May 30, 2006

Alito Stands Up For Free Speech

Dr X. sends this via an an untraceable encryption protocol based on Lavarand:
"Ha ha, just kidding. Supreme Court to Public Servants who wish to report wrongdoing: shut up, bitch. I can hardly wait to see what other interesting nuances these guys find in our very complex and hard-to-understand Bill of Rights."
I should reiterate that, as an unemployed French architect, I have nothing whatsoever to do with Dr. X's foolhardy and disloyal remarks.

May 29, 2006

Dismal's Paradox

Dr X. posts this through the keypad on an unattended coffee machine connected to the Internet in a modernist demonstration project in Uganda.

"John Hodgman explains tax cuts. Laugh it up...Morlocks."

The Tiniest Hooks of the Darkest War

Yesterday a B-17 flew over my head twice, probably this very G-model, in 8th Air Force livery, as I walked by the sea. The B-17 is a talisman in my life - what my father worked to protect from sudden storms that killed the young pilots still in Texas, what my uncle nearly died in as a navigator over Germany, the nexus of my family's experience of WWII. It still permeates Seattle, the strangely appealing and ominous bomber, the machine that made this town a city, an aircraft whose purpose was to place large amounts of high explosive on buildings and people, assembled by women, all to the great glory of life and democracy, I need to believe, and to darker purposes of power and property, I often fear.

It is a symbol of my own safety, family history, beliefs and prosperity, and my own distant, romantic delusions about the nature of war.

But it's a good day to remember several stories: my father catching a ride to Chicago -in all likelyhood to catch a Fats Waller show - in the nose of a B-17, watching the world pass in the best view in the world, falling asleep and waking hours later in a deep fog, with the smokestacks of the city passing high - whoops - above his head.

The image of the B-17s and P-51s parked in rows by the Frankfurt aiport in 1946, all for sale somehow, $100 each or perhaps good cigarettes, men buying them just for the fuel still in the wing tanks. He told me once that he knew a pilot who would pay $100k for any B-17 he could find in 1970, because it was the best platform for aerial photography.

His field in Dalhart, Texas primarily trained B-17 bomber crews. My father had a life-long affection for that plane, and wondered if he could fly one in an emergency. The crews called them ships. They broke, or allowed to be broken, the Nazi war machine. And they burned and destroyed a half million? people. I believe now Curtis LeMay had become sociopathic in his strategic bombing campaign. Yet I am pleased there are still twelve B-17s flying.

A photo shows my father's arm holding the skull of a Japanese soldier burned out of a cave on Saipan a few months earlier. His friends are smiling - it is a post-war moment, so it is a cheerful, almost delirious moment. He was passing through the Pacific island, on a kind of flying hop around tour, an Army Air Force captain, a meterologist working his way by air to the literally smoldering remains of Frankfurt Airport in early 1946. There is nothing but the joy at the death of an enemy, the death that meant peace.

He served most of WWII in the U.S, except a stint around D-Day in England I know almost nothing about, working in some capacity with the forecasters for the invasion. It's not in the documentation I have, but he pointed out that he missed that day when the decision to go or not was made. No point making that part up. Like many men who didn't serve in combat, I think he felt keenly his exclusion from the shared physical risk.

Yet he knew many men who had been so competent, confident and capable in the war who simply wasted away in peace, or that particular peace we built. The consumer peace.

But he sacrificed still, like all families, like families of soldiers and dead civilians victims of war now. His brother, my uncle Duane, was wounded horribly in air combat over Germany with 20mm cannon fire from a Nazi fighter striking his head. The energy of the bullet must have been spent, somehow. It was an archtypical B-17 moment, war in the air, the ship struggling on three and then two engines, metal rattling and brittle cold air pouring through holes shredded in the fuselage, bodies bleeding less in the cold, and yet it landed back in England. The ambulance they called a meat wagon came as Duane was taken out of the plane, and the medics weren't going to take him until the pilot pulled a gun on them, telling them to take him in or he'd blow their heads off. He outlived my father, but paralyzed on one side.

But the sacrifice was in how Duane's spirit was destroyed, how he might have walked again but didn't, how in a falling out over this they spoke only every few years until their deaths in the 1980s. He didn't come to my father's funeral. I didn't go to Duane's. Duane I only met twice as an adult. This story is almost all I know about him, that and when they were kids in Nebraska he had an unfortunate love of onion sandwiches.

I think something about that incident and certainly the military experience drove my father to Alaska, and in a way drove his first son, disconnected from a fairly large family, into the Green Berets in Vietnam. And Grant I do not really know now either. I do know that WWII nearly cured my father of respect for authority and/or wearing hats.

I know more, much more, about the B-17 than these other men in my own family, which the war both ennobled and broke apart through the instrument of the B-17, that beautiful bomber whose elegant, oddly humanistic design seems to have been the final echo of humanity in the military industrial complex that grew to maturity in that war.

But I hadn't thought until yesterday about the man in the German fighter who fired that 20mm cannon round which changed my family in these ways, how, in real war, all battle is equivalent, metal piercing flesh at high velocity, metal emitted from an insane magic bag of ideologies, ever ripping apart human beings. He fired on a man named Bollenbach, which is also a small village in Pflaz-Rheinland. That pilot probably died that day. And the B-17 carried my uncle back to American life, and men waited for its throaty roar, for their friends.

Now at this great remove from that injury, and the ones my uncle and my father inflicted on our nation's enemies - before and since friends-, I am safe and grateful and indulgent in my whims of work and play. But a tiny dark hook of that war that still touches me: what was my father's family? I might have found out, but time had passed, and I did not.

Agnostic as the day is long, I have an answer for the Pope's question at Auschwitz on Thursday: where was God? He was unknowing, stumbling, half-blind and blundering, like he always is, and seeking mostly to stay alive and keep his friends alive; that collected human consciousness we dully call God lived and worked in the Allied soldiers, the undergrounds, the millions paralyzed in fear, the victims of both the Nazis and the God's vengence we visited upon them, in dischordant momentary compassions among the Germans themselves, but most in the sum of all that resisted in every way industrial murder for madness and property.

And this vengence flew too on terrible, beautiful wings.

May 28, 2006

Sorting Tray

A brief on the bubbling of the Democratic presidential contenders.

The people are all but begging for a Democratic president, but John McCain has to be knocked down hard before the Democratic nominee has to do it personally. Giulliani will not likely survive the GOP nomination process, because, unlike McCain, he cannot cultivate the far right, and cornered by nationwide enmity for the Administration, Congress and the growing internal breaks over immigration, the far right will be in no mood to compromise.

No molly-coddling at all. No mercy must be shown to John McCain. The Keating Five scandal should be raised again. His anti-abortion beliefs must be made prominent in a changed legal environment: the South Dakota law makes this a viable issue. He must be closely associated with the failure of Congress to supervise the war. McCain is the best hope of, to borrow Lou Dobbs' astonishing phrase, the corporate supremacists, and his vaunted independence proved to be a thin style.

Which brings us to Hilary Clinton. Notice how quiet we've been about her. The problem, strangely enough, is that she's a effective politician with strong policy experience and has been an extremely successful Senator. She's smart and tough. However, I have yet to meet a Democrat locally who really supports her. Part of this is practical: we know the irrational enmity she generates on the other side, and we know it will be hard to win Independents to her with any enthusiasm. In response, she is also heavily positioning herself as a fair-to-middling centrist, a feminist ceding huge ground in the alleged culture wars, going with the one-hour Liebermanizing. Her recent moves read self-serving and insincere, and something of a betrayal to ordinary progressives in rough times.

Her indistinct position on the war, generally supporting it, will not play well in the West Coast primaries, judging by the serious grief Maria Cantwell is getting. It will feel like Kerry's major weakness all over again. And like Kerry, maybe fatally, she seems to lack that self-deprecating ease with people that McCain and even Bush has that people find compelling in American politics: it's a legitimate point coming from an egalitarian political culture. If the people smell your belief in your own entitlement to power, you're likely cooked. W's singular genius - yes, there is one - is pretending he doesn't believe in his own entitlement. He brilliantly fakes sincerity, his accent waxing and ebbing depending on the audience. Reports of him in personal circumstances describe his hypocritical imperiousness.

All that aside, however, polls are showing close races with her and McCain, although any Democrat who can hold up a hat beats Jeb Bush. Conclusion: she could win, but it would involve a brutal tear-down of McCain, which is fine by me, and a new ability to fake sincerity well.

Democrats have an interesting depth of field this season: John Edwards, John Warner, Al Gore, Barak Obama, Bill Richardson, Russ Feingold. Warner made a bit of a splash earlier this year, but strikes me as a lightweight, and it is uncertain whether he can recover from that photo on the NYT Magazine. Personally, I think Bill Richardson would be an excellent president, with an easy wit, an underestimated political instinct, and fatherly demeanor, but, like Warner, there's not enough evidence of his national appeal. John Edwards has impressed me recently: he's spent the last years working very hard on poeverty policy, building up a foundation, getting cooly passionate about injustice, and is showing the depth and fire he appeared to lack last time. Barak's charisma is real, and a rock star with a brain and leadership is something Democrats need- I worry only that he's might get Senatisis, the wasting disease.

That leaves Al Gore. I think I'm over my anger at him for caving in 2000, out of what I think was a misapplied love of country. Here's what interesting: progressives out here are lighting up when you talk about Al Gore these days, with his increasingly impressive voice on the environment, an issue where we destroy the GOP when the people take it seriously. He is also at heart a moderate, rather than a centrist (in other words his beliefs seem sincere, rather than seeking a middle target), and he's relaxed, funny and righteous in public, leagues away from his caricature- which gives him an opportunity to impress people. Unlike 2000, and if you go by the environmental model, he's learned when and how to be both progressive and popular.
The NYT suggested in that long odd story about the Clintons that Bill might be behind Al more than Hillary. That SNL sketch with it's imaginary contrast of the last eight years doesn't hurt. If you ask me who might run who could unite and inspire the Democratic party, it's Al Gore, Barak Obama, or John Edwards.

To bring in progressives, the candidate would need a fresh position on the war and a record of action on a core issue: the environment for Gore, poverty for Edwards. The progressive left will respect real work even if the ideology is essentially moderate. That solves the basic Democratic problem: moderates appeal naturally to the majority of the people, and a record of effective work on key issues keeps the progressives active.

Hillary might win through sheer organizational force. But Gore, Edwards, Warner, and Richardson have the huge advantage of not having voted on the war, so their positions would be at least fresh. And a genuinely united and inspired party would take back the nation in 2008.

May 27, 2006

Murder by Marines in Iraq: A National Moral Crisis is Coming

UPDATE: Senator Warner (R) calls for investigation.

In November in Iraq, US Marines apparently executed 24 unarmed civilians, including women and young children. It was reported intitially as a IED explosion, then as a crossfire. There is evidence of an attempted cover up. Photos may document a systematic execution, and some reports have the U.S. military charging 7 Marines with murder; tonight's reports have several Marines in the brig at Camp Pendleton.

The U.S. military investigation is being concluded next month, and it's contents will be politically explosive. Time reported in March a nine-year old witness to the execution of her family.



Former Marine Congressman Muthra is saying that the killings were "in cold blood." With the prospect of America executing our own soliders, what is looking certain is a major test of American military justice, what remains of our nation's moral credibility, and truly shattering politics over the conduct of the war.

My Lai here.

Learning to love a game with ending scores like 0-0

The Soccer World Cup opens in a little over a week in Munich. After my visit to Brazil, I realize that I'd better learn at least a little bit about futebol before the next time I leave the U.S.

I did see Ronaldhino's face all over Brazil and believe that a huge baby boom of kids named Ronaldo is now occuring there. To see one reason why, check this out. (It starts a little slow but be patient.)

May 26, 2006

Wanna Customize My Van...and I Don't Even Own One

Dr. X sends this through an intermediary in a safe house near Abbey Road Studios:

"This is from Audiophilia:

""The DEQX PDC - 2.6P -- A Revolution?

""Folks, I would like to refrain from being overly exuberant in my comments, but I can't. What I heard was truly amazing, jaw dropping, illuminating, eye opening, ear opening…well, you get the picture. Nothing I've ever introduced into what I would call a pretty good system produced such an enormous improvement to the quality of the sound. Not even close. I'm not going to go through listing specific CDs or LPs but simply say that whatever the source the improvements were consistent and wonderful.

""In my past experience, there have been many touted 'Black Boxes' that have been tried out in my system that purported to improve sound staging, dynamics, palpability of instruments and voices, harmonic accuracy, etc. Some worked to one degree or another but they all seemed to suffer from one major problem, a loss of clarity and transparency. Put more electronics in the chain and the sound always lost more than it gained…until now..."

"I, for one, will certainly purchase the DEQX PDC - 2.6P.""

"I can't wait to never see it!"

Disney revs up for 'Cars' premiere - Yahoo! News:

"Set in a world populated entirely by motor vehicles, 'Cars' tells the story of Lightning McQueen (voiced by Wilson), a top rookie racer on the prestigious Piston Cup circuit. On his way to California for a crucial season-ending race, McQueen gets detoured off the interstate and into the forgotten Route 66 town of Radiator Springs, where he meets a cute 2002 Porsche 911 named Sally Carrera (Hunt), a crusty 1951 Hudson Hornet with a secret (Newman) and a loyal, broken-down tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy)."

Wow! Those folks at Pixar are wild, creative geniuses! Just imagine a world where your identity isn't determined by the car you drive; instead, you are a car! I just know Hudson Hornet is gonna be my fave -- Paul Newman is such a great actor, and I love those old 50's cars! I'm hoping this will spur some interest among young people -- in cars!

May 25, 2006

I Hate When That Happens

Dr. X sends this through a microdot hidden on a cryptozoological stamp:

"Sprint to IBM: where's my money, bitch? Skytracker Action News has one reporter per paragraph on the story."

A Cautionary Note

Dr. X sends this through the SMAPMS (Secure Modernist Architects' Personal Messaging System), along with several threats against my person, which need not be repeated here:

"U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is a bad man, and I do not agree with the things he says. You should all watch this video to see how bad he is and make sure you know not to listen to his lies. Perhaps you have seen it before, but here is another example of his disloyalty."

Overencouraged: Odes to AFV III

For a nice woman, a kind woman
bourne to Jamaica by Travelocity
All to obliterate
the dying air of Interstates
And she here looks East where a
powerful motorboat idles just off the dock

A humble woman, an unassuming woman
with a hidden dash of courage
O back home it is a margarita courage
The invariable Thursdays at Chi-Chis
with an extra shot for only $2 more
O she is free with her
Raw analysis of Desparate Housewives
And what the boss must look like naked

And her husband tapes her and she smiles
as she is stuffed,
into a harness at capacity,
or perhaps just beyond
a harness for a parachute -
a nylon shorthand for ecstatic freedom
stuffed and strapped and padded and kneaded
by a trim, bemused young native man
Who did not actually signal

A sweet woman, a plump woman,
A rather fat woman
Notices not that the line is thin and worn
Nor that the boat is now abruptly flying
Her husband is smiling at her still, Her eyes shine
New experience
Is at the end of that line, which tightens fast
All humiliations
have faded,
have faded,
have faded

Her smile is yanked from the frame.
The splash is heard in Duluth.

More Vers Libre Odes to America's Funniest Home Video Gags

The Yellow Lab of Courage

In the bathroom upon the dog unleashed
is small Godzilla, fly eyes glowing
and fixed upon the dog,
the good boy, who sees the roar and
tiny force coming toward and inside the small space
Inexorable, inexorable
Goes Goes Godzilla

The Owner has betrayed him
set this creature in mysterious punishment
It is strange and unknown and smells like electricity and
Toy's R Us and there is no bark
only reversal
and fear
a mighty puny rage in vengence of
dishonored nature
Forward, forward it comes

Safety is a vinyl curtain,
a solid steel bathtub,
and forebearance

Icarus in Wisconsin

The world a sea of snow and the road a ribon of ice
ahead. A snow ramp-challenge. How high?

The distance shrinks too fast.
This snowmobile, I rise I rise
I've made it fly, it shall

too high too fast it shall it is
Below passes the stop sign on Maple road.

And flying, suspended far in the heavens,
I am Icarus in Wisconsin
I scrape the untidy wisps
From altocumulous
The air is a river that bears the Moses-basket
all my hopes, which are only this moment's hopes

I can smell the Aveda hair-gel of Angels

And all weight ebbs and flows
And I watch my hands grasp at air instead of handlebars
And the snowmobile falls ahead, whirring in disconnection
And the snow is now the sky
And the snow is now my mattress.
All is white. I rest, boots to universe.

"I might as well be reading Eisengeist!"

Talking Points Memo loses a bit of its punch when Josh Marshall is on vaction.

Exhibit A


Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. Now they'll be inflating stock values and manipulating energy markets up at the Statesville prison. (Which, by the way, is a real -and real horrible - place: Statesville Correctional Center in Illinois.)

I could only wish they had gone before Potato Judge (an old Conan O'Brian sketch with defendents appealing before a nearly silent, skreechy voiced googly-eyed potato). He was unusually cruel and capricious.

Defendant: Your honor, I --
Defendant: But --

As Andy Richter said, "Man, if I ever go down, I hope I don't get the Potato Judge."

A Potato Judge-Like Potato

May 24, 2006

A Message From a Friend

Dr. X. sends the following via the Swiss Consulate in Senegal:

"Holy crap, the deal went up in smoke! Aughhh!!! Latouche, get me out of here! Out! Out! Out!"

I have forwarded this to a relief agency in the area, and they have promised to provide him with a nutritious bag of millet and beans.

May 23, 2006

Now I Can Die Happy

Those who know me best know the Laird's Number One Rule of Consumerism: Never skimp on shoes.

Now, I've learned that all of the shoes I have ever owned, or indeed anyone has ever owned, are deficient in one aspect: they have absolutely no capability to interoperate with an iPod.

Until now.

Unlike my father and his father before him, I won't have to wonder what it's like to live in where my shoes can talk to my iPod. Say what you want about capitalism, you must admit that no cetralized economy would produce this stunning innovation, let alone bring together Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and marathon record-holder Paula Radcliffe to shill for it.

And investors who drove up Nike's stock price 4 percent today deserve a lot of credit, too, for recognizing 'the next big thing.'

May 22, 2006

Sailor Falls from Lady Washington's Top Gallant

I would like to honor Lukas Efler, a Swiss sailor on the Lady Washington who fell from the main T'gallant mast, but is recovering.


Seahawks: NFL Officials Underestimate Our Awesome Passive-Aggressiveness

Peter King, bloated East Coast cleet-licker (disclaimer to the Laird: I am not truly rehashing. This pro forma insult is required within 800 miles of Qwest Field,) writes of the tense meeting when NFL director of officiating saunters to Seattle to explain himself over certain calls during the Superbowl, which were notable for generating an appreciable amount of controversy.

Pereria is apparently pleased at the politeness of the meeting. He may have misunderstood Seattle's culture of devasting passive aggression. If this had been a performance review, the next day he would have been standing on the side of the road selling lint from a cardboard barrel.

I've moved on, moved on. I tell you I've moved on. Next year looks smashing.

I should mention that I resent the Qwest field name a lot less since they told the NSA to bugger off. It's a small price for freedom.

May 21, 2006

The Sterile House That Leaks

The bulk of today NYT's magazine is dedicated to architecture's unique ability to piss us off.
One of the most telling failures of what might be called latter day modernism is the WTC site, when the initial set of designs from the top firms in the world didn't impress anyone, not because they were too innovative, but because they were too conservative to the last 70 years
of unexamined assumptions.

The essential problem: architects tend to see resistance to their designs as reactionary. That was absolutely true - in 1915. Most of the rest of us see most architects as rigidly ideologically in their endlessly repeated obsession with certain stylistic aspects of architectural modernism: namely, rigid, linear geometries, sterility as the only beauty, craftsmanship and decoration and even art itself (see the history of the World Trade Center) as impure design distractions. As ever in human experience, the buildings build us: and indeed we are tending to become hard, transparent, indistinct, commodified, empty, utterly interchangeable, without pasts or futures.

There is a more personal problem, too. As you may or may not know, architects have been bullying artists out of the field of art, literally displacing artists from galleries and commissions with their own works. They do this first by demeaning the working methods of artists with an ideological attack notable for its rigid consistency, and backed by large firms with cash, organization and desire for prestige, Architects eat artist's lunches, pushing themselves into taking over sculpture and installation,- they drive much of the anti-making, anti-material, high concept ideology in some of contemporary art, positing themselves in pseudo-Warholian grandeur against artists making objects themselves, thinking individually, or exploring beauty and chaos, and shoving through high-concept sterility as the be all and end all of aesthetics, leaving art and design a sexless, gormless field.

At the moment, finally, it's ebbing a bit.

Start here with a Steven Holl house for the artist Richard Tuttle, the best imaginable client for contemporary architectural innovation, but got modernism's typical overreaching and crappy execution.

Tuttle: "The place is uninhabitable half the time. It's too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. With lasers, they devised a footprint, a slab, on site, then when the panels arrived they didn't fit — they had to pull them together with straps, like a corset. Not very bright. Any damn fool knows you don't do these two things separately. I respect Steven. He's an artist. It's not his fault if the whole architecture profession is ego gone wild." He adds: "It turns out that the greatest invention, the one that made civilization possible, is caulking."

I regret that we have not heard from Dr. X on these matters, who I know from extensive discussions is a great lover of organic grace and humanism in design. This record of aesthetic contention would serve his oft-expressed distaste for rigid geometry and reflexive quasi-modernity in building design in any of the lively arguments he would no doubt pursue with Monsieur Latouche, although they would certainly agree, as do I, with the adoption of progressive political values and human scale in design, a peculiarity in modernist architecture that, as I reflect, may not extend beyond the U.S. West Coast.

May 20, 2006

Something / I'm Down

Dr. X. send this via a microchip embedded in the fingernail of a former Savak double-agent found this morning off Hunter's Point:

"This brought me down.
This picked me back up.
This made me remember what is true.

The Laird will never admit it, but there was a moment in his life when this was his favorite song. I have always preferred this version, however."

May 19, 2006

I Thought I was Angry

Garrison Keillor in Salon

"Having been called names, one looks back at one's own angry outbursts over the years, and I recall having once referred to Republicans as 'hairy-backed swamp developers, fundamentalist bullies, freelance racists, hobby cops, sweatshop tycoons, line jumpers, marsupial moms and aluminum-siding salesmen, misanthropic frat boys, ninja dittoheads, shrieking midgets, tax cheats, cheese merchants, cat stranglers, pill pushers, nihilists in golf pants, backed-up Baptists, the grand pooh-bahs of Percodan, mouth breathers, testosterone junkies and brownshirts in pinstripes.'



"I look at those words now, and 'cat stranglers' seems excessive to me. The number of cat stranglers in the ranks of the Republican Party is surely low, and that reference was hurtful to Republicans and to cat owners. I feel sheepish about it."

Donut Shop Architecture is Not a Subject for Mockery

I invite you to peruse the neo-modernist facade of Dykeman's headquarters for the Krispy Kreme company. They have met the challenge of the modernist donut-shop in the corporate context.

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They also have designed donut shops that are not of the headquarters. I think this is architecture of which all Americans can be proud:

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The work of Dykeman is good, it is no wonder so many people wish to live in the "Seattle" to shop in the grocery stores and drink coffee in the cafes. But once again, I must award the highest prize to the old masters:

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Jon and John Take Down the Man

Dr. X sends this through taps in morse-code on a pipe in his cell in Equatorial Guinea:

"Mr. Stewart's new occasional sidekick, John Hodgman, is no one-hit wonder. He is a throwback to the kind of mild, brilliant, insidious political comedy of the 60s. If Pat Paulson, Bob Newhart, and Mort Sahl had a threesome, he would be the love-child. But I digress. This Daily Show piece on a (real) counter-insurgency essay-writing contest shows him at his best. As does this priceless bit about Greenspan. As does this bit on India and Pakistan. And here is his initial appearance, highly praised by the Laird, in which he promotes The Areas of My Expertise.

"I caution you: it is possible to get too much Hodgson if your system is not yet accustomed to him. Once you are acclimated you may attempt his Q&A for McSweeney's and the The Little Gray Book Lectures."

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

YouTube - 10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Retro-Modern Donuts

I believe Monsieur especially will enjoy this piece of retro-modern confection known as Top-Pot Donuts, in particular the photos of the downtown Seattle location. Ironically, through sheer romantic attachment to modernist revival retail design, they have newly built from the ground up the most beautiful donut shop in Seattle. Also, the donuts are extremely delicious, and the legions of surprisingly if temporarily trim young female customers are not unappreciated.

It should be noted that such design would not be tolerated in many architectural firms, because while it is beautiful and sleek and looks to the high modern era, it's would be considered a reactionary, overtly ironic interest in past forms of graceful design and materials.

It's the materials that carry the design: the brushed aluminum staircases, dark crushed rock floor tiles with aluminum trim pieces waxed to a Hollywood sheen, birch plywood and industrial pane glass everywhere. The workmanship is remarkable. The logos and materials all deliberately evoke the period, and even the walls are lined with books from the 1920s-50s.

All this of course, is an interest in form for it's own sake, decontextualizing the style, which only underscores its rejection of architectural modernism and post-modernism as an aesthetic ideology. Firm in with Seattle's zeitgeist, a perfect match to the Space Needle, it celebrates and refines the Atomic era, but from a light-hearted distance.

I cannot begin to tell you what an aesthetic error this would be considered among many architects.

The Modern Woman Personified

You may know Britney Spears is very popular in France (I do not link to an article to support this statement, you must believe it because I myself am French).

I am understanding that this is not a Britney Spears blog, it is exchange of views on the merits of modernist architecture. I still will say, however, that the Britney Spears is what we French call "a classy lady," and it is not right of the Fourth Estate to criticize everything she does. In the photograph it is not the question of Britney Spears baby, it is the possibility of the spilling of the Britney Spears drink that is obviously of high concern.

But I must ask what is this facination of the Americans with Britney Spears? She does not sing now, she does not dance, she is just Britney Spears, wife and mother.

I look forward to knowing your opinions of Britney Spears.

May 17, 2006

Ellwood Blues

I ceased my project of the intellectual interlocking with this group because I believed that all the views had been entirely exchanged. But now I realize that I was wrong, and there is something more to be known as in this conversation.

It is the question of the Modernism of southern California. In north, as we saw, the great spirit Eichler created the modernism for the masses, bringing designs advanced to the ordinary house of area.

But in the south Modernism was different. Its aesthetic achievements cannot be denied - houses of case study, larger projects inspired, moments of transcendent beauty - all command of respect. But they are held invariably in insulation, always neighbors of lesser work, alone in an arbitrary urban landscape ('junkspace').

Perhaps it follows that the great expert of the southernmost modernism of California was himself a cipher:

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I cannot say to you much about him, because not much is known. His name was not really Craig Ellwood. He was nobody to start, the child of a migrating hairdresser, working as estimator of building. He changed his name, he made some houses, he bought Ferrari, and put “VROOM” of the license plate. He spoke at Yale. If you were rich in L.A. you do not accept second-best - you called his number. And he made houses as delicate and terrible as phantoms:

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Ellwood did not play another man’s game. He built modern materials, he was the first builder to frame out of steel, always a stage ahead. And this guy is right - Ellwood taught us houses are machines for dreaming in.

And then he was gone like the Cheshire Cat (was he ever there?), to Tuscany to paint, and then dead. We are left with the houses and the buildings, we can wonder whether we are like the people in The Master and Margarita, who awoke to find their roubles turned to scraps of paper. Was it all a dream?

It is the bill of indictment of LA: The dreams can guide our vision, but they can never replace it. If we fall in love with them too much, our fascination and introspection will destroy us. L.A. is a junkie, haunted with imaginations of its own creation, the victim of its own pitiless ideological principles, the most powerful drug of all. It is regrettable, but also beautiful. As we say in France, “every junkie’s like a setting sun.”

1st Amendment: The Silent Killer

Dr. X sends the following message through an Israeli-made satellite PDA with embedded 64-bit on-the-fly encryption and auto-managed zombie farm random prime number calculation:

"How does Colbert top Colbert? Like this. In fact, it pretty much tops everything ever."

Preaching to the choir

While I realize everyone here needs no convincing of the current perils to civil liberties we are facing, I found this quote to be one of of those good, red v. blue quotes that should appeal to the better instincts of everyone, regardless of political affiliation*

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberties by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

~Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, 1928

*Does not apply to the approx. 15% of Americans who live in "Dumbfuckistan"

I Laughed Until I Stopped

New, on the Bob and David website: "Hey everyone,
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of James Frey's newest book. It's a soul-searching and no holds barred look at his life since appearing on the 'Oprah' show. This shit is crazy! What a tough life this guy has had.


What Kinds of Houses Do Chimps Live In?

"It's a totally cool and extremely clever analysis," said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard. "My problem is imagining what it would be like to have a bipedal hominid and a chimpanzee viewing each other as appropriate mates, not to put it too crudely."

May 16, 2006

The Crypto Kids

The NSA has this little rebuttal statement on their website:

Click above for a Free Secret Dossier!
Americans expect NSA to conduct its missions within the law. But given the inherently secret nature of those missions, how can Americans be sure that the Agency does not invade their privacy?

The 4th Amendment of the Constitution demands it... oversight committees within all three branches of the U.S. government ensure it... and NSA employees, as U.S. citizens, have a vested interest in upholding it. Respecting the law is only a part of gaining Americans' trust.

The American people need to know, within the bounds of operational security, what NSA does and why they do it, and how they work within the Intelligence community and the Department of Defense to protect the Nation's freedom.

With each new day, NSA is writing new and unexpected chapters. The missions have never been clearer. The challenges have never been greater....

THE BULLSHIT HAS NEVER BEEN CHUNKIER. And looking over this again, I notice they don't actually say: the NSA does not invade your constitutionally guaranteed privacy.

Like the CIA, the NSA (their site) has a kids site, featuring America's CryptoKids.

Click above for a Free Secret Dossier!

I notice that none of the CryptoKids are interested in civil liberties, or freedom, or democracy. Frankly, I'm unclear on their motivations. Which reminds me. I need to exercise a little freedom.

Dear National Security Agency,

Your ringing endorsement of the U.S. Constitution as something worth upholding because it's in your vested interest to do so warms my heart like a 60lb icicle piercing my chest. Piss off, you proto-fascist rooster vacuums.

Signed (In the interests of saving time),
Jamie Bollenbach

(look! secret code below!)

155 Nickerson St. #2

Seattle, WA 98109


Bush Manages to Somehow Lie and Confirm the Story At the Same Time

In Tony Snow's first full day of lying while employed at the White House, we find out that the NSA isn't listening to our phone calls. That is probably a lie too - we already know there is a large database of millions of actual conversations, and given their easy disregard for law, one might ask what exactly is stopping them?

Of course, that wasn't the question at hand - the question is whether all of the records of our phone calls are being gathered and searched. Bush's lack of denial would suggest that they are indeed - but of course that assumes that for some reason he didn't want to lie while answering that question, which itself stretches credulity, as it suggests that for the first time, he had some vestigal interest in not lying...ahem.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, that normally handles secret wiretapping requests, is incredibly deferential to the government, denying only the tiniest fraction of one percent of warrant for actual wiretap requests, if any, so why is the Administration so obsessed with getting around even this tiny nod to the legal system? A judge recently resigned from this
court in disgust at how little oversight the court was providing. And you can get a wiretap and a warrant LATER (within three days, I believe) already.

LATEST ACLU news on this (Click Below, Get a Free Secret Dossier!)


Security Expert Quotes.
NSA Surveillance Overview.
Latest from ACLU's NSA Watch.

The answers are all dark. Between FISA and the Patriot Act, there are no important barriers to directed inception of electronic commications if you have the slightest specific indication of criminality - the standard isn't really probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion. It's more like : maybe that guy. You know: that one. And the secret FISA's real world job is to say, all the time, oh, well, that wiretap was okay then.

So what's the big push to be able to monitor everyone without any judicial review of any kind?

The building of these giant databases, plus the internet, plus the ability of the government to search financial and medical records (Patriot Act) without a warrant, suggests something far beyond , and far darker, than trying to catch terrorists.

The Administration's denials seem to amount to this:

We do have a set of vast databases that can cover everyone - essentially, a federal Google of our whole lives, political, economic, medical, financial, personal - and we do troll through them with social networking analysis and other kinds of highly sophisticated software tools looking for patterns than can identify terrorist activity.

But because real human agents don't actually type in the name of each of you to bring up the data into this Fedoogle to build a specific dossier of your information, unless we think there's might be some reason to, no law is being violated. And if we do, it's only because we're searching for a terrorist, so it's okay.

There's no review. There's no getting anyone out of the system. There is zero accountability. If you criticise, you're helping terrorists. And there are powerful, powerful incentives to abuse this ability to the upmost, to the perpetual maintainence of power, to the emasculation of American freedom.

May 15, 2006

More NSA Stuff

A detail in this post from Ars Technica, regarding a tip to ABC about getting new cell phones quick. It suggests the willingness to use intelligence resources for political purposes.

The post goes into some more technical detail about the likely sources the NSA is using, and quotes a William Arkin bit in the WaPo, listing some of the NSA's software tools. Here are the just the ones begining with the letters Ca- Ce.

  • C2PC
  • CADRE (Continuous Analysis and Discovery from Relational Evidence)
  • CamStudio
  • Camps
  • Capri
  • Carillon
  • CART
  • CASIAT (Computer Assisted Security Investigative Analysis Tool)
  • Categorizer/Tree Studio
  • CATEIS (Counterintelligence Automated Tactical Exploitation & Information Software)
  • CCDB (Consolidated Counterdrug Data Base)
  • CCIP (Counterterrorism Collaboration Interoperability Project)
  • CCM
  • Centrifuge
  • CETA
(The comments of's actual computer experts would be highly valued here too.)

From the Ars Technica post:

First up is a possible bombshell from two ABC news reporters that has been making the rounds of both sides of Blogland. The two reporters who originally broke the CIA secret prisons story state that they were told by a "senior federal law enforcement official" to change their cell phones, because the CIA has been tracking their calls as part of its ongoing leak investigation.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

May 14, 2006

Let's Go Back to Black and White Rocks

Nicely specific analysis of the Diebolt voting machines, with a serious security problem coming through the possible misuse of smart cards.

The NSA: All Up in Your Business With a New Domesday Book

Let's put it this way: If the NSA is using all the data it is collecting, it is probably building a Myspace-like social networking picture of everyone in the United States - and as much as possible- the entire world (because they are only limited by domestic intelligence laws, oh, and the Constitution of the United States) but one that can be searched for any purpose, as well as finding terrorists.

This mild commentary from Newsweek, social networking analysis, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's summary (who are suing AT&T), and the ACLU's Safe and Free page on surveillance, should chill you to your bones. Just the contact, time and subject information alone on the phone calls, email, and internet footprints of most of the American population would make a database that builds on social network analysis to monitor, indirectly, most of the important substance of your life.

With the following information:

The name, location, and time and date of all your phone calls.
The date, address and subject line of all your emails. (This was litigated.)
A collection of even the ordinary Google results on you.
A collection of all your public records; I think we can assume that vital statistics, IRS, Social Security, and other federal records have been included in this database, although privacy laws prohibit much of this information exchange.

What it means is that the government is building a database that can give a complete profile of you, everyone you know, and when you knew them; with this is should be able to build a fairly accurate picture of the following:

Who your friends are, and the bulk of their connections.
Who your family is, and the bulk of their connections.
Your religious associations, and probable beliefs.
All your work activities with an electronic footprint.
Your political contributions and activities.
Your medical history.
Your financial status, and what you buy.
What kind of books, articles, and communist websites you read.
Everything you've searched for.

And not incidently:

Who you sleep with. My raw suspicion is that, assuming the resources were put into a search and analyzed by a kind of statistical soup analysis (call length, target, frequency, plus email subject lines, plus internet footprints, plus credit card use) this database would reveal many or even most American sexual encounters.

I am going ahead and making suppositions about the spying program, simply because every time I thought I went too far in the past, I was wrong. I'm sure there are plenty of technical reasons this isn't being done to it's full degree - believe me, these problems are being solved as fast as money can solve them.

I don't doubt that the NSA is not generally in the habit of actually performing these kinds of searchs on Americans daily lives. But with total contempt for the law already obvious, the incredible power offered by this ability will not go unused long.

All you have to do is imagine J. Edgar Hoover's uses for this technical ability. What it does is make an absolutist police state easy, if it desired to be used for that purpose. Take that queasy feeling you get from not knowing what's in your credit report and multiply it by an order of magnitude.

It is noted that when the Domesday book was created, William the Conqueror was busy killing about 10% of the population of England. Information is invariably gathered by governments to extend their power.

If you Missed it: Al Gore on SNL

President since 2000, Al Gore reflects on the past six years, the problems of the $11 trillion surplus and Americans being hugged all the time while travelling, and the glaciers threatening Boston.

May 13, 2006

He's Watching You.

I suspect I've made this both too crude and too subtle.

May 12, 2006

Let's just savor the moment, shall we?

Bush job approval falls to 29 pct in new poll - Yahoo! News

May 11, 2006

Culture Shock

Your news programs are not as good as the ones in France.

A Few Reasons to Stay in Brazil

My photographs are on film, so I have to crib these for evidence.

Pink Dolphins in the Amazon River! The dream of every nine-year-old girl!

Moto-Taxi! These guys are for rent.

Handsome Brazilians! These guys volunteer:

Also, I must take issue with some of the Laird´s previous comments. He appears reluctant to mention that I took him to a brothel in São Paulo AND negotiated prices and services on his behalf.

Now We See the Violence Inherent in the System

6000 years ago, Neo-Lithic people in Britain tended to brain each other with axes and sticks and things: an estimated 1 in 20 people in this study of skulls suffered traumatic skull injuries. 2% of everyone seems to have died, just from skull injuries.

The "incidence of death" by violence in other simply societies state of nature is stated as between 8 and 33%, although that information is not sourced. Thinking of modern aboriginal peoples living subsistence lifestyles, it seems high to me.

I'm not wholly convinced. A lot of things just plain fall on your head, and you're head just falls on things, when you're on the farm doing heavy physical labor.

More curious still, an ultraviolet scan of the area found traces of over-sized, hand shaped prints in the immediate areas of the bodies, leaving some of their original calcium pigments....

It was the work of Isengard!

May 10, 2006

Respect Our Authoritay: We Enter Wikipedia gets our first citation as authority - in the Wikipedia definition of hoi polloi, and the same article in the

Jack Cafferty, CNN anchorman was caught misusing the term. On 9 December2004 he retracted his statement, "And hoi-polloi refers to common people, not those rich morons that are evicting those two red-tail hawks (ph) from that 5th Avenue co-ops. I misused the word hoi-polloi. And for that I humbly apologize."[22]

New media and new inventions have also been described as being by or for the hoi polloi. Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR's On the Media program, 8 November 2005, used the phrase in reference to evolving practices in the media, especially Wikipedia, "The people in the encyclopedia business, I understand, tend to sniff at the wiki process as being the product of the mere hoi polloi."[23] The referred to the $100 PC project as being for kids and the hoi polloi. The post went on to refer to the correct usage of the phrase, "*Although we at are using the greek phrase hoi polloi in its correct meaning of "the common people," rather than the incorrect but more hoi-polloish meaning of "the hoity-toities," "the fancy-living types," the "ravenous blood-sucking leeches fattening their stomachs on the backs of the masses," or "THE ARISTOCRATS!," it does not, in and of itself, indicate that we are insufferable smarty-pants. That may be established by independent means."[24]

May 09, 2006

"Touche, Mr. Ebert!"

:: :: Reviews :: Mission: Impossible III (xhtml): "There is a theory that action is exciting and dialogue is boring. My theory is that variety is exciting and sameness is boring. "

May 08, 2006

That Was in Another Country

Dr. X sends this through an anonymizer in Colomia (list of public proxy servers, rated by anonymity, is here):

"The U.S. is reported that torturing prisoners is no longer allowed. Nice to see the administration has decided to start following this portion of the constitution again. Still, it seems like the pecking order continues to be:
After much reflection, I conclude that I do not approve of the policies of this administration."

Must Be a Happy Day For You

Your team has earned the grudging respect of an agricultural school in Texas.

The News That's Updated Every Three Months

Major Oil Company Declares Bankruptcy As Its Bank Violently Ruptures From Large Amounts of Cash

Bi-gendered Bivalves Seek Quadrasexual Marriage

Epidemiologists Remind America There is Also a Serious Bird Snot Problem

Rumsfeld Notes Developing Security Threats in Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, and Italy

Adorable Kittens Secure Prime Tuna Bits With Apt Cuteness Display

University of Michigan Scientists Bio-Engineer Enzyme Which Erases Signature Ink on Sexual Harassment of Graduate Students Consent Decree

Bush Found Under Desk, Surrounded By Scores Of Empty Butterscotch Pudding Cups

While True Machine Intelligence Proves Elusive, Sophisticated New Robot Does Shed Real Skin Flakes

Beck Tickles Feckless Heckler

Killer Bees Turn People's Witness, Released in Plea Deal

Achievable Aims Tribal Chiefs Perform Limeade-Making Ritual

Pizza Hut Faces Crisis as Possible Cheese Stuffing Pie Areas Grow Scarce


May 07, 2006

Empirical Confirmation of My Facile Assessment

Artists are made. Talent was just a lot of money for Jesus.

From Freakonomics guy, in the NYT.

Their work, compiled in the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.

Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't "good" at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.

Compare and Contrast

Population made me think of this:

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

How A Painting Evolved

May 06, 2006

The premises are not safe for any purpose. This is no joke.

But it is the best disclaimer I've ever read.

200 Hours, 98% Complete

(Click on Image for Large Version)

Tentatively titled Population, oil on canvas aprox. 37" by 50". (c) 2006 Jamie Bollenbach All rights reserved.

This is two or three months of difficult work, done very inefficiently, without planning sketches: a technical summary of the last four years, either the beginning or end of something. Horror vacui if ever there was - but the operational idea is simply spatial shapes transforming into shapes with figurative referents. There is a lot of deep space and compositional movements across the collections of shapes. With no model, it's somewhat emotionless in execution, although it should be unsettling in terms of where the viewer is, and whether the subject really has anything to do with a person, or a landscape. Primarily, it pushes the evolution of these marks into the horizon, into darkness, into grey space until they disappear. The vision's desire to resolve these into people keeps the eye moving, scanning, so that it is difficult to see the piece as a single image. That means the image must be "read" over a period of time rather than recognized as a solitary symbol.

I'm interested in the way a painting can specifically portray time by direct manipulation of images, and surface properties, which imply time, and relate to the passage of time in the making of the image itself: the strange balance of paintings, particularly portraiture, that photograhy or paintings of photography tend to lack.

Influential to this was a desire to do the equivalent of treating a Willem DeKooning in three dimensions, with something like real light (but without a distinct source.) Related work, but not directly influential, is with early Marcel Duchamp, the Futurists, cubism (well, that covers both the fascists and the communists) in the attempt to tackle time, and surrealist Yves Tanguy with precise surface qualities of unreal objects: an objective treatment of the non-objective.

May 05, 2006

A Link from Dr. X

Doctor X sends this through a compromised proxy server in Uzbekistan:

"This is what big wave surfing is all about. From the movie Billabong Odyssey. There are no bad surf movies, but this one is particularly good."

I Know Nothing of Your Culture and Customs...

...but bwah hah hah hah!

I find it pedestrian and visually uninspiring but I believe Mr. Lord would appreciate this 'New Urbanism'.

The Devil's Interval

Dr. X sends this from an anonymous re-mailer in Benin:

"The drummers get the bad press, but the devil's in the intervals, as this BBC report explains. I have made a note to ensure my children are not exposed to the dark influence of West Side Story. Note also, one of the finest picture captions in history: '[Black] Sabbath's Tony Iommi was not attempting to invoke the devil.' Can't imagine where we ever got the idea he was. Additional information here."

May 04, 2006

An Argument I´m Starting to Win

Without the Laird for company, my ability to speak Portuguese has soared from non-existent to execrable, so I´m starting to score points in an argument I´ve now had nine times since I got here: "Who is worse, Lula or Bush?"

I explain to Brazilians that Lula is yet but a piker in the evil department and that even in English, I can´t express how much I despise Bush. Still, Lula seems so deeply unpopular, at least among the people who talk to me, that they put up a pretty good fight.

My best line so far "Well, at least Lula speaks English."

As soon as I finish translating the Standard Paragraph into Portuguese, I expect to rack up even more victories.

May 03, 2006

But the stars are all wrong

Greetings from Brazil! Yesterday I was in Brasilia, today I´ve been walking around Belém. (Get a map.) All is well with me.

I´m not able to write much right now; slow internet connection and a long line of people waiting. Let me just say that after the complete absence of zoning in Sao Paulo, I toured what has got to be one of the most regimented cities of the modern age. At least I hope it is, I mean until Celebration, Florida reaches three million people.

My briefest reaction: too much zoning is perhaps worse that too little, if it´s done with a heavy hand. Please tell LaTouche: in my opinion, old school communists should not be allowed to design buildings.

I love you all, but the Laird of Madrona most of all, has to do with the way he smells.

Bird Flu: The Current Federal Plan is 2 Million Dead Americans

NYT article on the Adminstration's plan to respect state's rights in the next flu pandemic: do less than we already did for Katrina.

The far-flung nature of a pandemic, "as well as the sheer burden of disease across the nation over a period of months or longer," means that the federal government's support to states and communities will be limited in comparison to federal aid for natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, according to a report released today outlining the federal government's strategy.... Under the government's plan for the worst-case possibility, a pandemic flu could cause up to two million deaths in the United States.

Please See Standard Paragraph.

The Smell of Gestalt in the Morning: Movement in Still Images

These are not animated. It's your brain that's making it move. The movement seems to slow down or stop when your eye is fixed on one object in the image, but the motion accelerates when you actively scan the area.

Also, here is a brief bit on the pie fight between the extremely modernist gestalt theory and postmodernism, from the journal Leonardo, whose editors I once saw at a College Art Association conference defending their working with DARPA on a new targeting system, as Art. Dissent, um, arose.

May 01, 2006

The ultimate coffee marker?

I have long sought the ultimate coffee maker, even going so far as to consider making my own.

These, however, do come close to my ideal.

Still, I keep searching for an automatic device that could follow Julia Child's "recipe" for good coffee:

  1. Prepare coffee maker (which must have the automatic shut-off when the pot is removed)
  2. Start coffee maker with pot removed
  3. Let hot water fill filter
  4. Turn off before filter overflows
  5. Let sit 5 minutes
  6. Turn back on
  7. Replace pot and wait for remainder of coffee brew

It seems to me this sequence could be handled automajically.

Well, I'm off to browse the Grainger catalog for electrically activated hydraulic switches & micro controllers.

Senate Resolution Spurs Hasty Retranslation of Anthem

Oh, opinion can you see by the early light of the dawn
what we hailed so proud in flashing last of the twilight?
Of whom ample rays and shining stars by the dangerous fight,
on the embankments that we watched gallantly so they flowed?

And the red fulgor of the rocket, the pumps that exploded in air,
gave the test with the night that our flag still was there.

Oh, opinion does that the star spangled the flag yet the wave
on the Earth of the free one and the home of the brave one?