January 31, 2013

You Can't Handle the Angst

Even more, the Angst-Joken "Advanced Edition."


Two Terrriers are discussing political economy with small squirrel puppets representing fiscal and monetary policy. "Chatter, Chatter!," one terrier makes the fuzzy, fiscal policy squirrel puppet go, using his little paws. The other squirrel puppet is not made to reply, but attempts to influence other squirrel puppets with glances and signals to gather or store nuts.  Satisfied, the terriers lick themselves.

January 30, 2013

Beardie on teevee

At times Krugman's face seems frozen in the "what the fuck are you saying?" expression...


It had to be asked

Am I willing to risk being the girl who turned tricks to see Social Distortion?

(Smolinski amok)

Farewell to a favorite

Patty (middle) had the right stuff,  the flirty girl next door who wouldn't run too fast if you chased her.  She won the war in this scene right here, as far as I'm concerned:


BBC obituary here.

The Hilarious Delight of the New Angst-Jokens!

The Angst-Jöken

Baby Harp Seals

How do you  get a baby harp seal to stop crying? You are all too aware of the method.

January 29, 2013

A New Height In Spam Comments

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Fine Onion Relationship Comedy. That's all.


Django: A Wizard. Slavery. Violence. Paperwork. Dinner.

Ebert's review of Django Unchained, which is more thorough than mine: an amazingly entertaining, hyperviolent, beautiful film in Tarantino's fantasy movie space about the importance of politeness and correctly filled out paperwork.  It stabs mercilessly at slavery's corpse, and Hollywood's and D.C.'s history of South-washing, in a way that a reasonable and sober movie would not have done. 

I would have liked a bit about why Q.T.'s dinner party scenes, and in Inglourious Basterds, are masterworks of tension. 

January 28, 2013

Patton Oswalt Live-Tweets "Downton Abbey"

Selected enthusiastically - the unabridged version is available here.

January 27, 2013

What old men do in the afternoon

I listened today to Radio 4's Something Understood, which you can hear Sundays at 3 pm (I listen on iTunes, but you can also pick up Radio 4 here).  Today's theme was the changing nature of identity.  Supposedly one's cells switch over every seven years, so we really are not the same us as we used to be.  The show was a thoughtful meditation on this with some enjoyable readings and those lulling British accents that make you feel smart for listening to them.

It did get me wondering, though.  Browsing through some older entries in this "blog" I ran across this moment of self-assessment, in which I learned that my closest political correlate was the Dalai Lama.  So, a bit further down the road, how have I changed?  Amazingly, the link in the original post still works - click here, and you can thoroughly assess your political beliefs through a multi-page form.

So I did it again:


Lefty libertarian, eh?  I wonder how that compares to great world leaders...


 Well, the cells may change, but Gunga Galunga, apparently, is forever...

Next stop, real estate

Ailes fires Palin.


January 26, 2013

Shooting the wounded, usefully

Alright, Already...RomCom Warmovies #LowHangingComedyFruit

About a Fuhrer

4 Sinkings of the Bismark and a Funeral

The Dirty Dozen in the City

Laura! Laura! Laura!

The Bridges on the River Kwai of Madison Country

You've Got Chainmail

Sleepless in the Sudetenland

Grant and Lee Make a Porno

Zero Dark Chocolate

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blitzkrieg


Just asking...

Best of Today's Urgent Headlines Today: Set Your Timeback Unit to the 1st Half of 2005


Declining World Frog Population Cutting Down on Magical Royal Marriages

View of Young Woman's Impressive Decolletage Ruined by Inexpensive Christian Jewelry

Best Buy Rebate Obtained

Hiker Fleeing Ferocious Bear Run Over By Cement Mixer

Europe Descends Into Further Pleasantry


Cosmonaut Returns to Outlet Mall

Adorable Kittens Determine Flushing Handle is Not Friend


Envelope Coveted

History Recap: "Deep Throat" Had Revealed U.S. Secret That Nixon Was a Cynical, Warmongering, Racist Son of a Bitch

Disappointment as 32 Ounce Resealable Bag of Kroger Store Brand "Honey Oat Rings" Proves Full of Angry, Live Bats

OPINION: You Think You Run the Tacoma Best Buy Laptop Accessories Department, But Mister You Have Literally No Idea

LATEST REPORT: Lisa, I Expect the Makita Tools Display to Look Ship-Shape By 4:30

Coming Up on Headlines: How a Simple Cheeseburger Threw Carrot Top Into Despair

Giant Floating Brain From Nebular 7 Embarassed, Injured After Slipping on a Banana and Tumbling Down Stairs, Finally Rolling to a Wobbly Stop Seven Blocks Later in Front of a Tacoma IHOP

FBI Taps Trevor's 'Big-Wheel Ice Cream Gang' As Nation's Top Child Terrorist Concern

Vatican To Step Up Sarcastic Letters to Editor

As a Child Mourns, City Leaders Reflect on Decision to Locate Doggy Day Care Next to Unscrupulous Rendering Plant

Adorable Kitten Scientists Believe That the Reality of Tuna Flavoring Must Imply The Existence of Huge, Delicious Tunas

New 42" HDTV Screen Just Seems to Magnify Low Quality of Writing


Rumsfeld Insists Styx Cassettes Are An Appropriate Pre-Teen Birthday Gift

National Command Authority Missile Launch Codes Left in Presidential Bicycling Pants

As A Community Mourns, Officials Find Last of 14 Clown Noses in Frozen Banana Cream Pie Factory Vat

Heroic Toddler Saves His Town As Fork in Outlet Sets Fire to Wal Mart

Robots May Lose Robot Vision From Excessive Self-Disagnostic Checks

Fuzzy Bunnies Amazed By Abandoned Day-Pack Full of Carrots

OFFER: Is Ann Coulter Really a Nazi Cunt? Find Out In Minutes With This Simple Hormone Test

Yoda: "Gay is this Jedi."


Disneyworld Guantanamo Less Than Happiest Place on Earth

Adorable Kitten Snuggling Attempt Goes Awry As Unstable Milkshake on Lap Faulted

Courageous Illinois Teen Breaks "The Dweeb Barrier"


U.S. Treasury Secretary Defends Use of Special Mathematical Properties of Parallel Universe 8!A

Adorable Kittens Damage Computer By Accidentally Launching Internet Explorer

Florida Man Allows Carrot in Fridge to Quietly Shrivel Up


Beer Ad Campaign Apparently Conceived While Drinking Beer

Accident-Prone Denver Boy Inconsequentially Upsets Large Display of Bags of Marshmellows

Terry Schiavo Urn Clearly Expresses Wish to Live

Tri-Cities Area Communist Party Loses Token Trotskyist to Job at Paint-Ball Arena

Pickles the Border Terrrier Indifferent to Post-Structuralism

Bee Union Busted; Workers Will Return Immediately to Ceaseless Buzzing

Tom Delay Denies Accepting '78 El Camino From Crack Lobby

Dentist Group: Molassses Promotes Tooth Delay 

Mall Security Guard Thrilled to Report Incident

Curious Mole-People Spurn Digital Television


Walter is Damn Sure Not Going to Leave the Target Food Court Without A Formal Written Request

Opinion: Immigration Makeovers are a Great Way to Welcome These Foreigners

Stock Broker's Wife Collapses on Disappointing Earnings Report

Giant Floating Brain from Nebular-7 Creeps Out Other Dude in Hotel Sauna



Suicidal Elephant Tramples Himself 

Telekinetic Boy Accidently Stops Bus With Sudden Need to Use Restroom

Israel "Must Respond Swiftly" to Casserole 

Rumsfeld Continues to Insist Paul McCartney Was Best with "Wings"

Large Hadron Super Collider Condemned By Organization for the Protection of Large Hadrons 

Micheal Jackson Trial To Go Forward While Appearing to Move Backward

Molehill Slated For Expansion

Coming Up on Headlines: The Earth- One More Convienience And the Jig is Up

OPINION: Sometimes It can be Hard to Tell Whether it's Really God or Another Lame Schizophrenic Episode is Talking To You

Adorable Kittens Blame Faulty, Tempting Wiring

In Surprise, John Paul II Rewarded in Heaven with 72 Virgins

Seattle To Destroy Aging Alaska Way Viaduct With Explosive Pent-Up Emotions

LATEST FINDING: Endangered Species Really Love Living Endangerously


Noble Fir Appalled by Proximity to Common Pine

OPINION: How Can any Self-Respecting Video Store Call 6 Beta Copies of Ass Pilots IV an Adult Section?

Chaos as Giant Hershey's Kiss Hot Air Balloon Deflates on Top of Dick Cheney

Man Reconciles Self to Wife's Enormous New Breasts

Candyless Man Partly Assuaged by Lozenge

OPINION: These Outrageous Fuel Prices Are Cutting Into an Average Gas Huffer's Already Limited Budget

World's Frailest Man Fractures Eyelash 

GOP Leaders Laud Pope Plus Reagan for Beating Up Gorbachev in Dark Kiev Alley in 1985, Causing No More Communism

Understandable Error Thrusts Jimmy Dean into Leadership of Democratic National Committee


U.S. Postal Service Orders 50 Cent to Increase Himself to 54 Cent as of June 30th

Concerned Bush Vows to Defeat Klingons

Drunk, Smoking, Obese White Lab Rats Turning Up in Nation's Sports Bars

Rumsfeld Warns Iraqis that Star Wars Episode III Will "Undoubtedly Be The Greatest Movie Ever Screened"

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Receives Coupon for Free 1-Topping Pizza With Purchase of A Pizza of Equal or Lesser Value

Lemur Unswayed

Adorable Kittens Mesmerized By Flossing

U.S. Navy Experimenting With 200 HP Female Condom

Commander Numbnuts Sensitive To Coarse Remarks


Paris Hilton Goes Down Like The Bismark

University of Michigan Reports Behavior of Psychology Students Dangerously Over-Studied

Coming Up on Headlines: Why the Centers for Disease Control Are Headed for Your Neighborhood Armed and in Force


Wobbly News Satellite Sends Back Unusually Ambigious Commentary

Wedding DJ Badly Misjudges Audience Desire to Hear Bachman Turner Overdrive

Fooled By Apparent Ease of Chase, Adorable Kittens Stalking Tuna Can

View of Intriguing Uma Thurman Louis Vuitton Ad Partly Obscured By Habernot Systems Mark VI 15,000 Ton Self-Assembling Derrick Crane

Rumsfeld Insists Bob Saget Added Much To America's Funniest Home Videos With Falsetto Commentary

Micheal Jackson Evaporates Into 11th Dimensional Space

Adorable Kittens Suspect Tree Contains Birds

OPINION: No, I Don't Have the Keys, Darling, Maybe They Fell in The Couch While You Were Making Out With That Hideous Alien

Dick Cheney Volunteers for Habit for Inhumanity, Opens New Land Mine Plant

Manageable Goals Revolutionaries Target Barnes and Noble Shelves with "Operation Moustache"

Bicycling President Bush Reported Lost in West Dakota

Latest Bear Finding: Cars With Fat People In Them Often Contain More Nachos

Bush Attempt at Root Beer Float Goes Awry As Ice Cream Ball Keeps Turning Over, Resisting Fumbling Attempts At Scooping With Flimsy Plastic Spoon

Opinion: Although I'm Enjoying Your Lap Dancing, Miss, You Don't Necessarily Need to Keeping Slapping Yourself There In Particular

Rebuttal: Don't Tell Me You Don't Love It

Coming Up on Headlines: Your Future Bio-Cybernetic Dog Will Conveniently Pee Carpet Freshener

Goth Chick Forced to Wrap Birthday Present

OPINION: Look, Just Because We Have 5000 Metric Tons of Sarin Doesn't Mean We're Not "People" People

Coming Up on Headlines: Why Your Feeble, Desperate Clawing at Meaningful Experience is About to Be Professionally Discredited

Alaskan Moondogs


January 25, 2013



Watson, Scruggs, and Skaggs

I have no idea why the government chose to not use the Emergency Broadcast System to present this to the nation:

This is why we need a Living National Treasure designation.

(Yes, I know Watson and Scruggs are dead.  They are still Living National Treasures, and I will fight anyone who says different.)

I'll just say this once

Assimilation of the privileges, mannerisms, and ornaments of patriarchy by women gains them nothing, it perpetuates and honors the global culture of hate, inhumanity, and violence feminism pretends to despise.

January 24, 2013

Let's all go quietly down this road wearing our Backwards Pants...


Reading about the Battle of Fort Necessity, Washington's first battle, and the only one in which he surrendered, in the Chernow biography.
Historians have rightly faulted him for advancing when he should have retreated; for fighting without awaiting sufficient reinforcements; for picking an indefensible spot; for the slapdash construction of the fort; for alienating his Indian allies; and for shocking hubris in thinking he could defeat an imposing French force...
What. A. Clusterfuck.

On the other hand, he was 22, and probably got the job because no sane man would take it.  No wonder he was so cautious later on in his career.

Enjoy your 'thank you' job, TIm

I'll be in my bunk...

Over the past 30 years, versions of the game have come and gone, some better than others, but all well loved.  Sadly, many of those rulebooks and adventures from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have disappeared — forgotten, made obsolete, or discarded with the trash by parents when young gamers went off to college. They’re nearly impossible to get nowadays, and when you do get them, they’re sometimes sold for exorbitant prices.

We’re happy to report that Wizards of the Coast has launched dndclassics.com, a new site that sells hundreds of these decades-old products available for download in PDF format.

The website’s tagline offers a heady promise: “Every edition available again!” Eventually, dndclassics.com will offer hundreds of titles for digital release.


January 22, 2013


Why not "negotiate with the Iranian people?"  Well, to get technical about it, they're not the ones controlling Iran's nuclear program.  



Frontline wonders why we didn't see more fraud charges in the aftermath of the financial crisis.  Me too.


January 21, 2013

The Whirlwind

Here is a story from a chess book I used to have, a fictional confrontation between an old master and an upstart Russian in 1947, in a fictional tournament for the crown of the unfortunate Alekhine, lately dead in Portugal.

The game is not fictional, however.  It was played in 1893, not 1947, and the master with the white pieces was not an aged veteran, he was a brilliant 19 year-old Hungarian named Rudolf Charousek.

Here is how you pronounce his name.  It's a perfect name for an attacking player, exotic and  cyclonic, and it reinforces the impression of his play.  He was so good he'd be remembered if they called him Hummelscheiss, but Charousek cannot be improved upon - he played just the way the name sounds.

Many young masters have produced brilliancies, but if you look closely you'll notice that their finest games usually come against weaker opponents.  To win brilliant games against top-class competition at a young age is a hallmark of a Morphy, a Fischer, an Alekhine.  Some of Charousek's finest games came against the strongest players of his time.  Here is the improbable position after 18 moves against Geza Maroczy, inventor of the Maroczy Bindone of the ten best players in the world at that time:

White to Play and Die in One of Several Unpleasant Ways

Ignoring pins, Black has four major pieces on take - the bishops, the queen, and the rook on e4.  Of course three of those captures are impossible - capturing the b4 bishop would allow the Black queen to capture White's rook; capturing the Queen would be check from the b4 bishop; and capturing the e4 rook would mean check from the Black queen.  Capturing the bishop on the a4 file would lead to QxP (check), and horrible things to follow.  Not that they didn't anyway.

Even the prodigies, however, falter at the highest level of competition.  In chess the World Champion has special status somehow, an aura or intimidation factor.  Upstarts don't beat world champions, except for the Promethean Tal, and even he surrendered the crown in a rematch.  So it was serious news when Charousek beat Emanuel Lasker, pushing a passed pawn like a dagger into the heart of the black position:

You Lose, But You Will Receive a Copy of Our Home Game

Lasker said "I shall have to play a championship match with this man someday."

Sadly, it never came to pass - the young genius died of tuberculosis in 1900, at the age of 27.  But in old books or on our computers we can still see traces of the brilliant whirlwind, Charousek.


January 20, 2013

Signs of the Times

[W]e have gone from a world in which we couldn't possibly fake a landing on the Moon but we went there for real to a world in which we are no longer going to the Moon but we can easily fake it.


January 19, 2013

Mine is impersonating a person on the Internet

"There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime," said John Baker, a retired Louisiana State University law professor... "That is not an exaggeration."


January 18, 2013

Body Slam

January 17, 2013

This Show is Not in Tacoma: A Facebook Discussion.

First Sea Lord: Ann Gale's extraordinary paintings at Dolby Chadwick gallery in S.F. - Review by Dewitt Cheng.

Undersecretary: I wish it were in Tacoma. Darn!

First Sea Lord: U, as you don't live anywhere near there, Tacoma seems like an oddly specific request. "If only it were in Bloomington, Illinois, or perhaps, Lincoln, Nebraska. Also, I hear Ashland, Oregon is nice. "

Undersecretary: Tacoma art scene, in my experience, is less crowded than Seattle's. 
First Sea Lord: As is the art scene in Topeka, Kansas, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Plano, Texas, Pierre, South Dakota, Ulan Bator, Mongolia, Darwin, Austrailia, The Principality of Lichtenstein, Lichtenstein, Luang Prabang, Laos, Nukus, Uzbekistan, (in spite of the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art) and of course Eagle River, Alaska. Also, the show is in San Francisco, California. I fail to grasp your meaning. 

Undersecretary: Tacoma is cheaper to reach than any of those places, save Eagle River (which is a silly idea, one must admit).

First Sea Lord: So let me restate: you would be interested in seeing this superb show, even though you would have to fly 2000 miles to see it, but only, specifically, in Tacoma, even though the show is in San Francisco, which is too expensive to fly to and presumably more crowded; but you also wouldn't see it if it were in Seattle, because the art scene is also too crowded- although you rarely have seen the art scene in Seattle- but you would conceivable fly to see it in Tacoma- on the same hypothetical flight, no doubt- all because, while there is no reason implied or stated in the article for this show to be in Tacoma at all, Tacoma, like almost anywhere on earth where this show is also not, such as Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Henley-on-Thames, Berks, UK, or Adamstown, capital of Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, would be less crowded enough at the imaginary version of this event for you to actually go see this show, concerned as you naturally must be at the prospect of a crowd of 40 people seeing this show in Seattle or San Francisco with you as opposed to a crowd of perhaps 27 in Tacoma. 
As you must sure realize if you are indeed in the habit of hopping on planes for a long flight to see an art show at a gallery in another city over a thousand miles away, galleries do not usually have large crowds during most of their working hours, only at the opening events, if they are lucky. Avoiding a crowd at an art gallery is, if you ask any gallery owner, all too easy. I am as willing to personally guarantee that an airplane will be more crowded than even the most popular art galleries, as I am wholly mystified by your jealous desire to see this show only in Tacoma, Washington, which is certainly a place of untold delights, not in Seattle, Washington, 30 miles away, where the artist lives, nor in San Francisco, California, where it actually is, on the basis that it would be less crowded. And if we are going to wish it were somewhere when there is no reason of any kind for it to be there, why not, I ask, wish that it were in Anchorage, Alaska, near to you where you are, at one of the one (1) thriving contemporary art galleries in Alaska's largest city? 

Here is, I should say, another flaw in your reasoning. Tacoma, I should mention, not unlike Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, now has a much more thriving and admirably crowded art scene than in the past, as the result of concentrated city and private efforts to, quite the opposite of dissuading people from attending art exhbitions, encourage just that sort of thing.

I hope that, if nothing else, we have established in our discussion that Ann Gale's sterling show of paintings is located in San Francisco, California, and that in no way is it located in Tacoma, Washington, was never conceived of being in Tacoma, Washington, was not proposed to anyone in Tacoma, Washington, and these works, selling out as they often do, will never be in Tacoma, Washington. And when she does show in Washington, it is most often in Seattle, Washington, because she lives here, works here, and she hopes perhaps, somewhat against your clearly compelling personal interest, to draw a crowd.  

January 16, 2013

Shut up and take my money!

Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives


New body language from China's leadership

Liu visited nine families, as well as local villages and enterprises, during an inspection tour to Shaanxi from Jan. 11 to 14.

During his inspection tour, the CPC leader stayed in common guesthouses. He covered 900 kilometers in three and a half days without any motorcade to clear the way.

He gave no special reception requirements for local officials, but did tell them to make arrangements for him to visit more families with difficulties.


January 15, 2013

All exit slides deployed is not a "glitch"

ANA To Ground All Boeing 787 Dreamliners After Latest Glitch



The Onion is not playing.  In the same issue they throw in a little shout-out to The Atlantic (Brought to You By Scientology), too.

January 14, 2013


A study conducted by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia, reports that climate change alone could lead to the extinction of wild Arabica coffee...before the end of this century.


January 13, 2013

Just the Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs fact-checks WSJ, with predictable results.

There are natural political divisions - between labor and capital, between social conservatives and civil rights advocates, between rich and poor.  So why is the modern American political divide between those who respect facts and those who talk and conduct policy as if they did not matter??

Free art

The National Palace Museum has a nice collection of desktops art, available here.

The Price of Conciliation

Sure he's crazy and maybe anti-semitic...do you want a Republican or not?

January 12, 2013

Word to this

Sadly, the Journal of the American Medical Association has rejected for publication your peer-reviewed study of "that one time I thought I might be getting sick and then I drank a lot of herbal tea and chewed like four things of Emergen-C and then I didn't get sick. Maybe there's something there you could use, I don't know." Stay safe out there.


January 11, 2013

Sometimes there's a clever subtext to GOP strategy

This is not one of those times.

What a country

White House issues official response to the petition to "Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016".

In all seriousness, has there ever been a country - particularly one so militarily powerful - that engaged in such good-humored dialogue with the public?  This is just wonderful, at least according to me.

Your move, Putin.

Oh speaking of that, I showed this to my family last night, and they are still laughing:

January 10, 2013

Life pre-dates oxygen

Who knew?


If moka is wrong, I don't want to be right

Moka pots are sometimes referred to as stove-top espresso makers and produce coffee with an extraction ratio similar to that of a conventional espresso machine. Depending on bean variety and grind selection, Moka pots can create a foam emulsion, known as crema. However, the maximum pressure for coffee extraction which can be achieved with a Moka pot is 1.5 bar. According to the Italian Espresso National Institute and the Specialty Coffee Association of America, an espresso must be made using a precise extraction pressure of 9 bar. So, while a Moka coffee pot can produce a crema similar to espressos, different equipment is required to make a true espresso.


Dispatches, 2013

Lohan complained to Schrader about a biopic she was shooting for Lifetime, in which she played Elizabeth Taylor, one of her role models. She proclaimed the director a jerk, her co-star a nightmare and the crew unfriendly. On it went. Schrader listened for a while. He looked stricken. He softly tapped his balding head on the table. Lohan asked him what was the matter.

“That’s going to be me in two months. You’re going to turn on me.”

The actress touched his arm softly. “C’mon, Paul. That won’t happen.”

He chose to believe her. That summer, he developed a pet line to steel the less brave.

“We don’t have to save her,” Schrader said. “We just have to get her through three weeks in July.”

A month later, Schrader would be standing naked in a Malibu bedroom, missing his dogs and trying to coax Lohan out of her robe.

Turns out three weeks can be a very long time.


[Update - a summary of this epic piece is available here.]

It's a strike force - what's the problem?

A nuclear-powered U.S. attack submarine struck a suspected fishing vessel shortly after passing through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf on Thursday... 

...and we can all rest easy because...

"The reactor remains in a safe condition. There was no damage to the propulsion plant systems and there is no concern regarding watertight integrity," it said.


There are 42 of these things active, by the way.  We really don't know exactly how many - apart from this one - are operated by deranged monkeys.

Yo Tambien

He was very nice to his kids, apparently

“He was the best father in the world,” [Julie Nixon Eisenhower] said. “He loved this country. And he made us proud.”


January 09, 2013

January 08, 2013

You can keep the peace in the Stateville Prison from now on...

During the trial, Cox spent two days on the witness stand, at times confidently telling the jury his philosophy and likening himself to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi.


More Freedom Pie Fights in Asia

Censors finally go too far, and a backlash in China puts political and expressive freedom front and center again. Each country may have different traditions on what freedom is, but recognizing the bullshit of vested interests is pretty universal.

Popcorn, please

“I’m not writing any checks, and I’m not asking anyone else to write any checks until I hear something that makes sense to me.”


January 06, 2013

Please finish this sentence

"It's gonna make Sherman's March look like..."

The Opening Line from the Next Rebar for Tootsie Rolls

"My vacation in Stalingrad went wrong."

coming soon!

The Fightin' 112th

1. The 112th Congress was as bad as the 80th “do-nothing” Congress during the Truman era. 

The comparison is completely unfair — to the 80th Congress...the 80th Congress shouldn’t be stuck with the “do nothing” label. It enacted a respectable 906 laws, including the Marshall Plan, one of the most consequential initiatives of the 20th century. It created the Defense Department and the National Security Council as part of a sweeping reorganization of our national security apparatus.

In contrast, the 112th Congress enacted the smallest number of laws in modern history, fewer than 250 (some are still awaiting presidential action). At least 40 of those were trivial acts such as post office namings or commemorative resolutions. What was the 112th’s equivalent of the Marshall Plan? The debt-limit debacle, which led to the first-ever downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.


January 05, 2013

Naughty Newton


Last Seahawks Playoff Road Victory


January 04, 2013

Bloody Brilliant

Apart from spotting a few tears in his eyes, and the short period of hallucinating, he was cool and collected and seemed to cope very well. 


Movin' on Up

January 02, 2013

My other hometown

Kuala Lumpur DAY-NIGHT from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Rick Brant, Science, and the Post-Colonial Experience

As every schoolchild knows, the 1960s television series, Jonny Quest owed a significant, albeit uncredited debt to the Rick Brant books, a series of 23 juvenile adventure novels published between 1947 and 1968, beginning with The Rocket's Shadow and concluding with Danger Below!  


The Magic Talisman, a peculiar coda, was written later in a different style, and appeared only in a limited edition in 1990 (still, they don't come cheap - actually none of them come cheap).

Like Jonny Quest and a few other juvenile series of the era (Tom Swift Jr. and Tom Corbett come to mind) the Rick Brant series had some appealing scientific elements to it.  Rick is a teenager whose father runs the Spindrift Foundation, a scientific research organization based on Spindrift Island, a fictional site off the coast of New Jersey.  Unlike Tom Swift, however, the science is plausible - no triphibian atomicars here.  The grown-ups mostly do the science stuff, with Rick tagging along for adventure and the occasional punch-up.

It's always the old guys that fight dirty

His best friend is Scotty, who is a former Marine (a younger version of Jonny Quest's Race Bannon).  Scotty's military background is helpful, because Rick Brant sees more gunplay in a chapter than those pussy Hardy Boys did in their whole careers:
[T]he woods around them were suddenly alive with gunfire!  His pony reared and would have bolted if he had not gripped the reins tight and jerked him to a stop.  He caught a glimpse of orange flashes in the gloom, and from ahead he heard a sudden scream from one of the mules. 
Scotty's voice rose in a yell.  "Turn around!  Turn!  Get back out of the woods to the hilltop!" 
Rick saw his friend's strategy at once.  On the hilltop, they could fight off almost a battalion.  He pulled his quivering pony around on the narrow trail and yelled at Sing. 
The guide's voice came in answer.  "Coming!  We're coming!"
A slug whined past Rick's ear and slapped into a tree trunk.  He tried desperately to get the rifle out of his saddle sheath while controlling his fear-crazed pony.  Then he heard the roar of Sing's shotgun... 
If the popularity of the series at my house is any indication, this stuff is like catnip for boys.  The bad guys are usually lousy shots, a necessity in this type of fiction.  But not always - the supporting cast, at least, can take casualties:
"You're wounded!"  He jumped to scientist's side. 
"A scratch," Zircon said.  "But it saved our lives.  Tell you about it later.  Open up Scotty." 
Scotty threw the door open and the English night clerk, three Chinese policemen, and a half dozen coolies piled in.
"What's going on here?" the clerk demanded.  "What happened?" 
"Nothing serious," Zircon said calmly.  "There was evidently a bandit in our room.  We opened the door and he fired with his submachinegun.  Then, when he saw he hadn't killed us, he fled." 
If you're counting, that's 12 people in the room, with only whites speaking.  Written after the Pacific War and Korea, but (for the most part) before Vietnam, the books are ambivalent about the white man's place in strange lands.

Especially the Netherlands

Exotic locales and characters may abound, but they are ultimately interchangeable.  Rick is usually just passing through, and doesn't spend much time learning the local customs.

Not all foreigners are mooks or super-villains, however - our hero does have friends in faraway places.  Like Tintin, who travels to Tibet to help Chang Chon Chen, Rick is drawn into danger when he receives a letter from his Indian friend Chahda, who "was in the hiding place he had chosen deep in the Indian quarter of Singapore...in his ciphered message was the key to an adventure that would plunge his American friends into both darkness and danger..."

On the whole Rick Brant is a competent, well-intentioned youth with a strong tendency toward near-death experiences in faraway places.  Unlike many Americans of his generation, he survives.  Perhaps only people of my vintage see in Rick Brant someone strangely familiar - maybe a friendly classmate whose older brother, cousin, or namesake was lost in Vietnam.

But a child encounters none of these ghosts - the books are not innocent, but they are not mean-spirited or fatalistic either.  And unlike Jonny Quest, if you want to get to know Rick Brant, you have to pick up a book and read about him.  What harm could there be in that?

You can get 11 of the Rick Brant books on your Kindle for a very reasonable $1.99 here.

January 01, 2013

Ari tells it like it is