April 24th, 2006 §
My friends in Austria wonder why I don’t much like to speak English anymore. Not in its current bastardised and crude form.
Here’s the missing link..
I’ve rarely heard such awful readings of fine poetry in my life. Of all the female voices only Laura’s reading of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Spring and Fall would have got you out of high school in Canada in the late eighties.
After suffering through the female readings, I had no stomach left for the men at all.
It makes me laugh that a certain Google Adwords expert is praised as a fine speaker in English – he sent me an audio CD to promote his products (the guide is not bad) – it’s like listening to a bad radio commercial promoting AmWay. Hey, that’s his other life.
His speaking was dire enough, I almost didn’t buy the book.
It seems that nobody in America has any idea what good speaking public or private – sounds like anymore.
Anyway, that’s why I don’t like speaking English much anymore, apart with literarily inclined Brits. It used to be that Aussies sounded rough around the edges, but next to the Americans commercial whinings – even an Australian voice is beginning to take on the characteristics of a nightingale.
Does anybody have a list of some very fine free readings of poetry in English online?
French, Russian and German would be fine too.
March 14th, 2006 §
Remember Van Halen?
Well I do. Lead singer David Lee Roth was referenced in an article I'm reading so I decided to check up on him. Apparently he's done a dozen things since then, none of them to quite the same fame and fortune than his halycon Van Halen days.
His latest ongoing gig is as a radio host. But what is really shocking is that David Lee Roth now looks like my childhood Jewish dentist. Really. David Lee Roth. Time is marching on all of us. (Speaking of which the pictures of Slobodan Milosevic this year and in 1990 were a real shock as well. Whatever his crimes, Milosevic always looked hale and hearty. Not at the end.)
I suppose Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison were onto something. Those blokes died rock stars. Mick Jagger is somehow managing it as well - one begins to wonder about the early Sympathy for the Devil songs...did the man cut a deal with Satan to be able to maintain his energy and his voice in the face of massive drug and woman abuse? I mean, I understand our Tyrollian farmers and their Swiss neighbours remaining spry into their seventies, but how the hell does Jagger manage it.
In any case, not to take the spotlight away from David Lee Roth, it turns out he is quite a witty chap. There is a whole page of his bon mots at Wikipedia:
It's not who wants to sleep with you; it's who wants to sleep with you again.
After all these years of bright lights, I still don't need glasses--I drink straight from the bottle.
I used to have a drug problem, but now I make enough money so that it's not a problem anymore.
For some reason David Lee Roth is also doing double-duty on emergency ambulances as a paramedic. Good on you DLR! I much prefer the reincarnation to the original.
January 7th, 2006 §
Unbelievably hilarious resumé of ex-Washington (4 terms) mayor Marion Barry’s career:
Getting reelected mayor after being videotaped smoking crack should make him a shoo-in for the Politicians’ Hall of Fame.
Eugene Robinson uses the occasion to give F. Scott Fitzgerald a poke. It seems times have changed since he wrote:
“There are no second acts in American lives” is one of the few truly dumb things F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote. Everybody in America gets an Act II, and even an Act III — look at how Arnold Schwarzenegger went from bodybuilder to movie star to governor.
January 2nd, 2006 §
Here’s what Casanova has to say about Catholic girls back in 1768 during his sejour in Madrid.
Rien d’ailleurs n’est plus certain que ceci: une fille dévote ressent, quand elle fait avec son amant l’oeuvre de chair, cent fois plus de plaisir qu’une autre exempte du préjugé. Cette vérité est trop dans la nature pour que je croie nécessaire de la démontrer à mon lecteur. [III, p. 649]
There nothing more certain than this: when a religious girl yields to temptations of the flesh, she feels a hundred times more pleasure than one who doesn’t believe in God. This truth is so evident I hope it isn’t necessary to prove it to my readers.
Short translation. Catholic girls are the best. I always knew that.
Russian/Greek/Ukrainian Orthodox girls are pretty hot as well.
Protestants and even atheists are just not in the running.
Without belief in something and without sin, earthly temptations lose their sacred allure.
December 30th, 2005 §
All of this second world war reading has provoked some clear thoughts on life strategy. As we wind down to the end of 2005 and to the beginning of 2006, there is a lot to reflect on.
What brought down the Third Reich were too many fronts open at the same time. While the Germans were approaching policy one issue at a time (revitalising the economy, rebuilding the military, taking over Sudentland and Bohemia, amalgamating Poland, conquering France and Western Europe), they were unbelievably successful.
But at that point in August 1940, the Germans began to lose focus. Instead of taking the Battle of Britain to its logical conclusion (the absolute elimination of the Royal Air Force – apparently they were 24 hours away from shattering the RAF when they withdrew from the Battle of Britain), the Germans became involved in bombing raids on cities in England, finally giving up the Battle of Britain and cancelling the invasion of England.
At the same time they still had to fully digest Poland and France. They were also fighting a losing maritime battle in the Atlantic (another reason to continue with the Battle of Britain single-mindedly). Colonial struggles were going on with the British.
But instead of focusing on eliminating the one extant threat (with Britain conquered, any question of American entry into the war would become moot and the Germans would have had full control of the European and African seas) – Hitler went and opened up a second front against the Soviet Union.
There was only one issue which mattered at that point. Absolute mastery of the European skies. With control of the skies in their pocket, Britain would have been doomed to conquer. Like Japan after the drop of nuclear weapons, the British would have had no choice but to sue for peace in the face of endless and relentless bombing.
With a single front and more patience, there is no reason that the German war machine could not have taken European Russia and the Ukraine (Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev). The Germans had the best infantry, the best armoured divisions, the best generals, the best air force.
But instead they squandered their assets by focusing on too many targets at once: the sea war in the Atlantic, two air wars, fending off invasion in the West, advancing in the East, managing new territories in Poland and Central Europes, the desert war.
Basically I am suffering from the same malaise which brought down the Third Reich. I have too many fronts open. In my favour, I have innovative camerawork, strong editing skills, excellent html and decent CSS skills, improving photography, a good sense of design and human interface and a growing understanding of web marketing. In addition I did have strong financial analysis and good organisation skills (not so certain about those two these days). I have fluent spoken Russian and excellent written French with modest conversational German.
Against me, my attentions are divided between a design and marketing business, dance writing, photography dance and otherwise, dance filmmaking, sport and a too keen interest in politics. I also owe some months to the formal study of German. There are too many targets here. And so I am losing the war, after a year of remarkable victories.
While many of these interests and skills are complementary, there is too much here. Winning individual battles will not take the war. And I am tired, very tired (see previous post on email). I must regroup my forces for a clearer strategy in the New Year.
Happily, unlike the Third Reich, I did not open a second Russian front this year. And after a reconnaisance mission to South America and taking a measure of the terrain there, I had the good sense to withdraw from invasion plans there. But the targets must be ever more restricted and victories more absolute.
December 30th, 2005 §
I have been ill for the last week with some kind of nasty lingering cold. Enough to slow one down and prevent the taking of vigorous exercise, but not enough to lay one down flat in bed.
But in line with general technological fatigue, I stopped checking email for all of three days. This afternoon I checked email again. Over three hundred pieces of spam (fortunately SpamAssassin and Eudora Spamwatch do a reasonably good job of keeping all the spam together in the junk folder). Another one hundred pieces of personal mail, professional newsletters. About twenty-five pieces of spam (those damn watch and pharmacy spams) managed to make it into my Inbox.
Some people talk about handling 200 pieces of personal/professional mail per day. Quite frankly, there is something wrong with this scenario. One needs downtime to think and to have one’s own thoughts. Just having a few days without email was such a joy. Imagine eagerly waiting for the post. Getting handwritten and personal letters of length and substance. Imagine settling into a good book.
After at least a year of checking email more or less every day, I don’t know why it finally bothers me so much.
I know the head of a major dance festival who doesn’t have a computer nor an email address. All of his lieutenants (about four) and their staff (another ten to fifty people depending on the season) do have email addresses. If it’s important enough the email gets printed and put on his desk.
I wonder what it would take for me to get there. Difficult considering I run a technology business. But it would be nice. Bravo, Karl!
I wonder how Casanova would have put up with the hundreds of emails and notes he would have received every day? Probably just not answer most of them. Not a bad idea.
Napoleon Hill at the end of his inappropriately titled mystical treatise Think and Grow Rich suggests a council of historical and imaginary figures as one’s personal think tanks. It isn’t quite clear if he really feels he is visited by these men (Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Henry Ford and Carnegie) or if they are figments of his own imagination. What I can’t understand is that if one is going to have an imaginary council why choose such a collection of bores?
My method of addresssing the members of the imaginary cabinet would vary, according to the traits of character which I was for the moment most interested in acquiring. I studied the records of their lives with painstaking care. After some months of this nightly procedure, I was astounded by the discovery that these imaginary figures became apparently real.
Each of these men developed individual characteristics which surprised me….These meetings became so realistic that I became fearful of their consequences, and discontinued them for several months. The experiences were so uncanny, I was afraid if I continued them I would lost sight of the fact that the meetings were purely experiences of my imagination. [Ch. XIV, p. 197)
If it will help me tame the email problem, perhaps this imaginary council idea is not so bad
November 21st, 2005 §
Somebody send this little book to George Bush for Christmas. It’s just 68 pages and large print so he might be able to get through it. Here’s the passage to bookmark and run the yellow highlighter over on page 30:
Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles.
November 20th, 2005 §
What is globalisation about? It's about rich companies bilking the world's governments of the taxes they should be paying.
It's not just Enron anymore. Both Microsoft and Google have been exploiting loopholes in Irish tax law and the US - Irish tax treaties to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
An effect of the arrangement is that Google Ireland, the operating company, made an after-tax profit of only €2.74 million on a turnover of €603 million. It had operating expenses of €359 million which are understood to include the royalty payments to the other Irish company. Google Ireland paid Irish corporation tax of €1.6 million.
Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported that an Irish subsidiary of Microsoft was helping it reduce its tax bill by at least $500 million annually. The hitherto unknown subsidiary, Round Island One Ltd, made an after-tax profit of $3.8 billion in 2004, and paid $324 million in Irish corporate tax.
Of course is the US government is wasting hundreds of billions on a useless, murderous and illegal war, who the hell wants to pay taxes? It's not as if the taxes were going to make the world a better place or to alleviate domestic poverty.
So thank you Google, thank you Bill Gates for not paying your taxes this year.