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Month: January 2023

Tenderness leads to the gas chambers – again

Tenderness leads to the gas chambers – again

Fr Longenecker offers an modern example for one of Flannery O’Conner’s most famous quotes.

Flannery O’Connor’s is famous for saying “tenderness leads to the gas chambers”. It was borrowed by Walker Percy in his novel The Thanatos Syndrome, but what did O’Connor mean?

The plot of Percy’s book involves a group of well meaning scientists who discover a drug that makes everyone happy. It calms people down, eradicates their stress and guilt. The results are terrifying and hilarious. The local community begins to disintegrate into crimes of passion, but no one really cares because everyone is “happy.” This idea is even played out as a completely unrelated recent horror game called We Happy Few.

Both O’Connor and Percy are not opposed to well meaning tenderness per se. They are opposed to tenderness or compassion as the only virtue. It appears today that anyone that dares to make a statement that is critical of anyone else – then that person who has made the observation, stated an opinion or even simply stated facts–will be excoriated, vilified, cancelled and censored by the thought police.

When the tenderness police take these steps they do so with a terrifying self righteousness. The gas chambers are operated by people who believe they are doing something good. They are ridding the earth of the unworthy–those who dare to not be tender enough. If you think this is an exaggeration ask yourself about the attitude of those who already censor, use emotional blackmail and attempt to silence and exclude those who are deemed incorrect. Do they not go about their campaign with their heads held high–confident in the righteousness of their cause and confident also in their own superior virtue?

What happened to the old adage: live and let live, or respect different opinions, or using reasoned data based debate and arguments to decide the best ideas (instead of emotional appeals and the use of logical fallacies)? I guess that’s where the phrase “Evil preaches tolerance until it becomes dominant – then it silences good”

Fish goes shopping

Fish goes shopping

Japanese Streamer Mutekimaru Channel has a long-running series where their pet fish plays a variety of pokemon games. It does this by swimming over a grid of labeled controls, which is then picked up by a motion tracker that relays which controls the fish is currently swimming over.

During a recent stream of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, the game unexpectedly crashed.

First, the fish navigated to the home menu, opening up the settings and changed their owner’s switch username. After this, it browsed around it’s owner’s friends list. The fish decided that it wanted to browse the eshop. The fish opened it’s owner’s wallet page, revealing their credit card information live on stream. The fish then decided to add 500 yen to it’s owners eshop balance.

It got into the Nintendo Switch Online App, where it would purchase a variety of profile icons and download the N64 App. Satisfied with its exploits, the fish then returned to the home screen and closed the console, ending its reign of terror.

Free AI Art Prompt Builders

Free AI Art Prompt Builders

If you’re not interested in buying AI prompts from a Prompt Marketplace, you still are in luck. There are a number of free resources and AI Prompt Builder tools out there to help you along the way – or help you out of artist blocks you might run into.

Midjourney Prompt Generator – Either select one of the samples or provide your own, and the generator uses a GPT-2 model that has been fine-tuned on midjourney-prompts dataset. The prompt dataset contains 250,000 text prompts supplied to the Midjourney text-to-image service by users. is an tool for Midjourney and Dall-E art generators that walks you through numerous questions and steps to help you create precisely tailored prompts with the best parameters.

MidJourney Prompt Helper helps you experiment with different styles, lighting, cameras, colors, and other creative elements.

Drawing Prompt Generator is a simple helper to aid in getting rid of artists’ block. Simply gaze at a stream of unrelated objects might help you get the creative juices flowing.

Promptomania Builder is a strong but very easy-to-use helper with upscaling and different variations to become a prompt master.

MidJourney Random Commands Generator – is a prompt tool for generating complex outputs. It was created for entertainment purposes by enthusiasts.

Lafcadio Hearn’s Translated Japanese Ghost stories

Lafcadio Hearn’s Translated Japanese Ghost stories

I love a good classical ghost story. Some of my favorites are English ghost stories from the 1800 and 1900’s. But a good ghost story is not limited to just old British tales. Ghost stories are a phenomenon across all cultures and eras. Some cultures even had elaborate systems for telling ghost stories.

Lafcadio Hearn (aka Yakumo Koizumi) was born of Irish parents and had a difficult upbringing by most standards. He became a writer and journalist, but was captivated by Japanese culture that he experienced at the World Exposition in New Orleans. Shortly after, he traveled to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40. He soon made Japan his home, married, raised a family, and found continued success as a writer.

One of his favorite subjects was Japanese ghost stories. Japanese ghost stories are interesting because they are heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, and often carry a hint of moral elements. He collected and translated several works on the subject. Kwaidan is probably his most famous collection of ghost stories – stories which were even turned into a movie.

It turns out there are at least 3 different Lafcadio Haern museums/homes in Japan. Hopefully I’ll see them someday, but until then I’ll be happy just reading the stories.

Ghibli movie locations in real life

Ghibli movie locations in real life

It turns out that many Ghibli movies were inspired by real life locations and buildings. Here’s a good list of those spots:

Ghibli theme locations (and how to get tickets).

This biggest issue with the Ghibli theme locations is the need for advanced purchase tickets. No tickets are for sale onsite and tickets often sell out months in advance.

  • Ghibli Park outside Nagoya. Advanced tickets are required and purchasable on their website.
  • Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. Advanced tickets are required and they often sell out MONTHS in advance.

My Neighbor Totoro

  • Satsuki and Mei’s house from Totoro – A nearly perfect re-creation of the house from the Totoro movie. I wrote about this amazing house here.
  • Ghibli Park – location of Satsuki and Mei’s house along with a forest and other movie inspired attractions.
  • Totoro Forest -In Sayama, Saitama Prefecture is Totoro Forest. It also holds Kurosuke’s House which is Japanese traditional house which was built over 100 years ago. You can see a big Totoro sitting in the house and walk the grounds. (more here)

Princess Mononoke

  • Yakushima – registered as natural world heritage site. You can go there by plane or ferry.
  • Shirakami-sanchi – world heritage site and it is mainly filled with greenery such as Japanese beech. There are some famous lakes called twelve lakes which means you can see twelve lakes at once from the upper side of the mountain.

Spirited Away

Whispers of the Heart

  • Seiseki Sakuragaoka – Seiseki-Sakuragaoka suburb is conveniently located just outside of Tokyo. The highlight of the town is the staircase to the top of the hill where you can enjoy a typically Japanese nostalgic night view.


  • Tomonoura (Hiroshima) – This beautiful cityview of Tomonoura in Hiroshima is another spot not to be missed. Ponyo’s house is believed to be inspired by Naramura Museum.

Secret World of Arriety

  • Seibien (Aomori) garden – Seibien is a western style house with Japanese garden in Aomori featured in ‘Arrietty’.  Its garden is counted as one the three greatest gardens of Meiji-era and is an attractive sightseeing spot.  

From Up on Poppy Hill

The city of Yokohama is depicted in ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’

  • Yokohama
    • Minatonomieru oka koen (Kanagawa) – Harbor View Park
    • Negishi natsukashi koen – (The Old House of Yagishita Family) reminds of Coquelicot Manor, a boarding house overlooking the port in the film.
    • Yamate seiyo-kan (Kanagawa) – There are 7 western style houses collectively called Yamate Seiyoukan in the area where you can read different edition of Weekly Quartier Latin, the newspaper featured in the film, at each house

Only Yesterday

  • Saffron fields of Takase District – Taeko travels on her own from Tokyo to Yamagata in this animated film. There are many sufflower fields in Takase District like the one depicted in ‘Only Yesterday’. Maybe you can even try out a Yamagata farm stay like she did.


Totoro’s Satsuki and Mei House is real

Totoro’s Satsuki and Mei House is real

Did you know you can visit Mei’s house from Totoro in real life?

A painstakingly realistic re-creation of Mei’s house was created in what is now Ghibli Park outside of Nagoya in Aichi Commemorative Park. In the park, you can visit Satsuki and Mei’s house in the park.

The house has been recreated in extraordinary detail. You sign up for a time slot and they give you a tour. That, however, is where similarities to other tours end. Unlike normal recreated gems like this, the tour allows you to open drawers, Mei’s backpacks, look in books and really explore the space. They have a strict no photography policy – which I think is great as it probably makes you really enjoy the space more instead of focusing on the perfect Instagram shot.




Tsundoku is the Japanese word for the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read. Its morphology combines tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dokusho (reading books).

I personally love that I have a pile of books I have bought but not yet read. Probably for the same reason that others have suggested – that it creates a sense of wonder and excitement there is so much more yet to learn:

These shelves of unexplored ideas propel us to continue reading, continue learning, and never be comfortable that we know enough. Jessica Stillman calls this realization intellectual humility.

People who lack this intellectual humility — those without a yearning to acquire new books or visit their local library — may enjoy a sense of pride at having conquered their personal collection, but such a library provides all the use of a wall-mounted trophy. It becomes an “ego-booting appendage” for decoration alone.


Oregon, and Portland, see population declines and very poor recovery across many metrics

Oregon, and Portland, see population declines and very poor recovery across many metrics

It seems Oregon, and specifically Portland, have lost their luster. Portland and Oregon went from being the #1 place to move in the US to having a net LOSS of population in just 2 years.

Part of this is due to people moving out of urban areas during the pandemic and remote work – but Oregon has faired even worse than other metro areas. Much worse. Multnomah county (which encompasses most of Portland) declined by 12,494 people, or 1.5% along with a more modest decline (0.2%) in the Portland metro area (Beaverton, Vancouver, etc).

How did this happen? How did a city go from the #1 place to move to just about last place? Some of the top posited reasons:




I wish we had more radio dramas like this one from the BBC by Robert Barr.

Set on an island in the Outer Hebrides in north west Scotland, a fisherman discovers what appears to be a torpedo washed up on a deserted beach. Upon closer examination, the container is found to contain materials for a spy and a couple of army officers go under cover to investigate.