Thursday, October 12, 2006

Plane Crash on the Upper East Side

The Misanthrope has received many emails requesting commentary on yesterday's plane crash on 72nd Street in Manhattan. There are still some things that are unclear about the chain of events, so I will hold off on a longer post for the moment.

I will take this opportunity to point out that calls from Governor Pataki and others to "tighten up the airspace" around New York City are misguided and pointless. For the sake of argument, let's say that Lidle had been in contact with air traffic control throughout his trip on a filed flight plan. How exactly would that have prevented the accident?

The answer is that it wouldn't. Pataki and others are playing into a fantasy that many non-pilots have that air traffic control can actually control planes and that some higher force intervenes the second there is a deviation from the "flight plan." It's just not the way it is. Even if we got rid of the special exclusion zone from the Class B airspace that Lidle was flying in and required all planes to be on a flight plan at all times, that wouldn't prevent anything. If Lidle's final trip was an accident, he wouldn't have been able to control the result. If somebody were to fly through New York airspace with a clearance from, say, LaGuardia tower (the controlling authority for the northern half of the New York Class B airspace), they could easily deviate from course and crash into a building long, long, long before a jet could even be scrambled.

There is sadness in the pilot community every time somebody goes down. With this crash, there is also great consternation that uninformed politicians will use it as a pretext for erecting an Air Defense Identification Zone around New York. This would be a bad policy result. The Washington ADIZ has been a disaster for general aviation. Let's not make the same mistake in New York.

Some thoughts on potential causes of the crash after I check with some sources.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

O! Canada!

Head of the CBC steps down.

Who said Canadians were dull?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Against My Better Judgment

I had boycotted the recent tour by The Who, partially because of the outrageous prices and partially because, no matter how irrational it is, I still show up at their concerts half-expecting to see Pete walk out in a white jumpsuit with a cherry red SG and a stack of HiWatts. As a result, the concert is always fun but disappointing.

But I had read some reviews of the recent tour and they were generally positive, so when a pair of tix (offered by the lovely Scottish Lass with whom the Misanthrope has spent so much time of late) were offered to me this morning, I broke down and agreed to go. With a new record coming out, Townshend appears more engaged than in recent years, so I am interested to see how they are.

By contrast, last week I went to see the fantastic M. Ward at Webster Hall (tix courtesy of the delightful Carrie). I first discovered M. Ward at Southpaw in 2003 when he was the middle opener of Vic Chesnutt. At that show, he was playing by himself with just an acoustic guitar and his harmonica, but I was so struck by his songs and his guitar playing that I immediately bought his records. The upside of that discovery has been the chance to see a true talent in his prime. It's nice to see a show where he plays the songs I want to hear because they came off his most recent record. At Webster Hall, he had a full band (two drummers!) and he seemed, for the first time since I started seeing him, to be fully in control and connecting with his audience. If you want to hear great songs with great guitar playing, see him whenever he comes to your town.

Now, off to fantasyland...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Il Retorno de Cavaliere

Sorry for the long hiatus. The Misanthrope has been consumed by business for the last two months and been very hard to reach.

But that is about to change, as I head into my first real vacation in quite some.

Wait for it...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dalai Lama

I just came across this interview with the Dalai Lama from London's Daily Telegraph.

There were two paragraphs that had my jaw on the floor.

The first one -

Although he is known for his tolerant, humane views, he is a surprisingly harsh critic of homosexuality. If you are a Buddhist, he says, it is wrong. "Full stop.
No way round it.
"A gay couple came to see me, seeking my support and blessing. I had to explain our teachings. Another lady introduced another woman as her wife - astonishing. It is the same with a husband and wife using certain sexual practices. Using the other two holes is wrong."

I had to read that one a couple of times to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting it. I really had no idea that Buddhism had any prohibitions against homosexuality.

The second one -

The Dalai Lama is no innocent when it comes to realpolitik: he regularly chats to Nelson Mandela, debates ethical issues with the Pope, and knows many world leaders personally through his attempts to highlight the Tibetan cause. Although he appears not to approve of the war in Iraq, he nevertheless admires President Bush.
"He is very straightforward," says the Dalai Lama - and it's clear that this is high praise indeed. "On our first visit, I was faced with a large plate of biscuits. President Bush immediately offered me his favourites, and after that, we got on fine. On my next visit, he didn't mind when I was blunt about the war. By my third visit, I was ushering him into the Oval Office. I was astonished by his grasp of Buddhism." (emphasis added).

Who knew that Bush was such a keen student of Buddhism?? Or that the Dalai Lama admires him?

Curiouser and curiouser...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

And While You Are At It...

As the conflict between Israel and, well, almost all of its neighbors continues to escalate, I cannot help but wonder if Israel is not uniquely positioned to strike at Iran's nuclear capabilities again. It's not a newsflash the Hizbollah is controlled from Tehran (albeit through Syria). There appears to be an opening here for Israel to solve a lot of problems for everybody.

Just a thought.

Pete, You Must Be Joking

I got an email today from The Who.

For the low price of $59.99, I can purchase "Platinum Membership" in The Who 2006 Tour and buy tickets four days before they go on sale. Tickets that are already absurdly priced.

Now, any reader of this blog will know I love The Who and that Pete has always been my hero.

But it pains me to see the band revert to its usual form and just come across as a bunch of money-grubbers, looking to cash-in however they can.

Let's review.

This is NOT The Who that is going on tour. It is Roger and Pete, backed by session musicians. For completely unknown reasons, Pete is bringing his brother along to play rhythm guitar. All of these guys are excellent players (well, I have no idea about Simon Townshend; his playing is so superfluous), but they are not Entwistle and Moon. The band was barely credible after Moon died to begin with and Entwistle's departure utterly dismantled the Who sound. To quote Pete himself, this is more like "The Who on Ice."

Which is fine, up to a point. I admit that I still love to see Pete play and enjoy his banter between songs. And if, as he promised at Knebworth, the band does start to play some rarities, it will be a vast improvement over sleepwalking through "I Can't Explain" for the 10,000th time.

But the ticket prices, the Platinum memberships, the overall chutzpah of pretending that this is a real Who tour is starting to grate. And the honest truth is that Pete tends to mail it in for these shows. I can't tell you how often he was sitting back and letting the band play while he noodled indifferently or abused his tremolo bar like a 13 year-old who had just bought his first electric guitar. By the way, what the hell is Pete doing with a tremolo bar on his guitar anyway?

So $59.95 so I can be a few rows closer to this thing?

Hey Pete: Fuck You.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Heil Kitler

I always knew cats were evil.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Syd Barrett - R.I.P.

Syd Barrett has died.

Like most people my age, I came at Pink Floyd through the successful commercial albums of the 1970s. I vividly remember listening on WPLJ to the concert broadcast of the band at the Nassau Coliseum in what must have been 1980. Back then, WPLJ was New York's rock station of choice - back when classic rock was just "rock."

But I still remember the day I brought home, at long last, the vinyl of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This was actually a tough record to track down back then, as I recall and the chase made it seem even more mythic. I tried all the usual (now long-gone) spots - Disc-o-Mat, Sam Goody's, Crazy Eddie's, but they looked at me like I was nuts when I asked about this record. I'm pretty sure the guy at Disc-o-Mat didn't actually believe there were any Floyd records before Meddle. I had to have this record made by this mad genius just before he dipped into the void.

Of course, when I finally got it on my Pioneer turntable, it was like listening to a different band. But what a fucking band! I listened to that record endlessly over the course of that winter. I didn't play guitar yet, so I had no idea how any of the sounds were made or what was going on. It was just pure sonic pleasure.

Syd's tragedy and his slip into the void was really just another crazy rock tale to me until a few years ago, when I was watching a special on Floyd on VH1 with my ex-girlfriend. She didn't know the history of the band, but she was nearly in tears when she watched Roger Waters tell about how he lost his friend. It must have been horrible for Roger to sit there and watch Syd go down with so little he could do about it. It was easy to miss that part amidst the amusing anecdotes about Syd's eccentricities.

So, here's hoping Syd found some peace at last.

BTW, I refuse to put on "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" today. The appropriate music is Piper itself.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Charity Drive

I think it's time that we all chipped in and bought a red brick wall for Stinkrock to stand in front of.

If we raise enough, we can also get suspenders and a striped shirt for him.

Abatement ab initio

Holy cow!

Apparently, Ken Lay's death before a full appeal of his conviction means that he goes to his grave innocent in the eyes of law.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I miss Chrispy

Please come back.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Six Degrees of Shame

Jackson recently posted in defense of his love for questionable metal bands like Saxon. This brought back many fond memories of devouring the latest issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician. In particular, it reminded me that I would often learn the solos and parts for songs I had never heard - usually by bands like Krokus or Accept. I remember the first time I heard "Mr. Crowley" by Ozzy. I already knew how to play it. Weird.

Anyway, Jackson, our bad tastes have a scary intersection. It turns out that in 1984 one of the members of Saxon went on the road with prog supergroup GTR. GTR was the unholy pairing of Steve Howe from Yes and Steve Hackett from Genesis. I bought the record. I saw the concert.

My shame knows no bounds.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wait a Sec...

I thought we were supposed to be losing in Iraq.

Then this happens.

Somehow this move doesn't strike me as the action of the side that is winning.


The Misanthrope did not get into the New York Marathon this year through the lottery, so he has shifted plans and will be doing the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon in September.

Now, I know we have many serious triathletes among our readers, so any training tips are appreciated.

In the short term, the Misanthrope must ask the difficult questions.

At what point do I break down and buy the proper racing swimsuit (aka 'banana hammock") and train in that?

Post thoughts in the comments section.

You Stay Classy England

Go England.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lunch with Friends

Today I had lunch with a close friend I have known for ages and it has put me in a very good mood. There is really nothing like catching up with somebody you've known for 21 years.

Do yourself a favor and pick up the phone and call an old friend today. You'll be happy you did.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mama's Boys

What a BS way for Italy to win; an Oscar winning performance by a prima donna who probably lives with his mother.

Then again, 90% of the Italian team probably live with their mothers.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hearing Damage

A friend sent me this story about a ringtone that is supposedly audible only to teenagers and people in their early 20s.

Straw poll - How many Misanthrope readers can hear it?

Post your results in the comments section.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Who at Knebworth 2006

Some thoughts on the show later, but first, a few photos for our readers.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Townshend Responds

Pete has posted a response on his web site to the "50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" article that recently appeared in the UK Indpendent and listed "Won't Get Fooled Again" at #1.

I had to chuckle when Pete ripped into Spike Lee (whose work I have never really found all that interesting) for missing the point of WGFA when he used it in the dreadful "Summer of Sam." As Pete says, Spike Lee missed the prayer that he had written into the lyrics.

The tension of Townshend and The Who is that he really is praying in the midst of all the mayhem; mayhem he creates himself! One of my favorite moments in all of Who-dom is the bridge in "The Punk and The Godfather" from Quadrophenia. Townshend's voice, shaky and self-doubting, appears after the carnage of the verse and lays out his prayer:

I have to be careful not to preach
I can't pretend that I can teach

Moments of naked revealing like that can be found all over The Who's catalogue and they represent one of my favorite things about Townshend's songwriting. It's the way I feel all the time in life - trying to be meditative and contemplative in the midst of my own yelling.

Pete also had this to say a few years ago when he refused to license WGFA to Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11.

WGFA is not an unconditionally anti-war song, or a song for or against revolution. It actually questions the heart of democracy: we vote heartily for leaders who we subsequently always seem to find wanting. (WGFA is a song sung by a fictional character from my 1971 script called LIFEHOUSE. The character is someone who is frightened by the slick way in which truth can be twisted by clever politicians and revolutionaries alike).

This is the problem with our heroes (and Townshend is most definitely my hero). We like to think we know them, but we don't. The hero is somebody we create.

Oh Dear

The Misanthrope is headed back to Old Blighty next week for three days in order to attend "Hedgestock," a networking conference for hedge fund managers. The event is kind of a two-day picnic/party with the hedge fund equivalent of speed-dating: 15 minute meetings with various groups to make introductions and get to know people.

Now, the Misanthrope is not too keen on large, unstructured social events, but he is psyched for this one because of the evening's entertainment.

The Who.

I am not making this up.

I look forward to Daltrey's thoughts on manager alpha for convert arb strategies in a world were the margins have been squeezed by an explosion of funds.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I am back in the USA and settled. Had a lot of logistics over the last week, including gettig back from Kyiv and opening up my beach house.

In the next few days, I will try to provide photos and commentary on Kyiv. It was a remarkable experience.

We Should Just Listen

Ted and Chrispy are right.

We should just listen to this guy. He's talking a lot of sense.

(Editor's Note: Since certain readers seem to have taken this post literally, I will spell it out for you: I was being sarcastic.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Some Photos from Sevilla

We begin our photo tour of southern Spain at the Alcazar palace in Sevilla. Below is a photo of the gorgeous Moorish-style (although it was constructed by a Christian king) that can be found throughout the palace. The picture barely does it justice.

Next up is La Giralda, the tower of the cathedral of Sevilla. The bottom 2/3rds of the tower were originally part of the mosque in the city when it was under Moorish control. After the Moors were expelled, the top of the tower was added. The statue of Hope at the top is actually an American copy of the original, which had deteriorated and was removed to a museum.

When I first saw the tower, I thought it seemed very familiar. I suspected that it was the inspiration for Stanford White's version of Madison Square Garden (one of two that was actually on Madison Square) and it turns out that it was.

On Saturday, Pete and I drove to Palos de las Fronteras, which was the port from which Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492. Pete is shown here at the spot where the jetty stood 514 years ago. Since that time, the tidal marsh has shifted and the river is about 1/4 mile away.

Further down the river, at La Rabida, we visited replicas of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. They were docked directly across a small pond from a series of displays of "the New World" and what Columbus encountered when he landed. As we all know, the first thing he saw was two naked guys holding a parrot.

We end our tour at the castle in Niebla. The foundation is Roman, the middle section and some of the gates are Moorish and the top is medieval Christian.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

La Vida Sevillana

Hola Chickas -

The Misanthrope is in Geneva today and finds himself with a rare break in the schedule. I've been in Europe for six days now and I find myself thinking in a language that can best be described as Spanitalofrancodeutschenglish.

The trip began last Friday with a visit to Sevilla to see my friend Pete. He moved to Sevilla about two monts ago to take up a fellowship at a research institute. He's an evolutionary biologist and our drunken ramblings around Sevilla at 3 in the morning were peppered with fascinating discussions (well, I didn't have much to add) about his research.

The city itself was fantastic. I never had to leave New York time because we would eat dinner at 10:30 P.M., go out until 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. and sleep until noon. Because Pete was plugged in to the locals through work, we managed to avoid tourist places and he delivered me unto what must surely be the mecca of tapas in Sevilla - the Coloniale bar. I think I would have been happy just sitting there for a day and eating whatever they offered across the bar. The food was fantastic. We also had an excellent paella on Sunday that was all the better because it seems that finding paella in Sevilla is a bit like finding a baby pigeon in New York. It's a famous Spanish dish, of course, but many bars and restaurants just won't make it because of the preparation required.

Our search for flamenco proved fruitless. We asked all of Pete's Spanish friends where to go, but they made it seem like we would never find "true" flamenco because the essence of the style is that it is spontaneous and improvised. We did get to one bar just as an impromptu performance had finished, but that was the closest we got. It was like searching for the Yeti.

Pete's friends were incredibly nice. It was funny to be standing in a bar in Spain at 3:00 A.M. having a lively conversation with Enrique (a Brazilian) about my love for composers such as Villa-Lobos, Barrios and Tarrega while he wanted to talk about American music like Tom Waits and, remarkably, bluegrass. Once nice side effect of beer is that the more I had, the more "Spanish" I thought I knew.

Of course, the conversations were peppered with the inevitable moments of bizarre views about Americans. Europeans feel a freedom to be rude about America and Americans in a way that would be considered unacceptable in most of the U.S. It's really depressing, but, ultimately, it says more about them than it does about us.

I really don't believe that much of the European anti-Americanism that is so frequently discussed is based in any informed grievances with American policy or American culture. The reason I believe that is because so many intelligent, well-educated Europeans basically have no idea what the hell they are talking about when they discuss America. The most virulent anti-American comments tend to come from people who have never visited the U.S. Even the ones who have spent time there have some truly bizarre misconceptions.

They don't really know America, they just know some popular stereotypes that seem to be pervasive. So much of their information comes from television or film, but there is no way to know how representative these films are of America. I imagine that Americans have similar distorted views of countries they have only seen through films.

For example, Enrique's trip into bluegrass started through "O Brother Where Art Thou" and "Deliverance." In our discussions, it was clear that he believed that vast swathes of America were filled with hillbillies, even though the lived in the U.S. for a time. Now, hillbillies exist, but I don't think they are a major component of American culture or society. In fact, it seems kind of quaint to even use the term these days.

In these situations, I relish the opportunity to fill in the gaps for people and try to be an ambassador for the U.S. There is a deep satisfaction in dispelling some myth that has developed around Americans. What you find when you approach the situation this way is that there is an enduring fascination with America because it is so odd and so big and so powerful.

And it delights me to overcome the stereotype of Americans as naifs who know nothing about other cultures. At dinner on Friday night, I found myself explaining the history of the Spanish guitar to a table full of Spaniards. It was very enjoyable.

When I get another moment, I will post some photos from Palos de la Fronteras, where Columbus set sail for the Americas in 1492, and some other areas in and around Sevilla.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

As every American schoolchild knows, tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. The name comes from the Finnish meaning, literally, "sinkful of mayonnaise" and it celebrates the heritage of white Protestants around the world. In the evening, families of WASPs will gather for the traditional meal of tea and Fluffernutter sandwiches before breaking out the Pat Boone records.

Many people do not realize that the holiday actually started in Canada, where it was originally a protest against immigration from Eastern Europe. Back then, it was called "Cinco de Magyar" (literally, "bucketful of Hungarians") and it was celebrated on October 17th.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Horrifying Date Quote of the Week

Here's a new feature highlighting some of the more bizarre things I have heard on dates in New York City,

This week's entry comes from a young lady born and raised in California. She was nice enough, if a bit dull.

We were discussing the Native American dancing that I saw at the Shad Festival on Sunday and she launched into a strange talk about how her American history classes in sunny California's schools seemed to be only about "Indians."

When I said that I hadn't encountered the same thing in New York schools, she said, "Well, you guys didn't have Indians here, right?"

The only word is speechless.

She actually has two entries in this feature, but I'll save the other one for a bit later.

Pro Tools Update

I emailed the good folks at DigiDesign yesterday to inquire about the timing of the release of a universal binary version of Pro Tools 7.

The current estimate is the end of the month. I'm looking forward to it because every time I've gotten a universal binary version of software for this Intel-based Mac, it has been ungodly fast.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Who's the Fish That Gets All the Chicks? SHAD!

Anybody interested in going to this on Sunday?

Let's go and enjoy a beautiful day!

UPDATE: Mike I stepped up and went to the Shad festival with me and boy did it pay off! We learned about Shad, ate some delicious pickled Shad, watched Native American dancing and then Mike got over-involved in a Little League game and ended up in fist fight with two 12-year-olds.

Digital Camera Bleg

The Misanthrope is preparing for another trip to Europe in May. On this journey, the business segment of the trip (Monaco, Geneva and London) will be bookended by visits to my English friend Pete in Sevilla and my older, nicer brother in Kyiv.

Since I've never been to Sevilla or Kyiv and because I want as many pictures of my beloved nephews as I can get, I want to buy a digital camera.

I'm soliciting suggestions. I am willing to spend a little to get something nice.

Everybody Have Fun Tonight. Everybody Wayne Coyne Tonight

Last night "The Flaming Lips - Fearless Freaks" arrived via the good people at Netflix. If you ever feel down, rent this film and you will feel like dancing by the end. I've always liked the band and have been vaguely aware that they were around forever before they broke through in the 90s, but this film made me want to move to Oklahoma City and hang with Wayne Coyne all day long.

Coyne is a type that I think most of us know. He makes things happen and he has a special knack for getting people involved. Watching him, I realize how much people want to be part of something fun and interesting. But I don't think the band would be as interesting if that were it.

The most revealing parts of the film were two segments where Coyne talks about his experiences with death and near-death. In the first segment, he recounts how, as a teenager, he was the victim of a robbery at the Long John Silver's restaurant where he worked to support the nascent Lips. Despite his jolly manner in recounting the tale, it is clear that the event, where he was told to lie down on the floor by the armed robbers, left a lasting impression on him. The second segment involves the death of his father. I won't go into details, but both these segments reveal a plain sense of humanity and love of life that, for me, is at the core of why the Lips music can be so attractive. As one fan says, listening to "Race for the Cure" makes you feel like you can do anything and be anything because it is so uplifting.

It may be a while before I send this one back to Netflix.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

United 93

It opens this Friday and I find that I want to see it and I don't know why. I am troubled that there is something pornographic about my desire to see it.

After 9/11, I went through a period where I sought out, on the Internet, the worst of the worst video from the twin towers, but I think I understand why I did this. Having stood at the corner of Liberty and Church and watched the second plane hit the south tower, having run from the falling debris and burning jet fuel, having watched from my apartment window as people leapt and then tumbled down the sides of the building, having watched the south tower fall while turning to run from it, I sought out those images again because I don't think I could believe what I saw for real, with my own eyes, when I was standing there.

My then-girlfriend was very worried about this, but, interestingly, her parents, who are both well-respected psychiatrists, were not so surprised. Nor was her father surprised when I said, "no" when he asked if, given the choice, I could go back and leave my apartment 20 minutes earlier that day so that I would have seen nothing. I couldn't lie. As horrifying as it was, it was also the most intense experience of my life and I can't deny it. He understood.

But I don't understand why I want see United 93. I had no connection to that event. It does not confirm anything that was too shocking to process for me at first. I didn't find out about the whole thing until well after the event. On the ground on lower Broadway, people were telling me that 10-12 planes were in the air. We expected another one to drop at any time.

So, I can't understand why I am interested in seeing the movie. I can't think of a time when I have ever questioned my motives about going to see a film.

What you guys thinking about the film?

All You Do With Me Is Talk, Talk

This story about research that appears to show that birds can learn "grammar" was of particular interest to me because I am currently reading Nicholas Wade's new book on the prehistory of mankind, "Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors." One of the points that Wade hammers home is that no matter how many words we claim to have taught primates in sign language (and he is skeptical of many of the claims of large vocabularies), what they know cannot be termed "language" because there is no grammar or syntax. He notes that certain chimps have different sounds to indicate attacks by predators from the air or the ground, but, again, this is not language because it cannot be re-arranged to convey different meanings in the way that human languages can.

Now, the mainstream media has an abysmal record in science reporting, so I will have to track down the Nature article to see what the actual experiment was, but it would be fascinating to learn that non-primates have a linguistic ability that non-human primates do not. Hauser himself points to a possible explanation, when he notes that the studies he has done with primates have been structured to see if they recognize grammar, not to try to train them to understand it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

She Has the Power to Make Her Evil Take Its Course

Maggie is Satan.

On Friday, I woke up in the middle of the night because I was soaking wet with sweat. The only problem was that it wasn't sweat.

Turns out that Maggie had jumped up on the bed, sidled over to me and let loose a torrent of pee.

These are the times that try a man's love of his dog.

UPDATE: I thought I would add a little list of some of the highlights of Her Satanic Majesty's Four Years and Six Months (as of tomorrow) on this Earth:

1. Got hot spot from scratching tick too hard. Needed antibiotics and collar for a week
2. Ate three books of matches in one sitting
3. Ate 27-year-old's underwear
4. Ate entire year's worth of Heartguard medicine in one sitting. Vomited all over my rug.
5. Got kennel cough. Needed 10 days of antibiotics.
6. Got ear infection. Needed 5 days of ear cleaning and antibiotics
7. Got hot spot from scratching tick too hard. Needed antibiotics and collar for a week
8. Ate irreplaceable pictures of my parents.
9. Got infection...down there. Needed medicine applied twice a day. (I let her suffer on this one. NO WAY was I putting on that medicine.)
10. Ruined 27-year-old's beaded shirt.
11. Destroyed 27-year-old's Gucci sunglasses.
12. Ate/Chewed (_Insert Piece of Plastic Here_)

Other than that, she's the best.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Nylon Yngwie

This is pretty hilarious.

The only thing I can't figure is why he is playing to a heavy metal backing track!

(I will not be covering "Flight of the Bumble Bee" on the classical recording.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Dilemma of Nuclear

This was a very interesting week. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, which was founded on the basis of opposition to nuclear power, among other things, came out and said that he now believes that nuclear power may be the energy source that can save our planet from climate change and environmental disaster.

This is an incredibly commendable bit of intellectual honesty on his part. I cannot even imagine the anger that he is going to receive for making this statement, but that just makes it all the more heroic that he was willing to do it.

Often, we get backed into our positions so strongly that it becomes difficult to change our minds. I have to admire a guy who looks at something he protested so fervently with clear eyes and was willing to change his mind.

I also cannot believe that it is a mere coincidence that after Moore's editorial appeared in the Washington Post, Greenpeace just happened to release a report that stated that deaths from Chernobyl are likely to be much larger (perhaps an order of magnitude larger) than "official" estimates. With that in mind, further kudos to Moore for noting in his article that the causes behind Chernobyl are not problems with nuclear power itself, but with poor design and poor management.

I am a huge proponent of alternative energies. I spent a lot of time looking at solar power after my friend installed panels on his roof in LA. This led to looking at wind power as well. They are wonderful technologies, but Moore concludes what I concluded: they are not solutions to dependable, high-quality energy needs. I think they are very valuable in a decentralized model, where they help to reduce demand when they can, but for a large-scale solution, nuclear still seems to be the best bet.

First Amendment

Most political discussions through personal blogs veer pretty quickly into the zany, but once in a while the zaniness leads to a lot of interesting thoughts and discussions.

Yesterday, Chris, Tony and I were debating a recent student protest where the students blocked access to military recruiters on a university campus. When condemning this protest, Tony argued that the military has a right to "freedom of speech." Chris immediately countered that the military has no right to "freedom of speech" because that concept is centered in the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights only apply to individuals. I disagreed with Chris because I can find no language that states that branches of the government are prohibited from bringing suit under the First Amendment. As a matter of course, branches of the government bring suit under the Constitituion from time to time and the court must adjudicate. So, technically, there's nothing to prevent it (at least according to legal friends I have asked).

But it's kind of a zany argument because it would be hard to imagine a scenario where the military would have standing to bring a suit. All of the individuals in the military could easily have standing as they are all covered, but as an entity, it would be kind of odd for the military to end up as the party to a suit. A number of wacky scenarios were posited.

But what do we really mean by our "right" to "freedom of speech." It is certainly not a positive right to have our message heard. It is only a negative right, the right to NOT have the government outlaw speech.

In the example we were debating, the question arises whether or not the government has a positive right to have its message heard (i.e., have recruiters on campus be free from protests that frustrate their mission). The ruling I noted, U.S. vs. O'Brien, seems to indicate that the government does have a positive right to have its message heard when protests would interfere with its duties under the Articles of the Constitution. Think of it as a kind of First Amendment in reverse - the people shall make no protest that infringes on the right of the government to perform its duties under the Articles of the Constitution.

Now, this is all hypothetical as the students are not being charged and they are not asserting First Amendment rights violations for themselves, but it does seem to locate a positive freedom of speech right for the government in the Articles themselves, not the Bill of Rights. In other words, the government has certain rights to take action to make its message known in the face of opposition from citizens.

What was even more interesting was the U.S. vs. O'Brien has become a precedent for two very interesting threads of constitutional thought. First of all, it has become a strong base for arguments against, for example, flag burning, because one can argue that burning the flag does not meet the O'Brien standard of preventing the functioning of the government. Second, the Court found in O'Brien that it didn't matter that the law was passed with the clear intent of squashing anti-war protest because the government's right to raise an army was being impaired. That's kind of an amazing statement, if you think about it.

I thought that was kind of interesting. Thanks to Grubzilla and others for their legal comments. As always, caveats that I am not a lawyer and I am relying on information provided by outside experts.

Gratuitous Dogblogging

Uh oh.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Plus ca change...

Oh boy, did this ever sound familiar to me. Yale in 1991 was very much like Brown in 2001. The minute anybody dared to suggest an opposing viewpoint to the prevailing (left) political attitude, it was "fascist, racist, homophobe, etc., etc., etc." I remember so many ridiculous moments from that time, but the common thread was always the shutting off of any debate by immediately branding the person on the conservative side of the spectrum as some kind of moral monster for even thinking such thoughts. The arguments were rarely, if ever engaged.

When I think about my politics, I sometimes wonder if I wasn't simply driven towards the right but sheer revulsion at the exclusive Groupthink that dominated the university when I was there. It's depressing to see that so little has changed, at least in the Ivy League.

Separated at Birth?

Tony, Tony's Awe-Inspiring Mullet and the delightful Mrs. Alva on their wedding day in 1996:

Tony's Long Lost Brother??

Monday, April 17, 2006

And So It Continues

The person who is writing my horoscope for Yahoo! is clearly hitting the pipe a little too hard.


Whether you've just developed a new mime routine and today's the day you get to show it off at the Annual Mime Convention, or you've got something a little louder lined up, you're going to have a blast. You're doing one of your favorite things: performing. And the audience is eating it up. The mimes are pretending to clap! The concert members are going wild! The public wants more! More! More!

Nobody won the previous contest to interpret this horoscope (mostly because the contestants were all married or men), but the best interpretation, once again, wins dinner and dancing with the guitarist fromm Microdot.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I love my horoscope and never fail to read it. In fact, I plan most of my life based on what it says.

This morning, my horoscope was, perhaps, the most bizarre I have ever seen:


Have you just had the best possible idea of all time (perhaps) for how to promote your family-owned and -run veterinary clinic? Does it involve donning a cat suit and talking to executives at children's television programs? Or is it more of a sketch to invite the cameras into the clinic for a kind of real-world animal TV series? Whatever your idea is, it's great. And your instincts about how to get it going are right on. So put on that cat suit, already!

Contest in the comments section for the best interpretation of this horoscope and how I should act on it. Winner gets, as always, dinner and dancing with the guitarist from Microdot.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Boy, Did Chrispy Ever Steer Me Right

Seems his view of the Studio Projects C1 is shared by many.

I'm afraid I only have limited experience with it because I am still waiting on Digidesign to come out with a dual binary version of ProTools. Once that comes out, I am ready to roll.

I'm also starting to feel new songs percolate, so I also want ProTools around to make demos on my Mac.

Will It Suck?


Will I buy it anyway?


Friday, April 07, 2006

Around Here, We Just Call It "Chicken"

Next month, the Misanthrope is going to visit his older, nicer brother in Kyiv, where he lives with his wife and three sons. I'm looking forward to seeing my nephews and visiting the Ukraine for the first time. It looks like it should be a family-oriented, low-key time.

But wait!

In my mailbox this afternoon, I found a message saying that EIGHT lovely ladies had messages for me! And, just my luck, some of them live in the Ukraine!

Looks like this trip is going to have a totally new dimension.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What the...???

Check out the title and plot of this episode from the animated Star Trek series that aired in the mid-1970s.

I Heart Chrispy

Spent a very nice evening at Smoke and Mirrors with Chrispy and George tonight. It's hard to believe I hadn't seen any of those guys since December. It took no time at all for me to sign up for George's new robot epic, which is sounding pretty good in "rough" demos. George's "roughs" crack me up. For most people, those are called "finished recordings." The guy likes his quality.

Chrispy was very kind and gave me the basics on mic placement for recording the classical guitar. With his guidance, I am not at all worried about the recording quality of the project.

The performances, on the other hand, are all up to me. That's going to be a lot of hard work, but I was reinvigorated tonight by Chrispy's advice.



Chrispy made reference on his blog to the issue of limiting liability for vaccine producers.

Coincidentally, I just ordered this book by Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, about the history of the polio vaccine.

Back in the 1950s, the Cutter Company was one of five companies that produced the then-new polio vaccine, but it made some mistakes in manufacturing that allowed some batches to go out with live virus. Seventy thousand of the immunized developed some symptoms and 200 suffered some paralysis. 10 people died.

Cutter was sued and the trial produced a strange verdict. Although the trial found that Ctter had not been negligent in production, the judge instructed the jury that the company was liable for damages, even if it had not broken the law. This led to a theory of "absolute liability."

If you create an area where manufacturers can be found liable even if they did not act negligently, you are going to discourage vaccine production.

I'll have to provide a full report when the book arrives and I can dig through it.

Beelzebub is Lacing Up His Skates

Cynthia McKinney apologizes.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Put Me in Coach, I'm Ready to Flay

Mike Pressler, Head Coach for Duke's lacrosse team, has resigned.

Color me confused. What does the coach have to do with this? Was he at the party where the alleged assualt happened? I guess this is an honorable move, but I think it is a little silly. He's an athletic coach. I don't think he is responsible for the behavior of his players off the playing field. These aren't high school kids, they are adult students at one of the top ranked universities in the United States.

The freakier part of the story is the email sent by one of the players that was disclosed in a search:

Earlier Wednesday, authorities unsealed documents stating that hours after the alleged rape, a player apparently sent an e-mail saying he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them. It was not clear whether the message was serious or a joke.

You know, I have a fairly dark sense of humor and I wrote some dumb shit in college (although we didn't have email in my day), but WTF?? This is just bizarre. At last, we have a view into the warped mind of the steakhead lacrosse player.

Global Warming

I've found that this site is pretty good for addressing the scientific debate surrounding global warming (or "climate change," as it is now called).

I found it particularly helpful in addressing a recent column by George Will that cited articles from the 1970s claiming that we were in the grip of global cooling. Also, I found a debunking of the claim that there were computational errors in the "hockey stick" model of global temperature change.

There is no doubt that the site is of the opinion that there is sufficient scientific data to support the theory that human activity is contributing to an increase in the temperature of the earth. While that typically implies a certain political stance, the site restricts itself to references to the current scientific literature and generally avoids politically charged descriptions of human behavior.

Worth spending some time there, especially if you have some skepticism about global warming and would like a view of the current scientific thinking.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My New Band

All I've got is the name, so far.

Flock of Beagles

No Justice! No Peace!!

Turns out that Hal the Coyote was "hogtied" when they were trying to tag him. They also taped his snout. He died at the hands of The Man.

I eagerly await the Peter Gabriel protest song.

April 2006
New York City, weather fine
It was business as usual
In Kennel 619
Oh, Hal

Friday, March 31, 2006

Hal the Coyote - R.I.P.

Hal, the Central Park Coyote, has died in captivity.

No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Now This Is Pretty Cool

Rocket planes that fly at 5,000 mph.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cinderella Dad

I was talking to my mother this morning and she mentioned that she and my father had just watched "Cinderella Man" on DVD. She thought the film was good.

I have long known the story of how my parents met. My Dad was dating the daughter of a boxer and his best friend Herb was marrying my Mom's best friend Carol. At some party, Herb slyly asked my Dad to drive my future Mom home. Within no time, the boxer's daughter was out of the picture and my parents were on their way to marriage.

Anyway, my Mom and I were talking for a while this morning about "Cinderella Man" before I realized that it was Jim Braddock's daughter that my dad had been dating!

What a small world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Sharia law.

UPDATE: Unlike the Taliban, the new Afghan government responds to the international heat and starts looking for a way out of this.

Misanthrope Asks The Tough Questions

Can a coyote be a Doodle dog?

And So It Begins

I have no love whatsoever for Hillary Clinton and I don't think she has a real shot at being President, but when I read this I can already see the line of attack that is developing against her for 2008.

I am sure that this report is true, but only because it makes basic political sense. What candidate does not demand that his family stay in line during an election season? It's basic.

I also know that for a woman, this type of "control" over her man will be used to portray Hillary as a shrew. If the roles were reversed, I don't think anybody would bat an eyelid if they heard that a man was telling his wife that he has the final say when running for President. In fact, I doubt there would even be a story.

So, on this limited subject, I sympathize with the battle Hillary has to fight. It's depressing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Joys of Planes

Nothing like owning a plane, especially when it is in for its annual inspection and your mechanic finds an item that needs to be fixed that will cost a pretty penny. In all of history, I wonder if there has ever been a time when any kind of mechanic has called with good news.

Luckily, I have a mechanic who is decent, honest and not willing to cut corners. And that, at the end of the day, is all I care about. This item could possibly have been covered over and the plane gotten its annual certification, but why would I ever want such a thing? I love flying and I will always want to do it, but I am well aware that it is a risky proposition. One of the reasons I bought my own plane was this exact scenario. Who wants to be in a rental where you don't know what the mechanic has done? Do you want to find out at 5,000 feet that the owner cut corners? It's just not worth it.

As I was discussing the repairs with my mechanic, he told me about a recent crash in New Jersey. Turns out that the pilot had found a crack in his propeller and, instead of paying for the propeller to be repaired by a professional, he filed two inches off of each side. When a piece of metal is turning at 2500 rpm and it is not balanced, the plane becomes uncontrollable. I can't imagine how any pilot could justify such a silly, dangerous home repair to himself.

That's why I may bellyache a little about costs, but I will never say no to getting a professional to repair the plane.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ted is Wrong

I'm modifying my position from the argument earlier today.

Ted is wrong. He's so hopped up on Crestor that he doesn't know what he would feel if he were an Iraqi.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Home Again

Light posting lately as I have been on the road and then catching up at the office.

On my nightstand - "Thirty Years That Shook Physics" by George Gamow and "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" by Richard Feynman. These are selections from the "How Can I Make Myself Feel Incredibly Stupid?" book series I designed for the spring. Listening to the stories of these huge brains trying to wrap themselves around the general weirdness of quantum mechanics is absolutely awe-inspiring. Makes my history degrees seem kind of silly.

On my iPod - "Extraordinary Machine" by Fiona Apple. At some point in the next few years, Apple is capable of producing a truly great record. There is much to commend this one - interesting arrangements, songs that break out of the normal harmonic strictures of pop and a few wonderful lines. If Apple can somehow manage to purge herself of the "I'm so clever" high-school poetry lyrics that still pop up (e.g., "A voice stentorian is now again meek and muffled") and move beyond the girl-who-was-hurt-but-now-is-strong persona, she will reach an even higher level. Two of the best tracks on the record are the first song and the last song because they have a bit of a sense of humor and don't take themselves so seriously. I'd also like to hear more of her emotions in her singing and less in her lyrics. On the song "Oh Well," she breaks out of her monotone delivery and actually emotes when she sings "What wasted unconditional love/on somebody who doesn't believe in the stuff." It's the most powerful moment on the record, at least for me.

In my car CD player - A poetry reading by Billy Collins that correspondent Grubzilla burned for me. Noteworthy alone for the introduction by Bill Murray, the CD is a very entertaining set of Collins' poetry with an emphasis on his humorous side. His rhythm tends to be a little same-y from poem to poem, but some of the lines are classic. "The Lanyard" is destined to be crushed to death every Mother's Day when giftless sons send it at the last minute.

In my stomach - Sugar snap peas. I don't know how I got to my advanced age without having eaten these, but I can't stop snacking on them.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Misanthrope - Spring European Tour 2006

The Misanthrope loaded himself onto a plane last Sunday, put on his neck pillow, took an Ambien, retreated to the cocoon of the Bose noise-canceling headsets they were handing out and slept his way to England. I've always hated the flight over to Europe because, for unknown reasons, jet lag absolutely destroys me in that direction. Miraculously, I felt entirely fine this time. Maybe that is one of those benefits of getting older - at least until I get so old that I need no sleep and spend my nights awake, listening to the sand run out of the hourglass of my life.


This morning at Heathrow I noticed that the Iberia, Lufthansa and Alitalia Business Lounges were all together on the same staircase. Hmmm, what do those three countries have in common? I am sure this is not a coincidence.

I spent the day in Milan enjoying the delightful absurdity of Italy. I really love that country. Nothing ever gets done, nothing works and nothing is efficient in the least, but the food is amazing and the people always look FABULOUS. Not the best place to be when you are doing business, but a perfect place if you have nothing to do and a LOT of time in which to do it. The lunch alone was worth the pain of getting up at 0500 GMT this morning to catch my flight. We were late for every meeting, but nobody cared because...well, it's Italy. As my Italian colleague put it, "The farther south you go, the later you can be. By the time you get to Naples, you just have to show up the same day as the appointment."

Tonight it is Zurich. I don't think there could be a more polar opposite to Italy than the German part of Switzerland. Even our bags came out of the baggage carousel on time and efficiently. And the city is immaculate, almost frighteningly so.

Anyway, when I return, I will determine to which robot-based band I can pledge my allegiance.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Intel-based Mac

This is what I was referring to when I mentioned that the use of an x86 processor in the MacBook Pro will make porting Windows apps to Mac much, much easier.

I was able to resolve the Bloomberg issue today by using their web-based applet on the Mac. Slowly making progress. Next task - getting my 30 gigs of music onto the MacBook Pro.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Waiting for Superman

Last Friday, the MacBook Pro arrived. She is, indeed, an impressive machine. Ultra-slim and ultra-fast.

Ultra-fast if your software runs on the Intel Core Duo, that is. Turns out that this machine, because it uses Intel chips, is a little ahead of the curve. Although Apple's Rosetta software allows older Mac applications to run on the MacBook Pro, there is a slight degradation of performance. Software makers are scrambling to get Intel-based versions of their software out, but the fact that Apple managed to ship the new machine months ahead of schedule didn't help.

So, for the moment, I am SOL on certain applications. Pro Tools is a no-go, at least until they release the Intel version this coming May.

More importantly, Virtual PC, which allows you to run Windows apps, doesn't run at all on the Intel-based Mac. It's kind of difficult to read what Microsoft is going to do about creating an Intel-ready version of the software because, in some ways, you don't really need Virtual PC anymore on the new Mac. I was talking with a Mac expert on Saturday and his view is that within a year, you should be able to run Windows applications natively on the Intel-based Mac.

And none too soon. As much as I like the MacBook Pro and admire its speed and sleekness, it seems like 80% of software is PC-only. So lonely on Mac island.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Your Daily Who Moment

And now, your daily Who Moment

I'm convinced Pete chose this as an opener just to piss Daltrey off.

"Hey Roger, I've got a brilliant idea."

"What's that, then, Pete?"

"Let's open with a song where John sings lead and I play a long guitar solo so you can stand doing nothing for the first five minutes of every show!"

Raining Them In Man

I defy anybody to watch this and not have at least a little sniffle at the end.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Free to Good Home - Table and Three Chairs

I just bought a new dining table.

Anybody want my old one? It's cherry with a light stain. Three chairs completes the package.

Free to anybody who will take it out of here. The place looks kind of silly with two dining tables, particularly because I don't like people.

Only in New York

This afternoon I was out and about in the city helping Superfly. On my way over to meet her, I was driven by a garrulous taxi driver named Francesco. Frank was like a Hollywood version of what most people think a New York City cabbie should be like (well, the non-Travis Bickle kind, anyway). He's in his late 60s, was born in Italy and speaks with a combination Italian/New York accent. He curses freely and offers advice unsolicited.

As we were driving around, he told me how he gave up his rent controlled apartment on Carmine and Bedford about 20 years ago and had regretted it ever since. His rent then was $32/month. The friend to whom he ceded the apartment now pays $225. This is true rent control, not rent stabilization, which is much different and provides for reasonable increases every year. I confirmed this with him and he was, unsurprisingly, very knowledgeable about the difference between the two programs. As recompense for this incredible gift, his friend buys him dinner once a month. That's one hell of a deal.

Frank's next story, however, is so classic New York that I have been thinking about it and savoring its absurdity all day. Another friend of his had a rent controlled apartment on Sullivan, just south of Houston. She had inherited it from her mother. When she died, she passed it on to her son. The son got a 5 room apartment in SoHo for $165/month.

Now here's the best part: The son then took the landlord to court because there had been a miscalculation somewhere along the way and his correct rent was actually $145. And he won!

Total annual savings - $240.

Having testicles the size of Central Park - priceless.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Giant Shalom

Ever since the war in Afghanistan began, I've had to listen to somebody or other bellyache about the proliferation of "Support Our Troops" stickers. "Support our troops?" they ask in their smug little tones, "How exactly are you supporting our troops?" There was even a little essay on NPR about how annoying these stickers are. Ironically, the stickers are clearly designed to combat the demonizing of our troops that was practiced in the 1960s and 1970s by...well, typically by the same types of people who whine about "Support Our Troops"stickers now. It always amazes me that the statement is totally lost on them.

Well, I have my own pet sticker peeve. What on earth is the message of these idiotic "Visualize Peace" or "Peace" stickers? Seriously. What is my take away here? The owner of the rusted out Datsun is thinking about peace? So what? Hey, good for you. I think about peace a lot too. I'm a big fan. I have all of Peace's records, including the solo projects and the ill-advised foray into synth-pop.

Unfortunately, some people seem to be thinking of killing me, so I'm gonna have to stop thinking about peace for a few minutes and focus on self-preservation. But you enjoy that sticker, buddy.

By the way, Support Our Troops.

More Bode Miller Bitch-Slapping

It was downright embarrassing to watch Miller bent over, gasping for air after both his runs in the giant slalom. Hey, Superchamp, how about showing up for the Olympics in shape? I know you have set yourself a heavy competition schedule for this Olympics, but real champions, you know, prepare for that.

Much has been made of Miller's "Zen-like" approach to skiing. He throws out ridiculous comments about how it's more important that he feels good about a race than that he wins. Apparently he is only interested in satisfying his "subjective criteria" than the "objective criteria" of actually winning. It's more true to the Olympic spirit, he's said.

Uh, no, Bode. If you want to go and achieve Zen-like perfection in skiing, you can do that all day long - on your own. The Olympics are a competition, you see. They are all about rewarding people who are not only prepared and skilled, but are competitors - people who have a desire to be better than the next racer.

So, please, save that faux-spiritual crap for when you are trying to pick up chicks at the TGI Bennigans in Franconia Notch.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Has Anybody Noticed

That Bode Miller totally sucks?

Also, I've decided that when any figure skater uses the Albinoni Adagio for their program, it should be required that they use the Yngwie Malmsteen version at the beginning of "Black Star."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Caption Contest

I am running a caption contest for either WMD puppy photo below.

First prize is dinner and dancing with the guitarist from Microdot.

Looking at the Past

Dresdner Bank AG has released a report revealing the level of its complicity with the Nazi regime. It turns out that the bank had a subsidiary, Huta, that helped to finance construction of Auschwitz. Other parts of the report reveal that the bank helped to finance the SS.

Obviously, it is a good thing for the bank to finally come clean and admit its role. The report, however, should remind those in the United States who resort to Nazi comparisons at the drop of a hat what real fascism is like.

As Gunter Grass once said, "Fascism is always descending on America, but landing in Europe."

[At least I think it was Gunter Grass. I can't seem to track down the origin of the quote.]

More Dogblogging

An old friend sent me these photos of the WMDs when they were just puppies. Thought I would share.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hey Tony

The assless pants were a huge hit. Great call.

Thanks for the tip.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lockbox of Chocolates

Anybody else spend Valentine's Day cleaning all remaining vestiges of your ex-girlfriend out of your apartment and throwing them away?


Monday, February 13, 2006

It Doesn't Just Rhyme with "Bore" Anymore

Internet Al proves that he can break out the kneepads and service Saudi oil with the best of them.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


A single-engine plane has crashed into a house in California.

"The pilot appeared to be coming down low for some kind of maneuver that brought him to within 500 feet of the rooftops," Gunther said. "And then he appeared to lose control and crashed into one of the houses."

You can never tell, of course, but this seems to be yet another example of an idiot pilot losing control in low-level maneuvering. It boggles my mind that there are still accidents like this when the causes are so well-known and so easily avoided.

The description provided by the witness seems to be a classic case of a stall by a pilot who was "buzzing" something on the ground (usually a friend's house or something similar). Aerodynamically, what happens is the plane's nose is pointed down in the descent and the plane builds airspeed. When the pilot wants to level off, he pulls back on the stick, but the plane's path is still downward, so the angle between the wings and the relative wind (i.e., the airflow over the plane) becomes too high and the wings stall out.

You can recover from a stalled condition (essentially, you just need to put the nose down), but it takes altitude and when you are buzzing your friend's house at 500 feet, you don't have enough of it to make it. Splat.

This is why maneuvering at low-altitudes (and particularly at low airspeeds) is so dangerous and should be avoided.

Every pilot knows this. You can't possibly get your private ticket without understanding why it happens and why you should never do it. Flying obviously involves risk and pilots have a responsibility to know those risks and avoid them when possible. There is no reason to knowingly put yourself in a no-win situation.

But people still die every year from this nonsense. It just drives me batty.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Does Anybody Here Remember Snapper?

Tonight, the Netflix Fairy delivered Led Zeppelin DVD. I have mixed feelings.

Led Zeppelin is one of my favorite bands and, at the same time, I fucking hate them.

Let me step back for a second.

Page and Bonham lay down some of the coolest, grooviest riffs in rock history. Of this there is no doubt. When I was learning guitar, I quickly burned through the entire Zep catalogue, teaching myself all the parts the old-fashioned way: lifting the needle off the vinyl and going back again and again until I had it. There's some truly great playing on those records. And "Immigrant Song" is still one of the hardest rocking songs ever.

But is there anything more irritating than the EXTENDED version of "Dazed and Confused"? The song pretty much sucks to begin with and it ain't getting any more interesting with the added four minutes of, um, Jimmy Page slapping his guitar with a violin bow. Ditto for any of the extended faux blues songs from Zep I. So boring, so difficult to endure. When I watch these clips, I am astonished that the band ever took off. Outside of "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown," the whole first record is a write-off to me. How many more times? How many more times can Plant say "Baby" in goddamned song! Feel my pain.

The 1970 Royal Albert Hall concert is a record of band that basically took already boring rip-offs of American blues and made them into extended jams with some of the sloppiest guitar playing around. I've always been a fan of Jimmy Page's playing, but there is precious little in this concert worth listening to. He sounds like the Sam Ash sales guy from hell. He is always playing too much, too fast and with incredible sloppiness. What's more, he is always way out on top of the beat, which is an achievement when Bonham is your drummer. The best the band sounds in this performance is on the Eddie Cochran tunes they play in the encore. All of a sudden, they come alive and seem like they are actually having fun.

Things pick up on DVD 2. For one thing, the band actually had some songs, as opposed to drawn out blues rip-offs. For another, Page is much more on the ball with his playing. And Bonham is a monster. In fact, without him and his ability to groove, I am tempted to say the band would never have gone anywhere. Still, despite the mammoth riffs, there is something just so...boring about Zeppelin.

In the words of Pete Townshend: "Led Zeppelin? Great blokes, great blokes. Never did like the band much, though."

By Popular Demand

Chrispy has requested some more photos of the WMDs.

Here ya go

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hard Drive Crash

On Thursday, I killed my second laptop hard drive in as many years. I seem to eat these things alive. This is why I ordered the Mac. Too bad it is not here yet.

This explains the light blogging.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oh, Dear God


Monday, January 30, 2006

A Dangerous Theocracy

Imagine a place where less than half the population believes in Evolution and 40%+ believe both creationism and intelligent design should be taught in public schools.

Rural Arkansas?

Nope. The United Kingdom! You remember them, right? The country with an established Church that still has political and legal powers.

Remember that the next time you listen to a Briton tell you that Americans are religious fundamentalist nuts.

(With love to my British friends.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My Happiness is a Golden Poem

This is fun.

I will reward the best one sent to me with a Booby Prize.

Is Nothing Sacred?

A few years back, I seriously contemplated taking my love of the Waffle House to the next level. I was not content to be simply scattered, smothered, covered, diced, topped and chunked. I needed more. Much more. So I investigated the franchising opportunities for Waffle House in NYC. It didn't work out, but I still dream of a New York Waffle House, preferably within walking distance of my apartment.

As anybody knows, part of the charm of the Haus is the slice of Southern life it provides to us curious Northerners. With this in mind, I read with horror that one of the mainstays of La Vie Waffleuse is in danger - the middle-aged lady with big hair smoking 100s (preferably menthol) at the counter.

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Beverley Flynn says she's eaten her last meal at her favorite Waffle House in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. No longer can she smoke her Winston Lights 100 after the restaurant banned cigarettes in the hometown of their maker, Reynolds American Inc. `I'm old enough to be stubborn,'' says Flynn, 63, who refuses to step out for a puff under Waffle House's brown-and-yellow striped awning. ``I won't go anywhere I can't smoke.''

Tobacco Road in central North Carolina, where the four biggest U.S. tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA, crank out more than 200 billion cigarettes a year, is getting its first smoke-free Waffle House restaurants. Next week, franchisee Gary Fly will make permanent a smoking ban in four of his 37 outlets to give non-smokers an alternative.

My heart grieves for the South.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Turn your head and...

It seems that the American College of Chest Physicians (no, I am not making it up) has declared that cough syrup doesn't really do much.

This story was of particular interest to me because I have been wracked by a dry cough for the last four or five days. The only thing that has helped me to sleep has been a massive dose of dextromethorphan before bed time. One added plus is that I have really trippy dreams. Anyway, it seems to work pretty danged well and stops me from irritating my throat even more through constant coughing.

Then again, what are you to make of a group that offers this advice:

Another option that some doctors recommend: Just tough it out, because colds typically go away on their own.

Stop being such a pussy and cough like a man!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Genghis Blues

Last night, I had to give up my original plan to live-blog the Canadian elections when I remembered that nobody really cares.

Instead, I watched a truly entertaining documentary called "Genghis Blues." The film tells the story of the late Paul Pena, the blues singer who wrote "Jet Airliner," the song made popular by the Steve Miller Band in 1977. In 1984, while listening to Radio Moscow, Pena heard a recording of throat singing from Tuva. Although blind since birth, Pena was able to teach himself to speak Tuvan and, amazingly, to throat sing in a variety of Tuvan styles. Throat singing is a technique where the singer can produce harmonics both above and below the main note so that he is actually singing two notes at once. The effect is both eerie and mesmerizing.

When a legendary Tuvan throat singer, Kongar-ol Ondar came to California for a concert in 1993, Pena stunned him by throat singing in the lobby of the concert hall. Ondar was so impressed that he invited Pena to participate in the triennial Tuvan throat singing concert in 1995. With assistance from the Friends of Tuva (an organization founded by, among others, Richard Feynman, who may have been one of the coolest people ever), Pena and a group of film makers traveled to Tuva for the concert.

The two "stars" of the documentary, Ondar and Pena are polar opposites in personality. Ondar is a blaze of smiles and joy. He seems to be having fun just standing and breathing. He is confident, but never with arrogance. Most of the middle of the film is taken up with an account of Ondar's high-spirited, long-distance sightseeing tour of Tuva. Basically, you'd want him to be around all the time to keep your spirits up. Pena, by contrast, is filled with sorrows. He speaks frankly and without sentiment about his struggles with depression and the difficulty of being blind in a sighted world. In particular, he notes that a trip to a foreign land can be a time of terror for him as he has no way of knowing what is happening or who is around. He is so humble, however, and so sincere in his love of the music and culture of Tuva, that it is hard not to be overwhelmed by him. Moreover, the friendship between the two seems genuine.

The documentary could have been a little bit better made. It would have been helpful, for example, to provide an explanation of how these singers are able to produce such unearthly sounds. The film begins with a tantalizing x-ray view of a singer producing the harmonics, but then fails to address the subject.

Still, I highly recommend checking it out.

Also, Ondar is coming to the USA in March and performing at Wesleyan. I am so fascinated by him and his singing, I am considering a road trip to check it out.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Now THAT'S Terrorism

Zawahiri has released a 17-minute tape of poetry. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this is bad poetry. For starters, the poem is called "Tears in the Eyes of Time," which is about as close to a Jim Croce song title as you get out there in the hinterlands of Pakistan.

Next up, Zawahiri is going to release an awesome mix tape he made to remind him of the summer of 2004.

Whale Song

A whale has been spotted in the Thames.

Facts about whales*:

- Largest mammal
- Lives at the top of the sea
- Cannot breathe underwater
- This is why it has a blow hole

* Source - The Whale Song, (c) 1999 D. Cavalier

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Taking the Plunge

Today, I bought a Mac.

I haven't used a Mac for almost fourteen years. The last time I can recall was at about 5 A.M. one April morning, six months after I had sworn that I would not be pulling an all-nighter to finish my Senior Thesis. This was back when Apples came in the form of those cute little towers with screens.

Since then, I've never owned one or used one. In graduate school, I had a primitive laptop/word processor that probably ran COBOL, but saved me countless man hours when I was typing out notes in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY.

After school, I always got computers through work and nobody uses Macs on Wall Street.

I'm not sure what moved me to get one now. The final barrier fell when I found out that Tiger OS X is fully compatible with our Windows-based server and VPN.

Somebody tell me I made the right choice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Moving Pictures

I've heard a lot of smack talk over the last year, but I've seen no movement.

Rob? Chrispy? Jackson?

Let's get moving here.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Showing the same leadership that made him so effective during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Nagin announced today that he wants the new New Orleans to be a "chocolate" New Orleans.

I think this is foolhardy. First of all, chocolate is no good whatsoever for load-bearing structures. You've pretty much got to go with either candy cane or peanut brittle for that, although that's gonna drive your costs up. And don't forget that peanut brittle-joiners have been unionized for years. Get ready to pay through the nose.

Chocolate is also terrible for the roofing in such a sunny climate. It absorbs heat and drives air conditioning bills through the roof. Still, it's good to know that we have the world's best workers in the Big Easy working on reconstruction.

In related news, the mayor of Greenwich, CT has announced plans for a newer, better Greenwich made entirely of Fluff and Wonder Bread.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Respect for Mother Nature

As I mentioned below, this week was mostly taken up in a lonely battle against some kind of viral infection, possibly influenza. It's been a long time since I battled a virus like this and I am still not fully recovered. After the gastrointestinal phase and the fever/aches/chills phase, I thought I was in the clear. I was wrong. Starting yesterday afternoon, I started losing my voice. Although this may be the result of a bacterial infection taking advantage of my weak body, it's just another example of the power of a virus.

When you have spent so much time in the ring with such a formidable foe, it's hard not to be humbled.

We can all make our way through even the toughest of colds with a combination of will and NyQuil/DayQuil. The flu is something different altogether. By Tuesday morning, I was simply incapable of moving. Touching metal objects was painful. The mere thought of food was enough to nauseate me completely. Due to the violent GI symptoms of the first phase, I was already badly dehydrated. My muscles were cramping up and I could barely move my neck without intense pain. I couldn't sleep properly because of the aches and chills and I couldn't watch tv or read because my eyes hurt so badly. It was a terror of a time.

The most remarkable part of the whole experience is the strange mental state that develops. I had read earlier this year that the flu has neurological effects and, this time, I am inclined to believe it. During the depths of the fever/chills phase, I was drifting in and out of what can only be called delirium. Images and sounds from the television became intertwined with dreams and confused me even more. At times, I was not sure if I was awake or asleep. Everything seemed real, but I also knew that at least some of it was dream. Even today, I don't feel 100% together.

About two weeks ago, I watched "War of the Worlds." I had always thought the end of the story was a little hokey. This week, I was reminded of how serious a threat to survival infection truly is. Unfortunately, Wells gets it exactly wrong when he writes "By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain."

We do not owe our immunity to the deaths of billions of men because the ones who died were not our ancestors. They have no descendants. Their deaths contributed nothing to our survival as a species. (Clarification - Obviously it is possible for somebody to have offspring and then die. My point is that Wells' view is a romanticization of evolution. The humans who did not possess an immune system sufficient to ward off the most common pathogens without death would be thinned out over time, leaving us with the gene pool from which we currently draw. Although it is pleasant to think of these dead as cannon fodder in some great war against disease, their deaths were merely coincidental. Our current immune system comes from genetic variation, not their "sacrifice.")

We're the descendants of the lucky ones.


Journey to the Pacific Northwest (Part Two)

After crossing the border, we reached Brother Tyler's new house in Bellingham, WA. Being a New Yorker, I was immediately jealous. The house is brand new, very nicely decorated and it has tons of room. Then again, I'm having trouble decorating my 800 sq. ft. apartment in Manhattan, so I don't know what I'd do with that much space.

Mrs. Brother Tyler (aka. Sister Katy Starr) was on call at the hospital that night, so we knew that we had to entertain ourselves. After checking the local club listings, we were absolutely crushed to see that Hell's Belles, Seattle's finest all-female AC/DC cover band, was playing at The Fairhaven in Bellingham, but not that weekend. Our depression was deepened yet further when we saw that Maiden Seattle , Seattle's finest Iron Maiden cover band, was playing on January 13th. (They were listed as "all-female Iron Maiden tribute band," which was so bizarre that I would probably have flown back to Bellingham just to see it, but it turns out that the band is a bunch of dudes.)

The biggest mystery of the weekend was the listing for that night for "The Replacements" at the Main Street Bar & Grill in Ferndale. I was pretty sure that Bobby would not be playing, but I was curious enough to call the club and ask who this was. They were listed for Friday and Saturday, right after Rock Karaoke. The woman at the club was even more confused than I was.

"Is this THE Replacements?"

"Some of them."

"Which ones?"

"I don't know their names."

"Is Paul Westerberg playing?"

"I don't know who that is."

After futher discussion between me and Brother Tyler, we determined that it was highly unlikely that THE Replacements would be playing two consecutive weekends in Ferndale, Washington without a little more fanfare. We decided not to drive out. If this turns out to be some kind of stealth comeback tour for them, I will never forgive myself.

We ended up at an all ages show in a coffee house in downtown Bellingham. The band was actually pretty good, driven by the heavily overdriven sound of the hyperkinetic bassist. He kind of looked like he had just been let out of a 48-hour session of Dungeons & Dragons. The singer was a diminutive woman playing a blonde Tele into a Fender Hot Rod DeVille and getting a very nice, warm sound. She never played anything particularly complex, but somehow she and the bassist combined to get a lush, harmonically interesting sound in a lot of the songs. The drummer looked like my cousin Christopher, but with better timing.

Brother Tyler and I were the oldest people in the house by a good decade and a half (if not two decades in some cases). I'm sure they thought we were narcs. I had a great time, though and wished that New York had had more venues like this when I was growing up. All the kids were into the music and the place had good energy.

Oh, who am I kidding? I still would have been at home figuring out the guitar solo to "Firth of Fifth."

The next day we drove down to the Skagit Valley to see the bald eagles. I had never seen a bald eagle in person. They are astonishingly beautiful birds with a grave elegance when at rest. The biggest thrill was shooting one and taking the eggs out of its nest.

Just kidding.

So, thanks to Brother Tyler and Sister Katy Starr for an excellent weekend. If only I had known the doom that awaited me on Monday evening in San Francisco...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Err...Scroll Down

I had started my post about the West Coast trip on Sunday afternoon, so it got published as if it had been completed then. You'll have to scroll down to check it out.

Part Two should appear at the top.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Chapter One - I Am Born

After about 40 hours of sheer misery, I think I have finally beaten this thing. After taking double doses of TheraFlu, my neck relaxed enough for me to fall asleep for real. I broke the fever at about 4:30 this morning and have been able to sleep deeply since.

I look like hell and am weak, but I haven't eaten in over 48 hours and I am very hungry, so I am going downstairs to get some breakfast.

I'll have some posts on the better part of the trip (my time in Vancouver) soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I feel comfortable in saying...

...that having the flu while in a hotel room by yourself in San Francisco is amongst the most miserable experiences one can have.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Journey to the Pacific Northwest (Part One)

The Misanthrope was on the West Coast visiting his friend Brother Tyler (scroll to the bottom). Nothing beats spending time with a friend you never get to see.

I landed in Vancouver, BC on Friday afternoon after a long flight from JFK. The most bizarre moment of the flight came after the in-flight movie had just finised. Air Canada treated us passengers to a short video that reminded us that using children for sex is wrong and we could be prosecuted for sexual tourism, even if the illegal acts had not taken place on Canadian soil. Bienvenue au Canada!

Visiting Canada is always a strange experience for me. I feel a sense of excitement at the prospect of being in a foreign country, but the visual landscape is almost exactly the same asit is in the United States. It is the little things that remind you where you really are. Being a New Yorker, I cross the street anywhere I can as long as the traffic is more than 10 feet away from me. When I did this in downtown Vancouver, I actually drew stares of disapproval. Similarly, Vancouver's subway/light rail system, the SkyTrain, provided a reminder that this wasn't the U.S. There is a C$2.25 fare (for a one-zone journey) that, according to Brother Tyler's Canadian co-workers, everybody pays. Why is this amazing? There are no turnstiles or ticket takers; it's an honor system. Can you imagine this in the United States? Neither can I.

After some awe-inspiring dim sum, I spent the afternoon walking around Vancouver. The city itself is not particularly attractive and seems to be in the process of being overrun by hundreds of undistinguished apartment towers. From the number of apartment towers, you would think that Vancouver had a population of five million. What is amazing about the city, however, is its setting. With mountains to the north and east and Vancouver Island to the west, it's had to imagine a more beautiful location for a city in North America.

My attempts to find an unrecognized 1958 Les Paul Goldtop gathering dust in one of the pawn shops on Granville Street were fruitless, so I headed to Yaletown, the city's Yuppie/Soho sector. I still cannot understand how so many coffee houses can possibly exist in such a small city. On one block, I saw a Starbuck's and two indie coffee houses within 200' of each other. Still, the city is clean and pleasant and close to so much natural beauty. I give it a thumbs up.

Eventually, I ended up at the Vancouver Art Gallery, where I checked out their new Picasso exhibit. The collection on display was decent but not incredible, being drawn almost exclusively from works held in Canadian collections. The intro text to the exhibition hall was so quintessentially Canadian I had to read it about three times to savor it properly. While noting with evident pride that the collection on display was almost entirely Canadian in origin, the curator could not help but point out that Canada's Picasso collection was pretty thin because, well, the Canadians were so damned stuffy until a few years ago that nobody really liked modern art. I wish I had copied down the exact text. Only in Canada can you find such a hilarious mix of deep national pride and heavy self-deprecation.

After the exhibit, I followed a few of Vancouver's many attractive women around for a while (in a non-stalking way, of course) and then rejoined TY for the trip back to Bellingham, Washington.

Coming up next: Part Two - In which eagles soar and The Replacements reunite to win the Battle of the Bands.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sebastiao Salgado

My good friend introduced me to the photographs of Sebastiao Salgado this past weekend. If you have not seen his work, it is well worth checking out.

Aaron Burr

I can't stop watching this.

Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious