Tuesday, October 17, 2006

perspective matters

After reading Ken MacLeod's latest book, Learning the World, I found it that it's not exactly what I'd consider a page-turner. However I can relate that his novel took a fresh approach to the old "humans make alien contact" storyline, by presenting it mostly from the POV of the non-homo sapiens.

What makes this book interesting is that MacLeod switches the usual positions of the "us and them", in that the aliens of the novel are us humans, while the aliens being visited are referred to as the humans.

By reversing the positions, MacLeod's story cleverly presents the homo-sapien intergalactic travelers as aliens to the readers, which is made all the more-so believable because their behavior and culture is seen as strange, so distant, and alien to us.

The society of the non-homo sapiens on the other hand, aside from their physical differences, can be easily related to by the reader, because their society is rife with war, slavery, government tyranny, etc. In that sense, the reader is being presented with a subtle slap in the face, perhaps awakening him to see that the values and ideas that most people today consider the virtue of civilization are in fact quite barbaric and uncivilized.

Friday, October 06, 2006

bruce lemmon

In what must be flattery, who would you guess served as inspiration to actor Jim Carrey's manic character roles?

Now call me crazy, but I'm willing to bet it was Jack Lemmon after recently watching The Apartment. Also starring Shirley MacLaine as Fran the elevator woman, it's about the life of a lowly actuary named C.C. Baxter, played by Lemmon, who is constantly cajoled into lending the use of his apartment to his higher-ups in the company because he can't turn them down.

At first I found it eerie in how similar his body language was to that of Jim Carrey, but I was blown away when he uttered to Fran "That's the way the cookie crumbles" (the trademark phrase have you, from Bruce Almightly starring none other than Jim Carrey.) If that wasn't enough, Fran later says "I guess that's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise".

I guess it could all just be some screenwriters joke on ol' Jim though, but I'd like to think that he was in on the laugh. Come to think about it, they even look alike as evidenced in the picture below.

bar none

In response to the constant complain of late-night noise and rowdy drunks, the NY State Liquor Authority, which oversees the issue of liquor licenses has declared a heavy-handed moratorium against the issue of new licenses to any establishment located within a 500 foot vicinity of any other watering hole. This surprise edict has even affected longtime operators who amidst a relocation have found they can no longer serve alcoholic beverages at their new joint.

While this policy will certain bring financial ruin to many an unfortunate business owner, it is hoped that use of this back-door tool of withholding licenses will help the government solve the noise problems and other neighborhood disturbances caused by late-night revelers making their woozy way home at 2 AM.

I'd like to commend and quote an excellent comment made by an astute individual on a Gothamist post on this topic:
It's the noise and riff-raff that's a problem, not the bars or the booze they serve. Young fools pack into these bars like sardines, and cutting the number of liquor licenses is only going to make the existing places even MORE unbearable than they already are. And they are pretty freaking unbearable already.
Welcome my friend to the world of wacky intervention.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

paper shackles

Is a contract anything more than the mere semblence of colored atoms contrasted against the surface of another medium, designed in a fashion in which it contains arranged patterns recognizable to humans as the expression of inscrutable thought elements?

If that is so, can we still posit existant duties and enforcability consistent with libertarian application of justice for contracts, whether penned or merely verbally expressed?

I like to think that a contract derives it economic power from the market process, and not from the terms of enforcability and that this would be likewise true of the bonding companies which would serve to protect a system of free contracting.

An individual or firm who failed to meet their contractual duties and/or the bonding company which failed to remunerate the damaged parties would be quickly put out of business.

This is not to say that there could be no foundational ethic to support the rights and enforcabilty measures, but rather one should not have to posit the existence of contractual rights in order to uphold the ideal of free contracting.

Overall I'd like to think that the libertarian justice system can sleep securely, while the benign king of "good will" reigns as the final arbiter over civilzed society.

weapons of mass disillusion

I adore Borat. This HBO comedian should be considered an anarchist hero, even though he probably is not what you and I would call an anarchist. The reason why I nominate him to the hero status is because of the great work he has done to blasphemously pierce the veil of sanctity attached to the state.

I reckon that the reason why he has been more successful in this regard than most others is due to the nature of government; wherein the basis of its power is ultimately derived from public opinion.

Comedy, it seems is a most potent agitant to be used against the state, and when wielded properly can exert more wide-spread influence than a brilliant dissertation on the philosophical foundations for liberty or the ethics of a market economy.

I suspect this would also explain the popularity of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, who although I imagine is also statist to the core, still manages to disaffect the masses from their illusioned sanctity of government with the potent WMD of comedy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Just recently I had the privilege to attend a 100th anniversary party held for an apartment building that was constructed by architect Charles A. Platt in the year 1905-1906. Ten of the current residents in this tony building opened their homes to exclusive viewings restricted to the snooty geegawers on the guest list (which admittedly I cannot be found, but my associate who brought me there was.)

After quietly hobnobbing with the stuffy elites -- okay, I think I made my point-- we made quick exit back to real life.

My associate, a fellow statist with an extensive real estate development background was quite astounded at the short timeline in which this building was erected.

From what little I know of New York City history, there was no buildings department back in 1905. There was relatively no zoning codes, no landmarks commission, and generally little government oversight into real estate development. The only regulation I can think of that this building was subject to was a height restriction, as laid down in the "New York Tenement Law" which stated that buildings could not be built higher than 1.5 times the street width. With that one condition, the architect/developer designed an amazing 11-story building which till today is quite unmatched in certain respects.

My associate, although he has yet to shed his statist-informed illusions, is one who was never shy to flirt with the given rules of the officialdom. His business decisions are mostly informed by what he thinks he can get away with, rather than what will be readily praised by the most straight-laced bureaucrat who could care less about your timeframe or budget expenses.

After quickly summing up all the things that slow down our current projects, be it dealing with OSHA, the NYC Building Department, the Landmarks Commission, the Mayors Office (for the issue of getting waivers on ADA compliance not feasible in a landmarked structure which is mostly untouchable to its legal owner), it is no surprise that although our generation is far ahead in terms of technology and construction techniques, we are far behind in terms of where we could have been if the overall regulatory environment had not reared its ugly head over the past century.

Slightly-related fun fact of the day: Kennedy is old Gaelic for "ugly head".

Per the NYC Department of Buildings:
"In 1860, after a tenement fire took 20 lives, New York City's building laws were extensively revised and strengthened. At that time, the position of "Superintendent of Buildings" was created within the Fire Department to enforce the new structural safety laws. An independent "Buildings Department" in Manhattan was later founded in 1892. Each Borough President's office had an autonomous Superintendent of Buildings until 1936, when a citywide Department of Buildings was created."

In any case, the avalanche-ish erosion of private property rights could be said to have begun with the Zoning act of 1926, in which the city got the idea that they have the right to dictate property usage types, dimensional and bulk restrictions, and the construction configuration requirements. While it was more lax in the early years, over the century it has started to resemble the old dictum "everything not prohibited is compulsory and everything not compulsory is prohibited."

The Landmark Commission was created in the 70's which marks the begining of statists interfering in purely aesthethic planning. From this point forward, we can expect to see a new government agency, the sole purpose of which will be to render decisions of property aesthethics for non-landmarked neighborhoods or properties, perhaps to enforce the color you will be able to paint your home, regulating the species and allowable dimensions for your landscaping elements, what style of bathroom fixtures are permissible, and if we are very lucky, even the type of screws you will use to build said home.

Lest you think I'm exagerrating, I can assure you that there are many stato-masochists who are already clammering for a "Buildings Design Authority" to be established, and one may proceed to www.wirednewyork.com and search the forums for many such fine examples.