December 31, 2004

Yahoo! Rules

For those of you with SBC DSL, you can now use RSS to put Eisengeiste on your Yahoo! homepage, right next to your stock quotes, weather, and hot singles in your area. A new day dawns.

The Vietnam Problem

A commentator on the radio pointed out that Vietnam service has been a negative for political careers:
  • Bob Kerrey's career took a severe hit when he was accused of war crimes in Vietnam.
  • McCain's time in a POW camp was used against him by his opponents, who quietly whispered "it made him crazeee...."
  • John Kerry, who volunteered, served two tours, was wounded in action - lost in part because of a concerted effort to discredit his war record. Bob Kerrey eloquently defended Kerry's service, but it didn't help much.
All of these guys lost to draft dodgers of various stripes. Lest we forget, Gray Davis won a bronze star in Vietnam, and lost his governorship to an Austrian film actor who in 1968 was mainlining steroids in preparation for the Mr. Europe contest.

People's Revolution in China?

Let me start by saying I don't know next to nothing about no internal Chinese politics. But the NYT reports something that's been bothering me for a while: where is the simmmering people's revolt in oppressive capitalist-communist Asian governments like China and Vietnam, with that magical combination of all of the economic oppression, and none of the political freedom? Apparantly, small revolts are breaking out all over, just the sort of violence against that human spirit that people tend to make poems and songs and paintings start breaking windows over - a "lowly porter" beaten by a government official for muddying his wife's clothes.

"What are you looking at, bumpkin?" Mr. Yu recalls Mr. Hu saying.

Mr. Yu is mild mannered, with a slightly raffish grin stained yellow from chain smoking. Mr. Hu, wearing a coat and tie and leather shoes, looked like he might be important. Mr. Yu said he should have let the moment pass. He did not.

"I work like this so that my daughter and son can dress better than I do, so don't look down on me," he recalled saying. Then he added, "I sell my strength just as a prostitute sells her body."

Mr. Yu said he was drawing a general comparison. Mr. Hu and his young wife, Zeng Qingrong, apparently thought he had insinuated something else. She jerked his shirt collar and slapped his ear. Mr. Hu picked up Mr. Yu's fallen pole and struck him in the legs and back repeatedly.

Perhaps for the benefit of the crowd, Mr. Hu shouted that it was Mr. Yu, sprawled on the pavement, who was in big trouble.

"I'm a public official," Mr. Hu said, according to Mr. Yu and other eyewitnesses. "If this guy causes me more problems, I'll pay 20,000 kuai" - about $2,500 - "and have him knocked off."

Those words never appeared in the state-controlled media. But is difficult to find anyone in Wanzhou today who has not heard some version of Mr. Hu's bluster: The putative official - he has been identified in the rumor mill as the deputy chief of the local land bureau - had boasted that he could have a porter killed for $2,500. It was a call to arms.

Mr. Hu's threat, spread by mobile phones, text messages and the swelling crowd, encapsulated a thousand bitter grievances.

How many Hong Kong movies start with an scene just like this?

I can't imagine that the horrific tsunamis in surrounding countries won't create additional popular and international pressure on China. (Which would explain their ill-timed saber rattling, a sure sign, like Argentina and the Falklands, of a worried dictatorship.)

In my heart of democratic hearts, whether some kind of intervention or pressure was wise or suicidal, nothing America ever did felt as cowardly and morally shrivelled as our rolling over for Tiananmen Square, shrinking even from support and encouragement to the protests, when the people of the world's largest nation were looking to us for a signal, and we looked away to next year's bottom line.

December 30, 2004

My Mother Was Right

As a child my mother foisted Wodehouse upon me. My parents were not much on strict cultural direction, but an exception was made for Wodehouse. It was purposefully placed in my hands. I have not regretted this, and, it turns out, neither has Hugh Laurie (bet you didn't know there was a Russian Wodehouse Society).

But I have always taken Wodehouse as the master of a niche, not of an art. Sort of a literary Pieter Brueghel or JJ Cale: he does his thing, and it's really good - but the flawless execution comes hand-in-hand with limited scope. And really, that's what you want from Wodehouse. He plays between the lines. You can pickup anything he wrote between 1881 and 1975 and you will not encounter an ugly or unpleasant moment.

But tonight I did find a bit of a surprise in his little-known but still-superb A Damsel in Distress. Written in 1919, this is still considered an "early work" (though I'd challenge anyone to find evidence of immaturity in it). And right there in chapter 5 is a passage about women that I am convinced has strong autobiographical content. Critics have always wondered about Wodehouse's women, and particularly about the lack of physical passion in his works and (apparently) his life. Day and Ring note that he had the mumps when young, and that impotence was not an unusual result. But this passage offers another possible explanation:

During the last the five years women had found him more or less cold. It was the nature of his profession that had largely brought about this cooling of the emotions. To a man, like George [or to Wodehouse -DrX], who has worked year in and year out at the composition of musical comedies, woman comes to lose many of those attractive qualities which ensnare the ordinary male. To George, of late years, it had begun to seem that the salient feature of woman as a sex was her disposition to kick. For five years he had been wandering in a world of women, many of them beautiful, all of the superficially attractive, who had left no other impress on his memory except the vigor and frequency with which they had kicked. Some had kicked about their musical numbers, some about their love-scenes; some had grumbled about their exit lines, others about the lines of their second-act frocks. They had kicked in a myriad differing ways - wrathfully, sweetly, noisily, softly, smilingly, tearfully, pathetically and patronisingly; but they had all kicked; with the result that women had now become to George not so much a flaming inspiration or a tender goddess as something to be dodged - tactfully, if possible; but, if not possible, by open flight.
Of course George does fall in love, and lives happily ever after. After some hunting, Wodehouse did too.

At the Hawaii Tsunami Warning Center

This NYT article suggests what happened at NOAA's Hawaii Tsunami Warning Center.

Their instinct was to contact governments and scientists rather than the media directly. The scientists learned about the first of the destruction from CNN.

Anyone Tried This?

Board games, I notice belatedly, are having a bit of a renaissance. Has anyone tried the new Master and Commander tabletop game? It's predecessor, Dread Pirate, won an award for best family game, and my two year-old is getting bored with Stalingrad.

Art Thiel - The Classic Seahawks Read

Old Seattle Times and new Seattle PI columnist Art Thiel is an excellent sports commentator even for us marginal fans. He somehow writes around and through the cliches, and here stands up for occassional Seahawks goodness, when greatness is not quite available, in this case in Dilfer's stand-up guy performance last Sunday. Thus, we may yet, however tenuously, refer to the existence of a Puget Sound area professional football team.

Excellent Economics Blog

Here's a good economics blog by an actual economist. This fellow observes that few serious economists of any political stripe are in senior Bush administration jobs. There's a reason for that - the same reason Bush's Treasury Secretaries are objects of scorn and ridicule: the mission of the administration (i.e., borrow immense amounts of money in support of an ideological agenda) is diametrically opposed to what a Treasury Secretary's goals ought to be. They didn't like the last one, they don't like Snow - time to bring in Chimpy, the ideologically-appropriate Treasury Secretarying lemur...

Oh, hey, remember that time Paul O'Neill said only nervous nellies should be concerned about the dollar falling? Here's Paul Krugman's response in 2001:

"In the past, deficits this large have always led to a currency plunge. True, one hears arguments to the effect that the rules have changed, that this time is different. Those arguments were presumably what Mr. O'Neill had in mind when he dismissed concerns about the payments deficit. Alas, it would be easier to take those arguments seriously if they weren't so similar to the arguments people used to justify the high dollar of the mid-1980's, just before it started dropping.

"More ominously, I heard exactly the same arguments especially the claim that rising productivity justifies a strong currency — used to dismiss concerns about Mexico's current account deficit just before the 1995 peso crisis, and again in Asia two years later."
Nice one, Paul.

But that leaves the GOP with a problem: who to blame? This is probably the way to go.

WA: Rossi Tanks While Retaining Bitching Rights

Non-Gov. Elect Rossi makes a fairly absurd plea for the Democratic Legislature to give him a do-over; more importantly, he's claiming no legal action at this time, with more time studying "options." Any legal move after this will have lost political momentum, severely trying the state's and the court's patience. Technically, he has until Jan 22nd to contest it, but Gregoire will have been inaugurated already.

As a political matter, if he hadn't been such a pompus jackass running around like he had won definitively, he might have more options.

December 29, 2004

Rebel Without a Cue Card

There is an excellent new book out (from which I read extensively today while loitering at Barnes and Noble) on the comedians that came of age in the 50's and 60's. It has a good chapter on Nichols and May, another on Newhart. The chapter on Woody Allen looked good, too. Also covers Tom Lehrer, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, and many others.

It appears to be an insanely detailed labor of love, and the author conducted interviews with some of the subjects. It's worth it just to know Newhart thinks Richard Pryor was the best comedian who ever walked on a stage. Bob also says "motherfucker", in context and without rancor, of course.

My only complaint is that there's not enough of their material in the book. Some quotes and snippets, but I guess you can find that stuff on the Internet, anyway.

NOAA's Tsunami Warning Center Under Fire

Questions are being raised by Sen. Snowe about NOAA's Hawaii (and Alaska) Tsunami Warning Center's information distribution actions after the quake. The concerns, either real or scape-goating, involve the problem of who was contacted after the quake was registered.

NOAA's response, that there was no tsunami information system in place, either to collect undersea data or to process warnings in most of the countries around the Indian Ocean is certainly true. But this answer is problematic, along with the further explanation that they lacked contacts in the Indian Ocean region.

I worry that someone might have played it bureaucratically and scientifically safe by not making any warnings outside of official channels. With a two hour window, why not call electronic media, internationally and throughtout the region? Was this considered too risky? Is it possible this didn't occur to them, or that it was somehow prohibited by an extant policy?

There may be a good explanation. I would like to understand it. As I write this, a much smaller (5.7) earthquake has apparantly hit one of the Nicobar islands, and the Indian government has ordered tsunami evacuations.

THURSDAY UPDATE - The lack of an-place monitoring system in India, plus their not having passed on the information they did receive from NOAA, probably contributed to the latest evacuation order, which as it turned out was unnecessary. More at the NYT. This episode and the resulting panic is a good reason for caution. But what balance is right?

NOAA is a great federal program. And it's hard to think of a more conscientious government operation. I am worried that at a most critical moment it may have been hobbled in it's fundamental mission by a too-conservative information policy.

Avast ye liberals!

The new version of Pirates has become a lot more fun.... that I know how to make custom flags.


I'm sitting in an internet-enabled coffee shop, Coffe Talk, in Honolulu. We've been driving around the island for the past couple of days, shopping, babysitting, mom-sitting, etc. We're expecting a big storm tomorrow night. On Saturday, we head for Maui.

I'll have detailed reports (and travel recommendations) later.


December 28, 2004

Heathrow Insecure Against Severe Wit

Stephen Fry demonstrated another potential weapon of mass destruction. When asked whether he had any sharp objects at Heathrow airport, he replied: "Only my tongue, sir."

BBC quotes of the year.

The Laird of Madrona's proposed tossing a large money clip at the security check basket and saying "There's more where that came from- if you play ball" may be equally funny. However, Fry was able to proceed to his flight rather than disappear, last seen being stapled into a plastic federal shipping bag.

I suppose if he hadn't just played Oscar Wilde in a movie about Oscar Wilde, someone should make a movie with Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde in it.

Did I Say That With My "Out Loud" Voice?

What I meant to say is that Al Qaeda was responsible for the plane "shooting down" to the ground very fast when those heroic Americans wrested the controls away from the terrorists, causing it to "shoot down" to the ground, very fast. The hopes and dreams of those on board were "shot down" at the moment of natural impact caused by an over abundance of gravity and not an F-16. When I say "shot down" I in no way meant to imply that the plane was "shot down" in any physically, explosive, destructive, boomy sense.

December 27, 2004


Teraoka is a contemporary Japanese-American artist who sources from these guys, yet paints about AIDs and email- I met him very briefly at an opening once. An amazing, serious, hilarious artist.

Paradise Until It's Not

I talked with the Laird last night, and he is enjoying Hawaii, passing the time (near as I can tell) by playing GTA San Andreas from dawn to dusk and chowing down on room service. God I wish I were him. Anyway, we got to talking about tsunamis and I remembered the tale of the Halawa Valley in Molokai, evacuated permanently after tsunamis in 1946 and 1957.

And I thought: this valley's probably been sucking people in for centuries. You paddle up, and it's paradise. Nothing but wild fruit and blue skies and waterfalls. And you build some huts and plant some taro and things are great, and one day a big wave comes and washes it all away, and probably you with it.

After you're gone the valley starts growing back, lush and wild. And the next guy comes along and it starts all over again.

It Gets Better

Our man Eisen was an artist, but not just an ordinary artist. He was a leading light of the "decadent" period - yes! He had particular skill in depicting (ahem) ladies, including erotic prints in his repertoire. And, perhaps fitting with our modern culture, he might have done a little pimpin' on the side (no word on whether bling bling was involved).

True or not, it's good to know our namesake had a little street flavah.

Of course if you don't like this Eisen, we could adopt Arnold Eisen, co-author of The Jew Within. (Rostengeiste?)

Not Enough Suffering in Asia, Apparently

“Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt that constitutes a major incident of ’Taiwan independence’, the Chinese people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any cost,” it said.

Alaska Items

Speaking of the bones of American music, the twists and permutations of the blues, here, in aboriginal Alaskan hip-hop, continue to impress. Is this good? Of course it is. American music is at its best when it speaks to the lonely and the lost, and the joy that arises from despair.

#2 I'm also impressed by the descriptions of this new Alaska map, which have often been short on the details. Which is an important part of a map.

December 26, 2004

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The Road to Meaning

I've long been a fan of Hiroshige's Tokaido Road prints - the Corresponding Secretary General General and I went and studied them when the Asian Art Museum ran a special exhibition a few years ago. For those of you not familiar, the road from Tokyo (then called Edo) to Kyoto had 55 stations, and the artist Hiroshige made a woodblock print for each one. This is pretty cool, it really gives you a window into another world.

Here is a map of the road. He did many different editions of the series, and this page lets you view them in parallel.

But the big find tonight is this site, which digs up old photographs of many of the places Hiroshige depicted. The site's in Japanese, but just click the number of the station to see the photos. I'm sure a specialist could use these to study how Hiroshige integrated western long-distance perspective (which he learned from some Dutch paintings he'd seen) and traditional Asian perspective for the mid-range and closeups.

These also document something I'd read about elsewhere: Hiroshige wasn't averse to inventing a mountain or two if he thought the composition needed it - gotta respect that.

Oh yes, one other thing - Hiroshige worked on another road series, The Sixty Nine Stations of the Kisokaido. His collaborator was Eisen. So now our blog name really means something - "thoughts of Eisen," or "spirit of Eisen."

More on this story as it develops.

Not Endangered

Since my son has decided to memorize the name of every animal in the world ever, I'm reading up on African creatures. Not a pretty picture, with poaching, encroaching civilization, and the occasional human war messing up the habitat.

But there is one African animal that has done extremely well these past 50 years or so, and no, I'm not talking about the vulture. The wildebeest (aka the gnu) is outbreeding everything in sight. There are around 1.5 mm of them in the Serengheti region today, up from 250,000 in 1960.

According to this article, the wildebeest population had been depleted by rinderpest, a viral disease introduced from Asia. Somehow they've gotten that under control, and the animals have rebounded.

In A Primate's Memoir, the author points out that gnu dung is a palindrome...

Snapshot of Anguish

The BBC sometimes shines, here in edited reader posts from people all over the Indian Ocean.

A Primate's Memoir

I am only 70 pages into this book and it's already the best thing I've read this year. It's a bit of autobiography by a man who's made a career of studying baboons (PhD Neurology Biology Stanford Kenya blah blah blah). But it is also very bright, funny, and full of harmless adventure.

The stuff on the baboons is very educational, and reminded me a lot of high school. But it's not just "I went to Africa and watched some chimps." He talks about running out of money and doing little scams for food in Nairobi, learning how to dart a baboon with a blowgun, and the discovery that elephants have breasts ("huge, voluptuous, pillowy mounds, complete with is a subject rarely broached in our public schools").

[Update: it gets darker as it goes along - he grows up and Africa gets to be an uglier place. You can skip the stuff about the rough travel, coups, and corrupt local officials (or maybe I'm just jaded from reading Kapucinski's The Soccer War). The stuff on the baboons is great, though - a real tribal history. I'm on the homestretch now and would still highly recommend it.]

December 24, 2004


You Try Explaining This to Your Malaysian In-Laws

(Also see the comments appended to the Car post, below).

All right people. The rest of the hard working all star Blues Brothers are gonna be out here in a minute, including my little brother Jake.

But right now, I'd like to talk a little bit about this tune you're hearing. This is ofcourse the Green Onions tune. It was a very big hit in the early sixties in this country. And ofcourse it was composed and recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, right here in the United States Of America.

You know, people, I believe that this tune can be acquinted with the great classical music around the world. Now you go to Germany, you've got your Bach, your Beethoven, your Brahms... Here in America you've got your Fred McDowell, your Irving Berlin, your Glenn Miller, and your Booker T & The MG's, people. Another example of the great contributions in music and culture that this country has made around the world.

And as you look around the world today, you see this country spurned. You see backs turned on this country. Well people, I'm gonna tell you something, this continent, North America, is the stronghold! This is where we're gonna make our stand in this decade! Yeah, people, I've got something to say to the State Department. I say Take that archaic Monroe Doctrine, and that Marshall Plan that says we're supposed to police force the world, and throw 'em out! Let's stay home for the next ten years people! Right here in North America and enjoy the music and culture that is ours.

Yeah, I got one more thing to say. I'm just talking about the music, people, and what it does to me. And that is, as you look around the world, you go to the Soviet Union or Great Britain or France, you name it, any country... Everybody is doing flips and twists just to get into a genuine pair of American blue jeans! And to hear this music and we got it all here in America, the land of the Chrysler 440 cubic inch engine!

Then you can try to tell them about Wayne Cochran.

December 23, 2004

A Marine With a Clue

Thomas Hammes is a Marine Colonel who has written a book on insurgent warfare vs. superpowers. From Chapter 1:

"Fourth Generation Warfare is the only kind of war America has ever lost. And we have done so three times - in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the USSR in Afghanistan...As the only Goliath left in the world, we should be worried that the world's Davids have found a sling and stone that work."

He was interviewed on NPR today and estimated it would take 10 years before we got out of Iraq. There is a good piece by him on recent operations in Iraq here.

Notes on the Blues Brothers Car

In what is becoming an annual ritual, I sat my Chinese in-laws down and had them watch The Blues Brothers last night. This film is so rich in meaning, so deeply layered (no, really!), I find I always notice new things in it.

This time I meditated on the car chase scenes. The movie anticipated Driver and GTA by decades, but shares their equation of the motor vehicle with freedom, not only of speech and thought, but from social mores as well. For future reference, here are the properties of the vehicle, a 1974 Dodge Monaco police cruiser (perhaps it belongs in a role-playing game):
  • It makes a unique rumbling sound.
  • It goes faster than any other car, except the Good Ol' Boys' Winnebago.
  • It is equipped with an intertia-neutralizing device that allows it to briefly suspend the laws of physics and change directions instantly. Cars attempting to follow it when it turns invariably crash.
  • It can drive through one wall per day without sustaining major damage.
  • It can drive through debris fields at normal speeds.
  • It can drive rapidly through crowds without harming anyone - this a key distinction vs. GTA. Since this is a vehicle for a Holy Mission, it cannot harm anyone.
  • When its Holy Mission is complete, it self-destructs.
Oh, and if you've never heard the third song from the Country Bunker, a country version of "Sink the Bismarck", you can get it here (registration required).

December 22, 2004

WA Shocker as Legitimate Ballots To Be Counted

Washington Supreme Court rules for counting the other King County ballots: this will probably put Gregoire up an additional 70 or so votes.

The sensible center-left Joel Connelly of the PI on the issues here.

All the confusion of the Republicans. There are two real pitfalls, one is the non-zero chance King County ballots go against the Ds. The other is the GOP decides to have itself orally pleasured in the US Supreme Court, with its reputation of objective, balanced intervention in state elections. Actually, I think there is little chance the US Supremes would walk into this powder keg, with their sparklers held high, high kicking under their robes. Their credibility is allready damaged, and giving the state GOP the election would weaken their own power.

Sans this, to reverse the election at this point would require the State Supreme Court to get into reviewing individual ballots, which they indicated two weeks ago they would not.

The Weird War

Even weirder than Vietnam in some respects. NPR's coverage of the Battle of Tentburg is beyond weird. You know you've entered the Twilight Zone when the shaken correspondent's report from the front begins "I was standing at the spaghetti bar when..."

They are just flogging the story to death, despite a near-complete lack of facts.

Announcer: How many people were killed?
Reporter: We've just had an update, and they say it's about 22.
Announcer: How many were American soldiers? [as if it mattered - Dr. X]
Reporter: 18.
Announcer: Do they have any idea yet whether it was a rocket or suicide bomber?
Reporter: No, not yet, the Pentagon is not saying. But they have not ruled out the possibility of a suicide bomber.
Announcer: So perhaps it was a suicide bomber.
Reporter: Or a rocket.
Announcer: Or a suicide bomber.
Reporter: Or a rocket.
Announcer: What is the Pentagon saying now?
Reporter: You mean, since we started this conversation?
Announcer: Yes.
Reporter: Nothing.
Announcer: What does that say about the Pentagon's approch to this terrible situation?

Anyway, we have learned an important lesson for future operations: avoid the spaghetti bar.

I'm Honored - I Think...

Time magazine has named Newsom to its list of "People Who Matter," a roster that included John Kerry, Ariel Sharon, Kobe Bryant and Martha Stewart.

December 21, 2004

Sometimes software bugs make me chortle

I've been playing the new Sid Meyer's Pirates game and I came across one of the weirdest bugs I've ever seen in all my 25+ years with computers.

There was this one particular governor's daughter I'd been winning over (had 7 out of 10 hearts) - in the English port of Grand Bahama ... while visiting there the Governor told me she had been kidnapped!

I immediately set out clear across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico looking for my lost love, vowing vengeance on the lowlife scum that took her. After months of searching and sailing, I found the scoundrel, defeated him, and thus rescued her.. Only to find that her hair had changed from blond to black and her skin had darkened a bit.. she was definitely not the same gal I saw back in Grand Bahama.

I thought it sunburn perhaps, or maybe a change in diet. But when I took her back to
Grand Bahama, I found out why.

During the time of my search, the Spanish had seized Grand Bahama! When that happened, apparently the English Governor's daughter was transmorgified into a Spanish Governor's daughter. But to the game it was the same person that my Pirate persona had been wooing.

Now I know how Lisa Marie felt after she married Michael Jackson...


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Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Christine Gregoire seems to have won, for the moment, by eight individual (8, count 'em) votes.



To paraphrase my introduction at a recent Seattle Capitol Hill party:
"You're not a fucking Republican, are you?"

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Let the litigation commence!

Beyond Coal

Evidence Of Life Found On Mars

But they keep running behind the rover and sniggering into their pseudopodia.

Triva Team names suggested

Every year, the law firm my wife works at participates in the "Mind Games" fundraiser for CSS's Immigration and Refugee Services. I believe it consists entirely of a Cranium tournament.

My wife has been offered a berth on the firm's team this year ( "piercing the attorney veil" is what she calls it), but they are looking for a new name for the team.

The departing member has suggested "Shock and Awe."

I'm Zen on good names right now. Any suggestions?

If Only Rodney Dangerfield Were Alive tell us just how big Lauren's suitcase is.

The American People - Correct, But CATASTROPHICALLY SLOW

New US poll shows record disapproval of Bush's handling of Iraq, rapidly falling approval rating, and a significant majority who think invasion was a mistake.

Dear American People,

I love you, but you are slow. Jessica Simpson slow. Dangerously, tragically slow. Pauly Shore figuring out his mileage slow. January molasses catastrophy slow. Not fast like the melting of the arctic, but slow, overfed cat on top of the laser printer slow. Not medium speed, like cashing in a coupon for $2 off a bottle of Glenfiddich, but slow, like a 400lb bag of elderly hammers getting out of the Cadillac to go into the Casino slow. Not slightly slow, like driving from Dick's Hamburgers to the U District on 45th at 4 pm slow, not somewhat slow, like hearing back from your girlfriend after a rich guy spontaneously offers to fly her to Paris. Not even fairly slow, like waiting for the waffle light to come on, or getting an order in at Denny's on Sunday morning.

No. This is really, really slow. Slow like getting a laptop rebate from Best Buy. Slow like igneous rock being pressed into metamorphic rock by a lazy, easily distracted subcontinental plate. Slow like what happens to George W. Bush's economic council after getting sucked into a black hole. Slow like getting a doctorate in how slow people are.

Slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowww. I wish I could say it's endearing, but because you are so incredibly god-damned motherfathercousinfucking take-me-to-grandma's-and-leave-me-for-two-weeks SLOW, I'm not sure how much longer I'm GOING TO GET TO SAY ANYTHING POLITICAL before the goons are going to rapidly come after me.

I hope Netflix is out of all the movies you like.


First Sea Lord

December 20, 2004

Suppress Your Revolutionary Urges With Communex

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Now that major drugs are dropping like flies, it's clearly time for another round of new drug names. Please add freely.

Swiftbotox - For Tightening Up Fine Prevarications About People Who Served Their Nation With Honor and Distinction

Redistan - Treats Desire to Invade Countries Ending in "Stan;" may Cause Cognitive Dissonance. Do Not Use When Accomodating Pakistan.

Depressitor - Treats Symptoms of Depression Caused By Awareness of Vast Overmedication of Entire Countries Resulting in Prozac Contamination of Fish and Groundwater

Nocelebrex - A very specific mood treatment for when no one shows up to your party.

Monsantagra- When You Want to Fuck Every Farmer in the World

RU66 - Induces Senior Discounts at Denny's and Loew's Theaters

Bloopitor - Effectively Removes Impacted Sitcom Blooper Reels

Clogitalin - Treats Propensity for Spastic Folk Dancing

Blimpitor - Shrinks Unsightly Blimps


Zamboni Explodes-Terrorism Suspected

The quiet solitude of Peterson Arena was abruptly and suddenly shaken by multiple explosions. The resulting fire made ice skating interesting and broomball downright hazardous. Said eye witness: "This is the most horrible act of suicide Zamboni bombing that I've ever seen."

Frank Zamboni states: "What horror hath I wrought on the world?"

Some good Zamboni Pics here.

Hangin' at the Hulk

Allow me to recommend a game. There is a board/miniatures game called Space Hulk, and a free open-source implementation for Windows. It's great - simple, atmospheric, well-balanced, hard-to-win, and unforgiving of mistakes. In the boardgame the Marine player has a 30-second time limit for his moves - I don't suggest this if you want to retain your sanity.

December 19, 2004

When You're Tired of the Dark

The Auckland NZ controllable webcam.

Compare and contrast with the Anchorage Lake Otis and Tudor controllable webcam. Fun game: can you see who's coming out of the liquor store?

Breedsoe Unleashed

Meet your AFC West Champions, the San Diego Chargers! The Chargers are now on an eight-game streak. Drew Brees threw a dazzling 4 completions - dazzling because it was snowing like hell, andthe 4 completions were good for 85 yards (14 YPA) and a touchdown, with no interceptions.

Meanwhile, Drew Undeadsoe went 15-30 with no interceptions and the 8-6 Bills are suddenly in the playoff picture.

If Seattle had a football team, I'm sure they would have done fine too.

Readinfg For Agincourt

I've read up a bit more about traditional archery, and it gets more and more appealing.

In the last few years, there has been a huge revival of old style, non-compound bows, often asian style recurves, and true traditionals like English and North American longbows. My first foray, long ago, involved a compound bow, a 1960's-70s innovation which by all the numbers should be superior; you can hold a 70 lb shot with about 40 lbs of pull, for example, and new sights and balances make them tremendously accurate and fairly fast.

But somehow, they kind of suck. The book I'm reading suggests that people tend to abandon compounds as a hobby unless they're hunting.

Arrows would be also more powerful if you put rockets in shafts. You can even get scopes. Effective, but this is all sort of loud, heavy, unaesthetic and lame, a sort of Republican archery. If you're going to attach a bunch of techno-stuff, why not use a rifle? A visit yesterday to a right-wing archery shop confirmed that problem - I have no tolerance for hunting foppery.

A lot of it has to do with the aiming of a traditional bow, which is fundamentally intuitive rather than mechanical process (raise your hand if you never read Zen and the Art of Archery. )

Basic stuff - the real longbow is a little tougher to use than a recurve, but is often described as the most satisfying. The set of choices is a true "primitive", often called a selfbow, made in the ancient way with horn, and a single piece of wood taking advantage of a section with the heartwood on one side and sapwood on the other. Modern methods include laminating with fiberglass and wood, and require little "tuning".

Primary criteria - the bow should match one's "draw" usually somewhere between 28-30 inches . Bows are left handed or right-handed, and so is your eye. Test this by looking with both eyes at a distant object, pointing at it, and closing one eye. If your finger is still "touching" the object, the open eye is your preferred side. Finally, don't overdue draw strength - 50-55lb bows of good quality can actually shoot as fast as heavier bows- the extreme 100 or over pound monsters are great if you have been training all your life to defeat french armor.

The final thought is jus the nature of it - one of the simple yet finely made and sophisticated wood objects made by humans, which is part of my recent attraction to the violin. Plastic tends to depress me.

The Teamster Story

(This story was told to me by the bus driver in question at a Holiday party Friday. )

About November 1975, somewhere above the Yukon on the North Slope haul road, a school style bus is parked on the road, idling. There is a large crew of pipeline workers on board due to work outside, who have just taken a break from an epic night of cocaine snorting, whoring and drinking, by smoking huge amounts of pot and waiting to eat lunch in bus, because nobody, but nobody, is going outside in the incredible white cold. The bus is sitting there all day. Teamsters, you ask? Sure.

The driver, who is more or less together, is looking down the road while everyone tokes away fiercely in back, playing cards.

Way, way, way down the road, he sees a dark spot. He watches it a while, as it gets closer. Soon it's apparant the spot is furry, and an enormous grizzly, attracted by 20 Teamster lunches, starts loping towards the bus.

"Hey, there's a bear coming."

"Yeah right, fuck off.

"Man, I'm telling you there's a fucking bear coming right for the bus."

"Yeah, fuck you!"

You would think, with the natural paranoia involved, that some of them might have gone for the increasingly accurate bear report.

The bear naturally runs straight for the bus, and as the driver looks to his right and the school bus doors between him and the bear, the bear stands up, smacks the doors in like a Diet Pepsi can, and climbs in as the driver dives right out the window. The driver rolls and gets up to observe the following mayhem, as, in the confines of a school bus made somewhat tighter by an enormous hungry bear, Teamster after Teamster dives out the windows in succession toward the back, dropping to the ground and running off in all directions, leaving the lunches for the bear, who eats all of them, destroys the inside of the bus and then poops all over it.

In other words, like the proverbial panda, he eats, shits, and leaves.

The supervisor tells the driver to clean up the bus. The driver says cleaning up bear shit is not in his job description.

Every man to his craft, sir.

More Fascism

Why won't City of Heroes let me play my character? This is total censorship man! (Other ideas here.)

December 18, 2004

12 Angry Monkeys: Epilogue

Spent a couple of hours with the DA yesterday, basically answering his questions about the deliberations and giving him advice on the retrial.

What witnesses worked, which ones didn't. How he more or less got blind-sided by the defense (the whole 'gun in other car' story didn't appear until the trial), how he needed to mount a defense of his own for the surviving victims in the car, how the defendant ended up looking sympathic to the Jury. And finally how as fabricated as the defense story was he didn't counteract it with a story of his own.

All and all very interesting what goes into a prosecution strategy, what works and what doesn't, etc.

I also mentioned that the defense theory of the two .44 shells coming from a Desert Eagle in the victim's car was pretty shakey.

"Although I never mentioned this to my fellow jurors, I used to own a Desert Eagle and the operating handbook specifically says 'Don't use .44 special.' Since I was under instuctions to only use facts presented in the trial, I never brought it up."

I also mentioned that the defense theory that the victims shot and then conspired to cover it up didn't hold water. The ME testified the fatal shooting victim would continue to breath no more than 1 minute after the shooting. On the 911 tape you can hear someone in the background shouting 'he's still breathing!' And finally you can hear the cops showing up a few minutes later on the tape. So when exactly could they have gotten their story straight?

He mentioned enthusiastically he'd use both of those in the retrial ;)

Then I ran into the two homicide detectives out in the parking lot and got their version. Talked to them a bit about how frustrating it was for them, but how they are pretty happy with what they got (contrary to my expectations, the defendant could be looking at more than 30 years because of 'stuff that happened before that they can't talk about')

They also gave me their contact info and said "when this is all over give us a call and we'll give you the details you aren't allowed to hear."

Also all of them said "if you ever uh, you know, need anything, let us know."

I'm not sure, but did I just get a "get out of jail free" card?

Democracts Did Win Something

One bright spot: "Nationwide, Democrats added more than 60 legislative seats, reversing the 2002 results that gave Republicans more state legislators than Democrats for the first time in a half century."

December 17, 2004

July 25th, 1925..seems like just yesterday

You've probably heard that about the ACLU's suit against a Georgia school board that required "warning" stickers on science textbooks. The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Here are some more sticker suggestions:

This textbook states that the earth is over 4 billion years old. Because some people strongly believef that earth cannot be this old, this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

This book promotes the theory of plate tectonics, the gradual movement of the major land masses. Because nobody oserved this process, this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

This textbook claims that evolution is not fully accepted by scientsist because it is just a theory. The author hopes to confuse you into equating "scientific theory" with "cockamamie theory."

This book mentions Creationism, new Creationism, Scientific Creationism, and Intelligent Design. All of these beliefs rely on the action of a supernational entity to explain life on earth. Scientists rejected supernatural explanations for life in the 1800s, and still do today.

This book discusses gods. The existence of entitites with supernatual power is controverisal, and many believe that myths, especially other people's myths, are fictional. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

This book was anonymously donated to your school library to secretly promote religious alternatives to the theory of evoluation. When you are finished with it, please refile the book in the fiction section.

This book discusses heliocentrism, the theory that the Earth orbits around a centrally located Sun. Because astronomers and other still disagree over the details of the heliocentric model, this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

First, The Challenge of Spelling.

Then, on to finance.

Bad Captain!

NTSB is begining to hone in on a possible cause of the Selendang Ayu disaster - just hours from the massive Aleutian storm that eventually drove her aground, the Captain TURNS the still nominal engine OFF.

Take some advice from First Sea Lord, who has months of experience on lakes in 14 foot sailboats: if your 738 foot bulk carrier is navigating the Aleutians, which can make the Grand Banks look like Monaco with 40 foot waves and 80 mphs gust coming your way, keep the engine ON, even if it is running a little funny.

The 90's wreck of the New Carissa in Oregon (the peek-a-boo, exploding, split in two logger wreck) was also caused by underestimating local conditions off an legendarily dangerous place, the notorious Columbia Bar, the lee shore of lee shores. All I can think is that the massive economics around freighters, where moments lost are hundreds of thousands of dollars, lead to weak decisions time and time and time again.

A side note is the recent problem of bulk carriers suddenly splitting in two for no good reason, a brittle metal problem shared by the Liberty ships of WWII, except that 80's and 90's designs were of course CAD based, with la-di-da optimism about ocean states built right in.

Speaking of which, here is the Russian Icebreaker I'm trying to get on for a September arctic climatology cruise.

December 16, 2004

A Little Hard Flying

I had not heard this tale. Riffling through some old AirCav Vietnam photos I ran into an outfit of Cobras ("air artillery) called the Blue Max. They were apparently famous in-theater for their skill and courage. They took awful casualties in 1972, essentially dive-rocketing enemy tanks with unguided munitions.

[Update: You too can have a fine artistic print of this, here.]

One of the Blue Max pilots was named Rickenbacker, which isn't exactly a common name, but I can't find confirmation that he was related to Eddie. Someone has put Eddie's book online, though, so that's another three hours wasted...

Historical, Crafted, Spiritual, Athletic, Lethal, Under $200

An interesting show on the English Longbow lead me to an English traditional archery shop (the same featured on the History Channel) where yew wood unrecurved longbows are under $500, and DIY kits are available for less than $200. A quick check lead to a fair list of in-city, outdoor archery ranges. I may have to investigate further.

How did the Old Dirty Bastard Die?

Speaking as the resident headline expert, pronouncing ODB's out loud name while reading headlines about his cause of death must be reported as tragic yet hilarious.

Michael Boulware-geiste

From this week's Dr. Z's Power Ranking:

"This is what shocks me. It took them 12 weeks of sitting on the bench to find out that Michael Boulware, No. 28, is their best DB. Then when they finally start him, all he does is win the game for them. Amazing."

12 Angry Monkeys

So after a mere 11 weeks of enduring Jury selections, trial and two weeks of deliberations it's over and I am allowed to talk about it.

The story as presented by both sides:

Incident begins harmlessly enough in the parking lot outside a club. Some folks in a Suburban report they have a minor altercation with a guy in an XTerra. They bump his car with their door. He says "Hey man, watch my car", they reply with "Sorry man, but this is a rental and I don't give a shit." The folks in the Suburban think nothing more of this as they leave the club,
travel along city streets and eventually get on the freeway.

They are traveling along and as they near the point where the freeway divides into 101 and 280 they hear a loud bump / thud to the rear, right side of their car.

They all look around and wonder "did we run over a brick?"

At that point they see an XTerra next to them, and then someone shouts "They're shooting at us!"

Conflicting reports from different witnesses. Some folks report hearing multiple bangs, some just see flashes, the front passenger window shatters.

The front passenger remembers shouting at the driver warning him they are about to hit the retaining wall (which they do), he eventually grabs the wheel and wrestles the car to a stop (the tires on one side have gone flat, so the car slows down fast)

End result: The driver is dead. They dial 911 and help arrives in minutes. Hope to Cod you never have to hear the 911 tape of someone who's best friend has just been shot.

Further testimony emerges: Initially they made statements to the police (hearsay) they saw shots from the driver's window. By the time the grand jury testimony rolls around they are testifying that they saw the shots come from the back driver's side window.

(4 people, with slightly different testimony. But they more or less tell the same general story)

Next up is testimony from the SF CSI, who arrived on the scene about 40 minutes after the incident. If nothing else, he provides much needed relief in his own dry, Irish-accented style.

PD: "So have you ever seen the show CSI?"
CSI: "No. I work the 9PM to 6AM shift, so I don't watch much prime-time TV."
PD: "Well, you have seen police dramas. How does what you do differ from
what the jury may have seen on TV?"
CSI: "Well, first off, as you can see I'm not wearing a $2000 Armani suit...."

He testifies that in scouring the scene with all the officers they found the following:
  • Several bullet fragments (some lead, along with a copper bullet jacket.)
  • 3 Spent 9mm shells scattered along the split in the freeway where the XTerra went.
  • 2 Spent .44 Special shells along where the split in the freeway near where the Suburban ended up.

He also testifies to later on in the evening performing a gun shot residue collection from several individuals who were arrested driving an Xterra matching the description from the scene. He also gives testimony that the shot that hit the back of the car was a direct shot (not a ricochet) and the cars would have been around 30 feet apart when the shot occurred.

Next up is a beat cop who testifies to the 'felony stop' of one XTerra on the bay bridge (I.e. Guns drawn, exit one at a time, grab some pavement, etc.) He also testifies to one 9mm shell found on the floor of the XTerra (later testimony confirms the markings on this shell as matching those found at the crime scene)

Also up is the ME, who testifies as to cause of death of the driver and collection of gun shot residue samples from the decedent (standard operating procedure for gun-related deaths)

Next up is testimony of the driver of the Xterra. He's made a deal with the DA (he was on trial with the defendant) and he testifies that basically he wanted to get the guys in the car, but the defendant did the shooting. And it was the defendant's gun. And I didn't do nothing.

Not the world's best witness.

Next up is the investigating officer. He plays a videotape of the defendant in the box. Over the course of an hour and half he's asked if this was self-defense (no) he's asked if he did it (no) but eventually he cracks after they tell him they have evidence pointing to someone in the car shooting. He admits to firing two shots "for fun" at "some poles" and claims he didn't know he hit anybody.

During all this we also hear cross examinations where some folks in the car admit they have some prior convictions for road racing, and that one guy in the car has a prior conviction for beating a guy up. The driver also admits he was looking at 2 consecutive life sentences but instead he's getting 5 years for aiding and abetting.

Prosecution rests.

Defense then brings up experts that mention that everyone in the suburban had their clothes tested positive for lead residue. And a few folks had evidence of primer residue on their clothing (expert says 50 / 50 chance someone in the suburban shot vs. residue from the bullet entering the car.)

Experts mention the 2 .44 shell casings.

The defendant then gets up and tells his story. He was just riding in the car (drunk) and heard two loud bangs. The driver shouts at him "they are shooting at us! Shoot them back." and hands him a gun. He says he never sees a gun in the other car but he shoots twice out the back window at the ground just "to show them we have a gun too" and then the driver takes the gun from
him and does the killing shot.

Folks testify that the defendant is a saint.

Folks testify that the driver is a meth addict and has pointed guns at folks

Folks testify that first bullet entering car was ricochet, supporting the cars being closer together.

Experts try and reconstruct the scene. Show how some shots could have happened far down the freeway, with more shots up close to split point where the fatal shooting happened (provided you believe ricochet theory.)

A ton of alternate scenarios are provided (Road race gone bad, supported by prior conviction of driver of Suburban. One other folk in the car had prior convictions for violent offenses. ) Etc. etc. ad nausea.

Prosecution brings back CSI: He says ricochet is BS, explains why. Shoots holes (no pun intended) in defense theory of shots fired, gun handed off, then more shots.

Defense spends a day and a half of closing arguments listing over 100 reasonable doubts.

Prosecution spends considerably less time saying "Don't let the defense confuse you. Sometimes the defendant is just guilty."

We begin deliberations. Oddly enough I have no opinion as to whether the defendant is guilty or not. I go to the bathroom to take a much needed leak and when I return to the jury room everyone is staring at me.


"John. We want you to be our foreman."

After a bit of 'aw shucks, I was thinking of running but didn't want the extra stress, but you have faith in me so I'll do my best' I take the job.

We break for the day. And I actually start thinking about guilt or innocence in the case.

We return the next day for deliberations, and I suggest we go over the jury instructions pertaining to evidence and facts. It emerges that one of the jurors:
a) IS a loud mouth
b) loves to interrupt
c) Tends to get upset whenever anything is brought up that suggested the defendant might be guilty.

I rise to the bait somewhat and play devils advocate just to balance things out. I'm not comfortable going either way at this point. This makes the juror more upset (and we haven't even taken a vote yet.)

I notice this juror (and a few others) tends to jump all over the place in terms of testimony. I try drawing a 'fact tree' to keep focused on what's relevant to any given count we're talking about. This doesn't go well (loudmouth gets upset)

We adjourn for the day.

Next day I institute a 'raise your hand to speak rule.' This upsets loudmouth, and in a huff they begin reading paper and not listening. Peer pressure from everyone else that this is a good idea brings this person back into the conversation.

More deliberation, fewer nasty arguments. I point out that I'm only shilling for the prosecution because I feel they are otherwise being shouted down by a small, vocal minority (aka Loudmouth)

Very little progress is made, but slowly different folks find their voice and so both sides of the argument are having productive discussions. Except for loudmouth who gets more upset the closer we come to guilty on anything.

I sleep on it and am starting to lean towards guilt. I realize that while we have evidence to gunshots from the victims' car, the only evidence to corroborate it is the defendant. Everyone else (including his own statement to the police and his accomplice and the folks in the Suburban) all points to no shots from the car. Further, I believe most of these folks a hell of a lot more than a 50/50 chance and his testimony. The more I pick apart all the defense experts, the more holes I find.

Next day we argue endlessly on the count of shooting at an occupied vehicle.

I realize about 1/2 the folks are willing to completely believe the defendant's testimony without a single grain of salt.

Skip ahead to two days later. Following the jury instructions I've basically shown that the defendant's own testimony says he fired a gun. That this is assault unless it's self defense. His own testimony that he never saw a gun and wasn't all that afraid show that self defense isn't an option for him.

We find him guilty of 4 counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm.
(only 7 more counts to go)

2 days of deliberations later (and numerous votes) we seem to be stuck. I point out that we're basically down to weighing his testimony and the 50/50 evidence of a gun in the other car against every single other person in this case. I point out how ridiculous all the 100+ theories the defense has put up don't apply (Since when does a car road race let you shoot someone?
Here's why all 4 shots came in close succession without a hand-off in between.)

Loudmouth throws a tantrum (again) and says they won't find him guilty, not now not ever. We get called into the courtroom (I mention in note to judge that while we are getting stuck, we are not completely stuck, and we have reached a verdict on some counts)

The guilty verdict is entered on the 4 assault counts we found, we return to deliberating.

We agree, loudmouth notwithstanding, to keep trying. We actually find him not guilty of First Degree murder (despite the fact that I think he did it, I simply can't find the evidence to prove premeditation on his behalf, at least according to our 100+ pages of Jury instructions.)

We keep trying to make progress, but we're stuck at 7 to 5 guilty / not guilty on the remaining charges (Shooting at an occupied vehicle, 4 counts attempted murder, murder in various degrees)

Loudmouth is now spending all their time knitting, and not even listening (even during an impassioned speech by me in how none of us has to bear this burden alone, that we have 11 other people here to keep us honest.)

We unanimously declare ourselves to be a hung jury and send a note to that effect to the judge.

30 minutes later we file in to a packed courtroom where our final verdict is entered. The Judge asks me as to what the vote count stands at (without revealing what side it goes for.) how many times it was polled and how long it has remained thus. She also asks every juror if they feel they are unable to make progress. We all answer yes.

With that we are thanked for our time and efforts other the last 11 weeks.

After everyone shuffles out, the attorneys descend on us and we give them our honest feedback. The DA says he's going to reprosecute on all the counts we couldn't find. The defense attorney asks if we have any questions and I ask for his number in case I ever get arrested.

I have this lingering doubt as to whether I did the right thing pushing and working so hard for at least some sort of conviction. But again, I realize that rather than being swayed by the defendant's testimony and the fact that he seemed like just a poor kid, stuck in abad situation, pushed into doing the crime by a really bad guy, I weighed the evidence honestly and found that his didn't measure up to everyone else's.

Outside, I shake the victim's father's hand and tell him I'm sorry for his loss. I chat with him for a bit and the DA comes up and asks if I have any additional feedback. I mention how sympathetic the defendant seemed and how much of a scumbag the driver of the car seemed.

He then proceeds to rattle off all the evidence that was suppressed in this case (recent knife fight
the defendant was in, criminal past, violent history) that basically point out that he was hardly the hapless, poor kid I saw in court.

So the end result after 11 weeks of hard work is that he'll get tried again on a bunch of counts and I can sleep at night knowing all the hard work I put in for those assault counts will at least put him in jail for 12-24 years.

In then end it was well worth sitting through 10 weeks of testimony and the two weeks of sleepless nights and long days of deliberation, playing peacekeeper with a loudmouth juror with a closed mind who showed nothing but disrespect for me and my fellow jurors.

Plus I've given my number to the prosecutor. I volunteered to help him on the retrial vis-a-vis what happened during deliberations.

Now if I could just remember what my life was like before this...

December 15, 2004

The "painting object" sculpture referred to in my interview, about 6 feet high. The paint is applied to an armature of wire, foam and a type of putty. This is a frontal view, somewhat foreshortened in the arm.

Do Us All a Favor

Hop on over here and tell the House Judiciary Committee to hold full hearings on the 2004 election and the problems of disenfranchisement, voter machines, and possible fraud. Rep. John Conyers, our patron saint of fair elections, is trying to get one opened and he needs our support. Personally, I'm working on a love letter to Congressman Sennsenbrenner, the committe chair.

When you've finished there, give some props to our pals at MoveOn who are getting together one of their petitions. If you're still feeling spunky, stop by here to tell Barbara Boxer we want her to be the Senator to sponsor the contest the vote effort. Or, go to her web site and sound off. Remember four years ago, seeing all the members of the Congressional Black Caucus complain about the election results in Florida, only to be forced to shut up because not a single senator would sign the objection? Let's not have that happen again.

Not Since D-Monics...

Could there be a worse name for a voting machine company than Triad?
"Her affidavit contends that last Friday, in advance of the recount, a representative of the manufacturer of the vote-counting software used in her county’s vote November 2, made several adjustments to the Hocking County tabulator.

"The employee of Triad Governmental Systems then asked, according to Ms. Eaton’s statement, which of Hocking’s voting precincts would be selected as the “sample” for the small hand-count required in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. She claims that when informed, the Triad man, as the Times’ Tom Zeller put it, “made further adjustments to the machine.” "

A Little Dissonance on the Right

While defending Christmas and preaching conservative moral values to us, the Fox Network runs this incredible dreck. Kill your TV.

Another Catastrophic Victory!

This is a great achievment comrade. Medals for everyone.

December 14, 2004

Overdue Thanks for a Job Fucked Up

President awards Medal of Freedom to 3 Yoinks. What the Hell. I'm so appalled I am nearly incontinent. This must be "Let's See How Ill We Can Make Eric Day".

Here's a list of former recipiants all of whom (With the exception of Walt Disney, that bastard) are disgraced by these pipsqueaks who got the medal today.

Here are Clinton's picks for MoF. Yes I know...Colin Powell, but that was back when we thought he had integrity.

While we are on the subject...

We've forgotten another Democrat killed as a result of a suspicious plane crash, Ron Brown, a staunch political ally of Bill Clinton and head of the Department of
Commerce. This dude sums up the parameters of the conspiracy theory quite well:

Ron Brown was found with a .45-inch inwardly beveling circular hole in the top of his head, which resembled a gunshot wound. Despite this suspicious wound, the Air Force medical examiners decided not to order an autopsy.

Normally in plane crash investigations there is a two step process. The Air Force first determines whether the crash was the result of an accident, hostile fire, sabotage, or mechanical failure. In Ron Brown's case, this determination (called a safety board) was skipped. Instead,the Air Force immediately proceeded to the second part of the investigation, where only accident and legal issues are considered.

The Air Force reported that a navigation beacon had been stolen from the airport sometime before the crash. This led some to speculate that the pilot may have been intentionally drawn off course and into the mountainside by a spurious beacon.

Three days after the crash, Niko Jerkic--the man who was responsible for maintaining the airport's navigational aids--died by gunshot. This was ruled a suicide. Jerkic's untimely death meant that investigators did not have a chance to question him.

Despite the fact that we all know how much I love a good conspiracy theory, many questions about that crash and the others mentioned recently still leave me wondering.

Rumsfeld May Survive McCain...

...but not Joe Scarborough!

Remnant of April 2002 o/c 90" by 66"

Jamie Bollenbach: The Liquitex Interview

Liquitex liked my use of their new paint so much, a paint which allows me to build 3-d sculptures out of wire and paint, and unlike most sculptural materials preserves the direct gestural mark of an abstract painting, that they asked me to appear in a 50th anniversary ad as the subject of an interview, plus a bunch of free paint. I'm sharing the bill with 4 other artists, including Jamie Wyeth, which makes for a 2/5 Jamie to others ratio.. It's a back door route to get my work in Art in America or something like it, but lecturers can't be choosers.

It is one of the very few times I've been called an intergalactic bucking bronco in public.

Jamie’s studio is near the old Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. The creative juices in the room are highly charged and concentrated. During our visit, the conversation looped and zoomed from cerebral to funky to raunchy to pithy and even to a few orbits around some possible universal truths. Talking with Jamie that afternoon was like trying to rein in an intergalactic bucking bronco.
After completing an MFA (2002) at the University of Washington in Seattle, he has taught drawing and painting at the same university. His paintings are figurative abstracts that are highly charged and atmospheric. His imagery comes primarily from an observed model or purely from the imagination, and describes his ideal painting as "the edge of a Dekooning figure in a Turner seascape.”

We first met Jamie at a College Art Association convention when he convinced us to give him a pile of Liquitex Super Heavy Body paints. The range was a few weeks away from formal launch, and this slightly scruffy, highly likable character told us, “With this stuff, I can do things that exist, right now, only in dreams.” How do you say ‘no’ to that?

Jamie followed up with us a few months later, and we found out that he was, indeed, for real. And he was doing things with Super Heavy Body colors that we hadn’t dreamed of.

“It’s amazing how a little tweak, a little change to the nuance of the materials, can open up completely new opportunities,” he said on the phone. “I’m really interested in the way movement and gesture can translate across space. So, I was intrigued by how this paint can hold shape. I then found that, not only does it hold shape, but it’s light enough to stand on top of itself in a way that oils can’t. So, I started playing with how I could actually build objects that are derived from forms that I’ve developed in my paintings.”

That’s sculpture, right?

“No, I don’t really think of these as sculpture. They’re more like ‘painting objects.’ I can actually get the paint to hold a painterly mark or a gesture in space.”

We had to see what he was doing. We went to Seattle, drank coffee, felt the rain on our faces, talked a lot, told jokes about Republicans and conceptual artists (not suitable for re-print here) and, after seeing how he was pushing the materials in some unique and compelling directions, it was obvious that he absolutely, positively had to be included in the 50th anniversary interviews.

The studio was dominated by a large, central easel that held a painting of an in-progress, highly ethereal, arctic landscape…

Liquitex: So, talk with us about this painting. Where did the imagery come from?

Jamie Bollenbach: It just sort of turned up. Many of my paintings aren’t really drawn. They just kind of evolve. They start as abstracts and then just kind of turn into something more specific.

Liquitex: After seeing your work in photographs, I’m surprised by how painterly these are. You have got some really juicy, fun stuff happening here.

JB: I like the juicy.

Liquitex: Your work is fundamentally about the basic elements of design: line shape, color, value, and texture. But there is a very strong sensual and expressive quality to the work. How do you get that strong sensual and expressive content out of those strict and tight elements of design?

JB: One of the things that absolutely fascinates me is this kind of infinity that comes from limitations. For example, a painting usually has only four sides and it’s usually rectangular and you have eight or nine pots of paint. Those are like rules of a game of football. The limitations actually create a new and infinite range of possibilities that you never would have anticipated.

Liquitex: How does that translate into working with paint?

JB: One of the reasons you go to all the trouble to make images in this extremely difficult and annoyingly messy way – as opposed to all the other ways that we can make pictures in the modern world – is that painting lets us experience the process directly. You can take responsibility for everything that happens.

So, the sensual quality comes up not so much from pleasure of painting – which, of course, is a lot of fun -- but from a more intellectual process. I think. While I’m painting and building the surface, I’m thinking. I’m trying to figure out how this goo and this colored mud relates to the idea. And the more carefully I think about the goo, the more accurately the idea comes into being.

That’s why I get very frustrated by conceptual art -- it’s very often just a literary idea that has no body. And it bothers me that there’s an assumption that the use of materials and paint is not a serious intellectual process. In fact, there’s forty thousand years of physical evidence of painting to contradict that notion. Paint is pretty interesting stuff.

Liquitex: One of the pleasures when looking at paintings comes in finding the brush strokes that are just right. The gesture that you absolutely, positively know the painter stepped back afterwards and said, “Damn, that felt good!” And there are a number of those strokes on this painting – there’s one right there. (Pointing to a juicy stroke of color on the panel)

JB: Right. That one felt really great.

Liquitex: And this one, too. (Pointing to another stroke)

JB: Yep. That one felt particularly direct.

Liquitex: So, for you there’s an intellectual process as well as emotional and sensual?

JB: Yes, but they’re not separate.

Liquitex: So, they come from the same place?

JB: I’ve been reading essays on intelligence. It’s fascinating to read about people who have physical injuries to the brain. Often, people that have had injuries to areas of the brain that control emotions and emotional intelligence are unable to perform other functions, too. Some can’t do math, for example. So, yes, those things all seem to be connected.

Liquitex: You’ve been reading Howard Gardner. (Educational Psychologist at Harvard, author of the seminal work on multiple intelligences, Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences along with another work that directly addresses Jamie’s point entitled, Art, Mind, and Brain: A cognitive approach to creativity). And there’s a school of thought that’s being resurrected in our 21st century world that, in short, says art and science are two sides of the same coin. That you can’t have one without the other.

JB: That’s exactly right. It doesn’t mean that the artistic process is a touchie-feely, new-age kind a thing. It means that art is a way to respond and pull together all the kinds of abilities that humans naturally have.

Liquitex: If I’m hearing you correctly, in respect to painting, you’re saying that the physical and the tactile are important -- not just for itself -- but also because it’s a route into the intellectual, as well. So the intellectual and the physical reflect and, ultimately, enhance each other.

JB: Absolutely. That is exactly right. In fact, the intellectual is, I think, hobbled when the physical part – the working with the materials part -- is cut out of the equation. To remove the materials and the process from visual art seems to me to be the height of kind of arrogance and laziness.

More and more, we’re seeing lots of artists getting frustrated with clever conceptual stuff and going back to a materials-based process.

Liquitex: As evidenced by this year’s (2004) Whitney Biennial, which was loaded with lots of paintings.

JB: Denzil Hurley (UW Professor) said maybe one of the best things I’ve ever heard: We don’t even know everything there is to know about blue yet. You can spend your whole life trying to learn blue in oil paint or in acrylic paint. And the materials will get you to an understanding of “blue” in a very particular way.

Liquitex: So, talk about the process by which you have now started to translate that into these. (Points to wire armature hanging from the ceiling, laden with Super Heavy Body acrylic paint) You’re calling these “painting objects.” Is that right?

JB: I’m calling these painting objects because I’m approaching them differently than how I’d approach sculpture. I don’t have a lot of experience with sculpture, and, even though it’s three dimensional, the work really is about painting. It’s a 3-D way of working out painting issues. Basically, I’m just thinking that I can get a painting parked in space.

Liquitex: You’re very articulate about how you manage your process. So, let’s go on to something even more basic -- what led you to become an artist?

JB: That’s a tricky one. I grew up around two things: politics, for one. And my father was a meteorologist who painted and did all right with it. He learned to paint really well and then he quit and started ceramics. He went to Alaska in 1950 and that’s where I was born. Which meant a lot of time on beaches and always drawing and fishing. In high school, I got into cartooning and politics. So, in college I did a little bit of art and a lot of political science. After school, I worked for the American Civil Union for five years. It was fascinating and interesting and I contributed to the cause of truth and freedom (laughs).

But, basically the art stuff was gnawing at me. It just kept gnawing at me. I had a little money saved up, so I decided I wanted to take a plunge and get a motorcycle and go to San Francisco and be a starving artist. It worked, but it was an excruciatingly slow process.

So, I’m not making any money. But I’m doing exactly what I want to do. Very few people can say that.

Liquitex: Making money is not a determining factor in the quality of someone’s art.

JB: I sure hope not.

Liquitex: No it is not. So, how does teaching fit into the process?

JB: Teaching is a way to articulate some issues that are interesting to me. I never meet anybody from whom I can’t learn something. I think that applies to working with students, too. It’s a nice counterbalance, to be out there working with the students.

We have fun, and then I come back here and work in the studio. It balances out.

Liquitex: Is there one thing in particular that you hope your students get from you?

JB: One thing? Or two?

Liquitex: Okay, you can say two.

JB: One, is to feel confident in making art. I don’t really believe in talent as much as I believe in discipline. Persistence. I don’t think that art is something that is only the result of some super special case of magical ability. It’s something that you can train for and learn from other people. In fact, the idea of the artist as some sort of shaman is far too strong, it actually hampers people’s ability to be creative because they think only specially favored people get to do it. To whatever extent I can bring a democratic value into the class, I want them to understand that this is something that they can do.

The other thing is that this is a peculiar path to spirituality. I’m not a religious man, but I very much believe that things that aren’t in touch with the sacred (are) unimportant. And there are things that art touches that are full of the sacred.

I’m frustrated, in this day and age -- with technology breathing down our neck – that, of all people, artists should be holding the (humanist) line. I guess I still believe in revolutionary liberation.

Liquitex: If artists aren’t shamans, then what’s the most important thing that artists bring to the community?

JB: I believe that if you neglect the artistic process, you do so at the cost of a balanced ability to think. Without artistic thinking you are going to miss a lot of truth with a big capital T. Without artistic thinking as part of the community, there will be lots of bad social decisions. In fact, cultures that include the production of art have almost always been the most successful.

Liquitex: That’s a terrific statement.

JB: Just wait for the propaganda that follows.

Liquitex: So, what’s the most fun for you in your work?

JB: Looking at naked girls is (of course) good.

Liquitex: What else?

JB: I think what is the most fun is getting into this position where it’s like constantly stumbling up this staircase, wondering and learning. I had a model here in the studio a few days ago…

Liquitex: Ah, the naked girl bit.

JB: Uh, yeah. And there was this little stumbling bit of knowledge where I realized that just standing in a room is an amazingly complex system. And making art is a way to comprehend and express the mystery and wonder of a person just standing in a room probably better than any other process.

Liquitex: So what’s is your biggest challenge?

JB: This stuff. (Indicating the wire armature on which he’s making a human-size ‘painting object’) The mechanics. How can I get this damn thing to stand up? What kind of foam do I use? All these problems are fun. But the biggest problem is in keeping the expressive goal of the art from fading away, to keep from getting lost in the mechanics of things that might not be relevant.

Liquitex: During the discussion, there’s a theme that’s come through and that is really powerful. Forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted, but I want to distill this down into something more easily digestible. You’ve said that painting is important because it’s a fabulous way integrate the physical, the sensual, the intellectual, the spiritual, the political, and the social. And if you leave out any of these elements, everything else suffers.

JB: I think that says it. And there is no short cut. The more I study this, the more I realize that you’ve got to do it the hardest way possible. I wish I had known that when I was a little kid. But those books, like “How to Draw Trees” are exactly the wrong way to go. Trees don’t have a formula.

I teach drawing the figure more or less the way I teach drawing a tree or drawing the things around the tree. You can use a few (visual) tools to measure and to clarify things, but the goal is to train yourself to process, recognize, and record the fundamental relationships within what you’re seeing.

Liquitex: Kind of like life.

JB: Yep. Kind of like life.