Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Google Expanding To IRC?

By Slashdot:
In this The Register article, Google apparently has been involved in a little bit of activity in various IRC channels. According to Google, as asked by IRC Junkie: they're researching ways to improve their service and the activity is only temporary. Could this mean an ability to search for information that is contained on IRC? Services, such as and Search IRC exist, and both allow the ability to get information from various IRC networks. Is Google trying to replicate what both these sites have done?
David Horsey's take on the American Empire :-)

Monday, November 10, 2003

It's Worth It

You may know I find the Matrix a shallow myth-exploiting money-making scam. But! I am willing to amnesty it's makers on account of the silver lining: if it wasn't for the Matrix, there wouldn't have been for the Meatrix!

Sunday, November 09, 2003

The New Teen Titans, Again is a fan site for one of my favorite comics series. The fans add their own interpretations in "swimsuit editions," some hand-drawn, some CG. Too bad no new George Peres emerged, but we can only hope. They also run an index of the issues, with short plot descriptions. As far as I can tell (I have major gaps in my collection) they nail the plots pretty well.

Check out the interview with Marv Wolfman, co-creator of the New Teen Titans. Excerpt:
UGO: Of these three, which is your favorite movie franchise: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or the Matrix?

MW: An unfair question. Star Wars has five movies, the first two of which were great, the last three lousy. Matrix has only two movies, one great, and one lousy. Lord of the Rings has only had two of its three movies, both great, but so were the first two Star Wars - I'll wait, though I assume, unlike Star Wars, they will remain great (and no, I am not a fan of the books). My favorite trilogy is Back to the Future. They're all great.

Unbeknownst to me, a cartoon series based on the comics appeared. According to Wolfman, it's "aimed more at the younger crowd than the high school/college age audience" of the comics. Well, it’s been a while since I could conjure up a reason to plug in a TV, and run Cartoon Network on it. But, let’s make a mental note.

The name is Marv, not Mary. With a "V."
The Matrix 3: Resolutions? Nope.

The plot:
The male hero, facing enormous challenges threatening his life and his community, has a female lover who is also his helper (but, without offspring). Tremendous force gathers strength to destroy all that he holds dear. Regular people believe him to be their savior, in spite of his personal doubts. A powerful conspiracy is in the making, including persons positioned very near. The traitor attacks, blinding the hero (burning his eyes out). But, the hero can still see, thanks to mystic power bestowed upon him. He manages to circumvent obstacles and accomplish survival of his project. His mate dies in the process, and he soon follows. But, his destiny is reached; his task, accomplished. Thus ends Dune Messiah, an inspiring novel, part of enormously popular series by Frank Herbert. What a coincidence! Matrix 3 uses all these plot elements, also.

Visual effects remain quite decent. Even though they seem to have run out of FX money and decided not to make another Burly Brawl scene: agent Smith tells Neo they’ll do it mano a mano this time, instead of using many virtual CG actors.

Again, this movie confirmed my precognition that Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey offered the best performances by Mr. Keanu Reeves, ever.

Propaganda analysis:
Affirmative-action characters spill out references promoting religious outlook on life, sucking up to the bulk of the USA public. US of A maintain a level of religious fundamentalism comparable only to third world countries (to paraphrase Chomsky). Their representatives team up with Iran and the most backward Arab countries to limit freedom of female reproductive choice in appropriate UN bodies, for God’s sake! The Matrix brand relies heavily on biblical associations and the like, assuring good reception with the target audience. I don’t feel that the authors used the humanizing effect of the food-making African-American old lady (Aunt Jemima, AKA the Oracle), the Asian martial arts master, or the Indian child prodigy by accident. Just as all warriors in the movie, including the prep scene of the action-figure-look-alike Zion "infantry" are WASP males, “jock” subtype, with an exception of the Malaysian officer, and all “intellectuals” or support crew are black. Anyway…

In retrospect, even the seemingly novel idea of vanquishing the virus (Agent Smith) by letting oneself merge with it (Oracle, Neo), and then infecting it with goodness, seems just like a suck up to part of the audience who go on with the program all over the world, doing their part, being a little wheel in the giant machine of hypocrisy and exploitation that goes by the name of economic/political system. Especially to those who know better, but excuse themselves by saying that they want to change the system from within (rip the benefits and use the power instead of someone worse), and are then sentenced to a lifetime of boredom.

Was the time & money worth it?
Watching this movie “synchronizes your attention spans and cultural abilities to your peer’s.” (Tom the Dancing Bug)

Would I like to see it again?
Not really. It would be quite boring, I’m afraid. For the same reason I don’t go to strip-joints. I don’t care for tease very much. The best way is all the way. Matrix authors pose too many questions, and do not provide satisfying answers. Like, what is the source of Neo’s power over the machines in the tactile reality. How come he can wave his hand and destroy hardware that could match the impact of Abrams tank on steroids? Who was the imbecile in Zion that designed the “infantry” battle gear with the human pilot exposed in front of all the machine parts, with no armor or protection whatsoever. A person might as well be safer in a Volvo or even a Yugo. A Yugo on the streets of Prishtina during NATO bombing of 1999.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Cuba, Libra

Saul Landau: The Cuba Embargo as Rip Off: "The embargo has unquestionably hurt Cuba, which claims that over forty-one years, the policy has caused $72 billion of damage to the island's economy. Ardent embargoites blame Castro for the suffering, but Washington's policy players care little about Castro the human rights violator. They still want to punish Castro the disobedient. Recall, how President Nixon, 1970-3, ordered the CIA to help overthrow Salvador Allende's government in Chile because of his noncompliant politics, not because he violated human rights."
You Can Be Young Only Once, But Immature Forever

The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. I have tolerated a lot.
-- Douglas Engelbart, computing pioneer

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Dulce Et Decorum Est

A poem by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori*.

* "It is fitting and proper to die for one's country." A line from "Ode III" by the Roman poet Horace.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Reference about Macedonians in the Byzantine Empire by a XIX century British scholar

The Art of War in the Middle Ages was first published in 1885 in Oxford and London. A revised edition was re-published in 1953, with indicators of revisions included in the text. This particular portion is true to the original, and I included it because of the use of terminology. It is part of the section that deals with the "arms, organization and tactics of the Byzantine armies".

The whole book is enjoyable and provides intelligeble analysis of military matters. I liked the "100 year war" part best.

Medieaval warrior saint, fresco from a Macedonian church (1389).AUTHOR: C.W.C. Oman
MAIN TITLE: The Art of War in the Middle Ages
Copyright: 1953
PUBLISHER: Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press

p. 46-47
It would appear that Maurice had intended to break down the barrier which has been imposed in the fourth century between the class which paid the taxes and that which recruited the national army. "We wish," he writes, "that every young Roman of free condition should learn to use the bow, and should be constantly provided with that weapon and with two javelins." If, however, this was intended to be the first step toward the introduction of universal military service, the design was never carried any further. Three hudnred years later Leo is found echoing the same words, as a pious wish rather than as a practical expedient. The rank and file, however, of the imperial forces were now raised almost entirely within the realm, and well-nigh every nation contained in its limits, except the Greeks, furnished a considerable number of soldiers. The Armenians and Isaurians in Asia and the Thracians and Macedonians--or more properly the semi-Romanized Slavs--in Europe were considered the best material by the recruiting officer.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The Dark Country

Based on the Serbian folk story "Tamni Vilajet."

Once upon a time, there was an army which got lost the wilderness. They come to a place that was very dark: "the Dark Country."

They were wandering around in complete darkness, when suddenly a strong voice said from above: "If you take some of the stones from the ground, you will be sorry. If you take none of them, you will be sorry twice as much."

Some of the soldiers took some stones, and some did not. When they found the way out of the Dark Country, it turned out that the stones were diamonds. So those who took some, were sorry for not taking more. Those who did not took any, were double-sorry.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Two African Folk Poems

A Baby is a European

A Baby is a European
he does not eat our food:
he drinks from his own water pot.

A Baby is a European
he does not speak our tongue:
he is cross when the mother understands him not.

A Baby is a European
he cares very little for others:
he forces his will upon his parents.

A baby is a European
he is always very sensitive:
the slightest scratch on his skin results in an ulcer.


The Moon

The moon lights the earth
it lights the earth but still
the night must remain the night.
The night cannot be like the day.
The moon cannot dry our washing.
Just like a woman cannot be a man
just like black can never be white.


Sunday, November 02, 2003

Rep. Check: A Long Way Down

No content, no visits. Last time I checked the index was 0.82. Now it's down to 5 a day. 1420/1543 = 0.92. (0 - best, 1 - worst). But I am hopeful, as I found a way to provide updates every day in a foreseeable future - by recycling items from my old site.
Getting To Know A Person: Quotes

GrooThe only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurements anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me.
-- George Bernard Shaw

No matter who you are, there's always someone who is a little worse because (s)he thinks (s)he is a little better
-- Sergio Aragones

The human mind suppresses uncertanity. We're not only convinced that we know more about our politics, our businesses, and our spouses than we really do, but also that what we don't know must be unimportant.
-- Daniel Kahneman
Love of a Stranger: Quotes From "Eaters Of The Dead"

The book Eaters of the Dead is science fiction novel based on an ancient manuscript by the Arabian traveler Ibn Fadlan, who before A.D. 922 encountered the Vikings. The style of the original manuscript is preserved in the book, as well as great regard to historical details. This story served as a basis for the script for the movie 13th Warrior.

AUTHOR: Michael Crichton
MAIN TITLE: Eaters Of The Dead
Date: 1976
PUBLISHER: New York, Ballantine Books

p. 66
Chastity among women is said to be a great virtue, but seldom did I see it practiced, for adultery is not accounted as any great matter, and if the wife of any man, low or high, is lusty, the outcome is not thought remarkable. These people are very free in such matters, and the men of the North say that women are devious and cannot be trusted; to this they appear resigned, and speak of it with their usual cheerful demeanor.

I inquired of Herger if he was married, and he said that he had a wife. I inquired with all discretion if she were chaste, and he laughed in my face and said to me: "I sail upon the seas, and I may never return, or I may be absent for many years. My wife is not dead." From this, I took the meaning that she was unfaitful to him, and he did not care.


Herger made this reply: "The women believe that the Arabs are as stalions, for so they have heard as a roumor." Nor was this any amazement to me, for this reason: in all the lands I have traveled, and so also within the round walls of the City of Peace, verily in every location where men gather and make for themselves a society, I have learned these things to be truths. First, that the peoples of a particular land believe their customs to be fitting and proper and better than any other. Second, that any stranger, a man or also a woman, is accounted inferior in all ways save in the matter of generation. This the Turks believe the Persians gifted lovers; the Persians stand in awe of the black-skinned peoples; and they in turn of some others, severally; and so it continues, sometimes by reason given of proportion of genetalia, sometimes by reason given of endurance of the act, sometimes by reason given of especial skill or posturing.