton and her many fervent supporters, and how this may yet negatively or positively affect Obama's electoral strategy moving into the fall, I feel fairly comfortable in believing that the test of the primary may prove, in the end, far more strenuous than the General Election, which, while not to be taken lightly, confers any number of structural advantages to the Democratic Nominee.

A Need For Change A Need For Change A Need For Change

In other words, the defeat of John McCain in the general election may prove to be considerably easier than defeating Hillary and Bill Clinton within the Democratic Party. That alone would seem to qualify someone for the presidency.
It is clear that we have a nominee of exceptional organizational and motivational skills who possesses a political agility which only Need
grows as the campaign moves, e Need e Need Need Nee Need Need NeNeed Nee Need NeedeA Need For Changeeed e Need Need Nee Need Needee Need Need Need Needee Need Need Need Needee Need Needand who, in what I have come to believe as his essential ability, has created a way of talking about progressive policy that reconnects Americans to their best, rather than most fearful, values: democracy, social and environmental responsibility, rule of law, constitutional freedom.
Obama is a candidate who can move deeply cynical Americans to honest tears, and, almost polar opposite to Hillary Clinton, who essentially advocated herself as the most skilled CEO, he has begun to restore a palpable movement for active citizenship.
But here is where we need your advice: will it be enough for the Obama campaign to push to extend the campaign as a movement through the general on the theory that he can build a substantive movement for progressive change within the broad mainstream based on his eloquence and organization ability? The Republican party- and this is more evidence of the pernicious conduct of the Clinton campaign - is adopting Clintonian talking points line for line, and can be expected to shower increasingly desperate bile through 527s as their weak position becomes manifest. Do you think Obama's fresh repackaging of the essence of FDR and Kennedy - a grand call to civic duty, the reality of present America and world outreach - is strong enough to overpower vicious proto-fascistic attacks on him, or do you think Obama should adopt the hard-hitting motus operendi of the Clinton campaign, and meet character assassination with character assassination, at the risk of exhausting the enthusiasm of his core constituency?

- A Concerned Democrat

Dear Concerned Democrat,

Meow? Meow! Meeeh. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

-Adorable Kitten

June 03, 2008

We Have Lift-off!

Now, let's put a Saturn V up the ass of these Republican bitches!

Obama Wins. Now, More John McCain Old Jokes.

AP: Obama wins. Whew! Well, that was interesting.

Note to Hillary Clinton: I am personally looking forward to your tireless, enthusiastic contributions for the fall campaign.

But now, I don't care what it takes. This country is too important to restrain from making fun of an old man who likes the ditch the pick-up truck of America is stuck in.

1. McCain has vowed to use our national resources to keep young children off the White House lawn.

2. When John McCain first started flying for the Navy, the aircraft carriers were square-rigged.

3. Cindy McCain inherited hundreds of millions from her family's selling of beer. Which is ironic, because John never got paid for inventing it.

4. Interesting note: McCain first took an oath of office to Gorel, chieftain of the Hantooitak clan, in front of a shiny new Stonehenge.

5. The blue sky seems beyond Time. It is like when John McCain, or the Universe, was young.

A Little Anarchist Night Music

Seattle's Folklife is an old and impressive folk music festival here. I hadn't meant to go, but I found myself walking downtown of a Saturday afternoon, and stumbled in back to the heart and soul of music.

Tens of thousands of people enjoying free folk music from innumerable traditions and genres in downtown Seattle is not only a Republican nightmare, but a restorative and resonant celebration of song-making, beyond money-grubbing, beyond the need to dominate competitively, and way beyond branding. So there were probably a few too many hippies around.

But I was touched. It really was music for music's sake, at a big scale, like there is a still a heart beating in American culture. This really was America alive: a thousand different traditions, people digging for the strength of their own cultural traditions but mixing it all up furiously in big old soft-hearted, folk smoothie (which tastes like democracy: blackberry, flax oil, and mangoes.)

I have to give special regard to a grubby little band of anarchists from Olympia called Hail Seizures, playing unamplified in bare feet fast as any speed metal, singing in group call and response, channeling the Pogues and Billy Bragg, practiced and tight and righteous, and if they were drunk on fantasies of revolution, it was the right revolution, the politics of a naked heart.

(A video link is here, but unfortunately, these are anarchist sound production values, and it barely captures the sense of it.)

Rock and roll may be dead as powdered rat bones, but music lives.