Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday News In Review

Chess News:

Garry Kasparov and Anatoli Karpov are having a rematch. You all know of their famous face off from 25 years ago and their few rematches in the time since. They are playing 12 blitz games of about an hour a piece to avoid a 5 months long game. As of my writing this, Kasparov is owning Karpov without mercy.

Also in chess news, I am now on Chess. com with the username Fafner. I welcome all challengers.

More Crashing Things Into Other Things News:

The probes have confirmed it. Water has been discovered on the moon. Or, more specifically, a thin layer of hydroxl molecules (no, it's not what the cookies are made from) on the surface, but water none the less. It's not going to be a viable solution to the ground water problem on Earth as one football field worth of surface on the moon would yield less than a quart of water. The more interesting part is that it isn't supposed to be there. Scientists are as of yet uncertain why there is water on the moon.

Unemployed People Rule! News:

An unemployed man in England was walking around with a metal detector in a field in Staffordshire and found what he rightly called "what metal detectorists dream of." He stumbled upon the largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found (nearly 1,400 items.) It's believed to have been stashed around the 7th Century. Of course, the hoard has been claimed by The Crown. But how cool is it for an unemployed guy with a metal detector going out one morning and changing history, becoming an important figure himself in archaeological history. It should give each of us hope for each new day. We have no idea how important today might be.

Vaccine News:

Another piece of very good and potentially history making news is the promising HIV vaccine news released today, greatly upstaging the UN speeches (and thank God for that pleasant side effect as well!) A group of scientists in Thailand have tested an HIV vaccine which appears to reduce the spread of the virus by 1/3rd. Which may not sound all the great at first, but do bear in mind that this is the first vaccine of any efficacy against the virus ever.

UN Weirdness News:

World leaders are gathering for a UN conference in New York and, as usual, many of the world leaders are barking mad. Obama opened with a re-commitment of the US to the UN (after, you know, 8 years of the US flipping the UN the proverbial bird) and a call for nuclear disarmament already. Then there were speeches by other world leaders, many of them madder than an old hooty owl.

Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, who rose to power through a coup in 1994, said that he will have interfering human rights workers killed. "I will kill anyone who wants to destabilize this country," he said. "If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, straight from a recent monstrous anti-Semitic Holocaust-denying rant, gave a speech denouncing the "Age of Empires" which was a fairly thinly veiled saber rattle over larger nations' actions to prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted most of his speech to rebutting Ahmadinejad's speech and, indeed, his very presence. He called Ahmandinejad's speech a mockery of the United Nations, and said people who listened to the Iranian leader gave " "legitimacy to a man who denies the murder of 6 million Jews, while promising to wipe out the state of Israel, the state of the Jews."

"Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come and to those who left in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity, and you brought honor to your countries.

"But to those who gave this Holocaust denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere, have you no shame? Have you no decency?"

And then there was Libya's leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi (or Gaddafi. I don't know.) whose rambling 90 minute speech included: tearing up the UN charter, claiming that swine 'flu is man-made, losing his place on his tiny sheets of handwritten note cards surprisingly often, talking about his jet lag and speculating on the killer of JFK. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown noticeably avoided Qaddafi. As you well remember, Scotland's release of the Lockerbie bomber... didn't go so well. Brown, however, got up after Qaddafi and changed his speech off the cuff to reaffirm and defend the UN charter. Points to Gordon Brown, for a change.
All of which could be viewed as a really depressing mess, dashing hope for unity and world peace. Which leads me to end on:

Fashion Week News:

Fashion Week happened this past week. I've been following it closely on the news, Youtube and Twitter. Fashion Week gives the major houses of fashion the opportunity to show new collections and trends with lavish runway shows. New York, London, Milan, and Paris (in chronological order of their shows) are all the hubs of some of the major fashion weeks although they take place worldwide (Chico doesn't have one yet though.) So, you're probably asking yourself why I, a man who just went outdoors in a Grateful Dead t-shirt and basketball shorts, am so interested in Fashion Week. I suppose there is an element of being fascinated by something I am so removed from, although at one time in my life I was very fashion forward to the point of extreme eccentricity.

But really, it's because, make no mistake, the fashion industry is one of the most innovative and exciting art forms of our time. From the top there are innovators like Betsey Johnson, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Tam, Jean Charles dr Castelbajac who bring freshness, whimsy and joy to their work. Karl Lagerfeld has become sort of an unlikely hero around our house with his stark, stunning style and his tendency to bring technological advances to his work. Actually, it may have more to do with his sense of humor, charm and high quotability, but whatever. The quiet elegance of Vera Wang. There are fresher faces like Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, and probably a few hundred others I've never heard of. And these are the heavy hitters. These are the top designers. These are the old guard of haute couture at this point. I've seen things in sketchbooks by college students who haven't broken that glass ceiling yet that would turn your hair whiter than Lagerfeld's (I would also point out that that is how Gaultier got his start, with no formal training, just an awesome sketchbook passing before the right eyes.) It is one of the most exciting art worlds I know of, and one of the industries that happily marries champagne and fun with hard business.

Having said that, times being what they are, sometimes things like Fashion Week look a bit Masque of the Red Death to some. The fine arts are the first to suffer in times of economic free fall. If I were to report "lots of biker shorts, peach and purple lipstick (also some clean, no makeup looks), and goddess hair to come this spring" while struggling to keep my house and daily looking and failing to find work for the past 5 months, you might see the cognitive dissonance. And by "you" I guess I mean me in my darker moments. In those moments I need to remember to lighten up. The sun still rises, I still have life and a family that loves me. Even if I lose everything, what does it matter if I maintain my soul. So often I have argued that art is probably even more essential for the poor. Otherwise the world is entirely ugly. That's the thing about fashion week. It is entirely a luxury and therefore necessary. As Camus wrote "Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time. " Or, as Karl says below, "beyond practical."


  1. Wow. I'm going to go and get myself a metal detector!

  2. Amazing to think what may be right under our feet, just out of sight.
    We have an attic which we haven't even looked in because of the spiders and we've lived here for three years. I often wonder if all the money we'd ever need might be stashed up there right over our heads every day.
    It's amazing what we don't even know is around us.

  3. Fashion has always been something I have despised or at least disdained out of hand. I always took it for a soul-less focusing on superficialities. You're the first person to challenge those old biases of mine. I thank you for it.

  4. Looks like it's time to get my own metal detector. I've just been joined with all you wild and crazy unemployed people. I always aspired to be a statistic of the BLS.

  5. Christopher,
    You're welcome. I think so much of the time the fashion world can be soul-less and superficial, but I don't think needs to be. Much like how I find so many of the criticisms I read of, say, Twitter to be apt regarding how vapid and pointless are the bulk of the tweets out there. Still I maintain that properly wielded it can be a valuable tool. So few people properly wield it though. I feel the same about the fashion industry.

  6. Tuirgin,
    I'm sorry to hear that... unless it was voluntary, in which case, welcome aboard. Wow. Well, if it is any consolation, you are not alone, but it sounds like you're well aware of that.

  7. Just in case there's any confusion, Christopher and Tuirgin are one and the same person, and the guy over on

    Anyway, not voluntary. Not expected, but not surprising either. The company is a civil engineering firm and this was the second round of layoffs. It's painful because, well, I've got 5 kids, 4 of them still at home, and the other is still something of a dependent, and due to medical and legal expenses over the last 5 years, we've no cushion to fall back on.

    After I'm done freaking out today, I've got a lot of work to do to try to find employment that doesn't end up with me pushing a broom or flipping burgers.

  8. Whoops! Well, good. Glad to hear that you are one person.
    I remember that day of freaking out. My condolences and best wishes on your job search.

  9. I may add here that bang opposite the office of top official of our district was a very important memorial related to 1857. For close to 140 years no one knew much about it but then I still and undergraduate worked out the whole history and luckily had it published too. The incident figures in my novel.