Friday, February 29, 2008

Clowns, why'd it hafta be clowns?

As many friends have pointed out to me since this commercial debuted on Super Bowl Sunday, the E-trade baby shares my discomfort with clowns.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

The HD war is over. Whew.

So Blu-ray has won the big high-def DVD war.

Thank gawd that's over.

Here's where I stand on HD. It can be cool, I'll admit. I don't own an HD player, but I do get HD with my digital cable service, and I've watched some extraordinary science and nature documentaries in high-definition on my 46-inch Samsung. They're gorgeous. But honestly, friends, my plain old DVDs look pretty good, even on a large screen, and I just don't see the big deal about watching Rush Hour 3 or Balls of Fury in higher definition. My poor old peepers really can't make out that big a difference anyway.

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William F. Buckley Jr., RIP

One of my dirtiest secrets is this: William F. Buckley, Jr., who died two days ago, ushered me through the political door that led me rather quickly to radical libertarianism. At 14, I watched Firing Line every week with my dad. By the time I was 15, I had subscribed to National Review and joined Young Americans for Freedom. Through the monthly YAF magazine New Guard, I learned about Ayn Rand and Objectivism; I also began reading columns and articles in that mag by libertarians like Jerome Tuccille and David Friedman and even first heard of Karl Hess in those pages. In summer 1970, at age 16, I attended my one and only YAF leadership conference in Glendale, California; it was at that conference that I met a handful of free market anarchists who stuffed photocopies of Murray Rothbard articles and copies of The Match! into my paws. Within a few months, I’d subscribed to Murray’s Libertarian Forum, read Tuccille’s Radical Libertarianism, attended the notorious Left-Right Festival of Mind Liberation at USC (sponsored by Rampart College and California Libertarian Alliance), and was calling myself an anarchist.

God love ya, Bill. Rest in peace.

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Things to do instead of voting: #2

Commune with nature.

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Things to do instead of voting: #1

Build a cardboard spaceship.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Election 2008: returns are in!

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

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Don't sanction "the process"

There are so many quotable quotes in my friend Wendy McElroy’s latest blog post this morning (“Act Responsibly: Don’t Vote!!”) that I’m tempted to reprint the whole thing here. But I won’t. Go read it for yourself. In the meantime, chew on these choice bits:

“This November, most people won’t ‘do it’ in the voting booth despite attempts to shame them. They will spend the time on activities that enrich their lives: buying groceries, playing with children, catching up on work.”

“Sometimes political disgust converts non-voting from an act of indifference to one of protest through which people express a word that all politicians fear: ‘no.’ Not just ‘no’ to them but to the entire process.”

“Voting is not an act of political freedom. It is an act of political conformity. Those who refuse to vote are not expressing silence. They are screaming in the politician’s ear: ‘You do not represent me. This is not a process in which my voice matters. I do not believe you.’”

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Who is Kent Allard?

Here’s big, big, very big news for fans of The Shadow. The August 8, 1937, pulp novel “The Shadow Unmasks,” by Walter Gibson (aka Maxwell Grant), has finally, for the first time ever, been reprinted, complete with its original art. This is the notorious story that rocked the pulp magazine world when it revealed once and for all the true identity of The Shadow. For six years, Gibson had told readers that Lamont Cranston was just one of the crime-fighter’s public faces, a disguise The Shadow adopted only when the real world-traveling Cranston was out of town. So who was The Shadow really? He turned out to be aviator-adventurer Kent Allard, WWI aviator hero and adventurer, thought lost in Central America. This was a very cool revelation in its day, I imagine, and it’s great to be able to read the story for the first time. “The Shadow Unmasks” is paired up with “The Yellow Band” in The Shadow Vol. 15, part of Nostalgia Ventures’ terrific pulp reprint series. The volume also includes bonus articles about the famous Shadow “identity reveal” and a short bio of Colonel P. H. Fawcett, the explorer who inspired Gibson’s creation of Kent Allard.

Amazon claims the book is not yet available, but I found it at my local Borders last Friday.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Howard Roark in Beijing

Just in time for the Summer Olympics, here’s the new headquarters for Beijing’s central TV station, CCTV. Instead of a traditional tower, the building’s 5.9 million square feet of vertical and horizontal sections create an enormous square tube. Where the hell are the elevators?


Statist Troll Bingo

Thanks to Francois Tremblay for creating this, and to BK for alerting me to it.

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Delegitimize the State!

Writes Sheldon Richman this morning:

“Any libertarian strategy that has any hope of succeeding must seek fundamentally to delegitimize the state, that is, to persuade people that government does not deserve the unique and privileged moral status it has been accorded throughout history. This leads to the curious insight that even those who favor limited government should advocate statelessness (free-market anarchism) because people will move to severely restrict the power of the state only when they believe it is illegitimate. Conceding its legitimacy one iota inevitably works against liberty.”

That, comrades, is antipolitics in a nutshell.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

David Luiz RIP

My brother-in-law David’s fight against his cancer wasn’t long. He was diagnosed this past October; he died Tuesday night. It’s a blessing, I suppose, that his struggle was so short and that he didn’t have to deal with excruciating pain, particularly near the end, any longer than he did. On the other hand, it’s a shock for us survivors. David was just 59. Graveside services for immediate family are Saturday. A celebration of David’s life (i.e., memorial service) will be held the following weekend. If you don’t hear much from me for awhile, you’ll know where I am.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Sherlockian classic returns

My copy of the 75th anniversary edition of Vincent Starrett’s classic The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes arrived in this afternoon’s mail. What a treasure! This early and playful study of the Holmes stories literally launched the Sherlockian “movement” in this country when it was first published in 1933. It’s seen umpteen editions over the years and remains a cornerstone work in Holmesiana. I first read a paperback reprint in the 1970s and have held onto that tattered copy for three decades. But this new hardcover facsimile of the first edition, complete with its original illustrations, can now respectably stand alongside my dozen or more editions of the Saga and the hundred or more Sherlockian studies that line my shelves. Bravo to Ray Betzner, who worked so diligently to make this edition of Starrett’s book a reality. It ain’t cheap, but if you love Sherlock Holmes, you must get this. And if you haven’t yet caught the Sherlockian fever, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes will certainly give it to you.

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Dilbert on nonvoting

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roy Scheider RIP

Roy Scheider's greatest performance ever, in one of the half-dozen greatest movie musicals of all time, Bob Fosse's All That Jazz (1979).

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

How to despoil paradise

Well, well, well. What a difference a few decades makes.

I first read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series when I was probably, oh, in the seventh or eighth grade. The books are filled with thrilling adventures, neat dinosaurs, cavemen, and at least one beautiful woman (aptly named Dian the Beautiful). And that’s all I got out of those stories way back then. Two years ago, I decided to revisit the books and quickly plowed through the first, At the Earth’s Core (1913). I enjoyed the hell out of it. This week, I finally picked up the second novel in the series, Pellucidar (1915). Like I did with the first novel, and like I do with most ERB books, I had a ball. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but see with much more mature eyes a very obvious early 20th century strain of empire-building beyond David Innes’ derring-do. Sure, the novel is centrally about Innes’ return to the earth’s core to find his beloved Dian. But along the way, despite singing high praises for the simpler, more primitive life found in Pellucidar, Burroughs’ hero spends a good part of his time dragging the conveniences and weaponry of the “civilized” outer world into his paradise. And in the course of doing so, he builds himself quite a kingdom. Get a load of this:

“We have just laws and only a few of them. Our people are happy because they are always working at something which they enjoy. There is no money, nor is any money value placed upon any commodity. Perry and I were as one in resolving that the root of all evil should not be introduced into Pellucidar while we lived.

“A man may exchange that which he produces for something which he desires that another has produced; but he cannot dispose of the thing he thus acquires. In other words, a commodity ceases to have pecuniary value the instant that it passes out of the hands of its producer. All excess reverts to government; and, as this represents the production of the people as a government, government may dispose of it to other peoples in exchange for that which they produce. Thus we are establishing a trade between kingdoms, the profits from which go to the betterment of the people — to building factories for the manufacture of agricultural implements, and machinery for the various trades we are gradually teaching the people. …

“We are very happy, Dian and I, and I would not return to the outer world for all the riches of all its princes. I am content here. Even without my imperial powers and honors I should be content…”

Spoken like a true despot.

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Meeting all your propaganda needs

William Gillis has turned my own Agorist Class Theory (based on the work of Samuel Edward Konkin III) into a nifty little booklet, suitable for distribution at your local cafes, bookshops, and other circles of political activity. Download the PDF right here.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A perfect combination

I think I've known all of you long enough now to let you in on this little secret: I'm a very big Jodie Foster fan. Yep. Always have been. Ever since those Courtship of Eddie's Father days on TV. Sadly, I don't think Jodie's appeared in a good movie for almost a decade. But this one, which I missed during its recent theatrical run, I'm definitely gonna see. I love Jodie. I love guns. I'm off to Netflix it right now. And don't anyone try to stop me.

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BOMB now in retro print version

My good pal Brian Richardson’s novel The Imaginary Bomb, which was podcast a couple of years ago courtesy of our mutual old friend Warren Bluhm, is now available in my (still) favorite format — as a real, hold-in-your-hands printed book. And I had a great time with it yesterday. As much as I enjoy Warren’s vocal stylings, there’s still nothing quite like characters talking in your own head via paper and type. And Bomb is filled with fun characters.

What’s this science fiction novel — at just 24,000 words, it may be more of a novella — all about? Well, it’s a comedic romp posing as an intergalactic political thriller. It’s an apocalyptic space opera told with a grin and a wink. Which isn’t to say that The Imaginary Bomb doesn’t have its share of edge-of-your-seat moments. It certainly does. But all the time I was caught up in its twists and cliffhangers, I pictured Brian chortling to himself and bursting out with a frequent “Gotcha!” And heck, the book's politics are libertarian, and that's always (well, usually) a good thing.

Bomb is a keeper, and short as it is, it’s been added to the small stack of books I return to regularly. See ya later, Mr. Whelan.

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