Seb Lester

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Seb Lester is an artist and designer who has fallen in love with calligraphy and now makes videos of his handiwork:

Kermit and Cookie Monster and the Mystery Box

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Kermit and Cookie Monster and the Mystery Box goes back to Sesame Street episode 3546, from the 20th season (1988–1989):

The 21st was Henson’s last.

Me trooper

Monday, April 11th, 2016

When I see a new gadget, I generally say, “Me want it, but me wait,” but a good ad might push me over the edge — and some good behind the scenes bits might push me even harder:


Friday, April 8th, 2016

Gate Anime Poster“If you aren’t watching Gate,” Jonathan Jeckell (@jon_jeckell) said, “you are missing out.” So, I checked it out, on Hulu.

If you don’t recognize US Army officer Jon Jeckell’s name, he wrote The Jedi Way of War for Grand Blog Tarkin, which includes passages like this:

The Jedi Order seems to be an institution outside the government, yet with a role in keeping it accountable, limiting power, and fostering the rule of law, similar to the role the Catholic Church had in post-Roman Europe. Francis Fukuyama discusses this in detail in Part III of The Origins of Political Order.

Gate started out as a web-novel before getting published, then adapted as a manga and then an anime.

The premise is that a magical portal opens up between a “typical” fantasy world — as depicted in Japanese media — and modern Japan. Our hero is a Japanese army officer — pardon, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force officer — who isn’t particularly devoted to his job, but who does love fantasy. Oddly, that doesn’t seem to be the secret to his success.

The story contrasts the modern, high-tech, bureaucratic Japanese against their feudal counterparts. I enjoyed that contrast.

I did not enjoy the endless genre tropes — cliches, really — which were more off-putting than funny, sexy, etc. It’s “mature” in the usual childish way.

Watching the show reminded me how little I knew about modern Japanese arms. For instance, the standard rifle is the Howa Type 64 battle rifle, which has never been exported due to Japan’s strict anti-hardware export laws. The rifle is chambered for 7.62×51mm NATO ammunition — sort of:

A notable feature of the cartridge used in this weapon is that the powder charge is reduced by about 20%, to reduce its inherently excessive recoil and muzzle climb. It was purposely produced with a reduced powder charge to be more suitable to the Japanese physique. Because it was designed around this specialized cartridge, the rifle incurs substantially accelerated wear and tear from using full-powered ammunition. Still, the gas regulator has a setting to accommodate normal 7.62×51mm NATO ammunition.

(Front-line troops get the newer Type 89 in 5.56×45mm NATO.)

The author behind all this is a former SDF officer who is apparently considered extremely right-wing for presenting war as conceivably good, or at least less wrong than not fighting.


Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Each year, all the calves born in France get names starting with the same letter. A few years ago the letter was I, and friend-of-the-blog Grasspunk named one of his female calves Isegoria. That was vachement genial of him.

This year Isegoria the cow gave birth to a male calf who needed an M name, and GrassPunk suggested Mishima, the name of the infamous Japanese-nationalist writer who committed seppuku after a doomed coup attempt.

That turned into Mishimaburger, whom I envision as a Kobe-style beef trying futilely to rouse the other beeves to go outside and eat grass.

Anyway, this convinced me to find some actual Mishima to read, and the go-to piece seems to be his short story, Patriotism — which, honestly, reads as almost comically Japanese to a modern Western audience. A newlywed Lieutenant and his beautiful young wife commit ritual suicide after his friends fail in their coup attempt, the infamous February 26 Incident:

“I knew nothing. They hadn’t asked me to join. Perhaps out of consideration, because I was newly married. Kano, and Homma too, and Yamaguchi.”

Reiko recalled momentarily the faces of high-spirited young officers, friends of her husband, who had come to the house occasionally as guests.

“There may be an Imperial ordinance sent down tomorrow. They’ll be posted as rebels, I imagine. I shall be in command of a unit with orders to attack them…. I can’t do it. It’s impossible to do a thing like that.”

He spoke again.

“They’ve taken me off guard duty, and I have permission to return home for one night. Tomorrow morning, without question, I must leave to join the attack. I can’t do it, Reiko.”

Reiko sat erect with lowered eyes. She understood clearly that her husband had spoken of his death. The lieutenant was resolved. Each word, being rooted in death, emerged sharply and with powerful significance against this dark, unmovable background. Although the lieutenant was speaking of his dilemma, already there was no room in his mind for vacillation.

However, there was a clarity, like the clarity of a stream fed from melting snows, in the silence which rested between them. Sitting in his own home after the long two-day ordeal, and looking across at the face of his beautiful wife, the lieutenant was for the first time experiencing true peace of mind. For he had at once known, though she said nothing, that his wife divined the resolve which lay beneath his words.

“Well, then…” The lieutenant’s eyes opened wide. Despite this exhaustion they were strong and clear, and now for the first time they looked straight into the eyes of his wife. “Tonight I shall cut my stomach.”

Reiko did not flinch.


Friday, April 1st, 2016

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur had the body of a man but the head of a bull. The name Minotaur simply means Minos’s Bull, because the beast lived in the labyrinth of King Minos of Crete — but the beast had a proper name:

In Crete, the Minotaur was known by its proper name, Asterion, a name shared with Minos’ foster-father.

I don’t remember this part of the story from any of the mythology books I got out of the school library:

After he ascended the throne of the island of Crete, Minos competed with his brothers to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon, the sea god, to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of support (the Cretan Bull). He was to kill the bull to show honor to the deity, but decided to keep it instead because of its beauty. He thought Poseidon would not care if he kept the white bull and sacrificed one of his own. To punish Minos, Poseidon made Pasiphaë, Minos’s wife, fall deeply in love with the bull. Pasiphaë had craftsman Daedalus make a hollow wooden cow, and climbed inside it in order to mate with the white bull. The offspring was the monstrous Minotaur. Pasiphaë nursed him, but he grew and became ferocious, being the unnatural offspring of a woman and a beast; he had no natural source of nourishment and thus devoured humans for sustenance. Minos, after getting advice from the oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. Its location was near Minos’s palace in Knossos.

Jocko the Fifth

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

“Don’t be scared, and don’t be intimidated by Shakespeare,” Jocko (@jockowillink) says, as he discusses Shakespeare’s Henry V — and the classically trained actors who perform it: “In my mind, they don’t get it.”

The LEGO Batman Trailer

Friday, March 25th, 2016

“I deserve this today.” The LEGO Batman trailer:

Martin Krpan in English

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

“You like axe-wielding heroes?” our Slovenian guest asked. Clearly a rhetorical question. From his neck of the woods comes Martin Krpan the Strong of the Peak:

A Slovenian subject of the Habsburg Empire and one of the strongest men in it, Martin Krpan hails from a fictional village in Inner Carniola. A smuggler by profession, he makes a living by illegally transporting English salt. With the help of his loyal, diminutive mare (a female horse), he carries the salt from the Adriatic Sea coast to the Slovenian Lands and elsewhere in Inner Austria. On one of his travels, Krpan meets the imperial carriage on a snowbound road, and makes way for it by picking up his laden horse and moving it aside. His extraordinary strength is noted by Emperor John. Several years later, the Emperor summons Krpan to Vienna in order to fight as the Empire’s last hope against Brdaus, a brutal warrior who has set up camp outside the imperial capital and challenged all comers, and has already slain most of the city’s knights, including the Crown Prince. Reluctantly, Krpan accepts the challenge, scandalizing the court with his uncouthness, honesty and homespun manner, before defeating the brute in a duel by using both his strength and his ingenuity. In gratitude, the Emperor gives him a special permit to legally traffic in English salt, as well as a pouch of gold pieces.

Martin Krpan 1

Martin Krpan 2

Martin Krpan 3

The Pulp Magazine Archive

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

I had no idea that the Internet Archive included a Pulp Magazine Archive, until Boing Boing noted that the full run of If Magazine had been uploaded:

Included in the collection are all of the issues edited by Frederik Pohl from 1966-68, three years that netted him three consecutive Best Editor Hugo awards. If‘s Pohl run included significant stories by Larry Niven, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Delany, Alexei Panshin and Gene Wolfe; it was the serialized home of such Heinlein novels as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, as well as Laumer’s Retief stories and Saberhagen’s Berserker stories.

If Magazine in Internet Archive

Cookie Monster on the Colbert Report

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

I find it hard to believe that Cookie Monster appeared on The Colbert Report almost eight years ago:

A Short Film By Spike Jonze

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Stephen Colbert opened a recent episode of The Late Show with A Short Film By Spike Jonze:

Through A Glass, Darkly

Friday, March 4th, 2016

George S. Patton‘s “Through A Glass, Darkly” reads like Robert E. Howard’s poetry:

Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.

In the form of many people
In all panoplies of time
Have I seen the luring vision
Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.

I have fought with gun and cutlass
On the red and slippery deck
With all Hell aflame within me
And a rope around my neck.

So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.

And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o’er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.

So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more.

The Gunslinger

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

I haven’t read Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels, but I know that their hero, Roland Deschain, is a Clint Eastwood-style gunslinger descended from (his reality’s) King Arthur — and described as a weathered western hero:

Some of his hair is gray or white, but some remains black. His facial features are described as rough (although Susannah once compared them to that of a tired poet; Eddie frequently refers to him as “old long tall and ugly”), and he has light blue eyes, often referred to by characters and Stephen King as “bombardier’s eyes.” Roland lost his right big toe and his right index and middle fingers, which is problematic as he is right-handed in everything other than shooting. He is a strong and disciplined man, capable of working through injuries and illnesses that would have killed or incapacitated another man. Roland is also unusually tall; at 14, he stood taller than the 16-year-old Susan, and, as an adult, his height exceeds that of his father. In The Dark Tower he is described as having reached an adult height of roughly 6’3″.

They did not get Eastwood to play the role in the upcoming film adaptation.

War and Peace and Sales

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

The BBC’s racy adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace has sent the novel into the Bookseller’s top 50 for the first time since Nielsen BookScan’s records began in 1998:

The BBC edition of the novel sold 3,581 copies last week, putting it in 50th place in the charts, according to the Bookseller, with total sales for the BBC edition now more than 13,000 since its December release. Five other editions of War and Peace have also sold strongly, with combined sales of 2,438 copies last week.

The strong sales follow YouGov’s recent survey, which found that only 4% of Britons have read War and Peace, although 14% wish they had. A study commissioned by BBC Store also said that War and Peace was in the top five works of fiction people are most likely to lie about having read.

That last line has some punch.