Saturday, May 27, 2017

Vicente Fox Has Advice For Donald Trump

This video is awesome. It reminds me, an Amurrkin, what it's like when the leader of a country is intelligent and witty, instead of idiotic and also extremely unpleasant. Fox here talks to Trump as if Trump were a 5-year-old boy, so there's some chance that Trump might actually understand what Fox is saying to him.



If Trump sees this, or any of the other numerous televised messages Fox has sent him, and if he understands what the former Mexican President is saying -- will he actually take any of it to heart, and change for the better? It's extremely difficult for me to imagine that he will. I'm always saying that "never" is the most-overused word in the English language, but when it comes to Trump experiencing personal growth and becoming a better person, I really can't see any reason for hope.

I hope I'm wrong.

Meanwhile -- Republicans, you really should be ashamed of yourselves for having allowed him to remain President this long! What's it going to take for you to man and woman up, do your jobs and throw this bum out?! What will it take? Would a video of Trump handing flash drives full of top-secret intel to Russian spies and taking suitcases full of cash in return be enough? How about if he actually did stand on the sidewalk and shoot at random passers-by on 5th Av in NYC with a .45, like he's bragged he could and get away with it? Is he right, would you let him get away with that?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Swiss Watches

Geneva is in the easternmost corner of Switzerland, surround by France to the north, east and south. From Geneva the Swiss-French border runs about 100 miles, as the crow flies, to Basel, where the Swiss, French and German borders all meet. The area along this Swiss-French border between Geneva and Basel is quite mountainous, and was somewhat isolated before the invention of the railroad. In the early 18th century, most of the Swiss people living along this border were farmers. But snow prevented them from growing anything for about 6 months of the year. So they began to make parts for watches, to earn a little extra money. Many of them soon found out that they could make more money making these watch parts than buy farming, and began to make watches all year round, and their descendants have been watchmakers ever since. That's why so many big Swiss watchmakers are headquartered in tiny little Swiss mountain villages.

At first, Swiss watchmakers mostly concentrated on making inexpensive products. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the US was known as the place where the best watches were made. But by the mid-20th century, Swiss watches considered the best, and many of them had become quite expensive. Swiss watchmakers prided themselves in making their watches more and more accurate and precise.

Then quartz watches appeared. In the early 1970's, quartz watches made all over the world were more accurate than the finest spring-driven Swiss watches at a fraction of the price. In Switzerland, this time is called the Quartz Crisis.

Some Swiss watchmakers responded by making their own quartz watches. Many went out of business. Some of the oldest makers of fine watches were bought up by the Swatch Group, named after Swatches, the cheap, colorful, mostly quartz-driven watches which were a popular fad in the 1970's. As of 2002, Breguet, Blancpain, Leon Hatot, Jacques Droz, Glashiette, Omega, Longines, Rado, Tissot, Calvin Klein Watches, Union, Certina, Mido, Hamilton and Flik Flak belonged to the Swatch Group, along with Swatch itself, which is still around and still makes watches, mostly quartz but also some mechanical ones. How good are Swatch watches? I have no idea.

ETA is a Swiss company which mostly makes watch movements. A movement is the motor of a watch. ETA makes both quartz and mechanical movements. Many watchmakers both in Switzerland and in other parts of the world use ETA movements in some or all of their watches.

Some Swiss watchmakers have remained proudly independent, not being bought by the Swatch Group or any other corporate conglomerate, and making most or all of the movements for their own watches. (Watch afficienados and watch snobs have long and heated arguments about just how important it is for a watchmakers to use movements they have made themselves -- also referred to as "in-house movements.") Three such companies, held in such high esteem that many people referred to them as the "Holy Trinity," are Patek Philippe (established in 1851), Vacheron Constantine (est 1755) and Audemars Piguet (1875). Although, these days, some would say that Jaeger-Lecoultre (est 1833) has become better than any of them. One thing's for sure: all 4 of those companies make very high-quality prices, at prices ranging from 4 to 7 figures per watch.

And new watch companies are springing up all the time, in Switzerland and elsewhere, some making cheap crap and others making very good watches, and some in between.

But not very many new pocket watches, which makes me sad. And most of the new pocket watches seem made for nostalgia, imitating old ones instead of trying to embrace being new, and that makes me sadder. As an extreme example: the new Omega pocket watches actually ARE old to a great degree: their movements were made in the 1930's. Recently someone found these 80-year-old watch movements in a warehouse, and Omega decided to refurbish them to make expensive nostalgic pocket watches. Make new watches which are proud of being new, I say, and don't insist that we wear all of them on our wrists! I can't be the only guy in the world who feels this way, although maybe I am.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Some American Essays Judged "Best"

In The Best American Essays 2004, In his essay "Against Cool," Rick Moody spends 32 pages making it absolutely clear that he doesn't even know what cool is. Not counting 2 pages of footnotes.

Moody begins his long essay by assuring the reader that he himself is not and has never been cool. But I don't think a person can judge his or her own level of coolness. One doesn't say, "I'm cool!" or "I'm not cool." One recognizes it outside of oneself, and says, "She's so cool!" or "Hey, man, that wasn't cool." In his song "Life's Been Good," Joe Walsh remarks, "Everybody's says I'm cool." But he gives the impression that he definitely considers the possibility that "everybody" says that to him just because he's a rock star. The whole thrust of the song is Walsh saying that he knows that he is lucky, that he doesn't claim that he has earned every penny he has by good old American hard work and grit, or by being a genius. He may be tremendously hardworking, and, at least in my opinion, he is a musical genius. But if the impression given by "Life's Been Good" is correct, he doesn't go around patting himself on the back for his success. He just gets on with it. Which is pretty cool.

What is cool? It's kindness, openness, quiet gentle awareness of whomever or whatever is beautiful or touching or edifying or otherwise cool in the moment.

In his Introduction to this 2004 volume of essays, guest editor Louis Menand says that an essay is good when the pain of not continuing to read it would outweigh the pain of continuing to read. It was around that point that I stopped reading Menand's Introduction. I found Moody's "Against Cool" quite painfully bad from its title to the very last word of its very last footnote. Moody says we should abandon the use of the term "cool" -- with the exception, I assume, of continuing to use it to describe ranges of temperature.

I think that's just not cool.

In The Best American Essays 1994, guest-edited by Tracy Kidder, Cynthia Ozick has an essay entitled "Rushdie in the Louvre," in which she, ostensibly, describes meeting Rushdie in the Louvre, after Rushdie has been elected a member of the Academie Universelle des Cultures. But only a handful of fragments of sentences spoken by Rushdie during that meeting held in the Louvre in his honor make their way into Ozick's essay, which has much more to do with the Louvre and terrorism and Henry James and Zola and Rushdie's security detail, which was extremely extensive at the time, than with Rushdie. I don't mean that all of those other subjects added together are given more space than Rushdie, but that each of them is given more space. I feel cheated by the title of Ozick's essay, which is pretty dull except when those few fragments of Rushdie's sentences light it up the way lightning lights up a dark cloudy sky.

Perhaps Ozick would have come up with a better essay if she'd concentrated on terrorism, given the essay a title such as "Terrorism," begun it with a short paragraph about how she met Rushdie at the Louvre, and then gotten on with the actual subject on her mind. At least then the reader wouldn't have been disappointed by an essay with a thoroughly misleading title.

By stark contrast, in the same 1994 volume of officially best American essays, Paul Theroux's "Chatwin Revisited" is actually above all about Bruce Chatwin, Theroux's deceased friend and fellow travel-writer, and it's actually quite good.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Suddenly Becoming Successful

No, I haven't suddenly become successful, but other writers have, and I'd like to, too. I'd like to experience a bit of fame and fortune before I die -- no, I'm not dying. My health is okay for my age. But my age is 55, so that if I do become famous, my obituaries will say that success arrived late in my life. Unless that guy at Cambridge, the one with the huge beard who says we can all live to be 1000 years old, is actually right, and the necessary breakthroughs are actually accomplished before I die, and I actually live to be 1000 years old.

I'd be okay with living to be 1000 years old.

Here's a nice sentence from an essay by Tennesse Williams, "Amor Perdida: Or, How it Feels to Become a Professional Playright," which I read just now:

"That's the nice thing about a language you don't understand -- it is possible to believe the conversation is so much more elevated than it probably is."

As soon as I read that sentence I liked it so much that I had decided to make it the new tagline for this blog -- with attribution, of course. I attribute whenever possible. But by the time I finished the essay, I had more to say about it. To summarize it and do great injustice to it, it's about when Tennessee was in Acapulco, and was about to go broke, something he had done many times and was very familiar with, and asked his friend, the owner of a cantina, for a job waiting tables, and then later that day received a telegram informing him that a play of his was going to be produced in New York. He described it as a moment when his old, poor life had ended, but his new, rich and famous life had not yet begun, and in which his earlier life, filled with many kinds of poverty in many different cities, flashed before his eyes. This happened when Tennessee was in his early 30's, an age which seems young to me now, at 55, but, I know, seems terribly old to someone who has very badly wanted to be a rich and famous writer since before he was full-grown.

I repeat, I've done great injustice to the essay. By all means, read the whole thing. It's just 6 pages long in The Best American Essays 2004, in which it appears because it was first published posthumously in the Michigan Quarterly Review in 2003. And it's magnificent.

Tennessee's friend the cantina owner seemed less certain than Tennessee that Tennessee's life had been changed forever. I suspect this may well have been because he knew much less than Tennessee did about the business of writing.

I wonder whether success in a writing career, if and when it comes, comes with a very unusual suddenness compared to success in other careers. I'm not sure about this, because I don't know very much about other sorts of careers. But I've been studying the nature of the writer's career for well over 40 years. Yes, success can come gradually, rung by tiny rung for decades, but it can also come in an instant, at least as far as what the writer is aware of: wondering where his or her next meal will come from, he or she is informed that his or her play will be produced on Broadway, or that several major publishers have gotten into a bidding war for his or her novel, or that he or she has been awarded a MacArthur genius grant or a Nobel Prize.

I would think that if you, for instance, owned and operated a cantina, although the potential for success might be vast, the ways in which one could go in an instant from rags to riches would be fewer, if not actually non-existent.

As I said, the best thing to do is to read "Amor Perdida," Williams' wonderful short essay, for yourself. But let me interfere just a little bit more and point out, in case you miss it, that "Amor Perdida" is the name of the song which was playing on the jukebox at the beginning of the essay, when Tennessee assumed that he needed a job such as waiting tables, and that he writes, "I believe" it is "the most beautiful of all musical compositions." Not "I believed."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ralph Waldo Emerson

So far, every line of Emerson's which I've read has been either banal or ridiculous or both. I have yet to become interested by Emerson; I first became interested in Emerson when I learned, a couple of decades ago, that William Gaddis was a fan. It happens sometimes: A writer I love loves a writer I hate. Hunter S Thompson had a great admiration for Ernest Hemingway. I do not feel obliged to learn why.

In my childhood and early adulthood I was surrounded by volumes of the Modern Library, and less so since then. Not that I have a low opinion of the Modern Library. But I did have to check to see whether it still existed. (It does.) This paperback volume before me, a Modern Library College Edition of The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, is the fattest Modern Library volume I have ever seen. It has about 960 pages. That's more than the Modern Library hardcover edition of Ulysses. I must've gotten it at a thrift store. It begins with a Foreword by Tremaine McDowell, of whom I've never heard a thing. McDowell's Foreword begins: "Books, Emerson insisted more than a century ago, are for the student's idle hours; let him read only when he cannot think for himself." That would be a loathesome thing for a philistine businessman to say about his employees; for an author to say it about students is not profound, it's just ridiculous.

After McDowell's Foreword, this volume has an Introduction by Brooks Atkinson, whom I know by name and reputation, which begins, "Ralph Waldo Emerson was the first philosopher of the American spirit," and I don't want to read else by Brooks Atkinson, ever.

Avoiding Emerson is much more difficult. The stout Modern Library paperback before me contains as its penultimate piece the speech which Emerson delivered at the memorial service for Abraham Lincoln the 19th of April, 1865, in which he manages to insult Lincoln somewhat less than his good friend Nathanial Hawthorne had done in the piece which appeared in The Atlantic in 1862 and begins, "Of course, there was one other personage, in the class of statesman, whom I should have been truly mortified to leave Washington without seeing; since (temporarily, at least, and by force of circumstances) he was the man of men." Somewhat.

Both Hawthorne's piece and Emerson's tell me much more about Hawthorne and Emerson than about Lincoln. I much prefer Walt Whitman's piece, which, for one thing, strikes me as actually being about Abraham Lincoln, and not about the author:

I shall not easily forget the first time I ever saw Abraham Lincoln. It must have been about the 18th or 19th of February, 1861. It was a rather pleasant afternoon in New York City, as he arrived there from the West, to remain a few hours and then pass on to Washington to prepare for his inauguration. I saw him in Broadway, near the site of the present post office. He came down, I think from Canal Street, to stop at the Astor House.

The broad spaces, sidewalks, and street in that neighborhood and for some distance were crowded with solid masses of people — many thousands. The omnibuses and other vehicles had all been turned off, leaving an unusual hush in that busy part of the city. Presently two or three shabby hack barouches made their way with difficulty through the crowd and drew up at the Astor House entrance.

A tall figure stepped out of the center of these barouches, paused leisurely on the sidewalk, looked up at the granite walls and looming architecture of the grand old hotel — then, after a relieving stretch of arms and legs, turned around for over a minute to slowly and good-humoredly scan the appearance of the vast and silent crowds.

There were no speeches, no compliments, no welcome — as far as I could hear, not a word said. Still, much anxiety was concealed in that quiet. Cautious persons had feared some marked insult or indignity to the president-elect — for he possessed no personal popularity at all in New York City and very little political. But it was evidently tacitly agreed that if the few political supporters of Mr. Lincoln present would entirely abstain from any demonstration on their side, the immense majority — who were anything but supporters — would abstain on their side also. The result was a sulky, unbroken silence, such as certainly never before characterized a New York crowd.

From the top of an omnibus (driven up on side, close by, and blocked by the curbstone and the crowds) I had, I say, a capital view of it all and especially of Mr. Lincoln: his looks and gait; his perfect composure and coolness; his unusual and uncouth height; his dress of complete black, stovepipe hat pushed back on his head; dark-brown complexion; seamed and wrinkled yet canny-looking face; black, bush head of hair; disproportionately long neck; and his hands held behind, as he stood observing the people.

He looked with curiosity upon that immense sea of faces, and the sea of faces returned the look with similar curiosity. In both there was a dash of comedy, almost farce, such as Shakespeare puts in his blackest tragedies. The crowd that hemmed around consisted, I should think, of thirty to forty thousand men, not a single one his personal friend, while, I have no doubt (so frenzied were the ferments of the time) many an assassin’s knife and pistol lurked in hip- or breast-pocket there — ready, soon as break and riot came.

But no break or riot came. The tall figure gave another relieving stretch or two of arms and legs; then, with moderate pace, and accompanied by a few unknown-looking persons, ascended the portico steps of the Astor House, disappeared through its broad entrance — and the dumb-show ended.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cooper's Eyeroll At Conway Due To Sexism?

This was onscreen yesterday: Anderson Cooper looking as if he had enough of Kellyanne Conway's defense of Trump.


Conway then accused Cooper of rolling his eyes at her because of sexism.

No, Kellyanne, it's because of your nonstop nonsense in defense of your boss. It's in response to your relentless polishing of that turd.

Cooper, a sexist? That just makes all of us roll our eyes at you more -- much like almost everything else you've said in public since you started working for Trump.

Republicans are suddenly concerned about sexism? Wow. You want to strike a blow against sexism? Quit your job, and tell the public some true things about Trump. That would be a huge blow against sexism. It would also be a public admission about what a bullshitter you've been ever since July 1, 2016, the day you started working for Trump. But we all know that about you already. It's been really, really, really, really obvious. I think the vast majority of people would very quick to forgive you, if you just -- stopped.

Now, about you, Anderson. Can it be that your now-iconic eyeroll was a sign that you were about to -- express exactly what you were thinking and feeling, right there on the air? I'm a big supporter of Hunter S Thompson's position on objective journalism: that it doesn't exist. I think that you and most journalists make the horrible mistake of not telling your audiences what you know and how you feel about what you know, because it wouldn't be "objective." Well, don't worry about that, Anderson, because objectivity doesn't exist. Just let it rip, just as if the cameras weren't rolling.

I've been wondering whether things like your eyeroll, and headlines in the mainstream media coming closer and closer to just saying "Trump is a liar," are cracks in this useless "objectivity." I hope so. I hope you guys have finally had enough, so that you'll finally just react honestly to things like the Trump administration. Just as if the cameras weren't rolling. That would increase the amount of useful information you impart to your readers by several hundred percent. What are you waiting for: journalists being arrested for criticizing the country's political leadership, as has been happening unter Erdogan in Turkey -- Erdogan, for whom Trump is full of praise? Are you waiting for coast-to-coast martial law? Concentration camps? What? What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Some Say Today's Big Story Is Trump Firing Comey

I say the main story is the same as it's been every day since January 20: Trump is breaking the law, and, because there are Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate, nothing is being done about it.

If there had been Republican majorities in the Senate and House in 1973 and 1974, would people today land at Nixon International Airport in DC, and would the Watergate Hotel on Spirow Agnew Boulevard be famous mainly for its shrimp cocktail?

If Ossoff beats Handel by more than 20 points in the Georgia 6th district, will Congressional Republicans suddenly be shocked, shocked! to learn that there is gambling going on on this establishment?

Isn't MSNBC supposed to be a bunch of shills for the Democratic Party? I wish! Chuck Todd and Brian Williams seem to have a Hold-on. let's-not-rush-to-judge-the-President-harshly policy. They and their guests are bending over backwards not to suggest that it's ridiculous for Trump to claim to be firing Comey for being unfair to Hillary Clinton last fall over her emails.

"And I have to give the FBI credit. That was so bad what happened originally. And it took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. You know that. It took a lot of guts."

That was Trump campaigning with Comey's help back in October.

Remember October? When all the Republican Senators and Congresspeople were calling Trump a crook and a liar because they assumed he was going down in flames in the election?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Irish Police Investigate Old Boring Person For Blaspemy

I see headlines saying that Irish police have investigated Stephen Fry for blasphemy.

He's being investigated because a clergyman asked him on a TV show what he would say to God if, against all of his expectations, he were to find himself at the Pearly Gates, and he replied that he would say to God,

"How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?"

If Fry were actually to end up going to prison for blasphemy, it will be a tragedy comparable to Oscar Wilde going to prison because some aristocrat was deflecting attention away from his poof of a son who'd had an affair with Wilde.

But he won't go to prison, assuming that this article by The Explainer is accurate. It says that the most that could happen to Fry is that he would be fined 25,000 Euros.

That would hardly be a tragedy for Fry personally, unless he's spent every cent he's ever made. He very likely makes 25,000 Euros a day, between all of his movies and TV shows and books, and he's been making enough money for long enough that 25,000 Euros is probably just a chuckle to him.

If it establishes a precedent and encourages Ireland to prosecute poor atheists, that's quite another story.

If this case causes Ireland to finally cease to prosecute blasphemy as a crime, that would be very good.

If Fry somehow engineered all of this so that there would be a huge amount of publicity around a blasphemy trial, causing Ireland to finally stop persecuting blasphemy as a crime, then that was brilliant. I don't think that's what Fry did, but if it is, then major congratulations are in order.

Now: it's getting harder and harder to remember all the way back to when Fry wasn't completely tedious. So Fry's mad at God? I'm not mad at God. You know why? BECAUSE GOD DOESN'T EXIST! I accuse Fry and all the rest of the New Atheists of atheisting improperly, of giving atheism a bad name and making the general public think that all atheists are horrible and boring. It's gotten so bad that many atheists are denying that they're atheists, calling themselves skeptics or nonbelievers or some other thing which means exactly the same as atheists, just because they don't want to be associated with Dawkins and Fry and Harris and Ricky Gervais and the rest of those idiots and bores.

But I would never want to see anyone be convicted of a crime just because they were boring.

Not even if they were as boring as that quote above by Fry, or as boring as Gervais' movie The Invention of Lying.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Yes, Macron Won

And that's great. But voter turnout was lower than at any French Presidential election since 1995. A quarter of the French electorate sat it out. Which means that a quarter of the French electorate can't tell the difference between Macron and Le Pen. Someone's been handing them a line of crap and they've been taking it. They can't tell their croissants from holes in the ground.

Yes, this is a great victory for France and the world. A great day for sanity. But we got lucky. We skated by, with that many people abstaining. Education has a lot of work to do, when that many people in France vote for freakin Le Pen, and about as many more don't vote against her. Yes, it's great. It should be sobering, too.

Friday, May 5, 2017

You Foolish Person!

(Why am I writing this in the 3rd person when it's so obviously about me?)

You don't need that item. You've already got one which is just as good, and in some important ways probably a lot better.

But you want that other one.

You want it really bad. And the Internet knows you want it, and is following you around with advertisements for it. (It's no mystery how the Internet knows: you keep clicking on ads for the item, and you haven't undergone any radical cookie-blocking program. You're not mad at the Internet. On the contrary, you wanted to keep seeing those ads.)

But you're not exactly made of money. This would be, for you, a substantial expense. You keep telling yourself just to work harder, try to make some money, and forget about that item, at least forget about it until you're rich. When you're rich you'll be able to buy 5 of them, or 10. You'll be able to buy one for everybody you know, and maybe 1 or 2 of them will actually also think that it's really cool, and then you and them will have something to talk about, and wouldn't that be excellent.

Yes, it would. But you're not great at making money. If you were you would've been rich a long time ago, cause you really want to be rich.

Ahhhh, the temptation, to just click, click, click and buy it! Oh, what folly! Put it out of your mind!

You look at the one you have. Did I say probably in some ways it's a lot better than this other one you want? It's not probably, it's definitely. The one you have is excellent. How can you be so unappreciative of it as to think that you need this other one?!

But of course none of this has anything to do with thinking. It has to do with feeling, with wanting, with passion --

With madness! This is madness! Stop it! You're not crazy!

Well, maybe you are. You just did it. Click, click, click, you bought the son of a bitch. And one moment later you felt horrible about it.

And now, not many moments later than that, you feel great. You're NOT crazy. You're pretty frickin' stable, actually. This will not ruin your life. If you tried to do something like this every day, sure, or even twice a week, then your life would be turned upside down pretty quickly. But you don't do this sort of thing at all often. And there's such a thing as being too stable and walking around like a clenched... fist, and dying young of a stroke, bitter, because you never had any fun. And you only have one life, and this "madness," this purchase which the extremely-stable side of you called crazy just now, will add some freakin' joy to what is left of your life.

So enjoy it.

I just want to say one more thing: I've always thought that "Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter is a thoroughly excellent, underrated record. People laugh at it all the time, treat the record as a punchline -- they're fools. (And it fits in with the theme of this post: enjoy your life every now and then instead of always walking around like a clenched... fist. And all of the above goes for "Disco Inferno," too!)





Thursday, May 4, 2017

All You Need Is Money And Love

It just now popped into my head: A medly and/or mashup of John Lennon sing "Money" and "All You Need is Love."

All you need is love
I want money
Love, love, love
You can give it to the birds and bees
There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Give me your money
It's easy
Whoa! All your money!
Love, love, love
But your lovin' don't pay my bills
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
Now give me money
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
Now give me money
It's easy


Apparently it's very easy to slip your mind how important money is, if you have lots and lots of it, and John certainly did when he wrote "All You Need is Love." Much, much more than he had when he recorded "Money."

If you have lots and lots of money, it may well be that the only thing more which you urgently need is love.

This ain't rocket science. It's amazing how often people who are where John Lennon was in 1967 forget what he knew in 1963.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bar Jokes

Horse walks into a bar, bartender sez, I keep telling the owner that front door is too big.

Horse walks into a bar, bartender asks, Why the long face?

Guy walks into a bar and orders a fruit punch. Bartender sez, "Pal, if you want a punch you'll have to stand in line." Guy looks around, there's no punch line.

Guy walks into a bar, bartender asks, "Why the long face?" Guy sez, "I just found out my wife is sleeping with another man. I've decided I'm going to drink myself to death." Bartender sez, "Sorry, I'm not going to help you kill yourself." Guy asks, "Well, what would you do in my situation?" Bartender thinks for a minute, sez, "I found out a guy was sleeping with my wife, I wouldn't sit around feeling sorry for myself, I'd kill the guy." Guy yells, "That's a great idea! Thanks!" and runs out of the bar. A couple hours go by, the bartender starts to get nervous. The guy walks back into the bar. Big smile on his face. Bartender asks, "You kill the guy?" Guy sez, "No, I slept with yr wife! Gimme a goddam drink!"

Guy pulls up to a gas station, attendant notices there are 5 penguins in the back seat. Attendant says, "You have 5 penguins in your back seat!" "I KNOW!" the driver says, "They jumped in at the light, I don't know what I should do with them." Attendant thinks for a second and says, "Tell you what I'd do, I'd take 'em to the zoo." Driver sez, "That's a great idea!" Week later, same driver pulls in with the same 5 penguins, only now they're wearing sunglasses. Attendant sez, "I thought you were gonna take those penguins to the zoo." Guy sez, "I did. Thanks for the suggestion, we had a great time. Today we're going to the beach."

Some Texans are standing at a bar when an Englishman walks in. “Howdy, stranger,” sez one of the Texans. “Where you from?” The Englishman sez, “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences in prepositions.” Texan sez, “ Oh, pardon me! Where you from, jackass?

Amnesiac walks into a bar, goes up to a beautiful woman and asks her, “Do I come here often?”

Penguin walks into a bar, asks the bartender, “You seen my brother?” Bartender sez, “I dunno, what's he look like?”

Dyslexic guy walks into a bra.

Pair of jumper cables walk into a bar and ask for a drink, bartender sez, “Okay, but I don’t want you starting anything in here.”

2 nuns, a penguin, a man with a parrot on his shoulder and a giraffe walk into a bar, bartender sez, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Duck walks into a bar, asks the bartender, "Got any grapes?" bartender sez, "No, we only sell beer here". Duck leaves, comes back the next day, asks the bartender, "Got any grapes"? Bartender sez, "I told you we only sell beer. You ask me again, I’m gonna nail your bill to the bar!” Duck leaves, comes back the next day, asks the bartender “Got any nails?" Bartender says no, Duck asks, “Got any grapes"?

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Left In The US Handed The Presidency To A Fascist. Will The French Left Do The Same?

In the US Presidential election, 3 candidates stood out above all others in popularity: Clinton, Trump and Sanders. Very early on, it began clear that the election would be Clinton versus Trump. But, for months after it was clear that he was beaten, Sanders continued to campaign. He said, over and over and over, that his #1 priority was to ensure that Trump was not elected President. But there was one way, one way only, to ensure that, and that was to support Clinton, to do it as early and as enthusiastically as possible, therefore ensure that the greatest possible number of his supporters voted for Hillary. Not only did Sanders continue a farcical campaign for moths after he had lost; when he did finally endorse Hillary, he did it very feebly. Saying that she was not as bad a Trump: that's not a great endorsement. Continuing to talk mostly about himself and his unsuccessful campaign: that wasn't endorsing Hillary at all.

And so, in the election which Trump barely won, with Hillary receiving 3 million more votes than Trump, about 1 million voters wrote in Bernie. And about 100 million people who were eligible to vote, didn't. How many of those 100 million were Bernie supporters who picked up his bitterness against Hillary and lack of enthusiasm for her? We'll probably never know. Anyway, in case it wasn't already entirely clear to you, I blame Bernie Sanders, that egotistical, selfish jackass, for Trump being elected.

And the reason I'm writing about this again today is that something very similar might happen in the French Presidential election, which will be decided this Saturday and Sunday: a fascist could become President in France because of pettiness and sheer stupidity on the Left. The decision will come down to Emmanuel Macron, a centrist with severe charisma deficiencies who led the first round of voting with 24%, against Marine Le Pen, the aforementioned fascist, who got 21.3% in the first round.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who got 19.6% in the first round, claims that his top priority is to defeat the fascist Le Pen. Well, there's one thing he can do now to defeat Le Pen: endorse Macron. But Mélenchon says he will not endorse Macron. Mélenchon is either outright lying when he says he will do everything in his power to defeat Le Pen, or he's simply to stupid to see that to ensure that Le Pen is defeated, he must endorse Macron.

A poll of those who voted for Mélenchon in the first round showed that 40% intend to vote for Macron, 15% for Le Pen, and 45% intend not to vote.

Let's just leave those 15% aside, they're obviously hopelessly confused.

Let's look at the 45% who intend not to vote. Those are about 9% of the French electorate which Mélenchon could be urging, begging, pleading to vote for Macron, but he's either to stupid or to petty to do so, and so he's not doing everything he can to defeat Le Pen, not by miles and miles.

Remind you a whole lot of Bernie Sanders? It should.

This is one of those things which make me feel very helpless, because I don't know how to urge people to behave sensibly, not because the issue is complicated and difficult, but because it is so simple and clear that I can't understand how people are not understanding it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Stubbornness

There's good stubbornness: the kind that makes a person work and work and work until he or she achieves great things.

And then there's the kind of stubbornness that's just stupid, where people who know give you sound advice and you just don't take it.

People often talk about intelligence as if an intelligent person is intelligent pretty much all the time. Is this accurate? If so, them I and my brother are unusual.

My brother is very, very intelligent. No really, he is. He's a rocket scientist. And I don't mean that as a mere figure of speech -- he has worked at Martin Marietta and TRW designing things which went into space. He's a mechanical engineer with 2 degrees from MIT. After the rockets, he switched to something he enjoys more: designing cars. Several Camero and Corvette desginers are part my little brother. At the present time he supervises other engineers. There's no doubt that my little brother has a very large brain.

And yet, sometimes there's that bad kind of stubbornness. Once, he owned a Jeep and was driving it over some dunes on the shore of a lake for fun. He hadn't driven on dunes very much at all. Several times during the course of 1 morning, actual experts in dune driving, people who'd been doing it all their lives, told him he had way too much air in his tires and was liable to break something if he didn't let about half of the air out. He good-naturedly dismissed all of this advice, and that afternoon, out on the dunes with tire pressure which right for paved roads and wrong for the dunes, he snapped one of Jeep's axles.

Why hadn't he taken the experts' advice and let half of the air out of those tires as they had urged him to do? I don't know any good answer to that.

Like my brother, I am extremely intelligent. Just look around this blog: I'm awesome. And yet -- for the last year or so I've been the same way with the stupid stubbornness. Is this genetic? Are a lot of wicked smart people really stupid a lot of time, or what? Is my behavior typical for old people with new technology, even if the old people are smart?

I've had my Galaxy 6 for about a year and loved it, but whenever it prompted me to hook it up to wifi, I said to myself: No, better not do that.

Why?

I don't know any good answer to that question. Same as with my brother and the tire pressure.

But today, I thought about the tires and axle of my brother's Jeep, and more to the point, I thought about all the times I had had to go outside during a phone call on the Galaxy because the connection kept breaking it up, and wondered whether there just might be some connection to my refusal to take the recommendations about the wifi.

I hooked up the wifi and sure enough: the call quality on my phone improved tremendously. Call quality had been my only big complaint about the Galaxy, and it's fixed because I did something the phone kept suggesting I do -- for a year. I suppose with my earlier smart phones somebody in Customer Service had done this for me.

Hopefully we've all learned something here, and are headed for a brighter tomorrow -- a tomorrow during which our huge brains will be in use more often.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Warren "Troubled" By Obama's $400k Speaking Fee

Ah, Geez, Elizabeth too? I expected Bernie to have a problem with it, but I thought Elizabeth was smart enough not to be bothered unless and until there was some shred of evidence that Barack had actually compromised himself. When Hillary was asked why she took nearly $1 million from Lehman Bros, she nailed it: "That was how much they offered." Elizabeth, Barack, Hillary and I and every other Democrat, as far as I know, wants to overturn Citizen's United. But until that happens, there's no reason for us to shoot ourselves in the foot or penalize ourselves because we'd rather be pure than defeat Republicans.

Another example of what I'm talking about occurs to me: A lot of people criticized George Bernard Shaw for portraying the Salvation Army -- pacifists -- taking a cash donation from a billionaire arms dealer in his play Major Barbara.

You know who wasn't upset by it? Actual members of the Salvation Army. One of them put it this way: if an arms dealer wanted to give them money, they'd be more than happy to get it out of the Devil's hands and into the Lord's. He mentioned also that the Salvation Army -- teetotalers -- often had meetings inside bars and accepted donations there. He didn't seem in the slightest bothered by suggestions that the Salvation Army compromised itself in such ways.

Anyway: Elizabeth, I'm sure you've heard of George Bernard Shaw. I don't know whether you've seen or read Major Barbara. Shaw's Preface to the play is awfully good, as his Prefaces tend to be -- better than the plays themselves for me, although I suppose for most people the plays are crucial. The plays aren't bad, but the Prefaces are brilliant. It is in the Preface to Major Barbara that I heard about people objecting to Shaw's depiction of the Salvation Army, and the much more sensible reaction of the Salvation Army itself.

Hillary and Barack haven't sold themselves. How about waiting for evidence that something is actually wrong before becoming "concerned"?

Deutsche Politik

Einer -- also einer von der SPD -- plaedierte gegen die "Gross-Koalitionitis," fuer "klare Rede und Gegenrede," gab der Bereitschaft zur Grossen Koalition ein Teil des Schulds an den Aufsteig des Populismus.

Hm, ja, aber... Zum ersten: Populisten sind einfach dumm wir Holz, und das ist weder der SPD noch der CDU/CSU Schuld. Man sollte nicht uebereifrig ein, sich selbst mit Schuld zu beladen der einem nicht gehoert. Zweitens heisst Politik das Machbare machen, und das Machbare ist oft viel schlimmer als man sich wuneschen haette aber viel besser als wenn man nichts gemacht hat weil man fuer die Realitaet einfach zu pur ist. Als die SPD Hindenberg Dez 1932 Hindenberg waehlte, war das Politik, richtig gemacht, und wenn Hitler ein Monat spaeter trotzdem Kanzler wurde, war das nicht der SPD Schuld.

Niemand in 1932 oder 19333 oder seitdem hatte den Eindruck, dass die SPD ploetzlich Hindenberg waehlte weil sie poletzlich Hindenberg liebte.

Also, mir schient, dass klare Rede auch in einer Grosse Koalition moeglich sein sollte. "Magst Du ploetzlich die Union?" "Natuerlich nicht!" "Aber Du arbeitest neben ihr in einer Grossen Koalition!" "Ja, weil dies mir lieber ist, als andere Parteien neben der Union arbeiten zu lassen! Es ist Politik! Oft stink es, aber die Alternativ haette noch viel schlimmer gestunken!"

Monday, April 24, 2017

10 Ways Jerry Maguire Could've Been A Better Movie

1) As it is Cameron Crowe wrote and directed it and was one of 4 producers. They could've fired Crowe before shooting started, gotten Robert Towne and some other rewrite experts in there and completely re-written the whole thing; or better yet, just used an entirely different script altogether. For Jesus' sake, don't make every character sound like Cameron Crowe!

2) It could have been Avery (Kelly Preston), Jerry's finacee briefly at the start of the movie, who had the nervous breakdown and then the "vision" about sports agents being... something, instead of what they are. Avery could've broken up with Jerry (in the film it's the other way around), joined the agency, then quit very soon. Jerry could remain an agent like agents are in real life, and the film could be a realistic portrayal of a sports management company, neither idealizing nor unrealistically condemning the industry, with occasional shots of Avery on her Crusading quest as comic relief.

2a) This raises the interesting question of whether Dorothy (Renée Zellweger), who in the film leaves the management company with Jerry and later develops a romantic relationship with him, will leave with Avery, and still eventually develop that relationship with Jerry. This would give Dorothy's character much more to do than in the film as is, where pretty much all she does is wait around for Jerry to sweep her further off of her feet.

3) The scene where Rod (Cuba Gooding Jr), an NFL wide receiver and the only one of Jerry's clients who leaves the company with him, gets up on his feet after an apparent injury in a "Monday Night Football" game, and dances all over the place in front of a wildly cheering crowd, proving that he finally understands what Jerry (or Avery in the alternate version) has been telling him all along? No. Just no.

4) Get that guitar away from Frank "Cush" Cushman (Jerry O'Connell), another one of Jerry's clients, who wavers for a while but decides to stay at the agency instead of staying with Jerry, and keep it far away from him as long as the cameras are rolling.

5) Include a long angry rant by someone directly into the face of Jerry or Avery or whoever it is who has written that manifesto about "quality" in sports management. The angry rant is about how the job of a sports agent is not about "quality," but quantity: the number of dollars, Euros, pounds, Yen or what have you, which the client receives. The angry ranter could point out that if the manifesto writer is really interested in quality, there are a lot of volunteer positions open in the world's disaster zones. The ranter will definitely denounce American collegiate athletics as possibly the most monumental and shameless rip-off of athletes in the history of the world so far. You could give that rant to Sugar (Jay Mohr), Jerry's protégé who stays at the firm, is selected by management to fire Jerry, and systematically takes all of Jerry's clients except Rod. The rant would give Sugar's character more complexity, making him less of a one-dimensional weasel. (Of course, this and a lot of my other suggestions assume that you agree with me that Jerry's manifesto is ridiculous. If you agree, then you've just about got to take suggestion 1 at the least.)

6) Jerry's relationship with Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), Dorothy's son, would be much more interesting if Ray started out hating Jerry. Give Jerry's character more work to do. Or,

6a) Eliminate Ray and a few other characters. There are too many characters all trying to be special for one movie. Pick yr battles.

7) Another long angry rant, this one about the stupidity, hypocrisy, brutality and infantilism of sports, and about how athletes, coaches, sports journalists, team owners, cheerleaders, super-fans, etc, etc, are generally every bit as empty and horrible as agents, although agents are much less likely to be revered, for some reason. This rant could also be delivered by Sugar, or someone else.

8) NO BONNIE HUNT! If you don't eliminate the character (Laurel, Dorothy's sister), then at least re-cast the role. It's interesting: I was just on Roger Ebert's website, researching, trying to comprehend just why so many people mistakenly think this movie is any good. Ebert called Hunt "almost always a delight to watch." I've never been the slightest bit delighted to watch Bonnie Hunt, and I'm right and Ebert was wrong.

9) In the movie as is, Jerry and Rod supposedly both become much more deep and less concerned about money; and as a result of this, of course, they end up striking it rich. Shit or get off of the pot; either stop preaching against a concern with money (or keep that nonsensical preaching in the mouths of comic relief like Avery if it's Avery who has the breakdown, writes the manifesto and strikes off on her own), or show the characters actually having to live on much less money, but still being happier. For instance, maybe Rod has a career-ending injury before he gets that big payday; and then later we see him as a high-school football coach, or maybe in some other modestly-paying job: and he's happier. (My feeling is that more money definitely will make you happier, and will until we pivot to that Gene Roddenberry-style post-economic world; and that anyone who tells you different is either poor and in denial, or rich and so emotionally fucked-up that not even money helped.)

10) Let Jerry and Dorothy be much more flawed. Because people are deeply flawed. Always. Cuba Gooding was in a very good movie about the same time he was in Jerry Maguire: James L Brooks' As Good As It Gets, a film in which characters have horrible personal problems, and don't solve those horrible problems, but still achieve some significant triumphs and improve thier lives. In other words: A realistic cheesy mainstream feel-good movie about rich white people.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jerry Maguire Is The Worst Movie I've Ever Seen

Jerry Maguire is the stupidest movie I've ever seen, so show me the money because you had me at "Hello."

You complete me. If this is empty, this doesn't matter. I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is. Success consists of simply getting up one more time than you fall. I am out here for you. You don't know what it's like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, okay? Did you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds? Did you know that Troy Aikman, in only six years, has passed for 16,303 yards? D'you know that bees and dogs can smell fear? Did you know that the career record for hits is 4,256 by Pete Rose who is NOT in the Hall of Fame? D'you know that my next door neighbor has three rabbits? I... I can't compete with that! Hey, I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success. What do you want from mw? My soul? Why not? I deserve that much.

But if anybody else wants to come with me, this moment will be the ground floor of something real and fun and inspiring and true in this godforsaken business and we will do it together! Who's coming with me besides... "Flipper" here?

I'm fucked. Twenty-four hours ago, man, I was hot! Now... I'm a cautionary tale. You see this jacket I'm wearing, you like it? Because I don't really need it. Because I'm cloaked in failure! I lost the number one draft picked the night before the draft! Why? Let's recap: Because a hockey player's kid made me feel like a superficial jerk. I ate two slices of bad pizza, went to bed and grew a conscience! Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren't completely embarassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow's embarrassment? This is going to change everything. Promise? How about a little piece of integrity in this world that is so full of greed and a lack of honorability that I don't know what to tell my son! Except, "Here. Have a look at a guy who isn't yelling 'Show me the money." Did you know he's broke? He is broke and working for you for free! Broke. Broke, broke, broke. I'm sorry I'm just not as good at the insults as she is.

A positive anything is better than a negative nothing. Anyone else would have left you by now, but I'm sticking with you. And if I have to ride your ass like Zorro, you're gonna show me the money. You are hanging on by a very thin thread and I dig that about you! Maybe love shouldn't be such hard work. Jump in my nightmare, the water's warm! I won't let you get rid of me. On the surface, everything seems fine. I've got this great guy. And he loves my kid. And he sure does like me a lot. And I can't live like that. It's not the way I'm built. I got a shelf life of ten years, tops. My next contract's gotta bring me the dollars that'll last me and mine a long time. Shit, I'm out of this sport in 5 years. What's my family gonna live on? Huh? There is a sensitivity thing that some people have. I don't have it. I don't cry at movies, I don't gush over babies, I don't buy Christmas presents 5 months early, and I DON'T tell the guy who just ruined both our lives, "Oh, poor baby." But I do love you. Dorothy, this is not a guy. It's a syndrome. Early mid-life. Hanging on to the bottom rung. "Dear God, don't let me be alone or I call my newly-long-suffering-assistant-without-medical for company settlement." If now all you still want is him to come over, I'm not saying anything. I'll tell you why you don't have your ten million dollars. Because right now, you are a paycheck player, you play with your head and not your heart, your personal life is all heart but when you get on the field, it's all about what you didn't get, who's to blame, who under threw the pass, who's got the contracts you don't, who's not giving you your love. That's not what inspires people. Just shut up and play the game with your heart. America still sets the tone for the world of sports, in Indiana I signed Clark Hodd, he's only thirteen years old and is considered the best point guard in the country and last week he scored a hundred points in a single game. I also signed Erica Sorgi, you'll see her in the next Olympics. In Seattle I signed Dallas Malloy, she's sixteen years old and her lawsuit helped paved the way for women boxers everywhere, whenever she fights she thinks about her ex-boyfriend. In Indio, California I signed Art Stallings. He plays the sport with what pure joy. In Odessa, Texas I signed the great Frank Cushman. This April twenty six teams will be falling all over themselves in order to sign him in the next NFL draft. He's my client, my most important client, believe me there's genius everywhere but until they turn pro it's like popcorn in the pan: some pop, some don't. I'm the guy you don't usually see. I'm the one behind the scenes. I'm the sports agent, you know those photos where the new player holds the team jersey and poses with the owner? Inside that building, that's where I work: S.M.I., Sports Management International, thirty three out of shape agents, guiding the careers of one thousand five hundred eighty five of the most finely tuned athletes alive. I handle the lives and dreams of seventy two clients and I get an average of two hundred sixty four phone calls a day, that's what I do, this is what I do best, but I'll be honest with you. I started noticing a few years ago and I didn't say a word but the quest for the big dollars and a lot of the little things were going wrong, but lately, it's gotten worse. Who did I become? Just another shark in a suit? Two days later at our corporate conference in Miami a breakthrough, a breakdown? No a breakthrough. I had so much to say and no one to listen and then it happened: an unexpected thing: I began writing what they call a "mission statement." Not a memo, a "mission statement." A suggestion for the future of our company a night like this doesn't come around very often. I seized it. What started out as one page slowly became twenty five, suddenly, I was my father's son again I was remembering the simple pleasures of this job: how I ended up here out of law school, the way a stadium sounds when one of my players performs well on the field the way we are meant to protect them in health and in injury. With so many clients we've forgotten what's important. I wrote, and wrote and wrote and I'm not even a writer. I was even remembering the original words of my mentor the late great Dicky Fox. Suddenly it was all clear: the answer was fewer clients and less money, giving more attention to them, caring for them, caring for ourselves. I'll be the first to admit it: what I was writing was somewhat "touchy feely." I didn't care. I had lost the ability to bullshit, it was the me I always wanted to be. I put the mission statement into a bag and took it to a copymat in the middle of the night, printed a hundred and ten copies. Even the cover looked like The Catcher in the Rye. I entitled it: The Things We Think And Do Not Say, The Future of Our Business.


Like I said: the stupidest. The worst. (I still haven't completely forgiven Cuba Gooding. Not for "Show me the money!" That's what an agent is for. It's the only thing an agent is for. What upsets me is that Gooding's character eventually falls for Maguire's nonsense about there being more to it than that.) Then again, it's the only Cameron Crowe movie I've watched all the way through.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Osoff Wins 1st Round Of GA 6th Dist Special Election

1st: Congratulations, Mr Osoff! 2nd: To those who are already celebrating what they regard as Osoff's sure-thing victory in the June run-off, please take a lesson from last November and TAKE. NO. THING. FOR. GRAN. TED!!! Remember, on November 7 most people assumed Hillary would win. And if Osoff is headed for a big win in June, there's no harm in making it bigger. Every vote counts.

I have been wondering whether Trump is actually helping Osoff win with things like the insane tweets. Trump was tweeting away running up to the Nov 8 election, and he carried the 6th District by... 1.5 percent. Representative Tom Price (now Trump's Sec of HHS) was re-elected by a margin of... 24 percent. Things like that, and the fact that the Democratic Osoff almost won in the 1st round with 48 percent in a district which has been solidly Republican ever since Newt Gingrich won his 1st term there in 1978, and that Republican Karen Handel, who will be Osoff's opponent in the run-off in June, was 2nd with 20 percent, and Trump's approval rating, and other things, have made it seem like this election is above all about Trump, and that the more involved Trump becomes, the better Osoff's chances.

But let's take nothing for granted. When it seems like we're ahead in a race, we should run harder. It has always seemed, to rational people, that Trump's tweets could only disgust people and help his political opponents. Then we found out that at least 62.9 million American voters are profoundly irrational. All through this friggin nightmare since 2015, we would-be political wizards have been making statements beginning with words like "It would make sense if[...]," stubbornly resisting the insight that, with Trump in the mix, things keep happening which make no sense whatsoever.

As a matter of fact, that's exactly how you could describe a Democrat getting 48% in the 1st round of a special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District: it's something which makes no sense. It's something no one would've predicted 2 years ago.

So, yes, be happy about yesterday's result in Georgia's 6th District. Just don't let up.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Journalism Devoted To Watches

First of all, there's the Watch Snob. Or should I say first, last and everything in between? I'm new at this, I've been really looking for quality horological journalism for a matter of mere months, and I certainly hope there are are worlds of quality writing about watches as yet unimagined by me, but at the present time, the Watch Snob is the only writer about watches I feel I can trust, because he's the only one -- the only one! -- who writes openly negative things about watches he doesn't like. The only one who has openly negative headlines on some of his columns.

Everybody else I've encountered so far -- everybody! -- seems to me like a more or less obvious part of the advertising branch of the watch industry. Websites such as WatchTime and Hodinkee are interesting, but I can't recall a single article on either site which was even faintly negative, overall, about any watch. And those two sites are interesting in part because they're not nearly as obvious about it as a lot of other sites claiming to be magazines. All of these sites have big, expensive-looking ads on them, and it seems that they are competing for watchmakers' ad revenue by flattering them, as opposed to giving the reader some usefully unfiltered opinions.

I don't agree with the Watch Snob about everything -- if when I get rich I'm going to get the watches I want to have, and not spoil my own enjoyment by worrying about whether the Watch Snob approves or rolls his eyes or openly ridicules me or whatever -- and he actually is quite a snob in general, not just about watches, and that certainly is a bore -- but unless I'm drastically mistaken, he is actually quite honest and unabashedly frank in his columns, and that is a service to the reader. For just one example, in his latest column, a report from Baselworld 2017, he states that Cartier, which has been making jewelry for a long time and watches for a short time, is "still struggling" to gain credibility as a watchmaker.

Up until I read that column today, I was under the impression -- the surprising impression, to me -- that Cartier had been generally accepted as one of the world's finest watchmakers, because up until today, that had been the tone of absolutely everything I had read about their watches from absolutely everyone whom I suspected of possibly being some sort of expert. Thank you, Watch Snob!

Besides what we generally think of as journalists (including bloggers), there is one major online source of information about watches, and it is a source which is in no way lacking in negative reactions to this or that watch. I'm talking about online forums where watch enthusiasts gather to talk about watches. The biggest such gathering place of which I currently know is at the website Watchuseek. But I'm not sure what to make of the information I get from such forums. A lot of the participants there seem to be biased in favor of a particular brand or model which they happen to own -- I've been guilty of the very same sort of biased writing on this very blog. By the way, this is my Seiko 5:


There are many like it, but this one is mine -- or against some brand with which they seem to have had some completely atypical bad luck: for example, they may have owned a particular model which kept terrible time and broke down very soon after they got it, when the model in general is famous for its precision and reliability.

I hear that in some such cases, the person writing about such bad experience actually has had no such experience with the brand or model in question, but happens to own a store which sells a brand or model which competes in the marketplace which the one they're denigrating. I hear that in some cases, manufacturers actually encourage their employees go online and slander the competition.

I repeat: I HEAR such things, I have no idea how often they actually happen.

Maybe if I spent a huge amount of time in such forums, I would gradually get a sense for which of the participants was knowledgeable and frank, and start to be able to sift the signal from the noise. Maybe. It seems like a huge investment to make, for a questionable possibility of an eventual payoff of unknown proportions.

In the meantime, other then the Watch Snob, where are the honest horological writers at the world's magazines and newspapers? Are there any? Does the Watch Snob publish under a pseudonym because the entire watch industry would snub him if they knew who he was, making it difficult or impossible for him to do his job?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery" On CNN.

The episodes of CNN's series (and it is hardly alone among TV shows about ancient history in being like this) "Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery" ought to begin the way they finish:

NARRATOR: The (fill in the blank: piece of wood, bone fragment, etc), thought to (fill in the blank: have come from the True Cross, be the remains of the Apostle [fill in apostle's name], etc), has/have been proven by Carbon-14 testing to come from (fill in actual time 200 to 1500 years later than the 1st century), and so is/are inauthentic, and does/do not bring us any closer to the historical Jesus.

CNN might object: "If we did that, many viewers would change the channel and miss the next 59 minutes and 45 seconds of our 1-hour show!"

To which I would respond, "Well they might! Especially if they had already seen 1 or 2 episodes of the series, in which 80 to95% or so of the first 59 minutes and 45 seconds are repetition, fluff and theological babble, only very mildly mitigated by the odd intelligent remark not edited out or the occasional glimpse of a lovely artwork! Have you thought about how many of those viewers you've already lost doing it your way? Here's a bold new approach for you: you want viewers to hang around for an hour? Fill up the whole hour with actual content!"

Obviously, CNN is not taking my advice these days.

But imagine: a show about Jesus' place in history where they told you what they know about this episode's artifacts right away, first thing, but was so interesting and filled with still further information -- and more of the art: I've seen a tremendous lot of really beautiful art in shows in this genre, but I haven't seen one yet which wouldn't have benefited from still more -- that the actual general public would watch breathlessly all the way to the end.

Drop the "historical re-enactments," the sequences in which actors are portraying Jesus and his contemporaries, like a hot rock. What will you put in their place? I refer you to the above-mentioned beautiful art. (It wouldn't kill you to occasionally mention, if you happen to know, when and/or where and/or by whom the painting or sculpture or altar or church or temple was made.) You can also show manuscripts: hopefully, a large part of the evidence of what you're telling your viewers comes from primary sources. You can show maps, old and also freshly-made. You've already flown academics in to Jerusalem or Rome or wherever -- give them more time to show the viewer around. Get out of their way, use this rich resource in a more appreciative way. If you're doing it remotely close to right you won't have to repeat one frame of film to fill up an entire hour.

That's right, CNN: I just said you're not doing it remotely close to right. Well, there it is. What's that you say? You're asking if I think I could do better? I can't produce an entire documentary right now. But if you hired me as a consultant on your next project of this type: yes, I don't think that could help but result in a drastic improvement. And/or: you could simply stop hiring Simcha Jacobovici. That alone would result in a tremendous improvement. You're welcome!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

If I Were King Of The Forest --

In the preface to a book on Ottoman history written in English, the author assures the reader that, "because of the book's target audience," (with very few exceptions) the bibliographical contains only items written in English. In the very same paragraph he lavishes praise on the extraordinary multilingualism of some of the bibliographies of the items in his bibliography and urges the reader to check them out.

No book or article was ever improved by taking footnotes out or restricting the bibliography along linguistic lines. Just one example: suppose a student whose first language was French took a college course in which this book was read, and that many of the items the authors eliminated from his bibliography were in French. I'm telling you, both of those things are not just supposin', they're both pretty much guaranteed, and it makes me sad.

A headline says that while Pearl Jam may not be cool, they're great. I'm so uncool that I never until now suspected that Pearl Jam was anything other than possibly too cool.

After 14 pages (6 pages of preface and 8 pages of Chapter 1), a book claiming to be an introduction to information theory explains what information theory is. I'm thinking this explanation belongs right at the beginning of the preface, since this is (supposedly) a book for people who haven't yet been introduced to information theory.

"The Day-Date continues to be the watch par excellence of influential people." Actual quote from rolex.com. I'm thinking that would be more accurate if "influential" was replaced with "insecure." For a lot of Rolex wearers, if the people they're trying to impress don't know how much their Rolex cost, or, worse, don't even notice at all that they're wearing Rolexes, then all of that money was pretty much wasted.

On the other hand, some people laugh at Rolex wearers for only wearing Rolexes to try to impress others, but they secretly want a Rolex so bad, and the only reason they don't have one is they're afraid of being laughed at by watch snobs like themselves, and that's even sillier than wearing a watch only to impress others. (The only sane reason to wear any watch: because you -- not anybody else at all. YOU -- like it. Because YOU think the watch is cool. That's the only sane reason amid all of this madness.)

I'm beginning to think that there may be very few people who share my literary and artistic tastes and my political views and my interests in watches. It might be fewer than few, maybe no-one shares all that with me. I noticed this year that the Leipzig Book Fair and Baselworld overlapped for a couple of days. The more I look into these things, the harder it is to imagine anyone excited by one of these events who has even heard of the other. Oh well, someone's got to be first at everything. Give me a Nobel Prize please, thank you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Vegans and Atheists

I assume that most vegans are pleasant and intelligent people with great senses of humor. However, I do not have any direct evidence to support this assumption.


I just assume that, just as Dawkins and Harris and Myers and (from beyond the grave) Hitch are making us (atheists) all look bad, so the humorless, self-righteous and just generally stupid among the vegans, because they make so damn much noise, are making vegans in general look bad. Surely you've heard something along the lines of: "I'm a vegan, and the joke you just told offends me because[...]" and the remark ends with something other than "[...]because I'm a humorless stiff."

There are few atheists who are constantly jumping up and down and yelling, "Hey! HEY! I'm an atheist, and I hate the way that the New Atheist keep talking about historical topics without bothering to learn about them first, and I've actually read the Koran, and I don't think we all should be afraid of Islam. Muslims are pretty much just people like others," and so on and so forth. In fact, I may be the only one.

Likewise, there are few vegans jumping up and down and yelling, "Hey! HEY! I'm a vegan, and I have a sense of humor! You could even tell me a joke about vegans and I'll probably think it's funny. Especially if it's a joke about those vegans everybody hates because they have no sense of humor! 'Everybody' meaning 'including almost all vegans', cause Duh!"

I assume that almost all vegans are like that, even in the absence of the jumping up and down and yelling.

The alternative would be to assume that a sense of humor actually is dependent upon ingesting animal protein and fat.

Nerdly Arrogance

"Given a function f of a real variable x and an interval [a, b] of the real line, the definite integral ∫ a b f ( x ) d x {\displaystyle \int _{a}^{b}\!f(x)\,dx} \int _{a}^{b}\!f(x)\,dx is defined informally as the signed area of the region in the xy-plane that is bounded by the graph of f, the x-axis and the vertical lines x = a and x = b. The area above the x-axis adds to the total and that below the x-axis subtracts from the total."

Oh, is that all!

Welcome to more of me failing to learn advanced math. Well, okay, it's not 100% accurate to say that I'm failing, but I'm being thwarted and blocked just a bit by unnecessary obtuseness such as that just quoted. I suspect that there may be a definition of definite integrals out there somewhere which is somewhat more comprehensible to people who don't already know what definite integrals are. I also suspect that communication with the general public is not a strong point among STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) nerds, and I suspect that it may not be a strong point because, generally speaking, they despise us. They don't particularly want to help. Maybe I'm completely wrong about that because what the Hell do I know about math anyway because for the last 40 years, ever since I finished 10th grade and all of the math I was ever required to study, I've been running away from math. Or maybe it's not the general public at all which nerds tend to despise, but me in particularly, because I in particular tend to offend nerds in some way.

Then again, maybe I'm right. I'm not the first to suggest such a thing. For example, some people have noticed how computers tend to be made by nerds for nerds, and not for the general public; that is to say, the general public has difficulties with computers not because these difficulties are inherent but because the nerds who made the computers don't care much, generally speaking, about the general public and its difficulties. Which is somewhat shocking when you consider that it is the general public which is directly responsible for the nerds making all of those gazillions of dollars, euros, yen and so forth. But they don't have to care because the general public has not yet caught up with the nerds enough to be able to choose the more user-friendly ones from among them, to borrow a nerdly phrase. And don't come at me with Apple, saying that Apple is that user-friendly brand of nerd right before my eyes which I refuse to see. Apple is a rip-off, and ripping people off ain't friendly.

There are not yet enough computer nerds that they have to compete with each other for the approval of the general public. 100 years ago, auto mechanics were just as smug and unbearable as computer nerds are now. A meager supply of mechanics and a huge demand for their services gave them elite status, and they abused the situation and were assholes about it, preferring to be moody geniuses rather than to be helpful and nice and have lots of friends. Then more people learned how to make and fix automobiles, and all of a sudden it wasn't an elite profession any more, and those who had so recently thought of themselves as geniuses suddenly had trouble finding work, and they had no friends to help them.

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, STEM nerds.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Internet Manners

I don't claim to have a greatly refined set of them. I have noticed that I often annoy others.

15 years ago and more, I had a very hard time understanding the overwhelmingly negative response when I posted on a social site in a bigger-than-average font.

I understand it now. Oh boy oh boy, do I ever understand it. Because a plague has settled into my circle of online friends and acquaintances, and perhaps into yours too: these posts consisting of brightly-colored squares with large-font words inside of them.

You were right to think that your message of "Oh, this is terrible!" or "Why did they do that?" was not interesting enough, all by itself, to be a regular post in a regular font. Your mistake was thinking that putting it in big white letters inside of one of these brightly-colored squares was going to make it more interesting, or more anything other than annoying. Putting it into a big font was already making it more annoying, and this with the squares, I don't care if Mark Zuckerberg thought it up personally, it's making it even worse. Somebody say "Amen!" Someone else shout, "Stop it!" If you notice eventually that I've unfollowed you and you're wondering why, this might well be it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

More Chess Informant

Maybe I actually am getting better at chess. Or maybe the following game, or at least the end of it, is particularly easy to understand.

Near the front of every issue of Chess Informant is a list of the best games of the previous issue as voted upon by several particularly distinguished Grandmasters. Yesterday I noticed that I actually had 2 consecutive issues here, 19 and 20, so that I could look at some of 19's best games as announced in 20. Chess Informant 20 has the list of the 10 best games in 19, as elected by some of the leading lights of the chess world in 1976: Dr Euwe, Averbakh, Barcza, Dr Filip, Geller, Kotov, Pirc, Polugayevsky and Schmidt. Their 1st choice is a rather long game, and it has no illustration in no 19, but their 2nd choice, Vaganian -- Planinc, Hastings 1975, game 533 in Chess Informant 19, is just 22 moves long and the position after White's 19th move is illustrated. In Chess Informant 19 it has analysis by Vaganian, who lost. Of Vaganian's analysis, I have given here only his evaluation of several moves: he gives a ?!, meaning "a dubious move," to his own 6th and 12th moves; a ?, meaning "a mistake," to his 13th move; and a !!, meaning "an excellent move," to Planinc's 19th and 22th moves, the latter of which persuaded Vaganian to retire. I have not given Vaganian's analyses of alternate lines because I have nothing intelligent to say about them. Maybe I would if I dropped everything for several days and did nothing except study this game. Or maybe I wouldn't.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 cd4 4. Nd4 e6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Ndb5?! O-O 7. a3 Bc3 8. Nc3 d5 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bf6 Qf6 11. cd5 ed5 12. Qd5?! Rd8 13. Qf3? Qb6! 14. Rd1 Rd1 15. Nd1 Nc6 16. Qe3 Nd4 17. Qe8 Kh7 18. e3 Nc2 19. Kd2!! Bf5 20. Qa8 Qd6 21. Kc1 Na1 22. Qb7 Qc7!! (White resigns.)

Most of the analyses of chess games I've seen, apart from drawn games, have been either by the winner or by a 3rd party. It's impressive when someone analyzes a game they've lost, as Vaganian does here, because there's a strong tendency to want to forget a loss rather then overcome one's ego and learn from it. Analyzing a game one has won is also often quite egotistical: "Look how smart I am, look how I crushed this chump!"

Far from understanding all of the moves in Grandmaster games, it usually takes me more than one try just to follow all of the moves correctly, reading them and moving the pieces on a board. (And just reading the moves and seeing an entire game in my head? I don't think that's ever going to happen for me.) I looked at this game on an analysis board at lichess.org. This has a great advantage, for me, over a conventional chess set: when I move the pieces on the analysis board, the website writes out the moves for me, and this makes it much easier -- for me, at least -- to check what I'm reading against the moves I'm making and make sure I'm making the written moves.

I tried to move the pieces for this game on an analysis board last night, but I think I may've gotten the 22nd moves wrong. This morning I finally got all of the moves right.

And then, after looking at the final position for a couple of minutes, an amazing thing happened: I understood why White resigned! If he didn't take Black's Queen, instead moving his King out of check, Black would take the White Queen; but if he did take Black's Queen, then Black would move 23. [...] Nb3, checkmate.

This is still very, very far from understanding the entire game. For example, I don't understand why White was unable to develop many of his pieces, so that his white Bishop, King's Rook and f-, g-, and h-Pawns were never moved, and were all just about completely useless to him at the end of the game. (Assuming that I'm correct in judging that they were useless to him.) There must have been some threat which was too urgent to allow White to develop the pieces on his King's side. What that threat was, I don't know. Maybe the answer is somewhere in those alternate lines. Who knows? Not me, that's who. Not yet. I would compare my achievement here to watching an NBA player on video in slow motion, making a basket, and after watching it in slow motion 5 or 6 times, you notice the head fake which threw the defensive player off. That might be a great breakthrough for you as an observer of basketball, but it doesn't mean you're ready to try out for the NBA.

I apologize for not being able to show you the final board, or even, for my readers whose 1st chess language is not English, to list the moves with the little pictures of the pieces instead of their English abbreviations. But if you google vaganian planinc hastings 1975, you can find a number of websites which show the entire game move by move. If I right-click on the final board on those sites, and choose "save image as," all I've saved is a tiny black square. The struggle continues, the struggle to understand chess, and to understand IT and to understand other things.