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Showing posts from March, 2005

Reader Mail (3/31)

Dear ADC,

What movie(s) should I see this weekend?


Since you asked, here are some Brief Reviews of Movies I haven’t Seen.

Sin City: This is a movie based on the ‘graphic novel’ of the same name (‘graphic novel’ is a euphemism for ‘lengthy comic book’). The movie supposedly looks like ‘a comic book brought to life’. How many times have I said to myself, “If only someone would make a movie that looked like a comic book brought to life”? Right, zero times. If you are reading ADC on the Interweb (as most of my readers do) there is a good chance you will go see this movie no matter what anyone tells you, because (I hate to be the one to break this to you, but someone must) you’re a bit of a nerd. Which is fine, but after you see it please don’t try to tell me that the movie is some sort of artistic breakthrough.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: I don’t know, who? Ashton Kutcher? And Bernie Mac? In the same movie? No, seriously, who’s coming to dinner? You are serious? This is the most popular mo…

Behind it all you find Uranus

John Ruskin

Image
Study of Velvet Crab
Ruskin, John (draughtsman),

drawing: Watercolour and bodycolour over graphite on blue-grey paper: 245 x 315 mm

Oxford: Ashmolean Museum

Provenance: Presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; transferred from the Ruskin Drawing School to the Ashmolean Museum, c.1949.


"Ruskin's upbringing, so beautifully remembered in his fragmentary autobiography, Praeterita (Shakespeare's "things past," Proust's temps retrouve), was a careful and loving education in piety, character, and intellectual curiosity. His parents hoped he would be a clergyman; Ruskin was all for being a geologist. He was a brilliant child. He was taken around England in comfortable coaches, and on European tours to see paintings and cathedrals. He fell in love with crystals, glaciers, alpine valleys, landscape painting, poetry, Greek and Latin, Gothic architecture, a daughter of the Domecq family (the wine business's French connecti…

North American Review, CCLXXIV (September, 1879)

"When he has operated upon you, you would not for worlds have foregone it. You have been ennobled by that familiarity with sorrow. You have been, as it were, sent through the fire and purged of so much of your dross. For a time, at least, you have been free from the mundane touch of that beef and ale with which novelists of a meaner school will certainly bring you in contact. No one will feel himself ennobled at once by having read one of my novels. But Hawthorne, when you have studied him, will be very precious to you. He will have plunged you into melancholy, he will have overshadowed you with black forebodings, he will almost have crushed you with imaginary sorrows; but he will have enabled you to feel yourself an inch taller during the process. Something of the sublimity of the transcendent, something of the mystery of the unfathomable, something of the brightness of the celestial, will have attached itself to you, and you will all but think that you too might live to be subl…

Ancient Chinese 'wisdom' leads to funny modern headline

"Let's face it: People once laughed at acupuncture, and they weren't quite sure what to make of feng shui, either.

Still, while Chinese face reading lags far behind its ancient Chinese cousins in terms of earning Western mainstream acceptance, at least 18 women considered it worth examining in Jean Haner-Dowsett's Lake Forest Park living room yesterday.

It was her former mother-in-law who introduced her to face reading and feng shui (which teaches that location of one's home and placement of furnishings inside can promote success in the home) when she married into a Chinese family 25 years ago, and now Haner-Dowsett leads international workshops.

Chinese face reading, she says, allows someone to detect personal qualities and foibles from another's facial features. Last fall, for instance, it was presidential candidate Wesley Clark's strong jaw that told her he was the only Democrat who could have won the election.

Filmmaker Michael Moore's hooked nose,…

An Unrest Cure for Kyrgyzstan

Unrest in Kyrgyzstan:
Opposition supporters in Kyrgyzstan today seized the airport building in Osh, the second largest city in the former Soviet republic, as thousands of protesters continued rioting against the recent parliamentary election results...The protesters yesterday seized parts of the nearby town of Jalal-Abad in southern Kyrgyztan, dominated by ethnic-Uzbeks. About 10,000 people besieged and then set on fire the police station in the town and blocked the airport’s runway to prevent the government rushing in reinforcements. Meanwhile, all is tranquil in Kyrgyzstan's northern neighbor, Kazakhstan. It seems that the giant glass pyramid of Astana is already causing peace, even though it hasn't been built yet.

November 4, 1867. Chatham, England

"On the afternoon of Monday the 4th, between the hours of three and four, I witnessed a very extraordinary sight in the heavens. I have not heard of any one hereabout having seen it. The facts are as follow: -- At the time above mentioned I was passing by the Mill by the Water-works Reservoir. On the gallery I noticed the miller uttering exclamations of surprise, and looking earnestly towards the west. On inquiring what took his attention so much, he said, "Look, sir, I never saw such a sight in my life!" On turning in the direction towards which he was looking, the west, I also was astounded -- numberless black discs in groups and scattered were passing rapidly through the air. He said his attention was directed to them by his little girl, who called to him in the Mill, saying, "Look, father, here are a lot of balloons coming!" They continued for more than twenty minutes, the time I stayed. In passing in front of the sun they appeared like large cannon shot. …

Memoirs 2

Inspired by the success of Koren Zailckas'sSmashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (am I being overly suspicious, or were the comments to this post on Miss Zailckas’s blog written by Miss Zailckas herself?), here are some excerpts from my forthcoming memoir (movie rights still available) Blotto: Tales of a Tipsy Tot.

From Ch.1:

I’m not sure how it started. Maybe it was something my parents did – or didn’t do. Maybe it was all the doom and gloom and chaos in the air during the early 70’s. Maybe it was the pressure of being four when everyone else in kindergarten was five. Maybe it was my genes. Whatever the case, I was a tipsy tot.

From Ch. 3:

We were supposed to be making animals out of Play-Doh, something I was usually good at. I tried to mold an elephant. My hands were shaking, and I kept messing up. I was sweating. How much did I have last night? 8, 9 drinks? Some of the kids were staring at me. I put the Play-Doh down and rubbed my eyes. I felt like I was dying. When was nap time go…

Memoirs

Memoirs were once written late in life, by people who had led remarkable lives or witnessed remarkable events. I am not the first to point out that this isn’t true anymore, but I feel compelled to point it out again after seeing Koren Zailckas, the 24 year old authoress of the book Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood being interviewed on one of the cable news channels. What is it that the young Miss Zailckas has done, you ask, that is worthy of a memoir? Is she a significant historical figure? Did she spend World War II hiding from the Nazis? Did she help conquer New Spain? No, her book is, as this article describes, “a compilation of her memoirs chronicling her experience as a young binge drinker”. Because, after all, what is more fascinating than the fuzzy accounts of a young girl’s drunkenness? The article describes Miss Zailckas's motivation:

“She also said the book is intended to be a cautionary tale for high school girls who might not drink as heavily as she did.”

What sort …

Elsewhere

There are many reasons why anti-poverty measures are less than successful in Africa. In a recent column, the Ugandan commentator Charles Onyango-Obbo provides one you've never heard before:
...sometimes plans to end poverty fail because of, well, poverty. Take a recent case from western Kenya...A lot of money was pumped into a programme to save poor rural women from walking many kilometres to fetch water. The women, however, didn't collect water from the new modern "wells".

Were the women ignorant? Not at all. With just one harvest a year, the women had a lot of time on their hands. Without electricity, TV, and other distractions at home, they would be bored to death. They preferred to continue walking many kilometres away to collect water, because it helped them kill time.Beryl Bainbridge on smoking (note her observation on the decline in language ability upon quitting, it's something I can attest to, and something that those who oppose tobacco never mention):
I g…

Strange things happen all the time

Saturday, March 13.

At 7:37 p.m. "A minor earthquake with a magnitude of 3.3 was reported". The quake was centered 15 miles north of Olympia, Washington.

At 7:45 p.m. "A fireball streaked through the night sky across the western half of the Pacific Northwest on Saturday, startling people all the way from southern Oregon to the Seattle area...Scientists said the fireball was probably a meteor". One witness said "It was like a big ball of fire...behind it was a trail of blue".

Then at 7:50 p.m. some parts of the city of Seattle experienced a power outage. Among the areas affected was the neighborhood of Magnolia.

And I would like to think this was only a matter of chance...

Astana: Champagne dreams and pyramid schemes

When I announced I was going to Kazakhstan in an attempt to persuade the Kazakhs not to build a giant glass pyramid, in a city with less than 500,000 inhabitants in the middle of nowhere, where temperatures range from -40 F in winter to 104 F in summer, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds, people I knew were dumbfounded. It seems that many can’t believe that such a project is real. But it is.

The architect for the project is Norman Foster, the man responsible for this silly building. Foster claims his design for the pyramid was influenced by the work of Etienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicholas Ledoux, a pair of 18th century Frenchman. Their building designs were even sillier than Lord Fosters, but no one in the 18th century was foolish enough to actually construct any of them (for a devastating critique of Boullée and Ledoux see Hans Sedlmayr’s Art in Crisis). Am I the only one who finds it depressing that nowhere can hideous modern architecture be escaped, not even in a rem…

The Renaissance Myth

"The main elements of the Renaissance myth are familiar enough: the sudden dawning of a new outlook on the world after a thousand years of darkness, the rediscovery of ancient learning, the spread of new ideas of intellectual inquiry and freedom, investigation of the real world replacing the sterile disputes of the scholastics, the widening of the world through the discovery of America and the advance of science, the reform of religion. Apart from a few quibbles about the supposed suddenness of the change, and that more on the grounds of a general belief in the gradualness of historical change than because of any evidence, this paradigm seems to be as firmly in place now as it ever was. In fact there is no truth in any of this. On the contrary, as we will see, the "Renaissance" was a period when thought declined significantly, bringing to an end a period of advance in the late Middle Ages." - from "The Renaissance Myth", James Franklin ( Quadrant 26 (11) …

Arrival: Astana, Kazakhstan

Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – all admittedly have their peculiar charms, but for me of all the countries in the world with names ending in ‘stan’ none compare to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan! A vast and rugged country (1,049,150 sq miles) populated by descendents of Mongol and Turkic tribesman, it can be found on your map in the unfortunate position between Russia and China.

In Kazakhstan one can watch some of the most exciting and unusual spectator sports in the world. Kyz Kuu, where a girl on horseback is chased by a young man on horseback, and when he gets close she whips him (which is sort of like my current relationship, except for the horses). Audaryspak, in which two men wrestle on horseback. Kumis Alu, a game where a silver ingot must be snatched from the ground by a man on horseback. Kazakhstanian’s claim that when Alexander the Great visited the region he watched an exhibition of Kumis Alu (most scholars think games like Kumis Alu date …

Have a nice day

"The worst part is wondering how you'll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you'll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows." - Louis-Ferdinand Céline

It's an opportunity that I don't want to miss

Despite all my efforts I have failed to capture or even sight the Medina Caiman. I did, however, discover this bit of possibly good news:

Experts Urge Redefinition Of The Kilogram

It’s time to replace the 115-year-old kilogram artifact as the world's official standard for mass, even though experiments generally thought necessary to achieve this goal have not yet reached their targeted level of precision. That the conclusion of an upcoming Metrologia journal article authored by five eminent scientists from the United States, United Kingdom and France that was discussed at a scientific meeting of the Royal Society of London on Feb. 14-15.

I'm no expert on kilograms (or even grams), but might I suggest 'the experts' use this rare opportunity to redefine the kilogram to make it equivalent to a pound? It would simplify things for everyone, in particular school children, Olympic weightlifters, and drug traffickers.

Seeking the Medina Caiman

I awake in the pretentious city of Seattle (future home of the homosexualist ‘manorail’), and discover my good friend Professor Glen Morangie (recently returned from his Tsunami relief mission) has been trying to contact me all morning to alert me to this story:

Reports of reptile on loose unnerve Medina residents

Beware a caiman or some other large reptile spotted around Cozy Cove and Fairweather Bay, the Medina Police Department warned residents in a Friday e-mail. The department reported sightings, including one person who saw it lingering in the reeds at the back of the bay...

If the sighting proves correct, it could be a caiman, which can grow to 7 feet long and usually makes its home much farther south, in the marshes and rivers of Latin American, said Dana Payne, a curator and reptile specialist at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo.

Or it might be an American alligator, which can frequently reach 9 to 10 feet in length and hails from the Southeast, said Payne, who fielded a call fro…