Saturday, November 02, 2002

I don't usually announce when I add a link to the permalink list at the left, but in this case I will make an exception. We are adding a link to A Small Victory. The reason for the public announcement of the link is that several sites publicly delinked the site because they disagreed with things posted there. That's fine, if you don't agree with stuff on a site, my commitment to free speech doesn't include advertising for people you disagree with, they have plenty of venues to make their views known. But apparently the links were removed with full public announcement and somewhat hurtful manner like an old Puritan shunning. I have just discovered the site, so I have not read much of it but it seems pretty worthwhile to me. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for pointing out the situation.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Wisdom of Homer Simpson

Homer: In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women...
There's a great Lileks bleat today about music of the past and attempts to inculcate in his daughter Gnat an appreciation for it, which while she will probably forget about it during her early teen years may come to remember it fondly later on. I haven't written much about music on this site before mainly because we have been concerned mostly with politics/economics/technology, but music is one of my great passions so I think every once in awhile I will sprinkle in some musical thoughts along with some recommendations of exceptional things I have heard recently.

I collect music (I used to say I collect records or CD's but to some people that implies a specific passion where you go to used record shops and hunt down that pristine 1964 copy of the soundtrack to Casino Royale. I don't do that, I just buy lots of CD's, previously LP's to hear the music on them). I have been doing so since I was about 10 and have a collection of over 15000 LP's & CD's of which half is classical, one quarter jazz and the rest a mixture of rock, ethnic, electronic, blues, R&B, pop, avant garde etc. I am unfortunately and to my great dismay not a very competent musician although I have for the last two years been trying my best to become a moderate pianist after two interrupted attempts in my past (once when I was 6 and my teacher got married and moved away and I never got a replacement and again in college where I would play in the practice rooms at NYU). My wife is a better musician, she sings (or has sung) with several semi-pro choruses and has a glorious voice and we both are trying are best to give our girls a deep appreciation for music of all kinds.

The Lileks piece reminded me of thoughts I've had in the last few weeks about classic songs. It seems to me that there aren't nearly as many as there used to be, although part of that is the difficulty of recognizing them until a fair amount of time has passed. One of the signs of a classic, though, is a song which gets performed by many diverse musicians with diverse styles. Given that criteria I think the first 'classic' song from the eighties may be Cyndi Lauper's hit 'Time After Time'. You can find very lovely covers on recent albums by Cassandra Wilson, Willie Nelson, Eva Cassidy, Tuck & Patti. Listening to them gives you an appreciation of the different dimensions the song has on top of it's simple beauty (another sign of a classic). The covers are all quite good and I would recommend them all wholeheartedly, although if I had to pick I would probably choose the Eva Cassidy as favorite.

For something completely different, another exceptional, recently heard CD is the collection of choral music by the American composer Morten Lauridsen. Pick a quiet night with a glass of fine cognac in hand and let the exquisite sound wash over you. It literally sends chills up your spine and makes your brain tingle.
An appropriate description of the inhabitants of the Democrat Party:

To its committed members (the Democratic Party) was still the party of heart, humanity, and justice, but to those removed a few paces it looked like Captain Hook's crew -- ambulance-chasing lawyers, rapacious public policy grants persons, civil rights gamesmen, ditzy-brained movie stars, fat-assed civil servant desk squatters, recovering alcoholics, recovering wife-beaters, recovering child-buggers, and so forth and so on, a grotesque line-up of ill-mannered, self-pitying, caterwauling freeloaders banging their tin cups on the pavement demanding handouts

-Columnist Nicholas Von Hoffman,
The Washington Post (11/12-94)

(courtesy of a Lucianne poster)
The Russians really don't mess around:

According to the Moskovski Komsomol newspaper, Russian security forces have decided to bury the terrorists from last's week's hostage siege wrapped in pig's skin. The aim is to deter potential Islamic terrorists from future attacks.

Shahidi (Jihad martyrs) believe by their nefarious acts that they ascend immediately to heaven. Using their beliefs against them, wrapping their corpses in 'unclean' pigskin prevents them from entering heaven for eternity.

I'm sure some people are offended by this but hey, that is what they get for attacking innocents in Moscow.
Iraq/Iran destroy an important marsh environment. Where is the UN or the world's environmental loudmouths.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Meryl Yourish's site makes brief reference to this book today. I'm not a fan of the horror-suspense genre, a hangover from my childhood when I feared that Dracula lurked in the closet and witches hid in my corner cabinet, so I had not heard of the book. But the title brought back what my daughter, then four, said about the Twin Towers disaster. Though John and I never discussed it with her, a week or so after 9/11 she blurted out portentously, "There was a terrible accident. A fire in the castle." And it was real, she told us, not a made-up story. A fire in the castle. A terrible accident. The end of a fairytale that was supposed to be happy ever after. I cried of course. Here is the Amazon listing for the book, which sounds quite interesting.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The EU struggles with the concept of democracy and decides it's really not that important. A good piece on the new EU constitution and how the people will be able to elect the politicians who will elect the politicians who will elect those who make all the real decisions. Americas founding fathers have once again proven how elegant and wonderful their work was.
Wisdom of Homer Simpson

Lisa: What do you say to a boy to let him know you're not interested?
Marge: Well, honey, when I...
Homer: Let me handle this, Marge, I've heard 'em all. "I like you as a friend." "I think we should see other people." "I don't speak English." "I'm married to the sea." "I don't wanna kill you, but I will." ... Six simple words: I'm not gay, but I'll learn.
Here is a picture of my niece Emma!

Canada just issued a travel advisory. For the US! Though it is only for people of Arab descent it really reaffirms my belief that Canada's government is a joke. Even the Belgians could do a better job.
Finland to Israel: Die Jews Die.

Finland refuses to sell to Israel what are considered to be the best gas-detection kits in the world, despite widespread evaluations that Iraq may attack Israel with poison chemical weapons. The computerized kits accurately identify chemical warfare materials, but Finland claims that the European Union forbids the export of dual-use equipment to countries in conflict.

I hope Russia invades them again. Using gas. Muahahahahaha.
I guess some things never change. Clinton is still a class act. Below is a picture of him at the Wellstone memorial service. I feel guilty even grinning at funerals.

Immigration and taxes cause discord in Scandinavia. The welfare state reaps its rewards -- the Danes outperform the Swedes in the OECD report (7th place vs 16th) despite drinking more and working less.
Gray Davis exposed. The dour faced Governor is a verbal and physical abuser. The leader of the one party state of California is half political tyrant and half gangster.
Interesting piece on virtual reality haptic (ie touch sensation) interfaces. Among the cited possible applications: teledildonics (virtual sex). (via Right Wing News)
BitchPundit has a very funny piece on what our negotiations with Saddam would be like if we sent Samuel L. Jackson instead of Colin Powell.

Scientists are creating a supermap of large DNA blocks, up to 100,000 units in length, that pass down unchanged through generations of humans. They hope that singling out these repeat units will simplify the process of comparing control groups to populations that suffer from certain genetic diseases, thus streamlining the process of linking disease to its genetic origin.
Draw Bart Simpson II

This might help with drawing Bart Simpson.
Here is an interesting article on the status of lasers as weapons.
Draw Bart Simpson

While attempting to keep our kids from attracting the attention of the entire restaurant at John's birthday dinner last night, I got an unusual request from our oldest daughter: "Draw Bart Simpson". I got the pointy hair correct, but the drawing looked nothing like Bart. Then I handed the pad and pen to John, who got the pointy hair and the eyes, but still failed to generate a convincing Bart. It turns out we are in good company in our artistic failure...even the VOICE of Bart can't draw him. But there is hope for us yet...

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Wisdom of Homer Simpson

Homer: When it comes to compliments, women are ravenous blood-sucking monsters always want'n more... more... MORE! And if you give it to them, you'll get plenty back in return.
Bart: Like what?
Homer: I'll tell you when you're older. [
So it looks like the America wasn't exactly paradise for the natives before the Europeans came over. What a shocker. Maybe we can start celebrating Columbus day in peace now.
Arnold Kling has an excellent column taking apart Krugman's income distribution piece in last weeks NYT magazine.
Click here to get your own randomly-generated post-modern essay.
Interesting take on the Bellesiles case and it's relation to the current fashionable nonsense that passes for scholarship in academia. The blog who's motto is "Making fun of academics, 'cause it's easy!" look promising too.
Classic Lileks line about Mondale in '84 from todays Bleat:

I was a hardcore Democrat at the time, and I remember watching the speech and thinking: we are going to lose. We are going to lose 51 states. Puerto Rico will demand statehood just for the chance not to vote for this guy.
Happy Birthday John

Light blogging by our principles forces me to take strong action. I'm alerting everyone that John of this blog was born on October 29, 1958. A quick look at the "This Day in History" sites reminds me that this is also the anniversary of Black Tuesday, 1929. Here are some other things that happenned in history on October 29. I also found out that I missed the mark on the perfect birthday gift. Silly me: I sent flowers.
The gas used by the Russians has been identified. Apparently the antidote for an overdose of the active ingredient of the gas is easily available and many of the hostages who were killed by the gas might have been saved if doctors were told what was in the gas.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Headline of the Day

"PA sentences human rights worker to death"

Those peace loving Palestinians are at it again. I wonder when the U.S. college students will start protesting this one. Oh, don't worry. I'm not holding my breath.
Speaking of quotes, here's a great collection of Robert Heinlein quotes.

Some choice examples:

Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay - and claims a halo for his dishonesty.

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do.

No intelligent man has any respect for an unjust law.

I do know that the slickest way to lie is to tell the right amount of truth - then to shut up.

I'll give you an exact definition. When the happiness of another person becomes as essential to yourself as your own, then the state of love exists.

Morality is your agreement with yourself to abide by your own rules.

A desire not to butt into other people's business is at least eighty percent of all human wisdom . . . and the other twenty percent isn't very important.

Does history record any case in which the majority was right?

Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness.

Never appeal to a man's 'better nature.' He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.

One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
C&S has this quote:

"One of the requirements of a healthy party is that it renews itself. You can't keep running Walter Mondale for everything." - Walter Mondale, 1989
Amazing tale of the civil rights laws protecting a hater and psychopath.
Some scientists think they have found a cause of adolescent angst. Nerve activity in the teenaged brain is so intense that they find it hard to process basic information, rendering the teenagers emotionally and socially inept.

Robert McGivern and his team of neuroscientists at San Diego State University, US, found that as children enter puberty, their ability to quickly recognise other people's emotions plummets. What is more, this ability does not return to normal until they are around 18 years old.

McGivern reckons this goes some way towards explaining why teenagers tend to find life so unfair, because they cannot read social situations as efficiently as others.

I guess the brains of leftists never get back to normal.
Schmoozing is good for the brain

In another study, Ybarra analyzed the connection between social engagement and cognitive function, including everyday decision-making as well as memory and cognition, in nearly 2,000 older residents of four Middle Eastern countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. Again, he controlled for a wide range of factors that could account for any correlation and found that the more participants reported being socially engaged, the less cognitive impairment they suffered and the more they participated in everyday decision-making.

While Ybarra emphasizes that his analysis shows correlations between mental function and social engagement and does not establish causation in either direction, he believes that the link between the two cuts across cultures and is perhaps fundamental to what it means to be human.
So I'm definitely on a film blogging kick. I just saw The Grey Zone which is a movie about the holocaust by director Tim Blake Nelson and has such stars as Mira Sorvino, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and David Arquette. It's a very well acted, realistic (I'm assuming its realistic as its so bleak but I'm sure reality was worse) depiction of what it was like to be a Jewish "collaborator" working in the crematoria at Auschwitz. I put "collaborator" in quotes because these people weren't exactly Marshall Petain or something. They understood that they would eventually be killed anyway but wanted to do whatever they could to live just one more day. I really can't judge them, who the heck knows what I would do. The movie was really about how they dealt with it. Some dreamed of escape. Some resigned themself to death and were looking forward to that day. Others wanted to fight back and take as many Germans with them as possible. All of them were weighed down heavily with guilt. What I can't understand is all the negative reviews the movie got. Other than Roger Ebert, who gave the movie 4 stars, most reviewers gave the movie the equivalent of a C rating. Here is what the New York Post said:

Of course, the subject matter demands gravity, but Nelson's brutally unsentimental approach - and the unremitting stream of dead bodies being routinely dumped into trucks and shoveled into crematoriums - sucks the humanity from the film, leaving behind an horrific but weirdly unemotional spectacle.

I find two things wrong with this criticism. First, there was humanity in the film. Sure it wasn't the beat-you-over-the-head humanity of a Spielberg film but it was there in limited quantities, we are talking about Aushwitz after all. Some of the prisoners risked their meager lives for one girl that they found alive in the showers and you can see that they feel that she represents their chance for redemption. Sounds pretty human to me.

Second, I think the critic expected another touchy feely film about the holocaust. When I say touchy feely, I mean that they wanted one of those endings where a bunch of people survive and live wonderful glorious lives in the US or Israel. Well, guess what, for 6 million Jews, there was no such happy ending. So to be realistic you really do have to tell a story from their angle.

And then there is the New York Times review:

These images are so strong that they defeat the film's moral complexity. The more realistic "The Grey Zone" pretends to be, the more its unrealistic elements stand out. For one thing, the prisoners are far from emaciated. And although there is talk about the differences between Hungarian and Polish Jews, all the characters except one speak in a stagy variation of Quentin Tarantinoesque argot. The exception is Muhsfeldt, a Nazi officer played by Harvey Keitel with a caricatured German accent. David Arquette and Steve Buscemi give gripping performances as rebellious prisoners, but their characters remain frustratingly sketchy.

Oh, gee, I'm sorry, the accents weren't correct and the actors didn't decide to look like Somalis. What an awful Holocaust film if they can't get those right. And these are really the only criticisms the reviewer has. Sometimes I feel like if critics are disturbed by a movie they simply don't give it a good rating for that reason.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Union thugs used to stifle free speech. That's Hillary Clinton's way. Now we have proof of what we knew all along that the lack of protest at Clinton's public appearances was not because there was none but rather it was beaten down and prevented by goons. And these people have the nerve to complain about John Ashcroft and the current administration. But then again the Clinton/Democrat playbook was written by Lenin and Marx. Dissent is not acceptable when you're working for the good of the state.
So I just watched Punch-Drunk Love yesterday which was made by Paul Thomas Anderson, who made Magnolia, one of my favorite movies. I did like the movie and I thought that it was probably Adam Sandler's best performances. I think the only problem is that the director was used to making 3 hour long movies and didn't really know how to tell a complete story in 90 minutes. But really the movie is not the reason for this post. Its what happened before the movie. The incompetent schmucks at Loews Orpheum (bet. 86th and 87th) planned things so poorly that the movie before Punch-Drunk Love, The Ring, ran right through the start time for Punch Drunk Love. How exactly do you do that? I mean everything is on an exact schedule and you morons have something like a 30-45 minute buffer between movies so that this doesn't happen. Maybe if you didn't have so many stupid commercials before the previews even start you could start it on time. I mean really. And so while waiting to get into the movie, everyone was just lounging around in the lobby, making themselves comfortable, and then one of the managers told one of her peons (although from the looks of her, there is not much seperating herself from peon status) that "oh these people can't just be lounging around out here like that, they must form a line". So what little comfort we had, was ruthlessly taken away and we were forced to stand in line like cattle. We didn't even get an apology. A "we were smoking too much crack and forgot to start the movie" would have sufficed. Oh, and then, they said, "the movie before yours is running late (like the movie changes length or something every time you show it, god forbid they admit that they are mentally retarded) but your movie will start in just 10 minutes." 15 minutes later we walk into the theatre and have to sit through about 5 commercials (don't I pay to go to the movies to avoid commercials?) and about 10 previews. I know its stupid to expect good customer service at a movie theatre. But some basic humanity or courtesy would do. I mean, would it have been so hard for them to say "due to a scheduling mistake on our part, you movie isn't going to start on time, we regret the inconvenience." But nooooo, that would be too nice for them. I sooooo wanted to make a scene too.

I feel better now.