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December 17, 2004
Ursula K. LeGuin describes how the Sci-Fi channel ruined her Earthsea books.
Having looked over the script, I realised they had no understanding of what the two books are about, and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic MacMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence. (And "faith" -- according to Mr Halmi. Faith in what? Who knows? Who cares?)

50 years of Disneyland Souvenirs has sections for each year, all with beautiful scans of ephemera and information about attraction status.

December 15, 2004
Fulton Street My photo doesn't at all do it justice, but there's a two-block street in Palo Alto where almost all of the residents decorate their houses (as well as all of the little curb-side bushes) with Christmas lights. During the period leading up to the holiday they tint the sodium streetlights red, somehow, and get the city to post temporary 'No Parking' signs. People cruise through real slow, with their headlights dimmed -- with something seasonal playing on the radio, it can be kinda magical.

How greed ruined this year's local Dungeness crab harvest. Arnold is one of the villains in the tragedy. Also, the 'Paris Syndrome' is a condition affecting put-upon Japanese expatriates living there. I'm doubting that they're getting much sympathy.

Concerning the funny papers: I stopped reading them regularly in the late 1980s, after I moved to LA and fell out of the daily newspaper habit; but even before I'd learned to avoid certain soul-sucking strips like "Wee Pals" and the Family Circus. And "Cathy" -- but since I did read her in 1970s, I'm all too familiar. Did you know Guisewite's marrying her off on February 5? To Irving?!

There was a wonderful article in last month's Harper's: Quitting the Paint Factory -- On the Virtues of Idleness, by Mark Slouka. I read it at the library, since it wasn't online, but now it's available at the Remedy site. (It's a nit, but I must rectify an error in the text: The Invisble Man was Claude Rains, not Lon Chaney -- he was in fact the Phantom, in the silent original.) There's lots of good stuff at Remedy, including an essay by Thomas Paine, Of the religion of Deism compared with Christianity. Like the Founding Fathers, I decided long ago that if I must declare a religion, put me down as a Deist.

December 13, 2004
Just got out of a sneak preview of "The Phantom of the Opera" -- they had free passes at the comic store, a deal for me since I would've gone anyway (as I saw the show in '93, and really like some of its music). As for the film? Pretty good, if you're into that sort of thing -- it could be a major motion picture.

There's a Bubble Light Identification Page at the Antique Christmas Lights site. We never had any on our tree, but relatives did, when I was very young -- they were fascinating: deluxe lamp assemblies augmented with little pointed tubes of glass the size of a stubby pencil, almost full of a tinted liquid, with a stream of bubbles: boiling from the light bulb's heat.

In Occam's Sledgehammer, Avery Walker holds forth on the illiterati, and Evolution, Global Warming, and Drugs -- excellent!

December 12, 2004
Monkey purple building in SF Somewhere in San Francisco, this purple building, decorated with stars and comets -- I drove past it today, for the second time. I believe the small sign says it's the Monkey Bar.

Caught a new Peak Oil documentary called The End of Suburbia in a rather incongruous (or perhaps apt) setting -- a pizza parlor in a suburban East Bay strip-mall, arrived at after an hour of dense Friday night traffic. Inside, a complement of screaming kids in the adjacent video game area, and the monthly meeting of Castro Valley 'Peace & Pizza' -- a teeny group watching the TV set up in the corner. (Naturally I discovered the particulars of this free neighborhood screening on the internets.) More about the issue: No Escape from Dependency -- Looming Energy Crisis Overshadows the shrub's Second Term, by Michael Klare.
We remain trapped in our dependence on imported oil. In the long run, the only conceivable result of this will be sustained crisis and deprivation.

"The will not to believe"
In Herman Wouk's War and Remembrance, this phrase characterizes authorities' denial, when confronted with photographic evidence smuggled out of the death camps. A bookstore in Bethesda addresses this blind spot during the pre-war period on a page called We Never Knew which is discussed in this post at Making Light. Related, "Gott mit Uns": Hitler's Rhetoric and the Lure of "Moral Values" by Maureen Farrell.

Don't miss the Dictator Fashion Show at the Villa of the Mysteries.

December 10, 2004
According to the Guardian, Hollywood's adaptations of His Dark Materials will not include the religious aspects. Is this a surprise?

A while back I mentioned David Foster Wallace's lobster article in Gourmet magazine -- a link to a PDF version has become available, here.

Site news: I've finished a long-overdue renovation of the links page. Also, after noticing some recent linkage to R.Crumb's original, now incomplete version of "A Short History of America" at the Crumb Museum, I added a new page in the Miscellaneous section showing the three futures he added in 1988 (which remind me of Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias trilogy).

December 8, 2004
cactus buds This cactus grew from a cutting I took off a big one beside the Wagon Wheel, a historically significant Silicon Valley tavern I never got around to visiting, which was demolished just after I acquired the sample. That was a few years ago; it's grown over a half-meter in the duration. A couple months back I lopped off its upper node, which was making it top-heavy, and now the tip's sprouted this pair of buds.

A linguist holds forth on "dude"
He found the word taps into nonconformity and a new American image of leisurely success.

Uri Geller has a little golden egg. He says space aliens gave it to John Lennon at the Dakota one night. Later, John told Uri the story, and gave him the egg.

December 7, 2004
Trees decorated for Christmas Within a block's radius there's a couple houses which are decorated with galaxies of teeny lights. The closer is all in white; I prefer this one, in colors -- they've gone to amazing lengths, winding strings of lights around their trees.

This is great: Professor Scott Tipton's Comics 101 -- lengthy, illustrated essays on the worlds and characters of mainstream, super-hero comic books.

December 5, 2004
art deco bldg in San Mateo A handsome example of an art deco building in San Mateo. I ran a red light near here a couple weeks back; means I'll be acquiring my fourth redemptitive dose of traffic school at some point in the near future.

A selection of the impractical creations of Slouch Cycles: the Golden Gate Bridge bike, the Bat Bike, the urban assault "Chupacabra" with flamethrower, and more! I found out about this in Tube Times, the San Francisco cyclists' newsletter.

The Map-Makers' Colors -- a Fiction on Kosinski, by Matthew J. Sullivan.

The Electric Swinging Pussycat Lounge is an archive of fashion images from the 1960s, scanned from sewing and home-making magazines.

When Lois Lane was black, reviewed by Lando da Pimp.

December 3, 2004
el Camino at night View through my windshield, driving down el Camino this evening.

Scalzi returns from his month off in rare form with The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, Ayn Rand, Star Trek, the Village People -- who knew? Mention of the Mercury Theater of the Air triggers the memory of an exchange I heard years ago, on a broadcast of that show played on some Olde Time Radio Hour:

Languid, petulant female voice:

New York is so dull...

Orson Welles:

New York is exciting. It's you that is dull.

December 2, 2004
Bullies at the Airport by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Ever heard of the Fauld explosion? It happened 60 years ago last Saturday, in Staffordshire. Says it (at just under 4 kilotons) was the fourth biggest explosion of the WWII era (after the three nuclears), but seems to me our own Port Chicago blast should have that ranking, since according to a Navy FAQ over 5000 tons of explosives were involved there. For more info, a Guardian article in memory of the anniversary; and all about Port Chicago.

Ed Offley at DefenseWatch reports on More Signs of a Military Unraveling -- details of the disintegration of the Defense Department. And Ted Rall asks, If you participate in a war of retribution, are you "fighting for your country"?

December 1, 2004
Fang's Face Here's a close-up of this cat I've been feeding. See those deep, scary scratches in his face, just missing the eyes -- he's a fighter! I'd like to clean him up and take him to the vet, but he's just too feral -- I'd wind up bloody. I see him once or twice, or maybe not at all, each day -- hope he's somewhere warm tonight; it's unseasonably cold here, with temperatures down around freezing!

In the current New Yorker, Growing Up with Charlie Brown, by Jonathan Franzen -- memories of the funny pages and everything else in a Texas fifth-grader's life during May, 1970.

About the guy who was killed by an exploding lava lamp (scroll down to November 29) -- in his defense, it must be pointed out that it's not clear whether he was the one who put it on the stove.

November 30, 2004
water tower Photo snapped at work -- view from the base looking east towards the mountains, which are visible between Hangar One and the water tower.

News of a couple recent developments, from weblogs: Laputan Logic reports on the SeeLinder -- true 3D television, via kinetiscope-style rotating drum containing a counter-rotating drum lined with vertical arrays of LEDs. Different subject: over at the Blue Lemur, verification of the sightings of Clear Channel-sponsored billboards of 'Our Leader' in Florida.

How to Write like a Wanker mentions something called "leet-speak" -- for clarification, check the entry in the Wikipedia. Also, How to Drop Out.

November 29, 2004
So yeah, I was Back East for T-Day, and naturally allocated several hours of my stay to the Mall -- no, not shopping, but that grassy area of downtown DC between the Washington Monument and the Capitol which is lined with the various museums of the Smithsonian as well as the National Gallery of Art. The latter was my first stop, for lunch in their pleasant cafeteria, as well as take in the Dan Flavin retrospective -- he creates areas of color with arrays of tinted fluorescent lights, actually quite wonderful. The East Wing was also featuring an exhibit of Islamic Art called "Palace and Mosque" which was fascinating -- I love that stuff, so intricate. Afterwards, across the Mall for the new one, the Museum of the American Indian, anticipation of which I've logged here previously. Didn't see the alleged display of tokens from some tribe's casino, but it was all very crowded, difficult for maneuvering; my general reaction was, it's not that bad -- lots of great stuff. True (as my nephew pointed out) of the four floors, only the top two contain exhibits. Another floor is devoted to the Roanoke Gift shop, and the ground floor offers only the smaller Chesapeake Gift Shop, and the restaurant, an interesting counterpoint to where I ate, across the way -- both are cafeteria-style, both have fountain views, but this one has more interesting food (and all of the people, at least for now, while it's new). This was enough culture for one day; but I must return soon, for the subterranian Arthur Sackler Gallery's display of the Robert O. Muller Collection of Japanese prints.

November 28, 2004
clown This year, they've added carnival rides to "Christmas in the Park," the attempt to transform downtown San Jose's Market Square into a winter wonderland... the event's becoming more like a European holiday fair, especially when the weather's brisk, like it was today. Trash cans throughout have been embellished with these clown heads.

Last week on "All Things Considered" they mentioned a new Russian magazine emulating the New Yorker, called the Novy Ochevidets, or New Eyewitness. The NPR page on that story has a pair of covers.

November 27, 2004
Los Altos Main St, Winter evening Los Altos trees all a-twinkle along Main street, this very evening.

Back from the East, unfortunately returning to discover the next-door neighbors have acquired a barking dog. At the airport last night, waiting at the shuttle bus stop, a group of flight attendants passed by, and one of them had wheeled luggage with transparent wheels containing red and blue LEDs, which illuminated only in motion. Another new moving LED product -- remember those ancient ratchet-twirly noise-makers? Imagine mounting a line of LEDs as a leading edge, and blinking them to form words in motion, and you have The Skyliner (not to be confused with the 50's Ford, the later model with its retractable hardtop, or the earlier see-thru bubbletops).

A pair of vintage-exotic comic books, scanned in completely: the Indian Valmiki's Ramayana and an anti-commie educational, endorsed by JEdger.
(Both links from the mighty BoingBoing.net)

dark sarcasm in the classroom"

Speaking of Pink Floyd, the singing kids are getting some royalties from "The Wall".

November 21, 2004
Gingko biloba trees along Middlefield The pictures are back! I got Geoff's old since he's bought a snazzy new camera and his previous was the exact same model as my digicam. This photo shows beautiful fall foliage, the golden leaves of the gingko trees along Middlefield Road. Check the zoomed image to see this digicam's fatal flaw -- note the pinkish streak, which only appears in some photos.

November 19, 2004
Elvis Costello talked with Joni Mitchell for 6½ hours and it was edited down to this interview. (Warning -- the transcription still needs a final proof-reading.)

November 18, 2004
The Politics of Victimization proposes the thinking of Republicans as wife-beater, and Democrats the abused spouse. Another, shorter blog-essay -- Dave Winer on life in the bubble, how the internet provides escape from The Environment, not the natural but rather the one created by huge corporations and organizations like the RIAA.

Noticed a pointer to the Rolling Stone cover gallery... I read this magazine only in the early years, when it was counter-cultural and printed on newsprint. The highlight was 33 years ago, when they published Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -- it appeared in two parts. These are the covers, featuring Ralph Steadman art which didn't make it into the book: 1, 2. And this was exactly 33 years ago... what was my world, then? It was Senior Year in high school, so -- three highlights of November, 1971.
  • Out in the woods, beyond the railroad tracks, my buddies had finished up the Knubby House, a pentagon walled with 4 x 8 plywood sheets, roofed with various scraps and floored with slate roofing tiles. After a memorable late-night party, our shed would be torn apart by hostile, unseen forces we characterized as 'the minibikers' -- those were the only other folks we'd see out there, unfamiliar kids, maybe a little younger, buzzing around those dirt roads on small motorcycles.
  • On the 16th, concert by my favorite band, Pink Floyd, at Lisner Auditorium -- they played a lot of their new "Meddle" LP as well as "Atom Heart Mother" but nothing from "Ummagumma" so I was kinda bummed; but they also played "Cymbaline" (from "More") which ended with very interesting spatial audio effects, utilizing auxilliary speakers which were positioned around the back and sides of the hall. Their opening act was a magician.
  • Getting out of the house evenings with that handy excuse of 'Play Practice' -- this time it was the Dramatics Class play, which we'd be performing the following month. Rather than a single play, there were three one-acts: "Adaptation" and "Lovers." The latter was mine, and it had two parts: "Winners" and "Losers" -- the "Winners" were a young, hopeful couple having a picnic (who drowned at the conclusion, off-stage) and finally, my show, about an older couple, adjusting to the necessary compromises for courting and then living in her mother's house. The story ended like it began, with me out in the backyard, sitting in a lawn chair, staring off into the distance through a pair of binoculers. Whew... I had to do a drunk scene, and for our last performance a couple of the backstage crew got in trouble for giving me a slug of Manischewitz, just before I went on.

November 16, 2004
Last Thursday was Armistice Day, now called Veteran's Day in the USA. In the Commonwealth, it's known as Remembrance Day, and the historians among us all know it's in celebration of the eleventh-hour solution, when the Armistice was signed ending the Great War, or what's now called World War I. Many consider it all a single war, that the principles just took a break to reload between 1918 and 1939... In his memoirs, Winston Churchill called World War II the Unnecessary War. Aren't they all? The Canadians minted the Poppy Quarter to commemorate this Remembrance Day -- the world's first coloured coin in circulation, available initially only at Tim Horton's, their chain of donut shops.

When I was a lad, my fifth-grade teacher would mock his students (when he discovered their distraction due to some plaything) with the expression "Toys for Little Boys." Much later, after I installed a red neon tube in the vents under my VW beetle's rear window, as the third brake light, one reaction I heard (from a recent mother) was that I had "Too Much Spare Time." Both of these come to mind as I contemplated the Robodump. Who would conceive of such a thing? And go to the trouble of implementing the concept?

The monorail from Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451" movie has been discovered in a barn, covered with grafitti.

Reports of Resistance in the DPRK: Joyful Dancing is a translation The Agonist posted of a Der Spiegel piece about opposition in North Korea to dictator Kim Jong Il.

More information about the medieval fest I encountered Friday: Naturally, they don't celebrate the Armistice in the Fatherland, or what's left of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; there, November 11 is St. Martin's Day.

November 15, 2004
The Urban Archipelago (by the editors of Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger) encourages the turning of our backs on the rural, and rededicating ourselves to the urban core.

Here's a photo of something we've all wondered about: a Fire at a Fireworks Factory. It's Swedish news, although the factory was in Denmark.

I am advised by 'Mark + Dane' that my ever-popular Getty and Reich Trophies journal entry from 1999 is a 'googlewhack' -- it's the only result when the two words 'cog noscente' and 'quonset' are Googled.

November 12, 2004
lantern At the nearby private German elementary school, each year 'round this time they have an evening festival, where they parade around the block, kinder accompanied by parents, with the kids all holding sticks from which hang lanterns like this. The example, which I found abandoned, temporarily, is about the size of a quart milk carton, and looks mass-produced; but many were homemade, from brown paper bags; and others kinda cheated with those store-bought Oriental pleated tubes (like Blanche had in "A Streetcar Named Desire"). Lit usually by candle, the colorful procession passed through the night, right by my apartment, led by a man playing an accordian; and many were singing along, auf Deutsch, a song about St. Martin. Back at the school, they served up punch, bratwurst and special man-shaped loaves called Weckmann-Brot, which were decorated with raisins like snowmen.

After I snapped this photo I DROPPED MY CAMERA, and killed it! So the ol' weblog won't be as visual as it's been for awhile, alas. I liked the digicam so much I may replace it via eBay, pronto -- might be cheaper than the repair bill.

Today's Jon Carroll begins with a
Warning: This column contains gratuitous references to rain, Emil Jannings, betrayal, Alexander Hamilton, worthless hussies, Robin Williams and cats.
Usually when he writes about his cats Archie and Bucket I lose interest but here he also mentions Pete from The Door Into Summer.

November 11, 2004
Fred's This is a near-by tavern's sign, which can be seen from the 101 -- Fred's Place. (I've never been inside.)

The Uncanny Valley and the new "Polar Express" movie.
The film was made with extensive 'mocap' technology... essentially Gollum gone horribly wrong.

WSJ report on Wal-Mart Singles Shopping, a new trend in the Fatherland. Also, in RU Sirius' blog, interesting history of a resistance group known as the Edelweiss Pirates of Köln.

Speaking of Apology -- nowadays, the apologist has the ability of reaching a much wider audience. Sorry Everybody is an expanding collection of portrait galleries of sorrowful 49-percenters, holding up expressive hand-written signs to the camera.

November 10, 2004
In this entry, I'll behave like the All-American Boy that I am, and discuss a female celebrity's physical appearance -- and not just her body, but one specific appendage.

I first became acquainted with Sarah Vowell from reading her music columns in Salon. She may have already been talking on This American Life at that time (early 1997) but I was still back East then, on the verge of returning to California, where I'd finally get to hear this new show the moribund DC public radio stations hadn't picked up. A remarkable thing about these columns was the portrait, illustrated by Dave Eggers while he was still in his cartoonist phase. (Everybody who misses Smarter Feller stand with me, and be counted!) The thing about this picture is her nose -- it looks like the knob off an old radio. (To see it, check for example her column on appropriate music for Sinatra's elegy.) So, I knew what she wrote, and Eggers' idea of how she looked -- and once I started hearing her on This American Life, I grew to love her speaking style as well as her words. As of this weekend, Multiplex America is hearing it, too -- she does the voice of Violet, the skinny daughter in "The Incredibles" movie. I know she makes public appearances but I'd never had the good fortune to attend one, so have been ignorant of her real appearance until now: the IMDb has posted a photo of her in the studio, doing the Violet voice-overs. Now we can all see the nose, and judge Eggers' rendition. Do you think it's knobby?

November 8, 2004
One of the segments on this week's "This American Life" mentioned the Apology Line, a phone number in New York one could call to leave a message, about anything. It ran between 1980 and 1995, at which time 'host' Allan Bridge (aka "Mr" Apology) was killed by a jet ski hit-and-run. I'd heard about his project (from something on NPR, naturally) when it was new, and would occasionally call the line to pass the time when I was working the night shift, during the first phase of space shuttle missions. You could either record your apology (which I did only once -- it was generic: I apologized to everyone I'd hurt) or listen to apologies callers had left previously. A sample of transcribed apologies and more information can be found at ApologyProject.com .

Nazi Meat,
spotted by Noah Spurrier.
(just click it -- not new, but amazing)

One final election map, in which geography is weighted to population size. This is actually a cartogram, a map in which the states' sizes have been rescaled according to their population.

November 7, 2004
Original Joe's in San Jose This neon is the Original Joe's in San Jose. It's a restaurnt chain; each branch makes the 'Original' claim. I've never dined there, although once I used the restroom but the crowd was so dense mein host vetoed that choice and we went elsewhere, although I understand waiting for your table is a tradition at Joe's, along with old-fashioned waiters and huge portions.

I've been seeing references to 'Bit Torrent'... what is it? In today's Yahoo!News' most emailed, the explanatory story has risen to the top -- it's a clever method for distributing the sources of long video files.

Behind is a film by Lacquer -- a time-lapse camera mounted in a car traveling cross-country.

November 5, 2004
First Photo of Earth from Mars

Crazy Asian Drinks.
Zany Japanese toys.
The Japan Today Pic of the Day is the outside wall of the Akasaka Prince Hotel lit up for the Christmas season.

Another purple map, to the county level. And one by Christian denomination (not sure what's the relevance), plus another proposal, for Jesusland.

November 4, 2004
Two more versions of the red-blue election map: by county, and with the states purpled by percentage (by Jeff Culver thanks BoingBoing). Plus -- a North American variant, Canada 2.0 -- hmmm. Baja Canada? As those old-lady teachers in my elementary school might say, "The very idea!"

From Reuters: Unhappy Democrats Must Wait to Get Into Canada; and in Harper's, Electing to Leave, by Bryant Urstadt. (When did that mag start posting their content online? They've held out for ever, except for their Indeces, which generally get those juices of outrage flowing.)

Ten Reasons Not to Move to Canada and Ten Things the Chinese do Far Better than the Canadians.

November 3, 2004
TBogg captures the day's foul mood:
I look at the big map and all of the red in flyover country and I feel like I've been locked in a room with the slow learners. We have become the country that pulls a dry cleaning bag over its head to play astronaut.

But why are the red states red and the blue, blue? Who assigned the colors? ('Cause to me it's so obvious, red for -neck; but it's more appropriate, politically, that Democrats get marked with the traditional color of the extreme Left). Keith Olbermann delves into the history of election map coloring.

It's all I seem capable of, at this point -- linking to weblog postings, and stories about blogs. Blog, blah, blah.

November 2.
Ridge Route Flora
In the New Yorker:
Richard Avedon decided that he would try to capture a sense of the country in the midst of a crucial Presidential election campaign. He travelled well beyond his studio, visiting the Conventions in Boston and New York, and, among other places, Texas, Nevada, and San Francisco. On September 25th in San Antonio, where he'd been working with Iraq veterans and was preparing for a sitting at a school, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Six days later, he died, and this portfolio, Democracy , was left unfinished.

Follow-up on the Ridge Route:
California's Gold is a half-hour show from KCET, the LA PBS TV station, sponsored by Wells Fargo and hosted by an amiable doof named Huell Howser. He's been doing it for years so now there's hundreds of episodes, and they have a bunch of the videos at the library. I've tuned out this election night watching #208, "Traditions." I've placed a 'hold' on #706, "Yosemite Firefall" (meaning it'll be shipped over because the Los Altos branch of our wonderful county library system doesn't have it but there's a copy down in Morgan Hill) but nobody has #122, where Huell drives the Ridge Route in a Model T. If you want to see more pictures of that road, and the ruins along it, Panamint Charlie has a page where he posted photos from his June 2003 run. And today's image, from my trip, shows some of the rugged scrubby plants along the way.

The new Peet's opened today, on el Camino at San Antonio next to Chef Chu's -- this will change some driving habits! Even though parking will be troublesome there.

November 1, 2004
A tram in Charlottesville? In the Slopoke blog I learn Jen did the cover for this feature story about possible streetcar construction, between the downtown 'mall' and the UVA campus. Or maybe it's just their story: some people from Charlottesville, in Portland, dreaming.

Wonderful photographs at Today's Kyoto.

A Global History of Anime

October 31, 2004
Rapid Bus Stop sign I love these new bus stop signs along Wilshire in LA -- they're for the new Rapid bus, a BRT system like the busways of South America. Or something.

I've been hitting on this webcam, it's mounted on a Swiss locomotive and updates every few minutes, when it does (in the night-time, seems to go dormant).

Survival Guide to Homelessness -- a weblog. Another blogger, author William Gibson, uses the format I first thought I'd do: just showing the latest entry as the default page, forcing the user into the archives for anything other than the current. This makes any visitor except those daily do too much work; I'm pleased with the blogish standard of showing at least the past several days' updates in addition to the latest. Anyway, Gibson's been holding forth on Osama's latest video dispatch -- that was something, BTW. So is the Theremin of the Month at the extensive Theremin World.

October 29, 2004
wallA corrugated wall in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun, somewhere along my commute.

In some quarters he's known as "Chimpy" -- here's why.
Two views of his team: The Brownshirting of America by Paul Craig Roberts and On the Campaign Trail: Fear and Loathing in Colorado, by Bud McClure.

Out of left field...
Two quotes from Fred Allen, a big radio personality from the Time before TV:
  • Television is a device that permits people who haven't anything to do to watch people who can't do anything.
  • TV is called a medium because anything well done is rare.

2004's Scariest Halloween costumes. Also, StrangeCo -- Purveyors of the Peculiar.

October 27, 2004
Two thumbnail galleries of Golden Age comic book covers. This one has three sections: War & Super-Hero, Good Girl & Romance, and Crime & Horror; while this one is Crime only. Those were the days.

October 25, 2004
on the Ridge Route I slipped down to SoCal this weekend, mainly to experience the Ridge Route, a 25-mile segment of the old road between Bakersfield and Los Angeles which, although still passable, has not been maintained for decades. Early on, traveling north, one can observe the I-5 traffic passing down below, but mostly it's the middle of nowhere... I loved it. Here we see the mighty Tercel, paused on a curve.

Report of South Carolina police usage of a stun gun on a 75-year-old visitor at a nursing home. I guess the distinction's hopelessly muddled to the public, and this story just makes it worse, since it refers to their weapon as both Taser and stun gun. Everybody wants to use the former term because the word 'Taser' sounds cool; but they're not the same -- and to make matters worse, a stun "gun" doesn't even resemble a gun. A real TASeR (the acronym is Tom Swift's Electric Rifle) shoots a pair of fine, coiled wires at the victim, through which current is then passed; whereas the far-more-common stun gun is just a hand-held with two electrode-prongs which must be pressed onto the victim. I've never handled a Taser (but I did see one demonstrated on television, when they were new -- a volunteer from the audience was requested, and the poor shlub wound up on the floor, twitching) although I have played with a woman-friend's stun gun, and seen 'em for sale in venues like surplus stores and gun shows. When fully charged (they plug into a wall socket), as the switch is closed, a thick blue spark appears between the electrodes, and I've heard a victim describe the sensation as being like a physical blow.

Three short essays on reality:
Haven't linked to a Jon Carroll column in a while, this one from last week tells it like it is. The Elephant is Jim Kunstler's latest rant, mentions the "outside context problem" (per Sergey Borovik) and especially the "consensus trance" -- Erik Davis' idea that the collective agreement about what reality consists of is so powerful that it resists, even repels, any challenge to its validity. And finally, The Doper Vote, by Jules Siegel at AlterNet.

I was nattering on about her comic strip a couple days before Lynn Johnson did an interview October 8th with Washington Post readers.

Matchbooks at Vintage Vegas -- excellent! Today's random word: a phillumenist is a collector of matchbooks and matchboxes.

October 22, 2004
Hunter Thompson is not an undecided voter. In Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004 he discusses when he first met John Kerry and, among other things, says
Your neighbor's grandchildren will be fighting this stupid, greed-crazed Bush-family "war" against the whole Islamic world for the rest of their lives, if John Kerry is not elected to be the new President of the United States in November.

Brian Wilson finally released "Smile" -- I haven't heard it yet, but the track listing's almost identical to a bootleg I acquired a few years ago, except for something new called "In Blue Hawaii" (which sounds intriguing). One could do without the slide whistles but I can't help wondering about the positive impact "Vega-Tables" would have had on the cultural landscape, if the Beach Boys' '67 LP was released as originally planned.
Sleep a lot, Eat a lot,
Brush 'em like crazy
Run a lot, Do a lot,
Never be lazy.

October 21, 2004
Seattle Before it gets too far away, a photo from my Seattle trip, of downtown near the freeway overhead and the Elliott Bay waterfront.

Faith Against Reason by Jonathan Freedland -- The US Election has Exposed a Growing Conflict Between Two World Views.

What Would Jefferson Do? by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect.

Wake Up and Smell the Fascism!

October 19, 2004
TV BeGone -- gimme! An ingenious device which will trigger needed discourse about mandatory television in public spaces. They interviewed the inventor on 'All Things Considered' today - his name is Altman. More info at Wired News.

The CIA's 9-11 Report has been "stalled" until after the election, since it names names.

October 18, 2004
This year's annual Muppet Fan Halloween Parade started off with more than a dozen fan-made Beaker costumes.

The Glory Hole.
(not the perversion)

'Civil Liberties' has become code to some people -- three Oregon teachers were ejected from a Republican rally for their "Protect Our Civil Liberties" T-shirts. Their shirts' message was declared 'obscene' by a campaign official.

October 15, 2004
Japanese publisher Shueisha has suspended the "Kuni ga Moeru" manga, since the comic dared to mention the Rape of Nanking, one of their WWII atrocities post-war Japan chooses to ignore, or more often, deny. Details at Japan Today and (a probably more objective report) in the Straits Times of Singapore.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) is on the No Fly List, despite the clarifying info in the Time article I linked to previously, which stated that on the contrary, the name on The List is actually Youssouf Islam and the former singing star's detainment was due to overzealous (or just ignorant) TSA behavior. Ironically, his example indicates a possible method for thwarting false positives at check-in, according to an MSNBC Travel article, A Common Name can be a Curse. In addition to enhanced security, one might hope all that tax money flowing into the TSA would be facilitating some reduction in the harrassment of the traveling public -- well, those funds are going somewhere: for the recent news on their lavish spending, follow one of the links in this Google output for the curious phrase, '$500 for cheese displays'. I've heard the suggestion that a TSA's mandate is in fact increased harrassment, to convince the fearful among the electorate that the gumint's doing something. Shoes Off For America!

Heard about the Smoketown Six? A creative demonstration in Pennsylvania, deemed too risky for the shrub to see, so the perpetrators were all arrested by local police. Their trial's next week.

Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was the unsung heroine of British electronic music (and she was partly responsible for the "Doctor Who" theme).

October 14, 2004
Shoe Repair neon sign This neon sign is in the "Midtown' neighborhood. They say Palo Alto has three downtowns -- actually, I'd make that figure 2½; Midtown being the half. The other one, on California Ave, is a result of the 1925 annexation of Mayfield. More PA history in this Wikipedia entry.

Scalzi's on a roll, at Whatever -- don't miss Tuesday's post on willfull ignorance -- he says he
...can't remember at what age it was that I discovered that people are indeed willfully ignorant -- that they choose not to know things despite the ease with which knowledge can be acquired -- but I know that even at that young age I was agog at the idea.

2002 interview with Haruki Murakami -- he discusses the post-911 world, intolerance & closed vs. open systems, and The Catcher in The Rye, which he's translating into Japanese. I first came upon his work at the late, lamented word.com, an excerpt from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the only book of his I've read so far, but I look forward to more. Another writer, journalist really, well, columnist at the NY Times, is Maureen Dowd -- heard her on the radio last night, she was great! Refreshing, even -- not what I expected.

October 12, 2004
According to this, a new law says Americans are not only barred from bringing home Cuban cigars, but now, you're not even allowed to smoke 'em abroad (as if we'd want to -- and just how would that regulation be enforced?)

Three recent threads in MetaFilter: Somebody's six-year-old perceives a frightening 'Skitter Scatter' which nobody else can see -- in response, people tell of their own imaginary playmates, etc; Concepts English doesn't have (but other languages do); and What, exactly, are the Masons and Shriners?

Uh-oh -- A Tiny Revolution posts a Seymour Hersh report of a senseless civilan massacre. Can anybody offer a satisfactory explaination of why our dogs of war were unleashed, how Iraqi farmers became The Enemy? Related: a February 1999 post I called "Right Wing Fanatics" has been archived offline, but it compared impeachment instigator and congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) with the Reichsführer (using this picture and a 1939 cover of Time magazine). Now even he's implying that he won't be voting for the shrub.

October 11, 2004
The public opening party in the old TWA Terminal at JFK got out of hand, so the Port Authority pulled the plug -- going overboard, IMO; the exhibit there was scheduled to run until January but now the whole deal's been cancelled. Fortunately, there was a preview, where David Gallagher took a bunch of photos, which he posted on his photo-blog, Lightning Field.

Know that, 'neath my somewhat conventional demeanor, a Dude abides... because according to another web-based test (Which "Big Lebowski" character are you?) I am... Jeff Lebowski!

Chapter One of The Emperors of Chocolate, a new book by Joël Glenn Brenner.

The Battle For Reality is an essay by John Kaminski.

October 10, 2004
Jan & Tony Just returned from another of my periodic long weekends in the Pacific NW -- this time, Seattle. Here's hosts Jan and Tony holding apples from their trees, out by their barn. They live up near Everett, on a small farm they acquired a couple years ago. Downtown Seattle highlights included hanging out in Elliott Bay Books and the Grand Central Arcade at Pioneer Square, rides on the waterfront streetcar, and an unescorted tour of the Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine moored at Pier 48. South of the city, a too-short visit to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field; and up north, finally got to experience Jan's home town of Snohomish.

October 7, 2004
There's a test at the top of All Look Same where a sequence of Asian faces are presented, with prompts to specify Chinese, Korean or Japanese. My grade was "Pretty Good," 12 out of 18 (with 7 being the average); but in most cases I think my guesses were just lucky.

Speaking of Japanese, I'm in my first-ever class, and it's going well. (If you're learning too, check Tumbleweed's Resources.) One might wonder how it is that I've made seven trips there without knowing the lingo (or to be precise, the nihon-go) but I've picked up a lot of stray vocab over the years, and have been studying the kanji on and off for almost three decades now, so it's not like I'm helpless. Now that it's all coming together, with formal lessons, I really want to return; but my next big journey will be to Europe, a frequent-flyer cash-in non-stop to Frankfurt, with a loop through Amsterdam, Berlin, Kraków, Budapest and Vienna. Yeah! Gotta get to Poland and Hungary, before their currency converts to the euro.

Part 3 of David Niewert's "Rise of Pseudo Fascism" is excellent. So are the first two, as I assume the subsequent parts will be, also. I link to his weblog posts often, and his previous big 'exegesis' on "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" was outstanding -- you can find a pointer to it in my archive, a year ago today.

The full story on Mr Burns -- I mean Cheney's -- FactCheck blunder in the VP debate.

October 6, 2004
Since the Supreme Court approved the 'Do Not Call List' (by their inaction on Monday), I figured it's time to submit my phone number... email confirmation's required, but as with all such requests, preservation of online anonymity's a snap with the use of mailinator.com. If we're lucky, this ruling means the eventual death of legitimate telemarketing, sad but too bad for those marginal folks who can't find any better job than working in a boiler room.

Nasty Days are Here is an Orcinus post which compiles reports of recent incidents of election-induced vandalism -- why are the all the perpetrators pro-Republican? One of these acts was documented in the local Metro rag's "I Saw You" column: an observation in a parking lot, a Party zealot removing a Kerry bumper sticker with a key, damaging the finish underneath. More interesting news-via-weblog from Tom Tomorrow, in his Tuesday posting which concerns Shatner in Iowa, and the Sensible Liberals.

I've grown rather fond of another political cartoon, also published in the Metro. "Slowpoke" is a creation of Jen Sorenson, and her weblog will probably be getting a daily read. Another blog, very different, is For Better or Worse Strikes Back -- a sarcastic analysis of that wholesome comic strip, which I'm quite familiar with, a guilty pleasure. (Hey -- it's Canadian!)

Finally, a followup to yesterday's Peanuts post -- just learned (in a strip from '53) that Violet's last name is Gray. This was noted in the FAQ, but I'd forgotten.

October 4, 2004
Charlotte Braun The second volume of The Complete Peanuts showed up today, so you get to see the mysterious Charlotte Braun, an experimental character who only appeared in seven strips in early December, 1954. (Click to see the last two). Fantagraphics is the publisher of this definitive collection (and many other comics, as well) -- they were profiled in a recent Seattle Weekly article.

The SpaceShipOne crew won their X-Prize today! $10M... say, they could swap it for a Zeppelin NT! In other spaceman news, last May 8, in the high desert near Edwards AFB, a monument was unveiled on the spot where pilot Michael Adams crashed, on one of the final flights of the X-15... and finally, RIP, Gordo.

October 3, 2004
1954 Buick Skylark tailfin This weekend was Los Altos' Art & Wine festival. Usually, I avoid these things: most California towns seem to have them, in the summertime; the main street is closed off and filled with booths selling crafts, plus there's food, and live music; but the hot sun, dense crowds, and smoke from the grilling usually combine unpleasantly. But in Los Altos, that typical scene is augmented with a classic car show -- a few years back, I saw a Tucker there. This year, the focus was on Buicks, and I finally got to see a '54 converible, which had these great chrome tailfins bolted on to the fenders. Like the turn signals, those three stripes on the top are also red plastic, which illuminate when the headlights are on -- I got to see this demonstrated, but wasn't able to get a photo. (The zoom image concatenates this close-up with a broader view.) Also got to see a '57, which is one of my favorite fifties automobiles -- for some reason, examples are rare, unlike its Chevrolet cousin.

Zeppelin NT in the Neiman-Marcus catalog -- only $10M.

A more reasonable gift idea: if you know a love-struck couple in that early stage we call the Pink Cloud, get 'em a pair of Smittens. I'm reminded of that "Cap for Two" in Philip Garner's Better Living Catalog, from 1982.

On the other hand, if you're looking for love, and in need of a laugh, check the Brutally Honest Personal Ads in Esquire.

October 1, 2004
Overheard at work a few days ago -- a co-worker, on the phone with his mother, about another family member:
"If he'd get off his ass and be a human being, it wouldn't be an issue!"

Didn't watch the the debate, only caught bits of it on the radio; so this summary of photos was helpful (and amusing). 'Twas refreshing indeed hearing the shrub's hateful petulance countered with an articulate voice, although a Kerry victory will undoubtably have its own flavor of unpleasant baggage. Since he's not running, George Soros can speak frankly about the state of things.

September 30, 2004
Acrimonious reaction to the new Smithsonian, on the Mall: the National Museum of Ben Nighthorse Campbell -- I'm still curious about the building, but its displays are sounding increasingly absurd, and not worth bothering with. I haven't heard anything about the gift shop yet, so that might be worthwhile.

The Action Squad visits the Ruins of Hamm's Brewery in St. Paul -- fascinating!

Salon interview with Terry Gross.

La Terre Vue du Ciel -- thumbnails of aerial photography, reminds me of "Powaqqatsi." (The Earth Seen from the Sky is quite simply incredible.)

Fast for the shrub -- oh sure! Related: Crawford newspaper Endorses Kerry.

Way back when, I mentioned the Y forum (remember the opinion that some white people smell like wet dogs, when they come out of the rain?) A whole lot of interesting opinions and info gets posted there, but its slow-as-molasses interface and use of javascript links is infuriating, so I'm looking forward to reading the new book author Phillip Milano has distilled from his site: I Can't Believe You Asked That!

September 28, 2004
Required reading:
Establishment Media Plagued by 'Coincidence Theorists', by Michael Hasty.

Status of missile defense: Indefensible, by Frances FitzGerald, in the New Yorker.

New stuff from Japan: BBC article about Retro-Reflectum, a material which projects an image onto itself of what is behind the wearer -- in other words, an invisibility cloak. (In Neuromancer, William Gibson had characters wearing 'chameleon suits' made of a substance which did the same thing.) Also, the breast-enlarging ringtone is now available, for cell phones (but results may vary).

September 27, 2004
White Fang In the November 2001 Los Angeles Magazine, KROQ: an oral history -- station workers reflect upon the glory days of the late 70s - early 80s, and what's come after. All the DJs I remember get a word in, except for the banished Poorman (although he is spoken of, naturally). I'm so glad I got to listen, during my ten days in LA in 1981, a life-changing experience. When I finally moved there in early '87, imagine my surprise at observing how their studio was right across the street from our branch office; but nothing came of that since my job was mostly "on-lab" out at JPL, instead of in downtown Pasadena.

I've got a cat now, sort-of -- at least I'm feeding one, out on the patio. I'm pretty sure he's a stray, probably about a year old. He's become affectionate with me, but still won't tolerate anything like being picked up -- the result of any action he considers threatening is an immediate, instinctive, full-power attack. After the little f+cker bit me Saturday, I decided to call him Fang, short for White Fang, or maybe "Thascist Groove Fang" (a reference to an 80s band called Heaven 17, who took their name from a group mentioned in "A Clockwork Orange"). It's hard to tell in this picture, but his tail's ringed with black and gray. (Like with all my pictures, it's a thumbnail, click to zoom.)

And speaking of cats, haven't spoken of the former pop star's refused US entry last week, figuring you've heard the details elsewhere. However, until now, although we've heard conjecture, there's been no official explanation of why he's on the no-fly list (which is one of the many troubles with said list -- nobody can say who compiles it, or how to appeal mistakes, or even if you're on it -- the only way to find out is to take a trip. You might be in for a rude surprise, with no airfare refund.) On yesterday's "Le Show," Harry Shearer pointed towards Time magazine -- seemingly unworthy of their print edition, an online 'exclusive' is You Say Yusuf, I Say Youssouf... Apparently, it was due to a misspelling, or rather somebody's over-eager or ignorant assumption that a misspelling was involved.

September 24, 2004
1936 Ford Pickup Gallery of Hood Ornaments has 'em all, including this '36 Ford's, spotted in a Redwood City parking lot yesterday.

Frank R. Paul gallery -- science fiction art from the '20s and '30s, great stuff, some of his 'pulp' covers are familiar from various 'Yesterday's Tomorrows' collections. For something similar, more unusual, slightly more contemporary, and unique on the web, I've been updating my "Winstons" listing with links to the great cover art, scanned from my own collection, or harvested from eBay offerings. At this point I lack only two of the covers, and those can be seen at a French site. In the 1960s, I'd get these books from the public library -- in fact, one of them (The Star Seekers) was the first Sci-Fi I ever read, the only book of its type in my elementary school's library. That story was where I learned the word "empathy." In the 1980s I had a manager nobody liked who I once heard instruct my supervisor to "Empathize, but never Sympathize," when dealing with the troubles of his subordinates. This may be an effective management technique, but my reaction is, what a jerk!

Mark and Evelyn Leeper do lots of traveling, and they make detailed logs of their journeys available online. Mark is also a prolific writer of movie reviews, which he posts to newsgroups, and they're subsequently listed in the IMDb. I first stumbled across their Japan diaries in mid-'99, and they were a partial inspiration for my return to Nihon, a few months later, after a seven-year hiatus (which seemed much longer, at the time) -- like me, origami and monster movies were the original windows into Mark's fascination with things Japanese. (But my first film was "Mothra" -- decades would pass before I finally saw "Godzilla.") I didn't probe into who the authors were, during those first readings; but something about his writing style made me incorrectly assume that he was younger than I, and possibly of some more exotic demographic than East Coast White Male. I'm re-reading his '96 Japan travelog, as well as others of their many trips, including India (they went in '93) and Vietnam, a more recent journey. Among other things he also maintains a great page of links: Best Internet sites for finding radio drama.

Marlene went to Burning Man! (and posted many photos). Like a trip to India, the discomfort and hassle associated with that journey make me doubt I'll ever go. Sure, I'd love to make the scene on the playa for a little while, but her report confirms my suspicion that camping in the desert with thousands of 24-hour party people would surely be a misery. Here's another set of Burning Man '04 thumbnails, featuring the mobile Gravity Bowl (aka 'Dog Dish') mutant vehicle.

September 23, 2004
News from Milwaukee: We Love the Police State -- a jolly prank.

As All-American as Egg Foo Yong sums up a new exhibition at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas in Manhattan's Chinatown. You could go to the printer-only but then you'd miss the pictures (which are repeated on all the pages, as usual at the NY Times site). A movie at a recent Asian film festival here explored a more global view of this same theme, but I missed it: Chinese Restaurants: Song of the Exile.

Actions for a Quality Life -- 50 things you can do to make your world better. British, but applicable everywhere.

September 22, 2004
Here's a fun bit of air traffic trivia: we all know of Air Force One -- technically, it's the flight number assigned to any plane the President's riding in (typically, either of a pair of special 747s) and then there's Marine One, which designates any helicopter (usually for transfer between the White House and Andrews AFB). Air Force Two, same for the Vice President. Today, in a meeting, I learned that any time the Pope's in the air, he's flying on Shepherd One.

Some new products: LED Toilet Seat, only 250 €. The all-blue version is amparo blue (that's Spanish for 'shelter'). Also, an interesting assortment of LED products is available from Coast Cutlery. On an entirely different note, Saint Clinton.

The new Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian opened yesterday on the Mall, in DC. Can't wait -- or maybe, I can. According to Marc Fisher in the Washington Post, Indian Museum's Appeal Is Sadly, Only Skin-Deep -- the building's amazing, but in order to be politically correct,
The Smithsonian accepted the trendy faux-selflessness of today's historians and let the Indians present themselves as they wish to be seen.
So instead of, for example, exhibits of traditional culture, a tribe may instead just promote its new casino. Food may be the real draw (isn't it always?) in the museum's Mitsitam Cafe.

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