May 31, 2005

OK Big Dick, We'll See Who's Got Game

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Is there a statute of limitations on bad optometry?

The Most Harmful Books Ever

As selected by conservatives. Keynes makes the list! (High fives all around.) John Stuart Mill gets Honorable Mention! (Woo hoo!) Simone de Beauvoir! (You go girl!)

Hadn't heard of Comte before - I'll have to have a look - thanks conservatives!

This is better than Nixon's enemies list.

This is Adorable!

Kitten Cannon

(My high score: 1,073 ft.)


Rachel Corrie large

The "Ballard" opening at the SAM rental/sales gallery, featuring 6- 8 of my paintings and sculptures, will be held from 5-8PM.

The gallery is on the first floor of the Seattle Tower, 1220 Third Ave, downtown.

May 30, 2005

My Word!

If you don’t know about this program, let me add some richness to your life. “My Word!” is a BBC radio program that is re-run in San Francisco on Friday nights at 8:00 pm on KALW 91.7, followed by a companion program “My Music” at 8:30. Both are absolutely worth tuning into.

I’ve listened to this program off and on, whenever I could find it, for at least twenty years. And for at least nineteen years I’ve been saying to myself “who are these people and, even though they’re British, how can they be so impossibly erudite and funny?” I finally took the time to look some things up and now I’m even more impressed. For one thing, the program ran from 1956 to 1995, so I’ve been listening to re-runs for ten years and never knew it.

“My Word” is about words and wit; two teams of two players compete to answer questions about the meaning or etymology or usage of obscure words but the topper is a challenge issued by the “chairman” to the two panelists who worked on the show for its entire existence, Frank Muir and Denis Norden.

At the start of the show, they were each given a familiar phrase and asked to explain its origin. At the end of the show, they would cough up hilarious shaggy dog stories that ended with punnish misstatements. So you get stories like “The Massive Men Need Wives of Quiet Respiration” or “You Can’t Have Your Kayak and Heat It." Check out one for yourself here

I remember a few of the other panelists, Dilys Power, film critic and Greek scholar, Anne Scott-James (for years I thought she was a man named “Anscott James”) journalist and gardening fiend, and the “chairman” Jack Longland, who arbitrarily and breezily doled out the points “one and a half marks to Denis Norden for mispronouncing ‘Rostropovich’.

The little more I’ve learned about these people has me finding them even more impressive. A few notes:

Jack Longland (1905-1993)
Before his work on “My Word”, before he became lecturer and patron of the socialist “Workers Education Association”, and well before he became “Sir John”, but after many “climbing firsts” Logland climbed Mt. Everest in 1933.

From his obituary: "The attempt was plagued by atrocious conditions but one episode from it has become a part of mountaineering folklore. Longland's action in bringing down eight Sherpas from Camp 6 at 27,400 ft in a sudden storm and white-out conditions which obliterated all traces of the route, by a ridge on which he had never been before, is one of the great mountaineering epics of responsible heroism.

During the 36-hour ordeal he had continually both to safeguard his exhausted and dispirited men and force them to keep on the move. It deserved and drew the highest praise, and certainly saved the Sherpas lives.

Frank Muir: 1920 – 1998
Surely this clever, cultured fellow, with his odd sort of “Received Pronounciation” accent, where all of the vowels are rich and full and the “rs” turn into “ws” was the beneficiary of a classy public education? Um, no. He dropped out of school at 14 after the death of his father left the family broke and went to work at a carbon paper company. He joined the RAF when war broke out and was first posted to Iceland. At the end of the war, apparently surprised to have survived, he changed from a “shy Kentish boy” and became an outgoing fellow who wanted to make everybody laugh. He teamed up with Denis Norden in 1948 and the two of them became one of the tallest scriptwriting teams of the modern age, (6’6” and 6’3”).

Denis Norden (born 1922)
Norden, also a veteran of the RAF, first ran a variety talent agency after the war. Apparently, he wrote much of the material for his stable of comedians and others. This experience probably helped inform his view of the business side of comedy.

He wrote: "I used to like writing for comedians - I enjoyed the challenge of making other people funny. And when you actually did something with the material the comedian didn't think he could do - when you'd said 'Trust me' and he went on to get his laugh, then you felt you'd created a person.

"The comedians all finished their acts with a song. They would get a certain amount of money from the song publishers and would use that money to pay the writers. None of them paid very much for their comedy material, but it all added up."

Maybe this had something to do with his plan in about 1977 to collect outtakes from films and broadcast them on TV in a program called “It’ll Be Alright On The Night”. "Everyone who appears in a scene gets paid," says Denis ... "The only people excluded from this are politicians and royal figures who place themselves at risk by being in the public eye - but if an actor makes a mistake and it gets into an outtake he will get paid wherever it is shown throughout the world. There can be repeat fees. With the paradoxical result that he will get paid more for not doing it right than he would if he had done it right.

"In fact," he says, expanding on the theme, "it's like running a farm where the manure is worth more than the cattle." (Yes, for better and worse, it seems that Denis Norden invented bloopers. Fortunately, he has the good sense to call them cock-ups.)

So these guys started on radio and then wrote for film and television, pretty much since television was invented. Take a look at this list of writers from the BBC’s 1966 show “The Frost Report.”
Marty Feldman
John Law
Antony Jay
John Cleese
Graham Chapman
Michael Palin
Terry Jones
Keith Waterhouse
Willis Hall
David Nobbs
Peter Tinniswood
Frank Muir
Denis Norden

I admire a man whose range of wit covered subjects as divers as:

Like the poetry of Mallarmé, a hi-hat is one symbol on top of another.

In China, the piano piece ‘Chopsticks’ is known as ‘Knife and Fork’.

It's a funny kind of month, October. For the really keen cricket fan it's when you discover that your wife left you in May.

We don't want the television script good. We want it Tuesday.

A Letter from an Old Friend

Dear X,

How good to hear from you again. It has been a long time, yes? I don't believe we have spoken since that spring day in Cambridge back in 1985 - the day you destroyed my theory of musical monads and ruined my thesis defense.

As much as you may wish to believe otherwise, I do not dwell on that memory much. You were right to refute my juvenilia. We have a saying here that what does not destroy one makes one stronger. I am pleased to say that our little encounter led me down new paths of musical scholarship.

But surely you know this already - your letter betrays a bit of curiosity (even jealousy, no?) about my invention, the Felsenmaßkammer. Try as I might, word has begun to leak out. And since you inadvertently played a role in its development, perhaps I owe you a bit of explanation.

Do you remember that silly movie, Rock and Roll High School? I saw it a few weeks after those disastrous hours at Harvard. And as I watched the Rockometer scene I thought: why not? Surely Rock is not so complicated! If it can't be measured it doesn't matter - and surely Rock matters - so it must be measured! My life had meaning again!

And yes, the Felsenmaßkammer, the first and only objective scientific instrument that can measure the degree to which a musical work Rocks, is. It required 113 patents and the development of an energy source that is not entirely legal in all jurisdictions, but I am comfortable that the primary technological hurdles have now been surmounted.

But, X, perhaps I know you a little too well. In this offhand reference of yours to the famous AC/DC song 'Girls Got Rhythm' I detect an unnaturally specific curiosity on your part. Perhaps you would like to know its Felsenmaßkammer score? Of course you would.

But why? You indicate that you have a 'friend' who really likes the song. In all our years I have never read a word of yours that was not duplicitous, never a sentence that was not in the service of a hidden agenda (you may take this as a compliment). So you'll forgive me if I reflexively substitute 'enemy' for 'friend'. I suspect this will give me a reading more congruent with the facts.

Now then, you have an enemy who likes 'Girls Got Rhythm', and you wish to destroy him by proving that his favorite song is a piece of crap on a par with 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree'. I see, I understand. All that remains is for me, the little pawn in your game, to provide you with quantitative proof.

Well I am so sorry to disappoint you. 'Girls Got Rhythm' is to the Felsenmaßkammer what Plutonium-239 is to the Geiger counter. It is the raging heart of all that rocks, the definitive reference song, the apogee of Rock achievement. The first time I tested this song the Felsenmaßkammer 1 was unable to handle the energy and my entire facility was destroyed. I had to rebuild everything from scratch on a small volcanic island in the South Pacific. And then, just a few months ago, I tried again. I inserted a digital key containing 'Girls Got Rhythm' while my staff prepared to evacuate. But flight was unnecessary. The Felsenmaßkammer 2 wobbled a bit, but recorded a perfect score (11). No other song has scored so high, and I sincerely doubt one ever will.

So, if you have an enemy who recognizes the succinct, concentrated genius of 'Girls Got Rhythm' I pity you.

For my own part, I am partial to Rammstein, but there's no accounting for taste, is there Doktor?

I remain yours in musicological discipline,

Sepp Gruentag
Doktor von Musik
Abteilung von Musicology
Universität von Heidelberg

May 28, 2005

This Is the Greatest and Best Song in the World

In this ongoing debate, I find myself asking myself, "What would Jack Black say?"

Since I can't ask him, I don't honestly know. But I think he has already, in a sense, answered this question when Tenacious D recorded the song Tribute. For those who don't remember: the greatest and best song in the world was the first song that came to his head when confronted by the Devil, of which he subsequently lost all memory.

I think the point here is that you can record a tribute to the greatest song in the world, but you can't actually record the greatest song in the world. If you could record it, you could listen to it over and over again until it lost its freshness. Radio DJ's could play it too often and talk over the intro. Mediocre cover bands could play it in nightclubs. It could be converted a ringtone that annoys you when someone's phone goes off in a restaurant. Or (worst of all) it could provide the soundtrack for a car commercial.

Ultimately, the greatest rock song is the one that's rocking you at any given "rock moment", either on the dance floor, or in your car, or anywhere rock carries you away.

Canonize it, enshrine it, memorialize it, or over-analyze it, and it ceases to rawk. I assert that Girl's Got Rhythm was a better rock song at the beginning of the week than it is now.

May 27, 2005

A Correspondence of Some Trifling Interest

Dearest Edwin,

How good to hear from you again, and to learn of the unpleasantness at Mrs. Arbuthnot's. That will never do, and Tully should be ashamed of himself. I do hope they find her head.

My travels in America proceed apace and I have arrived, after considerable peregrinations, in San Francisco, a desolate little hamlet in their province of California. I don't mean to complain but the company here is most unsatisfactory, as the social order is topsy-turvy. The poor are, almost without exception, thoroughly educated in the liberal arts and able to speak extemporaneously on the most obscure topics in the social sciences. This makes cab rides most enjoyable, but they are really not of our class, if you get my meaning.

And yet the rich are without culture or education. They speak relentlessly and incomprehensibly about 'synergies', 'the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid', and 'doing business.' Otherwise palatable martini parties are severely marred by the intrusion of commercial speech, the grating sound of which I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to wash away with repeated trips to the musical clubs in the area.

My companion on on these sojourns has been a melancholic fellow from the economic middle. Culturally he is as light as a Japanese truffle, but his interests are wide-ranging and his companionship has inoffensive if not entirely agreeable. Inoffensive, I say, until last evening, when our talk turned to the evergreen topic of music.

"You know, Andrew," he said, "I have recently come around to the belief that the finest example of the Rock genre is the song 'Girls Got Rhythm' by AC/DC."

You can imagine the silence that ensued, a silence broken a moment later by the sound of my martini pitcher hitting the floor. Only his quick thinking and familiarity with the Heimlich Maneuver prevented a fatal esophagial mishap. As we mopped up the vodka and sputum, I begged to differ.

"Surely, X____," I said, "you have mis-spoken. Do you seriously suggest that the highest achievement in Rock history is the work of Scotsmen? And Australian Scotsmen at that?" I was incredulous.

"I know it is difficult to fathom for a man of your breeding, Andrew, but after all it was a New Zealander who summited Everest on Coronation Day. It is not unheard of. And besides, Rock is the music of alienation, an energetic response to a world that is indifferent to the very existence of the lower classes. It is hard for a Blue Blood to understand, but a Scotsman or Australian is betwixt and between. They are part of Britain, and yet not part of it, just as an Alaskan, although governed from Washington DC, looks out upon Arctic wastes from his ig-loo. It preys upon the mind."

Edwin, you must believe me when I tell you I tried every rhetorical trick, every sophistic turn at my disposal, to disabuse him of his misguided thesis. Surely, I averred, 'Shoot to Thrill' is more melodically inventive, 'Highway to Hell' more anthemic, 'Back in Black' the more widely-acknowledged masterwork. But he would not be turned.

He regarded me as placidly as a Buddha. "What is right is not always popular. What is popular is not always right. But I have put this question to myself and I have made my peace with it. 'Girls Got Rhythm' is the finest Rock noise ever recorded. No doubt about it, can't live without it."

He me poured another tequila shot and touched it off with his Zippo. Well, when in Rome, and all that. Give Bertha and the triplets my best.

I remain yours affectionately,


May 26, 2005

What Is Rock?

After some discussion of 'Girls Got Rhythm' with the Laird, and some Net research, it is becoming apparent that a lot of people simply don't know what rock is. Yes, even here in America, home of the Chrysler 440 cubic inch engine, people who should know better are able to put up best song lists that look like this (I have rated the degree to which each song rocks on a scale of 1-10 in parentheses):

1. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan (1)
2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (7.5)
3. Imagine - John Lennon (0)
4. What's Going On? - Marvin Gaye (3)
5. Respect - Aretha Franklin (7)
6. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys (6)
7. Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry (8)
8. Hey Jude - The Beatles (0.5)
9. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (9)
10. What'd I Say - Ray Charles (7)

Or this:

1. Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin (2.5, extra credit for the word 'bustle')
2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (7.5)
3. Layla - Derek and the Dominoes (8.5)
4. A Day in the Life - The Beatles (0.25)
5. Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (8.5)
6. Light My Fire - The Doors (3)
7. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd (6 - A masterpiece, BTW, but not a rock masterpiece)
8. Hotel California - The Eagles (-1)
9. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen (8)
10. Imagine - John Lennon (0)

It just seems if you're going to pick a list of rock songs, you should pick songs that actually rock. My God, people are picking 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'Nights in White Satin' as great rock songs. Darkness descends.

Well, you might say, rock is a normative concept. Rock is subjective. Rock is in the eye of the beholder, these are complex matters, blah blah blah. Fine, go join the Sith and live in your relativist hell.

Let me just say, I know it when I see it. And it looks like this:

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Let's set the record straight. Our nation's future is at stake.

Huh huh...You Said: Doctor

SomethingAwful's worst superhero costumes of all time.

Robo-Ferret and Things I Actually Wanted Out of the Future

The robot vacuum people have come up with a robot MOP. Impressive.

But how long before even the janitors are let go?

An article in the May Scientific American discusses the design of new pseudo-neural circuitry that rather brilliant copies natures ability to dedicate neurons to their specific tasks - adopted, this would greatly speed up the attempt to replicate human intelligence. The study in question replicates the neural pathways governing ferret vision.

And then...? It's reasonable to ask whether there is any likely outcome, in our economy, that would actually benefit most human beings.

May 25, 2005

Amnesty Report: Ouch

Amnesty International roughs up the U.S., the Iraq insurgents, and Israel over serious deterioration in human rights worldwide, in particular calling Israeli actions in the occupied territories "war crimes." It singles out the US for "setting the tone" that is undermining human rights by discrediting international law.

The reaction appears more serious than usual.

Paul Lynde and George Bush?

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

We've made this observation before. Are we completely sure Paul Lynde is dead?

What would this explain? Was Lynde functionally straight long ago - did he have an ill-advised affair with Barbara? How would America be different if Bush lived up to this rich cultural heritage? Is this why he always seeks the center square?

It is admitted that the prosaic title is Google bait.

Alert the Fundies

Charlotte's Web was "voiced by Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, Agnes Moorehead and Debbie Reynolds. I don't think you can get any queerer than that," she said.

May 24, 2005

My New Favorite Song

After several dozen listenings, I conclude that "Girls Got Rhythm" surpasses longtime champion "Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)".

I had thought Angus was doing the riff on "Girls Got Rhythm" and they doubletracked it, or maybe hired a studio guitarist. But according to Angus in this 1985 interview, they never doubletracked, and Malcolm always plays the rhythm part.

This interview gives some hints on Malcolm's technique.

Step #1 - Big Strings: "I use Gibson Sonomatics [now sold under the name “L-5”] gauged .012-.058. I switched to that gauge three months after the band formed, and I’ve never changed. I first went to them because we’d been having tuning problems. I thought, “Well I’m just playing rhythm, so I’ll get the thick strings and keep my tuning solid.” Then I realized that we sounded better, too, because the rhythm sounds were bigger. You get more volume from thick strings. And they do stay in tune better when you’re digging in as hard as I do. I rip the chords as hard as I can so the wood really resonates. There’s no finesse involved."

Step #2 - Stop at the G String: "The big, open G chords are great. Just be careful not to hit too many of the thin strings when you’re strumming. Stop your strum at about the G string, and it just rounds bigger."

Step #3 - Feel the Love: "I love planting myself next to the drums and getting that groove thing going. I even put one of my feet against the drum riser so that I can feel the drums vibrating."

My favorite exchange from that interview with Angus:

Q: Do you know what you're doing in musical terms?

A: I haven't a clue.

Q: You don't work on scales.

A: Nah.

So, Malcolm and Angus Young: Saaaa-LUTE!

What is not Expressly Forbidden is Compulsory

As scientists are working to create one teeny weeny black hole a second in the lab, the future of the planet earth depends on the correctness of the following sentence (from Carr and Gidding in this month's Scientific American)
There is no such conservation law to stabilize a small black hole. In quantum theory, anything not expressly forbidden is compulsory, so small black holes will rapidly decay, in accord with the second law of thermodynamics.
If the plan works, it will be confirmation of the 11 extra dimensions of reality, or so, predicted by string theory.

Meanwhile, over the last several days, I have been able to successfully employ a hand miter box to frame several oil paintings in a combination of softwoods such as fir and pine.

Meanwhile, 8.7 billion Miles Away...

Voyager 1 is still going strong.

I Can tell You A Most Laughable Thing Indeed

I prefer old-fangled irony - here we indulge Mark Twain in Roughing It, an early book about his time in Carson City in the silver rush (and a excellent loose history of the Old West).

On the western verge of the Desert we halted a moment at Ragtown. It consisted of one log house and is not set down on the map.

This reminds me of a circumstance. Just after we left Julesburg, on the Platte, I was sitting with the driver, and he said:

"I can tell you a most laughable thing indeed, if you would like to listen to it. Horace Greeley went over this road once. When he was leaving Carson City he told the driver, Hank Monk, that he had an engagement to lecture at Placerville and was very anxious to go through quick. Hank Monk cracked his whip and started off at an awful pace. The coach bounced up and down in such a terrific way that it jolted the buttons all off of Horace's coat, and finally shot his head clean through the roof of the stage, and then he yelled at Hank Monk and begged him to go easier--said he warn't in as much of a hurry as he was awhile ago. But Hank Monk said, 'Keep your seat, Horace, and I'll get you there on time'--and you bet you he did, too, what was left of him!"

A day or two after that we picked up a Denver man at the cross roads, and he told us a good deal about the country and the Gregory Diggings. He seemed a very entertaining person and a man well posted in the affairs of Colorado. By and by he remarked:

"I can tell you a most laughable thing indeed, if you would like to listen to it. Horace Greeley went over this road once. When he was leaving Carson City he told the driver, Hank Monk, that he had an engagement to lecture at Placerville and was very anxious to go through quick. Hank Monk cracked his whip and started off at an awful pace. The coach bounced up and down in such a terrific way that it jolted the buttons all off of Horace's coat, and finally shot his head clean through the roof of the stage, and then he yelled at Hank Monk and begged him to go easier--said he warn't in as much of a hurry as he was awhile ago. But Hank Monk said, 'Keep your seat, Horace, and I'll get you there on time!'--and you bet you he did, too, what was left of him!"

At Fort Bridger, some days after this, we took on board a cavalry sergeant, a very proper and soldierly person indeed. From no other man during the whole journey, did we gather such a store of concise and well- arranged military information. It was surprising to find in the desolate wilds of our country a man so thoroughly acquainted with everything useful to know in his line of life, and yet of such inferior rank and unpretentious bearing. For as much as three hours we listened to him with unabated interest. Finally he got upon the subject of trans- continental travel, and presently said:

"I can tell you a very laughable thing indeed, if you would like to listen to it. Horace Greeley went over this road once. When he was leaving Carson City he told the driver, Hank Monk, that he had an engagement to lecture at Placerville and was very anxious to go through quick. Hank Monk cracked his whip and started off at an awful pace. The coach bounced up and down in such a terrific way that it jolted the buttons all off of Horace's coat, and finally shot his head clean through the roof of the stage, and then he yelled at Hank Monk and begged him to go easier--said he warn't in as much of a hurry as he was awhile ago. But Hank Monk said, 'Keep your seat, Horace, and I'll get you there on time!'--and you bet you he did, too, what was left of him!"

When we were eight hours out from Salt Lake City a Mormon preacher got in with us at a way station--a gentle, soft-spoken, kindly man, and one whom any stranger would warm to at first sight. I can never forget the pathos that was in his voice as he told, in simple language, the story of his people's wanderings and unpitied sufferings. No pulpit eloquence was ever so moving and so beautiful as this outcast's picture of the first Mormon pilgrimage across the plains, struggling sorrowfully onward to the land of its banishment and marking its desolate way with graves and watering it with tears. His words so wrought upon us that it was a relief to us all when the conversation drifted into a more cheerful channel and the natural features of the curious country we were in came under treatment. One matter after another was pleasantly discussed, and at length the stranger said:

"I can tell you a most laughable thing indeed, if you would like to listen to it. Horace Greeley went over this road once. When he was leaving Carson City he told the driver, Hank Monk, that he had an engagement to lecture in Placerville, and was very anxious to go through quick. Hank Monk cracked his whip and started off at an awful pace. The coach bounced up and down in such a terrific way that it jolted the buttons all off of Horace's coat, and finally shot his head clean through the roof of the stage, and then he yelled at Hank Monk and begged him to go easier--said he warn't in as much of a hurry as he was awhile ago. But Hank Monk said, 'Keep your seat, Horace, and I'll get you there on time!'--and you bet you bet you he did, too, what was left of him!"

Ten miles out of Ragtown we found a poor wanderer who had lain down to die. He had walked as long as he could, but his limbs had failed him at last. Hunger and fatigue had conquered him. It would have been inhuman to leave him there. We paid his fare to Carson and lifted him into the coach. It was some little time before he showed any very decided signs of life; but by dint of chafing him and pouring brandy between his lips we finally brought him to a languid consciousness. Then we fed him a little, and by and by he seemed to comprehend the situation and a grateful light softened his eye. We made his mail-sack bed as comfortable as possible, and constructed a pillow for him with our coats. He seemed very thankful. Then he looked up in our faces, and said in a feeble voice that had a tremble of honest emotion in it:

"Gentlemen, I know not who you are, but you have saved my life; and although I can never be able to repay you for it, I feel that I can at least make one hour of your long journey lighter. I take it you are strangers to this great thorough fare, but I am entirely familiar with it. In this connection I can tell you a most laughable thing indeed, if you would like to listen to it. Horace Greeley----"

I said, impressively:

"Suffering stranger, proceed at your peril. You see in me the melancholy wreck of a once stalwart and magnificent manhood. What has brought me to this? That thing which you are about to tell. Gradually but surely, that tiresome old anecdote has sapped my strength, undermined my constitution, withered my life. Pity my helplessness. Spare me only just this once, and tell me about young George Washington and his little hatchet for a change."

We were saved. But not so the invalid. In trying to retain the anecdote in his system he strained himself and died in our arms.

I am aware, now, that I ought not to have asked of the sturdiest citizen of all that region, what I asked of that mere shadow of a man; for, after seven years' residence on the Pacific coast, I know that no passenger or driver on the Overland ever corked that anecdote in, when a stranger was by, and survived. Within a period of six years I crossed and recrossed the Sierras between Nevada and California thirteen times by stage and listened to that deathless incident four hundred and eighty-one or eighty-two times. I have the list somewhere. Drivers always told it, conductors told it, landlords told it, chance passengers told it, the very Chinamen and vagrant Indians recounted it. I have had the same driver tell it to me two or three times in the same afternoon. It has come to me in all the multitude of tongues that Babel bequeathed to earth, and flavored with whiskey, brandy, beer, cologne, sozodont, tobacco, garlic, onions, grasshoppers--everything that has a fragrance to it through all the long list of things that are gorged or guzzled by the sons of men. I never have smelt any anecdote as often as I have smelt that one; never have smelt any anecdote that smelt so variegated as that one. And you never could learn to know it by its smell, because every time you thought you had learned the smell of it, it would turn up with a different smell. Bayard Taylor has written about this hoary anecdote, Richardson has published it; so have Jones, Smith, Johnson, Ross Browne, and every other correspondence-inditing being that ever set his foot upon the great overland road anywhere between Julesburg and San Francisco; and I have heard that it is in the Talmud. I have seen it in print in nine different foreign languages; I have been told that it is employed in the inquisition in Rome; and I now learn with regret that it is going to be set to music. I do not think that such things are right.

Stage-coaching on the Overland is no more, and stage drivers are a race defunct. I wonder if they bequeathed that bald-headed anecdote to their successors, the railroad brakemen and conductors, and if these latter still persecute the helpless passenger with it until he concludes, as did many a tourist of other days, that the real grandeurs of the Pacific coast are not Yo Semite and the Big Trees, but Hank Monk and his adventure with Horace Greeley. [And what makes that worn anecdote the more aggravating, is, that the adventure it celebrates never occurred. If it were a good anecdote, that seeming demerit would be its chiefest virtue, for creative power belongs to greatness; but what ought to be done to a man who would wantonly contrive so flat a one as this? If I were to suggest what ought to be done to him, I should be called extravagant--but what does the sixteenth chapter of Daniel say? Aha!]

Twain was interested that by simply repeating a dull anecdote it eventually became hilarious. In his autobiography he describes using this passage in lectures, repeating the anecdote with a rough faith that the crowd would eventually be reduced to helpless laughter, except for one dull town, where four times in, the deadliest silence reigned. He describes the coldest sweat pouring down his face. It took a record five repeats to break that crowd.

May 23, 2005

Call me When they Find the Center for Detatched Bemusement


Scientists report discovery of the irony processing area of the brain.

Ironically, many news organizations are reporting this as the sarcasm area, missing the important distinction.


A fine waste of 8 minutes- finding terms with more than 100 million google hits.

for a

4,260,000,000 for and

for the

4,050,000,000 for for

3,470,000,000 for on

for 1

2,970,000,000 for U.S

2,570,000,000 for you

2,540,000,000 for are

for is

2,000,000,000 for as (two billion exactly!)

for e

1,580,000,000 for I

1,240,000,000 for world

for so

for 0 (An interesting empirical math thought: 1 is 4.56 times more popular than 0, suggesting a bias towards being over nothingness, or perhaps on over off).

586,000,000 for off (on therefore actually 5.9 times more popular than off)

for America

448,000,000 for march

388,000,000 for john

for september

330,000,000 for february

240,000,000 for love

for man

167,000,000 for cat

for death

135,000,000 for girl

for god

for woman

111,000,000 for mary

"Dog," " boy" and "Jesus" didn't make the cut.

May 22, 2005

By The Way

Sunscreen might be bad for you.

The Entire 20th Century on One Mountain

This is Nanda Devi. One of the most inaccessible mountains in the world, it is surrounded by a curtain wall of impassable ridges. Situated near the India-China border, it was the highest point in the British Empire. In 1934 Tilman and Shipton ("any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope") found a way through the walls as arduous and dangerous as any climb. Two years later Tilman climbed it, along with Noel Odell, the last man to see Mallory and Irvine alive on Everest - it was the tallest peak ever climbed until the French got up Annapurna in 1950.

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Some interesting things about this sacred mountain:
  • In the 1960s, before there were spy satellites, the CIA sent a secret expedition with a nuclear-powered listening device. It was quite radioactive - the porters liked carrying it because it was warm. Today they're dying from radiation illnesses. Anyway, the expedition ran into trouble on the mountain and abandoned the device, and despite several attempts it has not yet been recovered.
  • In 1976 philosopher/mountaineer Willi Unsoeld took his daughter Nanda up the mountain on an expedition now legendary for its bickering and infighting. She died there.
  • The last ascent was in 1993 by an Indian Army team that also cleaned up several tons of garbage. There is a pretty good book about all this, and a 2000 trek to the sanctuary, by Hugh Thomson.
Today, thanks to its protected status and possible radioactivity, Nanda Devi is once again inviolate.

May 21, 2005

The Seventh Seal

You probably saw the Seventh Seal in college. See it again. I reveal too much by saying how much it cheered me up, not, obviously, from the subject matter, but from it's deep humanity, humor, honest spirituality and searching intelligence. I had a caricature of this movie in my memory that suggested it was a gross existential waddling, but this was just a way of avoiding the deep end of the pool. It's absolutely excellent.

Death is not the heavy in the movie - there is a true evil character, a seminarian who had convinced the knight to join the Crusades. Max Von Sydow's war-weary knight returns to a plague-ravaged Sweden, and what happens is a dense, frightening and funny survey of human experience. But the characters are human beings first and allegories incidently - no small feat. The social dynamics - between fear and love, religion and satire, hatred and friendship- of this medieval settting read absolutely modern. The themes of this movie are genuinely timeless,

The knight plays chess with death with bemusement, and he reconciles to his doom with fondness for life, frustration with God, terror of emptyness and gut-hollowing dread.

By way of contrast, Bush is a man playing checkers with Death, convinced he will win.

It also reminded me of another Swedish iconography of death.
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Emerging Appreciation

The past year so I've been driving a lot and running a little again. In both activities I play music. And no matter how nobly I start (Brubeck, Mozart, Kitaro), I always end up playing rock. Loud.

It's been an interesting experience. The i-Pod lets you take everything with you. If you don't like something, you switch to something you like better. And this process it has forced a reassessment of what rocks and what doesn't. No amount of replay can ever make, say, Thin Lizzy outrock The Presidents of the United States of America. But when you're out there alone and you wanna rock, you find yourself reaching for some options and skipping others.

Moving down:
  • The Rolling Stones. First of all, never a favorite. Second, they've always been a girl's band. But they've practically dropped off my playlist because they're just too decorative. A Rolling Stones song is almost never about rock, it's about the Rolling Stones. For every true rock song ('Gimme Shelter') there's some aimless showcase piece with a blues riff in it. Fine if that's all you have. But I keep finding better.
  • Aerosmith. Painful to admit this because I do think they're great. And some of the songs ('Dude Looks Like a Lady') hit a balance of power, musicality, and humor. Just not often enough.
  • Metallica. A nice little band with good intentions. But if you start at 11 and stay at 11 you really haven't gone anywhere, have you?
Moving up:
  • AC/DC. Ahem. Let me just say, I never liked them. I always believed that 'Back in Black' was a freaky travesty, not that there's anything wrong with that. But some of the songs, especially the early ones, are masterworks - rocking, musical romps that are the perfect accompaniment for traffic felonies and jogging in the park. If you haven't listened lately, here are three songs that are credits to the genre: 'Girls Got Rhythm', 'It's a Long Way to the Top (If you Wanna Rock and Roll)', and (just so you don't imagine me a Bon Scott partisan), 'Hell's Bells'.
The Laird had a guitar teacher who dissed Angus Young's fretwork. This may be true, but I submit 'Girls Got Rhythm' as Exhibit A for the Defense. Whomever is playing the riff (Angus? Malcolm?) on that tune is not technically deficient. I invite everyone over to my place where we can run 'Girls Got Rhythm' through the tower speakers at full volume to develop a deeper mutual appreciation of the song.

For those of you still on the fence, Bon Scott was a bagpiping champion as a child.

May 20, 2005

Canine Cognoscenti

Having spent the bulk of the last two weeks soldering a complex full size wire armature of a nude together, I was gratified by the reaction of one of the studio dogs - I must stress this is an actual dog. Phoebe (the dog in question) looked up, smelled the wire legs, backed up, came forward and wagged her tail, left, and came back with a ball which she dropped in front of the sculpture, looking up expectantly. The sculpture was decidedly non-plussed.

Intrigue overwhelming disquiet. Perfect.

When Not to Support Our Troops

When they are handcuffing innocent taxi drivers to the ceiling until they die.

From the NYT-
Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."
Abuse, tortue, homicide in Afganistan, by the same officers that brought you Abu Grahib.

Jesus H. Christ.

I Told You San Andreas Was Good for the Kid

" games, played in moderation, can actually help young people develop mental skills that will serve them well in adult life."

This Is Very, Very Funny...

...I meant tragic!

BBC NEWS: Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight

[Oh, I meant fake.]

May 19, 2005

More Deadly than Bin-Laden

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And the FBI's coveted #1 terror group award goes to...

Apparently bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors doesn't get you the #1 slot anymore.

To be #1 you have to do something really terrible.

Like vandalism?

May 18, 2005

Today's Forecast , Red. Run for Your Lives.

USGS has a nifty new earthquake forecast map, predicting the probability of a 6.0 earthquake anywhere in California within the next 24 hours.

Some Subversive Billboards Ron English, here.

May 17, 2005

Star Wars for Liberty

Calling Bush Darth Vader has always been a fairly weak joke (particularly since Cheney is obviously the real Darth Vader), except that it turns out that Darth Vader more or less is Bush as far as the Star Wars creators concerned. I am amazed to write that the buzz suggests that not only is the new Star Wars pretty good, it's a anti-Bush, anti-fascist metaphor, enough that the wee weeny whiny weasels on the right are already calling for a boycott. Kid Darth himself confirms it. The joke has been upgraded to metaphor.

"So this is how liberty dies, to thunderous applause," says the Princess as the Republic adopts dictatorial powers. Pray that this line resonates. Use this line right and we might be able to stop the Patriot Act renewal.

I suspect that the right-wing's early freak-out is a good sign. We might forget how big Star Wars is in the world, on gazillions of tweens and teens in the seats. If this movie gets every kid in America to ask uncomfortable questions about our government and its ever-growing cult of power for it's own sake, Lucas is officially forgiven for two terrible movies, and may be partly credited with saving the real Republic.

Bush in Decline

Pew poll survey has Bush at a record 50% disapproval, 43% approval.

Bush's handling of Iraq is at a 55% disapproval-41% approval rating.

These are really low for a war-time president. Even the fillibuster shennanigans are unpopular. It's smelling a bit Nixony around here.

My only comment is that it seems like long, long after progressives are so appalled we can barely stomach the news, the message may finally be getting through to the majority of Americans.

Little late there, but it might help contain further damage to the nation.

May 13, 2005

Happy Stinko de Mayo

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May 12, 2005

Now I Ask You, Is This the Face of a War Criminal?

Well he got a reprimand, anyway.

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May 11, 2005

The Gargantu-Digital Atomic Media Congealor

This story on Microsoft on the BBC elicited this comment from my self:

I remember sinking a date here in Seattle once by going on about how reliable, fun and morally superior Firefox is; she worked of course in Explorer's marketing department.

Every Microsoft employee I've met has been sharp but defensive, stressed, and amazingly unwilling to admit in public they work at Microsoft, visibly wincing as they let that particular social bomb drop. It can be a real conversation killer, like admitting you have leprosy or used to run guns for the Contras.

This is the essence of the problem: defensive arrogance, the natural ethos of a monopoly, and is why, TWO DECADES after Word first plopped onto the world, it's still buggy, slow, and unpleasant.

I would be more optimistic about Microsoft's planned Gargantu-Digital Atomic Media Congealor if I could yet be certain what will happen to the rest of my page when I italicize "sucks."

Revenge of the Sith Might Be Good

If the script is any indication.

North Korea Unveils The Bomb

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(Just a student pilot, nevermind.)

Florida: Soft on Thugs, Murderers and Terrorists, but Tough on Oral Sex

Boasting of bombing and killing Cuban tourist spots in the 1990s, likely responsible for a plane bombing that killed 76 people, a cuban exile and former CIA informant in hiding around will probably seek asylum in the US. Because, you know, of his long years of service to our country, helping Oliver North murder Nicaraguans with the Contras.

Specific Orders

BBC/NPR: The CIA specifically ordered agents to literally bring back the head of Bin Laden, packed in dry ice.

At the moment, I'd suppose we'd settle for an elbow in a thermos.

May 10, 2005


The December 2004 New Yorker piece on Eric Idle ramping up "Spamalot" plus a short general history of the Pythons, is strangely encouraging, a light read that confirms the quality of something I already think is excellent, and shows how it is being used in a new and successful way.

This sort of event is so rare I hardly know how to react.

I was also irrationally surprised the New Yorker had a web site.

A fine bit - Elvis Presley loved the "Nudge, nudge, wink wink" skit, and quoted it frequently to his friends. This is even better if you imagine it the voice.

China: 'Say Hello to My Little Friend!'

China on Tuesday ruled out applying economic or political sanctions to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, appearing to undercut a crucial element of the Bush administration's evolving North Korea strategy. The announcement comes just as American intelligence agencies are trying to determine whether North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test.

Finally, Action on Global Warming; Sad, Pathetic Action, Yet...

The Swiss pioneer an amazing combination of climatic pathos and hubris by wrapping a glacier in order to protect it from global warming.

Workers cover parts of the Gurschen glacier with plastic sheeting

Good luck. Maybe you should call Christo. I'm half serious when suggesting this is better as conceptual art than engineering.

BBC NEWS: China's Gang of Four member dies

BBC NEWS: China's Gang of Four member dies

Dammit!!! I just realized that I fucking missed the Gang of Four concert!

May 09, 2005

In the Deportment Department

A short family history internet search led to this little tidbit about a Cora Finch, who is almost certainly (from the time and place) my great-grandmother:

Winfield Courier (Kansas) November 21, 1878

The following are the names of the scholars in the Second Intermediate Department of the Public Schools in this city who have been perfect, both in their lessons and deportment: Pearl Van Doren, Cora Finch, Ella Trezise, Emma Rodgers, Mary Kingsbury, Noah Davis, George Heisinger, Eddie Kelley, Paris Hittle, Jerome Vandeventer, and Jay Bryan.

EMMA SAINT, Teacher.

Never doubt Miss Saint.

Another Anniversary

Russia's VE Day is a day later than ours. This website is a good place to spend a few minutes thinking over the 60th anniversary of the end of the Real War, the Eastern Front. Some choice excerpts:

  • "We had the right to advance, but if we wanted to retreat - sorry. We would stand to the death."
  • "Q: It is considered noteworthy that the Sherman was very well appointed on the inside. Was this true? A: It was true. These are not just words! They were beautiful! For us then this was something. As they say now, "Euro-repair"! This was some kind of European picture! In the first place, it was painted beautifully. Secondly, the seats were comfortable, covered with some kind of remarkable special artificial leather. If a tank was knocked out or damaged, then if it was left unguarded literally for just several minutes the infantry would strip out all this upholstery. It made excellent boots! Simply beautiful! "
  • "Marusia said: "Let me take the watch now." She got up, it was a sunny day, and she apparently moved the lens. As soon as she got up, there was a shot, and she fell. Oh, how I cried! The German was 200 meters away from us. I screamed so loud it could be heard all over the trenches, soldiers ran out: "Quiet, quiet, or they'll open mortar fire!" But how could I be quiet?"

The author of that last one:

A Cultural Gathering


A Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson: Colleagues, Friends and Fans

Friends and colleagues and fans are invited to publicly reminisce, read aloud, extol, vilify and otherwise memorialize the life and, especially, the work of Hunter S. Thompson.

Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

100 Larkin Street (at Grove)

May 08, 2005

Would Someone Get on This?

There's a book dying to be written, if one of you has some spare time. In the past thirty years or so, jock culture has come to dominate every aspect of America life.

Research wouldn't be tough. You could do a quick scan of

You could read Reclaiming the Game. The authors show that even 'top' universities bend the rules for jocks: top jocks are four times more likely to be admitted to certain Ivy League schools than non-jocks with similar academic credentials.

You could talk about how Nike, the ultimate commercialial evangelist of jock culture, bought its way into the academy. (Not that corporate money corrupted the academy - the academy's had fishnet stockings on for a long time.)

You could tell the story of the girl in Bow, NH who took AP Biology instead of gym and was told she wouldn't get a diploma. She, a hero, told them to fuck off.

Maybe that's not a bad catchphrase for the next ten years: Fuck off, jock.

More reasons Florida sucks

A for-profit charter school is making tons of money for Heritage Foundation cronies who are threatening to sue members of their parent/teacher organization (PTO) for posting critical comments on a web discussion board. Fortunately, Slashdot is on the story. This particular charter school, in my opinion and I hope I get sued, really only exists to create a school for white kids and to keep out that flood of kids in Florida who don't speak English.

May 07, 2005

Unsung Alaskan Hero

Sing poet
of Don Clary
who ran two miles
so fast it was scary.

Try steroids and Nikes,
Zone Bars and berries,
you still can't run faster
than Don Clary.

Un-Christian, Un-American

But quite Republican, apparently.

60 Years Ago Today

The war in Europe ended. Lennard Grahn has a thoughtful piece on it all, and, he says, his last Panzer pic post. World War II is kind of fun for some people, because it has everything - good vs. evil, the chance for one tiny band to make a big difference, the future of civilization hanging in the balance. But up close it wasn't heroic, it was just awful...even the winners were severely traumatized by the whole thing.

What was the cost? Who knows. I don't know how you count bodies after the first million or so. For Eastern Europe the war was an utter disaster as the countries were rolled over by first German then Russian armies, and then made into Soviet client states - for them V-E day was November 9. 1989.

May 06, 2005

Smokey: Only You Can Prevent Forests

It might be worth a little drive around your state to take mental note of the trees and remember what the forest was like. Bush changes the rules, opening up a third of America's undeveloped federal forests to road-building, logging, and eventual development. Don't worry, these are only the ancient, pristine, untouched ones, so the spindly, limbless, one species stump jumpers growing next to the scarred logging road won't be harmed. This is being done to "control wildfires," because as we all know the presence of forests is a prime cause of forest fires.

One can be forgiven for hoping that angry squirrels jump him and bite his nuts off, and bury them for the long, treeless winter.

May 05, 2005

"Death Squads" is so 1987

The problem with stories like the two US soldiers in Columbia caught selling ammunition to 'right wing paramilitaries', is that whether or not our government was actually involved, the story will read exactly the same way.
"There is absolutely no US policy and US support or US inclination or US military operations involved in arming paramilitaries," state department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The United States. Inclination Free.

The Scotsman: Franklin Expedition Not Going As Well As Might Be Hoped

The Scotsman is making some of it's very old archives available, including this report from Dr. Rae of the Franklin expedition not going terribly well in any sense.

But we have the problem of cannibalism relatively under control.

Dear MIT Students: How to Work with A Time Traveller from the Future

Notes for MIT students observing Saturday's Time Traveller Convention.

1. A slightly soft, bumpier humanoid is not necessarily from the future. These are known in our time as "women."

2. A time traveller from 2040 may complain bitterly about Social Security payroll deductions being raised 17%.

3. The genuine time traveller may be alarmed by mysterious "trees" or "animals" or the concept of travelling outside.

4. Please do not try to test the time traveller with comments like "So, then, what was I doing next Tuesday?" This will was not likely to would have been historically significant.

5. It is well known that in the future only Thai food is available.

6. Do not encourage people from the future to screw around with the timeline by stomping on plants and the like just to see if the travellers will suddenly disappear.

7. No matter how much the time traveller insists that Bush must be stopped before he causes Earth to be destroyed, it is in your own best interests to report him to the authorities.

Army Col. David Hackworth dies at age 74

During World War II the 15-year-old Hackworth lied about his age to fight in Italy. During Vietnam he designed and implemented unconventional warfare tactics -- and wrote the Vietnam Primer, considered by many to be the leading book on guerrilla warfare tactics inVietnam. Wounded eight times (until his death he carried a bullet from the Vietnam War in his leg), he racked up enough medals, he said, to declare himself the "Army's Most Decorated Soldier" -- though he admitted the U.S. Army has no such title.

He's also well known for calling Donald Rumsfeld an "Asshole" whose bad planning mired U.S. troops in an ugly guerrilla Conflict in Iraq.

He campaigned hard to document the dire fate of U.S. troops in Iraq. He started two web sites Soldiers for the truth as well as his own personal web site.

He wrote a widely quoted column headlined "Stuck in the Quicksand" in early April 2003-- just as the tide seemed to turn and the pace of victory picked up again. Though he is a colonel by rank, Hackworth was counted among the so-called "television generals" the administration blasted after Baghdad fell, and many conservative admirers turned against him.

Of course, 2 years later, he was proved to be completely correct.

My Living will

In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I demand that medical authorities resort to extraordinary and expensive means to prolong my hellish, quasi-existence. Thirty years sounds about right.

I want my wife, my parents and my children (if any) to then engage in a lengthy feud

I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.

I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.

I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.

I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars, and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Johnny" as if they had known me since childhood.

I'm not insisting on this as part of my directive, but it would be nice if Congress passed a "John's Law" that applied only to me and ignored the medical needs of tens of millions of other Americans without adequate health coverage.

Even if the "Johnny's Law" idea doesn't work out, I want Congress - especially all those self-described conservatives who claim to believe in "less government and more freedom" - to trample on the decisions of doctors, judges and other experts who actually know something about my case. And I want members of Congress to launch into an extended debate that gives them another excuse to avoid pesky issues such as national security and the economy.

In particular, I want House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to use my case as an opportunity to divert the country's attention from the mounting political and legal troubles stemming from his slimy misbehavior.

And I want Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to make a mockery of his Harvard medical degree by misrepresenting the details of my case in ways that might give a boost to his 2008 presidential campaign.

I want Frist and the rest of the world to judge my medical condition on the basis of a snippet of dated and demeaning videotape that should have remained private.

Because I think I would retain my sense of humor even in a persistent vegetative state, I'd want President Bush - the same guy who publicly mocked Karla Faye Tucker when signing off on her death warrant as governor of Texas - to claim he was intervening in my case because it is always best "to err on the side of life."

I want the state Department of Children and Families to step in at the last moment to take responsibility for my well-being, because nothing bad could ever happen to anyone under DCF's care.

And because Gov. Jeb Bush is the smartest and most righteous human being on the face of the Earth, I want any and all of the aforementioned directives to be disregarded, if the governor happens to disagree with them. If he says he knows what's best for me, I won't be in any position to argue.

Militarism and Treason

With every smirking insinuation of treason against ordinary Americans who dared to question our invasion of Iraq, the right wing has a huge amount of explaining to do - the arrest of Franklin, one of Wolfowitz's minions suggests that the out-of-control security and lobbying apparatus of the far right is much more interested in perpetrating it's agenda than in the safety and freedom of the American people. The last sentence in the story is:

FBI counterintelligence investigators last year questioned current and former U.S. officials about whether other Iran specialists at the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office might have been involved in passing classified information to Chalabi or to AIPAC, sources have said.
If you've ever read a Le Carre novel, you get the idea that the primary motivation of a security apparatus, like all bureaucracy, is to perpetuate itself. The motivation for passing these documents would presumably be to prop up Chalabi, and at the least to use AIPAC to pressure Congress on foreign policy.

I think it's reasonable to ask if security or military elements of the Israeli government have a undue influence on or review of policy-making in this area by the White House and Pentagon, to the extent that it is ordinary to pass on classified documents outside the normal channels expected between allies. The motivation for this unusual war has always been fuzzy, and the only believable one has been Wolfowitz's idea of a strong stationing of american troops in the middle east.

Related in what it might say about the attitude of our own militarists, I am bothered by the U.S. inaction on the Israeli military's investigation of itself in Rachel Corrie's possible murder. It suggests our military relationship with Israel is more important than the truth of a death of a left-wing American girl. Calls for investigations by Senators Murray and Cantwell from Washington State were very strongly rebuffed, and quietly dropped.

At Long Last Sir!

This must be the breaking point. Even Texas feels the cold, clammy, groping hands of dictatorship.

Mark Your Atom Calendars for theTime Traveller Convention

It can only be called brilliant stupidity - an MIT student is testing the theory of possible time travel by publicizing a convention of time travellers; the potential attendees are of course, have been invited from from the future by making announcements like this one in the records of today.

The invitations ask visitors to turn up on the MIT campus at 8pm on Saturday and include precise latitude and longitude coordinates. "Time travel is a hard problem and may not be invented until long after MIT has faded into oblivion," they note.

Visitors from the future are advised to bring proof of advanced technology, such as a cure for cancer or a working nuclear fusion reactor.

Saturday at 8PM, at MIT. BYOB.

May 04, 2005

It's Spring and That Means...





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Be of Good Cheer

Another minion takes a fall.

A Little Too Close to Home

This Onion piece is dead-on. After a long dry spell they've found some serious writers, though obviously no one who can challenge the dominance of Today's Tomorrow's Headlines. I had a conversation with a reporter the other day who was looking for an expert for a story, and rejected several qualified people I suggested - because they probably weren't going to be entertaining enough. A public radio reporter, I might add.

May 03, 2005

God Says: Blast 'Em

Nice to see religious nuts taking over our armed services. Given their preference for sex harassment, I guess they're the same religion as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.

You know, everyone talks about how cutthroat and political government is, and then people leading one of the most important organizations in our country pull this shit and nothing fucking happens.

Well here's a proposal. Any officer above the rank of captain who brings dishonor to our nation's armed services through inappropriate coercion (religious or sexual, if there's a difference) gets a one-way ticket to latrine duty for-life at Camp Justice on Diego Garcia.

We've got a Republican president, a Republican Congress and a Republican judiciary, all deeply concerned, they say, about morality. Well, here's a chance to prove how much they care.

Letting the Ugly Kid Wander Off

A Canadian study suggests that the parents don't care as much about the ugly kids, letting them wandering off, not buckling them up, paying less attention.

The researchers classified children in terms of attractiveness and monitored parents behavior.

The results were a little disheartening.

"Honey, I know the scientists' rigorous testing confirmed you were ugly, but that just means I only love you 12.5% less."

Other scientists were more skeptical.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Counterpoint: Ugly child who should have been allowed to wander off.

Danish Soul Brother

This fellow's blog has three interwoven elements: Panzers, retro-babes, and his bleak but often beautiful art.

Remember Nuclear Fusion?

The currently plan to build the ITER, the experimental eletrical production fusion reactor, is on it's way. Basically, it is expected to prove existing technology can power commerically viable fusion energy. I suspect, and dearly hope, it will finally work.

Table-top fusion, in a much, much less useful variety, has also abeen demonstrated.

Everything I read suggests that the planet doesn't have all that much time- I don't care what it takes, half our nation's budget, Bill Gates' loose change, bad thought taxes, whatever. It could end wars over energy resources, pollution, poverty, water shortages. The clock on life on earth is ticking, and our greed is not abating.

Stop arguing. Get this damned thing working.

May 02, 2005

I Think I Saw This Movie Already in 1971

In this set of incidents reported by a US soldier who became an honorably discharged objector in Iraq, the neo-con xenophobic disease is infecting our soldiers, hurting Iraqi citizens and extending the war. (NYT's Bob Herberty) Some of our soliders are descending into the petty cruelty that characterized the Vietnam era. I don't blame them exactly, but it's real and it's happening, and makes the difference between libertators and occupiers.

It's hard to think of a culture more different from ours than Japan, yet after WWII the US managed -generally - to put it's best foot forward and help rebuild a country very prepared to hate everything about us. American soldiers' basic decency was a major - maybe the most - necessary factor. We made the cultural case for post-war victory, and the greatest legacy of this is Japan's disregard of militarism.

Beating people randomly on the head with glass bottles is not really it. The insurgents' tactics are designed to aggravate our soldiers fear and contempt of Iraqis, a strategy straight out of Vietnam.

This attitude comes from the top, is based in militarism and rather than good tactics, and widespread will lose this war.

May 01, 2005

A Thermos of Manhattans Helps

How to fly your autogyro, here:

"Others may say it is difficult to fly. Some might even call it dangerous. These comments may come from pilots of traditional fixed-wind aircraft who think that flying anything should be like an airplane. Others who may use the term "dangerous" could be those so-called "experts" who are afraid to find out for themselves what may be "easy" for many of the rest of us.

"The best frame of mind to have when you begin the learning process is to assume that Gyros are NOT easy to fly. But then compare it to some of the learning experiences you had when you were growing up. You learned to walk from patient parents. Your first attempts at riding a bicycle were on flat ground at very slow speeds. The same principles apply here. Take it one step at a time. You're going to learn a little more every day about Gyros. "