When I headed to Osaka a few months ago, my friend Nick Coldicott, who lives in Tokyo, urged me to visit what he contends is the best bourbon bar in the world: Rogin’s Tavern. Knowing Nick’s command of the spirits universe, I take a commuter train out to Moriguchi, an obscure little town about half an hour from the center of Osaka. When I emerge from the station I can see a neon light spelling “Rogin’s” in English. Inside it is dim, with a long wooden bar backed by hundreds of bottles. American jazz comes from an ancient-looking jukebox in the rear.

Nearly every bottle is bourbon, though there is a smattering of rye and sour mash. I can see bottles from the 1800s next to obscure export bottlings of Jim Beam next to standard-issue Jack Daniel’s. Seiichiro Tatsumi, an older man dressed elegantly in bartender’s attire, emerges from the shadows and says hello in English. I tell him I am a friend of Nick’s, and he reaches for a bottle nestled behind the register. “You want to try a 1904?” he asks.

He tenderly unscrews the top and pours a shot for me and another for himself. I take a sip. It is a brand I’ve never heard of, once made, Tatsumi says, especially for a hotel in Kentucky. It is highly alcoholic but silky smooth. Unlike wine or vintage port, bourbon is not supposed to change much in the bottle over time. And so I think of this as a chance to taste the past and experience, almost exactly, what drinkers were sipping a hundred years ago.

“I tasted my first bourbon in the basement bar of the Rihga Royal Hotel, a famous old place in Osaka,” Tatsumi says. “Then I spent years reading everything I could about bourbon at the American cultural center. I sent letters to Kentucky and Tennessee trying to set up visits to the distilleries. I even asked for help at the American consulate. And then I finally got to visit in 1984. I fell in love with America then. I’ve been back a hundred times since. I now own a house in Lexington, and I’ve even been named a colonel in Kentucky.”

I ask him how he found all these old bottles of bourbon. “I drive across America, only on the back roads and especially at night, when you can see the lit-up liquor-store signs in the distance,” he says. “I stop at every place I pass, and I don’t just look on the shelves: I ask the clerk to comb the cellar and check the storeroom for anything old. I can’t tell you how many cases of ancient bottles I’ve found that way. I’ll try any bourbon once, and if I like it I buy more.”


You once referred to computing as pop culture.

It is. Complete pop culture. I’m not against pop culture. Developed music, for instance, needs a pop culture. There’s a tendency to over-develop. Brahms and Dvorak needed gypsy music badly by the end of the 19th century. The big problem with our culture is that it’s being dominated, because the electronic media we have is so much better suited for transmitting pop-culture content than it is for high-culture content. I consider jazz to be a developed part of high culture. Anything that’s been worked on and developed and you [can] go to the next couple levels.

One thing about jazz aficionados is that they take deep pleasure in knowing the history of jazz.

Yes! Classical music is like that, too. But pop culture holds a disdain for history. Pop culture is all about identity and feeling like you’re participating. It has nothing to do with cooperation, the past or the future — it’s living in the present. I think the same is true of most people who write code for money. They have no idea where [their culture came from] — and the Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.

From Interview with Alan Kay, the second grumpiest programmer in the world. (The first is Ted Nelson). (via programmingisterrible)

alan kay, everyone.

(via roomthily)

This is as good a time as any to point out that Bush painted his portraits, not just from photographs—a common enough practice as well as a long-established conceptual strategy, though I think only the former pertains here—but from the top search result on Google Images. Many photos were taken from the subject’s Wikipedia entry. Bush based his paintings on the literally first-to-surface, easiest-to-find photos of his subjects.

Art Of The Bush School | the making of, by greg allen (via iamdanw)

If some hipster painter had done this, people would be calling it brilliant!

Whereas it took a few years for Office Space and Idiocracy to feel more like nonfiction than parody, the pace of the real-life Silicon Valley is such that Silicon Valley is in constant danger of being overtaken by events, especially with the shortness of its season (there are just eight episodes). Judge and the other writers are always emailing each other the latest headlines, like when venture capitalist Tom Perkins compared the Bay Area backlash against tech billionaires and companies to—no kidding—the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

“It’s, like, are you guys doing press for our show?” says Nanjiani. “Because you’re saying the craziest shit right now.”

By Self’s usual standards, the walk from Kennedy to Manhattan, about 20 miles, is a mere stroll. What recommended it was that it would take him through parts of the city that most people never notice while driving in a car: an experience that Self, a student of psycho-geography, believes has imposed a “windscreen-based virtuality” on travel, cutting us off from experiencing our own topography.

"People don’t know where they are anymore, " he said, adding: "In the post-industrial age, this is the only form of real exploration left. Anyone can go and see the Ituri pygmy, but how many people have walked all the way from the airport to the city?"

Through the housing project at the end of Glenmore, a little zigzag and on to Eastern Parkway, where Self, looking back for a second, said: “There is a deep sadness to American poverty, greater than the sadness of any other kind. It’s because America has such an ideology of success.”

But then he brightened and said: “Perhaps we’ll feel better when we get to the Brooklyn Bridge. We’ll hear the skirl of the Gershwin clarinets, and we’ll believe in the dream of possibility once again.”

Will Self’s slow walk into downtown New York - The New York Times

This article (about British writer Will Self walking from JFK into Manhattan) has really stuck with me over the years and I reference it fairly often. If I put together an anthology of my favorite writing about NYC it would definitely be in there. Especially the bit about the Gershwin clarinets.


There is now such a critical mass of infantilized subjects in our society that we see their tropes at work everywhere, aggressively. Typically, any middle-class man or woman up to their forties is an infantilized subject nowadays. This means a majority of consumers. Thus every advertising campaign launched by a major corporation and every government public service announcement proudly proclaims that the ideology of cupcake fascism is appealing to them.

It is everywhere, from the most trivial examples: a waste bin with a little picture of a sad puppy on it and the line “It’s not my fault my mess doesn’t get cleaned up,” or a napkin dispenser that says on it, “Please Only Take One of Me,” (this latter is, incidentally, something I once saw in the House of Commons cafeteria; even those in positions of what in some lights can look like actual power are in the grip of infantilization). All the way to massive, blockbuster instances of the phenomenon such as the recent Coca-Cola #ReasonsToBelieve campaign which was full of such obviously insidious expressions of cupcakey positivity as “For every tank being built … there are thousands of cakes being baked,” and “for every red card given … there are 12 celebratory hugs.” The advert also features a scene in which a man high fives a cat.

Another part of the appeal of dynamic languages appears to be that they have acquired an aura of subversion. Dynamic languages fight against the tyranny of static languages, hooray for us! We’re the heroic blackguards defending freedom from the tyranny of typing! We’re real programmers, we don’t need no stinking type system!

Now I’m as susceptible to the seductions of subversion as the next guy (witness this very post), so I can appreciate wanting to strike one for the little guy, overturning the evil establishment. But I’ve got news for you: when it comes to “dynamic typing”, it’s a futile enterprise. Not because the establishment is so powerful. Not because evil always wins. But because the distinction makes no sense. Dynamic typing is but a special case of static typing, one that limits, rather than liberates, one that shuts down opportunities, rather than opening up new vistas. Need I say it? Something can hardly be opposed to that of which it is but a trivial special case. So, give it up, and get with the program! There are ill-defined languages, and there are well-defined languages. Well-defined languages are statically typed, and languages with rich static type systems subsume dynamic languages as a corner case of narrow, but significant, interest.