Riddle Re-Post

What do these guys have in common?

Philosopher Rene Descartes, “golden age” porn starlet Vanessa Del Rio, Presidential candidate Al Gore, author Nikolai Gogol, schlock producer Robert Lippert, Japanese avant-garde director Nagisa Oshima and actor Christopher Walken.

Adding to the list: Jedi Ewan McGregor, agitator Cesar Chavez and scientist Robert “My Biscuits Are Burnin’” Bunsen.

Manic Monday Apocalypso: If One Atom Bomb Can Ruin Your Whole Day, Two Would Probably Do You In For A Week

Today’s MMA recognizes Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a man who survived the blast at Hiroshima, then went home to Nagasaki just in time to catch then next A-bomb!

It’s interesting to me that a victim meme has sprung up in Japan about this. I guess it all fits in with anti-American sentiments–oh, we’re so horrible because we’re the only ones to have used an atomic bomb in war–but it doesn’t seem exactly Bushido to bitch about being slapped by the guy you picked a fight with.

But then, Japan wasn’t acting very “Bushido” during that time period, anyway. I’ve heard that they don’t really study WWII that way. That is they don’t study their attack on China, and the atrocities there, or their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. As if WWII “just happened”.

I don’t know if that’s true. But it is kind of weird that the whole giant rubber-suited monster genre of movie–Godzilla (Gojira)–begins with an atomic blast, just from a symbolic level. If you’ve never seen the original Godzilla, I recommend it, too: The obvious parallels to Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a little surreal. Just that mix: Now you’re watching footage that looks like a documentary of a true horror, now there’s that goofy looking rubber suit.

Japan had its Apocalypse back in 1945 (though its roots go way farther back, obviously) and emerged a peaceful powerhouse, something I think few would have predicted.

As always, a reminder that while civilization is fragile, dedicated work can bring it back stronger than ever.

Free Baby!

No, I’m not giving away babies, Freeman Hunt had herself a Freebaby yesterday evening while you were watching “Supernanny”! I mean, really, if you watched less TV and concentrated your efforst, you could probably come up with something pretty cool, too.

Probably not as cool as a Freebaby, but still.

I’m hoping the pix turn up on her blog.

Random Thought

As I (and the rest of the world) eagerly await the arrival of its newest champion of Freedom, I noticed this list tweeted by Mary Katherine Ham.

And I wondered, is Man the only mammal that enjoys bathing?

But then I remembered the elephants. They always seem to have a good time with it. Hippos, too.

It’s the hairy mammals that don’t like to bathe (you know, like Trooper York).

Keep watching the skies for Freeman Hunt’s announcement!

The Only Thing Worse Than…

I can’t remember if it’s a lawyer that’s worse than a journalist or a journalist that’s worse than a lawyer, in Troop’s book, but I find, for a long time, that I blame journalists not so much for the job they do, but for the job they don’t do.

Just for example, education has been in a crisis since I was born. We see the effects of this crisis every day. Why do people put up with it? If only there were a group dedicated to, you know, reporting on these problems and putting them in the proper perspective (versus, say, focusing on random crimes)!

I mean, think about it for a second: What problem do we have that persists simply because those whose job would be to shine a light on it, and to beat the drum about it are too busy with trivialities–partisan politics aside? (The press certainly did this–continues to do it–in its more “conservative” forms, even though liberals dominate.)

I wanted to write a lot more about it, but for now, I just want to reference this, courtesy Protein Wisdom. I disagree with the notion that the turning of the press into a party apparatus is “organic”, but the why is secondary to undoing the damage.

Check it out!

Check Mate

The Flower and The Boy take a weekly chess lesson. (They’re actually the bulk of the class, which I think is down to one other kid.)

Anyway, The Flower beat the teacher yesterday.

Although the teacher said he didn’t let her win, I suspect what happened was that he underestimated her at first. Then she launched a very aggressive strategy that put him on the defensive.

Still, not bad for a seven-year-old.

Channeling My Inner 11-Year-Old

The Beatles had a resurgence when I was a kid–as they seem to every few years since they broke up–and they were the first, em, “serious” pop band I listened to. I never listened to the radio–the cacophonous incidental sounds of radio (from AM/FM noise artifacts to commercials to DJs breaking in) made (and makes) it something I cannot tolerate for very long. I picked up some “Donny and Marie” and “Captain and Tenille”, but that didn’t really ignite any interest. (Can’t imagine why.)

Most of the music I listened to was classical or noodling–whatever I could play. (I never have “gotten” piano, though, sadly.) I had a kind of culture shock when I went from piano to guitar because piano teachers generally tell you what to play and guitar teachers ask you what you want to play. So guitar lessons were not successful at that point. (What were they going to do? Teach me Bach and Beethoven? Not likely.)

Flash forward a few months or a year, and one of my classmates takes on a tour of Capitol Records (where her father worked) and they handed out promotional copies of the latest Beatles compilation album, Love Songs. (One of the advantages of going to school in L.A. Another student’s father worked at ABC studios, so we toured there as well.)

Flash forward again, and I’ve got a few more albums and I teach myself a few chords and score a copy–I’m still not sure how–of the “Beatles Complete”, a fairly comprehensive book of typographically convenient piano arrangements of all the Beatles’ tunes. With some help from Peter, Paul and Mary for basic fingerings, I taught myself to play “Polythene Pam”.

Why that song? Five chords, but four of them aren’t bar chords, and when you play it actually sounds like the song on the album. (Because the book had been set up as a sort of fake book for piano–what else?–the music was often transposed into good piano keys, where the Beatles naturally played in good guitar keys. There was a later two-volume work that preserved the scores far better.)

And so I learned to play guitar. Ultimately, I learned fifty or sixty of their tunes, possibly more, though I had more success (as a guy alone with his guitar) emulating Simon & Garfunkel (hold the Garfunkel), ultimately learning all the songs of that duo with the exact or nearly exact fingerings (and quite a few post-breakup songs, too). Then, in the early MTV years, I’d play whatever came on which, to this day, gives me an odd selection of music to recall from that period. (It could’ve been huge on the radio, but if it wasn’t on TV, I didn’t hear it. Sounds strange, but MTV let the songs play all the way through without interrupting back then.)

During my Beatles period, I studied the music and learned about the phenomenon and hung out with other Beatles fans (there were about 50 kids altogether in my middle school, divided between Beatles fans and KISS fans, and ne’er the twain shall meet, except in my house where my sister was, predictably, a KISS fan).

This period ended for me when John Lennon was shot; I found it hard to listen to The Beatles after that for some time, and started listening to their solo albums. (Listening to “the latest” music has never been my thing, as you can see.) I cast about for other things to listen to, but I wouldn’t get close to anything like my Beatles obsession (at least in “pop” music) for ten years (when I rediscovered Loudon Wainwright III).

My transition from the banging chords of the Beatles to Paul Simon-style fingerpickin’ started with this blues song (which before this very moment I had never heard anyone else play ‘cept for me and the guy who taught it to me), and ultimately led me back home to Bach and other Baroque and Renaissance music. (There is truly “Classical” music for the guitar but most of it is terribly boring. The late 18th century and the 19th century isn’t a font of great guitar music. 20th century music and the guitar go gloriously well together, however.)

Anyway a couple years ago when I splurged and got myself a new classical guitar–and the best one I found was actually pretty old–the shopkeeper (sensing an easy mark, no doubt) also showed me a vintage 12-string Framus which I promptly bought, rationalizing that both old guitars together were cheaper and better sounding than the new ones I had sampled. (Random youtube of this kind of guitar in action, but you can hear it on a ton of the Beatles middle period stuff.)

Plucking out a few Beatles tunes on that thing does send me back–to a time before I was born, even. Heh. The sound is evocative.

But evocative in an entirely different way from this.

Although I’ve never quite understood the Guitar Hero attraction, I have to admit, this variant awakened my inner 11-year-old.

Planned Irrelevance

Somebody tweeted about this today: It’s called the “Congressional Effect Fund”. It’s a mutual fund premised on the idea that Congress destroys wealth. That’s putting your money where your mouth is, eh? Or rather, where their mouths ain’t.

I don’t know enough about how this stuff works to know if they can actually minimize their exposure on non-Congress days, and I do sort of wonder whether, if something like this took off, it wouldn’t end up creating distorting effects.

But it is interesting from the standpoint of “libertarian optimism” we were talking about before.

Also interesting are the various cities and states (AP snark warning on that state link) resisting the current power grab.

Could we build a society around the Federal government? In-between? In the unregulated and unregulate-able nooks and crannies?

To an extent, the “black market” or “underground economy” (WSJ.com) has always flourished in supressive times–and regulations are suppressive, however necessary they may be–and, in a totalitarian environment, the black market is often the only market there is.

By the way, another word for “underground economy” is “free market”.

I’m not an OUTLAW like some people, but it doesn’t take much to realize that people will seek to survive and to improve their conditions, and if the environment works against them they will push back against the environment, escape the environment or operate under the table (which is a form of escape after all).

Technology can play a big hand here: Even while it gets harder to start a business due to regulation, technology can make it cheaper than ever.

The real question is whether you can work in your current physical space well enough to fight the creeping, smothering embrace of government–or whether you need to move to a new, less paternalistic locale.