Brandon Starr's blog. Updated daily since March 2003. Welcome. Make yourself comfortable. Have a hot chocolate.

Brandon Starr's blog is not to be taken internally. All humor is intentional, unless indicated otherwise.
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No? Ah, well. His email is brandonstarr@yahoo.com.
It's your fault now, and don't blame me when it all goes terribly, terribly wrong.


New fiction story! Click here for "The Voice of Cassandra."

Click here for my ongoing novel: "The History of Magic in the 21st Century."

Click here for the lowdown on "The History of Magic"

Click here for my new investing blog, "Adroit Investor"

Click here for my anti-Bush shirts.

Click here for my favorite design: the 'tourist safety shirt.'

Brandon Starr is available in small, medium, and large. Contents may settle during shipping. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. Open carefully; contents under pressure. Do not incinerate. May be habit-forming--do not take if you are gassy or under the influence of mimosas. Improved; now non-staining. Ships in all colors, except puce. Prompt refund if not satisfied--simply return unused portion. All queries promptly ignored. Complaints resolved with deep, gut-blasting laughter, followed by posting complaints on nearest public wall. Not responsible for sunburns. All your base are belong to us. Act now. Beware cheap imitations. Insist on the original--Brandon Starr.

Update notification by email available below.

Some fun/useful/useless links:

The Internet Movie Database

My cousin back from Iraq, and how it changed me (my current favorite entry on this blog)

Zazzle.com

My Zazzle.com product page

Fun blogs:

infinitus opinio

Siren's Song

the mechanical jive

The Strange World

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

Librarianguish

Elven Sarah

Random Musings (Catcher)

Certifiable Princess (Sarah 2)
   

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Monday, November 15, 2004
In other news, man bites dog

Principal has himself whipped by teacher to punish boys for kissing girls.

Several things strike me about this story.

First:  The principal got the idea for this while praying.  So you know his mind was on torture and mayhem.  He then adds that most religious of ingredients, martyrdom.

Second:  But really, we know this isn't about him letting the discipline get lax and that he needed to be punished, as he says in the article.  It isn't really about self-sacrifice at all, once you scratch the surface.  This method of punishment is about guilt.  You do something wrong, and an innocent victim gets hurt.  It's like when the drill sergeant punishes everyone else with pushups while Gomer Pyle is forced to just watch in "Full Metal Jacket."  Or when kidnappers start beating one person to keep another one in line.

It's a pretty sick thing.

By making the innocent victim in this scenario himself, he was hoping to evade punishment.  Instead he got canned.  Fine by me.

Third:  What about the sexism shown by punishing the boys for kissing in the locker room, but not the girls?

Fourth:  Really, should the punishment for kissing really involve whipping anyone at all?  Was the principal afraid the kissing would lead to other things, like going to movies?  Is the principal having problems with his own sex life?

Found via fark.com.  If you go there today, November 15th, or perhaps the 16th, you can find a link to some genuine Fallujah fighting footage, where no one shoots at anyone closer than 100 yards away or so.  No enemy can be seen at all, though some distant AK47 fire can be heard.  Look for (ugh) a Drudge label to the left of the description, saying:  "Raw footage of Fallujah soldiers being told to STFU."  If it's not there, let me know and maybe I can set you up.

Posted at 06:48 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Tunnel system below Fallujah

On NPR, I heard about the steel-reinforced tunnel system below Fallujah.

The speculations are that 1) it wasn't from the Saddam era, it was made by the insurgents, and 2) it generally went from mosque-to-mosque in the heavily mosqued city.

The U.S. troops have been using bombs to close off the tunnels as they find them.  They have also found many caches of weapons in this tunnel system.

Fascinating stuff.  It seems to me that this is an indication of more money and personnel in the insurgency than previously believed.  It would take a ton of effort to make something like this.

I'm not sure it matters how many insurgents are killed in Fallujah.  If the population doesn't like the multiple babies being killed and maimed during this attack, they'll be replaced.  And the speculation was that most of the leaders had already left by the time of the attack.

Thanks to LowRentRat for finding the Fallujah pictures that won't be on your TV set any time soon.

To sum up, it's time to quote again from the masterwork, Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," specifically a principle that both sides are trying to utilize now:

19. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
 

Posted at 09:05 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Sunday, November 14, 2004
For the God-lover in you

Here's a perfectly-named religious blog, in my estimation:

"God-dependent"
This isn't one of those ugly political blogs, just a Christian psychologically dependent on his God like a baby to the bottle.

Remember, it takes an awful lot of chanting and repetition to get a falsehood into your brain.  That's why you repeat so many things at church, and are asked to do more on your own, which they call prayer.  They even have premade prayers so that you can make sure you stay on the "right path."

Happily for the rest of us, the good news is, when something is objectively true, it's pretty easy for your brain to accept.  No washing of the brain necessary.  Down is the way the Earth's gravity pulls.  Paper cuts hurt.  Julia Roberts is overrated as an actress.  Dogs have a great sense of smell, yet they stink.  Facts like these you don't have to repeat over and over in order to "accept" them.

But you really, really have to try hard to get your brain to "accept" Christ.  It'd take a lot of chanting and repetitive indocrination to believe in anything invisible and unfelt that yet is supposed to be everywhere and has immense power and influence over your life and the entire universe--or to believe in anything false, say, right-wing politics; why do you think they're called "dittoheads?"  In fact, a lot of folks go through the motions of their religion, doing their best NOT to think about their "chosen" religion 98% of the time.  It's a form of denial.  If you don't think about religion AT ALL, you can pretend you're an okay Christian and get on with earning a living and so on.

If you're going to to church today, enjoy your indocrination, and hope it holds you over until your next brain-soaking session.

But know this:  you can live a very happy, giving life and not believe that there's a deity out there watching your every move, and just waiting for an excuse to torture you until the end of time, and asking for a handout every week.

Posted at 10:53 am by brandonstarr
Comments (7)  

Saturday, November 13, 2004
Anyone remember Tom Swifties?

Tom Swifties (the link gives the description--but they're pretty self-explanatory after you've seen about two of them).  I remember them from when I was a kid.

I even enjoyed making them up.  Here's a few of my own, sometimes more obtuse, Tom Swifties:

"This tomb sure is dark," Tom said cryptically.

"I'm gonna sue you!" Tom cried plaintively.

"I've been working all day," Tom said laboriously.

"You can't charge a Senator for postage," Tom said frankly.

"I'm an expert plumber," Tom said wrenchingly.

"Where's my lithium?" Tom asked maddeningly.

"All I need is a pipe and a cobra," Tom said charmingly.

"I love Scott Joplin!" Tom chimed in entertainingly.


...as you can tell, I don't have a whole heck of a lot to write about today.

Posted at 04:02 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

Friday, November 12, 2004
Outsourcing companies cheer Bush reelection

Indian outsourcing companies cheer Bush election

Another benefit of voting for Bush.  Way to go, 52%!

Found via ElvenSarah's blog.

Posted at 09:57 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

"Inconceivable!"

It's Wallace Shawn's birthday today.

Wallace Shawn is perhaps most famous for playing Fizzini, the not-quite-clever-enough criminal mastermind in "The Princess Bride."*

But he's been in some other good movies, too:  "Manhattan," "Clueless," "Toy Story," and now "The Incredibles."

Plus, he's been on some of my favorite TV shows:  "Family Guy," "King of the Hill," and "Taxi" among them.

Happy birthday, Wallace, and remember:  the wines are BOTH poisoned.

It's perhaps appropriate to quote from Fizzini, only a week or so after the reelection of Bush:

On starting a war:

"It's a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition."

On where NOT to start a war:

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia!"


* Though I've never really hashed out a formal list, "The Princess Bride" has got to be on my top 20 or so movies of all time.

Posted at 09:49 am by brandonstarr
Comments (4)  

Thursday, November 11, 2004
Oil slipping

Just a quick one this time.  I don't think I've gotten less feedback on any regular topic than I have for oil.

Oil is dropping pretty steadily.  Apparently the market is convinced the worst is over for the supply deficit.

I remain unconvinced, but certainly we've at least put the hurricane damage behind us.  I still don't think oil prices will steady out in the low 30s, as some experts do.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have a bullish position in Maverick Tube, which supplies pipeline to the oil industry.

Posted at 04:44 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

Happy Veterans' Day

Happy Veterans' Day, and good luck to the future veterans in Afghanistan and Iraq, including my cousin, who is pulling another tour in Iraq.  (See the left column for the link to my entry about my cousin's stories that he told me after he was back from his first tour.)  May your training and dedication overcome the lack of wisdom from the Bush Administration.

Also, Arafat's dead.  That's one less terrorist.  I would say something about how he made the world pay attention to the Palestinian cause, but as if being a terrorist wasn't bad enough, he was a thief, making off with billions of aid dollars that were supposed to help the beleaguered people of Palestine.  So f*** him.
 

Posted at 10:39 am by brandonstarr
Comments (1)  

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Fallujah falls...ujah.

U.S. says it holds 70% of Fallujah already (AP & Reuters, via MSNBC)

All this means is that most of the insurgents left while the U.S. made its wholly obvious preparations for invasion.

As if we needed more proof of it...

1) Insurgents have been "reduced to small pockets" already.
 
2)  None of the nine hostages have been found.  (Yet.  Maybe they will be.  But I'm thinking they're gone with most of the insurgents.)

Meanwhile, because so many troops have been moved to the Fallujah attack, insurgency attacks elsewhere in the country are higher.

And when Fallujah is completely "controlled?"

“We anticipate that in Fallujah, in addition to whatever damage might happen during the fighting, that there’s been a state of neglect and damage over time over the last few months that has to be repaired,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

“Once it’s back in government hands, we’ll be able to get on with these projects very quickly,” he added.

Trouble is, they haven't been able to "get on with these projects very quickly" ANYWHERE--spending on reconstruction projects, as I've linked to here before, has been reduced to a trickle because of the insurgency threat.

Remind anyone of any other wars the U.S. has been involved with in, say, the last forty years?  Where brute force could clear an area, and where every major battle was won, yet the war itself was lost?

Posted at 06:18 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Happy birthday, Carl Stalling!

Carl Stalling was born November 10th, 1891.
Stalling was, as I'm sure many of you remember, the writer and conductor of the music of all of the great Warner Brothers cartoon shorts.

You may not know he started out at Disney, where he scored such famous shorts as "Plane Crazy (1928)," (one of the very first Mickey shorts), "Haunted House (1929)" and "The Skeleton Dance (1929)."  Those last two are famous for their use of music to create mood in such early animation.

He was with Warner Brothers until the late 1950s.  The Warner Brothers shorts were never the same after he left.  Such composers as Bill Lava tried to emulate the formula, but it always rang hollow.

Stalling was a master of several things:

1)  Use of music to create mood.

2)  Use of classical music and the large Warner Brothers portfolio of songs to use music people already knew in a parodic or evocative way.

3)  Use of music to add to what was being seen on the screen.

4)  Use of silence when it was a better choice than music.

5)  Use of instruments to mimic voices.

6)  Use of music as a faux sound effect.

7)  Taking advantage of the full orchestra on Warner Brothers' staff.  Not many cartoons even COULD sound as good as Stalling-directed ones, even if they had a genius of Stalling's caliber on staff, for this reason alone.

Plus, he was a pioneer.  He perfected the art of having a copy of the cartoon playing while he was conducting, to make sure that the sound was matching the visuals.  This is something used even today, as "making of the movie" documentaries amply demonstrate.

He invented something used by many musicians to this day--he had the orchestra wear headphones, which would play a metronomic tone to keep everyone together.

It was well-known that the musicians LOVED playing for Stalling.  His music was interesting, fun, and unbelievably challenging.  It always included multiple time shifts, unusual pauses, changes in playing technique, and other difficult devices.

Stalling was the reason for generations of kids to fall in love with classical and orchestral music, or at least to have a basic understanding of it.  Who hasn't laughed along to the music in "The Rabbit of Seville" or "What's Opera, Doc?"

If you've never heard "The Carl Stalling Project" or other CD compilations of Stalling's, check them out.

Posted at 09:17 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

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