Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's Almost Time for a Lack of College Football!

It's possible you'll remember that, back in March, I imposed a four-game suspension on the Oregon Ducks football team for off-field shenanigans. And I'm not going to claim that my action alone had any significant sway over the situation, but it's more than a little interesting that Athletic Director Mike Belotti resigned the very next day after the University received my message. Again, I'm not claiming that my sanctions were the only factor in his decision.

Anyway, August is here, so the provisions of the sanctions now go into effect. To refresh your memory:
->The Suspension will cover the first four games of the 2010 Season, including three pre-season games (vs. New Mexico, Tennessee, and Portland State*) and the September 25 Pac-10 opener against Arizona State.

->While the program is under suspension, I will not attend, watch a telecast of, listen to a radio broadcast of, or read media accounts of their four games. I will, furthermore, not care whether the Ducks win or lose.

->I will not wear any of my University of Oregon licenced sportswear, nor my green and yellow tie-dye t-shirt, from August 1 until October 1, the end of the suspension period.

->During the suspension period, I will abstain from discussing Ducks football with friends, acquaintances, and coworkers, explaining if pressed that this is a condition of the suspension of fandom.
I'll begin the day Monday by removing the University of Oregon banner from my workspace back at the office. And from then to October 1st, my official take on the Pac-however-many-teams-we've-got-now will be:

Go Beavers!

Just wanted to keep you in the loop.

* It is possible I might check in on this one in my capacity as a mild Portland State fan.

Friday, July 30, 2010

More Movies: Frost/Nixon

At the Movies with Michael5000

Ron Howard, 2008

Ebert: 4 Stars
Rotten Tomatos: 92%

My Official Preconception: "A dramatization of the Frost/Nixon interviews. I saw a trailer for it! It looked very tedious!"


As it turned out, the trailer I saw included all of the key moments of the film, focusing on the dramatic revelations, so my preconception was fairly accurate. A movie based on a play that was in turn based on a series of conversations, Frost/Nixon is nothing if not talky. And although I am certainly not going to condemn a movie just because it doesn't blow up helicopters for me, I'm also a big fan of events that unfold and situations that develop in my narrative entertainment. So although I can certify that this is a pretty good film -- and in particular, that it was magnificently acted -- it is, yes, a bit on the tedious side.

What I admired most about Frost/Nixon is its gesture towards the Shakespearean tradition of historical drama, in which the lives of kings were adapted for a sort of civics-based entertainment. Since Nixon was functionally an American king, or thought he was -- hence the troubles at the end of his, um, reign -- he is a great vehicle for the neo-Shakespearean treatment. (He makes good opera, too -- John Adams' Nixon in China is one of the most successful operas in the last twenty-five years.) And in the Shakespearean tradition, the principal characters are given some terrific soliloquies. Some are taken more or less from the historical record (I checked):
I let them down. I let down my friends, I let down my country, and worst of all I let down our system of government, and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but now they think; 'Oh it's all too corrupt and the rest'. Yeah... I let the American people down. And I'm gonna have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life. My political life is over.
...whereas some are obvious fabrications, although no worse for that:
Nixon: That's our tragedy, you and I Mr. Frost. No matter how high we get, they still look down at us.

Frost: I really don't know what you're talking about.

Nixon: Yes you do. Now come on. No matter how many awards or column inches are written about you, or how high the elected office is, it's still not enough. We still feel like the little man. The loser. They told us we were a hundred times, the smart asses in college, the high ups. The well-born. The people whose respect we really wanted. Really craved. And isn't that why we work so hard now, why we fight for every inch? Scrambling our way up in undignified fashion. If we're honest for a minute, if we reflect privately, just for a moment, if we allow ourselves a glimpse into that shadowy place we call our soul, isn't that why we're here? Now? The two of us. Looking for a way back into the sun. Into the limelight. Back onto the winner's podium. Because we can feel it slipping away. We were headed, both of us, for the dirt. The place the snobs always told us that we'd end up. Face in the dust, humiliated all the more for having tried. So pitifully hard. Well, to hell with that! We're not going to let that happen, either of us. We're going to show those bums, we're going to make 'em choke on our continued success. Our continued headlines! Our continued awards! And power! And glory! We are gonna make those motherfuckers choke!
This second speech, a fictional drunken phone call from Nixon to his interviewer David Frost's hotel room, is the fulcrum of the film's narrative. The story of Frost/Nixon is that of two highly ambitious, highly intelligent men, each suffering in a kind of obscurity and disgrace. They regard each other with a growing respect, but enter their interview sessions as a sort of personal combat from which only one can emerge a victor, at the expense of the other. In the film, Frost goads Nixon into a confession of criminal wrongdoing and emerges triumphant, while Nixon slouches off to obscurity in his seaside California mansion.

Well, Shakespearean history isn't big-H History, of course, and we shouldn't expect Frost/Nixon to be either. Yet we do, somehow. That the movie is framed as an early-1980s documentary (why?) doesn't help. And because of its pretense of veracity, the film's success has probably warped our collective memory for a generation or so.

Here's something closer to the truth: David Frost was between jobs, but widely respected as a intellectual talent who would give Nixon a run for his money. He did not, in point of fact, wrangle any significant confessions from Nixon; the movie implies he did only by carefully cutting and splicing the interview transcripts. Nixon used the interviews, and a meticulously fine-tuned expression of confession-free regret, to set the stage for the partial rehabilitation of his reputation, an entirely remarkable achievement of public relations executed against overwhelming odds. Both men gained enormously from the interviews. And both men laughed all the way to the bank (Nixon got a substantial cut of the net, something the movie interestingly leaves out of its long treatment of the contract negotiations).

A few rankling details: In this movie about two men and their male advisers, I wince at the inclusion of The Girlfriend, a character whose frail narrative purpose is to demonstrate Frost's charm but who mostly just wanders around looking pretty. Similarly pointless is Kevin Bacon's character as Nixon's chief of staff, played rather ridiculously as a fawning Smithers to Nixon's Mr. Burns. Shakespeare would have at least made these minor characters proper bumpkins and given them some naughty puns and pratfalls.

Prognosis: * * *

Seized by a sudden desire to give stars, I'll give it 3 out of 4. Worth watching, but have some handwork ready for the slow bits. And although it's possible it might tell you something True, don't assume it's telling you anything true.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arbitrary Travel, meet Fitness Kick! Fitness Kick, meet Arbitrary Travel!

So I used Google Maps -- which is a pretty good maps -- to construct both an image copy and a paper copy of this map of the City of Roses' "Inner Southeast" and adjoining areas. The area I'm after stretches from the river (meaning the Willamette River, to you outsiders) to I-205, and from I-84 to south to Holgate Street. Castle5000 is very roughly in the center of this area.

Except, the image is actually at this scale, because of course I need to be able to see the individual streets. Here's a detail centered on Lone Fir Cemetery, where Mrs.5000 & I recently completed an excellent geohashing expedition!

...and I need to see the individual streets, of course, because -- do you see what's coming? -- I need to mark them off as I run them. All of them.

As of this writing, I've gone running exactly twice "on the map," as it were, and it's interesting to see the unintended consequences of my decision on my behavior. For one thing, I found myself doing little detours down to the end of dead-end streets (which I ordinarily avoid, for obvious reasons), because hey, I'm going to have to take care of them at some point. Also, I have been running down busy, unpleasant streets to get them out of the way. And as I contemplate going for a run right now, when I finish this post, I'm thinking that I ought to trace a straight line right out to that perimeter and cover some ground there, since the stuff closer to home will pretty much take care of itself over time. In other words, the idea is already having its intended effect, knocking me out of the ruts and sending me into some new streets and unfamiliar neighborhoods.

I'll report back on this project in the quarterly reports.

Set Any New Records Lately?

Why yes! Thanks for asking!

Saturday, the 24th: Longest bicycle ride on the 24th of ALL TIME!!!* (with Mrs.5000)
Sunday, the 25th: Longest run on a 25th of ALL TIME!!!**
Monday, the 26th: Longest run on the 26th, 2o1o!!!***
Tuesday, the 27th: Longest bicycle ride on the 25th of ALL TIME!!!****(with Mrs.5000)
Wednesday, the 28th: A solid run, 7.87 miles -- longest run of ALL TIME on the 28th!!! Also, longest run of all time on a Wednesday. Also, longest run of 2010 to date.

* by virtue of taking a bicycle ride.
** hoo-boy, was that a soft record. Still is, actually.
*** by virtue of going for a run. A good run, though.
**** and I had actually ridden my bike on the 25th before!

Your Thursday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

The Beckman Mill - 1925.

During the 1920s, the Beckman Mill was a highly successful operation serving the needs of area farmers in addition to producing its specialty, "Newark Mills Buckwheat Flour". Completely remodeled in the late teens, the business was operated by Charles and Henry Beckman. Today, the structure is being restored by the Friends of Beckman Mill, Inc., PO Box 74, Beloit, WI 53512-0074.

Provenance: Sent by frequent L&TM5K commenter nichim, June 2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WQ III:9 -- Rock Discography

The Wednesday Quiz -- Season III -- Quiz 9

Rock Discography

The Wednesday Quiz is a "closed-book" test of knowledge and intuition; please do not look up answers, ask others for help, or answer as a team.

Questions about the rules and the ~Fabulous Prizes~ are answered here.


This week, I have selected twelve (12) rock music acts off of a major North American popular culture magazine's list of the 100 greatest such acts of all time! I have provided you with four or five of their album titles -- leaving out most of the dead giveaways, however. For each list of albums, name that rock music act!

Since I have no idea if this is a really hard or a really easy Quiz, we'll just split the 100 points 12 ways and give 8 1/3 points per correct answer. Rock on!
1. Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa, American Beauty, Shakedown Street, In the Dark

2. Between the Buttons, Let It Bleed, Goats Head Soup, Tattoo You, Voodoo Lounge

3. Boy, October, War, Pop

4. Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty, To the 5 Boroughs

5. Freak Out!, We're Only in It for the Money, Uncle Meat, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch

6. High Voltage, Let There Be Rock, Flick of the Switch, Who Made Who, Stiff Upper Lip

7. Hunky Dory, Pin Ups, Station to Station, Low, The Buddha of Suburbia

8. Nashville Skyline, Desire, Slow Train Coming, Shot of Love, Oh Mercy

9. Rocket to Russia, End of the Century, Pleasant Dreams, Subterranean Jungle, Too Tough to Die

10. That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, M.P.G., What's Going On, Midnight Love

11. This Year's Model, Armed Forces, Punch the Clock, Blood & Chocolate, Mighty Like a Rose

12. True Blue, Like a Prayer, Ray of Light, Music
Submit your answers, and a blistering guitar solo, in the comments.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Forgotten Lands: Bahar

It has been more than two years since I finished my initial discussions of The Forgotten Lands in these pages. Since then, further research has allowed me to correct and expand upon the material printed in the original posts. From Bahar to Zagria, the L&TM5K will present over the next several months a second look at these curiously overlooked nations.


Capital: Djiranda
Population: 2,200,000 (1996 estimate)
Area: 54,000 km2
Independence: 1971

Economy: Major exports include Mediterranean agricultural products (grapes, dates, wheat), fish, and some oil. There is a growing industrial sector, of which leading products are glass, machine parts, and sporting equipment. Bahar’s currency, the Baharian lira has been pegged to the Euro since 2005.
Per Capita Income: US$11,530
Languages: English (official), Turkish, Greek, Arabic
Literacy Rate: 77%

A lush, fertile coastal land nestled against the mountains of Asia Minor, Bahar has always been, as Woodrow Wilson observed, “too rich to be free. She is forever coveted by her mighty neighbors” (Greenberg, American Mediterranean Policy and Practice, 1900-1940). Throughout recorded history, Bahar has been subject to a parade of empires: Greek, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, British, French, Italian (during the Second World War), and finally, until 1971, the British again.

Because of this “Colonial Tradition,” and despite four decades of independence, neither the world at large nor many of Bahar’s own citizens are accustomed to thinking of this small nation as a truly sovereign country. Still absent on most modern maps, Bahar is one of only four countries not to host a U.S. diplomatic mission as of 2010. Even within the capital, Djiranda, one sees few national flags or symbols, and “arguments in the tobacco bars and town plazas are more likely to be about the relative merits of football teams or fishing grounds than about national politics” (Fisher, Bahar and the Colonial Tradition).

Djiranda is one of a string of walled, whitewashed towns built up the steep cliffs that rise from the Mediterranean shore. Although modern stores and factories have been built inland, the alleys, plazas, homes, and storefronts within town walls look much as they have for centuries. Few tourists know to look for Bahar, but those who have spent time there typically rhapsodize over the beauty and charm of these ancient but vibrant ports. Djiranda, however, does have the reputation of being a difficult city for the casual visitor to navigate. Lacking the grand public buildings of most capitals – Bahar’s parliament meets in a nondescript office building facing a narrow side street – the city lacks obvious, immediately recognizable landmarks to navigate by.

Wine pressed from the grapes grown on the south-facing slopes of Bahar’s coastal hills has been declared among the world’s best by many leading authorities. Unfortunately, because production is still small-scale and largely structured to supply the domestic market, few enthusiasts have had a chance to sample the products of Bahar’s vintners.

Flag: The three colors of Bahar’s flag are green, white, and black. The green field represents the agricultural underpinnings of Baharian society. The white stripe represents the sea, which Baharians consider to be not blue but clear. The black field, according to government literature, represents “our national mourning for four millennia of imperialist oppression.” When informed of this symbolism by this writer, one typical Baharian shrugged and replied “independent or not, it matters little.”

National Anthem: “Our Freedom We Hold Sacred.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Acquisition & Divestiture

Acquisition: From the basement of the in-laws5000, a set of small plastic figurines representing the U.S. Presidents from Washington to Lyndon Johnson.

These were apparently a childhood, what -- plaything? -- of Mrs.5000. They are perhaps 8 centimeters high, made of a very light plastic, individually painted, and in very well-worn condition. Several Presidents are missing hands or arms that they actually possessed in real life. James Monroe is missing, but there is an extra John F. Kennedy.


Two quilting hoops, a large oval measuring 17" x 27" and a small circle measuring 12".

For those of you who don't know, these hoops are used to keep a quilt stable while you are doing hand quilting. Now, I have recently reached the point of recognizing that there are some things that, no matter how interesting they might be, I don't want or need to accomplish in my lifetime. Becoming a good hand quilter -- or really, doing any more hand quilting at all -- is one of these things. I'm a decent machine quilter, and such I will stay.

If you are a Citizen of Roses, and want these hoops, let me know. Otherwise, they're bound for a free box.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Your Sunday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

Harvest Time

Largest Concord grape growing area in U.S.A. Chautauqua and Erie Counties along the shores of Lake Erie.

Provenance: Gift of frequent L&TM5K commenter Elaine, 2010.

Want a boring postcard from Michael5000? Just ask -- he's got plenty!

The Equal Opportunity (North America) Summer Roadtrip Quiz

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flag Friday XI

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it an "B", 74/100.

Michael5000: The flag of Djibouti does its job of being a recognizable symbol pretty well, taking fairly conventional elements and combining them in a distinctive fashion. This is in part due to the unusual pastel tint of its blue and green fields, and in part to its use of white in the left-hand field -- fields abutting the flagpole are generally darker than the rest of the flag, but that pattern is reversed here. Too, the red star looks a little too small for the space it occupies. So yes, the flag of Djibouti is distinctive and recognizable. But to an extent, it arrives at that effect by looking just slightly, just subtly, not quite right.

Grade: B-


Parsons: "Do not put a picture of a parrot on your flag!" demands Parsons. "(This goes for you too, Guatamala)." For this, and "bad colors," "graven images," and "it being "too busy," he assigns a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: Hmm. It's fussy, it's figurative, and it fails the Betsy Ross test with flying colors. Seven distinct flying colors, to be precise. The three-tone stripes create an inherent asymmetry that I find deeply unsatisfying. And, it's in the long, stretched-out 2:1 ratio. There's not much to love about this flag qua flag, and I could hardly disagree with Parson's "Do not put a picture of a parrot on your flag." However... I will go as far as to confess... he's kind of a cute parrot...

Grade: C-

Dominican Republic

Parsons:Without comment, he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Without comment? Really? Because, although Parsons and I are generally on the same page regarding fussy figurative detail on flags, I'm usually a little more flexible and forgiving. But the flag of the D.R. is pretty egregiously fussy. The white cross through blue and red fields are, sure, terrific. But that bit in the center! Here's a description, from the Wiki:
A small coat of arms featuring a shield with the flag design and supported by a bay laurel branch (left) and a palm frond (right) is at the center of the cross; above the shield, a blue ribbon displays the national motto: Dios, Patria, Libertad (God, Fatherland, Liberty). Below the shield, the words República Dominicana appear on a red ribbon (this red ribbon is depicted in more recent versions as having its tips pointing upward). In the center of the shield, flanked by three spears (two of them holding Dominican banners) on each side, is a Bible with a small cross above it and said to be opened to the Gospel of John, either to chapter one or chapter 8, verse 32, which reads Y la verdad nos hará libre (And the truth shall make you free).
Heavens. This would be a preposterous level of detail for the flag as a whole, let alone for the little patch in the center. If you've got such specific flourishes in your design that they are not visible to the naked eye -- the Bible is "said to" be open to a special verse? -- it's safe to say they are not contributing to the overall effect. Purely conceptual elements in a flag design are not going to help you rally to your side on a chaotic battlefield.

Do not put a Bible flanked by three spears and topped by a small cross on your flag! And don't YOU get any ideas, Guatemala!

Grade: D

East Timor

Parsons: Dr. Parsons was either writing before, or using a list compiled before, 2002, the year that East Timor joined the happy community of recognized states.

Michael5000: The flag of East Timor, which if memory serves is still our youngest country, is distinctive, highly visible, and satisfyingly flaggy. It very nicely pulls off the trick of distinguishing itself from the other 200-odd flags without leaving the tradition of easily made, easily recognized whole-cloth banners. Two complaints, however -- the East Timorans, like the good people of Dominica, have made the unfortunate choice of the 2:1 ratio (at least officially, anyway; I believe most 2:1 flags are generally corrupted in general use into something closer to the more comfortable 5:3 ratio). Secondly, somebody seems to have gone to a great deal of trouble to establish that the star is rotated so as to not conform to any obvious symmetry. That drives me a little crazy.

Grade: B


Parsons: "The Colombian flag was not very good to begin with, fine effort from Ecuador making it worse." Charging "plagiarism," that it has "graven images," and that it's "too busy," he assigns a "C+", 64/100.

Michael5000: Sigh. We might as well start with the "plagiarism" bit. Yes, the flag of Ecuador is similar to those of Colombia (which Parsons calls "original") and Venezuela. Behold:

This shouldn't be too surprising, though, seeing as how they used to be three parts of the same country. Nowadays we call it Gran Colombia, but at the time (1819-1831) it was just "Colombia," a loose federal state that eventually got so loose that Ecuador and Venezuela calved off as independent countries. All three remnants of Gran Colombia took that country's flag as the starting point in coming up with their own banners, and there you have it. Their flags look similar, just as you'd expect. History is not plagiarism.

Now then, what of the "graven images" and "too busy" accusations, applied to a simple tricolor? It is not, as it might at first appear, an instance of good Dr. Parsons neglecting his medication, nor do I think it is his reaction to the Dominican Republic's issues, applied to Ecuador due to a compositor's error. No, I think that Parsons must have realized -- despite using a graphic of the plain civil flag on his website -- that Ecuador is one of several Latin American countries where the more elaborate state flag is in common use.

...and while it is certainly handsome -- I think the primary colors of the Gran Colombia flags look pretty sharp against a clear blue sky -- it is certainly as fussy as any flag burdened with an official seal.

Photographic evidence suggests that there are quite a few Ecuadoran flags that have had the state seal sewn onto only one side of them. You can tell, for instance, that there is a seal lurking on the reverse side of this one:

Which is pretty cool, in a flag-geeky sort of way: it yields a banner that is a state flag on one side, and a civil flag on the other. Two for the price of one!

I gave the flag of Colombia a B+. Essentially the same, but like Dominica and East Timor stretched into the elongated 2:1 ratio, Ecuador gets a...

Grade: B

Thursday, July 22, 2010

MapBookFest IV: The Map as Art

In which I look at the fourth of the four books covered in Steven Heller's March 7 New York Times review of books about maps.

Katharine Harmon is the editor of the fabulous 2003 collection of map-related art called You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, so it comes as no surprise that The Map as Art is also a strong and well-curated collection.

Where the earlier title encompassed both vintage and current mappy art, however, the newer volume focuses strictly on work by contemporary artists.

There is much to like here, and readers who have caught on to my taste for the arbitrary and whimsical will not be surprised that I have a special fondness for Jerry Gretzinger's randomly generated cartographic empire.

For a book titled The Map as Art, however, it contains quite a few works that stray pretty far into only vaguely mappish abstractions or pieces that, although related to the environment or to place, don't really have much to do with cartography per se. This makes it, on the whole, less appealing to the map geek than You Are Here.

Of course, it is always exciting to recognize the lineaments of the City of Roses!

And there is, to be sure, plenty of cool stuff!

Do I have a personal favorite from the book? Why yes, I do!

...and thus ends the MapBookFest series. Thanks to KarmaSartre for pointing out the Stephen Heller article to me.

Your Thursday Boring Postcard from Michael5000


Provenance: Gift of L&TM5K reader Thom J.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WQ III:8 -- Let Us Now Praise Defunct Corporations

The Wednesday Quiz -- Season III -- Quiz 8

Now Let Us Praise Defunct Corporations

The Wednesday Quiz is a "closed-book" test of knowledge and intuition; please do not look up answers, ask others for help, or answer as a team.

Questions about the rules and the ~Fabulous Prizes~ are answered here.


Into the heady world of finance and industry this week, as we remember ten corporate giants that had what it takes to get ahead in business -- and then didn't.

For each capsule description, name that company!
1. Easily the largest oil company in the world, it was broken up into a number of smaller companies -- including, nowadays, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips -- after the Supreme Court found it guilty of antitrust violations in 1911.

2. A major automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana, it went out of business in 1967.

3. Based in New York, it was one of the leading and most prestigious airlines in the world from the 1930s until shortly before its collapse in 1991.

4. The Sperry and Hutchinson company, a remnant of which technically still exists, ran an extremely popular program that, by some estimates, 80% of American households were participating in during the 1960s. The popularity of the program plunged after the 1970s. What, in two words, was the Sperry and Hutchinson product?

5. Famous for its lunch counters, this discount retail giant was the largest department store chain in the world as late as 1979. It went out of business in 1997, although its corporate sucessor still operates The Foot Locker chain of shoe stores.

6. One of the most prominent of many flash-in-the-pan internet-based companies of the late 1990s, this pet food and supply company raised $82.5 million dollers in a February 2000 stock offering before entering bankruptcy in November, um, 2000.

7. An energy and natural resources company based in Houston, Texas, sustained largely by a corporate culture of fraud, corruption, and predation, it went out of business in 2001.

8. A Chicago-based catalog merchandise and department store chain, at one time a leading U.S. retailer and the principal competitor to Sears, Roebuck and Co. It closed its catalog business in 1985, and closed its last store in 2001.

9. A New York-based investment bank and brokerage, it became well known to the general public after its initially very profitable trade in securitizing high-risk mortgages became suddenly very unprofitable. It collapsed and was essentially given to a competitor, JP Morgan Chase, in 2008.

10. A Richmond, Virginia company, it was one of the largest electronics retailers in the United States right up to its bankruptcy in 2008 and subsequent dismantling in 2009.
Submit your answers in the comments!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Summer Road Trip Quiz

A little non-canonical, no-points-at-stake quiz for you UnitedStatsians with a taste for domestic travel.

Which state are these highways in?

Submit your answers in the comments!