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Ok, check it. This here is a picture I took in Japan at the Tokyo fish market:

And here, we have the cover of My Morning Jacket's EP, Off The Record.
Crazy, eh? Notice that in mine the guy has his winter uniform on, while in on the other he's takin' it all off and showing some skin.
Russian Super Heros! Kinda...
So last week's post about Russian Futurists got Eli thinking about Russian Super-heros. Basically, the line of thought was that since so much Russian art has been about transforming humans into something more than human, who are capable of freeing themselves of the constraints of the past, they must have some pretty rad super hero types.

Unfortunately, the data gathered to test that hypothesis doesn't look good. Using this as the only source of information, it seems like super-heros, and comics in general for that matter, had a hard time developing in Russia. Reasons include:

Getting the business end of two world wars meant there wasn't enough paper.
The concept of comics and graphic novels was deemed to be anti-Soviet.
Nobody wants to read comics when you could be reading Das Kapital for the 70th time, paid for by the People.

The page (which you really should look at if only for the Pulitzer Prize-winning wallpaper) concludes with "All the efforts to establish comic culture in Russia are in vain...". It should be noted that this was written by one of the largest comic distributers in Moscow. Back to wrestling bears in abandoned steel mills for that guy, I guess.

On a brighter note, here's a couple pictures that Eli found while researching this:

I was pretty sure this is just Captain America with different, more Russian, colors. But then I looked at his eyes (see enlargement), and I knew from that look of despair that our man had to be pure Rusky. He dreams of freedom from his mob debts.
Pasted GraphicPasted Graphic 2

And here's a cartoon train that came up on Google Image Search:
Pasted Graphic 1
Lightning Fast Follow-through from Eli!
So on Friday, mere hours after the Russian Futurists post went up, Eli was gabbing along in the comments about looking up some stuff on Russian super-heros (if you haven't read the comments on that post, you should. Having that kind of stuff on here makes me proud.). Anyway, I've known Eli for a long time, and, well, let's just say I've missed a lot of important games of pinball while waiting for him to find his way down to the library lobby 45 minutes late.

Well, on Sunday night, Eli actually sent me stuff about Russian super-heros. Has Eli turned a new leaf? Is being on track to having a gar-rabbin' master's changing the old boy? Should I loan him $500 as a test? In any case, he wins the prize for the week. Sorry, I know that's not really a fair way to give out prizes, but, well...shit.
Phil Eck here with a preview of the next post on! Eli sent me a bunch of stuff about Russian super heros, and it'll be dropping on this here page tomorrow night...Just look for the album with *me* on the cover! (I greatly appreciate the one person who got that joke. In fact, mad "props" to whoever identifies it first in the comments, and honorable "mention" to whoever convinces me to come out of my music nerd hole).
Am I the only one...
...That thinks this is the funniest thing that happened in the nineties?
Cause if I am, that's okay.
Oh, well...Good then. You stay on that.
Ok, so I just checked, and there's no Pulitzer category for headlines (but there is one for poetry. I figure it would get really annoying to explain to everyone, "well, it was published in a newspaper...").
Anyway, If there was a Pulitzer for headlines, the Sunday afternoon editor of would totally deserve one for this. Also, the president deserves a pat on the head and a glass of warm milk.
Picture 1
Russian Futurists
Man so I've been listening to this Canadian guy who records under the name Russian Futurists, and I got thinking about Russian Futurism.
I mean really, these guys were great. They had essentially decided that the world was changing so fast and getting so crazy that the only thing to do was to embrace it within their art, and in doing so they could help speed up the rolling ball. Like, Monet and Seurat on one side of the table saying "we got to fight it!" and the futurists on the other side going "no way, let's just get way into it". It's an interesting response.
And I guess they really did think that a new era of human consciousness was on the rise, which would be a pretty intense thing to be convinced of. But then again, don't most people think that at most points in the last 200 years? But I guess we've gotten pretty jaded to the whole futurism thing. Our best art about the future is stuff like The Diamond Age and Firefly, which are about the fact that people never really change, just the stuff we build around us, la de da. If only Frida hadn't let them kill Trotsky, that guy was serious about changing humanity:
“More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonised, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx.”
Congratulations Daniel, the Oppressor
Well, Daniel has done a bang up job disenfranchising an ethnicity, and therefore deserves a prize. A shameful, shameful prize. If you haven't seen the final solution, check it out here.
Did you notice?
The two things in the news today that got me excited were:
First, the Supreme Court will review the Texas redistricting plan implemented in the wake of the Texas Chain-saw Massacre. While I'm pleased as a plum that there will be investigation into this particular event, what I'm really looking forward to is gerrymandering getting some ink in the press. I'm creating a filtered section right now in my Google News (right next to my filter for the word "impeach", which incidentally has been pretty quite for the last few weeks), so here's hoping for a fun spring.

While I was thinking about districting, I decided I'd take a stab at Iraq. I think I did alright:
By my math, that's four Shiite seats, three Kurdish seats, one Sunni seat, and one seat which will be cause for everlasting armed conflict.

Which leads to this week's contest: Whoever can take the map here:blankiraq

and "arrange" it to give the Sunnis no seats at all wins a prize! The two rules are: You must make contiguous districts, and you must have at least 5 seats (nice try to everyone whose answer was "Just hold federal elections!".) Hey everyone, institutionalized oppression is fun!

Which segues nicely into the next the next bit of news from the day. Bush was asked today how many Iraqis the US believes have been killed since the 2003 invasion. The usual answer ("dar, we don't do body-counts, yeee haw!) was surprisingly not used, and instead Bush answered "30,000 more or less". To my knowledge, that's the first time we've heard anything like a number of Iraqi casualties from the White House (correct me if I'm wrong on that). Well, those guys can write off the media and "the internets" as much as they like, but we know where they get their figures now. But that's not really the point. The point is that, for some reason, this is okay with most Americans, and Bush throwing this number out is barely getting any print. Good thing we're not racists in this country.
Mad Props
Congratulations to Tina for getting in the first post this morning, insanely early, I might add. That's the kind of dedication that I hope will become the hallmark of Tina, your prize is on it's way! To me, that is, and will soon be on it's way to you, through me. Honorable mention goes to Gabby, who by the looks of her post, really *wanted* it, like Michael Jordan *wanted* all those NBA championships, or like Tenzing Norgay *wanted* to get to the top so that Edmund Hillary guy would quit following him around. So anyway, Gabby, I'll buy you lunch or something next time Amanda and I are in Portland.
Handshakes All Around
Here we see a Pakistani and an Indian shaking hands over the line of control (LoC) in Kashmir as the border was opened to allow refugees and aid to cross in the wake of October's devastating earthquake. Sadly, such pleasantries were short lived, as hostilities have continued along the LoC as the disaster unfolds.

Here, we see GW shaking hands with a Robot Albert Einstein. Sadly, such pleasantries were short lived, as RAE had to break the news to Bush it is impossible for him to fix his presidency by going back in time to "get good", a la Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
God Bless Our Horrendous Leaders
Here's a good exchange from today's White House Press Briefing. The topic being discussed was the CIA's practice of rendering terror suspects to countries outside the United States to conduct interrogations (which lead, basically, to that whole Eastern Europe secret prison thing).

Q What is the purpose of rendition, other than, if it is not, in fact, to subject detainees to a degree of interrogation somewhat more difficult than that which they would be subjected to in the United States? And that being the case, what definition of torture does the United States understand and accept?
MR. McCLELLAN: The ones that are defined in our law and our international treaty obligations. We have laws --
Q If that's the case, then why bother to render anybody?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have laws that prohibit torture. We have treaty obligations that we adhere to. And the Convention Against Torture is a treaty obligation that we take seriously and we adhere to. And in that treaty, it -- those treaties and laws, it defines torture. And --
Q Then what's the purpose of rendition?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- so we adhere to our laws and our treaty obligations, and our values. That's very important as we move forward in conducting the war on terrorism.
But what this is about is how we conduct the war on terrorism, how we protect our people, our citizens. And each country's highest responsibility is the safety and security of their citizens. And we all must work together to prevail in this different kind of war. And intelligence helps save lives. And we have an obligation when people are picked up on the battlefield -- unlawful enemy combatants -- to do our part to question them and learn information that can help us prevent attacks from happening in the first place. And we work very closely with countries throughout the world to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect our citizens -- but we do so in a lawful way.
Q But if we are committed to international conventions against torture, what, then, is the purpose of rendition?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to get into talking about specific intelligence matters that help prevent attacks from happening and help save lives. As Secretary Rice indicated yesterday, the steps we have taken have helped save lives in America and in European countries. We will continue to work with --
Q But you seem to be suggesting that --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, you're --
Q -- there's more to be gained by interrogating these people outside the United States than there is inside.
MR. McCLELLAN: It depends. It's a case-by-case basis, Bill, and in some cases they're rendered to their home country of origin. You cited two examples of past renditions yesterday, one individual that was involved in the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993; another individual that is one of the most notorious terrorists of all time.
Q But how do we know they weren't tortured? They claim they were.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q How do we know they weren't tortured?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we know that our enemy likes to make claims like that.
Q I want to go back to David's question about whether or not the administration is looking into any new ways of monitoring rendition activities in other countries that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I answered his question and I'm not going to --
Q You didn't answer that question, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to talk any further about it.
Q You didn't say anything about whether or not -- you said we receive assurances from other countries. You never did say anything about whether or not we, then, go further and make sure that nothing is occurring. Is the White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Rice talked about it yesterday. And I talked about it today. And we're not going to comment further than that when it comes to intelligence matters that are helping us to prevent attacks from happening and helping us to learn important intelligence that saves lives.
Q So there's no monitoring -- so there's no mechanisms, no monitoring after --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're asking me to talk about intelligence matters that I'm just not --
Q We're not asking you to talk -- we're asking you whether there's a procedure in place --
Q To make sure --
MR. McCLELLAN: You've had your question, I've responded to it and this what I'm going to say.
Q I had my question; you haven't responded to it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've told you why. I have responded to it and I've told you the reason why. And I think the American people understand the importance of protecting sources and methods and not compromising ongoing efforts in the war on terrorism, and that's why I'm just not going to talk about it further.
Q I'm not asking you about an individual case. We're asking whether there is a procedure in the U.S. government to make sure that the system you tell us will not result in torture, in fact, doesn't.
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, again, I'm not going to talk further about intelligence matters of this nature. So let me make that clear, again.
Q We're not asking on an intelligence matter.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is relating to intelligence matters; it absolutely is, David. And because of the nature of the enemy we face and the different kind of war that we're engaged in, these are matters I think the American people can understand that we're not going to talk further about because of the sensitivity and because of the fact that they could compromise our ongoing efforts.
We need to prevail in this war on terrorism. We've got to do everything we can within the law to protect our citizens, and we need to work with other countries to help save lives, and that's what we're doing.
Q The question you're currently evading is not about an intelligence matter.
MR. McCLELLAN: You've had my response, Bill.
For those of you that don't read the White House Press Briefing, it's a good bit of lunchtime fun.
The Fear of God
Have I mentioned how much hot air balloons freak me out?
Anyway, head over and check out the Japan pictures if you want to see something that isn't giving me 8 heart attacks right now.
Japan pictures up!
Hey look, I put a page of photos up. Today, it's from the Japan section of my Asia 2005 trip. Watch for shots from other stops on the trip soon.
New Blog! Come see!
So, I guess it's time to start blogging. Please note that my log from South East Asia is still available, here, or on the sidebar to the right. In the mean time, check out my flickr page, and maybe join my new flickr group, Sticks! Here's a preview of one of the great shots you'll see there.