Oct 232002

Colby Cosh is irked, faintly, quaintly, that the Booker Prize was awarded this year to some nonentity, instead of Muriel Spark, Anthony Burgess, J.G. Ballard, Martin Amis, or Peter Ackroyd. Since some people apparently still take this stuff seriously, let’s go straight to the top. The following authors never won the Nobel Prize for Literature:

Leo Tolstoy
Henry James
Yevgeny Zamyatin
James Joyce
Ernest Hemingway
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mikhail Bulgakov
Vladimir Nabokov

That’s just American, British and Russian novelists. (Don’t even get me started on poetry.) But you can only give out so many Nobels, after all, and you have to make room for Rudolf Eucken and Rabindranath Tagore and Pearl Buck and Odysseus Elytis and Dario Fo and Günter Grass and…so many mediocrities, so little time.

Colby commends the Booker committee for putting William Trevor on its short list, remarking that a “stopped clock is right twice a day.” It was another stopped clock, the poet-traitor Ezra Pound, who wrote, “Prizes are always a snare.”

Oct 232002

Again my comparative sloth is exposed…

Stardate: 20021022.1604
Word Count: 2,138
Title: Lord Robertson, the Hapless
Impetus: NATO. And of course, France.
Thesis: The follies of multilateralism, as exemplified by poor Lord Robertson, the Secretary General of NATO, who is intelligent enough to realize he is arguing a hopeless case. Our European allies, with the exception of Britain, are useless, militarily at least.
Military History Lesson: Schwarzkopf relied only on British and American troops in the Gulf War; everyone else was for show. Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan each demonstated, in its own way, why international coalitions to fight wars do more harm than good.
Best Quote: “[The U.S. would] be glad to sell [fancy military] communications equipment to Europe if they want to buy it. But that’s not what they want. What they want is for us to give them the technology to make it possible for them to create such things themselves. Not to put too fine a point on it, what they want to do is to use this as an excuse for wholesale industrial espionage.”

Oct 222002

Michael Krantz, of the blue hair, writes:

“I was meaning to mention this earlier — in the course of hanging around PacBell last weekend, I got to know this weird guy who basically spends his life with the Giants — goes to all their home games, hangs with the players, etc. I know he wasn’t totally full of shit (although he seemed to be a hardcore alcoholic) because he brought me back into the stadium and introduced me to a bunch of players (I now have a signed Ryan Jensen baseball, for what it’s worth). So anyway, we were talking about Bonds, and he swears to me — absolutely, 100% certain — that if the Giants win the Series, Bonds will retire that very night. He says Bonds is totally sick of the game, his body hurts all the time, he doesn’t care about Aaron’s record — all he wants is a World Series victory, and he’s through.”

A hardcore alcoholic friend of a friend of mine, how’s that for a source? Good enough for the blogosphere! And if Bonds really does retire, just remember where you read it first.

Oct 222002

Stardate: 20021021.2325
Word Count: 3,000
Title: Later When?
Impetus: France.
Thesis: Follow the money. Iraq owes Russia and France billions of dollars, which they may collect if Saddam stays in power but probably won’t if he doesn’t. But they can’t ally themselves with Iraq openly. Thus they dither over bureaucratic resolutions, in an effort to postpone war as long as possible.
Psychological Analogy: Parkinson’s Second Law: Delay is the deadliest form of denial. In child-rearing: “I’ll take you to the mall…later.” In politics: the Environmental Impact Statement. In engineering: “That’s a Version 2 feature.”
Best Quote: “The Environmental Impact Statement is easily the greatest achievement of the environmentalist movement. Imagine: an entire government bureaucracy was created for the sole purpose of forcing anyone who wants to build anything anywhere to spend vast amounts of money on studies and create truly awesome reports, all of which can then be used by enemies of the project to work against it.”
Bonus: There is an international agency of French-speaking countries called La Francophonie, which is just too good.

Oct 212002

Stardate: 20021020.1915
Word Count: 2,979
Title: A Compulsion to Revisionism
Impetus: Irritation with benighted “Macolytes.”
Thesis: Apple, despite its small market share, acts like a monopoly because Mac users can procure most of their hardware only through Apple. For this and other reasons, the Mac’s hardware is in every way inferior to the PC’s. (Den Beste discusses mostly graphics, Apple’s pride and joy, and detours briefly into RAM.) Apple’s dishonest benchmarking, down to its very choice of Photoshop filters, is designed to hide these facts.
Best Quote: “Apple is presenting itself as a premium brand, but it’s using the cheapest components it can find.”
Word to the Non-Technical: You might enjoy Arnold Kling’s comment more than the piece itself.

(Update: Den Beste runs, or tries to run, some hard disk benchmarks.)

Oct 202002

At long last, a refrigerator art critic who is unafraid to speak his mind.

When I worked in finance, there was a joke that ran, “What’s the biggest spread on the Street?” It had many punchlines: “your salary now and in your next job,” for instance. But really, the biggest spread on the Street, or anywhere else, is between what parents think of their children and what everyone else thinks of them. (Link from Silflay Hraka.)