Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Lines of "Blood Meridian"

See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.

- Cormac McCarthy, in Blood Meridian, Or the Evening Redness in the West.

I find this book both fascinating and boring. Too much of it reminds me of the long interminable travelogues of The Crossing, which I couldn't even finish. Other parts are riveting action passages, and the character of the Judge fascinates me. His writing alternates between a just-the-facts-ma'am Hemingway prose with bouts of almost biblical descriptions - I'll post one of those some day. Regardless, there's not a hint of humor anywhere in the book. I'm about one-third in and have yet to decide if I like it or not.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Whose the Marketing Genius that came up with this one?

What are the NFL people thinking, showing Miami/San Diego over Buffalo/New Orleans? The Saints are only the most entertaining team in the league... Now I don't have an excuse to laze in front of the TV.

More MEAT!

From Ezra Klein's blog:

The carbon emission implications of this are pretty terrifying:
For every newly converted vegetarian, four poor humans start earning enough money to put beef on the table. In the past three decades, the earth's dominant carnivores have tripled our average per capita consumption; in the next four decades global meat production will double to 465 million tons.

That comes via Tyler Cowen, who found it in James Workman's new book, "The Heart of Dryness." Keep in mind that livestock production is a larger contributor to global warming than transportation. But there's been virtually no progress in persuading rich or poor countries to worry much about this fact.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Juxtaposing Humor

Eddie Cambell, after quoting Stephen Grant on where ideas come from (scroll down):
I once heard an explanation of how jokes work, that they are a conundrum set up in one context and then resolved in another. It was a perfect description of something I already seemed to know but couldn't have explained. A brilliant flash of astonishing simplicity.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Silent Issue

I'm one of these people that was moved to love comix by - among other things - the silent issue of G. I. Joe (ish #21). Read a good retrospective here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Importance of Eyebrows

Fascinating pictures that demonstrate exactly how important eyebrows are to recognition.

I've always been fascinated with eyebrows, as anyone who's seen my drawings can tell.

Sounds like fun...

An extremely interesting description of life as an editor in the publishing industry. My favorite part:
Being a book editor is often, on balance, a rum game. The arts -- high and low --have a way of moving forward, backward, or to the side which leaves their servants perpetually scrambling to catch up with and make sense of their direction and their very nature.  Profit, when it gets into bed with them, doesn't like the unpredictability of the arts. It tries to rationalize them and make them financially reliable. Can't be done.  But our brains need to narrativize events in retrospect, so, particularly now, with everything and its brother "monetized,"  publishers and editors come up with explanations and stories that help them believe that they knew what they were doing. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

The truth hurts?

Max Baucus' confession.

Quote of the Day

When I jumped off, I had a bucket full of thoughts
When I first jumped off, I held that bucket in my hand
Ideas that would take me all around the world
I stood and watched the smoke behind the mountains curl
It took me a long time to get back on the train

Phish, off the Farmhouse album

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deep Thought

Self employment taxes suck.

Balancing Design and Usability

Jörn Bodemann with e-spirit thinks that the Mac way of presenting your computer's shutdown screen isn't as usable as the old XP way of selecting your shutdown method from a drop-down list because:
What at first appears to be an improvement in functionality – a more organized layout – turns out on closer inspection to be an improvement of design at the expense of functionality. This is because the “uncool” drop-down menu previously used by Windows users to shut down the PC would always “remember” the last action selected and suggest it to the user at the next startup – since the average user will always want to do the same thing here, in this case shut down the computer, and thus all they had to do was confirm their previous choice. For the average user it is not necessary – and makes little sense – to have to view all the available options lined up all at once side by side. In this case, the drop-down menu is much more user-friendly than the new window, which is generally perceived to be “prettier” but where you have to enter a selection each time.

I understand what he's saying, but I'm not sure I agree. Having all of the options in front of you sure seems to be the best way to go in this instance, even more so when you consider that when you're looking at the shutdown screen for either OS the rest of the computer screen is grayed out. In addition, if we assume that you don't need to make another selection from the drop-down list, both methods require the same amount of clicks: OK for Windows and your shutdown option for Apple. In my opinion, the Apple method offers you greater flexibility since all of your options are right out in the open, rather than hidden behind a drop-down list.
(Note, however, that the Apple version is still superior, because it lets you hit Enter for the Shut Down option, while Windows doesn't remember your last chose and requires you to learn a keystroke combination to Shut Down with the keyboard.)

Degrees of Hatred

One of Andrew's readers makes a good point about not only how Bush hatred and Obama hatred is manifesting itself, but also how this is covered in the press.

I myself remember how the anti-war rallies were dismissed by the press, and am a bit amazed at how much press the "tea baggers" are getting these days.

More Cops Always Solves the Problem

I have no problem with more police details, but the Massachusetts practice of requiring cops at every construction site is not only insanely expensive, it's not a good use of police manpower. Don't understand why farming out this job to private business isn't happening. It would create more jobs and save the state money. But i'm sure the police union has most of these councilors in their pockets - that's just how Mass politics works.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sniffing Like We See

I've always wondered exactly how it is that dogs - and currently, my dog Bella in particular - perceives the world. I've always known that it's mainly through smell and not through their black and white vision. Andrew points us to a book that expands upon this.
Fascinating, captain.


The Goose's Roost comes up with a really good picture of what it's like being a Bills fan:

There should be a special word for the type of torture being a Bills fan is. It is almost self schadenfreude, really; an attempt to enjoy something that in the end only causes pain. With every new year comes a chance to end the torture and make it to the promised land, but with that chance also comes the opportunity for defeat. And we all know defeat is a creative little bastard.


Bob Herbert makes some good - and chilling - observations about unemployment in this recession. Short story: it ain't good and doesn't look to get any better anytime soon.

Keep your fingers crossed that I continue to find contract work!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game

A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills dropping yet another MNF game in the final seconds:

1. Why is Keith Ellison a starting LB in the NFL?

2. Overall, the OL looked much better then expected. Butall of the penalties by Bell, who had all of one week to prepare for his starting LT job, was the bed that the Bills made themselves.

3. Every big Patriots play was concluded by Keith Ellison either making a late tackle or looking on.

4. The offensive play calling was excellent.

5. Aaron Schobel, how I've missed you.

6. Keith Ellison is awful. Hope to god Poz isn't seriously hurt. (UPDATE: He broke his arm. Very bad news.)

7. If you hesitate, you take a knee. That's what you were taught, Leodis McKelvin. This loss is on you.

8. The loss is also on Keith Ellison.

9. Overall, I'm encouraged that the Bills might not be as bad as I feared. 7-9 again, here we come!

10. The throwback unis were awesome!

Let's go Buffalo!

You never know...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Canal Diggers 5K

I ran 21:45, even after re-aggrivating my right hip flexor injury. Thank god the course was flat. Good beer and food afterwards with Robin and Frank made for a most excellent day.

Now if only I could get healthy again...

Friday, September 11, 2009

More than Detroit and SanFran Combined

The U.S. Census Bureau has just announced that the poverty rate for 2008 was 13.2%. This means the number of people in poverty has increased by about 2.5 million, to 39.8 million. To give you some perspective, 2.5 million is more than the number of people who live in Detroit and San Francisco combined.
The Census data is just devastating, particularly when you take into account that the numbers come before the job loss in the first 8 months of this year. In addition to the uptick in the poverty rate, real median household income fell 3.6%, the biggest drop in 40 years. The richest tenth of one percent saw their incomes rise by 35% over the last 10 years while median incomes stayed flat.

Incredible numbers. No wonder everyone's so angry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When is Ambient not Boring?

So Richard D. James is a genius. This is not news for those of you that listen to electronic music. I'm listening to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II today while painting, and it's brilliant. IMO, it's exactly what ambient music should be. These tunes have a wide range of emotions, a much wider range then the blissful melancholy of Eno's best ambient. No, these tunes float and pulse and even occasionally pound, but all the while remaining true to a cohesive vision. I don't have the musical vocabulary to describe what I'm hearing, but here are some impressions I jotted down for ya (note that the tracks are all untitled, so I used the titles from Wikipedia):

  • [shiny metal rods]: lollipop pistons in a Stomp production

  • The spooky Mass of [matchsticks] (when you'd expect the music to exult, it flattens into a minor chord, like the end of the Falling theme in Twin Peaks)

  • The eerie dance of [ropes]

  • An echoy spirit dance takes place in [windowsill]

  • The calm lullaby of [hexagon]

  • The repetition in [radiator] gets really old really quickly

  • The warm bath of [rhubarb] starts out so soothing but gets progressively colder as time passes: musical entropy

  • The evil calliope music in [rusty metal] is not soothed by the creepy Jack in the box laughter

  • [tassels]: Radio interference as music

It's important to note that not all of the songs are great. As mentioned above, [radiator] gets really boring. Another example is [domino] which is just too statically abrasive for my tastes. But the majority really do
stake out a sound space that paints a unique picture. it's not for everyone; in fact, it's the epitome of what my brother would call "weird Todd music". But if you're willing and patient to let the music open up to you, give it a spin.

UPDATE: Forgot to link to Music in my Mind where you can get the album yourself.

Deep Thought

You really haven't heard Eminence Front until you've heard it either with a subwoofer or bass-enhancement headphones.

People think this song is all Pete, but like most Who songs, John is the driving force behind it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In which I learn about rescission

It's a scary thing to contemplate.

A Good Point

A reader of Talking Points Memo, after criticizing the current insurance system (mainly the never knowing if you're going to be approved for any health care, regardless of your insurance), makes a very good point:
Denied treatments, rejected claims, endless red tape, a lot of politicians seem to think if everyone buys insurance, the problem will be solved, but that doesn't get to the heart of the issue: That private insurance is an adversarial system designed to limit the amount of care you get and maximize the amount of money that can be extracted from its customers.

Deep Thought

Hip flexor strains suck. They suck even moreso one week before a 5K.

It Figures

So all of the four day weekend (Kelly doesn't work on Fridays) Hunter got up extra early (4:50 in two instances!). However, now that it's his first day back to school, I had to wake him up at 6:30.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Comix literacy

I've tended to credit my lack of interest in most comix on sale these days to two things: my boredom with the mainstream superheros (what can they do that hasn't been done before?) along with a general ignorance with what's out there these days. For the record, all I read on a regular basis is Hellboy, Love and Rockets, Nexus (when available), and the Dark Tower series. For impulse buys, my main rule is that unless Alan Moore is writing it, I'm not buying unless the artwork is stunning.

So you can imagine the interest I had in the Comics Reporter's very detailed analysis of how recent writer/artist collaborations are skewed unfairly towards the writer. It's worth a look for several reasons, not least of which is the great artwork. Some of David Mazzucchelli work on Daredevil: Born Again is included, which, to me, only emphasizes how boring and repetative the current Daredevil comix are.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Is it Red or White?

The Dish has a fascinating account of how blind taste tests of wine showed that people not only couldn't tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine, but also between red and white:
The next day, Brochet invited the wine experts back for another tasting. This time, however, he dyed the white wine with red food coloring, so that it looked as if they were tasting two red wines. The trick worked. The experts described the dyed white wine with the language typically used to describe red wines. The peaches and honey tasted like black currants

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quote of the Day

If his love for Marijana is indeed pure, why did it wait to take up residence in his heart until the instant she flashed him her legs? Why does love, even such love as he claims to practice, need the spectacle of beauty to bring it to life? What, in the abstract do shapely legs have to do with love, or for that matter with desire? Or is that just the nature of nature, about which one does not ask questions? How does love work among the animals? Among foxes? Among spiders? Are there such things as shapely legs among lady spiders, and does their attractive force puzzle the male spider even as it draws him in?
- J.M. Coetzee (who loves his questions), Slow Man, page 149.

The great American themes in literature

Matt Yglesias talks about American literature as a whole:

I really have no business writing about literature. That said, this comment from Bob McManus basically sums up my feelings about the great American novels:

Huckleberry Finn is good enough for the young ones. There is enough darkness and questioning there

America as psychotic idealism in Moby Dick or corrupt hypocrites as in Gatsby may need some maturation. Although there are even gentler versions of those themes in HF.

I would only say that that’s a bit too dyspeptic of a way to put it. America is the land of strivers, of people who believe in endless possibility, and where triumphs and tragedies spring from this endless reservoir of boundless desire. It’s the kind of place where a president boasting about his plan to expend vast resources on a avowedly pointless mission to the Moon can be remembered as a great moment in political rhetoric...

I think that "America as psychotic idealism in Moby Dick or corrupt hypocrites as in Gatsby" is a good way of putting the major themes of our best books.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Does mean the comix will become even more lame?

Disney buys Marvel. Wow.

Update: I was being a tad glib. This post made me see that perhaps this isn't that bad a thing.