August 31, 2011

Art deco survivor

Aircraft Hangar, Chicago Midway Airport

August 30, 2011

Angst-Jöken: One Tired Mono-Amorist

1.  One Tired Mono-Amorist.

On nothing but a dare, a professional unicyclist from Ohio plans to cross the Gobi desert.  After many months of training, riding everyday and getting in great shape as he practices over bumps, gravel, sand and hills, after thousands of dollars spent on getting a special ultra-light, variable traction, high endurance tire, and fitting the seat and post with the latest in unicycle instrumentation- or uvionics, as the pros call them- he flies to China and prepares the expedition by buying a Bactrian camel named Lars to port his supplies.  And so one day, he begins, setting out from Urumki in China to Dalandzadgad, Mongolia, sporting a cheery sombrero that says " Cleveland- Chili's!"  and leading a reluctant Lars with a camel leash, as a small crowd of locals cheer him on. 

Months later, in the chilled grip of February, Mongolian police scanning the horizon with binoculars spy a haunted, skeletal-thin Caucasian man approaching outer Dalandzadgad wearing nothing but a crude jacket made of raw camel hide, and teetering, yes, on a rusted, sand-blasted hulk of a unicycle.  Quickly recognizing that this may be the American sportsman long given up for dead, they rush to his aid, but he refuses.  Word spreads. Reporters gather, children run along at his feet. As he reaches the city limits, he dismounts, shaking with cold, the unicycle falling to the ground. He blinks at the crowd, and the cameras, and opens his cracked lips to speak.

"In Ohio, I loved only unicycles. Now I love nothing."

2. Blind and Balanced.

A Tic Tac corporate salesman is diagnosed with incurable halitosis. Fired, he sues. But where there is no justice to be had, none is offered.

3.  I Bid You Adieu

A musician, married now and in the burbs but nostalgic for his band touring days, has been seeking a rare guitar tube amplifier he used to have. Months of looking, and no luck. One day, lo and behold, the exact year and make of the beautiful amplifier comes up on Ebay. For two days, he carefully plans his bidding, checking prices, researching everything. Then the hour comes. He gets ready with coffee and meatloaf sandwich and tells his roughhousing children to go play. Focused, he scans the situation: there are two other serous bidders, both skilled as well, the prices going up very incrementally.  He has a budget though, he can't just out-bid them. The price crawls higher and higher, and he's glued to the screen -even the squealing and yelping from outside doesn't distract him-  and the last 10 minutes crawl by in sweaty tension.  He and two other bidders duke it out -5 minutes now, and it's not a question of money, but timing. It feels like his youth is up for auction. He wants that amp.

The bid comes down to the last moment. He waits. The timing is like hitting that effects pedal the moment before you blast that power-chord. He judges, clicks, and hopes. Success! The amp is his! He raises his hands in triumph. With perfect satisfaction, he steps outside to breathe in the fresh air, and finds that his Airedale has drowned in the pool.

Still full of Excessive Good Feeling? The Complete Angst-Jökens are at

The limits of labor

Funny story: There's this guy named Viktor Korchnoi...he came up in the late 40s and early 50s with the Spassky generation of bright young Soviet chessplayers. He got to grandmaster level around the time my dad graduated from college, and if we're honest about it, was probably the best player in the world or close to it in the mid-60s.
But what's odd about Korchnoi is he got to that level and just stayed there...for decades. Ten years after the 1960s peak (and a defection to the west), he was playing Karpov for the world title, and he was in contention for the title every cycle until the early-90s. According to the Chessmetrics website (which stopped updating in '04) his 20-year peak is comparable to Alekhine's or Smyslov's (both world champions). If there were a 30- or 40-year peak he would surely be the leader. And he is still there - he has now played rated games in eight separate decades. Here he is last year, aged 79, laying down an anti-positional smackdown on International Master Oliver Kurmann.
Korchnoi is sort of the anti-Bronstein, with whom he competes for the title of "greatest player to never be world champion," although when you look at his history it's hard to say he was an underachiever (there is no shame in not being quite as good as Karpov). His dogged style of play is often downright ugly.
But he vindicates the First Sea Lord's faith in effort and tenacity. He was never regarded as the most talented player of his generation, but he achieved everything except the summit. And here he is still, at a time when his contemporaries have retired or worse, hanging around the top few hundred or so players in the world, the lich-king of the chessboard.
Here is a story about him, too good not to repeat, secondhand from the chessgames forums:
I remember fondly one conversation I had a few years back with Boris Spassky. We were discussing 'THE' Victor Korchnoi ('Victor the Terrible' to many).
Boris and Victor had been bitter adversaries for more than 40 years at the time of this conversation, and they had played more than 60 times in official competitions..(including 2 candidates finals)... only Karpov can boast to have played Victor more times.
Boris, at one point, came up with the incredible statement that Korchnoi had every quality necessary to become world champion BUT lacked ONE very essential quality...and it was precisely this quality that prevented him from attaining chess' highest title.
I coaxed Boris on...He began to list Korchnoi's many qualities:
...Killer Instinct (nobody can even compare with Victor's 'gift')
...Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)
...Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)
...Ability to Calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)
...Tenacity and perseverance in Defense (unmatched by anyone)
...The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)
...Impeccable Technique (Flawless, even better than Capa's)
...Capacity to concentrate (unreal)
..Impervious to distractions during the game
...Brilliant understanding of strategy
...Superb tactician (only a few in history can compare with Victor)
...Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation
...Subtle Psychologist
...Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)
...Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries
...Enormous energy and self-discipline
Then Boris stopped, and just looked at me, begging for me to ask the question that needed to be asked....
I asked: 'But, Boris, what does Victor lack to become world champion?'
Boris' answer floored me:
''He has no chess talent !''
And then he roared with laughter...


August 29, 2011

A bit of love in stone

While walking through the British Museum, I pulled up short to look more closely at this Roman cinerary urn.

These urns are quite diverse - you see all kinds. They range from the simple to the incredibly elaborate, and, in a pinch, they make handy table lamps.

But what struck me as unusual about this one was the interaction of the two figures. Although not apparent in the official museum photo, it's a little easier to see in natural light. If you look closely, you can see they are looking at each other and holding hands:

One thing you usually don't see in the decoration of these urns is love or romance - simple motifs or mythological themes are far more common. In this one, though, I think you see real people with real feelings for one another.

According to the museum's notes, "the urn contained the ashes of Vernasia Cyclas, and was commissioned by her husband Vitalis who was a freed slave working in the imperial household as a scribe. Vernasia, the inscription informs us, died at the age of twenty seven and was an excellent wife."

If you look more closely, the expressions on their faces are striking. He is looking at her with humility and devotion. Tall and beautiful, she is looking at him sternly, demanding respect - but gives her hand willingly:


He really loved her, and two thousand years later we still know that.

Rick Steves: "A false austerity is being forced on the finer points of our culture."

Ultra-nice guy and travel nerd Rick Steves donates $1 million to the Edmonds Arts Center, calling on other wealthy individuals to give the equivalent of their tax breaks.  Rick Steves is a righteous dude.

The entire national annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts - all the arts- is $100 million. The national annual budget for military bands is $325 million, although there was an attempt to cut this by $125 in the recent unholy dust-up.

The non-profit sector in the arts alone generates 168 billion in economic activity every year.  With about 6 million full-time jobs (at least in this 2007 Arts for America study); I've seen elsewhere that the arts are about 6% of the economy.

Calling on offhand fiscal travesties, we still spend $4 billion in annual federal transfer payments to oil companies, not to mention billions in oil producing state subsidies, and billions in federal loans to fraudulent for-profit colleges. All while Exxon and Boeing and Microsoft and Amazon etc etc etc pay 0-10% and bitch ceaselessly about the decline of education.

The arts have been a key model in renewing communities and economies across the country. A dynamic cultural scene, aside from its intrinsic value for full lives and citizenship, is a big reason why Puget Sound and the Bay Area attract business.  We'll be missing huge opportunities through cultural neglect, and, loathing to echo Tom Friedman, we're losing our edge in a set of unforced errors.

This false austerity is the result of shifts in tax burden, not that somehow our economy is smaller than it was 20 years ago, when the NEA budget was also $100 million.  Steves is right - the claims of austerity are false.

I must add an important point: I am not really talking about public acquisition of single art objects, or even direct subsidies of artists, however nice that must have been.   The best efforts should be on work, development and educational spaces, both aspirational, Mass MOCA, (the Torpedo Factory) and local (Edmonds Arts Center.),  affordable housing redevelopment, and broader education. 

It's real estate, man: develop artists reasonable access to work and show space that's integrated with city life, both aspirational  and community level, and good things happen. 

America's prize asset for the moment is innovation and creativity, and I say for the moment, because even here in true blue Washington-  I just spoke to the lonely 7 arts teachers- all the arts -  in a Seattle area school district of 22,000 students, students whose future creativity, I assert, is indispensable for American leadership.  And creativity is not magic, nor even special talent. Like any professional activity, it demands training for advanced practice.
I'll speak later about community cultural effort successes (Seattle) and failures (Anchorage.)

August 28, 2011

Dropping in at Salisbury

During our UK trip I had to concede one day to the generic Tourist Tour - Stonhenge (mobbed), Bath (mobbed), and along the way...Salisbury Cathedral.

I thought of Salisbury as a bit of a throw-in on the tour - a place near the lunch stop where they could move us to a little less-congested spot for a while. Salisbury is unique for several reasons. Its churchyard was cleared in the Victorian era, creating open space around the structure that gives you room to step back and look at it, and to walk around in. It towers majestically over that open space: its 6,500 ton spire is the highest in the UK, and would likely have toppled by now had not Christopher Wren put in tie beams in 1668.

Salisbury also stands out for its architectural coherence. Built in the relatively brief span of 38 years (1220-1258), it is a pure exemplar of the Early English Gothic style.

And then there's the black man standing up there. Wait, what?

Yes, there, at the left hand of St. Thomas of Canterbury, the fellow holding the coffee mug. Excuted by Sean Henry, the statue is one of over 20 that will be in residence at various places around the cathedral through the end of October. (The BBC offers a fine photo tour here.)

Now ordinarily I have no patience for this sort of thing, because it never works. The modern has very little to say to the ancient, I believe. Because life is so convenient now - because our genuine suffering is so infrequent - I find it hard to imagine that any modern artist can add much to what is already there. Adult life expectancy when this place was built was around 35 years, child mortality was probably 30-50%, there were no treatments for infectious diseases, appendicitis, etc. We know much more than they did about many things, but suffering? The meaning of life? I doubt it.

But I found Henry's sculpture arresting, as well as several others in the installation. Henry makes a valid point - the saints are already well-represented, but what about the people who lived here and came here? "I'm interested in memorialising the everyday," he says.

Henry adds, but does not intrude. The statues he has placed look like they belong there - they express some of the sentiments that perhaps motivate someone to go to church in the first place, such as this fellow who has taken refuge from the institutional madness of his career:

Or this man (I thought he was real for a moment) who could have walked out of a field at almost any time in the past thousand years:

The experience of the exhibition is not shocking so much as evocative. We are so used to walking through empty cathedrals, Henry reminds us of a time when they were full, and necessary, and shows us what kind of people went there.

The cathedral itself is magnificent, and while I still have my reservations, Henry's installation is beautiful and well-judged. It reminds us gently of things we might prefer not be reminded of, without disrupting the original intentions or current purpose of the structure. It deserves respect at least, maybe quite a bit more.

I don't even care if this is true

But I'm holding out for a math co-processor chip.

August 27, 2011

Your concerns are misplaced

Santorum: GOP not anti-science, just Pro-God.

If I read this correctly, Santorum is expressing a strong personal belief in immanence, the pervasive presence of the divine in all material things. This came as a bit of a shock because I was always taught that immanence was a heathen superstition, adhered to only by druids, Buddhists, and, to a limited degree, Roman Catholics.

But science is ok, Santorum says, because it studies everything, and God is in everything. So science is really just the study of God.

I trust this puts the issue to rest.

A Possible Distinction

Markets reward productivity. Capitalism rewards privilege. 

Ice Road Blimpers

Arctic to be alive with blimps. 

The blimps are from Hybrid Air Vehicles, which I believe has at least built a giant hangar in Germany. The unbuilt blimps look cool. I am all for blimps. I am a blimpophile.

Does it stand a chance?  I'm going to say possibly yes - low impact, high capacity shipping across the summer arctic is actually a perfect use for blimps, and because it's oil there's a lot of money involved.

The lazily photoshopped images are slightly hilarious, especially the US Customs Surf-Blimp 9000. 

As someone who is about to ship large paintings to San Fransisco, and noting the costs of vans, movers and such, I can't tell how much I would appreciate daily Blimp service.

August 25, 2011

Going to the well again

It's too good. The Barro piece in the WSJ was an embarrassment, Krugman calls him on it.

[W]hy, exactly, are we supposed to have such faith in “regular economics”? What is the compelling evidence that the vision of a competitive, efficient economy allocating resources to the right uses is actually a good description of the world we live in?

I mean, it’s a lovely model, and one I, like everyone else in economics, use a lot. But I would not have said that it’s a model backed by lots of evidence. We do know that demand curves generally slope down; it’s a lot harder to give good examples of supply curves that slope up (as a textbook author, believe me, I’ve looked); and it’s a very long way from there to the vision of Pareto efficiency and all that which Barro wants us to take as the true economics. Realistically, imperfect competition, market failure, and more are everywhere.

To which I can only add this.

How do I get that deal?

Dr. Kapital tweets:

A vote to exempt a single company from taxes? What a country.

Not funny

Also true.

August 24, 2011


Krugman: Your personal incredulity counts for nothing.

Republican proposal for repaired Washington Monument

I'm Not Looking for A New England

The Guardian's favorite albums reviews hits one of mine: Billy Bragg's Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy. 

It helps, of course, that unusually for a polemicist, Bragg was always much more attuned to the mysteries of the human heart than he was versed in political theory. To some critics the love songs made him seem sentimental, but he openly embraced the natural conflict between political and personal on one of the greatest pop songs every written, A New England, and, elsewhere, was able to craft songs of such stark, self-lacerating beauty that they seemed to brook no argument. As he used to joke at gigs, The Man in the Iron Mask was the song that his fiercest, angriest, Trotskyist critics would ask him to play, on the sly.

It goes to one of my aesthetic principles: sentiment that masks truth is horrifying in its dissonance.  But it is the sentiment that reveals the riskier truths of being, the very attachment so feared, so embarrassing, so fragile, so necessary to the worth of human beings, that is the most beautiful thing.

Libyan Rebels Triumph Incidently Against Bad Art

Sperm not an...issue?

Seminal research finds emissions not as disappointing as feared.

August 23, 2011

Oh the humanity

Won't Obama do something?

August 22, 2011

That explains A LOT!

According to a Princeton Review study:

"The 5 colleges with “least religious students” were: Bennington College; Reed College in Oregon; Bard College in New York; Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College, both in New York."

August 21, 2011

Just makes them mad

Dr. Kapital tweets:

"Japan wants you to stop buying yen. I'd suggest they cut interest rates to zero, run up massive debts, and gridlock their political system, but they already have taken those measures. Guess it just has to go up, then."

Stephen Fry experiences the Iron Bowl


Channel Number Hitler

Coco Channel: Nazi spy!

Role Model

The National Palace Museum is holding a remarkable exhibition around the works of Huang Gonwang, the immensely influential landscape artist of the late Song Dynasty.

According to the exhibition notes, he first picked up a paintbrush when he was 50, and his greatest work, the scroll Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains was completed when he was in his early 80s.

This scroll has been through the mill. One part ended up here in Taiwan as part of the corpus of imperial art spirited away when the Republic of China fell. Another portion resides at the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou. This summer the pieces have been on joint exhibition for the first time in 360 years

The exhibition is notable because it also includes copies, imitations, and wonderfully, attributed works. Since so much of Huang Gonwang's art has been lost, we can sometimes catch glimpses of lost originals through the eyes of those who emulated him.

August 19, 2011

You know it's dirty

Dr. Kapital tweets:

"I am shocked, shocked, to find there is bond rating going on in here."

The real function of science is to answer the question...

...what is this stuff?

August 17, 2011

Atomic bombs may not have been as awesome as originally reported

When subjected to atomic bombings, Imperial Japan surrendered. Now, that narrative is under new scrutiny.

August 14, 2011

Hey Five Thirty Eight: Here's The GOP ECIT (Evil/Crazy/Ignorant/Tool) Analysis


Above: A Helpful Chart of Reprehensible Personal Characteristics of Republican Candidates.

Introducing the ECIT. It works like this, with 1-10 ratings, 10 being most.

"Mitt" Romney-  Evil (7), Crazy (5), Ignorant (4), Tool (9),
Ron Paul- Evil (4), Crazy (9), Ignorant (4), Tool (2)
Rick Perry- Evil (8), Crazy (6), Ignorant (8), Tool (8)
John Huntsman:  E (4), C (3), I (2), T (7)
Michelle Bachman: E (5), C (8), I (9), T (4)
Tim Pawlenty, E (3), T, (7), I (4), T (6)  (Out. Likely Cause: Insufficient ECIT factor)
Sarah Palin, Evil (9), Crazy (8), Ignorant (10), Tool (8)
Herb Cain, E (3), C (5), I (6), T (5)
Newt Gingrich, E (9), C (6), I (5), Tool (9)
Rick Santorum, Evil (6), C (6), T (6), I (8)

Ronald Reagan- E (4), C (5), I (7), T (5)
George W. Bush- E (8), C (7), I  (8), T (9)
Barack Obama- E (1), C (1), I (1), T (3) 
Bill Clinton-  E (3), C (3), I (1), T (5)


Evil. Degree of indifference to common moral standards. A "10" would be happy to sell her services as President to China for the right price.
Crazy. Sincere belief in statements which are clearly and reasonably demonstrably false, including self-delusions. (Note the Clinton score of "3,")  Belief in God for example is not demonstrably false, although rigorously materialist evidence is lacking; however, belief that tiny alien robots put the U.S. off the gold standard is.
Ignorant. Lack of essential awareness of history, politics and government, economics, business, society, geography, arts, and sciences. I would set 10 as an average high-school drop-out. Note that no distinction has been made between willful ignorance, such as Romney's situationally-dependent factual fluidity, and actual stupidity, such as Rick Perry.
Tool. Willingness to serve the agenda of others to the contrary interest of one's social, spiritual and moral beliefs.

Disputes to the values I have assigned are natural. I struggled between rating the President on 3 or 4 on the tool factor, higher than Ron Paul, for example. Ron Paul has the courage of his convictions to the point it bumps up his crazy factor significantly.  It's difficult to imagine a sitting U.S. president with a score of 1 or 2 here,  but I believe Obama's lack of active evil is accurate and remarkable; only Jimmy Carter, in recent times, would match this.  On toolness, Thomas Jefferson, not the most perfectly ethical of men, might well score at 1 or 2- any man who writes his own version of the Bible while in the White House to counter his Christianist enemies can hardly be cited for lacking conviction.

A higher ECIT factor, which essentially a measure of contempt-ability, correlates well with the degree to which they must be politically opposed.  But how predictive of Republican nomination is an ECIT score? A 10 on all factors would likely be prohibitive even for the Republican party. (The fascist Ann Coulter, for example, would score roughly 35.) But an excessively low score would be also well correlated with a lack of success.

ESTIMATED MAXIMUM ECIT Score to possibly reach GOP nomination (0-40, presuming all factors are weighted equally): 33.  Bad news for Palin, who is too contemptible. As EST. MINIMUM: 21, it's bad news for Ron Paul, Herb Cain, and John Huntsman, who are not contemptible enough. 

So, up to a certain point,  the contemporary GOP nomination will generally go to those within the Golden Old Range, from the the Reaganite 21 up to what we might call the Bushian Demarcation of 33

The insights are interesting. Gingrich, who's evil rating of 9 may be an underestimate, scores a solid 29, but I suspect to succeed he would need to bump up his apparent ignorance, which would have the happy effect of bumping up his astronomical tool rating - a 9 already retarded only by his own self-regard.

Gingrich is a problem, because I would normally predict that the tool rating is an important factor in securing the GOP nomination, and this has a recent example:  McCain's 2008 primary campaign was dominated by his increasingly energetic and eventually successful attempt to bolster his relatively low tool factor of 5 for Republican to a high tool factor of 8.  Weighting here requires more study.

Another insight is the surprising performance of Bachman. The apparent sincerity of her stupid, malicious beliefs is a point in her favor, keeping her well within the Bushian Demarcation, unlike Palin, who has exceeded it with a score of 35, by ignorance, evil, and pathological lying.

Unfortunately, Bachman's greater early success over Gingrich, who has a distressing comparable score, suggests another factor entirely, possibly charisma (in this matchup, a basically attractive if alarmingly brittle woman vs. an unholy frog-faced life-sucking gargoyle) but the ECIT is a particular, rigorous mockery of a study of truly contemptible personal attributes as a strong predictive factor in the likelyhood of national political success in the GOP, rather than a matter of personal aesthetics. 

Several questions: how do we weight these four factors? Is the predictive quality the peak of the curve between 21 and 33, or a maximization toward either end, or is it simply a necessary range threshold? And since I have defined the problem without research I don't have time for in such a way that my analysis must be correct, how can I convince others to do my work for me?

August 13, 2011

Space-Time is so 20th Century

The new black is Phase Space.

Everybody wins

Dr. Kapital tweets:

"Bondholders made money and the U.S. saved $647 mm. We need more downgrades like this."

Notes on Clive

  • 29 September, 1725 - Born
  • 1744 - Sent to India as clerk for East India Company, paid £5 per year plus £3 for expenses.
  • 1751 - Leads successful defense of Arcot, accumulates enormous wealth.
  • 1753 - Returns to England, marries.
  • 1755 - Returns to India to act as governor of Fort St. David, loses £33,000 when one of his ships is wrecked.
  • 1757 - Recaptures Calcutta, wins Battle of Plassey, presented with four tortoises from the Seychelles. William Pitt calls him the "heaven-born general" in Parliament.
  • 1760 - Ill health, returns to England with a fortune of £300,000.
  • 1761-64 - Awarded an Irish peerage and made Baron Clive of Plassey Co Clare, dedicates himself to reform of the governance of the East India Company.
  • 1765 - Returns to India as Governor and Commander-in-Chief, suppresses Sepoy mutiny. Learns he has inherited £70,000 from Mir Jafar. Has family picture painted.
  • 1766 - Secures personal title to the state of Bengal from the Mughal Emporer of India, becomes sovereign ruler of 30 million people.
  • 1767 - Returns to England.
  • 1769 - Builds Claremont, hires Capability Ground to do the landscape work.
  • 1772 - Called before Parliament to answer charges of corruption, he says: "By God... I stand astonished at my own opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles : I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels!" Corruption charges eventually dismissed.
  • 1774 - Addicted to opium and in constant pain, kills self with pen knife, aged 49.
  • ?? - Statue erected in Whitehall. Inscription: "Credited with securing India."
  • 1935 - Movie Clive of India, Don Ameche's first movie role.
  • 1939 - Positive review of book Clive of Plassey in Time magazine.
  • 2006 - Last tortoise dies.

August 12, 2011

Tweet: debt, trend, threats

Dr. Kapital tweets:

U.S. external debt (shown here) stands at about 1x GDP...manageable. But the trend is bad. Threatening default didn't help, either.

"A social divide? In England...?"

Australia's Clarke and Dawes with a rundown on events in the UK.

These two are also responsible for the legendary "the front fell off" interview from 1991.

Goldman Sachs' Art Schools: Surprise! Multi-Billion Dollar Fraud

The Feds and four states including California join civil suits on multi-billion dollar student loan and recruitment fraud at the 45 Goldman Sachs-owned Art Institutes and numerous other EMC owned for-profit schools. Among these, Educational Management Corp owns Art Institute of Seattle and the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

By the numbers- 50% of the defaults on federal student loans comes from the 10% of the students, those who attend corporate for-profit colleges.The suits allege that EMC systematically pressures students into taking huge loans, and compensates recruiters illegally.  EMC pockets federal student loan money even though the students so often default, their chances at a career often destroyed by either the crushing debt or a default.

National Endowment for the Arts budget since 2003: $800 million. Amount of ineligible loan fraud, since 2003, just for this company,  $11 billion.

I know fine and dedicated people who work at one of the ECM Art Institutes, and I also know art students, especially ones from less privileged backgrounds, who are pushed into early default by high-pressure marketing and recruitment. Students who have gone there tell me of intense recruitment pressure.

There are indeed career opportunities in the arts generally (more than you might think - the arts are 6% of the economy; a student with superior drawing/illustration skills has a good shot at video game work for one example)  but facing spotty opportunities with crushing debt (these schools are well over 20K a year),  and what is often a substandard education, is essentially impossible. The education quality is often highly uneven, and instructor salaries range in the several hundred dollars for a quarter long class. (A friend put it this way: if you go there, the teachers will be looking at your lunch).

Most often, much better and vastly cheaper education opportunities abound in the West Coast's still fairly robust community college system, often by the same instructors.   But these for-profit education corporations, EMC and others,  have cultivated political protection; and their rapid growth- often at the expense of community colleges- should raise a few eyebrows and a lot of subpoenas.

EMC's massive, multi-billion dollar fraud is terribly destructive to students and education. It wrings less privileged young people dry, rips off  billions from taxpayers, and squanders human potential. The company's protests about how important is to reach minority students doesn't meet the smell test, unless they mean the huge expenses they put into heavy television marketing and illegal recruitment. $11 BILLION into the community college system would have reached and recruit diverse students much more, and in most instances delivered a superior education. 

Profit alone  is a shockingly bad institutional motivation in education. My own experience teaching with this corporate mindset left me with  real disgust. While some for-profit college models can be very beneficial and helpful, providing experimentation and flexibility for some students (I've had good experiences teaching at small for-profit schools), the corporate for-profit education model, as a whole, is I believe toxic in post-secondary education.  The teaching atmosphere is often empty, disconnected and future-less, and there is little if any incentive for scholarship.

It would have been vastly better,  more morally and socially beneficial, to hold those loans solely for community colleges, where for the same price to the government, perhaps three times the number of students could have attended, and where the level of education, institutional concern for students' careers and for the attainment of knowledge as a desirable social goal for citizens is a greater priority.

As it is, I am forced to strongly discourage students from attending these schools, and feel that I must professionally oppose this model of college education.

August 11, 2011

Harmonic Convergence of Suck

Redskins' Rex Grossman says they're the team to beat in the NFC East.

August 10, 2011

Before you go, a reminder

I had one last surprise on my trip. I'd always thought Midway Airport was named for a local neighborhood or its central geographical location. Couldn't be the battle, right? After all, O'Hare Airport is named for Butch O'Hare, who won the Medal of Honor for some fancy flying in the Pacific in the early days of the War. They wouldn't name both airports after Pacific War exploits, would they?

Yes, they would. Not only is it named for the Battle of Midway, there's a Dauntless above you as you rush to your gate.

I was struck by how small it was. At 33' long, the Dauntless was much smaller than the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber and about the same size as the Hellcat fighter that's parked on the Hornet. It's light and slow compared to those more modern aircraft. It gives you fresh respect for the people who flew them through a hail of tracers and sent four enemy aircraft carriers to the bottom of the sea, one day in 1942.

I always leave Chicago feeling a little more American. Worked again this time.

Going over the wall

Rushing out of a client meeting yesterday afternoon, I ran down the street looking for a cab out to Midway airport so I could grab some dinner and fly home. And as I raised my arm, I realized I was standing in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Well, a man's got to believe in something. I've been here at different times in my life probably more than any other museum. They'll still check your stuff at the door - I left my briefcase, coat, and tie, and got a ticket. I had an hour.

In through the Asian wing, past this awesome Buddha. The Asian collection is very good, very well selected. There's a Japanese section that's small but very interesting. At the end of the hall I come face-to-face with this guy. Rather striking, impressive, and...wha...?! 5,000 years old? Yes, that is correct. According the press release, "the quality, age, and rarity make this statuette the most important loan to the museum for its collection of ancient art."

Haven't even looked at a painting yet...and this is where Chicago just kills you. I start off with a few minutes looking at these - really, you could pull up a chair and spend the whole day here, but in the next room you've got to say hi to Toulouse-Lautrec, and (following in Ferris Buehler's footsteps) surely Seurat deserves 30 seconds of your time... Great, that's done, ready for Gauguin?

This place really needs a recovery room. Some people just get dazed and wander out to the steps to stare at the O'Keefe.

Given my station in life I have to make a brief detour. In 1977 they installed here a reconstruction of the old trading floor from the Chicago Stock Exchange. Designed in 1893 by Adler & Sullivan, the detailing is just beautiful. An elegant arena for a more civilized age.

On my way out...wait, what? There's a Modern Wing now? Yes - opened in 2009. It's gorgeous, if somewhat white and rectangular. Also, it's big - the statue in that picture - Thomas Schütte's Vater Staat ('Father State') - is 18 feet tall.

No time, but I have to look on on the special exhibition, "The Avant Garde in Everyday Life". It's small but very good with examples of posters, postcards, tableware (especially by the blessed Sutnar) and other early attempts to bring a higher level of material culture to the masses. And, from Czechoslovokia (1929) a whiff of caution for China.

Then into the cab, and back to the present, which isn't, alas, all that different from the past.

Here's a nice article

About the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa.

August 09, 2011

Even the Prime Minister began to take notice

I hate it when my vacation time is interrupted by rioting, ungrateful peasants, don't you? Of course he didn't need to rush back, the government was "fully in control," he just decided to.

That's the Massachusetts I remember

If a Bulger were involved it would be perfect.

Why yes Mr. Hatter, I'd like more tea

Dr. Kapital tweets:

S&P downgrades an asset, followed by panic buying of that asset. Where's my non-Euclidian calculator?

August 07, 2011

Cartoon of the Year

Totally harmless, I'm sure

And not the eye of some monstrous intergalactic predator intent on our destruction. Probably not that. I think.

August 06, 2011

How about a study of how to get people off food stamps?

The Army has too much (fucking) money.

(Food stamp info here.)

August 05, 2011

Mind controller chip removed

David Frum's Sontag moment.
Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

What's $2 trillion among friends

Dr. Kapital tweets:

Rounding error? (link)

Prove Me Wrong

The greed and maliciousness of the Republican Party leadership is inexcusable. They are without remorse, without empathy, without honor. They will speak any combination of words, with total indifference to the truth, that that they think will deflect the blame from them for the continuing economic and political damage to the United States of America. They are bereft even of the simplest, genuine feelings of patriotism, because they have with willful ignorance confused the idea of destroying liberals and progressives, with love and sacrifice for their country and their countrymen.

August 04, 2011




Slow clap for Congress

August 03, 2011

Science explained


Farewell, Bubba

August 02, 2011

List of Areas in Which Your Being A Republican Will Likely Preclude Our Mutually Beneficial Association

1. Business Dealings
2. Education 
3. Government Areas
4. Parking
5. Personal Romantic Relationships
6. Idea or Book Areas
7. The Money Zone
8. Facts
9. Jobs and Consuming
10. The Hilltop
11. Loading
12. God Belief Areas
13. Art, such as paintings, poetry, and greeting cards
14. World Internet Webconnect
15. Highways or other paths into the Danger Zone
16. Science Dealings
17. Aircraft Maintenance
18. Music, radio, and those sorts of noises
19. Can I borrow your cell phone?
20. The Circle of Life

August 01, 2011

Those evil, evil Americans

Dr. Kapital tweets:

Mr Putin says: "countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities ... There should be other reserve currencies." Like the Rouble, perhaps? After all, you haven't defaulted since 1998. Laughing too hard to comment further.