Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dictatorial duck-billed diplodocus!

Tintin's best pal and very good friend is the irascible alcoholic seafaring bearded bear, Captain Haddock, best known for his whiskey-drinking, loyalty and his cussing, which turned the air blue. A selection of his insults:
Two-timing Tartar Twisters! Macrocephalic baboon! Infernal mileage merchants! Miserable blundering barbequed blister! Thundering misguided missile! Nyctalop! Pachyrhizus! Ophicleides! Purple profiteering jellyfish!
These strangely off-kilter insults resulted from Tintin creator Hergé being unable to put real swear words into his art.

Ten thousand thundering typhoons!

There's two new museums of art in Belgium: the first shows off the work of Hergé, the illustrator/cartoonist who created the character of Tintin, seen above on one of his daring adventures with his faithful dog, Snowy. La Musée Hergé building itself (see below) is as mysterious as the many Adventures of Tintin, appearing to float on the flat Belgian landscape like one of the ocean liners the intrepid boy journalist sailed upon in search of answers to murders, jewel thefts, kidnappings.

In Brussels, an elegant and discreet townhouse takes one to a strange yet familiar world of floating bowler hats, and windows looking over dreamy landscapes, clouds, skies, though some of the vistas start to look peculiar on closer inspection, and a train emerges from the fireplace... this is the Magritte Museum, which showcases the work of that other famous Belgian, Rene Magritte, who is perhaps the greatest of Surrealists aside from Salvador Dali.

I am much more familiar with Tintin than Magritte, given that the Adventures of Tintin books from my local library fired my childhood imagination into a raging furnace, growing up as I did in a television-free home. Like some American superheroes (Superman, Spiderman), Tintin is a journalist, though as some point out, he is rarely seen working, and is more often holding a pistol or a magnifying glass than a notebook and pen.

That didn't matter to me when I was a child: the Economist points out that on a recent visit to the Hergé Museum, the building glowed with its magical internal world of colorful, exotic landscapes, "as outside a steady drizzle falls against the windows from leaden skies." Doesn't that sound just like Northern Ireland?
Tintin the reporter, rarely seen doing any reporting or writing, still gets himself into the papers...

Friday, May 29, 2009

She Might Try to Take Her Own Piece of the Cake

Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, is allegedly too closely associated with identity politics. See above...

Typically, the New York Times, often accused of being a liberal newspaper, seems keen to undermine Sotomayor. If you are a moderately conservative person, you have no more reliable mouthpiece than the New York Times.

No surprises, then, from the Times. The Wall Street Journal, however, has occasional spasms of open-mindedness, and its Best of the Web editor suggests that Sotomayor should be confirmed for her role in what's called with understandable glee, the Infamous Douche-Bag Case.
In August 2007, Judge Sonia Sotomayor sat on a panel that ruled against an appeal in Doninger v. Niehoff.
Avery Doninger was disqualified from running for school government at Lewis S. Mills High School in Burlington after she posted something on her blog, referring to the superintendent and other officials as "douche bags" because they canceled a battle of the bands she had helped to organize.
In their opinion, the judges said they were "sympathetic" to her disappointment... [but] decided they were not called upon to determine if school officials acted wisely.

Things that Endure

Hatred of President Barack Obama isn't going away. A newspaper in Pennsylvania last Thursday took a classified ad from a customer which appeared to call for Obama's assassination. The ad stated:

"May Obama follow in the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley & Kennedy!"

Times-Observer, out of Warren, PA, then ran the ad in one issue! Scores of readers called to complain, and the local chief of police contacted the Feds. The newspaper has since issued an apology and said that the identity of the person who placed the ad was known to the authorities.

Morons. Perhaps my opening sentence should have read: "Hatred of
President Barack Obama expressed recklessly and with no apparent forethought of serious consequences isn't going away." Above image is from a recent exhibition.

See You in Court, Mister Dungannistan

"Bloggers are increasingly getting sued or threatened with legal action for everything from defamation to invasion of privacy to copyright infringement. In 2007 -- the most recent data available -- 106 civil lawsuits against bloggers and others in social networks and online forums were tallied by the Citizen Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, up from just 12 in 2003." — Wall Street Journal

Out in the Country, Where the Internet Roams

The Very Reverend St. Ephen McKinley,Vicar to the Stars (left), with the Holy Spirit

I'm in Providence, Rhode Island, for the weekend, for a conference with the Holy Spirit, and other important Christian icons.

Above, the Holy Spirit is giving me a cute little peck on the ear! It's wonderful to be here, though we will be discussing some grave matters. Several tens of millions of Americans, for example, who think they are born again Christians, will be receiving some very bad news after the conference here in Providence. All that, and there will be changes at other levels too. How can I put it? — fancy some Cheddar with your communion wine?

[UPDATE: the Holy Spirit shat on my best jacket! How unkind.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gringo: A Coming-of-age in Latin America

I am reading this. It's rather good. Talented young Chesa Boudin, 28, with impeccable American leftist credentials, writes thoughtfully of his journeys through South America, where he attempted as far as possible to travel and live as local people do, to understand the poverty-shackled lives of millions of the world's poor, and to try to come to an understanding of how accurate is the charge that the greatest capitalist beast ever, America, is responsible for the conditions that exist in its back yard.

He also weaves into his reportage some of the personal growth and change that he encountered during his journeys. So far, I sense that he is an honest writer, unwilling to let idealogy affect what he sees with his own eyes. The American Left has never perhaps fully recovered from its first great flirtation with Stalinism, when, in spite of growing evidence to the contrary in the 1930s, many writers and commentators persisted in presenting a Soviet paradise, when in fact it was already a dystopic hell ruled by a monster.

Since then in America, the lion's share of argumentation, of killer one-liners, of easily-digestible, simplistic, short-term policies -- the answers to all society's questions, if you will -- have gone to conservatives and the right, saying to the electorate: "yes, you may have your car and eat it!" And the electorate has swallowed. If the wheels are now coming off this mode of carriage in the age of our planet heating up and the environment starting to show signs of wear and tear, remains to be seen. Already it seems that there's a high chance that succeeding generations of Americans will not enjoy the increase and betterment that have come to expected as an American birthright.

As for Boudin himself, currently attending Yale Law School, where do his impeccable lefty creds come from? Here's what he says in chapter one. He's telling of the poor Guatemalan family he stays with to improve his Spanish. First meal time, they ask about his family, his parents:
How could I, with only the most basic Spanish, articulate to my now concerned hosts that in October 1981, when I was just fourteen months old, my biological parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, had left their Manhattan apartment and dropped me off at my Dominican babysitter's house, only to head off into a tragedy? How could I explain that, while I played and fussed as an infant, my parents made a terrible mistake, the worst of their lives? They had waited in a U-Haul in Nyack, New York, as a couple of miles away, members of a radical armed group of black nationalists robbed a Brinks truck of $1.6 million. Tragically bungled, the Brinks robbery left three men dead and an entire community traumatized. By the time my mother and father received a twenty-years-to-life sentence and a seventy-five-years-to-life sentence, respectively, friends of theirs, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, had taken me into their family and become my other parents.
And to think I picked up the book simply because of the lovely bright colors on the dust jacket!

It's time for A Joke From My Nephew

Q: How do you make Lady Gaga angry?

A: Poker Face.

Politicians Are All the Same

Sonia Sotomayor (above, with Obama) would be most experienced appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 70 years, if confirmed, officials say. She graduated first in her class at Princeton, then went to Yale Law School, is considered a woman of talent and commitment.

Whereas, of Harriet Miers (top), George W. Bush's failed nominee, Senator Patrick Leahy noted: "She has a reputation for being loyal to this president." And not much else, except that she drove a red Mercedes convertible.

But the fact that comparing Sotomayor to Miers is like comparing Frank Sinatra to Beethoven has not stopped some critics. Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic:
I would point you to the Harriet Miers nomination under the second President Bush. She was also many people felt and intellectual lightweight, picked because she was a woman, people felt.
Wait a minute — there are two President Bush's? Like, at the same time? Doppelgangers?

Wow... America, she is wonderful...

...then somebody dies

Someone I knew while at St Andrews University has died. I would not say we were close, but we were friends through quite a few scrapes and hangovers during my last two years there. I can still hear his voice ("Oh, copious bottles of wine were drunk").

And I can still hear his laughter ("Oh, we'd had a few glasses of vino"). And I can also readily see him standing to attention, smoking a cigarette ("Oh, please, may I bum a fag?"), ready to burst into guffaws and gales of merriment. I can see his narrow jeans and woolen sweaters, horn-rimmed spectacles, big smile.

He was gay, and almost preposterously English-upper-class-twit, a P. G. Wodehouse character come to life. I believe he once said he was 80th in line to the Throne, doubtless we all laughed with and at him ("this queen is to be Queen!"). He endured his failings, if I may say so without seeming unkind: he failed his PhD, and seemed destined to walk the path in life where the most banana skins lie in wait. He was guileless.

I had not seen him since perhaps 1998 -- I moved to New York, so our paths were not to cross again. But he was not much older than I, and so, certainly I have been shocked at his death. I associate him very much with one place: London. And so, it may seem a little odd, but I now quote from the greatest novel about London, "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf:

Big Ben struck the tenth; struck the eleventh stroke. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Pride held her erect, inheriting, handing on, acquainted with discipline and with suffering. How people suffered, how they suffered, she thought, thinking of Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night decked with jewels, eating her heart out, because that nice boy was dead, and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin.

'Good morning to you!' said Hugh Whitbread raising his hat rather extravagantly by the china shop, for they had known each other as children. 'Where are you off to?'
'I love walking in London,' said Mrs Dalloway. 'Really it's better than walking in the country!'

Arlington Street and the Mall seemed to chafe the very air in the Park and lift its leaves hotly, brilliantly, upon waves of that divine vitality which Clarissa loved. To ride; to dance; she had adored all that. Or going long walks in the country, talking, about books, what to do with one's life, for young people were amazingly priggish—oh, the things one had said! But one had conviction. Middle age is the devil. And now can never mourn—how did it go?—a head grown grey . . . From the contagion of the world's slow stain, . . . have drunk their cup a round or two before . . . . From the contagion of the world's slow stain!

She held herself upright.

— from Mrs. Dalloway on Bond Street, by Virginia Woolf

Monday, May 25, 2009

From A-bombs to UES-bombs

It wasn't one of mine: was it one of his? ↑

New York Times, Monday, May 25th, 2009: An explosive device shattered the windows of a Starbucks on the Upper East Side early Monday but there were no reported injuries, the police said.

The device, which had been placed on the wooden bench on 92nd Street, just west of Third Avenue, exploded shortly before 3:30 a.m., the police said.

...Forensic investigators said the crude device contained frappa-mocha-java Fair-Trade-espresso-skimmed gunk with cinnamon dusting, no cream and probably cost $12.75.

Below, the scene outside the Starbucks.

For Peace of Mind, try Dr. Oppenheimer's A-Bomb

North Korea has apparently tested another nuclear device. It seems logical, based on 20th century history and the recent experience of Iraq, that possessing at least one nuclear device offers the best insurance against aggressive neighbors, or over-reaching super powers... especially if your perspective is from that of small, poor, paranoid and sick North Korea.

But no matter how small, poor, paranoid and sick you are as a state, it seems unlikely that North Korea would want to use a nuke against anyone... because the response from the U.S. et al (U.S.: 10,740 bombs*, Russia: 16,000, etc.) would seem likely to be a nuke or two right back in the face. So, am I correct in saying that acquiring nuclear bombs has proven to be more an insurance policy than the biggest of big sticks?

*About 800 U.S. nukes are tactical missile-delivered warheads with accuracy to within 100 meters.