(no subject)

Quoting a post by a guy with the moniker 'Adaptive Systems,' because goddamn, read it:

My father's mother recently died, in her late nineties, after two solid decades of fervent, daily, devoutly Catholic prayer for release from her increasingly humiliatingly decrepit body. I remember sitting with her in the dead of winter, in a shitty seafood restaurant, a few miles from the Atlantic. It wasn't too long before her mind went, and almost as if she knew she didn't have much time, she talked hurriedly, pausing only to sip her mineral water, and then returning to all the wondrous things she had the great good fortune to witness, from hearing the news that Peary had made it to the North pole, to actually seeing the Spirit of Saint Louis in person.

She remembered very keenly an afternoon spent doing the laundry in the alleyway with her mother in the Irish ghetto of Philadelphia. While they washed, they each kept an eye on her two younger brothers Frank and Joseph playing at war. A neighbor woman stopped in passing and said that she thought it wasn't proper, to let kids play at war, what with the American boys dying over there, nowadays. And plus, it wasn't Christian to encourage that sort of thing, now that we knew how horrible it could be, what with the mustard gas and the machine guns.

My great-grandmother nodded, she understood perfectly. But, she said, since there was really no danger of these children ever having to go to war, she couldn't really see the harm in it. Might as well let the little ones play, without scaring them by telling them that it wasn't a game. She thought it could hardly do any harm; everyone knew there wouldn't be any wars after this one, this war to settle all disputes, to settle the course of human civilization for the next millennia. Humanity simply couldn't afford it, and all the leaders of the Great Powers knew it, finally. The Neighbor saw her point, and confided in her how she too felt so lucky to know that her children would never have to sail off and fight in a distant land, but that she also felt guilty, knowing that Missus O'Shea's son had been born too soon for her to enjoy the same comfort.

Two decades later, my grandmother was living in San Francisco with her husband, a structural engineer who quit his practice designing skyscrapers and went to work for the military designing battleships. She heard the news of the Pearl Harbor attack while her husband was out boozing with his floozies. He came home late, and she clutched at him in a fearful frenzy the instant he came in the door. Assuming she was on again about his living in mortal sin and all that shit, he slapped her in the mouth and called her a crazy bitch before passing out. She went out to the bank that week, and remembered seeing all the pretty Japanese girls in the city all made up like movie stars, but so scared they trembled and looked like they would burst into tears at any moment.

And then, a few short years later, her brother Frank was leaning out of a tank hatch, not too far from Berlin. He was in the middle of a small town, one that had been cleared of Nazis, listening to an officer in the street, who was directing tanks forward. While he was trying to hear the officer's voice over the din of the engines, he caught a glimpse of a man appearing in the open doorway of the ruined building across the street, and saw him instantly unleash a Panzerfaust directly at the center mass of the tank that he precariously balanced from. The Panzerfaust sparked across the street, and the officer, shouting orders, never seeing it coming, took it squarely in the back. It exploded through him, sending a shower of shrapnel and flesh cascading off the tank and through Frank's torso, neatly slicing his left arm off just below the shoulder.

After the war, even with one arm, he was still able to find good factory work, and being a purple heart helped, though not as much as you might think, given that everyone was busy trying to get in on the rising tide and join the middle class. Frank's brother Joseph spent the war doing clerical, rear-echelon work. After the war, he became an accountant and did well for himself. Each brother silently knew who had gotten the better end of the bargain.

Frank suffered a stroke in the bathroom at eighty. Three more the next week, and a drooling but largely lucid death that I am sure he thanked his loving Catholic God he had lived long enough to enjoy. Losing your arm as a kid teaches you a few things, I think. Like, "Better to die flat on your back in bed than cut in half on the cobblestones," and don't let the liars fool ya, kid.

Everyone is sad to see the greatest generation go, and rightly so. The wars of the past century are myths to us; we all want to draw near the old veterans sitting around the dimming campfire and be regaled by the tales of their heroism, and fanaticize about the acts of courage we would have been capable of, if only history had seen fit to grace us with the chance. The simplest of us mourn openly for lack of an opportunity to prove ourselves, though most of us, even the most decent, will find some similar longing if we search honestly enough.

But none of us is too eager to have been the wives of some of these heroes, trying to understand why they could only sleep on the floors for years after coming home, or deal with them sinking into Alzheimer's, limping around the house shouting. Where are you? Where are you? Sergeant, Donny's in the street! Sergeant! Get out of my way you German bitch! Sergeant! Donny's hit! And none of us fantasize about being the mothers, getting the telegraph with the details of our only child's death. And none of us, honestly, is too eager to have died at Iwo Jima, no matter how much fun Hollywood makes it look.

Instead we imagine what it must have been like, wearing bomber jackets, flak flying by on our left and our right, having no fear, knowing we were as pure as Arthurian Knights. We relish the thought of outflanking our enemy and taking vengeance for poor, poor Kowalski's death, because we always imagine it'll be our best friend to go, and never us. We comfort ourselves with the compliment that it will be us that stays coolly, crucially detached in the heat of battle while the blood of our fellow teenagers is hacked brutally into our faces, between hideous pleading sputters.

For some, the fact that I should merely pause to reflect upon these truths is disgraceful; a sign of cowardice and shameful slander on the dead, if not outright treason. For them, for those brave souls unencumbered by dread of slaughter, who weep not for broken cities, who see shallow corpse-strewn puddles as a paths to glory, who see war coming to them as a sacred calling, a chance to make prideful sacrifices and secure a lifetime's worth of valor, for them I bring this consoling reassurance:

Have no fear. There is still time to be a war hero. The Great War is still coming. It's there, over the horizon, and its sails are full with the wind that beats from the wings of the angel of history on her endless journey to escape us.

That ghost ship rushes towards you every bit as fast as you could hope.

Faster than you might have wanted, in hindsight.

Assuming you get to enjoy that peculiar wisdom of the living.

Spot the irony

From the Telegraph:

The nine men from Rochdale were yesterday convicted of abusing five vulnerable teenagers after plying them with alcohol, food and small sums of money in return for sex.

However, the true number of victims, who were "passed around" by the gang, is likely to be nearer to 50, police have admitted.

That sounds pretty bad. But why would the cops be worried that people would accuse them of being racist against Asians? That's not some hot-button issue over there, is it?

Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons were yesterday found guilty of running a child exploitation ring at Liverpool Crown Court.

Ohhhh. That sort of "Asian."

Next up: Telegraph accused of failing to identify a Muslim pedophile gang
as Muslim for fear of being perceived as racist.

(no subject)

Right now I have the worst case of athlete's foot in the known fucking universe.

It's not like I haven't had it before. I think I first contracted it way the hell back in high school when I was running cross-country. I've more or less lived in a tense state of truce with it since then. Every once in a while it flares up, I grab the Tinactin or whatever and go to town with it for a couple of weeks, it goes away, I keep going with the spray for another month until I'm sure it's gone.

Right now, the entire upper surface of both my feet is a commingled mass of tiny vesicles that split open and ooze clear fluid. The spaces between my toes itch and burn so badly that the thought of getting a steel-wire brush and scrubbing that entire region with vigorous enthusiasm, or giving it a or giving it a good dousing in lighter fluid and setting it afire, is a temptation I've managed to withstand only with steady willpower and beer consumpion. The last time either of my feet was as swollen as they both are now, I'd received the unholy sunburn pictured here.

And I've got a dermatophytid reaction on my calves and chest.

Either I've finally bred a super-virulent strain of tinea pedis that's resistant to the OTC antifunals, or my toes are being melted off by some hitherto-unknown space mushroom. So far, I've avoided spreading it to my balls. But I can't make any promises on how long that will last.

Doctor can't see me until Wednesday, unless Jesus, Vishnu, and the Eskimos smile upon me and someone cancels an appointment tomorrow. If Dad were alive, he'd probably be gleefully advising bilateral amputation by now.

(no subject)

Time for the ObLigatory "Is anyone still using LJ?" comment.

That aside, I'm pretty impressed with CS5's contextual filtering. Here's a shot out of the camera, nothing done to it but jpg conversion:


Here it is after about 30 minutes of quick and dirty messing around with the spot healing brush:

Leh Palace

If you zoom in, you can see some removal artifacts, but still, nice tool.

Sleep No More

Went to see Sleep No More this weekend.

(Not my shot, I tried to take a few but given that it was with a point-and-shoot and required subterfuge to get away with it, I didn't get anything good)

It's this massive production by this British theater company called Punchdrunk. And I really mean "massive." They've taken over 100,000 square feet of empty warehouse space in Chelsea and turned it into a sort of David Lynch LARP.

The LARP bit isn't the best description. You don't have a role to play other than "audience member," but it's an active role. You're given a Venetian mask, cautioned not to remove it or speak, and then told wander through this enormous space, which they've turned into a 1930s hotel called the McKittrick, in a nod to Vertigo.

When you first enter, the entire crowd's in a club with a bar where you should really drink something with absinthe in it. Then they move you out in groups, hand you your masks, and dump you off an elevator onto one of the 5 floors, intentionally trying to split up people who came as a group. And that's when everything turns creepy as hell. The hotel space is decrepit and twisted and will thoroughly disorient you. You're left to explore, encouraged to poke around into drawers and closets and so forth, and to follow the inhabitants around as you see fit.

The inhabitants are putting on a bizarre production of Macbeth by way of Hitchcock, and doing it mostly without dialogue. Interactions with the audience are mixed; at times, characters ignore you, and at times (usually when they're insane or dead), they take notice of you. Occasionally an actor will grab a single audience member, lead him through a locked door, and shut it behind them, separating him from the audience entirely. This didn't happen to me, but apparently the actor then de-masks you and tells you a short spooky story.

They don't let you take photos, which I can understand (actors are gettin' bare-ass naked, and plus shutter clicks and flash would be awfully intrusive), but it sucks because the art direction of this environment is incredible. Every room is filled with detail, it's as symbolically dense as a Tim Powers novel. Just as one example, in this version, Duncan's son Malcolm is apparently a private investigator. In the back of his office is a darkroom, and examination of the hanging prints and the notes and books on the shelves and the various severed bird wings nailed to the walls indicate that Malcolm's really into ornithomancy. While I'm in there poking around, Malcolm comes in (followed by various audience members), types up a report, retrieves a small box from the safe, removes a scalpel from it, looks like he's going to let loose a vein, but then changes his mind and excises a single line of text from his report, only to tie it to the leg of a dead bird.

Many rooms in the hotel exist in some not-a-hotel space. There's a forest maze (Birnam wood?), with a growling wolf statue at one of the dead-ends. There's an extensive area of crumbling stone walls and statuary where Macbeth wanders in anguish for a time. Lady Macbeth's parlor lets her retreat to a space behind a large mirror while we watch.

Eeriest room I saw was Macduff's child's nursery. An empty crib, with an empty baby's jumper lying within it, and hanging from the ceiling to encircle the crib are another two dozen or so empty baby jumpers, but these are bronzed and hence have the shape of one which holds a real baby. Spookiest performance I witnessed was Macbeth's second consultation with the witches, which takes place in a nightclub (it's a duplicate of the one you enter the performance through, so it's intended to be the same but isn't the same), and turned into a drum-and-bass driven blood orgy, complete with three naked witches (one male, goat-headed, and blood-soaked) , Macbeth, and a demonic stillbirth.

You won't see everything. You can't see everything. Even though the actors repeat their vignettes several times during the course of the night, it's your pick of who to follow or where to go that determines what you get to see. I wasn't able to follow a single thread of the main plot all the way through; I wanted to see Duncan's murder, but didn't, but did see blood-soaked Macbeth enter into his lady's parlor to tell her he'd done the deed, and then later her frenzied efforts to scrub herself clean of the blood that he'd left on her. And I ended up seeing naked and scrubbing Lady MacBeth twice, but I'm not going to complain about that because, well, the actress was pretty damned good-looking even when she wasn't gyrating lithely all around her room. There's another non-Macbeth related plotline that I couldn't follow at all, and judging from the character names it's got something to do with the novel Rebecca, which I've never read. Plus a woman in a red dress credited as "Hecate" who at one point harvests tears from one of the Rebecca characters, so regarding all that I have no fucking idea what was going on.

I think it could have been better with less dance-fighting and more dialogue, I'd really have appreciated a few more anchors to the source material; I still have no idea who several of the characters were. I couldn't tell you who was Banquo and who was Duncan, for example. And what dialogue there was was almost entirely drowned out by the atmospheric (and very effective) soundtrack; unless you're right up against an actor you're not going to make out much of what they're saying; at one point I'm pretty sure I heard Lady Macbeth giving the "And damned be he who first cries hold etc" bit in low tones, but couldn't be sure. And I get a sense that if you could see everything and follow every thread to conclusion, then the plot(s) wouldn't justify the setup, that the stage is simply too big for the drama.

But despite any of those deficiencies, it's very, very cool. Then after Macbeth gets what's coming to him, you wind up back in the first nightclub again and get to party:


This guy's got some photos of the space, apparently when the setup was just about finished but before the performance started running.

The NYT's got a few official shots.
great ass

What am I missing here?

Okay, quick backstory. Cops in Fullerton, CA, beat a crazy homeless guy so badly he goes into a coma and dies in the hospital a few days later. Police chief's since gone on medical leave, there's the standard bit where the folks on one side think the cops were justified in using the force they did, the folks on the other side who think these guys should all go to prison, and so on. But in the midst of the let's-get-to-the-bottom-of-this, check this out:

Fullerton's acting police chief acknowledged Thursday that the department had allowed police officers involved in a deadly encounter with a homeless man to watch a video that captures the incident before writing their reports about it.

Acting Chief Kevin Hamilton said supervisors allowed the review so that the officers would have a chance to refresh their memory and write an accurate account of the incident involving Kelly Thomas.

But the practice is at odds with the way many other police departments deal with serious use-of-force cases. The LAPD's former inspector general, Jeffrey Eglash, said that allowing police to look at video before giving evidence is a "bad practice."


"You want each person's recollection. I would look at the videotape like another witness," he said. "It allows the officers to conform their statements to other evidence rather than getting their independent witness recollection. It is not a practice that advances the truth-seeking."


Hamilton said there was no hidden agenda in allowing the officers to see what the video showed.

"Sometimes audio tapes or videotapes can refresh an officer's memory to what happened and then they can write about it," he said. "The videotapes were not shown to the officers in an effort to flavor anything."

The Orange County district attorney's office, which is investigating Thomas' death along with the FBI, has refused to release the tape publicly, saying investigators believe it could influence witness recollections. The Fullerton police have also rejected requests to make the tape public.

So investigators won't make the video public, because any witnesses who saw it might have their recollections influenced by the video. But they showed it to the cops...specifically so that their recollections could be influenced by the video.

Gotcha. Makes sense.