Sunday, August 31, 2008

White House design inspired by Richard Cassels

According to the official website of the Houses of the Oireachtas [the Republic of Ireland's Parliament]:
The designer of Leinster House [the seat of Ireland's Parliament] was the architect Richard Cassels, who was born in Hesse-Cassel in Germany about 1690. The design is characteristic of buildings of the period in Ireland and England. It has been claimed that it formed a model for the design of the White House, the residence of the President of the United States.

Bipolar President

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort."

"It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things."

- Theodore Roosevelt [1858-1919]


"I've always done fashion stuff if asked to...I like the girls, I like the extreme beauty. It always amazes me that I've been criticized for photographing both wildlife and beautiful women, because there is a thread between them: Beautiful women will be the last thing left in nature that's worthy of worship."
- Peter Beard [born 1938]

a tale told by an idiot

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
- Macbeth in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5 [written circa 1603-1608]

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Francis Bacon [1909-1992]

Recently, his Triptych, 1976 sold for a record setting £44m to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich [born 1966].

A look at his studio here. A Guardian Francis Bacon Tate Podcast.

Jackson Pollock, 1951

On The Road, 1959


website maps surnames worldwide

The Public Profiler site plots eight million last names using data from electoral rolls and phone directories.
The site - - covers 300 million people in 26 countries, showing the origins of names and where families have moved to.
The site also reveals which of the five million forenames are most closely associated with different surnames and lists the top regions and cities for each surname.

Meet America's Next VP!

John McCain's Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin was a sports reporter in the late 1980s for KTUU, Anchorage, Alaska's NBC affiliate.

Barack Obama's choice is Joe Biden who has been a Senator since 1973 when he turned 30 years old.
According to Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, a senator must be 30 years of age, a citizen of the United States for 9 years, and must reside in the state he or she represents at the time of election.


“If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light which leads to the truth; and second, the courage to follow this light wherever it may lead.”
- Karl von Clausewitz [1780-1831] participated in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo; his principal work, On War, is the West's premier work on the philosophy of war.

View Larger Map

How the Mind Works

Part of Vannevar Bush's 1945 article on thinking and science:
When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.
The human mind does not work that way.
It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.
Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even improve, for his records have relative permanency. The first idea, however, to be drawn from the analogy concerns selection. Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized. One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.
Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thomas Jefferson's Koran

In 1765, a 22-year-old Thomas Jefferson bought a copy of the Koran while studying law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. As a Deist, he was interested in all religions including Islam. As President, he studied his Koran to better understand the Ottoman Empire during the Barbary Wars.

In 2007, Jefferson's copy of the Koran was used by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) to take his oath of office.

Drinking Beer in Paris

"Panaché" is the beverage, which is a shandy-type mix of beer or ale and limonade or perhaps Ginger-Ale. Alcohol content is 1.3%. Drinking age in France is 16.

Will Wilkinson wants to scrap all drinking age restrictions:
UCLA professor of public policy Mark Kleiman, an ex-advocate of age restrictions, told PBS that he came around to the no-limits position when he saw a billboard that said, "If you're not 21, it's not Miller Time--yet." Age limits make drinking a badge of adulthood and build in the minds of teens a romantic sense of the transgressive danger of alcohol. That's what so often leads to the abuse of alcohol as a ritual of release from the authority of parents.


See more Will Ferrell videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, August 28, 2008

GM Volt

Most people don't drive more than 40 miles per day, which is why with GM's Volt many may never need to buy gas again. Gas top-ups will extend range to hundreds of miles. Scheduled release 2010.

Ethan Enjoys Human Skateboarding

Ethan Enjoys Invisible Skating


Peggy Noonan on the best line of the convention so far:
Ted Strickland of Ohio, when he echoed the 1988 Democratic convention joke about George H.W. Bush, that he was born on third and thought he hit a triple. Strickland said of George W. Bush that he was born on third and then stole second.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Drop Out becomes Billionaire

Barry Diller's Frank Gehry designed headquarters. Diller grew up in Beverly Hills. Eschewing formal education, his opportunity came via family friend and entertainment icon Danny Kaye. The following program is presented by billionaire scion Jonathan Tisch. The moral is choose your parents well.

"an idea is not responsible for the people who hold it"

An interview with John Cleese [born 1939] who continues to manage depression. An article here includes him as part of the bipolar comedy "Fab 5" - Spike Milligan, Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Cleese - though Cleese does not acknowledge that he has bipolar disorder.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cent' Anne

Robert De Niro [born 1943] played a pivotal role in Francis Coppola's The Godfather, Part II, as young Don Vito Corleone. His performance earned him his first Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor. He became the first actor to win an Academy Award speaking only a foreign language [Sicilian].

Michael sits at a large table with Kay, his son Anthony, Mama, Hagen and Teresa, Connie and Merle' Fredo and Deanna, and Frankie Pentangeli.

Cent' Anne.
This, the table of honor, all raise their glasses and repeat the toast.

What's 'cent' Anne?'
A hundred's a toast.
It means we should all live happily for one hundred years. The family. If my Father were alive, it'd be true.

"Godfather Part Two" screenplay by Mario Puzo [1920-1999] and Francis Ford Coppolla [born 1939] who won 5 Academy Awards by the age of 35 and has bipolar disorder.

The 2blowhards assess Coppolla and the first film he's made as a director in ten years "Youth Without Youth" here.

U.S. Hegemony

Pentagon worldwide troop data from every half-decade since 1950.


Current world number 1 Ronnie O'Sullivan [born 1975] clears the table to score a rare maximum possible points total. He suffers from depression and has had various addictions. His website here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

White House

White House, Morocco

Captain Renault: 
I've often speculated why you don't return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with a Senator's wife? I like to think that you killed a man. It's the romantic in me.
It's a combination of all three.
Captain Renault: 
And what in Heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: 
The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
I was misinformed.
"Casablanca" screenplay available here.

Otitis Media

Otitis media is an inflammation and/or infection of the middle ear. Acute otitis media [acute ear infection] occurs when there is bacterial or viral infection of the fluid of the middle ear, which causes production of fluid or pus. Chronic otitis media occurs when the eustachian tube becomes blocked repeatedly due to allergies, multiple infections, ear trauma, or swelling of the adenoids.

A solution, that is the most commonly performed of all surgical procedures in Canada and the U.S., is explained here.

Eric Arthur Blair

"A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into."

Court upholds damages in bipolar disorder discrimination case

Ontario Human Rights commission's $80,000 award stands for man fired by ADGA over mental disability
Thulasi Srikanthan, Ottawa Citizen
August 24, 2008

OTTAWA-An $80,000 judgment against an Ottawa company that dismissed a man with bipolar disorder has been upheld by an Ontario court.
In 2001, Paul Lane was dismissed from his new job as a quality assurance analyst with ADGA Groups Consulting Inc., after advising a supervisor that he required accommodations for his bipolar disorder.
Last year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that ADGA discriminated against Mr. Lane, and awarded him nearly $80,000. After his dismissal, Mr. Lane became deeply depressed and was hospitalized for 12 days. He lost his savings, wife and home.
A recent appeal of that case was dismissed by an Ontario Divisional Court on Aug. 8 and the tribunal's award was upheld. The commission's cross-appeal to increase the sum awarded for damages was also dismissed.
"I am quite ecstatic that decision was made in our favour," Mr. Lane said.
An official said ADGA is disappointed with the outcome. Since the decision, ADGA has filed an appeal application to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
"I am going to save my celebration until the final appeal is heard and ADGA loses," Mr. Lane said.
The Divisional Court's decision is significant because it reaffirms that employers have a duty to accommodate employees with mental disabilities, including bipolar disorder, said Raj Dhir, a lawyer for the human rights commission.
"Before an employer refuses accommodation, they must obtain all relevant information about the employee, including his or her medical condition, prognosis for recovery, job capabilities and ability to do alternate work," Mr. Dhir said.
"An employer must be able to demonstrate that it is not possible to accommodate employees without undue hardship."
The case marked the first time the commission had dealt specifically with the needs of employees who suffer from bipolar disorder and the obligation of employers to accommodate them.
Mr. Dhir said the decision by the divisional court was also important because it recognized that mental disabilities often create fear and stereotyping. A person may have no limitations in everyday activities other than those created by prejudice and stereotypes, he said.
With files from Dan Robson

Sunday, August 24, 2008


"Hell is other people."
- Jean-Paul Sartre [1905-1980]

nil desperandum

Nil Desperandum: there is no cause for despair; never despair.
- Horace [c.65-8 BCE]

Endure the present, and watch for better things.
- Virgil [c.70-19 BCE].

Glass etching by artist John Hutton [1906-1978] for Canada's National Library and Archives of Roman poets Horace and Virgil.

Failure is for winners

Atychiphobia is:
a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of failure created by the unconscious mind as a protective mechanism. At some point in one's past, there was likely an event linking failure and emotional trauma. Whilst the original catalyst may have been a real-life scare of some kind, the condition can also be triggered by myriad, benign events like movies, TV, or perhaps seeing someone else experience trauma.

No safety net

2,890 feet = 880 meters [CN Tower is about 550 meters]

Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite, California.

gibbon vs. tigers

Disappearing car door

Artist Armagan was born without eyes

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Jacques-Louis David [1801].

"Never interfere with the enemy when he's in the process of destroying himself."  
- Napoleon Bonaparte [1769-1821]

time-lapsed growth

Valley of the Kings

“…but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold.”
- Howard Carter [1874-1939] upon entering King Tut's tomb in 1922


Friday, August 22, 2008

Way Up There

A list of the world's tallest peaks here.

Toronto's CN Tower is 553.33 m [1,815.39 ft]. Mount Everest, more than 16x taller at 8,850 m [29,035 ft], was first sumitted on May 29, 1953 by 34 year old New Zealander Edmund Hillary and 39 year old Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.  

At 636 m [2,087 ft], the still under construction Burj Dubai skyscraper recently overtook the CN Tower in as the world's tallest man made structure; it is anticipated to eventually reach 800 m. A list of tall man made stuff is here.

Instead of going up, they should go the other way sinking deep, wide shafts into the ground, beaming in natural light via optical fibers and displaying something else where windows would normally be.

Here's a look at how high aircraft fly: 
... most passenger jets fly between around 9,448.8 m [31,000 ft] and 11,277.6 m [37,000 ft] depending on their weight and the distance being flown, however the smaller business jets typically operate up to 13,716 m [45,000 ft] and in the case of Concorde it went as high as 15,544.8 m [51,000 ft]. At those kinds of altitudes you can see the curvature of the earth. The reason is that at high altitudes in less dense atmosphere jet engines work more efficiently by burning a lot less fuel and the ground speed of the aircraft is significantly higher.
Just how far out the atmosphere goes is explained here.

The Olympic Village - in playing cards

The Catcher in The Rye

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
- John Lennon [1940-1980]

Mark David Chapman fatally shot Lennon outside The Dakota apartment building.
Chapman was assessed as delusional and possibly psychotic and remains incarcerated at the Attica Correctional Facility. He claimed at the time that J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye explained his perspective (theme analysis here).

Holden Caulfield in Chapter 1, opening words
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
Holden Caulfield in Chapter 2
Grand. There's a word I really hate. It's a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.
Holden Caulfield in Chapter 3
He started telling us how he was never ashamed, when he was in some kind of trouble or something, to get right down on his knees and pray to God. He told us we should always pray to God - talk to Him and all - whenever we were. He told us we ought to think of Jesus as our buddy and all. He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving in his car. That killed me. I can just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs.
Holden Caulfield in Chapter 14
I'm sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoyed the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard.
Mr. Antolini in Chapter 24
Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.
"I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Modern Presidency

According to Bill Moyers [born 1934], this description by Colonel Andrew Bacevich [born 1947] best defines the modern American Presidency:
Beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, the occupant of the White House has become a combination of demigod, father figure and, inevitably, the betrayer of inflated hopes. Pope. Pop star. Scold. Scapegoat. Crisis manager. Commander in Chief. Agenda settler. Moral philosopher. Interpreter of the nation's charisma. Object of veneration. And the butt of jokes. All rolled into one.
It has been suggested that the American flag in Jasper Johns' work is an autobiographical reference, because a military hero after whom he was named, Sergeant William Jasper, raised the flag in a brave action during the Revolutionary War.

'streaks and blobs'

"The true work of art is born from the 'artist': a mysterious, enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real existence of being."
- Wassily Kandinsky [1866–1944]

You probably shouldn't be talkin' to him

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?"
- Robert De Niro as unstable former Marine Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver [1976]. Paul Schrader's entire screenplay here.
Inspired by Travis, John Hinkely, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Regan in 1981. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.


Slow-motion skateboarding

skate - shot on red - 120 fps from opus magnum prod. on Vimeo.

Where he lives

Naturalist painter Robert Bateman lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, a section of the earth profiled by the Guardian here. He once taught high-school art in Ontario, including with this place.


Good Will Hunting script here.

Primary Colours

Curves are so emotional.
- Piet Mondrian [1872-1944]

Ferret Face

Anyone who needs psychiatry is sick in the head.

Not her real face

Computer animation has come a long way.

In related news, surgeons prepare for world’s first full-face transplant

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


From Freakonomics:
The more beer scientists drink, the less likely they are to have a paper published or cited, according to a new study by Thomas Grim, an ornithologist at Palacky University, Czech Republic.

Grim surveyed the behavior of Czech scientists and found a correlation between amount of beer consumed and papers published.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything is a 2005 book by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner that has been described as melding pop culture with economics.


"Be the change that you want to see in the world."

"I am a Hindu, I am a Moslem, I am a Jew, I am a Christian, I am a Buddhist."

- Mohandas Gandhi [1869-1948] was the pioneer of Satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence.

In 1930, Winston Churchill took a hard line against Gandhi:

"It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor."

Gandhi was celibate for forty years to in his mind heighten his purity, but he continually tested himself through experiments such as sleeping naked with his 17 year old grand niece.


Bryan Appleyard:
In the end, however, the semi-colon is like death; we must all face it alone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rooted in the soil of Elgin County

The most influential American Economist of the 20th Century was Canadian. John Kenneth Galbraith, for example, piloted FDR's New Deal
The driving theory was that democracies thrive when the middle class is largest.
At times, Galbraith  experienced profound depression and alienation, for example, during periods of crisis and loss. He sometimes drank heavily and took pills.

Theory of Evolution

A video of Oxford Biologist Richard Dawkins [born 1941] on Charles Darwin [1809-1882].

Olivia Judson [born 1970] is tired:
I’d like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed. (The science would be in a sorry state if one man 150 years ago had, in fact, discovered everything there was to say.) Obsessively focusing on Darwin, perpetually asking whether he was right about this or that, implies that the discovery of something he didn’t think of or know about somehow undermines or threatens the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology today...

Darwin was an amazing man, and the principal founder of evolutionary biology. But his was the first major statement on the subject, not the last. Calling evolutionary biology “Darwinism,” and evolution by natural selection “Darwinian” evolution, is like calling aeronautical engineering “Wrightism,” and fixed-wing aircraft “Wrightian” planes, after those pioneers of fixed-wing flight, the Wright brothers. The best tribute we could give Darwin is to call him the founder — and leave it at that. Plenty of people in history have had an -ism named after them. Only a handful can claim truly to have given birth to an entire field of modern science.

Herd Thinning rewarded here.

pointless and unrewarding

Sisyphus was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again, and to repeat this throughout eternity.

Today, Sisyphean can be used as an adjective meaning that an activity is unending and/or repetitive. It could also be used to refer to tasks that are pointless and unrewarding, such as most office meetings.

The Myth of Sysyphus
by Albert Camus [1913-1960]

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this. Opinions differ as to the reasons why he became the futile laborer of the underworld. To begin with, he is accused of a certain levity in regard to the gods. He stole their secrets. Egina, the daughter of Esopus, was carried off by Jupiter. The father was shocked by that disappearance and complained to Sisyphus. He, who knew of the abduction, offered to tell about it on condition that Esopus would give water to the citadel of Corinth. To the celestial thunderbolts he preferred the benediction of water. He was punished for this in the underworld. Homer tells us also that Sisyphus had put Death in chains. Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted, silent empire. He dispatched the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her conqueror.

It is said that Sisyphus, being near to death, rashly wanted to test his wife's love. He ordered her to cast his unburied body into the middle of the public square. Sisyphus woke up in the underworld. And there, annoyed by an obedience so contrary to human love, he obtained from Pluto permission to return to earth in order to chastise his wife. But when he had seen again the face of this world, enjoyed water and sun, warm stones and the sea, he no longer wanted to go back to the infernal darkness. Recalls, signs of anger, warnings were of no avail. Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary. Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar and, snatching him from his joys, lead him forcibly back to the underworld, where his rock was ready for him.

You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it, and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward tlower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain.

It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.

If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy arises in man's heart: this is the rock's victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Thus, Edipus at the outset obeys fate without knowing it. But from the moment he knows, his tragedy begins. Yet at the same moment, blind and desperate, he realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: "Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well." Sophocles' Edipus, like Dostoevsky's Kirilov, thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism.

One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. "What!---by such narrow ways--?" There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd. Discovery. It happens as well that the felling of the absurd springs from happiness. "I conclude that all is well," says Edipus, and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile suffering. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.

All Sisyphus' silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his efforts will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is, but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Free Expensive Education

Yale , MITStanford, and the University of Washington offer free online courses with video lectures.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Snap Out Of It

"Almost half of Canadians believe that a diagnosis of mental illness is merely an 'excuse for poor behaviour and personal failings' and one in 10 thinks that people with mental illness could 'just snap out of it' if they wanted."
- ANDRÉ PICARD, Globe and Mail

Also see Cancertastic!


Bill Gates has Schizoid Personality Disorder [SPD] but continues to change the world. Others:

Some prefer the term Solitary Personality Type [SPT].

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Maltese Falcon, 1941

Mr. Gutman:
You're a close-mouthed man?
Sam Spade:
No, I like to talk.
Mr. Gutman:
Better and better. I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking's something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice.
John Huston's complete screenplay adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel here.

Silicon Valley's Tom Perkins named his sailboat, the world's largest, The Maltese Falcon, which is now for sale for 150 million euros.


The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault [1791-1824] is referenced by concerned polymath neurologist Sir Jonathan Miller on the BBC hereThe Pogues appreciated too.

Sir Jonathan's "Rough History of Disbelief" Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

An updated blog reference to Géricault here.

Still Waiting for Godot

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
- Samuel Beckett [1906-1989], winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.

Beckett's Waiting for Godot was named the most significant English language play of the 20th century.

and now, your moment of zen

A New York Times profile of Jon Stewart [born 1962] here.

Japanese road music

Good Bad Writing

A contest. The winner:
Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped ‘Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J.’
The Bulwer-Lytton "is like the Nobel Prize for Literature," explains 2008 recipient Garrison Spik, whose day job is communications director for Mervis Diamond Importers. "But at the other end of the spectrum. And the prize money is $999,750 less."

Winning failures:
'Toads of glory, slugs of joy,' sang Groin the dwarf as he trotted jovially down the path before a great dragon ate him because the author knew that this story was a train wreck after he typed the first few words. [Alex Hall, Greeley, Colo.]
Like a mechanic who forgets to wipe his hands on a shop rag and then goes home, hugs his wife, and gets a grease stain on her favorite sweater — love touches you, and marks you forever. [Beth Fand Incollingo, Haddon Heights, N.J.]

I know that

Martin Short's classic weasel SNL lawyer character Nathan Thurm appeared best in the original 1984 depiction [video unavailable, unfortunately].


Buster Keaton [1895-1966], Charlie Chaplin [1889-1977] and Harold Lloyd [1893-1971] are remembered as the great comic innovators of the silent era. Keaton enjoyed Lloyd's films highly and often praised Chaplin for his genius.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Some portion of the confused electorate cast ballots for Democrat Eugene McCarthy[1916-2005] thinking he was Republican Joseph McCarthy[1908-1957].
In an age of generally more optimistic politicians, the expression 'contemptus mundi' [contempt of the world] was associated with Eugene McCarthy.

"It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail."
- Gore Vidal [born 1925]

In 1948, at 22, Vidal wrote the first American novel to deal with a love affair between two men, The City and the Pillar. Vidal intends to spend his remaining years in California; he sold his Amalfi coast cliff-top villa to a hotelier who's turning it into a museum.

God Awful

Pretty Jaguar C Type [1951-55]. 

Current blandness.

A Short History of Suburbia


Shopska salad is a Balkan appetizer made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, raw or roasted peppers [preferably roasted], and sirene [white brine cheese]. Consumed with rakia.

Shopska salad derives its name from the regional group called Shopi residing in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia. The Shopi are credited with developing the original recipe.

Military Industrial Complex

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. ... We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower [1890-1969], Farewell Address, January 17, 1961

"It was about American hegemony against any rival power, totalitarian or not, globally expansionist or not. The end of Communism was, for some, a problem. It removed a key rationale for military power."

At the age of 39

To rally flagging colonial rebellion morale , Thomas Paine wrote "one of the greatest campfire and eve-of-battle orations since Agincourt":
THESE are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly - Tis dearness only that gives every thing its value.
- Thomas Paine [1737-1809], from The American Crisis, December 23, 1776

Facing bankruptcy in England, Paine, armed with a (tepid) reference from Benjamin Franklin, crossed the ocean and moved to Philadephia in 1774. He participated in both the American and French Revolutions.

Deist Founding American Father Thomas Paine on religion:
Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to strive beyond the grave and pursue us into eternity.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine and murder for the belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man and the Bible is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.
The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called religion.


Basketball star Yao Ming is the financial backer of a huge new music download system in China,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1st Atheist

First since Classical antiquity to insist, in System of Nature, 1770, that there was no God.

"If we go back to the beginnings of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture and deception embellished them; that weakness worships them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men."
- Paul-Henri, Baron d'Holbach [1723-1789]


"I looked and looked but I didn't see God."
- Юрий Алексеевич Гагарин; Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin [1934–1968] Soviet cosmonaut; first human in space [12 April 1961]

White House Counsel

Oliver Platt [b. January 12, 1960 in Windsor, Ontario]
"In my entire life, I have never found anything charming."
- Appearing in The West Wing as Oliver Babish, White House Counsel [2001-2006] in the following West Wing episodes: 219, 220, 221, 301, 303, 305, 306.


Absinthe influenced artists Degas, Manet, van Gogh and Picasso, and writers Verlaine, Rimbaud, Wilde and Hemingway, among others.

"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."
- Oscar Wilde [1854-1900]

X-Rated Life Elixer

91 year old Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine.

Bad Listener

Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam

Featuring Oscar Pistorius, South African paralympian sprinter who, through his bravery, grit and determination, is making the world rethink what it means to be an athlete.


Alec Baldwin was 34 when he did this. Jack Lemon was 68.

Athenian Beggar

“When I look upon seamen, men of science and philosophers, man is the wisest of all beings; when I look upon priests and prophets nothing is as contemptible as man.”
- Diogenes [412 BCE-323 BCE], a beggar who made his home in the streets of Athens, made a virtue of extreme poverty. He taught contempt for human achievements; his was a relentless campaign to debunk social values and institutions.

An updated reference on this blog to Raphael's School of Athens here.

Ancient Chinese Had Hard Water Problems

"calcium gone"