Stuff  Comments Off on Manifesto
Dec 122014


British anti-road protest manifesto. No idea what this is all about, probably a joke that found its way to the internet. But oddly engaging, as British locution so often is.

Lollipop men/ladies are what we would call crossing guards, so called because they use round stop signs attached to a stick. Giros are unemployment cheques. Quag barter system, no idea.

 Posted by at 4:37 pm


 Legal Stuff  Comments Off on Stuff
Dec 102014

First, here are some sites where you can buy books TomFolio AbeBooks and stuff Etsy.

This is about what dickheads the people who run Amazon are. They have what are called fulfillment centers, which are giant warehouses full of shelves with bins with stuff in them and hundreds of people working their asses off, we know, because Skynet is tracking their movements to the nanosecond. At the end of the day they go through security to make sure they are not stealing. Here is Mark Thierman, attorney for the workers:

It can take almost half an hour, and Amazon refuses to pay them. And the reason it takes so long is that Amazonian rulers  are such chislers they have just the one kiosk, rather than the three or so it would take to come up to the level of humanity Homeland Security has to offer.

The employees at one warehouse, no union of course, just individuals, sue. It winds its way through the courts, and Amazon appeals to the Supremes.  The case summary and the full oral argument on Oyez.

Amazon goes out and hires a guy named Paul Clement, who has argued more cases before the Court than any practicing lawyer. He is a legend. Brilliant in oral argument. Honest guy. Generally represents corporations and conservatives. Clerked for Scalia.  He is the ultimate Big Ticket Lawyer.

THIS is who Amazon hires, they are so intent on chiseling their employees. Lets just say Mr. Thierman has no Wikipedia page and leave it there.

And the law in this area is just so weird. Here is Clement

They go on like this for an hour, just arcane arbitrary rules that are, I guess the product of corporations just hacking away wherever they can, nickle and diming people.  As far as I can tell, its kind of a tossup which side has the better legal argument, which says more about the state of the law than the arguments, I think. The proposition that Amazon should lose just because their shit is fucked up and bullshit, well, thats not how its done. Mr. Thierman seems at first not to be having a good day, but he rallies in the last part of his argument, kind of great to listen to. I suspect this will be a Kennedy Court decision.

There was a nice lawerly exchange between Clement and his old boss, Justice Scalia

When I’m editing these tapes I often speed up the tape, it sounds really cool. Here are Clement, Sotomoyor (I think), and Scalia.

Postscript. Amazon won in a unanimous decision. Oyez.

 Posted by at 7:39 am


 Movies  Comments Off on Gonif
Dec 092014

Ed says this is his favorite scene from a Woody Allen movie

Tracy’s Face

I can’t disagree. Best scene in a glorious movie, and an elegant celebration of the best parts of our culture. More than enough reasons to keep an existentialist in clover. Allen is a genius.

But,  alas, a Sisyphean one. One of the main story lines has to do with Allen’s 42 year old character (and all male and many female characters in all of his movies are Woody Allen) is dating, meaning fucking, a 17 year old girl, Tracy whose face is mentioned. Make that raping, as in statutory. And the uptown sophisticates in the movie take in in stride, without a pause. I remember when I first saw the movie, that bothered me.

OK, time for this

[DISCLAIMER: Woody Allen is a truly detestable person, not less so for being a genius film maker. Don’t go to his movies until they are at the Crest.]

His real life is soooo much creepier. from Wikipedia

Around 1980, Allen began a relationship with actress Mia Farrow, who had leading roles in most of his movies from 1982 to 1992. Farrow and Allen never married and kept separate homes.[111]

Allen and Farrow separated in 1992, after Farrow discovered nude photographs that Allen had taken of Soon-Yi, Farrow’s adopted daughter who was around 20 years old then.[112][113] In her autobiography, What Falls Away (New York: Doubleday, 1997), Farrow says that Allen admitted to a relationship with Soon-Yi.[114]

In a 2005 Vanity Fair interview,[115] Allen estimated that, despite the scandal’s damage to his reputation, Farrow’s discovery of Allen’s attraction to Soon-Yi Previn by finding nude photographs of her was “just one of the fortuitous events, one of the great pieces of luck in my life. . . It was a turning point for the better.” Of his relationship with Farrow, he said, “I’m sure there are things that I might have done differently. . . Probably in retrospect I should have bowed out of that relationship much earlier than I did.” In 2011, Allen said,

“What was the scandal? I fell in love with this girl, married her. We have been married for almost 15 years now. There was no scandal, but people refer to it all the time as a scandal and I kind of like that in a way because when I go I would like to say I had one real juicy scandal in my life.”[116]

That last quote reflects the dark side of existentialism, if there is no meaning there are no rules, any messed up thing that one feels like doing is justified. Good for me. Me! Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!

And, it gets way, way worse if you believe what Mia Farrow’s other kid has to say. Too creepy for this blog.


 Posted by at 5:09 am


 Essay, Movies  Comments Off on Existentialism
Dec 072014

Speaking of ingenious knaves, fraudulent, avaricious, and altogether of bad character, whose whole house is in as bad repute as he himself, here is a clip from what I think is Woody Allen’s best movie. The last line of the alien is as good a summary of Camus’ position in  “The Myth of Sisyphus” as I can think of.

[DISCLAIMER: Woody Allen is a truly detestable person, not less so for being a genius film maker. Don’t go to his movies until they are at the  Crest.]

Stardust Memories – Woody Allen – alien scene – YouTube.

The alien’s comment about his early films is oracular.

 Posted by at 6:33 pm

Sisyphus had it coming

 Essay  Comments Off on Sisyphus had it coming
Dec 072014



Sisyphus is the inspiration for many New Yorker cartoons, here is my favorite.

He is also the star of Albert Camus most Important Work, in my opinion, “The Myth of Sisyphus” . This book inspired my personal strategy for not going nuts. “One must imagine Sisyphus happy” said Camus.

So, I want to think well of him. The image of Sisyphus is that he is personifies the human condition, the situation of the working man, and so on. We tend to think of his as a regular guy, a working stiff who just can’t catch a break. Well, not so much. In the Greek myths, Sisyphus is an asshole.

According to Diodorus Siculus VI, “Sisyphus, we are told, excelled all other men in knavery and ingenuity”.

And not the good kind of knavery, like, say, Odysseus (a shirttail relative of Sisyphus). Here are some excerpts from Bullfinch’s Mythology:

As king of Corinth he promoted navigation and commerce, but was fraudulent, avaricious, and altogether of bad character, and his whole house was in as bad repute as he himself.

The special reasons for this punishment are not the same in all authors; some say that it was because he had betrayed the designs of the gods (Serv. ad Aen. vi. 616 ; Schol. ad Horn. 11. i. 180, vi. 153), others because he attacked travellers, and killed them with a huge block of stone.

[O]ther traditions relate that Sisyphus lived in enmity with his brother Salmoneus, and consulted the oracle how he might get rid of him. Apollo answered, that if he begot sons by Tyro, the wife of his brother, they would avenge him. Sisyphus indeed became the father of two sons by Tyro, but the mother killed them immediately after their birth. Sisyphus took cruel vengeance on her, and was punished for it in the lower world (Hygin. Fab. 60).

Clever as well, in a story similar to one told about Hercules and Atlas (another shirttail relative), Hades was sent to put Sisyphus in chains but Sisyphus tricked him and Hades was the one who ended up in cuffs.

Worst of all Sisyphus bragged about his cleverness and defeat of the gods. bad move. Never goes down well.

 Posted by at 4:54 am


 Podcasts  Comments Off on Favorites
Dec 052014

here are the podcasts to which I subscribe. See below for how to download podcasts

Fresh Air
Terry Gross is the best interviewer of all time, has encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture, gets the very best people in the arts, high end writers and the like. Essential listening.

On the Media
I can hardly bear to watch/listen/read the news in the usual sources. OTM is a weekly NPR show devoted to analysing the way the news of the previous week was handled and mishandled, and in the process provide a very palatable summary of the news of the week. Edited by Brooke.

In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg
Tweedy British academics, mostly, with upper class accents talking about tweedy academic subjects. Gengis Kahn, Fermat’s Last Theorem, carbon, the Minoans. That sort of thing. I hope you enjoy the programme.

99% Invisible
Groovy engaging guy talking about design. Really, a very, very good program. Always read the plaque.

Lexicon Valley
Funny, profane and engaging smart guys, including the guy from OTM, talking about spoken language.

Two Westerners who live and work in China, and know the language very well talking about all manner of things to do with contemporary China. Their guests are typically very smart people, journalists mainly including very well known writers for the Guardian, New York Times, New Yorker and Wall Street Journal. Also post doc students in various Chinaish subjects. The expat community seems pretty chummy in Beijing. Everybody knows everybody.

New Yorker: The Political Scene
The brain trust of the New Yorker providing the informed and detached liberal take on the events of the week.

Slate’s Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick
Brand new podcast about current cases before the court

~~~~[expand title=”Read On” id=”readon”]

Planet Money
Hipster NPR type economics nerds.

Frank Deford
Princeton guy, and sounds it, has worked for Sports Illustrated for 50 years. Wonderful voice, great raconteur , old fashioned appreciator of sports, and calls out bullshit of big time sports from time to time

New Yorker: Out Loud
New Yorker staffers talk in detail about one or two articles in the magazine. A little smarmy at times.

discussions of current legal topics, often including advocates from one or both sides of an issue.

This American Life
Ira Glass. That’s all that needs to be said.

Archaeology Channel
Archeology nerds giving the archeology news, which is kind of an oxymoron.

WNYC’s Radiolab
Very smart media guys, including the great Robert Krulwich, doing interviews about science.

Brain Science Podcast
Really boring people talking about their very interesting research in neurology

The Bugle
Two very funny, in a low comedy way, English hack comedians whose main goal every week seems to be to crack one another up. They seem to be good friends.  One is John Oliver, now famous, and one is Andy Salzman, still playing gigs for 30 people in Leicester

I’m not crazy about I-Tunes for podcasts, but it is sort of the default way to subscribe. I don’t use it, but most people do. And to their credit, Apple pretty much made podcasts happen by making it easy to download them and making sure they are all free.
Notice the podcasts item on the I-Tunes menu.

itunes 1 Then copy the feed url from this post (the text that begins “http://”)

then  go to file/Subscribe to podcasts, and paste the url into the box that appears. It looks like thisitunes copy

Collapse Post[/expand]

 Posted by at 6:50 am


 Picture of the Day  Comments Off on Taliban
Dec 032014
Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

First, isn’t the phrase, “Taliban ribbon cutting ceremony” kind of disorienting? Can those words live in the same sentence? Then, look at their eyes. They are dead inside; they have no souls.

 Posted by at 4:22 am

Yates v. US

 Legal Stuff  Comments Off on Yates v. US
Dec 022014

So, in 2007 a fishing boat captain named Yates is pulled over by the fish police and busted for having a bunch of undersized red groupers. Behind the cops back he tossed the illegal fish overboard to get rid of the evidence. He was charged with destroying evidence under the Sarbanes-Oxley act, which was passed in the wake of the Enron and Arthur Anderson scandals, to prevent coverups of financial misdeeds. Seems like a stretch. Turns out the act has a really long prison term associated with it.

This ends up being argued earlier this month at the US Supreme court and the audio is great to listen to. The real fun starts about 30 minutes in, when the prosecutor comes to the podium.

The colloquy generated a now famous exchange, Chief Justice Roberts interrupts in this 30 second clip:


This came after about 5 minutes of the Justices left right and center, led by an outraged Justice Scalia, giving the guy a hard time for the excellent reason that overcharging petty offenses is objectionable. This 5 minutes of tape is really worth hearing if you want something about the Court to feel good about.


Details about the case and complete audio can be had at the terrific Scotusblog website on this page.

By the way, Justice Scalia refers to the Bond case, details and audio here, in which a woman was charged with violating a chemical weapons treaty for going crazy and trying in very loopy ways to poison her husband’s mistress. Very entertaining.

 Posted by at 8:27 am