Monday, June 29, 2015

Well, Hell: Contest Won In Record Time, Story Attached

Jaby Jacob let me know that the quote is, indeed, on Google. Of course it's on Google.

Jaby wins the contest, since he was the first to e-mail, and here's the story. I've taken this from Fordlandia, Greg Gandin's brilliant investigation into Henry Ford's Fitzcarraldo-esque attempt to build a rubber plantation and "American civilization" in the Brazilian rainforest.

It's a brilliant book, both for the main river of content and all the little tributaries that pop up. The most interesting, to me, concerns Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian who was instrumental in development of both the dirigible and the airplane.

Here's the story, and it's haunting:
Villares probably didn't welcome the scandal’s publicity. Yet for the nephew of Alberto Santos-Dumont, who Brazilians insist was robbed of the credit for inventing the airplane, there were worse fates than to be known as the man who bested Ford. Claiming to be suffering a nervous breakdown, Villares, induced by “threats, together with the payment of a sum of money”— both courtesy of Governor Bentes— boarded a steamer headed for France to retrieve his aviator uncle, who really had suffered an emotional collapse. 

The disappointment of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s life was not that he didn’t get credit for inventing flight, though he did resent that the Wright brothers won all the acclaim. His real heartbreak was that he lived long enough to see the machine he helped develop be used as an instrument of death. Santos-Dumont wasn’t an ideological pacifist like Henry Ford, but he did hope that airplanes would knit humanity closer together in a new peaceful community, just as Ford had believed that his car, along with other modern machinery, could bring about a warless world and a global “parliament of man.” Both were of course proven wrong by World War I, which broke the conceit of many like Ford and Santos-Dumont that technology alone would usher in a new, higher stage of civilization. “I use a knife to slice gruyere,” Santos-Dumont said when war broke out in Europe, “but it can also be used to stab someone. I was a fool to be thinking only of the cheese.” 

Ford dealt erratically with the fact that, after all his high-handed opposition to World War I, he turned his factories over to war production. He continued to speak out provocatively against war, maintaining his position that soldiers were murderers and quoting Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall” to the end of his days. Yet Ford’s faith in America as a revitalizing force in the world led him to say that he would support another war to do away with militarism. “I want the United States to clean it all up,” he said. No wonder the Topeka Daily Capital said that Ford put the “fist in pacifist.” 

Santos-Dumont, in contrast, was crippled by just his mere association to a machine that was used for mass murder. He held himself “personally responsible for every fatality” caused by his “babies,” that is, airplanes. “He now believes that he is more infamous than the devil,” commented a friend. “A feeling of repentance invades him and leaves him in a flood of tears.” 

After the war he vainly called on governments and the League of Nations to “demilitarize’ the airplane (a call that the surviving Wright brother, Orville, didn’t support. Orville invoked a different kind of technological utopianism, insisting instead that the plane itself “has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again care to start a war”). But the slaughter continued, and death from above became a constitutive fact of modern life. Britain, for instance, encouraged by Minister of War and Air Winston Churchill, regularly bombed and strafed Arabs as a way of maintaining cost-effective control over its colonies. And on July 16, 1927, just a week after Ide and Blakeley arrived in Belém, US marines in Nicaragua staged their first dive-bombing campaign, against the rebel Augusto Sandino. Marine pilots descended to three hundred feet to fire four thousand rounds of ammunition and drop twenty-seven bombs on anything that moved. Hundreds were killed in the slaughter. 

Throughout the 1920s, Santos-Dumont found himself checking in and out of various European sanatoriums, refusing to eat and losing weight. Death seemed to pursue him. Persuaded by his nephew Jorge to return to Brazil, Santos-Dumont arrived home a hero. A dozen of Brazil’s leading politicians, intellectuals, and engineers boarded the Santos-Dumont, a bimotored seaplane, to meet the steamship that carried the flyer and his nephew as it entered Rio’s harbor. But celebration turned to tragedy when one of the plane’s motors exploded, plunging its passengers and crew members to their deaths and Santos-Dumont deeper into depression. When the ship landed at the quay, the aviator was “greeted with profound silence by the multitude.” 

And the killing continued. War broke out in early 1932 between Bolivia and Paraguay over a stretch of worthless, hellishly hot scrubland thought to hold oil. It was a fully mechanized slaughter, with both sides borrowing copious amounts of money from foreign banks and petroleum companies to purchase tanks and planes. By the time it was over, more than a hundred thousand Bolivians and Paraguayans were dead. That same year, after witnessing the aerial bombing of his beloved city of São Paulo by federal forces putting down a regional revolt, Santos-Dumont committed suicide. Having sent his nephew Jorge out on an errand, he spoke his last words to an elevator operator as he returned to his room to hang himself: “What have I done?” 


Google has ruined obscure knowledge contests, obviously.

However, after not having one for years, though, I have a quote that isn't found in Google.

This quote is from a man who surely had one of the most poignant lives in history, filled with brilliance, pain, and tragedy.

Here's the quote: "I was a fool to be thinking only of the cheese."

Who said it?

Oh, and don't bother with wild guesses. I 100% guarantee you will be incorrect.

What's the prize? $25 in Steam games of your choice.

I'll put up the answer tonight, if anyone has answered correctly. And I'll tell you the story, too, which--as I said--is poignant and terribly sad.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Links!

Sorry, a little light this week, but there's some good stuff here.

Opening up, this is audacious and spectacular: In pictures: 3D art in China's rice paddy fields.

From Sirius, and this is fantastic: Smithsonian Digitizes & Lets You Download 40,000 Works of Asian and American Art.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and man, this is incredibly useful: How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again. Also, and you cannot watch this video without laughing, it's When you're having a bad day... then your jam comes on.

From 3Suns, and this is amazing: What the abandoned Silverdome looks like 13 years after the Detroit Lions left. Also, and this is a terrific arrangement: Miguel Rivera - Beat It (Michael Jackson) - Solo guitar. Also, and this is hilarious, it's Meanwhile I can't even stretch correctly.

From C. Lee, and these are amazing images: The American civil war then and now.

From Jim Bradley, and I rode yesterday, so I can really appreciate the skill here: Unicycle Hockey.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is INSANE: Isle of Man TT Sidecar Race Compilation. Also, and this is outstanding, it's Big Pun Bird. Also, and this is a fascinating presentation of data: The Arrogance of Space - Paris, Calgary, Tokyo.

Well, this is certainly something: Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

Thursday, June 25, 2015


The same lady has been cutting my hair for almost 30 years.

She's also been cutting the hair of the husband of one of Gloria's best friends for that long. I always get updates about what's going on with them from the haircutter, and I assume she gives him the same updates about us.

Today, we actually ran across each other.

He'd just gotten his hair cut, and I was next. It was great to see him.

"Hey, I saw Bert today," I said when I got home.

"What?" Gloria asked. "Getting his hair cut?"

"Yep," I said. "I was right after him."

"How long did you talk?" she asked.

"Fifteen minutes," I said. "I'm comfortable with one minute for every year I haven't seen someone, and I hadn't seen him in fifteen years." Eli 13.10 started laughing. "With some people, I'm comfortable pushing that to ninety seconds per year," I said.

A Nice Guy Moment

Good friends of ours moved to Chicago a few weeks ago, and last week, they were at O'Hare Airport.

So was Jonathan Toews, Captain of the Chicago Blackhawks and fresh off winning another Stanley Cup.

He took a picture with them.

That may not seem like much, but I think hockey players do it more often than players in any other team sport. And it was awesome.

Sorry, I'm not posting the picture for privacy reasons, but I've seen it, and everyone (including Toews) has a huge smile on their face.

Oh, and here's the funny part: Eli's friend, who is a few months younger than Eli and absolutely huge, is as tall as Toews. He even looks slightly taller in the picture.

He's also a goalie, and there must be something in the water down here, because he's 6'1", there's another goalie who is 14 and 6'0", and Eli is 5'9" and growing like crazy.

This is abnormal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Mutability of Music (more of your e-mail)

From Daniel:
Michael's response was an interesting angle, and I'd like to expand upon it.

I think his concept of "performance" is incomplete.  I think all forms of art include "covers".

The success of the Da Vinci Code launched a wave of "covers".  Bookshelves were filled with novels about a smart professor-type who stumbles across an age-old mystery solved by re-examining real legends and historical artifacts.  (National Treasure is basically a film cover of the Da Vinci Code).

The success of Harry Potter launched a wave of "chosen kid discovers secret world hidden in the real world where he has special powers".  Percy Jackson is probably one of the most notable.

New Sherlock Holmes books are still being written, so are new James Bond novels.

All that said, there is an interesting challenge when understanding the concept of a cover.

How do you view the cover of a song like Jonathan Coulton's "Baby Got Back", where he takes the words but otherwise completely re-invents the song?  

And how does that compare to The Shakespeare Manuscript, which is literally a paint-by-numbers copy of the Da Vinci Code (lost secret, cover-up, clues hidden in artifacts, race to discover the truth, 'shocking' betrayal of major character)?

Is the art the principles underlying it?  Or the execution?  Is there much difference between Dave Matthews selling 50 CDs of different recordings of the same damn songs and Dan Brown selling 4 books that all follow the exact same plot? (I'm really being hard on poor Mr. Brown here, but the example stands).

This brings something to mind that I hadn't thought of originally: the accessibility of mutability.

Mutability is easier to explore in music because it's song-focused. An interesting cover of an existing song is probably 3-5 minutes in length. A book, though, is a many-hour investment of time. So mutability is certainly more accessible in music, which may have influenced my perception of its frequency.

There are occasionally full album tributes, though. Dub Side of the Moon is pretty fantastic as a reggae tribute to Dark Side of the Moon (you can listen to it here), and my favorite version of Holst's The Planets is Tomita's electronic version. They just take a huge amount of time to create.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


From Chris, who saw this in a Reddit thread:
Thailand. They put water soluble paint on the bottom of the jet skis the tourists hire. It looks fine when you pick it up but then the paint comes off when your using it revealingly a bunch of scratches on the hull. When you return it they point to all the scratches, say you must have run over something, and keep your deposit.

The bottom gets painted again and they wait for the next sucker.

Different country, but that sounds exactly the same.

I don't think that's indicative of most people in Thailand (or anywhere else), but there are people everywhere who will seek every advantage, legal or not.


One of my buddies took his family on a vacation to St. John this week as a graduation present for his daughter (who is an absolutely great kid).

St. John, in case you didn't know, is a small island just east of Puerto Rico, and one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"It's like paradise," he said, the day they got there.

This morning, he called.

"Do you know any good personal injury lawyers?" he asked.

Here's what happened. They boarded a ferry that eventually ran onto a reef. He was asleep in his car, and his knees got slammed badly enough that he's only able to walk with quite a bit pain. His wife was cut in several places, and it was awful all around. Now the lawyers for the ferry company are hounding him about signing a release, which he is clearly not stupid enough to do.

Wait, there's more.

Yesterday, his daughter and her boyfriend took out some rented kayaks, came back after several hours, and the the person operating the shop tried to charge them an outrageous amount of money for "scratches" on the bottom of the kayak.

"Why the hell would anybody care if the bottom of a kayak is scratched?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said.

"If they want to pull that crap," I said, "then they should take a picture of the bottom of the kayaks before they rent them. That sounds one hundred percent sketchy."

"I didn't pay it," he said. "The kids swore they never ran over anything, and they never showed us the bottoms before they rented them. But I got into a hell of a shouting match with the owner."

"I'm glad you found a relaxing place to take vacation," I said.

"I've had enough of paradise," he said.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Penny Arcade captured the essence of Shenmue perfectly today: You Had To Be There.

Father's Day

As many of you know, I have an unshakable routine that I follow every morning.

No matter what else might be happening, I swing by P. Terry's for a big piece of banana bread and a Diet Coke. And I sit there for half an hour, at least, reading or checking the Internet for morning news.

This has gone on for a few years. Every morning, if I'm in town, I'll go do this. It's very calming, and it helps me settle in for the day.

Because I go every day, I know everyone who works at P. Terry's. I know who's going to college, who has kids, the kind of music people like. They know that Eli plays hockey.

It's nice.

So for Father's Day, Gloria and Eli 13.10 agreed to eat at P. Terry's with me for breakfast. Eli's never gone with me before.

I walked in. "BILL!" someone said. Eli laughed.

We placed our order and sat down. "The lady who took our order likes rap music," I said. "That's who I talk to about Fetty Wap and Young Thug."

Eli laughed again, harder this time. "How do you know all this?" he said.

"I ask questions," I said. "And I listen."

Then the manager came out from around the back. "Bill! Happy Father's Day!" she said.

"Thanks!" I said. I waited a few beats. "She just changed her hair," I said.

Eli almost did a spit take.


I should have posted about this last week, but Juneteenth is the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, and it was celebrated last weekend. Here's a description:
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

If you're interested, here's a primary Juneteenth website.

I assume that all of you have--by now--heard and read about the massacre at the South Carolina church last.

What you may not know, particularly if you're not American, is the incredible, reprehensible nature of the debate that has followed. It's nauseating how many people have contorted themselves into logic pretzels arguing that this isn't about racism (because racism doesn't exist in the U.S. anymore, remember?) or guns (because it's never about guns, right?).

I know I don't usually right about anything even remotely political--we all prefer it that way--but this has broken my back. What a sad, disturbing time for this country.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

U.S. Open

The last round lasted so long I needed a meal plan.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Links!

From Sirius, and this is amazing: Absurd Creature Of The Week: This Bug is Big as a Gerbil. Fortunately It Loves Carrots.

From Cody, and this is such a great story: NHL Star P.K. Subban Joined A Street Hockey Game, Got Stopped By An 8 Year-Old.

From Craig, and these are amazing images: Workers discover preserved writings, drawings on slate blackboards at OKC high school.

From Shane Courtrille, and this is terrific: If I Knew Then: Advice on careers, finance, and life from Harvard Business School's Class of 1963.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is a wonderful gift for a wedding: Rolando's Wedding Song. One more, and it's a brilliant mash-up: Bloodsport Mentos Commercial.

From Steven Kreuch, and this is a long, fantastic article: What Is Code?

This is a fascinating article: Where Have You Gone, Secretariat?

Yes, I'm a sucker for cute animal links: 22 Before-And-After Photos Of Pets Growing Up With Their Favorite Toys.

From J. R. Parnell, and this is such a great story: When a little boy lost his stuffed tiger at the airport, airport staff took him on an awesome adventure.

From C. Lee, and this is just awesome: This cat and old guy pair go motorcycling together, are incredibly adorable.

From Hennie van Loggerenberg, and this is highly useful: The Best And Worst Airlines, Airports And Flights, Summer 2015 Update.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is slow loading, but amazing: Abandoned Soviet Shuttles.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Eli 13.10 In Net

It's been quite a while (years, I guess) since I actually showed you video of Eli 13.10 playing in goal.

I'm very crappy about taking video, because it takes me out of watching, and it never seems to be quite the right time to take it, etc.

Last weekend, though, for once, I finally took some video of him during a drill.

Here's the setup. The three kids shooting are from 15-17 years of age. The kid in yellow (who is a great kid, and the other two shooters are as well) is huge, as you can see, and he shoots with the power of an adult.

Here's how the drill works: one of the three shooters takes a shot, then the other two rush the net. In other words, if you give up a rebound in this drill, you get killed.

This video shows Eli doing almost everything: stick saves (directed to corners), blocker saves (directed to corner), glove saves, you name it.

The objective of a goalie during a game is not just to make saves. Their high-level objective is to make "safe" saves: catch, corner, or cover. A glove save is a catch, or the puck can be directed into a corner (no shots possible from there), or cover or trap the puck for a face-off.

Here's the video, and it will be more fun to watch if you enlarge it to full-screen size. It's easier to see the shot speed that way.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Mutability of Music (your e-mail)

Michael sent a beautifully crafted and thoughtful response to my post last week about the mutability of music, and he graciously agreed to allow me to share it with you.

I hope you’ll indulge a ramble.  Your post “On the Mutability of Music” sent me down some paths and I’ve got, I think, a bit of an angle to consider it by.

So, the difference between an art like music and an art like literature, and why one thrives and grows with variations on the same work and the other doesn’t, or hasn’t: Hemingway talked about the distinction in “Death in the Afternoon,” where he makes a case for bullfighting as art (something that seventy years on is so morally untenable as to hit the ear wrong).  He references the permanent arts and compares them to the impermanent, the arts of record to the arts of experience.

Our modern arts are all, by dint of a breadth of technology that makes every experience recordable in some fashion, a combination of the two.  Music is obviously recorded, and has been in some form or another for centuries .  And we have, as you pointed out, Shakespeare’s folio.  So music and theater are both, obviously and in a way, recorded.  They are permanent.  But they are also directly experienced by the senses, and so are in a way impermanent.

And distilling down to the essences, I would suppose that the real difference of variations-on-a-work between an art like music and an art like literature is the media involved--specifically when performers, people, are part of the medium.  It's people that deliver music into my head.  They may read from pages, permanently recorded pages, but they create an experience and deliver that experience to me.  Literature comes into my head from the code on the page; there’s no one else between me and it.

No one’s interested in “covering” Michelangelo’s “David.”  People replicate it, sure, and there are plenty lifelike Adonises.  But if “David” were a piece of choreography we’d have a thousand versions by now.

Films are remade all the time.  How many Tarzans do we have?  How many Herculeses?  There are THREE versions of “The Omega Man” on film.  “The Departed” is “Infernal Affairs” and the US made an “Old Boy” only ten years after the original.  Film is performance.  Film is people putting the art into our senses through their expression.  So film is covered, remade, and we’re (mostly, because Jesus, Hollywood) fine with it.

So I have to think that if we still listened to storytellers instead of reading from the page ourselves, we could have multiple versions of popular works and love them all.

Maybe having performers as part of the medium keeps the audience from taking full ownership of the work, makes the consumption of the art something more akin to relationship.  I'm not interested in copies of things I own.  But strangers who remind me of friends, that'll pique me.


Coincidence? I don't think so.

Site Meter