Tuesday, May 31, 2005

And I'll Form . . . The Head!

This--the recent rejection of the proposed European constitution by French voters in a recent referendum-- is probably the most important story in the news, uh, in recent weeks.

I've decided to abandon my political ennui and explain why rational and enlightened Europeans may still prize having individual nations.

Others may do it with more expertise, clearer writing, more intelligence-- but only I will employ an analogy to the Transformers.

Unlike, say, the "merge groups" of six Transformers (e.g., the Constructicons), or the Voltron lions, who could hop onto each other to form a stronger super-robot to the advantage of all ("...and I'll form ... the head!"), countries in Europe may not all benefit equally from such a merger.

When the head is French, it may dictate a single monetary policy that starves the quickly growing Eastern, uh, torso of badly needed cheap capital.
Likewise, when parts of the torso start flooding into the head seeking employment, its relaxed and xenophobic inhabitants-- who already have a tough enough time finding jobs-- want control of who's attached to them, dammit.

Unlike the United States, where we don't get all that worked up about Californians moving in to steal all the good jobs in Michigan (we're all basically Constructicons), European countries have, you know, their own thousands of years of history, language differences, unique cultures, vastly different economies, &c (they're no more alike than the various Dinobots, who could not become an even larger Dinobot, and occasionally engage in vicious drag-out wars in which millions are killed).
Beastly stuff.

Wow, that is a good analogy.
And check out Devastator!:

Legality of Poker in New York

"asphnxma" of Riding the F Train has a good post on the legality of poker in New York.
Take-away: playing poker is legal; running a casino and taking a rake is not.
Finally, a use for a j.d.!

BJJ Move #4: The Mount

In the last BJJ Move post I described the up-and-over sweep from guard to the mount position.

Ah, the mount position.
You are sitting pretty.
Your opponent is lying on his back.
You are lying on top of him, chest-to-chest.
You can sit up to punch him-- but he can't move his arms, shoulders, or body back to punch you (the ground is in the way).
You can move your hips-- but his are trapped under your legs on each side.
From here you can move easily to different positions, make your opponent uncomfortable with your weight, get up off him if you want to get away, sit up and pound him, or do a number of submissions.

WARNING! These techniques could result in serious injury or death if practiced incorrectly or even if performed correctly. They should only be practiced with the supervision of an experienced instructor.

The Mount:

Some tips:
· Try to get your "hooks" (your feet) in behind his knees to “grapevine” him.
· Keep your arms free.
· When you don’t want to be pushed back, swim through limply one arm, then the other arm.
· When your opponent overhooks your arm, extract it by straightening it somewhat and then bending your elbow to bring your palm back across your body between your torsos—-the motion is sort of like you’re checking your watch.
· Squeeze him with your knees when he’s trying to turn onto his hip (if he is getting out, rise onto your foot on the side he’s escaping to), and stay loose when he’s trying to bridge you off.
· Provoke him into giving you straight arms for armlocks by messing with his face.
· Punch him in the face!

Some tips for using the mount position in a fight:

Slide up high near your opponent’s armpits if you’re going to punch or you’ll be bumped off when he bridges his hips.

With your left hand, press his chin to his left or grab behind his neck-- then punch him in the face with your right hand.

When he puts an arm (say, his left) across his face to protect against punches, secure a “giftwrap” hold: Use your left hand to grab his left wrist with your thumb facing his elbow, holding his left hand to the ground.
Put your right hand beneath his neck from under his left ear and grab his left wrist with your right hand (thumb faces his elbow, use your thumb for this grip).
His left arm is now pinned across his head (“giftwrap”).

Now move to an “s-mount:” Slide your right knee under his left upper arm to keep it in place. Now turn your hips out to the right so your weight is on your left thigh on his chest, your left leg is bent at the knee and lies across his chest, and your right knee points up and right foot is planted on the ground outside his left ear.
Punch his face again with your left hand, or hook his left arm, which is now sticking up between your legs, and apply an armlock (haven't explained this technique yet).

Next time: A submission from the mount!

Friday, May 27, 2005

BJJ Move #3: Up-and-Over Sweep from Guard to Mount

In the last BJJ Move post I described the guillotine choke, a submission from the "closed guard" position. I mentioned in describing the closed guard that you want to keep your opponent close to you to stay safe from punches and passing. Also, you generally don't want to be on your back.

If he sits up in your guard and forgets to hold your body away, you can the following move to reverse so that you'll be on top in the "mount" position.

WARNING! These techniques could result in serious injury or death if practiced incorrectly or even if performed correctly. They should only be practiced with the supervision of an experienced instructor.

“Up and Over” Reversal to Mount (a/k/a “hip heist”):

You have your opponent in your guard.

You can do this move when your opponent sits up in your guard without using a hand to keep you from sitting up.
Or, if he’s holding you down at your shoulders / chest / armpits, you can raise your hands back past your head and twist your shoulders in each direction, then sit up quickly to free yourself from his hands. Fake one direction by moving both arms that way, then circle them in the other direction so his hands lose purchase and go for the reversal.

Unclasp your feet, sit up quickly and throw your right arm to your left past his right shoulder while planting your feet on the floor (the reach is like a punch to the face, but going past his face to his right).
Base out behind you with your left hand, straightening that arm to give you forward leverage and momentum. Once your right hand comes over his right shoulder, grab his right elbow (to keep him from planting his right arm out behind him as a base).
Scoot back a little, and, with your feet planted on the ground, press your hips forward and sit up, pushing him over and to the left onto his back, taking the mount (you may also kick your right leg out for momentum).
Your hips need to be higher than his when you press them forward. You will turn counter-clockwise and move forward and turn him over to the left. Turn your head to your left and try to look behind you.
If he bends back forward to stop you from sitting up, you can use your right arm to get a guillotine choke on him with your thrown-over right arm. This is also a good way to go for the Kimura shoulderlock (I haven't described that move yet).

Now you're in the "mount" position. Stayed tuned for a description.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Poker Post #1: The Litvak Masters Basics of Hold Em

I played my first game of Texas Hold 'Em less than three months ago.

You know, the game that has now permeated every aspect of our society, is on TV all day and night, whose paraphernalia (cards, chips) is now on display in the front of Rite Aid and on the shelves in Target . . .? No?

Well, until March 7, neither did I.
I had to learn the order of hands.
I had to learn that you don't split the pot when you both have the same two pair (the pot goes to whoever has the best "kicker").
Now I know the rules, and I'm hooked.

And, last night, I played my first decent game of limit Texas Hold 'Em (LTHE).

I don't even like gambling.

But the math, the strategy, the psychology . . . what a great game.

Last night I played our regular game, and I played well.

Not World Series of Poker (WSOP) well, but I was able to:
-identify the "nuts" (best possible hand) and 2nd-to-nuts quickly;
-count my "outs" for making various hands;
-calculate and use pot odds and implied odds;
-distinguish starting hands according to their strength (and their strength against many or fewer players, in a loose or tight game, &c.);
-put my opponents on a hand (occasionally);
-adjust the quality of starting hands I played to suit the "looseness" of the table;
-adjust my play according to number of opponents, my position, my cards, and my opponents' style; and
-discipline myself to fold when I knew I should and raise when I wanted to slink by . . . more or less . . .

Stayed tuned for poker action!
Or, better yet, read the poker blogs I've linked to in the sidebar, and visit this blog for a Bildungsroman (coming of age novel) of a poker player. Who'll probably never live to see puberty, but still...

Nemo-like Genius: Must Read

Wired has a crazy article about a badass mad scientist with an even more badass name:
John Piña Craven.Craven
Craven worked as a U.S. military scientist developing some deep sea technology or something.

His idea (already working, it seems, on Skull Island, or somewhere in the Pacific) is for warm islands near deep sea shelves.
· You pump up the very cold seawater from deep ocean;
· The cold water, going through pipes, provides air conditioning;
· The cold water, going through pipes underground, cools the pipes and provides irrigation for crops around them from the "sweat" condensing on the pipes;
· The water, going through pipes in "seatowers" of little radiator-like pipes, provides much more freshwater "sweat" for drinking;
· The cold water, along with warmer surface water, is somehow used to create steam that drives electricity-producing turbines and is then condensed back into drinking water; and
· By turning the cold off and on under crops' roots, they can be made to yield fruit 4 times a year.


BJJ Move #2: Guillotine Choke from Guard

Like I said before, I'm posting BJJ moves every day or so from the "technique library" I've been making as I train.

You can't experience the joy of making someone "tap out" at the office, but maybe with some imagination and this post you can picture it, and smile.

In the last BJJ Move post I described the "closed guard" position; now I'm describe a very effective and easy to apply strangle from that position. This move is easy to learn, works against much stronger opponents, and even advanced people use it and are caught in it.

WARNING! These techniques could result in serious injury or death if practiced incorrectly or even if performed correctly. They should only be practiced with the supervision of an experienced instructor.

Guillotine Choke from Guard:

You have your opponent in your guard and you're holding his body / head close to yours.
You can’t do this move easily if you have to reach over your own head to grab your opponent’s neck-—it helps to scoot your butt back on the ground before wrapping your arm over his head so you have enough room (this is why there’s a good opportunity when attempting an up-and-over sweep).

A good setup:
· Post both hands on your opponent’s left shoulder and scoot your hips to your left to create space.
· Sit up and post your arms behind you.
· Scoot your butt back so your opponent can’t drive into you and lay you flat.

Wrap your right arm over his head (from his right ear, to behind his head, back around his left ear, to under his jaw and around his throat) and make a fist. You have to grab deep or this won’t work—really try to get his head into your armpit.
You want your elbow-crook under his chin, with your biceps and forearm blocking his carotid arteries on either side for a strangle—you don’t want your radius across his trachea like a choke.
Grab your own right wrist your left hand.
Close your guard (if you’ve opened it, as in the setup above) and fall to your back.
Scoot your hips to the left (the side opposite his head).
Drive the biceps of your right arm downwards and pull your right wrist up toward your own sternum with your left hand, lifting your left elbow way up as if to go past your head.
Push your locked feet against his hips and arch your back (this holds his spine down at the back), squeeze your right elbow against your ribs, pull up on your right forearm against his throat by lifting your left arm (motion like zipping up your jacket).
Turn your head/neck/back to look over your own left shoulder (this makes this much stronger, utilizing your back instead of just your arms) if he’s looking to your right, or over your right shoulder if he’s looking to your left. The technique can end up as a neck crank or a strangle.

Guillotine Opportunity:
From the guard, if your opponent ever puts his hand (in this example, his left) on the ground below one of your arms, trap it with your right arm into your right armpit (overhook).
Now, with your left hand, try to push his head down into your right armpit too, and go for the guillotine or neck crank.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Litvak Chronicles Blacklisted from Blogebrity A-List?

Well, the folks at Blogebrity have come up with a list of the most celebrated blogs.

I've only been blogging for a couple of weeks and have significantly fewer than a million regular readers, but, man, that stings.

I don't see what those guys have against me.

I'll show them.

Oh, wait. No I won't.

What kind of kid likes kosher hot dogs? I do.

NYT (of course-- what else do I read?) has a great piece about NY hot dogs.

One surprising bit is that almost all NY hot-dog-eterias serve the same Sabrett dogs!

If you have any love for the dog, this article will make your stomach roar and fill your mind with learnin'. Oh, man, it brought a tear to my eye.

When I was a little bitty baby, there was a period of about a year during which I refused to eat pretty much anything other than peas and hot dogs.

Then I had my aversion phase--maybe until high school or later-- when I hated hot dogs, and peas, as well as mustard, sauerkraut, tomatoes, egg yolks, avocado, broccoli, spinach, horseradish, brussel sprouts, smelly cheeses, yogurt, mushrooms, and a dozen other things that I now love.

Never got over my distaste for cottage cheese, though, if you must know. That stuff is nasty.

I only came back to hot dogs in a big way this past year because there's a Mike's Papaya on Church and Reade near the A/C stop.

Now they haunt me with their nitratey goodness.
I'm partial to mustard and sauerkraut, and pass on the fruit drink.
Never has manna been so suspiciously inexpensive.


Here's a directory of the BJJ moves:

1) Closed Guard
2) Guillotine Choke from Closed Guard
3) Up-and-Over Sweep to Mount from Guard
4) Mount
5) Americana from Mount
6) Upa / Up-and-Over Escape from Mount to in Guard
7) In Guard: Passing: Breaking the Legs Open - Standard Method
8) In Guard: Passing: High Pass
9) In Guard: Passing: Low Pass
10) Cross Side
11) Americana from Cross Side
12) In Cross Side - Standard Reversal to Guard
13) Kimura from Guard
14) Knee-in-Butt Pass
15) North and South Position
16) Kimura from North and South
17) In North and South - Standard Escape
18) Armlock from Guard
19) What? Standing?
20) Collar-and-Elbow Clinch
21) Double Leg Takedown - BJJ Style (with various setups, and notes on shooting generally)
22) Covering Block
23) Standing Up From The Ground
24) Falling Down
25) Major Hip Throw (Several Variations)
26) Half Guard
27) Front Headlock
28) Arm In Guillotine
29) Back Mount
30) Rear Naked Choke (from back mount and standing)
31) Armlock from Mount
32) A Half Guard Pass
33) Knee on Belly Position
34) Over-Under Clinch
35) Double Underhooks Clinch
36) Bodylock Takedown and Inside Trip
37) Major Outer Reap
38) Neck Clinch (a/k/a "Plum")
39) Scissors Sweep from Guard
40) Triangle Choke
41) Elbow Escape
42) Achilles Anklelock
43) Toehold
44) Kneebars
45) Armlock Defense and Escape
46) Triangle Defense and Escape
47) In Guard
48) In Mount
49) Scarf Hold (a/k/a Kesa Gatame)
50) Americana from Scarf Hold
51) Scarf Hold Escapes
52) Cross Side Neck Cranks (several)
53) S-Mount (and submissions)
54) BJJ-Style Rear Trip (Tani Otoshi)
55) Sleeve Choke, Fist Choke
56) Some Papercutter Chokes
57) Some Armlock "Thwart" Moves
58) Reverse Armlock From Guard
59) Omo Plata
60) Neck Crank from Guard
61) Arm Elevator Sweep from Guard
62) Arm Drag to Back Mount from Guard
63) Head and Arm Choke from Guard
64) Head and Arm Choke from Mount
65) Triangle Choke Thwart Moves
66) Omo Plata Thwart Moves

Moves to Come:

67) "One Hook" Guard Sweep to Mount
68) Double Shin Sweep vs. Opponent Standing in Open Guard
69) Sprawl and Crossface
70) "Crucifix" Neck Crank from Sprawl
71) Some fancy papercutter chokes from guard
72) Papercutter chokes from cross side

BJJ Move #1: The Closed Guard

Some of my friends are pissed off that I learned to shoot a rifle this past weekend (and by my blog postings here and here about it).

So, instead of getting snarky (-ier) than usual and posting endless NRA/CSA bumper-sticker logos, I'll start posting Brazilian Ju Jitsu (BJJ) techniques.

I've been studying under Jason and Keith for awhile, two students of Renzo Gracie, and I've been writing down the moves, taking notes.
Plus, I've achieved, the, uh, awesome rank of blue belt.

I figure I'll write down notes from a position or a technique every day or so to keep people coming back to the blog without having to do new work!
Added bonus-- I can keep the level of machismo appropriately high without featuring lethal weapons.
I don't have the time or inclination to take pictures of all these moves, so no photos. You can probably find them with Google, anyway.

You can find a lot about the history of Brazilian Ju Jitsu here.
Basically, it's a grappling style with a focus on "groundwork" (i.e., fighting once you and/or your opponent are no longer standing).
Lots of pins, sweeps, joint locks, strangles, reversals, escapes, throws, takedowns, etc.
It's effective for unarmed fighting-- most no-holds barred fighters study some BJJ.

Though I have to say that punch-ups should only be between friends (and not really then, either).
Getting into a fight with some guy you don't know is going to get you hurt or killed by some combination of superior numbers, surprise, and weapons.
Plus, starting fights is for a------s.

Now for a lawlerly part:

WARNING! These techniques could result in serious injury or death if practiced incorrectly or even if performed correctly. They should only be practiced with the supervision of an experienced instructor.

Before I describe joint locks or strangles, I'll describe a position called "the closed guard." BJJ teaches you to end fights with moves we call "submissions," moves that strangle your opponent or hyperextend one of his joints, making him "tap" or "submit" to avoid passing out or dislocating a joint.

Yes, "submission" is an even worse name than "Homeland Security" or "Operation Infinite Crusade" or whatever.

Now, you can't just walk up to someone and apply a submission. You need a lot of leverage, which usually comes from position-- often from having the ability to move around, especially with your hips, while your partner's mobility is restricted.

The Closed Guard:

In the closed guard position, you are on your back with your opponent on top of you, face to face, and your legs are wrapped around his waist with your feet are locked together behind his back.

This isn't the ideal position, but:
1) If you have to be on your back, this allows you to move your hips while restricting your opponent's ability to do the same;
2) It allows you to push him away or pull him close with your legs;
3) It lets you set up a vast number of sweeps and submissions.

If you are using a closed guard, you will not let your opponent sit up straight. Otherwise, he can "pass the guard" by breaking your feet apart in various ways and stepping over or circling around your legs.
Also, he can control his upper body and has leverage to punch you, while you can't really hit back.
So you want to hold his head close to yours-- one good way is to grab the back of his neck with your right hand, and "overhook" his right arm with your left arm, trapping it into your armpit.
Now he can still punch you a little with his left hand, but he has very little leverage and your face is safe.

There's a decent picture and good description on this page.

More moves to come.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Space Laser Bad for Mankind?

Oh, NYT op-ed page, what will I do when they start to charge for access?

In this post, I described how cool the Air Force's planned space weapons would be.

Even the NYT op-ed piece fills me with horrible, I'm-going-to-Hell thoughts of "Ooooooh." Viz.:

A proposed global strike space plane would carry munitions halfway around the world in 45 minutes. The "Rods From God" program would hurl dense metal rods at targets on the ground with the force of a small nuclear weapon. Other programs would use laser beams or radio waves to disable targets.

Of course, the NYT is totally right to shatter my dream of robots using space lasers to vaporize tourists who walk too slowly in front of me in Times Square.

$100 billion and we still can't knock a ballistic missile out of the air, let alone a guided missile.

Maybe the Air Force can work on realizing my other antisocial fantasies, like letting me control lightning. Your thoughts, General?

Aliens v. Scientists' Self-Respect . . . Whoever Wins, We Lose

More science fact from National Geographic-- aliens are real.

Take Me To Your Leader
Actual Scientifical Aliens (photo from space robot or something)

Blue Moon . . . . has a 240-hour day and orbits a huge planet in a solar system with two suns. With an atmosphere three times denser than Earth's, the Blue Moon has giant whales gliding through its sky.
* * *
It is virtually a statistical certainty that . . . . alien life . . . is . . . . as common as bugs.

...and that's a quote, sort of.

Another goofy bit:
As for the plants and creatures on those planets, Darwinian evolution would probably rule alien life, the scientists concluded. "Otherwise life is too vulnerable," [one of the scientists] said.
"You need some variation to adapt, and the moment you have adaptation, you will have selection. That's how nature builds things," he added.

Life's too vulnerable without evolution, huh? Wow, I hope we don't lose its protection here on Earth, or, er, what the f--- does that even mean, "[o]therwise life is too vulnerable"?
Good thing he explains that "[t]hat's how nature builds things."

More gems:
"Evidence from evolutionary convergence strongly suggests that, although extraterrestrial [regions that support life] will look alien, deep down they will be quite similar to those on Earth," said Morris [a now laughingstock at Cambridge], who also appears in the TV special.

Evidence from evolutionary convergence, huh?
Which, uh, evidence is that?
Evidence from other species on Earth, right?
And, of course, the opposite is true-- if there's evolutionary convergence, the aliens would probably "deep down" be quite different (say, at the cellular level), but their obvious characteristics (wings, eyes, limbs, tentacles) would look similar to those of Earth critters.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Shooting Pics

Shooting pictures:

Spent .22 cartridges

My target from 25 feet...

... and my target from 50 feet.

2nd Amendment: No 21st Amendment, But Still Rockin'

So, Sunday I went shooting for the first time with my Dad and my sisters.
We went to the Flatiron District to the West Side Pistol & Rifle Range-- the only firing range in Manhattan.
We had a safety course and learned to make safe, load, unload, aim and fire the Ruger 10/22 (10-shot, .22 caliber) rifle.

My middle sister, whom I'll refer to here by her street name ("The Oboe") fired off 150 rounds (15 magazines) and managed to hit her paper target several times.
My little sister, Doodles (when you step to Doodles, you're, uh, stepping to reading a education specialist, or maybe death row?) had excellent form from her week on the high school riflery team.
Dad blazed away with glee.
I did pretty well, too. I'll post a picture of my target from 50 feet later.

You can hardly feel the rifle kicking as it spits out little bullets; kind of scary.

There was a surprisingly low level of NOW I'M GOD feeling associated with the experience. I remember the one time I went to a strip club that for about an hour after I left, I had a disturbing expectation that every woman I saw would happily take off her shirt for $20. I think it says good things about my soul that, after leaving the rifle range, I didn't see rifle sights bobbing in front of the foreheads of everyone walking around Manhattan.

Overall, we were amused by all the paranoid NRA propaganda explaining how everyone wanted to take away our guns or enslave us to deer.
Shooting was a lot of fun.

So, I'd say the 2nd Amendment (bear arms) is pretty cool.
Afterwards, though we went to the Heartland Brewery for a pint, and I still believe the 21st Amendment (repealing Prohibition) is an even better deal.

More Revenge of the Sith: Kvetch #2



I have two more problems with Revenge of the Sith.
I thought "Sith" would at least bring me closure, even if it sucked (which it DID), but now the plot of the original three Star Wars movies doesn't make sense.

First (hat tip: Marnie), how did Leia remember her mother, even vaguely, if Padme died during childbirth? Okay, that's just stupid.

Not to mention the idiocy in the "Sith" scene where the doctorbot says something to the effect of:

She's dying. There's nothing physically wrong with her. She seems to have lost the will to live. You'll get my bill in the mail.

Oh. My. I think ACOG (the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) might have something to say about a medicine-practicing machine that stops treatment on a woman in labor because she's depressed.

Second, at the end of "Sith," Obi Wan cuts off THREE (3)--yes, you read correctly-- three of Anakin's limbs with ONE (1) swing of his trusty lightsaber. Then Anakin slips down a gravelly beach and catches fire when he gets too close to some lava (which covers the planet, whose entire economy seems to revolve around catwalks and fiery hot hazards of every sort).
But Emperor Evilpants stitches him back together and attires him a retro robot costume.

Now, remember back to the first Star Wars movie, where Darth Vader (nee Anakin), with four prosthetic limbs, a respirator and extensive scarring, is spending 80+ hours per week at a desk job, running the Empire.
Obi Wan, on the other hand, spends twenty-something years of (according to "Sith") communing with the ghost of Qi Gong Jin and practicing swordplay on Tatooine. And, to all appearances, becoming a much, much better actor.

So when they face off again, Obi Wan just tells DV:

You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

He then lets DV chop him in half and disappears.
If by "more powerful than you could possibly imagine," Obi Wan meant that he'd hover around, intangible and translucent, he made a terrible mistake in underestimating the imagination of the Dark Side of the Force.

And, uh, why not just chop the walking ICU into metal confetti?

Jack Roy is Tamerlane's Lovechild

It is a dark day in our great nation when poison words such as these masquerade as blogging.
They attack me, they attack the institution of The Litvak Chronicles, and they attack the sensiblities and values on which our forebears (and those of less recent immigrants) growed America.

Blog used to stand for something. It used to stand as a hip abbreviation for the phrase "web log." If Jack Roy had his way, there would be a tax on every diary entry, and, it would seem, an end to the very Internet that binds us together.

What does "Jack Roy"--who blogs anonymously (and I do not say this lightly) because he is either a paid political hack or a convicted child molester--say in response to my allegation that Litotical Construct is permeated with vegetarian agitprop?


Instead, he goes on until the cows come home defending the lack of pictures on his blog. And I use that bucolic phrase metaphorically. No cows came home, but it certainly felt as if a great deal of time passes when I read his posts. Sometimes, when sullying my eyes on his Sauronic blog, I am torn between despair for America and boredom.

Roy, not content to attack the Chronicles and insult me, insults our Navy and our Department of the Treasury in the same breath when he calls me "queer as a $2 bill."

Is this the kind of person we want teaching our children how to read, caring for the sick, guarding our nuclear power plants against ninjas?
That, dear readers, was a rhetorical question.
And the answer--is "no."

P.S.: Jay Roy is Tamerlane's lovechild.


Friday, May 20, 2005


The great feuds of history: How did they begin?
Typically, each side justifies its own actions-- whose real motivations are fear, pride, or greed-- with some myth of injustice:

Greeks say the Trojans stole Helen; The Game complains that 50 Cent cast aspersions on his purported body count; the Hatfields done snipped off Bubba's rat-tail, &c.

That's not gonna happen here.

I've got BEEF with my good friend, I mean, arch enemy "Jack Roy," author of the blog Litotical Construct.

That's right, and I'm putting it down here in the indelible... scratch that, delible-with-moderate-effort medium of the electronic aether of the Internet the one and only The Litvak Chronicles.

And here's why, loyal readers:

First, the poor formatting and sad lack of pictures reflect the addled and iron-deprived brain of a vegetarian.

Second, consider that "Litotical," while it may be a word (I'm not sure), is used less than "irregardless," which is not.

Third, L.C. has made numerous references to the recent debate over the filibuster in the Senate, yet declined to make even one sexually suggestive play on the word "filibuster."

Ergo beef.


Revenge of the Sith. My opinion here.


I was so excited, but "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" was a disappointment.
Saw it last night.

Ewan McGregor mugged and beamed. And kept referring to children as "younglings."

Samuel L. Jackson looked angry, briefly, then got the purple lightning treatment from Emperor Sinister, or whatever his ridiculous name was.
And the Emperor's face swells up like a hot marshmallow when he electrocutes people.

Natalie Portman's job was impossible. She's supposed to pretend to be deeply in love with the guy who spent five nice minutes with her on some prairie planet before he became intolerably moody and self-important and started his lightsaber massacre habit. Plus, he has the worst White Space Trash haircut in the galaxy.

The less said about his acting, the better.
Anakin was barely believable as a human being, let alone a tortured soul torn between duty and love.
I did enjoy seeing three of his limbs lopped off with a lightsaber.

There is, indeed, some lame and thinly-veiled Bush-bashing, but it's lost in the sea of awful acting.

Not even Yoda with a lightsaber could do the trick. In fact, Lucas Yoda-fied so much of his syntax that it sounded silly. He said things like "Beautiful day to fly a kite out . . . it is." Sigh.

There were wookies. Big deal.

In short: no drama, no tension, no emotion, heavy-handed, humorless, cool special effects, awful acting, writing, and directing.

At least I don't have to watch any more of them.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Chelm is a Town in Colombia

Reuters reports that the Colombian town of Icononzo has banned gossip by law.

Justifying his decree, the mayor said at least eight people were in the local prison accused "purely by gossip" of being members of the outlawed, Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The punishment for rumor-mongering? Fines or up to four years behind bars.

This reminds me of the French response to unemployment:
The job market is too small?
Don't try to make hiring people more attractive to employers-- instead, make everyone work fewer hours so there will be more jobs!

Too many people in prison because of rumor-mongering?
Don't stop putting people in jail because of rumors-- instead, put people who tell rumors in prison!

As my late grandmother used to say, "Only in America!"

Nobody Hinder Them to Live!

...and mad Russian scientists promise a game preserve full of wooly mammoths.

Sergey Zimov, who is not involved in the mammoth-recreation effort, initiated the project to restore the Pleistocene ecosystem in 1989. He hopes to test the theory that hunting, not climate change, wiped out the animals that once thrived in northern Siberia.

"I want to show how many animals can exist if nobody hinders them to live," said Zimov.

George Soros, can't you help them out?
Never mind that it's "impossible" and "morally irresponsible."

I want to see a Neanderthal riding a saber-toothed tiger yelling about the Power of Greyskull.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why Does Eric A. Taub Hate America?

According to the Corrections in today's New York Times,

An article in Business Day yesterday about the specifications of Sony's new game console, PlayStation 3, misstated the title of Lisa Su, an executive of I.B.M., which helped develop its processor. She is a vice president in the systems and technology group, not software technology. The article also misstated the processing power of a rival console, Microsoft's Xbox 360. Its three processors are to be 3.2 gigahertz each, not 3.2 gigabytes.
Step aside, Newsweek retraction scandal!
Ms. Su isn't VP of software! It's systems, you radicals.
Why does Eric A. Taub hate America?
He's putting the lives our software developers, and maybe even American lives, at risk.

Processor speed in measured in gigahertz-- a measure of the number of operations a processor can perform in a second-- not gigabytes-- an amount of memory.

Maybe someone should say something.
Maybe me, cherished readers.
Maybe me.

In other news, the PS3 is going to rock.

It's like lasing a stick of dynamite...

...to rip off Real Genius (1985).

In April, the Air Force launched the XSS-11, an experimental microsatellite with the technical ability to disrupt other nations' military reconnaissance and communications satellites.

Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan.

...according to a piece in today's NYT on our Air Force's plans to put weapons into space.

So, so, so wrong.
Such bad diplomacy.
So far from feasible.
And yet --- so cool.

The article has references to the Death Star, and General Lord remarks that "Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny."

Join us, Congress, and we can rule the galaxy as father and son.

I want my X-wing fighter now, and I'll vote for anyone who can make it happen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Memailed #1!

Congratulations to Dinitia Smith, whose piece in today's NYT (discussing Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd's new book, "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution") is now MOST E-MAILED (MEMAILED!).

I call coinage:
"memailed"-- Described the NYT's Most E-mailed article.
Ties together an acronym (Everybody Loves an Acronym -- ELA) and the word "meme," to denote the fact that memailed articles stick in the mass consciousness.

Anyway, sounds like a great book.
I like that it pushes artifacts-- byproducts of the way we develop or are put together-- over evolutionary just-so stories that a clever biologist can make up to fit any trait.
A little Occam's Razor to take the wind out of the sails of people who thing attached / unattached earlobes and innie / outie belly buttons are for avoiding saber-toothed cats or communicating via pheromones, or whatever.
Anyway, I'm never going to read it. Busy, busy.

But if I link to it I can make all sorts of references to sex.
Which is sure to boost my readership.

So, let's all hear it for the female orgasm!

Which, according to Dr. Lloyd (or, according to Smith's account of Dr. Lloyd), probably doesn't provide any evolutionary advantage, so women shouldn't feel bad if they don't have them frequently.

Blogging on blogging on blogging - and Arnold

David Greenberg had a sort of interesting piece in the NYT Week in Review on blogging.
According to Greenberg:

The best bloggers develop hobbyhorses, shticks and catchphrases that they put into wider circulation. Creating your own idiosyncratic set of villains to skewer and theories to promote - while keeping readers interested - requires as much talent as sculpting a magazine feature or a taut op-ed piece.

Well, I have SHPOSes to blog about.

Maybe I could add clever bon mots, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Oh, I remember a great one from Commando (also starring Rae Dawn Chong, of Tales from the Darkside, uh, fame)-- a movie written entirely around puns Arnold made while killing people.

After offing hundreds of henchmen, Arnold is knife-fighting with the villain.

Now, I want to step out of the narrative here to wonder aloud:
(1) Why is the main villain always the (second-to-) last guy alive?
(2) Why does he always end up in a face-to-face struggle with the protagonist?
(3) How often do two people both have knives (and neither has a gun) and decide to fight each other?
Well, thank the Cosmos it happens, because this scene is great.

Anyway, Arnold is knife fighting the villain-- a former commando colleague of his named Bennett who wears a chainmail vest and a rakish moustache.
Finally, Arnold decides on a pun to go with his adversary's demise.
He tears a steampipe off the wall and IMPALES his enemy.
A jet of steam is rushing out of the end of the pipe that isn't lodged in Bennet's viscera.
Then, the bon mot: "Let off some steam, Bennett."

With a dry cool wit like that, he could be an action hero.
Or governor.

Now, to think of one of my own...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Revenge of the Sith


A.O. Scott has a review of Revenge of the Sith in today's NYT.

My parents brought me to "Star Wars" in the theater when I was a tiny little kid. Which I don't remember.
I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" when I was about five-- I think it was at a birthday party in Omaha, and we went bowling first-- and it was the defining moment of my life as a prepubescent boy.
From then on, every snow-fort was Hoth and every flaslight was a lightsaber.

The most upsetting thing about getting older is meeting teenagers who've never seen the early "Star Wars" movies and love the "American Pie" series.
For our forebears I think it was aging and death, so, go figure.

Man, I should have had a son five years ago so Natalie Portman could be seared into his impressionable psyche the way Carrie Fisher is seared into mine.
Except he'd see himself as that loser playing Anakin, while I always pictured myself as Han Solo.
And maybe Scott is wrong and this movie is garbage, too.

You're probably not as excited as I am.
I'm not even that excited.
I mean, the last two were so cheesy, so "toyific," so bright and shiny they made my teeth hurt.
Like "Highlander 2", they made me want to pretend they didn't happen and remember the original.

But, I mean, come on.
With a lightsaber.
At hello you had me, mmm?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All Hope Abandon Pigeons Who Enter Here

So, I had one of those little seed-bar birdfeeders hanging out the window of my apartment.
For a while, nothing.
Then some pretty cool birds.
Some sparrows.
Some black speckled things.
Some bird with a bit white tail (I forget the Latin name).
And a male and female house finch!
See grainy picture:

House Finch

But then, I got greedy.
I got tired of replacing the seed-bars and bought a larger birdfeeder.
And they came, cooing.


So I had to take it down.

Here on my knee I vow to God above,
I'll never pause again, never stand still,
Till either death hath closed these eyes of mine
Or fortune given me measure of revenge.

Every rose has its thorn

So, my roommate signed up for a new bank account, and now he's getting all kinds of crazy junk mail.
He usually gets home from work before me, and I think he assumed the gay underwear catalog (with his name on it) was for me.
Why, I don't know.
But when I was hanging out with my sister this afternoon, she pointed out one of the more upsetting and funny items I can link to without making my readers vomit onto their keyboards.
Click on it!
Maybe, sit down, bite down on a belt or something, put on some sunglasses, say the Lord's Prayer, then click.
There's a reason I didn't post a picture.
Yes, it is a red silk male thong that rolls up to resemble a rose and fits onto a plastic stem.
Dad is definitely getting this for Father's Day.
I have to believe this catalog is as embarrassing to most gay men as the obsession with the Hilton sisters is to the rest of us.

Friday, May 13, 2005

What's a Litvak?

What's a Litvak?

A "litvak" is a Lithuanian Jew. Compared to the other Eastern European Jews, the stereotypical Litvak was skeptical, rational, smart, analytical, worldly (as opposed to the mystical Hassidim), proud, stubborn, dynamic, and energetic.
Their descendants live on, but, thanks to the Nazis (and no small thanks to the Lithuanians), not nearly as many as there ought to be, and not in Lithuania.
Except for not really being from Lithuania (my family's from Galicia*, Germany and Belarus (whose inhabitants were likely Litvaks)), the profile fits me pretty well ... though I don't really have much of the "kalte" (cold, emotionally restrained) Litvak to me.

I hope this blog gives you an insight into my inner Litvaktude.

*No, not the one in Spain. So Google it!

God Save Thee, Mister Rubin

Mixing it up a little, I'll dip a toe into political ranting.
Solid opinion piece in today's NYT from Bob Rubin, Treasury Secretary under Clinton.
Remember when you knew the names of most of the President's cabinet?
When the cabinet members were mostly impressive and independent-minded?
Comparing Rubin to John Snow, former railroad executive and current Treasury Sec'y, makes me want to hoard the old bills with Rubin's signature like Johnnie Reb ("The Dems will rise agin'").
I like the old bills' modest little president portraits and their sober green color-- instead of the mess of gold "20"s making the double sawbuck look like a connect-the-numbers drawing.

And I like that Rubin's piece says, basically, that we can only spend what we can afford. He mentions real numbers. He understands global capital markets.
That these things make me nostalgic for Bubba is awfully sad.

Somebody send me one of those lighthearted Jen 8. Lee pieces, before I read the real news...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Life Sentences

The jury in our death penalty case decided to give one defendant (the father of the second defendant) a life sentence on Monday, and came out this afternoon for a life sentence for the son.
I watched a good part of the victim impact testimony from the victims' parents as well as mitigation testimony from the family of the second defendant.
Again, so no one thinks I'm giving them any information that's not 100% public, I won't comment, except to say that the whole thing was emotionally draining.

Its [sic] so Severe, its almost Draconian!

Check out this hilarious narishkeit, the best thing since "Rex Kwon Do"--
It's the Feral Fighting ad from Sammy Franco's "Contemporary Fighting Arts" website.
According to the site, Feral Fighting is "the most savage hand-to-hand combat system on the planet!".
In case you thought, maybe, something else was more savage, like channelingthe site explains that "Its [sic] so Severe, its almost Draconian!"
I dunno. Why not say it is actually Draconian? Severe just means Draconian, anyway.
Except Draconian sounds like it has something to do with a Dragon.
Which it doesn't. It's some Greek man. Not even a Dragon-Man.
Franco's just opening himself up to a competitor's claims that the Ruthless Rasslin' System is _Actually_ Draconian.

The illustrations on the covers of Franco's books are heavy metal posters with strong D&D influences. Check them out for inspiration when you're feeling insufficiently Draconian.

The "techniques" include things like putting both hands out in front of you to form a "revolutionary SHIELDING WEDGE" against "an enraged manic who goes 'ballistic.'"
And then, if you aren't already dangerous enough to kill a man five times before he hits the ground (wha-POW!), there's SCORCHING®.
It's trademarked!
I think it involves training your fingers with putty, then scratching your victims as if you had claws, as in the photo:
I assume this guy's fingers are covered with the viscera of some fool who thought he was Severe.

On a more philosophical note, it's interesting that some people try to sell martial arts with the approach that a style's effectiveness is correlated to the (purported) ability of its techniques to kill or maim people, or, more generally, be "extreme." This would be a terrible way to sell, say, legal services ("Our firm never settles! We sue your ENEMIES to DEATH and go to the Supreme Court with EVERY CASE."). And forget that this is total garbage--I want to know who needs to kill people that often but can't figure out that the pointy end of a knife is more "severe" than his fingertips?

On a less philosophical note, I would pay real money to watch this guy's students fight.

Wild Thing . . . I Think I Love You

The New York Times, expanding on its recent trend of sillier and sillier articles (i.e., The Man Date), has a very silly and very cool article about the increasingly popular "Savannah" cat, which is part housecat and part African serval (a kind of wildcat).
I saw one of these (a kitten) back in 2001 in San Francisco walking on a leash.
It jumped up onto a tree--about five or six foot vertical--then scrambled down the trunk.
About thirty times in a few minutes.
These animals are awesome.

The article notes that:
New York City banned ownership of any wild or part-wild animals long ago.

Why aspire to fantastic achievement when I can't have an awesome wildcat as a pet?
Or commute in an iron sledge drawn by a team of bears?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Do Turks Look Like Vampires?

Well, okay, no.
I'm just trying to come up with a provocative title for my posting.
But have you ever noticed that Ataturk (father of Turkish nationalism) is always portrayed in portraits so he looks like Bela Lugosi as Dracula?

Separated at Birth?

Especially strange, considering in real life, Ataturk looked like a nice guy, and not undead at all.
Chalk it up to nationalism.
Next I'll learn that Chiang Kai Shek didn't really look like Destro.

No? Don't worry; no one else sees it, either.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Blue Belt

This past Saturday was exciting-- I got my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Renzo Gracie.
I trained all through my time at Columbia Law School (although less than I would have liked . . . stupid classes), so it's not like I'm a phenom.
But it did feel good to realize I've learned something about knocking guys over and choking them unconscious / dislocating their joints.
I'm still sore today. Renzo has some tough students!
I hope I'll have the time and energy to keep training. It's great fun, and the people at the Columbia University Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club and at Renzo's academy are a fantastic group.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Verdict in Death Penalty Case

I don't often blog about my job...
You: The Litvak, this blog is only three days old!
The Litvak: Shut up, You.
...but thought this was exciting enough to chronicle, and I won't be betraying any non-public information by revealing it (I'm waiting for news coverage to link to before I publish this).
This year I'm working as a clerk to a federal judge in Manhattan, and the jury in our death penalty case _just_ came back with a verdict.
The indictment had fifteen counts, and they found the defendants guilty on fourteen of them.
The government is seeking the death penalty on several of the counts-- Monday we'll start the penalty phase.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Health Is More Riches than Gold

Man, I like Thos. Friedman.
And I admit it's hard to come up with something worthwhile to opine on that frequently.
But yesterday's column (in brief, recent attacks in Arab countries by fanatic jihadist suicide bombers are just "the Arab-Muslim world . . . reaping something it sowed" and "[t]he bad guys won't win, but neither will the good guys, and all we will have produced is a bloody stalemate") left me cold.
I hate it when I get a fortune cookie that gives advice ("A health is more riches than gold.") instead of a prediction of my future ("Death imminent. Lucky numbers 3, 7, 17.")-- and I hate op-ed pieces that describe the world ("The Middle East is f----ed up ... so, uh, now you know.") instead of telling us what we oughta do ("Let's build nuclear power plants and pretend the whole region doesn't exist, like we do with Africa.").

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Pumping the Positivity

I realize my first few posts have been largely negative-- whining over the phone, altercations with SHPOSes, fantasies about impaled SHPOSes, &c.
So it's time to "pump the positivity." 2minty phrase. And disown it.
It's almost nice outside, and I'm going out to have kebabs and a beer!
Live vicariously through me, teeming billions.


I realize I'm using one precious piece of slang that's not entirely well-known: the wonderful, the amazing "SHPOS."
I don't want to confuse my many reader. Readers, that is. The, uh, many of them.
Clever orthographers may deduce that this is a really emphatic Yiddish word.
No, no, no. A SHPOS may be the opposite of a mensch, but it's all English.
It's an acronym for "Subhuman Piece of S---."
I believe it was a popular phrase among U.S. physicians in the 1980's.
And, along with other slang like creepy, barf, hump, and bummer, I intend to help this word reclaim its rightful place in the lexicon by calling many, many SHPOSes SHPOSes.

The Whaler

People in N.Y.C. get a bad rap for their supposed rudeness. I think New Yorkers are actually friendlier and more helpful to strangers than in the rest of the country. Three things make it seem otherwise:
(1) Crowds of tourists are annoying, so if you're visiting you may see us annoyed . . . at you.
(2) You gotta keep from interacting with everyone who wants to talk to you in a city with so many SHPOSes. Which is why we don't always chat with strangers.
(3) The small number of SHPOSes are much more visible than the vast majority of civilized people.

And on the last note, I've noticed some really unforgivable SHPOSiness on the subways.
You are supposed to do the following, for starters:
(1) Stand to the side of the door and let people out before pushing onto the train.
(2) If you're in the car, don't stand right next to your buddy in front of the door and make everyone coming in and out squeeze between you.
(3) If you have to drag your off-road stroller, bicycle, or shopping cart full of empties/garbage/crack paraphernalia/construction materials into the car, get out from in front of the door.
(4) When the car is crowded, you can hold onto a center pole with your hand. But you can't hog the whole thing by wrapping your arm around it.

Which is why we need a superhero. Not a Batman or a Superman. No-- superheros always attract supervillains. We just need a costumed guy to enforce subway etiquette -- with Extreme Prejudice.

Imagine some SHPOS (as I saw a few months ago) throws his half-eaten slice of pizza on the floor of the car, or whips a sleeping homeless man with a piece of wire (saw this, too), or is touching himself (no, but other people have) . . .

A rider pulls open the sliding doors and steps out between the cars. From the underside of the couplers, she draws a glistening silver conch shell and brings it to her mouth.
One long rising blast, followed by two shorter blasts ring from the horn and echo through the tunnels.
A spark of hope enters the eyes of the weary riders.
The SHPOS glares.
The train slows, then stops in the tunnel.
A cool salty mist fills the tracks.
Across the tracks, under the signal lights, a man stands on a ledge.
He wears sea-foam deck boots, gloves and oilskin coat, with a mask across his eyes.
In his left hand, a coil of cable is tethered to the steel harpoon in his right.
The car doors open, and cool sea air pours in-- along with a whistling HARPOON that plunges into the side of the SHPOS.
The rope TWANGS as the SHPOS is jerked out of the car.
The doors close. The mist thickens, fogging the windows.
The announcer speaks: "Sorry for the delay. Nexstop, 34th Street, Penn Station."
"God bless you, The Whaler!"

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Código de Caballería

Chivalry isn't dead, so much as, mmm, adopted by punks as an excuse to punch old people. I love NY.

Sunday night I was walking E. on 2nd St. between 2nd and 1st Avenues to visit a bar I like.
I passed a stoop where three women in their thirties sat and engaged in some sort of unpleasant verbal exchange with a drunk guy in his sixties standing on the sidewalk. Like a good New Yorker, I kept on walking.
Doesn't this sound like Mickey Spillane?
I got to the bar down the block and greeted some friends smoking outside. Then the old man walks past, but a Puerto Rican with a shaved head no older than 21 comes up from behind him and gets off a bicycle yelling.
"Hey, mother-----r, whatchu ----ing problem?"
Drunk Guy: [blank stare]
Neighborhood SHPOS: You callin' those ladies words, I'm'a ----ing beatcho ass! [etc.]
DG: Hey, man...
NSHPOS walks up and throws a snappy jab-cross into DG's cheek. He does it flat-footed with no shoulder behind it, and from too far away-- DG's head doesn't even move back.
I calmly put my bag down by the building and stand off to NSHPOS's left, between the two but not in between them.
Before I get there, there's another half-assed jab, and I'm now pissed off.
I tell NSHPOS to cut it out and explain that I'm not going to let him beat an old man up in the street (I say "I'm not going to let you beat this old man up in the street."). He's smaller than me, and there are five people in the bar who'll help me stomp him, so it's not all that courageous-- I was just letting him know he couldn't go any farther. NSHPOS keeps staring down the old man, never looks me in the eyes. Which I think was smart, considering the old man was more likely to do some crazy thing than I was. And he doesn't want to provoke anyone who might actually hit him back-- 'cause I'm totally a trained ninja and whatnot.
The old man keeps staring with his hands out by his sides, slurring some comment or other, maybe another "hey, man."
NSHPOS says something about how the old man is lucky he didn't hit him harder.
I yell at the old guy to walk away. Why is he making eye contact with this kid who just wants to be provoked? I don't think he even knows someone punched him. After a few uncomfortable seconds, he walks on.
I go inside to eat my bell pepper and have a beer.

Kvetch #1: Delivery

Should I start my blog with a complaint? Yes! Isn't "blog" Latvian for "kvetch"?
Wanted to order some grown-up furniture for my apartment (I'm using the dresser that held my baby clothes) and found a nice chest of drawers with a matching nightstand online. For me, this is a big deal-- my relationship to shopping makes Thorstein Veblen look like Paris Hilton. But, like other people with jobs, I'm not at home during the week when FedEx delivers, and I don't live in a doorman building.
So, I call the company:
Litvak: "Can you arrange for Saturday delivery?"
Well-Meaning Heartland Phone Operator: "Dunno. The shipping company we use decides the method of delivery."
Litvak: "Can I specifically request Saturday delivery and pay more?"
WMHPO: "No."
Litvak: "Can I talk to someone who knows what method of shipping will be used?"
WMHPO: "Impossible."
...and so on. I remain polite. I don't even talk down. Or use the Force to crush his larynx.
Can you sense that I'm a soul in pain? Pity me.

Today is the first day of the rest of my blog

...and I feel fantastic. Amazing. Prepare to be wowed and troubled and occasionally amused by what I'd ordinarily just e-mail to my friends but now reveal to the world for... fame and... well, mostly because it's easier than writing it down somewhere else.