"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong... So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself." --Linus Pauling


Neener, neener, neener.

First things first: I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest last night. My friend Mark scored a couple tickets to a press screening of the film. It was at the mighty Arclight Theater a couple blocks from my home, and Leonard Maltin sat in the row behind us.

What did I think of it? Well, frankly, in the words of Queen Victoria, "IT FUCKING RULED!" The best sequel I've seen in years by a wide margin.

It was so imaginative, so full of character, and action, and nuance, and spectacle. It actually managed to build off of the first movie and deepen and expand on the world and its characters. Johnny Depp is fantastic in the role he'll be remembered for (obviously), Bill Nighy gives the dreaded Davy Jones a soul, and even with the addition of new characters and situations, everyone has a reason to be there. No character feels shoehorned into the script. Amazing.

If the third film is as good as this one, I'd say Pirates of the Carribean might be the best adventure movie trilogy ever. Cause you know, it's funnier than Lord of the Rings, And? It has PIRATES, and that makes all the difference.

Following the movie, we went to Musso & Frank's for old fashioned meat and potatoes style cuisine and world class martinis. Have you ever been? It's one of my favorite places in L.A.

I turned 36 years old a couple weeks ago on June 16th. This year I celebrated by donning a plastic viking helmet and inviting a bunch of friends to the Cat & Fiddle on Sunset Blvd (conveniently located less than a block from my home).

Fun was had by all (or at least I was way to drunk to notice those who were not having fun) and even though I actively encouraged people to NOT buy me presents, I still ended the evening with a fair amount of swag. The viking helmet was a big success with everyone (many took a turn wearing it) and you really get into it as a fashion statement after only two drinks.

The party seemed a success and has inspired the desire to aim for something a bit more ambitious in the future. Halloween, say, or Saturnalia. Heh.

Some of you might remember that I wanted to quit working for the City of Los Angeles by my 36th birthday. I still work for library, etc. so I did not succeed in breaking free yet. Also, I find that I really like having health insurance. Sixteen year old Jack is off somewhere sneering at me, and I am of a mind to agree with him.

It doesn't mean that I've given up, only that I admit to a lack of creative thinking and drive on my part the last half year. I allowed myself to get distracted (or even distracted myself intentionally). I've gone a few interviews to at least transfer out of the department I'm in, but that has not bore any fruit yet.


My grandfather had a massive heart attack about a month ago. He's 91 years old and was in Los Angeles only an hour before it happened. He was here to visit Barbara (an old family friend) and myself. I'd had no idea he was anywhere near here until I got the emergency call from my cousin.

It was pretty serious (a simultaneous brain stem stroke was suspected) and for a couple days he looked like a goner. The old man has a stubbornness that takes several decades to perfect though, and has made almost a full recovery. That is pretty awesome.

Some things you should know about him:

  • He's 91 years old.
  • He lives alone and up until the heart attack, still drove his car on occasion.
  • He passed his GED a couple years ago (he dropped out of school during the Great Depression to get a job and help support his family).
  • Started college on a scholarship recently with plans to study journalism.
  • Likes the book The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas a lot and mentions it at some point to me during nearly every visit (i.e. if I see him over the course of a couple weeks he'll mention it once).
  • Enjoys drinking coffee out of china cups.
  • His name is George.


An odd thing about me...

When I act like an arrogant prick in order to cover up a crushing emotional blow... no one questions for even a moment as to why I'm behaving in such a manner. Any sort of bullshit answer I give will be believed. Because that sort of behavior is to be expected or something.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry about it, honestly. But either mode is okay I guess as long as I don't have to tell anyone what's really going on.



Here's a couple video clips of the late physicist Richard Feynman, here and here. Oh, and this too.

I love reading and especially listening to Feynman talk about anything. There was such a sense of wonder and an earthy joie de vivre about the guy. Check out the photographs from 1965 Nobel Prize ceremony (this one's my favorite) sometime. He looks too mischievious and uncultured to be allowed among all those high society types. Heh.

So he was a genius. But he also had the ability to explain his leaps of logic in an irresistibly engaging fashion. That's a quality few have, and one of the things that must have made him such a great teacher.

Watch Feynman. He's so exuberant he comes off like a ten year old boy who's never been spanked. I've actually talked to people who doubted that he had a world class intellect. The thing is, with his common manner he made his genius look easy --like Fred Astaire dancing, or Picasso painting. It reminds me of a passage from a Sherlock Holmes story, The Red Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

"Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else."

Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes upon my companion.

"How, in the name of good-fortune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?" he asked. "How did you know, for example, that I did manual labour. It's as true as gospel, for I began as a ship's carpenter."

"Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger than your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed."

"Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?"

"I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass breastpin."

"Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?"

"What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the desk?"

"Well, but China?"

"The fish that you have tattooed immediately above your right wrist could only have been done in China. I have made a small study of tattoo marks and have even contributed to the literature of the subject. That trick of staining the fishes' scales of a delicate pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain, the matter becomes even more simple."

Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. "Well, I never!" said he. "I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all."

"I begin to think, Watson," said Holmes, "that I make a mistake in explaining. 'Omne ignotum pro magnifico,' you know, and my poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid."

The clips are from the BBC Horizons program from 1981 I think. The entire show is out there for interested parties to find. Highly rewarding conversation.


From the spam folder...

Like many of you, I regularly check my junk e-mail folder to make sure that something important is not slipping by. There is another reason though. If anyone is ever going to offer up the secrets of the universe to me (AT AN INSANELY LOW PRICE! FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!), I know it's going to come from a seemingly disreputeable source.

Even mythically this is the way it's always been. Eve got the skinny on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not from the Big CEO at the top, but from the lowly serpent. Who was probably an intern and not even supposed to be there that day.

When you think about it, omnipotence was probably really easy back in the day, when there was like... one dude and his gal. But then the franchise grew and grew, authority was delegated, and now even when someone really good and worthy prays the request gets caught up in a bureaucratic morass of interoffice politics and middle-management assholes.


Looking through the junk I noticed the sender's names on some of them are just, well, awesome. They sound like they were generated by a computer program with a mad love for Charles Dickens and maybe Damon Runyon and Will Eisner. Check it out:

Peony Burkes, Miltiades Hendershott, Sherlock Gadbois, Ethelinda Krawczyk, Coinneach Whitmarsh, Snooker S. Insists, Angrily T. Bastille, Zipporah Bevel, Odin Raimondi, Madhavi Ambrosino, Lamentation H. Keyword, Urszula Delfino, Vasanta Wease, Herring Josiah, Kaapo Fair, Lorca Verdun, Nanuk Mcquaig, Sakura Barbaro

Fun, fun, fun. For what it's worth, my fave name on the list is Angrily T. Bastille. Is five minutes is too long to speculating on what the 'T' stands for? I hope it's Tourettes.


"Put down your weapons! You are surrounded by armed bastards!"

Favorite tv show: Ah, at present that would be Life On Mars.

Life has been a bit odd lately. Work has been a piece of cake the past few weeks. One of the reasons for this I'm certain is that the Senior Librarian of our department went on vacation for three weeks. This would be the one that likes to scream a lot.

I can't speak for anyone else, but it was like five days before I realized that the general feeling about my department was transformed. Maybe a little more relaxed. Unclenched even. Certainly less stressful and working more efficiently. Man, it was weird. Like finding out the Souix had named her "She Who Makes The Room Better By Her Absence" or something. Others noticed the phenomenon as well. In a move that surprised no one --I was the most vocal about it. But you know, discreet.

Anyway, she's well-rested and returned now. I'm wondering how much time we have before the screaming starts.

Through a circuitous trail of links I'll not bore you with I ran across the essay "Why America Is Polarized by Philip Slater. I urge you to read it. I think the man is definitely on to something there.


Clearing some debris out of the draft folder...

When I was a boy, I thought I grew older I'd have the feeling of actually being smarter. You know, like there'd be some sort of mental click and I'd realize that a new plateau had been reached or it would be like a power up in a video game. "I am twelve years old now. That last level was pretty tough. That bonus round must be around here somewhere!"

As near as I can figure, what getting smarter really feels like is every year getting a more accurate picture of my own ignorance in relation to the world around me. Which is fine I guess, but it lacks a certain oomph! that I cherished in the "power up theory" years.

No, I don't know where I was going with that either.

So, how was Christmas for everyone? Mine, strangely, was pretty great. My cousin Anthony invited me down to San Diego to spend the holiday with his family and as it turns out, much more of my extended family than I was expecting.

I took the train down on the 24th where they were having a traditional Italian Christmas Eve fish feast. This was the first I knew of the tradition as my father doesn't care much for fish and so it made infrequent appearances at the dinner table. There were about twenty people there.

On Christmas Anthony and I went out for a three mile walk. We talked about politics, the state of the world, religion, etc. He said something I found interesting, the gist of which was that in his experience, people with a religious aspect to their lives tended to have more wisdom than those that did not. As he put it, they were better at recognizing evil.

I told him that my experience of the world was vastly different to his. People who are very religious tend to see evil everywhere and tend to lack the wisdom necessary to discern the difference between Real Evil (censorship, war profiteering, violence to another human being) and Perceived Evil (homosexuality, stem cell research; the depiction of violence in a movie, tv show, video game, etc.)It's important to note that Anthony is not very religious himself. He was just pointing out something he'd noticed. So, something for me to think about.

After our walk, he urged me to jump into the freezing swimming pool. His wife Antonia told me I didn't have to and that her husband might not even follow me in (he is tricksy sometimes), but I would not be swayed.

Anthony gave me a swimsuit to put on, and I jumped in and swam the length of the pool. As my testicles shrank to the size of peanuts I distinctly remember thinking that the water was not as cold as I'd feared. Anthony did follow me in, by the way.

The day after Christmas I uh... got to see the Doctor Who special "The Christmas Invasion" featuring the new 10th Doctor David Tennant (recently seen as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

It was pure geeked out bliss I tell you. I think Tennant is going to be great. The 21st Century is Really Fucking Cool sometimes.


"What is your dangerous idea?"

You might have seen this elsewhere. If so, I apologize but really, THIS is what I call awesome.

That's 119 essays by some of the smartest people drawing breath right now. With all the genius and wonder available in the world today, I cannot understand why anyone could bear to spend time watching the bulk of reality television, listen to...

Ah, you've heard it all before from me.