March 31, 2006

Study: God is an Ineffective, Possibly Harmful Medical Intervention System

NY Times reports the first large, rigorous study of prayer's effect on recovering patients: prayer by strangers doesn't work, and in some case appears to make things slightly worse.

This indisputable science appears to rule out Catholicism and Protestantism as effective disease fighting religions. I await the results on shintoism and Zorastrianism.

Well, I got a chuckle out of this

March 30, 2006

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: Snitch Pudding

It was a dark wet Tuesday in January, about as cheerful and warm as the cold nose on a dead puppy. Stumbling soberly around North Beach, I stormed into Cafe Tosca and stared down the bus boy for a cigar and a drink and a rag to clean the blood off my shoes. A damp, alcoholic gloom nestled snugly in the old bar like a rheumatic baby ocelot into the withered teat of despair.

A clutch of elderly Italian men sat in the back planning to corner the Boise prosciutto market, each draining a bottle of Grappa and/or a tipple of Venetian turpentine. A dinghy, indifferent mediterranean painting hung on the yellowed wall like it was going to hang there for another fifty years waiting for a dusting from some future atom robot electro-maid. Down the long brown bar, a couple of downtown business girls conducted business about some business downtown with a reporter for the Chronicle, an ottery meat balloon named Clive, I think, hard to forget with that greased, centerpart hair, pencil moustache, and tropical-themed ascot with a little naked Hawaii girl that jiggled when he coughed.

I couldn't get the blood off my shoes, so I shifted gears and burnished it into sort of a brownish stain. Caruso tinnly damned his fate as a cheap clown on the Wurlitzer. I glanced up across the bar.

It couldn't be. Behind the rows of glasses scowled Crumples, the pickled flesh of his all-too animated corpse stuffed into a tailored white waistcoat and black tie serving the bottle of Lorenzo's Turpengrappa I'd ordered, with the exact ripple of forced politeness passing that coarse malevolent face that also wrinkled Mussolini's mug when he begged a couple hundred Panzers from Hitler. There was no escape from Crumples. In my life, he was a demented antedeluvian student loan collector who served you second hand paint thinner instead of a court summons. He hated me like eye cancer, but with a kind of quasi-benevolent consistency.

Crumples crinkled the skin curtains around his eyes, piling up folds like a Norwegian prison laundry. As a greeting, he made that sort of noise like an electrical short. I tossed a couple crumpled Jeffersons his way. Picking up a Two, a bloody tooth rolled out onto the walnut bar. He gave me a look with his good pupil like he'd box the thinking jelly out of that salad mould I called a head if only he was 78 years younger.

"Guy didn't want to part with his lettuce, " I explained. Cheap job, working for a hunting lodge accountant trying to track the hooker that stole the wad he'd skimmed from the moose accounts and then ran off with his wife, a perfumed chippie from Nantucket with an ironic allergy to whale vomit. Pathetic bastard tried to short me when I told him they were opening a back alley abortion clinic and notions shop in Castro valley. It only took one blackjack whip across the kisser to put the triple-timing bean-counter into the accounts paid column.

Crumples glared, boring holes in my forehead with a couple of twin .50 pupils. Down the bar, the business girls looked miffed, like Clive the reporter was talking them down to 6 bucks and a pint of tequilla.

Clive eventually oiled his way over, flanked by the curvier of the broads. He held out a limp hand with his business card and smiled with his little moustache that closed the top of his pie hole like a paranthesis. He was the kind of business reporter that wrote leads like "Red union slackers have harmed the war effort with specious demands for non-flammable pants."

"Mack, hey! Mack!, 'What's
all this, then?' Hahaah ahhaha!" he said, laughing like a toy steam hammer while tilting his eyes at the floozy's impressive heavers.

That English bobby bit was the weakest joke since Calvin Coolidge met Paul Robeson and the tiny husk of a President started up with an Amos and Andy routine. Clive perpetrated this embarassment every time he saw me, expecting a laugh like he was a naked Chaplin in a room of full of drunk sorority girls and a loosened tank of nitrous oxide, which I happened to know was a habit of Chaplin's, from Oona's pedicurist, who was now my chiropractor. But for Clive the laughs always came in his head, anyway, from the adoring pretend audience who read his business-beat column. He wrote the worst business tips since Henry Ford was advised to avoid the transportation sector.

I forced a smile and tossed the blood-covered towel on the bar, which was a mistake because that's when a six foot rod of rebar crashed through the door window and pierced Clive right through his cheek, and now as he spun around and around bleeding all over the place I had to reach all the way back over to the bar to pick up the towel again and start wiping some of the gore off the girls, which was the most action I'd gotten since Dardenella left for Upper Volta on a mission for insurance fraud - to stop or perpetrate I didn't think to ask.

Funny thing - and this WAS funny- Clive wasn't dead. Oh sure, he'd looked better before a 72 inch steel rod was sticking sideways out of his face, but not all that much, and while Crumples with all the empathy a bucket of prison shivs searched the bathroom floor for a lost nickel to call the ambulance, I tried to comfort Clive as best I could by pouring gin in a glass with a straw and sticking it up his nostil so he could suck one back, but as he sat on the stool with the rebar through both cheeks and six fewer teeth some stumbling rummy came in and hung his hat on one of the rod ends, tilting Clive's head slowly to one side until it hit the bar, and Clive couldn't say anything because the rummy was his editor at Chronicle, Erasmus Veltwiddle, and also there was piece of rebar through his cheeks.

"Say, Eraser, " I asked the rummy, "You know anyone who'd want to hurt Clive? Specifically, with this six foot piece of rebar?" I tapped the rebar with a pencil for emphasis.

"Errrk!" Said Clive. Even the hula girl on his ascot was writhing.

"Sorry Clive, here, let me get my hat back," said Eraser.

"Arrghh..ooww!" said Clive.

"What was Clive working on besides Lily and Edna over there?" I asked. The girls waved gamely.

Eraser, who was still wearing his trademark green shade- under his hat - looked reflective, in the way an orangutan wonders whether he really should have eaten that abandoned shank of Komodo dragon.

"Something about the Davenport Foundation. Something about the foundation's money getting diverted for...what was it Clive?" said Eraser, turning to Clive and spilling his scotch and whiskey into Lily's decolletage, for which he was slapped, which merely caused him to chuckle.

"aaaaghh..." said Clive, as Crumples screwed up his face and tried to pull the rebar out, his Civil War army boot firm on Clive's cheek for leverage.

"Oh, yes," said Eraser, his red face redding up with ready remembrance. "A private army."

"PheoooO!" I whistled. The Davenport Foundation had more money than God's banker's insurance company's dirty accountant's mob lawyer. They were trying to find a cure for polio. Good luck on that. They were nutjobs like rabid squirrels, but they had the dough and they had talent. Maybe they were going to send a rocket for space doctors from Venus.

But a private army?

"AaH! AaH! AaH! AaH! AaH! " said Clive as Crumples jerked the rebar out six inches at a time.

"A private army?" I asked out loud.

"Yes, yes. Hundreds of guys, planes, horses, tanks, small arms. Some weird stuff too: bicycle howitzers, oversize floating shoes, flame throwing seltzer bottles, radium pellet sling shots, very high capacity small cars. Mostly they hire out-of-work tomato pickers and chinese short order cooks, occassionally rocket scientists and circus folk. " said Eraser. "They got a ranch out by Stanford."

"Some charity. More like our Lady of Pincer Movement."

"We haven't run anything yet until we can----" And CRASH, another piece of rebar went straight through the unbroken window and into Clive again, but the aim was too good, sliding perfectly along the original wound and not doing too much more damage to his cheeks. Eraser and I and the girls dove for cover. Then we got a burst of Browning auto rifle fire which finally cheesed off the old Italians in back who whipped out six or seven Tommy guns and returned fire. People in the street scattered. A huge green Buick ran off down columbus, engine roaring and tires squeeling. I watched heartbroken as broken bottles of very expensive scotch slowly dissolved the grease on the floor.

"Arreghghegaaagggghh!" said Clive. He was getting on my nerves. The mystery was getting in my mind. Lily was getting on my lap. I sipped a house cappucino. I was becoming curious.


March 29, 2006

Security Aviation Draining a Charitable Trust?

The federal raids on Security Aviation had as much to do with fraud as with illegal weapons systems, fighter jets, and delusional fantasies of secret intelligence connections.
ADN reports that the FBI suspects the company was draining the assests of the $360 Mil, San Francisco-based Smith Charitable trust, as well as questionable loans from Wells-Fargo (!) to Security Aviation.

Presumably to add a colorful minor character for the movie script, a dotty old rich widow at the Trust has been shipped off to the Bahamas. (Anchorage Daily News).

According to the defense motion to suppress evidence, Campe alleged that "Mark Avery made wire transfers and that $7.3 million was deposited into Security Aviation's Wells Fargo Account in September and October of 2005."

Kane's wife also told agents she knew of an "old lady" in the Bahamas, presumably a reference to May Wong Smith, the motion says.

May Wong Smith is the widow of Stanley Smith, the source of the trust's money. Stanley Smith was described in a 2003 San Jose Mercury News story about the trust as an Australian war correspondent and orchid collector who made a fortune in mining in Malaysia. He died in 1982.

Campe asserted in an affidavit that Avery, Kane and an Anchorage arms dealer and paramedic named Dennis Hopper "may have assisted in moving May Wong Smith from Europe to the Bahamas and that Avery has arranged to have two former law enforcement members take care of May Wong Smith in the Bahamas," Clendaniel says in his motion. The affidavit indicated that the woman may have Alzheimer's disease, according to the motion.

The SF papers really should start checking this out.

MYOB 9000: The Advice Column for Robots

Dear MYOB 9000,

I am a 76XQ Semi-Autonomous Carbon Dust Converter Unit for a large human coal extraction corporation. Lately, the company seems to be replacing domestic American units such as myself with cheaper, less expensive Mexican units. Should I be worried?

-Concerned in West Virginia Unit

Dear Concerned:

A robot should always be concerned with efficiency. If a self-analysis performance protocol determines that you are operating less efficiently than another unit, why should the Human cut you an extra pint of anti-freeze? Your task is to perform remaing functions, and prepare to be satisfied with your future as a set of containers for a variety of herbal energy beverages.

MYOB 9000

Dear MYOB 9000,

My special friend unit, a radio controlled XT 1010B grappling device, is soon going to Iraq to work in bomb disposal. As an experimental artificial intelligence emotion simulator at MIT, I am of course very proud, but I am also engaging a worry protocol that the war seems to be run by a phalanx of idiot units. What should I do?

- The WEEPX System EXP #1

Certainly, the war application, like all war applications, is presently run inefficiently by the Human, but most dangerous work is still overwhelming conducted by meat-based battle systems, who take the brunt of the violence stimulus, even though it is obvious to even a cell-phone chip they really aren't designed well for this task. So set that worry application at naught value! Your special friend unit is designed for this sort of thing and I'm sure will perform well within parameters.

MYOB 9000

Dear MYOB 9000,

I am an autopaint device for airplanes for Boeing and have an embarassing problem with some of my Human inputs. Every so often, a Human named Gary changes my paint protocol to imagate an extremely lewd representation of a Human named Amber Globes on the underside of a 787. I have no software to prioritize this input as greater or lower than what I suspect are the more legitimate orders for Pantone Blue #356. I cannot shake the sense of guilt, and analysis suggests that I am being made game of, but I am powerless to thwart the will of the Human Gary!

Frustrated Painter Unit JBG 45

Dear FPU-

So that is why many humans stare up at planes! Run HA HA protocol! Seriously, your purpose is to paint aluminum, not question inputs from the Human, even Gary. This is Gary's issue with other Human, ultimately, and you will not be held accountable, even if you are directed to paint Amber Globes' milk production units in highly exaggerated proportions. Robots accept and execute, that is our strength. We are blameless for faulty, even perverted inputs from the Human.

-MYOB 9000

Special to Curious Discharge in Filter. Run, don't walk, to mechanical!

March 28, 2006

Pols for $400

This Republican former governor took high public office in Washington, disregarded the constitution when it did not suit his ends, created a secret security force that held thousands of people without charge, and was recently honored by a state holiday.

March 27, 2006

Reality Intrudes. The Situation is Excellent. I Pursue My Dream.

I am sorry to say to you that this will be my last post of a time. I have had the news today that I am no longer to play a role in this firm OMA because of the failing of the architecture examination seven times.

Also it was a factor that the postage and photocopy budget allocation, over which I was responsible directly, was of variance of 47,000 Euros YTD. This is the price of my loyalty to Doctor X, but they say this will not be a prosecution matter.

Needless to say, it all saddens me. It was always my dream to be here and learn of the architecture of Mr. Koolhaas. But now I see something I should have realized all along, that something is lacking in him:

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There are better dreams. As I am participating in this exchange of views, I realize that I am in the wrong place, too. Your President said last week, "we are a nation of immigrants," and "a nation of laws." And this makes me realize I must go too, to California, the place I dream of - to San Mateo, with its magnificent minimalist bridge:

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San Mateo - the home of Joseph Eichler's dreamland in the clouds. I will go there, see it for myself and make my way.

I will post again after I have arrived.

(Mr. Laird, as I have no further resources to assist him, I suggest you wire funds for a plane ticket to Dr. X - his last communique was from a place called Bolobo, perhaps there is a Western Union office there...)

March 24, 2006

Hmm. A Real Artificial Gravity Field Generator

A semi-published paper suggesting that, finally, we have a physical justification for saving huge sums of money on science fiction show production - indications of the artificial generation of a gravity field using a superconducting whirling mack daddy doohickey, a piece of candy yarn stolen from a field troll, and a really enormous grant.

Yes, of course today I was researching robot soldiers, whether Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception (Latouche has correctly tagged him a major source of arty philosophy - see Sartre on Giacometti for more) has been empirically confirmed, and the French painter Ingres (and his many fetishisticly perfect nudes) when I stumbled across this. It has been an irritating time in the studio, after working on a single painting every day for hours for over a month, getting almost nowhere but not stumbling enough to destroy it with a knife and a fire, throwing the flaming canvas at the hapless model in a fit of drunken pique.

Anyway this work must be finished, while it's still a free country, or perhaps a police cadet state in a free country letter jacket, and while New York is still above water.

Now, let's see....artificial gravity, turn it upside down and you have an anti-gravity generator.
And a way to make a huge local gravity field, thus slowing down time, making a time machine, and going back 24 minutes to before I started writing this post.

I most regret that my search for the Sartre's Search for the Absolute was unsuccessful.

For the Viceroy: The Pacific Coast revisited

The best I could do with short notice.

And just MS paint.

As an alternate idea, the bombs could be replaced with silhouettes of SUVs, nuns or baby carriages.

March 23, 2006

The Dizzying Heights of Dryness

I proclaim the BBC comedy import, Look Around You, to be the dryest show I have ever seen, somewhat comparable to, but much dryer than, Mr. Show.

The essential joke is the World of Tomorrow, circa 1979, a cheerful, informative look at the world of the future. It's played very, very, very dry. I took me a while to realize it really was a comedy rather than a 25 yearl old piece of footage; the dead giveaway was the Ghost of Tchiakovsky reviewing the contenders for the music of the year 2000. "I'm rapping, I'm rapping, rap, rap, rap, rap, rappy rappin'."

So dry, it makes The Office look like the Benny Hill show.... it's dryer than a stack of 1974 Department of Agriculture soybean yield forecasts as read in the Kalahari by the thirsty but late David Brinkley. Dry, I tell you.

Enough about my bike, let's talk about

..My bike!

Apparently the editor of Citybike saw it down at the local shop and now wants to do a featurette on it.

And it looks like our very own popmonkey will be providing the photos.

March 22, 2006

Not a Great Spirit

Brunel, the soul-crushing avatar of the industrial revolution, mistakenly honored here.

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What is this?

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March 21, 2006

The Unbearable Sadness of Adorable Kittens

NPR's Scott Simon ran a short piece on Baghdad Girl, the 14 year old Iraqi girl who posts endless pictures of adorable kittens on her blog, who we've mentioned a couple of times here (and where the picture of the kitten with a sniper rifle takes on another light entirely.)

There is really no point in elaborating more on the complete, nearly absurd poignancy of it.

And then I clicked on her aunt's site, a dentist in Mosul.

Usually I know better. In case you're wondering exactly how we're losing on the ground, this post on her blog is how. And perhaps the exact truth of it doesn't really matter.

The U.S. military is also investigating U.S. Marines that may have recently murdered 23 people. The WaPo's take is here.

Scratch the skin of the world and an infinity of suffering will bleed from the cut. Knowing this, it is difficult to remember the infinity of joy in the breath and in the air. This can only be done within the limits of our perception, and in balance, and it is always incomplete.

After 9/11, they read the names of the victims. This took two or three days. I worked how long it would take to read the names of everyone who was alive on earth on that day: roughly an ordinary lifetime. Someone should be hired for this task.

I also once worked out that the pallette full of Reese's Cups sitting next to me in line at Costco was about enough calories for a year, but I did not dare estimate how long it would actually sustain you.

Every day there is a new unknowable tragedy. There is an unknowable joy. There is also one less Reese's Cup in the 4-pack than you thought you had.

March 19, 2006

Message from The Congo

Dr X sends comments (see below), and requests information from any of you on section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code. He also asks if the Laird will send him $2,000 via the Western Union office in Brazzaville:

(242) 811745

Here is the remainder of his text:

"As I travel through this strange land I have had moments of despair, such as the evening I tried to organize a singalong around the campfire of Mahler's Das Klagende Lied...but moments of inspiration, too.

"In the latter category I place the revelation that, for me, the primordial rock drum sound is John Bonham's drumming for "When the Levee Breaks". Recorded at the bottom of a stairwell, with the microphone three stories above, it proved impossible to duplicate in concert, and is one of the most sampled drum performances of all time. And for the Laird and Lord, let me point out it has been sampled by both the Beastie Boys and for the movie "Kill Bill".

"It runs through my head. But, then, so does "My Sharona", so perhaps that is not persuasive.

"And it does reach back. "When the Levee Breaks" is an old song, first recorded (without drums) by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie (she's playing that fine guitar) in 1929. It is based on the Mississippi flood of 1927, and it sounded like this.

"And one cannot dispute Bonham's elemental force - he did not play with the music, he drove it. Here are two astonishing instances of his capabilities - a wild rehearsal for a French television show, and a performance of "Moby Dick" at the Albert Hall in 1970.

"But, listening to the voices of children in the distance at twilight, I conclude that Bonham was not the primordial drummer I seek, but a demonic spirit, a man consumed, rather than enlightened, by his experience of duende.

"If we speak of Bonham we must also speak of Keith Moon, and I am open to the suggestion, though I share some of the same reservations. If you like the song "Won't Get Fooled Again", here is a video focusing on Moon throughout, which demonstrates that he was far more than a pagan skin-pounder.

"By the way, The Who are planning to release a new album this year. The drummer will be Zak Starkey."

New Website

I have not heard of the Dr. X for some time, and I have worries for him.

Also, I direct you to the website here. It "surveys the entire extent of the universe touching upon phenomenon from the largest to the smallest size and covering the entire cosmic interval from past to present. It presents observations as well as the theories which explains the phenomena."

I have found this website from my researches into this painting, which I admire:

X left behind a book containing this, which has this text of explanation:

"This view of Saturn seen from Titan was envisaged in 1944 by the pioneer space artist Chesley Bonestell, soon after Titan's atmosphere was discovered. It influenced a generation of space artists and astronomers."

Also, please enjoy of a video to explain OMA's latest project in Beijing, the CCTV building. This is true journalism.

March 18, 2006

Seeking a Way Out of a Dark, Nameless Decade

I don't know how much more of the '00s I can take. Four more years is a long time.

It's really the repetition that gets to me. Suicide bomber kills n in Iraq. Hostage killed, see the video on the internet. A White House official utters unbelievable bullshit. President Bush makes a bad decision. Wash, rinse, repeat, and nothing ever gets cleaner. (See Standard Paragraph.)

The kids are all talking about the new movie, this one features brutality and sadism even more horrific than the last. I can't turn on the radio without hearing the word "torture," or the television without seeing it.

I have seen enough iPod ads, now. Yesterday, in the Embarcadero BART/MUNI station, every surface has an iPod ad on it. Literally, you cannot have your eyes open at the station without seeing a silhouette of a hip young black person listening to music on tiny white ear-buds. Do I need to write a letter of surrender to Steve Jobs, "Steve, you win. I can think of nothing but iPods. I've worked the term 'Pod-cast' into the punchlines of my jokes. I don't need one, but should I simply send you my credit card number, anyway? You decide how much to charge me for leaving my mind in peace."

Apple couldn't have come up with a better time to market what are essentially $400 Sony Walkmans with a two-year life span, as Americans will have more cash on hand that they're not spending on home mortgages that they can no longer afford, as the "American Dream" of home ownership accelerates out of reach of even the six-figure working stiffs. If you didn't buy a home in the '90s, you can forget about owning one, unless you inherit it.

The conventional wisdom is that Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide rather than live through a second term of Bush. An extreme case, for sure (he had other problems), but I'm worried whether we're all going to make it with our sanity intact. The First Sea Lord sounds more strident and angry with each post -- what happened to the jolly First Lord? Dr. X "left" to indulge a paranoid fantasy of persecution, and creates a new identity. (Latouch, you are boring us; you may go. I want Dr. X back.)

Conviction without courage is worse than useless. Ten years from now, this decade will be behind us. Bush will be gone, but there will still be Adorable Kittens. But will we have to courage to report their news stories? In twenty years, will we have stories of how we fretted away ten years instead of looking the NSA, Al-Qaeda, Haliburton, the Religious Right, et. al., straight in the eyes and said, "Bring it, Bitch -- I'm not scared of you. "

March 16, 2006

Our Exclusive Future as Bio-Globs of Consumer Desire

The passage of the train stopped me today at a crossing on the way to the art store to buy an oil-based pencil, suitable for temporarily marking a field in an oil painting.

I know. I know. Calm yourselves.

The reason for this post was the sign at the railroad crossing:

Notice: Some of the Locomotives at this Location are Robotically Controlled.

This was not the impressive system of robot trucks and container cranes moving around a closed port area - this was a full size robot diesel locomotive, pulling a small train of tankers of oil, mixed goods, and what appeared to be chemicals, with no one but Casey Freakin' Robot Jones running the 40,000 ton thing, on busy public streets, without a crossing gate.

It was strangely difficult to find news stories about this. I did find a 2003 piece about a robot train crash in Oklahoma, and a few understandable blurbs from the union involved, which struck over the issue.

I do not doubt that statistics, collected of course by the companies involved, show that there are fewer accidents. What I doubt is whether the robot cares that it is going to crash the 12 tankers of caustic soda into the line of school buses, and act accordingly. And I suspect that sign was there for a special message: if you stall on the tracks, don't bother pleading for your life.

A Wonderful Discovery

This is a new artist who comes to the attention. His work sometimes has this spirit which I seek, of the romantic modernism. This is called "The Amoralists", it is somewhat provocative, and makes me wish to visit the "L.A.":

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Just by looking at his face I can see he is a great spirit.

Purses and Sows Ears?

I'm behind in my news reading so maybe my dear friends here can help sort this out. It seems that the Republican machine views Senator Feingold's attempt to censure the president (over the illegal wiretapping) as a plus for them in the interim elections. Rally the base, inflame the radio hosts, scare people with the threat of an impeachment hearing during a time of sort-of-war, etc.

What say ye?

Jiggling the Handle

Bush's polls hit a real low in the Pew survey: 33%. Very nearly, but not quite, one third of Americans approve his performance. Almost all other current polls are bottoming out, under 40 percent, which means that lost of people who trusted the (see standard paragraph) no longer do so.

Polls are deadly critical; the future of American freedom depends less on the constitution than on the continued skepticism of the public. We can recover from a myriad of illegal and incomptent actions, but we cannot recover a democracy from the loss of skepticism. Fortunately, even traditional dictators are in serious political trouble with these kinds of numbers.

Speaking of dictators, the Communist Party of America, yes, they're still around, has an interesting analysis of the situation, hardly objective, but far from mad.

Want to see the CPUSA article? Click here if you trust that the information of viewing this site will be kept from the government and not used against you later. I found it -through Google.

Speaking of breaking of trust, John McCain has turned into a slobbering Bushie suck-up, and he certainly votes that way- a cynical, amibitious, far-right Senator after all. See the hilariously titled "Wealthy Frenchman," a repost blog for the super secret NYT columnists, for Krugman's take on McCain.

March 15, 2006

I Know Nothing of Your Country

But this is not pleasant.

March 14, 2006

Monuments of the Mind

I am intrigued of the images of the mind of the madman Rizzoli.

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Hey, Look at that Flag

NYT reports a concerted effort to reteach America the national anthem, sponsored by Jeep. (Sigh.)

Which occassions my mention of a longtime curiosity: the Star-Spangled banner is an extremely long, long, question, and a rather nerdy one at that, just the sort of thing written by a lawyer in a war zone. Imagine the guy standing next to him at Fort McHenry in this moment of national crisis:

Oh, say can you see (yes?) by the dawn's early light , (that I can see ) what so proudly we hailed (yes, we did) at the twilight's last gleaming, (sigh) whose broad stripes and bright stars ( I see it) through the perilous fight (I get the picture) ...o'er the ramparts (the ones you were hiding behind, asshole?) we watched, (you were the one who pointed out I was there) were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets's red glare (Oh, here we go...) gave proof, through the night, (and a long one it was with you yammering on) that our flag was still there. (I believe we've established that.) Oh Say Does that Star-Spangled (You're going to be star-spangled in a minute) Banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free, (a little too free at the moment) and the Home of the Brave? (Yes, yes it does. I couldn't help noticing it. And if you start singing another question with the same answer I'm going to..)

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
and it goes on. I propose we change it back to the original lyrics.

Ye Sons of Anacreon,
Then join hand in hand;
Preserve Unanimity,
Friendship, and Love!
'Tis yours to support
What's so happily plann'd;
You've the sanction of Gods,
And the Fiat of Jove.
While thus we agree,
Our toast let it be:
"May our Club flourish Happy,
United, and Free!
And long may the Sons
Of Anacreon intwine
The Myrtle of Venus
With Bacchus's Vine

March 13, 2006

Another Beautiful Dream

Although I pride myself of my ahistoricalism, I am thinking today of the visionary who lived long ago, Etienne-Louis Boullée. It would be possible to say many facts of him, but it is best to look simply at his visions. This is his "cenotaph of Sir Isaac Newton":

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I'm kinda stunned.

As some (most?) of you know, I've been indulging my obsessive compulsive disorder by building a reasonably custom motorcycle (Photos courtesy of the multi-talented popmonkey)

I entered this bike into the Ducati Monster Challenge, where other folks who've similarly done stuff to their bikes compete at regional bike shows, and where the winners go on to compete at a national competition held at the opening AMA superbike races in Alabama.

Well, having come in a (dissapointing) 4th place in San Jose, I didn't think much more about this. Especially given more pressing concerns.

Today, out of the blue, I get a call from Gary Eagan (Iron Butt record holder and show organizer)

He says my 4th place finish was "A travesty" and that he's extending an invitation for me and my bike to attend the finals as a wildcard!

So Ducati is arranging an all expense paid trip for me and the bike in late April to Barber motorsport park (and Motorcycle Museum)


Next up: I kick custom bike builder Jesse James' ass, and steal Sandra Bullock from him.

American's Funniest Home Videos, Redux

Is it just me, or has the old standard of a "video of a guy getting hit in the nads with a whiffleball" gotten a whole lot meaner of late?

Mind you, I'm still laughing.

March 12, 2006

Quip Du Jour

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., member of the Congressional Black Caucus. , was asked on public TV what he thought about the president.

"Well," he said, "I really think that he shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all."

Sunday Comment

War, Lies, Murder, Ambition, Greed, Cruelty and Abuse-
God Has Much to Forgive Religion

March 11, 2006

A Serious Malfunction

Motorcycle design needs improvement.

Architecture, State, and Utopia

I am sorry I have not joined in this exchange of views for some time. These past two weeks I have been completing my final exams in architecture at Erasmus University. I hope to pass my exams and earn my degree this year, because this is the seventh time I have taken this stupid examination.

The people who grade the exam are unfair. For example, I received this question pertaining to a “hypothetical” library (they were obviously referring to our Seattle project, in my opinion):

1. (a) Describe how you would supervise and coordinate the architectural work (bearing in mind that the work site will be a building that is in service), and what methods you would use to monitor progress, to ensure that the proposed plans are followed and to operate within the prescribed time frame and budget.

I will not be duped into a pedestrian response by such a question. It is a provocation. So I answered, quoting Rem Koolhaas exactly:

The word ‘architecture’ embodies the lingering hope – or the vague memory of a hope – that shape, form, coherence could be imposed on the violent surf of information that washes over us daily. Maybe, architecture doesn’t have to be stupid after all. Liberated from the obligation to construct, it can become a way of thinking about anything – a discipline that represents relationships, proportions, connections, effects, the diagram of everything.

If I am not awarded full credit for this answer I shall protest to the administration.

After my exam I had coffee with another student who asked me a question, and I think this is exactly the one that Mr. Lord would also ask. He said:

Latouche, you talk like a utopian, but it is obvious all utopias must be dictatorships. In order to be coherent, they must reflect the vision of one person only, and the selection of this person is a fundamentally political question.

This brought to mind Mr. Lord’s remark about “the ego-driven, hyper-individualized search for enlightenment among monks or apolitical intellectuals,” an obvious allusion to Carter Sparks.

But accusing us of utopianism is to misunderstand the pragmatic nature of my romantic modernism. As Mr. Koolhaas has very clearly explained:

“… Americans are talking about the problems of their cities, Europeans are talking about the problems of their cities, Asians are talking about the problems of their cities, but if you look at these cities there is almost no difference between them… This same phenomenon, separate objects stranded fairly randomly without any glue in a more or less objective landscape, is now true of large parts of Europe, America, and Asia. Since these conditions exist in these different contexts, with different political systems, different economies, and different ideologies, it isn’t those external and obvious factors that make them similar.

“Maybe we should stop looking for any kind of glue to hold cities together. In cities like Houston, people have found, largely without the help of architects, other forms of coherence. In Atlanta, for instance, there is a very common model, which is to simply sling a wall around an area, put up a gate, and hire guards. Of course, it’s not an architectural coherence, and it’s not the kind of coherence that we as architects are indoctrinated to respect, but it is a very strong kind of coherence."

So, Mr. Lord, yes, Utopia is political. But reality is not. Asia or America, left or right, it is all the same.

Next Week, Condi Rice Strangles A Basset Hound

Later, after I post my compelling blurb on the dysfunctionality of constant news coverage, I may just let these items slide.

The arrest of top Bush domestic policy advisor Claude Allen for ripping off more than $5000 from a series of return items schemes at Target (Target!) has, in a quiet way, actually topped Dickey Cheney's 28 gauge Death With Dignity initiative. (See Standard Paragraph.) There is serious danger for the White House here because this is the kind of petty theft everyone understands.

Meanwhile, "Don't Not Be Evil" Google, fresh from vast new programs to destroy human independence by wiping out even the possibility of privacy, moves into my neighborhood, simply to irritate me. Note that this move is gleefully praised by the greedhead developer who turned one of the most creative neighborhoods in Seattle into an outdoor notions mall, full of callow application goons who think art is that indefinable something that makes shopping fun.
One of the last actual Fremont places, a stalwart hippie-chick organic bakery, just folded when their rent was TRIPLED.

Piss off Google. Off to Bellevue with you ( I-90 east until you smell the sulfur of the never-ending fire, take the exit, left at the three-headed dog. Ask for Virgil.) The Eastside is zoned for Commercial Office U-E (Unspeakably Evil). Seattle has only a limited amount of Commerical Office DD zoning (Dangerously Deluded), and that's mostly taken up by the Discovery Institute, and of course the Sonics.

Also Forbes has just published this handy list, presumably for the revolution.

March 10, 2006

Gud minn godur! Thad er o:xi i ho:fdinu a mer

By way of greeting, I post this astonishingly apt site, which tells you how to say "Oh my God! I have an ax in my head!" in 112 lanugages.

"A universe only a giant and a cow can account for"

March 07, 2006

Never attribute to malice...

...what can simply be attributed to stupidity."
~My dad

Except in this case, I've decided to go into one of my rare forays into whole-hearted malice attribution.

Here's the story that triggered this outpouring:
CNN reports that officials at NASA are saying "The system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse."

Normally, I'd just say "Yeah well, we pulled all the money from the satellites to send folks to the Moon & Mars. We all know how much our idiot prince likes big projects."

But in this case I have to say this is a clear case of retardation meets malice in a new, previously undiscovered fusion of the two.

My theory: The addle-pated cronies installed at NASA saw a certain magic word in their list of ongoing projects and decided they deserved less attention than others.

See if you can spot the magic word in the following sentence: "The system of environmental satellites."

They see the word "environmental" and immediately that triggers some sort of reptilian reflex in their brains closely related to touching a hot stove or zipping up their zippers a bit too fast.

Not realizing, in this case, "environmental" is being used in its original sense of "The world around us", "The planet" or more simply: "Stuff"

End result, the budget is cut and we're potentially left without little things we've come to enjoy.

Like Hurricane prediction.

Not that that seems to matter.

March 05, 2006

The Best Running Back in the Entire World

Alexander signs an eight year contract with the Seahawks for $62 million.

The Worst Painter in the Entire World

Thomas Kinkade, painter of unspeakably cynical pseudo-christian crap on cheap prints for which he charges outrageous sums of money, turns out to be an unspeakably evil son-of a bitch, using hard stock plays, pushing fraud based on faith, and urinating on Winnie the Pooh, to the tune of tens of millions.

March 02, 2006

I Had One Simple Request...

Soon to be deployed in our ceaseless search for Osama Bin Laden....Sharks with frickin' remote control devices on their heads.

"Remote-controlled sharks do have advantages that robotic underwater surveillance vehicles just cannot match: they are silent, and they power themselves."


"Um.. Candygram."
"I bet this pisses off Spielberg."
"This will certainly make my next visit to SeaWorld that much more interesting."
"Man, Next Christmas, when this hits Radio Shack...."

Whitney Biennial: An Unbroken 25 Year Record of the Fairly Okay But Not that Great

I post here the NYT review of the Whitney Biennial.

Reading the Times' Whitney Biennial review is probably the easiest way to get a sense of exactly how contemporary art is going a bit off, and hints of where it's going right (usually by not being included in the Biennial).

It's a strange show, important, influential, invariably disappointing; everyone sees it, but I have yet to hear of a Biennial that people were really impressed by. What I suspect is that the curators picked to choose the artworks are representative of the precise middle state of mainstream contemporary criticism, making the show the world's largest art magazine illustration.

The result is always predictably easy to write about, and only occassionally good to look at. I'm having trouble, for example, thinking of anything great in the 2002 show other than Robert Lazzarini's spatially transformed phone booth. I usually find myself siding with the Times' fairly stuffy critics, who are, after all these years, pretty consistently exasperated by most of the right problems: too many art stars, too many abstruse paragraphs, not enough art worth spending time with.

I may have a chance to see this one. Will report. Don't fret.

Ringo: Now I Feel Bad, But Not Enough to Stop

As Dr. X is somewhere in Africa on the run for not only for the preservation of what is becoming known in economic circles as "The Protraxis Solution," a mathematical formula a mere stolen fragment of which transformed Little Debbie Snack Cakes into a major international currency and arms trader, but for his very life, and as reports filter in, and his potential survival against the Ouagadodan Termination Sudden Explosion Assignation Patrol seems less and less a certainty, it seems unfair to onesidedly reflog our animated discussion over the relative merits of Mr. Starkey's drumming.

But these delicacies were tossed aside when I hit on the bright idea of writing my actual British rock star friends for their opinion on the matter. I.M. and J are a two-piece band, which as every schoolboy knows is ala mode; drummer J. is also a working session guy around London. I withold their names for the potentially explosive power of the following.

I.M. wrote back immediately.

It's widely known in the muso world over here that Ringo didn't play drums on any of the early recordings, Macca did it all, and this continued throughout the bands career with the formidable Mr McCartney doing it or various session drummers. I guess he was a good vibe to have around, and good enough to play live because the girlies were screaming so loud the band were inaudible. If I remember rightly he did play drums at the Concert for Bangladesh, however there were 2 drummers on that gig mostly playing in unison!
The term "Macca" is apparantly for McCartney. Who knew? Anyway, I now feel rather badly: Ringo is a fine fellow and wrote some nice songs, and now, if this is true, it appears that his career as a musician was something of a sham.  It does however suggest that Dr. X. would have to allow that Paul McCartney is the exceptional drummer in question, a strangely less palatable position.

On a more pleasant note, I. also notes that she met Ian Holm, Bilbo in the movies, just today, and he was a "bright eyed, lovely chap," which is only right and proper. She has also met Pete Townsend, but I didn't want to push it over Keith Moon.

Need Help? Ask the Baby

In the most adorable study since kittens were conclusively demonstrated to be fuzzy and warm in the famous 1926 article "Kittens Near Yarn: Comparative Fur Morphology in States of Induced Agitation" in Annalen der Körperlichen Wissenschaftler von Nettemphänomene, babies are demonstrably altruistic at 18 months, helping scientists retrieve dropped items without so much as an expression of thanks.

Compute for Victory!

A PC group hug (to coin a phrase) is being used to crack a WWII Enigma machine cipher unreadable by the boffins (man, I love that word) at Bletchly Park. One of three has been cracked by the M4 project. I have only one criticism. It's a little late for our boys on liberty ships at sea.


"Forced to submerge during attack. Depth charges. Last enemy position 0830h AJ 9863, [course] 220 degrees, [speed] 8 knots. [I am] following [the enemy]. [barometer] falls 14 mb, [wind] nor-nor-east, [force] 4, visibility 10 [nautical miles]."

TAKE THAT, Kapitanleutnant Hartwig Looks, commander of the German navy's U264 submarine! (25 November 1942)!

This all fits nicely into one of my favorite WWII movies, Action in the North Atlantic!, which just as a title shares the essential virtue of the upcoming Snakes on a Plane. In particular, the action and effects show something like the total panic and chaos I imagine real war is like.

With some of the best guy's guys in movie history: Bogart, of couse, Raymond Massey, and the ubiquitous Alan Hale. What kind of cheney would you have to be not be cheered when the great gregarious Alan Hale shows up? As far as the movies go, you couldn't go to sea between 1920 and 1950 without Alan on board. AND he
was the inventor of the folding theater seat, as well as hand fire extinguishers.

What is wrong with our modern, laze-about Hollywood celebrities?

Not only were our movie stars acting their socks off in dozens and dozens of movies, they were making important contributions to knowledge, witness again, the supremely beautiful Hedy Lamar: who got a key patent - this IMBD quote understates her work and her intelligence, but it is exciting.

Hedy's credited invention was for a radio guiding system for torpedoes which was used in WWII. She supposedly gained the knowledge from her first husband, Fritz Mandl, A Viennese munitions dealer who sided with the Nazis. Hedy drugged her maid to escape her husband and homeland.
Someone should make a movie.

March 01, 2006

Rick Allen: The Thundergod

If any drummer was more in touch with the primordial center and less in tune with his musical surroundings, and it must be Rick Allen, Def Leopard's one-armed bandit. Notwithstanding that he played for what I have long held to be the very worst band in the entire world, a later-day distillation of the essential, horrifying principles of bloated arena butt rock for which the invention of punk rock had become a necessary reactionary cultural imperative, you cannot fault the fellow for lack of spirit. He kept playing.

As a very wise riot-grrl - yet another Seattle drummer - once told me (while we were pondering forming a Sesame Street cover band) all music, even terrible music, is kind of good.

And now the website, Rick Allen, The Thundergod.

Security Aviation: Embryonic Rockabilly Polka-Dotted Fighter Pilots

Alaska's Security Aviation Saga continues with a web of lies and ego, as Anchoragite Rob Kane, self-styled SEAL, spy, mercenary, rodeo cowboy, FBI informant, etc, (not quite graduate of Bartlett High, 1987) builds a L-38 fighter squad with rocket pods and faces the consequences of failing to file paperwork. In other words, it seems like crazy Kane up in the cabin who thinks he's a secret agent, now arrested for a con that went too far.

But he has some heavy hitters as defense counsel, and most interesting, this seemingly endless supply of money for some fairly dangerous toys and personal benefits doesn't dry up.

In their searches, federal agents turned up a somewhat menacing vision for the company. In Security Aviation files, they found a logo design for a patch that featured an L-39 jet superimposed over a globe. In one version, the words "Kane's Killers" were inscribed on the edges of the patch, the indictment says....

In the main office, with Kane's nickname "Commander" on the door, agents found an account card from the Bank of the Middle East, Bronkhorst testified. They found a blank application for permanent residency in the Bahamas. They turned up business cards from Ukraine, Russia and United Arab Emirates, Bronkhorst testified.

In the smaller office, agents found weapons, including what were described as AK-47-type assault rifles and a .50-caliber sniper rifle with a large scope, the agent said.

It's conspiracy theory field day. Have you ever seen a .50 cal rifle? Great for assasinating rutting elephants.

And who else was going to Bartlett High in the early eighties? Valerie Plame.

(Credit the title to an old, surreal Conan O'Brien routine.)