Wednesday, July 31, 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013: A Strategy for Attending SIGGRAPH

Update Aug 1 2013

This is the second part of my little SIGGRAPH review.  In this post I discuss a "new" procedure for attending SIGGRAPH.   Well, its new for me anyway.

The problem(s) were legion but the big ones were that there was too much to do in the time allowed, the motion picture / entertainment industry stuff was annoying, the technical program could easily be missed if one wasn't careful, and although there were things like the "job fair" there was not in fact much to find in the way of projects or employment.

The "solution", for me, anyway, was to concentrate on the technical program, ignore the Hollywood stuff, and give up on finding a job / work / projects at SIGGRAPH.

So here is the plan that evolved and which I recommend to anyone who attends SIGGRAPH who is interested in the technical program.

1. Register for the Full Conference, but at half price.  There is an "unemployed" special rate at SIGGRAPH but they do not advertise it. It is equivalent in price to the Education rate, which is exactly what I proposed to SIGGRAPH a year ago (perhaps they heard me?). So for $495 you get the full conference, proceedings, receptions and film show. In other words, you can fully participate.

2. Attend the Fast Forward event which is usually on Sunday at 6PM. This means that you must be at SIGGRAPH no later than about Sunday at 4PM to register and find the right hall. The Fast Forward is essential for figuring out which of the papers you want to see.  The titles are often not sufficient to make that choice.

3. Really, seriously try to attend the Technical Papers.  That means getting up early to be at the conference by 9 AM, not going for 4 hour lunches, etc.    Use your program guide to determine which of these sessions you want to attend and which you can miss. Only time spent in the darkened room counts. Since they run these papers simultaneously, you normally have to choose 1 in 3 sessions anyway. I move around. I saw perhaps 1/2 the papers I wanted to see, which is a very good percentage for me.

4. Attend the "Awards Talks" which is a new feature this year.  The Awards have been augmented with "Awards Speeches" which includes an introduction by the head of SIGGRAPH, Jeff Jortner. This was the best of SIGGRAPH for me. All the talks were worthwhile.      

5. Avoid all the Hollywood stuff.  Just pretend it is not there and maybe it will go away.   Dont get me started about what that stuff is really all about, I would have to use bad words.  By ignoring them, I had much more time to see the Technical Program and I was in a far better mood.  

6. Receptions if possible.  Parties if invited.  You have to be considered important enough to be invited to such parties as the Disney R&D Mixer, and this year I was not important enough. Their failure to properly recognize my genius will be their undoing.  Maybe next year.

7. Trade Show during periods when there is no technical paper you want to see.  The tradeshow floor is now concise enough that you can see it in two 4 hour sessions.

8. BOFs or Birds of a Feather if interested and time allows.

9. Electronic Theatre is totally optional.

10. End of conference "non reception" reception if you are available Thursday evening.  At the Conference Hotel. 

So in summary, with this  new approach I really attended the Technical Program, got a copy of the electronic proceedings, saw the awards talks, and blew off the Hollywood crap.  It was a much more productive SIGGRAPH for me.

Now more on what I actually saw and other opinions and issues in Post #3.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013: Electronic Theatre Gratuitous Human Meat Display


Whatever the Electronic Theatre is or should be at SIGGRAPH, we can all agree that it is not what it was and it can not be what it was. In its earliest period it was the premiere of new work in synthetic imagery to a community of people who were inventing that media. Today, the community has expanded and fragmented, and it is no longer the premiere of just about anything given that most of these "films" are available on Youtube or even at your neighborhood theatre.

This year's Electronic Theatre was the first I had attended since 1991. In 1991 there was a political event that was so obnoxious that I just threw up my hands and wished them all the best, and ignored it. It did not really matter. The theatre had become sample reels, and ways for large corrupt media organizations to recruit, and so forth. Thats fine, but who cares.

I kept hoping that I would either be invited to a jury or in some way be in a position to help recreate the theatre but that never happened.

So this year I decided to give it a shot and see what it was.

I lasted about 7 films until I walked out.

It started out very strong with two very amusing pieces. The first was the Centrifuge Brain Project, which you can find on Youtube at the URL below. And the second was a series of bumpers for the FMX Conference. Both were very amusing and well done.

Centrifuge Scientist Discusses His Vision

SPHEROTHON Centrifuge, 1982

The Centrifuge Brain Project on Youtube:

Then we had some silly art films or something which were pleasant and inconsequential. Certainly a lot of work, but not particularly new or original or ... well anything really except a lot of work. No problem.

The 7th or so project was a very well done shock piece that used photoreal images of people turning into garbage hamburger shit as part of some sort of political statement. I could just see a bunch of trendier than thou assholes in England showing off to their friends how fucking crude they could be.

Sorry, I don't have any pictures.  I do not even remember the title.  I do know that they had some sort of rendition of "God Save The Queen" as soundtrack.

The film show had a warning that the content contained "Adult material". I thought they meant kinky sex, I did not think they meant gratuitous human meat displays.

Whatever, its not what I want to see the technology I helped invent used for.  But, if you want to see this garbage, thats ok with me.   There it is, go for it.  I can always walk out if I don't like it, and I did.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

SIGGRAPH 2013 Post Mortem Delay

There will be a delay while I go to Los Angeles and deal with my various doctors.  Sorry about that.  I have about 10 or 20 posts that come from SIGGRAPH, which is too much material, and I want to be at my best when I write this up.

Among other things, we had a very interesting interview with the SIGGRAPH Executive Committee Nominations Committee, a number of very interesting conversations with past and present members of the Executive Committee, and a number of comments about the technical program.  I loved the awards talks, and hope they continue that every year.   I was able to force myself to watch the technical program, and it was very useful to me (the need to be forced has nothing to do with the technical program per se, it has to do with my ability to get up in the morning and go into a dark room at 9 AM).

We had a visitation from Harvie.  No Michael Naimark.  I missed the MIT Reception, unfortunately.  

Of great interest was the realization that Anaheim has a Chinese Islamic district, but that their restaurants were closed for Ramadan.

So this is called a zone plate, eh?  I used to call it a render torture pattern.

There is a tree to the front of the Anaheim Convention Center, in the front right of the Arena as you face the center, that has a history.  I do not know what it is.

To my amazement I was interviewed for the Pioneer's History project of Frank Foster and Joan Collins.  Its a complicated topic and like Rashomon has many points of view of people who were there but saw different things.

I tried to attend the electronic theatre for the first time since 1991, and walked out after the 7th or so film.  I have a problem with splatter movies.  The first film, which you can find below, was very amusing however.

The Centrifuge Research Project

More in the days to follow.

Special thanks to Tom Duff, Greg Turk, J Walt, Jerry Weil and others for trying to cheer me up.   MK Haley who was chair of SIGGRAPH this year spent many emails being very pleasant to me, and I appreciate that.  Special thanks also to Ken Perlin for financing this escapade indirectly through his project.   

Sunday, July 21, 2013

At SIGGRAPH For the Next Week

I will be checking my email now and then, but the best way to reach me is by calling or texting my phone at 323 833 9087.  

Hope to see you there.

Self-Portrait in NYC

My bedroom in NYC. 

Notice the Hudson River outside the window.

I think I look like a cartoon character in this picture.

Richard Yuricich on Event Horizon

Richard Yuricich, ASC is one of my favorite people in the world.   Here he is on the set at Pinewood and in London on the movie Effects Horizon (1997).    As the date back on my little camera says, this must have been 1996.


Somehow Richard got me to London to help design "blood in space".  RY is a stickler for detail and he had accumulated zero G fluid photography from the Soviet space program.   We had lunch at the Commissary at Pinewood Studios, where Hitchcock ate every day.  I doubt there has been any production that has treated me with so much courtesy.

Effects Horizon on IMDB

Joan Collins and Kelley Ray on Starship Troopers

These are my friends Joan Collins and Kelley Ray who were at the time representing SONY Imageworks on Starship Troopers at MASS.ILLUSION in Lenox, MA.

Not only had MASS.ILLUSION collected a fabulous crew doing great work, it was in a drop dead gorgeous part of the world.

I was only on one small part of the project, but it was one of the most enjoyable projects I have ever had.  For another post on this complicated production, see here.  This production was a classic of the situation where a production can be rocky but individuals, in this case me, can have a wonderful time.

Kelley is now efx supervisor on an episodic show called Vampire Diaries, and I don't know what Joan is doing, but last I heard she had several films that were about to start.

Before Joan left Lenox the last time, I bought her dinner and tried to talk her into doing some project with me, I think.  I still remember the restaurant in Lenox, MA.

This must have been about 1997.

Vampire Diaries on IMDB

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shinae Tassia in New York

Shinae in New York City looking enigmatic.   The dots on the window that look like water marks on the photograph are actually rain drops on the window of the taxicab.   Shinae is my favorite person of Korean-Sicilian descent and worked at the time for the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Shinae wore her first dress (she tells me) to the opening of the Rose Center / Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History on the fake millenium, Dec 31, 1999.   As we were walking around the museum we were suddenly circled by an older gentleman looking completely perfect in a tuxedo and his long-suffering wife/girlfriend, taking dozens of photographs of us.  He was obviously a professional photographer and as he documented Shinae,  he exclaimed "Like a flower!  Like a beautiful flower!  How Lovely!", etc.   As fast as he had appeared he started to fade into the darkness at the Museum.... I called after him and asked who he was with.

He answered from a distance fading away "I'm with the Times ...".   He was, apparently, the very well-known society photographer for the NY Times.

If a picture of Shinae had appeared in the society pages of the NY Times all the other women at the Museum would have plotzed in envy.  

No such photograph ever appeared to the best of my knowledge.

[Scott Anderson suggests that this might have been the famous Bill Cunningham, and it might have been.  I am checking with someone who knows].

Friday, July 19, 2013


SIGGRAPH 2013 is this week of course and I am desperately trying to finish a dozen things before I go.  I hope to see you all there and feel free to text me or call me at 323 833 9087 to arrange a place to meet.  Reading email will probably be hit and miss for that week.

Civics and Intelligence: Does the US Government have the Constitutional Right to Keep Secrets

It is commonly asserted that "the people have the right to know".

In other words, that if the government is keeping a secret is that by definition in violation of the law. Does the government have the right to keep certain types of secrets legally and constitutionally? What have the courts ruled on this matter? What are the precedents in American history. What did the writers of the constitution have in mind on this topic.

The following is a legal and historical analysis by John Warner. The article is reprinted from the CIA's Studies in Intelligence.

You should read this 20 page paper in order to understand the arguments that can be made for the government keeping secrets from its people and under what circumstances they may do so.

If you do not feel like reading the entire 20 pages, read the first 5 or so, which goes over some examples from American history in the very early days.

The document can be found online in several different forms at

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Introduction to a Course on Civics and The Intelligence Community

My response to the Ed Snowden affair as it has played out so far is to be appalled at the level of knowledge of my friends and fellow citizens about how their government works.  So what I plan to do here is to create a very time efficient course in civics and intelligence based on documents publically available on the Internet.

Please read a few more paragraphs before you completely give up on this idea.

The course will be

    (a) select, it will be as short as possible to make as good use of your time as possible,

    (b) based on primary sources available on the Internet

    (c) focused on background, history and nuance intended to make your beliefs and arguments
    robust (see note 1)

What this course will NOT be

    (d) it is not intended to change your mind on fundamental issues, whether our government is
    moral or immoral, good or bad.  You already have your mind made up, I am pretty sure.

But it will try to help explain such things as

    (e) what do people mean when they say that Iran-Contra was illegal but what Snowden revealed
    was probably legal (even if it may merely prove to you that the laws need to be changed)?

    (f) even if what Snowden revealed was legal, in some technical sense of the word, what does it
    mean to say that we wish to challenge the constitutionality of those laws (which is one way to
    change the laws, but by no means the only way).

Furthermore, you may even understand certain nuances like the following:

    (g) whatever Snowden's motivation, he should not have had access to the wide breadth of
     information and there is something very wrong here, very wrong indeed, and people in the
     intelligence community, right or wrong, must be reeling.

Whether you like it or not, and I dont really care, (g) is going to affect our country at least as much as any of the others, so you may as well spend a few minutes trying to understand it.

Or not. Whatever you want.

Furthermore, I am going to try and explain to you some history that motivates their behavior. Now, I happen to think that if this behavior was exposed to a wider audience and not merely voted on by the elite (which is the very basis of our government, it is not a direct democracy, it is a so-called representative democracy for better or worse), then the American people might very well vote against this behavior.  I wouldn't vote against that behavior, mind you, I would support it wholeheartedly, but that is just me.

Finally I have one more important goal, and it is to try and convince you of the following:

    (h) although we may not know the details of what is happening in this world, in broad strokes
    there is quite a bit that you can know about what is going on, and this information can be
    used to inform your beliefs and what you tell your elected representatives, not that they
    care what you think because you are not rich, but that is another problem.

What I mean by that is this: you did not need Snowden to know most of this, at least the part I have read about. No shock or surprise should have been generated (except for maybe a few details, and even those I am told were already made public but I did not notice).

Thus one result of our little course is to help you not be surprised in the future.

Now that is a worthwhile goal, isnt it?

I promise to make this as concise as I can, but you will be expected to spend about 1/2 hour a week reading documents I point you to, for maybe about 10 weeks.  This course will begin, intermittently, after SIGGRAPH.  The course will last longer than 10 weeks because I will not be able to work on it every week.

Thank you, or maybe you should be thanking me.


1. The classic example of this approach is the a pro-arms-control group called the Federation of American Scientists ( which has worked in support of treaties limiting or eliminating nuclear weapons for a very long time. Their approach is that in order to argue cogently for arms control, that you must be well-informed on the issues of nuclear and conventional arms, and thus they have (or had) one of the best web sites on the internet for researching these things. Unfortunately, the best parts of this database has been turned over for maintenance to, and the only problem with that is that they charge a fee to review that database for more than a few documents. If you were interested in that topic, I think it is worth their nominal fee. Those of us who are impoverished in America can not even consider it, and therefore can not participate in our democracy.  Which is intentional. 

Further Issues With Hiring More Experienced Workers (MEWs)

[updated 7/27/2013]

In a previous post (see here), we discussed issues that may become apparent when you hire a more experienced worker, or MEW as they are known in the literature, such as their tendency to fail to fall for your lies and a stupid desire to learn from experience. These are bad enough, but there are others that can be added to the list and we have some of them here.

I should first mention that not all experienced workers suffer from these character flaws, but the very possibility that they might should be enough to see that MEWs are never hired.

1. More experienced workers tend to mutter to themselves.

After all they are subjected to the most obvious and abusive ageism by your younger workers on a daily basis, they are likely to have some sort of verbal response. This is unacceptable and any MEW that mutters to themselves should immediately be fired.

2. More expereinced workers tend to exhibit diversity in opinions and ideas.

The most efficient workplace is one in which there is no dissent because the workers are cut from the same conforming cloth, everyone knows that. Unanimity should come not through discussion of the best approach, but because the worker units believe that there is only one way, their way, what they have been programmed to believe, thus they can proceed without discomfort or thought. By having more experienced workers who may know other ways or have contrary opinions based on genuine experience, you potentially open your organization to inefficient discussion and debate.

Remember, debate is weakness. Unthinking unanimity is strength!  

3. More experienced workers after being subjected to abuse might show some sign of anger at being treated like garbage.

Any who do so should be fired at once. Management should have no fear of being subjected to any penalty by government because the government supports ageism in all ways, that is obvious. Thus MEWs can be fired with impunity.

4. An MEW might be better educated than the "stupid morons" (1) companies hire as management and thus this management might suffer from insecurity which might affect their ability to be stupid.

Imagine the poor 20 or 30 something management, stupid and shallow as they are, spitting teeth in frustration if they had to deal with a MEW who might actually use a big word that our stupid management did not understand. Oh Gods! Forbid this gross unjustice !

I think we have established without doubt that our government is right in supporting ageism in all its forms and that an older and more experienced worker must never be hired.


1. A "stupid moron" is an innovative personal insult and a colloquialism that is not in common usage in English, but was innovated by the author to communicate a higher degree of "moron"-icity than one might normally experience.   English is a Germanic language and it is a natural part of the language process to create new terms from existing words to extend the language.   Thus "stupid moron" is obviously a way of saying "a particularly unintelligent person of low intelligence".

Monday, July 15, 2013

Joni Mitchell and the Perception of Small Differences in Musical Performance

[being written 7/16/2013]

This will be part of the Los Angeles in the 60s, 70s, and 80s topic, when that gets organzied]

It seems to be a human capability to listen to music and perceive tiny differences in performance. We are able to do this even on music they have not heard recently and even on music of considerable length. Who has not had the experience of hearing a song they knew well on the radio and then suddenly realize that this version is slightly different, it turns out to be a different version of the song never released, or from a demo made by the band, or for the European release, perhaps a live performance somewhere.

This fabulous demonstration of signal processing and memory storage and acquisition must have a purpose, the sincere but naive Darwinist, exclaims. Perhaps. But it could also be the accidental result of some other capability or capabilities that evolved and was selected because it was useful for some other reason or reasons entirely. Perhaps it is part of how we recognize when we are home, audio being such an important sense. Perhaps it is part of the amazing "friend or foe" recognition circuitry that lets us know if someone is of the tribe or not of the tribe, or whether the ritual is being performed correctly. Whatever it is, it seems remarkable how well it works.

For whatever reason, if there is a reason, that we have this capability, I have a story about it from when I lived at the beach and worked at the RAND Corporation.

In the 1970s I lived at the ocean in a rent-controlled apartment complex called the Seacastle Apartments. The building is famous for being a well known hotel built in the 1920s (I think), then a run-down dive near the beach during the 1940s and 1950s, and finally received a million dollar grant from HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to fix it up and turn it into low-income housing in the 1960s. The owner took the $1,000,000 and went to Mexico and HUD ended up owning the building by default. This being Los Angeles, I am pretty sure they tore it down to put up something so the rich could enjoy the view and get rid of the worthless poor and middle class people who were there before.[Correction... it is still there, sortof.  It has been turned into something called, which are expensive townhouses for rich people.  They must have gutted the place to rebuild it].  I lived there in a cave, very inexpensively, and worked at RAND.

A Google Earth view of the Seacastle Apartments now turned into Townhouses for Rich People

There were apartments in the front that faced the Pacific ocean. Not fancy, and very tiny for the most part, their view was unbelievable. Very, very difficult to get one of those apartments, and when you had one you did not want to give it up. This is in Santa Monica 1/2 block south of the Santa Monica Pier and on the Promenade, the real Promenade, not the shopping center, the walk path in front of the beach.

There were many colorful stories about this building some of which might even have been true. Of course the HUD story above is one of them, but there are also stories of the period when "ladies of the night" worked the building in the 1950s, of famous surfers who had lived there, and famous musicians and writers who could not afford even the low rent, and so forth. One story was that Joni Mitchell still had an apartment there, on the 2nd floor, in the front, or perhaps a boyfriend did, or perhaps she kept a poor boyfriend there who was also a musician, a starving one. The stories differed. I never believed any of them. It was all just local color to me, worth repeating, but very little chance of being true. Or maybe it was true once, long ago, but no longer.

I don't remember why I was able to be in front of the Seacastle to watch a sunset, as I usually worked at RAND from noon to 2AM or so. So this was probably on a weekend as I had started to take one day a week off, as I noticed that seemed to help my work in the long run. Whatever the reason, I was sitting on the wall between the promenade and the beach and watching a spectacular sunset, which probably meant that the Santa Monica mountains were burning down. A fire was always good for enhancing sunsets, adding all that debris from the burned houses of Malibu millionaires would always contribute to our sunset quality. They should burn Malibu houses down regularly as it would improve our quality of life.

It is the nature of apartment buildings of this type that you can hear everything, and I could hear that someone in the front was playing music. It was a Joni Mitchell album and I could hear it in the background and I did not pay any attention. It was not very loud, you could barely hear it above the sound of the ocean. I knew her albums well and I had seen her perform live on several occassions and I was very familiar with her music.

Joni Mitchell live on the Johnny Cash Show 1969

I was watching the sunset and not paying any attention when I realized that something was wrong. The music was different somehow, not much, but different. It was definitely Joni Mitchell, and it was one of her songs, but this was a performance I had never heard before. I am not sure if it was the phrasing, or the pacing, or something about the guitar accompaniment, or what it was. Her voice was very soft in the background and the sound of the ocean intermittantly overwhelmed her singing.   Whatever this was, I thought, it was very well done, her voice sounded wonderful, completely alive, as well as I had ever heard it.

I don't recall what songs she played, but it was early Joni Mitchell and to my memory it sounded similar to this one from the premiere of the Johnny Cash Show in 1969.

The music stopped in mid-stanza. She played guitar and seemed to be talking to someone. I couldn't really hear. The music started again in mid verse, then stopped, then switched to another song and she played for a few more minutes, pretty much just playing around, and then she stopped.

Joni Mitchell was upstairs, behind me, on the 2nd floor somewhere, watching the sunset with someone and the window was open and she was just practicing or more likely just goofing off.   The reason she sounded so good, of course, was that it wasn't a recording.

I listened for a few minutes and then it stopped and I never heard her again.

So you see, sometimes the crazy stories you hear are true.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tarkovsky Was A True Friend of Socialism! His Films Weigh Many Kilograms!

[I have had two comments from friends.  Tom Barron saw some version in 1973 as a student at CalArts thus proving that whatever I saw in 1976 was certainly not the premiere in Los Angeles, or maybe they just claimed it was as a way of selling tickets.   

[Josh Pines of Technicolor tells me that Solaris in the 3.5 hour version is a masterpiece of the cinematic form and that I do not know what I am talking about.  Well, he may be right.  Or it may be that the difference between 3.5 and 8 hours is the difference between heaven and hell.  Film editing, you know, a part of the cinematic art form?  I stand by what I saw, which was complete fucking torture to the 23 or 24 year old who saw it.  That said, I volunteer to watch it again, an approved version of some length, particularly if it is on DVD or otherwise digital so I can skip around to the good parts].

[Josh also tells me that he can find no evidence of an 8 hour version of Solaris. This is very odd, and requires more research.   I will either have to find a library with the monthly Nuart notices back to 1976 or find a film expert online, or a relevant web site to post my question.  This is not a retraction, but it is a notice that there has been some doubt expressed that an 8 hour version existed.  I think I saw it but it was a hideously painful experience of unbelievable and unrestricted boredom, and very long ago.  I do not usually misremember things, but I sometimes misunderstand what I am seeing and thus remember something that did not happen as I recall it, a subtle point.  I have been known to confuse when something happened, e.g. what year it happened.  It may take a while, but the story of whatever it is I think I saw will become clear eventually and when I find out I will update this post.  ]   

I remember hearing in college that in a socialist society, there will be no racism, sexism or poverty. Even at the tender age of 17 I had a feeling that what I was hearing was total bullshit. But had that idealist speaking at that event said that "Under socialism, and with Marxist Leninist thought, the dialectic process will result in films that are devoted to the class consciousness of the proletariat, therefore the only judgement of a film that will be possible or necessary will be a quantitative measure. The film will by definition be "good", the only question is how much good, and that can be objectively measured by its length or weight".

This is an argument that clearly has merit and we are forced to consider it.

In the world of Science Fiction cinema, for many years there were only a few films that could be taken seriously by an elitist film snob, and I promise you that did not include "It Came From Outer Space", even though that worthy 1953 film was released in 3D which as we all know is a very essential quality of any important film made today, or in *any* period of the history of the cinema.

No, there were only a handful of films that could be taken seriously by an elitist and that could also be labelled science fiction, which was and to some extent still is a ghetto devoid of "serious" art as that is judged by those who judge. For example very few, almost no films, which were science fiction could expect to be written up in Cahiers du Cinema. But first among those would be Solaris (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Was Tarkovsky inspired by the great film "It Came From Outer Space"?

Solaris (1972) was the instant darling of the intelligentsia. Anything by Tarkovsky was, of course, but Solaris was acknowledged to be a world class masterpiece by all who saw it.  Sadly, very few outside Moscow, Berlin or Paris were able to see it.   In only a few years, a very short period of time by the standard of the day, this film did show in two cities in the United States, New York and Los Angeles.  I attended what was either the Los Angeles premiere or within a few days of that in its first run at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.

And yet, I can tell you that many people who think they have seen this landmark film have not done so. They have been fooled, fed an inferior product by well-meaning but fundamentally misguided individuals who have fallen from the Sociallist path. Many who think they have seen Solaris have actually seen the George Clooney remake. Yes, the film is so fabulous that it has earned its own remake, a true Hollywood compliment.

But no, you say, you actually saw the Tarkovsky original. Perhaps. How do you know that you really saw the Tarkovsky original? Can you objectively judge whether you saw the original, or some degraded lesser form designed for the corrupt American market which is so very concerned with the number of showings they can get of the film in a day?

I am just going to walk around in a big circle until I die !

Perhaps instead of seeing the original Tarkovsky film, you instead saw the pathetic worthless 2.5 hour version. No? I am glad to hear that, it would not be possible to squeeze Tarkovsky into 2.5 hours any more than we could squeeze our consciousness into 800 polygons.

Well, then perhaps you saw the appalling travesty that was the 4 hour version that toured the United States, that center of artistic compromise? And you think you should be proud of yourself for seeing this? Don't be so proud; what you saw was a very shortened version made for the kiddie market and others of short attention span.

I see, you perhaps saw the very limited run of the 6 hour version of this ultimate masterpiece? I am sorry to break this to you, but essential, even fundamental elements of the actual film were left out, to accomodate the need for Capitalist pacing and to compete with action adventure films starring Bruce Willis.

Can you say boring?   Ok, now say boring for 8 hours.

Sadly, we must laugh at the futility of those who saw these shortened versions, for they have not truly seen Tarkovsky's vision. What those of us present in Los Angeles and New York saw was the full, complete masterwork of 8 hours, untouched, unbroken, perfect, not a single frame of film removed which would have immediately and completely destroyed the aesthetics of this Socialist masterpiece!

What an experience it was.  Yes, even though it was in 1976 I can remember every moment of it. Totally captivated by the filmmakers mastery of technique, I was spellbound in tingly anticipation that at any moment something might happen, something, anything, might happen.   Please, could something please happen?   Perhaps some wild action such as an actor making a cup of coffee?  Anything, please, I don't care, please God make something happen in this movie!  Solaris had not less than 10, perhaps as much as 15 minutes of action jam packed into those 8 hours.   Compared to Tarkovsky, I thought, an Ingmar Bergman film would seem like one mad car chase after another.

I thought I was going to die of boredom.  This is your great intellectual Science Fiction masterpiece?, I thought to myself in the lobby, slamming down bad liquid caffeine and chocolate brownie units, trying desperately to stay awake.   Give me a one-eyed slime monster any day of the week, at least it isn't pretentious, just cheap.    

In terms of quantitative social realism, although I do not have the official numbers, we can say that this 8 hour masterpiece of the proletarian dialectic was so good that it measured not less than 13,167 meters in length and weighed not less than 97.956 kilograms thus proving Tarkovsky was a true friend of socialism!

I now have the exciting news that online friends of socialism and Tarkovsky may watch this masterpiece online: 

Solaris (1972) on IMDB
It Came From Outer Space (1953) on IMDB

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Pakistani Independent Commission Report on the Bin Laden Raid

[revised 7/15/2013]

When the US attacked the compound in Pakistan and killed Bin Laden, it of course set off a tsunami of shit inside Pakistan.   Apparently that one 90 minute action touched on every insecurity and annoyance that the people of Pakistan have about us, the United States, and their government with its ongoing controversies between civilian and military administration.  To address some of these issues, they set up a commission made up of a senior justice and a former military officer among others, and they went around talking to people and trying to answer in written form what could be concluded about what happened and to make recommendations to see that such things did not happen again.

The last time such a commission had been formed was in the aftermath of the partition of East and West Pakistan (e.g. Bangladesh) which was understandably incredibly traumatic for Pakistan.  That this incident should even be seen in that light is itself remarkable, I think, from our point of view.  We wanted to kill Bin Laden, sure, and we had good reason to want to do so as secretly as possible given the situation, but I am sure there was no intent to spark an existential crisis, but apparently we did.

There was no time limit on their work.  They could request to talk to anyone in the country at any level of the government that they wanted to talk to.  The Commission recommended that the report be made public and issued in English and Urdu.

But when the report was finished, it was not made public nor did everyone who the Commission requested to meet for their research agree to meet with them.

But last week, Aljazeera leaked the full document in English, minus apparently one page.   It is quite long, it is somewhat comprehensive, yet it is an easy read.   By skipping around things of no interest to you, you could read it in a few hours.   It has moments of humor (I guess this depends on your point of view) and it certainly has a lot of interest to recommend it.

As part of a remedial or refresher course in modern civics for the responsible adult, this is an excellent primary source on how other people in the world, or at least one group of respected individuals acting in an official capacity of another country see us.

The document is available at, at the following link.

Time Magazine has an article on the release of the report here:

Here are my notes having read most of the document but not yet the Appendices. 

1. The raid on Abbottabad seems to have been or perceived to be a humiliation for Pakistan which is far greater than it might have seemed to an American observing events.   To us, obviously, somehow Bin Laden managed to hide in plain sight in Pakistan, as we suspected all along, we found him, and we killed him.   But to them it raises issues of incompetence in civilian and military infrastructure at all sorts of levels, including their failure to find him, but also their failure to repel the Americans, the "betrayal of trust" between the two countries, and the presumption of vast penetration of the country by the CIA which is presumed to be hostile to Pakistani interests.  (1) 

2. The report seems to veer from intelligent and sober to emotional and paranoid.   At various times in the document phrases like "night of shame" serve to remind the American reader how powerfully this event shook their sense of pride.  The American raiders are referred to as "the murderers" for example, which seems a little off to me in the circumstances, and the question is asked why the army and the air force did not respond in time to kill the invaders.   Note, not stop the invaders, but kill them, outright, period.

3. Their is an implicit sense of a meltdown in Pakistan civilian administrative structure.  It is taken for granted that various elements of the local and federal civilian infrastructure failed in various ways, either through being understaffed, underfunded, insufficient training, corruption or incompetence. There is the sense that the military and intelligence arms of the government pushed the civilian law enforcement arm out of the way and that the civilian arm could not "carry out their responsibilities" and failed to respond to the event.  The report seems to indicate significant sensitivity to the issue of the competence of the civilian side of government, which makes sense in the context of what little I know about Pakistani history.

4. The report and the Commission seems to be obsessed with the assumption of "massive CIA penetration of Pakistan".    As Steven Coll's book on the history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan refers to, there seems to have been a very clear sense of concern about outsiders in Pakistan operating legally or illegally.   What is odd about this from my obviously US point of view, is that Pakistan is porous to tribal and criminal elements.  But the idea that extra visas might have been issued and that there is an assumed "vast CIA penetration of Pakistan" seems to be of immense interest to the Commission.   One gets the impression that there is a behind the scenes and varying agreement about what the CIA is and is not allowed to do in Pakistan but that they do not tell their citizens about this agreement who quite probably would not tolerate it.

5. There is a lot of good anecdotal information about the attack that is fascinating if somewhat contradictory at times.   We get good reports from the wives of Bin Laden and the wives of one of the two brothers who were his bodyguards.   And we get an insight into the lives of Muslim women in Pakistan.   We get genuinely new and contradictory evidence about what crashed when, and whether we did put people on the roof or not, how many helicopters when, and whether we had people who cut the power to that part of town at just the right time or whether that was one of their normal blackouts.

6. The Commission report makes the strong statement, several times, that there is no basis for a strategic relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and pretending that there is just causes misunderstandings on both sides.  If this was acknowledged, and that instead it was recognized that we had limited mutual interests and made public and formal agreements to achieve those limited interests, then everyone would be much happier, they say.  

7. The Commission believes that there is no evidence that official elements of the Pakistan government were shielding Bin Laden, but they agree that they can not rule out that unofficial elements might have been.  They attribute his success at avoiding notice to an extremely low profile combined with the near total meltdown of Pakistani infrastructure (to do such things as verify identity cards, approve housing construction, etc).

8. The major theme of the report was on the relationship between the civilian and military sectors of the Pakistani government.   This is not something I would have predicted before I read the report, it seems to be of overwhelming importance to the commission.

Its definitely worth reading.


1. In other words, even if they are correct about vast CIA presence in Pakistan, I would presume that they would be there as part of our joint Pakistan-US interests in that part of the world.   In other words, they should not apriori be assumed to be against Pakistan interests, at least not involving any of the issues we are discussing in this report or essay.  Are we not fighting a war together?  Are we not pouring in billions of dollars a year into Pakistan both directly and indirectly?  There is a whole other dynamic between the two countries and that involves Pakistan as a nuclear power.   This issue and the complicated relationship between the two countries because of this issue is never mentioned in the report.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Some Issues with Hiring More Experienced People

[in progress 7/9/2013]

I apologize.  I wanted this essay to be much more sarcastic and biting and self-deprecating, but it just has not come out that way.  It is mostly just serious and with a little sarcasm about American industry and the importance of lying to workers to motivate them.   Maybe the essay will evolve into something more vicious later, with time.

In America, ageism is everywhere.   And American industry is very ageist in its hiring policies.   But are there potentially good reasons for this discrimination?  Is there perhaps a dark side to hiring an older, more experienced worker, one with a reputation in the field, and a style and name that goes along with it?  Are there genuine good reasons to stay away from such people?

Yes, there are such reasons and we know that a priori because in America the actions of business are the leading indicators of right and wrong in our society and they are certainly ageist.

In America, the company is always right because the company is endowed with the test of efficiency in a perfectly competitive market.  Therefore if the company is ageist in their hiring practices, as nearly all of them are, then it has to be for a good reason.  Anything that the company does not want to do, e.g. hire older and more experienced workers,  must ipso facto be inefficient and lead to the destruction of America and its way of life.  It is up to us to explain why ageism is the right thing by examining the case studies provided us by industry.

Technically, ageism in hiring is against the law.  But the law is deliberately written to make this impossible to enforce and so practically there are no serious legal impediments to discrimination on the basis of age.

It is commonly said that older workers are not hired because they are more expensive.  I don't think so, I think that the older and more experienced but out of work professional will absolutely compromise on salary compensation without a moment's hesitation if it meant getting a serious position for a serious company that allowed him or her to do their work, whatever that may be.

But there *is* a dark side with hiring older, more experienced workers.   In some ways, an older worker can be like a disease that contaminates the corporate ethos, and may unconsciously or consciously undermine the esprit de corps that the corporation is working so hard to establish.

Here are some of the ways in which having an experienced worker can cause problems.  

1. Its harder to lie to a more experienced worker.

Go team, this will change the world! Burn yourself out and you will be recognzied for your achievement and establish yourself! But the older worker is living proof that this is a bad strategy.  These workers *did* burn themselves out, they did do groundbreaking work, and they didn't get shit for it, nor are they the least bit recognized for their achievements after a few years. As we say in Los Angeles, that and $3.50 will buy you a decaf espresso in this town.  Thus the older worker may act as an impediment when the time comes to lie to the workers and exploit them because that worker is a living example of what their fate may be.

2. The older worker is by their very nature a failure, and failure is hard to have around.

We want a rah, rah, don't think just do as you are told culture here. Part of that culture has to be the belief that what the worker is doing will lead to their success, ultimately. Sure they may not own any of the upside of their work, being disenfranchised workers in the classic sense, but ultimately, the story goes, this effort will lead to their fame and fortune, trust me. But the company will eventually go under, as most of them do, or be acquired and under new management, as the rest of them do, or had layoffs as all of them do. And all but a few ended up with their paycheck and that is it. People who DID good work and took care of people, and then just got fucked and discarded and had to find a job. Well that person is not only a failure in the eyes of America, but even worse, it is possible that the younger workers would realize that the career path they are on may very well lead to the same result. Well, that is not a good way to get people to mindlessly and enthusiastically do as they are told.

3. Older workers bring a history with them.

Good or bad, older workers have done things in their life.  That means they know people, and some people like them and usually some people don't.   And people are competitive, and frankly, some people are just fucking crazy.  But when you hire an older worker you also hire a person who has a network of people in the field who have made up their minds about the person you have hired.  Maybe it would be better to just hire a new person who has no history and keep things simple.

4. Older workers bring other company cultures with them.

Corporate culture is real.  Building a culture is critical to building a company.  If someone does not fit in, possibly because they have done things differently in other companies, then that person may represent an obstacle to building the culture you desire.    Better to hire someone with little background, they will be easier to indoctrinate into the company way.

5. The older worker may expect, stupidly, to be able to learn from their experience.

We are told such stupid things as we are growing up "he never made the same mistake twice". I am here to tell you today that I have been compelled to make the same mistake over and over again because I had no choice, it was either take the job or not. But the more experienced worker, innocently thinking that it is part of their life and work to be able to learn from their mistakes, may not realize that no one wants to fix the problem.  Telling your management what you have learned and about a way to proceed that you think is better, or about what the problems are with their approach is exactly the wrong thing to do.    You may never be forgiven.    It will either annoy them because their tiny ego can not stand being wrong about something, or it will annoy them because they knew that already and they want you to shut up and do it their way, or it will annoy them because they do not understand a word of what you are talking about and that scares them.

So hiring a younger worker is much better, they have no experience to mention and therefore are much more likely to comply and do as they are told, which brings us to our last issue.

6. Younger people are less of a political threat

Maybe if you hire the older worker, who is qualified to be your boss or your boss's boss, something weird will happen and they will end up with your job. Since you know that you are a worthless piece of shit that does not deserve the job you have, this is a real and practical concern.  Of course, you may also be replaced by one of the younger people you hire as well, so it is not clear what this buys you.

In conclusion, it seems clear that the younger worker will be more pliable, have less history, and won't try to tell you how to do your job.   The answer is clear.   One should hire younger workers, burn them out, then discard them so that they can go away to live the rest of their life in misery and poverty.

That is the American Way.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Where Will The Poor Go to Get Their Daily News Fix ?

As a member of the poverty stricken lower classes, I am not considered eligible to read the news of the great elite online news media. The NY Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, they all permit scum like me to see a few articles a month and then we are cut off unless we pony up the big bucks. Well, ladies and gentlemen of the press, when you are on food stamps, its hard to see putting out $200-400 US per year for the NY Times, or $180 per year for the Washington Post Digital Edition, or the $275 per year for the Wall Street Journal Digital Edition.

This move to charging for Internet services greatly impacts my ability to waste time while "educating myself on the issues".

Furthermore, it removes another element of sheer time-wasting pleasure, reading the insane and fury-filled comments of the various factions on one side or another on the issues.
America supports coup ! America doesnt support coup ! America destroys freedom ! America doesnt destroy freedom ! Obama plans to force all Americans to turn in their guns and get health insurance ! Illuminati works with Jews to control media ! Online commenters throw foul insults at each other !   Proof that God exists !  Proof that God never existed !   Snarl !  Scream !  Take that ! And that !  Ouch !  You scum !  How dare you !
I am cut off from my sources of entertainment, or is that infotainment, and am forced to slink around to second rate newspapers like the LA Times in order to get my comment fix. Let me tell you right now, the comments on the LA Times are no where near as erudite or interesting or even insane as the ones on the Washington Post web site. They are far down the list.

It sucks to be poor. You can't even waste time on the Internet the way you used to be able to.

From bad to worst, the fate of the poor in America continues to sink into the morass.  They take away our comments, how much more can the poor take before they rise up in armed rebellion?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Concept of the "Perfect" Sequence in Film

[in progress and being revised]

The "Perfect" Sequence

I believe that there is a small subset of the filmmaking oeuvre, a tiny portion of the total amount of finished film that is created, that could be classified "as perfect, or nearly so". By perfect, I mean, that it is inspired, that it rises above whatever limitations the filmmakers may have experienced in their lives or this project and the sequence that results is among their best work, that achieves as it were whatever goals they may have had for that sequence in the context of the larger project.

A "perfect" sequence by this definition is of limited length, it is part of a larger film but it can usually stand on its own. If this is part of a low budget film, then the fact that it is low budget is made to be an asset and not a limitation, at least for the length of the sequence, the filmmakers have transcended the issue and having more money would not have made it any better. It might have even made it worse. A "perfect" sequence may be found in a film that is overall far from perfect, although usually the sequence does make everything better, somehow. A "perfect" sequence must be judged in context, but usually can also stand by itself as a short film.

It is, in essence, a "peak" filmmaking and audience experience, one that is rarely sustained throughout the film, and may be part of a film that is overall successful or not, in other words, both "good" and "bad" films may have these "perfect" sequences. In the genre of the short film, it is generally the entire short film that is "perfect" or nearly so, several music videos by Michel Gondry come to mind. 

When the audience first sees a "perfect" sequence they know it because they are astounded, captivated and it makes them think that it is possible to do good work in this far-from-perfect world.

Generally speaking, ones first impressions of a "perfect" sequence does not change with time. When you see that sequence again you still think that it is an amazing piece of work. But the perception of "perfection" is a subjective one, not an objective one. One persons' "perfect" sequence may be another person's merely enjoyable or well-made scene. There is no absolute perfection that is suggested here, but that it is filtered through the perceptions of the audience, whose response may vary.

Suggested Examples

Consider the following sequences from films as potential "perfect" sequences. At least, they have that affect on me. In a few cases, I am able to point you to a version online.

-- Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), dir by Henry Selick

    The inspired opening number of Nightmare Before Christmas which introduces us to Jack,
    the town of Halloween, its Mayor, the female lead,  and the other characters of the film.

-- Last of the Mohicans (1992), dir by Michael Mann

    The chase through the forest sequence near the end of the film where Hawkeye is running
    to save the life of his friend

-- The Princess Bride (1987), dir by Rob Reiner

    Few movies have even one good sword fight, this movie has two. In the first fight, the
    set is obviously a set, with a painted background, it doesn't matter.

    For a discussion of the aesthetics of sword fights using one of these scenes as an example,

-- Goodfellas (1990), dir by Martin Scorsese

    The continuous steadicam shot where we enter the Copacabana from outside, through the
    kitchen, are seated and see Henny Youngman begin his act.  According to the cinematographer
    in the documentary below, they had 8 takes (which is not that many) and it took less than a
    day to shoot.

-- Apocalypse Now (1979), dir by Francis Coppola

    The 16 minute sequence of the attack of the village, starting with Robert Duvall signalling
    the division bugler to call "charge", through the flight of the Valkyries, the napalm attack,
    and ending with the famous napalm speech.

-- Borat (2006), dir by Larry Charles, National Anthem of Kasakhstan

    This is a very strange movie, with good and bad parts to it, I think. It ends with a fake
    National Anthem of Kazhakstan, which doubles as end credits for the film. Sadly, Fox will
    not permit me to post this piece.  So you will have to see it another way.  Some of the lyrics
    are in note 1, below.

-- Gunga Din (1939), dir by George Stevens

    Considered by many to be one of the great films of a certain era, the sequence where
    Gunga Din climbs to the top of a monument, though wounded, signals "call to arms" at
    the cost of his life is pretty great, as long as you can look beyond the issues of British

They wait to ambush the unsuspecting British... 

The noble and wounded Gunga Din climbs to the top of a monument to issue the bugle call "Alert! To Arms!"

The British are alerted in the nick of time !  They fall back, then the Sikhs charge ! 

-- Orpheus (1950), dir by Jean Cocteau

    One of the great uses of optical printing for non-realistic purposes, the hero, Orpheus, is
    taken to the afterworld by a guide who is part of the afterworld bueaucracy through a
    landscape that looks eerily like post-WW2 europe (the film was made right after the war)

-- The Godfather (1972), dir by Francis Coppola

    The baptism sequence near the end of the film

-- Dr. Strangelove (1964), dir by Stanley Kubrick

    This film has many "perfect" sequences, but one in particular is "the bomb run", from when
    the B52 approaches the alternate target through the opening of the bomb bay doors and the
    dropping of the bombs.   Most of this sequence is at the following URL, unfortunately do
    technical problems, the last 20 seconds or so are missing, but you get the idea.

    For a different discussion on this and related scenes in the movie, see

-- Let Forever Be (1999), The Chemical Bros, dir by Michel Gondry

    Our token short film / music video. The fabulous sendup of video synthesis in a modern
    context, all faked with sets and real dancers. Genius can be so annoying.

A Greater Significance ?

There may be a further significance of such sequences beyond merely being entertaining and a proof of virtuoso skill on the part of the filmmaker. I wonder if such sequences might not serve to encourage us, to help make better the dreadful reality of our pointless lives and degraded civilization.

After all, it is our lot in life to see corruption and fraud masquerading as government, theft and oppression described as employment, obvious privilege for the elites pretending to be a system of justice. Endless lies and self-satisfied ignorance rewarded while poverty and misery is ignored. The undeserving elevated and the good oppressed.

This is the world we live in and it is, I am told, the best of all possible worlds.

Thus, the argument might go, something that rose above the obvious failure of our society, such a thing would be even more valuable because it would serve as an existence proof that something was worth doing and perhaps encourage us to believe that there was hope for making things better, as unrealistic as those hopes may be.

But I may be investing this concept with too much significance here, it may be nothing more than just good filmmaking.


1. The lyrics of Kazakhstan National Anthem are a little hard to make out, so here is my best translation of the lyrics.

Kazakhstan greatest country in the world
All other countries are run by little girls

Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium!
Other countries have inferior potassium.

Kazakhstan home of Tinshein swimming pool
Its length 30 meter and length 6 meter

Filtration system a marvel to behold
It removes 80 percent of human solid waste

Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, you very nice place!
From plains of Tarashenk to Northern Fence of Jewtown!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Some Background on the History of the 4th of July

Its the 4th of July here in Rancho Rincon del Diablo, the Devil's Place. Hell. A white, right-wing Republican stronghold that complains bitterly of the influx of Hispanics and hates Obama even when he does their bidding, as Obama indeed does most of the time.

At various times, I read in foreign journals, or hear from international friends, or read in books, that Americans can not truly relate to Europe, or understand foreign policy, or any number of things because they are too naive, their history has been too short, they are enthusiastic and youth oriented, this argument goes, but do not have the depth to really understand history and work on the world stage.   Now, it may be that Americans are so ignorant of their own history that this might be true.  In fact, I think so myself most of the time.  But I disagree that America, the United States of America, does not have enough historical depth to understand some of the complicated situations in the world.  I think that it is the case that we are merely lazy and ignorant of our own history.  And I cite as case in point some background here on the 4th of July to support my argument.  

I had believed for many years that the 4th of July was a day to remember and celebrate the American War of Independence from Great Britain. And of course, that famous artillery barrage immortalized in our national anthem: "The rockets red glare, the bombs were fucking bursting in air! Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there". In other words, communications were cut off, but we knew that the fort had not yet been destroyed or surrendered because the artillery bursts illuminated the flag flying over the fort.

Unfortunately, the battle the song commemorates did not take place during the American War of Independence, it took place during the War of 1812.

Nor does the 4th of July celebrate the Declaration of Independence per se.   The 4th of July is actually the date of something that happened before the Declaration of Independence as we know it was written, and before the war that followed it.

Here are some things to know about 4th of July with a spin from someone who grew up in Virginia.

1. The 4th of July celebrates the approval by the 2nd Continental Congress of the Resolution of Independence also known as the Lee Resolution.   This resolution was proposed by a delegate to the Continental Congress named  Richard Henry Lee from Virginia.  It was proposed on June 7, 1776.  The first clause was approved on July 2, 1776 and the other clauses approved in the following months.

Immediately after the approval of the first clause of the Lee resolution, the Continental Congress took up the matter of the text of a Declaration of Independence, which became the document we normally think of when we think of the Declaration of Independence and the 4th of July.

This is the text of the Lee Resolution.
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
Its quite concise isn't it?

There is debate among historians about when the text of the resolution that we think of as our Declaration of Independence was actually written. But those dates all lie within the July 4 - August range. What we actually celebrate on July 4th is the approval of the first third of the Lee Resolution.

2. As mentioned above, the Resolution of Independence had been proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. Lee was a member of one of the leading families of Virginia and many other Virginians were involved in the both the Declaration of Independence and the War of Independence.   It goes without saying, this being America, that the delegates to the Continental Congress were white, male, and generally well off which usually meant landowners.   There were others involved in the revolution who were less well off, and were, for example, craftsmen, but I am not sure if there were any of those who were members of the Continental Congress.   

3. Less than 70 years later, within the living memory of people who were alive when the Lee Resolution was approved, Virginia again tried to escape a government that they found oppressive, whether we like that or not, or whether we understand their reasons or not, or whether those reasons were just by our standards today or not.  The result was about what you would expect for a war that was lost, you know, the usual dead men (over 10 percent of men killed), raped women, starving children, and cities burned to the ground. (3)

4. But beyond this general destruction and misery, there was also a very specific desire to personally punish the losers in order to teach them a lesson and that is where our little story continues.  In retribution against one of the leading families of Virginia, Lincoln's Secretary of War seized without due process, in other words, illegally, the ancestral home of that family in an attempt to punish and impoverish this particular family that, in Stanton's opinion, was guilty of holding true to their values of freedom. Stanton could not abide that and went out of his way to destroy them.   He did this by seizing their land and then ordering the creation of a cemetery on that land, his reasoning being that when the courts or Congress reversed his illegal seizure of property that it would do no good because there would be thousands of bodies on it and those bodies would not be exhumed. His actions were vindictive, illegal, abusive, and he got away with it without any problems.  In America, the law is for the rich and powerful, otherwise the law does not exist.  (1) 

5. In case you had not figured out the punchline of our heartwarming story of patriotism and our devotion to the law in America, the cemetery became known as Arlington National Cemetery, as Arlington had been the ancestral home of the Lee family for generations.

6. Yes, that Lee family, the descendants and members of the family of Richard Henry Lee, whose resolution of independence we celebrate this day.  (2)


The Facebook Page for Arlington House

1. Congress later voted some compensation for the illegal seizure of the land.   Whether or not that compensation was in any way just compensation for the act is debatable.   If you ever visit Arlington National Cemetery, be sure to visit the Lee / Arlington House.

2. Richard Henry Lee was the great uncle of Robert E. Lee.

3. War is hell.   Generally speaking, when a victorious army enters a civilian area, women are raped. Some armies rape more than others, some make a point of it, some try to discourage the practice.  But I doubt that there has ever been a victorious army that didn't rape the women of the defeated as they entered the territory of the enemy.  As for burning churches and schools, the answer is that they do not burn churches and schools.  They burn buildings that happen to be in the line of fire when people are fighting.  As for starving children, well, you see, when you burn the fields that means there is no food around and any food needs to be brought in.  Generally food is made available to defeated populations, eventually, when they get around to it.  As for burning cities, when a retreating army leaves, one of the last things they do is to dispose of ammunition that for one reason or another they can not take with them.  In the case of Richmond, Va. the fire at the armory got out of control and burned the city down.   Whose fault was that?  Hard to say, really.  But the point is, when the war was over, the men were dead, the cities burned, the women raped and the children starving.  As I say, war is hell.