10 November 2007

The Dog

Darwin Underfoot.
For all you who cannot see the dog in person. Here he is in electronic form.

08 November 2007

For those who actually value John Stuart Mill

I'll not say much about these pieces. They speak for themselves.

06 November 2007

About Kenpo I said not a word. Until....now!

I've recently been made aware of a curious fact. I've offended some folk who've read my blog. Or purported to others that they've read it and found it upsetting. That in itself is surely not curious. As blogs go, this one was bound to upset more than a few apple carts. What is strange is that the offense that was reported to me was for something that I did not say. Specifically it was a criticism of Kenpo that I didn't make that seems to have a caused a minor uproar among some contingent-I'm unsure how large-in Richmond's martial arts community. Normally I can't be bothered with who I've offended. I'm happy to talk with whoever I've offended. I'm quite willing to modify my positions if good arguments and evidence are offered. However, when people get offended, I would very much like them to be offended by what I've actually said, or did.

In point of fact, I don't think I have ever said a word about the dearly departed Ed Parker, and his Kenpo Karate. I've never in my blog mentioned Jeff Speakman, or his mediocre film The Perfect Weapon, which I liked a lot as a teenager. Even still it isn't good. Speakman's movie I mean. I challenge you to look back at every post and find a single mention of Kenpo, or Shaolin Kenpo or Ed Parker, or something like Ed Parker has weird hair. Anything about Kenpo.
Anything At all...? I've attacked lots of other things. Aikido gets the brunt of my attacks, but I think I've given it to tai-jitsu on more than one occasion. But in general I think I've mostly slammed Aikido because of all the martial art, its the one that has most come to look like modern dance. Having said all that though, I thought maybe I ought to look at Kenpo and see what I think, you know beyond Jeff Speakman and his George Michael beard.
Here's what Ed Parker had to say.

What you notice almost immediately is how good his demonstrators look doing Kenpo. Their punches look crisp, their movements relaxed, it even seems as if their punches might have a little power which is a strange thing for a karate punch to carry. Okay not bad. Its Karate, which I don't like, but okay. That maybe be my personal preferance. And this stuff looks like it might be good for self-defense applications.
Lets look at couple more clips these from CounterStrike Kenpo, the first is of an adult class.

Huh? Not sure what was going on here. Why does everyone just stand there when other people are carving out an epic poem of strange strikes all along their listless forms?
Moving on....

With the kids right away you see the amazing alacrity with which the they perform their kata. More crisp movement, sharp punches. Sure we get some wierd movements, but what ever. I won't say much about the wierd movements because I don't know anything about Kenpo, so I'll let it slide. They don't kick or punch the way I do, but they are after something else entirely, judging by their technical practice. Speed, variety and volume. Seems sound. However, I know a bit about sparring and how it should look. It should resemble the way you train. And that isn't the case here. It is essentially point karate. Their hands are way down, they don't attack using the barrage of combo's they train to use, something that might actually be effective. They stand side-ways for the most part and content themselves with lead side techniques. So their hips have essentially been removed from the fighting They use the ever deadly jump hammer and back fist. Weak kicks, and poor balance. Don't believe me? Watch the kid go down at 2:29. It wasn't from a punch. Its because his balance in a fluid situation sucks. But I don't want to be too harsh it is just some kids after all. Their kata are excellent, they work hard and if they can utilize that multiple strike attack then, as karates go, this isn't a bad one. At least that is what I said till I found this asshole.

I didn't think people still feathered their hair. That is feathering isn't it?
You may remember the following event described by a columnist and Kenpo stylist in Black Belt magazine. I remember it. This guy's hair isn't quite feathered.

03 November 2007

Controversy over "The Golden Compass"

Maybe you have heard of the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Phillip Pullman. This series of excellent books The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, the trilogy tells the tale of Lyra Belaqua and her quest to understand the Dust and her father's war. The Dust may be the secret to the (multi)universe itself and her father's war turns out, rather shockingly, to be against God. It is easily one of the most imaginative, and touching fantasy series to be penned since Tolkien's lines, "There was a hobbit that lived in a hole." HIs Dark Materials is not only well written fantasy it is full of wonderfully challenging stuff. It was aimed at young readers, but it manages to transcend that boundary into the more general catergory of literature. And fine literature at that.
I will not spoil the particulars of the novels, needless to say, bound within their pages are creations as wonderful and nuanced as Ents, hobbits and Elves, and as evil as goblins, orcs and cave trolls. They are more wonderful still because they often as not fantasitical but inspired by our own history. Where the creatures are new creations the author takes great pains to craft an evolutionary history of particular plausiblity, and-importantly-utter readablity.

The books have inspired a cinematic treatment that looks more or less faithful to their spirit. This has of course inspired the easily inspirable anger of the ever odious Bill Donehue and his consistently otiose Catholic League. They have issued a call for all Christians to boycott this movie. Not because they will be terribly offended by the film (it is softening much of the polemic of the books) but because it may encourage kids to want to read the books and thus be exposed to the "atheistic message of the books." In so doing they expose the essentially fascistic character of religion and its inability to deal with dissenting voices. Mr. Donehue would hate the comparison (which makes it all the more amusing to make), but his haranguing of other view points based soley on writting and thought, make him no different than some verminous mullah in London demanding that Orwell's Animal Farm be rememoved from school library shelves, or English reading lists because its central characters are pigs. Donehue will of course boost sales of both movie tickets, and Phillip Pullman's wonderfully written books by his antics.
One senses in Donehue's vitriolic rants that he longs for the credible threat of violence that so help the Islamic calls for aquiescence to the demands of their ancient desert monotheism (Donehue did threaten to kick the ass of journalist Christopher Hitchens during a conversation about the saintly old bitch Mother Theresa). There are no porcine heroes or foes in this film so it seems as if Bill and fascistic Catholic friends will likely have no help from the Muslim League on this one.
Here are a couple of links to Bill and his League's attack on the books, which I imagine they didn't read. I am unsure if Donehue could read a long book at all. That must be why Catholicism appeals to him. The priests, likely much more educated, do all the interpreting, and that heavy work of reading for him.

To show my support of the film, and ideas in general, I've gone to the film's website and found my daemon (what is that you ask? Read the books! You have till 7 December 2007). Which felt wonderfully pre-teen of me. Here's what I got.