Category Archives: Worldly

A Game Of Thrones – elitist fantasy fun on TV

There’s lots of breathless buzz about A Game Of Thrones coming on HBO tonight.  It’s kind of fun, actually, to find myself participating in some non-college-football-related mass culture.  I’m not normally one to plug TV shows, but by the same quirk of the TV companies that had me watching Fellowship of the Ring the other day, I just discovered that I get A Game Of Thrones tonight.  Frankly, it looks like it will be awesome.

I read the book last summer after stumbling across it in the local library.  It was a page-turner, all right.  But wading through 720 pages of knee-deep bloodshed, ale-swilling, and royal incest, left me a bit fatigued.  And I just didn’t care all that much about another tale of the hereditary elite laying waste to the lands and lives of the common folk in pursuit of obscure genealogical and political imperatives that would benefit none but themselves.  Call me a socialist, but one time I’d like to see a swashbuckling adventure told from the perspective of the commoners.  (I tried to write one once.  I’m working on another.)  Surely such a book is out there …?  Please let me know if there is.

Maybe winter comes in the TV show.

Also, the book kept saying winter is coming, but then winter kept on not coming.

Anyway, I remember thinking as I was reading that this book would make an excellent movie and / or series.  Now the good folks in at HBO have obliged, and the TV company has obliged further, so, like any good American, I’m going to sit back on the couch with a Bud Light and watch the carnage unfold.

If the TV holds out.  We bought a very old used Sony for $50 when we first got back to America and you have to let it warm up for a few minutes watching a distorted upside-down image before the picture comes on.   I just hope it doesn’t give up the ghost before college football starts.

Rolling towards the police

British police pull a young man with cerebral palsy from his wheelchair and drag him across the street during protests in London.  The BBC announcer asks the young man, were you “rolling towards the police”?

Yes, clearly when the police pull a handicapped person from his wheelchair, a person who cannot physically move the wheelchair under his own power, it’s the handicapped person’s fault.

Rolling Towards The Police.  Sounds like a meme in the making to me.

Good ole England.  See for yourself.

And what would the bobbies do when confronted by protestors not in wheelchairs, operating under their own power?  Oh, that’s right.  Charge them with horses:

Maybe the best way to support the troops is to have less of them

It appears that the US is set to start raising mercenaries:

The Pentagon’s manpower chief says a measure to legalize young immigrants who came to the county illegally is an obvious way to attract more high-quality recruits to the armed forces.

Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, says it would be unconscionable not to enact the so-called Dream Act. It would give hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16 a chance to gain legal status if they joined the military or attended college.

Perhaps the problem isn’t that we can’t get enough high-quality recruits

Clearly what we need is more of these guys around.

into the armed forces, it’s that we need so many of them in the first place.  No one seems to consider this.

How many bridges, college degrees and medical care would, say, half of this year’s $600 billion that is siphoned to the Pentagon buy in the US?

Now, in general, it seems to me that government expenditures are not “wasted”; someone uses it, somewhere.  It’s mostly Americans building the armaments and transporting the troops to their training grounds and manning the KFCs in the base towns, so to a large extent, that money isn’t disappearing, it’s cycling right back into the economy.

But billions do disappear, one way or the other.

It seems to me that any reasonable person who wants to talk about cutting the cost of government has to put the Pentagon on the chopping block with everything else, too.

It is strange to me that patriotism in this country has come to be strongly identified with “supporting the troops.”  Strange that we feel it so necessary to constantly state that our freedoms are upheld by loaded weapons and the men  carrying them.  Strange that it is so little thought of that perhaps the best way to support the troops is to have less of them.

Le Globish

A fellow named Jean-Paul Nerrière has created an English “dialect” of 1500 words to enhance international communication. “The point is that Anglophones no longer own English … It is now owned by people in Singapore, Ulan Bator, Montevideo, Beijing and elsewhere,” says Nerrière.

Globish involves a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across … Mr Nerrière, 66, originally sought to help non-English speakers — and notably his compatriots from France — in the era when business meetings are invariably held en anglais. He advised that instead of struggling to master the Queen’s English, they should content themselves with Globish.

His two books, Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish and Découvrez le Globish, became bestsellers in France and were also published in Spain, Italy, South Korea and Canada. They are also being translated into Japanese.

“Globish is a proletarian and popular idiom which does not aim at cultural understanding or at the acquisition of a talent enabling the speaker to shine at Hyde Park Corner,” he wrote.

“It is designed for trivial efficiency, always, everywhere, with everyone.”

I can certainly relate: if you want to make yourself understood in English in Thailand, you have to drop all idioms, mixed metaphors, and phrasal verbs. In that sense, I already speak fluent Globish. I can also tell you that only about 1 out of every 1000 EFL students who don’t spend significant time in an English-speaking country achieve anything like fluency. No, those who speak “well” speak … Globish.

And given that English is the globe’s de facto lingua franca (ahem), something like Globish is probably the future, if that future isn’t here already.

Here is the the Globish site.

Anyhow, don’t take my word for it. Pasted below is Mark Antony’s famous speech from Julius Caesar, and below that is the same speech rendered into “Globish”. Abomination or goodness? You be the judge.

According to William Shakespeare:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar … The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it …
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral …
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man
. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

According to Jean-Paul Nerrière:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is often buried with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar … The stately Brutus
Has told you Caesar wanted to be king:
If he said that, then it was a deadly mistake,
And it was deadly for Caesar today …
I am allowed to speak here by Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
I come to speak at Caesar’s burial …
Caesar was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says Caesar wanted to be a king;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
Caesar has brought many prisoners home to Rome,
Whose fathers buy them back to our great profit:
Did this seem like Caesar was trying to take too much?
When the poor have cried, Caesar cries as well:
If he wanted to be king he should have had a stronger character:
Yet Brutus says Caesar was trying to be all powerful;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all saw that at the ceremony
I presented Caesar a kingly crown 3 times,
Which he did refuse 3 times: Did this man want to be king?
Yet Brutus says he wanted to rule us completely;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to argue with what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Caesar once, not without cause:
What cause now keeps you from being sorry for him?
O wise thought! You have escaped to the animals,
And men have lost their reason…. Stay with me now;
My heart is in the ground there with Caesar,
And I must wait until it comes back to me.

Jon Stewart destroys the lying liar Jim Cramer

Here’s Jon Stewart getting out some hometruths to the king of rant Jim Cramer. No comment required from me. But go ahead and have at it in the comments, if you’d like.

UPDATE, 17 March: You can go and sign a petition to fix CNBC, if you’d like. I did.

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How the other two-thirds lives

While Americans are munching on Mel’s Mega Burgers and bemoaning the end the Hyper-Sized American Dream, this is how folks in my soon-to-be abandoned neck of the woods are living:


Open sewer running beside market fruit stalls, Bangkok.


Bangkok’s canal network is both a transportation system and an open sewer.

It’s all relative, is what I’m saying. Things are rough everywhere and getting rougher, but if you’re reading this in the First World, just take a moment to reassure yourself that things aren’t that bad.

And lest you think all Asia looks like this,


This is an open drain & not a river, Mysore India.

here’s a sewer in Japan:

Some have sewer rivers, some have sewer Transformers.

Images via Crooked Brains.

Free money, courtesy Ars Technica

Today’s lowlight: the swindler Merdle, er Madoff has stolen $15.2 million from Elie Wiesel’s charity, to which Wiesel said: “The psychopath should be put in a solitary cell with a screen, and on the screen, [would be] pictures of his victims.” This seems pretty charitable coming from a man whose entire family was murdered by Nazis.

You hardly need me to point these things out: if you’re conscious, you’re already feeding on a steady diet of doom. But Wiesel and the scumbag Madoff were on my mind when this flashed across my screen:


That’s right. You can still get free money. You didn’t know that? Well, why don’t you just “Click Here”?

So. Should I be a) comforted, or, b) disturbed?

a) Even in the face of crisis, human nature remains profoundly unchanged. You can’t go overturning a few billion years of evolution with a mere planetary financial crisis. The wheels of the machine run on. Translation: there are still enough greedy idiots out there to finance these Google click-through ads.

b) Even in the face of crisis, human nature remains profoundly unchanged. Though I don’t know why I should be hoping for headway where the Buddha, Christ, and Woody Guthrie failed to make inroads. Translation: some mini-Madoff is rubbing his hands with glee at the greedy idiots that will finance these Google click-through ads.

This piece of work comes courtesy Ars Technica, home of the ubergeek, by the way. As I understand it, it’s not a person but a Google algorithm that controls what an Adsense ad looks like (I’ve got one on this page and I have no idea). But still: if the geeknorati can’t even reign this stuff in, what hope is there for us techno-commoners?

As is my wont, I’ve emailed someone at Ars Technica. This one styles himself “Imperator”. We’ll see what, if anything, he’s got to say about it.

Why isn’t Osama bin Laden dead?

Or in prison? I’m no tinfoil hatter, but I did think it just within the range of the Shrub’s malevolent incompetence to purposely keep Public Enemy #1 alive as a prop in his ludicrous Global War on Terror. And that when BHO assumed office the straight dope on bin Laden’s whereabouts would be duly passed over and BHO would send in the Green Berets or a cruise missile or whatever and kill that son of a bitch dead. But no.

Leading me to believe that in reality the vaunted US military, CIA, DIA, etc. etc. etc., after 7+ years and untold billions of dollars, have no idea where he is.

I am not impressed.

Mr. President, if you really want to assume the mantle of your hero Abraham Lincoln, do like he did. Call in your head bigwig and say, you have one month. If bin Laden’s brain matter is not spattered on a cave rock within 30 days, fire him. Ditto the next one. Rinse and repeat until you find your General Grant and we can start bringing our boys home.

Why isn't Osama bin Laden dead?

Or in prison? I’m no tinfoil hatter, but I did think it just within the range of the Shrub’s malevolent incompetence to purposely keep Public Enemy #1 alive as a prop in his ludicrous Global War on Terror. And that when BHO assumed office the straight dope on bin Laden’s whereabouts would be duly passed over and BHO would send in the Green Berets or a cruise missile or whatever and kill that son of a bitch dead. But no.

Leading me to believe that in reality the vaunted US military, CIA, DIA, etc. etc. etc., after 7+ years and untold billions of dollars, have no idea where he is.

I am not impressed.

Mr. President, if you really want to assume the mantle of your hero Abraham Lincoln, do like he did. Call in your head bigwig and say, you have one month. If bin Laden’s brain matter is not spattered on a cave rock within 30 days, fire him. Ditto the next one. Rinse and repeat until you find your General Grant and we can start bringing our boys home.