Wednesday, May 31, 2006

She's gorgeous!

Steve Wynn just paid over $10 million for this Ming vase. It is a lovely object - deserving of much affection, and I hope this is prominently on display in Vegas - but I guess I don't love it "$10 million dollars" much. Still, I'd be glad to ogle it like this fellow. You can tell, he likes his pottery.

Meanwhile, in a museum far far away, this hapless buckeroo helped increase the value of other vases:
"I snagged my shoelace, missed the step and 'crash bang wallop,' there was a million pieces of high-quality Qing ceramics lying around beneath me," Nick Flynn told BBC radio.

"There is no way my pocket will stretch to reimburse them for the damage that I have done".

The museum staff (The Fitzwilliam) vowed to glue the pieces together, and asked the patron to never come back, please.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Dull Vinci Code story is coming apart

A town in Japan claims to be the burial place for Jesus - who learned Japanese before starting his ministry and returned after his brother took his place on the cross. I wonder if his descendants had to step on his image and renounce him during Tokugawa Iemitsu's ban on the faith.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Happy Memorial Day

Spanish American War Memorial in Austin, TX.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Steyn on China

Steyn always goes back to demography - or as he puts it, he's been a demography bore for the past several years. But, in so doing, he connects the Russian population problem with the results of an idiotic one child policy in China in a way that I hadn't considered.

His last line: "...Beijing is a threat to Washington not because of its strength but because of its weakness," could be expanded to include China's much touted economic future, too - citing their new false front that Steyn mentioned.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

65 years old and going on 130.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Japanese Transportation Museum to close doors

I happened to visit this small, unassuming museum sometime in 2003 and it turned out to be quite a treat. Though the museum was obviously kind of old, I had no idea that it had been around as long as it had. The place had lots of mechanical dioramas showing how draw bridges and train tracks work, along with train simulators and all kinds of stuff that fuel the imagination of the youngins. The lobby's centerpieces were two steam locomotives (shown above), one with cutaways to show the guts of the engine. My favorite exhibit was a series of model ships of varying classes and sizes, including a mammoth tanker that was about eight feet long. There were also some old cars and model airplanes and stuff of that nature, but the heart of the museum was based on railroad artifacts. According to the article, some of that stuff will be absorbed by a new museum in Saitama. Still, it's always a little sad when a neat place like that closes shop.

You can check out a few pictures from the museum, as well as a brief description of the place here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pro-US media?

Hardly. With friends like the Washington Post, who needs enemies? The headline reads: Afghanistan Rocked as 105 Die. Then you read the lead paragraph and it still sounds bad. It isn't until the second paragraph before you realize that 80 to 90 of the deaths were the enemy. Toss the hamhocks in their graves and call it what it is: a victory.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Kremlin simply does not like freedom

They don't want the N. Korean abduction issue brought up at the G-8 summit, since it is not appropriate. Will they also urge that no mention be made of Yasukuni? When's the last time that the Kremlin has celebrated the liberation of a person or country?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Cultural Revolution!

Just 40 years ago Mao's pet project made its painful destructive mark on one of the most impressive and awesome cultures ever. Good going Mao! That same People's Party seems intent to go through this milestone in silence with its hand over its face. A worthy gesture for this occasion? Take his portrait off the Forbidden City and hit it, Iraqi style, with a shoe.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Outside the Farting Man’s show at Asakusa

“Some fools survive a serious illness by taking ginseng and then go hang themselves when they can’t pay for it. Other men love potentially poisonous blowfish soup yet manage to reach old age.” (all quotes from “A Theory of Farting”, by Gennai in 1774)

The new show provoked much discussion among the onlookers.

“Opinion was divided between those who asserted the man was using medicine and those who argued he had some sort of hidden device.”

Author: “Yes, there is in fact a farting medicine on the market. A man in Osaka, Seiemon, who owns the Chigusaya Publishing House, also sells unusual herbal remedies. His signboard advertises both Argument Laxatives and Fart Starters. But when I asked about the ingredients of the farting formula, I discovered it’s only for nudging out stubborn farts, not for producing the artistic releases we saw today.

“...Yesterday’s new seems old today, and the old gets even older. But the Farting Man is different. True, you can find gifted fictional farters in old tales. But what that Farting Man actually does right in front of your eyes can’t be found in any old record or legend…. And you won’t find anyone like him in China, Korea, India, Holland, or any country on earth. What brilliant conception! And what execution!”

Military Man: “What we have just heard is truly shameless. The authorities permit plays and other public performances only as a means of harmonizing people and revealing the proper Way of ruler and ruled, father and child, husband and wife, older and younger brother, friend and friend…[cites puppet play examples]…Even freak shows teach audiences that their own children will be punished if they commit bad deeds….Freak shows urge constant vigilance and demonstrate the chilling truth that retribution for deeds comes swiftly and without mercy. In the last few years, however, the people who put on these shows have completely abandoned morality….And now the ‘farting man’ is on exhibit! It’s outrageous!

“One must absolutely never fart in public. For a warrior to fart during a formal meeting is an act so dishonorable in calls for suicide….Such people know what shame is. But for someone to put up a sign beside a main street and fart right in front of people’s eyes, why, it’s vulgar and impudent beyond words!…And those who watch him are dimwits.”

Author: “How different he is from our professional musicians who go to a certified master to receive secret instruction on the proper way to articulate and chant so they themselves can later charge high fees to their own students. These musicians caw and croak like crows or night herons, imitating old pieces without putting any feeling into the phrases….They simply slaughter the words of the new puppet plays. The profession as a whole is in decline. But look at the Farting Man. He’s invented everything by himself, without master or secret oral transmission. With an unspeaking rear end and uncomprehending farts…Call him one of a kind, call him a wonder. Truly he is the founder of the Way of Farting.

“But musicians aren’t the only ones these days who are, as they say, ‘shit bad.’ Scholars stare at thousand-year old wastepaper from China, and writers who use classical Chinese collect stray shavings from the works of Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, and the middle-Tang poets, heaping them into what they think are great pillars. Waka poets just sit around, but rice grains manage to stick to the bottoms of their feet, and they make a good living….[but the Farting Man] has captured the imagination of the whole country.”

Monday, May 15, 2006

The open-border drinking game

For tonight's speech. The guidelines suggest 3 cases of beer for each person, but garsh, even if the speech ran an hour and the President said nothing but the keywords listed, that seems a bit excessive.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I guess it depends on what your definition of "perform" is

Shocker: Clinton polls higher than Bush. The irony is just dripping off this poll like grease off a roasted duck.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Toei Studios tax scandal

Film company Toei Co. hid about 290 million yen in taxable income over the five years to March 2005 and reported fictitious business expenses for birthday parties and other events, sources said Tuesday.
Rubbish! A little deduction and it's pretty clear where the money went. They're obviously paying extortion money to the Neptune Men. Duh!

Captured AQ Document shows how badly they're being beaten

This coincides with Zakaria's assessment from last week - basically that they've painted themselves in a corner and it's only getting worse. Al Qaeda's only success has been with the U.S. media. I know, I know, al Qaeda's merely a hack for the Bush smear machine...

Positive Iraqi news

Encouraging news in Iraq – tribal leaders agree to denounce terror and unite in fighting it. I would’ve cited the NYTimes coverage of this story but, you know, it doesn’t exist.

Meanwhile, discouraging news for Palestinians. The world just doesn’t want the U.S. to stand up to terror. All Hamas has to do to turn the money spigots back on is renounce terror, acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and uphold previous agreements. Are those unreasonable requests? If that’s so impossible, then maybe a Palestinian collapse is necessary. It sounds good to say that Palestinian teachers are going to be paid and all that – but what are they teaching? That America is a big meanie and withholding money because we don’t like democracy? That Jews are evil and self-whacking is honorable? You could toss in some arithmetic and it still won’t equal out to our favor – or theirs. But, I guess that’s one way we can get a bang for our buck.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Albright, still behind the curve….

My fear is that, in the process, a new conventional wisdom will emerge that promoting democracy in the Middle East is a mistake. It is not.

Even when she’s part right, she’s frustrating because it seems she’ll forever be at least part wrong. First, she wants to draw the line between the realist camp and the idealist camp, and then sides with the idealist camp though she thinks their main crime is over-promising the perks of democracy…oh yeah, and doing something about it. You may remember Albright as the Madame secretary that did little, if nothing, to promote democracy in the Middle East, but that’s water under the bridge, right? When she had the chance to shape our policy in the region, she chose stability over independence, which she now criticizes. Well that’s fine, welcome to the outskirts of the idealist camp, Madame. Don’t worry, nobody’s going to expect any leadership from you.

She concludes her article:

The time has come to start looking beyond the Bush administration to its successor. Our new leaders, of whichever party, will face daunting challenges, including that of redefining what America stands for in the world. Their "to do" list is sure to include winning the battle of ideas -- as we should have long ago -- against the likes of Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, halting nuclear proliferation, devising a sensible energy policy, and restoring America's reputation as a supporter (and observer) of international law and human rights. At the top of that list, however, must be a reaffirmation of America's commitment to liberty and respect for the dignity of every human being. Without such a commitment, all else will be in vain.
It would be nice of her to give credit where credit is due. Bush has redefined our stance in the world and restored our reputation and support of human rights, if not international law. And what is international law these days if not a tool for stability over freedom? And to suggest that Bush hasn’t reaffirmed our commitment to liberty and respect for the dignity of every human being? Sheesh!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Can you sculpt fire?

I wouldn't know where to start - yet, that's what we see here from this Heian era (ca 11th century) bronze. Fudo Myoo (see below) is a Buddhist/Shinto god of fire. He's supposed to have a flaming sword (sounds like a light saber to me).

Don't let his belly fool you, he may look a little out of shape, but he's fully prepared to slice you in twain. I'm not sure when curved swords came into widespread use in Japan though they would have been around during the Heian period. I guess if your sword is made of fire, then it really doesn't matter what shape it is.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Edward Copeland has the results for the Best Picture contest

Lots of good stuff to read through. Most of my choices made it - except for three: French Connection, Ben Hur, and You Can't Take It With You. Don't miss the following posts featuring those near the top, the unloved and a scorecard filmographic. Or just go here and keep scrolling.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Now that's what Willis was talking about!

Koreans develop a female android!

"Standing 1.6 meters tall and weighing about 50 kilograms, she can understand others, speak, blink with her eyes and makes several facial expressions."

It looks real enough that I assume they've also programmed her to never be wrong in an argument and say things like "I'm not going to talk to you."

A few quick notes about the past week:

Stephen Colbert:
Despite what many rightwing pundits may think, Stephen Colbert’s speech at the press club dinner was rude, but still very funny. He reminded me of that Russian comic who lambasted Stalin right in his face with a real “truth to power” skit. What was his name? PM42342ZQ45 (Gulag North)? Something like that. Boy was he funny! A real stitch! Or how about Saddam’s fool who made fun of Qusay’s small feet? Har-har-hardee-har-har. I bet it was worth the flattened cranium just to see Saddam’s lost expression.

Fareed Zakaria’s article on the dwindling appeal of al Qaeda:
As much as I pick on Zakaria – I think he’s a smart and likable fellow. After 3 years of nitpicking on the decision to strike Iraq, his most recent assessment of al Qaeda’s appeal to the Muslim masses seems to validate Bush’s preemption doctrine, though Zakaria doesn’t say so (in fact, he doesn’t mention Bush at all). Worth reading.

Biden’s Iraq proposal:
Is reason enough that he shouldn’t get his paws on the Oval Office. I’d rather have Hillary in there, so long as she promises to remain insincere. I like her best when she’s insincere. Anyway, back to Biden – a divided Iraq may or may not be in the Iraqi future (I tend to think it won’t be) & regardless, things will be better than they were under Hussein. Still, this poorly conceived and ill-timed plan seeks to serve but one interest: Biden’s. If he doesn’t see the reasons to strive for a unified Iraq, then perhaps he should re(?)read the Federalist Papers.

Liverputty resuming activity

That posting will begin again is certainly not a sign that things have returned to the way they were before. Hardly. Jennifer will never be forgotten. At best, things are back to an altered state of normal.