Wednesday, November 14, 2007

fall in line

I was somewhat amused, although not quite shocked to see this postcard stuck in my regular mail delivery.

It's not that often that you see the naked hostility of the state presented in so clear a manner; after all, apologists can be found aplenty to offer explanations as to how the master-slave relationship we live under is nothing more than on a benign voluntary basis.

What I also found sweet is the legerdemain involved in the implication that the leaves which fall off of trees 'owned' by the city, which you can be fined and/or jailed for pruning without a permit and a licensed arborist, would then have the balls to call it 'your' leaves, as if that now makes it your responsibility to contain. Sneaky bastards-- it almost makes me want to suffer violence upon the inexplicably uppity cartoon duo, and the mindless civil servants who brainstormed this mushy propaganda to sugarcoat this KP duty.

But this by far is not as ridiculous as other so-called 'laws' that I've encountered. For instance, while you may not own the sidewalk pavement in front of your property line, you must act as though you do. That includes maintaining and replacing cement flags as the city inspectors determine necessary, keeping a neat and clean condition on the sidewalks at all times including a minimum of 18" further onto to road surface. When it snows, the homeowner or landlord is obligated to clear a path and lay down salt to prevent ice buildup and is held personally responsible for injuries or damages that occur there. And so on and so forth.

And just a few days ago, I inadvertently opened a letter containing a tax notice for a defunct corporation and shivered over a display of audacious verbiage, including a 'Warrant' notice stating that so-and-so has been appointed by "the people of the state of New York" (funny, I don't remember authorizing anything of the sort) to seize properties of the said corporation for failure to pay taxes. I was quite horrified and repulsed by the brute and stentorian tone found in some sentences which read "you are commanded to do such and such".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Not too long ago, the NY Daily News ran an article titled 'City neighborhoods losing character to condos, chain stores' bemoaning the fate of losing indigenous mom & pop stores to the faceless, sterile corporate chain stores which often replace them. To it's credit, the article is pretty neutral in that the author simply attributes the wide sweeping change to real estate pressures, and doesn't use the opportunity to clamor for violent resistance (to impose regulations, etc.)

While I can agree with that sentiment on an emotional level, I realize and accept the fact that my preferences are just that, and that it would be immoral to escalate any resistance above a completely bilateral voluntary nature.

It also helps me to understand that the monolithization of our neighborhoods is a direct result of codified violence (zoning laws, licensing, permits) which disrupts the realization of consumers' preferences into a bizarre spectacle of what seemingly is perceived as the 'free market'.

Radley Balko does a wonderful job explaining the process and the unintended consequences that follow.

"...zoning officials and regulators tend to overdo the regulating, then lapse into bureaucratic coma when local businesses try to navigate their way through City Hall. For example, if you want to do something as simple as change the lettering on or repaint the sign outside your business in Old Town, you both have to apply for and pay $50 to obtain a "ladder permit," and apply for and pay $55 for a "building permit." It can take more than two weeks to get the proper permits, even if all you want to do is replace the "e" on your "Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe" sign.

While all of this is intended to promote architectural continuity and preserve Old Town's historical charm, like most regulations it tends to promote the opposite of what city planners intended...

I guess the question is, whether one ought to need to have a lawyer on retainer in order to open a business in Old Town. And if Old Town is going to make that a requirement--intentionally or not--what effect is that going to have on the boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores that make up the very atmosphere the regulations are trying to promote?

My hunch is that Old Town's expensive, meticulous zoning laws have made it too difficult for the mom-and-pop places to do business. ...Franchise operators can often tap the resources of the parent company, particularly when it comes to accessing on-staff lawyers with experience navigating through and working with local zoning laws and business regulations.

The same people who gripe about how Wal-Mart is pushing smaller, independent places out of business tend to be the people who support onerous regulatory structures. What they tend not to understand is that regulatory burdens hit the smaller, independent places hardest, because they're the places that have the smallest amount of discretionary cash to hire lawyers or a tighter budget and, therefore, a smaller margin of error when it comes to hassles like delaying an opening because some bureaucrat determined their signage is a couple of inches out of compliance."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

eris, bringer of strife

If you thought the last post was all I had to say about Gustav Holst and The Planets, well you might be amused by what I left out, and what I think is the clincher.

For those of you who bothered to wikipedia* Gustav Holst, you would have learned that the discovery of Pluto, the (former) 9th planet was discovered during his lifetime, four years prior to his death. He was asked by many to write an eighth movement to include the newly discovered planet [Earth was skipped in his famous seven movement piece], but refused primarily because he was acrimonious to the fact that the popularity of The Planets eclipsed his other work.

Well it seems that Holst was vindicated after all with the discovery of Eris, a dwarf planet which is the ninth largest body known to orbit the sun, which resulted in the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to officially define the term 'planet' for the first time, and remove dear old Pluto from her esteemed status, and in fact, place it second in line after the troublemaker Eris.

The dwarf planet Eris was such named after her mythological namesake, because "[t]he name in part reflects the discord in the astronomical community caused by the debate over the object's (and Pluto's) nature.¹" What I also found lovely is that she is accompanied here by her daughter moon, Dysnomia.

And so to bring this farce full circle, we can discuss a book Harmonices Mundi, or "Harmonies of the Worlds" by Johannes Kepler which attempted to explain the musical harmony of the spheres, an ancient concept known as musica universalis, which regarded proportions in the movements of celestial bodies as a form of music.

Next, and with many pardons to Isaac Newton who suffered an erisian mishap with a falling orb, a [golden??!] apple which prompts a foray into describing the maths of celestial mechanics, only to be taken down a notch when Albert Einstein throws a wrench into Newton's game with his general theory which explains the erratic perturbations to local spacetime conditions. Isaac Asimov writes a short story about this and calls it "The Planet that Wasn't", [referring to planet Vulcan] although he never lived long enough to see Pluto demoted, which certainly would have delighted Gustav Holst had he been alive.


'Wikipedia' is a verb, and you can google it if you'd like ;)
¹I think they mean to say 'nomenclature', not 'nature'.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

leia, bringer of peace

By chance I flipped on the cars radio one day, and tune it to the local purveyor of classical music, when I hear an amazing piece which is hauntingly familiar to my ears. I'm prone to getting excited when I hear something very John Williams-like.

Determined to find out more, I check the stations homepage when I got home, to learn that the name of the arrangement is called The Planets by Gustav Holst. The very title alone sent shivers down my spine, as no other outer-worldly piece could inspire a composer who has made world-famous film scores to science fiction monuments such as Star Wars, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Since I surely can't be the sole person on the globe who has made the connection, I google  "The Planets" and John Williams, and sure enough, the first link I'm offered is to an original recording of The Planets, with two bonus tracks- get this, the Star Wars main title and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

After some more mucking around, I turn up the webpage of other people who think likewise;
"Gustav Holst's "Mars: Bringer of War" will sound familiar to science fiction buffs, as much of the score of Star Wars consists of John William’s variations. In particular, compare the climax of this movement to the music accompanying the destruction of the Death Star."
It's these cues which reassure me from time to time that I haven't yet lost my sanity.