Saturday, September 22, 2007

Protesting Amadedjinahddhahahlhlh at Columbia

Now that the righteous fury over Columbia's seemingly permanently reinstated invitation to Iran's nut-case president has abated a bit, the focus has shifted to how to effectively protest the man's speech. The suggestions have ranged from polite to polite, as it is mostly the right who are incensed by the invite. (nice little internal rhyming, what?)

I however would suggest to the Gay-Lesbian Transgender Bisexual Alliance (or whatever they're called this week) that it is up to them, as the most prominent aspect of western "decadism" so oft condemned by the terrorists and their politician handlers, to provide the principle response to this joker's appearance. Remember that this is a man who has had publicly hanged several teenage boys in the last few years for being caught in homosexual activities. There would be no more threatened social group in the West than gays and lesbians, if Sharia came to is the stated goal of Jihad. Or one of them.

I suggest a massive kiss-in the auditorium during Amadenijihad's talk. Don't shout, don't drown out, just kiss. Boys with Boys, Girls with Girls, Boys with Girls with Boys, etc... And wear as little as is legally possible. See if you can make the shabby little dictator lose his cool. If he wants decadism, let's give him decadism.

Affectionately yours,

Escutcheon Blot

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I can't imagine seeing something like this in the 30s

Leave it to Japan to promote cuteness in the military:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Favorite Short Stories

from Escutcheon BlotI have always loved the short story. To me the perfection of these little novels more than makes up for the lack of time they kill. In earlier times, these were great moneymakers for novelists of all stripes. The Saturday Evening Post, the New Yorker, Playboy, Harper's Weekly, and hundreds of others all paid authors good money for stories of just a few thousand words, rather than the 100,000 that are in a typical novel. With the decline of the print media, and the rise of the Internet, I fear that the short story has reached a nadir in its existence; a nadir that will only be exceeded by what happens tomorrow(reading between the lines you might say Blot is pessimistic; you'd be right).

I fear it is a dying art form, like many today, because it simply doesn't pay. There are of course creative writings online, but they lack the polish of earlier efforts. If you want to do something really well, you really need to get paid to do it. Otherwise, you can't spend the time necessary to perfect the art.

Since we seem to be in a list-obsessed Internet culture, I thought I would put down my list for the greatest short stories ever written; in my eyes. Some are hackneyed, some are probably nearly unknown, but I love them all, like perfect little gems.

1. The Mysterious Stranger, by Mark Twain. This one disturbed me mightily when I read it first, around the age of 13, I think. I didn't realize at the time that Twain got so very dark in his old age. I still shiver a bit when I think of the speech of the stranger at the end.

2. Buck-U-Uppo, by P.G. Wodehouse. One of the Mulliner stories. I first read it a couple of years ago, and have always come back to it when in need of a little lift. Voted by the Wodehouse Society of England as one of the favorite of PG's short stories (he was one of the most mercenarily successful of short story writers...the first Mulliner story appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1925, and the last in Playboy in 1970). Perfect. Sunny, Edwardian, and inconsequential.

3. The Death of Ivan Illyitch, by Leo Tolstoy. The absolute polar opposite of the preceding. A dark, painful, but at the same time, strangely uplifting in an incense-filled, icon-kissing, running-around-and-screaming-in-Russian sort of way. Close to a novella, but I'll allow it.

4. A Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann. I have read a lot of Mann since I moved to Germany (in English...I read for pleasure and Mann's German is a lot like Henry James' English--not pleasurable), and didn't like Buddenbrooks, really liked Magic Mountain, and Joseph and his Brothers, but the story of Aschenbach dying alone, foolish, made-up and unwanted on the beach is so brutally honest, yet in a way a condescending manner, of course. A great listen to those modern opera lovers out there(all two of you) is Benjamin Britten's late-career adaptation. Here was a composer who knew all about being an old queen. His long-time partner, Peter Pears, sang the lead when he was well into his sixties.

5. The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant. I know. Everybody's read it; those of us who took French in high school read it again in the original. It's still one of the great short stories of all time. It shares with most short stories the astringency of the shock end--maybe that's where it comes from. hmm.

6. The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe. I don't know...sometimes I like to see the rich get their just desserts. Call me a little bomb-throwing anarchist if you will...but they had it coming.

7. A Diamond as Big as the Ritz, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Love the exploration into the topic of disposable friends. We've all done it at some point or other; made friends of the moment we knew we wouldn't keep just to keep from being lonely. Course, most of us don't get rid of them in quite the same way.

8. The Reticence of Lady Anne, by Saki(H.H. Munroe). All I can say is 'Ha!'. Stiff upper lip indeed.

9. Sredni Vashtar, by Saki. I could have used a ferret or weasel or whatever it is like this one when I was a kid...I had several cumbersome female relatives. Actually, come to think of it...I still do.

10. Cruise--Letters from a Young Lady of Leisure, by Evelyn Waugh. How is it that so much of the most brilliant prose comes from the vantage point of an idiot? From Shakespeare to Faulkner, the fool gets the best lines. Goodness, how sad.

11. Bella Fleace Gave a Party, by Evelyn Waugh. I know this is supposed to be funny, but it always makes me want to cry.

12. Dr. Heideggar's Experiment, by Nathanial Hawthorne. Just a great story. Another one that makes me want to cry. I think I have issues about ageing. I know I do.

13. The Gifts of the Magi, by O'Henry. This one is easy. Selfless love is a fine moderation.

14. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. The granddaddy of all short stories. This one also verges on the novella, but I'm allowing it. What a perfect story. This is the sort of Christianity, which if still practiced and preached, would have a great, positive impact on the world. Instead we have mush-mouthed recycled agnostic socialism competing with fire-breathing, ignorantly intolerant certitude. Give me a few ghosts and Tiny Tim piping up from his stool by the corner. And what more delicious feast has ever been described as the poor dinner of Bob Crachitt, which seems such a phantasmagoria to his poor, multitudinous family.

There are, I'm sure, many I have forgotten. I am quite certain that there is a Heinlein or two, as well as something by Asimov. I can't remember the titles, though, or even the particular plots, and that pretty much knocks them out of the memorable category. I open the floor to discussion.


Escutcheon Blot

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Adios Abe

Shinzo Abe never did seem to get his sea legs for Prime Minister and now he's stepping down. The LDP seems rudderless of late after recent losses at the polls and various instances of kowtowing to public pressure. Koizumi was ever bit as embattled as Abe was (not sure about the tax scandal the story hinted at), but was, nevertheless, more inspired in his leadership. While the neighborhood is dangerous enough that the vaccuum left by Abe's departure won't change the direction of Japan's foreign policy, it could cause some migraine inducing setbacks. Such is the way of democracies, two steps forward, one step back....Ah well, good-bye Abe, best of luck for your future.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Peter Principle: Why things always go wrong.

by Charlie Parsley
Incompetence is everywhere. Structures collapse due to faulty design. A theater house is built without enough seating for the theatrical productions. Motorists complain about problems in new cars. High school students cannot read. Sales clerks are insolent. Politicians are indecisive and ineffective.

As a reporter, Raymond Hull has had a variety of opportunities to study the workings of civilized society, and has repeatedly encountered incompetence in nearly every segment of industry. He has investigated and written about government, business, education, and has interviewed people from a variety of professions. He has noticed that, with few exceptions, men ‘bungle their affairs’.

Mr. Hull began asking questions of his acquaintances, and heard plenty of theories about why we’re in the state we’re in. Political irresponsibility. Fiscal crisis. Social changes. One night, during an intermission at a theater performance, Mr. Hull met Dr. Laurence J. Peter, and discovered that they shared this field of interest, as Dr. Peter was a scientist studying incompetence. They met after the show and spent a long evening discussing the doctor’s findings.

Together, they discovered commonalities among their observations. They have outlined these concepts and theories, and have made them available to the casual reader in a handsome 1969 paperback publication.

The Peter Principle: Why things always go wrong, by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. A Bantam Book, copyright 1969.

The Peter Principle applies to laws such as that of Murphy’s: a sort of theoretical social science. The Peter Principle describes the workings of a hierarchy, and so can be said to be the study of hierarchiology.

Dr. Peter hypothesized that the cause of workplace incompetence was an aspect of the way employees are chosen and placed in their position. Additional forces applied from the pyramidal chain-of-command structures predetermine how said employee will then rise up through the hierarchy in their workplace. A particular employee may advance from an entry-level role into a position with responsibility. It is in this moving, or, repositioning as is the current term, which will make all the difference.

If said employee is competent in the new role, he will then be eligible for promotion into another position. If said employee is not competent, then he will not be eligible. Therefore, he will remain in the position he is incompetent at. If said employee is competent as said before, promotion can and likely will continue until the employee reaches a plateau where he is no longer competent in the role and will therefore not be promoted again. Advancement up the hierarchy will continue until an employee is ineligible to proceed any further. He has then ‘reached his level of his incompetence.’

Dr. Peter discovered a commonality: employees are first placed in a role they are competent at. Because of this competence, they are then promoted into another role, which may demand new skills. If the employee is not competent in the new position, then there will be no further promotion, and the employee is then stuck in that role.

“In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.”

“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

Mr. Hull goes on to provide ‘Case Studies’ of particular persons with thoughtful pseudo-names such as Mr. C. Breeze, D. Roane, Mr. B. Lunt, Miss P. Saucier of the Lomark Department Stores, Captain N. Chatters, General Goodwin, Roly Koster, and many more. Such names make page turning enjoyable, as the names are continually fresh and new, and never repeated.

Case studies provide insightful and believable profiles of the moderately competent worker, the competent worker and the incompetent, and how advancement for all will result in failure at some point.

A good, industrious auto mechanic, while and expert with cars, may become an auto shop owner, where he will continue to manage the cars rather than the finances or the other employees. Other employees may lag in their productivity if no one will provide the organization and coordination with the customers.

A current example: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger has achieved his success from presenting himself to he public through bodybuilding and then films. He has excelled at entertainment. Yet he has now advanced into a higher public role with a very different skill set, that of politician, for which he has no prior experience. Has he reached his level of incompetence?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


One of the best of the 70s anime characters was Raijin, or Laijin. He managed the crossover into the U.S. demonstrated by the above Marvel comic, the cover, of which, I remember too well. I recall that he came out of a mountain when the pilot/hero rode a motorcycle off a ramp into the opening tomb-like chamber in the side of the mountain. The following scan shows none of that:And at the end of show, when all else has failed to kill the enemy giant, Raijin would determine where its heart was, configure himself into a phoenix and ram his beak through the monster thus:As I was surfing around for more pictures, I came across this most excellent toy:I recently recovered this same toy which is in almost perfect shape (the fists have vanished, but it still has the shield-sword and bow). $6.99 bought a fine toy back in the day. The ad came from this vintage toy site.
The figure was part of a series:Here's a good close-up:Okay, now that we're thoroughly geeked out on that. Who was the real Raijin? Well, he was a Shinto god of thunder, seen here guarding Nikko's Buddhist temple:He's often with his good bud, Fujin, the god of wind:You may remember Fujin from the Suntory ad I posted a month ago. But I digress. Here's a couple more depictions of Raijin (I believe the discs around him are drums, which makes him one of the few gods that goes around with a trap set):I particularly like the following silk screen which shows the two frolicking about. The anime version of Raijin lacks the saggy breasts of the old god:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Slenderer and Shinier than Ever

Joan Rivers releases a new Head Shot today.