August 31, 2010

A Republican reminds us of freedom of religion

Orrin Hatch, of all people. Although couching this as a property rights issue, as opposed to a human rights issue, is a uniquely conservative approach.

A long time ago I made up a top ten list of names for Orrin Hatch if he were a Big Sports Star.  I can only remember two now:
#8 - Scorin' Orrin


#1 - The Creepy Weasel

Victim In Fatal Car Accident Tragically Not Glenn Beck

Das Angst-Jökens: A Tautology of Hilarious Comedy

A Tautology of Hilarious Comedy:  An Angst-Jöken writer guy writes a self-referential joke. As a joke, it is a failure, as is the Self to which was referred. He succeeds only in that he himself is a joke. Naturally, there is no laughter.

Flaps. Two pilots from a cultural identity often regarded as being of limited intelligence steer their aircraft toward a runway. The Pilot goes: "My goodness, that runway is short! Quick, 25% flaps!" The Co-Pilot executes the manouever as the pilot desperately tries to cut speed. They come closer and descend fast.  "It is even shorter that I thought! 50% Flaps now!" cries the Pilot, snaking the jet, full of jostled passengers, while the Co-Pilot hits the flaps and runs through the emergency landing procedure. Within 1000 feet now, the Pilot screams "100% flaps! It is the shortest runway I have ever seen!" The Co-Pilot hits the flaps just as the plane hits the tarmac. It bounces hard and rolls, brakes smoking, engines screaming, the fuselage shuddering madly, the passengers shrieking in dread and fear. But it finally stops, the nose wheel just off the runway. Everyone sits in stunned silence. 
      Later, the Pilot and Co-Pilot are talking. "That was the shortest runway I have ever seen! I couldn't believe it," says the Pilot. The Co-Pilot replies: "Yes, but, wow, it sure was wide!"  
     The Pilot's lovely wife, tears in her eyes, runs up to meet her husband, weaving her way through the throng of news reporters. She says: "Your stupidity has shamed our entire culture."

Angst-Jökens for Realistic Children:
How many cookies can Cookie Monster eat?  He has eaten all of them. You will never have any again.

What do you get when you cross an ape and a computer? A computer with a sophisticated quasi-neural artificial intelligence system that will replace your parents' jobs. 

What did the King say to the skeleton? "Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft."

What do you call a bunch of vegetables? Hope. 

The Ordinary Joke .  A crazed religious guy crosses into North Korea by swimming across a chilly lake with a vain hope of talking to the North Korean dictator and convincing him to spread international peace. Naturally, he is arrested at once, beaten severely, and sentenced in a kangaroo court so that he may be used by the North Korean government for a diplomatic chip. A difficult prisoner,  he talks about himself and his mission constantly, so he is beaten again. But he will not stop talking. So he is beaten daily. Still, the abuse fails to quiet him.
         Eventually, Former President Clinton arrives to negotiate his release. Kim Jong Il, in order to rattle Bill Clinton, fills the negotiating room with some of the most beautiful women in the country.
        One of the women,a tall and athletic Army officer in a tightly fitting uniform, is leading the negotiations. "It is our position, Mr. President, that this obnoxious, delusional little man of yours is a spy, has been lawfully convicted of entering our border illegally, and will do ten years of hard labor for his crimes."
        "And our position, Honey, " says Bill Clinton, "is that Tom Cruise hasn't made a good movie in ten years."

       This fails as an angst-jöken. It is merely a joke. - Ed.

Psychological Evaluation. A giraffe is looking to cross a deep, swift river full of gigantic crocodiles. He approaches one of the largest, most ferocious crocodiles, a beast among beasts 20 feet long with rows of spike-like, uneven teeth and the coldest of expressions. The giraffe goes up to him and says "Listen, jerk, I don't like you and you don't like me, but I need to cross this river. Can I ride on your back?"
    "Why shouldn't I just kill you and eat you now?" growls the crocodile.
    "Because I'm big enough to run away if you try. But, tell you what, on the other bank I'll take you to where there are a bunch of baby giraffes - six or seven. They're easy pickings. You can kill them easily. You'll eat your fill."
     The crocodile considers this strange offer, but hungry and lazy, he agrees. The giraffe climbs awkwardly on his back and they start crossing the river to the amazement of the other crocodiles. Some of them even laugh.
     Suddenly, about halfway across, the giraffe stomps the crocodile in the liver with his powerful leg, and tears the crocodile;s throat with his huge, acacia-crushing teeth. Bleeding to death, the crocodile looks in surprise and horror at the giraffe and gurgles with his last breath:
      "What have you done? Now we'll both be drown, be dismembered and eaten!"
       The giraffe goes: "It is in my nature: I am a sociopath giraffe. How could you not realize this?"

A Top Performance Model. Jesus walks into a car dealership, looking at to buy a new hybrid car. The car salesman, one of the very best in town but not realizing who it really is, steers him toward a high-performance luxury model, and by suggestion and skillful salesmanship manages to close the deal. It makes him a much, much higher profit. He gazes oddly as Jesus drives off grinning in a 12 cylinder Mercedes which can do 210 mph, feeling that he has gained something as useful as money, but that he may have just done something of uncertain but profound horror and gravity.

August 30, 2010

What she said

Das Angst-Jökens: Fear of a Bear Planet

#16. Fear of a Bear Planet.  One day a hunter goes deep into the Alaskan Bush hunting for bears. Carefully prepared with a high-powered rifle, .44 revolver, a big knife and pepper spray, he confidently scours the landscape looking for an impressive Coastal Brown Bear for a trophy. Losing the trail, he gets tangled in a dense thicket of alders, and getting increasingly panicky, stumbles and drops his gun, falling into a clearing where a huge, ferocious-looking brown bear is reading some papers. The bear, interuppted in the complicated task of  preparing his taxes, looks up angrily. The bear puts his calculator down and moves toward the fallen hunter like a giant furry boulder with 6 inch teeth and giant claws, growling.  The hunter tries to reach for his pistol, but his arm is broken. The knife has jammed in his leg. But he is just able to reach his pepper spray, and sprays the bear, which only irritates him further. The bear shakes his mighty head and keeps coming, raising himself on his hind legs to his towering height of 9 feet.  The hunter manages to reach his cell phone and says: "Please, Mr. Bear, just let me call my wife and say goodbye."  The bear raises his powerful claws and goes: "F---  you and your martyr complex!"

#17. Cultural Transgression.  A carrot and an onion are sitting in bowl waiting to be sliced up and dropped into a big boiling pot of beef stew. The onion turns to the carrot and goes: "I've always loved you."

#18. Styvyk, Ng, and Jones, Attorneys A man goes to ask about his terminal disease. He says, "Doc, how long have I got to live?"  Hearing nothing and seeing people staring at him, he asks again. "You can tell me Doc, how long do I have to live?" Silence. Assuming the worst, the man begs and pleads for some kind of answer.  But there is nothing, only more stares.  He leaves, shattered, suffering total fear and dread. The Doctor, wondering where his patient is, realizes he neglected to tell the man that his symptoms include total disorientation.

#19. Cabo San Lucas. A cowboy, the Pope and a robot had been enjoying a vacation together in sunny Mexico.  Then the robot takes the cowboy aside and tells him something with his robot accent.  Horrified, the cowboy turns to the robot and goes: "but why would he protect all those pedophiles?"

#20. Desperate Love. A group of young women are gossiping about a handsome, well-off bachelor who just moved into the neighborhood. "Do you think he likes me?," says one girl, the prettiest of the group. And her friend goes: "Yes, he finds you very attractive. It is his own company he finds to be loathesome and ugly, even repugnant."

August 29, 2010

QHTP - We're Too Late

Sign of the times
Los Altos Town Crier
Written by Bruce Barton
Tuesday, 10 August 2010

"As Los Altos crews began demolition Tuesday on the old Quonset hut-style building at the corner of Main and First streets, the building's history began to emerge: A sign for Gordon's Fine Foods, a store that closed decades ago. According to city historian Don McDonald, the business opened in January 1948."



Dave Stephenson Painting Inc., Redwood City


Das Angst-Jökens! #10-#14, Flightless Loathing in Paris

Angst-Jöken #10: The Kindly Ungulate

A guy gets hungry and orders a pizza by text message. He waits and waits. 3 hours later there's a knock on the door, and a Zebra in a Pizza Hut Hat asks him if he ordered two large Canadian Bacon and Pineapple pies. The guy stares in amazment at the talking Zebra. Then the Zebra goes "Oo, sorry man, this is for the dude across the street. Catch ya later!" and leaves. The guy is wracked by confusion, and becomes even hungrier. Later there's another knock on the door. It's the friendly zebra again. "Hey Dude! The guy wasn't home, so here! Have this extra pizza, free! Shaka-Bra!," he says cheerfully, waving his hoof, and drives off into the night. The guy stares at the free pizza, grateful but utterly revolted by Canadian Bacon and Pineapple on pizzas. Blinking twice and setting the pizza on top of the fridge, he spoons a gob of peanut butter and licks it, while watching an episode of Law and Order he has seen three times.

Angst-Jöken #11: The Papal Observation

Three Irishmen are having a wee dram of whiskey with the Pope. One Irishman turns to the Pope and goes, "So I heard you were in the Hitler Youth."

Angst-Jöken #14. Flightless Loathing in Paris

An attractive couple on their honeymoon checks into a nice hotel in Paris. While of modest means, it is the dream of a lifetime, and her father has spared no expense to treat them to a fabulous vacation. As he carries her across the threshold of the sumptuously appointed room, they are both startled to find the place knee deep in penguins. While the bride is slightly charmed at first, the birds rapidly prove smelly, loud and unruly. The groom marches indignantly down to the front desk to complain. "What is going on? Our bridal suite is full of penguins!," he demands of the Manager, a suave little man with pencil moustache. "Ah, most distressing I am sure, Monsieur, I will check for you, immmediatement," says the Manager.

The grooms stands at the desk in the beautiful, ornate lobby, tapping his feet. The Manager returns with a strange, troubled expression. "I have spoken the Hotel's owner, and this is most unusual, it seems he himself ordered the room filled with every penguin in Paris!" "But why?," says the Groom. The manager draws in a full breath. "He directed me, at pain of my position, to say directly to you that has a deep hatred of Americans, and wished to humilate you on the most important night of your life, simply for being who you are." The groom stands there for a long time, arms hanging loose at his sides, while the manager looks at him piteously, unsure of what to say or do.

Angst-Jöken #13. Science.

An unscrewed lightbulb is observed, and it is changed by this fact.

Angst-Jöken #14. Lack of Joke. 

Joke #14 does not exist.



August 28, 2010


Auto Class Solutions, Burlingame


The Protestant Ethic in the Spirit of Angst-Jöken

A man walks into a bar with his pet Orangutan, Klaus. The bartender says "Hey, no monkeys in the bar!" Before the man can explain, Klaus is scared by the bartender's frightful countenance and enormous mustache and runs around to a corner of the room, where he hides behind Albert Einstein. Dr. Einstein says: "Vy, hello zere, Mr. Orangutan!" Klaus sees the kindly brown eyes of the famous physicist, and calms down, offering Einstein a partly eaten head of cabbage. Dr. Einstein accepts the gift, and smiles and pats the creature's head. Meanwhile, the man, seeing their fast friendship, realizes that even though he has owned the orangutan for 30 years, he has never appreciated Klaus for who he really is.


A blond walks into a gas station carrying a steering wheel. Tangled, burned wires dangle from the hub. The attendant, who is eating small powdered donuts, looks up at the beautiful girl and what she is carrying, and says "Oh my goodness, Can I help you?" And the blond goes: "This is the last memento I have of my mother."


Two robots are building another robot for the first time. One robot goes to the other: "An endless cycle begins."


Two lawyers are trapped on a deserted island. Although they must work hard to survive, they subsist off of coconuts and sea-life, and it's enough to get by. One day, a box floats up on the beach, and they open it to find that it is full of new satellite phones. One of the lawyers turns to the other one and goes: "I can't bring myself to return to my old practice and just embrace a life of greed and ceaseless deal-making." The other lawyer, who has dialed home, nods solemnly as he waits for the phone to answer, and that knowing who she is, his wife will be gone. She will have remarried. His children will not recognize their father. His clients will be scattered, his expertise fatuous, his friends awkward in their re-embrace as he returns, absurdly, from death. He realizes that his friend will stay, becoming a hermit forever on the island. As the line rings, he wishes that the box had never come.


A pirate pegs his way into a fancy piano bar, and orders a mojito. Long at sea, he glares longingly with his one good eye at the girl behind the bar, for whom he will always be a mutilated and frightening outcast. A balding man is singing and playing a Barry Manilow song. As she crushes the mint into the ice, a perfect metaphor of the fate of his affections, the Pirate thinks to himself: "I have robbed and killed innocents for this?"

August 27, 2010


So - a guy walks into a bar...and turns into a cockroach.

Am I doing it right?


Lee's Backhoe, East Palo Alto


New Angst-Jöken!

A traveling salesman, needing a place to stay for the night in a remote township, knocks on a farmer's door. The farmer, grateful for company, invites him in for dinner, and his beautiful daughter, once voted Miss Cornflower, joins them and cooks everyone a delicious chicken dinner. Then the farmer's ex-wife knocks on the door. She comes in and belittles the lonely farmer for his legal and financial troubles and his inadequacies as a man. The salesman endures this tirade uncomfortably, glancing briefly at the daughter, who, emotionally defeated, sobs quietly. He excuses himself, checking into a Motel 6, where the remote control fails to function.

Das Angst-Jöken!

I now introduce what I shall call the "Angst-Jöken," the jokeless joke of alienation and despair. Take this example:

"What is invisible and smells like carrots? The answer, locked in the next room when you are feverish with hunger and suffering vitamin A deficiency, is 'Carrots.'"

"A man walks into a bar. When nothing humorous happens, an awkward
disquiet descends on the room like a heavy fog. In a half-hearted
attempt to lighten the mood, he orders a banana daiquiri. When it
arrives, he merely stares at the crushed ice dripping off the rim of the
glass, forced to face his complete failure as a joke protagonist."

"A priest, a rabbi and a imam walk into a bar. Already tense, the priest orders dry white wine. The rabbi orders a beer. The imam orders a Coke. A stunning waitress in a miniskirt brings their drinks, to their collective, silent dismay. Desperate to get some sort of dialogue going, the Rabbi brings up the NFL. The imam says he likes the Packers. The priest, a Cowboys fan, thinks it's better to stay quiet. The rabbi doesn't really like sports. The bartender, an atheist, looks at the group with a kind of enraged pity."

As it happens, I'm quite sure this idea is dadaist. But desire for originality is a delusion of ego-relevance.

August 26, 2010

The Rush Job

Dr. X posts this from the University Center mall:

In the winter of 1977 I picked up a magazine at the UAA bookstore.  There was a fiction piece in it about a Beatles reunion, an elaborate fantasy about kidnapping the band and forcing them to play a  concert.  It turned out Ringo was

The first song of that fictional performance was Day Tripper

Makes perfect sense.  It is a quintessential Beatles song and has long been recognized as such.  Recorded in October 1965, it falls about at the halfway point of their career (Love Me Do was recorded in 1962, Abbey Road in the first half of 1969).  Although it is a drug song, there is no foreshadowing of the band's near-disastrous drift into undisciplined psychedelic crap.  Here is the original, with a little elaboration from McCartney.

The estimable Alan W. Pollack says
[The song is] by virtue of its handling of harmonic rhythm, ostinato guitar riff, and subtle textures in scoring, remarkably instrumental, even orchestral in gesture...  This is the first time in this series that we come upon a Beatles song that bears the signature of an unforgettable guitar riff used to both open and unify the whole production. Like most other musical devices we'll come upon in our studies, this kind of branding-by-riff may not be something the Beatles necessarily "invented," but there's no denying that it is one of several techniques by which they would be known."
I would add that the song exemplifies many other Beatles strengths, particularly the flawless drumming and perfectly executed vocals.  You might say the vocal performances were the product of studio tricks, and you'd be right, but it sounded ok live, too.

Before we consider the serious covers, I suggest you listen to this briefing performed by classical guitarist Muriel Anderson at a seminar in Singapore in 2005:

It turns out that it is difficult to find a decent cover of Day Tripper.  Very often, attempts to cover it convey little new information about the song, but make the performers' blind spots all-too-apparent   (e.g., ELO, Whitesnake, Paul Weller et al, Oasis).  

Then, there are capable performances that essentially duplicate the intentions and impact of the original, without finding much new in it:
Even the legendary Hendrix rendition - which is totally awesome - probably belongs in this category:

"Owsley can you hear me now!?"  refers to famous LSD cook and Grateful Dead sound man Owsley Stanley, the inspiration for the Steely Dan song Kid Charlemagne.

So, yeah - that's pretty damn good.  One Youtube reviewer says "it's like Jesus covered a song by God." That sounds right - if Jesus had a little looser rhythm section than God.  I'm willing to admit the possibility, but will leave the final determination to the Authorities.

But there are a few covers that are genuinely exceptional - efforts that stand up as distinct interpretations:
  • Jose Feliciano finds a more lyrical way to play the song, without sacrificing its edge or rhythmic power.  Lennon:  "Jose Feliciano does great things to Help and Day Tripper."
  • The Vontastics bring a Sam and Dave approach to it, and it works just fine.
  • Tok Tok Tok shows you don't really need the rock and roll machinery to make it work.
  • Along the same lines, it's severely close to parody but I just love Sergio Mendes' version.   The song completely loses its edge - you can see Murph and the Magictones from here - but it's also very cool (it just seems like it could use...).  In fact, it's beautiful.
That's really the big point here.  Day Tripper was written hastily and in anger, to meet a commercial need.  ("You want a hit song for Christmas?  Here's your fucking hit song.  It's about a chick who won't put out and my buddy here who won't drop acid because he's a scared little girl.  Merry fucking Christmas."  Or something like that.)

The melodic material is less tuneful than it is rap-like and jagged in terms of both contour and rhythmic syncopation. Most of the phrases, outside of the bridge, make an overall downward gesture. 
But, be that as it may, the music is straight-up beautiful.  Muriel Anderson again, with some friends:

We could use more rush jobs like this.

What is the apex of Post-Postmodernism?

I don't have an opinion on the matter, but this guy says it's Crank 2: High Voltage.

You mean the chapter where your company dies in total obscurity?

This quote is from an AOL Executive:

"For good or bad, those [Nestcape] buildings are full of ghosts and we need a new space to start a new chapter."

Bonus trip down memory lane here.

Movie Posters from an Alternate Universe

Sean Hartter creates a veritable cornucopia of awesome bizarroworld movie posters.

And yes, you can buy these.

August 24, 2010


Roman Tires, Santa Clara

Update: Confident local historians notwithstanding, this is just off 101, and nowhere near El Camino Real.


Danger in Deep Space - Another Daring Adventure with Tom Corbett

Our 7 year-old guest blogger reports:

This is a really good book.  I like it - maybe you haven't seen my previous Tom Corbett book post, but that one is also very good.  Anyways, the cadets' names are:  Tom, a curly-haired cadet and also the smartest and the guy with the biggest brain, Astro, a big overweight Venusian who can't stop screaming at tiny Roger, and Roger, the most annoying guy you've ever seen in the galaxy with his annoying smart mouth talk and his big brain full of stupid ideas.

Here is the cover of the book - what's happening is, Tom is floating around trying to shoot Loring and Mason, who are bad guys, while they are floating around bumping around each other trying to shoot Tom.  They did not succeed, for they keep bumping around, and froze each other with their paralo-ray guns.

This next picture (shown below) shows Roger using some of his smart mouth talk while they have dinner (or supper, the same, really doesn't matter).  They are on Polaris, their big "space-wagon" as they call it, or should I say...SPACE-SHIP.

The three weary cadets assembled on the control deck

Roger is so tired and weary, and they all inspect their spaceship really hard, which is why Roger says: "You know, by the time we get out of the Academy I don't think there'll be a single inch of this space wagon that I haven't inspected with my nose."

This next picture (shown below) shows Astro, Tom, and Roger slowly pushing their ship into a brand-new space station.  They right now are parking, after giving their identification.  They have stopped for a little break, and Blastoff - their commander's nickname for now (he's really named Major Connell) - is having a tiny "break" as you should call it.   He's really having a big, luxurious rest.
The junior spaceman maneuvered the great rocket ship toward the air lock

The one thing I really hate about this book is that Roger is way too sarcastic.  He does crazy stuff without even knowing it, like calling Astro a "big, stupid Venusian".  The funny thing about it is...Astro's not really overweight, and he's smart.  He's also too noisy.   And spacemen shouldn't be too noisy because it can get on people's nerves, and they can crash-land instead of nice-land.  It's still ok to laugh, though!  I just wonder why Roger won't call Astro "the noisiest guy you ever heard of" instead of all his big smart-mouth insults.

They're still friends, though.  They're killing each other with kindness - just joking around.

August 23, 2010

Surreal, fittingly enough

Salvador Dali on "What's My Line?"

August 22, 2010


Fremont High School, Sunnyvale (not Fremont)

Wikipedia: "The school site was once used as a military base. There is a stretch of open space on the campus that runs from the front entrance gates to the rear parking lot (parallel to Fremont Ave). That area was used as a short runway. There are also a couple of WWII-era Quonset huts located near the tennis courts."


August 21, 2010

Before Terry Gross finds out about it

Dr. X posts this from the The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center:

Barnard is no Vassar or Bennington, but one must give respect where it is due.

August 20, 2010

Greatest car review ever

Sorry if you've seen this, I run a year or so behind on Top Gear because I watch it on Netflix. So I have only just watched The Greatest Car Review Ever.

It is a report by veteran BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the Ford Fiesta.  To put this in context:  Top Gear, especially since the show's 2002 re-launch, usually focuses on exotic or entertaining cars, and has largely given up reports on sensible vehicles.

But at least one viewer - a Mr. Needham - was nostalgic for the old style reviews, and wrote in to ask for one.  Top Gear obliged.

It starts off almost normal, then begins to wobble, then begins to deliver unprecedented levels of Win.  (If you're impatient, skip to 3:42.  If you have ADHD, skip to 7:34.)

British troops in American vehicles - kicking ass and taking names since...

Career passer rating: 76.9

"Coupled with the $2.62 million salary Orton was tendered as a restricted free agent this year, his contract is now for two years at $11.4 million, of which $8.1 million is guaranteed."

August 19, 2010


CrossFit, Palo Alto


7-year old guest blogger book endorsement

If you want to read a great book, I suggest Stand by for Mars! - a fascinating book by Carey Rockwell.
Tom, Roger, and Astro - three fantastic boys in a series of trips to outer space!  Wowsers!  These guys are so cool.

They are:
  • Tom, a curly-haired space cadet who can't stop having to solve arguments between Astro and Roger,
  • Astro, a big Venusian who can't stop arguing with Roger, and...
  • Roger, a snappy kid who keeps starting arguments with Astro, which is a big problem because Astro is three times his size!  But Roger is also a very smart cadet and he usually saves the day a lot.  Also, he's a super navigator and has some tough problems:
"I was unable to get a sight on Alpha Centauri"

Here is a picture of Roger on the Lady Venus desperately trying to get the navigation right so they can blast out of orbit again.  Roger controls the navigation system, as well as targeting enemy ships.  Meanwhile, Tom and Astro are doing the same but instead are doing their posts.  Tom's post is Control Deck and he is most important, for he controls the whole ship, really.  Astro controls the Power Deck.  As Captain Strong says, Astro can take anything apart and put it back together again, blindfolded - with his teeth!
A low muted roar pulsed through the ship

(I think the books are really well-written, and very heroic, daring, and brave.  Speaking of daring, I dare to write one of those books myself!  Plus, I'm going to make a movie when I grow up.)

Here is an excerpt from Stand by For Mars! from our guest blogger:

Single file, wearing the space cloths once more as protection against the sun, they walked along the bank of the canal. When the heat became unbearable, they dipped the squares of space cloths into the water and wrapped themselves in them. When they began to dry out, they would repeat the process. At noon, when the sun dried the fabric nearly as fast as they could wet it, they stopped and slipped over the edge of the bank into the cool water. Covering their heads with the cloths they remained partly submerged until the late afternoon. When the sun had lost some of its power, again they climbed out and continued walking.

Marching late into the night, they made camp beside the canal, finished the last container of food, and, for the first time since leaving the ship, slept during the night. By the time Deimos had risen in the sky, they were sound asleep.

August 18, 2010

Is that really a good idea?

A group of European scientists have developed the first prototype robot capable of developing emotions from interacting with humans. In the same way a child bonds with adults around it, the robots are able to develop and feel happiness, excitement, pride, sadness, fear and anger…

August 17, 2010

Preliminary Thoughts Following a Visit to Taiwan

It is crowded, warm, and humid.  Traffic is impressive, mostly because of the scooters.   They're everywhere - in the crosswalk, on the sidewalk, in your lap if you're not careful.  Come to think of it, some of you guys would probably have a fun vacation just renting scooters and driving around Taipei like maniacs.  

The National Palace Museum is the greatest repository of Chinese cultural artifacts in the world, most of which are kept in a bomb shelter.  The tiny sliver you can look at still overwhelms the senses.  Museum fatigue sets in faster than any place I've ever been.  If you're ever flying to Asia for any reason, it's worth booking the trip through Taipei - even just a one day layover - to go check this place out.

The other big tourist attractions are generally a bust, for various reasons.
  • Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall is beautiful, and it's worth going to see the changing of the guard, but it really functions more as a civic center.  
  • Taipei 101 deserves its own blog post, but for now let's settle for "hey, how about Architecture 101?"  Awkward and insectoid, it fails even as a phallic symbol.
  • Then there is 228 Peace Memorial Park.  Certainly the White Terror should be memorialized.  After World War II the Nationalists sent corrupt bureaucrats to replace the Japanese administration.  Complaints and unrest ensued, leading Chiang Kai-shek to suspect that the Taiwanese elites needed some mainland-style attitude adjustment.   This was achieved via the imposition of martial law, as well as a policy of knocking on doors and shooting whomever opened them.  After order had been restored, martial law was lifted - in 1987. 
  • To assuage both local and mainland sensitivities, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was, for a while, renamed Democracy Memorial Hall, but the name has since reverted back to honor the Generalissimo.  We didn't go. I'd already resolved to ignore anything relating to, or named after, Chiang Kai-shek.  
Enough on the negatives - this is one of the best places to hang out on earth, especially if you have some Mandarin speakers in your group.  It is safe and very walkable, with many neighborhoods still based on the old shophouse logic.  Other good things:
  • The city never sleeps, really.  After dinner they open the night markets, and you can shop and eat hawker food there until 6 in the morning if you want to.  
  • Taxis are cheap, and after a major reform effort, safe and honest.  Go wherever you want for about three bucks.
  • The people are great.  We kicked around Taipei for two weeks and never met a jerk.  
  • The food is great.  12 course vegetarian meal?  Yes sir, right away, best you've ever had, $30.
  • Taipei has a thriving boutique design industry, which has led to an outbreak of nice coffee shops and little lunch places in Zhongshan.  The restaurant at the Taipei Film House (formerly the U.S. consulate) is a nice example.  I could spend another month there just hanging out in these places.  More coffee, please!
  • English bookstores are a little tough to find, but the Page One bookstore at Taipei 101 has everything you'd want.  Your Kindle works fine in Taipei, too, and Amazon lets you use their web browser for free.
  • Starbucks is everywhere.
  • Since 1997 Anchorage, Alaska has been Taipei's Partner City.  I don't know what that means, but it may prove useful when you go there.
 It's a good secret.  Go to Taipei if you get the chance.

August 16, 2010

One page of Win


August 15, 2010

QHP #3

Auto Repair Shop (abandoned), Palo Alto


August 14, 2010

Quonset Huts of the Peninsula - Second in a Series

El Gato Painting, Mountain View


August 13, 2010

Same website - Smashing New URL:

August 12, 2010

World Piracy Incident Map

More pirate trouble.

August 10, 2010

An Alaskan to the end

Stevens is gone

August 09, 2010

And Now, A Moment of LCD

Trying to catch me Ridin' Dirty. With carrots.

Or if you prefer, video of bunnies in toy car.

Container Ship Collision off Mumbai

First Sea Lord directs all ships to please look where they are going.

Lazy Concepts of Artificial Intelligence Are Dangerous to Human Beings

August 08, 2010

Seahawks: BTW, I'm Not Over the 2000 Election Either

 Ref apologizes for fucking up the Superbowl.

August 05, 2010

Note on Purity

On a piece of paper, the white is the illusion of a featureless blast of pure light. Covered with black paint, the illusion is total darkness. Every expression of art arises from the infinitely complex interplay of the two. As does every expression of existence, every expression of life. In the merging dance of opposites, not at the limits of purity, is every beauty.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that purity is the most overrated of human values, and among its most destructive - the obsession with perfection that makes racists racist, religions brutal, economies cruel, ideologies murderous. It seems to lie behind every cult, behind the cruelty of parents, behind massive, domineering conformist institutions, even the destructive practices of agricultural monoculture.

So what is the appeal? Thinking is deeply hard and painful- and I simply mean that literally, not as some statement of intellectual specialness.  Paying attention to the inexhaustible richness of life is physically demanding. Paying exquisite care to account for all the senses is not sustainable at all moments - if you look at the view like an artist while driving a motorcycle you will quickly drive that motorcyle off the road and into that view.

Consciousness has a biological cost.

I suspect that purity offers the promise of escape from the pain of thinking. Why, one might ask, do we put such monumental efforts into creating pure green lawns, to the very real harm of the earth?  If we pull weeds, and mow, and fertilize with what amounts to poison, we gain the pleasure that the immediate environment is one, understandable thing: one variety of grass.

One grass. One color. One brand. One god. One culture. One race. Oneness. Purity.

Freedom from the physical pressure of the searching mind.  Freedom, as well, from the truth of all things. 

August 02, 2010



In the AMAZING year 2010...

...David Stockman will be a moderate.
In 1981, traditional Republicans supported tax cuts, matched by spending cuts, to offset the way inflation was pushing many taxpayers into higher brackets and to spur investment. The Reagan administration’s hastily prepared fiscal blueprint, however, was no match for the primordial forces — the welfare state and the warfare state — that drive the federal spending machine.

August 01, 2010

3-d Bio Printing: Do You Toss the Kidney When You Run Out of Toner?

Yes, a commerically-available living tissue printer is now making human tissue and organs. If you aren't familiar, manufacturing from nano to macro levels is being revolutionized by overgrown ink-jet printers that can make things in almost any material and increasingly at new scales. The technology is exciting. The loss of human craft knowledge is looming and tragic. Extending this to full scale biological manufacturing, which would appear to be the direction is frankly, great, astonishing and terrifying all at once. From the article:

But additive manufacturing is on the verge of breaking into a more startling area. Using the techniques of 3D printing, doctors may soon be able to produce soft-tissue implants such as blood vessels. And following on from that could be the ability to build a whole organ - such as a liver or kidney - complete with all its blood vessels. Additive manufacturing could make the transplant list a thing of the past.

The first ’3D bio-printer’ for making human tissue and organs became available at the end of last year. Produced for a San Diego biotechnology company, Organovo, by Australian automation specialist Invetech, the machine is being evaluated by research institutions studying regenerative medicine - the technique of growing organs using cultures of a patient’s own cells.

If this works, it seems likely that eventually we will see meat made this way, replacement legs, fresh brains, and your dead kitten reanimated. I suppose if we hit the scale button, we could make micro zoos, where we would have enough room for tiny animals, ready to blow them up again if we ever figure out how to regenerate missing ecosystems.

Quonset Huts of the Peninsula - The First in a Series

Lozano Car Wash, Mountain View


The new Turing test...busted

I was enjoying this until the robot actually learned to flip a pancake... You may resume your terror-filled weekend.

Who's Blues

Scott Gordon at AV Club has pulled together some awesome Who R&B covers, here.