Friday, December 08, 2017

Tintin et Le Lotus Bleu

I am proud to have completed translating my third comic book, and second edition of Tintin: Le Lotus Bleu.  I especially got a good chuckle when Tintin was referred to as le petite Don Quichotte.

Up next: Le Petite Prince.  This will be my first attempt at translating a book.

The Closing of the Republican Mind

"But there is a more straightforward reason why not a single Democrat backed the legislation: The GOP not only entirely excluded Democrats from the process of drafting the bills, but the party punished Democratic constituencies—from residents of high-tax states to graduate students—in the bills’ substance. The tax plans represent a political closed circle: bills written solely by Republicans and passed solely by Republican votes that shower their greatest benefits on Republican constituencies. Meanwhile, the biggest losers in the plans are the constituencies of the Democrats who universally opposed them. It’s not just redistribution: The tax bills are also grounded in retribution.

In that way, the tax debate offers the clearest measure of how powerfully the Republican Party in the Trump era is folding inward. Neither Trump nor GOP congressional leaders are even pretending to represent the entire country—or to consider perspectives beyond those of their core coalition. Instead the party has shown that as long as it can maintain internal unity over its direction, it will ignore objections from virtually any outside source—not just Democrats, but also independent experts, affected interest groups, and traditional allies abroad."
-Ronald Brownstein, "The Closing of the Republican Mind"

And a good PS from David Brooks, on why the GOP is rotting:

"Starting with Sarah Palin and the spread of Fox News, the G.O.P. traded an ethos of excellence for an ethos of hucksterism.

The Republican Party I grew up with admired excellence. It admired intellectual excellence (Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley), moral excellence (John Paul II, Natan Sharansky) and excellent leaders (James Baker, Jeane Kirkpatrick). Populism abandoned all that — and had to by its very nature. Excellence is hierarchical. Excellence requires work, time, experience and talent. Populism doesn’t believe in hierarchy. Populism doesn’t demand the effort required to understand the best that has been thought and said. Populism celebrates the quick slogan, the impulsive slash, the easy ignorant assertion. Populism is blind to mastery and embraces mediocrity.

Compare the tax cuts of the supply-side era with the tax cuts of today. There were three big cuts in the earlier era: the 1978 capital gains tax cut, the Kemp-Roth tax cut of 1981, and the 1986 tax reform. They were passed with bipartisan support, after a lengthy legislative process. All of them responded to the dominant problem of the moment, which was the stagflation and economic sclerosis. All rested on a body of serious intellectual work.

Liberals now associate supply-side economics with the Laffer Curve, but that was peripheral. Supply-side was based on Say’s Law, that supply creates its own demand. It was based on the idea that if you rearrange incentives for small entrepreneurs you are more likely to get start-ups and more innovation. Those cuts were embraced by Nobel Prize winners and represented an entire social vision, favoring the dispersed entrepreneurs over the concentrated corporate fat cats. [Editor's note, I am still calling bullshit! -PR]

Today’s tax cuts have no bipartisan support. They have no intellectual grounding, no body of supporting evidence. They do not respond to the central crisis of our time. They have no vision of the common good, except that Republican donors should get more money and Democratic donors should have less.

The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational. More and more former Republicans wake up every day and realize: 'I’m homeless. I’m politically homeless.'"

Monday, December 04, 2017

Vancouver City Dreams

I arrived to Vancouver in the rain, and in the rain I expect it to be.  But today, I woke up early and looked out across the skies and saw golden yellow yolk in the sky.  I quickly decided I was going out riding.  I found the bike left for me, with the "one less car" sticker attached.   A racing bike can be different but can fly in a whole different fashion.

I found the trail just at the park outside the apartment, and I turned left.  I passed some auspicious words wrapping around a corner:

“As the moon circles the earth the oceans responds with the rhythm of the tide.”

I hugged the False Creek bike lane in the golden sunlight.  It cast long rays across the cityscape.

I was drawn out towards the mountains, and up by the Science Museum.  The Fullerscape greeted me.  Above the orange circus tents the mountain was covered in white snow dust.  On the mountain top there was a giant windmill welcoming me to Vancouver.

I headed out along the Seaside trail as I hugged the coast on the two-wheel racer.  The mountains shimmered behind me as white snowcaps off the cityscape.

On my path, I found some sage words on Vancouver:

"Vancouver is famous for its rain. It can rain here for weeks on end, but it does not usually bother me. However, several years ago I found myself coming close to being thoroughly disgusted by the rain.
I walked home from work one evening in the pouring rain, mumbling under my breath the whole way that this weather was only suited to ducks. The building I lived in was large and square, and it surrounded a brick courtyard. I came around the corner into the courtyard and there, to my amazement was a beautiful Peking duck in a huge puddle in the middle of the courtyard, quacking and splashing with obvious delight. I had to smile, glad that such joy could be found in the gray wetness of such a day.
I have often thought that we do not have nearly enough words for rain, especially as this was once a rainforest. There is booming rain, whispery rain, rain that lulls you to sleep, and rain on the leaves which sings you awake; there is soft rain, hard rain, sideways rain, rain that makes you instantly wet, and rain that leaves soft kisses on your cheek, like the wings of a butterfly.
Rain brings us all the shades of gray, but it also brings us the wonderful greenery that surrounds us and blesses us all."
These words come via Regan D'Andrade, and were carved on a rock in the path.

I biked my way out to the Pacific Spirit Park, a lovely national treasure just outside the city.

I hiked along the cold stony beach, watching the waves lap against the stony shore.

At a perilous river crossing, a young man told me of two eagles in the trees.  I thanked him for this heads-up, and continued along the empty beach.  A little further up, I heard a crack, and saw a giant eagle fly off with branches in his talons as he set off for his nest.  He flew off in majestic glory.

I found my driftwood throne to sit on, and listen to the waves lap their rhythm against the stony shore.  Ever the Prince of Tides.

Vancouver is an incredible abode of peace.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Ancient Vancouvorian riddles

If I am on the 15th floor of a building in Vancouver, what is my actual floor?  It isn't fifteen.

American Plunder

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."
- Frederic Bastiat

Friday, December 01, 2017

Oh Canada

"My wife and I signed our 2016 tax returns about a month ago. In total, we gave up about 42 percent of our income to the federal government and to the province of Ontario. Add in property taxes, gas taxes, and sales taxes, and the figure goes up to about 46 percent. By my rough calculation, a similarly situated couple living in an equivalent part of the United States—I picked Chicago, which sometimes is described as a sort of sister city to Toronto, where I now live—that number would be about 10 points lower, at 36 percent.

What does that 10 percent premium buy for my family? Aside from universal health care, there’s world-class public schools, a social safety net that keeps income inequality at rates well below America’s, and an ambitious infrastructure program that will help Canada keep pace with its swelling ranks of educated, well-integrated immigrants. Oh, and I also get that new bridge. Naturally, it will have a bike lane, and be named after the hockey legend Gordie Howe.

Canadians tend not to talk about making their country great again. Canada never was particularly great—at least not in the sense that Trump uses the word. Unlike Americans, Canadians haven’t been conditioned to see history in epic, revolutionary terms. For them, it’s more transactional: You pay your taxes, you get your government. That might not be chanted at any political rallies or printed on any baseball hats. But it works for Canada. And it’d work for America too."
-Jonathan Kay, "Why Canada Is Able to Do Things Better"

Oh Canada, you are a welcome refuge.  As I head on to Vancouver amid this bullshit tax robbery vote and ongoing American circus, I just shake my head.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


This room,
                 the circled wind
Straight air of dawn
                                   low noon
The darkness. Not within
The mound of these
Is anything
To fit the prying of your lips,
Or feed their wide bright flowering.

And yet will movement so exactly fit
Your limbs —
                    As snow
Fills the vague intricacies of the day, unlit
Before; so will your arms
                                                    Fall in the space
Assigned to gesture

                 (In the momentless air,
                 The distant adventurous snow)
-George Oppen, "II"

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why Migrant

"I long to run back
To the warm embrace of my homeland…
I want to return to the embrace
of what is my own
Golden mangoes ripe in the garden
Heady fragrance of jackfruit in the afternoon air…
My life, my youth are held hostage
And yet I long to love.”
-Bikas Nath, "Why Migrant"

The Analog Revolution

The Analog Revolution is upon us. Hasta la victoria, siempre! You have nothing to lose but your digital chains!
The Luddites

H/T Abba

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Amsterdam Vignette

A blueberry blue morning.
Crisp and cold in fair Amsterdam.
The late-morning light warms the
autumn colors of the tree-lined canal.

The Sunday morning church bells ring
across Centraal Station.

I found a free ferry
across to
North Amsterdam.

Lost in Amsterdam autumn blossom
forests shimmering in yellow
and light green.

A fairy ferry and a double rainbow.
A stellar colored crescent
across Amsterdam's
northern visage.

Because Amsterdam.

Blueberry yumsum
all across the
sun-kissed canals.

An afternoon artist's view
of the city:
towering red brick church
with light-blue cupola spires
ringing the afternoon chimes.

The gilded red brick
Centraal Station
is refulgent
in the afternoon light
and white cloud backdrop.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Can My Children Be Friends with White People?

"As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible. When they ask, I will teach my sons that their beautiful hue is a fault line. Spare me platitudes of how we are all the same on the inside. I first have to keep my boys safe, and so I will teach them before the world shows them this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal betrayal.

Let me assure you that my heartbreak dwarfs my anger. I grew up in a classic Midwestern college town. With all its American faults, it was a diverse and happy-childhood kind of place, slightly dull in the way that parents wish for their children. If race showed in class lines, school cliques and being pulled over more often, our little Americana lacked the deep racial tension and mistrust that seem so hard to escape now."
-Prof. Ekow N. Yankah, "Can My Children Be Friends with White People?"

H/t Yael

Wither Benghazi?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What it is all about....

In the end, this is what it is all about in the Middle East: 'We'll be in the Middle East for the next 100 years,' Boeing senior exec says.

President Dwight Eisenhower was right: "Beware the Military-Industrial Complex."

Meanwhile, I am shocked, shocked to learn that Facebook finally admits that Russia tampered with the Brexit Vote.  I had been waiting for this shoe to drop for a while.

And a very good piece by the New Yorker's Dana Priest, one of the best journalists on intel reporting, on why Russian election meddling was another U.S. intelligence failure.

Finally, Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine ask a good question: why does Trump talk about Putin like Putin's his boss?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Asian-American Cuisine’s Rise, and Triumph

"This, though, is the new American palate. As a nation we were once beholden to the Old World traditions of early settlers; we now crave ingredients from farther shores. The briny rush of soy; ginger’s low burn; pickled cabbage with that heady funk so close to rot. Vinegar applied to everything. Fish sauce like the underbelly of the sea. Palm sugar, velvet to cane sugar’s silk. Coconut milk slowing the tongue. Smoky black cardamom with its menthol aftermath. Sichuan peppercorns that paralyze the lips and turn speech to a burr, and Thai bird chilies that immolate everything they touch. Fat rice grains that cling, that you can scoop up with your hands. (As a child raised in a Filipino-American household, I was bewildered by commercials for Uncle Ben’s rice that promised grains that were “separate, not sticky,” as if that were a good thing.)

These are American ingredients now, part of a movement in cooking that often gets filed under the melting-pot, free-for-all category of New American cuisine. But it’s more specific than that: This is food borne of a particular diaspora, made by chefs who are “third culture kids,” heirs to both their parents’ culture and the one they were raised in, and thus forced to create their own.

Could we call it Asian-American cuisine? The term is problematic, subsuming countries across a vast region with no shared language or single unifying religion. It elides numerous divides: city and countryside, aristocrats and laborers, colonizers and colonized — “fancy Asian” and “jungle Asian,” as the comedian Ali Wong puts it. (She’s speaking specifically of East and Southeast Asians, who followed similar patterns of immigration to the U.S. and who are the primary focus of this piece.) As a yoke of two origins, it can also be read as an impugning of loyalties and as a code for “less than fully American.” When I asked American chefs of Asian heritage whether their cooking could be considered Asian-American cuisine, there was always a pause, and sometimes a sigh."
-Ligaya Mishan, "Asian-American Cuisine’s Rise, and Triumph"

One of those delicious food/identity pieces but looks a bit broader than most-- at culinary trends, history and present examples. 

Amelie Quixote

Telle Don Quichotte, elle avait résolu de s'attaquer a l'implacable moulin de toutes les détresses humaines combat perdu d'avance, qui consuma prématurément sa vie.

Like Don Quixote, she was determined to grapple the unforgiving grinder of all the human sorrows, an impossible fight that consumed her life prematurely...

Nothing better than a rainy monday to sip tea and watch Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain. In French with Spanish subtitles to practice both--albeit preferring to have French subtitles that are not available.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Round-up

-Britain unmoored: "Many Britons see their country as a brave galleon, banners waving, cannons firing, trumpets blaring. That is how the country’s voluble foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, likes to describe it. But Britain is now but a modest-size ship on the global ocean.

Having voted to leave the European Union, it is unmoored, heading to nowhere, while on deck, fire has broken out and the captain — poor Theresa May — is lashed to the mast, without the authority to decide whether to turn to port or to starboard, let alone do what one imagines she knows would be best, which is to turn around and head back to shore.

-A Conservative sucker born every minute: Why conservatives are more susceptible to believing lies

-How the myth of artistic genius excuses the abuse of women: "These men stand accused of using their creative positions to offend — turning film sets into hunting grounds; grooming young victims in acting classes; and luring female colleagues close on the pretext of networking, only to trap them in uninvited sexual situations. The performances we watch onscreen have been shaped by those actions. And their offenses have affected the paths of other artists, determining which rise to prominence and which are harassed or shamed out of work. In turn, the critical acclaim and economic clout afforded their projects have worked to insulate them from the consequences of their behavior."

Trump tell us he believes Putin, who is very insulted. Trump also tells the Japanese emperor that mass-shootings can happen anywhere.  Except Japan, which has never had one.

-Speaking of, Gun Violence in U.S. Cities Compared to the Deadliest Nations in the World: Los Angeles is to the Philippines what Detroit is to El Salvador what Miami to Colombia.

-Gerrymandering continues to save Republicans from drubbings. This, from Virginia, is what gerrymandering does to elections:  "Democrats also swamped the GOP in the state’s House of Delegates races, winning the aggregate vote in those contests by a similar 9-point margin. Most news outlets spun that House of Delegates margin as a Democratic triumph—a “tsunami election” that swept away what had been seen as an ironclad Republican majority. Yet pending a handful of recounts, Democrats seem poised to take just 50 of the chamber’s 100 seats. This 50–50 deadlock may prevent the party from securing the advances it campaigned on, particularly the state’s long-delayed expansion of Medicaid. Democrats rode an electoral wave to a legislative impasse."

-Some good stories on Morocco and the Jews:
(1): Marrakesh
(2) Essouira

-It's fine to spend all your money on travel, says Science....

-And finally....

Charlie's Journey, cont.

One of the most epic travelers I have ever encountered in my own journeys is Charlie Walker. He biked literally across Europe, Asia and Africa.  Some 43,000km on a bike.

I ran into him in Samarkand, in the middle of Uzbekistan when he was just starting to make his way back to the UK via the Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

He is doing a Kickstarter for a book on the journey, please consider supporting his efforts.

I wrote an article on his journey here.

And you can see his most recent, ridiculous continental trek "Following the Line" (a 5,600KM triathlon) here. 

'These Are Not The Actions of an Innocent Man'

"So, to put it bluntly: At this point in the proceedings, there can be no innocent explanation for Donald Trump’s rejection of the truth about Russian meddling in last year’s elections. Earlier, it may have been suggested, sympathetically, that the case had not yet been proven. That Trump’s vanity blocked him from acknowledging embarrassing facts. Or—more hopefully—that he was inspired by some Kissingerian grand design for a diplomatic breakthrough. Or that he was lazy. Or stubborn. Or uninformed. Or something, anything, other than … complicit. Not anymore....

'Beyond a reasonable doubt' is the standard for criminal justice. It’s not the standard for counter-intelligence determinations. The preponderance of the evidence ever-more clearly indicates: In ways we cannot yet fully reckon—but can no longer safely deny—the man in the Oval Office has a guilty connection to the Russian government. That connection would bar him from literally any other job in national security except that of head of the executive branch and commander- in-chief of the armed forces of the United States."
-David Frum, 'These Are Not The Actions of an Innocent Man'

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lovecraft and Moore

“A reservoir of darkness, black
As witches’ cauldrons are, when fill’d
With moon-drugs in th’ eclipse distill’d.
Leaning to look if foot might pass
Down thro’ that chasm, I saw, beneath,
As far as vision could explore,
The jetty sides as smooth as glass,
Looking as if just varnish’d o’er
With that dark pitch the Seat of Death
Throws out upon its slimy shore.”
-Moore, Thomas not Roy

A Party Unmoored

"It is, of course, true that GOP leaders do not want to be tainted by association with a child predator, and would sing sweet relief if Moore voluntarily stepped aside and allowed another Republican to run in his place.

But most will make no firm demand that he bow out, let alone endorse his Democratic opponent.

If Moore presses ahead, this will be the reason. If he becomes senator despite the new revelations, he will have accomplished no more than Donald Trump did when he sailed to the presidency in the slipstream of GOP indifference to corruption, authoritarianism, and sex crimes. Even if Moore bails out of the race or loses, more Roy Moores will keep crawling out from under rocks and into Republican politics, until Republicans stop showing bottomless tolerance for lowlives, bigots, and crooks, so long as the lowlives, bigots, and crooks can win elections. They can not stem this tide until they reckon with the moral rot they embraced when they made their peace with the current president."
-Brian Beutler, "A Party Unmoored"

Thursday, November 09, 2017

This is the Middle East in a nutshell

"Israel possesses far greater ability to inflict pain, but Hezbollah possesses far greater capacity to absorb it..."
-Robert Malley, "The Middle East is nearing an explosion

Shake the family tree

Something to make your day seem insignificant: your oldest cousins were found in Morocco, some 300,000 years old. Revising the family tree by hundreds of thousands of years. That is a lot of genealogy to recalculate.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


My Aunt Phyllis died yesterday.

Not quite the opening from The Stranger, but being so far away I was having a hard time processing the grief.

In a surreal fashion, from France I managed to break the news to my parents who were located just outside the hospital.

Early the following morning I arose early in the darkness to leave Nice.  I bade a sad goodbye to the dear butterscotch feline named Phenix.  I will miss that dear cat.

And I was out the door for a place that somehow manages to be one of the longest sojourns I have had in a while.  It's amazing how much a place can become home in just a few short weeks.

I caught the tram to Place Massena, then took the bus out through the pastel Genovese-Belle Epoque Nizza.

The Nice-Cote D'Azur Airport passed without issue, and I took off on the first leg of my voyage north towards Zurich.  The flight out of Nice was spectacular.  The flight took off along the jetty island protruding into the Bay of Angels and then headed straight parallel across the belle Nice cityscape.

For the last month, I had sat on the promenade facing the other direction, watching these same planes take off over the Riviera sky space, while I did my French homework or translated Tintin.

We continued north for a flight over the snowy rugged Alps.  The white-covered cliffs of the mountain chain were awe-inspiring.  

Earlier in the week, I had rented a nice bike and biked some 50km back-and-forth to Antibes.  It was a beautiful ride along the Riviera's coast beach line. I went to Antibes to visit the Picasso museum there.  The museum features Picasso work from his sojourn in the Cote D'Azur.  All sorts of picassoed fruits-de-mer among other reduced images and dreams.  I find that whenever visiting a Picasso installation, I start perceiving faces differently--in more angular dimensions.  I see the cubism in the quotidian.  And on a flight to and through Switzerland, the angles of faces became even more profound.  I picassofy people's triangular noses, circled ears and angular jaws as I try to imagine how Picasso saw the world.

The best thing about flying Swiss Airlines is that they give you real Swiss chocolates.  That made my day.

I changed planes in Zurich, and killed time in the Zurich Airport and its very Zurich dimensions.  The Zurich Airport has some very interesting pockets of beautiful space.

With a quick breath of Swiss autumn cold, I changed planes to Palma.  We flew back down France and passed over some of the area I had just traversed--flying right over Avignon, that other Rome. 

Somewhere over the beauty of the Mediterranean, I stared out over the white-capped swell of the sea's waves.  The book I was reading, Carl Sagan's Contact triggered something deep in me:

"She had spent her career attempting to make contact with the most remote and alien of strangers, while in her own life she had made contact with hardly anyone at all. She had been fierce in debunking the creation myths of others, and oblivious to the lie at the core of her own. She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message: For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love."

And I started to cry.  Tears streaming down as I looked out over the vastness of white-capped waves.  The sea stretched on in the horizon into infinity.

Warm, wet tears streaming down my face as I stared out into the vast beauty of the white-capped seas that stretched on.

I wept for my aunt, whom I would never see again.  I wept for her memories, that were now even more precious to me.

There is a sliver of immortality that rests in the memory of others.  

Perhaps the Speaker for the Dead would agree with such sentiments.

I dryed my eyes and felt a bit of the emotional weight off my weary shoulders.

We continued our flight over rocky rigid Baelric islands, circling over the green mountain plenispheres of Mallorca and Menorca.

We landed over Palma's splendor, and I grabbed my bag and hopped the bus through town.

My journey ended when I spied the windmill in front of me.  My journey ends, and least for the next few days, ensconced between two windmills.   

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On plunder

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."
 -Frederic Bastiat

Monday, October 30, 2017

Matzah balls for the Revolution

Matzah balls for the revolution--the story of the Kosher restaurant collective in the DC area. Bubeleh, consider contributing a lil gelt to get the film made....

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Round-up

“The paradox is that on one hand, members of this generation don’t want to be ruled by the company. They want to have a life,” said Carolyn Cartwright, senior vice president of human resources for SunTrust Bank. “On the other hand, they’re impatient waiting for job promotions and want all the perks associated with ‘paying one’s dues.'”
-Funny how the language that is used on Millennials us the exact same that was used regarding GenX:

-Forks over knives: the recent history of the semi-recent invention, the fork.

"Netanyahu wants the right to speak as the representative of all Jews. But in America and Europe, he's abandoned all pretense of solidarity with them"
-How Bibi betrayed the Jews

-Morocco is working with the U.S. Holocaust Museum on Holocaust education.

-Why the Republicans secretly yearn for a Hillary presidency.

-A great perspective on privilege in a very tangible manner. 

-How to explain to your kids what is going on in Trump America, Soviet-style.

-On racial profiling at the airport.  Can't wait to come back for Thanksgiving with my beard....

The best; the worst

To riff on something Carl Sagan once wrote: Obama brought out the worst in racists and the best in everyone else; Trump does just the opposite.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's Mueller Time!

"I think it means this will be a rolling investigation. Rather than conduct his entire investigation and then wrap things up with indictments and possibly a report at the end, he is doing it in stages, the way the Justice Department might attack a drug cartel or a mafia family."
-Matt Miller, former Obama Justice Dept. official in Axios

Looks like Mueller might be bringing the house against the Trump admin.  One can imagine he had a grand old time following the money.

And the F.B.I. is planning on getting a special order of tiny handcuffs...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Les Témoins de Jéhovah

I found the best language partners to practice my French: the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Les Témoins de Jéhovah are out in various parks and promenades, and they love to share La Bonne Nouvelle; I am always looking for people with whom I can practice.

It is a match made in heaven.

Now I just need to find some Mormons... 

on perception

"The desire of monks and mystics is not unlike that of artists: to perceive the extraordinary within the ordinary by changing not the world but the eyes that look… To form the intention of new awareness is already to transform and be transformed."
-Jane Hirshfield