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Semiformalishmaybe

Judgement and Flavour

This was another lonely weekend, with some mild amusements:Friday: Cold has arrived with a vengance; when I got home I spent a few hours trying to plug some of the places cold drafts from outside come in. My bathroom is particularly terrible because it has a pipe to the outside. My cats are too deft at opening the bathroom door to simply leave it shut, and plugging that pipe is a very bad idea. Other sources of cold are slightly more fixable.

Saturday: too depressed to get out of bed

Sunday: Cleaned apartment, tried to upgrade state from messy to meh, moderate success. Went to Whole Foods, which had the awesome combo of lemon-tomato noodles and basalmic tofu, picked up lunch-for-tomorrow from that buffet bar, then to Fuck Yeah Icecream for an ill-considered mix of flavours (raisins and lemon peel don't work too well together), then walked from there back to SqHill, where I accidentally and awesomely saw the Channukah Parade! This was an awesome sandwich of two police cars and some 50 menoramobilot (Cars with huge menorot on top), driving down the street with windows and sometimes doors open and Lubavitchers inside yelling "Happy Channukah!" to everyone in sight (more enthusiasticly to anyone who looks Jewish, as I kinda do). It was pretty cute. Spent an hour or so at Té Café, which has come to feel like the theoretical living room full of theoretical friends in my life. They know my name, I know some of theirs, and that's not such a bad thing. My OLPC, since the most recent OS upgrades (which make it easy to switch to a trimmed-down gnome environment and back), now makes for a great ultraportable. A combination of that, the book comparing Chalakah and Sharia, and my sketchpad makes for a decent pack for wanderlust.

Amused: when I leave bread out, eventually ants and other bugs find it, and it makes a problem. When I leave matzoh out, nothing more happens than if I left cardboard out.

Also, Whole Foods has very nice durable fabric grocery bags for a dollar.

Gamewise:

  • Still enjoying DOFUS
  • Occasionally still playing Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • L4D2: I've grown tired of my teammates standing around 5 feet away from me when I'm down. AI is significantly worse than in the first game, despite much more interesting levels, weapons, and themes. Would be a lot better if I had real people to play with
  • Knytt Stories and Super Mario World community mods are really neat. Super Mario World is one of the best video games ever made, but I imagine the developers had no idea that people would still be playing and modifying it after all this time.
  • Bought the new 「Sam and Max」 game series, which is terribly amusing but a bit tedious (as all games of that type were)
  • Bought 「Tropico 3」 (a civ/simcity-like game), 「Trine」, and 「Mass Effect」, but havn't gotten around to playing them yet
  • 「Phantom Brave」 is as awesome (and confusing) as Disgaea was. Better yet, it can use the Gamecube controller rather than the Wii controller. The blurriness of the characters in the cutscenes took a bit of time to get used to (again).
  • My copies of 「Illuminati」, 「Munchkin」, and the like are remaining sadly unused. Sigh.

Obama is a great speaker, but I remain annoyed at how philosophically juvenile almost all good political speeches have been throughout history, including his. When I hear him talking about universal rights and values, I still cringe because sometimes he seems to be talking about rights and values that are inherent in the nature of things (which is a self-serving trick that people learn to stop playing when they grow up a bit, intellectually), and sometimes he seems to mean things that we hold as good and are willing to struggle for over the whole world (which is fine). When pressed on the matter (as the Chinese have done on occasion), he gently retreats to the latter without talking about it too much.

I think to a certain extent he's still hamstrung by American political necessity - he may have broken some ground in facing practical problems the nation has by talking about them, but he's not willing to take those risks to give us something as ephemeral as a better style of political discourse (maybe doing so would hamper his ability to get more practical things done - I'm not sure. My father, schmuck that he is, did attempt to beat into me the importance of 「pick your battles」).

What we really want in national leaders is good judgement - news media may always be looking for "The $person Doctrine", but there really arn't comprehensive approaches to foreign policy that are dramatically enough different to warrant that title. Perhaps those of us old enough not to believe in fairy tales should regard these bits of juvenile philosophy in speeches as ways to tell the flavour of judgement someone has - whether they have people like Kissinger or Clinton advising them, how they see the world, whether they buy into patriotic jingoism, to what extent they're practical or tend to demonise. By reading the rubbish in their speeches as flavour, perhaps we can pass judgement on their judgement in a way that more honest dialogue would have a hard time differentiating. The few political figures that we actually get a feeling they're either totally pragmatic without any coherent direction ("I just want to do a good job") or are so principled that they'll accept no comprimises that would yet move them in the direction of what they want are people we should reject wholeheartedly (for different reasons).

Every so often I listen to Danny Elfman's 「The Little Things」, an Oingo-Boingo-esque song he wrote for the film 「Wanted」. It's like a 「What if?」 peek into a world of if OB had not broken up. Taking the long view, I think OB is probably my favourite band, better than TMBG and perhaps better than (or at least on par with) Firewater and Zappa.

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Elfman

I just bought "The Little Things" from Amazon. I hadn't even heard of the movie before, so thanks!