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December 14, 2005
Schwebebahn I spent a day in Wuppertal last October, riding their Schwebebahn monorail. (Not the first time; that was in 1984.) Took a bunch of pictures and put 'em all on a new page of thumbnails, with annotations.

In this week's Cat and Girl they ponder the meaning of Christmas. For something a little more colorful, peruse Shag's LA by Day and Night.

Hawai'i, he sang of thee -- that ukulele version of "Over the Rainbow" I thought was Richie Havens or maybe Hootie; turns out it's a large, enigmatic musician named Israel.

Two months since the fracture, operating at about 92%...doing half-miles on the treadmill; right shoulder still hurting, these little arthritic stabbing-pains, but much reduced now. on the verge of joining the happy throngs of holiday travelers!

December 11, 2005
Had an email request, and figured, why not post its result, since there's interest, so: from the 1979 "Religion" issue of WET magazine: Nikola Tesla, Science Outlaw.

Sixteen Serious Questions raised By "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" -- not the song, but the stop-motion animation (with its Island of Misfit Toys) -- a Holiday Special beloved to many, but I've hardly seen it, find it weird and off-putting. This site merely reenforces my POV -- c'mon, put on the Charlie Brown video, instead. Or the Mister Magoo. (Check the latter's IMDb trivia! The very idea: Jim Backus warbling out "People"?!)

More Narnia: Tricia Olszewski's Washington City Paper review: If I'm Lion, I'm Dyin'. And one more from Slate, by Liesl Schillinger: In pursuit of Turkish Delight -- The Lion, the Witch, and the Really Foul Candy.

December 8, 2005
Jeremy Mercer's top 10 bookshops. I've been to #7 (City Lights) and #2 (Shakespeare & Co.) and I'm guessing Jeremy's never been to Portland.

An Atheist Manifesto by Sam Harris. His End of Faith is on my list.

December 7, 2005
Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion -- Polly Toynbee reacts to the new Disney film. I was oblivious to their Christian allegories when I burned through these books in college (ironically, reading the series at the urging of my Jewish girlfriend). And by now, I've grown utterly indifferent to the story.

A couple unrelated, provocative new blogs - one for the right brain, mostly; the other for the left: World of Kane; and colorful graphics from Brazil, in Padronagens.

Jacob Weisberg on the difference between spin and propaganda. Also in Slate, remembering the shrub's worst public moment.

December 6, 2005
IVR Cheat Sheet is a chart of escape codes for corporate menu hell -- seems all three of those keys in the bottom row of your phone's touch pad are useful when trying to reach a human. Worked for me! The bank handling my Roth IRA is giving me a bit of a runaround; tried to get a human by repeatedly pressing the zero key, to no effect. After reviewing that site and calling again, with a few taps of the # key -- instant receptionist! (Unfortunately, the person for whom I'm only getting voice-mail couldn't be located.)

Scalzi's reaction to Richard Reeves' recent "Worst President Ever" column -- conclusion: not the worst, but only Buchanan was worse.

December 5, 2005
The Mathematics of Love: A Talk with John Gottman. He was on This American Life early last year; fascinating and useful relationship insights. (News to me: the feminine milk let-down reflex.) The TAL program was The Sanctity of Marriage.

Out in Left Field, an interview with Phil Donahue.

December 4, 2005
King of the Road: On Loneliness and Solitude, by Chuan Zhi Shakya. (A mondogreen of mine: although "Pool" is obvious from the context, I've always heard Roger Miller sing "No Phone, No Fool, No Pets.")

You've heard First Class postage is going up to 39¢ on January 8, right? So let's review the 2006 stamps. The stand-out, worth watching for (around Memorial Day) will be The Wonders of America: Land of Superlatives. Others I find interesting will be Judy Garland and Hattie McDaniel, Quilts, Snowflakes, and -- DC Comics Superheroes! Dude -- there'll be an Aquaman stamp. The snoozer of next year's line-up has to be Distinguished American Diplomats.

Molly Ivins: Let God Speak for Himself.

December 1, 2005
Deb Davis -- modern-day Rosa Parks? Read of her struggle at papersplease.org. Also, Miami police plan surprise ID sweeps.

The Strange Case of Chaplain Yee is a review of his new book, For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire. More Gitmo horrors revealed in Inside Guantanamo, a report by one of the lawyers representing the imprisoned there.

Heard on the radio, but didn't catch the source's details, someone who'd been out of the country for eight years, on What's Different About the USA Now -- his concluding observation was, filling stations -- how they've become festooned with American flags. Why is buying gas patriotic? Probably because even though it's not officially acknowledged, everybody knows that's what the war's really about.

Yesterday, dashing across el Camino, I realized -- I'm running! For the first time in two months! Only a very short dash, to be sure -- at normal walking speed, can't quite keep up, and I'm still limping.

November 29, 2005
Paul Bigioni -- Fascism Then. Fascism Now?

November 27, 2005
tented church Suburban California neighborhoods occasionally develop the festive, tented structure, a short-term situation of only a day or two, for termite extermination. Sometimes big buildings, in this case, a church -- the biggest I've seen is a whole hotel.

November 25, 2005
Been hearing the stories for years -- gullable workers at a rural fast-food franchise obey a voice on the telephone, claiming to be the police, ordering strip-searches. A Hoax Most Cruel in the Louisville Courier-Journal is a long article detailing many such incidents; says there's been up to sixty, and a perpetrator was finally apprehended last year. An urban legend? Snopes says no, under a false variant featuring a door-to-door pollster.

Zippy the Pinhead points to Fruit Bus Stops in Japan, a site whose navigation I find completely inscrutable.
(Thanks, Judy!)

New Prisoner series will take liberties with the original. (The Dim View taken around here when they start taking liberties is easy to imagine.)

Kos presents the new map -- approval ratings by state. And this one's probably too late, but for planning next year. maybe: Peak Foliage Map.

November 22, 2005
Two songs emblematic of The Depression are "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" (Bing's rendition, the only one I know); and "We're in the Money". This past weekend I saw a pair of great films, the first being the latter's movie, Gold Diggers of 1933 - an amazing Warner Brothers picture I've known of for years, due to the Busby Berkeley number where the showgirls play violins outlined in neon. Among other great aspects (including Ginger Rogers singing a refrain of that theme number, in pig Latin!) was the sudden, unexpected appearance of Sterling Hollaway at Joan Blondell's door, as a delivery man. Although she was a big glamour girl in the 1930s, I first encountered Ms. Blondell in the Twilight Zone -- she's in one of my favorite episodes, which I think of fondly as "Uncle Charlie Wigs Out". In both shows, during the scene with Sterling Hollaway (most well-known now as Disney's Voice of Pooh) Joan Blondell is elsewhere in the apartment, off-screen. At the end of the film she belts out this incredible song, "Remember My Forgotten Man", which is similar in message to (and as bitter as) "Brother Can You Spare A Dime."

The other movie was Chinese, Balzac and the Little Seamstress, most of whose story was set in the Cultural Revolution, kind of like a Fahrenheit 451 where the forbidden literature includes a translation of the French author. I've never read him, perhaps it's time; my only knowledge comes from three cinematic references. The first, almost pre-history, is of course "The Music Man." My parents have the Broadway cast album on a series of 45s, which they played a lot when I was very young -- if you've seen the show you'll recall River City elders' irritation with Marion the Librarian reading Balzac. The second came in the 1970s when I first saw "The 400 Blows" -- the youthful Antoine Doinel is so taken with this author that he makes a little shrine in a shoe box: a portrait with a candle, which he lit and then covered with a bit of curtain, when called to dinner. The subsequent fire angers his father. And now, the Little Seamstress, the third.

More movie: Roger Ebert's review of "The Wizard of Oz", found on Studio 360's page of their program from Sunday night dedicated to that story. Wicked was mentioned, but Geoff Ryman's Was was not. The former is about the Witch's back-story; the latter, a possible Dorothy's.

November 18, 2005
mein ersten Hut Are You a Metrospiritual? I tried to take the quiz, but could only answer four of the twelve multiple-choice questions, as they all lacked "None of the above" -- but I'm guessing my combination of "consumption habits with a hip spiritual lifestyle" doesn't equal Metrospiritual. And yet, amidst the yoga and organic food, knitting seems to be a strong attribute of the new trend, bringing us to today's photo -- my first hat, finished this week. (It's also a first attempt at multi-colored 'Fair Isle' knitting.)

Whenever I encounter poetry, I skip right over it. Even if it's embedded in a story and supposedly relevant; just can't stand the form. But this recent bit by Jorn caught my eye: The President's Concubines. Related -- in McSweeney's, Hiding the Ball in Presidential Interviews: How the Liberal Media Can Finally Ask the Questions They're Dying to Ask, by Jason Kellett.

History of the @ symbol -- the history's just a few paragraphs; the bulk of this page is a comprehensive, alphabetical language listing (including FORTH!), each with some verbiage about what they call the @ char. Animal imagery is commonplace, and the Teutonic languages characterize the symbol as a monkey's tale (Affenschwanz) or hanging monkey (Klammeraffe). Somebody cue Dieter!

On Craigslist, Cute Guy Looking for Cheap Room (with photos).
Update: this post has been removed.

November 16, 2005
a group of kids in Budapest, on October 9th Fred Kaplan provides further evidence of the criminally inept management of the shrub's imperial adventure in Iraq, in What's everybody been doing for three years? Also in Slate, but wholly unrelated -- The Secret Language of Jeans -- it's about the ludicrously expensive kind, which go for $hundreds a pair. That can't be how much the 'distressed' stye I inquired about in AxMe cost (example at the right, in today's thumbnail), can it?

Linkage concerning WWI Dazzle Ships appeared in so-called 'first-tier blogs' over the last month or so. I first encountered the expression in 1983, the title of the fourth Orchestral Maneuvres record, but it wasn't until now that I understood its cover. A good summary is at Razzle Dazzle Camouflage. Also, a Dazzle Car.

Beavis, Butthead, and the End of the Modern Age -- transcript of a (long) 1993 lecture by Daniel P. Murphy.

November 14, 2005
Master Mind is an interview with Noam Chomsky, in an Israeli paper. (If you don't need the background, jump to the continuation.) Also, his recent essay, reprinted from the Toronto Star: Evolution, Ecology and 'Malignant Design'.

A late Veterans Day link: the Shot-At-Dawn Memorial, in Staffordshire.

November 13, 2005
Haven't finished wading through the backlog of Stupid Comics, but there's lots of great stuff, usually just excerpts punctuated with snarky commentary. In contrast, a pair of complete stories, from comic books now and then: goth Betty and Veronica, and the first appearance of Supergirl. (The latter, from 1959, is considered pre-Crisis in the convoluted mythology of DC Comics, but don't ask me what that's all about -- after my time, as it were.)

German version of Where Did I Come From? -- good for a few laughs. (I could relate to the scene of the birth, a Klinik, since that's where I wound up getting my cast, even though we're always taught the word for hospital ist Krankenhaus.)

With the recent restrictions the NY Times has placed on access to their online material, Paul Krugman linkage has all but dryed up, but sometimes his columns appear elsewhere, like Defending Imperial Nudity.

November 12, 2005
Autumn leaves at the Los Altos library Instead of delayed-reaction Euro-trip pictures, today's photo was actually snapped a few hours ago. It's for the benefit of Back East friends and family who don't believe we have 'real' seasons here in California -- the maple trees in Los Altos are dazzling, but it's their last hurrah, the leaves are all falling, and if the wind picks up these branches will probably all be bare in a few days.

More walking improvement -- in fact, it's turning out to be a fairly normal weekend, no longer restricted in my activites. For the first time in a month, wore matching shoes (although putting on the left was a delicate operation). Then went on a short bike ride (first time in the saddle in two months!) with no trouble whatsoever -- so succesful, in fact, I didn't put the awkward, black Velcro mukluk back on -- long as I don't twist me ankle and take it easy, I'm doing fine.

Sigh... also today, heard my first Christmas carol ("Joy to the World") in an ad on the radio. 'Tis the Season!

November 10, 2005
Today is the one-month anniversary of my accident. To celebrate the occasion, I declared my independence from the detested crutches, leaving them at home. Slows me way down, walking, since the Velcro boot still immobilizes the injured ankle; but now I can carry things again, and the load's off my hands, shoulders and forearms, so they can start healing, too -- 'specially my right shoulder.

A photo gallery from the Library of Congress: Bound for Glory, America in Color, 1939-1943. A great window into the past -- some of the pictures are familiar, like "At the Vermont State Fair"... sure'd like to see that Pabst sign at night, with the '43 Chicago skyline in the background.

November 9, 2005
Refreshing headline, this morning: "Democrats Sweep Virginia, New Jersey Races." Willie Horton's Swift Boat Crashes In Virginia concerns the negative Republican campaign there, for governor, managed by Scott Howell.

Catching up with Doug Thompson -- now he's an Enemy of the State. (All his recent columns are worthwhile reading.) More about National Security Letters. One more link to the Huffington Post, on the narrative of comeback.

In The Independent: Who Killed Brian Jones? Another ancient rocker surfaces: Axl Rose voted Second Coolest Old Person by readers of the teen rag Ellegirl.

B&W Photo Gallery: Big Donuts in LA. More sweets: God and Chocolate (discovered on Hanan Levin's grow-a-brain -- his link to that page is labeled with the provocative, "Does Saying No to Chocolate Glorify God?")

Why women don't laugh at the Three Stooges -- the conclusion (of a very short article) seems to be, "men" aren't as bright. But this one doesn't care for those Stooges, either -- if we're doing slapstick, I'll have a generous portion of the Marx Brothers instead, please.

November 6, 2005
Wrocław Trams

Love the trolley-cars! Those in western Europe have more modern rolling stock, but in Poland the old classics are still in use. These are all in the smaller city of Wrocław, which I thought was pronounced Rok-la but in fact is actually Vrot-swav (easier when it was part of Germany, their name for it: Breslau). One more thumbnail-photo from there, before we move on -- a line of rock spheres used to delineate the street, in what's now the central pedestrian-only zone -- the last one featured this little gnome-sculpture. (As you can see, it was rainy-overcast, but only during the Polish segment of my trip.)

Recollections of November 6, 1975: the Sex Pistols first gig, and the birth of Punk Rock. (Settle down, Ramones fan -- I realize your band's debut was a little earlier, but to me, they're merely a hinky pop act whose only appeal is to teenyboppers -- like Kiss). Also, fifteen years ago (but not to the day -- last month, actually) the IMDb was born. Not sure when I began utilizing this vital internet resource, probably around '95 -- my only contribution to the database, accepted before registration became mandatory, is the first 'bullet' in this soundtrack listing.

Also, when I was in Poland I was reading the then-current New Yorker in the cozy little Massolit English-language new & used book-store/café, and I found the "Talk of the Town" Insurrection column by Nicholas Lemann enlightening -- it details the reasons for the delayed federal reaction to the Katrina disaster, harkening back to Reconstruction.

November 4, 2005
Readers of these pages have previously encountered my appreciations of Muji. It's a Japanese chain with branches in France and the UK, but none stateside, yet (although they've a tentative presence in the MoMA design store, which I failed to notice when I stopped in there briefly last December). Your life in their hands is a long, British update, with info about their latest endeavor: Camp Muji.
Is there a design lover alive who hasn't found room in their home for something from Muji?
My somethings include a short, vertical CD rack, and a perforated, open-topped metal box hanging inside the refrigerator door.

November 3, 2005
More leg improvement -- I've begun walking extremely short distances, expanding the envelope after a few very tentative steps yesterday, without the crutches. At the doctor's today, I learned mine are generically termed 'Canadian' (even though these were Made in Germany) as opposed to the traditional 'armpit' style. Also driving my own car again (I had a rental, since pushin' in that clutch had been out of the question).

In Slate, Adventures with a Tesla Coil -- use of a "lightning-throwing death machine" in a theatrical performance, maybe.

A bunch of MP3s of video arcades circa 1982, recorded in Ocean City, MD and Ithaca & Albany, NY.

Brilliant! The Hippo Water Roller -- these should be distributed to the world's poor, courtesy the US Government. The gesture would be an effective way of winning hearts and minds, unlike other recent stunts such as sending Karen Hughes abroad on a 'listening tour'.

November 2, 2005
Nora Ephron wonders, What's eating the shrub? Some pretty bleak hypotheses in the follow-up commentary. Although it happened last month, I just heard of the hammer incident, which prompted Letterman to call him a sissy. More at Kos, in a post about how the president denies staging relief-effort photo-ops. And how about that VP, getting his own vulgar phrase hurled back at him by Ben Marble?

Today, I learned that you can dial 3-1-1 to reach non-emergency police and fire services. (Not everywhere though, and I haven't tested it yet.) Wiki page on the n-1-1 numbers. Also, some detailed instructions for doing your own telephone wiring -- did you know the standard red-green-yellow-black wire colors have been changed? Finally, sunset for AT&T and its 'Death Star' logo.

October 31, 2005
Kreuzberg Apotheke
Today, some more photos, all of Berlin storefronts. (Thumbnails, of course -- click 'em for the big picture). I really like the fat-tubed neon common in old German signage -- compared to the usual, their craftsmanship seems more sophisticated, at the points where the letters end and the electrodes begin (but I doubt that what I'm getting at is discernible in these examples).

Great James Kunstler today, about the War to Save Suburbia: They Lied to Us! And concerning the lies, Tom Tomorrow's latest is also excellent:
And this is just how life works: you look at what people have said in the past, and try to suss out their motives, and judge from there whether or not you believe them when they hold up a vial of talcum powder and tell you that the fate of life on planet Earth is hanging in the balance. Digression: I'm really sick of hearing the liberal-hawks-turned-peaceniks claim that they supported the war only because of Colin Powell's breathtaking performance before the UN, and are shocked and saddened to learn they were lied to. Bullshit. You supported the war because you didn't have the courage to buck what you perceived as mainstream opinion, didn't want to align yourselves with all those dirty hippies marching in the streets. As it turns out, of course, the dirty hippies, i.e. citizens from all walks of life, turned out to be a lot more on the mark than you were.
(Note that Kunstler was among the pro-war faction.)

October 30, 2005
Disregarding the 18-minute film I saw at Auschwitz (compiled from Soviet footage shot the day after they liberated the camp) my lengthy six-week absence from the cinema finally ended this weekend, with screenings of both "The Squid and the Whale" and "Good Night, and Good Luck." The latter was pretty good but I found most of the former's characters unpleasant, and its hand-held camera work incredibly annoying -- at times, I had to look away, this gimmick which allegedly simulates verisimilitude has become quite stale (and makes me a little sea-sick). But the picture's demonstrations of disagreeable intellectual snobbery were useful (the 'fillet' of Fitzgerald? Good grief) and Laura Linney's always great. Of note in the previews was "Jarhead" -- the beginning of the Iraqi conflict, from a gyrene's POV. Like Vietnam, I resist calling it a war, since Congress didn't declare it; and I imagine future historians won't distinguish much between Desert Storm and the current occupation, since hostilities didn't really cease in the interval -- in addition to the sanctions-blockade, sporadic aerial bombardment continued throughout the Clinton era, our team enforcing the "no-fly zone" from on high.

October 28, 2005
A good day, not only due to the long-overdue justice rendered unto another treasonous Republican criminal, but because my left foot was liberated from its white plaster boot! Finally saw an orthopädist this afternoon, and was fixed up with a black Velcro-intensive "cam" boot (so named because of its thick, curved sole) which I can remove. Blissful, complete bathing, once again! (Not since Budapest...) I actually moved up next week's appointment due to some alarming swelling, coupled with internet research indicating many victims of broken fibula require surgery, with metal plates being bolted to the bone. Fortunately, my fracture's down at the end, so I won't be enduring that -- the doc even suggested I begin putting some weight on the injured appendage, but said I probably wouldn't be running again until after Christmas, although I'll be riding my bicycle by then. Awright! And in a curious coincidence with the news, the indicted "Scooter" is always pictured makin' with the crutches, just like me -- but he has the old-fashioned armpit kind, which I tried, and rejected -- they hurt even more'n the new-fangled shorter type I was issued in the Fatherland. The doctor said the shoulder-pain they induce is torn rotator cuffs, which Ibuprofen is making manageable, so far.

October 26, 2005
And what happened in Europe? It was great, so much fun, everything accomplished; but spirits remain dampened 'cause next-to-last day, I tripped off a curb, twisting my ankle so badly it's still in a cast (due to a fractured fibula). More pictures later -- for now, some links.

Artists' Plea: Don't Send in the Clowns!

The Real Harvey -- "American Splendor" update, in Playboy.

Arianna's Honor Roll of Journalists Who Got It Right.

Accidental Invention May Replace Light Bulbs -- Michael Bowers' quantum dots (crystalline semiconductors with a biological protein coating) fluoresced by a blue LED generate really white light (but with no IR).

Index of Artists in the New Wave Sleeve Gallery (early 80s memory-triggers).

Concerning Brian Eno's recent sonic installation, in a park in China. Also, Chinese space posters.

October 23, 2005
Az Anker
This building, originally an insurance company's, was near my room in Budapest. Called the Anker, I assumed as in Wat.
Az Anker door
The main entrance, around to the side. There's space available on the fourth floor.

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