"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lindsay Beyerstein took photos at a Geoghegan event. She was hired by the Washington Independent as was the highly intelligent David Weigel.
Hackers Crack Into Texas Road Sign, Warn of Zombies Ahead

It happened in Austin, near the University of Texas. I lived in Austin in the early '90s and it's a great town and sort of a mini Silicon Valley. While I had a job in Austin, there was an economics professor at the univerisity whose classes I would audit. He had printouts of Clash song lyrics up on his office door (see below). I remember he also had stacks of BusinessWeek, a great magazine.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Any movie that contains a Clash song gets a thumbs up in my book. Yeah Guy Ritchie borrows heavily from Tarantino and Heat, but it's still a fun movie.
my daddy was a bankrobber
but he never hurt nobody
he just loved to live that way
and he loved to steal your money

some is rich, and some is poor
that's the way the world is
but i don't believe in lying back
sayln' how bad your luck is

so we came to jazz it up
we never loved a shovel
break your back to earn your pay
an' don't forget to grovel

the old man spoke up in a bar
said i never been in prison
a lifetime serving one machine
is ten times worse than prison

imagine if all the boys in jail
could get out now together
whadda you think they'd want to say to us?
while we was being clever

someday you'll meet your rocking chair
cos that's where we're spinning
there's no point to wanna comb your hair
when it's grey and thinning

run rabbit run
strike out boys, for the hills
i can find that hole in the wall
and i know that they never will
Lorrie Moore writes about John Updike.

Martin Amis writes about him for the Guardian.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In my thoughts on Obama's inaugural address I failed to mention one very important part where he said "we will restore science to its rightful place." I guess maybe I left it out because it seems so obvious and also because it's weird that he felt it necessary to mention. I mean science is one of those boring things they teach you at school.

But science has been bent lately to the needs of corporations and their quest for profits and it has also been under assault by the irrationalities of religion.

Dennis Overbye writes about science and democracy
at the New York Times:
If there is anything democracy requires and thrives on, it is the willingness to embrace debate and respect one another and the freedom to shun received wisdom. Science and democracy have always been twins.

Today that dynamic is most clearly and perhaps crucially tested in China. As I pondered Mr. Obama’s words, I thought of Xu Liangying, an elderly Chinese physicist and Einstein scholar I met a couple of years ago, who has spent most of his life under house arrest for upholding Einstein’s maxim that there is no science without freedom of speech.

The converse might also be true. The habit of questioning that you learn in physics is invaluable in the rest of society. As Fang Lizhi, Dr. Xu’s fellow dissident whose writings helped spark the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations and who now teaches at the University of Arizona, said in 1985, “Physics is more than a basis for technology; it is a cornerstone of modern thought.”

If we are not practicing good science, we probably aren’t practicing good democracy. And vice versa.

Science and democracy have been the watchwords of Chinese political aspirations for more than a century. When the Communist Party took power it sought to appropriate at least the scientific side of the equation. Here, for example, is what Hu Yaobang, the party’s general secretary, said in 1980. “Science is what it is simply because it can break down fetishes and superstitions and is bold in explorations and because it opposes following the beaten path and dares to destroy outmoded conventions and bad customs.”

Brave words that have yet to be allowed to come true in China. Mr. Hu was purged, and in fact it was to mourn his death that students first began assembling in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Dr. Fang got in trouble initially because he favored the Big Bang, but that was against Marxist orthodoxy that the universe was infinitely unfolding. Marxism, it might be remembered, was once promoted as a scientific theory, but some subjects were off-limits.

But once you can’t talk about one subject, the origin of the universe, for example, sooner or later other subjects are going to be off-limits, like global warming, birth control and abortion, or evolution, the subject of yet another dustup in Texas last week.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I highly recommend the haunting animated film Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman. It's the story of an Israeli veteran of the Israel-Lebanon war of 1982 and his coming to terms with that war and massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Israel invaded Lebanon and installed their ally Bashir Gemayel, senior commander of the "Phalangists" Christian militia. As the movie's website notes
Gemayel was considered extraordinarily charismatic, a fashionable young man, handsome and infinitely admired by all Christian militia soldiers and their families. He was especially esteemed by the Israeli leadership. Gemayel’s appointment as President of Lebanon was designed to ensure relative quiet on the tense border between the two countries.

While giving a speech at the Phalangist headquarters in East Beirut, Bashir Gemayel was killed by a massive explosive charge. To this day it is unknown who was responsible for the murder, but the assumption is that the assassination was orchestrated by Syrian or Palestinian factions or that they collaborated thereon.
That afternoon, Israeli troops penetrated a region in West Beirut that was mostly populated in those days by Palestinian refugees, and they surrounded the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Towards evening, large Phalangist forces made their way to the area, driven by a profound sense of revenge after the killing of their revered leader. At nightfall, Phalangist forces entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps aided by the IDF’s illumination rounds. The declared objective of the Christian forces was to purge the camps of Palestinian combat fighters. However, there were virtually no Palestinian combat fighters left in the refugee camps since they had been evacuated on ships to Tunisia two weeks earlier. For two whole days the sound of gunfire and battles could be heard from the camps but it was only on the third day, September 16th, when panic-stricken women swarmed the Israeli troops outside the camps, that the picture became clear: For three days the Christian forces massacred all refugee camp occupants. Men, women, the elderly and children, were all killed with horrific cruelty. To this day the exact number of victims is unknown but they are estimated at 3000.