August 30, 2009

What are you using your extra engineers for?

The IBM 701, the company's first scientific computer, introduced in 1952.

Tip of the hat to: The Slide Rule Museum

Rebar For Tootise Rolls: The Blog Redesign So Tough It Requires Leather

Rebar For Tootise Rolls archives, now in a readable format, so snappy and realistic it's like a beatnik using Quickbooks.

Please pause to imagine image. 

Also, please note the new Rebar for Tootsie Rolls facebook page

Coming soon: the world's toughest tweets?

August 29, 2009

I was with you up to the flying turtle

Windows 7, now with extra trippiness.

What Fucking Year is This?

Matt Damon to accept lifetime achievement award. Does this mean it's too late for me to watch Goodwill Hunting?

His greatest performance that I have seen:

August 28, 2009

Going around the country

In Sacramento a few years ago, wandering around between appointments, I come across the brooding figure of Sun Yat Sen.

Steady, unpretentious, dignified, reserved - he looks so unlike other leaders of his era. The sculptor knew his business, and I couldn't help thinking of those lines from Shelley:
...its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings,
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
How apt, I remember thinking, The Republic of China is really just a fiction now, and already his deeds are washed away. China has always said Taiwan is its rightful possession, and now most of Taiwan's allies, however friendly, agree. I put the sad story out of my mind, and went on.

A few years later, I perused a tourist map as I strolled through the Holiday Inn in Penang. There was that name again. At 120 Armenian Street, an unassuming shophouse served as headquarters for the Tung Meng Hui, also known as the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance. From there Sun Yat Sen raised money from the overseas Chinese and helped fund The Second Guangzhou Uprising against the Manchus - another in a series of failed but important mutinies that foreshadowed the Wuchang Uprising, which, in turn, led to the 1911 Xinhai Revolution that toppled the Qing Dynasty.

Unlike most successful revolutionaries, Dr. Sun didn't spent much time around the revolution (he had grown up in Hawaii and Hong Kong, and read of the Wuchang Uprising in a Colorado newspaper). He fought by other means, traveling through the Chinatowns of the world for years, raising money for the anti-Imperial forces and building political support for the Teng Meng Hui (later known as the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party).

The Qing, in their turn, did everything they could to neutralize him. In 1896 Qing operatives kidnapped him in London and tried to smuggle him to China for execution. The plan miscarried only because of the timely intervention of Sir James Cantlie, one of his teachers. (After the 1911 revolution Cantlie wrote the classic Sun Yat Sen and the Awakening of China. )

As I scanned a tourist map in Vancouver last year, I couldn't help but notice the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden, which, upon inspection, proved to be the highlight of our trip. Constructed in the classical Chinese style, the garden harmoniously combines rock, water, plants, and architecture. It is a beautifully-conceived island of classical Chinese sensibility, utterly disconnected from its point of origin.

A shame Dr. Sun never got to see it. He had been to Vancouver before it was built, of course. On three separate journeys he passed through, staying at the Chinese Freemasons' Lodge at Pender and Carrall.

The garden and its surrounding facility well represent the deep synthesis Dr. Sun sought to achieve. At the turn of the century there was no question among Chinese intellectuals that China and its institutions had to change. The country's extraordinarily complex and deeply-rooted socioeconomic system was unfortunately utterly unsuited to modern technologies or the destructive forces of colonial capitalism. Those who aspired to govern after the 1911 revolution faced the challenge of destroying enough to allow the transition to a modern society, without destroying so much that the people and nation forgot their identities altogether.

Dr. Sun was under no illusions about this - not only would institutions have to be re-invented. So, too, would the people. They must become more modern in their attitudes - they must discard ancient customs that once had served them well, but now made them the servants of others. This insight uniquely connected him to his ambivalent allies, the Communists.

In the summer of 1923 Dr. Sun traveled to Canton and met with them. "There must be a great revolutionary union," said the ever-persuasive Mao - "one cannot fight alone." And, by now, both Sun and Mao knew who they were fighting. In the words of biographer Ross Terrill:
[Mao] had long thought that the struggle for a new China was an anti-imperialist struggle. The Nationalists in 1923 were anti-imperialist. Indeed, the issue was the logical - maybe the sole - common denominator among the emerging triangle of Sun-Moscow-CCP. Mao was in favor of the broadest possible array of Chinese strata against the foreign mauling of China.
Dr. Sun surely agreed, but he ran out of time. In 1925, as he tried once again to organize peace talks to unify the country under one national government, he died of liver cancer at the Rockefeller Hospital in Beijing.

He is, of course, revered in Taiwan. He is held in equally high regard by the People's Republic of China. In June of this year, when Kuomintang Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung visited China, he visited Dr. Sun's masoleum in Nanjing, on the 80th anniversary of the great man's formal interment.

They say history is written by the victors, but Sun Yat Sen's triumph over the Qing was lost in the magnitude of the disasters of the century that followed. His strengths - educated intelligence, sophistication, and diplomatic ability - were not enough to carry the day in post-1911 China. It was an environment that perhaps inspired Mao's observation about political power and gun barrels. He had won the initial battle and stated the remaining problems, but was unable to complete the victory. If anything, his alliance with the Communists had brought yet another foreign power - Russia - into the equation.

So far as I can tell he did not attach a spiritual dimension to the struggle (although he is one of three saints in the Vietnamese Cao Dai religion)...but what can we make of the curse under which he lived? His greatest triumphs came when he was far from his homeland - his greatest disappointments when he was within its borders. He was fated to spend most of his life en route, moving from one village of exiles to another - to be regarded as the father of a country in which, while living, he never could take his rightful place.

I seem to meet him everywhere I go, and often think of his beautiful garden in Vancouver.
Only to wanderers can come
Ever new the shock of beauty,
Of white cloud and red cloud dawning from the sea,
Of spring in the wild-plum and river-willow....
I watch a yellow oriole dart in the warm air,
And a green water- plant reflected by the sun.
Suddenly an old song fills
My heart with home, my eyes with tears.

- Du Shenyan

Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Nanjing

800px-Sun_Yat-sen_Mausoleum.jpg picture by DoctorX

August 27, 2009

FSL - suggest you join this contest

Fark link here. My favorite here.

Does it run Windows Mobile?

Don't know, but lady and gentlemen, your cell phone has arrived.

The commissioner is pleased

Lotta action in the Eisengeiste FF league -- just a week in, and already 17 moves. Visanthe Shiancoe, Ted Ginn Jr, Dallas defense, Chad Ocho Cinco, Knowshon Moreno, Glen Coffee, and Tim Hightower have all been involved in multiple moves. The competition this year has already stepped up a couple of notches.

August 26, 2009

Letter to Sen Murkowski Prompted by the Death of Sen. Kennedy

Dear Senator Murkowski,

The passing of Senator Kennedy prompts me to write. But the only proper way to mourn him is to honor him with action that helps living Americans.

I once had the privilege of meeting Republican Govs. Jay Hammond and Walter Hickel. These were the representatives of a Republican party I once thought I understood, and could trust to at hold the genuine interests of Alaskans in mind.

I was born in Anchorage in 1964, my mother having been in Turnagain during the earthquake, pregnant with me. Alaska is close to my heart.

At that time, both my parents had good access to medical care, in a small state with little wealth. An artist, I have only intermittently had what has become, in the wake of an idolatry of profiteering over human life, the easily lost privilege of health coverage.

I have been teaching at the college level for nine years, and had insurance for four of those. And in the modern teaching environment, the positions are rarely committed longer that one year, often only a quarter. I have four teaching jobs now, none of which offer health insurance. That I have it now is not particularly dependent on how hard I work or how cleverly. Essentially self-employed, like most artists, it is dumb luck that I have it now.

Recently, I was not able to get a woman I knew well and cared for, who had been knocked off her bike by a car half an hour before, into see a doctor, because she lacked insurance. She called me crying and desperate. We were three blocks away from the massive UW Medical Center, unable to see anyone. At the risk of his job, a worker there gave her a number for a semi-legal medical consultation. It was absurd, wasteful, stupid, maddening, cruel. It is a situation that I will lay at the medical insurance industry, the ultimate example of privatization of benefit for the socialization of cost.

There was a way to game the system to get her into an emergency room, as it turned out later. I have a graduate degree- nothing about this was obvious in the course of the stress of immediate need. She was turned away by phone from three hospitals, knowing, as they did, she would be an expense.

An expense. No doubt. I am very sure a bruised and bleeding woman is an expense.

I am looking for good sense, human decency and honest debate coming from the present Republican party. I am looking for a commitment to the best interests of the people at large. I am looking to a Republican party that was modeled by the Republicans I knew as a young man in Alaska.

I look in vain. The people ruling your party seem intent on destroying the President, and they appear delighted with the thrilling prospect of new era of generations of middle class servitude, dependent on their increasingly unstable jobs for their health, which can mean their lives, and and the lives of their children. Fear grips most Americans now over losing their jobs, which can now, as you well know, become a dire sentence. This fear preys on many of us.

Let me remind you of what American's core ideals were when fighting for in WWII, ideals broadcast to a dying world:

Freedom of Speech and Thought. Freedom of Worship. Freedom from Want. Freedom From Fear.

The desire for basic access to health care is American at its core.

And you are also well aware that our system spends a titanic and unusual proportion of our nation's economy on a system where unaccountable insurance bureaucrats make life and death decisions. Every physician I know detests this system.

But against reform it is money, it is money, it is money, and it is money. The purpose of the United States Senate is not to protect wealth and privilege with indifference to human life except inasmuch as life can produce money. It is to protect and extend the core ideals of the nation, to promote the General Welfare.

It is not a minor point that threats of violence against the President have quadrupled since the election. Many in your party, seeking a political advantage at any cost to good policy and to the vitality of the United States, have indulged again and again a despicable hatred, an essential break with reason.

Here is where your staff will likely stop reading: I am a life-long Democrat. I live in Seattle. My 30 years in Alaska, the quality of the light burned into my memory, the smell of soil and sea, and my profound love of my country and my friends in Alaska and across the country, are I am quite sure of absolutely no interest to many in present Republican party, and are more like subjects for evidence for my soft heart. Peace be upon these fools.

Every time I return to Alaska, I see the growing social divide of new extremes of rich and poor that breaks my soft heart, that spits in the face and experience and ethos of the frontier, which was not mere rugged individualism, but an understanding that our very lives depend on our looking out for each other.

The old Alaska Republicans understood this. Today's selfish, Ayn Rand cultists seem to see it as weakness deserving of exploitation.

My knowledge and my values, old Alaskan values deeply in my soul, drive my endlessly renewed rage at the utterly avoidable injustice and misery caused by this system of medical insurance profiteering.

I dare your party to show us something else, some glimmer of the honor of a Republican party where I once counted many friends. But I do not expect it. What I expect to see is yet another bucket of poison dumped into the well.

I hope to hell I am wrong. In honor of Senator Kennedy, I hope to hell that you prove me wrong.

August 25, 2009

Kerry Ascendant

Welcome back to TMQ, and we hope your editor gets out of prison soon. From today's piece:
You probably think of Titans quarterback Kerry Collins as someone whose foul-ups in his personal life early in his career prevented him from ever achieving his promise. Dig this: If Collins throws for 3,159 yards this season -- he threw for 2,676 a season ago -- he would pass Joe Montana on the all-time passing list.
Actually, Collins has already passed Montana - he has 5,669 career attempts vs. 5,391 for Joe Cool. So, more attempts, fewer yards, and he has 179 interceptions to Montana's 139. His career passer rating is 73.8 vs. Montana's 92.3, and his IAYPA is 5.0 vs. Montana's 6.2.

Well, you might say, Collins has gotten his act together. Surely, if he played mistake-free ball, he'd close in on Montana. Yes, he would...

Collins averages about 6.6 yards per attempt. If he never threw an interception again, he would pull even with Montana on IAYPA after...let's see, carry the six, multiply by 50, SQRT key, integrate...yes, he would need 15,331 more attempts (give or take). So if he plays mistake-free ball, he should pull even with Montana sometime in 2045.

Collins, as has been noted, has come back from a bad place, made himself right, and deserves respect. Maybe this sums up his career: two Pro Bowl appearances, 12 years apart (1996 and 2008). We wish him well in 2009.

And thanks to TMQ for this map of the nearby cosmos.

August 24, 2009

Shop this

Interesting online exhibit of photo tampering through history is here, with plenty of American examples.

One fellow, upon being removed from a photo with Castro, wrote:
I discover my photographic death.
Do I exist?
I am a little black,
I am a little white,
I am a little shit,
On Fidel's vest.

August 23, 2009

This year's 7th-round wonder

Last year, Seahawks fans were pulling for seventh-round pick, RB Justin Forsett, to make the team. (He did, but was not a big contributor in the crowded Seattle backfield last year.) This year, the Seahawks picked Oregon DE Nick Reed with a supplemental pick at the end of the seventh round, just ten picks away from being a free agent.

Reed is 6'2", listed at 245 pounds. That's more linebacker size than defensive end. The Seahawks already have five veteran defensive ends (the smallest is Darryl Tapp, at 6'1", 270 lbs). How is he going to make the team? "I can sum it all up in just one word: courage, dedication, daring, pride, pluck, spirit, grit, mettle, and G-U-T-S, guts!."

His first preseason game, he had a sack and in interception. Tonight, he had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and tipped a punt. This kid can flat-out play football.


August 22, 2009

I'd Interdict It

Was that wrong? Should we not have done that?

Just Do It

A friend alerted me to this fine Nike product placement.

One Sentence Movie Review: Inglorious Basterds

Apparently, I wrote this movie.

August 21, 2009

One sentence movie review

Tokyo Raiders is surprisingly deft and funny.

August 20, 2009

The die is cast!

And now, some snark on the Eisengeiste League FF draft:

Monkeyaires: had you left well enough alone, you'd have Purple Jesus (Adrian Peterson) and two of the best wide receivers. As it is, I predict you will be scraping for running backs after the first four games.

Manchester 12Packers: pretty good draft, except for getting stuck with Brandon Marshall (4 game suspension, demanding to be traded, QB is Kyle Orton) in the fifth round.

The Acerbic Welsh: did you want Drew Brees, much? FYI: make sure to swap out your suspended/injured starters (Lynch/Avery). Nice Brees insurance with Cutler.

Revenge on Ice: really good draft. I like Michael "The Burner" Turner and Steve "Slaytan" Slaton in the first two rounds. QB survivability/backup (Warner/Roethlisberger) is the only question mark here. (Favre & Vick both available!)

Better than sects: good draft, Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, and Lance Moore may well turn out to be late-round steals (Kyle Orton -- not so much).

Terrifying Metaphors: I fear you may have been victim of what Jack Aubery would call "enthusiasm." As a Seahawks fan: I hope this works out for you!

Desmo Burnouts: your first five picks frightened me (in the most complimentary way). The rest of it didn't look as promising, but may not matter (until later in the season -- I hope :)

Cleveland Steamers: you swiped the PT Bruiser from under me! Good luck with Westbrook (I have him in my other league, and I'm already losing sleep).

Rootie Tooters: one can't have everything, but I was hoping for a better QB than Matt Schaub. (Favre & Vick both available!)

Wreckreators: not bad, just a bit over-the-hill-gang feel to the roster (LT, McNabb, Steven Jackson). On a good day, they'll be unstoppable...

Best thing The Onion's done in years

Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care (here)

August 19, 2009

Awesome Spitfire wallpaper


A Walk in the Country

In 629 a Chinese Buddhist monk named Xuanzan (pr. Shwan-dzang) decided to go to India. An avid student of the scriptures, he became convinced that the Chinese texts were corrupted or incomplete, and determined that he would go back to the source of Buddhism, educate himself, and do what he could to sort things out.

A worthy intention, but he faced significant challenges. As an example, the Emperor had banned monks from leaving the country. Also, the roads were bad and filled with bandits, he had no travel experience outside China, and no monk in living memory had made the journey (Fa Xian had accomplished the feat a couple hundred years before).

All things considered, it went pretty well. A brief itinerary:
  • 629 - Evades border guards and gets across Gobi desert on foot after guides abandon him. King of Turfan welcomes him, doesn't want him to leave. Hunger strike convinces King to let him go on.
  • 630 - Evades bandits and passes through Yanqi and Kucha on his way to Kyrgyzstan. Continues on to Tashkent and Samarkand, already the cosmopolitan central hubs of the Silk Road. Passes through the Iron Gate, and goes on to Balkh (now part of Afghanistan), site of the Nava Viahara, in Xuanzang's estimation the westernmost Buddhist temple in the world.
  • 631-633 - Arrives in Kashmir, and accepts the hospitality of Buddhism-enthusiast King Kanishka. Engages leading Buddhist thinkers in discussion of key issues, participates and makes careful notes on the Fourth Buddhist Council. By the time he leaves he is a skilled debater, able to take either side of the Mahayana/Theravada argument.
  • 634-644 - Enters India, makes pilgrimages to the key holy places of Buddhism. In 636 he is kidnapped by pirates who intend to make him a human sacrifice, but a huge storm blows up and they rapidly convert to his views. Engaging in discussion and debate with leading Buddhists across India, he becomes one of the leading religious thinkers of the age.
  • 645 - Evades more bandits and returns to China with 657 Sanskrit manuscripts for translation, is met by cheering crowds and honored by the Emperor.

Xuanzang's journey was a major success in another way. He was a very accurate chronicler of his travels, making his journal an important research tool for historians. If you are interested in, say, Bengali politics of the 7th century, Xuanzang's is your only eyewitness account. And the man knew how to give a report:
Taxila was above 2000 li in circuit, the capital being above 10 li in circuit. The chiefs were in a state of open feud, the royal family being extinguished; the country had formerly been subject to Kapisa but now it was dependency of Kashmir; it had a fertile soil and bore good crops, with flowing streams and luxuriant vegetation; the climate was genial; and the people, who were plucky, were adherents of Buddhism. Although the monasteries were numerous, many of them were desolate, and the Brethren, who were very few, were all Mahayanists.
Apparently the British were using his distance estimates in Afghanistan well into the 19th century, because they were better than anything else they had. Pretty good, considering he made those estimates in the time of King Arthur. This article describes how modern archaeologists have made use of his account to make new discoveries.

Clearly an immensely capable man, and according to all reports he epitomized the Buddhist ideal of excellence and humility. His spiritual insights, however, are not what a modern 'romantic' Buddhist might expect. He prayed directly to a God, particularly in times of stress - in a way that would be more familiar to a Christian monk than to a ZCLA member. As a good Confucian, he believed in duty and a well-ordered society, concepts likewise less-emphasized in later Buddhist practice. When his hosts disparaged China and asked him to stay in India, he replied:
The King of the Law in establishing the principles of his doctrine, designed them for universal diffusion. Moreover, China is a highly civilized country where the people have a high standard of behavior, the Emperor is sagacious, and his ministers are loyal, and the father is kind to his son, while the son is filial to his father. Kindness and righteousness are esteemed and the aged and wise are respected.
After his return he wielded tremendous influence. He spent the rest of his life translating and interpreting texts, and founded the important but short-lived Fa-Hsiang school. The great flaw in the school, from a popularity standpoint, was that in his travels and debates, Xuanzang had concluded that (in the words of historian Sally Wriggins) "not everyone had the Buddha nature ... not everyone could attain salvation." This made it tough to recruit when Pure Land disciples were saying everyone could be saved, and you didn't even have to go to the monastery to do it.

But Xuanzang made Chinese Buddhism better. The personal achievement of his journey, the example of his high character, his scholarly work, and his good relationship with the Emperor, all helped strengthen and stabilize Buddhist institutions in China. Just as he intended, when he set out in darkness that night in 629.

A good brief account of Xuanzang's journey can be found in When Asia Was the World. For a book-length treatment I recommend very highly Sally Wriggins' The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang.

How Can I Argue With That Logic?

Netflix recommends The Battle of Algiers "because you enjoyed:
- Casablanca
- The Graduate
- Psycho "

Fuckwit Bowl Averted

Terrell Owens injured, so will not be available for Buffalo's big game with the Minnesota Favre-ee-Favres.

In other news, the Seahawks are obviously victims of a Biblical curse, probably because they didn't sign Michael "Highest Rushing Average in NFL History" Vick when they had the chance.

Dark forces are in play, I tell you. Dark forces.

August 17, 2009

Let's settle this once and for all

The Wikipedia coverage of the Shakespeare authorship problem is breath-taking. Here are the key articles:
  • Main article - "Researchers cite 'Shakespeare's sonnets', which appeared with 'our ever-living Poet' on the title page, words typically used eulogizing someone who has died, yet become immortal." [In fact, the non-Stratfordians claim this would be the only documented historical instance in which the phrase 'ever-living' used to refer to someone who was still alive.]
  • Shakespeare's Life
  • Oxfordian theory -Favorite bit: "Mark Twain, commenting on the subject, said, 'Many poets die poor, but this is the only one in history that has died THIS poor; the others all left literary remains behind. Also a book. Maybe two.' "
  • Baconian theory - Favorite bit: "Questioning Bacon's ability as a poet, Sidney Lee asserted: '[...] such authentic examples of Bacon's efforts to write verse as survive prove beyond all possibility of contradiction that, great as he was as a prose writer and a philosopher, he was incapable of penning any of the poetry assigned to Shakespeare.' "
  • Marlovian theory - Favorite bit: "At least two Marlovians—William Honey and Roberta Ballantine—have taken the famous four-line "curse" on Shakespeare's grave to be an anagram. Unfortunately, the fact that they came up with different messages demonstrates the weakness of this approach."
The authorship debate has been well underway, according to the main article, since the early 1700s, which is long enough. I shall now settle this.
  1. Shakespeare, whomever he was, started out a commoner. A commoner may become educated, become a famous playwright, and may even rise to eminence at court. Ben Jonson actually did it. But for a nobleman to go the other way 'round - start with a university education then go out into the workaday world and learn the details of a multitude of common lives and trades without being observed - that's a very tough sell.
  2. Shakespeare, whomever he was, was an extremely skilled stylist and brilliant rhetorician. Synecdoche, anacoluthon, pleonasm - he knew all the tricks, and featured them prominently in his work. In all of human history, probably the best place for an English speaker to acquire those skills was...Elizabethan grammar school, like the King's New School in Stratford. Every upper middle-class kid in the country went to those grammar schools, and one of them happened to be a monstrous genius who utterly mastered the material. He probably had help - this article notes that "all the headmasters while Shakespeare was growing up were university graduates with good reputations; one of them, John Brownsword, was sufficiently well-known as a Latin poet to be mentioned by Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia thirty years later --- on the same page as Shakespeare."
  3. Shakespeare, whomever he was, got around and talked to a lot of people. There is no doubt he was an actor, because Ben Jonson was putting him in plays. Twain objects that he must have been a lawyer, overlooking that Shakespeare was hanging with lawyers at the Inns of Court almost from Day 1. The only evidence we have that Twelfth Night was performed at all comes from the diary of a law student who saw it there (the play makes a lot more sense once you know that). One reason there's a lot of Baconian thought in the plays is that Bacon was a very influential thinker in those days. One reason Southampton's biography is all over the plays is that he was Shakespeare's patron. One reason there's a lot about Italy in the plays is that he talked to a lot of people (e.g., Southampton) who'd been to Italy. Maybe he even went himself.
  4. Shakespeare, whomever he was, made up a lot of cool words, about 1,500 by this author's count. Actually, he was probably just the first to write a lot of them down. Unencumbered by a university education, he had no problem recording slang or slapping together a compound word he liked. None of the proposed alternate authors had a reputation as a neologist, probably because they were well-educated and knew better.
  5. Shakespeare, whomever he was, wasn't buying what the Establishment was selling. Jonson (notoriously) tried to write to classical forms and improve his audience. Francis Bacon, had he written a play, could not have resisted mentioning his contempt for Cardano, Paracelsus, Agrippa, and other assorted philosophical ne'er-do-wells. Southampton might have been a skeptic (who knows?) - but some of the deepest, most skeptical plays, e.g., Lear (1606) were performed years after he was in the ground.
  6. Shakespeare, whomever he was, was working with the actors and developing the plays from performance experience. Macbeth, for example, appears to have been written or modified for an indoor performance at Blackfriars. These plays weren't written by a philospher, they were written by someone who was planning to have them performed, and was thinking like a professional dramatist about the space, and the strengths and limitations of his players.
There is one odd mystery in connection with this. During Shakespeare's lifetime, an ordinary actor no one had ever heard of became a partner in a theater company and gained significant wealth, even though he didn't have much of a reputation as an actor. How could an ordinary actor make enough money to get himself a coat of arms, retire, and buy the biggest house in his home town?

By writing awesome, commercially successful plays, perhaps?

August 16, 2009

Time to update your retro

The early 60s are back in, and SF Gate is on the case.

Down With Love wasn't good, but if you ignore the dialogue (try it in another language) it also offers a nice visual re-imagination of that world.

A Little More Competence From Hong Kong

What with business commitments, family obligations, academic work, and multiple personality disorder, I don't have much time to watch movies anymore. Shocking, I know. But last night I made time for Edmond Pang's 2006 melodrama, Isabella. I'm glad I did.

It's just a little set-piece with Chapman To (usually a comic player) as the rogue cop wasting away his life gambling and picking up girls. Isabella Leong plays the ingenue who knows him better than he knows himself.

I'd never heard of Leong before, but she's a good actress, and, part-Portugese and part-Chinese, very pretty. Sorry guys, she's taken. Wikipedia: "In 2009 she gave birth to a son with Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li, son of billionaire Li Ka-Shing. For this, Leong was rewarded two mansions in San Francisco and HK$50 million in cash, totaling more than HK$200 million. The Li family has also provided her with an entourage of care-givers, including five bodyguards, four full-time nannies and a personal attendant assigned to her."

Pang is still young (compared to us, anyway), and prior to this he had mainly done comedies such as the fine Men Suddenly in Black. This film has some comic touches (e.g., Anthony Wong in some light cameo work), but showed he could do the other stuff, too.

My wife says to mention Isabella is slow. That's true, so if you're in a hurry don't watch it. But if you've got a minute, it is beautiful everywhere you look:
  • Great cinematography featuring Macau landscapes.
  • A nicely done apartment set - one of the best-looking shabby apartments you'll ever see.
  • An excellent soundtrack.
So, yeah, it's a small film, and it's slow. It's a melodrama with a puppy, so this is not going to be the Laird's film. But it is beautiful and worth watching.

The trailer is here.
LoveHKFilm review is here.

August 15, 2009

Night Music

Les Paul at Iridium, 2006...

August 14, 2009

Memo to the Democratic Party

Um, this is addressed to those Democrats who are not Barack Obama.

Hey, remember, the Party platform? The document you all signed up for at the Convention? Yeah, I know, politically meaningless. Water over the dam. In the rearview mirror. That was then, this is now. New realities, and all that. Politics is difficult, don't you know.

Well, fuck that noise. Let's take a look anyway.

Let's see now, page i, section I, under the heading of Renewing the American Dream. Bullet point number one:
  • Affordable, Quality Health Care Coverage for All Americans
Oh, things have changed? No longer your top priority?

Maybe you're thinking it's a little warm in the kitchen. Gotta think about survival, after all. We can give it a lick and a promise, and hang the President out to dry, and this will blow over, and then we'll get back to regular business.

Won't that be nice.

You fuckwits. It didn't work in '94, and it won't work now. You cannot make health care a centerpiece of the campaign and then cave to a bunch of nutballs funded by the insurance industry the minute the debate starts. The impression might get around that you really don't want to reform healthcare.

The same way you say you want better education (same page, seven bullets down - "A World Class Education for Every Child"), but don't really do much about it. Oh you do? Where's the education bill? Even Bush got No Child Left Behind done. At the time I got the sense you didn't like it much. So when are you going to fix it?

You control the government. You're either behind this platform or not. The President can't do it alone, nor should he. If Democrats can't do healthcare and education reform when they control the Presidency and both houses of Congress - a failure identical to 1993-94 - they have no right to remain in power. How fast can this go against you? This fast.

It's down to this: deliver the reform you promised, or give up your seat to the next Newt Gingrich.

Your call.

Boeing's Franken-sourcing Fiasco

Boeing is forced to stop construction of the 787. The company shed thousands of Seattle-area jobs for an essentially ideological faith in outsourcing, which resulted in parts (like wings) that didn't fit, years of delays, and loss of orders. Had they listened to the unions, had they stood by their spirit of the tax agreement they had with Washington State, this Franken-sourcing fiasco might have been avoided.

Health Care Rationing: How it Works

Here's a handy summary of our current system of health care rationing: "I get all the medical services I feel like, you get to die young and pretty, and the country club gets a new fairway."

August 13, 2009

Pirates and Plywood: Mysteries are Better With Ships

A lumber carrier hijacked by pirates one week, is recovered by the crew, and disappears the next week, yet to be found. The line in the story that catches my attention: "Russia has drafted in all its vessels in the Atlantic to help with the search."

Also, check out this nifty Lloyd's of London news summary timeline of piracy stories.

August 11, 2009

Bourdain gets it

San Francisco, underneath a gossamer thin veneer of granola is in fact, a two-fisted drinking town, a place of oversized martinis, silver zeppelins overloaded with bleeding slabs of meat, restaurants you could call "institutions" that defiantly refuse to suck, and in an ever tidier, cleaner, Disneyfied world--where even New York's Times Square looks like a theme park, still, a delightfully nasty, dirty, beautiful, carnivorous, vice-filled town.

August 10, 2009

Thank you, Mrs. Palin!

A few days ago, I was wracking my brain to come up with a new fantasy football team name. Though the Earmarky Marks represents a proud tradition, I needed to find something new and topical, that expresses the spirit in which I will compete in the upcoming season: Death Panel.

Just to be clear, unlike Palin's nuanced and subtle elucidation, my team will literally be a Death Panel.

August 08, 2009

Fair and balanced (almost)

With 31 Republicans (including John McCain) voting their consciences, Ms. Sotomayor has been confirmed and sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court. Credit to the nine Republicans who voted for an obviously qualified candidate.

I can't say I mind. The court now looks like this (name, age, tilt):
  • John Roberts, 54, Right
  • Samuel Alito, 59, Right
  • Clarence Thomas, 61, Right
  • Antonin Scalia, 73, Right
  • Anthony Kennedy, 73, Center-ish (Right)
  • Stephen Breyer, 70, Center-ish (Left)
  • Sonia Sotomayor, 55, Left
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, Left
  • John Paul Stevens, 89, Left
Despite the appointment of Sotomayor, this is still a very conservative court in relation to the electorate, Congress, and the President. Moreover, the conservatives are younger, on average, than the liberals. They also seem disinclined to retire, while the liberal wing will likely need to be re-staffed in the next few years.

Sotomayor will be:

A useful "tell"

In a world of authoritarian regimes, it can be difficult to tell whether one is simply dealing with a pragmatic dictator doing the best he can in the service of a nation that is (for whatever reason) not suited to representative government, or a genuine monster.

In the former category, I suppose, one might mention Lee Kuan Yew, of Singapore. My father in law has sent a copy of his autobiography, The Singapore Story. On the back there are blurbs from western pragmatists such as George Bush ("one of the brightest, ablest men I have ever met"), Margaret Thatcher ("he was never wrong"), Henry Kissinger ("one of the seminal figures of Asia"), and Jacques Chirac ("[he] has gathered around himself the most brilliant minds"). Singapore was and is, no doubt, a very authoritarian place, but it is gradually, bit by bit, shaking off the damnation of Gibson - Disneyland with the death penalty. To many observers it looks like a dictatorship that is working - whether you accept it or not depends on whether you put more emphasis on the word "dictatorship" or on the word "working". It's a slippery slope, of course, as Henry Ford learned long ago.

In the latter category, well you have your run of the mill martinets and legacies. But for me the clearest indication that you are dealing with a potentially genocidal monster is...the show trial. Stalin, of course, was the Louis Armstrong of show trials, showing how much could be accomplished with this deceptively simple presentational format (here is a 10-minute briefing that is hard to watch).

Before the invasion of Kuwait, Bush, Thatcher, and many others thought Saddam Hussein was the "good kind" of dictator, having been an important force for modernization and improvement of Iraq before assuming total power. The tipoff was the hideous parliament confession (video here, although I won't watch it again), in which a party rival was forced to confess to a conspiracy and name his co-conspirators, who were led away, one-by-one. Saddam clearly relished the experience, and any sane person witnessing this would recognize that this guy was on the wrong side of the authoritarian technorat/genocidal monster line. There's pragmatism, and then there's sadism.

So I take the latest events in Iran as an important sign. Bush didn't care for Iran, for reasons of his own, but whatever the logic process, I can't fault his conclusion. These are bad people, they can't be trusted, and they mean to harm those who do not kowtow to them.

I don't know what to do about them, but now I know what they are.

August 07, 2009

Personally, I'm against a "Death Panel"

Palin: Obama's "Death Panel" Could Kill My Down Syndrome Baby

But I'm warming up to the idea of a Shut-the-Fuck-Up Panel.

Ancient Irish Law

I'm impressed with the Brehon laws, the very ancient Irish legal system: equal treatment, education, care of elders and infirmed, establishment of hospitals, for the ranking of poets. Women were only exempted from military service long in the 600s, were equal in property matters, and could divorce (a right regained in Ireland only recently). And there was no sentence of death.

What we know of the original laws was a largely a three-year effort under St. Patrick to codify and christianize them.

The bulk of these laws seem to date to the druidical era - and there was of course serfdom, superstition and other general weirdness. A favorite was the rule of fasting. To collect a debt, you could go to the house of the defendent, and refuse to eat. The defendant was obliged to do the same on pain of social exclusion - the incentive to settle is obvious. But the thrust of many of these laws is culturally egalitarian, and it is striking to see ideas so ancient assertable in the U.S. today.

It's notable, even relevant, that the Brehon laws were used in some form until the 17th century in Ireland, Scotland and Wales- notable in that our system of law is based on English law going back to the Danelaw. While English law prescribed death as punishments, Irish law issued fines. It begs the question: does a civil society really require severe punishment to function? The Brehon laws seem to understand that a just, socially gracious and merciful legal system build a more civil society.

From this article:

"While the Brehon administered the law, the aggregate wisdom of nine leading representatives was necessary to originate a law or to abolish it. The nine needed for the making of a law were the chief, poet, historian, landowner, bishop, professor of literature, professor of law, a noble, and a lay vicar."

How primitive.

August 06, 2009

Another great interactive graphic

The New York Times (online) needs to be given some sort of award for this bit of genius:

Interactive graphic on how Americans spend their time.

Odd there weren't categories for "arguing on the internet", "obsessively refreshing Facebook" or "worrying about robots."


Finally, a fitting tribute to a superstar.

I Didn't See You At the Pencil Shop, Chuckles

The Stabilio 8008 GRAPHITE, water-soluable art pencil, if not for your own sake, how can you deny the children?

August 05, 2009

Fantasy Football Time!

I've sent invites to the team managers from last year, but we've got plenty of room for any Eisengeisters who want to join. If interested, please send me email:

vmarsch att yahoo dott com

Surviving the encounter (?)

To these unequal battles between the noble, artistic, under-resourced loner and the monstrous, immense, amoral Other, we may now add:
  • Anthony Bourdain vs. Sandra Lee
Bourdain, still among the living (just barely), describes his encounter here. One of many choice bits:
Sandra is talking. I know this cause her lips are moving and she's saying--overtly anyway, nice things. Like "You're a very naughty man," and she's chatting amiably with my wife. But one hand is picking over me like the meat buyer at Peter Luger selecting a rib section--like some demonic bird of prey is poking and prodding, deciding where the weakest, most tender point of entry is...

And then they turned on each other

"In a fusillade of pique, Ohio Sen. George Voinovich (R) charged that Southerners are what's wrong with the Republican Party...

"The curious Republican campaign of 2008 may have galvanized a conservative Southern base -- including many who were mostly concerned with the direction Democrats would take the country -- but it also repelled others who simply bolted and ran the other way. Whatever legitimate concerns the GOP may historically have represented were suddenly overshadowed by a sense of a resurgent Old South and all the attendant pathologies of festering hate and fear."

Clearing up an apparent misunderstanding

Someone seems to have gotten the impression that this is a liberal blog, and yes, I suppose it is liberal, if by liberal you mean in the sense of liberty with human values, opposed to all forms of dictatorship, be they fascist, communist, or religionist. We do favor job training for the unemployed, medical care for sick people, and a society in which basic civil rights are respected. But we are implacably opposed to dictatorship in all its forms.

"Opposed" is an odd word, isn't it? Republicans are "opposed" to abortion, yet do very little to address the underlying causes of unwanted pregnancies. Democrats are "opposed" to union busting and NAFTA, and yet the other side always finds just enough votes, don't they?

I don't mean that kind of "opposed".

And I don't mean bake-sale, nonviolent civil disobedience, Jimmy Carter hugging-type opposed, either.

I mean the kind of opposed where you keep a secret cache of weapons in the mountains and retreat there when the Russians come, and then one night after things have settled down a bit you sneak onto their base, mortar their command post, hit their ammo dump with a flamethrower, and then open fire randomly on them as they run in all directions:

Standard Alaskan Boy Daydream ca. 1973

All fantasy, of course, although I would be happy to compare my own military record with that of, say, Richard Cheney.

You might ask why a child would have such thoughts - and, importantly for understanding several of this blog's contributors, why would a whole bunch of children have such thoughts?

Well, because the threat appeared real in those days, and it was right there. Alaska was in the thick of the Cold War and armed to the teeth. The National Guard eskimo units were locked and loaded. The Russian Air Force was playing tag with the guys at Elmendorf and Eielson (at Eielson they miss this so much they still do it on their own). The Russians were shooting down airliners just to show how tough they were.

(Memo to the Russians: before attacking Alaska, note that there are roughly 23,000 active duty military in the State, along with 7,000 National Guard and 74,000 military veterans. That's roughly 100,000 effectives in a pinch, before the kids with Winchesters show up. As a point of comparison, the entire British Army is 150,000.)

Like all children, we were ready to do our part. I often remind my sons that in my day (and I'm sure the Laird and the Viceroy will back me up on this) children routinely memorized Washington's 1776 General Orders:
The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them.

The fate of unborn Millions will now depend,
under God, on the Courage and Conduct of this army -- Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; this is all we can expect -- We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die: Our own Country's Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world.

Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions -- The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for LIBERTY on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.

Red Dawn covered the Russian invasion fantasy world pretty well, I thought. Even though consensus says the threat has passed , you can still get the t-shirt. That's probably safer than the flamethrower, anyway...

Eisengeiste: soft on people, tough on dictatorship.

Prospective commenters, note this well.

August 04, 2009


For drawing excitement, RUN, don't walk, to find the Stabilo All 8008, a silky smooth, all surface (paper, metal, glass) watersoluable graphite pencil which also allows you to brush soft grays into a drawing with a watercolor brush, such as a small sumi. The combination of erasibility, ease, painting suitability and pencil precision in a graphite pencil genuinely amazed me!

Blackwater: Murder Inc

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince accused by employees of out and out murder.

Olbermann with the body slam

"That's a bald-faced lie, Senator, and you're a bald-faced know what you are sir, we're arguing about the price." (link)

Keep it up, it's working!

The latest brilliant Republican tactic: disrupt healthcare town meetings. Here's The Playbook. Dancing this jig for the drug companies is really scary to watch - the Republicans are caught in an incredible vortex of freak show suck. But don't worry, it's working!

Details here.

Act crazier guys, it's bound to work eventually!

What's Wrong with the Large Hadron Collider?

The Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle accelerator built to isolate the Higgs-Boson particle and other theoretical subatomic doohickeys, is having trouble starting up. What is the cause?

- Roomba left running all night vacuumed up the anti-matter.

- Excess build-up of 11th dimensional lint in the screen.

- Binding repair contract with Jiffy Lube.

- Burdensome government anti-black-hole-sucking-up-the-earth regulations.

- Electrical problems caused by Norwegian black-metal band Skitliv practicing next door.

- Space elves on strike, according to angry, drunken physicist Dr. Karl Poesner.

- Probably kids playing in the accelerated proton stream

- Quark supply discontinued at Costco.

- As one engineer said, just because it involves string theory doesn't mean you should build it with actual strings.

-Should've gone with the Standard Model, but no, they had to get the iLargeHadronCollider.

August 03, 2009

Night music?!

In heavy rotation at our house, Rita Moreno does 'Fever' with an...unusual...accompaniment.

When do we draft?

Who picks first?
What's my team name?
Dibs on Favre!

And, Now, Speaking in Favor of Autonomous Killer Robots...


August 02, 2009

How did I miss this?

Cobralaska? It's #4 on the list of '5 Cobra Commander Terror Plots That Might Actually Work'.

Here is what CobraPalin might look like.

August 01, 2009

Brilliantly subversive

And, on the 50th anniversary of Qantas' entry into the jet age, we present this mural...of a never-ending line of black 747s hovering menacingly above an Eden-like Aboriginal homeland.

FSL, I think this actually is relevant to some of the things you are doing.

(Tip o' the hat to the PI Blog.)

Seriously, he's suffered enough

He did hard time. He gave up millions in wages. He lost his shoe contract.

As Christians, secular humanists, and dialectical materialists with human characteristics - can't we find it in our hearts to forgive him? Isn't it time to let the healing begin? Seattle is an enlightened, nurturing place, sheltered from the glare of national media attention - a place where he can work with his spiritual advisers to make himself a better man. If not now, when? If not here, where?

He has averaged more yards per carry than any other player in the history of the game.