Jul 26, 2011

No way to run a country

Here's an interesting and unintentionally revealing quote from Pres. Obama's address to the country on the debt ceiling crisis:

[the Republicans] will refuse to ask the wealthiest Americans to give up their tax cuts or deductions. Again, they will demand harsh cuts to programs like Medicare. And once again, the economy will be held captive unless they get their way.

That is no way to run the greatest country on Earth.
So Obama thinks the government's job and the president's job is to run the country. Meaning: to run the economy and people's lives.

Of course, the proper, constitutional role of the president is to run, not even the government, but the executive branch of the federal government.

A country run by its president or government is a dictatorship.

(Needless to say the conservatives are no better in this regard; notwithstanding their occasionally mouthing free-market sounding words, their record of expanding government control is just as bad as the democrats.)

Mar 18, 2011

Sad Songs for Sad Times

The country is going to hell as the leftists and conservatives compete over how quickly (the leftists) or how deliberately (the conservatives) socialism should be adopted ... and its also St-Patrick's day ... so the mood calls for posting some great old Irish songs.

First up is an outstanding performance of W. B. Yeats' Down by the Salley Gardens, sung by Maura O'Connell and Karen Matheson. They're backed by an all-star Celtic ensemble as part of the Transatlantic Sessions, a BBC program that highlighted the links between traditional Celtic and American music. Click for Youtube video.

Here's the text of Yeats' poem ("salley" means willow):
Down by the Salley Gardens
William Butler Yeats, 1889

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she placed her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Next up we have country singer Allison Moorer with an intense performance of the old Irish song Carrickfergus. This performace was also part of the Transatlantic Sessions. The settng blends country (steel guitar Dobro) and Celtic (bagpipes at 5:05) instrumentation. Here's the video:



Here's another version of Carrickfergus, sung by Van Morrison backed by the Chieftains. Click for Youtube video.


Next up we have Morrison again, this time with his song Celtic New Year from his album Magic Time (2005):




And that's it for today's heartache. For something more upbeat - and keeping with the transatlantic musical spirit - here are Texas fiddlers the Quebe Sisters with Shame on You:





(updated)

Aug 31, 2008

Bernini Portrait Sculpture Exhibit

This is fantastic! - the Getty Museum in LA is currently exhibiting works of the great Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini:

Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture

The exhibit, the first of its kind in North America, runs through October 26 at the Getty, then moves to the National Gallery in Ottawa from Nov. 28 to Mar. 8.

From the National Gallery website:
Under the influence of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and others in his wake ... the portrait bust once again became an innovative and groundbreaking art form. These sculptors were able to capture a person’s appearance not simply by portraying what is visible but rather by depicting character through a more animated, living, and breathing rendering.

The level of virtuosity displayed by Bernini and others in his sphere in coaxing such a rendering from the intractable medium of stone astonishes scholars as well as the general public. The opportunity to view their works in close proximity will shed light on the remarkable artistic innovations of the period and provide an exceedingly rare glimpse into the inter-relationships and variations of style among these artists. An exhibition on this topic has never been mounted before and it is expected to raise a number of issues such as the trajectory of Bernini’s career, persistent questions of attribution, theories of portraiture, and the critical response to this production. These topics are of interest to both scholars and the general public.

Aug 25, 2008

Nancy Pelosi is your mother

Sometimes people make very revealing statements without realizing it. House Speaker (also House Appeaser, House Muhajjabah) Nancy Pelosi, in the introductory Video to her Demoratic Convention speech tonight, makes the statement:
It wasn't until later in life that I decided that politics was a continuation of my role as Mom.

This is how Pelosi views her role and, presumably, the role of government: as your parent. Keep in mind a parent is someone who controls their child's education, work, recreation. If Pelosi has her way, the government won't be just the "Nanny State", it'll be the "Mommy State".

Aug 23, 2008

High Flight


High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds,-and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of-wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew-
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God

John Gillespie Magee, Jr (1922-1941)

Too bad about the last line, but still a great poem.

Jul 22, 2008

Collectivism in art

Well, at least this artist is consistent in his subject matter. Very consistent!

(Via LGF)

Jun 30, 2008

Independence Day video from ARI

ARI has released a great editorial by Michael Berlinier on the meaning of independence day. Not only is it well-written as expected, but the video is very well done too.

To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is "the only oracle of man," and Thomas Jefferson advised us to "fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God." That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.

Jun 16, 2008

Conservatives vs. America, Part n, lim n-> infinity

Well, the Democratic primaries are over, and while the nominees are yet to be officially announced at the conventions, its pretty clear that the November election will feature, on one side, a corporation-bashing, environment-worshipping, terrorist-appeasing, free-speech quashing statist collectivist … and on the other, Barak Obama.

As yet another example of how wretched the Republican Party has become, consider the rising star of the GOP, whose name is being mentioned as a possible VP candidate on the McCain ticket: Louisiana Governernor Bobby Jindal. Jindal supports teaching intelligent design, and has written about taking part in an exorcism:

Whenever I concentrated long enough to begin prayer, I felt some type of physical force distracting me. It was as if something was pushing down on my chest, making it very hard for me to breathe. . . Though I could find no cause for my chest pains, I was very scared of what was happening to me and Susan. I began to think that the demon would only attack me if I tried to pray or fight back; thus, I resigned myself to leaving it alone in an attempt to find peace for myself.
Incredibly, leading conservative blog Hot Air is downplaying this revelation:
TPM’s in full squeal over having dug up this very minor bit of oppo research, and while I’m certainly not the guy to scold them for scoffing at possession and faith healing, I do find it encouraging that (a) they’re already worried about him and (b) the best the left has been able to do thus far by way of attacking him is smearing/mocking his faith. The guy must be squeaky clean if they’re this desperate for material.

Apr 26, 2008

More Conservative delusions

At The National Review Online's The Corner, Jonah Goldberg claims that:

... the conservative position on war is different than the liberal position on war and its alleged equivalents. ... Speaking generally, the conservative attitude toward war is that, though regrettable, it is a legitimate function of the state and that victory is a legitimate and desirable outcome for both the government and the nation.

That might be what Conservatives say their position is, but it sure isn't what they practice. What have Conservatives done -- not just said, but actually done -- that demonstrates they desire victory? The post 9-11 war has been nothing but appeasement and evasion of responsibility by the Republican administration:

  • Doing nothing while Iranian IEDs slaughter and maim Americans by the thousands.
  • Doing nothing while Iran proceeds with its nuclear program.
  • Doing nothing while Syria built a nuclear reactor.
  • Getting bamboozled by N. Korea again and again with promises to disarm.
  • Evading fighting the countries that actually pose a significant, imminent threat – namely Iran – while invading a secondary threat, Iraq, to create the illusion (and self-delusion) that they are actually fighting a war on terror.

And previous Republican administrations have been just as bad: for the past three decades, what has the US response been to the acts of war by Iran and its surrogates (including the bombings of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the embassy in Beirut, the embassy annex in Beirut, the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania … the list goes on and on)? The response has been: nothing.

The problem is not just Republican administrations or the Republican Party, it’s the entire Conservative movement. Conservatives had a field day with Jimmy Carter’s disgraceful gesture of laying a wreath at Yassir Arafat’s Grave – but barely raised their voices when the Bush administration committed the infinitely more reprehensible act of giving that murderer hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and a boatload of weapons. Conservatives blame the rise of Islamic-Fascist terrorism on the Clinton failure to respond to terrorist acts, but remain silent on the failure of Reagan and Bush I to respond to far deadlier acts (noted above).

If Conservatives really desired victory, they would be screaming bloody murder at Bush’s continual failures. Instead, they remain silent.

It is pure fantasy for Conservatives to claim, as Goldberg does, that their position is any different from the Liberals', i.e. that they value America and its ideals and that they want to win the war. To value something means that you actively pursue it, not just that you say that you value it. Liberals want America to lose … and Conservatives aren’t willing to win – which is effectively the same thing, the same inaction in the face of continued attacks and unchecked growth of the Iranian threat.

The Conservative position on the war isn’t surprising. Conservatives are able to plagiarize the language of founding fathers and Ayn Rand, but they don't have a clue as to what liberty and the founding principles are:

War is one of the few great exceptions to the rule of liberty, a fact recognized by tradition, custom, law and the constitution. The infringements on freedom made necessary by war are, according to basic conservative precepts, regrettable and ideally temporary.
First of all, if Goldberg had any understanding or appreciation of what liberty is, he wouldn’t be mentioning it in the same sentence as custom and tradition. More importantly, waging a war in self-defense against a dictatorship like Iran does not constitute an infringement of anyone’s freedom. The guilt for the death of any Iranians killed in a US attack would fall on the Iranian regime, not us.

Mar 16, 2008

Jan 10, 2008

Thursday Links

Ed Cline rips another one out of the ballpark (this time over the "right field" fence) with an essay/review of The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever.

In Britain, 66,000 girls of African and Middle-Eastern origin have been subjected to ritual genital mutilation (warning: disturbing article). And yet Western feminists and multi-culturalists remain silent.

Federal judges micro-manage political speech (via Instapundit).

President Bush is visiting Ramallah, but he will skip laying a wreath at Arafat's tomb (as is customary among foreign dignitaries). Having given hundreds of millions of dollars to Arafat and his murderous gang, does he actually think this symbolic act makes him any less of an unprincipled appeaser?

Oct 31, 2007

House design

Anyone in the Chicgo area looking for a modern house? This one looks very good: 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, some glass walls ... for only $213,000. There's lots of natural wood inside but also some outdated '70's finishes in a few areas.

modern house

The listing, with more pictures, is here: modernproperty.com

(Via Mid-Century Modern Interiors )

Oct 16, 2007

New speed records

It looks like the world speed record for a sailboat has been broken, at 47.2 knots, by an amazing 60 ft hydrofoil sailboat, l'Hydroptere (dramatic video -- see the end when the crew get the news)

Meanwhile, the absolute record for any sailing vessel remains with Finian Maynard, on a windsurfer, at 48.7 kts (56 mph). Here's a video of his record-breaking run:



I think, ultimately, the sailing speed record will usually be held by a windsurfer, rather than a boat. For one, a windsurfer can fit in a man-made trench (such as "The Trench" in southern France, shown in the above video), which reduces wave height down to ripples; this means much less friction against -- and impact with -- the hull, which allows for greater speeds.

The other advantage of a windsurfer is that these events are often won on logistics; simply being able to get your boat and crew to the right location, at the right time (i.e. during optimal wind and water conditions), and to do as many runs as possible, is key to breaking a record. That's a lot easier to do with a few pounds of windsurfer than with several tons and tens of millions of dollars worth of boat.

So as is often (though definitely not always) the case, simplicity provides the best design solution.

Oct 14, 2007

Texas man catches burglars

Here's a great news story about a courageous Texas man who catches the burglars who are robbing his house:

Video

Check out his wife's serious comments at 1:46 to 1:50 of the video -- and then her reaction right after (its very fast, from 1:51 - 1:52 in the video). Priceless!

Modern art strikes again

London's Tate Modern museum has been at the forefront of the assault on art -- and consequently on culture.

Now that assault has turned physical: several visitors to one of Tate Modern's "art" "installations" - a large crack installed in the museum floor - have been injured after falling into the crack:

Art lovers fall victim to crack

This is like a cross between Atlas Shrugged and Monty Python. It would be funny if it weren't so serious. The damage inflicted by this modern "art" work is not just physical; given the crucial role art plays in our lives, bad art can crush not only bones, but also human spirit.

Update: An editorial on the crack

Metaphors are the key but not the ones about colonialism, racism and social division the artist talks about in the gallery blurbs.

No, this is a crack that runs through the world's most popular museum of modern art. Just as Hirst's diamond-studded skull symbolises the pinnacle of vanity of the contemporary art bubble, the crack symbolises its imminent collapse.

In the past 10 years, prices paid for art have rocketed, often by a factor of 10, and an army of mediocre artists have been hyped beyond all reason. Last week, Sotheby's share price dropped 37 per cent after an unsuccessful modern art auction.

But the quake has only just started - it'll measure 12 on the
Gerhard Richter scale - and the earth is set to swallow up some of the most famous names and sacred tenets of contemporary art.

Lets hope so.

Oct 13, 2007

Ann Coulter: Americans should be Christian, ‘Jews need to be perfected’

Yet another Conservative demonstrates that Conservatves are as much a threat to America as the Leftists are; this interview is astonishing in how openly, un-appologetically, thuggishly bigotted and anti-reason she is:



Keep in mind this is from a conservative intellectual.

For an opposite view on whether Americans should be Christian, here's Thomas Jefferson:

I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth...

Update: deleted one of the quotes since I couldn't verify it's authenticity.

Oct 10, 2007

Enviro-libertarians

Consistent with his environmentalist tendencies, Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds goes gaga over leftist environmentalist Amory Lovins:

Instapundit.com

I agree [with Lovins] -- that it doesn't matter whether you believe "peak oil" catastrophe scenarios because you ought to be doing the same thing anyway. Likewise the global warming debate, which I also agree with. "The debate about energy conservation is about costs, but it's not about costs -- everybody who saves energy makes money on it."

This is completely false. It makes no economic sense to incur huge costs to obtain a minimal reduction in energy consumption.

Sep 14, 2007

Funny videos

A couple of funny videos with Will Ferrell and the adorable Pearl: The Landlord and Good Cop, Baby Cop.

Its interesting how the Internet is making possible the production and wide-scale dissemination of small projects like these.

Jul 5, 2007

Some new realist painting

I came accros this interesting studio/gallery, Bohemiarte, while walking by on the street. You can see some of their paintings in the picture below (click for better picture).

I had a quick chat with the owner, who seems to be affiliated with the new realist movement; she is also familiar with the Art Renewal Center. Unfortunately she was teaching a class, so I'll have to go back again for more information. It would be interesting to see if they are familiar with The Romantic Manifesto.


Jul 4, 2007

Intellectuals vs. America, yet again

A Chicago Tribune editorialist searches for the great Amercian novel. Among her picks:

I'm momentarily partial to the violent incantations of "American Psycho." Reviled upon its initial publication for its gleeful gore, Ellis' novel about an unrepentant serial killer strikes me these days as witty and knowing. It's filled with brand names and sex and social anxiety ...

The rest of her picks aren't much better.

Jul 3, 2007

More music from YouTube

The great Julie London (1926-2000), very much missed in this day of belters:

Julie London -- Bye Bye Blackbird

To say Julie London was understated ... is an understatement. She's not held in high regard by much of the Jazz critics, but I would rate here as one of the great singers: her intonation is near perfect, her phrasing is impeccable, and her tone -- well lets just say her voice sounds like she looks.

Here's another interesting YouTube find along the same lines; I think this gal's got something:

"ysabellabrave" singing Night and Day and One for my Baby

Besides the tasteful performances, she's also mastered the single-shot, headshot, music video.

Update: wow, she sings Fado too.

Subway melodies

A number of people have linked to and commented on this Washington Post article, Pearls Before Breakfast , which describes an experiment in which world-class virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell performed in a subway station while Post reporters observed the responses of subway passengers (the passengers essentially ignored Bell.)

I disagree with the author of the Post article, and with many of the people who have comented on it, who conclude that the subway passengers' behavior shows that they are somehow intellectually, morally, and/or spiritually (i.e. esthetically) deficient because they failed to stop to listen to Bell. (The WP article's title implies they're swine.)

There was a very good reason for not stopping: namely, Bell was playing Bach, which, for most normal people, is excruciatingly, mind-numbingly dull music.

The passengers weren't ignoring Bell, they were ignoring Bach.

But shouldn't the passengers at least stop to appreciate Bell's skills? Stopping to appreciate only Bell's skills (as opposed to enjoying the music he was playing) is an intellectual exercise, not an esthetic experience; expecting people to appreciate the demonstration of technical skills used to play music they don't enjoy means expecting them to temporarily subvert their esthetic needs to satisfy an intellectual one. This is the opposite of what most normal people expect from a music listening experience, and the opposite of music's purpose and function.

Furthermore, I question whether talent is so obvious in the case of the performance of music that is not emotionally engaging: talent and skill in music ultimately serve to strengthen the melody (which is the main mechanism that carries the emotional meaning of the piece). If a melody is inherently uninspiring, how can you judge if its being played brilliantly? Since Bach’s melodies are (again, for most normal people) plodding and pedantic (for one thing all the melody notes seem to have the same duration), how can you tell if the playing -- the phrasing and dynamics – is or isn't plodding and pedantic?

(As an extreme case, consider modernistic, non-melodic "music", which delivers no emotional content (except perhaps, indirectly, annoyance); how can you identify the performer’s talent? How can you even tell if the performer misses a note, or otherwise failes to realize the piece's musical meaning, if the piece has none?)

If one really wanted to judge the public's musical esthetic taste, a more interesting, follow-up, subway experiment would be to have Bell (or even a merely competent performer) play some actual moving violin music -- for example Romantic era classical violin pieces by Pagannini or Brahms, traditional Scottish dance music, Parisian gypsy jazz, or Texas swing, to name just a few examples).

Actually, this phenomenon can be routinely observed: in my experience, street performers who play exciting, engaging music have no problems drawing big crowds. Another example of the public's preference for moving music: recently, the winner of a British talent reality show (see his performance on the widely circulated YouTube video below) won the competetion, not with any great talent, but because he sang a great song (Puccini’s Nessun Dorma).



In summary: if the public has bad musical taste (as suggested by ths article), the Bell subway experiment doesn't demonstrate it.

May 14, 2007

Welcome

Welcome to my blog. One of the main goals of this blog is to help me improve my writing skills. After several years of writing mostly engineering reports -- and worse, engineering memos -- I have realized I don’t know how to write smooth, readable text. My writing comes out as dry, choppy phrases. Like this. And this.

More importantly, I want to use this blog to sharpen my thinking. I have a few ideas in the areas of architecture and design theory, music theory, the arts, engineering, the aerospace industry; however, unless I can express them in written form, I can’t really consider them complete.

The title of this blog is Forces, which refers to the fact that engineering will be covered, but also suggests the role of ideas in shaping culture.

Update: revised for clarity.