Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Their rage supplies them with weapons.


U.S. Army Pvt. Jerry Chavez shoots his M-4 rifle on burst during a firefight with Taliban insurgents October 28, 2008 in the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)

From The Big Picture 

My Pix

    Athens, 1986.

Valkyrie Verdict

    Is there something scary in that closet Herr Cruise?

The best review I've come across, from Nick Shager at Slant.
Alas, incongruous vocal intonations aren't even the most significant problem plaguing Singer's film, what with Cruise—missing a hand and saddled with an eye patch, making him seem like a National Socialist pirate—apparently engaged in a contest against himself (and cinematic history) to see how long he can hold the same, intensely resolute expression, and the answer unfortunately turning out to be 120 minutes.
Against all expectations, well, against my expectations, the film has garnered middling reviews and looks like it will generate sufficient business to keep it off the turkey lists.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.
Jack Handey


    The Kremlin by Roger Fenton, August 1852

My Pix

   The aptly named Historic Water Tower, Chicago, 1989.

This seems to be the only snowy thing I've got, so it will have to do for a Christmas photo.


Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Ambrose Bierce

Detroit's Lesson

I don't know where this came from, but its floating around the Internets.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Pix: Updated

  Couple, Ashbridges Bay, Toronto, 1985.
    Kodachrome 64 - 300mm lens
Updated Dec 18, 2008 - higher resolution, better color balance, less sharpening = much nicer
When I was taking this shot, from the crowded boardwalk, someone walking by muttered "voyeur".  But I don't feel like this is voyeurism because we can't see their faces.  It would be a less interesting photo if you could.  I never did see their faces.

I'm very proud of this one and consider it one of my best photographs.  There's an abstract, sculptural quality to the way these two are inter-twined.  In particular, I love the woman's hands.  There's a languorous quality in the way they are linked that reminds me of Ingres and Michaelangelo.

This is also a photograph that benefits enormously from photoshop.  There is no major manipulation, but lots of distracting details in the sand and blanket are eliminated.

All my photos are on Flickr.


If you define cowardice as running away at the first sign of danger, screaming and tripping and begging for mercy, then yes, Mr. Brave man, I guess I'm a coward.
Jack Handey


    Burj Dubai, Nov 2008.  Still growing.  Via Big Picture

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Pix

    Flamingo Hilton, Las Vegas, 1981

The Las Vegas of the '50s and '60s is gone now.  It was already disappearing when I first visited in 1981.  The Flamingo as pictured was a '70s thing.  There are still a few '70s relics around, like Circus Circus.  At least there were when I was last there almost 10 years ago.  The last place you could see someplace that looked the same as when Frank Sinatra strolled through was The Sands, and that was torn down to make way for The Venetian.  Its funny that despite having visited Las Vegas at least 10 times, I only have this and one other photo, both from 1981.

My Pix

     Cruise Ship, Thira, 1986

Yap: Updated

No birds,
No bees,
No flowers,
No trees,
No wonder,
Benny Hill

A reader supplied the origional poem below.  It seemed a bit witty for Benny Hill.

No warmth, no cheerfulness,no healthful ease,
No  comfortable ease in any member-
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
Thomas Hood (1798-1845)

Harper's Dodge

Stephen Harper's suspension of Parliament was a surprise.  I didn't expect the Governor General to grant it in the face of a confidence vote.  My guess is that had he asked for anything beyond January 26th, she would have refused.  But its still dirty pool.  You shouldn't be able to prorogue the house to avoid a confidence vote.

Given the amazing events of the last week, it would be foolish to try and predict what will come next.  Here at Fools 'R Us (aka Squidhammer), that's our specialty.  So here goes.

Harper made two critical blunders last week.  The first and most important was the "don't worry, be happy" economic statement.  The ideological slant and dodgy numbers presented have torpedoed both Harper's credibility and that of his Finance Minister, the contemptible Jim Flaherty.  Canada, like the rest of the world, is facing an enormous crisis.  Telling us that we are not just makes the Torys look stupid.

Second, Harper gave in to his partisan instincts by trying to cut off funding to the opposition parties.  This was plain stupidity as it gave the opposition the choice of cutting their own throats or grasping for power.  Harper should have been able to see which they would choose.  Worse, the funding measure was not known to the caucus in advance.  If it had, they would have seen it as a serious tactical error, but Harper didn't give them the chance.

Both errors were egregious, but separately non-fatal.  It was the combination that turned the trick.  If the political funding issue gave the opposition the  motive, the economic statement provided the opportunity.  When motive met opportunity, the means was conjured.  How motivated they were is reflected in the compromises they were willing to make to form the coalition.  In particular, the agreement of all on Stephan Dion becoming Prime Minister is telling.  It suggests a certain desperation on the part of both the NDP and the Bloc.  By the time means, motive and opportunity had merged, it was too late for Harper to retreat.  His withdrawal of the political funding measure made no difference.  Had  he not been able to suspend Parliament, he would have been leader of the Opposition by the middle of next week.

The problem Harper has now is that the Opposition knows it can take and hold power.  That's a fundamental difference from the situation before the crisis.  Despite an apparently decisive win by Harper in the court of public opinion, and his successfully dodging the confidence vote, the genie won't go back in the bottle.  The numbers from the recent election gave Harper a functional majority.  This was because no two of the Opposition could defeat him, it required all three.  It would have been relatively easy to maintain the notion that all three could not combine to defeat him while preserving sufficient credibility to win the inevitably following election.  Now, things are different.  By forcing the crisis, the would-be coalition partners have exposed Harper's vulnerability.  The Conservatives demonization of the Bloc shows that they are willing to sacrifice Quebec to hold power, and are thus probably unable to win a majority under any circumstances.  That's huge because  it removes the  chief worry of the Liberals: a wipe-out like the Conservatives in 1993.  Rather than facing a collapse in their core Quebec vote in a new election, Harper's antics of the last week suggest the possibility of a modest come-back, even with Stephan Dion.  Since Dion is toast anyway and would do worse in English Canada if there were a snap election, look for his early departure.  If the Liberals can replace Dion quickly and his successor doesn't turn out to be a clod, then they can be confident of surviving an election.  Harper's nuclear option, a snap election, is now far less of a threat to all three of the Opposition Parties.  Especially since they may be able to counter with a coalition and take the election threat off the table entirely.

So Harper needs a corker of a budget on January 26.  Depending on what the Liberals do with Dion, an election may be his best-case scenario.  Despite the revulsion in the West for the coalition, Harper would have some explaining to do if we ended up in another election.  This would be his fourth election and without a Quebec break-through his chances of a majority are slim.  Last week's rhetoric would seem to preclude that break-through permanently for Harper.  What do you do with a leader who can't deliver a majority despite four tries?  Usually the Conservatives have the knives out long before this point.  Harper's Stalinist management style has kept them in line.  But Stalin had one trait Harper lacks.  Stalin won the big games.  Just as the Opposition would eventually rebel against Harper's incendiary style, so eventually will the caucus.  In particular, the Harris gang are ruthless and ambitious.  They have no loyalty whatsoever and will gladly eat Harper raw the moment they perceive he has become a roadblock to that ambition.  With his staggering blunders of the last week, he has lost his aura of invincibility.  He may get it back, but I doubt it.  The moment the crisis has passed, either through an election or the installation of a coalition after the January budget, Harper will be like Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King.  He's fucked.


History n: an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
Ambrose Bierce

My Pix

    Horse Guards on parade, Whitehall, London, 1984

That first guy looks like a character from one of Guy Richie's gangster pictures.  He looks really English and really tough.  Reminds me of what Brendan Behan said about the English: "Those good sports are no joke when it comes to kicking the shit out of you." I can't find the quote anywhere, so that's from memory.  Any reader who knows the quote better, please let me know.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


    Istanbul, 1986.
Ferry dock with Blue Mosque in the background.  Istanbul had a huge impact on me.  I'd never seen anything like it.  A sprawling, bustling capital of an entire world I knew nothing about.  This has been a critically important spot and a rich, powerful community for thousands of years.  I'd been to places like London and Athens before, but nowhere with the continuity of Istanbul.  My first day there was the first time I'd ever heard the call to prayer and an entire new world opened in front of me.  It was tremendously exciting.  Istanbul was a fantastic place.  Great food, lots of interesting things to see and great photo subjects.  I'd go back in a second.

Tofutti Break

My new favorite web site Tofutti Break  - interesting images

Monday, December 1, 2008


7th Medium Regiment, 12th Battery, "A" Troop, fire on Germans with 5.5 inch guns, Bretteville-Le-Rabet, Normandy, 16 August 1944.

The 5.5 inch gun threw a 100lb shell up to 9 miles.  This crew is firing on German units caught in the Falaise pocket.  I remember reading somewhere that 70% of the casualties in WW2 were caused by artillery.


The sergeant is the Army.
Dwight D. Eisenhower