December 29, 2009



December 25, 2009

Brighter discontent

The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others' burdens, easing other's loads, and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holiday. ~ W.C. Jones
Merry Christmas

December 22, 2009


snowball fight in times square
Big snow on the East Coast. Check out this fantastic photo set from Times Square.

December 20, 2009

Brasato alla Culinaria

Culinaria, North Wilmington's finest restaurant, offered up a delicious meal last Friday. I'd call the flavors Continental/Asian (emphasis on Italian/Indian), the food is creative and simple.
  • Braised Calamari : Crostini : tender and flavorful
  • Cilantro-Curried Chicken : Cucumber Salad : Broccoli Rabe
  • Sweet-Curried Salmon : Jasmine Rice : staple entrée
  • Braised Oxtail : Fresh Trofie Pasta : a bit salty, but very good
  • Côtes du Rhône : tasty-nothing great, went well with the food
We all agreed, top meal yet from Culinaria (sans camera, sorry no photos).

December 16, 2009


Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in Charlie Wilson's War, a 2007 film based on the non-fiction book of same title. Charlie Wilson was a U.S. Congressman at the time of the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan. He played a pivitol role in securing funding for the CIA's covert backing of the mujahideen in their struggle against invading Russians.

Charlie Wilson's War

The following review, found on the New York Times website, encapsulates some relevant thoughts (albeit, dated by its critique of the Bush administration and mention of 2008 presidential candidates):

Charlie Wilson's Zen Lesson
JANUARY 21, 2008

Two messages are appended to the end of "Charlie Wilson's War," the artful Hollywood film about a hedonistic Texas congressman who in the 1980s raised covert funding for the Afghan mujahideen from $5 million to $1 billion, thereby helping to drive the Red Army out of Afghanistan and precipitate the implosion of the Soviet Union. An explicit moral of the movie comes from the real-life Wilson, who lamented that America did the right thing in Afghanistan but messed up "the endgame." Today there can be little doubt that Washington's brusque loss of interest in the fate of Afghanistan after the Soviets' withdrawal was a calamitous error.

But it is the second, more philosophical message that ought to be at the center of current debate about America's role in the world. This lesson, which the Bush administration has learned all too slowly, teaches the need for humility in those who make America's moves on a global chessboard - a virtue that seems almost totally absent from the patriotic posturing of the presidential candidates.

Toward the end of "Charlie Wilson's War," a CIA officer played by the pitch-perfect Philip Seymour Hoffman cautions the Wilson character (played by Tom Hanks) not to be too sure they have done something glorious. To make the point, he tells the story of a Zen master who observes the people of his village celebrating a young boy's new horse as a wonderful gift. "We'll see," the Zen master says. When the boy falls off the horse and breaks a leg, everyone says the horse is a curse. "We'll see," says the master. Then war breaks out, the boy cannot be conscripted because of his injury, and everyone now says the horse was a fortunate gift. "We'll see," the master says again.

This is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's way of warning against triumphalism. Yes, Afghan suffering at the hands of the Soviet invaders was atrocious, and the Soviets' defeat by Afghan mujahideen armed with U.S. Stinger missiles ought to have been a humanitarian liberation. But the fighting among Afghan warlords that ensued opened the way for the fanatical Taliban to take power, for Al Qaeda to set up terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, for the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, and then for to the Bush administration's global war on terror, whose destabilizing effects are likely to extend far into the future.

In a similar vein, Bush should have foreseen that the invasion and occupation of Iraq could become a strategic gift to Iran; that his pledge to foster democracy in the Muslim world while backing Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan would make America look hypocritical; or that his reluctance to seek a UN Security Council resolution to halt Israel's bombing of Lebanon in the summer of 2006 would inflame anti-American feelings in the Arab world. These are the sorts of unintended consequences a Zen master would expect - and a president must try to anticipate.

The theme of cautioning humility when tampering with global affairs was a bit lost amongst Hollywood gloss intended to appeal to broad market. Another fascinating aspect of the story that was similarly underdeveloped, in my opinion, was the uncomfortable correlation between anti-communist fervor and other forms of fundamentalist zealotry. Julia Roberts' character is a Texas socialite who's whose ultra-right-wing motivations are "phrased religiously." American intelligence agents rejoice at the opportunity to kill communist Russians, echoing the murderous mandate of "death to infidels."

And speaking of marketability, I wonder if the producers of the movie would have considered keeping it on the shelf for an extra year if they knew President Obama would deliver his +30,000 troops speech on December 1st, strategic holiday timing for piggy-back promotion of a film about American involvement in Afghanistan. Anyway, Charlie Wilson's War stands up on a number of levels, and is a good juxtaposition to Osama.

For more on Afghanistan, please visit The author's comments there much more gravitas than my feeble cut-and-paste efforts at synthesis.

December 15, 2009

Bathtub blues

Billy got so sad, dejected
Put on his hat and started to run
Running down the streets
Yelling at the top of his lungs
All I want in this life of mine
Is some good clean fun
All I want in this life and time
Is some hit and run

December 14, 2009


The new mission:
  • clean air
  • safe and sufficient water
  • safe and adequate food
  • safe and peaceful settlements
  • stable global environment

From Basic Environmental Health (via Wrapped in Royal Blue).

December 12, 2009



Screenshot from the 2003 Afghan film Osama. The pictured character is a girl who lives with her war-widowed mother and grandmother in a remote village. Their town is controlled by the Taliban, who, in all their spiritual and material wisdom, have forbidden women to work or even be outdoors without male accompaniment. In order to avoid starving to death, the female family opts for androgyny. The young daughter dresses as a boy to go out and work for food, where she is conscripted into military training. Her new name: Osama, naturally.

It's not the tale of a plucky, resilient heroine who daringly flaunts repressive norms. Rather, this compact movie is a raw, bitter glimpse into the terror and desperation of living under crushing tyranny with no hope of improvement.

If you want the feeling of a punch to the gut, or seek additional fodder for detesting the Taliban, put this stunning film at the top of the queue.

December 11, 2009

By design

Revolution by design and invention is the only revolution tolerable to all men, all societies, and all political systems anywhere.

~ R. Buckminster Fuller, 1965

December 10, 2009

Baize & Bullets

Trip Kings Card Room

This game is super soft. And totally unbeatable.

A new cardroom opened in the area this week. No dark alleys or remote door locks, it's somehow legal, with a large portion of the night's take (from blackjack and the poker rake) going to local charities. They've got an impressive setup - four blackjack tables and four poker tables in the front room, and a tournament area in the back with an additional half-dozen tables. The manager is a slightly spastic former poker boss of Detroit's Greektown casino. The dealers have been professionalish, and the play has been light and easy.

However, the rake is menacingly steep for the $1/$2 No-Limit stakes (10% of each pot up to $6, plus another dollar for a progressive high-hand shenanigan). I'll keep careful tabs on my action there, but I'm pretty sure the hefty rake will eat up most/all of the profitability. Still, it's fun and engaging to be making live poker decisions, and with profits going to charity I can rationalize some investigation.

14 DECEMBER 2009
Four sessions in, the poker report is good, but the atmosphere is disconcerting. There is a woeful lack of security, especially given the club's location and the history of negativity at [granted, underground] cardrooms in the vicinity. The cage has been unattended most of the time, and they have no semblance of procedure when it comes to cashing in and out. Nobody watches the blackjack players or dealers; there's no "greeter" at the door. The place is wide-open, and the clientele got rougher-looking by the night. My stats at $1/$2 NL (including blackjack losses and many tips to the dealers):

1.5hr/+15, 2.5hr/+130, 3.5hr/-60, 3.5hr/+30

By my estimation the club has made about a dollar from me for each dollar I've netted. Essentially, I'm laying 2:1 that I can beat the poker game while tipping generously and simultaneously trying not to get shot.

December 8, 2009

Black and white

abstract expression
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) Jackson Pollock 1950

December 4, 2009

Blue york five

blue york five

December 3, 2009

Black like me

black like me
P.T. Roll

December 2, 2009