February 28, 2009

Atomic what?

I was flipping through this book, which I just brought home after coffee table duty in my office, and I ran across an ad for a child's atomic cannon. The ad claimed the toy was authentic, and sure enough, it looked exactly like this. That's 280mm - 11 inches of atomic love.

The Wikipedia article is here. Here is a video of a test of this thing (Wikipedia: "this was the first and only nuclear shell to be fired from a cannon"). They shoot it at 9:14, the projectile goes off at 9:31. And be sure to watch the ending credit, which is as good a summation shot as you could ask for (wallpaper candidate here).

Poop or GTFO

Another yeti thread. Three points:

1) Breeding populations must be large to sustain a species, particularly one with a primate's slow reproductive cycle. If there is a stable breeding population, it usually must number in the thousands for the species to avoid extinction. So this idea that there are a few dozen yetis living in a remote region is simply nonsense - there need to be a couple thousand of them in close proximity to one another, or the species goes extinct in short order.

2) Someone's seeing something. Shipton and Messner weren't lightweights, or given to telling tall tales. Messner wrote a book offering a rational explanation, which has, of course, been ignored.

3) As is so often the case, everything depends on poop. If yetis exist, they must eat. Since they're big, they must eat a lot. And, if they eat a lot, they must poop a lot. So let's see the poop! We're up to our eyeballs in "eyewitness accounts" and footprint casts. But no yeti poop as far as the eye can see.

To paraphrase Descartes, it does not poop, therefore it does not exist.

Now the sasquatch, that's a whole different thing.

Next week: where do yetis go when they die?

This Class War is Awesome!!

Hey, here's a sentence you've never seen in this blog:

This President is great!

I would list how many great things Mr. Obama seems to be doing, but I'm too tired, what with planning the class war here with Angela Davis over triple shot mochas.

I have no irony to direct at the President though; Clinton at this point in his presidency was tripping all over himself. Barely a month in, this guy is laying waste to the forces of darkness, remaking the national agenda, laying the groundwork for saving the planet, ending the Iraq war, and for our entertainment, providing ample opportunity for the right wing to front like total jackasses.

Most Americans are coming together over the need to fix things: lots of things. And capitalism as cult is over. Even peace seems to be breaking out.

If class war is taking money out of absurd weapons systems and supporting the troops, if class war is the radical Leninist plan of returning upper income tax rates to 90s levels, if class war is rebuilding the nation's health care system so it delivers health care widely, if class war is actually beginning to end fossil fuels' dependency, to take climate change seriously, to inspire the country to work through harder times for a better future, sign me up, Comrade! I'll take a dank recession with Barack Obama any day over that bourgeois bash on credit with Bush.

February 26, 2009

Instilling family values

With boys now 4 and 6, I decided it was time for them to watch The Great Race. We reviewed it over two nights, stopping at Intermission the first night, and pausing at times for explanation and discussion. A few general remarks:
  • I had always regarded the thing as a glorious mess, but this is not exactly right. Blake Edwards dedicated the movie to Laurel & Hardy, and deliberately recreated silent scenes throughout. Moreover, it is tightly structured at both the macro and micro level. Is is, therefore, a highly referential tightly structured and relentlessly self conscious glorious mess.
  • The movie is loosely based on an actual New York-Paris race that was run in 1908.
  • Billy Wilder once said "Lemmon, I would describe him as a ham, a fine ham..." That was before The Great Race, in which Lemmon played not one, but two over-the-top maniacs, each with a distintive laugh.
  • In one scene, Lemmon appears upset that Natalie Wood has kissed him. Now that's acting! Lemmon's son regards The Great Race as his father's finest performance.
  • Peter Falk was the unqualified hit with the kids. They are still running around shouting "push the button, Max!" Falk was also in the Muppet movie we watched Sunday night, and, of course, played a crucial role in The Princess Bride. I nominate him for Best Supporting Actor in Movies Your Kids Need to See.
  • Many amusing lines, of course, but this exchange between Max and Fate got a good reception:
[Max has sabotaged the cars and is doing running commentary as their wheels fall off, etc.]
Fate: "Genius, Max, positive genius! What's next?"
Max: "Car number 5, the engine falls out!"
Fate: "Car number 5, hah hah hah hah!"
Fate: "Uh... Max ...we're number 5."
[Engine falls out]
  • Three beautifully choreographed fight scenes: cowboy brawl, sword duel (Ross Martin!), pie fight. This cannot be improved upon.
  • Keenan Wynn, under torture: "not...the mustache..."
  • The Leslie Special, loosely based on the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the actual race, currently resides at the Tupelo Auto Museum.
  • Music by Henry Mancini, not bad at all.
  • Whither Blake Edwards? Was he good or bad? This essay tries to make sense of the man and his work, with varying degrees of success. "It would be easy to dismiss Blake Edwards as a director of light entertainment..." Yes, yes it would. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
With this important rite of passage behind us, I now feel comfortable that I have completed my minimum obligations as a father.

Economy Schmuckonomy

This was the view this morning on Hurricane Ridge above my home in Port Angeles. Hurricane Ridge knows no downturn. Suck on that Dow Jones! Photo by Friend of Eisengeiste, David Godfrey

Muckety Maps

Possibly the greatest tool for conspiracy theorists ever. This site repeats the news with maps of the connections of people and organizations.

"Give Us a Chance to Execute"

Citigroup Chump in Chief begs for his job.

February 25, 2009

Remember Citibank's "Live Richly" Ad Campaign?

Didn't much like it then, like it even less nowadays.

To the barricades!

You can close the Tonga Room when you pry the mai tai from my cold dead fingers!

Can it be? Are the 90s really over so soon?

February 24, 2009

Text of Letter Accompanying "Julianna" Painting

An old tradition in artist's letters is the description of the painting to those who buy significant works. This is an email, which seems wrong. Ah well.

This particular work was begun in the late summer of 2005 and finished early this year. The model was a very striking, 20 year old , 5' 10" gothy girl named Julianna who was planning to go to college for art, given to artfully torn clothing; like a lot of women with this style, she'd had some rough family history but a good high school education on the Olympic Peninsula. As ever, a punk rockish style thrives in the smaller towns and burbs among the alienated - Julianna was captivated by Victorian dreams and darkly toned independent rock music. Answering an ad on Craig's list , she was new to art modeling; she was poised, bright, and a little coltish.

(Admittedly that's the opening paragraph to a bad novel. )

As I think of her now, the painting was begun in my studio with her standing and posing towards the window on an unusual day where the sun penetrated to the blank wall in the window in the building, creating strong yellowish light in the upper right hand corner and backlighting her, with violet shadows in the room and a very warm cast on her normally pale and clear skin. She was quick -witted, curious and funny, with a playful self-consciousness about her style, but without much shyness Physically, she was tall, and trim and imposing, but very feminine in her frame, not over exercised or tanned or even tattooed, which is almost unusual for a girl like this now; and she was given to dark eyeliner, which taste aside, does indeed make light eyes haunting. The eyes are somewhat obscured in a lot of these pieces because they can easily over-dominate a composition.

She worked at the outdoor crepe cafe under the Washington State and Convention Center, where, visiting her once at her invitation (she made a great crepe- which I still remember, like one does when handed delicious food by a beautiful woman, belgian ham, fresh herbs and grueyre) I noticed at least four 20ish guys clearly coming there to talk to her, hanging out on any available pretense, because, presumably, they all really appreciated a good crepe.

We had about four or five sessions for this piece. Like a lot of women models, her first thoughts in a pose were of photographic style poses- artificial, sudden stillness. These I mostly ignored, waiting for more natural movement, slow walks, natural stillness, falling asleep on the couch. Drawing and painting is the act of becoming aware of what you see, of intently feeding the visual memory. In these series of works, I'm feeding a specific moment, somewhat charged, into a memory to chase in paint, sometimes, like this piece, over the course of years. You would not recognize her in any normal way from seeing the piece, but in spite of feeding its studied abstractions spinning off the act of seeing her into my memory of this moment, this painting could only be Julianna. If she stood in front of it again, you would absolutely know it was her- in the piece you can find a very particular form in her nose and mouth that permits recognition, but the piece is far more about what you might call her visual broadcast over time, the way a woman in motion warps the space around her in the mind of a man seeing her.

There are three basic poses that settled out from the sessions embodied in the work- only two of which are clearly visible, in the middle and on the right. Unlike some others, this painting was a particularly difficult struggle because I had not develop the techniques for finishing it when I began it - the difficulty comes because the type of marking shapes I make- somewhat Arshille Gorky-like , figurative in nature, only partly fit what I was seeing, and ultimately proved tricky to integrate with the light, shadow that was also spinning through the space of the painting (which is my studio at 1148 NW Leary in Ballard, #22). It took well over two hundred hours to complete, with approximately 6 posing hours. Like a novel, it takes great time and reflection to begin to understand a moment.

She posed a bit more than I could pay her for, and she thanked me for kindness at a tough moment. This is painting is the record of that time. Julianna, the last I know, moved to Arizona in early 2006.

February 23, 2009

More Dave Ross

Ross poleaxes Santelli's moment of Warhol.

The Russian naval tradition

I'm sorry, but I can't help pointing out this passage from the Wikipedia article on The Battle of Port Arthur:

"On 11 February 1904, the Russian minelayer Yeneisei started to mine the entrance to Port Arthur. One of the mines washed up against the ship's rudder, exploded and caused the ship to sink, with loss of 120 of the ship's complement of 200. The Yeneisei also sank with the only map indicating the position of the mines. The Boyarin, sent to investigate the accident, also struck a mine and was abandoned, although staying afloat. It sank two days later after hitting a second mine."

Mickey's Fucking Awesome Spirit Awards Acceptance Speech

February 22, 2009

Slow train coming...

Dr. X posts this from the Algonquin:

"Here is a video of Buddy Holly playing to an upper-crust crowd in NYC in 1957. It is a bit more than a year after he played the Apollo. The clip bears watching a couple of times, to get the full impact of the society matron introduction ('rock and roll specialists' indeed!), to note the ever-so-slight sashaying of debutante hips, to appreciate the sight of the West Texas kid in a tuxedo... Rock, of course, began in a lot of places, but this is surely one of them. That fellow standing in front of the amplifier is...how would the semioticians say it...interrogating the ideological assumptions of bourgeois pleasure...or something to that effect. And it's very good."

February 21, 2009

The Swan of the East and the archetype of the solo raider

World War I was not a romantic war, or, at least, it was the war that wrecked the romantic notions of the general public, a cluster of illusions that had survived even the Civil War. But in 1914, before the Marne, Flanders, the Somme, Verdun, it was still possible to imagine that there could a bit of romance to it all. Who knew? It had been almost a hundred years since the last big war in Europe.

And in those early days of the war, one German ship, SMS Emden,won notoriety and admiration worldwide for its solo raiding in the far east. Emden was a light cruiser - launched in 1906 she was not of the latest design, but very functional. She could make 23 knots getting to the fight, and had ten (slightly obsolete) 4-inch guns and two torpedo tubes to deploy when she got there.


Decked out in white, the ship exuded class and grace. She was an ideal ambassador abroad for an ambitious Germany, and was on station in China when the war broke out.

Now, let me ask you something. This has always kind of confused me. Why is it that the Germans, with all their emphasis on strength and manly confrontation on land, suddenly turn all Frenchy into finesse players when they get out on the water? They love their commerce raiders. Even when they get a decent battleship or two, they put them in a commerce raider role. Why, in WWII, did the Germans not take Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and just get after the British fleet? We know from the voyage of Bismarck how well that ship could fight, but why on earth would you deploy it with just one or two escorts? Why, after almost winning outright at Jutland, would the Germans avoid all future fleet-to-fleet contact?

It really is strange. Through two world wars, the Germans ignored A.T. Mahan's Prime Directive - take what you've got, and go for the other guy's throat. Destroy the opposing main force and seize control of the oceans. Don't piss away your resources with commerce raiding!


"It is not the taking of individual ships or convoys, be they
few or many, that strikes down the money power of a nation; it is the possession of that overbearing power on the sea which drives the enemy's flag from it, or allows it to appear only as a fugitive; and which, by controlling the great common, closes the highways by which commerce moves to and from the enemy's shores.

Why did the Germans not heed this advice? The answer, I would argue, is the voyage of Emden. She made it look so easy.

The story is simple enough. The war starts and Emden is in China. Her captain, Karl von Müller, is not going to get trapped in port the way the Russians did at Port Arthur. He gets underway immediately, joins up with the German Pacific squadron long enough to get his orders, then goes on a solo mission of random mayhem through the East Indies. Some highlights:
  • 9/10 - Captured ship with a lot of soap - this was good because they were low on soap
  • 9/18 - Shelled Rangoon
  • 9/23 - Shelled Madras
  • 9/25 - Emden featured in soap advertisement in Calcutta
  • 9/26-9/29 - Six prizes off Sri Lanka (this is where Wikipedia could really use a factchecker... I have no idea if this is true but it's too good not to use: "Sri Lankan mothers frightened their children with the Emden bogeyman, and to this day a particularly obnoxious person is referred to as an Emden, in Tamil.")
  • 10/1 - Pissed-off Churchill writes "I wish to point out to you most clearly that the irritation caused by an indefinite continuance of the Emden's captures will do great damage to Admiralty reputation."
  • 10/15-10/20 - Seven prizes off Kerala
  • etc. etc.
I should note here that this is all done somewhat humanely, especially with the merchant ships. Müller takes prisoners and treats them well. He offloads civilians in various ports and on neutral ships, and is actually cheered by them on several occasion.

At this point there are dozens of ships of various nationalities (British, Australian, Japanese, and Russian) chasing Emden around. I would think Müller would be working on his exit strategy...and perhaps he was, because his next stop is Penang, due east, and on the way back to the Pacific.

On October 28th, Emden sails into Penang harbor (with a fake fourth funnel to make her look like a British cruiser), hoists her German flag, and blasts the Russian cruiser Zhemchug to smithereens. (This does nothing for the reputation of Russian naval arms as the Captain was supposedly at a brothel on shore.) A French destroyer pursues Emden and is sunk for her trouble.

And just like that...like the Shadow...Emden's gone again.

Around this time Emden is awarded the Iron Cross, one of only two ships to ever receive this honor. This may not seem like a big thing to you, but the Germans take it pretty serious, seeing as how the current Emden still wears the insignia (more on the modern ship here).

It was all going pretty well, but even the hottest hand can cool off in a hurry. A few weeks later Emden is minding its own business, trying to destroy a major British wireless station, when it runs into Sydney. Sydney is bigger, faster, and better-armed than Emden, and blasts the crap out the pretty German ship. Emden's shells mostly bounce off the inelegant, but extremely well-armed, Australian. The German ship is run aground to prevent sinking.

Ultimately, this message is sent:

HMAS Sydney, at sea

The Captain, HIGMS Emden

I have the honour to request that in the name of humanity you now surrender your ship to me. In order to show how much I appreciate your gallantry, I will recapitulate the position.

(1.) You are ashore, three funnels and one mast down and most guns disabled.
(2.) You cannot leave this island, and my ship is intact.

In the event of your surrendering in which I venture to remind you is no disgrace but rather your misfortune I will endeavor to do all I can for your sick and wounded and take them to a hospital. I have the honour to be,

Your obedient Servant,
John Glossop

Vladimir Kroupnik offers this fine summation:

So ended a voyage of 30,000 miles, in which a single obsolescent cruiser had done damage worth at least 15 times the cost of building her--more than 5 million pounds sterling. She had sunk a cruiser, a destroyer and 16 merchant ships, coaled 11 times from three captured colliers and had bombarded oil facilities in the heart of the British empire, while disrupting transport, raising the price of rice and insurance in the Indian Ocean region and drawing the attention of 78 warships from four navies. Emden, however, had also managed to leave behind a record of daring, resourceful enterprise and chivalry that endeared her even to her enemies. A typical epitaph appeared in The Telegraph in London: "It is almost in our hearts to regret that the Emden has been captured and destroyed....There is not a survivor who does not speak well of this young German, the officers under him and the crew obedient to his orders. The war on the sea will lose some of its piquancy, its humour and its interest now that the Emden has gone."

Think of that - in 1914 one could speak of humour and piquancy in the sea war. It was still six months before Lusitania.

I don't know why I care so much about Emden, except that, perhaps, its passing marked a broader loss of innocence.

Here is a nice Youtube video about the ship.

You know what happens to friends of the Clintons

Apparently Socks knew too much...

February 19, 2009

Unnatural love

Up at all hours with a bad cold that has spread to my lungs and is causing me sporadic coughing fits (take that Mister Nutstrong), I finally had the opportunity to view a Flight of the Conchords episode, a recent one focusing on forbidden love. What a finely-crafted piece of comedy. The highest praise I can offer: I had Airplane! on the other channel, and never switched to it.

This is a mere sampling, there's plenty more win where that came from.

By the way...take a look at our ratings surge since the Laird's announcement! Nice work guy, big stuff. Who's laughing now, BoingBoing!? Who's laughing now?!

"From now on, he'll have to make illegal u-turns in the O'Statesville Prison"

New development in on the search for Ireland's worst driver.

Generic User Interface Letter

Dear ___, thank you for the e-mail describing the exciting new user interface for ____.

Per your instructions, I have clicked the button that says "try new user interface", and experienced the incredible benefits the new user interface brings me. It is clear your marketing and product people have been working overtime! I hope you won't mind if I trouble you with one or two points of feedback.
  1. Kind of slow, isn't it? I mean, if you're going to spend a lot of money on re-working the front end of the product, I'd figure you'd want better performance. It never seems to happen, though, does it?
  2. The look is great, the feel, not so much. The old user interface clicked and executed like a vintage IBM keyboard. Commands were dispatched with the efficiency of a Russian journalist assassination team. The new interface, written as it is in some 4th-dimensional high level language, lacks tactile feedback. There are these odd little pauses. It flickers and wavers a little. The system seems tentative - almost as if it is having an existential crisis and is considering suicide. Perhaps it will gain confidence as it matures.
  3. It's buggier than the old interface. The ___ function is incorrectly mapped to the ____ button, and when I try to _____ the thing freezes up completely. It's almost as if some junior programmer was hacking this thing together at the 11th hour based on instructions from some marketing person who didn't know a thing about systems development.
  4. The new user interface introduces yet another approach to doing things I already knew how to do. I do value innovation in all aspects of life, but, and stay with me here, there is no need to invent a new way to look at, mark, and delete items on a list. I guess I could learn your new metaphor, and I suppose eventually you will force me to. But WHY?!.
  5. With the old user interface I was able to ___ quickly and easily. Now it takes more time and there's no way to automate the process. For some reason, and I am probably an unusual case, I use this command more than any other.
  6. I notice that the new user interface is not accompanied by any new functionality. For example, it would be nice if some of your programmers would add a feature allowing me to see changes to your license agreement in real time, instead of reading about them on Slashdot.
Anyway, I know you're excited about the new user interface, and I'm sure it will be with us for a long time. Or at least until you get a new marketing director.

Dr. X

Thank you, Art Linkletter

This guy I know, I think he reads this blog once in a while, told me a story about his kids.

My friend, I'll call him Rx, is raising his two kids to be bilingual, but he doesn't speak the language his kids are learning, and his nanny doesn't speak English. So, he's got in the habit of asking the children to relay his messages to her.

Not feeling well, he asked the younger of the two to "tell Nanny I'm going to have a short nap." The little one helpfully translated but the older one quickly shouted out: "No! He told Nanny that you want her to spank your bottom!"

Rx suggested that this reminded him of the Viceroy; a gentle sense of humor that is making fun of you 24 hours a day.

I'm still chuckling.

February 18, 2009

Colbert v Conan

Settling matters like men (HD available).

Palin in a cold climate

The Washington Post weighs in with a typically eastern elitist take on Palin.

A Republican aide says was thousands of envious apparatchiks believe: "She doesn't care about the political establishment, but the people in the streets love her."

And, gentleman, you will find she's tougher to finish off than Rasputin. Remember "The New Nixon"... Oh hell, someone at Huffington Post beat me to it.

See you in 2012, Sarah.

February 16, 2009


Here's to Dr. Macro's, which is aggregating scans of old-time movie stars. Some favorites:
No Jean Hagen or Helen Broderick, but there's a nice shot of Helen here.

February 15, 2009

Presidential effectiveness

Poll of historians confirms Shrub was the worst of our lifetimes.

Not really buying the list though - FDR and Lincoln had the highest body counts, too. I'll grant they were successful, but surely Eisenhower or Clinton - champions of the center who avoided major conflicts could be bit higher. And I have no idea why they're putting Kennedy - who had less than a full term and nearly got us incinerated - so high on the list.

Anyway, I think we agree on W. Worse than Hoover? Ouch, dude.

A lot of hard wiring

I am sure seeing a lot of articles about how we're "hard-wired". Not the standard baby reflexes, but a whole raft of human behaviors. Thanks to the power of Google, we can create a little compilation:
Enough already. Tabula rasa's bullshit, but this stuff represents no improvement at all.

We're walking biological neural nets, and we're highly adaptive. Our identities and behaviors are profoundly contingent on our environments and surrounding communities. The hard wiring is by no means running the show. Hungarians and Inuit have a lot in common (hearts, brains, blood, a taste for fatty foods, and various cultural universals), but I don't know a lot of Hungarians who'd last three days in the Arctic, and I don't know many Inuit who can sing Madarka madarka (lest we forget).

All this talk of hardwiring lends legitimacy to two despicable premises. First, it's a trojan horse for outright determinism, and fuck that. Worse, it denies free will, which is the only fucking reason I get up in the morning anymore. Universe without free will? You can have it.

There are more things in heaven and earth. One of those things, I learned today, is Erika Miklosa. She refutes determinism outright. More Erika here and here.

I was going to say this

But Darwin beat me to it: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars."

If this is intelligent design, I'm pretty sure I don't want to meet the designer...

What better time than a rainy day...

...to read the reflections of Derek Smalls?

February 14, 2009

Here's your movie

Saw Space Chimps tonight, and it's two opposable thumbs-up from the boys.

What? What did Ebert think?

He loved it.

Another Hall of Famer?

I was just wondering about this guy I've been hearing so much about, plays for the Mariners, this Ichiro character. Saw him play once on tv. Looked exciting... I wandered over to baseballreference.com to see if there was anything to the hype.

Holy crap! This guy's awesome!

Baseball Reference really does all the work for you. For example, they compute Bill James' Black Ink Test for you, which assesses the probability that someone will go into the Hall of Fame based on the number of times they lead the league in various offensive categories. On this test Ichiro scores a 32 - the average Hall of Famer scores a 27. How'd he do that? Well for one thing he's been #1 or #2 in hits in the American League every year since he joined the Mariners.

Well, no sophisticated sabermetrician would cast a Hall of Fame vote based on just one indicator, so let's compute James' Gray Ink Test, which is based on how often the player is in the top ten of various indicators. Ichiro looks good here with 100, but is not in the HOF zone yet - average Hall of Famer has 144.

"Oh come on, these are weak preliminaries," I hear you say. "James developed a comprehensive formula for rating Hall of Famers - compute it or GTFO." Um, let's see...add 6, carry the one... Ichiro gets 33.1. The average Hall of Famer (whose career has been completed, of course) is around 50. So Ichiro is on track, but maybe not there.

Of course James did develop a metric for assessing whether active players were likely to meet the above criteria by the end of their careers, the famous HOF Monitor stat. Basically, if you can score 100, you're on your way to the Hall if you can keep performing at this level for a while. Ichiro's at 180.5.

So the James stats say the guy's already on the cusp - he's already done enough that he could be considered a low-range Hall of Famer. Like, if he played in New York or something he'd probably get in eventually. But he'd need to do more to be a lock.

But James' statistics are very generic, and really don't take into account Ichiro's uniqueness as a ballplayer. Most Hall-of-Famers were power hitters in the context of their times, especially in the modern era, and stats based on historical inductions reflect this. But this isn't Harmon Killebrew we're talking about. Ichiro's not an RBI man. He's a guy who can get on base and scoot (top 10 in runs scored every year in the League).

But how good is he? In his original Historical Abstract, James distinguished between peak value (the level of achievement in the best 3- or 4- year stretch of the player's career), and career value, which is the area under the curve. It's obviously too early to compute career value, and that's where most of the HOF stats above are coming from. But the Hall of Fame case is much easier to make if we can say this guy's peak (which we have probably already seen) is exceptionally high.

So, I thought, let's compare him to others of his species. Who are some good speed players we could compare him to? After neutralizing stats, here are the career offensive won/loss percentages (explanation here) of some premier speed players of the past couple decades (all stats neutralized):
  • Maury Wills: .481
  • Willie Wilson: .514
  • Willie McGree: .528
  • Brett Butler: .587
  • Lou Brock: .598*
  • Ichiro Suzuki: .616.
  • Rickey Henderson: .660*
  • Tim Raines: .665+
* Denotes Hall of Famer, + denotes likely Hall of Famer.

So he's right there. He's a very very good baseball player. His game is based on speed, but his accomplishments are genuinely additive to his team's offense. Some aggressive baserunners run themselves in to outs and hurt their team (Steve "Psycho" Lyons: .390). But Ichiro is the real thing. The only knock on him is that he doesn't generate enough power to allow him to rise to the level of a Raines or Henderson. This is not a sin, exactly, but it's a problem. If he played shortstop he'd be a shoo-in, but an outfielder is held to a higher offensive standard. Yes, Ichiro's very good, but probably not quite good enough to be admitted to the Hall solely on the basis of peak performance.

So he needs to clock in some more years of doing the same things - leading the League in hits, making the All-Star team, scoring runs.

The only problem is his performance dropped off noticeably last year (OWP of .559 was the lowest of his career). He's 36...we may be nearing the end of the story.

Still, I can think of three big points in his favor that might get him in even if he falls short on some of the historical criteria:
  • He did all this smack in the middle of the steroid era. He managed to be a valuable speed player in the most power-inflated baseball environment of all time.
  • He was/is pretty unique - there really is no one else in his generation who has been able to do what he has done.
  • He had a couple (NINE) years in Japan before he got here, and played very well there, too.
If we do it today he gets my vote, but it's a tough call.

I feel a strange compulsion to mention this

Although we don't customarily follow skiing in this blog, I just think the events of the past week or so are too notable to pass without comment. Several times this week I've had a double-take reading the sports pages. I refer, of course, to the extraordinary toughness and courage of Vonn - Lindsey Vonn, a member of the U.S. Ski Team, and reigning World Cup Champion. The odd synchronicity of the headlines with...other events...tells an interesting story:
I think we can all appreciate the courage it took to slide in in the first place...

February 13, 2009

More memories of the B-17


February 12, 2009


Leave it to the Viceroy and the Laird to alert me to a film in my primary area of interest, that came out in the prime of my life, that I had never heard of. If you thought Starcrash was too obscure to be remembered, too bad a movie to be anthologized on Youtube...well, you've got a lot to learn about Youtube.
What? You want to see the whole movie? Well, part 1 is right here. If you hunt around there's nine more where that came from...

RIP Terry Spencer

First a fine WWII pilot, then a fine war photojournalist.


You lived large - well done sir.

February 11, 2009

I have found a way to improve this blog.

Henceforth, I will be bookmarking our blog via this link.

In fact, I find it improves the entire internet.

That is all.

Cut of the nut

You know, something like this happened to Pepys. He had an agonizingly painful bladder stone, and when he was 25 he decided to go for broke and risk surgery...recognizing that a bungled job could cripple or kill him.

On March 26, 1658, he went to a friend's house, where, at the hands of surgeon Thomas Hollier, he was "cut for the stone." Robyn Williams gives the excruciating details:
The method of doing the job is well recorded and for the non-urologically minded, let me briefly describe the procedure. I hope you are not eating as you listen to this. The patient was placed on the edge of a table with the head raised and the buttocks projecting beyond the end. The legs were flexed at the knees and tied up with a rope, so the victim assumed a position which was as inelegant then as it is today when used for some gynaecological procedures, the so-called lithotomy position. Assistants held the patient securely and some sedation such as mandrake root or solution of opium was given, a concoction which probably stiffened the surgeon's resolve rather than mollified the patient.

The actual operation involved putting a finger in the rectum to either steady the stone or pull it down to bulge at the perineum. This was incised, a dilator passed into the bladder and the stone either flicked out or seized and crushed with forceps. There were more refined alternatives, but whatever bloody and painful method was used, the skill lay in rapidity of operation and avoiding the prostate and seminal vesicles.

Pepys was undaunted and delivered of a stone said to be 56 grams in weight and the size of a tennis ball. Let me hasten to add, that's the smaller ball of real tennis, about 5-1/2 centimetres in diameter, not today's familiar lawn tennis ball. We know all this because fellow diarist, John Evelyn, saw and recorded it when he took Pepys to cheer up his brother who was similarly afflicted and prudently hesitant over surgery.

Although the joust with the surgeon must have been a gruesome experience, a relieved Samuel was happy with the outcome, as not only did he encourage the young Evelyn to brave the operation, but, with justifiable pride, showed off the illustrious specimen in its specially made case. Regrettably, like many other national treasures, the offending calculus has been lost to history.

Each year, on March 26th, Pepys held a Stone Feast to celebrate his liberation from pain, not to mention surviving the procedure.

Is it too early to start planning...Nutfest?

February 10, 2009

Date movies after testicular surgery

After you watch all of the Viceroy's offerings, here are some additional ideas. Setting a tough standard here - movies that a drugged Laird might enjoy that his lovely wife might also find interesting.

The Cameraman - Buster Keaton's first work after selling his soul to MGM, and the only project there where he had creative control. This scene is representative, but I think the Chinatown gang war will also be of significant...er...artistic interest.

Barry Lyndon - Really, isn't this the perfect time to see it again? (Ms. F...put it on endless loop and see if he notices...!)

You Only Live Twice - What's not to like about Blofeld, and surely the Donald Pleasance version is the definitive one. You miss the whole "und counting" bit from Diamonds Are Forever but you can get that here, so it's all good.


- An early Scorcese achievement. Now you can see it the way you were meant to see it: stoned out of your mind.

My Name is Fame - Basically a good midrange Hong Kong chic flick. But you'll be on drugs, so what do you care?

Uncle Ick’s Top 17 Sci-fi/Fantasy Movies for One-Nutted Guys on Percoset and the Women Who Love Them.

These movies are some of my favorites. They require a certain altered mindset and a diminished sense of expectation. There’s not an “English Patient” in the bunch. Most of the films are from the 1970s and 80s. They can’t be taken seriously by ordinary film standards. Few of them get more than 4 or 5 out of 10 stars.

But these are important films. They are the films I would most want to see as a teenager, sick and home from school. Most of them have female nudity, cheesy dialogue, outdated costumes and female nudity. This list was hurriedly put together considering that our fallen comrade will soon need mild, easy-going entertainment where focus and thoughtfulness are not paramount. They are true classics in my book. But my book has a lot of beer and Cheetos stains on it.

So for those with one nut, a bottle full of Percocet and a comfy couch get out your Netflix registration and give these a try:

17) THX1138
This is George Lucas’ masterpiece (could there be any other?). The move, starring Robert Duval tells the story of a society gone wrong, run from the top down by computers and robots. It gets extra marks for its originality. My favorite scene is when the robotic policemen malfunction and keep walking into walls while exclaiming something like “Excuse me citizen”.

16) Soylent Green
This movie has everything, unemployment, starvation, poverty and Charlton Hesten. My favorite scene, well, that would give the movie away. It is the scene when they find out what Soylent Green is made of!

15) They Live
What would my top ten list be without an appearance from Rowdy Roddy Piper? “Nothing” I say. That is why this is the first of two submissions from this fine actor. Adapted and directed by John Carpenter, this move finds Piper as a lost, drifter in LA who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see alien invaders disguised among the normal population. The movie really works as a short story and it is one of the few on this list that is fun to watch even without inebriates.

14) Screamers
I love Peter Weller’s acting and it fits right in with this Post-Robocop production about a mining outpost caught in the midst of a galactic war. The title refers to these little, intelligent, robotic mines that are attracted by movement. They are kind of a cross between a metal tennis ball and a chainsaw. Perhaps not the first image I like to conjure for anyone who has recently had testicle surgery.

13) Galaxy of Terror
Remember Joanie from Happy Days? What ever happened to her? Apparently she crash landed on an alien planet infested with woman-raping worms. Get your popcorn ready!

12) Hell Comes to Frogtown
My favorite Rody Piper movie. Piper plays one of the only survivors of an atomic holocaust who actually still has live sperm. Again, there seems to be a theme here. Anyway, everyone is aiming to get Piper’s sperm and hilarity ensues.

11) Robocop
one is just for the Laird because I know he loves the gun movies. Yes he has seen it, but he should see it again, and this time heavily medicated.

10) Death Stalker II
Obviously Conan was a bad Rip off of “Death Stalker”. Skip the really crappy DeathStalker I, II, and IV. I think you will be able to pick up the plot ok.

9) Cherry2000
Man meets woman. Woman is robot. Man breaks woman/robot. Man searches apocalyptic wasteland for new robot/woman. He also meets Melanie Griffith, a bounty hunter with an awesome Ford Mustang.

8) Dark Star
See John Carpenter’s first work with Dan O’Bannon. Then watch Alien Director’s cut with the interview with a grandpa-looking O’bannon. Man he’s getting old!

7) A Boy and His Dog
Don Johnson (Miami Vice) loves his dog, food and women in that order. This is another post-apocalyptic comedy/sci-fi movie with a great cast and several twists.

6) Logan’s Run
In this soon to be remade movie, we find a Utopian society that keeps itself young and vibrant by killing off everyone over 30. This seems fine to “oldie Executioner” Michael York until he reaches the age of 30. Now he must escape for face the "Carousel”….OF Death!

5) Wizards
Some would say this animated submission created by Ralph Bakshi has not aged well. Is say “nay”. It is still a work of art using a “negative painting” technique that died an ugly death. This still has one of the best endings of any film ever made. Revisit it for the first time!

4) Beastmaster
My brother reportedly roomed with the Beastmaster when they were both struggling artists in New York. This mix of Fantasy/Animal Planet ads cute rodents to this sword and sorcery THRILLER. According to one movie trivia site, the black tiger in this movie was died black for the role. You can see his disgruntled affect throughout his scenes.

3) Night of the Comet
One night this comet zooms over the earth turning anyone not sleeping in a metal, lined box into a zombie. This leaves 2 high school bimbos as the stars of the movie. Special extra credit if you can spot “Chakotay” from Star Trek Voyager as the bimbo’s love interest. It also stars Mary Wornov from “Eating Raoul” and “Rock and Roll High school”.

2) The Omega Man
“The Last Man on Earth is Not Alone”. Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) takes an experimental vaccine and is the only survivor of an apocalyptic war waged with biological weapons. This also has a nice guest appearance by the crazy motorcycle gang leader “Matthias” from “Mad Max”.

1) Zardoz
OK, picture Sean Connery. Now picture Sean Connery in an orange speedo thingy preying to an ancient floating skull, spaceship thingy. He goes into the spaceship thingy to kill this priest or something and then gets captured and taken to the scantily clad planet of the keepers of the skull thingy. Then the THC kicks in and I forget the rest of the plot….but it is memorable for its pure weirdness. When this movie came out, they expected it to be a blockbuster, however somehow it flopped. It was directed by John Boorman, just after he hit it big with “Deliverance”. Many will recognize his son, Charlie Boorman from the Long Way Around Series.

I am not sure whether the Laird will like any of the movies on this list, but he'll probably like the list and you can't beat Roddy Piper with a stick.

Feel free to add our own or interject.

So, he's an expert, then

Here is an article on the futility of stimulus packages, from James K. Glassman. Yes, the same James K. Glassman who wrote Dow 36,000: The New Strategy to Profit From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market in 1999, and who predicted the housing crisis would be over by Spring 2008.

The best plan has been to listen carefully to Mr. Glassman and then, after considering all options, do the opposite of what he says.

Bring Back the Phone Booth!

Social cellphone blathering- it harms us all. Yakking like a yak on coke in a cafe, restaurant, or yak stable, irritating the other yaks, plagues our society.

We have a time honored solution: a little wooden room to sit in, sound separated so as not to disturb the other people. It's call the phone booth.

It wasn't uncommon in the early days of the telephone to build a special outbuilding behind the house to make a phone call. Not convenient, but definitely civilized.

We can insulate our conversations from eavesdroppers, eat in peace, make our lives better with proven technology. I call for a full return of the classic full phone booth, particularly for restaurants, theaters, bars, cafes and lobbies.

This means you, stockbroker in the Fremont Tully's.

February 09, 2009


Submitted for your approval...

Industrial vs. Natural:

Literal vs Comical:

(Before you shriek and avert your eyes, that is literally a walnut)

Dalai Lama on Twitter

Big Twitter, the Lama...

February 08, 2009

Our Weird and Wonderful Cousins

Apparently there's a reality TV show in Britain called "Embarrassing Illnesses" that's become a big hit, so big that they have opened an "Embarrassing Illnesses" clinic where people can drop by and get treatment.

This bit caught my attention in about nine different ways. Cheeky, bold, and sensible television. Coming soon, you're probably hoping, the Junior Women's Lacrosse team's group breast self-exams.

February 07, 2009



Someone with Illustrator or some shit might add the text.

February 06, 2009

The Big Casino

One thing our blog has been lacking is a chronicle of someone being treated for cancer. Well, I've got some good news for you: I'm gonna do it!

(Oh, maybe I should have formulated that as "I have some good news and some bad news.")

Well, the bad news is this: I have been diagnosed with testicular cancer. The first stage is diagnostic. I learned this from Wikipedia, yesterday:

The diagnosis is made by performing an orchiectomy

I know, you're probably thinking to yourself, "I better have one of those, too, just to be on the safe side." Well, if you don't have any other symptoms of testicular cancer, you may want to hold off until some develop, or at least get a second opinion.

My orchiectomy is scheduled for Tuesday, after which I'll probably need a week or so to recover. Once they give me a CT scan and examine the teste in question, they'll know if I get to have some radiation and/or chemotherapy. (Luckily, I live in the pro-America part of America where I can easily score the chronic.)

I'm telling you now: I'm gonna beat this thing. (FYI: the survival rate for this cancer is as close to 100%.) When I do, I'm going to start a foundation, "Nut Strong," so that my heroic struggle can inspire millions. THIS IS NECESSARY because I can't think of one famous person who's ever had testicular cancer. People still believe that having testicular cancer means never riding a bicycle again. I WILL PROVE THEM WRONG. When I've licked it, I will ride my bicycle to work and back, FOUR MILES EACH WAY, sometimes THREE days a week (if it's not raining).

Labels: , ,

And now for something completely different

February 05, 2009

Dusk of the Dickies

Doctor X posts this from the Red Devil Lounge:

"God I loved that band...1st Cali punk band signed to a major label...used to open for the Ramones from time to time. They rocked, and they were funny. Who else could get away this? But they went off the tracks and disappeared with all my other favorite bands - the Mumps, the Swinging Madisons (if your kids ask what 1982 was like, show them this), Blotto. They were too fun to live. Punk started out angry and killed anything that wasn't. The Dickies died, and the Dead Kennedys did the deed.

"They sure were good for a while there, though. According to my objective musicological analysis, 'Nights in White Satin' is one of the three greatest rock songs ever committed to vinyl. The Father is 'Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress', smouldering, juvenile, and perfect. The Son is 'Girls Got Rhythm', which Sepp Gruentagg has proven scientifically to rock harder than anything else has ever rocked (specifically, at 2:31, although one of my impudent students argues for 2:22). The Holy Spirit, though, is 'Nights in White Satin' (sorry about the costumes), a totally committed, manic reimagining of a great precursor, discarding all that was false in the original, reaffirming all that was right, and touching it with the magical healing power of ROCK, without changing a note.

"Apart from creating one of the three greatest rock songs in history, the Dickies have one other claim to deep musical significance. Before the Dickies punk bands mostly covered good songs. It wasn't really understood yet that almost any song could be a rock song. After 'Gigantor', it was obvious, and the way was clear for a thousand imitators.

"I have a weakness for uneven acts, and if The Dickies didn't invent uneven, they surely perfected it. No band has better exemplified the aphorism that "there's a fine line between clever and stupid." The Dickies often managed to be clever, stupid, serious, foolish, good, and bad, almost in the same breath ('She's a Hunchback', '83). But they were never dull, and no one walked out of their shows feeling bad.

"The Hollies and AC/DC get their due, still touring, working the crowd like an ATM machine. And the Dickies tour too. Not for money or fame, I wouldn't think, but...and this has always been their secret...for fun. Real rock is fun. Here they are at the Red Devil Lounge a couple weeks ago, practicing their art."

The voice of radical moderate America

I nominate Dave Ross. He is sort of the Johnny Carson of the quick hit liberal commentators - mellifluous, centrist by temperament, wacky but never crazy, indignant but never angry.

His spots are about the same length as an old school Ian Shoales bit (is that a great picture or what? here's what Ian's up to lately) . Shoales mastered the art in his NPR pieces of talking in doubletime and wrapping up early (I'd like to link to one, but he uses Realplayer), but Ross is so measured in his cadences you never really notice the time constraints. And he keeps his cool. He never falls so in love with a joke, or gets so pissed off over an issue, that it interferes with his primary mission of producing a well-crafted bit of radio commentary. The older I get, the more I respect this.

A couple recent favorites:
  • On stimulus packages - "If 2008 never happened, we'd all be rich...as well as a year younger."
  • Obama fears - A liberal commentator who can quote both Obama and Fred Astaire!
  • Fill in the blanks - A succinct call-and-response on Citigroup bailout #2 (or was it #3?)
I think Ross is remarkable in part because he hasn't (yet) drifted into some odd social pose. He makes liberalism seem almost...normal.

Other have not been so lucky. Andy Rooney wears the nutty old man shirt a little too comfortably (he can still bring the heat, though, when he wants to - in his 90s). Jim Hightower and the late Molly Ivins (whom I admired), slipped into a folksiness that no one really believed. Molly, identified as a populist by Wikipedia and herself, developed her special brand of populism at Smith and the Columbia School of Journalism.

No, I think Dave Ross has it right. As Obama has demonstrated, sometimes it pays...to just state the obvious.

Mixed messages, tangled tweets...

Twitter not good.
Steven Fry good.
Steven Fry likes Twitter, uses it to escape being trapped on elevator, counsels other on how to use it.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. I think Osgood could explain this, but I'm having trouble with it.

February 04, 2009

"There is a need for another world somewhere..."

From Rogert Ebert:

"Because we are human, because we are bound by gravity and the limitations of our bodies, because we live in a world where the news is often bad and the prospects disturbing, there is a need for another world somewhere, a world where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers live. Where everyone is a millionaire and hotel suites are the size of ballrooms and everything is creased, combed, brushed, shined, polished, powdered and expensive. Where you seem to find the happiness you seek, when you're out together dancing cheek to cheek. It doesn't even matter if you really find it, as long as you seem to find it, because appearances are everything in this world, and ...

Let the rain pitter patter
But it really doesn't matter
If the skies are gray.
Long as I can be with you,
It's a lovely day.


That guy would be televangelist today

From Pepys' diary, 1666:

"Lord’s day; and my wife and I the first time together at church since the plague, and now only because of Mr. Mills his coming home to preach his first sermon; expecting a great excuse for his leaving the parish before any body went, and now staying till all are come home; but he made but a very poor and short excuse, and a bad sermon..."

Bill Gates is pretty cool

This move is pure genius.

February 03, 2009

Boxer with the smackdown

"After eight long years of Republican rule around here, where we saw the debt go from $5 trillion to $10 trillion and not a word from the other side about fiscal responsibility," Boxer said. "Tax cut after tax cut to the wealthiest few, unlimited checkbook for Iraq. No problem then. We didn't hear speeches about the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, oh no," Boxer said. "When people are losing their homes ... suddenly my friends on the other side come out with their charts. Oh, my goodness, a trillion dollars. Well, we had a presidential election about this."

Guess I'll have to go back to New York

Only been once this decade, but...a pilgrimage must be made.

My favorite moment.

February 02, 2009

Republicans draft competing stimulus plan!

Who said the two party system is dead? Features to include:
  • Free yacht club memberships for laid off Wall Street executives
  • $100 bn grant to Lockheed Martin for development of new "Super Stimulus" brown skin-seeking missile
  • 200-year tax holiday for Halliburton
  • Special entrance visa exemption for attractive male and female massage workers
  • Innovative sales tax on California organic foods to compensate Exxon for expenses incurred in the cleanup of Prince William Sound
  • "Foreclosure restoration feature" refinances every mortgage loan in America on your Visa card with a convenient monthly minimum payment of just $200 (negative amortization may occur)
  • Wasteful SEC abolished
  • Special college grant giving every young American a Smith & Wesson revolver

February 01, 2009

Warner in the dock

(Warning: In order to prepare for this essay, I actually watched part of the Super Bowl.)

It's not every day you get to watch a football game with a man's Hall of Fame candidacy hanging in the balance. I was going to write a note last week confidently predicting that Warner would play well, and the Cardinals would win, and that he must go into the Hall. It didn't occur to me that he might play one of the best games of his career and still lose...

The NFL has updated their Super Bowl site, and there it is, in black and white - the three greatest Super Bowl passing performances in history (total yards passing):
- Kurt Warner, 1999 (414)
- Kurt Warner, 2008 (377)
- Kurt Warner, 2001 (365)
Three trips to the Super Bowl, and on each of those trips Kurt Warner passed for more yards than any other quarterback in Super Bowl history. So, he's got that going for him.

Peter King wasn't sold on his candidacy before this game, and since Warner's team lost, I assume he's still not sold:

I'm one of 44 voters for the Hall of Fame, and I could well be in the vast minority on this. But Warner, at this point, even with the victory over the Eagles, making him the second quarterback in NFL history (Craig Morton, Denver and Dallas) to quarterback different teams in the Super Bowl, is not yet a Hall of Famer to me.

The reason, mostly, is longevity. Three times he has played full seasons in an 11-year career. In two other years he's had 11 starts. It comes down to this: Do five outstanding years make a Hall-of-Fame career?

I don't really buy the longevity argument. I'm more of a Jamesian (as in Bill James' Historical Abstract). Here are some questions I would ask to help decide whether someone should be in the Hall of Fame:
  • Was he one of the best players at his position of his generation?
  • Did he play a leading role on (division/league/Super Bowl) championship teams?
  • Did he demonstrate superior clutch and postseason performance?
  • Did he win MVP awards or other recognition suggesting he was one of the most valuable players in football?
  • Was his performance (as measured using modern statistical methods) outstanding by comparison with other Hall of Famers?
I answer those yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Let's just focus on the last one.

First, I downloaded the passing performances of every Super Bowl quarterback in history. After deleting those with 15 or fewer attempts (garbage time players, or guys who played so bad they got pulled), we are left with 76 performances. Computing IAYPA, Warner's three efforts rank #12 (1999), #18 (2008), and #36 (2001) out of that group. A couple of points right away on that:
  1. It's harder to throw for a high IAYPA when you have a lot of attempts. The more times the ball goes in the air (e.g., when you're playing catch-up), the tougher it is to avoid turnovers (ask Jim Kelly). Warner's three games featured a lot of attempts. Other QBs with a similar number of attempts in their Super Bowls had lower IAYPAs (Kelly, Brady).
  2. All of Warner's efforts are above-average. That's remarkable. Even great players can have bad Super Bowls - Elway 1989, Kelly 1991, and Tarkenton 1974 come to mind. They're playing against great defenses - it's understandable. But Warner hasn't had one of those "understandable" days.
  3. Remember who he's competing with here...we're not comparing him to average quarterbacks - the average we are comparing him to is the average of people like Aikman, Montana, and Namath.
But I decided to go a little deeper and zoom in on a select club - quarterbacks who have had more than 15 attempts in more than one Super Bowl. They are (+ denotes current Hall of Famer...Craig Morton doesn't make the list, due to getting pulled after 15 attempts in the 1977 game.):
  • Montana (4) - 9.4 +
  • Plunkett (2) - 9.4
  • Bradshaw (4) - 8.7 +
  • Aikman (3) - 8.0 +
  • Warner (3) - 7.6
  • Favre (2) - 6.6
  • Brady (4) - 6.1
  • Staubach (4) - 5.4 +
  • Elway (5) - 4.8 +
  • Roethlisberger (2) - 4.5
  • Kelly (3) - 3.6 +
  • Theisman (2) - 3.2
  • Tarkenton (3) - 2.1 +
Do I need to go on here? This guy's been to three Super Bowls and played better than most Hall of Famers. He's been a good teammate, a man of personal integrity, and credit to football. What else does he need to do?

Favre and Brady can wait. Put Kurt Warner in the Hall of Fame.

Google updates "don't be evil" policy. Again.

Google, who's previous don't be evil policy has since been updated to a don't be evil unless there's money involved, has yet again been updated.

"Don't kill Bambi" has been replaced by a "don't get caught killing Bambi" policy.

Oh well. It could be worse. After all, they could have images up on their site that reinforce ugly stereotypes about middle America.