The Most Dangerous Race…

SkyHarbor, 2011/12/30 

Just in time to greet the New Year, a well done look back at the intellectually ‘sweet’ but incredibly dangerous game played by the US and the USSR from the late 1940’s through the early ’60’s… culminating in the 50+MT Soviet ‘Tsar Bomba’. Author Richard Rhodes (‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’ and ‘Dark Sun’ [both excellent]) provides informed commentary.

Like most hominids, we get off on stuff that goes ‘Boom!’… Here, I think it’s fair to say that things got a bit out of hand on occasion… The most effective comments (to me) come from the observing physicists who are scared shitless by the brute infrared radiation (eg: HEAT) of some of these detonations… THAT doesn’t come across in the pictures – but it’s what happens when you produce ‘little suns’… and all this from THIRTY+ MILES away! Let’s just say that “there wasn’t a dry seat in the house!”. Whoa!

I personally vote that every nuke-capable world leader should witness one of these detonations in person. They’d NEVER throw phrases like “Let’s just nuke ’em” around AGAIN.

Pinter vs. America

Max, 2011/12/29 

pinterfoto_cropped2Harold Pinter first came to my attention a few months ago when I happened upon a review of his play,The Homecoming, probably his greatest, and rented it on Netflix. It’s a brilliant production of a great play, well worth checking out when you get a chance.

I came across him again just last night before heading out to see Woody Allen in a transcription of a lecture he gave upon receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005. At the time, the war in Iraq had escalated to bloody chaos with no end in sight. Pinter rages eloquently against it, but points out that it’s only the openness about American military evil that has changed. He reviews some of the greatest hits of the Reagan era with a brutal directness, when our violence was done by proxy and with maximum propagandistic subterfuge. Does anyone recall how the contras were referred to as akin to the founding fathers? God I hate Reagan still.

Here’s a little blurb, but highly recommend reading the whole piece.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man’s man.

‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’

And the here is the close…

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Fuck American exceptionalism.

Worthington’s Law.


This is the best Mr. Show sketch ever. People really think this way, and it’s an awful and destructive subroutine.

Woody jammin’


Woody Allen with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band in München_Gasteig_Philharmonie

Last night, for her birthday, I took my wife to see Woody Allen perform with his New Orleans Jazz Band at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom. I heard about it only a few days before the show while I was still struggling to think of something special to buy her and as she’s a huge fan of his movies it seemed like a no-brainer. Soon after the first tune started I realized it was as much a gift for me as for her. Woody himself was fine – definitely seemed to belong up there – but the band was superb. I dimly remembered some dixieland jazz festival I went to in Sacramento a couple of decades ago and thought I could only take so much of the genre, but this band had me lapping it up. I don’t think I actually recognized any one song from their repertoire, but I dug every one. They seemed about as authentic as could be and just reeked of old time American soul. Woody looked like he was just utterly blissed out as he took his turn soloing along with the trombone, trumpet, ukulele, piano and bass. I don’t remember any one instrument standing out as ‘that dude’s awesome’ but more the gestalt was just pure soulful joy. An unforgettable night. Recommend you check ’em out if you get a chance.

Sir Isaac Newton: Scientist, Inventor, Alchemist…


[co-published at Jupiter Research 29 December 2011]

Recommended video:
PBS/Nova: Newton’s Dark Secrets

Science Fiction writer Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” begins with ‘Quicksilver’, which is largely preoccupied with a strange student at Cambridge, the young Isaac Newton. Obviously brilliant, but given to petty rages and (in the novel) has distinctly homosexual leanings which horrify him almost as much as women repulse and terrify him (as far as we know historically, Newton died a virgin)…

read more…

So long, Isabel.

byronius, 2011/12/28 

This cat was seriously loved. Never quite learned to properly meow. Hit by a car last night. My family is devastated.

She had a better life, for awhile. I will miss her terribly.

Cat needs meow lessons

Two awesome essays

Max, 2011/12/25 

I’ve read a lot of stuff lately that’s blown my mind, but these two links were among the mindblowingest.

Good Minus God by Louise M. Antony

From the New York Times philosophy forum, The Stone, Antony gets straight to the guts of a crucial ethical conundrum. Do we need God to be good? The answer to this seems bloody obvious to those of us who have long been content to do without sky fairies who issue commands for eternal and total subservience and have not become serial killers as a result. Still, the piece is worth reading because Antony makes the case most succinctly that our gut feeling on this point is logical and well founded rather than the work of the devil.

The accidental universe: Science’s crisis of faith by Alan P. Lightman

In Harpers, MIT physicist and novelist Lightman (what a name) describes a few profoundly amazing and somehow disturbing concepts in modern theoretical physics and cosmology. What do fundamental particles, dark energy, string theory, eternal inflation of our universe, marbles dropping off of tables creating big bangs, the anthropic principle, and multiverses have to do with one another? I swear by the time you get far into this one you’ll be expecting reality to wink out of existence in a flash. It’s all so incredibly unlikely that we’re here at all, and that anyone has any idea why… if they really do.

Between these two gems and a lot of other stuff that’s been rolling around in my head for a while, I’m about ready to start the Church of Complete and Total Gratitude. Life and consciousness is so freaking amazing and so entirely improbable and somehow we managed to be on the receiving end of it. Whether it last decades more or a few more minutes, we should be so gobsmacked by ever getting to experience it that we should all quit our bitching and moaning and celebrate what we’ve been turned on to so far. Halleluiah brothers and sisters! Amen.




Our holiday e-card, courtesy of Sofia.

Space: The Vinyl Frontier…

SkyHarbor, 2011/12/24 

Some toys for good boys and girls of all ages from Jim Bumgardner. He took John Whitney’s* book “Digital Harmony” to heart and came up with these cool Flash apps:

Inner Space

Outer Space

Good Yule!

* I mentioned John Whitney’s work here. For more, see Whitney and Digital Harmony.

Where I’ve been hanging lately

Max, 2011/12/23 

If anyone’s interested, I’ve been moonlighting as a troll. Well, some may describe it that way. I would more call it “engaging with those of alternative viewpoints”. My blog buddy Sabio Lantz at Triangulations led me to a fundy Christian site called Sifting Reality where he seems to do a bit of trolling/engaging on occasion and I kind of got sucked in. Some of you might find the post here worthwhile, and maybe you’ll even back me up a little.

Sifting Reality: Christopher Hitchens

This one also is a classic.

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