Saturday, January 31, 2009

No moral right to rule us

I'm not a libertarian, but I like libertarians, and I listen to them. My best counterargument is often just a sheepish "people would never accept it". I think big government fulfills a desire in people, like religion. If we got rid of it, it would just be reinvented, and who knows in what form? I'm just happy my government isn't trying to kill me, and is run on well-meaning principles. That is rare enough.

Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism - A Freewheeling History of the American Libertarian Movement surveys the libertarian landscape, highlighting its fascinating thinkers and characters, from near-respectable economists to mystics and hippies. He paints the picture of a movement that is as infuriatingly impractical and stubbornly fractured as communism was, - except not evil, and never in power.

Radicals for Capitalism has only one dark chapter, the story of how Objectivism turned into a cult. Radicals for equality have killed people by the thousands and millions. The worst libertarianism has done is turn bright young people into assholes.

My favourite libertarian thinker remains Friedrich Hayek, whose pragmatic approach makes him relevant to all ideologies. (It also makes him repelling to purist libertarians). It's bad enough that mainstream parties want the government to be involved in everything, but if they read Hayek (and Hazlitt) they might do it more efficiently.

(Correction: I have just been informed that libertarianism is Dead, because it's to blame for all the banks and governments behaving like idiots. Never mind the above, then. Now how about a blogger bailout?)


Was machst du, Data?

Here's more.


This emotional science

Dacher Keltner talks about the psychology of emotions:

The story he tells about how hardly any American soldiers fired their guns in World War 2 is probably a myth.

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Isn't this beautiful?

Some would call this a stack of books. It's really a queue. New books go in at the bottom, and they're read from the top. I've learned that when you tend to have 20 unread books lying around at any time, you need to organize your reading.

I used to follow the "just put them wherever and pick them up from wherever" system, but it was too stressful. I'd begin on one book, but then a more interesting book would arrive in the mail, and I'd begin on that one too, meaning to go back to the first one later. But then a third book would arrive, and so on. So I ended up with a lot of half-read books that I meant to finish some day, and really felt I ought to. Reading stopped being fun.

The queue solved everything. I either finish the book at the top, or give it up, and put it away for good. I might put it back in the queue later, but I don't keep half-read books lying around. One book at a time. Finish it or stop. Goto next.

I try not to reorganize the queue, but I do make exceptions. Right now, the bottom of the queue is a bit heavy on fantasy, quite by accident. I'll probably thin it out with a different kind of book, to create variety. The point is to make it fun.

What, you don't have fun when you're reading? Well there's your problem right there.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Running over it again and again with a lawnmower

One hears - often - that [Atlas Shrugged] changed a reader's life; yet you can also hear of people, upon discovering a copy in a loved one's room, throwing it out of a window "for their own good" - and someone in the yard, seeing what the offending book was, running over it again and again with a lawnmower, shredding it, ensuring that this copy at least could wreak no more harm, pollute no more minds.


[When Henry Hazlitt] intimated that "I do not pretend to agree with you in every point and in every statement; I do not imagine that you expect that kind of agreement", the libertarian newsman was merely advertising his lack of imagination. Isabel Paterson responded that "it isn't a question of agreement" with [God of the Machine]. "I tried to set forth axioms, principles, facts and deductions of a logical nature. They are either true or not true, but they don't depend on agreement; they are so per se. Do you 'agree' with Euclid's statement that a 'straight line is the shortest distance between two points?'"


Tom Marshall ultimately embraced an even more radical and individualistic version of the Preform idea, which he dubbed Vonu - an invented word meaning a life outside the reach of any who could oppress you. In practice, it meant hiding in the woods of Oregon, where he managed to disappear from the sight or knowledge of anyone who ever knew him - his ultimate fate is unknown.
- Brian Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism


Thursday, January 29, 2009

100% gitarrenfrei

Container 90 - Bollox

Spark - Skull and Bone

Elite! - Der bomberpilot


Sunday, January 25, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 15

Fury (1936, USA) - Spencer Tracy, a stranger innocently arrested for kidnapping, faces the insane rage of a small town. This is a shocking movie about mob rule and revenge, with many unforgettable scenes. Fury is essentially an indictment of the masses for the murder of Justice. Its outlook is so cynical that even the somewhat happy ending, (whether forced on Fritz Lang by the studio or not), doesn't resolve anything.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936, USA) - Errol Flynn was the Lord Flashheart of old Hollywood. The good thing about him starring in this movie is the hope that his character will die in the charge. The bad thing is that one fears he will somehow find a way to lead the light brigade to victory at the battle of Balaklava. Watched: 18 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where Errol Flynn dies(!!), although in an annoyingly glorious manner.

After the Thin Man (1936, USA) - Nick Charles is an alcoholic ex-detective, back when this was a sign of sophistication. In this second Thin Man movie based on Dashiell Hammett's novels, there are further horrible relatives, farcical crime plots, and Clues liberally sprinkled everywhere. Watched it all.

The Dark Hour (1936, USA) - A murder mystery with no good qualities. One of the worst movies in the marathon so far. Watched: 13 minutes.

Sweeney Todd (1936, UK) - I didn't like Tim Burton's version, and this one isn't even pretty - or audible. Watched: 16 minutes.

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Emergency Broadcast Network

What is this?! I almost don't want to know.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Den vakre politikerforakten

Det er en del av meg som gleder seg over alle de smålige lovene vi har som ikke lar seg håndheve, så som når regjeringen nå ønsker å utvide forbudet mot hatefulle ytringer til å gjelde "kvalifiserte angrep" på religion og livssyn. Forslaget er dårlig, men det er også meningsløst. Kommer du til å tenke på dette neste gang du skriver om religion? Ikke jeg heller. En slik lov er mest egnet til å skape forakt for lovverket og for politikere. Og det er bra.

Det finnes en farlig politikerforakt. Det er den du får når folk føler at de står utenfor politikken, og ikke blir hørt. Når de fleste av oss godtar at landet i blant styres av våre politiske motstandere, er det fordi vi vet at neste gang kan det bli vår egen tur. Uten denne tilliten faller alt.

Den gode politikerforakten handler om å innse at politikerne ikke vet alt, og at det finnes en høyere moralsk standard enn lovverket. Hvis alle politikere var smarte, og alle lover gode, ville dette være lett å glemme. De smålige lovene vaksinerer oss, så vi står bedre rustet den dagen de virkelig farlige ideene våkner opp igjen.

Jeg vil derfor oppfordre alle til å ignorere dårlige lover når du kan, og le av dumme politikere, med god samvittighet. Nå får vi i tillegg håpe at det ikke blir noe av lovendringen om religionskritikk, (signer her!) - en dårlig lov er fremdeles en dårlig lov - men det ville altså være trist om de forsvant alle sammen.


Monday, January 19, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 14

Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936, USA) - A small town guy inherits millions in New York, where he outwits swindlers and cynics by being so simple he's clever. In the war of city against town, I'm on the side of the city, and Mr Deeds is wish fullfilment for people who think that living in a small town makes them honest and real. But .. I love it, it's adorable. It's so simple and nice that it outwits clever analysis. Watched it all.

Sabotage (1936, UK) - What could it be, it's a mirage / You're scheming on a thing, that's sabotage. But as for this movie, Hitchcock must have still been learning at the time. Watched: 17 minutes. IMDB reviewers say it's one of his most underappreciated movies, which is a stupid thing to say.

One Fatal Hour (1936, USA) - A decent family woman finds her murderous past turned into a radio play, which is bad for some reason. Only Humphrey Bogart is interesting in this comedy, he plays the radio manager like a hardboiled detective. Watched: 21 minutes.

Wife vs Secretary
(1936, USA) - Wealthy New Yorkers flirt and banter. It's all fun and games in the magazine publishing business, and although I expect a minor crisis two thirds into the movie involving Clark Gable's wife learning a new emotion called "jealousy", it will no doubt all be resolved in a sophisticated manner. Watched: 38 minutes, then fast-forwarded to the crisis. (It's actually four fifths in.)

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

.. not to mention learning a new language of acronyms, like OMG, and LOL

In Grown Up Digital, Don Tapscott defines the Net Generation as people born between 1977 and 1997. That would be me, then, (barely), and, after years of research, Tapscott has discovered that I'm awesome. Research shows computer games have made me smart, and, although research also shows I'm no better at multitasking than older people, it sure would make sense if I were, now wouldn't it? And just look at the online services I use. I'm on the Facebook and the YouTube and the Wikipedia, interacting with my peers in a paradigm shift of empowerment. I'm grrrrreat.

Why, thank you, mr. Tapscott. There's always a market for telling your readers how smart they are. Malcom Gladwell's latest book explained that to become an expert you need to practice for 10 000 hours. Want to bet it's being recommended by people who have been doing their job or hobby for more than 10 000 hours?

In defining the "Net Gen", Tapscott gives us valuable (and, from my perspective, fairly correct) insights into the values and habits of people who have grown up with the internet. He has done research, and that's more than most who have commented on the subject.

On top of those insights, he builds a cloud of feelgood fluff that begs for a game of buzzword bingo. You had better not flinch at words like engage, mesh, web 2.0, revolutionize, paradigm, wisdom of crowds, and empower, because he uses them on every single page. The 120 pages I read, anyway.


Burn, burn, burn, burn, fire, fire, fire

Nitzer Ebb - Join in the Chant

Windir - Martyrium

Nitzer Ebb - Getting Closer

Stahlhammer - Der Mann mit dem Koks


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hvordan krig blir hverdagsunderholdning

Nyheter er en måte å skape orden i kaoset på. De gjenkjennbare rammene og faste tidspunktene skaper en illusjon av overblikk. Vi vet hva som foregår. Uansett hvor skremmende hendelsene måtte være, er det å få dem overlevert dag etter dag av de samme normale, norske nyhetsoppleserne en måte å inkludere dem i vår verden. De blir tildelt et hjørne av ruten, og der hører de hjemme. Det er nyhetenes funksjon: Å integrere det fremmede og nye i vårt hverdagslige verdensbilde.

Analysen er spesielt viktig. Et bilde av et utbombet hus er ubegripelig. Vi trenger analytikeren for å oversette dette til noe trygt. Så er det ikke et hus med lik i lenger, det er "Midtøsten-konflikten". Det aller beste er å oversette det til en hjemlig debatt. Er du for eller mot Israel? Er Hamas modige opprørere eller moderne nazister? Se Kåre og Siv brake sammen i kveld!

Resultatet er såpeopera. Ny episode hver dag. Vi blir kjent med karakterene, velger oss favoritter, og skurker vi elsker å hate. Derfor kan man heller ikke bytte ut Midtøsten-konflikten med dekning av viktigere hendelser. Det ville være som å bytte ut Hotell Cæsar med en sør-amerikansk telenovela.

Mitt tips: Gjør et YouTube-søk etter et sted, helst et du ikke har hørt noe fra på en stund. Hopp over analysen, finn rådataene. Videoene rett fra (å)stedet, gjerne amatørvideoer, usensurert og uoversiktlig. Det får du ikke noe overblikk av - og det er nettop poenget.

Verden er stor og uforståelig. Du vet ikke hva som skjer. You weren't there.


God has given us Kalashnikovs, it is wrong not to use them

AK-47, The Story of the People's Gun is a biography of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. It's not a history. That would require a lot more than 200 pages. There are perhaps 100 million Kalashnikovs today, and they've killed millions of people all over the world. A history of the AK-47 is a history of the second half of the 20th century. Michael Hodges has instead tried to capture the soul of the AK-47, through stories that illustrate it as a weapon and as an icon:

AK-47, the Soviet gun. Made after the Second World War in preparation for the Third, designed to be simple and durable enough to hand out to millions of poorly trained conscripts.

AK-47, the anti-imperialist gun. Symbol of third world revolution. Picked up by American soldiers in Vietnam because their M-16s were sensitive to the climate.

AK-47, the terrorist gun. For some, a tool for killing, as in Munich in 1972. For modern Islamists, a symbol, a brand they've appropriated. The anti-Coca Cola.

Hodges argues that the Kalashnikov is in itself a cause of many conflicts. Once you've dropped a few million into an area, they remain for decades, long after the original conflict is over, encouraging people to solve their conflicts with violence. You can't enforce law and order in a Kalashnikov culture.

There's probably something to this. But removing cheap weapons is perhaps not a practical road to world peace.

And Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor? He's still alive, and has his own vodka brand. Not quite the Nobel road.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another year will start to pass

The Sound - Winning

Front Line Assembly - Mindphaser, the sing-along version!

Into a Circle - Evergreen

VNV Nation - Beloved


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A citizen of the 20th century

Jerusalem Commands is the third novel in Michael Moorcock's Pyat Quartet. It opens with Pyat, or "Max Peters", as a star of silent movies in Hollywood, and takes him through gruesome adventures in North Africa. As always there are two stories, the one Pyat tells us, and the truth. The difference is not always one of facts, but of interpretation. What makes Pyat contemptible is not only his actions, but which events he chooses to emphasize, and which to do away with in a few shockingly unemotional sentences.

Pyat always insists on his own brilliance, dignity and innocence in whatever he does, but his words betray him. He is a pitiable human, a grotesquely tragicomic character: Both a Jew and an anti-semite, both a victim and a friend of great tyrants. A believer in chivalry who betrays his friends, a visionary engineer whose inventions never work. He fears Islam as a great enemy of Christianity, but worships Allah when expedient. And he hints at even darker memories than the ones he is willing to share.

Pyat is a glorious hypocrite, but, for all his contradictions, he is a coherent character. He lives. He strides through the 1920s like he owns the place. He is the perfect man to represent the era.

As the novel ends, it is October 1929. We know that Pyat is headed for close friendship with Goering. We also know he'll end up in a concentration camp, a yellow star on his clothes. The fourth novel will close the story.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to be happy

Psychiatrist Raj Persaud talks about the secret of happiness:

Or as Lin Yutang wrote in The Importance of Living:

All questions of living in heaven must be brushed aside. Let not the spirit take wings and soar to the abode of the gods and forget the earth. Are we not mortals, condemned to die? The span of life vouchsafed us, threescore and ten, is short enough, if the spirit gets too haughty and wants to live forever, but on the other hand, it is also long enough, if the spirit is a little humble. One can learn such a lot and enjoy such a lot in seventy years, and three generations is a long time to see human follies and acquire human wisdom. Anyone who is wise and has lived long enough to witness the changes of fashion and morals and politics through the rise and fall of three generations should be perfectly satisfied to rise from his seat and go away saying, "It was a good show" when the curtain falls.

For we are of the earth, earth-born and earth-bound. There is nothing to be unhappy about the fact that we are, as it were, delivered upon this beautiful earth as its transient guests. Even if it were a dark dungeon, we still would have to make the best of it; it would be ungrateful of us not to do so when we have, instead of a dungeon, such a beautiful earth to live on for a good part of a century.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 13

The Devil is a Woman (1935, USA) - Marlene Dietrich teases her admirers to madness, offering only smiles in return for their favors and money. Dietrich's exaggerated doll-like acting and the Spanish carnival setting makes the whole thing surreal. Watched it all.

(1935, USA) - Almost like several good musicals I can think of, in the same way that a false note is almost like an accurate note. Watched: 14 minutes.

Becky Sharp (1935, USA) - The first three-color feature film, meaning that, not only is the sound poor and the story bad, it looks dreadful too. Watched: 12 minutes. IMDB reviewers say Becky Sharp is an elusive lost treasure, and, in its defense, it did win the award for Best Color Film at the Venice Film Festival of 1935, against stiff competition.

The Last Outpost (1935, USA) - Those rascally genocidal Kurds are no match for a pair of stout British officers. Hooray! Watched: 13 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end where the officer who isn't Cary Grant dies gloriously. The film reused footage from a silent film shot at a different speed, which is why the Kurds move with super-speed.

Dracula's Daughter (1936, USA) - Dracula's daughter wants to be a good girl, but that's difficult when you're constantly walking around in the mist, spellbinding gentlemen with your hypno-ring. Unfortunately the other characters aren't as interesting. Watched: 19 minutes.

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Store og små Midtøsten-meninger

Jeg er lei av de store meningene om Midtøsten-konflikten. Gi meg heller mange små.

Stor mening: "Israel gjør helt rett i å svare på angrep" / "Palestinerne har vel ikke noe annet valg"

Liten mening: "Det er ordentlig fæle forhold for folk som bor i Gaza, og har vært det lenge, krig eller ei" / "Israel lever med en reell fare for et nytt Holocaust" / "Alle i Midtøsten ville tjent på fredelig sameksistens"

Forskjellen er at en liten mening kan etterprøves, og at en stor mening reduserer alt til et enkelt for eller mot. De store meningene er behagelige, derfor handler alt om dem. Enhver liten mening vil derfor bli besvart med en stor. ("Det er fælt i Gaza" => "Ja men det unskylder vel da ikke ..?!")

Løsningen på Midtøsten-debatten (men ikke konflikten) er å slutte med store meninger.

"Jammen .. da kan jeg jo ikke lenger være for eller mot!" Ja nettop. Så går verden fra å være klar til uklar, og i stedet for å dømme blir du nødt til å lytte og tenke.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snark, for and against

This looks like an interesting book: Snark, by David Denby, the film critic. He warns that cheap sarcasm is becoming the voice of the internet.

Here's an attack on the book.

And here's a defense.

Both sides make interesting arguments, but for now I lean towards Denby. I think there's something about the way writing works on the internet that encourages well-formulated, empty cynicism. It's easy to write, fun to read. And yet .. there's something liberating in that voice. Perhaps, as Adam Sternbergh's says, snark is a way of calling bullshit on the powerful. Not the best way, but a way. Anyway, I'll read the book.

Links via Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the intelligent gaming site.


30's movies marathon - part 12

She (1935, USA) - The Indiana Jones of the 1930's. Fantastic effects and an intelligent story - and now available in a fine colorized version. This is better than the well-known fantasy movies of that time. Why haven't I heard of it before? The only thing wrong with She is the title, and maybe that's the answer.

Top Hat (1935, USA) - Enter Fred Astaire (somewhat younger than I'm used to), and Ginger Rogers, dance on air. Lovely farce. This is the old Hollywood I love. Also featuring a funny offensive Italian stereotype, (yay!)

The Call of the Wild (1935, USA) - I like how we know who's the villain here: He's the one who carries a portable bathtub when he's prospecting in Alaska. That, and he's mean to dogs and Clark Gable. Fine movie, though the ending feels like they just ran out of story. (Not Jack London's story, though - they ran out of that after the title.)

The Thin Man (1934, USA) - Retired from police work to focus on his drinking, Nick Charles tries his best not to have to solve a series of murders, but that's difficult when everybody insists on dropping clues in his lap. Works well as both comedy and crime. Favourite scene: A room full of drunken people singing christmas songs.

The Black Room (1935, USA) - Prophecies of doom, hidden rooms with terrible secrets, and Boris Karloff as the evil twin, the good twin, and the evil twin pretending to be the good twin. Unexpectedly unpredictable.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 11

Les Miserables (1935, USA) - Coherent and well paced, this is how to film a big novel. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers warn that some details from the 1000+ page book are missing, as well as entire characters such as Tom Bombadil.

Mark of the Vampire (1935, USA) - Spends too much time on convincing the characters that they're actually dealing with vampires. Yes yes, those mysterious marks on the neck are unexplainable by modern medicine - get on with it! The actual vampire scenes are enjoyable, but clichéd, with the usual wailing, spiders and mist. Or perhaps they hadn't become cliches yet at this point? Watched: 20 minutes.

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935, USA) - To-ga, to-ga, to-ga! Featuring matte paintings and Romans who are inexplicably opposed to slavery. Watched: 11 minutes.

The Raven (1935, USA) - No, judge, I don't think the doctor with the Hungarian accent who says his cellar full of Poe-inspired torture instruments is "more than a hobby" should be trusted near your daughter. Watched: 23 minutes.

Captain Blood (1935, USA) - I hate Errol Flynn and his movies. Perfect, smirking heroes fighting for Freedom and The Girl. Always the same plot, regardless of the "historical" setting. But, god damn it, this isn't too bad. Flynn smirks less than usual. If I had to see one Flynn movie, I suppose this would be it. Watched: 42 minutes.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Neuroplasticity - keeping your brain alive

From Google Tech Talks, Michael Merzenich talks about how the brain changes and learns:

Via a comment at Jeff Moser, who's afraid of brain rot.

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And in her great eyes, secrets swam

I've tried to read Theodore Sturgeon's 1953 short story collection E Pluribus Unicorn several times since I bought it in 1998. I didn't get further than a quarter of the way. This may be because some of the stories are unpleasant, but more likely I just got distracted.

I've gotten better at organizing my reading: One book at a time, from the top of the stack, with new books going to the bottom. I finish the top book or put it away, but I only read one at a time. Multiple open books is a leading cause of bibliophilic stress disorder. With one book, I can focus.

Focus is necessary to appreciate a finely crafted short story. Earlier, I missed the details, and didn't quite get the point. Now I do.

The stories in E Pluribus Unicorn aren't all good, and there are some awkward twists. But most of them are memorable. Many take place in the crossroads between romanticism and horror, and succeed in being truly disturbing. Others deal with themes of love and loneliness, the best of which is A Saucer of Loneliness. Some are realistic, including my overall favourite Die, Maestro, Die! - where the only magic is the magic of jazz. A Way of Thinking also stands out.

These are the kinds of stories that give you a sense of what SF can accomplish. It was other authors like Ray Bradbury who perfected this genre-bending approach to SF, but they were walking in Sturgeon's footsteps.


30's movies marathon - part 10

This is what Russians looked like in the 18th centuryThe Scarlet Empress (1934, USA) - Sent to Russia to marry Peter III, Marlene Dietrich is a lone, wide-eyed innocent among the half-wits and brutes at the Russian court, a place of barbarism and confrontational architecture. She emerges from the perverse nightmare as Catherine II, cool and cruel tsarina of a cool and cruel country. Watched it all.

Change of Heart (1934, USA) - Vapid college graduates are released into the world, with only the Depression and their stupid parents standing in the way of happiness. Love and hilarity presumably ensues. Watched: 8 minutes.

L'Atalante (1934, France) - I really want to give these French comedy-dramas a chance, but they're too strange. Maybe they will grow on me. Watched: 12 minutes. IMDB reviewers say this is the best French film of all time. I hope not.

Waltzes from Vienna (1934, UK) - Alfred Hitchcock tries his hand at slapstick, and FAILS. Fails, fails, fails. Hitchcock himself thought this was the worst film he ever made, and even that's being too nice. Watched: 9 minutes.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, USA) - "Raise the men and lock the women indoors" - the monster is back, and he doesn't take himself quite as seriously as before. The scene with the tiny people is very silly. Watched: 31 minutes.

The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935, UK) - Sound technology was apparently still an unfamiliar art in Britain in 1935. So was acting. (*ba-dum-dum-ching*). Watched: 6 minutes.

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Naughty etymology (3)

Last batch from the Dictionary of Obscenity and Taboo, I promise:

BULL [..] The term is one of many names for male animals applied to men which carry connotations of sexual ability. [..] In nineteenth-century America these words were considered positively indecent, and were avoided by those with pretensions to good breeding. Amazing as it now seems, bulls were then known by names such as cow creature and gentleman cow.

CONDOM [..] Certainly the idea of using a sheath for contraception predates the introduction of suitable rubber. Giacomo Casanova, for one, tested animal intestines for this purpose.

FILTH [..] In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries prostitutes were referred to as filth, but since then the epithet has been inexplicably transferred to policemen.

ARSE [..] In the reign of Queen Anne there was a fashionable game at court which involved one person deceiving another into asking a question to which the first could answer "my arse". For example, a lady might enter a room in apparent distress crying "It is white, and it follows me!" When asked what "it" was she would reply in triumph "my arse!"

KISS MY ARSE [..] For reasons which are, unfortunately, lost to history there are a number of place names in Cheshire which make reference to arse-kissing. Examples are Kiss Arse Hill at Rainow, and Kiss Arse Wood at Wincle.

PRICK [..] Prudery has been responsible for the omission of many ancient proverbs from supposedly comprehensive reference works. One such is the sagacious observation that "a standing prick has no conscience".


Thursday, January 1, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 9

The Count of Monte Cristo (1934, USA) - A straightforward, somewhat unfocused adaptation, with an entirely wrong Robert Donat as Edmond Dantes. (Don't hire a boy to play a middle-aged man's role.) There must be better versions, but the underlying story is strong enough to carry the movie anyway. My favourite Cristo will of course always be Alfred Bester's.

Of Human Bondage (1934, USA) - I remember this novel. This isn't it. But it does remind me I should revisit W. Somerset Maugham. Watched: 9 minutes.

Cleopatra (1934, USA) - What Would Jerry Bruckheimer Do? He would open his Cleopatra with the kidnapped queen being carried by chariots at high speed into the desert, and so does Cecil B. deMille. But I think Bruckheimer would find a Caesar who looked less like Graham Chapman pretending to be serious. Watched: 10 minutes.

Bright Eyes (1934, USA) - Shirley Temple plays Shirley, the world's cutest orphan - who has a disturbingly close relationship with all the men at the local airbase. Watched: 6 minutes, then skipped forward to her singing for and being groped by a passenger plane full of men. What?!!! (Graham Greene thought it was fishy too. Shirley Temple had him sued.)

The Lost Patrol (1934, USA) - Arabs hunt British soldiers in the desert. Starring Boris Karloff as the world's ugliest Christian. Watched: 9 minutes.

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Naughty etymology (2)

More words from the Dictionary of Obscenity and Taboo:

UNMENTIONABLES [..] Between 1790 and the middle of the nineteenth century, by which time they had become established as acceptable, trousers were given a succession of silly and evasive names. As well as unmentionables, they were called inexpressibles, indescribables, unspeakables, ineffables, unexplicables, unwhisperables, innomonables, unutterables and unthinkables.

NUNNERY. A brothel. The term is not as popular now as it was in Elizabethan times when nuns had more dubious reputations than they do now. When Hamlet says to Ophelia "Get thee to a nunnery" it is clear from the context that he is using the word in this sense.

RIDE [..] Riding St. George is an old term for sexual intercourse with the woman sitting on top of the man. It was commonly believed in earlier centuries that a boy conceived in such circumstances was likely to grow up to become a bishop.

BITCH [..] There is a long history in English of words for women being devalued and becoming offensive. This systematic denigration of women is reflected, for example, in the history of words such as hussy, nymph, mistress, tart and whore. Why this should happen is something of a mystery, but whatever the reason the language is already littered by dozens, even hundreds, of such devalued words.

ONANISM [..] Knowing the above passage [Genesis 38: 8-10], a number of parrot owners (including Dorothy Parker) called their birds Onan because, like their Biblical namesake, they are given to spilling their seed on the ground.


Hey - dot is verra gud coffee

Here's to the year's first cup of coffee.