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2007-12-31

Ludovico Treatment in Seattle?

SEATTLE, Washington - You can't spend more than about 30 minutes listening to KJR-AM in Seattle without hearing commercials for Schick Shadel Hospital, in which the alleged Godfather of Northwest Rock & Roll, Pat O'Day, tells you that the Hospital can cure you of alcohol dependence in 10 days.

In some of the commercials, O'Day says that the treatment is "as simple as a paper clip" so I checked the website. Holy crap, it sounds like the Ludovico Treatment, which I thought was more or less fiction. It's real, but based on Google searches it does not seem all that popular today, and Schick Shadel may be one of the few places that's really gung-ho about it.

Its real name is Aversion Therapy, and Schick Shadel uses it for both alcohol and drug issues. From their website:


* Emetine is used for alcohol counter conditioning unless not viable due to individual patient medical limitations.
* Faradic counter conditioning is used for prescriptive drug, marijuana, cocaine and nicotine aversions, and for alcohol aversion if an individual patient's medical limitations preclude the use of emetine.

"Emetine" therapy is chemical inducement of nausea, and "Faradic" therapy is a kind way of saying "electric shock" therapy. In fact, the heyday of Aversion Therapy seems to have been the 1960s, when electric shock conditioning was in vogue as a way to "cure" homosexuality. Of course, in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declared that homosexuality was not a "mental illness" - sorry about all the electric shocks, fellas!

Yep, Pat, as simple as a paper clip.

2007-12-28

Playing this weekend in Seattle

SEATTLE, Washington - This fine New Year's weekend, Northwest Film Forum is playing Five Easy Pieces. Don't miss this opportunity to see Jack Nicholson's finest performance on the big screen.

Any chick not named Christine that wants to see this with me should let me know.

2007-12-27

One-sentence reviews of movies I have seen recently

SEATTLE, Washington -

Happiness - Whoa, I think we need a new MPAA rating to indicate "semen used as adhesive."

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures - They interview Kubrick's widow throughout the movie, and her role in his life is discussed, but they never mention that she was his third wife; the first two were sacrificed on the altar of his genius.

Inland Empire - I loved Mulholland Dr. but I think Lynch finally fell over the edge with this one.

Rope - That was about as gay as you could get in 1948.

Ordinary People - The image of the happy Mary Tyler Moore, throwing her hat into the air in Minneapolis, is purged from my mind forever.

The Bourne Identity - For some reason, I thought Franka was hot in Run Lola Run but I haven't found her to be hot since.

To Live and Die in L.A. - The graphics in the credits have not aged well - neither has the music, or the hair, or anything.

2007-12-26

Something grabbed Jessica Biel's ass

SEATTLE, Washington - Egotastic! is enthusiastically reporting on Jessica Biel getting her ass grabbed by another chick while standing on the sidelines at a football game.

Ordinarily, yes, I'd also find this hot, but if you click through and look at the pictures, I'm not so sure why Egotastic! is convinced that that's a chick grabbing Ms Biel's ass. That could be a dude.

2007-12-22

Jessica Alba needs paparazzi-avoidance training

SEATTLE, Washington - Jessica Alba, who has been an angel with the paparazzi for years, recently flipped them the finger. I will attribute this to her still-fresh pregnancy. Instead of flipping off the paparazzi, she should take avoidance measures, the most obvious of which is sitting right next to her in the picture below.

If I am not mistaken, the woman seen with Ms Alba below is her body-double, Taryn Dakha. It doesn't do a lot of good to hang out with your body-double. Here's what you do, Jessica: if you want to have a quiet, photog-free weekend in, say, Sun Valley, then you deploy Taryn to some other place (say Vail) and put her in some sunglasses and have her dart about, into hotels, in and out of cars, etc. The word will be out on the street that you are in Vail. Then you can go to Sun Valley incognito.

Howard Hughes did this in the 1950s and 1960s. To avoid media attention (and the process servers for various lawsuits against him), his main man Bob Maheu would deploy body-doubles to exotic locations, the kind of locations people figured Howard Hughes frequented, always with a babe on arm. This would keep people off Hughes's back, and feed the legend of the globetrotting playboy, all during a period when Hughes would go years at a time without leaving his bedroom.

2007-12-20

Linebacker Lance Briggs going for the record

SEATTLE, Washington - Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is apparently looking to set a new standard for athlete fecundity. He's currently in legal proceedings regarding arrangements between himself and the mother of a 3-month-old child for which he is the father. (Given his low level of involvement with the child, Dennis Prager would probably note that he is not the child's "father", he is simply the "sperm donor".)

It has come out during legal proceedings that two other women now claim to be pregnant via congress with Briggs. I can't find out where in the term the other two women are, but if they're more than 3 months along that would mean he had three women impregnated simultaneously.

This led to the following blast from Brittini Tribbett, the mother of the 3-month-old:


"I have had an open-door policy toward parenting," she said. "Lance has apparently had an open-pants policy toward paternity."

Briggs's attorney fired back:

"There's nothing he's not doing for [the baby]," Georgia-based attorney Randall Kessler said. "I assure you that Mr. Briggs has made very generous settlement offers, but apparently there is a desire for 'mother support,' in addition to child support."

You know what, Britt, he does have an open-pants policy and you were its first and most eager beneficiary.

Briggs has a way to go to catch Travis Henry, who is generally regarded as the "best" in the NFL as far as this stuff goes, with 9 children by 9 women in 4 states.

In the larger sports world, it's tough to beat former NBA player Calvin Murphy, who had 14 children by 9 women - but he lost some cred by marrying one of the women.

2007-12-18

Another note on Thomas de Quincey

SEATTLE, Washington - de Quincey and Todd Solondz - separated at birth?

2007-12-17

Does the USPS read the address on the envelope?

SEATTLE, Washington - Today, in my mailbox, I had mail addressed to five different places:


  • My address
  • My next-door neighbor
  • An address exactly 10 blocks west of me
  • An address with "St." instead of my "Ave."
  • An address with "NE" instead of my "SW"

2007-12-16

On putting a supercomputer in a former chapel

SEATTLE, Washington - A Sun employee has posted images of a supercomputer in Barcelona that happens to be located in a former chapel. (Yes, the blog entry is months old but this just popped up on digg.com yesterday.) Using an old chapel to house a supercomputer reminded of me of a passage James Francis wrote in The Double Helix (incorrect construction of possessives in the original):


The book I poked open the most was Francis' copy of The Nature of the Chemical Bond. Increasingly often, when Francis needed it to look up a crucial bond length, it would turn up on the quarter bench of lab space that John had given me for experimental work. Somewhere in Pauling's masterpiece I hoped the real secret would lie. Thus Francis' gift to me of a second copy was a good omen. On the flyleaf was the inscription, "To Jim from Francis - Christmas '51." The remnants of Christianity were indeed useful.

2007-12-15

Soundproof Suite livability index of all 50 states

NEW YORK, New York - Given that I now work remotely, and greedy, evil developers are casting a curious eye at my house in Seattle, it may be time to consider a move, either elsewhere in Washington or to one of the other 49 states.

Living in a state with no income tax saves me a pretty penny, as my state of employment for tax purposes is wherever I reside. So for now, let's eliminate the 41 states that have a state income tax. Some top-of-the-head pros and cons of the other 9 states:

Washington
Pros: I'm already there; there's a lot to like about Seattle; probably has my largest friend base; the weather is fairly acceptable, given some of the alternatives (I don't like air conditioning); good espresso.
Cons: It's a long flight to the East Coast, which I'm now doing about 10 times a year; becoming politically untenable, with mass-transit boondoggle lust and other issues; I'm a proven flop with Northwest women; the women are not so great here anyway; I want to golf more and the weather can be troublesome.

Nevada (let's just assume the Las Vegas area for now)
Pros: Sunny weather good for golfing; I could get back into poker and sports betting; much more house for the money than Seattle; the mayor is a former Mob attorney; lots of airline service.
Cons: Many report that, once you're there a while, the truth comes out - that it's a growing-too-fast, high-crime, cultureless shithole.

Alaska
Pros: Low tax burden; the adventure of saying you're in Alaska.
Cons: Flight times even worse to the East Coast; high cost of many goods; high male-to-female ratio; don't know anyone there.

Wyoming
Pros: Big fish, small pond; classic huge old porn shop in Evanston near the Utah border, long before the chain porn supermarket trend.
Cons: Cold; rather poor air travel; isolated; do they even have broadband internet?; don't know anyone there; no jobs.

South Dakota
Pros: see Wyoming, except for the porn shop thing.
Cons: See Wyoming.

Texas
Pros: Pretty good golfing; good air travel from major cities; probably good food; good music but I don't care; reasonable cost of living in many places; decent job market in Dallas if I lose current job.
Cons: Bad weather for my tastes; probably some cultural disconnect; others have moved there and left, citing crappiness.

Tennessee
Pros: Reasonable air service and distance to East Coast; pretty good golfing; pretty good cost of living.
Cons: contemplating an income tax; Southerners; probably bad summer weather; don't know anyone there; poor job market.

Florida
Pros: excellent air service; good golfing.
Cons: Bad weather; huge bugs; every knuckle-dragging nincompoop that doesn't like cold weather moves there; high crime in most cities; poor job market if I lose current job.

New Hampshire
Pros: No sales tax, either; Driving distance to Boston, New York, and Atlantic City; presumably an ideological climate more to my liking; probably a bit more house for the money than Seattle; low crime and freeloader ratio.
Cons: Winter can't be pleasant, and summer is probably no picnic either; golf will suffer; air travel probably not great; high property taxes may offset other cost savings; would probably have to trade in Black Heat for a 4-wheel-drive vehicle; don't know anyone there; are there single women there?


UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal chimed in on income taxes and domestic migration.

2007-12-14

Couldn't have said it better myself

SEATTLE, Washington - The "War on Drugs" is riddled with hypocrisy and inconsistencies, but perhaps the central one is this: some psychoactive substances (alcohol, nicotine, etc.) are deemed acceptable for consumption, and others (marijuana, opiates, mescaline, etc.) are prohibited or doled out only in specific medical circumstances. Attempts have been made to justify why some substances are allowed and others are not, but upon close examination these categorizations are somewhat arbitrary and are strongly distorted by misinformation and special interests.

Many authors have made the case that adults should not be bound by these categorizations, and should be free consume whatever intoxicants they wish (one that I've read being Saying Yes by Jacob Sullum). While book-length assertions of this principle are great, it's tough to beat the succinct and elegant case made by Thomas de Quincey in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

I just started reading Confessions, and may or may not write a full review later. This book was first published in 1822, and an expanded version was published in 1856. Well-written English from the early 19th century has great style that simply cannot be matched by modern authors. The passage that caught my eye first appeared in the 1856 publication (italics and archaic spellings in the original):


If in early days I had fully understood the subtle powers lodged in this mighty drug (when judiciously regulated), (1) to tranquillise all irritations of the nervous system; (2) to stimulate the capacities for enjoyment; and (3) under any call for extraordinary exertion (such as all men meet at times), to sustain through twenty-four consecutive hours the else drooping animal energies - most certainly, knowing or suspecting all this, I should have inaugurated my opium career in the character of one seeking extra power and enjoyment, rather than of one shrinking from extra torment. And why not? If that argued any fault, is it not a fault that most of us commit every day with regard to alcohol? Are we entitled to use that only as a medicine? Is wine unlawful, except as an anodyne? I hope not: else I shall be obliged to counterfeit and to plead some anomalous tic in my little finger; and thus gradually, as in any Ovidian metamorphosis, I, that am at present a truth-loving man, shall change by daily inches into a dissembler. No: the whole race of man proclaim it lawful to drink wine without pleading a medical certificate as a qualification. That same license extends itself therefore to the use of opium; what a man may lawfully seek in wine surely he may lawfully find in opium; and much more so in many cases (of which mine happens to be one) where opium deranges the animal economy less by a great deal than an equivalent quantity of alcohol.

2007-12-13

Book Review - Talk Talk

SEATTLE, Washington - I'm a fan of T.C. Boyle, but he may be starting to show his mileage a bit in his most recent novel, Talk Talk. Or maybe it's just me.

The first Boyle novel that I read was The Road to Wellville, and it's easily among my five favorite novels. Most of all, it's funny; even given all the talents of Boyle that are on display in Wellville - the detailed historical research, vivid insight into the good, bad, and ugly of human nature, command of the English language that I can only dream about - I essentially considered him a humorist.

But something happened as I worked my way through his novels - each one got less and less funny. Maybe I read them in the wrong order. Water Music, his first and probably most ambitious novel, is excellent but perhaps a notch down from Wellville on the laugh scale. Riven Rock has some humor, but also some pain (not that that's a bad thing.) And Drop City has laughs, but early 1970s hippies are such an easy target.

Talk Talk is an identity theft caper. A deaf teacher, Dana Halter, ends up in jail on a zillion warrants, and after a few days in the calaboose it is determined that she is the victim of identity theft. She loses her job in all of this commotion, and when the authorities do not show sufficient vigor in pursuing the fraudster, she enlists her boyfriend Bridger Martin in a quest to hunt him down. Yep, a guy stole Dana's identity - if she had a female-specific name then none of this would have happened.

The amateur sleuths end up hot on the thief's tail, and a chase ensues from the central California coast, to Marin County, to Boyle's home turf, the Hudson River valley. Along the way, Bridger gets his identity stolen - be sure to use a pay phone when you call an identity thief.

As I said, Dana is deaf. Bridger is not, though he is working on his sign language. I'm not sure how much this deafness adds to the book, perhaps if I had more training in the arts & letters I would see the deep significance. Boyle does seem to like the occasional communication issue, such as the no-hablo-inglés Japanese deserter stranded in Georgia's barrier islands in East is East, or the psychotic and frequently incommunicado Stanley McCormick in Riven Rock.

This book is not bad, but I would say that a reader can maximize their Boyle enjoyment by sticking to the period novels listed above, where all of the author's talents and capabilities are on display.

2007-12-12

Kentucky Fried gaming license

SEATTLE, Washington - It's not easy to be denied a gaming license in New Jersey, but Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. has managed to do it. Columbia Sussex bought the parent company of the Tropicana Atlantic City this past January and has been operating under temporary licensing.

In the months following the acquisition, about 25% of the workforce was laid off (including several friends of mine) and allegations have flown that the deep layoffs left the property in a filthy, poorly operated state. During licensing hearings last month, fired executive Fred Buro (bitter laid-off guy, or conscience of a casino?) discussed the alleged hissy fits of CS head William J. Yung regarding layoffs and regulatory oversight:


The new owner of Tropicana Casino and Resort chafed at regulatory oversight and flew into a rage when told he would not be allowed to make all of the job cuts he wanted, the casino's former president testified Wednesday.

"He said, 'I told you not to tell the regulators. Now you go back and make these cuts, or I'll find someone else who will,'" Fred A. Buro recalled of an angry warning from William J. Yung III, the Kentucky businessman who acquired Tropicana in January.
..
..
Buro said Yung was irate after learning that Buro had discussed proposed job cuts with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and its sister agency, the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Gaming regulators were concerned about hundreds of layoffs Tropicana had made under Yung's ownership and wanted to be told of others that were being considered.

Yung planned on making $30 million to $40 million in payroll cuts at Tropicana as his company, Columbia Sussex Corp., prepared to take ownership of Tropicana. He began aggressively cutting jobs from the very beginning and complained that New Jersey casino regulators were interfering in his business when they objected to additional layoffs, Buro testified.

"It became a New Jersey thing with him. 'Is this the way you do business in New Jersey?'" Buro said of Yung's reaction to the regulatory system.

Yeah, Mr Yung, that's exactly the way you do business in New Jersey.

Columbia Sussex will appeal the ruling, but unless they win the appeal they're going to have to sell the property.

The old Atlantis casino was the last operating property to be denied a license, in 1989. Hilton was denied a license to operate a new property (that they had just finished building!) in 1985; this property was prompty sold to Donald Trump and is now the Trump Marina casino.

2007-12-11

Book Review - The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

SEATTLE, Washington - We all try to read books of great gravitas. And I do... but sometimes, you need a book to take with you when you're making a quick run for phở or cupcakes, and you don't want to drag along your copy of Les Misérables or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. In times like this the right book is something like The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, by Will Cuppy.

Decline and Fall was published in 1950 (the year after Cuppy's death) and consists of about 25 satire-soaked essays on historical persons, from ancient Egyptians, through Greeks and Romans, to European royalty, and others. The book's verbal and humor sensibilities sound like those of a 1930s radio host, which makes sense given that Cuppy did work in radio and public speaking in addition to his various writing jobs. This is a representative example of Cuppy's writing, from the chapter on Nero:


Agrippina [Nero's mother - JMR] had long been a problem to Nero, always interfering as she did and quarreling about who should be murdered and who shouldn't. Since he owed her everything for murdering Claudius, he had hoped to kill her as gently as possible. He did not want her to suffer, and he went to some lengths to prevent it. He gave her quick poison three times without result, then he fixed the ceiling of her bedroom so it would fall and crush her as she slept. Of course that didn't work. It never does. Either the ceiling doesn't fall or the victim sleeps on the sofa that night.

Next, he attempted to drown her by means of a boat with a collapsible bottom, but the vessel sank too slowly and she swam away like a mink. Nero then lost his head completely, as who wouldn't, and told his freedman, Anicetus, to try anything. Anicetus, a rude but sensible fellow, went and got a club and beat her to death. Maybe the Cave Man knew best.

Cuppy placed many of the jokes (and some actual facts) in footnotes; many pages have 3 or more footnotes and it does make the reading a bit choppy. An example of this is the following from the chapter on Philip II ("Philip the Sap") of Spain:


Philip was the budget type. He would set down pages of figures showing expected revenues for the coming year and how much of it he had already spent. Naturally, this did no good.

Then he would stay up all night making more memoranda. He said he wanted to get to the bottom of things.5 He would also remark that things had come to a pretty pass. He was right about that.6

Philip was inclined to be arrogant. He made anyone who wanted to talk to him fall to his knees. In reply Philip spoke in unfinished sentences, making his subjects guess the rest.7

5 It can't be done.
6 Voltaire called Philip a royal busybody.
7 And he wondered why nobody carried out his orders right.


You can get a bit of one-liner fatigue while reading the book, much like you do with Bill Bryson or P. J. O'Rourke.

Cuppy himself was an interesting figure. In some ways I see a bit of myself in him, if I had a bit more courage. It took him seven years to get his Master's degree from the University of Chicago. He holed up in a beach shack for eight years in the 1920s and became enough of an expert at this that he wrote a book about it, How to be a Hermit. He had a "fascination with abstruse topics" and would intensively research topics before writing about them, when he wasn't cranking out 14 reviews of mystery novels a week to make a living.

Of course, things did not end well for Cuppy (they never do, he would probably
write); he did not cope well with post-WWII circumstances and committed suicide via an overdose of sleeping pills in 1949.

2007-12-09

Book Review - Which Way Western Man?

SEATTLE, Washington - Now why would I be reviewing this book, which was published by the Neo-Nazi National Alliance and that I acquired via some shady Internet bookseller? After all, I am hardly the Aryan prototype.

For one thing, I've followed the Alliance for years, through some combination of curiosity, pity, and entertainment. I was listening to Dr. Pierce's Internet broadcasts since the late 1990's, what we now call "podcasts." Pierce died in 2002 and the Alliance has undergone the usual tumult, power plays, and backbiting that occur whenever a personality-driven organization loses its leader.

Secondly, I have for years put effort into exposing myself to politically incorrect, unconventional, or unfashionable thought, as there is often some truth in there. According to Paul Graham, intelligent people tend to do this and it is overall a good thing.

Third, the author of Which Way Western Man?, William Gayley Simpson, looks like an agreeable chap.

So, I waded into the 1070-page treatise with full enthusiasm. The book consists of modified essays that Simpson originally wrote in the 1940s (and in most cases updated in the 1970s) and the writing has an erudite, early-20th-Century style to it. Simpson was born in 1892 and spent the 1910s and 1920s as a minister (he gave up the frock by 1918,) laborer, and general-purpose liberal, pacifistic Christian. Much of the book gives personal testament to his activities during these years and how they molded his worldview into what it was at the time of the writing(s).

In two early chapters, Simpson discusses his conception of Jesus and how Jesus's true message has been corrupted by the Church.


Sheep (which the great mass of people are) can hardly be expected to appreciate the virtues of the lion. And while Jesus was tender, he was no less terrible. We have remembered his talk of love (as is natural to sheep), but we have almost entirely ignored (as again is natural) his insistence on the place of hate and of the sword...

Organized Christianity has looked too long and too far afield for the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ is none other than Jesus himself. For "Christ" is the name for what Christianity has made of Jesus, and what Christianity has made of Jesus is the opposite of what Jesus himself actually was...

The worst is not that the Church has perpetrated upon mankind a pious hoax, and turned the life and teaching of Jesus into a piece of hocus-pocus, an imaginary transaction to counteract imaginary sin to get people into an imaginary heaven... it is rather that [people] are thus led to trifle with the only real Life, with their spiritual potentialities, with the comprehension, the instinct, the sensitiveness, intuition, and living impulse, which alone can lift them to heights and hang rainbows over them... in short, give their days on Earth some meaning, some value, some significance.

Simpson extensively discusses his vision of Jesus - that He was attempting to speak to a small elite, not the masses, and that he was trying to teach this elite to live according to their internal compasses instead of the conventions of the day. In the following chapter, written decades after the first, he amplifies some parts and recants other parts of his dialogue on Jesus, admitting that he may have at times projected his own worldview onto Jesus's record. He also takes his first swipes at Jews and Communism in this chapter, themes that will re-emerge throughout the book.

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In Chapter IV, "The Meaning of Nietzsche for the Modern World," Simpson outlines the portions of Nietzsche's corpus that apply to the themes of the book. He discusses the Nietzschean Superman; Simpson's particular interpretation of the Superman concept (and Mother Nature knows interpretations of this sprout like weeds) focuses on the role of a society's elite leaders in shaping a path for the elevation of the masses:

To this end [the elevation of mankind - JMR] Supermen must live much alone, very austerely, apart from the mass of men, yet venerated by them and informing the whole of society with their wisdom. They are not at all men of brute force... force does not rest in their hands. They are more like the pilots on the bridge who determine the way the ship must go, while the actual handling of the crew and passengers is left to others. It is their function to discover and declare the way mankind must follow in order to realize its high destiny. They are the great value-creators, the great way-finders and way-showers.

For us, with the background of democracy and the tradition that all men are created equal and that the direction of affairs should be in the hands of men elected by popular vote, this conception of the Superman may lack appeal, if it not be actually offensive...

In the light of Nietzsche's idea of the Superman, it is seen that the proper objective of any society was not "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" or the "green meadow happiness of the herd," as he styled the aim of Christianity and democracy. For Nietzsche the only proper, or certainly the primary, object of any society was the production of the largest possible number of superior men.

Simpson spends the rest of the chapter on other Nietzsche themes, including the Will to Power, criticism of Christianity, and the role of good diet.

In chapters V, VI, and VII, Simpson veers off into Mysticism, not in the sense of psychics with a crystal ball, but in terms of a heightened sensitivity and consciousness:

The mystical, for me, is a matter of an added sensitiveness to relations and values, such that one is suddenly aware of what a body of ascertained facts adds up to in the realm of truth, or of its significance in the world of values, whether for oneself or for society, or for both... one cannot stop short with thinking; one must do something about what one thinks... and on its highest levels, it may come to its consummation in what is no less than a different order of consciousness.

He ties this concept of Mysticism into how people should use all faculties at their disposal, including a mystical internal compass of sorts, to come to conclusions about the direction of society. He also notes that life is about more than satisfying the reasoning mind ("I do not admire the bulging head stuck up on toothpick legs.")

At this point, I was finding Which Way Western Man? to be a big more high-minded and spiritual than I was expecting, an interesting if not totally coherent read. It certainly had not come to any shocking or naughty conclusions... yet.


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Simpson uses Chapters X and XI to criticize democracy and lay out his rationale for aristocracy being the preferred form of government for Western man. I read these chapters with a sympathetic ear, as I myself have criticisms of and doubts about democracy, but I'm less sure about what would be the ideal replacement.

He starts to pave the path for a third way (aristocracy) by noting that, in the minds of many people, there are only two forms of government, democracy and dictatorship, and that the former is the antidote for the latter. Simpson submits that, instead, the the failings of democracy lead to dictatorship:

It is commonly assumed that democracy is opposed to dictatorship. But nothing is farther from the facts. The history of democracy makes it unmistakable that some form of one-man tyranny is the end to which popular government has usually led. Athenian democracy is followed by Alexander; the French Republic, by Napoleon... Democracy's very ineptitude, its very failure to solve the host of problems that always pile up under its uncertain and wobbly hand, finally brings a nation, as our own U.S. in this 1973, to the point where it is threatened with a breakdown of all law and order and seems to stand on the very edge of dissolution. In such a fearsome extremity, a man on horseback is seen by the mass of the people, and welcomed, as the only means left of saving the country from disaster... One may not like totalitarianism - I myself hate it, but if one can put oneself in another's place and imagine what it means to have to find some way to keep afloat or die, then one is forced to face the stark fact that when it really is a matter of life and death, be it for a man or for a nation, almost any means will be seized upon if it promises life. Nevertheless, this has little to do with aristocracy as I conceive it.

Simpson's (relatively fuzzy) explanation of the difference between aristocracy and dictatorship is based on the fact that a true aristocracy rules with the consent of the people, for the benefit of the people, while a dictatorship tends to ignore the needs of society in favor of staying in power at all costs.

The truth is, to quote Ortega y Gasset, that "there is no ruling with janissaries. As Talleyrand said to Napoleon: 'You can do everything with bayonets, Sire, except sit on them.' And to rule is not the gesture of snatching at power, but the tranquil exercise of it"... For in the long run, regardless of the form government takes, it is the people who decide... If an aristocracy has lasted long, therefore, it is the natural and just inference that it enjoyed the confidence and loyalty of the people.

The rest of Chapter X is a long laundry list of the shortcomings of democracy, and rebuttals of the alleged successes of democracy. Criticisms include: that democracy ultimately has promoted a materialistic lifestyle instead of cultural and spiritual development [not sure I agree there - JMR]; that it dissipates responsibility to where no one is accountable for serious blunders [I agree]; that majority rule actually imposes a sort of tyranny upon minorities [fair enough]; and that an equal vote gives equal weight to all voters regardless of their competence [for sure].

Chapter XI presents some additional rebuttals to democratic governance, then gives a detailed vision of the necessity of having Western man governed by aristocracy, and how this aristocracy will be identified and propagated. This chapter contains some of the fuzziest reasoning in the book. Simpson spends a great deal of words saying, essentially, that the aristocracy will get to the top because it knows how, it will know how to identify future leaders because it is so wise, and that the people will realize that this is the best thing for them.


Simpson devotes Chapter XII and Chapter XIII to discussion of the nature of women and their role in society. He starts with some platitudes that telegraph that he is about to put women in their place: Men and women have complementary natures; women are better at some things, men at others; Simpson's mother meant a lot to him; and so on.

Of course, this book is about building a superior society, and in Simpson's view women best serve this cause in the kitchen and the birthing ward. His assertions include:

  • It is in the best interest of both society and the individual woman that she bear a child every two to three years for her entire reproductive life.
  • A woman wants a male master, and are happiest when the find one, even if this is not what they consciously want.
  • Women are constitutionally incapable of a creative or independent existence.
  • If a woman does wish to pursue interests besides the birthing and rearing of children, she must wait until her reproductive years have ended and the children have left the nest.
  • A young woman's upbringing and education should be wholly concentrated on motherhood and home-making.
  • It is urgent that women marry before the age of twenty.
  • Feminism is throwing a wrench into all of this, and not even equally across the entire population of women, but instead is causing the most disruption among the most intelligent and genetically sound subset of the population (the ones that should be reproducing the most.)

To put a cherry on top of his very progressive views on women and marriage, Simpson spends a few pages advocating the loosening of the standard of monogamy for men, and even gives some tips on the physical characteristics that a man should seek in a mate - "the ideal mate should be one of the same color of eyes and hair as oneself... a certain radiance about the face... the feet should be well-arched... the hips should be wide apart, providing in the pelvis ample room for bearing and delivering the child... the breath should be consistently sweet..."

Chapters XIV ("The Pacifist Position Re-examined") and XV ("Man and the Machine: The Effect of Industrialism on Human Life") strike me (as did some earlier chapters) as a bit of a tangent, another reminder that much of this book was originally written as free-standing essays. I won't review them here, except to say that their contents are very much what you would expect (force is an essential part of existence, industrial society and modern capitalism have a damaging effect on man, and so on.)

Up to this point, Simpson has only taken on the low-hanging fruit - Jesus, women, democracy, etc. - but he finally gets down to the heavy lifting in Chapter XVI, "The Necessity of Eugenics". He fleshes out what he has given hints and samples of in earlier chapters - that the first and most important basis of the elevation of mankind is an improvement of the biological stock. Selective breeding - "carefully and steadily weeding out the culls and by making wise use of the seed from the best" - has shown its effectiveness in improving the quality of plants and animals, and Simpson wants to apply the same rigor to the human breeding stock.


Simpson opens Chapter XVI by giving some brief citations of both positive and negative eugenics from history, including ancient Greek philosophers, the Mahabharata, and some 20th century thinkers. He acknowledges that eugenics has fallen out of favor at the time he is writing (and it has not exactly been making a comeback since then,) and pledges to devote the current chapter and the next to make some key points in the case for its revival.

He first gives a grim assessment of the current state of the biological stock in the United States. He states that "statistics are contrary to my tastes," then proceeds to cite statistics from a wide variety of sources detailing a degeneration of the population, including increased rates of rejection of candidates for military service, greater frequency and severity of degenerative diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and increased spending per captia on health care (which he shakily assumes is indicative of worsening health.) He also notes that he considers "health" to be not only simply the absence of illness, but also beauty, bearing, and constitution, which he finds to be declining in the current population.

As if the situation of physical health was not deteriorating fast enough, Simpson brings up the alarming increase in mental health problems, a phenomenon for which I have my own explanations.

Of course, Simpson eventually gets around to blaming all of these ills on the increasing racial heterogeneity of the population and heavy immigration from less genetically gifted parts of the world, and the tendency of the less gifted strata of society to have a high birthrate. He also spends a good many words on what we nowadays call the "nature vs. nurture" debate, making the case that heredity is the overwhelming factor behind the health, capabilities, and potential of a people.

In general, it may be said that environment is only the negative, limiting factor: it creates no capacity, but only may decide whether or not innate capacity shall be developed. Potentiality, how far a man has it in him to go, is something a man gets from his ancestors, is born with or forever goes without.

In Chapter XVII, "The Doctrine of the Thoroughbred", Simpson makes the case for incest as a valuable tool for the betterment of human stock. He's come this far, right? Why not pull out all the stops? He defines inbreeding and outbreeding and decries the current fashion of outbreeding being ascendant:

... the prevalent attitude in regard to these two kinds of breeding... is one of well-nigh complete certainty that out- or cross-breeding represents the course that we as a nation wish to follow in our human matings... there is in America a veritable cult of the mongrel, of the hybrid. The idea of pure blood, as of the thoroughbred, is ridiculed...

On the other hand, when one says the word "inbreeding," people think at once of "Hillbillies" of our southern mountains, among whom there is a high rate of defectiveness, feeble-mindedness, and sterility... and when one speaks the word "incest," one touches a taboo before which most men stand horrified... and yet as long ago as Darwin, it was recognized that the taboo did not have a firm scientific foundation.

Simpson goes on to cite historical examples of close inbreeding, up to and including some Incas and ancient Egyptians using father/daughter and mother/son pairings to promulgate royal bloodlines.

Inbreeding brings out both desirable and unwanted characteristics, and the way to make it work over time is by promoting the reproduction of the positive stock and cutting off the reproduction of the portions of the stock that manifest undesired traits. Simpson lays out a detailed and ruthless plan for implementing this, including sterilization, restricting access to birth control for quality people, and euthanasia (of infants and some adults) on the negative side, and various top-down schemes to bring together the best males and females in the population and encourage large broods.

Simpson has taken various swipes at almost all groups of non-Nordic peoples throughout the book; in Chapter XVIII he takes detailed aim at two particular races.


Chapter XVIII, "The Everlasting Truth About Race", features Simpson making his case that (1) there are real, distinct human "races" and (2) that there are grave inequalities (by many criteria) between the various races. Even today, the study of race is fraught with hidden agendas, political correctness, and squabbling scientists (just check the Wikipedia article at the time of this writing; things were no better at the time that Simpson wrote this 140+ page chapter.

Simpson notes that long-standing opinion on the distinctness of the races came under attack in the 20th century by those he calls the "equalitarian propagandists", the group of anthropologists (under the leadership and direction of Franz Boas) who asserted the primacy of environment over heredity in explaining the accomplishments of peoples and societies. Their motivation is alleged to be Communist takeover; their means, the distortion of scientific data and persecution of dissenters. Simpson tries to clear the air a bit:

A race is a major division of the human species. Its members, though differing from one another in many minor respects, are nevertheless, as a whole, distinguished by a particular combination of features, principally non-adaptive, which they have inherited from ancestors as alike as they are themselves. These distinguishing features are most apparent in body... but mainfest themselves also in "innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development," temperament and character....

What then is a "racist"? For all of forty years, there has been acute need of honest and fearless inquiry about what race is, and an atmosphere of free discussion out of which might have come something like a scientific consensus as to whether or not racial differences are real... but "racist" is a term of opprobrium that was invented by the equalitarians to prevent such investigation and discussion.

Seeing that time time is right to discuss differences between the races, Simpson gives a few crumbs of information on physical differences before getting to the white meat - mental differences. And what better race to discuss at this point than the "Negro". This is a wise choice when you think about it - what are the chances that a Negro will read this book? For that matter, what are the chances that anyone but me has read it?

Without running on too much here, let me try to list the main points:

  • Negroes score consistently and significantly worse on intelligence tests than whites.
  • This performance differential exists even when controlling for cultural and socioeconomic factors.
  • That American Negroes, though lagging behind American whites, are more intelligent than their African brethren, who are cited as being on the mental level of "lobotomized Europeans." (This is attributed to many American Negroes having some white ancestry.)
  • Much of this is attributed to physiological differences in the brain between Negroes and whites (including brain size, development of the frontal lobes and cortex, etc.)

Simpson also comments on the "Negro Record" of cultural achievement:

Left to himself, the Negro has never produced a significant culture, anywhere, at any time... of course, right now, we are in the midst of a very assiduous, not to say frenzied, drive to puff up the Negro's achievements...

He also cites someone named Tom Anderson who wrote the following:

Despite what you've been told, Negro history has not been obliterated. There wasn't any. During the past 5,000 years the history of Black Africa is blank... the Black African had not invented a plow or a wheel, domesticated an animal or a crop. He had no written language, no numerals, no calendar or system of measurement...

I bet I could dig up a counterexample or two on some of that.

Simpson brings up all of this information on the Negro for a reason - to warn whites about the dangers of "race crossing" and more generally the problem of having these people in a white country in general. Simpson's ideas on what to do about this are covered in the final chapter of the book.


----------------------------------------


We have arrived at the 19th and final chapter, "The Fateful Crisis Confronting Western Man", in which Simpson will "grapple in a realistic way with the three problems that especially threaten our very existence - the Negro, the Jew and - first and last and always - ourselves."

Simpson notes that he is in fact concerned for the welfare of the Negro as they are "human beings, perhaps in most cases with sensibilities like unto our own" and that the situation should be handled with "all possible understanding and patience... [and] also with generosity." This being said, he notes that there does not appear to be a satisfying future for them in the United States:

For in our midst, in the first place, they will never feel that freedom to relax and be themselves which is so essential to all self-realization. Moreover... they are brought into a direct competition with White men in which, in the White man's technological society, it is utterly impossible for them to hold their own... They are being pushed into our colleges, and even into our professional schools, and given degrees, but the whole wretched business is made possible only by lowering the requirements and standards for Negroes, almost to the point of abolishing them. And the Negro must know it, and know too what it means.

...What this means is that those who put ambitions into the heads of Negroes, which they are inherently incapable of measuring up to, are inflicting a monstrous cruelty upon them.

Simpson then briefly mentions the burdens placed upon White men by the presence of the Negro (increased taxation, social strife, and "mongrelization") before proposing the return of the Negro to Africa. He notes that this is not a new or original proposal, and quotes various whites (including Jefferson and Lincoln) and Negroes (including Marcus Garvey and Benjamin Gibbons) who made statements supportive of repatriation. He does not give a great amount of detail regarding a plan for this beyond noting that it should involve generous financial assistance, and is ultimately the best solution for all parties.

Why did a repatriation not occur, in spite of both black and white support? Simpson blames the Jews. In fact, he spends the next 135 pages blaming everything on the Jews. Simpson casts them as the "alien presence" in America that has promoted Communism and equalitarianism, supported "race-mixing", and steered the government and media into supporting its aims.

The long discussion of the Jewish shaping of American and world affairs is familiar fare to any readers of conspiracy-oriented material. It includes:

  • The "Jewish Money System" of central banks creating fractional-reserve (or completely unbacked) currencies, and how this system is used to destabilize countries.
  • Jewish control of print and electronic media.
  • The Jewish role in fomenting the English Revolution (I'm not sure I ever even heard of that!), the French Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, the Russian Revolution, and other conflicts.
  • The current "Invisible Government" of shady organizations (the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, etc.) and their Jewish provenance and control.

Simpson even dusts off The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, currently a hot item in various Muslim countries.

(I want to note here that some authors and organizations promote this conspiratorial interpretation of history without the Jewish angle. One example was Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society; he specifically purged anti-Semites from the JBS ranks, and this attitude was reflected by Birchist authors such as G. Edward Griffin and Ralph Epperson.)

He also offers an anti-Semitic spin on Hitler and the Second World War, noting that Hitler pissed off the Jewish "money powers" by financing Germany's recovery in the 1930s outside of the Jewish system of debt, and that war was subsequently "forced upon" Germany by these controlling Jews.

What do do about the Jews? Simpson, bolstered with a quotation by Benjamin Franklin, advocates the cancellation of their citizenship and arranging an orderly exit from the country.

Simpson then spends the final few pages on the final problem, "ourselves". This is a partial re-hash of material earlier in the book, and involves how to carry the race forward (after purging the aforementioned alien elements). This involved creating a "burning consciousness" of the importance of race, and diligently attending to the eugenic principles outlined earlier in the book.

Simpson closes as follows:

Ultimately, of course, or aim must be nothing less than a racial rebirth and resurgence. And this whole book is a statement of what such a rebirth and resurgence will require. But the very first step in that direction involves not so much doing anything as ceasing to do and undoing... If we cannot completely rid ourselves of the Negro, the United States is finished. And if the White race generally cannot in the end find a way to cut the consuming cancer of the Jew out of its body, it will be finished too... If we cannot master these problems, we shall not have any future to worry about or to struggle for... The order to us is, "Put the Negro and the Jew from you - or resign yourself to decay, and, finally, to death."

Which way then goest thou, Western man?

Movie Review - Capricorn One

SEATTLE, Washington - The next Peter Hyams movie that I see and like will be the first.

He certainly didn't give himself much of a chance of success with Capricorn One with his casting. You're making a film in the late 1970s and you need three astronauts, and you go with James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and O.J. Simpson? Was Barbra Streisand not available?

Waterston appeared to already be in character for his next movie, a bitterman performance in Woody Allen's Interiors.

I will give a bit of a spoiler and say that some of these astronauts die in the movie, but their deaths are handled with a certain understated elegance.

Only recommended for kitsch value.

Movie Review - Out of the Past

SEATTLE, Washington - I rented Out of the Past for one reason - Roger Ebert, in a review of another movie, noted that this was "the greatest cigarette-smoking movie of all time." Ebert elaborated:


The trick, as demonstrated by Jacques Tourneur and his cameraman, Nicholas Musuraca, is to throw a lot of light into the empty space where the characters are going to exhale. When they do, they produce great white clouds of smoke, which express their moods, their personalities and their energy levels. There were guns in "Out of the Past," but the real hostility came when Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoked at each other.

I watched the smoking carefully. In fact, what I considered the best-lit smoke in the movie was a shot that included neither Douglas nor Mitchum, but instead was a shot of two of their associates. Still, Douglas and Mitchum had some ciggy-assisted tense moments.

Ebert also noted that "when Robert Mitchum exhaled at a guy, the guy ducked out of the way," and this is true - Mitchum executed some impressive smoke exhalations.

The movie looked great, better than most DVDs of 1940s B&W movies, which I will assume was some combination of impressive cinematography and loving DVD creation. The plot had the usual twists and turns of mid-century noir, and is worth a rent if you're a fan of the lead actors.

Movie Review - Amores Perros

SEATTLE, Washington - to paraphrase from David Spade, I liked this movie better the first time I saw it, when it was called 21 Grams.

As far as the jittery, hand-held camerawork - I realize it has its place, but it gets tiring when it's done for 2 1/2 hours straight. Slap that thing on a tripod once in a while.

This is the first movie I've seen with Gael García Bernal, and in the course of reading personal ads, he seems to be the prototype hottie for many women. I have one question - WHY?

Movie Review - Autumn Sonata

SEATTLE, Washington - I watched Autumn Sonata weeks ago and it still has me feeling miserable. The familial misery still hangs thick around the HDTV.

It has many of the elements you've come to expect from Ingmar Bergman - a home with boring Scandinavian decor, chilly music, and piles of long-standing emotional rubble.

Liv Ullmann does what she does best - delivering anguished harangues to a guilt-ridden family member.

I tire of this review.

2007-12-07

If Heather Graham tells you to slap that ass, start slapping

SEATTLE, Washington - Egotastic! makes some comments on the recently released movie Adrift in Manhattan. Heather Graham has some sex scenes in this movie, and she seems to be taking the Kate Winslet approach of taking her clothes off in just about every film she's in.

Graham starts off one sex scene on her back, then flips over for doggie-style action with Simon (played by Victor Rasuk). The following diagloge ensues:
HG: "Did you hear me?"
VR: "No."
HG: "Hit me."
VR: ".... I can't do that."
HG: "Yes you can. Hit me! Hit me, Simon."
VR: (pathetic slap on ass)
HG: "Harder!"

He gives a few reluctant slaps on the ass, while she asks for it and even throws in a "Tell me I'm a bad mother!" She is not happy with the performance and starts to cry, and he starts to cry.

Dude, if you're squared up on Heather Graham's ass, and she asks to be slapped, harder, you better slap her right through the headboard. You can't give a few tepid slaps and then start weeping. Pull yourself together.

Hopefully, I have not violated any copyrights in this posting

SEATTLE, Washington - I was reminded of some recent writings and thinkings about copyright when I came across the essay Les Voleurs by William S. Burroughs while reading the Burroughs anthology Word Virus.

Les Voleurs was published in 1985, but given the way Burroughs wrote and published, it's hard to say when he wrote it. I bring up the year because Burroughs refers to words (and, implicitly, the copyright on those words) as property. The term "intellectual property" was just coming into vogue at this time and this essay probably predates widespread use of the term.

Burroughs brings up the inherently derivative nature of writing:


Writers work with words and voices just as painters work with colors; and where do these words and voices come from? Many sources: conversations heard and overheard, movies and radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, yes, and other writers; a phrase comes into the mind from an old western story in a pulp read years ago, can't remember where or when: "He looked at her, trying to read her mind - but her eyes were old, unbluffed, unreadable." There's one that I lifted.

He goes on to discuss various other ways in which he picked up phrases (or entire passages) and how other artists have done the same and should do the same:

Joseph Conrad did some superb descriptive passages on jungles, water, weather; why not use them verbatim as background in a novel set in the tropics? Continuity by so-and-so, description and background footage from Conrad... Take Molly Bloom's soliloquy and give it to your heroine. It happens all the time anyway; how many times have we had Romeo and Juliet served up to us, and Camille grossed forty million in The Young Lovers...

Brion Gysin (Burroughs collaborator and strident misogynist - JMR) carried the process further in an unpublished scene from his novel The Process. He took a section of dialogue verbatim from a science fiction novel and used it in a similar scene.

Burroughs notes how he had to overcome the attitude (that many still hold today, obviously) that this recycling of the culture was naughty:

I was, I confess, slightly shocked by such overt and traceable plagiarism. I had not quite abandoned the fetish of originality... I had been conditioned to the idea of words as property - one's "very own words" - and consequently to a deep repugnance for the black sin of plagiarism. Originality was the great virtue....

Brion pointed out to me that I had been stealing for years: "Where did that come from - 'Eyes old, unbluffed, unreadable'?"... he looked at me sternly.

Of course, leave it to someone like Burroughs, one of the most completely original and innovative authors of the 20th century, to tell us that much of his writing was not all that original.

All of this got me to thinking of novelist Mark Helprin's NYT Op-Ed on copyright from earlier this year. Helprin makes the case for perpetual copyright - a position that he shares with such notables as the departed Sonny Bono and his not-departed widow Mary. He notes that rights to physical property are not time limited, but copyright is:

What if, after you had paid the taxes on earnings with which you built a house, sales taxes on the materials, real estate taxes during your life, and inheritance taxes at your death, the government would eventually commandeer it entirely? This does not happen in our society ... to houses. Or to businesses. Were you to have ushered through the many gates of taxation a flour mill, travel agency or newspaper, they would not suffer total confiscation...

That is, unless you own a copyright. Were I tomorrow to write the great American novel (again?), 70 years after my death the rights to it, though taxed at inheritance, would be stripped from my children and grandchildren. To the claim that this provision strikes malefactors of great wealth, one might ask, first, where the heirs of Sylvia Plath berth their 200-foot yachts.

Helprin goes into more detail on the unfairness of the temporary nature of copyright, and notes that the framers of the Constitution would not have made copyright temporary if they could have foreseen the key role of "intellectual property" in the economy of the future:

And in Jefferson’s era 95 percent of the population drew its living from the land. Writers and inventors were largely those who obtained their sustenance from their patrimony or their mills; their writings or improvements to craft were secondary. No one except perhaps Hamilton or Franklin might have imagined that services and intellectual property would become primary fields of endeavor and the chief engines of the economy. Now they are, and it is no more rational to deny them equal status than it would have been to confiscate farms, ropewalks and other forms of property in the 18th century.

Of course, nothing is confiscated when your copyright expires - you can still do whatever you want with your copyrighted work, but it has then passed into a legal status where others can make use of it, the kind of use Burroughs noted in Les Voleurs. Karl Fogel (whoever he is) makes this point and others in his rebuttal to Helprin's Op-Ed at questioncopyright.org:

It is precisely because great ideas and great works of art live forever that restrictions on accessing them should be temporary and limited, much more limited than they are today. This is not only because access to culture and knowledge is a public benefit in itself, but also because those who create new works build on the works of their predecessors and peers. All creation is derivative — as Mr. Helprin, himself a writer, ought to know.

Fogel bluntly rejects the conflation of physical and "intellectual" property, and notes that copyright is not an physical ownership right, but a government-granted monopoly on the reproduction and distribution of a work - in essence, a restriction on the free exchange of information. This restriction, in Fogel's view, needs to be strongly justified (and this is implicit in the wording in the Constitution that copyright and patents exist "to promote the progress of science and useful arts").

Fogel goes on to discuss the "three myths" that lead Helprin to his copyright-perpetualist position. The first myth is the idea of "ownership" of works of the mind. The second myth is Helprin's apparent lack of acknowledgment of the derivative nature of creative works. Fogel echoes Burroughs in noting how new creative works are evolutions of works that have come before:

The second myth is that of the lone genius, the solitary creator whose works spring de novo from some unique spark, owing nothing to anyone else. That's simply not how creativity works. It is sobering to realize just how many masterpieces we would be without now, had copyright laws always been as strict as they are today. Helprin cites a Mozart aria as an example of art (and let us note, in passing, that Mozart was paid through grants, commissions, and salaries, not through copyright royalties). If Helprin is fond of opera, has he considered that we would likely be without Verdi's "Macbeth", had Shakespeare's plays not been part of the public domain, accessible to all as a basis for derivative works?... Derivation is not some statistical outlier, it is the norm, and the freedom to practice it has been central to creativity for millennia. Transcription, rearrangement, quotation, and translation of other works have always been the marrow of art, as any musician, painter, or writer can testify.

The third myth is that copyright provides a necessary economic incentive for creation. Fogel notes that creative works are as old as humanity, but copyright has only existed for a couple hundred years. Artistic people clearly will create without economic incentive, and in fact only a very small minority of creators make their living via copyright revenue.

Fogel also touches on the history of copyright, a topic to which he devoted an entire long essay and that I may comment on in the future.

I should note that Burroughs and Fogel may be soulmates on this topic, but their terminology is different - Fogel would object to the notion that creating derivative works is "stealing" and notes in another essay how widespread copying and distribution makes plagiarism (that is, taking credit for someone else's work) harder, not easier.

2007-12-05

Harrison Ford looks like a Cap Hill old gay guy

SEATTLE, Washington - What the hell is going on with Han Solo? With the earring, black t-shirt that shows a bit of bicep, and slightly mysterious hair color, Harrison Ford has the classic Cap Hill older gay gentleman look.

He could stroll into the Broadway Grill on Sunday morning for the breakfast buffet, and he'd look like every other guy there.

OK, I mirrored the pictures to put the earring in the gay ear - but still.

The rest of the gallery is at Celebslam.


2007-12-03

Dorrell fired at UCLA, sports bettors pissed

SEATTLE, Washington - Today UCLA fired head football coach Karl Dorrell after five seasons in which the team compiled a 35-27 record.

On the face of it, this is nondescript record, but Dorrell actually achieved something amazing: in his five years UCLA was an incredible 0-15 against the pointspread in games in which they were a favorite on the road.

Early this season, UCLA was a double-digit favorite at Utah and lost 44-6. In late October they were favored at Washington State, and (in what was my "pick of the week") they lost 27-7. Even I lost my nerve the next week, figuring the streak might end as they were favored at Arizona, but they lost that one too, 34-27.

I should have known better on the Arizona thing - in 2005, when UCLA had a good team and went 10-2, they managed to lose in Tuscon 52-14 to a bad Arizona team.

But, make them an underdog on the road and all is well - they were a slight dog at Oregon State this year and won 40-14.

Hopefully, some other school that has pointspreads set on its games hires Dorrell soon.

2007-12-01

Uncertainty in the weather forecast

BRIGANTINE, New Jersey - I don't know what that is in the Tuesday forecast, but it doesn't look good. Image from KYW-TV, Philadelphia.

The Internet enters the final frontier - Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey - I could have avoided many of my recent misadventures at Charbucks if I had known at that time about the free wifi at Formica Bros. Bakery Cafe (no website) in Atlantic City. This is located across the street from the "World Famous" White House Sub Shop (again, no website) and serves fresh breads, biscotti, homemade pizza, and Seattle's Best Coffee (SBC is the best you can hope for here, I guess) and is open 7am - 7pm.

If not for the old dago standing at the counter below, you could just as easily think you're in Seattle.

2007-11-26

Only 49 states left where I can do online dating

NEW YORK CITY, New York - All 50 states are still good for me, but I soon may have to cross New Jersey off the list. Ars Technica is reporting on a bill floating around the New Jersey Assembly that would require online dating sites to inform New Jersey members if they perform criminal background checks, and specifies additional disclosure requirements based on whether or not the site does in fact perform the checks.

Just in case dating sites were planning on complying via fine print, the bill specifies the screens and other communications on which the notifications must appear, and the minimum font size for the text:


Specifically, any online dating service would be required to present such notification upon the sending or reception of e-mail, on all New Jersey-based profiles, and on all web pages used to sign up a New Jersey member... all notification must be provided in bold capital letters and a font size of at least 12, because nothing says "I love you" like a giant disclaimer.

At least the authors of the bill know what a "font" is, although I'm sure this will have to be explained to some of the more dinosaur-ish members of the Assembly.

Ars notes that similar bills have failed to pass in several other states, so I'll predict a similar fate for this one.

Found via Slashdot

2007-11-24

Entenmann's needs to stay in its lane

BRIGANTINE, New Jersey - There is a place in the supermarket and convenience store snack universe for Entenmann's. I know this.

However, this bakery has crossed the line when they are trying to peddle a small, butterscotch-iced cake in a Wawa. Pictured below. That particular cake is the exclusive domain of the Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet, and anyone trying to invade that turf is a fool.

2007-11-21

I've had to give Charbucks some action, with ugly consequences

MARGATE, New Jersey - I've had to hunt around South Jersey this week for wifi I could use while working. Tuesday I worked from a friend's house, but Monday and Wednesday I was left to scrounge about. South Jersey is not like Seattle, where wifi is easily found. I ended up at Charbucks some of the time, with less than happy results.

The espresso was bad, but I was expecting that. They had doughnuts from Top Pot, which is a good Seattle doughnut, but these did not taste the same. Either they jack them up with preservatives for national distribution, or they were just a bit too old.

I bought some T-Mobile HotSpot time and tried working from Charbucks. Today, the first two Charbucks I tried had music far too loud for working, or conversation, or anything. At the second, I tipped the barista and asked her to lower the volume; it would have take professional audio equipment to notice the volume drop she executed. This was the Charbucks in the pier that Caesars has swanked up, it had a great view of the ocean and city, it would have been nice to work there, but the music was loud to the point of contempt and hostility.

Their website store locator needs updating: it did not indicate that the Pier Charbucks had HotSpot, even though it does, and it had the phone number wrong for a second Charbucks.

I've since stumbled upon a Charbucks here that has secret, free, unauthorized (not T-Mobile) wifi; I won't reveal the location but it's quiet, and has free wifi, and I will have to haunt this Charbucks going forward.

2007-11-20

Are the Sonics the new Seattle City Light or Puget Sound Energy?

VINELAND, New Jersey - I've seen the columns of Dave Zirin when they've made their occasional appearances on counterpunch.com over the last few years. Zirin always takes a contemporary sports issue, and writes a column about it that reads like it was written by a Greenwich Village radical, circa 1910. He recently wrote on the potential move of the Seattle Supersonics basketball team to Oklahoma City.


Bennett, a man who has spent less time in Seattle than the sun, has made it clear that unless a deluxe, publicly funded arena is built, he will take "his team" and move it to his home base in Oklahoma City...

Has a columnist not based in Seattle ever written a column about Seattle without mentioning rain, clouds, or coffee?

Without shame, Bennett is holding economic hostage a city with serious education and health care shortfalls.

I'm not sure what shortfalls he's talking about - the main "education shortfall" in Seattle is that there are too many schools and not enough kids, and every school they try to close squeals to high heaven that they're the one school that absolutely cannot be closed.

But Zirin would probably say this about any city - it is core leftist ideology that every city has grave education and health care shortfalls, requiring massive additional taxation to fix.

Stern is siding with a man who has made it his intention from Day 1 to break Seattle's heart by any means necessary. Bennett hasn't acted in bad faith, he has acted in no faith.

That statement about Bennett is true enough; David Stern (the NBA commissioner) is an employee of the owners and must be expected to side with them.

It's time to get serious. It's time to talk municipalization... Municipalization means turning the Sonics into a public utility; call it a kind word for expropriation. Basketball fans should press the state of Washington to sue for the right to buy the team back from Clay and his cronies.

Should cities just try to buy every company that tries to leave? Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago a few years back; should the city have simply tried to buy them?

The Sonics should get their new arena, but instead of the proceeds going to build another wing on Bennett Manor, the funds would go to rebuilding the city's health care and educational infrastructure.

The first hunk of that passage is just run-of-the-mill leftism - someone's making money, and not spending it in a way that is deemed to be noble.

But beyond that - if professional sports teams generated such fantastic revenue that they could "rebuild a city's health care and educational infrastructure", then every city would own several. Zirin has been following sports long enough to know that many teams don't make a whole lot of money every year; the value comes in the appreciation of the team over time. Most professional teams have been sold at handsome profits, even if their annual profit/loss was unimpressive.

The Sonics, in particular, have been bleeding money for years; is that the kind of investment Zirin thinks cities should be making?

2007-11-19

Imitation (butter) is the sincerest form of flattery

MAYS LANDING, New Jersey - It was not two weeks ago that I mentioned I Can't Believe It's Not Butter while noting the Fabio/Clooney dust-up.

Just in time, the Serious Eats blog hunted around and posted some examples from the universe of imitators of this august product, including Butter It's Not! and What, not butter!

Found via Boing Boing

2007-11-16

I have something in common with Derek Jeter

SEATTLE, Washington - No, I don't have herpes. But Mr Jeter is currently battling New York State tax officials over his residency status. I have had similar skirmishes in the past.

Jeter is claiming that he is a resident of Florida (which, surprise surprise, has no state income tax.) New York State gets 6-7% and New York City whacks residents for another 4%.

2007-11-12

Another state pondering unenforceable online gambling ban

SEATTLE, Washington - The great state of Washington was the first in the country to enact a ban on its residents engaging in poker or other gaming online. This was made a Class C Felony in Washington in 2006. (The severity of the penalty has subsequently been greatly reduced.) A cynic might observe that the attack on online gambling might have something to do with the large presence of Indian casinos in the state.

The federal government got into the act later in 2006, when the SAFE Port Act was signed into law, which prohibits US banks and credit card companies from transacting with online casinos.

No cynicism necessary to see the utter absurdity of the proposed law in Massachusetts that would license three meatspace casinos while banning online gambling for its residents. Do the politicians who propose these things (in this case, MA Governor Deval Patrick) have no shame?

Barney Frank didn't have much shame when it came to a male prostitute running an escort service out of his apartment, but I have to give him credit on this issue; he has been a vocal critic of both Patrick's proposals and the federal efforts to stop online gambling.

found via Reason Hit & Run

2007-11-09

I think I'll head to Nordstrom tonight

SEATTLE, Washington - Prettier than Napoleon informs us of an interesting take on indecent exposure arrived at by the South Dakota Supreme Court.

First, some of the prurient details:


  • The name of the exposer in question is "Michael James Plenty Horse".
  • He had removed the high school band outfit from the mannequin with which he was having simulated intercourse.
  • He had a "wad of paper" in his hand.
  • The case was "Considered on Briefs" - there's a joke there, I think.

Mr Plenty Horse was convicted of indecent exposure because of the above incident, which happened in a public cultural center that did not have any other patrons in the area at the time of the intercourse.

The Supreme Court let him off the hook by focusing on the word intent in the relevant statute, which reads:

A person commits the crime of indecent exposure if, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the person exposes his or her genitals in a public place under circumstances in which that person knows that person's conduct is likely to annoy, offend, or alarm another person.

Per the court, an "intent" crime requires the prosecution to prove intent - in this case, intent to sexually gratify himself or others by exposing his genitals in public. There's no doubt that Mr Plenty Horse exposed himself, but since his intent appeared to be to gratify himself through contact with the mannequin, and not through sheer exhibitionist joy, that his act did not fall within the purview of indecent exposure.

2007-11-07

We almost had fisticuffs between George Clooney and Fabio

SEATTLE, Washington - Celebslam breaks the news that George Clooney and Fabio got into a shoving match at a Los Angeles restaurant.

I want to personally thank Fabio for telling Clooney to "stop being a diva".

This post sponsored by I Can't Believe it's not Butter

2007-11-04

Book Review - Down and Out in Paris and London

SEATTLE, Washington - Lately, I have been finding fascination in reading the details of poverty, indigence, and bohemianism in bygone eras. I just finished Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell's semi-autobiographical account of life at the bottom rungs of the ladder.

This book provides piles of the minutiae that I love. Orwell starts out in Paris, where he loses his (already meager) living of tutoring English and has to scrape about before finding two long-hours, low-pay plongeur (dishwasher and kitchen assistant) gigs, first in a swanky hotel, then in a small restaurant. Copious detail is given on various fleabag Paris lodging arrangements, scam-artists, and the gory details of hotel and restaurant operations at that time.

Eventually he heads back to England, where a friend has arranged work for him - to be the nursemaid for a "tame imbecile". Good work if you can get it, but the imbecile leaves the country for a month. The penniless Orwell has to fend for himself, crashing at spikes or free lodging houses, tramping about, living on bread & margarine, the whole nine yards. Couldn't he just have holed up for a month with the guy that arranged the job?

There is some unintentional humor in Chapter XXXII. Orwell devotes this chapter to a discussion of London slang and swear words. It may have been helpful as he originally wrote it, but it seems that when published, most of the expletives were removed. This is true in both my printed version, and at the link above (which contains the entire text of the book.) A discussion of profanity ends up reading like satire:


No born Londoner (it is different with people of Scotch or Irish origin) now says ‘bloody’, unless he is a man of some education... The current London adjective, now tacked on to every noun, is —. No doubt in time —, like ‘bloody’, will find its way into the drawing-room and be replaced by some other word....

A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing. For example—. The Londoners do not now use, or very seldom use, this word in its original meaning; it is on their lips from morning till night, but it is a mere expletive and means nothing. Similarly with —, which is rapidly losing its original sense. One can think of similar instances in French—for example —, which is now a quite meaningless expletive.

The word —, also, is still used occasionally in Paris, but the people who use it, or most of them, have no idea of what it once meant.

Orwell nods off into some tired socialist critiques of what he has seen in Chapters XXII and XXXVI. He feels the hard work of the plongeur and other hotel workers is all wasted labor, essentially because the wealthy that stay there are essentially being hoodwinked, spending money on fake luxury instead of genuine value - with all the profit, of course, going to the greedy proprietor. The tramps of London are characterized as simply needing work, can't some be provided?

Perhaps, if Orwell have lived much longer (he died in 1950) he would have seen that the cheery redistributionist socialism he favored, and the totalitarianism he skewered in Animal Farm and 1984, have more in common than not.

2007-11-01

The nature of Grimace

SEATTLE, Washington - I may be including the McDonaldland character Grimace in a future painting, so I decided to do a bit of research on the big guy.

I don't know if everyone but me knows this, or nobody knows it, but according to Wikipedia Grimace is a taste bud.

You learn something every day.

2007-10-30

Back from the dead

SEATTLE, Washington - Yes, the blog was deleted for a while. I will not get into the details. I may or may not start posting again.

2007-10-22

James Lipton was NOT a pimp, even if he thinks he was

SEATTLE, Washington - Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton is claiming that he was a pimp years ago in France, because he scrounged up clients for intimate congress with a female friend. He may have done this, but that doesn't make him a pimp.

The actual pimps interviewed in the Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp clarify that procurement of clients is not the correct definition of pimping. Even most dictionaries get this wrong, as pimp Danny Brown notes in the movie:


In the dictionary, the pimp is a guy that solicits customer for prostitutes or brothels, and I've never done none of that.

The pimp serves as a business manager, consultant, and protector. They may instruct the girls on how to attract clients or how to maximize revenue, but actual procurement is left to the girls. The role, origins, and necessity of the pimp are discussed throughout the documentary.

Fillmore Slim notes:

First there was the hooker. Gettin' money - but didn't know what to do with it. 'Till the guy came along and showed her the part where... "let me manage your money" - they was managin' their own money, but they didn't know what to do with it. Then they had to get the pimp, he was for protection.

C-Note says:

Priests need nuns, doctors need nurses, so hoes need pimps. They need our instructions, they need our guidance, they need our protection.

Kenny Red adds:

If a ho don't get no instruction, she gonna' be headed for self-destruction.

R.P. notes:

Any bitch can get out there and sell some pussy. She can get out there and sell some pussy all day long. But she don't know the ins and outs and the ins and outs and the outs and ins.

Further evidence that Lipton was not really pimping was his statement that "We were earning our living together, this young woman and I, we made a rather good living, I must say." The pimps in American Pimp are very clear about who gets the money, when they are asked about what "cut" their women get:

Schauntte: "What cut they get? Oh no. They ain't get no cut."
Charm: "No percentage."
Bishop Don Magic Juan: "Zero Percentage."
Payroll: "Zero."
Kenny Red: "A bitch of mine better not keep a dime."
Fillmore Slim: "None. None."
Danny Brown: "If one of my women had proven to be stronger than me, a better manager than me, then she could have been the leader. But I was the master of the house, I was the leader of the program, so all the money came to me. It wasn't like I had part of the money, she had part of the money - that's like, a divided situation."

Pimpin' ain't easy, Mr Lipton.

2007-10-11

The zoning junta was in a foul mood

SEATTLE, Washington - I have criticized the proceedings of zoning meetings before, but I did this based on media reports and not from personal witness. This is not journalism! So, I decided to attend an Early Design Guidance meeting for a proposed six-story, mixed-use building in my neighborhood.

I arrived a bit early. There were three design proposals taped to the wall, which differed from one another in their placement of the building's courtyard. The designer may be good at designing buildings but is not so good at English, as one design noted that something was "shaded for the most of the day, accept for high noon." I have a diagram that includes helpful comments like "live/work units?" (seemingly an orgasm-inducing phrase among planning types) and "ped friendly storefront" (it's a storefront on a sidewalk, yes, I guess that's ped friendly).

The zoning junta was in full attendance, seated in a row at a table. After some brief comments, the developer (who seemed to know he was already a beaten man) discussed his proposals for about 15 minutes. The board then started questioning him; it reminded me of oral examinations from high school.

The concern that emerged from the board at this time (and it came up over and over) was the "massing" of the zone and the "use of the envelope". Nobody was thrilled with the courtyard. When asked about whether the courtyard space could be used differently (e.g. for "jagged edges"), the developer noted that they "haven't designed anything yet." This is the EARLY design meeting.

The developer was also asked what "themes" from the neighborhood he had incorporated into the design. He was as evasive as an unprepared high-schooler on this, noting that the neighborhood had an "interesting pastiche" of stuff. (Of course, the way to get a neighborhood with an interesting pastiche is to have less restrictive zoning, not more restrictive.)

Comment from the dozen or so members of the public in attendance followed, with many concerns about the location of the parking entrance (in my view a legitimate concern) and one person that had a bunch of criticisms locked and loaded, from wanting "shadow studies" to "more landscaping" to changing the design to have "a lot less coverage" of the lot, to doing something about the "huge blank wall" on the south side of the building.

Finally, the board members deliberate among themselves, which you can listen to but you're not allowed to say anything. Some attendees pulled their chairs right up to the board's table, but had to stay silent.

Most of the board's focus was on the evils of the courtyard and how this "mass" could be better used in the building. While one member thought you could have a courtyard if it was "done smart", most of the others wanted to change the roofline of the building to make it lower on the east side, to have it agree more with the slope of the hill and fit in better with the shorter, differently zoned buildings to the east. To do this, and have the same number of units in the building, you have to get the "mass" from somewhere, thus putting the courtyard on the sacrificial altar.

The developer noted that one of the advantages of the courtyard was that it allowed all the apartment units to have at least 2 walls with natural light. The chair of the board said she lived for years in a small apartment in San Francisco with only one wall of windows. Well, if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for you!

This was roughly what I expected, some legitimate concerns (the issues of ingress/egress to the parking level and alleyway are legitimate, as this location is on a sleep slope on an arterial road) along with lots of issues that are only of external, cosmetic importance to anyone that doesn't live there - the landscaping and the roofline being most prominent. Removing or diminishing the courtyard significantly hurts the building's residents, and the resulting change to the roofline is only going to be noticed and appreciated by experts and the people that demanded it.

Usually there is only one Early Design Guidance meeting for a proposal, but it appears (I did not stay until the very end) that the zoning junta is going to demand that this developer go back to the drawing board, shift the "massing" of the building to please people looking at it to the detriment of people living in it, and come back for another EDG.

update: here is West Seattle Blog's coverage of the meeting.