January 31, 2015

Push poll blues

It's been quite a while since I've been selected to respond to a serious-looking push poll from the dodgy weasels at Congressional Monitor.  It's been even longer since I actually responded, in fact, I have never responded to one...except here.  But it's interesting, and to me a bit sad, that these minions of the plutocrats lead on well-meaning fellow citizens with this stuff.  Let's see what they're up to (the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation of the original are faithfully preserved here).


1.  Which of the four items below do you feel is the most important issue for Congress to act on at this time?

(A) Deficit reduction
(B) Veterans' Healthcare
(C) Economic Recovery
(D) Securing our National Borders, Immigration Reform
Ah, well, hmm.  We're already off to a bad start.  The most important issue for Congress to act on at this time is the institutional brutality of our society toward its weakest members.  The awful combination of bad healthcare for the non-rich, shoot-first law enforcement, shameful and even hateful treatment of the mentally ill, lack of proper resources for drug treatment, and inadequate affordable housing makes the U.S. one of the least compassionate rich societies of modern times.   
But if I had to single out one issue, I would say Congress should take up the problem of equality of education.  I grew up in a country where a decent public school student could earn a place at a good university and have good prospects for their career.  Those days are long gone, and Congress is making the problem worse 
Krugman: "What has been cut? It’s a complex picture, but the most obvious cuts have been in education, infrastructure, research, and conservation. While the Recovery Act (the Obama stimulus) was in effect, the federal government provided significant aid to state and local education. Then the aid went away, and local governments began letting go of hundreds of thousands of teachers."

2.  Are you in favor of raising the eligibility age for Medicare?
(A) Yes
(B) No
(C) Undecided
No, I would prefer if you reduced it to zero.

3.  How pleased are you with the present course of the current administration?
(A) Very Satisfied
(B) Satisfied
(C) Dissatisfied
(D) Very Dissatisfied
I could not be more pleased with our President's management of the challenges presented by you meretricious and avaricious jackals.

4.  What is the best solution for reducing the national deficit?
(A)  Cut discretionary spending
(B)  Reduce Farm subsidies
(C)  Reduce Defense Spending
(D)  Enact the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Plan.
The best strategy would be to grow the economy such that the national debt shrinks in proportion to our ability to repay it, while avoiding policies likely to tip the economy back into recession.   This strategy would require that you abandon your German theory that the patient will breathe better if you strangle him.  There are a lot of German theories you should give up on, but that one should be a priority.

5.  What is the best course for immigration reform?
(A)  Add the National Guard to supplement Border Patrol efforts.
(B)  Return unaccompanied minors to their home countries.
(C)  Legislate that the FAA allow drones to monitor the border.
(D)  All of the above.
I would say (D).  Let's have the National Guard use drones to return unaccompanied minors to their home countries.

6.  In light of the recent televised gun violence do you think Congress should:
(A)  Increase mental health care and treatment of mental illness
(B)  Ban high capacity magazines
(C)  Let the states and communities decide what action is best
(D)  Do nothing
In all seriousness, (A) would do a lot of good.  Why does it never happen?

7.  Do you agree with the Administration's request for housing expenses for illegal underage immigrants?
(A)  Agree
(B)  Disagree
(C)  Undecided
You guys are scum.

8.  Do you feel Congress should continue efforts to make changes to the 2nd Amendment?
(A)  Yes
(B)  No
(C)  Undecided
Don't bother me with this stuff, just have Scalia put something together for you.

9.  Do you favor tax incentives for small oil and gas companies to expand domestic drilling?
(A)  Yes
(B)  No
(C)  Undecided
No, with Chevron committing 105% of operating cash flows to capex over the past four quarters, and other major operators making similar commitments, I think oil and gas industry capacity is a solved problem.  People of goodwill can disagree, but I view the 60% fall in the price of oil since June as a possible sign that the market may have more gas and oil than it actually wants.

10.  Do you think Congress should adopt a National Energy Policy?
(A)  Yes
(B)  No
(C)  Undecided
If this were 1979 I'd say yes, but at this point I think you'd better get to work on how you're going to run Saudi Arabia, because that problem is not going to take care of itself.

Oh, and my phone number?  Just get it from the NSA, you fuckwits, what are you paying them for?

January 30, 2015

As a child chimney sweep I could only dream of such things

Dice that flash when you get a critical hit.


First sensible thing on blogging I've read

Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don't deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don't go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand.


With all the handwringing over scale and business models, I think the real value of blogging has been missed.  Mass communication is not actual conversation - there are no conversations at scale, only monologues (possibly with annotation or heckling).  Krugman has mastered this medium.

But conversation is much more important.  Facebook has nothing to do with conversation, because it is basically your high school reunion, over and over again.  Twitter is fun, but shallow by design.  I'm happy to catch a Steve Martin bon mot or participate in one of Espenson's writing sprints (those are awesome), but I don't imagine I know these people, or ever can.

But a long term blog with multiple contributors who otherwise could not regularly share thoughts or feelings - that's pretty cool.

'Cause, you know, Rilke - “at bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things, we are unutterably alone, and for one person to be able to advise or even help another, a lot must happen, a lot must go well, a whole constellation of things must come right in order once to succeed.”

Superficiality can take you far, but only so far.  And, certainly, I would welcome the opportunity to sample further the rewards that superficiality can bring.

But this eisengeiste thing is deep, the real shit, an actual conversation among friends.  If I may speak frankly - from one unutterably alone fictional character to others - thanks for that.

January 29, 2015

My morning thoughts turn to Huggy Bear

Mr. Fargas would like to make one thing clear:

He (Huggy Bear) wasn't a pimp. This whole glorification of pimps and all that makes people think that. But they never told you what he did. One minute he had a bar, the next minute he was a guy on the street hustling, but he was always in the know. But he was never a pimp. The guy who was on 'Baretta' was a pimp. His character was called The Rooster. Plus there were other roles were I had played pimps so a lot of people may have thought that.

From IMDB:

Hutch: What do you hear on the street these days, Huggy?
Huggy Bear: Dig this. A little bird tells me there's gonna be a big coke deal in Bay City. One for the Guinness books. So they say.
Starsky: Interesting. Who would this little bird be?
Huggy Bear: Look man. I lay it out for y'all to play it out.
Starsky: All right. What does that mean?
Hutch: Don't worry about it.

Huggy Bear: I am an urban informer. I am not a snitch.
Starsky: Come on Huggy, what's the difference?
Huggy Bear: A snitch wears a wire. A snitch is the scum of the information industry.

David Starsky: I like your Lincoln.
Huggy Bear: It's a '76. Won't be out 'til next year. But I know some people that know some people that robbed some people.

Starsky: Biker bar, huh? What goes on down there?
Huggy Bear: I don't know. Listen to Jim Croce, play darts...whatever the hell else you white people do.

January 28, 2015

The Price is Right

Proposed: Instant Externality Price Integration- AKA, Put Everything Good About Life into the Price, or PEGALIP.  Money is, certainly, an extremely archaic abstraction ("See, Grok, it shiny!") whose mathematical and political idiosyncrasies create titanic and often horrific mismatches between needed efforts of labor and capital and  beneficial outcomes in a social utilitarian sense.

Market systems do not, and normatively must, integrate the costs of irreversible and deleterious consumption or destruction of external, un-priced benefits, from clean water, air, food, to  peace, gross human happiness, social harmony, equality and justice, to spiritual or moral aspiration, to health, to art, to love, to joy, and to the maintenance and growth of the great diversity of life on earth beyond 100 years.

And it's not just actual harm- who knows how big the opportunity cost is for missed beneficial externalities. That is a tragedy of eons. But keep on like we have, and everything that is good and right and beautiful will shrivel up and die forever, and also fairly soon.

So how about a new monetary and trading system with constantly, digitally updated integration of externalities - again, air, water, peace, art, a living earth, love, social justice, etc-  using a combination of market demands and experts monitoring into what you might call constant-adjustment externality-integrated pricing? Hire 100,000 international  academics in all fields- using the latest social media application!- to price in all discernible externalities directly into all trading systems, in instantly and constantly updated adjustments to prices - taxing external costs and subsidizing external benefits.

Example: Selling gas hog truck? The externalities market peeps charge you an extra 47% today, based on awesomely great metrics of some sort. Creating an unheard-of, wind-driven cargo ship? 23% off in the next 8 minutes, from the Department of Not Erasing Life on Earth as Quickly as Humanly Possible. But regulatory experts, cross-check your smack for other problems, and soon. Also, democracy soon.

"Inbox: Notice: The Department of Love Externalities is adding a 58% surcharge on your diamond rings, because you have sucked up crass materialism around monopoly price enforced stones of all things, into the most intimate displays of affection, eroding the value of honestly and difficultly expressed feelings of desire. XOXO"

Yes: Amazon socialism.  If we can price everything instantly, we can price it right instantly. If you like markets because they are fun, you can have fun incentivizing the identification and correct pricing of externalities with a market for THAT.

I'm sure someone has proposed this. But did they copyright it? Please pay me $746.00 for this excellent idea that will save millions of lives and bring great peace and happiness to all forms of sentient life on earth, thank you.

January 27, 2015

A little love for Gene Hackman

Hackman for me is the greatest living American actor because — with the exception of the Reverend Frank Scott in The Poseidon Adventure — I always buy what he’s selling. Even when the movie is bad, you believe what Hackman is telling you, right down to the last “heh-heh.” 


January 25, 2015

The Devil and Max Beerbohm, or, Magic at a Distance

The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends.  
- Max Beerbohm

Reality seems so simple. We just open our eyes and there it is. But that doesn't mean it is simple.
- Teller

The Book

A package came for me on Thursday.  I took from the envelope Max Beerbohm's Seven Men.  This is not the first edition of 1919, alas, but it's close.  My copy is from the (third) October 1923 impression.  It's the same publisher, William Heinemann Ltd. of London.  The cover is just a little worn, the gold leaf a trifle faded, but as nonagenarians go it looks pretty good:  

On the flyleaf, in a clear, modern-looking cursive hand, there is this inscription:

Christmas 1925 

Hoping this will
add to the mel-
lowness of your  
outlook on  
literature.  De-  
votedly W.H.W(?).

The last initial is a little unclear.  I thinks it's a "W", but it might be an "A" or a "U".  I have no idea who wrote this, but note that the first two initials, at least, match those of the publisher.

I got the book because John Updike told me to.  A couple of decades ago Robertson Davies told me (here) to get A Christmas Garland, and I have never regretted that decision.  But having done so, I imagined that I had exhausted possibilities of of Beerbohm for a modern reader - after all, his reputation is for underachievement in creative work and overachievement in raconteuring.  But no,  last week as I riffled through one of the Updike collections littering the house, I came upon this, a full-on endorsement of Beerbohm's Seven Men (the essay originally appeared here).  Due to poor Internet response in Mountain View, it nevertheless took almost seven seconds for my order to be recorded on Amazon's servers.

Enoch Soames

I opened the book yesterday expecting some light prose, and was not disappointed, but before I had finished the first story, "Enoch Soames", I had also been sucked into a time vortex that brought me face to face with Beerbohm, the devil, and the greatest magician in the world, ultimately leading me to question the nature of time and reality itself.

To recount here all the good things about "Enoch Soames" would require that we reproduce the story in full, but that has already been done at Project Gutenberg.  Suffice to say that Beerbohm introduces us to a man he claims he once knew named Enoch Soames.  He says Soames was painted by the estimable Rothenstein, and it turns out that this is true:

Soames, by Rothenstein

As every schoolchild knows, Beerbohm was a renowned caricaturist himself.  He made his own sketch:

Soames, by Beerbohm

This is a lot of trouble to go to for a fictional character, particularly one as devoid of charm and talent as Beerbohm reports Soames to be.  And yet, having done so much, he errs - does he not? - by making a clearly falsifiable claim.  Beerbohm states that in his presence, Soames contracted with the devil to visit the British Museum Reading Room in the year 1997, and that the devil held up his end of the deal.
You realize that the reading-room into which Soames was projected by the devil was in all respects precisely as it will be on the afternoon of June 3, 1997. You realize, therefore, that on that afternoon, when it comes round, there the selfsame crowd will be, and there Soames will be, punctually, he and they doing precisely what they did before. Recall now Soames's account of the sensation he made. You may say that the mere difference of his costume was enough to make him sensational in that uniformed crowd. You wouldn't say so if you had ever seen him, and I assure you that in no period would Soames be anything but dim. The fact that people are going to stare at him and follow him around and seem afraid of him, can be explained only on the hypothesis that they will somehow have been prepared for his ghostly visitation. They will have been awfully waiting to see whether he really would come. And when he does come the effect will of course be—awful.

It's a rather uncharacteristic error for such a clever man, to allow the mere passage of time to destroy such a charming conceit.  Beerbohm should have known that when Soames failed to appear at the appointed hour (or if the Reading Room had been ruined or remodeled), his lie would be exposed, and the fragile enterprise wrecked for all time.

But what if, by some chance, Soames did appear?  What would we say then?


If Soames were to appear - in that exact room, at the correct hour - then the pretense would be preserved.  And at that moment a very clever story would become something much more - a finished work of art, its mysteries forever impenetrable.

And of course, he did appear...

Soames appears at the appointed hour.

The details are recounted in a 1997 Atlantic piece"A Memory of the the Nineteen-Nineties", written by the magician Teller, who was there when it happened.  Some might skeptically suppose the great magician had something to do with the appearance of the apparition, or with the fact that no one exactly saw how it appeared or departed without using the door.  But this sort of cynicism diminishes us.

Let us say instead that in 1916 Max Beerbohm began a work of art, knowing that it could only be completed by an accomplice as yet unborn.  And now, thanks to that accomplice, no one can ever prove Max Beerbohm a liar.  Max played va banque and earned his winnings.

If there is any truth to Beerbohm's tale, pity poor Soames, who, having completed his transit across the century, resides now in eternal torment, comforted only by the knowledge that he was, after all, properly memorialized.
I never forget him for long. He is where he is and forever. The more rigid moralists among you may say he has only himself to blame. For my part, I think he has been very hardly used. It is well that vanity should be chastened; and Enoch Soames's vanity was, I admit, above the average, and called for special treatment. But there was no need for vindictiveness. You say he contracted to pay the price he is paying. Yes; but I maintain that he was induced to do so by fraud. Well informed in all things, the devil must have known that my friend would gain nothing by his visit to futurity. The whole thing was a very shabby trick. The more I think of it, the more detestable the devil seems to me.

The devil must not be pleased either, that Beerbohm has forever given Soames a tiny sliver of joy that he cannot be deprived of.  There is also the pretty paradox that without Soames, Beerbohm himself might have been forgotten.

Not bad for a first outing.  I'll bet the other stories in the book are good, too.

This new book is also relevant, and upon first inspection, lots of fun.

Bluegrass Cars

Two efforts, one enjoyable, the other celestial:

Bobrow amok

Andy Bobrow (producer and writer on Community) on his latest idea:

January 24, 2015

Next Xmas for sure

Klay is adequate


January 23, 2015

You're welcome

The blows continue to fall

Skymall is bankrupt.

January 22, 2015

Today is off to a good start


January 21, 2015

Hamilton: The Musical

I kid you not.  Sources report that it is very good.

January 20, 2015

Tavaris Jackson Psychs Out Aaron Rodgers in the Game's Most Underrated Coin Toss

From a most amusing and informative article on Field Gulls.

Rodgers comes out there to the middle of the field thinking to himself, "Heads, man. It's always heads. Everyone knows it's always heads. Just say 'heads' and you got this. Seattle will never get the ball back. Oh look, it's Tarvaris! I haven't seen him in ages. I wonder how he's been doing. Okay, what to do, what to do, don't blow this. Is it a half-hug daps? A handshake? No, no, a handshake is far too formal. What about like a high-five? Are people doing high-fives? I'll just watch what Randall does, then do that. Yeah, nailed it. You got this. Internal discount double-check signal. There he goes, it's daps. It's daps. Cobb got daps. Jordy got daps. I just get the- oh no he isn't even making eye contact. You're on TV, Aaron, keep it cool. Keep it cool. Hey, you're Aaron Rodgers. Who is he?! He's a guy that just dissed Aaron Rodgers on national TV. Hey, don't be like that. Don't beat yourself up. You're the MVP. You. You. Not him. Can you imagine if Tarvaris Jackson has more Super Bowl wins than me in a couple weeks? What if State Farm dumps me for him? I wonder if Randall likes him more than me. I mean look at him, he's like an even more handsome Omar Epps. I just can't- wait. The ref is looking at me. Is it on me? Well, say something, stupid!"
It's heads.

Dashiell Hammett's Years in Adak

Rather interesting story of Dashiell Hammett's U.S. Army Service in Adak during WWII.

Grudging attention from TMQ

On the down before the field goal, the injured Richard Sherman tackled Jordy Nelson shy of the line-to-gain. Had Nelson reached first down, Green Bay would have had about 15 seconds -- and all its timeouts -- to take shots at the end zone and try to win in regulation. Sherman hardly needs more attention. But making this tackle while playing with one arm hanging at his side was impressive.

January 19, 2015

Society 6 is like crack

I am getting four gross of these, stat.  Honorable mention here.

It's Been a Day of Victory Amusements

1) I'm in! 

2) Not nice, good, or even fair.


Chill, Example

Mr. Lynch demonstrates chill. Note the time.

January 18, 2015

"As cool as the other side of the pillow."

Punter John Ryan puts the first point on the board for the Seahawks with a TD pass.

All you need to know

January 17, 2015

Laughton's Claudius - the lost epic

 (The scene starting at 54:42 is...yes, epic.  For a guy who was having trouble getting into character, Laughton did a fair job.)

A sketch of Beerbohm

How might one describe Max Beerbohm to someone who knows nothing about him?  Well, for a start, one might imagine D.H. Lawrence. Picture the shagginess of Lawrence, his thick beard, his rough-cut clothes, his disdain for all the social and physical niceties. Recall his passionateness—his passion, so to say, for passion itself—his darkness, his gloom. Think back to his appeal to the primary instincts, his personal messianism, his refusal to deal with anything smaller than capital “D” Destiny. Do not neglect his humorlessness, his distaste for all that otherwise passed for being civilized, his blood theories and manifold roiling hatreds. 

Have you, then, D.H. Lawrence firmly in mind? Splendid. 

Now reverse all of Lawrence’s qualities and you will have a fair beginning notion of Max Beerbohm, who, after allowing that Lawrence was a man of “unquestionable genius,” felt it necessary to add, “he never realized, don’t you know—he never suspected that to be stark, staring mad is somewhat of a handicap to a writer.” 


There is honor in that, more than this reviewer seems to understand

[Blackhat is] upscale, modish and shot through with icicles of beauty. But in many ways the biggest hack you’ll find in this cyber-thriller is Michael Mann himself. That’s not a criticism; it’s a fact. Perhaps no director of such renown has been so flagrant in his copy-pasting of old material—from minor flourishes to major plot points, and everything in between. Yet his brazen hackery is not a bug, exactly, but a central feature of the work. Michael Mann repeats himself in movies in the same way that Ray Allen repeats himself at taking threes. He’s a professional. He’s a genius of his chosen craft.


January 16, 2015

Bedtime Books

I generally keep a few books at hand near my bed, to help ease the transition from this waking world to the comfort of my twitchy, disjointed, anxiety-ridden slumber.

I advocate a gradual transition, not an extreme phase shift, but that is a personal preference.  Weldon Kees' protagonist Robinson used reading as a straight-up soporific, his Toynbee interchangeable with a bottle of luminol.  Perelman, on his own testimony, skipped the reading altogether and employed a cocktail of "allonal and Vat 69".  But I will stand up for reading as a transitional device, not an anesthetic or knock-out drop.  And to achieve this effect, the selected book must be special.

First and foremost it must be at least somewhat modular - one must be able to put it down at almost any point.  Gripping page turners have no place here.  Moreover, it must be somewhat tepid, lest a hyperbolic paragraph thrust the reader fully back into a waking state.  It does not hurt if the material is a little light - some narrative perhaps - but nothing requiring strenuous effort to comprehend.  Lightness can misfire as well - Wodehouse generally will not suit, given his occasional weakness for lunacy and monkey-shooting.  If humor is employed it must be quiet and droll, inducing chuckles rather than knee-slapping.

But our volume cannot be too light or trite, or it will not hold the attention sufficiently to allow the reader to settle in and enjoy those few minutes of calming communion.  And yet, it must be interesting in some way, although it should not touch on topics hinting at some kind of academic rigor.

Most importantly, however, it must be trustworthy.  This is not the time for tricky plot twists, or mysteries where the narrator is the murderer, or comedies that turn into tragedies, or vice versa.  One does not welcome nasty surprises at bedtime.  This is no time to learn that the author has the ethics of a Moorish assassin.

So, with some trepidation, here are some of the books that have served over the years:
  • Kevin Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By...  (link)
  • David Hackett Fischer, Historian's Fallacies:  Toward a Logic of Historical Thought  (link)
  • G.H. Fleming, The Unforgettable Season (link)
  • Tom Furstenberg and David Bronstein, The Sorcerer's Apprentice (link)
  • Dean King, with John B. Hattendorf, Harbors and High Seas:  An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey-Maturin Novels of PATRICK O'BRIAN  (link)
  • Every Bill James Baseball Abstract, and especially the Historical Baseball Abstract  (link)
  • A.T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783  (link)
  • Frank Muir, An irreverent and thoroughly incomplete social history of almost everything (link)
  • Royal Geographic Society, Heroic Climbs  (link)

The wit and wisdom of Napier

Since the aforementioned Napier is player-of-the-day at Chessgames.com, a few bon mots from his pen:

  • As player, [Mason] had the unique quality of competently simmering thru six aching hours and scintillating in the seventh. Others resembled him but forgot to scintillate.

  • Spielmann plays always like an educated cave-man, who fell asleep several thousand years ago, – and woke up quite lately in the Black Forest.

  • [T]he killing instinct necessary to success is the same that men take into Bengal jungles, – for a day.  A killing instinct which survives the day and endures month in and month out, is stark pantomime...

January 15, 2015

Re-powering the Power Glove


via Josh Marshall:

This is Roger Ver. Last year he renounced his citizenship to avoid paying US taxes. Now he's upset that the "tyrants" in the US government won't give him a visa to visit Miami this weekend to speak at a Bitcoin conference...

I don't think American citizens who renounce their citizenship for tax purposes should be allowed to return to the country ever, except possibly under highly extenuating circumstances. Ver is upset that he cannot ditch his US citizenship to live in a tax haven that is - let's be frank - under the de facto US security and economic umbrella and come back whenever he wants to hang out or hawk bitcoins. 


I also would have denied re-entry to the 2004 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball team, but that's just me.

January 14, 2015


This has 114 million views on Youtube.

January 12, 2015

via Popova, history of the pencil

Includes picture of The Oldest Pencil in the World.


Stroud's Directions

I was in a bookstore last week, and picked up Keillor's Good Poems (available without going to a bookstore here).  Huh, is this good I thought, and opened it randomly to the following poem by Joseph Stroud:
Take a plane to London.
From King's Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you'll be on the moors. There's a pub,
The Drovers, where it's warm inside, a tiny room,
you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculier.
For a moment everything will be all right. You're back
at a beginning. Soon you'll walk into Yorkshire country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You'll walk for hours. You'll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.

Well that's fine, I thought, and bought the book.

Driving in the car Sunday we were listening to Prairie Home Companion's San Francisco show.  It turns out Stroud is a Bay Area guy, and he read this poem and some others.

Still a long way from Ramsgill, but it made me feel better.

Enough! Everybody just fucking chill

January 11, 2015

Naval Designs Highly Successful in Fending off Small Boat Attacks

Henry Grace à Dieu. 1574. .
Note the many manned light guns in the forecastle, stern, and the armed crows nests, not to mention the ease of boarding using running rigging lines and defense with anti-boarding nets, as well as the ability to throw heavy or pointy things down at belligerents. Effective against inflatable boats. Add a ship-to-ship missile system and a 100hp outboard and you're ready for the latest in asymmetrical naval warfare.

San Diego is already arming itself thusly. Let us not fall behind.

Know your Robins - a bat-briefing from Guest Blogger #1

[Updated for font, art, and some content, which although not inaccurate was nevertheless incomplete in ways that now seem quite consequential to Guest Blogger #1...]

How many Robins have there been? 
5, if you don't count Carrie Kelley, the Robin from The Dark Knight Returns, which describes what happens in the future, possibly in a alternate universe. (There are a lot of those alternate universes in DC...)

Is that all? 

Really?  Are you sure there have been no others? 

Ok, let’s get a rundown on the Robins...

Robin #1

Nightwing in Nightwing Vol. 4: Second City

Real name: Richard (Dick) John Grayson
Why he left: He needed a future that was not defined by Batman
Current identity: Nightwing
Comments on power or abilities: Well, he’s a better acrobat than Batman was, and probably ever will be, so he’s a force to be reckoned with. Also, he uses escrima sticks, and even though he’s only been using them in his time as Nightwing, he’s mastered using them.
Comments on personality: He followed orders as Robin, and now comes to Batman’s aid as Nightwing if needed. He is really easy to work with and a born leader.

Robin #2

Red Hood in Red Hood and The Outlaws: Vol. 1: REDemption

Real name: Jason Todd
Why he left: He didn’t. He got killed by the Joker. Fortunately, he was put in the restorative waters of a Lazarus pit, and came back, p.o.ed as heck and thirsty for revenge. Ultimately, he got payback on the Joker, made his peace with Batman (kinda), and continued as a ruthless vigilante.
Current identity: Red Hood
Comments on power or abilities: Not as acrobatically talented as Dick, but stronger, and his ruthlessness gives him an edge against his enemies.
Comments on personality: He’s like a time bomb, waiting to go off, and when he does, it’s not pretty. He’s ruthless, which I may have mentioned already, and that is what draws the fine line between him and his mentor.

Robin #3

Red Robin in Teen Titans Vol. 1: It's Our Right to Fight

Real name: Tim Drake
Why he left: Well, he pretty much got edged out by his successor, Damian Wayne. (See below.)
Current identity: Red Robin (Which was once Jason Todd’s role.)
Comments on power or abilities: His current suit has these extremely sharp metal wings, which he uses to fly. He’s not as acrobatically inclined as his predecessors, but he’s a much better detective than either of them. He deduced Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s secret identities quickly. He was also at Haly’s Circus the night the Flying Graysons fell.
Comments on personality: He is a born leader, but sometimes emotional, but he’s a lot better than Jason was.

Robin #4

Stephanie Brown as Robin

Real name: Stephanie Brown
Why she left: Again, she didn’t. She was shot and “killed” by Black Mask, but in reality was recuperating in Africa. It’s hard to believe she could’ve survived the trip from Gotham to Africa, especially since she died on a hospital bed before Batman’s eyes, but hey! It’s DC Comics we’re talking about here. Anything could happen.
Current identity: The Spoiler
Comments on power or abilities: Again, not as acrobatically inclined as her predecessors.
Comments on personality: Reckless, but smart. 

Robin #5

Damian on top of the Teen Titans

Real name: Damian Wayne
Why he left: Yet again, he didn’t leave. Yet again, he died. Yet again, he was resurrected. On the planet Apokolips Batman used a chaos shard to resurrect Damian, who now has superpowers! Super strength, etc, etc. Again, this is DC, folks. Anything could happen.
Current identity: Well, before he was stabbed and killed, he was just Robin, son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, AKA Batman and his arch-nemesis’ daughter. Weird, right?
Comments on power or abilities: He was trained as a ninja, so again, ruthless, fairly merciless, and deadly.
Comments on personality: RECKLESS. The majority of the Robins have this problem, save Nightwing and Red Robin. He did enjoy video games and pizza and soda, since he was only ten at the time of his death.

EXTRA BIT:  *The images of Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin are from the new 52, when DC Comics re-introduced 52 popular titles, even if it meant rewriting the character.*

January 10, 2015

Is Kam Chancellor okay?

He seemed pretty listless, today. Like his heart wasn't in the game.

A post in which I strike a blow for Freedom of Speech

Today's Seahawks - Panthers game is going to make the Charlie Hebdo massacre look like A Charlie Brown Christmas.

(Too soon?)

James Fallows is correct

This has become the way we assume the American military will be discussed by politicians and in the press: Overblown, limitless praise, absent the caveats or public skepticism we would apply to other American institutions, especially ones that run on taxpayer money. A somber moment to reflect on sacrifice. Then everyone except the few people in uniform getting on with their workaday concerns.

Original article:

Blog post with links to interesting other articles:

In other news, the Navy is developing a "high-tech laser weapon system" to be used to "disable and destroy" enemy drones, small boats, and civilian protestors.  Ok, I made that last one up.  But seriously:  small boats?  Small boats?  How did the Navy get this far without weapons capable of destroying small boats?


January 08, 2015

A few remarks from Ted Rall


That's my President

President Obama said Thursday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States.


If I may editorialize briefly:  FUCK YEAH!!!

Notes on Premier League

How it works
  • The season runs from August to May.
  • There are 20 teams, they all play each other twice.
  • You get three points for a win, one point for a draw, no points for a loss.
  • No playoffs:  the team with the most points at the end wins.
  • Four teams are allowed to win:  Man City, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
    • Ok, sometimes Liverpool, but not lately.
    • Defending champion:  Man City
    • Current leaders are Man City and Chelsea (tied w/ 46 pts).
  • The top four teams in Premier League qualify for the opportunity to lose to Madrid or Barcelona in the continental Champion's League.  Fifth place qualifies for Europa League, (as do the winners of the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup - see below).
  • The bottom three clubs get relegated to the Championship League (the UK minor league, not the big-time European Champion's League).
  • All the teams are owner by Russian tycoons, who use them to launder money from drug and weapons deals.  As a result, there is no salary cap, there are no rules, and it is good to be Gareth Bale.


  • The FA Cup, in contradistinction to the Premier League championship, is a knockout tournament open to all clubs in Premier League, plus several lower levels of the English football league system.  This is generally won by Chelsea, Man City, or Arsenal.  Defending champion is Arsenal.
  • During my visit I made the unforgivable mistake of confusing the FA Cup with the Football League Cup, also known as the League Cup, but officially titled The Capital One Cup.  This is more of a minor league championship.  Although Premier League teams are eligible, they treat it as lower priority and tend to play their younger players in these matches, which has led to some entertaining upsets.  After that's all done with, a Premier League team wins.  Defending champion is Manchester City.
  • Premier League clubs do not participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, which reduces the number of times they have to lose to Real Madrid each year.

Who to root for?

I was partial to the Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Mick McCarthy era, but not since the team's arrogant dismissal of him and ensuing double relegation - first to Championship League, then to League One.  Wouldn't it be nice if that could happen to the 49ers?

Louis Van Gaal is the manager of Manchester United.  He is Johan Cruyff's sworn enemy, a man who promotes disciplined, orderly, military football, not the free, creative, beautiful and loving kind advocating by Cruyff.  There is no middle ground, you have to take a side here.  It says here than Van Gaal is bad, and anyone who roots for Manchester United is bad, so don't.

The correct team to root for is Tottenham Hotspur.  

#2 made van Persie a deity at our house last year, led to demands that we emigrate to the Netherlands

A Totally Comprehensive Voter’s Guide to Soccer’s Best Goal of Last Year

"[A]ny pro can hit a sweet volley, but not many can make the Willie Mays catch with their goddamn face."


January 04, 2015

Qianlong and all that

Rough and incomplete sketch of Chinese dynasties since the year 960, when the Song era began.  As every schoolchild knows, this roughly coincides with the accession of Edgar the Peaceful to the throne of England, although it very slightly predates his murder of Æthelwald.

  • Song Dynasty (Han Chinese):  960-1279
  • Yuan Dynasty (Mongol):  1279-1368
  • Ming Dynasty (Han Chinese):  1368-1644
  • Qing Dynasty (Manchu):  1644-1911

The Qianlong Emperor is Manchu, and reigns from 1735 to 1799.  A few details:
  • Here is his jade bi, as discussed in A History of the World in 100 Objects.
  • He is the patron of the talented Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione, who apparently made a lifetime commitment to working in China (died in Beijing at the age of 77).
  • Castiglione's portrait of the Emperor is here.

January 03, 2015

In all honesty, I did not know that this had occurred

January 02, 2015

Unpublished Posts of 2014

  • Divergence - The Other Front
  • This one goes out to Ben Roethlisberger, although I'm not sure - The Other Front
  • I'd rather be lucky than good - The Sum of All Monkeys
  • Such Defeat: Noting the Resonance of 49ers loss at Home in The Suburbs of Zurich to the Seahawks - JAB
  • Richard Sherman Also Shot My Cat - JAB
  • Faculty of Smirk - The Other Front
  • I always suspected this... - The Sum of All Monkeys
  • gun stuff. - JAB
  • War Means Inserting Hot Metal at High Velocity into Soft Human Flesh - JAB
  • Bedtime Books - The Other Front
  • Bay Area Sporting Notes - The Other Front
  • The Three Theories of Happy - The Other Front
  • Happy? - The Other Front
  • Dynamic local equilibrium - The Other Front

At least someone understands me

January 01, 2015

Bruce Lee explains

Popova has the story behind "be like water" here.