Empty Days

Saturday, February 14, 2004



Bed fellows

After the excrutiatingly boring, pointless and never-ending Bush-AWOL "scandal", there is now the so-called Kerry's infidelity "scandal". Why is it that Republicans always pounce right under the sheets, while the Democrats look under the bed in search of scraps of paper?...

I am ashamed to live in the shadow of such a pathetically under-age country. Or rather - I am bored right out of my mind.

Short political commentary: *assholes!!!*




If you're into graphics, you may want to check this Pictomania site - the skier below was lifted from there. Official sports symbols from various Olympics and other variants. Some are truly stylish.

Another set of summer games icons is here.




Cold day blues

Not reading anything these days. Ditched Wittgenstein and everything else for the time being - can't concentrate. This is my usual mid-winter nadir. I don't know why but I seem to be affected by seasons in a very direct and drastic way. As a rule the best period for me is early fall, and the worst is anything between january and may. I wish I knew why it has to be this way.

At the same time I love winter - I love the cold, and the snow, and the cold white sky... But it does me in, it really does. Maybe it's because winter in the city is really very different from winter tout court. In a city winter traps you in. And all you can do is go from one warm place to another - anything in between is way too dirty and inhospitable. And since I have nowhere to go, I am condemned to stay inside.

Cross-country skiing would sound like a good idea if I didn't have to take the metro and two buses to find enough empty space for that.

Basically, it comes down to this: I love winter and I detest urban winter. Somebody shoot me, please.




A sluggish or fast prog may be compared to a hockey game.

It's a pleasure to watch when all those big guys fly back-n-forth, and the puck is passed around all the time, and goals are scored, and fans cheer like mad... and it's a total bore when the game is stopped every 5 seconds because of trap-strategy or intentional off-sides or pointless squabbles at the boards or stupid penalties.

Ice-skates are made for speed.




Tried out Firefox browser (Mozilla's latest). The loading of pages is fast enough but the prog itself is too heavy for my system - everything is slowed down to a crawl and the swap-file is going mad.

Perhaps Opera 7 is also sluggish and fat. I don't know. But I doubt it given that the installs are much slicker. Geeks say it's because the code is more compact. Oh.

In any case, I have to loath latest-generation browsers due to outdated hardware at my end. A few sticks of ram would likely make a world of difference. Right. Except that my whole puter is worth the cost of a 128 stick. Small-apps is the word then.




Goddam it - it's mid-February and we're heading for those -30C temps again! This gotta be the coldest winter I've seen in 20 years here.

Friday, February 13, 2004



From a very efficient site that comes in handy in various dire situations - www.deluxserials.com - and there are no pop-ups either (rare for such things):

Reg for Opera 7.23 Final:
Name:www.kadets.ru
Code:w-xkdjk-AKQ4r-eyAWH-W8BnB-dLkxX

Is this illegal? Uhu. Won't you pay for Opera if you have those blasted 40 bucks? Sure you will. So stop fretting.




I am disappointed with Norman Finkelstein. He had sensible things to say in his Holocaust Industry, or so it seems at least, but the kind of crap pseudo-academic polemics he engages in otherwise (like the one with Derschowitz, as detailed on Finkelstein's website) does not recommend him as a trustworthy kind of guy.

I don't like it when people squabble like mad over trifles. This usually means there's an ego problem involved, and an ego-problem is interesting only to its unhappy owner.

So - love of scandal? Stuff it.




One day in the park

Speaking of which.

This summer I had an eerie experience - I think I saved a man from suicide or at least some body damage. I don't know who he is and I will never know, but I am 99% sure it was a suicide attempt.

Here's how.

I live just across a park. It's a lousy immigrant area, people of all tongues and colors swarm in that fucking ugly dirty piece of greenery and they don't talk to each other, and they don't see each other. I hate this neighbourhood - but it's also the perfect place to be totally anonymous.

One fine summer evening I went out to buy a pack of cigarettes. As I left the building I vaguely noticed an elderly guy in shorts and those big old-people glasses making his way towards the park - a respectable retired old fart. He seemed a bit unsteady on his feet. I registered all this without thinking and prepared to continue in the opposite direction. Then something happened inside me - I was "told" to turn on my heels and follow that guy. I don't know how else to express this: I really had no choice and it wasn't even a thought. It was a feeling (or is this what Kant meant by "categorical imperative"?).

So I did. Actually, I followed him on my bike.

He was indeed quite disoriented and not only that - he could barely hold on his feet. He went right into the park, to the kids' playing area, packed with people at the time. He went to the empty shallow-pool enclosure, stood there for a while, and then threw in something white he's been clutching in his hand. Then he turned and went into the crowd. He fell - nobody budged. Nobody even looked.
I went up to him on my bike and asked if he needed help. He looked past me. Wild half-conscious gaze. He seemed upset I was talking to him. He then proceeded on his swaying walk to the other end of the park.

I went up to the pool enclosure, climbed the low fence and found what I thought I would find - and empty bottle of extra-strength Tylenol. Hardly a very deadly product, but what d'you know. I grabbed the bottle and kept following the guy on my bike from a distance, not really knowing what to do.

He fell some more times, then finally reached the street and went into a Jewish sports center, which is yet another feature of this stupid neighbourhood - it's full of jewish schools and synagogues and they all live in their rich areas quite some distance away, and build their public facilities here because it's cheaper (don't tell me I am an antisemite, that's the truth for you).

Well, that pretty much solved my problem. I decided to go in too but couldn't find him in there. So I went to the info-desk and asked the clerks (and older woman and a young guy) if they had noticed an old man in shorts come in. They said they did and they also said they knew him. I told them that he fell in the park, gave them the empty bottle of Tylenol, said that he probably needed help and it was a suicide attempt. They looked at me like I was crazy. The young guy laughed, the woman said the bottle was empty - so how could it be a suicide? (great logic:) Anyhow, they promised they would find him and call his folks. I left.

***

The eerie part for me consists in the fact that I had to be the one to see this guy - many people saw him, only I saw what was going on. Thanks to all my experience of suicide, no doubt. But it was not my choice to be there for him.




Well informed kids

It seems to be general knowledge in UK that Coproxamol is a suicide-drug rather than just "a pain-killer". Look at this:
The funeral of the Wallasey 11- year-old was taking place at St Paul's church in Seacombe, followed by cremation at Landican Crematorium.

Thomas, also known as Thomas Welsh, was found collapsed at his home in Beechcroft Road last Wednesday after taking 20 Coproxamol tablets. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him.

His mother Sandra Thompson, 33, says her son had been bullied on bus journeys to Wallasey school in Leasowe, where he was a pupil, and that life at school had become so difficult that he regularly stayed away.
Twenty tablets for a chubby 11 year old? How many for his mom then?... Just wondering.




Beyond Bagdad

Not that I am neck-deep in Iraq war but the Frontline report on PBS yesterday was not bad at all. Somewhat superficial perhaps (avoiding all the more problematic questions essentially) but it gave a certain idea of how things are not really getting settled on the ground there. Of course the american reporter was especially shocked and inquisitive about the Shiite radicals in the South, with their typical jihad yells and rabid mullahs. I can't really know what sort of approximation this report actually gives - it may be fairly close, or pretty distorted. After all I know exactly nothing about that country. And the journalists don't seem to know much either.

The endless line of cars at the gas-station, in that oil-rich land, was particularly impressive.

One thing seems clear - americans are stuck there for a good while now. If they leave it won't be pretty. Bad scenario: there is a change of leadership in the States and the new administration decides to pull everybody out to please the voters. Boom - Iraq becomes a second Afghanistan. If Bush made a mistake by getting into this, getting out prematurely would be multiplying that mistake expotentially. And the curious thing is that this can very well happen regardless of the consequences. That's how the US foreign policy works - every time there's a change of presidency in the States the whole damn world is in jitters.




I'll keep that Dutch-bike photo on temporary exhibition here.

I want to mount that bike every time I look at it. Black-and-white photography does something its candy-eye color brothers can't really do - it gives a weight to things. This bike is actually pretty heavy - and the carpet is worn out and hard on the feet. And the old man is bald... :)




Toy Soldiers

I must say - all this pseudo-geek stuff really did help. Not in any technical sense, though. But just getting busy with something totally foreign and shallow. You know - painting toy-soldiers, that kind of thing.

***

Speaking of which. I am one of those sick people with persistent childhood fixations. I have no idea what it is with me but there was a time in my life when I seriously considered becoming a toy-soldier nut (or collector, whatever you prefer). In every town on earth I happened to travel to, I looked for those recondite figurine stores where portly middle-aged men gather to talk of casts, models, and tin alloys. There is a really good one on Madison Avenue in Manhattan - a museum of sorts. One less welcoming in Berlin. One I know in Toronto (a den). Can't remember where else.

Miniature metal casting is an art. So is figurine-painting. So is modelling of military attire in excrutiating detail. It doesn't come easy - and it's beautiful.




For my information (sorry) - CSS tableless sites. Load-efficient designs. Despite my best efforts (I am lousy at these things) I still ended up sticking in the old good table-tr-td to get things where I want them - due to diverging renderings of CSS margins in different browsers.

The truth is - there are still people out there who use really small screens and really old browsers. Which is no reason why they shouldn't be able to have a decent view of a site. I've been that person often enough (due to puter troubles and reverting to whatever internet-capable crap).

So yeah, new stuff is great but too much of it is suddenly not so great. On the other hand I still love using web-unsafe colors :)




Now, this is *really* funny. While configuring a personalized search-engine for this pathetic blog of mine (since Google ditched most of my pages as per previous entry), here's what a "smart contextual advertisement" device came up with upon an unorthodox test-search I did:

Find Resumes With Fuck You Work Experience
Jobs.NET has resumes from people who have Fuck You work experience. Join the site for free to...


Every employer's dream :)

Thursday, February 12, 2004



Anouncement of demise

Google-aka-Blogger (or is it Blogger-alias-Google) decided to screw up yourblog.blogspot.com urls so bad it actually wiped out all of the indexing you ever had of your poor sorry blogs. Jesus Holy Christ. Warum??

Which simply means that you now *do not have* a dedicated url for your blog - at all. Your blog's universal url is now Blog*spot. That's it. Try searching "word site:yourblog.blogspot.com" on Google and you'll see what I mean.

Terribly amusing.

***

At the same time I hear various people loudly complaining (via Rogi) about this other Google blogging bid - Orkut. Well, fuck you dears. What prompted you to join a black- hole in the first place?

Take a look at what this Orkut thing is really all about - and it comes from a guy named Zawodny (that one, yes).

Down the rabbit hole we merrily fall :)




Cool british blog, by Rogi - I like the design and the contents won't bore you either :)




Habits

As I am on AOL these days I am getting three news-stories right in my face at connection time. More often than not not it's pure drivel but if there were another WTC I would know. On 9/11 I didn't have internet - my mother called and said something awful was happening: *after* the second plane hit. Apparently my folks turned on the tv that morning and saw the two towers burning. My father first thought it was some hollywood special effects program, very realistic. But I am digressing...

Today I got this in my face and it's Associated Press, without any links:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Researchers in South Korea have become the first to successfully clone a human embryo, and then cull from it master stem cells that many doctors consider key to one day creating customized cures for diabetes, Parkinson's and other diseases.

This is not cloning to make babies, but to create medicine.

It's sure to revive international controversy over whether to ban all human cloning, as the Bush administration wants, or to allow this "therapeutic cloning'' that might eventually let patients grow their own replacement tissue.

Embryonic stem cells are the body's building blocks, cells from which all other tissue types spring. They're present in an embryo only days after conception and are ethically sensitive because culling stem cells destroys the embryo.
....
U.S. scientists almost universally want a ban on cloning for reproduction, because the high rate of birth defects in cloned animals shows the technique is too dangerous.
....
Internationally, the United Nations recently postponed a decision on what kinds of human cloning to ban. The United States is pushing for a total ban; Britain is leading the call for cloning for medical experiments to be left unhindered.
....
But Jaenisch lamented that many U.S. scientists couldn't work with the new cell line. Bush administration policy forbids any federally funded research on stem cells from embryos destroyed after Aug. 9, 2001.
Stems cells - ethically sensitive? That's an odd way of speaking. The reason everybody frets so much about what Bush thinks is because USA is the richest country in the world with an incredible array of R&D facilities and human talent, and if research is banned in that one country, scientific efforts in other countries will be significally hindered because of slimmer funds and lack of technology.

Hindered but not extinct. So in a sense, whatever Bush decides might be reversed later, when the White House is ruled by somebody less narrow-minded (will there be a second term for that president? Who knows, but I wouldn't bet on it). One good thing about US of America is that in case of a stupid president there is always a chance of seeing "something completely different" pop-up in his place to reverse the trend. But I am being optimistic here.

I've been trying hard to see something good in Bush, understand why some people like him so much (my father would be an example). All I remember about Clinton (apart from the sex-scandal idiocies) is that he was a "sly guy". I don't call that intelligence but it's probably enough of a talent to rule a big country. Bush has no talents I can think of. The only thing I can see is his honesty. Yup - strange as this may sound to some, Bush is one darn honest guy. The problem, of course, is that this personal honesty is rooted in a very small mind.

This is a serious allegation because it's one thing to be stupid and honest when you're "just a guy", and it's quite another when you're basically in charge of one half of the world. For instance: I am a nice honest person myself but it would be a grave and dangerous mistake to put me in charge of anything beyond a vegetables stand. Remember that comedy flick with Richard Pryor, the bum, ending up in a millionaire's boots? Yup - that's what we have in the White House right now. With sinister gray cardinals like Dick Cheney et al doing whatever they want in the shadow of a clown.

Stem cells having ethical issues... Right.




Everybody knows the very popular image-viewer ACDSee. I've discovered something similar called XNview - not as rich in features as ACDSee but good enough for me and I use it as an editor too.
Principal advantage: runs from whatever folder you dump it in, doesn't modify window's registry (so when it crashes nothing happens to the rest of your system). Nice.




Shooting GNU

I keep running into FAQs for various progs that include this much-asked question:
Q:This software is 'free', but I bought it from an authorized reseller. What's going on?
A: XXXXX is free (free as in 'freedom') as it is covered by the GNU General Public License (GPL). You can freely download it, without paying any fees, copy it to your friends, and modify it if you respect the license. There are NO official/authorized resellers, because HTTrack is NOT a commercial product. ...You should have been informed that the software was free software/GPL... Otherwise this is dishonnest and unfair.
Yeah. And it's practically flourishing. People making a buck out of thin air. Dishonnest, hein? Well, it's an old and proven fact-of-life that those enamored with green paper can't really conceive of anything useful being done "for free". In the absence of this concept it becomes almost an act of virtue to pick-up something so obviously worthless and make it worthy by milking some cash out of it. "Stupid naive do-gooders - hehe, we know better". It's a way of thinking.

Quick definition (gnu)
Noun: large African antelope having a head with horns like an ox and a long tufted tail.




Glandular

On the subject of which, however. I once knew a man whose marriage nearly went to pieces because his wife developed a thyroid disorder which caused severe depression and withdrawal - and neither of them was aware of it.
The guy thought his beloved wife of 30 years suddenly turned her back on him; and the wife herself suddenly realized that she couldn't give a fuck about anything.

Mid-life crisis, existential angst, rejection, marital infidelity, divorce... All this because of a gland gone crazy.

It didn't go as far as divorce (she finally went for a medical check-up and the culprit was discovered and tamed), but it did go as far as marital infidelity.

Thereafter it took 3 months to get over the gland and 3 years to get over the infidelity.

Oh ye, people, listen to yer glands!




I am out of tea and I have a headache. I am also out of coffee. I haven't cooked today and I am probably very hungry but am unaware of this due to much smoking and headaching. Unfortunately I am not sleepy enough to go to bed. This is bad because I've been trying to restore the order of my days and nights - they've been all criss-crossed lately. I've noticed that messing around with sleep-hours fucks up my mood (I vaguely remember that sleepiness is provoked by a hormone release from some gland in the brain) - so I confuse the gland, and then the gland goes right ahead and over-releases some shit into me, and then I have to deal with a mini-existential crisis and climb the wall; then I sleep it over and it turns out it was no crisis at all - at least not of the existential kind.

I wouldn't say it's depressing. It's ridiculous.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004



It feels like a have a mild case of encephalitis (not that I know what that is - but it's got something to do with a swelling head). That's what happens when you sleep with an open window in sub-degree temperatures.

The effects of the nightly chill were compounded when I went biking today - such a sunny day, such a windy day. It's what you might call an end-of-the-winter wind - refreshing, yes, but it chills you right through. I had a wool-cap on and it still let the wind through. I mean - this wool-cap is perfectly alright at -30C, but not at -5C with this kind of wind.

Maybe I should put it on right now... Yup, this feels better already :)

***

Cancer patients wear wool-caps indoors because of loss of hair. Military types like to do that too - for the same reason I suppose.

***

Speaking of sleeping with an open window. I don't know what it is with me but I can't even sleep otherwise. I need air. It might be psychological, or maybe it's just too much of an old habit. It doesn't matter how cold it is outside - on some winter mornings I wake up into something like the inside of a fridge, and of course I suffer tortures during the night because the cold keeps waking me up. And still - I wouldn't close the damn window.

Remember that film with J.Irons and Glenn Close - "Reversal of Fortune"? About the von Bulow affair. I must say I identify a lot with the character of Glen Close in that film. I am not quite sure if what she portrays is really consistent with what von Bulow's wife was like - and it really doesn't matter. I think it's mostly a typical "Glen Close character" (in the line of Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons etc) - self-destructive.

There is this interesting emphasis on sleeping-with-open-windows. Not only is it instrumental in figuring out what caused the wife's coma, it also symbolizes one of the more tortured angles of her personality - an inability to find enough air to live.

Quite an insight.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004



RSS explained

This is nice. And it's probably the most concise and matter-of-fact explication of what this whole rss/blog thing is all about (I definitely like this site):
The whole point of these blog things, once you get over the diary/journal aspect of it-- everything is a journal, move on-- is that they make it easy to spread ideas around.

Traditionally, ideas were spread around the Internet by search engines. Googlebot would come and index your site, and make the results available to the search form on their homepage.

But that's not very distributed. So a whole slew of really clever folks have spent the last decase devising technologies to foster the automated spread of ideas, things like RSS newsfeeds, RDF metadata, and XML-RPC publishing (the "Blogger API", for instance). I'm sure there are others, but those are what I've been paying attention to.
Does this sound great or what? Of course it also assumes that you have ideas to spread. Which might not be the case, necessarily :-0




Might be of use or not - idrive (it's free so far).
IDrive maps your IBackup online storage account as a local drive on your computer allowing you to drag-n-drop, open, edit and save files in your online storage account as though they were on your local computer. Recommended for most users for its ease of installation and 128 bit SSL support.

***
Another small app that may come in handy some day is htmlArea. Useful bits from its support-forum:

- How to include a css style sheet, not only the body?
- Include a CSS body like this: @import url("http://path/to/your.css").





Geeky epiphany

Oh wow. All this geek stuff got to my head and I suddenly discovered a feature in Opera I never knew existed. And it's precisely the kind of thing I've been hoping for lately in connection with my chaotic blogging habits.

All these links I include in my posts - I want to keep them for future reference but later on I forget where I put them and it's too much work looking for them in a long page. Well the feature I just discovered ("links in frame") does this automatically. I can't believe it - it collects all links from a page and let's you copy some or all of them, and it even sorts them alphabetically or by order of appearence. Priceless.

I've been using this Ferrari browser as a sleigh-sled it seems :-0

***

Which once again reminds me that my appalling lack of curiosity is probably one of my gravest sins - it's the proverbial rose under your nose and I never know it's there. Jesus.




Here's something exciting, come out right out of my dreams:
E-Quill allows people to mark up and share webpages. After activating the free E-Quill service, a toolbar in the browser allows one to annotate any webpage with a pen tool, highlighter and sticky notes, and then e-mail the marked up pages. The annotated Web pages can be sent to anyone. The recipient doesn't need E-Quill to view the annotated pages. The installation process is very smooth and fast. If you use IE5+, it is worth a try. Here is an example of the an annotated Infolets homepage.

And when I went to check this little wonder it told me that it's been bought over by Microsoft. What a honor, right.




Mozilla wonderings

I am slightly tempted to try out this browser and then I run into something like this:
Have you ever lost work because of a Web browser crash? As I'm sure you have, you must check out Total Recall from Alphanumerica. Total Recall works by tracking your browsing session in a file saved on your local hard drive. When you restart Mozilla after a browser crash (or even an operating system crash), the windows that were open before the crash will be displayed to you in a pulldown menu that will allow you to return to one or all of the pages you were viewing.
No, I never lost work despite all the crashes Opera ever did on me - because it's always had this "useful feature" (Total Recall is a nice name though).

I am gradually getting to understand all those die-hard Opera fans who are turning in their graves (or twisting in their chairs) seeing that the now famous Mozilla is such a shameless rip on all those typical Opera perks. Ah, how very unfair :)




Another entertaining blog - Kafkaesque. Whose "wifely friend" certainly equals "instawife" in my opinion :-0




The XML-RPC spell-checker host that BlogBuddy points to is not available and I found myself looking for a replacement. Most obviously, there must be something similar out there to hook on to.

For instance wbloggar uses Blogger's speller. But I don't know how this works exactly and I couldn't find any pointers on the bloggerdev newsgroup either :-0

[ Errata: that's because it doesn't use Blogger's speller. ]

***

In the process found a geek-blog that has an online tool for converting your email address into an image so you don't get spammed to death by posting it on your website. And there is also a fast online spell-checker there. Nice.

[ www.stuffeddog.com/speller/speller-rpc.cgi ] [ dead dog ]




I love that previous photograph so much I might incorporate it into the template... though it's really huge and once I am back to my old snail-connection this will be a problem. Perhaps not then. Or maybe just for a little while. I mean, this is pefectly grand photo-work :-0

***

A few blogs from unknowns and maybe I won't ever read them, but it's been my experience that whenever something catches my eye even a little I later regret I didn't keep the urls. So this time I will: Truth or Prozac (depressed party chick), Vivelesuicide (hilarious french teens), BlogBlogBlog (cool photography), Training Manual (for marathon in UK), EgoSleeve (highbrow blacks).

Monday, February 09, 2004



This comes from a stylish Dutch biking site in German and it shows a typical Dutch bike - the model hasn't changed in 60 years. Visit for more retro galore.




Downtown biking

Looked up up that bicycling weblog, Velorution. This reminded me of an old urge (never satisfied) - to bike in Manhattan.

There is this crazy idea that there is too much traffic in NYC, both motor and pedestrian, that drivers are particularly aggressive and mad (they are), that unless you're a cut-throat bike-courrier you'll get run over. There is some truth to this but mostly - it's a lie.

You don't have to be a pro-rider, all wired up, with another pair of eyes in the back of your head. No - none of this is required. All you need is a quiet disposition and a fearless heart. Which is the kind of thing that comes to you naturally whenever you've spent some time getting used to downtown traffic conditions - in NYC or anywhere else for that matter.

I had great pleasure biking in Toronto, despite the fact that it's a much more congested city than Montreal. The pleasure came from a flat landscape and fairly wide smooth-paved streets. It absolutely doesn't matter that cars are blazing past you at terrific speeds - what matters is that you know you have enough space to cut your own slim side-line.

Manhattan is a bit like Toronto in that sense. It's flat. Streets are either very wide or single-laned which is just as good. Who cares about traffic, I ask you?

The worst city to bike in is Paris (I don't know about London etc). Most streets are too narrow. Side-walks are too narrow. Cars and people barely manage to squeeze by - forget biking in downtown Paris at rush-hour. I've had a reasonable time biking in Berlin and Amsterdam. They have dedicated bike-lanes and such. In Amsterdam the hardest problem is not bikes-vs-cars, it's bikes-vs-people. Just way too many bikes. I love that city though - and I love Dutch bikes (it's hard to get these models in North America, but they're great, only for flat-landscapes though).

So all things considered, I would have had a great time biking in NYC if I had gotten that chance. But nops. I visited NY pretty regularly once upon a time but I could never get myself a bike there. And at this point in my life I know I will never go to NY again. I used to love travelling - not anymore. All gone.

***

PS. Another city you don't want to bike in is Moscow. Forget it. Eight-lane high-speed roads with no traffic lights. You can't cross on foot (people do, of course, but only after years of exercise in precision and fast-running), and you *will* get killed on a bike.




This blog - Daring Fireball - has a very nice desing. It looks simple but I have a feeling a lot of work went into it. It's by a professional graphic-designer so no need to get all envious etc.




Too much blogging lately. I wonder if this puter too will burn down on me. Maybe. Machines have a way of getting so angry and implacable. Let's say I am riding this horse to exhaustion.




Wonderful Plato quote scavanged on a random blog. Callicles was a celebrated sophist, and like most sophists earned his living well:
It is a good thing to engage in philosophy just so far as it is an aid to education, and it is not a disgrace for a youth to study it, but when a man who is now growing older still studies philosophy, the situation becomes ridiculous...such a man, even if exceptionally gifted, is doomed to prove less than a man, shunning the city center and market place...and living the rest of his life sunk in a corner whispering with three or four boys. (Callicles, heckling Socrates in Plato's Gorgias 485a-d).





Scavanged on blogdex.net. This is what popular anti-terrorism propaganda is doing to the people of the USA right now. Born-again nuts are taking it literally:
Some passengers on the flight from Los Angeles to New York were so worried they tried to call relatives on their mobile phones.

The pilot, whose name was not released, asked Christians on Friday's flight to raise their hands. He then suggested non-Christians talk to the Christians about their faith. He went on to say that "everyone who doesn't have their hand raised is crazy", passenger Amanda Nelligan told CBS news.





I can't install Mozilla browser because it requires Java 1.4.1
The version that coexists with my Opera 6.05 is 1.3.1 - I am not sure I want to switch (tried installing 1.4.1 to run an application written in java - it was so damn slow I threw everything out). Supid vb apps are still the fastest on windows.




Freedom as power

The Fisher King is wrong. is right. is wrong. is right. is wrong. is...

"I've got the power."

Propensity to compassion. Inclination to cruelty. cold/warm.

***

There is a catch here somewhere.

May your hand not tremble when you slay the infidel. Cut off you right arm if it tempts you. Harden your heart. This is courage.

"Bleeding-heart so and so." Pity engenders self-pity. Too soft to fight.

***

Nietzsche saw this clearly.




What is a wish realized?

Now, this is a strange coincidence (or maybe it's associative thinking at its most unconscious): Terry Gilliam is currently working on a movie called The Brothers Grimm in Prague.

Perhaps there is something blatantly Grimm-like about The Fisher King and it just "naturally" occurred to me to mention them in this connection.

***

On the other hand, I had a rather bizarre episode with that sort of thing once. You remember Kubrick made a film from Nabokov's Lolita? Well, at some point I read the book and for some reason an ardent wish came to me to see Jeremy Irons play Humbert Humbert in some future and improbable adaptation.

Later it turned out that at the very time I was burning with this strange desire, Adrian Lyne was preparing his next movie and inviting - guess who - to play the central part...

***

I am not inventing anything here and I am not confusing chronology or anything - I had no clue whatever about all these preparations at the time.

If this is a sort of telepathy, I should still like to know why I had to have this particular wish realized; or was the wish itself *suggested* by those unseen goings-on?

I have no idea :-0

***

Wittgenstein has some things to say about this (what is a wish realized?).




The Fisher King

I like Jeff Bridges and I like Robin Williams. And I like the film they both star in -"The Fisher King", by Terry Gilliam.

Some say it's a corny little flick. Well, maybe. Except that it's a fairy-tale, even though it mentions Nietzsche (yup, it does:). And it's not a fairy-tale because it has a happy-ending, or because Robin Williams looks too much like Peter Pan at times, or because there are bogey-knights roaming the streets of NY, or because the homeless look too colorful to be true, or...

In short, if you think it's corny, it's because you've missed the fairy-tale aspect of the story.

And what is a fairy-tale, you may ask? Well, a fairy-tale of any denomination (african or russian or inuit or arab or german or chinese etc) is a philosophical treatise on the foundations of life - presented in a seemingly naive imagery. If you are into philosophical authorities, you might be interested to know that Wittgenstein z.B. often read and re-read Grimms' tales. On the other hand, he also maintained that detective mags made more sense than the contents of the Mind magazine (an academic journal). So it's up to you.

***

So let's say I like this movie for its fairy-tale alias philosophical gist. And I seriously dig Jeff Bridges' character - or the way he plays it. Incidentally, he also acted in that other outlandish second-rate movie - "Fearless". The only reason this movie makes *any* sense at all is because J.Bridges acts in it - it'd be hopeless trash without his overwhelming presence.

Ok.

So what happens to Jeff Bridges in the film? Well, read the synopsis. But here's what it's really about:
"The Fisher King is dying, his kingdom is dying around him," Gilliam says as he describes the various myths surrounding the Fisher King and the Grail. "He's a man who's probably seen too much of life - he's experienced betrayal and tragedy. His life is slowly crumbling, and his kingdom goes barren. He's also lost the Grail. It's the one thing that can save him, but he's lost the ability to see it and experience it. A fool comes along and finds the Grail right next to his bed and restores the king."
What is brilliant about Bridges' performance is that he manages to *show* how much a perfectly normal rational man has to struggle against his own normality to reach into the world of fairy-tales, where he finally discovers the bare fabric of life - that is, his own heart.

If you take the film at face-value you will think that Robin Williams plays the fool of the tale. But in fact, that fool is Bridges. He is both the Fisher King *and* the Fool.

Now you see why they talk of Nietzsche in this film.

***

Today I had a moment of clarity.

A moment of clarity is when an idea becomes crystal-clear and through this crystal all sorts of memories and incidents and bits and pieces come together and form an obvious picture. I understood that will-power, or freedom of the will, requires a hardening of the heart - a throwing away of things like kindness, compassion, pity, self-pity, goodness...

This insight gave me great energy and a sense of liberation. Among other things I decided I would put an end to my correspondence with that suicidal guy in UK - the hell with it.

Then, while flipping through the channels that evening, I happened on the last portion of The Fisher King. And it cleared away my clarity. Yes, I was right - will-power does require a hardening of the heart, and it does lead to freedom. But where does this freedom lead in turn?

So I won't be quitting on that suicidal guy after all. Thanks to the Fisher King and the Fool.

***

There is a strange thing though - I've seen this film a few times now and for some reason I can't bring myself to notice the romantic plot-line at all. Yet it's often described as a romantic comedy :-0

***

Another thing: I can't watch this movie very often. As a work of art it is not that great. But Bridges' character is just too good to miss.




Intangible reality

I definitely hope this blogger will stay around as long as I read blogs:
walked out of the house the other night on my way to the corner shop. as soon as i got outside i sensed that something wasn't right or safe. weird. so i started praying that i wouldn't get mugged. not five minutes later these 2 guys walked past me and mugged the man right behind me. they beat him to the ground kicking and punching him, trying to take his briefcase. he was screaming at them and would not let go. there were loads of people walking around, these guys didn't care. i didn't know what to do. it makes me angry. could i have done someting to stop the situation? probably not. it makes you feel useless. this sort of thing happens everyday around here, but then when you see it your senses are shocked into the reality of it all.
I need to hear these things more often because I always forget how it is *in reality*.




More on history

Via Outside the Beltway blog found a debate on the uniqueness (or not) of Holocaust. Some of the comments are of interest.

Will return to that spot later to see if anybody finally comes up with the obvious suggestion that uniqueness may not be the relevant point here - it's rather the way Holocaust came to obscure most of the WWII history. The really important point is to understand how this transformation happened exactly and what it means today (meta-holocaust rather than "post-holocaust").

I would not care to argue against the uniqueness of Hitler's Final Solution. I'll continue to argue against the centrality of Holocaust to our view of this historical "period" - it is indeed a distortion of alarming proportions.

Revealingly enough, this view is only current in North America and some friendlier parts of Western Europe - this is politics, not history.




What about the 60's?

Something glanced on Lead and Gold blog:
When all the boomers are dead, Lileks still won't get to see the era clearly. Sixties nostalgia isn't a generational thing; it is also political. If you are anti-military today, you think it is really cool that 500,000 people once marched on the Pentagon. There are millions of boomers who never thought it was cool then.
Very true. But that goes for history in general - the idea we have of WWII or any other "period" is far removed from how individuals actually experienced it at the time. Basically, our view of past history is cartoonish at best. If somebody were to ask how I lived the 80's I certainly wouldn't come up with yuppie or punk stories. Nops - those were flashy bits I barely noticed.

I once asked my mother how she remembered the 60's. Sure enough, it wasn't *at all* what I imagined it to be. That was sobering - and refreshing.




Obviously, this is my geek-round-up day - I don't understand what it is they do but they're constantly excited about some gadget or other and I like that energy. Plus there is always something to learn in geekland.

Memory-knots: blojsom, raelity bytes, Russell Beattie, Kuro5hin

Also Gene's Blog - from a Chinese-Canadian who sounds like an economist. Occasional insider info on China and other informative stuff. Also, a cheery Montreal blogger who thinks he's a donut :-0




Moscow metro-blast update (as per RussPundit via BuzzMachine) - number of killed might be closer to 100 rather than 39 which is still the official figure.

Very much the same situation as with the Nord-Ost incident - either dreadful logistics or plain cover-up. In Russia official sources are always suspected of deliberate lies. Unfortunately, this is still the more sensible approach. On the other hand, bad logistics and lack of information that results is probably also to blame.

In the end people are forced to rely on the media almost exclusively - despite rampant sensationalism and wild conspiracy theories (if you have an idea of what Arab news are like, you know what I mean).




Codes to remember to use BlogBuddy happily with Blogger:

img src= alt= height= width= vspace= hspace=
blockquote /blockquote
span class=PostTitle /span

Sunday, February 08, 2004



The depths of blogging

Found this confession from a geek-guy who actually went so far as to write his own blogging-software (geeks are like chemists: "oh, you want methadone? I'll brew some for you" - of course, I envy them too):
As for my blogging, the urges are coming and going lately... I've been doing it for a year and it's made a measureable difference in my life, but I'm having one of those blogging crisis (brought on by the anniversary) where I ask myself *why* am I expending so much time on this blog. "I write because I must", is one quick answer. But now my weblog has become forever intwined with my professional life, my personal life and my future as a whole if you can believe it. It's taken on a life of its own.

It's fun, but scary sometimes.
[ Having posted which I ran into this headline via another geek's blog - Computer engineering and chemical engineering are the most lucrative jobs. See? ]

***

Btw, this last geek also offers to get you into that mysterious and perhaps not so wonderful orkut blogging community.

Incidentally, *mystery* is probably the best advertisement device there is - just you remember that :)




What's wrong with spam?

In connection with the previous post, I was wondering recently: what is spam? why there is so much spam? does it really work?

When I watch tv or surf on the net I ask the same question: do all these ads really work? Obviously - they do, for most people at least. What I don't understand is why I am so suspicious of advertisement.

But then, look at all those people cursing spam, aren't they the same who buy into tv commercials? And yet, how is visual advertisement different from spam? There *seem* to be a difference: you can turn off the tv, or flip the channel during that commercial break, or if you're driving or walking in the street you can turn away and look at something else; or you can suppress images and popups while surfing. All this is still spam, but it's legit - supposedly it doesn't invade your private space as much.

But then - what is that private space anyway? Is it your mailbox or your phone - or maybe it is your head? Because in case it's your head (and I think it is), then spam is not all that different from other types of advertisement.

It was better when there was no spam. It was better when there were no commercials on tv. Yup, those were the days. Long gone - for a reason.




The evil world of Pharma Inc

Everyone is afraid of drugs. Legal and illegal. And the legit industry that produces them is plain scary. NASA too would be scary if we had to ingest its products - because they're incomprehensible and they go wrong on you (look what happened to Columbia).

But of course the scariest part is not so much the complexity of the drug as the fact that it's presented as your best friend - and it tells you: "eat me!" And that's about all it wants from you.

***

And where does it talk to you? It talks to you on tv. The drug is advertised on tv in flashy colors, with nice chubby people happily jumping around and singing in chorus: "eat it!" And since you really trust what tv tells you, the next day you demand an appointment with "your doctor" (even if you don't have one), and you go to his office and you demand the drug, and you say: tv told me to eat it. And you don't leave until you get that prescription. Because you're an "informed consumer" - albeit a sick one.

I don't know what it is but we don't get many drug commercials on canadian tv. But we have american tv too, and that's where all the beautiful drug commercials are. There you have young football players feasting on viagra and extremely fit baby-boomers recommending hormone drugs and sleeping pills. There you learn that your doctor loves you so much you should really see him more often. There...

Yes, that's where Pharma Inc has its home and preserve. That's where illegal drugs are hated and legal drugs are loved. That's where FDA lives too. And it lets all those pills talk to you on tv - so you might eat more of them.

***

This is the evil world of Pharma Inc. The world where incomprehensible, terrifically complex stuff, thrives on your informed ignorance so it may produce more pills. It doesn't care which pill you really need - it fact it doesn't want to know what you need. All it wants is for you to eat more of this stuff.

Why would a young football player need viagra? Couldn't he just mash some red-peppers or how about a few beers? But no - it gotta be the magic pill. No magic ever happens if it's not a pill.
The case of viagra is perhaps the most blatant example of informed ignorance. The idea you get from the ads is that it's a legit aphrodisiac (as opposed to beer). Hell, it's not. It's more like steroids (football players anyone?) so you still get wood, even when you can't take it anymore. Very misleading - for all parties involved.

And viagra is nothing but a kid's toy compared to some of the other stuff they throw at you - everywhere, all the time. And the sad truth is - those family doctors you go to and demand the pill, they don't really know what it is they give you. They get their "advanced" info from the same Pharma Inc who talks to you on tv - and what do you think it tells your doctor? It's really good, let them eat it.

***

A doctor in a documentary on undesirable and unpublicized side-effects of some popular (note the word) drugs, said something wise and important to remember: every drug is always in beta phase and you're the one it's tested on.

***

[ There is a viable counter-argument to the above and it comes from Gene's Blog (he's canadian):
This is why I think that our health-care system wouldn't have been so "enviable" if it weren't because we are effectively getting a free-ride from American research. Also, we (and the rest of the free world) are at least partially responsible for the health-care crisis in US due to the higher costs of drugs that we imposed on their citizens. ]





Things

Bad - windows explorer crashed again yesterday (the infuriating thing is that everything works fine for hours and then - boom - and no explanations).

Good - shook my brains and found a way to use BlogBuddy and still have titles on my posts. It's simple but it requires some typing in:
span class=PostTitle "my title" /span

Use < > accordingly (html basics here, and sorry me I can't remember the approriate character codes for these brackets).




On Opera

I forgot to say that Opera 6.05, my preferred browser, actually has some very ennoying faults - and the only reason I am willing to put up with these "quirks" is really just out of habit.

Faults:
- it really mangles the display of some pages (for instance yahoo mail interface looks totally horrific in it);
- sometimes, and for no particular reason, it zooms to 200% or to 80% when I click on to a next-page or it displays everything in italics (and I have to resize the window to correct this);
- it has a problem with the rendering of some encodings and puts little blank boxes for certain characters;
- on some pages it crashes when I click the back button (but when restarted it offers the option to reopen all the pages);
- it renders CSS layout differently from IE and there is always a discrepancy between margin width, padding etc;
- and in some txt files it refuses to display the rest of the paragraph if it stumbles on some unconventional character (it's rare but it did happen to me once);
- you can't integrate or drag-and-drop all those IE-oriented third-party toolbars and buttons (like Google, Yahoo, Blog It).

[I have no idea why I am writing all this.]

Update: deleted the "merits" part of the post - let it remain a mystery :-0





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