Second picture (tower with Lenin on top) is NOT the mausoleum. It is a project of the Palace of Soviets, the one to be built in place of the Christ the Saviour Temple in Moscow. Lack of the suitable technology, however, only allowed building of a swimming pool.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I just picked up a new book. The Theory and Practice of Socialism, circa 1936, got deadly dull about a quarter of the way in. The ideas are too painfully outdated to bother with. Solzhenitsyn thoroughly, if indirectly, eviscerated much of it in The Gulag Archipelago.
Any rate, I've picked up Kabloona — circa 1941, by Gontran de Poncins — about a trip to the Canadian Arctic to live with and document the Inuit. A paragraph on the first page hooked me in. It perfectly captures the feeling that grips me right before setting off into the welcome unknown:
"Whether it was a photograph in a shop-window that had first prompted me, or a chance remark negligently dropped in my hearing, I do not now remember nor does it much signify. I know only that some time before that spring day the word Eskimo had rung inside me and that the sound had begun to swell like the vibrations of a great bell and had eventually filled the whole of my subconscious being. I had not been possessed instantly by a conscious and urgent need to go into the Arctic to live with a primitive people. These things operate slowly, like the germ of a cancer. They brood within, they send out tentacles and grow. Their first effect is not decision but restlessness. You find yourself feeling that something is obscurely yet radically wrong with your life.
You fidget. Your world becomes progressively more stuffy, less tolerable. Probably you show it, and show it unpleasantly; for your friends seem to you more and more to be talking nonsense, leading a meaningless existence, content with a frivolity and a mediocrity to which you find yourself superior. In their eyes, very likely, unbearably superior. But no matter. The thing is at work in you. Finally, there comes a moment when you waken in the middle of the night and lie still, eyes wide open in the dark. Life, you sense, is about to change. Something is about to happen. And it happens: you have made your decision."
And here's a song I keep listening to on repeat. I discovered it after landing on the Vladivostok FM channel while playing Grand Theft Auto IV, and promptly felt the lightning flash of brilliance smash into my ear drums. It's called Schweine by Glukoza (glukoza [Глюкоза] literally translates to 'glucose', i.e. sugar, in Russian):
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The following comment about the above image was too funny to not repost. I have no idea if it's true or not, but sounds perfectly in line with the every day dichotomy that existed between what the U.S.S.R. thought it could achieve and what it actually realized:
Comment by cynical bastard2009-01-30 19:10:36
And just because I like it, here's Paris on a rainy day:
Friday, March 27, 2009
Here's an excellent, short documentary about the narcocorrido genre of music in Mexico, which glorifies the narcotrafficking way of life. It was put together by Jordan deBree and Clayton Worfolk with backing from The Pulitzer Center, which pinpoints and supports reporting on undertold stories from crisis zones around the world:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
And this next one is just fun to watch, while I'm on the theme:
Monday, March 23, 2009
The following quote struck me as particularly accurate, as I'm in the process of reading The Theory and Practice of Socialism, printed in 1936.
The book has some laughably naive ideas that have proved disastrous with with a little historical perspective. What's more important, it's convinced me that what you see in America today is far from socialism. To buy into the idea that the current administration is propagating a socialist agenda is to not know what real socialism is:
"Liberalism is a political philosophy that seeks to extend personal autonomy to as many people as possible, if necessary through positive government action; socialism, by contrast, seeks as much equality as possible, even if doing so curtails individual liberty."
-Obama vs. Marx
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The other day I stumbled on a really excellent transcription of a talk given by Dr. Richard W. Hamming called You and Your Research. From the name of it, you'd expect a dry lecture on how to organize and tabulate data. It's anything but.
What he's really talking about here is how to do things well no matter your field of interest and expertise. I've always enjoyed reading the thoughts of scientists. A good scientist has a deep well of creative thought that they've learned to tap regularly and consistently, but scientists steer clear of describing the creative process in the aggravating pseudo-metaphysical way that absolutely ruins my respect for so many artists, novelists, musicians and other creative types.
I have nothing against artists, novelists, musicians. Don't get me wrong. But I can't stand the incomprehensible, mystic dreck so many of them pump into descriptions of the process. It's not magic. It's work, and it takes dedicated applied thought just like anything else. Even if the end result is some emotional ballad dripping with sentimentality. Aphrodite didn't descend on them while they slept and gift them with a heart wrenching tune. Either consciously or subconsciously, their brain was busy figuring out how to make the tune appeal to and pull as many heart strings as possible.
Anyway, this particular talk is refreshingly free of bullshit, and it's worth a complete read.
Here are two of my favorite excerpts.
On doing something significant:
"In order to get at you individually, I must talk in the first person. I have to get you to drop modesty and say to yourself, "Yes, I would like to do first-class work.'' Our society frowns on people who set out to do really good work. You're not supposed to; luck is supposed to descend on you and you do great things by chance. Well, that's a kind of dumb thing to say. I say, why shouldn't you set out to do something significant. You don't have to tell other people, but shouldn't you say to yourself, "Yes, I would like to do something significant.''
On what it takes to get where you want to go:
"What Bode was saying was this: "Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.'' Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this. "
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Source: Modern Mechanix
Here's a little expounding I did on advertising after I received the following comment on this ad that I put together for a Linux Foundation contest:
Can't really relate this video to my Linux experience.
The Linux Foundation is looking for a commercial, 60-seconds or less, that they can use sell Linux. It's a free operating system, so sell as in sell the idea. Get it embedded in people's minds.
I was in a procrastinating mood, because I have a hell of a time focusing without nicotine, which is why it's taken me a shameful month and a half to put together a story on arms smuggling between the U.S. and Mexico, so I typed up this ridiculously long response.
It's essentially an off-the-cuff meditation in response to the above comment in italics on what constitutes good advertising:
Well, I understand that. However — and this is just my own view of marketing — a good ad doesn't preach to converts.
i.e. If you're making an ad for Macintosh, you don't want to create an ad that's targeted at people already using Macs, striving to create a bridge through which they can relate their own experience to the ad.
Then you're only getting the attention of people who are already using your product.
Also: With something as versatile as an operating system, which allows you to do a number of different things (if you're a writer you'll be interested in the word processing, if you're a programmer you're interested in the nuts and bolts of the OS, if you're a gamer you want to know what you can play), everyone's experience with an operating system is going to be different. So if I work and work and work to create an ad that you can relate to perfectly, chances are the majority of the people watching it won't be able to relate, because everyone likes and is using it for different things.
So, rather than trying to make something that people already using a system can relate to, I wanted to catch people's attention first. I wanted to intrigue them. To make them say to themselves, "Hey, that's beautiful," or, "That's interesting," or, "That's arresting."
Getting people's attention and holding it is the key in advertising. Then you can deliver your message: Use Linux, buy Firestone tires, eat Wheaties, and on and on. If you can't hold their attention first, they won't stick around for the message.
You want to leave people hanging a bit too, with a good ad. You want them to say to themselves, "I don't know exactly what this Linux thing is, but I want to learn more because that ad inspired me to check it out."
You want to galvanize people so that they're willing to invest their own energy and resources learning about and trying to find your product, because once people have their energy and time invested in learning about something, they're more likely to give it a shot.
So, that's what a good ad is to me. It keeps you thinking about and inspires you to find, learn about, and try a product.
[CAVEAT: This video for The Linux Foundation contest is the first ad I've ever put together, as in the past I've never been able to overcome the voice of Bill Hicks in my head when contemplating advertising. So, these are just my thoughts on what I like to see in ads. Occasionally one strikes me, and I think to myself, "That was a well done ad." An advertisement is like any other product of mental or physical sweat. It can be done well or poorly. The concept of craftsmanship is universal to all forms of labor.]
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
This is a fairly accurate representation of my state of mind today:
His vision of history temporarily fading, Ignatius sketched a noose at the bottom of the page. Then he drew a revolver and a little box on which he neatly printed GAS CHAMBER. He scratched the side of the pencil back and forth across the paper and labeled this APOCALYPSE. When he had finished decorating the page, he threw the tablet on the floor among many others that were scattered about. This had been a very productive morning, he thought. He had not accomplished so much in weeks. Looking at the dozens of Big Chief tablets that made a rug of Indian headdresses around the bed, Ignatius thought smugly that on their yellowed pages and wide-ruled lines were the seeds of a magnificent study in comparative history. Very disordered, of course. But one day he would assume the task of editing these fragments of his mentality into a jigsaw puzzle of a very grand design; the completed puzzle would show literate men the disaster course that history had been taking for the past four centuries. In the five years that he had dedicated to this work, he had produced an average of only six paragraphs monthly. He could not even remember what he had written in some of the tablets, and he realized that several were filled principally with doodling. However, Ignatius thought calmly, Rome was not built in a day.
Ignatius pulled his flannel nightshirt up and looked at his bloated stomach. He often bloated while lying in bed in the morning contemplating the unfortunate turn that events had taken since the Reformation. Doris Day and Greyhound Scenicruisers, whenever they came to mind, created an even more rapid expasion of his central region. But since the attempted arrest and the accident, he had been bloating for almost no reason at all, his pyloric vale snapping shut indiscriminately and filling his stomach with trapped gas, gas which had character and being and resented its confinement. He wondered whether his pyloric valve might be trying, Cassandralike, to tell him something. As a medievalist Ignatius believed in the rota Fortunae, or wheel of fortune, a central concept in De Consolatione Philosophiae, the philisophical work which had laid the foundation for medieval thought. Boethius, the late Roman who had written the Consolatione while unjustly imprisoned by the emperor, had said that a blind goddess spins us on a wheel, that our luck comes in cycles. Was the ludicrous attempt to arrest him the beginning of a bad cycle? Was his wheel rapidly spinning downward? The accident was a bad sign. Ignatius was worried. For all his philosophy, Boethius had still been tortured and killed. Then Ignatius' valve closed again, and he rolled over on his left side to press the valve open.
"Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel," Ignatius belched. "Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity."
-A Confederacy of Dunces
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
NOTE: As I quit using nicotine for the, oh, a conservative estimate would be 30 or 40th time approximately two weeks ago, I definitely do not feel like a million dollars right now. However, I'm feeling relatively good today and I figure if I write something blatantly false like, "I feel like a million dollars," I might fool myself into feeling closer to a million dollars. Let's say a hundred dollars, which represents a stunning improvement over my previous mental valuation of one penny.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Which incorporates this great tune by Travis Morgan from the same site.
NOTE: While compiling links and credits for the Around The World vid at The Linux Foundation site, I completely forgot to bill Larry Ewing, creator of the Tux image. I rarely get my infobox right on the first shot, and now when I try to change the info it asks me to reupload the entire video! So, I'm giving him credit here. Much thanks.
Once I'd put the finishing touches on the promo for The Linux Foundation's, "We're Linux," contest, I kept going through the editors' picks and landed on this oddball gem. The timing of the elements played against the resigned sentiment turned out beautifully. Reminded me of a downbeat version of that aggravatingly life affirming anthem from the late 1990s, Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen):
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Intrepid New York City dwelling dancing jazz trombonist Alex Heitlinger cooked up the tune by pulling audio samples of Obama reading from "Dreams from My Father."
As it was both hilarious and brilliant, I felt compelled to make some visual accompaniment. One of these days I'll include a list of all the videos I've sampled for each project. Promise: