Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 21

The following letter speaks for itself:-
Dear Sir,
As you are aware, I recently played a small but not unsensational part in the Dwarf Case. I flatter myself that I conducted myself more as an ardent supporter of a strong Navy than as a witness for or against anything in particular. I now learn that the case is to be tried again, owing to some technical flapdoodle or other. May I take this opportunity of stating as publicly as possible that, if I am called again, I shall to the best of my ability once more defend the Navy? What these dwarfs did or did not do is no affair of mine. To-day we are concerned with more important matters. For there can be no safeguard for the peace of Europe until our British-built warships lie keel to keel across every knot of the seven seas, and until every port of the habitable globe harbours a British submarine.
Yours faithfully,
Ewart Hodgson (Rear-Adml.)

Autres temps

I realise that I have no idea what small boys play these days. Cops and robbers? Cowboys and indians? Or (as I certainly never see any children running around and falling over or arguing about whether they got you or not, and I don't hear pchow pchow noises) whether they play at all, except on xboxes. As a card-carrying baby boomer we grew up surrounded by other children in every house in every street, enough to form gangs and countergangs at a moment's notice, with no parental oversight, and the rough theatre of continuous invention and running negotiation - "I want to be the heroic dog that dies saving somebody" - was omnipresent.
I can remember playing Warner Brothers cartoons - "and then I run over the edge of the cliff, bzazz bzazz, and woowah, I run back and then pchunck, an anvil falls on you -" but that might have been deviant.
I must ask my nephews when I next see them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Invulerability comparatively cheap

There's now a store over the other side of Spencer St, next to the pizza place, that sells Titanium e-water to "increase blood flow and realign the body's bioelectric currents". If you use it (externally) before playing sport, "it can prevent you from getting hurt".
I may finally decide to take up kickboxing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Couldn't resist

Can I commission one of her as Silk Spectre?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Which I would have thought was the definition of 'grey', but there you are.

What colour is puke?

Between black and grey, evidently.

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 20

Sunlight streaming through a water-bottle and glass on the judge's desk set a light to papers.
(News item)

Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot, informed of this accident, saw an excellent way to deal with the case. He cunningly set alight to all the papers relevant to the case - if anything can be called relevant to such a case - by manipulating the water-bottle and the glass. He then fed the flames with his wig and various bits of wood which he kept in his pocket. Within an hour the court was burnt down.

Unlucky bastards, part 223 of a series

On December 3, 1862, David C. McDonald, a discharged Union soldier from Ohio, was indicted by the Breckinridge Circuit Court for "Negro Stealing." Sentenced to seventeen years at hard labor, McDonald was still in confinement five years after the close of the Civil War[emphasis added]. The Cincinnati Commercial learned of his plight and launched a campaign to secure his release.

On April 7, 1870, while African-Americans across the land were celebrating the passage of the 15th Amendment, McDonald was pardoned by Governor John W. Stevenson. Generally, entries of this type in a Governor's executive journal consisted of one or two brief lines. Such was not the case in this instance. After referring to McDonald's date of conviction, the entry read:

Since that time the Negroes have all been emancipated, Slavery no longer exists any where in the Union, the negroes have been even invested with the electoral franchise, and as they are now free to go wheresoever they may choose, it would appear somewhat singular to see a man imprisoned for seventeen long years for attempting to take one negro from his master when the government has taken & freed them all since the conviction of McDonald took place.

In a brief reference to the event, the Louisville Courier-Journal observed on April 11 "This may be set down as the last of the immediate consequences of slavery in Kentucky."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Missed opportunity

Actually, one can just see Crowe in this:
DENNIS: Anarcho-syndicalism is a way of preserving freedom.
WOMAN: Oh, Dennis, forget about freedom. Now I've dropped my mud.

You, Sir, Are No Ingmar Bergman

Saw Robin Hood, as ever mourning the fact that people who read history shouldn't go to historical epics.
We can't help nitpicking - how come Cate was able to string a longbow effortlessly while walking, how come people were running swords through knights in chain mail, how come Robin was able to emerge from underwater and shoot the villain with a wet bowstring?
We can't accept the plot givens - that a plebian could in any age in England pass as an aristocrat without any problems with accent or manners...
We can't forget the elephant in the room - King Richard and King Jean shouldn't have been speaking English being fucking Normans
All these are problems that are only brought up by an entirely and admittedly misguided belief that filmmakers are or should be concerned with naive realism.
In this instance, to be sure, the vibe was to appear cynical, debunking, and realistic, but that was of course an artistic effect, not a legal commitment. And the effect was largely to throw up surely unintended echoes of the opening scene of MP and the Holy Grail....
WOMAN: Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh -- how d'you do?
ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons.
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. we're all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship.
A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.
DENNIS: That's what it's all about if only people would--
ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
WOMAN: No one live there.
ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?
WOMAN: We don't have a lord.
DENNIS: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,--
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: --but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more--
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh -- who does he think he is?
The basic problem seems to be that Crowe wants it all, over and over - to be shown as a rebel and a commander, a nationalist and a humanitarian, to be both Dennis and Arthur. Which leads to a plot with far more ins and outs than necessary. Typified by
- a scene where the traitor is told off to kill King Richard.
- a sequence where King Richard dies in battle.
- a sequence where the traitor ambushes the convoy and tries to kill King Richard but can't because he's dead.
- a scene where the traitor goes back and tells King Phillip that Richard's dead.
All so Crowe can be commissioned to take Lockley's sword to his father in England, which could have been done in one scene, which practically writes itself -
LOCKSLEY: Ah, I am slain! Robin, take this sword to England and give it to my father.

And I couldn't help noticing that the father concerned was played by Max Von Sydow, who some years ago was in a rather different movie about a knight returning from the crusade. How blind would you have to be to invite a comparison like that?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A little late, perhaps

Locusts have a strategy of appearing in overwhelming numbers so seldom that it isn't worth the while of any other species to produce defences against them that would have to be deployed all the time.
The WWII strategic bombing program produced its major results, it's now thought, not so much by what it actually dropped bombs on but by the diversion of German industry into AA and the diversion of the Luftwaffe to home defence.
Therefore the optimum strategy would have been for the Allied bombers to go out over Germany much more seldom than they did - once a week, perhaps once a month, randomly timed.
If there was an opportunity, they could be used at other times in an infantry support capacity (after D-day, at least), but even if they just sat at home playing cards it should have been a superior strategy; same benefits, fewer costs, and more planes when they did bomb.
Not enough evolutionary biologists in high-ranking military positions. But when is that not true?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I would have thought that this was an uncontested truism. Well, it seems not.

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 19

'I intend,' said Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot, 'to make a supreme and almost despairing attempt to sum up this most curious case. Therefore, if anybody has any questions to ask, let them be asked at once, so that I may be released for my next case, that of Hungarian Lighthouses, Ltd. versus Miss Myra Keekie.
Several Dwarfs: We're in that, too.
Cocklecarrot (with heavy sarcasm): I cannot tell you how delighted I am at the prospect of having you with me again. May I ask how you small gentry come to be involved in such a case?
A Dwarf: We are Miss Myra Keekie. It is we who wrote the famous letter cancelling an order for twelve hundred and thirty lighthouses.
Cocklecarrot: All this seems to be quite clear and straightforward. It looks as though I am in for another month of tomfoolery. Hungarian lighthouses, indeed! Why, Hungary-
Mrs. Renton: May I implore your lordship not to start this case before mine is disposed of?
Cocklecarrot: Oh, certainly, certainly. Now, where were we? Hum. (With sudden anger.) It is these damnable small gentlemen who keep on confusing the issue.

Disturbingly plausible

What Thoreau says.
Although I don’t concur with the esteemed Ayatollah Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who theorizes that immodest women cause earthquakes, I do firmly believe that earthquakes can be affected by non-geological forces. Specifically, I am a man of two faiths, praying to Jesus on Sunday but bowing before Murphy all week long. I believe in Murphy’s Law as an ironclad law of the universe. And so, last night, I went to the store and stocked up on canned food and first aid kits and bottled water and flashlights and batteries, in the interests of earthquake preparation. I believe that if we are prepared for the worst, Our Murphy will smirk and mock our preparations and ensure that all of the time and money invested in this is ultimately for nothing. Murphy will make the San Andreas fault into the most stable geological formation on earth. So, I encourage everyone to prepare for the worst, and I encourage the police and the fire department and other organizations involved in disaster relief to be vigilant in their training and preparation. I encourage structural engineers to spare no expense in masking the most stable buildings possible. If we all work together, Murphy will ensure that we are wasting our time. If we don’t prepare, Murphy will smite us.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Pedobear with real claws

Another relaunch of Nightmare on Elm Street. No idea what it's like, but the NYT, for example, is reviewing it for plot and script and acting, which is surely bound to misunderstand something that's about archetypes. The original, for example, was successful because it translated adolescent sexuality into horror with a fairly consistent message of if you fuck, you die, Freddy Kruger as an externalised vagina dentata; the second translated that into homosexuality. The issue isn't whether the new one is witty, or whether the CGI is successful, it's whether it has a rigorous iconography.
The other opportunity, though, would be to return Freddy to his own crimes. In the original, remember, Freddy killed teenagers only because they were the children of the parents who'd banded together to kill him and feed him into the furnace; given his druthers, he was a pedophile, preying on small children in playgrounds, whose ghosts appeared from time to time to give eerie warnings. That element was leached out fairly quickly and after about the third it was teenagers all the way down. With pedophilia now at high anxiety status, a slides and jungle gyms Freddy might be due for a comeback.

Nigerian spam reaches Facebook

Larry sent you a message.
Larry Johnson
May 1, 2010 at 4:26pm
Subject: Dear.....Chris Borthwick
Dear.....Chris Borthwick

I have an important message for you concerning the death of Engr.J.P.Borthwick, and the funds he left behind,Contact me at (
I await your urgent response asap.

Barrister.Larry Johnson
Tele:+228 0789554.

Do thee incompetents still get responses, twenty years later? Presumably at least some do, or the schemes wouldn't keep coming.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Counselling, ptui

A friend tells me that his younger brother had just sent him a long letter. Normally a good thing, but this letter said that the brother's therapist had advised him to confront his siblings and tell them that they'd bullied him as a child, that they hadn't supported him when his father bullied him, and that they'd deserted him when their father died. Leaving the facts of the matter, whatever they are, on one side, I'm struck by
(a) the way in which those who demand that other people understand and admit how they've been damaged by the impact of the behaviour of others never seem prepared to try and understand how the people they're accusing have themselves been shaped by their own traumas; the excuses only seem to flow one way,
(b) what utter shits therapists are. How do they think that damaged and vulnerable people's social supports are going to be strengthened by driving away their wider family?

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