Friday, November 25, 2011

So Thankful When I Don't Have to Cook

My neighbor Rosemary and I went out for our Thanksgiving meal to a little French restaurant in Harvard Square called Sandrines.  We had the Prix Fixe, which was a good deal.  Our waiter had moved to from Paris to Arizona, where they opened a restaurant.  But after 9/11, there was such a bad feeling towards anything French that they moved east.
So Hooray east!  Rosemary had a nice cuppa wine (not pictured).
I had a sidecar (not pictured).

The turkey and fixins' were nicely presented.
And the lemon and pumpkin tarts were pretty enough to eat.

The good food reminded Rosemary that she must go back to Paris.
Sandrines is a bit too expensive for everyday eating out.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The All-Seeing Mechanical Eye

Today’s  topic is Mechanical Remote Viewing, (as distinct from ordinary Remote Viewing).  MRV devices allow an operator to view scenes live at a great distance without the intermediary of a spy satellite, helicopter, or surveillance camera.  Some MRV devices can even see through fog, walls, and mountains, and some can also pick up audio.  MRV turns up in science fiction and action shows with a hi-tech component. 
I was thinking about this recently as I watched the wonderful 1950 classic Radar Secret Service.  The cops in this movie had “tele-meters” which allowed them to watch their colleagues clash with bad guys out on the roads just as if they were watching a movie.  The miracle of radar made this possible.  (Did you know that radar started out as an acronym for radio detection and ranging?)

Of course, Captain Video was the king of MRV with his Opticon Scillometer.  Check out some of the episodes here, here, and here.

The Martian Spaceship of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians had a MRV screen that a clear view of various Santa Clauses on the city streets of Earth.

The scientists in Riding With Death manage, in the 2nd half of the movie, to come up with a remote-viewing TV that allows the female lead to watch the male lead’s activities in a bar and parking lot.  The movie’s writers felt obligated to explain scientifically the male lead’s ability to become invisible at will (radiation accident), but the remote-viewing TV is pretty much taken for granted.

My Dad was visiting in mid-October, and we watched the new Hawaii Five-O.  At one point McGarret needed to know if there were any people in a boat on the deserted wharf, so he calls up a Navy friend who pushes a button and retrieves a thermal image of said boat showing one person inside.  She didn’t have to wait for a spy satellite or surveillance chopper.  It had to be Remote Thermal Viewing
Perhaps the audiences of the 50s were prepared to accept MRV because of precision bombing during WWII. Paul Fussell explains that "precision bombing" was something of a misnomer: "The fact was that bombing proved so grossly inaccurate that the planes had to fly well within anti-aircraft range to hit anywhere near the target, and even then they very often missed it entirely.  As the war went on, 'precision bombing' became a comical oxymoron relished by bomber crews with a sense of black humor.  It became obvious to everyone except the home folks reading Life and The Saturday Evening Post that although you could destroy lots of things with bombs, they weren't necessarily the things you had in mind."*   But civilians believed that each dropped bomb landed exactly where it was meant to. If you could drop a bomb precisely from 7 miles up without worrying about wind, then why not MRV?

I found a precision bombing propaganda pamphlet that Fussell mentioned and  scanned it.  Here's one image from it:

 Please check out the pilot I have pointed the green arrow at.  Tell me what you think: "Dude looks like a lady," "Dude, that is a lady," "Other."

*Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, New York: Oxford UP, 1989, p 14.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Can a Big Thing be Subversive?

I was doing the Veterans Day shift, when a young man asked me if I didn't think the locking down of Harvard Yard was "subversive."  The question sounded odd; and I wondered, "Why does this question sound odd."  It was the word "subversive,"  which, in academia usually has a positive value.   Note these titles of academic articles and books:
Das entfremdete Subjektsubversive psychoanalytische Denkanstösse bei Lacan und Derrida
LinkA subversive voice in China : the fictional world of Mo Yan
Unvarnishing reality : subversive Russian and American cold war satire

In modern academic literature, "subversives" are the powerless chipping away at the Powers That Be.  They are intellectuals challenging received wisdom. They are avant-garde artists.  They are despised minority groups.
Probably this positive spin on "subversive" is a reaction to earlier (mostly conservative) uses of the word:

LinkGuide to subversive organizations and publications (and appendix)

Subversive activities control act of 1950. Report ... Eighty-fourth Congress, first session

Interim report of the Special commission established to study and investigate communism and subversive activities and related matters in the Commonwealth. April 26, 1955. [Appendix A ... Resolve reviving and continuing the Special commission ... until February 1, 1956.

Subversion in racial unrest, an outline of a strategic weapon to destroy the governments of Louisiana and the United States. Public hearings, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 6-9, 1957

The web of subversion; underground networks in the U. S. Government..

However, in both cases we are talking about small subverting large.  Small communist cells would be slowly subverting the whole United States.  So, can a big thing subvert a small thing?  There's nothing in the definition of subvert to suggest that size is important.  So I suppose the question was not odd.

Monday, November 07, 2011


The tree in the Pusey hole looked quite brilliantly red today.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Everything's Better With Photoshop

Barb and I in Times Square, improved.