jersey shorephotosbestof

January 6, 2004

Here are some pictures from Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey. I also put a larger photo gallery online.

The Asbury Park ruins are really amazing, the old casino now a total wasteland. For a while the carousel building had a small indoor skatepark, but I guess that's gone as well...

I found this page with more photos via Google, and this page of how it used to look along with some quotes and lyrics from Bruce Springsteen, who famously cut his teeth at Asbury Park's "Stone Pony".

--Pier and Fishing Club Building

--Asbury Park Casino Building

--Asbury Park Casino in Ruins

--Top of Old Carousel Building

--Detail from Carousel Window

Note of the Moment
The this ramble on the 1-year relationshipaversary for me and Mo. Criminy, I had forgotten that that had set a record for longest continuous romance in my life. I hope that doesn't bode too poorly for the future.

Site Feature of the Moment
For some reason when I made up my best of kisrael.com lists, I kept the entries that I strongly considered but then rejected embedded in the list I was making. I decided those entries deserved a "second best" set of links, and so the best of page is updated accordingly, and 2003 "best of" and "2nd best of" have both been finished off, with a sad poem and a reindeer's butt, respectively. Also, I added a note of explanation and apology to the front page, just because I'm not sure that "Kirk's Digital Arts and Crafts", which is what those pages are full of, are really the best of kisrael.com.

Hmm. I have probably just exceeded the "gives a damn" quotient for most of my audience. Excelsior!

the light at the lynn shorephotosbestof

August 9, 2005

groove is in lady miss kiergifsbestof

December 31, 2006

Lady Miss Kier in Groove is in the Heart

I spent a few too many hours making these, but it was fun, and "productive" in its way. Mostly I wanted to point out the slinky little move on the right... it's not quite the same without the slide whistle, but you get the general idea...

prelude to 2009photosbestof

January 1, 2009

Hey Happy New Year!

Man, was it brutal out there last night! The cold, the snow, the bitter wind...

There were a small group of anti-Israel protesters at Copley Square in the afternoon:

After some other plans seemed a bit foolhardy, given the weather and traffic, JZ invited me along with him and his girlfriend up to her work, a penthouse office overlooking Boston Common to see the fireworks...

What a view! So odd being at about the same height as the action.

Finally, I just can't resist the allure of novelty glasses, especially since this is the last year they can use the general design (at least not 'til 3000 or so.)

Whatever happens to robot fighting and junkyard wars type shows?
"I realized my day is better when I know what I want from it" - Green Mountain Coffee Ad. Such an anti-zen thought - enjoy what IS
At least the New Year snow is still light and fluffy, easy to shovel. Note to future self: seems like the left side of street has it easier.

faith and science, religion and logic, mythos and logosramblebestof

November 5, 2009

I've been listening to Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God" on audiobook. It takes a lot discipline to listen to stay focused on a non-fiction audiobook, something akin to what you need during meditation.

She asserts repeatedly that ancient peoples had a clear split between Mythos and Logos (an idea first introduced to me in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"). Some cultures had multiple creation myths geared at explaining different aspects of the human experience, and none of them were expected to hold up to a literal interpretation as historic events. The book doesn't really cite evidence, though (at least not the audio version, I don't know if the real thing has endnotes or something) so I'm left wondering if maybe folks were just, you know, gullible back then. I mean, I'm sure some of the hoi polloi took the stories at face value -- I can't believe the question "mommy, did that really happen?" is new, created by our modern culture.

On a friend's private message board, he quoted slain politician Pim Fortuyn's line about "I don't hate Islam. I consider it a backward culture." My response was
I'm starting to think that the the backwardness of any given culture is in direct proportion to the degree the Fundamentalists (be they religious or atheistic, like the commies) hold sway.
And of course one of the traits of Religious Fundamentalism is that it demands to be thought of as scientifically, historically accurate and true. I'm not sure if Literalism is always a requirement, or if some branches of Fundamentalism admit to a poetic reading of parts of their scriptures.

My friend asked me to put my concluding statement on the site's quote board:
Fundies have this brittle need for the Mythos to be backed by Logos, but trying to back Faith with Science is bad for both faith and science.
This is what we see in America today. Evolution really shouldn't be a question... but it's also not an answer, a fact we saw demonstrated by the Social Darwinism and Eugenicist movements.

Of course, non-religious Fundamentalists have the inverse problem of Logos minus Mythos (Man, it's annoying that "Logos" looks like the plural of "logo"). At my UU Science and Spirituality group I said of Dawkins and his crew that I believe them to also be Fudamentalists, the difference is they probably have the facts on their side. But what they need to accept is those facts probably aren't what really matter to the human experience, and science is notoriously bad at showing us how to live, or why.


You know, some of the issue with a Mythos/Logos split is why should anyone believe one thing rather than another? Atheist Fundies seem to be worried that people would start to believe any old thing, which partially explains mockery like The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster... I don't think that's how people actually work, however.

So why do people believe what they believe? Probably because it "feels right" - but what feels right is probably what they're used to, and what they're used to is probably what they grow up with.

(Tangent: in some ways, this is parallel to the kind of accountability that is what attracted me to a rationalistic outlook. I seem to live in subconscious fear of being called to account for why I make certain decisions, like if they went wrong, and just saying "well I went with my gut feeling" might not cut it, even in this hypothetical scenario. Being able to present the logical steps that led to my conclusion, though, seems like a much stronger defense -- even if I was wrong, I put in a good effort, and wasn't "just guessing".)

So is "culturally established" truth inherently suspect? Sometimes I wonder if it isn't like Warhol's "Art is what you can get away with" line, that the demonstrated longevity and strength of a form of Mythos in YOUR culture is a greatly determining factor. (Isn't there some quote from the Dali Lama about how you probably shouldn't try to switch to Buddhism if that's not what you grew up with?) Still, noting that I believed what I believed because I grew up immersed in one religious culture, and that if I had been born the child of an Imam rather than a Sweet Talkin' Son of a Preacher Man I'd most likely be struggling to be as good a Moslem as I had been trying to keep true to Christianity, was a huge blow to my faith, one that I'll probably never fully shake off.

Hmm. Still, it's weird how the Scientific Revolution probably helped inspire so many Christians to insist that their outlook was just as backed by Logos as it was by Mythos, and that leads us to the culture wars this country has today.

The "just" in the phrase "that's just a myth" is a terrible, terrible word. Myths can be True even if they're not true. Can people accept that? Like Bokonon said, as channeled in Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle"
Live by the foma [Harmless Untruths] that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.
Maybe they're doesn't need to be much more to it than that.

You know what description you never want a woman you've slept with to apply to your sexual technique? "Baffling."
--Mary Elizabeth Williams, How not to make love like a porn star
Congratulations to the Yankees. They finally got the team they've been paying for all along...
Q: Why did the tachyon cross the road? A: Because it was on the other side.
-- http://twitter.com/siwisdom
Now John Henry said to the inventor,
"All your tubes don't mean a damn.
All your wires and your circuits
They are just a modern quirk. It's
Never ever gonna beat a Thinkin' Man.
"They are never gonna beat a Thinkin' Man."
--The Thinking Man, John Henry (via http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1769868/posts )
Developer Rant: God damn, I'm so sick of editors that auto-close tags, quotes, curly-braces, and parens. They screw up more than they help.

best ten books of the last decadesmediabestof

(1 comment)
January 6, 2010

So, with a decade of recording what media I've been consuming under my belt, I'm in a position to make top ten lists!

Many of these books were written before 2000... this is just a subjective list based on me first encountering them at some point over the last decade. But I'd heartily recommend any of them to nearly anyone.
  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig. The way this book tries to reconcile the Engineer's View (detailed, analytic) and the Romantic View (general, emotional) and come up with a sense of Quality that is really the heart of Daoism is astounding. It's also a nice and very human and readable story.
  2. Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett. This book I cited again and again. It's a tough read, but I'm still amazed at the solid Western, academic structure it uses to get around to an idea that's fundamentally Buddhist; that there's not as much of a "there there" when it comes to consciousness as we think. (Jeff Hawkins' On Intelligence is similarly thought provoking, and it's idea that the core idea of the mind is "predict and test" is actually more relevant to AI than this, but hey, I can only put ten books on this list... while I'm cheating like this I'd point out that The Mind's I remains the best easy introduction to this kind of thinking.)
  3. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I admit that in high school I ducked reading this book and Cliff Noted my way through it. I came back to it, thanks in part to reading about Charles Schulz' love of it. Now I'm convinced that it might not make sense until you've had a big unrequited love.
  4. The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker. One of my favorite books of the previous decade was Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker, which taught me to stop disrespecting objects just because they're inanimate. This book combines some of that feeling with the thoughtful analysis of Donald Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, and maybe just a hint of "Rainman". Famously it takes place entirely during one man's journey across a mezzanine and up an escalator, but mostly in flashback over the few days prior.
  5. Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, Mil Millington. In some ways not quite as pointed as the website that started it all, this is still one of the funniest books I've ever read. Admittedly men seem to dig this book more than women (even though some of the joy is the male unreliable narrator) and it is that "comedy of embarrassment" that some people don't dig.
  6. Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett. This book is a stand-in for all the Pratchett I discovered and devoured over this decade. In many ways Pratchett is a more thoughtful and emotionally in-tune Douglas Adams. And I think this book is one of the best of the "City Watch" novels; the scene of Vimes defending the Golem was heroism at its most beautiful.
  7. How Can I Get Through to You?, Terrence Real. Recommended by the couples therapist Mo and I went to after the die had already been cast. What I most took away from it is the pattern that happens over and over, where a woman is unhappy with the growth of a relationship but doesn't want to nag, so doesn't say much, and the man is blissfully unaware and satiated, and the woman's discontent build and builds until it explodes, leaving the man stunned and bewildered.
  8. The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac. I guess a small theme on this list is Westerners discovering some of the ideas of the spirituality of the East; and this book has that in spades. It introduced me to the concept that "Comparisons are Odious" - a thought that sounds profoundly unsustainable until you think about it, and realize that it does represent a positive thought, and points to a different way of being in the world.
  9. Jar of Fools, Jason Lutes. I read a lot of Graphic Novels this past decade, and this is quite likely the finest; a very human and warm story, written with a compassionate eye and illustrated with a nicely restrained and clean, formal style.
  10. A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge. The lone sci-fi book to make the list... I actually prefer the same series' A Fire Upon the Deep and how it stretched my mind about possible idea for alien consciousness, but I guess I read that last decade. (Similarly Permutation City is a decent story that plays with the "what ifs" of putting consciousnesses into VR worlds, but I guess I read it farther back than I thought.)
Honorable Mentions: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again shows what a master of the footnote David Foster Wallace was. D.B. Weiss' Lucky Wander Boy explored the mythology presented by video games. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was just some of the Haruki Murakami I met and enjoyed - I can't believe the author was at Tufts when I was an undergrad there, and I totally missed it. Finally, May I Kiss You On The Lips, Miss Sandra? shows that Sandra Bernhard is more than just a pretty face. Err.
someone should do Video Game Hero: you pretend to play games with no real skill in using a rubbish plastic joystick and set to cheesy music

best ten movies of the last decadesmediabestof

January 7, 2010

Hmm- I'm surprised at how much less involved I felt with this list than yesterday's list of books. Anyway, the best ten movies I discovered over the last decade...
  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - this movie never fails to knock me over. Such a great fantasy/sci-fi exploration that poses some really important questions about loss and heartbreak.
  2. Vanilla Sky This movie plays with some of the same themes of broken romance and untrustworthy memory and alternate realities as does Eternal Sunshine... not quite as satisfying, and the Spanish original might be a tad better, but this is the one I saw first.
  3. Amélie - I might just be rewatching this tonight, or at least soon. Such a visually rich movie, and such a pretty idea...
  4. The Cell - another super-saturated, visually stunning work of art, and I'm not just talking J-Lo's backside in a weird muscle-y bodysuit.
  5. True Romance - I admit from here on in, my choices get more uncertain and arbitrary. This film had a lot of sweetness and swagger. My Blender review mentioned how "You're so cool" may just be the modern substitute for "I love you".
  6. Shaun of the Dead - jeez, how doesn't love a good zombie comedy?
  7. Secretary - another romantic film, albeit with some kink thrown in. There's a real tenderness here though.
  8. Voices of a Distant Star an amazing but little-known piece of anime, written, directed and produced entirely by one person. Full of that peculiary Japanese sense of empty space and desolation - despite, or because of, the giant robots.
  9. Juno - alright, I'm running out of truly great films here, but Juno was sweet, quirky, and a lot of fun, with the highschool girlfriend everyone wishes they had had.
  10. Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions - alright, I'm cheating and putting in two, but they were basically one movie, and not as crappy as everyone says. Once upon a time there was a great piece "Matrix: Resolutions" that pointed out how unworkable most of the fan boy preferred explanations were (like, "the Matrix is actually in another Matrix, and so on and so on") but all I can find is this site that takes it all too seriously.

Caffeine is the healthiest substance on Earth. Not only will it not kill you, it'll make ME not kill you.
Cool, hip editors (Notepad++, IntelliJ IDEA) prefer "ctrl-w" to "ctrl-f4" to close windows. Is it more a multiplatform or browser thing?
"Hello, Samaritans ... I've had enough, I'm going to end it all ... I'm going to overdose on these homeopathic painkillers ... I'm going to take one fiftieth of the recommended dose."
-- thefuckestuppest on http://b3ta.com

best ten video games of the last decadesmediabestof

January 8, 2010

The games I most enjoyed over the past decade...
  1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - the series is getting a little repetitive, but I think for sheer hours of enjoyment, these games top the list. GTA4 is in most ways a better game, but Vice City was my first, plus it had helicopters, and captured that 80s "Miami Vice" feel in spades. Man, I love any game with a helicopter. Anyway, the way this series put fun missions over something very like a "living breathing world" that was fun just to tool around in, playing with cars, cycles, and guns... it's hardly topped in all of game-dom. (Also neat how your character is basically the same at the end of the game- it's the player that knows where all the guns and cool things are.)
  2. Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader - I've always been a huge Star Wars fan boy, and honestly it's mostly because of the space ship stuff. This game that came out with the GameCube put you inside an X-wing... and that's all it had to do. The "Battle for Endor" level finale was the first time I saw anything of that scale, with just swarms of TIEs - the classic "There's too many of them!" line came home for the first time.
  3. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction HULK SMASH!!! Captured the crazy kinetic energy of being a superpowered being like nothing I've seen.
  4. Earth Defense Force 2017 - best B-movie game ever, and probably the one I've beaten the most often, usually pairing up with JZ to take on the vast hoards of supersized ants, giant leaping spiders, and walkers straight out of War of the Worlds. I don't know what was more awesome - taking on this absolutely vast AT-AT behemoth (you come to about its little tow) or just destroying one of the more "normal" humanoid (but huge) walkers, only to see its brother trudging through the fiery smoke, guns blazing.
  5. Bangai-O - one of the last hurrahs for the Dreamcast, a game I wrote a full Walkthrough FAQ for, and the pinnacle of what can be done with many, many, many tiny sprites. Plus the whole "wait 'til you're on the verge of lazery death, THEN bust out the massive devastating-offense-is-the-best-defense superweapon" mechanic is superb.
  6. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts - the most recent game on this list. The format is pretty typical, Mario-64 hub world challenges, but the ability to build your own car, copter, boat, plane, hovercraft, jet, bulldozer... and have the mechanics of what you put together really matter, in a cartoon-physics-y kind of way... honestly, it kind of blows LEGO out of the water.
  7. Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident - an online LEGO tie-in, actually, by the sadly shut-down Gamelab. Lego seems to be dropping the game, but it still lives on, like at that link. Another one I made a Walkthrough for - (Junkbot is another great gamelab/LLEGOteamup, that arguably as a lot more to do with actual building, but it didn't grab me quite as much as the SNAFU-meets-turn based strategy of this one)
  8. Fantastic Contraption - another Flash game, this one with a great clever building and physics element. Challenging puzzles, plus the way they made it community based, allowing people to see how others took on the challenges, was great.
  9. WarioWare: Twisted! - the original game introduced the world to microgames, the tiniest bits of gameplay pleasure imaginable, wrapped into continuous trail of challenging fun. Twisted kept up the tradition, with a unique gyro-sensor used in all kinds of imaginative ways - plus the toys and minigames they gave you to unlock were a serious inspiration for my Java Advent Calendar
  10. Jet Set Radio Future - some people still prefer the ground-breaking Dreamcast that basically showed the gaming world what Cel-shading could be. The xbox version raised the bar, making it more kinetic, and (IMO) wisely dumped the fiddly graffiti minigame. The soundtrack was also fantastic, probably more songs from here made it into my iPod than even DDR.
Honorable Mentions:
Two categories of honorable mentoins: also-rans, and multiplayer...

Multiplayer games provide me with many hours of bonding fun with my buds and family - Dr. Mario has risen to prominence, though it's pretty old at this point- but in terms of play this weekend, it plus "Puzzle League" were the go-to games.. Super Monkey Ball 2's Monkey Target is brilliant, the Dogfight is fantastic, Monkey Punch is just pure mayhem, and even the race was a good holdover 'til Mario Kart came out. (Mario Kart being another series not to be sneezed at.) Finally Super Smash Bros Melee took the brilliant middle-school "What if X fought Y" of the orignal and made it kinetic.

Also-Rans: Mercenaries 2 may be the only game to really let me enjoy driving a tank around this generation - lots of little tactical "figure out how to get through this" options with lots of weapons, vehicles, and huge explosions. Crimson Skies was a good prelude to Rogue Squadron, flying an old combat fighter around in an stylish alternate history, where the time between the World Wars was quite different... Super Mario Galaxies was just plain cool Gears of War and Halo both get props for their Co-op modes, one of my favorite forms of gaming.

Finally, how can I forget my own labor of love , JoustPong for the Atari 2600???
All joking - and fears that it cost me my marriage (though that might be mixing cause and effect) aside - this is a great little head-to-head game, as we demonstrated at the New England Classic Gamers tourney we had.
Off to see Monster Trucks in New Hampshire... for real.
Man, monster trucks are LOUD. I like when they use 'em like bulldozers to adjust the rows of car before they roll over them.

takin' care of businessbestof

(1 comment)
November 23, 2011

--Amber helped me lay out what are clearly my best personal business cards ever.

My goal was to make a card people might actually enjoy looking at, and I think the Alien Bill art by Harvey James helped me to reach that goal. (Even if it holds a crease...)

Interesting comparing this one to the designs Dylan, Ranjit, and I came up with almost a decade ago. (Also there was Sarah's take and one I did 5 years before that. And the haiku ones from 2007.)

"Don't hate the Plato, hate the Cave."
"Happy to see the debug buttons survived your code change."
"Oh, really, sorry about that? ...Wait you were being sincere?"
"Well duh! Don't you think irony and sarcasm are getting kinda old and- ...crap, now I don't know if I'm being sincere or not."
--Ben and Me
Cookie Monster explains Occupy. Giant wage inequality and zero value add capitalism are the problems.
No hyperbole to rename Pepper Spray "Chemical Pain Spray" or better: "Torture in a Can". No excuse for use on passive folk.
Does Yiddish have a term for a day when you can't seem to do anything quite right? it seems like it should. ("Yes, for you Kirk, we're calling it 'Wednesday'")

amor fatiramblebestof

February 23, 2016
"Apes don't read PHILOSOPHY!"
"Yes they do Otto, they just don't UNDERSTAND it!"
--A Fish Called Wanda

For a few weeks I've been rolling the concept of "Amor Fati" -- a love of ones fate, the good and the bad -- around in my head, and been finding it comforting and energizing.

The thing is, I find its meaning a little difficult to describe to others, to put into words - and Melissa pointed out that's not a comfortable feeling for me. (Also, it's a little weird that its popularization comes in part of Nietzsche...)

"Amor Fati" is a complementary fit to other part of classical stoicism, with that philosophy's encouragement to divide events into those that you have control over and those that you don't. That's a good start for me, with my deeply embedded need to not let a situation go pear-shaped if I can be a martyr and "save" it. "Amor Fati" somehow completes that; not only can I recognize things are out of my control, but I can learn to embrace the circumstance in its entirety. (Embrace this circumstance, 'cause it's the only one you're gonna get!)

There's the obvious objection to loving the bad as well as the good... if you were really good at that, could you greet a stubbed toe or traffic jam or lost job with as much enthusiasm as a great movie or a raise? And so, without that general motivation to make things ("objectively") better for you or those around you, wouldn't you let things ("objectively") slip and get worse? I don't have a great counter to that, just an intuition that A. yeah, I don't think I'm likely to reach that kind of zen equanimity and B. accepting and loving that there will be more pleasant and less pleasant outcomes breaks through fears and anxieties about the latter, and those fears tend to be more stifling of positive action than tranquil, passive acceptance .

As with most of my attempts to find comforting philosophy, there can be a "first world problem" aspect to it, and I don't know how well it extends to truly trying circumstances. I do enjoy finding some parallels in other places though. At one point I learned the trick of recasting anxiety as excitement - physiologically their pretty similar - and "Amor Fati" helps with that, because you will love even the bad outcome you're nervous about. In the military, they talk about "embracing the suck" and even get a perverse pride in what they've muddled through. Finally, I guess "Amor Fati" is kind of a secular version of believers who find consolation in sad things as being part of "God's Will" - those believers tend to count on a divine plan that's ultimately for good in a way I can't, but I'm guessing it's a similar feeling in the meanwhile.

Anyway, I commisioned the designer Bnomio to recast this work on "Tempus Fugit" as "Amor Fati", and it's currently my iPhone wallpaper... (it will be my phone case when it's time for a new one.) Having this reminder literally at hand (combined with things I already like about the iPhone's PDA/organizing part of my life) is great, the phone becomes a worry stone... a non-worry stone. The ship may be foundering, our ultimate end has always been visible in the distance, time can tick away - but I love it.

"There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours."
--Jean-Paul Sartre... heh, two years ago I posted the perfect complement quote to today's essay.
People might know that 222 is my lucky number. So I was pretty psyched yesterday at 2:22, it being 2/22 and all. Obviously I'm looking forward to 2/22/22 ... especially because it's a *Tuesday*.
I hearby proclaim it PENULTIMATE TWOSDAY and plan to have a big party. (sadly, ULTIMATE TWOSDAY, 2/22/2222 will be a Friday.)