Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus Among the Neanderthals

Unfortunately the glare prevents you from seeing this clearly, but there is NO doubt that the troglodyte on the cross is a Neanderthal. Or Homo Erectus. It's hard to say, and MUCH harder to actually look up the difference. However, we can be sure that this is the first evidence that Jesus was executed with some of humanity's closest cousins. Does this mean that Unfrozen Caveman Crucifixion is subtle evidence for religion and evolution? Or was the painter just not very good? Discuss!

Also, the guy in the foreground is pretty badass. Though overdressed for a crucifixion. Do you think he had a fancy party afterward?

Ishtar 0, The Gate

Shortly (in geological terms) before the crappy 80s movie, Ishtar also had a gate named after him. A bit more successful than the film, it was one of the 7 wonders of the world, with the smaller, inner gate standing 15m (47 ft) high and the larger gate 30m high. The walkway lined with similar walls made of blue tile was 100m wide. This sounds meh, but it's impressive. Especially when you realize what a colorless wasteland it was sitting in: Babylon (Assyrian for "Ass of the Earth". Other than palm trees and the various Israelite being burned (Daniel & co.), there was no color in Babylon. In fact, they didn't even have a WORD for color*.

Get thee to Berlin and see the gate for thyself. It's in the Pergamon museum which is filled with an amazing amount of non-German ancient art. It's amazing they had enough time to start (one of them jointly with France) two world wars last century when they had the entirety of the Ancient World to loot.

* They might've, but it sounded good and I was too lazy to look it up.


I don't know why, but she is amazingly beautiful. 3000+ years old, and this statue that was used for training (found discarded in the sculptor's workshop) is haunting even today. I think part of it is the unusually long neck -- in person it's off-putting. And the hint of the smile seems to be the effect Da Vinci was going for but couldn't quite get right. I would easily have paid admission to the Egyptian museum to see this piece alone.

The bigger question is, why was it still in the sculptor's workshop? Was he proud of it? Was there a better copy in place? Was it not to the taste of the day?

Tara Reid 2022, Brought to You by T Mobile

I have no idea what they were thinking with this ad, but at first I thought it was a picture of Tara Reid after an all-night bender. Now I think it's just a "normal" woman made famous by her T Mobile phone. She still looks like a forty-something Reid, though...

Monday, February 26, 2007

February Bookse

Not a good month for books. The Prodigal Spy by Joseph Kanon was a decent spy novel with an unusual premise -- the son of a defector from the HUAC days is contacted by his father to help un-(re-?) defect. Unfortunately, the middle third has the son going from acting like a complete moron to suddenly becoming a spy. A definite waste of a good idea.

"Plagues and Peoples" by William McNeill has decent coverage of how plagues can affect society, but doesn't get enough into specific examples. For instance, the effect of the Black Death on the Renaissance is glossed over.

"Monster of God" by David Quammen was by far the biggest disappointment. I love his essays, and "Song of the Dodo" is one of my favorite non-fiction reads. Unfortunately, while he claims to have been writing a book about the effect that man-eating predators have on human psyches & history, he really falls back into a rather tired "they're about to disappear" shtick. More about why we should care and less about the well-documented troubles would have made for a much better read.

No recommendations from this lot.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

She Threw Herself NEAR Him

In describing two of my colleagues interacting at a happy hour, I couldn't bring myself to say that Frau X was throwing herself AT Herr Y, but she was coming close. So I now say that she was throwing herself NEAR him -- not quite an all-out assault, but definitely open for business. Feel free to use this in your conversations from now on.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Music Ratings

Ugh. Nothing guarantees an extra star quite like following a song i HATE on iTunes. Take "Worried Man Blues" from the Johnny Cash "Live At Madison Square Garden" CD -- I despise this song like Dick Cheney hates freedom of the press. For a good 5-10 songs after it comes up on iTunes, each song gets at least a 1 star boost. Ugh. I'm fairly certain every song on "My Top Rated" that I don't really like was rated after a dog like this lurking in my playlist.

Now, you're asking a) what do I care? and b) why not delete "Worried Man Blues" (WMB) and its god-fucking-awful compatriots in the 9th circle of iTunes hell? Well, because that would eliminate the immediate, near-orgasmic burst of non-WMB music after i skip to the next song and it also gives hope to all the other crappy songs in the playlist. The way I see it, each shitty song languishes, hoping for an extra star. And they all point to WMB or another dog (and there are some dogs in there, let me tell you) as proof that they're not the worst. In short, I'm giving hope to all the other crappy songs in the playlist.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Opposable, Not Opposable

So, having a lame right thumb was a lot less of a pain when i didn't wear a tie to work. This means tying my tie and, especially, buttoning the top button are a bitch.

On the bright side, at least i had the foresight tonight to cover my hands while chopping an habanero pepper. In the us i'd wear latex gloves for this, but i managed to not bring any over with me. The last time I cooked something spicy I forgot & rubbed an eye. tonight i had the bad hand holding a knife (not so easy on the eyes) and the good with a bag around it -- kind of hard to forget and have a burning rub...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Public Enemies

So, 18 months later and I finally finished "Public Enemies" about the "War on Crime" that Hoover waged from 1933-34. As I mentioned earlier, the FBI was ludicrously incompetent while maintaining a noticeable distance from ethical bonds. During this period, the FBI convicted a man with perjured testimony from an agent, assassinated at least one bank robber (which caused German papers to denounce American justice, apparently forgetting Der Ironytätenspielenkeitenschaft), possibly dropped another from a 19th story window (or let him jump while the agent was on a coffee break), kidnapped suspects, tortured other suspects, and managed to have agents within 50 ft of John Dillinger 3 times in a month without capturing or killing him. To cap it off, in their pursuit of the last of the big names, the FBI agent sent to look for the guy in Havana meets & talks with him in a hotel lobby & doesn't recognize the suspect.

Apparently a lot of non-criminals weren't keen on a national police. Since then, of course, they've kept a close eye on Commies like MLK, Jr. (only a Red would fight for Blacks!), failed to notice a CIA agent driving a car worth more than his annual salary, barely missed the anthrax killer (from almost 300 possible suspects), so it's not all bad. Actually, the FBI did pretty much end kidnappings and helped throttle bank robberies (both, of course, crimes that inordinately afflicted wealthy Americans), but did so more through luck & prosecution of those harboring criminals than by actual police work.

Definitely a good read, though a bit confusing at times. And it will definitely make you wonder how a couple of hick like Bonnie & Clyde got posthumous fame via a movie...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bomblike Devices

I saw a few stories on the "bomblike devices" found in Boston & the crazy response. My favorite line was (from http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/01/boston.bombscare/index.html):
Assistant Attorney General John Grossman called the light boards "bomblike" devices and said that if they had been explosive they could have damaged infrastructure and transportation in the city.

Isn't this kind of the definition of an explosive? The damage and all? At least they weren't overreacting...