Thursday, April 26, 2007


I've started a small cactus garden by the side of the house. Most of the cacti I've planted so far are ridiculously small. They're on the south side of the house, so they get direct sunlight all day. I'll post some pictures soon.

Mrs. Octopus and I got some of the plants at the California Cactus Center in Pasadena, which was incredible. They had beautiful cactus arrangements, cactus bonsai, living rocks, all sorts of flowering cacti, alien-looking succulents. I came across one bonsai tree which looked mostly dead: it was about two feet tall, with long, bare, spindly branches, like a miniature tree in winter. Its trunk was knotted and gnarled. Wrapping around its trunk, and on the ends of some of the long, thin branches were these tiny, waxy red leaves. I asked one of the sales staff what it was. They told me the name, but I can't remember it now. They also told me it was thirty years old and cost $350.

Anyway, I'll be heading back there soon. I hope to get some larger cacti, and perhaps some desert trees.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Communist Manifestoon

This is truly fantastic:
Displaying a broad range of Golden Age Hollywood animation, Manifestoon is a homage to the latent subversiveness of cartoons. Though U.S. cartoons are usually thought of as conveyors of capitalist ideologies of consumerism and individualism, Drew observes: "Somehow as an avid childhood fan of cartoons, these ideas were secondary to a more important lesson—that of the 'trickster' nature of many characters as they mocked, outwitted and defeated their more powerful adversaries. In the classic cartoon, brute strength and heavy artillery are no match for wit and humor, and justice always prevails. For me, it was natural to link my own childhood concept of subversion with an established, more articulate version [Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto]. Mickey running over the globe has new meaning in today's mediascape, in which Disney controls one of the largest concentrations of media ownership in the world."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I start nearly every sentence with "I".

I am almost done with Green Mars. I am such a slow reader. I think I read like six pages a night. I'm excited about finishing this book so I can start a new one. I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. Maybe I'll finally finish Against the Day. That'll take up another two months or so. I have some more Raymond Chandler books I could read. I started looking at the Vernor Vinge book, but it seems to be all about slow zones, and fast zones, some kind of space opera -- probably deadly boring. I borrowed Special Topics in Calamity Physics from the library, but have mixed feelings about reading the book because I resent the author for being young, wildly successful, and cute. Blech. What's the opposite of Schadenfreude? Hateradenfreude?

I'm thinking again about learning kung fu. Is this a good idea?

I said a surah three times, almost involuntarily, before walking into a meeting last week. It's the one I recite three times and then blow in three directions around me, creating a temporary forcefield. I think it worked, because I wasn't fired at the meeting. And no one hit me. Every now and then, I worry that someone I am working with will get so pissed off with me that they will come over and strangle or beat me. But I'm around lawyers, so instead of physical violence, everything comes out in passive aggressive behavior, selective use of capitalization, tersely forwarded emails, documents returned through interoffice mail with seething post-it notes, etc.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Two years ago I posted about the mysteries of Christ, and another Easter has come and I am not much clearer on some of the questions I had back then.

It's interesting to note that Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet, was born of a virgin mother, that he healed the blind and lepers, and raised the dead -- although the Koran states several times that Jesus was not the son of God, but simply a man. There is some controversy among Muslims as to whether Jesus actually died on the cross -- only a minority Islamic view believes in the resurrection.

The view of Jesus helps to highlight the interesting relationship between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Islam, unlike Judaism, accepts Christ as a prophet. However, Islam, as with Judaism, and against Christianity, does not accept Christ as the son of God. In some ways, just as Christianity appeared as a corrective of a sort to Judaism, Islam appears to see itself as a corrective to Christianity -- accepting Jesus as a prophet, but attempting to revert the focus from worship of the figure of Jesus to God himself, through the message of Mohammed, who the Koran clearly states is simply a man, and not to be worshipped.

Neil Gaiman suggests in his brilliant American Gods, and many others believe, that the timing of the Christian Easter holiday was coordinated to supplant and build upon pagan holidays celebrating spring, or the vernal equinox. This would make sense, just as the timing of Christmas was apparently coordinated to supplant pagan winter solstice festivals, or the Saturnalia.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Not an original thought in my head

The other day Mrs. Octopus and I were discussing immigration as we drove past MacArthur Park on our way to Kobawoo in Koreatown. I was trying to make the point that America had been founded on illegal immigration (think Plymouth Rock, Jamestown, etc.). I hadn't really thought of this idea in precisely these terms before. (I obviously hadn't been reading enough Howard Zinn.)

I was momentarily taken with this idea, but then realized it had probably been made many times before. And it has. See here, here, here, and here.

So anyway, perhaps I'll start referring to the Pilgrims and other early European settlers as "Boatpeople".

Monday, April 02, 2007

Life May Be Too Short for Star Trek

Why am I watching Enterprise on the Sci Fi Channel? This show is so wack. I'm watching the one where Captain Archer gets kidnapped by some bounty hunter trying to take him back to the Klingons. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, T'Pol is going through the Pon Farr, which gave the show's writers an excuse to have Jolene Blalock run around writhing in her space underwear for an entire episode. (They had Hoshi do this in an another episode.) The episode ends with some timely use of "the Grappler", a grappling hook tied to a cable on the bottom of the Enterprise.

Jeez, I really geeked out there.

Like my own personal Pon Farr, I've been feeling myself fall back into a deep science fiction phase. It may have started when we saw the excellent Children of Men. Soon after that I picked up Kim Stanley Robinson's Green Mars again. I had started it a few years back after racing through the fantastic Red Mars. I've also picked up Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, which looks uber-dorky, but probably worth reading. I'm thinking about trying to make my way through the recent Hugo Award winners over the next couple months.

Anyway, live long and prosper.