Sunday, January 30, 2011

"The Little Girl I Once Knew"

A November 1965 Beach Boys single.
And a most peculiar one.
It comes to a dead stop, not once but twice,
rushing back both times with lush 
vocals and charging guitar work.
Peaked at #15.

Straighten Up

Nat King Cole, 1943
Based on one of his father's sermons.
Not hard to figure out
what this song is really about.

"All the Love of the Universe"


Fresh Air

Quicksilver Messenger Service
From the band's 1970 "Just for Love" album

“The Republican candidate is President Obama.”

Colleague of Milton Friedman, Robert Aliber, predicts 4.5 to 5 percent US growth in 2011 and popping of Chinese housing bubble.

13 Facts About Mark Rothko

As a boy in Dvinsk, Russia, he saw 
the bodies of other Jews who had been 
kidnapped and massacred by Cossacks.

He dropped out of Yale. But he got 
an honorary doctorate 46 years later.

He believed that art came from “an inborn 
feeling for form; the ideal lies in the 
spontaneity, simplicity, and directness of children.”

For years he struggled as an artist. 
His family said he never wrote his 
mother or did anything to support her.

He was into Surrealism for a while. 
Then he stopped putting his paintings in 
frames or giving them titles, 
other than dates and numbers.

His mature work became color 
blocks, vibrating color blocks.

Over time, he began to favor darker colors. 
Some think these late 1960s works 
look like the lunar landscape.

After being hospitalized in 1968 for an 
aortic aneurysm, his doctor forbade him 
to work on canvases more than three feet tall.

He was a suicide, but an autopsy showed 
that his system had been poisoned by the 
antidepressants he was taking.

“I’m only interested in expressing basic 
human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”

After his death, his family learned that his long-time 
manager had been ripping him off big time for years. 
It was in all the papers.

Not Everyone...

...who snores is sleeping.
     Russian proverb

Picture Taken From a Train #2

Picture Taken from a Train #1

What is a metaphor if not a kind of 
pirouette performed by an idea?
            -Paul Valery, French poet

"So Great a Ratio"

"To the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness of strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grip of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance that comes from freedom—these are the traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier.

"What if the frontier is truly gone? 

"What happens to America and all that it has stood for? . . .

"Currently we see around us an ever more apparent loss of vigor of our society: increasing fixity of the power structure and bureaucratization of all levels of life; impotence of political institutions to carry off great projects; the proliferation of regulations affecting all aspects of public, private, and commercial life; the spread of irrationalism; the banalization of popular culture; the loss of willingness by individuals to take risks, to find for themselves or think for themselves; economic stagnation and decline the declaration of the rate of technological innovation. . . .

"Without a frontier from which to breathe new life, the spirit that gave rise to the progressive humanistic culture that America has represented for the past two centuries is fading. The issue is not just one of national loss-human progress needs a vanguard and no replacement is in sight. The creation of a new frontier thus presents itself as America’s and humanity’s greatest social need. Nothing is more important. . . 

"Without a frontier to grow in, not only American society, but the entire global civilization based upon values of humanism, science, and progress will ultimately die. . . .

"I believe that humanity’s new frontier can only be on Mars. . . .

"The universe is vast. Its resources, if we can access them, truly are infinite. During the four centuries of the open frontier on Earth, science and technology have advanced at an astonishing pace. The technological capability achieved during the twentieth century would dwarf the expectation of any observer from the nineteenth, exceed the dreams of one from the eighteenth, and appear outright magical to someone from the seventeenth. The nearest stars are incredibly distant, about 100,000 times as far away as Mars. Yet, Mars itself is about 100,000 times as far from Earth as American is from Europe. If the past four centuries of progress have multiplied our reach by so great a ratio, might not four more centuries of freedom do the same again?"

From The Case for Mars by aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society

11 Predictions for 2030

1) No need to learn a second'll have a translation computer in your ear.

2) 150 year life expectancy for millions.

3) Only 2 percent of people in extreme poverty.

4) Best food to be grown in skyscrapers.

5) Driverless cars.

6) 18 cities with more than 20 million residents.

7) Pilotless airplanes

8) Space tourism commonplace with 40,000 people working in orbit.

9) Animation puts movie actors out of business.

10) China has more than 250 cities with more than 1 million residents.

11) 'Personal' robot companions.

I think in-ear translation devices will happen within 10 years.

Space tourism--absolutely; that's like predicting in 1920 that commercial air travel would be commonplace in 1950.

Pilotless planes and driverless cars sound likely, too, as do avatar actors.

From I Look Forward To

The One-Inch Punch

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.
            -Bruce Lee

Happy 16-And-a-Half Birthday!

My daughter Eleanor (center), at her birthday party 
six months ago, with her girlgang.

"We Will Not Be Silenced"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt: Bad Unemployment, Inflation, Hunger

From "Our Finite World"

There is a good reason why one might expect Egypt to start running into problems with energy and food subsidies. Its own financial situation is declining at the same time that the cost of food imports is soaring.

Starting about 2010 or 2011, Egypt will change from an oil exporting nation to an oil importing nation, if there are imports available on the world market. 

The oil that Egypt exports provides funds for the subsidies that it offers, so reduced exports mean less funds are available for subsidies.

Egypt subsidizes both oil and natural gas sales internally, so it is likely that the government is not getting much revenue related to be portion that is used for internal consumption. 

Egypt was already significantly overspending its revenue in 2009 (the last year available), with revenues of $46.82 billion and expenditures of $64.19 billion. 

Cutbacks in oil production and in Suez Canal transport can be expected to exacerbate unemployment problems. The Egyptian unemployment rate was listed at 9.7% in 2010 by the CIA World Factbook.

As population grows, the amount of land needed for housing and businesses rises, and the amount of land for agriculture falls. So Egypt can produce less of its own food, as time goes on.
Egypt is reported to be the world’s largest importer of wheat. In 2010, the oil minister stated that Egypt imports 40% of its food, and 60% of its wheat.
With oil prices higher now (because world production is close to flat, and as countries come out of recession, they want more), food prices of all types are higher as well. Oil is used directly in the production of grain and indirectly in storage and transit, so its cost becomes important.
One reason is that other Arab countries are also feeling some of the same pressures. Food prices are rising everywhere. Many low income people spend in excess of 50% of their income for food, so a rise in food costs becomes a real issue. People have come to depend on oil and food subsidies. If they are taken away, or not raised sufficiently to compensate for the higher costs of imports, it is a real problem.
The higher food prices contribute to the overall inflation problem that Egypt already had. In 2010, the CIA Factbook estimated the inflation rate to be 12.8%.

#29: A Gem

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

      Shakespeare, Sonnet #29

Black Swan CGI

I Think; Therefore, I Yam.

Trying to define yourself is like 
trying to bite your own teeth.
            -Alan Watts

The Score

8 Facts About Piet Mondrian

His father Hoorst Mondrian was Oberfuhrer (Superintendent) of Roads 
in Klampvert, Holland. When Piet was young, 
the tyrannical Hoorst forced him to crawl on bloodied knees
painting the center line down country lanes, 
a cruelty that permanently scarred the child 
so deeply that he used his art to expunge the 
straight line demons of his childhood.

Nah, that's not true.

His father was headmaster of a local
parochial school and a zealous Calvinist.
The household was so disorderly that when Mondrian's 
eldest sister was eight, she did the cooking and cleaning.

His father taught him to draw and sent him away to art
school in Amsterdam where he joined a
radical Protestant church.
Psychologically unstable, he went to live
with his brother in the countryside for a year
and later caught pneumonia.

In the painting "Passion Flower" above, the
blossoms symbolize Christ.

He painted windmills obsessively.

"The emotion of beauty is always hindered
by the particular appearance of an 'object;' 
the object must therefore be abstracted
from any figurative representation."

The extreme 1931
"Lozenge Composition with Two Lines."

He called his style "Neo-Plasticism."
He felt he was creating a balance between 
the vertical/masculine 
and horizontal/female.
He often compared himself to

His last painting,
the unfinished "Victory Boogie Woogie"
anticipated Allied victory.
Mondrian died in February 1944
of pneumonia.

Hitler said his art was

His influence is felt today.

Yves Saint Laurent, 1965.


"The loss of Egypt and Jordan would also have dire consequences for Israel. Thirty years of peace with those Arab neighbors would come to an end, and Tel Aviv would (again) be surrounded by hostile foes, committed to the eradication of the Jewish State, and supported by an Iranian regime on the verge of going nuclear. That must be a part of our strategic calculus as well. If Mubarak goes, the tenure of Jordan's King Abdullah will be measured in days, and the West Bank will probably fall under the control of Hamas as well. Meanwhile, Israel's most implacable foe (Syria) sits on the Golan Heights, while Hizballah controls the "new" government in Lebanon. If that isn't a nightmare scenario for Mr. Netanyahu, we don't know what is. What is the U.S. prepared to do to ensure Israel's security in that sort of environment.

And beyond that, how do we respond when the protest movement advances to the Persian Gulf Region? Those oil-rich states, long controlled by autocratic monarchs, are ripe for revolt as well. This is hardly a movement that is limited to Egypt or Tunisia, and there are plenty of Islamists (read: terrorists) ready to stoke the fires of revolution in places like Saudi Arabia; Oman, Dubai and Kuwait."

13 Facts about J.M.W. Turner

J.M.W. Joseph Mallord William

When he was 12, his wigmaker/barber father exhibited 
and sold his son's works in his shop's window.

His mother, a schizophrenic, was 
locked up in Bedlam, 
the notorious madhouse.

He sometimes wiped tobacco juice
and stale beer on his paintings. He also spit
on them and rubbed snuff on them.
He did this to make them look better.

He wore wooden dentures.
And drank up to eight pints of rum a day.

He liked to paint shipwrecks and fires
and other catastrophes such as storms.

He would have nothing to do with his two illegitimate
daughters and their mother.

People thought he was mean and miserly.
He thought he was ugly.

The British people in 2006 voted his 
 "The Fighting Temeraire" (above) their favorite painting.
The ship played a role in Nelson's victory 
at Trafalgar, defeating the French and
Spanish fleets and confirming Britain's naval supremacy.

His father lived with him for 30 years,
serving as his assistant, mixing paints.

"Painting," he said, "is a strange business."

 He kept his address secret, sometimes telling people
his name was "Admiral Booth."
Towards the end, he lived in squalor.

His last words were 
"The sun is God."

Staring Man

Post Hock.Staring Man

Phillips Head au Jus

Using words to describe magic is 
like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef.
            -Novelist Tom Robbins

(NGC 224: The spiral galaxy Andromeda, 
2.5 million light years away. It contains
100 trillion stars and has 14 dwarf
galaxies orbiting it. In 4.5 billion years, our galaxy
and Andromeda will collide.)

Echidna and Pants

A funny poem about the "monotreme extreme," the echidna, here.

Love is All