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»  February 23, 2005

Politics  

Rich Lowry: Assassin of Truth: Rich Lowry writes ("Martyrs to Media Absurdity", February 18) that Joe Wilson was "not a natural fit" for a mission to Niger to investigate "allegations that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from the African country." Lowry says "Wilson wasn't an expert in nuclear proliferation or in Niger."

Under George H.W. Bush, Wilson served as ambassador to two other Western African nations and in the embassy in Baghdad. Under Bill Clinton, he directed Africa policy for the National Security Council. (Pandagon mentions that Wilson had also served two years actually in Niger.) He was, therefore, familiar with both Africa and Iraq, and with national security issues -- which presumably include the prevention of nuclear proliferation. Stripped of Lowry's political bias, that familiarity with three elements of the investigation (national security, Africa, Iraq) would seem to make Wilson eminently qualified to investigate such a claim.

It's not as if the facts about Joe Wilson's diplomatic service are difficult to find; they're a part of the public record, they've been reported extensively for nearly two years, and it's inconceivable that Lowry -- who's written a number of times about Wilson -- isn't aware of his experience with the NSC or in Western Africa. This column was reprinted extensively, including in the Oregonian, once again allowing someone under the guise of an "opinion" piece to blatantly ignore the truth, mislead readers, and spread disinformation. I'd encourage everyone who might have seen this in their local paper to write and encourage a stricter standard for truth on the editorial page.

 


»  February 22, 2005

Books  

Hunter S. Thompson: I could write something about the death of Hunter S. Thompson, just to try to fit in, but so many others have eulogized him already. Then again, I sort of did that 12 years ago when this piece appeared in issue #3 of my own Plant's Review of Books:

Hunter and the Haunted

Hunter: the strange and savage life of Hunter S. Thompson
by E. Jean Carroll
Dutton, 1993

Action Figure! The Life and Times of Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke
by G.B. Trudeau
Andrews & McMeel, 1992

There’s a time in the life of every young, male, writer who’s came of age since 1970 or so, when they desire openly or secretly to be "the new Hunter S. Thompson." The first encounter is usually a drag off of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, then they graduate to the harder stuff: Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Then it’s back to Las Vegas, just to get primed for that big novel they’re going to write in a marathon three-day session—bring on the amphetamines, the booze, the broads—this is the stuff Thompson’s work is made of, and the more you have, the better the book’s gonna’ be, right?

After a while, though, those young, male, writers get the picture that Thompson hasn’t really written anything since On the Campaign TrailLas Vegas included—that’s been any good or gone beyond the feeble-yet-ocassionally-punctuated-with-violence diary of a guy whose craft hasn’t gone anywhere in twenty years.

E. Jean Carroll, a frequent contributor to Esquire, has put together a schizoid biography of Thompson that, while effectively chronicling Thompson’s life through a multitude of interviews with family, friends, and associates, shows that the desire to emulate Thompson's style is not a solely male preserve. In between some of the best-edited and well-constructed oral biography on record, Carrol chronicles the adventures of Laetitia "Tishy" Snap—a world-renowned ornithologist, who has arrived to study Thompson’s peacocks—in breathless Purple Prose:

What with the magnification of the bubbles, the underwater lights, the Jacuzzi vibrations, the heat, the steam, the marijuana, the Chartreuse and the acid, the Doctor’s doodle looked to be a half a yard long and as big around as the calf of my leg. With four or five cullions besides. "Miss Tishy," said the Doctor, "Take off that sweater!"
What to do with a book like this, Gentle Reader?

As the liner notes, the introduction, the photos, and the text of Hunter remind us, Thompson was and has been the inspiration since 1974 for the character Uncle Duke in G.B. Trudeau’s Pulitzer-winning comic strip "Doonesbury." Duke’s adventures in that strip have been collected into an anthology that covers his adventures as ambassador in Pago Pago and China, college-circuit speaker, Washington Redskins manager, secret agent in Iran, drug smuggler, zombie, proconsul in Panama, and bartender in Kuwait.

If the short story is allowed to stand as the exemplar of a form that requires taut, focused writing and precise dialogue, why not extend the form to include the comic?

"Okay, Springfield, if you aren’t the heat, who are you?"

"I’m from the National Rifle Association, Mr. Duke! And I was going to make you an offer…"

"The N.R.A.? Now, wait a minute, perhaps I was being a little hasty…" "You…you know our work?"

"Know it? Hell, I’ve supported it for years! These are repressive times, Mr. Springfield!"

"And how! Even as we speak, new gun laws are being prepared by liberals and their ilk!"

"What? Liberals? Their ilk? You’ve seen them?"

"The erosion of freedom is not a pretty sight, Mr. Duke."

And that’s merely one strip from nearly two hundred pages of three strips apiece. Setting, action, snappy dialogue. As with most of "Doonesbury" the pictures are almost incidental. A nifty five-inch figure complete with martini glass and Uzi comes bubble-packed with the book.

Where would Hunter S. Thompson would be today if it weren’t for Uncle Duke keeping his persona in the public eye on the editorial pages of hundreds of newspapers? Would he be some lonely guy on a ramshackle farm in Colorado, waiting for the royalty checks from Curse of Lono to arrive? In a perfect world, Duke would have been an unplanned collaboration between Thompson and Trudeau, with the fantasy and the fact mirroring the other. What do you do though, when the cartoon shows more life than the reality?

—Darrel A. Plant

And yes, I've still got both books.

 


»  February 21, 2005

 

Director  

Fly Me Through the Moon: In a post to Dir3d-l, the ever-helpful Toxi provides code on one way to handle camera movement in both 2D and 3D:

>>I want to implement flying from a bird's eyepoint over a 3D landscape
>>as an animation (not user controlled). Basically I need to move the
>>camera within predetermined paths, right? Now, what is the sanest way to
>>impelement this? Has anyone done this?
>
> Your best bet is probably a Catmull-Rom spline: give it a number of control
> points and it makes a nice curved path between them. Here's the code for
> drawing one into an image object - hopefully the translation into a camera
> movement should be obvious enough

i'd say so too... i've written a generic CR class i've used for a randomized camera fly-through in a game. the code is based on some java source and supports both bezier & CR type curves in 2d or 3d:

http://toxi.co.uk/zips/splines.ls

1) define the curve vertices
2) set t=0

then every frame do:

3) set camerapos to gSpline.calcCPoint(t)
4) camera.pointat(gSpline.calcCPoint(t+step_speed))
5) set t=t+step_speed

hth! k.

 


»  February 13, 2005

Flash  

Spell Check: From the DevNet Resource Kit, Volume 10 description of the WA Auto Spell Check extension for Dreamweaver MX2004 (emphases added):

A single typo can turn the most professional-looking web page into an amateur production. With WA Spell Check, you catch your mistakes immediately and correct them with a click. This extension integrates completely with the built-in and personal dictionaries of Dreamweaver MX 2004, and it provides full international support. WA Auto Spell Check is a real timesaverand an on-the-job lifesaver:

 


»  February 6, 2005

 


»  February 4, 2005

Politics  

Not-So-Timely 'Separated At Birth?": Over at the long-established rambunctious.org, they've posted a visual comparison of conservative commentator KellyAnne Conway and H.R. Puffnstuff's Witchiepoo (Feb. 3, 2005 entry).

It might be entertaining to rack up some other Puffnstuff lookalikes. Doesn't the Magic Flute remind you a little of NYT columnist David Brooks? Not so much in the silver complexion but in that he's always alarmed about something and lives in someone's pocket? Is Hardball's Chris Matthews a dead ringer for H.R. hisself?

 


»  February 1, 2005

Politics  

A Timely 'Separated At Birth?':

Separated At Birth?: Alberto Gonzalez and Toht, from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Adapted from a version of the screenplay:

Toht, looking in the fire, sneers and shakes his head.

TOHT: Americans!  You're all alike,  Fraulein Ravenwood.  I'll show you what I'm used to.

Toht turns from the fireplace.  In his hand is the poker, its end glowing orange.  He advances on Marion.  Marion stops yelling, her eyes widen in terror.

MARION: Wait!  I can be reasonable--

TOHT: That time is passed.

The glowing poker point moves inexorably across the room toward Marion's face.
MARION: You don't need that.  I'll tell you everything!

TOHT: Yes, I know you will.

 

Politics  

Correspondent's Corner on Alterman: Eric Alterman praised a piece on SEIU leader Andy Stern in the New York Times Magazine the same day Dad had brought it up at lunch. Dad had a few things to say about its portrayal of Tom Buffenbarger, the head of the IAMAW, and I passed them on to Mr. Alterman, hardly expecting them to be quoted -- in full, so far as I can tell -- in his Correspondent's Corner.