Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Enough and Time

My world has taken a turn for the weird. I have been hearing on and off for a few months from a family who said they wanted to rent my house for four months in the fall. They also wanted to rent the mother-in-law apartment for their nanny. People with nannies are Back East and get into scandals for not paying employment taxes. Here in the egalitarian West we don't hold with such fancifications. We settle social differences with Colt revolvers in the middle of the street at high noon. Winner is played by Gary Cooper in the inevitable movie, loser goes to Boot Hill. Or at least we used to.

For a long time I tried to hold the idea of what to do if they actually did take the house in abeyance. I am not one of those who can easily think in contingencies. But I did come up with some contingent plans.

One was to work on a coffee table book I have had kicking around on my agenda of things to do for a while. Though there are some genuinely startling and appalling gargoyles on the older cathedrals in Europe, mainly in France, there seems to be no collection of photographs of them.

At least there wasn't when I checked ten or fifteen years ago. There may be by now. If there still isn't, it would be fun to make one. One would start with the Romanesque cathedral at Toulouse which is lousy with gargoyles, but they are up high and hard to see. They were intended to scare away demons, not to be admired by the Christians, so there was no reason for them to be visible from the street.

It would be a lot of work and require a lot of time spent in various cities. I already have a good camera, a tripod, and a second hand telephoto lens. I would have to live either in hotels which would be horribly expensive, or buy a used mini-van in France and live in that, and in youth hostels sometimes, and in cheap hotels sometimes.

So that was one possibility.

A second possibility was to live on an ulpan in Jerusalem. An ulpan is a residential Hebrew school, we would say today an immersion program. When refugees were flooding into Israel from Europe in the 1940's and from the Muslim countries in the 1950's, it was necessary for everyone to learn Hebrew as quickly as possible. Otherwise the country would have become a polyglot mess of Arabic speakers from Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq, and Yiddish speakers from Poland, Russia, and Rumania.

The solution was ulpanim. On an ulpan, one lived in a barracks, studied Hebrew in the morning, and did agricultural work in the afternoon. A modern ulpan is quite different, but the underlying purpose is the same. A modern ulpan-nik pays for her stay and her instruction. One does volunteer work if one is so inclined (most are).

Which is itself a measure of the success of Zionism and Israel. Jews no longer arrive in Israel as harried refugees fleeing persecution. Israel is discriminated against and persecuted among the nations, but the Jews within its borders no longer are. Unless they are within rocket range of Gaza. But that is another story for another time.

The third option I considered was living in the RV for the duration, or at least some of it. I lived in the RV during the summer of 2007 and loved it. That summer I spent mostly in northern Canada. Northern Alberta is a pastoral idyll. Parts of it are secretly heaven but have been hushed up to avoid tourism and development. Not a bad place if you don't mind the occasional moose wandering on the road.

One advantage of spending the autumn living in the bus is that North America is my favorite continent and I would spend some time poking around in it. Another is that I could easily get far enough away from the world to not have wi-fi access to the internet time suck. A corollary to that is that in being away from both home and the internet, I might just get off my butt and sit down and write something.

There are several things I would like to write, the essays about deforestation in particular, that I might be more likely to work on if I weren't at home and online all the time. I might actually go to the trouble to learn how to take photos as well.

Anyway, Thursday the promised "check is in the mail" turned out to actually be in the mail. So this madness is on. It apparently is actually going to happen. So come August 21, I am going to set out for North America.

In contemplating which of the several choices to choose, it occurred to me that I should leave for North America whether the tenants rent the house or not. I have been lurking around this dump with only occasional exits (Latvia, Florida, Shanghai, Wisconsin) since coming back from Alaska in 2008. I am getting stale and it is time to get the hell out of here. Especially out of this claustrophobic little apartment and this repetitive little town.

And now I will.

But there is a lot to do. I have to get the house fixed up - rooms painted, termites whacked, dry rot repaired, new rugs added, more sheets and pillowcases, gardening spiffed up.

And the bus requires a lot of work too. It needs the stairs replaced, and I need to be shown how the heater and hot water work.

Actually now that I think of it, I ought to work on the house first. I can have the bus worked on while I am living in it, if need be. The young'uns who are currently renting the joint are off for the weekend, so I can break in and paint some rooms in their absence.

These particular young'uns, unlike the Irish clods who were here in 2008, are creative and intelligent. They are engaged in making an anime commercial for AT&T. I have seen some of the story boards for it and it looks like it will be elaborate, clever as hell, and fun to watch. Some of the work is actually being done in my front room and foyer. How cool is that?

So maybe I should get dressed and start doing that, instead of sitting here? Nah.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Been There, Done That


From the Makers of "We Con the World"

[Click to enlarge. Click again for full screen. Press Esc to return to normal.]


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back to Basics

[radishes are roots]

My notions are generally radical -- that is, they start from root assumptions. The root assumptions of socialism and Confucianism are that man is fundamentally good. I don't think so. Buddhism's fundamental assumption is that life is suffering. I don't think so. Christianity's fundamental assumption is that man is sinful and doomed. I don't think so.

Democracy's assumption is that the public is able to make satisfactory decisions about the conduct of the state. I don't think so. Average people are neither well enough informed nor smart enough to do so. Aristocrats, monarchs, and oligarchs are generally morally unfit to rule. So between the incompetence of the one and the selfishness of the other, there is no good system of government.

Plato's notion of a philosopher king is such nonsense that only a philosopher could come up with it. Aristotle's notion that the propertied and educated should rule seems appealing. But then again is it a coincidence that I just happen to be propertied and educated? And so is pretty much everyone who agrees with Aristotle? Or that Plato just happened to be a philosopher?

I am not kidding when I say I take a dim view of people, and not just of other people. :o)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Further Personal Importance

  • a small worthless amount; "you don't know jack"
  • mariner: a man who serves as a sailor
  • laborer: someone who works with their hands; someone engaged in manual labor
  • jackfruit: immense East Indian fruit resembling breadfruit; it contains an edible pulp and nutritious seeds that are commonly roasted
  • a small ball at which players aim in lawn bowling
  • an electrical device consisting of a connector socket designed for the insertion of a plug
  • game equipment consisting of one of several small six-pointed metal pieces that are picked up while bouncing a ball in the game of jacks
  • small flag indicating a ship's nationality
  • one of four face cards in a deck bearing a picture of a young prince
  • tool for exerting pressure or lifting
  • lift with a special device; "jack up the car so you can change the tire"
  • any of several fast-swimming predacious fishes of tropical to warm temperate seas
  • jacklight: hunt with a jacklight
  • male donkey

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Kessler Syndrome

I am not making this up. There really is a Kessler syndrome. An article in Wired Magazine for May 24 explains that there is a lot of space junk such as dead satellites, live satellites, pieces of rockets, and general space debris accumulating in orbit around the earth.

In 1978 a NASA astrophysicist named Donald Kessler (no relation) predicted that as the number of things in orbit went up the likelihood of collisions between them would go up exponentially (actually combinatorily which is much faster, but who's counting?). Since all the stuff in orbit is moving fast fast fast, when it runs into other stuff in orbit, the impact is at several miles per second. Both objects shatter into lots of other objects. Which quickly increases the number of things in orbit with a potential to crash into one another. It becomes a runaway chain reaction in which the earth becomes surrounded by a debris cloud.

In that seminal paper, “Collision Frequency of Artificial Satellites: The Creation of a Debris Belt,” Kessler painted a nightmare scenario: Spent satellites and other space trash would accumulate until crashes became inevitable. Colliding objects would shatter into countless equally dangerous fragments, setting off a chain reaction of additional crashes. “The result would be an exponential increase in the number of objects with time,” he wrote, “creating a belt of debris around the Earth.”

His description of a runaway cascade of collisions—which he predicted would happen in 30 to 40 years—became known as the Kessler syndrome.

That chain reaction is the Kessler syndrome. It has just started.

On February 10, 2009—just a little more than three decades after the publication of his paper—the Kessler syndrome made its stunning debut. Some 500 miles over the Siberian tundra, two satellites were cruising through space, each racing along at about 5 miles per second. Iridium 33 was flying north, relaying phone conversations. A long-retired Russian communication outpost called Cosmos 2251 was tumbling east in an uncontrolled orbit. Then they collided. The ferocious impact smashed the satellites into roughly 2,100 pieces. Repercussions on the ground were minimal—perhaps a few dropped calls—but up in the sky, the consequences were serious. The wreckage quickly expanded into a cloud of debris, each shard an orbiting cannonball capable of destroying yet another hunk of high-priced hardware.
Note that 2 things in orbit became 2100 things in orbit. The cosmic crap is beginning to hit the cosmic fan. The Kessler syndrome is upon us.

Poverty in Gaza

One way to relieve poverty in Gaza might be to redistribute the wealth of those few who monopolize what wealth there is? But then that is what the demonizing of Israel is for isn't it? To mislead the poor about why they are poor?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Outrage Over the Kyrgyzstan Massacre

[anti-Uzbek rioting in southern Kyrgyzstan]

from today's Washington Post --
Thousands of frightened ethnic Uzbeks in the nation's [Kyrgyzstan's] south were fleeing toward the Uzbekistan border as President Roza Otunbayeva acknowledged her government had lost control of Osh, the country's second-largest city.

Witnesses said gangs of young Kyrgyz men armed with guns and metal bars set fire to Uzbek neighborhoods on the second day of clashes that have killed at least 75 people and injured more than 900 others, many suffering from gunshot wounds.
Since it has already been settled in the course of discussions about the Mavi Marmara incident that iron bars can do no harm to anyone, it remains unclear how the 75 Uzbeks died.

I am quite sure there will be demonstrations all over the US against these murders. The US air base at Bishkek and other American aid are one of Kyrgyzstan's main sources of revenue. "Not with our tax money!" the highly principled and moral protestors will honestly object. They will introduce measures in front of city councils all over California and other states demanding censure of Kyrgyzstan, cutting off all aid to Kyrgystan, and the closing of the US air base in Kyrgyzstan.

Watch for there to be UN resolutions censuring Kyrgyzstan and European Union members downgrading their diplomatic relations with Kyrgyzstan.

Similarly there will be angry editorials in newspapers all over Europe denouncing Kyrgyz violence and brutality. The left will denounce Kyrgyz control of the Western media.

Wait none of that has happened. Could it be a coincidence that there is such silence in the face of the 75 murders and there being no long Western tradition of bigotry against the Kyrgyz? Could there be a connection? Could the angry "consciences" over the killing of 9 and the silence over the murder of 75 be related to that?

Of course not. That would mean that the leftist antipathy to Israel was thinly disguised antisemitic racism. And we wouldn't want to believe that of people who insist so loudly on their consciences do we?

More Soccer News


Soccer News

Top Ten Reasons Israel did not make theWorld Cup

10. Team's strong defense constantly confused with uneccessary offense
9. Only allowed to score proportionately to opponent
8. Kicking anything is immediately considered state sponsored terror
7. Chief Referee: Richard Goldstone
6. Constantly occupying opponents net
5. When team calls time out, UN calls emergency session
4. Whole team given red cards just for showing up
3. The Black and White ball is grey to rest of the world
2. Always considered offsides
1. Who needs a World cup when you've already got Yiddishe one?


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In Memoriam

[Gary Coleman's casket with his name on it]


The Un-Armament that the "Unarmed Peace Activists" Did Not Have

This is pretty much what I always take with me on a cruise. Don't you? A passport, sunscreen, a summer novel, a broad-brimmed hat, and a bunch daggers, short swords, and iron pipes is all one really needs. And a deck chair to throw.


The "Peace Activists" In Their Own Words

This thing is actually six minutes long. It is mainly loud static and the Israeli Navy reading the same announcement repeatedly. Here it has been edited down to one reading of the Navy announcement and the responses in English from the flotilla.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The French Press

from an interview with Israeli Nobel Prize-winning author and leftist intellectual Amos Oz in today's Le Monde--
Voici en tout cas ce que disait Amos Oz dans une interview donnée en 2003 à « La Paix Maintenant », mais qui n'a pas perdu de son actualité : « pensais que si les Palestiniens se voyaient offrir ce que Ehoud Barak leur a offert a Camp David, ils répondraient par une contre-proposition. J'admets que je n'imaginais pas que de proposer une solution avec deux Etats, deux capitales, et le retour de 92 ou 95 ou 97% des territoires déclencherait une vague d'hostilité contre nous. Cela a été pour moi un très grand choc »

And my attempt at translation--
Here is what Oz said in an interview in 2003 with "Peace Now" which has not lost its relevance: "... I thought if the Palestinians were offered what Ehud Barak offered them at Camp David, they would respond with a counter-proposal. I admit that I never imagined that proposing a solution with two states, two capitals, and return of 92% or 95% or 97% of the territories, would trigger a wave of hostility [the Second Intifada] against us. This was for me a great shock "
There is a saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. In Israel a Zionist is a leftist who has seen for himself that the Palestinians were lying about their intentions all along.

Amos Oz spent years and years pounding away at his own government demanding concessions to the Palestinians. Only after Camp David 2003 did he realize that concessions and territory have never been what this is about.

The only issues to the Palestinians are the existence of Israel and the presence of the Jews in the Middle East. Everything else is a tactic. The only thing remarkable about the process is that it took Amos Oz so long to see it, in spite of the Palestinians having repeatedly said precisely that.

And the other thing remarkable is that he was not frozen into ideological posture. In the end he was able to admit that he and his fellow leftists had been wrong all along.

Sadly the rest of the world has not been so flexible nor so open to persuasion by events as Oz.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The American Press

[Helen Thomas has been a member of the White House Press Corps since John Kennedy was President]

So the press' perennial nastiness toward Israel ISN'T fair and honest reporting? What a surprise!

7 June 2010 Monday
Yesterday Helen Thomas apologized to some group of rabbis. As though the problem was that she had accidentally mis-spoken and hurt somebody's feelings. What she was apologizing for was for having impulsively let down the mask.

The only thing Helen Thomas is guilty of that the majority of the mainstream press is not also guilty of, is getting caught. She is representative of widespread bigotry in the press. It is this press antisemitism that routinely calls the 'Arab Attack - Israeli Response' cycle Israeli aggression.

It is bigots like Helen Thomas and her less-open antisemitic colleagues in the press both here and abroad that brainwash empty-headed louts like Christy and Damien into believing Arab and leftist antisemitic nonsense.

The reason I so easily demolish Christy's and Damien's arguments is not just that I am a lot smarter than either of them, though I am. It is also because their arguments are mere propaganda constructs learned from the press. They are based on nothing but bigotry and fly in the face of facts and logic. They fall apart when prodded even lightly because they are so flimsy. The only thing that is solid and enduring about their ideas is the underlying racist bigotry they are based on.

The problem for the Jews and for all people with intellectual integrity is that the world is full of hundreds of millions of ignorant louts like Christy and Damien. At the same time, people who read critically and think independently are rare.

And the times when the mask slips for a moment, as just now with Helen Thomas, are also rare.

7 June 2010 Monday
Today, Helen Thomas retired. Forty years too late.

Does one imagine that every day of her reporting and her columnizing were not suffused with her barely-masked antisemitism? And are the rest, those still reporting and columnizing, any different? Most of them differ only in clutching the mask, the pretense of fairness and objectiity, more tightly than Helen Thomas did at the last.

What happened to the crone, quite literally, was that she lost her grip.

Nor is it insignificant that she was summarily forced into retirement by the Hearst News Service which could not tolerate the stink.

It is one thing to retire in triumph after a long career. To be toasted and honored, given honorary degrees, speaking at dinners and commencements, rounding out a long career, now called illustrious.

Instead she goes out despised and avoided, and everything she has ever done is now tainted because it is now revealed what underlay all her journalist scribblings.

She ends not in triumph but disgraced. Let me be among those standing in line to kick her when she is down. Whatever else she may have enjoyed in life, her career, her life, and her memory, all end in disgrace. A disgrace entirely of her own making.

What is most delicious about her fall is the hypocrisy of her colleagues in expressing pretend-horror for her having been caught on camera expressing bigoted views they themselves share. She lived by hypocrisy and falsehood, so now has she died by them.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Weapons Carried by the "Peace Activist" Hamas Supporters

The weapons include in the last frame what is apparently a firebomb.

The Flotilla Choir

[click on four outward-pointing arrows for full-screen. Press Esc key to return]

The Explanation

[click on photo to enlarge]
And that, dear students, is the explanation of how women think.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

The View from Ashdod

Click on the four outward pointing arrows for full-screen. Press Esc key to leave full screen.

What It Feels Like to Support Israel

This is not offered to persuade. A lot of it is just people screaming. I put it here to give a sense of what anti-Israel demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in the US feel like.