May 31, 2007

Mo' Meebo

Note new Isengard.Gov chatroom to the right - the chat room should work on this page for everyone.

I think you can also join the chatroom more formally at...

It may require one of the common I/M accounts.

May 30, 2007

If the Jackboot Fits...

Andrew Sullivan presents evidence that one of the favorite euphemisms of today's crypto-fascists, "enhanced interrogation," was coined by liberals!

(Just kidding -- actually, it was the Gestapo.)

Strange Interlude


May 29, 2007

Good Night, Funny Man

Dr. X posts this from the Globe Theater in Los Angeles, California:

"Props to Defamer's tasteful and brief good-bye to Charles Nelson Reilly. The L.A. Times obituary is interesting, too, and has this revealing anecdote:

" 'After a "Tonight Show" guest who was talking about Shakespeare dismissed Reilly's attempt to join the conversation, he silenced her by delivering Hamlet's "the play's the thing" monologue straight, with depth and passion', the New York Observer reported in 2001.

"You know, the one that begins, 'Why, what an ass am I...'
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

"The trailer for the movie of his one-man show is here. Review here."

Lincecum Watch

Dr. X posts this from the Shea Stadium infirmary:

"The Fragile Phenom boggled the Mets tonight, although it was his second-worst outing YTD. In seven innings he struck out eight, walked three, and gave up three hits. The Mets got 3 earned runs. The Mets had obviously gotten advance word on him - they tried laying off the curveball, and they tried to advance their baserunners with steals and sac bunts. They still spent most of the night practicing their checked swings and trotting back to the dugout.

"Baseball statisticians have a metric known as the Quality Start - the number of times the pitcher has gone six or more innings while giving up no more than than three earned runs. Since his inauspicious Philadelphia debut, Lincecum has started four games and delivered four quality starts.

"Since Philadelphia he's struck out 27 and walked 6. Opposing teams (composed of highly-paid professional athletes) are batting .193 against him since he came up to the Majors.

"He's The Truth, at least until his arm falls off. Make a point of seeing him."

Ted Stevens: The Two-Plank Wanker Biffs

The other shoelace begins to dangle. VECO, the corrupt oil services company, seems to have done something special for Sen. Ted Stevens' Girdwood house, which is two blocks from the ski resort, and the FBI is curious:

"Bill Allen and some of the Veco boys, some of the Veco guys, were the ones that approached me and wanted to know if I could give them a hand," Paone said. "I did it more as a favor, you know. It's one of those things when somebody is the head, and packs that much power and asks you for a favor, it's kind of hard to say no.

May 28, 2007

War is Stupid, Discuss

Dr. X posts this from the Presidio Cemetery:

"A few notes on war and the American soldier.

"In the Clausewitzian sense of an armed conflict between sovereign states, Europe (excepting the Balkans) has been war-free for over 50 years. With one the exception of the Ecuador/Peru rumpus, national armies have not crossed borders in South America for decades, and even in that instance an agreement was quickly brokered by an international coalition. North America has been, of course, free of warfare between sovereign states since the Japanese voluntarily vacated Kiska. And it is the same around the world. Right now there's really only one country on earth with a demonstrated propensity to cross borders in force and fight. Ours.

"The American soldier, disrespected by 'experts' as diverse as Lord North and Hitler, has always had very different strengths and weaknesses from his (now his/her) opponents. Americans are viewed as soft, and tend to be poor prison camp inmates (there are some countries where the army is way worse than a western prisoner-of-war camp).

"But looking down the list it is possible to discern some special qualities of the American soldier. Courage, of course, although it is not exclusively an American franchise - every Army has troops who will act bravely under stress. But I do think you see a few more of these in American uniform - men who, in the bright sunlight, will decide to lay their lives on the line to rescue others, even when the odds are long. Independence of action is also more typically American. An isolated unit fights on behind enemy lines, taking out tanks with grenades and handguns. A unit disobeys orders and counter-charges to prevent another from being cut off.

"And I say this in all sincerity - no other Army in the world could have hung in there in Iraq as we have. In a war that is decentralized, squad-to-squad, and televised, chances of success are zero without a lot of skilled soldiers and NCOs. And casualties have been very high - of 150,000 deployed we have 3,400 dead and over 11,000 seriously wounded (many whom would have been killed in earlier conflicts). Yet the U.S. forces still seem functional and able to execute the missions they are assigned. After the Gulf War many conceded the U.S. military's technical prowess, but questioned its staying power and resilience.

"Yes, the political leadership has been a disaster. But in the context of history and the world today, the American soldier has delivered far more in this war than could reasonably have expected. We can take pride in that, but should also remember that stress is cumulative - the resources we have drawn on are not inexhaustible.

"In a recent interview in Marine Corps Times, Sgt. Maj. John Estrada reflected on recent breakdowns in discipline and morality: 'What aren’t we doing as a Marine Corps that’s allowing fools to make those decisions? Training. We’re a stressed force. Commanders need to find the time. You got to find time so those individuals make the right decision on the battlefield. A lot of good things have happened out there and it takes the Hadithah, the Hamdaniyah, to wipe all that out. It takes just one. It takes one Marine to do something like that to cause the nation to change its international policies. We need to find time to discuss it. It can’t be done alone in boot camp.' Amen.

"Finally, as we remember and honor our dead, let us also take note of the Iraqis, who have lost far more, in numbers and as a percentage of their population, than most Americans could imagine."

May 27, 2007

How to Get A Reference From Walter Cronkite

If you have a chance, catch the PBS doc City at War - London Calling. Walter Cronkite recalls his time in London, and retraces the impact the correspondents had on American entry into WWII. He also relates this story:
One morning late in the second World War, Walter Cronkite rang for his breakfast just as a German V-1 rocket smashed into his British neighborhood:

"The hall door with its glass pane blew off its hinges, the plumbing broke, and the dust of centuries shook out of the cracked walls, forming a blinding, choking cloud," he later wrote. "In disasters like that there is eerie silence in the first moments.

"Ours was shattered by someone crunching through the splintered glass that covered the hall's tile floor. There was a knock on the torn door frame. There stood George [the butler], holding a towel over a bleeding eye. And, so help me, he said: 'Did you ring, sir?'"

Piling On

Peter Marshall: Back in the 1870s, Emile Berliner invented something, and without it, I wouldn't be able to do my job. What was it?

Paul Lynde: Let's see...toupees? Facelifts? Contact lenses?

Marshall: Now cut that out!

Lynde: ...Makeup? Capped teeth? Loud sports jackets?

Notes on a Moment in Time

Dr. X posts this from a ledge on the Ambassador Hotel:

"The Barefoot Executive is an interesting little piece of history. Shot in and around L.A. in the early 70s, it's not a good movie, as such, but it sure is interesting.

"Wally Cox, late in life, plays the bumbling chauffeur (same role as Peter Falk's Max in The Great Race) to a sleazy perfection. I haven't seen him in a movie since I was perhaps 12 - and the performance bugged me. Something not right...oh, probably was Brando's lover, ok that's interesting...this article adds further color (and adding to his bitterness was the endless upstaging by Paul Lynde)..

"Apart from Cox's menacing presence, there's a fine turn by the young John Ritter in his film debut, and some enjoyable bits of dialogue:

" 'Executive: I have a simple solution. Destroy the chimp.'
" 'Kurt Russell: I can't be bought! ...Five hundred thousand dollars?!'

"Don't go out of your way to see it obviously. But movies like this are a way to access an interesting lost world - Hollywood in the peculiar cultural air pocket of the early 1970s - a place with no middle, just old talent and young talent, each angry and unrepentant, each convinced of the other's irrelevance.

"For another way, have a look at this, the sort of thing that makes Latouche break out in goose bumps."

May 25, 2007

Professor Rice's Courseload: Stanford '09

Condy Rice to return to Stanford to teach International Politics in '09. What will be her courseload?

- Linguistics 547 - Varication: Prevarication, Post-varication, and Iraqivarication

- Intern. Relations 612 - Total Superpower Credibility Eradication

- Pol. 635. /Psy. 603 - Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Vice-Presidential History

- Inter. Politics 661 - America's Wars of Invasion: Target Nation Identification and the Importance of Careful Fact-Checking

- Lit. 473/ Women's Studies 512 The Presidency and Dry Humping in the Female Imagination

- Inter. Pol. 789 - Nuclear Proliferation: Strategies of Affected Ignorance to Effect Problem Evaporation

- African-American Studies 621 - Ethnic Dissociation as Career Development Modality

May 24, 2007

Violating The Warranty

Enlightening video of the '95 Boeing 777 wing test.

Ask A Depressed Pirate. New Advice Column!

Dear Depressed Pirate,

I'm having some trouble with my girlfriend, well really mostly with her Mom, who always criticizes me and seems to think I'm some kind of loser because the construction business (I'm a carpenter) is in a downturn around here. She also hates my full beard, which Cindy used to like. The problem is Cindy never stands up to her Mom, and because she takes this negativity to heart, it seems to be hurting our ability to trust each other.

How can I stop Mom from interfering in our relationship?

Mike in Manitoba

Ahoy Mike, Tis a shredded mains'l and a lee shore, a black-hearted Mum. Was a great snag-toothed bitch like that what drove me to Sea when she hove into view on me and me ole sweet lass Wendy and crossed our T with the Devil's own tongue and a salt blast from a blunderbuss. Knocked me out, she did, and after I woke up, sore-arse'd from salt shot and auctioned off as a waister on that rotten piss-tub Edward Grey bound for Java, I found she'd hocked all my sea-gear and married Wendy off to the Earl of Ipswich's chamber pot emptier, Barry. Took me old pirate's heart and dropped it in the butter tub of melacholia for a good ten years churnin.' Sorry, Lad, don't head out hoping for a fair wind when she blows full foul. Your girl's too weakly will'd and bound for her own "Barry," near as I figures. Where a fair wench be ruled by her Hoary Harpy mum, we're all at sea. Ditch the witch and keep yer beard - its one of the few things I know ye don't have to pay for.

- Depressed Pirate X.

Dear Depressed Pirate,

I've been a bonds trader, and I've been working 12 hours a day for the last four years at my firm here in Manhattan. Things are going pretty well, but I was really hoping for a promotion at work and from a conversation I had with my manager, I thought it was coming. It turns out that the CEO's nephew was hired instead, a totally inexperienced former intern who doesn't know a bond-end fund from a unit investment trust! Now he's going to be my boss!

Can I do anything? Should I move to another firm?

Tradin' Tommy

Ahoy, Tradin' Tommy,

Ah, lad, I had dreams once - big 'uns, too. I was the 2nd mate on the
Bachelor's Delight when we chased a great fat galleon from Port Royal to Cape Fear, her hold so full of ingot and coin her decks were near awash - she practical swamped when a short sea came round the Keys. All we had to do was follow, keep her top'sls above the horizon- a quick run out of the guns and the prize was ours, and riches all 'round, as the Delight was a fast little brig and right powerful in guns. With equal shares of that Midas scow, I could have bought me own ship-Aye, I would have painted her green and called her "Wendy." Then I'da been Cap'n.

We were a-gaining and a-gaining on that galleon. Well, I was a more a melon-headed lad then, my skull clogged with what I figur'd fer Hope, and I stood the first dog-watch, and of course in me avarice I were crackin' on like smoke and oakum when a squall blew up and carried away the foretop mast because I wouldn't take in sail in me eagerness for the prize. We lost way, went all-aback and the prize slipped away like a ghost in the squall. Capn' stipped me of rank, and strapped me sorry carcass to the mainchains for a week, dipping in the sea with the bottom of the roll. Arr, like I neer saw that comin'. I knew I'd foul our anchor somehow.

Look, laddie, why bother yerself? Yer just butterin' yerself up- oh, ye could take a tot or twelve of Dutch courage and find that little wetnap and slit 'is gills till the decks ran red with gore, but that'd get you nothing but a hemp necktie and a deadman's dance. T'ain't worth it, boy. Ye want my advice- find a cosy cable tier and cheap harlot and drink till ye the blot out the very black of the night from that gooey grey sponge twixt yer ears- that's as good as my life ever got.

-Depressed Pirate X

Dear Depressed Pirate,

I had this impression Pirates were lusty, merry sea-dogs. Was I mistaken?

Curious Kate

Ahoy, Curious Kate,

Alas, Lass, Alas not all the brethren all raise their glasses and sing and shakes the ship's knees with a brave laugh and the merry hornpipe. Some of us be a little more cognizant. Some of us be readin'. (I takes rightly to
Candide.) Some of us know you take a prize today, and it mere 'goes to rum and the gaping maw on the morrow. One glass turns and its Buckets of blood and jolly jakes, the glass turns again and it all be nothing but buckets of howling horror, and that's all afore you're become a bucket of bones. We're all on a gilt Venetian galley with broken oars - nothingness on the weather side and despair on the lee.


-Depressed Pirate X

Proper Pirate Procedure

Modern piracy is a serious threat to navigation and human life, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria, and Indonesia, and it had been growing. Still, the actual number of for-real pirate attacks worldwide has declined in the first quarter from 61 to 41.

Even if the world's pirates are slacking off (the lubberly blackguards), I recommend reading this interesting proper pirate problem procedure memo from the International Chamber of Shipping.


Choice recommendations:

"if appropriate, to protect the lives of those onboard, use measures to repel the boarding by employing powerful floodlights for dazzling the aggressors or using jets of water or signaling rockets against the areas of boarding..."

Also, if you have cream pies, you may wish to consider throwing them at this juncture.

How to Write a News Story

I honor Mr. Pulkkinen for writing the following news story with admirable economy, particularly for the direct opening line, and for the koan-like restraint of the final quote.

Piano falls in Battery Street Tunnel


Traffic through Seattle's Battery Street Tunnel was briefly blocked Wednesday afternoon by a piano.

Apparently the upright piano was being hauled through the tunnel when, around 12:35 p.m., it fell onto the southbound lane of state Route 99, police spokeswoman Renee Witt said. City engineers removed the piano an hour later.

Police spokeswoman Debra Brown said it wasn't immediately clear who owned the instrument.

"Obviously, someone lost this piano," Brown said.

May 23, 2007

The Legend

Dr. X posts this from Euless Ballpark in Fresno, California:

[When originally written I overlooked The Legend's poor first start vs. Philadelphia. It changes nothing.]

"As noted previously in this space, the San Francisco Giants are an old team. Older than dirt. Verging on decrepit. Set in their ways.

"Apparently, management likes it that way. No one ever accused them of rushing a young man to the majors. But it is possible to catch their eye. Washington's own Tim Lincecum started the season with the Fresno Grizzlies. In five starts he got four wins, against no losses. He had 46 strikeouts against 11 walks. And he gave up one, count them, one earned run.

"Even the San Francisco Giants began to take notice. A couple of weeks ago they finally brought him up to the big show.

"Lincecum is your basic phenom flameout candidate. If you look at major league power pitchers who've had long careers you see, basically, big guys, about the size of the Laird: Seaver (6-1, 206), Ryan (6-2, 195), Clemens (6-4, 220).

"Lincecum goes 5-11, 160.

"And he throws serious heat, with every fiber of his parakeet body. His fastball hits triple digits, and has since his U. of W days (amusing scouting film here, like watching it would help). Late in the game he's smoking 97 mph fastballs past major league hitters. He's got a big knee-buckling curve ball, too, and a change-up that fakes out radio announcers. Last night on the radio Jon "Voice of the Giants" Miller was saying 'fastb...NO! Change-up!' The batter swung three or four times before the ball crossed the plate.

"So, basically, he's a white midget Dwight Gooden, with a changeup. But this is the major leagues, there's an adjustment period, and we won't know how good he is until...well, for example: In his first major league start in Colorado on May 11th, he went just seven innings, with only six strikeouts against one walk (it takes pitchers a while to get their control when they come up to the majors). And, he gave up two earned runs. Of course, the Rockies play in a bandbox better suited to home run derbies than the serious sport of baseball, so perhaps this weak performance was not indicative of his true capabilities.

"A better test came against Houston on the 17th. Lincecum again was able to pitch only seven innings. He struck out ten, but again walked a batter. He redeemed himself somewhat, however by giving up no earned runs. Still, the game was decided in the ninth, so Lincecum did not get the win.

"The schedule being what it is, the Giants faced Houston again on the 22nd. Lincecum this time managed to pitch eight innings, but only was able to strike out four batsmen, and once again, walked a batter (it takes time for rookies to learn to avoid this basic mistake). And, as in his first start, he gave up two earned runs. According to the radar gun, the speed of his pitches suffered as the game wore on, and his fastball was down to 97 mph by the 8th inning. Despite the sub-par performance, the baseball gods smiled on him, and he was awarded his second win (Roy Oswalt, a decent major-league pitcher who makes $13 million a year, took the loss).

"Did I mention that he is ill-tempered? Consider this bit of poor sportsmanship, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News: 'He...showed what happens when he gets a little testy. When he didn't get a strike call on a breaking ball to Everett in the seventh, Lincecum's baby face turned into a scowl and he came back with a 98 mph fastball that resulted in a weak groundball.'

"Lincecum's up next on the 29th, vs. the Mets. Might turn on the radio for that one. Unless the Mets can get Sidd Finch out of retirement, I think they're in for a long night."


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More here.

The New Civility

Dr. X posts this from the Institute for Unwritten Rules Regarding Past Presidents:

"According to The New York Times, in his recent negative remarks, 'Mr. Carter did not call President Bush a “puzzlewit” and a “fathead” as Roosevelt did Taft...' "

Another Nomination

Dr. X posts this from Seelow:

"Another option for the blog's official anthem. Lyrics here."

May 22, 2007

Meeting of the Minds

Dr. X posts this from The Center for Responsible Journalistic Discourse (also known as NAMBLA):

"Moyers interviews Jon Stewart:
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

May 21, 2007

Forward to the Future

Dr. X posts this from the Space Teledildonics Department in Van Nuys:

"It is good to see NASA thinking seriously about sex for the Mars mission. These are important matters.

"Of course Star Trek went there first. Captain Kirk's promiscuity was legendary, but not surprising - if you were top dog on a spaceship full of sweet young things in tight clothes, you might get a little itchy once in a while. Compare and contrast with the disturbingly virginal Janeway.

"Of course, NASA has done important preliminary research. After original studies indicated that Mars might look something like this, thanks to the Mars rovers, it is apparent now that it looks more like this. Alas, our space explorers will not have throngs of hot aliens to mingle with when they arrive. This raises an important question - are there any hot women that we particularly would like to have leave earth for many years?

"At least one comes to mind. Do it for humanity, Ivanka."

What You Need for Painting

By Raymond Carver, Based on a Letter by Renoir



Palette knife
Scraping knife
Essence of turpentine

Pointed marten hair brushes
Flat hog hair brushes

Indifference to everything except your canvas
The ability to work like a locomotive.
An iron will.

May 19, 2007

You Never Know What Will Happen When You Stand Up for Your Rights

Dr. X posts this from the shores of the Mystic River:

"I come again in praise of Almost a Miracle, John Ferling's military history of the War of Independence. Each page is an education, be it a reasoned reassessment of something already known, or fresh points of knowledge that transform understanding. A few items from the early chapters:

"Howe the Galactic Hero: The man who leads the British attack at Bunker Hill is Lord Howe. Originally sent to Boston to stiffen the backbone of commander-in-chief Gage, Howe was 'forty-six years old and a veteran with twenty years service. Six feet in height, bulky, burly, and swarthy, with a mouth that had 'fallen in' from the loss of numerous teeth, Howe looked and carried himself like a soldier... [He] was a lieutenant colonel well before he was thirty, in part because of his privileged position, but more as a result of his bravery under fire and skills as a tactician.' Gage sends Howe to run the rebels off the hill, and Howe does so, after two tries and the loss of a quarter of the British soldiers in the region. Every member of his staff is killed or wounded in the fight. Later on he will be promoted to commander-in-chief as it becomes apparent this is a real war and a real fighting man will be needed to lead it.

"Fighting For Your Rights: The war is initially not for independence. John Rutledge of South Carolina rhetorically asks, 'do we aim at independency? or do We only ask for a Restoration of Rights...on our old footing.' Although some, like John Adams wanted independence from the start, they were in a minority. Adams felt that war would radicalize the population and make independence an easy sell, but, says Ferling, 'the war that Congress embarked on in May 1775 was not a war for independence. Congress was waging a war for reconciliation, but on its own terms. During the first fifteen months of hostilities, America fought to reconstitute the British empire into a confederation of sovereign states united under a common king, but one in which Parliament's authority, if it existed at all, was severely circumscribed.'

"A Rumor of War: The slaughter at Bunker Hill is disbelieved in England, or put down as an exaggeration, until 'the arrival in Plymouth of the Charming Nancy, a handsome three master, whose passenger list included nearly two hundred soldiers wounded on Charlestown Heights, "some without legs, and others without arms; and their clothes hanging on them like a loose morning gown," according to one story. Disembarking with them were scores of widows and children of the slain soldiers. '

"I Need Some Volunteers: After deciding they have a war on their hands, the British decide to staff up. This is made more difficult by the discovery that everyone in the North American force is trying to get out of Dodge: 'the government discovered that the existing regiments were not at full strength. They contained only about 60 percent of the manpower that the ministry had initially presumed. From the moment the war erupted, and especially after Bunker Hill, so many officers requested permission to transfer to corps posted outside North America, or to sell their commissions, that the King was compelled to announce in November 1775 that he would no longer listen to such petitions.'

"Most Damning of All: 'Incredibly, North's government had led Britain into a faraway war without a plan for waging it.'

"Unbelievable, isn't it?"

May 18, 2007

A Modest Proposal

Dr. X posts this from the Department of Political Musicology at the University of Grenada:

"I propose this song be made the official anthem of this blog.

"Bob Marley's version here...
"More Marley...
"Sly and Robbie's version here...
"Nice acoustic version here...
"But I think prefer Ebony Tay's...

"Bunny, Bob, and Peter in the mid-60's:

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Sure it's Kind of Cute Now

We're giving the cockroaches their own robots.

Also, Andy Warhol eats a cheeseburger. Or is it a hamburger?

Well, that pretty well covers Andy Warhol.

May 17, 2007

You Can Still Do the Hollywood Handshake

Dr. X posts this from a private area:

"Violet Blue - a voice of reason in a world gone mad."

Inconsequential Economic Headlines

Stocks Steady after Mixed Economic Data

Oil, Gas Futures Rise and Then Fall: Outlook Uncertain

Toyota to Lay off 1 Employee

Rumors Rife Fed May Leave Prime Unchanged

U.S. Exports In Transit

Sellers Offer Housing Stocks as Buyers Purchase Housing Stocks

Import Duty on Moldovan Cheese Nixed

Rob Schneider Sequel Opens

Outsourcing Subcontracting Reaches All the Way Around As Oklahomans Accidently Hired

Profit Report Meets Expectations, Vaguely Disappoints Investors

Market Steady As Death of Millions of Poor People Already Factored In

Google, Microsoft Announce Softball Tournament

Toyota to Lay off 1 Other Employee

Paul Wolfowitz Run over By Bus

May 16, 2007

More Fabricated Evidence for Global Warming

This is the definitive proof that it does not exist and is a tool of the liberal Congress to draw more taxes from businesses.

Hitchens on Falwell

I think I'm developing a serious man-crush on Christopher Hitchens. Check out what he has to say about the late Jerry Falwell. (Hint: he's not a fan.)

Iraq: Refer A Friend

I have seen, through sources, a special offer brochure from the U.S. army to retired soldiers: refer a friend who joins the Army and get $2000 cash.

It's like Sprint, only with ieds.

My source notes the following: you cannot refer your own family members. Why? The great bulk of Army recruitment already comes from something like a tiny 2% segment of the American population - so, my source reasons, it is unnecessary to recruit sons and daughters of former soliders, as they were probably recruited already.

Televised, Right-Wing Masturbation

Yes, tonight's Republican debate on Fox News made sure that the candidates detailed their fantasies about torturing suspected terrorists.

"Brit, could you repeat the question, please? But slowly..."

May 15, 2007

Putin Would Be Proud

Dr. X posts this from New Odessa, in New Ukraine, Soviet Republic of California:

"Just when you we think they can't take it to another level - now we get a 'war tsar'.

"Because up until now, no one's been in charge? WTF?

"And what is it with the U.S bureaucracy's (long dormant, now revived) fascination with tsars? The Russian experience - a foolish and disconnected dictator overthrown by enraged masses resulting in paranoia, genocide, and chaos for generations - would seem to argue against emulation."

May 14, 2007

Why the Shopping Rots You

Study: Walks in the woods are amazing cures for feeling lousy -while walks in the mall might do you some psychic damage...

And Now, A French Bulldog Nurses a Baby Tiger

Take your insulin first.

May 13, 2007

In Fluffy News We Have This

My two favorite drinking songs. I leave their musicological explication to the ages.

Word to That

Dr. X posts this from very far from Gaydonia:

"This is just a bit about Raymond Burr from a random review of 'His Kind of Woman':

" 'He made a great heavy, and for those of us who grew up with him as (trademark quick intake of breath) Perry Mason, seeing him in bad-guy roles is always a treat. The Wikipedia entry says he had a relationship with Natalie Wood, which surprised many people, due to his homosexuality. Really? He was gay, not stupid. If she made a move on him, he probably realized he was obliged to respond – if not for himself, than on behalf of all men. If he’d turned her down, and told the story at the gayest party in Gaytown in the state of West Gayginia in the nation of Gaydonia on the planet Gay, everyone would fall silent, and someone would say you turned down Natalie Wood? What is wrong with you?' "

That Dunk


May 12, 2007

Contingency, History, and that Annoying Conservative Philosopher

Dr. X posts this from the big Pow-Wow at Stanford:

"The Sea Lord and I actually had a chance to speak on the phone today, but our call was cut short by the two year-old taking a shriek-inducing (but fortunately harmless) pratfall in the living room. Just as that event occurred I was extolling the virtues of a book called Almost a Miracle, a new and weighty tome about the War of Independence.

"Another book about the Revolutionary War? We've just had had McCullough's 1776, what else is there to say? Why read another? Three reasons.

"First, the author, John Ferling, didn't just wake up one day and decide he was going to write a book about this. He's one of the most highly-regarded scholars of the colonial era, and he's been teaching and thinking about this material for decades. I had not known, for example, that when Cornwallis asked for terms at Yorktown, Washington was not sure what to do. Ferling writes: 'Washington had no experience in such matters. In eleven years, and two wars, no enemy army had ever formally surrendered to him...'

"Second, he writes like a sonofabitch. I bought the book after casually picking it up and becoming engrossed in his description of the surrender: 'Slowly, dolefully, the vanquished marched toward the designated field of surrender, a prosaic plain midway between the quarters of the victorious allied commanders and the hitherto obscure village whose name was about to be catapulted into history. It was a gorgeous day, bright and sunny, and the leaves were just beginning to show their autumn colors...'

"Third, it has the endorsement of David Hackett Fischer, which is in and of itself a complete case for purchasing it. This is on a par with Albert Einstein's endorsement of Tobias Dantzig's Number: The Language of Science ("this is beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands"). Fischer is one of the greatest American historians who ever lived, as well as the author of a brilliant book about the logical fallacies of historians. He would therefore recognize my current rhetorical tack as an ill-advised appeal to authority, although in this case it happens to be right.

"The books are piling up, and yet more room must be made, because we haven't yet mentioned that Master Fagles is back in the house - ladies and gentlemen please, mad props for The Aeneid! In a world where nothing is as it man must choose between the woman he loves...and his destiny... Yes, Aeneas is back in town, and this time it's personal. The Aeneid - don't found Rome without it!

"Before you read it though, I cannot recommend highly enough the article about it ('Let Virgil Be Virgil') in the New York Review of Books. It is an eye-opening introduction to the epic they warned you about, the boring and light one, the one that plays Don Young to the Iliad's Ted Stevens and the Odyssey's Lisa Murkowski.

"Author Hayden Pelliccia astutely observes that '...the myth is tied to Virgil's Rome; the action is said to have an ultimate purpose, and that purpose touches us, its audience. More disconcertingly, in "everlasting Rome" there might be, or there might not be - this is the problem - an implication that things have perhaps gone a little bit uphill rather than Hesiodically down. But whether they've gone up or down, the significant point is that the "things since then" are there at all: the Iliad and the Odyssey do not fast-forward into the present in any remotely comparable way; what happens in the Iliad stays in the Iliad.'

"In that same issue there is an article about theinfluential Irish - American - Gay / Positive - Catholic - Conservative - I'm looking for a noun here Andrew Sullivan. Anyway, his greatest mentor, Oakeshott (I assume it's his greatest - the article names three - Oakeshott, Christ, and Montaigne...that's not alphabetical, and it's certainly not order of appearance)... I say, his greatest mentor, Oakeshott, is "widely credited with having been the grey eminence behind Thatcherism." Author Jonathon Raban explains that "central to Oakeshott's thought was his conviction that reality consists in the unending swarm and confluence of intractable particulars and contingencies."

"Oakeshott denounced as Rationalist (a bad word for him) the framers of the U.S. constitution, Marx, and Hitler. Really, anyone who had a plan for society and tried to implement it. And maybe he had a point. History was certainly contingent for George Washington - Ferling makes a central theme of his book that the War for Independence 'came much closer to ending short of a great American victory than many now realize.' And even mighty Rome descended into chaos after the death of Caesar - Pelliccia speaks of the relentless social dissolution that accompanied Octavian's relentless rise to power, an era in which 'an almost absolute ruthlessness in dealing with one's opponents became the order of the day.'

"I haven't read much Oakeshott, but the problem with denouncing Rationalism is: what's the alternative? If you're not going to try to move forward you are surrendering to the crazy randomness that turns rag-tag colonies into Republics, Republics into Super-Powers, and Super-Powers into military dictatorship. And I just can't endorse that."

Divided Loyalties

Dr. X posts this from the old North Star lunch room:

"Warriors Jazz is interesting. The Warriors went down to the Caucasian Center in
Provo, or wherever the Jazz play, and lost both games. A shame, they were in both games right at the end - make a shot here or there, they would have come home with the series tied, or even 2-0 in their favor.

"Coming home last night, they had plenty of excuses to lose. They were still coping with the emotional hangover from the Dallas series. Small lineups get beat up, and they are physically a mess. No one could blame them for folding up and calling it a season.

"Yeah right. Warriors 125-105, the exclamation point coming on this outrageous reverse no-magnets-required Baron Davis dunk on Kirilinkovisovich:

Baron Davis, Andrei Kirilenko

"Still, I am not as partisan in this series as I was in the last. Because I also have to root for the Alaskan, right? Boozer's controversies notwithstanding (karma will take care of that), it is a matter of loyalty. Current compromise: I'm rooting for Boozer to make his shots, and for the Warriors to win in 7.

"Meanwhile, Trajan Langdon's been lighting it up for CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague - 2006 champions, 2007 runners-up. You're exiled but not forgotten, Trajan - no matter what happens in the NBA, Boozer and his crack legal team will never be able to displace you as Alaska's Basketball Jesus. And, of course, Trajan went to Steller. Sorry Carlos - there's loyalty, but with Trajan it's a matter of honor.

"Go Warriors!"

May 11, 2007

Long Time, No See: Trudeau Finds His Fastball

May 10, 2007

Lost: One Groove, Slightly Used

Your Secretary finds that her Groove, her Mojo, if you will, is no longer soaking in the glass of placque remover she keeps on her nightstand. A trip to find it seems in order.

If you were to spend a month or so looking for your Groove, or last shaker of salt, where would you go? A city, a small town, a quiet scenic spot? Omaha? The Metropolitan Museum of Art? Sea World?

I'm serious. Maybe it's being forty, being childless, being lazy--I don't know but there's a voice in my head shouting "Go!" and an echo that says "Where?" To the sea, maybe Baltimore? To a river, like in Pittsburgh? A big lake, say Cleveland? To a tall mountain near Boulder or a modest hill somewhere in the Hudson Valley? A quirky little town not too far from Memphis?

It should be a place where I can live cheaply, as I've already cost the Laird too much. A place that's different but not so exotic that it provides its own focus. I'm not just shopping for distractions, I want a place where I can recover my imagination and find my groove again. (If I have to sleep with Taye Diggs, that's a sacrifice I'm willing to consider.)

A better woman than I could do this in situ, since I pretty much live in paradise, but so far I haven't been able to manage it. Travel has helped in the past, so I ask:

Does anybody know of a Motel Six at Walden Pond?

Rudy Breaks the GOP's Unwritten Law...

...don't let on who your real constituency is.

Giuliani Campaign Snubs Farmer for Not Being Rich Enough

Go Waxman!!!

Chairman Waxman Requests Information from Executive Compensation Consultants

May 09, 2007

VECO: Seize Its Assets Under RICO

As speculated several days ago at a Seattle-based recreational event, VECO may now be facing state criminal charges as well as the flurry of federal charges against it's top leadership.

Which got me to thinking- Allen and his gang are pleading out to bribery. Under RICO anti-racketeering laws, this might qualify the multi-billion dollar company for federal seizure of the assets of a criminal enterprise.


This, in turn, might be marvelously motivational pressure for VECO to completely account for it's criminal activity for the past two decades.

Then They Came For the Articles About Comic Book Villains Written in the Past Tense

Dr. X writes this from the rent controlled apartment Gwen Stacy used to live in:

"At the top of a very interesting Wikipedia article on The Green Goblin, some busybody has inserted this bit of bureaucratic make-work:

This article describes fictional events in the past tense. The present tense should be used in order to clearly differentiate between fictional events and actual history. To meet Wikipedia's quality standards, this comics-related article or section may require cleanup.

"That's stupid. I mean, everyone knows that the 'serum that granted Osborn superhuman strength also drove him insane.' How the hell are you supposed to write that in the present tense? 'The serum that grants Osborne superhuman strength also drives him insane?' What, you mean every day? What fucking language is that supposed to be?

"This is almost the dumbest thing I've seen them do this month. The dumbest: some martinet is trying to ban trivia sections from articles. In many articles you'll find a box that says:

This article contains a trivia section.
Content in this section should be integrated into other appropriate areas of the article or removed, and the trivia section removed.

"People: the trivia section is the best part of every Wikipedia article. From the article on garlic:

The city of Gilroy, California promotes itself as "Garlic Capital of the World", and hosts the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival every summer.

The two-day Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is held yearly in Saugerties, New York.

In the televised cartoon shorts, before he used spinach as a source of superhuman strength, comic book character Popeye's ancestor Hercules would sniff fresh bulbs of unpeeled garlic.

"That's important stuff. If you delete it, I will boycott Wikipedia.

"You've been warned."

ADN helps Veco shed a non-core business

The Voice of the Times is dead.

The Sea Lord called this one, albeit a few years early.

May 08, 2007

By the Way

Dr. X posts this from a sunny afternoon in California:

"Amazing what's on Youtube, isn't it? Have a nice day."

Alaska Republicans: The Arctic Crackers Crumble

For those non-former Alaskans among us, it's a little hard to convey the sense of accomplished revenge we get from the goons at VECO oil field services company copping a series of felony pleas for bribery, extortion and mail fraud. These chuckleheads turned our beloved frontier homeland, a place with a clean slate, great education and a boatload of money, into a sort of third-world cash cow for the most rapacious companies on earth.

Almost certainly Former State Senate president Ben Stevens is next in the indictment chain, referred to in the plea agreement as "Senator B,". And what should follow is a long series of investigations, going back through decades of VECO's political activity. These charges stem from the FBI monitoring one hotel room in one session. I speculate confidently that this was not the only set of nefarious instances.

VECO has ties to Ted Stevens beyond his boy, the enfant terrible of right-wing Alaska politics, and even to Mike McGavick, the Safeco CEO who ran as the GOP Senate candidate in Washington state last year who was forced to return $12,000 in VECO contributions after the FBI raids last year. The elder Stevens, trying to get revenge on Maria Cantwell (note below) for her work to keep ANWR an actual wildlife refuge, organized the contribution in a fundraiser in Alaska in April 2006, according to a 2006 article in the Seattle Times.

Note that Democrats are not blameless in this, although many Democrats stood up against the worst excesses.

May 07, 2007

Which Senators Are Owned by Big Pharm?

Senate Blocks Bid to Allow Drug Imports | Guardian Unlimited

Who voted for the Cochran Amendment today may be a barometer.

Notable Dems who voted Yea: Cantwell and Murray (WA), Bayh (IN), Kennedy and Kerry (MA), Lautenberg and Menendez (NJ).

Notable Rs who voted Nay: Lott (MS), Snowe (ME), Sessions (AL).

Not voting: McCain, Obama, Biden.

May 06, 2007

Already a Legend

Dr. X posts this from that shameless, depraved part of town:

"This is one of the best SomethingAwful photoshop contests ever. I'm thinking Barry Lyndon is my favorite, but JFK is up there."

Amusing Film: Addendum

Dr. X posts this from garage, where he's looking for his 1984 Eurail Pass:

"When the call went out for funny movies a while back, I neglected to mention one film that, I believe, deserves your attention. Although I blurbed it here once, thanks to the miracle of Youtube, I can now support my claims with video evidence.

"The scene in which our hero discovers his girl's been getting it on with Matt Damon...

"...that one Michelle Trachtenberg scene...

"...the soccer hooligans' pub...

"...that deleted Michelle Trachtenberg scene...

...the robot duel...

"...and, the ever-popular kid Hitler bit."

May 05, 2007

Alaska Republicans: Snakes in a Bag

The news that Republican legislators are being arrested in clumps by the FBI will shock no one familiar with the inexhaustible corruption and betrayal of Alaska and its citizens by the state's Republican party. The arrests - under a Bush appointed U.S. District attorney, mind you, follow the FBI raids of last year on legislative offices in Juneau. And those who sold out, sold out cheap, credit card debts here, inflated flooring bill there, and literally pocket change for the goons and pimps running VECO oil field services company.

The Chief Pimp was Bill Allen, CEO of VECO international, who has been a right-wing player in Alaska for many years; he once got VECO to buy the Anchorage Times, which has a daily editorial presence in the milkmaid liberal Daily News many years after the Times folded. Today's Times editorials are largely about pleasuring the oil industry.

It isn't credible to believe this is an isolated incident of straightforward here's-some-cash for votes corruption. Coke, working girls and cash in bags are the legacy of the oil boom in Alaska politics and it hasn't ended. More likely it's endemic, widespread among Alaska Republicans and some Democrats, and stretches back decades.

That this indictment came from the federal government rather than the state suggests that Alaska was incapable of cleaning its own house - Alaska is being redecorated from a proud frontier of independent and yet socially minded men and women to a third-world carnival of corruption and dependency.

The next on the round up of may include the former State Senator, Ben Stevens, Ted Steven's son. The elder Stevens, leaving Alaskans an enduring legacy of expensive buildings in random places and emotional imbalance, was once a U.S. District Attorney in Alaska. But note that part of the FBI raids occurred in Girdwood, Alaska, which is the permanent residence of Ted Stevens.

I notice that recent pressure from Sen. Murkowski and Ted Stevens to find an Alaskan for the top federal prosecutor's spot in Alaska that opened in January (hmm) which on first blush appeared to be highly appropriate resentment over the Bush administration's interference, may have a direct impact on the criminal case. Ted Stevens should not be selecting, or even pressuring the decision, on who is the federal prosecutor about to indict his son.

That he is even trying stinks to high heaven - and with Congressman Young now directly tied to the Abramoff scandal, (his aide selling out the American citizens of the Marianas into wage slavery), it is imperative for the future of the state of Alaska to account for all political corruption in the state. The federal charges do not preclude state charges, or civil lawsuits by the state, or private suits on behalf of its citizens. VECO and its oil industry associates must be forced to produce evidence of all it's attempts at bribery and extortion at all levels of government, not just this instance. This is much more important than the gas line - long after the resources are gone, the legacy that Alaska leaves of law and order and democracy will shape generations.

May 04, 2007

"We'll not risk another frontal assault. That cat's dynamite."

May 03, 2007

Count It

Dr. X posts this from Oracle Arena parking lot:

"They weren't even supposed to be here. The Golden State Warriors, perennial laughingstock of the NBA, had to win 9 games out of 10 at the end of the season just to qualify for the playoffs.

"It looked to be a short ride. They were facing the best team in the league. The Mavericks had the best record in basketball (the sixth-best in league history). In Vegas, the Mavs were 7-5 to win the NBA championship - the Warriors were 90-1. Here is how ESPN's panel of experts saw it: Stein - Mavs in 5; Anthony - Mavs in 6; Broussard - Mavs in 6; Hollinger - Mavs in 6; Sheridan - Mavs in 6.

"Well, game six is over, and the Mavericks are going home for the summer. It wasn't close - the Mavericks trailed by two at halftime, but the Warriors put together a 24-3 run in the third quarter, and the Mavs were done.

"It was:

"1) The biggest playoff upset in NBA history.
"2) The first time the #8 seed had won a 7-game series.
"3) The first time the Warriors won a 7-game playoff series since 1976.
"4) The best one-legged performance in the NBA playoffs since Willis Reed.

"The Warriors can rest a bit now, and get ready for the next team - either Houston or Utah. Neither of those teams are as good as Dallas, so the Warriors could keep advancing. But they'll have to bring their 'A' game every night. It's still a long way to Coney Island."

Bollenbach of the Antarctic

(Marston - Shackleton's artist : Endurance Bound in Ice. )

With the kind and timely encouragement of our exiled President, I am developing a proposal to travel under grant from the National Science Foundation to the Anarctic as part of the artists and writers program.

I recently received an encouraging letter from the NSF in reply my letter excerpted below. (Reading above, notice how quickly the blood drains out of any sentence even vaguely connected to a grant application.)

I would be thrilled for the opportunity to travel to the Antarctic, particularly on science ship, and have been researching possibilities for several years.

My primary focus is oil painting. The Polar regions interest me for the scientific history involving artists (I think of Shackleton's artist sealing the seams of the James Caird boat for the almost suicidal voyage to South Georgia with his precious oil paints), the highly specific knowledge that traditional painting can bring to an understanding of color in a region, and the poetic collision of remote eternity of the Antarctic and the new fact of its transformation, an Icarus of a continent, moving too close to the sun.

Elders among the Inupiaq have noticed changes in the color of the Arctic skies. I would be very curious to see if this might be true in the Antarctic, which might require accurate paintings as a baseline. (Photography has limitations in the recording of accurately perceived color. ) That suggests subtleties of shift of color in the atmosphere - (and) some scientists have used studies paintings from periods around considerable volcanic activity -such as the 1883 Krakatoa eruption -to estimate atmospheric changes (tMunch's Scream paintings may be an example of this).

I gained a lot of interest in the subject from my father, was a NOAA meteorologist for many years in Alaska, starting just after WWII. An amateur painter, he often noticed the particular qualities of light from Russian, Scandinavian and other Arctic painters shared around the world in the same latitude. In the days of hand drawn weather charts, he told me that the more beautiful the drawing of the isobars, the more accurate the weather predictions, and idea which has served me well in painting in the idea of specificity as a course towards both beauty and intellectual seriousness.

I recently developed three or four works based on polar themes, in this case they were specifically non-observational; the images of ice and highly specific colors and surfaces was an associative source for memories of a friend who was an Inupiaq dancer - specializing in modern dance forms, and on half-remembered stories of goddesses like Sedna. These few works served as a way to reprocess my experiences of Alaska, which unfortunately never allowed much travel in the Arctic.

Some ideas I've tossed around include:

A series of color studies of sea ice in oils.

It may prove important to collect an accurate record of color in the Antarctic. Aside from the superior sensitivity of the human eye to most technology, in terms of recording acccurate perception, I spoke with an artists' material's expert who pointed out that oil is the best suitable cold-weather color sketch material.

Large paintings which accurately describe the coastal spaces of Antarctica.

Another limitation of photography is the inability to compress our experienced space into the frame of photograph. Painting from careful observation can be far more evocative of the human experience of presence in specific space, and small photos, as well as small paintings based on photos, have not captured the awe that such a landscape inspires. I can only project from my limited experiences in coastal Alaska, but paintings add a powerful feeling of "this is here, now." I'm hoping to experiment with latter studio projects approaching the scale of Anselm Keifer's recent work.

Large format photography.

Large format photography also offers possibilities- in particular, I had considered an idea of reproducing images from the classic period of polar exploration by setting up modern scientists and team members, as well as indigenous peoples in the Arctic regions, in the posed positions of the original photographs, an idea kicked around with the director at the Coast Guard Museum here in Seattle.

Site-Specific Polar Sculptures

This is just the germ of an idea, but I thought of a kind of warning buoy, spherical, sealed, and made of a bronze alloy, designed as a kind of self-contained weather station, ideally with the ability to self-power through photo-voltaic cells intergrated into its surface, inscribed with designs and even poems related to exploration, warning, hubris, etc, which is positioned at the North Pole, and alerts when it gets immersed in open water. An Antarctic version would follow as a twin. Like the japanese floats of my youth which washed up on the shores of Alaska, or the Nike Shoes riding ocean currents, this giant float would travel freely with sea-ice and water, in areas susceptible to the effects of warming.

It would be an art-science object - a working instrument and a kintetic, permanent sculpture, intended to be lost, and eventually rediscovered, in a year, or a thousand. Like the Voyager plate, it could describe ourselves to future civilizations; its very existence is a warning.
I would welcome ideas from our ingenious contributors on technical, conceptual and practical considerations. I've worked up the float ideas as art piece more, and will be bothering the oceanographers at UW here in Seattle who have developed an impressive new generation of buoys and current monitors. I would also like a web component (the idea just struck me of little sensors position indicators, in cartoon snowman form, saying "I'm melting!" on a website when they hit 1 degree C water. OK, that's a little silly.)

The first trip would be reconnoitering, working up to a return to deploy the artworks.

Don't Suspect Terrorists...

...LEVEL 3 THREATENATE THEM!. 'Cause they are everywhere. Take for example this seemingly benign "kid" who built a map of his school into a mod for Counter-Strike and in addition has a hammer in his home (also, he's Chinese)!!! These could be your neighbors! Always be vigilant.

Disclaimer: Reading this Disclaimer constitutes a Terrorist Action. See you at Guatanamo.

May 01, 2007

In Which I Suspect We Have Lost the Art of the Party

As I restrain myself with some difficulty of commenting on the bongos, here are more World WarII era SF photos, this time from the nightclubs section at the S.F. Public Library. This is from 1942. The extensive image list is here.

Bopping around to techno seems pretty tame.

Here is a shot of a theatrical shell flying across across the packed room at a place called Slapsie Maxie's, and what must be a shot of Mack Brain about to move in on Viscount Phillerph Von Phorffer Van Der Forfen's action at Bal Tabarin.

My Application Was, Sadly, Rejected

In his coverage of the Democrats debate in South Carolina

Jon Stewart notes:

Gravel's demeanor is unsurprising as he graduated, along with fellow Alaskan senator Ted Stevens, from Anchorage's legendary Wild Eyed Coot School of Government and Prospectin'.

The San Francisco War Years of Brain

I've stumbled across an interesting collection of San Francisco photos taken during WWII by Dorthea Lange.

To the left, once can safely assume Mack Brain plays pool here frequently. One of the curious things about S.F. is actually how little in changes in form for an American city.

There are many shots of the city between about 1940 and 1953, and extensive documentation of the Japanese American relocation.

You look at these shots and know that many Americans knew perfectly well the depth of the crime and betrayal being committed by a paranoid war-time policy. Below are some Japanese-American children in a mixed school in San Francisco literally pledging allegiance the day before the evacuation.