Sunday, October 25, 2009

OCD Comes Alive

Balls is a highly addictive (for me, at least) little flash app whose sole purpose is to grab you and hold you and force you to keep reducing the balls until the 4 big balls you start with become 4 to the 7th balls, or 65,536 balls.

It’s a wonderful lesson in the power of, well, powers. After many hours (many hours), I have completed this task. The image below of the completed board might help save you from the same obsession.

H/T to BoingBoingfor pointing to this one a while back.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Phenomenal. Junot Diaz is an amazing writer.

I picked this up on a whim at the library after seeing it in the zeitgeist for the last year or so. It's a dazzling, crackling book, the story of a fat Dominican sci-fi geek in Brooklyn, of his older, hottie sister, and of their mother and her horrifying backstory in the Dominican Republic (the DR), which was ruled from 1930-1961 by a psychopathic tyrant, a totalitarian Sauron (Diaz's term) so brutal he made Saddam Hussein seem like a lightweight.

Diaz's cast of characters includes many real-life international playboy evildoers dropped into footnotes like devils from some parallel Gatsby, and he mixes hyper-nerd pop culture and Spanglish with authority and a supremely deft touch. For such a pain-filled book, Diaz never loses sight of either the humanity of his protagonists or the absurdly black humor of their world. Best of all, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a ripping yarn from beginning to end.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ormond McGill on Hypnotizing Difficult Subjects

Longtime readers may recall my obit for the great Ormond McGill, Dean of American Hypnotists and father of modern stage hypnotism. Ormond was a lovely and gentle man but you might not believe it from this handy bit of advice from his seminal 1947 Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnotism:

Challenge Hypnotism

Occasionally, although very rarely, you may run up against a person who is refractory about entering into the situation with you and following your instructions. Dr. Q [McGill's stage name] would always get around such difficulty by the following secret method of putting the subject to sleep against his will. This is the famous "Bulldog Method" which has long been one of the most cherished secrets of stage Hypnotists.

Standing directly in front of the subject, push his head well back, with your left hand on the front of his forehead. Then place the thumb and first finger of your right hand directly on his exposed throat, just above the Adam's apple. You can quickly find the exact spot by the feel of the blood pounding through the veins in his throat beneath your fingers. Push firmly in upon these veins, at the same time requesting the man to breathe deeply. (Even if he doesn't wish to comply, he'll be largely compelled to do so in order to get air in such a position.) Maintain this pressure upon the veins in his throat for a moment, and at the same time push his head farther backward...and carefully watch your subject.

You will find that he will suddenly go limp. Catch this moment and shout loudly, "Sleep," and let him drop to the floor in a heap.

Step aside to give the audience a chance to see the "hypnotized" man on the floor. Then quickly bend over the subject and hit him gently on the back of the neck while saying in a loud voice, "All right now, wake up now...wide awake!"

After that demonstration you will find that the subject will be most docile and willing to follow whatever whispered instructions you care to give. It also serves to impress the other subjects on the stage to the end that they'd better co-operate along with you--or else.

(Emphasis in original)

I've decided to put together a stage hypnotism act. Anyone want to come over to my place so I can practice the "Bulldog Method"?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Modern Times

That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of "bread and circuses" can compensate for the damage done--these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence--because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity.
--E.F. Shumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Open Letter to Joan Walsh about that O'Reilly appearance - UPDATED

Salon Editor Joan Walsh was just on The O'Reilly Factor and you can see the results here. I posted the letter below to the comments section of her recent Salon post about the interview.

You were angry throughout the interview, Joan. Big mistake. What would Jesus do? What would Mohammed do? What would the Buddha do?

Unconditional love, that's what. Compassion and constant forgiveness. That's what the Left stands for. Nonviolence, and unconditional love and compassion. All the important Left political positions stem from that essential foundation.

All the letter writers who told you you're a fool for going on the show are wrong. Let the Left media be your guide. Look at Colbert, who regularly has quite Right Wing people (including Papa Bill) on his show and treats them with respect and love and dignity -- even as he very bluntly satirizes them in that deliciously calibrated way. Or Rachel Maddow, who has "my fake uncle Pat Buchanan" on and seems to feel a real affection for him, as repugnant as some of his views may be.

You can be the Left guest who shows the right that someone on the Left can be loving and gentle and actually say some things that make sense. But you have to take control. Don't ever argue with him; that's his territory and he's a master of forcing you into an argument in which he has already defined the terms to his own advantage.

Bill O'Reilly's a fake and a fraud, no doubt about that. But maybe on the abortion issue he has a point. When he asked you if you thought late term fetuses should have any rights, why couldn't you just say, "I believe a woman's right to control her body should trump any rights we may or may not extend to unborn fetuses." Let him have his belief that abortion is some level of violence, if not murder. Lots of very civilized people have that fundamental belief, including a lot who think a woman should have the legal right to make that choice.

But his rhetoric of hatred should be met with a rhetoric of love. Meet every ugly statement of his with a very calm, positive declarative statement of how he could become a better man, a better American, and a better leader for his legion of followers. "I understand where you're coming from but I think it would be more democratic, and American, to work to change the law rather than calling someone a 'baby killer' and all but advocating vigilantism against him." Smile sweetly.

Never give him back anger. Never never. O'Reilly feeds on anger, it makes him stronger. He feeds on anger like a mosquito feeds on blood. Give him only love and forgiveness. Help set him straight.


Joan Walsh responded:

With all due respect peacelove, I so totally agree with you, I do believe the answer is love and compassion, and I do my best to show it.

And yet I think your letter is condescending bullshit. And I bet Rachel would agree with me re: Uncle Pat, because I have dealt with more of his hard-core racist bullshit than she has. Your letter makes me wonder how you model love and compassion to people as shriveled as O'Reilly - but I love you for it.

To which, I responded back:

So sorry, Joan. I didn't mean to be condescending but I can certainly see how my letter can be read as such. My bad.

O'Reilly's a tough one because he's so fundamentally dishonest. You really can't tell what he actually believes since he's perfectly willing to contradict himself if he thinks he can leverage it to his advantage.

That said, I do think there is a way to neutralize O'Reilly by simply refusing to allow his barbs to stick in their target (you). Laugh off the ridiculous ones, just like the way Obama laughed off the claims that he was a Muslim who consorted with domestic terrorists. He called them "silly" and moved on.

And, luckily, most of America did as well.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Am a Japanese Synthesizer

I was recently inspired to check the interwebs for Petr Skoumal's "I am a Japanese Synthesizer," which was a big hit when I was living in Prague back in '94. Not only is it glorious fun, but Skoumal was fifty-six at the time, a most welcome and delightful addition to all the twenty-somethings normally seen on the Czech version of MTV at the time.

I was dreaming that U.S. MTV would play this and make this guy a breakout star. Never happened, natch. The paucity of imagination on MTV by that point was complete.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

BoingBoingey Goodness

I was just hipped to this talented 18-year-old French Canadian singer Beatice Martin (Couer de Pirate) via the comments in a BoingBoing post (her music accompanies a lovely YouTube time lapse of an infant playing).

This led me to a few of her videos on YouTube (all in French):

Commes des enfants
Mange ta ville

Live clips

Ensemble (Featured in the above-mentioned time lapse video)

I really appreciate that these are all short and sweet. There's no substitute for real talent, amply on display even on these live clips.

I really dig the ink, too.

Listening to Eels right now, amazing. Also hipped from a great BoingBoing post.

As was Old Jews Telling Jokes.

The Magic Garage

The Magic Garage is serious business. We are not amused.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

An Awesome Book

Happy New Year!

Unleash your inner-dreamer with artist Dallas Clayton's lovely new "kids" book, An Awesome Book, a side-scrolled treat.