Let’s face it, if you don’t try very hard, you can choose a career path that adds little to no value to your own self worth or to humanity in general. You could be a mandatory Jersey gas pumper, mime, day trader, second hand snake oil peddler, investment banker, or komodo dragon wrangler.
But studies in the past have shown that most human beings think that if they were appointed emperor of Earth, that the world would be a better place. Which says a lot about us as a species, because it’s patently untrue. But hey, just take a look at who just got elected to Congress, and it’s easy to conclude your next door neighbor’s four year old is both better qualified and a better person.
But now here’s a chance to become not just your own boss, but your own royalty. Per the BBC, an entire abandoned village in Salto de Castro, Spain can be yours for like $250K, or about 11% of the price for a one bedroom flat in Frisco. Here’s an aerial shot of your future kingdom:
Now my first thought is the village is on top of a mountain because like a lot of the planet’s villages they were built on hills for defensive purposes against [insert any human or natural calamity here]. And I was wrong. The village was built in the 1950’s by a power company to house workers building a reservoir. You can just see the water on the right of the above shot.
So it’s not like it’s an ancient village, but I’m sure there’s history there. The Iberian Peninsula has a ton of history. And you can make your own history, for after your purchase of Salto de Castro, you can just straight go ahead and claim independence and appoint yourself to enteral, divine rule. Any person on the planet can apply to become your subject, for a fee, of course. I mean, you’d be royalty, and need coin.
Why should Monaco or Andorra have all the weirdo small state fun? Get in on the action, while you can. What’s the Spanish Army [cue laughter] going to do? Attack? [cue even more extensive laugh track] You could even get some mercs on the cheap to act as your royal bodyguard.
I hear there are a bunch of mercs in a place called [shuffles through notes] Ukraine who are having a hard time with their current boss and looking for a new gig in which they are not cannon fodder for a failed invasion. You could get them on the cheap. Though it would increase your chances of regicide by 723%.
In all seriousness though whoever buys this place is a fool. For $250K you get the honor to have to plow like $56M just to make it livable again. And it’s all industrial strength faceless buildings from the 1950’s that I doubt are seeping with culture. Plus if you look at the above pic, you can see the high tension power lines running up from the reservoir past the town. How peaceful.
Someone will do it though. There are all kinds of idiots with big money out there who are looking to blow it on crazy projects or vanity ideas. And Salto de Castro won’t be the last. In 2075 due to crippling rural depopulation you’ll likely be able to buy an entire Korean or Japanese province for a pack of salted shrimp snacks. After all, it’s good to be the king.
I’ve been reading a lot lately, and thus have finally gotten around to a long held goal to read (or in some cases) reread Shakespeare. I got me The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, 2nd Edition. It has a wonderful introduction but does not annotate the plays themselves which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’m about halfway through this brick of a book. They arrange the plays by chronology, or at least the chronological order the editors believe Shakespeare wrote them. Which fascinatingly, is not an easy thing to determine.
What I like about this construct is I can read one play in about two to three hours and it’s a nice bite sized chunk of happy without overwhelming my brain. The last one read was Henry V. This guy’s story should be (but no longer is) well familiar to all of Western culture. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most well known, and maybe most quoted plays. It’s not 100% to the truth of history, but that’s never what Shakespeare was aiming for.
Having never read the whole play at once, I can say it’s probably the closest thing to an action movie that Shakespeare ever wrote. This play puts the pedal down from the start and never lets up. It’s an intesnse experience. The play itself (of course) has garnered a lot of negative thoughts from modern, arrogant types who don’t like that it’s a piece of jingoism. Probably because it is in fact a play written for a patriotic English auidence that very much wanted to hear a story about how Henry puts his boot on the French throat and drives the sword through the eyepiece.
That’s what Shakespeare intended. He clearly writes Henry V as his, the, model of an excellent, decisive ruler. But make no mistake, Shakespeare doesn’t hold his punches from anybody. Like a lot of history’s great people, Henry is both a hero and a maniac all rolled into one. He is unphased by battle, takes extreme risks, and ultimately see his victory through immense battlefield skill and leadership.
This same man also pontificates about how he might rape, pillage, and murder an entire city. Actually has his men begin to execute unarmed prisoners during a time of crisis. And in as many words (while disguised as a common man walking amongst his troops in the dark) that the king has the right to spend his men’s lives like currency whenever the fuck he wants to. In other words, Henry is indeed a man of his time, a good king, but still a ruler from the 15th Century.
The epilogue also reminds the audience (not that anybody at the time needed a reminder) that Henry died young (at 35) and after him all his gains in France were lost by subsequently poor English leadership which ultimately led to the War of the Roses, a polite term for a very violent, vicious, and multi-decade English Civil War. One could take the cynical view that everything Henry accomplished was for nothing, but that’s going too far for my tastes. Nobody knows what history brings next. You can only influence and act when you’re on the stage. After that, it’s outta your hands.
And then I remembered this scene from TNG where Picard has Data in fact act out a scene from this play. Specifically the one where Henry is in disguise at night:
This scene is the opening shot for Season 3, Episode 10, The Defector. In this scene a keen eye will see the Patrick Stewart plays Williams, Simon Templeman plays Bates, while Data gets the disgused king. It’s a neat little vingette, a great opening to one of my favorite episodes of TNG in general. The Defector was done when TNG was at the height of its powers. It’s a masterpiece episode that is both moving and brutal.
So let’s take the opportunity to once again remember just how utterly bad new Trek is. At least here, we shall always believe the creators of Discovery, Picard, (and the seven other new Trek shows they’re making whose names we can’t remember) should all be imprisoned. It has also recently come to my attention that Stewart (a near two decade veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company) was very heavily involved in making Picard. So I guess he belongs in jail too. What a disappointment. I guess after thirty years you lose the magic. In TNG, Stewart is a master of his craft, in Picard he’s a garbage man working for a board room of Paramount suits. And Stewart’s seated at the same table.
Back to Henry V. There’s also the 2019 Netflix movie The King which is Netflix’s take not only on Shakespeare’s Henry V but also Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2. My contempt for this movie knows no bounds. So like new Trek,we must place it into the garbage category. Not only does the movie completely alter the history, it completely alters the Shakespeare. Plus Emo Queen Timothée Chalamet is just about the last person on the planet who should being playing Henry V.
So in other words, the people who wrote / made this movie, they thought they were smarter than Shakespeare. I mean, Hollywood alters history more times than Trek changes the space time continuum. But did these arrogant garbage men really, really understand how crass it is to rip up a story written by William Shakespeare? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t have the gall, I’d be like: “Uh, yeah, we’d better not do that, guys. No really, let’s not do that.”
Perhaps the most eggregious sin of The King is how they screw up Agincourt. Which is probably on the top ten of most important singular battles in human history. How do you screw up Agincourt? Easy. You get Netflix to hire a bunch of hacks to make a bad movie.
I thus conclude I probably in good faith owe two future posts. One should be a review of The Defector. And the second should be a post about Agincourt. I don’t always keep my future post promises, I get distracted like a meth addled squirrel, but maybe I’ll stick to this promise.
As a draw on my old photos sometimes I’ll hit upon a trip and I distinctly remember being there when my Parents visited me. These are good memories, and not to be taken for granted. Daibutsuden is the Great Buddha Hall in Nara. The overall complex is Todai-ji or Todaiji. Daibutsu is the largest copper Buddha in the world. As with all major Japanese temples, this one has a tale.
Originally the site was a 8th Century temple built by Emperor Shomu to honor his infant son’s death. This is when Nara was Japan’s capital, though the country was not totally united during this era. The larger temple, and chiefly the Daibutsu came later, between 738-752. It seems (by legend) that in order to finance such a grand undertaking Shomu had to cut a deal. The Buddhist monk Gyoki would help, but only if he was allowed to teach Buddhism to the people. This was part of a very complicated transition in Japanese religion where traditional Shinto beliefs began to evolve alongside Buddhism and they merged into a very unique Japanese version of both religions.
But as with all things religion, this transition had its opponents. But money talks, and Shomu wanted what Shomu wanted, so he cut a deal with Gyoki who got what he wanted. Here’s a relatively rare (my opinion) in history where an absolute sovereign and an important religious figure resolved their differences with compromise instead of bloodshed. Contrast this with Henry II and the splattering of some random guy’s brains inside a random cathedral.
It didn’t come cheap. Gyoki and his followers scoured the country for money and materials. The statue itself brought financial difficulties to the entire country and gobbled up much of the country’s entire copper supply. Weight: 500 tons, or the size of a decent sized ship by today’s standards. Back then, it’d have been the largest ship in the world if it could have floated.
the man himself
Like many temples in Japan, the original Hall burned down many times. The current hall was finished In 1709, Great Buddha Hall, Daibutsuden, which houses the Daibutsu. Bizarrely, it’s actually 1/3 smaller than the wooden building it replaced. Even so, until the turn of the 20th Century it was still the world’s largest wooden building. And like the temple, the statue itself has been repaired and redone many times over the years due to fire and earthquake damage, plus wars.
Plus it’s 1,270 years old and is thus beyond comprehension. I’m a big believer that the human brain has limits and the idea that any one of us can properly conceive of 1,270 years inside our brains is asking too much. It’s a long, long time, with countless lives and dreams riding along the waves of time all while Daibutsu hangs out and watches. Bronze statues can’t talk. But maybe if you listen, even if your brain can’t comprehend it, you can still learn from it.
Nyoirin-kannonis next to daibutsu
a pyre outside the main Hall, all these years later I still can’t shake the idea that I botched the angle of this shot
just one man, praying alone, riding the waves of time
Trying to comprehend Japan is a hard by worthy endeavor. I lived there for three years and decades later I’m still learning. Sometimes you run into a gem that’s both fun and helps you along the way.
Lost among the extreme amount of worthless nonsense that Netflix puts out is a 2017 short series in Samurai Gourmet. It lasted only one season of twelve episodes, each a short bite no longer than about twenty minutes each. It wasn’t renewed for another season because Netflix is dumb.
The show focuses on Takeshi Kasumi played by all-purpose multi-talented actor Naoto Takenaka. Kasumi is a 60 year old recently retired salaryman (sararīman) who goes on food based adventures.
A lot of this is straight food porn, but hell so much of television is nowadays. And I find the food aspects interesting but that’s not the real appeal. At its core this is a lighthearted comedy about a guy starting a new (and perhaps his first) real stage of his life. It’s also just plain darn fun, a fact I constantly have whined about on this degenerate blog as missing from much of modern television.
Kasumi is shadowed by the neat, unique concept where his alter-ego is a Sengoku Jidai era samurai (Tetsuji Tamayama) who shares the same experiences but is a badass whereas Kasumi is still figuring out who he is as a person. Essentially if you have any interest in Japan, or food, or just want a fun comedic ride, this is for you. But a few key points I’ll make without getting into the plot, such as it is.
1) Kasumi retires at 60 after working for the same corporation for forty years and ended at essentially middle management. It’s typical sararīman. At more than one point he remarks that he walked to and from the same train station every day for decades and never took a detour. The show (wisely, because it would break the fun) doesn’t dwell on the absolute misery of the life of a sararīman. The punishing hours, the demeaning work, the lack of independence, and absolute total deference one must show to one’s superiors regardless of their brutality or lack of talent. When you understand what being a sararīman really is, it makes Kasumi’s adventures mean so much more. He’s finally free to be his own person, and now that he has that freedom, he’s on an adventure to discover who that person is.
The very first episode he dwells at his anxiety that he cannot possibly have a beer with lunch, oh no, that’s not proper. For a sararīman, beer is for late night mandatory after work events with your boss where you get plastered and arrive home after your wife’s already asleep. But in the episode, Kasumi orders the lunch beer, it’s a release for him. The very first step on his journey to be free, a person he actually wants to be. In many ways, and this is where Naoto nails this performance, Kasumi is also still emotionally a little boy. He wife (Honami Suzuki) has a remark in episode three that’s telling where Kasumi has to overnight at an inn and she’s astounded because he’s never been alone all his life. He grew up with his parents, lived with them through university, and moved out when he got married. Now who he is? Sometimes they intersperse scenes from his childhood, before he became a sararīman, which is of course a perfect foil for what happened to him the past four decades. He’s a free child, had a punishing four decade gap, and now? That’s the core of the show.
2) The other major theme is Kasumi and Shinzuko’s marriage. If you want to understand what a lot of Japanese marriages might be like, particularly in the sararīman theme, here you go. There is a deep respect between the two, but essentially they barely know each other and lead completely different lives. He was a four decade sararīman. It’s never mentioned if they had children. It’s never mentioned if she had a job, because she probably didn’t. She has her own hobbies, she’s completely independent of him, and you clearly get the idea that she really doesn’t need this guy at all to be happy. She cooks for him and helps him here and there but otherwise one could mistake this for a loveless soulless marriage.
I don’t think it is one. They never actually say the word love, but I think it’s there. The closest they come to it is late in the season where they go out for their anniversary. And they both joke about how they hardly ever did this, or even went out to eat together at all. There’s an extremely emotional, even romantic moment where Kasumi opens up to her in a way he probably never has. But the word love isn’t there. He simply states, nearly but subtly tear eyed (Naoto is a superb actor), “I ask for your continued support.” And she says the same back. It reminds me of The Fiddler on the Roof song Do You Love Me? These two people have been together a very, very long time, haven’t had the easiest of lives, and have just somehow made it work. They’re together and in love even if they’ve never realized it’s happening in such a way. I think their marriage would have been explored a great deal more had Netflix not cancelled the show.
3) The samurai parts are fairly typical, but just fun. Tetsuji is cut from cloth to play this era of samurai and it’s such a joy. But they keep it short, and leave you wanting more. Tetsuji is only on screen for maybe two minutes of each episode. But each vignette is a good look at that era of Japanese culture and contains countless thoughts on war, class, etc, etc that are short but on point.
4) The food parts are the food parts. It’s indeed modern food porn. But if you like Japanese food you get the usual oden, yakitori, yakiniku, etc, etc. There’s also a surprisingly large amount of times, about a 1/3 a think, where Kasumi goes and pursues Western style dishes with their own Japanese twist. If you like this kind of food (I worship it) then this will leave you hungry as it should. I went to a local yakitori place off this show’s cravings alone last week. The result? It sucked, I was so disappointed the place failed. Why can’t I live three train stops from Shinjuku? We need teleporters to be invented, right now.
5) A pox on you Netflix, did we really need another season of Bridgerton? How much did that cost them to make, ~$124M? I think the budget for Samurai Gourmet is about five bucks. And it’s more emotionally engaging and thought provoking. It’s been five years, so this is a dead show. But it is very much worth anyone’s time. It’s fun, enjoy the ride.
Last month we wrote a piece in which we were flabbergasted that any rational human would be interested in CNN+. But even we had no idea it would be this bad. After three weeks and a daily average of only 10K users the hammer came down and it’s done.
They spent $500M on this. There are some fellow bloggers on wordpress that get more than 10K visitors a day. What a disaster. But this was predictable. We saw it coming. Hell give me that $500M. I need my own zoo.
To me, this is a good thing. Some streaming services need to fail and fail badly. Otherwise we’ll just replace cable with 79 different streaming services. Which is asinine and silly.
As I ride into work on the subway I always see a lot of construction. But much of it is coming to a close as all the newfangled buildings take shape. Many of them are brand new modern city apartment buildings. First off, all of these structures are glass enclosed, fake brick nightmares that have stale architecture, no style, and look like they were designed by a logical computer program. Probably because they were designed by a logical computer program with the intent of providing the most efficiency possible. Once upon a time, humanity built beautiful buildings with soul. Even the post office was meant to have style. Now we get buildings that are designed off spreadsheet outcomes.
Second, all of these new apartment buildings have the most pretentious names imaginable. One I saw this morning is called “The Gantry”. What? According to Oxford, a gantry is: “a tall metal frame that is used to support a crane, road signs, a spacecraft while it is still on the ground, etc.” So other than to sound fancy, snooty, and otherwise give the impression that this particular apartment building only wishes to house stuck up assholes, why would you name your building after a metal frame? Of course, you wouldn’t. What I’ve written above to me is a negative trait for a building, but to the building designers it’s The Point.
The Gantry in San Francisco (not my city, yes there are several The Gantry’s in the USA [shakes head in exasperation]) says this: “EVERY COMFORT CONSIDERED. The Gantry Apartments welcomes you with studio-, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartment homes in Dogpatch, San Francisco, all designed to meet your needs and desires for a carefree and luxurious lifestyle.” It also uses the term “Luxe” on the website. To steal a quote from South Park, in order to live in such a place you have to be in love with the smell of your own farts.
But don’t worry! TAP is here to help. We’ll take care of apartment naming from now on. If building designers disagree, they’ll be sent to a Russian conscript training camp near Rostov-on-Don and their buildings destroyed by my Guests. Let’s go. Let’s fucking go!!!
1) The Gambler – We see to your every comfort, unless life’s dice roll against you, in which case we will immediately evict you
2) The Wreck of the Hesperus – Where your pride is summarily & forcefully removed via our constant vigilance towards your misery
3) As We Like It – Your every comfort is not considered, if this is a problem, you don’t have to live here
4) The Cat Burglar – All pets (particularly cats) are more than welcome at our fine establishment, just realize we will occasionally rob you for your own amusement
5) The Acolyte Politico – We have no available apartments, please kindly descend into our boiler room to tour our fine building, it is recommend your will is accurate prior to your visit
6) The Coliseum – We built our beautiful building to match Rome’s finest architecture, we also host blood sports in the penthouse every Friday and Saturday
7) Gulag – The finest of pre-revolution Imperial Russian architecture provides a backdrop to our mandate that any abject pretension detected in the building will result in severest punishment
8) The Olympian – Sports, every day, competition, we’re for the strong of all, and our building carries the boon of classic Greek architecture
9) The Hopeless – We seek to provide our residents every opportunity to consider the pointlessness of their corporeal existence, also free gym membership!!
10) The Lunatic – Why did I write this post? Someone, please help me! They made me do this, I need rescuing! Please help pay my ransom. Please kindly send cash, money order, or gold bullion to:
The Arcturus Project – Apartment Architecture & Naming Reclamation Project
Soon there will be 129 streaming services, somewhat close to the number of core cable channels I suppose. But at $5.99 each month per service, your new streaming bill will be $772.71 per month for them all. Please save ahead of time so your bank account doesn’t go into the red.
So don’t think for a second all the media companies are upset that cable is dying. Not even a decade or so ago nine out of ten Americans had cable. Within the year I bet it’ll be less than half. But media companies are making more money than ever (except for live sports) so it all works out for them.
And so now CNN is in on the game. In America you can watch all their programs, but not live news. The international version gets live news. Because the last thing people know CNN for is live news. You could spend time with such intellectual heavyweights like Wolf Blizter or Anderson Cooper on their talk shows, two arrogant empty suit guys who have contributed less to the goodness of America than your local jury duty foreman during any equivalent time period.
Uh, there’s some food stuff on there. Because I guess CNN thinks food will sell. But Bordain’s dead, so they’ve lost that brilliance. So I guess they’ll pull some other person out of the woodwork, like some celebrity to talk about food. Umm, I think they have a bunch of documentaries hosted by people they picked off a spreadsheet based on their political beliefs and skin color.
Um, they do some history stuff every now and then. Like they had that series that covered each decade. But that was shallow, pandering, and sucked. So, um, [furrows brow] what preciously is there for CNN to stream, without live news? If I were them, they should just throw a puppy on screen with a ball of yarn. Though they can’t do that because Animal Planet already has a $4.99 a month service exclusively covering puppies playing with objects.
Would it be too earnest of us to ask the aliens to just get on with it? I mean I know the invasion target date is 2037, but what’s the point in waiting?
I don’t know why I feel compelled to comment on the Oscars (again) when I’ve pretty much said at many points during this pointless blog’s existence that it’s all a sick joke for the benefit of spoiled rich losers.
But I guess I’ll just point out that they really can’t help themselves. This is who they are. In the world of celebrities, a man can assault another man, and ten seconds later be honored and applauded like nothing happened.
In any other part of our society & culture this behavior rightly results in arrest. Not in Hollywood. Rules are for little peasants. If they’re in show business, it’s perfectly okay to be a hypocrite, because everyone else in the room is just like them.
It’s why I just don’t understand the cult of celebrity or people who watch TMZ or whatever, and follow the lives of these people like a religion. For the most part, these are not good people, they’re not moral human beings. Moral human beings, good dudes and women, don’t applaud someone who just assaulted another human being.
While I have a lot to say about Ukraine, I have refrained because frankly what I think doesn’t actually matter. Maybe I’ll write about it later after I’ve had more time to think. But this caught my eye this morning from The Economist and I felt compelled to share:
“Spirited resistance across Ukraine—from Berdyansk on the Azov Sea to Sumy in the north-east—has been backed up by a widespread unwillingness to acquiesce in the parts of the country where Ukraine has lost control. There is no evidence of Vladimir Putin’s soldiers being welcomed anywhere. The mood is generally one of contempt. In Konotop, a town in Sumy oblast, a local woman was filmed asking a Russian tank-driver if he knew about the town’s literary association with the occult. “Every second woman is a witch here,” she told him. “Tomorrow you won’t be able to get your dick to stand up.”
The Ukrainians might lose this war. Or they might have to fight a smoldering conflict for years where the violence constantly ramps up and down, like in Donbas since 2014 only throughout the whole country. But in general, as human history shows, you at least have a decent shot at a future provided a people, a culture are willing to tell evil people to fuck off. Here’s to witchcraft.
Slammed in the middle of the NFL’s usual battery of truck commercials and false fluff where companies claim how wonderful they are by lying directly to the audience was a few ads for the new Death on the Nile film. The is a remake of something that has already been done, and was done better. It’s a follow up to another Murder on the Orient Express which was done back in 2017. The Imposter is show business royalty darling Kenneth Branagh who has his tentacles in so many aspects of Hollywood you can’t keep track of it. But is basically known for making a bunch of forgettable Shakespeare films, shitty (but lucrative) remakes and superhero trash in Thor and Cinderella, and the greatest masterpiece ever made in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
The Imposter has a habit of casting himself in the leading roles while he’s the director. Which is something that you shouldn’t ever do unless your name is legendary, of which for all his connections, The Imposter is most certainly not. What’s even more glaring with the two Poirot remakes is The Imposter is shoving himself into an actor / director role where the character has already been played to absolute perfection by David Suchet. It’s like some hack showing up and deciding he’s going to play Indiana Jones far, far better than Harrison Ford. It’s patently absurd, but like a bunch (all) of people in show business he’s a narcissist for sure, so it’s okay to fail, as long as he can see his own film and smile about how awesome he thinks he looks. I think I saw in the Nile trailer that The Imposter has Poirot holding a gun. Which is like Indy holding a fluffy teddy bear. Such things should not be done.
There is only one Poirot, that’s it. And shame on Agatha Christie’s family for taking the check that was slid across the table to let Hollywood trash the 25 years of work David Suchet & Co did with Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
In my mind, this would play out perfectly in 1938. Miss Lemon would go through the financial records and discover the location of The Imposter based on his bribery paperwork. Hastings would jump into his roadster to get there as quickly as possible, without knowing even where he was going, and would collide with a bus full of nuns and children on their way to a Great War veteran’s event. Poirot would solve the case by getting in the face of Hollywood executives (around a crowded circular room with many people listening to him) and the film would be cancelled. And then Japp would drag The Imposter from his gilded hotel room at 3:34am in shackles to the Scotland Yard basement room known as “The Kiln”. Where then Japp would grab the phone book and ask questions for seven hours such as “Well then, let’s see how many Fitzhugh’s live in Charing Cross?” Followed by the screams.