Wednesday, December 31, 2008


"...I feel angry with the world, with life and its fastidious order of things. There is so much I don't understand and the riddles seem to be getting more obscure. Too much has been said about my condition, my illness, whatever it is. I don't know what to call it, this thing that happened to me because because. I'm sick of the endless explanations that come with it, the lies and cover-ups, the injustice and humiliation of it all. The indifferent nurses and psychiatrists who only communicate through prescriptions. Heavy prescriptions that dull your senses and seem to drain life force out of you. I'm sick of this familiar feeling of indignation. It's too tiring, too overwhelming to be always angry with life, always questioning. Why me? Why this? And this drug, what does it do? Will it take away this ugly feeling? Will I be able to sleep? Will I have my life back? It's too much. It makes my hands go cold and ties my stomach in knots. After a while anger just takes over your life and comes out in cynical bites when you speak.
  My protests seem like insignificant drivel in the greater scheme of things anyway - whatever that means. I'm tired of therapy. I'm sick of trying to get to the root of things. All roots just seem to lead to more roots and more roots. Creation is a mad affair after all. It has no end. And that's what I need, an end. If not at least an answer to some semblance of conclusion. What does "cannabis induced psychosis" mean? There is more to it than that. This is what the medical profession will never understand. I'm looking for a deeper understanding of what happened to me, not an easy answer like cannabis induced psychosis. And why don't they just say it if they really don't understand what happened? Why blame it on cannabis?
  It's too exhausting to be like this all the time. I'm tired, hungry. Washed-up at twenty three. I keep thinking and force myself to do something. But I can't. Time is against me. I feel seconds ticking in my veins as I breathe. Minutes are outnumbering the hairs on my body. Hours are disappearing with each nail that grows. Forever. And ever. It's frightening. Time is frightening. It's like dominoes endlessly falling into oblivion.
  And forever itself, it's too daunting. There's no way back, no back door to sneak through. I can't undo the mistakes I tripped over. Everything counts and very little is remembered. Forever. It's the only answer life gives us. And we are expected to fit it into some neat equation with death and a blissful after-life. It's too much of a task. It's all too mad."
- K. Sello Duiker [1974-2005], The Quiet Violence of Dreams, pp. 9-10.

The Wise

"Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them."
- Marcus Aurelius [121-180] ; one of Rome's "Five Good Emperors"


Robert L. Heilbroner writes in 1961's The Worldly Philosophers, p. 182:

In the 1860's, Corenelius Vanderbilt, a fabulous genius of shipping and commerce, found that his own business associates were threatening his interests—a not too uncommon occurrence. He wrote them a letter:

You have undertaken to ruin me. I will not sue you, for law takes too long. I will ruin you.

Cornelius Van Derbilt  
An he did. 

The present day valuation of Cornelius Vanderbilt's [1794-1877] fortune exceeds $167 billion. 

add housing to shopping malls

Matt Yglesias like the idea.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


“There are many humorous things in this world among them is the white man’s notion that he is less savage than all of the other savages.”
- Mark Twain [1835-1910]

An earlier reference to Twain here.

Eastwood Law

"There was a time years and years and years ago where [Clint] Eastwood would take over a film after it was cast, the Director cast, the crew cast and shooting had started and then at a certain point Eastwood would have a disagreement or whatever and let the Director go and take it over. He did that a few times and then they instituted what they called, at least euphemistically, the 'Eastwood Law', which meant that you could not fire a Director after a certain point. By that time Eastwood had already learned how to Direct to the point where he was being accepted by Hollywood and scripts were being offered to him."
- Dustin Hoffman [born 1937]

incentive ... to cheat

The sixty-six highest ranked wrestlers in Japan, comprising the makuuchi and juryo divisions, make up the sumo elite.
A wrestler near the top of this elite pyramid earns millions and is treated like royalty. Any wrestler in the top forty earns at least $170,000 a year. The seventieth-ranked wrestler in Japan, meanwhile, earns only $15,000 a year. Life isn't very sweet outside the elite. Low-ranked wrestlers must tend to their superiors, preparing their meals, cleaning their quarters, and even soaping up their hardest-to-reach body parts. So ranking is everything.
Levitt & Dubner, Freakonomics, p. 36

Monday, December 29, 2008

cutting him down to size

Captain Finlander
Trouble with that kid, he can't forget what a big hero he was. Star quarterback ... voted Most All-Around ... Most Popular ... that one he's still bucking for. The only way to cut him down to size is to keep on him.
Commander Allison
Yeah, if he survives.
Captain Finlander
Well, I hammer too hard, you let me know.
Commander Allison
I'll try.
Captain Finlander
Yeah, it's a lot of work being a mean bastard.
Commander Allison
Hmm. Sometimes I can't help admiring how effortlessly you do it, captain. Almost as if it came naturally.
From The Bedford Incident.


"Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan." Remarked President John F. Kennedy [1917-1963] in the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, 1961.

However, the quotation is first attributed to Benito Mussolini's [1883-1945] Foreign Minister and son-in-law Count Galeazzo Ciano [1903-1944], who wrote in his World War II diary: "Victory finds a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan."

Physician, heal thyself

Matt Yglesias looks at Uwe Reinhart's post which includes the statement that “on average, American patients receive the recommended treatment for their condition only slightly more than 50 percent of the time.”

Escape Artist

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Donkey image source here.

"He was known as 'ciuco'; the kid who could not earn a living and everyone else had to support."
- Dorothy Puzo reflecting upon her father Mario Puzo who authored The Godfather which was published when he was forty-nine.

An earlier reference to Mario Puzo on this blog here.

Canon in D Major

Johann Pachelbel [1653-1706].

Place de la Concorde

Photo by ayush.bhandari 

Architect Thierry Despont recently redesigned the interiors of the Hôtel de Crillon.

year-end european reflections

Rap music originated in medieval Scottish pubs

Rap music originated in the medieval taverns of Scotland rather than the mean streets of the Bronx and Brooklyn, an American academic has claimed.

By Simon Johnson
Last Updated: 3:57PM GMT 28 Dec 2008

Professor Ferenc Szasz argued that so-called rap battles, where two or more performers trade elaborate insults, derive from the ancient Caledonian art of "flyting".
According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap.
Professor Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between this tradition for settling scores in Scotland and rap battles, which were famously portrayed in Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile.
He said: "The Scots have a lengthy tradition of flyting - intense verbal jousting, often laced with vulgarity, that is similar to the dozens that one finds among contemporary inner-city African-American youth.
"Both cultures accord high marks to satire. The skilled use of satire takes this verbal jousting to its ultimate level - one step short of a fist fight."
The academic, who specialises in American and Scottish culture at the University of New Mexico, made the link in a new study examining the historical context of Robert Burn's work.
The most famous surviving example of flyting comes from a 16th-century piece in which two rival poets hurl increasingly obscene rhyming insults at one another before the Court of King James IV.
Titled the Flyting Of Dunbar And Kennedy, it has been described by academics as "just over 500 lines of filth".
Professor Szasz cites an American civil war poem, printed in the New York Vanity Fair magazine on November 9, 1861, as the first recorded example of the battles being used in the United States.
Professor Willie Ruff, of Yale University, agreed that Scottish slave owners had a profound impact on the development of African American music traditions.
Comparing flyting and rap battles, he said: "Two people engage in ritual verbal duelling and the winner has the last word in the argument, with the loser falling conspicuously silent."

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Sine qua non

His former Harvard Business School professor recalls George W. Bush not just as a terrible student but as spoiled, loutish and a pathological liar here.

How to write a business plan

Harvard Business School Professor William A. Sahlman explains in the Harvard Business Review here.


Friday, December 26, 2008

collapsing market

20 Jahre Einsamkeit [1971-91]

"The reason for this project comes from my childhood, that is clear to me. I did not have any toys. So, I played in the bricks of ruined buildings around me and with which I built houses."
- Anselm Kiefer [born 1945]

A piece on the collapsing market for modern art here.

"raw art"

- Jean Dubuffet [1901-1985 ], Galeries Lafayette

"For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

frescoes of the apocalypse

Duomo di Orvieto features Luca Signorelli's apocalyptic frescoes.

"Signorelli's ability to tell stories through human actions and gestures rather than symbols inspired his younger contemporary Michelangelo, who meticulously studied Signorelli's work." 

none but the sufferers themselves can fathom

"I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow-creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body: and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay."
- remarks of Charles Dickens [1812-1870] in American Notes upon visiting a Philadelphia jail in 1842.

Coin Toss

Pre-Game Coin Toss Makes Jacksonville Jaguars Realize Randomness Of Life

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

most annoying overused phrase

overwhelmingly favored by people who wear suits:

"It is what it is."

a fine retort:

"Yes. It's not what it isn't."

Cell Phone With Security Feature

Monday, December 22, 2008

How people succeed

some facts

It's better muted.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eton Rowing Song

Eton College was founded in 1440 and remains the world's most prestigious public school. Wiki's entry here.

Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.

Skirting past the rushes,
Ruffling o'er the weeds,
Where the lock stream gushes,
Where the cygnet feeds,
Let us see how the wine-glass flushes,
At supper on Boveney meads,
Let us see how the wine glass flushes,
At supper on Boveney meads.

Thanks to the bounteous sitter,
Who sat not at all on his seat,
Down with the beer that's bitter,
Up with the wine that's sweet,
And Oh that some generous "critter",
Would give us more ducks to eat!

Carving with elbow nudges,
Lobsters we throw behind,
Vinegar nobody grudges,
Lower boys drink it blind,
Sober as so many judges,
We'll give you a bit of our mind.

"Dreadnought" "Britannia" "Thetis",
"St George" "Prince of Wales" and "Ten",
And the eight poor souls whose meat is,
Hard steak, and a harder hen,
But the end of our long boat fleet is,
Defiance to Westminster men.

Rugby may be more clever,
Harrow may make more row,
But we'll row for ever,
Steady from stroke to bow,
And nothing in life shall sever,
The chain that is round us now,
And nothing in life shall sever,
The chain that is round us now.

Others will fill our places,
Dressed in the old light blue,
We'll recollect our races,
We'll to the flag be true,
And youth will be still in our faces,
When we cheer for an Eton crew,
And youth will be still in our faces,
When we cheer for an Eton crew.

Twenty years hence this weather,
May tempt us from office stools,
We may be slow on the feather,
And seem to the boys old fools,
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools,
But we'll still swing together,
And swear by the best of schools.

The Bailout Explained

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Legend of Perceval

Inspired by the Tales of King Arthur, Viggo Mortensen [born 1958] calls his book publishing company Perceval Press; one should find one's own path through the forest. However, in an early version of the legend, Perceval fails to ask a simple question which kills a King and blows his chance at finding the Holy Grail. 

Henry David Thoreau's reference to finding one's own path here.

youth in solitude

"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination."
- Thomas de Quincey [1785-1859] wrote Confessions of an English Opium-Eater [1821] which was about his opium and alcohol addiction.

A contemporary perspective on murderous thoughts from Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker here.

Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum.

"The greatest minds, as they are capable of the highest excellencies, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations."

"You just keep pushing. You just keep pushing. I made every mistake that could be made. But I just kept pushing."

- René Descartes [1596-1650]

An earlier reference to Descartes on this blog here.

trying on the identities of others

Yale Psychologist Paul Bloom writes:
... the most common leisure activity is not sex, eating, drinking, drug use, socializing, sports, or being with the ones we love. It is, by a long shot, participating in experiences we know are not real - reading novels, watching movies and TV, daydreaming, and so forth.

Enjoying fiction requires a shift in selfhood. You give up your own identity and try on the identities of other people, adopting their perspectives so as to share their experiences. This allows us to enjoy fictional events that would shock and sadden us in real life. When Tony Soprano kills someone, you respond differently than you would to a real murder; you accept and adopt some of the moral premises of the Soprano universe. You become, if just for a moment, Tony Soprano.

emotional terrorism

"... over months and years, living with a person who uses emotional terrorism to obtain what they want can lead to significant frustration and even illness in the recipient. It's like having a fight with an invisible enemy, because the passive-aggressive doesn't use tangible tools. There is no screaming and yelling, no throwing of pots and pans, no name-calling. That is because they need to maintain for themselves their ideal of being perfect." More here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

White Bull

Ernest Hemingway [1899-1961] described sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper as facing “the white bull.”

An earlier reference to Hemingway on this blog here.

Bill Gates is not beautiful

"I'm not a driven businessman, but a driven artist. I never think about money. Beautiful things make money."
- Lord Acton [1834-1902]


If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
  But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
  Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
  And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
  If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
  And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken
  And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
  And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
  To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
  Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
  Or walk with kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
  If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
  With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
  And — which is more — you'll be a Man, my son!

- Written in 1895, Rudyard Kipling's Victorian era poem is still read by fathers to their sons. 

An earlier reference to Kipling on this blog here.

think your job sucks?

Oakum-picking involved teasing fibres out of old hemp ropes for re-use in ship-building. Image source here.

In 19th century London when the weather was bitter, work scarce and food dear, men and women "casuals" would submit to a prison like regime. As the Illustrated London News described it in 1867:
They are washed with plenty of hot and cold water and soap, and receive six ounces of bread and a pint of gruel for supper; after which, their clothes being taken to be cleaned and fumigated, they are furnished with warm woollen night-shirts and sent to bed. Prayers are read by Scripture-readers; strict order and silence are maintained all night in the dormitory...The bed consists of a mattress stuffed with coir, a flock pillow, and a pair of rugs. At six o'clock in the morning in summer, and at seven in winter, they are aroused and ordered to work. The women are set to clean the wards, or to pick oakum; the men to break stones, but none are detained longer than four hours after their breakfast which is of the same kind of quantity as their supper. Their clothes, disinfected and freed of vermin, being restored to them in the morning, those who choose to mend their ragged garments are supplied with needles, thread, and patches of cloth for that purpose. If any are ill, the medical officer of the workhouse attends to them; if too ill to travel, they are admitted to the infirmary.
From Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money, p. 200

The first system of compulsory state health insurance and old age pensions was introduced in Germany by Otto von Bismarck [1815-1898] whose aim was "to engender in the great mass of the unpropertied the conservative state of mind that springs from the feeling of entitlement to a pension." In Bismarck's view, "a man who has a pension for his old age is ... much easier to deal with than a man without that prospect." 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

bob dylan inspired coldplay student video

words and phrases

Adam Jacot de Boinod lists weird words and bizarre phrases from around the world here.

favorite sites

The Gaurdian's top favorite 2008 websites here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

Present by Marlin Perkins [1905-1986]

First Computer

Ancient Greek Mechanism

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

stillness and motion

Poseidon photo source here.


Franz Schubert [1797-1828] was "in love with every woman but none loved him back."
- pianist and composer Alain Lefèvre [born 1962]

refrigerated beach

Dubai's Palazzo Versace.

Hitler Candles

Monday, December 15, 2008

rupture in history

Image source.

Walter Allward [1876-1955] created Canada's WWI memorial at Vimy Ridge.

"I don’t get up very early."

How writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days here.

not yet half-way to the bottom

Sunday, December 14, 2008

low down

summer in the '70s

Roy Clark & Buck Owens

office narcissism

Caravaggio's Narcissus, ca. 1598

Psychologists Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg look at narcissism in the office:
"Narcissists have difficulty empathizing with others. Walking in another's shoes is a challenge. They have a strong sense of entitlement (they believe they deserve deferential or special treatment) ..."
"Narcissists experience a great deal of shame but hide it. It comes out in belittling or humiliating behaviour towards others. It can be shown in cutting putdowns disguised as jokes, nasty looks or dismissive comments if you've made a mistake that might make the narcissist look bad or subtle deflation of your confidence by insinuating that you need the narcissist's help to achieve your goals. Remaining one-up is key to the narcissist's mindset."
"Those with narcissistic tendencies experience a sense of entitlement: they believe they deserve recognition, special treatment, benefits, appreciation or attention."
"Narcissists experience a great deal of envy and although much of it is buried, they privately or subconsciously wish to undermine, spoil, destroy or reduce anything that evokes feelings of inferiority. They have difficulty sharing the limelight, appreciating colleagues' talents or honouring others' achievements, especially if they cannot share in the triumph or benefit from the reflective glow."
"They experience a reduction in confidence, feel inferior and strive to restore the perceived imbalance by devaluing the talented co-worker (making them feel bad for exercising their unique skill), competing for attention, putting the envied individual down or insinuating themselves into the unlucky colleague's achievement."
"Narcissists may engage in ostentatious behaviour such as shows of wealth ..."
The entire Ottawa Citizen article here.

An earlier reference to narcissism on this blog here.

the trick

Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519], Five Characters in a Comic Scene, c. 1490

"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."
- Several sources attribute this to da Vinci; the message rings true, but the language doesn't.

An earlier reference to Leonardo da Vinci on this blog here.

Wall Street bonuses in the good old days; 2 years ago

The 2007 WSJ article here.

right fit

Malcolm Gladwell tackles the difficulty of selecting the right person for a job here.

former meat-packer

Fuller poses in front of his geodesic dome. 

"Everyone is born a genius; the process of living de-geniuses you."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What separates the best from the rest?

Diagram of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

"Self-actualizing people must be what they can be."
- Abraham Maslow [1908-1970]


Tangle of neurons in auditory portion of mouse brain stem. More images here.

money and power

"Money to get power; power to protect money."
- Motto of the Medici family

"In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."
- Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface

dwarf collector

Rudolf II with Johannes Kepler

Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II [1552-1612] collected dwarfs and had a regiment of giants in his army. 

Buggin's turn

Buggin's turn: promotion by seniority or rotation rather than merit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Psychiatrist Dr. Amen's photon brain images are apparently meaningless; he received his MD from a now defunct program at Oral Roberts University.

Edge of the Sword

Paris, 1944.

"Don't ask me who's influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he's digested, and I've been reading all my life."

"How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?"

- Charles de Gaulle [1890-1970] wrote the now out of print The Edge of the Sword in 1931; a used English translation copy is available for $1853

An earlier reference to de Gaulle on this blog here.

Time's top inventions

Image source here.

Time Magazine presents 2008's top inventions here.

#1 is 23andMe co-created by Google cofounder Sergey Brin's wife Anne Wojcicki, which is featured at about 6 minutes in.

An earlier reference to Google here.


Colours from Charlie McCarthy on Vimeo

All about 'Richard Cassel'

isthisyourname has the details here

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

jejune = dull

Marinus van Reymerswaele [c.1490-1546], Two Tax Gatherers [c.1540]

10 minutes

Photo of Dyer bullet holes by anita anand.

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 was the watershed event of India’s independence. In the northern Indian city of Amritsar, British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer [1864-1927] ordered his troops to open fire on a public crowd for ten minutes resulting in perhaps more than 1500 casualties.

An earlier reference to Gandhi here.