February 26, 2011

Preliminary notes on Uncle Fred in the Springtime


  • My first introduction to one of Wodehouse's favorite characters, Frederick Altamont Cornwallis, fifth Earl of Ickenham, a.k.a. Uncle Fred
  • In the Blandings stories, which almost always follow the precepts of classical New Comedy, Uncle Fred and Galahad usually serve as champion of the distressed couple, although they never appear together.
  • There is a moment in Uncle Fred in the Springtime, when almost everyone in the house knows that Uncle Fred is not, as he claims, Sir Roderick Glossop, the eminent brain specialist, and that the young man and woman who accompany him are likewise impostors.  But for various reasons, no one intervenes as he pursues various schemes to secure two hundred and fifty pounds needed to finance an onion soup bar in Picadilly to facilitate the marriage of Polly Pott to Ricky Gilpin:
    • Lord Emsworth, the master of the house, knows because Uncle Fred is ostensibly there to remove his prized pig and offer it asylum at Ickenham until the threat of the Duke of Dunstable (described below) abates.
    • The Duke of Dunstable's secretary, Baxter, knows, but cannot do much because Uncle Fred saw Baxter at a party in London, knowledge of which would lead to his immediate termination by the Duke.
    • Lady Constance Keeble knows (Baxter told her), but has promised she will say nothing to protect Baxter's position.
    • George Threepwood (Lord Bosham), Emsworth's eldest son, has been told by Lady Constance.  Unable to act, he summons a detective to watch the impostor and his accomplices.
    • The Detective, Claude "Mustard" Pott, knows Uncle Fred as an old gambling crony, and knows Uncle Fred's female companion well, because she is his daughter.
  • Uncle Fred is chaotic good, willing to do almost anything to advance a cause he thinks worthwhile, e.g., the happiness of a girl he likes.  
    • I know what you are thinking.  To that highly trained legal mind of yours it is instantly clear that the act will constitute a tort or misdemeanour, if not actual barratry or socage in fief.  But it has got to be done...  I am not going to allow any far-fetched scruples to stand in my way.
  • Introduces the Duke of Dunstable, one of my favorite Wodehouse villains...
    • He wrecks his nephew's sitting room with a fire poker for no apparent reason.
    • He shouts abuse at every person he encounters.
    • He demands Emsworth's prize pig, and when refused, has his secretary steal it and hide it in the bathroom of his apartment.
    • He flings eggs at people who sing "Loch Lomond" outside his window.
    • Thinks everyone else is crazy.
    • Is the only person who does not know that Uncle Fred is an impostor.
    • Hates poetry.
    • He won't return money he won gambling, even when told that it would make a young girl happy.
      • It began to be borne in upon Lord Ickenham that in planning to appeal to the Duke's better feelings he had omitted to take into his calculations  the fact that he might not have any.
 The first appearance of Uncle Fred is in the story Uncle Fred Flits By (recently the subject of a one-man show by John Lithgow)Uncle Dynamite is the next in the series...

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide

When DARPA's cheetah-bot is after you...

Gates to the cadets

“And I must tell you, when it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect,” he quipped. “We have never once gotten it right, from the Mayaguez to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, and more – we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged.”

Republicans Don't Like Women. How Tehgay.

Every day from the GOP, a fresh outrage, a fresh immorality, a fresh slap to human decency, spitting on people less fortunate, an ugly faith in social Darwinism, built on, at best, an odd, anti-Jesus, puritan interpretation of the Bible that considers wealth a blessing on the worthy, that fetishizes the horrors of an Apocalypse, and seems to regard suffering and weakness as evidence that it is deserved, that it is a mark of the unrighteous. Jesus' message was, you might recall in passing,  the exact opposite.

But this contempt for American women is breathtaking. GOP to women: your and your children's lives are less important than special tax breaks for exactly the people who don't need the money.

None of this would save anything like the money that would come from say, ending subsidies TO oil companies, cutting military bands - yes, bands- by 2/3 (savings in the hundreds of millions), or greatly increasing the maximum taxable earnings for deductions for Social Security, or of course ending the tax breaks for the wealthiest, a moral principle for which they were willing to shut down the government, or cutting a single carrier group. 

Dorothy gets to sing on this one

This reminds me of growing up in Alaska for some reason.

February 25, 2011

B-17 scene for you

Dorothy just dances...not that I'm complaining

February 24, 2011

Hoagy and Bogie

Stand by for our upcoming "Career Over Operation"

Army used psy-ops team to get senators to increase funding...

"How do we get these guys to give us more people?" Caldwell asked, according to the magazine. "What do I have to plant inside their heads?" 

Don't worry, General, you're in there now.

February 21, 2011

8 year-old guest blogger reviews Scratch

Restaurant review (dictated by 8 year-old guest blogger):
(401 Castro Street, Mountain View)

Scratch is a fairly new restaurant to Castro Street.  We knew one of the waiters from...dum dum dum!...(drum roll)...the *excellent* STANFORD CREAMERY!!!

I'll talk about why Scratch is so good and why you should go there:
  • When you walk in, they greet you in a very friendly way.
  • The service is very good, although it takes a long time for them to prepare the food.  But that's why it's so good!
  • They advise you when you don't know what to order.
  • It's very fancy, humongo, with high ceilings.
  • The waiters are especially nice.
  • It's pretty dim.  Good for a romantic evening!
  • It has good food and some vegetarian food.  But if you are a vegetarian, don't order the Brussels sprouts, even if you like them, because they have bacon!
  • It's warm inside.
  • The menu is long enough - there are lots of choices (but maybe hard to decide what you want).
  • The table setting is very fancy:
  • If you ever go there, be sure to order the cheese plate.  If you like goat cheese, Pt. Reyes blue cheese, aged cheddar, or gouda, you're in luck!
  • If you aren't a vegetarian, you might as well order the short ribs because they are AWESOME!!! 
I don't know if I got the message through to you, but this is a very good restaurant, if you ever go there.

February 20, 2011

Favorite Recent Female Vocal Performance: My Nominees


Patti Smith

Venus Hum


On  a minor note, this guy, Capt. Thomas Coram, in a portrait by Hogarth, sued the pants off of one of my direct ancestors, Abel Burt, of Tauton, Mass, taking 51 acres in 1701, when Abel was Deputy Sheriff. The suit was for trespass. Nice work, Abel, I might have owned Tauton, Mass. Next time, get a proper warrant.

Having robbed my family blind, Coram later gave the land to the Church of England in Boston, and he founded the London Foundlings Hospital.


Evolutionary biologist: sick of those know-it-all physicists...


Information on President "Terrifying Stretch Armstrong Frankenstein"


Five Paintings Which Tend to Refute, in Accumulation, Claims to Exclusive Knowledge of Reality By Any Institution

Renoir- portrait of Jeanne Samarie

Brughel the Elder, 99 Netherlandish Proverbs

Li Cheng, A solitary Temple Amid Clearing Peaks, (11th century)

Mark Rothko, Black Brown on Maroon, 1957

John Singer Sargent, madame X

February 18, 2011

It's crazy, but it might just work

Evil genius options for melting ice caps here.

February 17, 2011

Hit lesson

Not making this easier...

As I was saying, the magisteria are non-overlapping...no, come on guys, shut up, that's just ridiculous.  As I was saying...what a sec...the Catholics said what?!   What part of non-overlapping don't they understand?

Anyway, the point I'm trying to get across here is...WHAT

Man, this is like being Lindsay Lohan's lawyer...

Did George Washington have Aperger's?

I woke up in the middle of the night, and it took a lot self control to stop myself from going to the computer to try to answer the question: "Does anyone theorize that George Washington suffered from Aperger's syndrome?"

Not much to my surprise, I found a couple of reference like this:

Traits that make some people think he might have had Asperger's Syndrome are that he grew marijuana, was worried about being buried alive, and allegedly had to borrow money for his inauguration ceremony. One hypothesis is that he grew marijuana to self-medicate Asperger's Syndrome, self-medicating being something that some people with autism spectrum disorders, ADD, or depression do with intoxicants. Another is that his fear of being buried alive and thus instructed that burial be postponed three days to be sure he was dead indicates a perseverative fear and adherence to an ineffective ritual, a trait occurring in some people with Asperger's Syndrome. The need to borrow money is thought to possibly indicate the poor money management skills of some people with Asperger's Syndrome.
But none of the traits mentioned had anything to do with the reason I thought he might have had Aspberger's: the reason I thought he might is that he recorded and (presumably) adhered to 110 specific rules to maintain dignified behavior.

I think a hilarious, and not completely implausible, actor's portrayal of George Washington might be done by showing Washington as a complete spazz trying desperately to obey these 110 rules he's set for himself.

(By the way, I often try, and fail, to adhere to these, myself.)

Science vs. Humanities

Michael Bérubé commemorates the 15th anniversary of the Sokal hoax, in a long but well worth reading article in Democracy in which he extends an olive branch to the other side:

So these days, when I talk to my scientist friends, I offer them a deal. I say: I’ll admit that you were right about the potential for science studies to go horribly wrong and give fuel to deeply ignorant and/or reactionary people. And in return, you’ll admit that I was right about the culture wars, and right that the natural sciences would not be held harmless from the right-wing noise machine. And if you’ll go further, and acknowledge that some circumspect, well-informed critiques of actually existing science have merit (such as the criticism that the postwar medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth had some ill effects), I’ll go further too, and acknowledge that many humanists’ critiques of science and reason are neither circumspect nor well-informed. Then perhaps we can get down to the business of how to develop safe, sustainable energy and other social practices that will keep the planet habitable.

Mission accomplished

Bush got what he (and his handlers) wanted.

February 16, 2011

The Remarklable 10 Year Outsourcing Cluster Fuck

In a nice summary, we see the remarkable  fuck up of the 787 production, which has gone on at least ten years, delayed its launch by 3 or 4, cost billions extra and unbuilt some of their most profitable operations in Washington state in a quixotic quest for the magical profits from outsourcing.  First the unions told them, then the outside analysts, then the academics, then the state, their own analysts, Airbus's analysts, their own workers, who couldn't help noticing the bolts didn't fit, their engineers, their middle management, their upper management, and now - taking a brief pause for fucking up the tanker contract with bribery- finally their top management, a decade into it, and with the delays of the 787 missing an incredible opportunity to dominate the market- they make grumbling burp-like noises which indicate that perhaps they finally realize their corporate American worker-bashing ideology was not good business.

February 15, 2011

Memo to Israel

Shut up.

February 14, 2011

Bring it on

"[Jeb] Bush's standing was so bad that it put him on par with Sarah Palin..."

Maybe the Guard doesn't want to be called out

"Maybe the new governor doesn't understand yet - but the National Guard is not his own personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent..."

February 12, 2011

Order restored to universe...

...at least for the time being.

Somebody take Capitalism

If we want to expand the debate, we need another category of that is a) orthogonal to Science, Religion, and Art, and b) is important enough that there is not a practical replacement for it.

Robot "Press or say: one."
Pirate The Walt Disney Company
Monkey Charles Schwab Corporation
Ninja Mutual of Omaha
Zombie Wachovia

I'm sure the answer will become obvious as we fill out this table...

Science Art Religion
Robot Robotics The Terminator James Droids
Pirate Political Science Robert Newton Flying Spaghetti Monster
Monkey Primatology Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp Sun Wukong
Ninja Inattentional Blindness www.realultimatepower.net Bujinkan
Zombie Tetrodotoxin Dawn of the Dead Voodoo

February 11, 2011

The Laird's idea is entirely too simple

We need to move past the simple Jan-ken-po (That's Japanese for ro-sham-bo) and into a model that more accurately represents the complex dynamics of modern society.

And speaking of modern society, this is as good a time as any to recommend one of my favorite SF stories of 2009: Evil Monkey Robot. 5-6 minutes of your life and worth the price of admission.

One other potential snag: I'm a firm proponent of both monkeys and robots.

Suggested rules of engagement

I welcome The FSL adding a third leg to form an Art/Science/Religion stool. Here is how I suggest our debate proceed.
  • When someone criticizes Science, I (The Laird) will criticize Art
  • When someone criticizes Art, The First Sea Lord will criticize Religion
  • When someone criticizes Religion, The Front will criticize Science (no effective change)
Please let me know if these ground rules meet with your approval.

February 07, 2011

Why do they call you Lightnin'? Oh...

Reagan: Our Most Brilliant President?

I believe we can agree on this point:  Ronald Reagan was a sorry son of a bitch who succeeded brilliantly in setting the United States on a long path of  fiscal, educational, environmental, economic, political, legal, productive, moral, and social justice decline.

February 06, 2011

Mick McCarthy gets it done

Led by manager Mick McCarthy, Wolverhampton took down Yuppies United and blew open the Premier League title race.  The McCarthy on this side of the pond did ok, too...

Art Wades In.

Ibn al-Haytham, the great Islamic scholar-scientist and inventor of the empirical study of optics (died aprox 1040 CE) and perhaps, modern empirical practice:
"Truth is sought for its own sake. And those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things. Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough."

It's worth noting that he studied optics intently while in prison (for failing to invent impossible military  technology), watching the movement of sunlight passing through his tiny window. This lead to a complete intellectual revolution, leapfrogging the ancients by cementing theory to observation and experimental practice.

Truth is an interesting and complicated idea itself. The empirical concept presumes the existence of universal truths, more universal than monotheistic religions, which tend to be very jealous with their access to what they consider to be truth. The evangelical ones seem to enjoy company so much they're willing to kill for it, but happily degrade any truth but their own.

One reason that Art still exists is that both religion and science have inadequately described and practiced human imagination and experience. As people, we are sensitive to phenomena - both real and imagined, and which dynamically change one other - as subtle as Art is capable of, which the gross summaries of aggregate systems and ideologies, ones as aspirational and effective as Science, and as apparently meaningful as religion, do not begin to describe.
    I do not mean this to draw equivalency. I'm more arrogant than that. Not every culture has institutional religion, nor does every culture have an organized science practice (a more acidic wag than myself might suggest America is one of these.)
     But all cultures have expressive art forms, in which personal and social meaning is seemingly built in the actual act of expressive construction. And the end product is in many ways less important than it's creation ( a wonderful example are the Tibetan sand paintings.)  That "I" and "We" are making, pulling something real and frequently beautiful from the crushing vast emptiness, is after survival, social bonding, and sex the most essential and inevitable human act, and it is the one that to this day best defines the quality of humanity that is distinct from other animals.         

It would be absurd to suggest that people had no meaningful appreciation of moral action or physical truth before the relatively recent phenomenon of monotheistic religion or, in historical terms, the shiny new toy of scientific method.

A defining, truly ancient essence of us it to make: art, music, things, designs, structures, systems, beer, even and maybe especially when we do not need to. That the structural cruelty of materialist capitalism - which really does raise the idolatry of the abstract concept of money above that of human beings - has beaten creativity out of everyone but specialists doesn't change this desire to make the imagined/observed, so common, so natural, so powerful in every child.

This rounds around to this: I think religion and science are both external, somewhat nationalized aspects of the more essential impulses of Art.  As Carl Sagan pointed out, a Zen monastery is a highly evolved form of civilization - you don't require radio telescopes to qualify. And one might argue whether a Japanese Zen monastery is really a religious practice.

What I would argue here is that the strange persistent of Art is evidence that the nature of God, still less his/her/their existence, is far less important to human society than we tend to think, and that Science is a really a very late form of Art: it shares generally truth-seeking empirical practice that has been refined through many millenia to recently adding reducible and repeatable and theoretically universal methods. The phenomena of religion is a another creature, itself a social construction of Art, blended inevitably and usually horribly with politics and economic conquest. Science has left it, though only perhaps through its practical limits, to parent Art to probe and explain the inexhaustible nuances of individual being, a problem renewed and deepened with each and every new life.  

One will naturally wish me to define art. I demur.  All definitions truncated by written language are terribly, terribly, terribly inadequate. What does orange actually feel like, especially that orange in that Van Gogh? Which smells do the key of D minor recall? What were the spiritual views, maker of Venus of Willendorf, or did they just like big tits, or was it, more likely, a combination.

It is best described by observing and participating in its practice and its products, which is of course the same maddening unsatisfactory answer supplied with such blithe self-satisfaction by the religious. And which is precisely why I am forced to paint.

And so there is no summary/symbol of the amazing richness of human consciousness that is still the human consciousness. There is no single, wholly complete path to truth, and the road is rough.  We can however, at least, commit to destroy with Reason those demonstrable, self-serving falsehoods upon which so much cruelty and misery is built. We can with it seek what universal truths there are to be had. Where Reason can no longer forge forward alone, Art can guide.

February 05, 2011

Nicely done

Although the image is subtler than the one I would have used.


At least now I'll have a cue to remember to go urinate off of the porch.

This guy could write for us...

These conceptions of justice and their attendant myths were originally described at length by prominent philologist Georges Dumezil (1898-1986) in his 1948 book Mitra-Varuna: An Essay on Two Indo-European Representations of Sovereignty. Perhaps you own a copy. Perhaps you have two, so you can keep one in the car. Or maybe you came across Dumezil's essay in Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's influential A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1980), in which it is discussed at length. Regardless, it's worth revisiting Dumezil's work, as it enriches our understanding of the Coens' movie [True Grit]. 


From the BBC: the Infamous Dreadnought Hoax, Complete With Virginia Woolf

"The infamous Dreadnought hoax was dreamed up by aristocratic joker Horace de Vere Cole, who contacted the British Admiralty pretending to be the Emperor of Abyssinia. He informed officials that he wished to inspect the Home Fleet while on a forthcoming visit to Britain.

"After enlisting some friends - artists from the Bloomsbury group, including writer Virginia Woolf - to masquerade as his entourage, he turned up at the navy's state-of-the-art ship, the Dreadnought.
Officials, taken in by the dark stage make-up, false beards and oriental regalia, treated the group to an official civic reception.

The "fake" Abyssinian royals  
Virginia Woolf (far left) joins Horace de Vere Cole (far right) in the 'bunga' hoax
"They were reported to have cried "Bunga, bunga!" while marvelling at the ship. An account of the visit plus a picture were sent to the Daily Mail newspaper - probably by Cole himself.

Virginia Woolf said later that when the real Emperor of Abyssinia arrived in London weeks later, wherever he went, ''the street boys ran after him calling out bunga, bunga! "


February 04, 2011

In which I delegate this mission to my minions

As I subscribe to Gould's view of non-overlapping magisteria, further debate is pointless.

At the same time, however, I would hope to find a way to encourage you to modify your views, which I regard as muddled, empirical, and deterministic (the latter two not technically capable of coexistence). Since argumentation is unlikely to achieve this, I have settled on the development of an army of battle droids that will fire randomly while quoting liberally from the work of William James:


I trust this will resolve matters satisfactorily.

Wal-Mart wises up

Plans to build a "super-center" on the Wilderness battlefield have been abandoned.  Thanks to all who opposed this irresponsible corporate scheme.

February 03, 2011

A thank you to Snyder, from a Giants fan

Nothing is certain, of course, but when a Redskins game approaches, we at least know that we will be facing a team in spiritual disarray, whose players have been assembled largely by whim and impulse and ego, coached by a person as insecure as a teenage girl at a prom, with a nose zit.

It helps. It helps a lot.



February 02, 2011

My favorite movie ever

(The trailer, not the actual movie.)

Too true

February 01, 2011


I know nothing of this, hence remain silent.