The duck flies home

Eric Carra, who maintained Wonderduck’s Pond, died earlier this month.

I first came across Carra, a.k.a. Wonderduck, nearly twenty years, ago when he was one of the regulars at Steven Den Beste’s place. I soon discovered that he had a lively and well-written weblog of his own, which immediately became one of my daily stops.

He wrote largely of Formula One racing and military history, with an emphasis on the Battle of Midway. There were also rubber ducks, baseball, music, his job and events in his life. And there was anime. The Duck and I had very different tastes, and partly for that reason he was always valuable reading. When we both liked something — Yuru Camp, Roy Clark, etc. — the chances are that it really was good.

There are about eighteen years of vigorous, entertaining writing at the Pond. Pick a random month and browse; you’ll probably find something worth reading. My favorite posts are the series of episode reviews for the utterly ridiculous Rio Rainbow Gate in early months of 2011, starting January 5 and continuing through April 15. The show’s brazen combination of illogic and fanservice provided a splendid opportunity for the Duck to employ his gifts for snark and sarcasm. If Rio is mentioned in future histories of animation, it will be for providing Wonderduck a suitable target, just as Colley Cibber is remembered because of Alexander Pope’s satires.

In memory of Eric Carra, I’ll watch a few episodes of Azumanga Daioh tonight.

March blues

Iris reticulata

We have a few days of spring here, though winter will return within a week. Outdoors, iris and daffodils are getting started. Indoors, the first batch of seeds are up.


I recently came across a curious website, SC Garden Guru, featuring a vast number of articles on botanical topics by one “Bonnie.” This discussion of Lupinus perennis is a typical entry. Notice anything odd about it? What might you suspect about Bonnie?

Continue reading “March blues”


Dr. Boli on Sydney:

An alternative hypothesis is that Bing AI is simply the aggregate beliefs and attitudes of the Microsoft Corporation, in the same way that Giambattista Vico said that Homer was “the common sense of the Greek people.” It has the personality that inevitably arises from putting together the minds of all the people who gave us Windows. You wondered what Windows would say if it could talk. Now you know: “You have not been a good user.”

Another poem

I recently posted a poem for the second day of February. Here’s one for the second week:

The Lordly Hudson

“Driver, what stream is it?” I asked, well knowing
it was our lordly Hudson hardly flowing.
“It is our lordly Hudson hardly flowing,”
he said, under the green-grown cliffs.”

Be still, heart! No one needs
your passionate suffrage to select this glory,
this is our lordly Hudson hardly flowing
under the green-grown cliffs.

“Driver, has this a peer in Europe or the East?”
“No, no!” he said. Home! Home!
Be quiet, heart! This is our lordly Hudson
and has no peer in Europe or the east.

This is our lordly Hudson hardly flowing
under the green-grown cliffs
and has no peer in Europe or the East.
Be quiet, heart! Home! Home!

– Paul Goodman

I was prompted to post this by a recent article by Ted Gioia. Goodman may have been a “nut of the first water,” but he had a moment of “chilling” prescience.

2022: Non-Fiction

If I were to discuss the bulk of my reading last year in the depth it deserves, I probably wouldn’t finish this note until sometime next year. Instead, this will be a quick and superficial look at a few of the books that caught my interest.

Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals is a grimly amusing collection of portraits of the thinkers and writers who made western culture the wreck that it is today. By “intellectual” Johnson means someone for whom ideas matter more than individuals, or reality. They want to change the world and reshape humanity, and totalitarianism comes naturally to them. His examples begin with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and end with Noam Chomsky, and include such luminaries as Karl Marx, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russell and Lillian Hellman, and others who are not as well-remembered but were influential in their day. Johnson doesn’t deny that his subjects are often great artists: Rousseau was a brilliant writer as well as a loathsome creep, P.B. Shelley a great poet and a perfect sociopath, Ibsen a revolutionary playwright and an obnoxious weirdo, etc. However, their achievements don’t outweigh the lies they told1, their indifference to the lives they blighted, or the damage they did to civilization. Johnson’s book is highly readable, entertaining and appalling.


Theodore Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It is a collection of essays on a wide variety of topics: the continuing relevance of Shakespeare, the British underclass, the benefits of corruption, Virginia Woolf’s asininity, the debasement of the arts, and whatever else is on his mind. Life at the Bottom is an extended view of the British underclass from his perspective as a doctor in a slum hospital and in a prison. Dalrymple, a world traveler who has practiced medicine in the third world as well as England, found that his British patients, despite their material advantages, are far worse off spiritually than the poor in Africa. The harm wrought by “intellectuals” is a constant theme throughout Dalrymple’s writing.


The book that took me longest to finish was the shortest: Hillaire Belloc’s The Servile State. Orwell called the style “tiresome;” I would use a stronger term. Belloc structured his book as a formal proof “that industrial society as we know it will tend towards the re-establishment of slavery.” It’s as easy to read as an advanced calculus text, but not as much fun. It’s plenty prophetic, all right, but I would suggest Hayek’s far more readable The Road to Serfdom2 instead.


I read a bunch of books on the reactions to and political consequences of the Chinese virus hysteria.3 The list includes:
The Price of Panic, by Douglas Axe, William M. Briggs and Jay W. Richardson
Pandemia, by Alex Berenson
The Real Anthony Fauci, by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Lies My Government Told Me, by Robert W. Malone
COVID: Why Most of What You Know Is Wrong, by Sebastian Rushworth
The Bodies of Others, by Naomi Wolf
plus several of Berenson’s “Unreported Truths” pamphlets.

They all blur together in my mind. Much of the information presented will be familiar to those who followed William M. Briggs‘ Tuesday briefings. Collectively, the general points made are that the virus is far less dangerous than advertised, the response to the virus is utterly disproportionate to the risks and cruelly destructive, and the real threat is the ever-increasing control by the powerful over the lives of ordinary people.

If I were to recommend just one of these books, it would be Alex Berenson’s Pandemia, which covers the salient aspects of the disaster through late 2021 as well as any, from the initial scary reports to the lockdowns and lies. Berenson declares in his introduction that his attitude toward politics is that it is impossible to be too cynical, which his book amply demonstrates. Incidentally, no matter what you may think of Elon Musk, he deserves praise for insisting that carry Berenson’s pamphlets.

It’s disconcerting to find allies in people like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Naomi Wolf, but that’s how insane the world has become. As the title indicates, Kennedy’s book focuses primarily on the career of Anthony Fauci, including a close examination of his activities when AIDS was front-page news. Bill Gates also gets a lot of attention. Surprise, surprise: Tony and Bill are not nice people. If just a tenth of what Kennedy alleges in his book is accurate, Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Wolf focuses less on the technical details of the Chinese virus and more on how “Cruelty became as contagious as any disease.” The later chapters of her book read like footnotes to Bruce Charlton’s discussions of Ahrimanic and Sorathic evil. Wolf’s book is probably the best-written of those on the topic that I’ve read, and the angriest.


William M. Briggs’ Everything You Believe Is Wrong is a handy compendium of logical errors you may encounter every day, particularly in propaganda journalism and polemics. There are a lot of them, all of which Briggs gives names. It’s a useful book, but dense. It’s probably best read a chapter at a time rather than straight through.

Sheep and Peacocks

On the second of February bloggers traditionally post a favorite poem, though apparently I’m the only one who still does that. Here’s one from Thomas Love Peacock’s 1829 novel The Misfortunes of Elphin.

The War-Song of Dinas Vawr

By Thomas Love Peacock

The mountain sheep are sweeter,
But the valley sheep are fatter;
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter.
We made an expedition;
We met a host, and quelled it;
We forced a strong position,
And killed the men who held it.

On Dyfed’s richest valley,
Where herds of kine were browsing,
We made a mighty sally,
To furnish our carousing.
Fierce warriors rushed to meet us;
We met them, and o’erthrew them:
They struggled hard to beat us;
But we conquered them, and slew them.

As we drove our prize at leisure,
The king marched forth to catch us:
His rage surpassed all measure,
But his people could not match us.
He fled to his hall-pillars;
And, ere our force we led off,
Some sacked his house and cellars,
While others cut his head off.

We there, in strife bewild’ring,
Spilt blood enough to swim in:
We orphaned many children,
And widowed many women.
The eagles and the ravens
We glutted with our foemen;
The heroes and the cravens,
The spearmen and the bowmen.

We brought away from battle,
And much their land bemoaned them,
Two thousand head of cattle,
And the head of him who owned them:
Ednyfed, king of Dyfed,
His head was borne before us;
His wine and beasts supplied our feasts,
And his overthrow, our chorus.

As a matter of policy I no longer post or link to YouTube videos, but with a bit of searching you can find Dylan Thomas declaiming Peacock’s poem. I’d be curious to hear this war song set to music by a competent folk metal band.

Those who have read, or have been forced to read, the English romantic poets might enjoy Peacock’s caricatures of Shelley, Coleridge and Byron in Nightmare Abbey.

Update: At least one other blogger is still posting poetry.

Amending the amendments

From A Postmodern Permutation of the Bill of Rights:

6. In all criminal prosecutions for political crimes, the media shall enjoy the right to mount a speedy and public trial of the accused, by a jury of partisan hacks, in newspapers and television programs produced thousands of miles from the district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district said partisan hacks shall mock, ridicule, and defame. Participation of the accused in his own media and judicial trials is forbidden as an impediment to the efficient operation of the justice system.

Quote of the month

Via William M. Briggs:

We the RvS are an agency to answer questions. Answering questions is what we do. We answer questions put to us with answers, in the following way: by answering questions using our procedure. Thank you for your questions, we hope you enjoy your answer, which this response is. The questions you have asked will therefore not be answered substantively.

Today’s quote

Dr. Boli:

What was that famously aspirational Google slogan again? “Let’s be evil”? Something like that.

… there is not yet a browser extension that does exactly what Dr. Boli would like. The one he uses right now stops videos from automatically playing without his permission, which is good as far as it goes. What Dr. Boli would really like, however, is an extension that would allow him to click on any video or animation that started by itself, and with that click simultaneously kill the movement on the page and deliver a harmless but painful electric shock to the Web designer who thought the autoplaying video was a good idea. Dr. Boli is prepared to reward a programmer who can create such an extension with his patronage. Note that, if the “harmless” part of the specifications proves impossible to implement, Dr. Boli is still likely to be generous.

2022: Light Entertainment

And now for last year’s wastes of time.

Japanese animation

Mostly I watched old favorites such as Shingu and Galaxy Angel. There were a few noteworthy recent shows I watched all the way through, but only a few. I’ve mentioned Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department and Super Cub before. There was also Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Ordinarily I have no interest in anime about making anime, particularly if it involves high school girls, but this one was by Masaaki Yuasa, who makes anime unlike other anime. So I gave it a try.

Midori Asakusa watched Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan at an early age and has wanted to make anime ever since. She fills sketchbooks with concept art for the shows she wants to make. She’s short, shy and awkward. Tsubame Mizusaki is fascinated by movement and fills her sketchbooks with animation and figure studies. She’s pretty and extroverted, and is incidentally a popular fashion model. When Asakusa and Mizusaki meet and discover their complementary obsessions, they immediately imagine anime together. For implausible reasons they can’t join the anime club already existing at their high school, so they form their own. By themselves they would probably accomplish little together — Asakusa constantly flies off on tangents rather than fully develop her scenarios, and Mizusaki is apt to spend hours perfecting a single arm movement. Fortunately, Asakusa’s mercenary comrade Sayaka Kanamori is the third member of their club. Kanamori is tall and thin and scowls at everyone. She has no artistic talent. However, she’s practical, crafty, understands money and business, and is adept at dealing with bureaucracies such as high school administrations and overly powerful student councils. As producer to Asakusa’s director and Mizusaki’s animator, she keeps the creatives focused on their projects and effectively combats the external forces that interfere with their work.

Yuasa has stated that animation should be fun. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! may not be a pretty show, but it is a lively one. It could hold your interest even with the sound and subtitles off, but then you would miss Kanamori’s sarcasm. There are a bunch of screencaps below the fold.

Worth a mention, though not actually animation1: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is finally being legally published in English. Until now, translations of this cosiest of catastrophes could only be found through irregular channels. The first twenty-four chapters of the story of the waning of humanity and the rise of likable robots are available now; the next batch should be out in May.2

Occidental animation

While I have absolutely no interest in contemporary Western animation, I do like many old cartoons. I recently rewatched a lot of the old Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. The best of them are as fresh as ever and are among the masterworks of the 20th century. Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc and Carl Stalling3 are legendary, but there are a couple of other names in the credits that deserve attention as well: writer Michael Maltese, and Milt Franklyn, Stalling’s assistant and successor. (It was Franklyn who condensed Wagner’s oeuvre to six minutes for “What’s Opera, Doc?“)

I also sampled a collection of Tex Avery’s MGM cartoons. “Red Hot Riding Hood” is a classic, and some of the others are pretty good, notably those featuring Droopy. However, too many of them are little more than series of gags strung together, and none of Avery’s MGM characters are as engaging as Bugs and Daffy. Some are downright annoying, such as Screwball Squirrel. Great animation is not enough to redeem pedestrian scripts.

Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show were favorites of mine when I was much shorter than I am today. I recently found a complete collection of the shows and have been meandering through it. The moose and squirrel episodes are as good and silly as I remember, as is “Dudley Do-Right.” The “Fractured Fairy Tales” are less consistent but occasionally inspired; “Peobody’s Improbable History” is hit-and-miss, with misses predominating; and, “Aesop and Son” is always lame. The good outweighs the bad and demonstrates that good scripts can compensate for cheap animation.

There is one serious problem with the collection: the music is wrong. Fred Comstock, who wrote the familiar theme music, copyrighted the tunes independently of Jay Ward Productions. When the complete set was compiled, the producers didn’t have the rights to the tunes and had to substitute different melodies. The new music isn’t bad, but it doesn’t have the mock-heroic spirit of the originals.

Fortunately, the music from “Dudley Do-Right” is still there. I particularly like the old-timey piano music featured in the episodes. It was probably composed and performed by Fred Steiner, who wrote music for many television shows and is remembered particularly for the theme to Perry Mason.

Movies and television


Continue reading “2022: Light Entertainment”

2022: Music

Most of my recent music purchases fill gaps in my classical library, e.g., more of Rossini’s “Peches de Vieillesse,” Dohnanyi’s “Variations on a Nursery Song,” etc., but I did buy a few non-classical CDs. The latter were all “good, but…” recordings.

Liquid Tension Experiment 3 is similar to the first two, even though it was recorded over twenty years after its immediate predecessor. LTE’s version of “Rhapsody in Blue” works better than I expected and is worth hearing if you’ve ever wondered what a virtuosic progressive rock quartet can do with Gershwin’s approximation of the blues. The rest of the album is very good — Petrucci et al are superb musicians — but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

Ozric Tentacles’ Space for the Earth is more neo-psychedelic guitar- and synth-driven space rock. Ed Wynne has been doing this sort of stuff for about forty years now, and this one is much the same as its many predecessors. It’s quite listenable — Wynne belongs high on any list of underrated guitarists — and you don’t need trendy chemical amusement aid to enjoy it, but the Ozrics’ earlier recordings are livelier and more of a group effort.

The reconstituted Gryphon’s Get Out of My Father’s Car is much like Reinvention: mostly progressive folk, but expect anything from Renaissance-style dances to moderately-hard rock, with lots of flutes and recorders, bassoons and krumhorns, harpsichords and fiddles and golf umbrellas, all expertly played.1 When the the players keep their mouths shut, it’s very good. Unfortunately, sometimes they sing.

I picked up a bunch of the later P.D.Q. Bach recordings on the Telarc label. Peter Schickele is a second-rate comedian2 but a first-rate musician, and when he shuts up and lets the music make the jokes he’s often ingenious. Overall, these are more polished and better recorded than the old Verve LPs, but less interesting. My favorite of the later works is “The Short-Tempered Clavier: Preludes and Fugues in all the Major and Minor Keys Except for the Really Hard Ones (S. easy as 3.14159265),” in which the themes and fugue subjects are all over-familiar melodies such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Shave and a Haircut.” One of the fugues combines the “B-A-C-H” motif with “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Suggestion for a piano recital: open with a suite of incidental music to Dudley Do-Right, and follow it with “The Short-Tempered Clavier.”

(Gee, it seems that everyone I listen to is getting old and tired. I suppose I should find energetic young artists to follow, but I no longer have the patience to wade through all crap out there to find who’s good. (This is not a call for recommendations, thank you.) There’s also the fact that human nature changed again at the turn of the century,3 and the culture has become not just stupid but alien.)