Saturday, March 30, 2002

STUNNED BY FOX & HISTORICAL DETAILS
In stunned disbelief, I watched Morton Kondrake and Fred Barnes of the The Beltway Boys on Fox News discuss the Oscars this weekend. Mort and Fred, two white guys, in their 50s, didn't like the Oscars. Their beef was the Oscars weren't patriotic enough. As they charged, there weren't any flag pins on announcer's lapels, there was no mention of supporting the troops, no singing of God Bless America and the only person who mentioned how great America was, was Brit.

Are they kidding? The Oscars ran 4 and a half hours!! They want more? They want another 15 minutes to pay tribute to the troops and sing God Bless America (which of course, would have to be staged with 30 special guest singers, each of whom would have to be introduced)? Are they stoned? And didn't Commander Du Jour GW Bush tell citizens to go back to work and live life the way you used to, without fear or worry about these terrorists? Wouldn't that include not interrupting major events for a pointless flag-waving?

I guess pointless flag-waving trumps our screaming need for normalcy.

Of course, Barnes and Kondrake were surrounded by flags - multiple flags in the background, a flag background behind the Fox bug, flag label pins. But maybe that's not enough? Here's an idea, if Fox (a network owned by an Australian, btw), wants to play - WE'RE MORE PATRIOTIC THAN YOU!, why don't they simply broadcast Kate Smith singing God Bless America every half hour. It couldn't be any worse then the crap they broadcast now. Sure, they'll lose a few million a day in commercial revenues, but isn't it worth it to feel a patriotic lump in your throat every 30 minutes, 24/7?

Barnes and Kondrake also took Hollywood to task for not putting out many good films this year (by good, they must mean movies where American soldiers killed lots o' dirty, funny-speaking foreigners while winning various battles and wars with Patriotic fervor). bout the only two they thought worth seeing were "Black Hawk Down" and Mel Gibson's new film (they couldn't recall the name). Mr. Ebert, your job is safe.

Reat asssured, if Alec Baldwin or some other Hollywood mouthpiece dared criticize Fox News, these rent-a-pundits would rip them apart limb from surgically altered limb, deriding them as stupid, lowly actors who should stick to Hollywood and leave politics to the pros. Perhaps such a deal should go both ways?

BTW - Slate ran an interesting piece by Mickey Kaus about Black Hawk Down - What Black Hawk Down Leaves Out - That Somalia raid really was more a debacle than a victory. Even if you don't agree with everything Kaus says, it's an interesting read.
SO YOU WANNA BE A ROCK & ROLL STAR?
Before they began, the singer Ali Hauptman, 14, said, "this is our first time playing out in front of people, so cheer and be nice even if we're really bad because we're teen-agers with tissue-paper feelings."

Bianca from NYC sent us this CNN link about a Rock & Roll School in Phildelphia which teaches kids to play and perform classic rock. In the face of 'N Sync and the rest of that crap, the founder of this school should probably get a medal or at least a grant from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bianca guesses these performances could be the next Langley Schools Music Project. Let's hope somebody is running the tape.
A WEB SEVER WITH FEELINGS
Here's a twist on the concept of Error 404 that gets rather personal. File not found!
ONE STEP CLOSER TO BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY
Last year, physicists at Harvard University shined a laser beam into a glass cell filled with atomic vapors. The light went in, but it didn't come out again. It was not destroyed or absorbed, but rather stored -- ready to emerge intact at the scientists' bidding.

Sit. Speak. Good Photon! From Science@Nasa, via Chas in Maitland.

Friday, March 29, 2002

NEW DAYS, NEW BLOGS, NEW WORDS
Thanks to Tom Biro for blogging us a plug - Here's one of the most mag posts i've probably read in like ever. some people get it and some people don't entry at the suburban limbo site... enjoy.

Thanks Tom. BTW - what does mag mean?
THOUGHTS OF FOOD AND AGE
Ferra over at Every Little Thing I Do Is Magic had an interesting ramble today about food, wondering Why are the fun things so bad for you?? And when did I start caring??

I wrote back - "I started to care about what I eat when I developed enough short term memory to connect the "what went in" with "what came out" and "how crappy I feel." Mind you, I haven't convinced myself to drop all substances bad (I just picked up a pack of mini kosher bagel dogs from Costco), but when my stomach does flips after a breakfast of Diet Pepsi and cookies, I don't wonder why."
DETAILS ABOUT THE END OF CIVILIZATION
So we got a fancy new remote control sprinkler system installed. Needless to say my role as house technology officer means I have to learn how to operate the thing. And wouldn't you know, the manual for this spinker system makes no sense. Well, actually, it makes sense, it just doesn't make sense for the system we have bolted onto the wall of our house. I knew I was heading in the dumper when I kept seeing references to the LED will flash, indicating the signal has been successfully transmitted and I couldn't find LEDs anywhere on the product.

Arghhhh...

Is it so fucking hard to write a manual that is accurate and properly conveys information? I know many people don't bother to open manuals and companies must therefore figure Why spend money on this? My nephew Larry can write it when he gets a few days off from 9th grade. But perhaps the reason nobody opens manuals anymore is because they've proven to be so utterly useless for so many years that we've given up? If we really need a manual now, we go out and buy a third party book like Windows for Dummies.

Yes, we buy a book to learn about the product which is suppose to be so easy to operate that the company never wrote a manual.

I'm going out to hook up the hose and water the bushes myself.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

SOME PEOPLE GET IT AND SOME PEOPLE DON'T
I found your site through the Blogs of Note on Blogger.com and in the short time I've had to browse through it I have to say it's really enjoyable. I've noticed fantastic commentary and links to interesting articles, oh and of course, that little bit of personal touch.

Thanks for writing for the world to see.

Jenn


Firstly, thanks to Jenn for writing. And thanks to the many other folks who've read this blog and sent the love. I hope you check back often and I hope I upload something worth your time.

But here's a question for bloggers out there - have you noticed that world can be divided into folks who get blogging and those who don't? When I tell friends I publish a blog, their response is almost always Why? These folks fall into two categories. There are those who think blogging is an online diary and they can't imagine a reason to put a diary online, available for the whole world to see. The other group - often web savvy folks - can't comprehend why anyone would expend time doing something on the web unless it was leading to bucks. For them, a good web site is a slick, high concept deal backed by venture capitalists. Oh, one more - there are also the jaded, anonymity-loving programmers who cross both groups and figure - Damn, why create content when everything dot com goes bankrupt in six months anyway? We care about projects as long as they pay and then its onto the next gig.

The idea that individuals all over the world might use a little slice of cyberspace to create blogs and reach out beyond the walls of their everyday lives sounds so alien and trite to a web pro that I might as well be typing in Martian.

Personally, I think slick, high concept sites have nearly killed the web. I have nothing against good programmers or clever sites, but sites should really offer something better than an eye-catching Flash animation on the opening page. I like blogs because they're amateurish and of utterly no interest to the professionals. And when they're good, they're real.

When all this web stuff started, people said Content will be king!. Then they realized how expensive is was to generate interesting content, so they back-peddled and said Concept is king. A good idea and market share were all you needed to be a bazillionaire. Shoes.com, that's worth a billion bucks right there, huh? Hey look, I've invented a silly Flash game that let's you punch Madonna. That's be good for a couple of million eyeballs a day, right?

Well, we've all watched that blimp burn and crash and now, we get articles like this in today's NY Times As the Web Matures, Fun Is Hard to Find. Basically, it's saying that people are finding less of interest on the web. Porn is taking over and in short, there's a dearth of compelling content.

Oops, did you notice that? We're back to content again. Here's my favorite bit from that article There are still islands of innovation and creativity on the Web. For example, iFilm .com shows eclectic video clips posted by Web users. Among longtime Web surfers, personal online diaries, known as Weblogs or blogs, are often cited as the last bastion of interesting material.

The web is about communication and a blog is personal broadcast communication at its most basic level. Face it, eMail has been the killer app for the Internet age (Instant Messaging is a close second). Both of those are about personal communication. Blogs are the next step - bloggers get to play editors in their own little world and the role of the editor is critical. That's why Chat Rooms don't interest me - there's no editor. Instead, there are a lot of losers trolling for teenage girls (or boys). When people express an appreciation for a blog, their expressing and appreciation for tastes of the guy or girl behind it. The editor.

So why are blogs worth it? People need a form of broadcast communication that's not ruled or regulated by AOL/Time Warner, the TV networks or the government. It is critical, especially in this day and age when the FCC is bending over and lubing up to accommodate media corporations with their acquisition orgy. Forget community media. Forget locally owned and operated anything. In a few years, all media outlets will be owned by five or less companies. As Warren's friend once said, Someday, you won't drink a cup of water, you'll drink a cup of Disney.

But since nobody can make a buck on blogs, nobody will care. And that corporate indifference can be your freedom.
NEED MORE THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS?
For Katie and the other TMBG fans out there, Otis turned us on to They Might Be Giants: Better Living through Better Music, a site packed with over 900 They Might Be Giants mp3s, including a lot of weird, rare and live items. Dig in.
TOURING KICKS ASS!
For anyone who's sick of hearing writers and rock stars whine about being on the road, check out the refreshing words of this Neal Pollack interview from The Onion. Pollack, a writer, embraces touring like a rising rock star wannabe. He says:

...you do hear an inordinate amount of whining about being forced to travel around the country with a corporate card, stay in nice hotels, do radio interviews, and appear at bookstores. You hear a lot of whining about, you know, the people with the bags of books, or who want to get their manuscript published and are asking inane questions, and I'm thinking, "That's great! What the hell else do you want out of life? These people respect what you're doing, they appreciate it, and they want to be like you." When writers complain, it's like, "Don't you remember when you were hungry? Don't you remember when you hadn't had your books published? Or were you always just destined for literary greatness?" I consider myself to be like the people in the audience. You know, if a schmuck like me can get his book published, anybody can. I don't understand the aversion to book touring. <
CHICKCLICK IS GONE
According to the Wall Street Journal, chickclick.com has shut down due to all the standard reasons. Too bad. Even though I'm a guy, I dug that site. Check out their sign-off message, which basically sounds like a call to arms for female bloggers to pick up the flag and keep the concept alive in some form.

BTW -I'm waiting for the day that a single web site gathers all the front page closing messages from failed dot coms. That will be an interesting history of the dot com era.
REAL ART IS ABOUT TRUTH
From the web site of musician, artist and loveably obsessed wack job Bill Nelson: Will I be able to lose some of my extra winter weight before the Stewart Adamson tribute concert or will I wobble on stage in a state of indifference?  How age robs one of one's slender beauty. That and cream cakes.
I'M TIRED...AND A TIP TO BEAT THE MAN OUT OF $100
Remember yesterday I told you Jake passed out at 4:15 in the afternoon and simply drifted into his night sleep without ever waking for dinner? After Natalie posed the questions Did he hit his head? Is he in a coma? I started to get nervous. I began checking the boy every 30 minutes, making sure he was breathing and no blood was streaming from his ears. Jeeze, being a parent is tough.

Anyway, he was fine, but I stayed up until 3:30 am. Just three hours later, young Jake stumbled onto my bed, tapped me on the forehead and announced Daddy, I want brecksticks (yeah, that's what he calls it). So I got three hefty hours of sleep last night and a few more after Natalie relieved me at 8 am. I'm kind of a mess.


Before I collapse for the night, I want to share a little tip on how to beat the man - the man named Sprint. The phone company. I have a Sprint cell phone and a few months ago, it got messed up with scratches on the window. I wanted a new phone, but let's face it - nobody but business suits pays big bucks (or even close to retail) for a cell phone. Everybody gets theirs for free when they get new service.

I brought my damaged phone to the Srpint store and asked Can I get a credit for $50 toward a new phone for turning in this one? "Ha!" they smirked. "No way. A new phone costs at least $99."

Fuck that. I'm not in love with Sprint and I could care less about keeping my number (btw - to avoid incoming calls, I purposely never learned my cell phone number). So I figured, Screw Sprint, I'll switch carriers and get a new phone in the deal!

And here's the trick - I decided to give Spring one more chance. Last time I dropped Sprint (for home long distance), I got about a dozen phone calls from them begging me to come back. We'll do anything they lied, even match other deals (which they'd refused to do before I switched). This time, before switching, I called Sprint's customers service, got a manager on the line and laid it out to them.

Dude, I'm about to switch cell phone carriers to somebody other than Sprint because I need a new phone and I don't want to pay for one. Would Sprint like to give me a new phone and keep me as a customer?

Shock of shocks, they bought it. The Sprint guy said Okay and proceeded to give me a $100 credit on my Sprint bill with the understanding that I would buy a new phone. By simply by threatening to leave, I got $100. Even though I did purchase a new phone, I was under no obligation. I could have simply taken the $100 credit and moved on. Not bad, huh?

Considering that phone companies eagerly lie and cheat to win or steal customers (ever hear of slamming?), I have no problem hitting them back for a $100. Anyway, it makes good business sense. It probably costs Sprint more than $100 to win a new customer. They might as well spend $100 to keep a current customer happy, right?

That is your business lesson today. Everybody with a cell phone go out and demand $100 from the man.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

GET TO KNOW THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
Every few years I get completely sick of music and stop listening to everything. Each time that happens, one CD or band finally picks me up and makes think, Hey, this rocks! Life is okay!

My most recent decent into musical boredom has been relieved by THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, whom I've known forever but hadn't listened to in a few years. I picked up their CD Mink Car and have been loving it non-stop. It's smart, tuneful, wacky and every song is packed with more hooks than most bands create in a lifetime. Granted, it's a bit esoteric (especially if your idea of alternative is Dave Matthews). But Jeeze, I love a band that's unafraid to write songs about Sombreros, Bangs, and the volume level of a disco.

Want a taste of They Might Be Giants? Cool. I've ripped one mp3 for you - Yeh Yeh, a jaunty little strut sure to make you dance in your cubicle. When you're done with that, check out the John's website, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, which includes a selection of QuickCam movies (it looks like the guys literally did these in their apartment directly to the computer). My faves are Dr. Worm and I Am Not Your Broom. Feel free to click away, every link leads to something cool

As always, the mp3 I've included above is ripped in mono at 96K (1.8 meg) and will be removed in a few days. Dig it now and then go and buy some They Might Be Giants CDs.
DISNEY IS WATCHING
Not surprising, this. Since my Day At Disney photo blog was uploaded, I've been getting regular hits from the disney.com domain. Hi Folks! How about a refund on that tasteless hunk of hotdog you sold me?
I LIKE THIS BLOG
I discovered Every Little Thing I Do Is Magic when she linked to Suburban Limbo and gave us a nice little plug. Her exact words were Rawk on. How grrl-ish. Log-rolling aside, I find myself going back regularly. Her entries are weird and fun. I've never met her, but she sounds like somebody I've known forever.
WHO KNEW?


For all you geeks, here's a little Science Club porn - Britney Spears guide to Semiconductor Physics: semiconductor physics, Edge Emitting Lasers and VCSELs. It is a little known fact, that Ms Spears is an expert in semiconductor physics. Not content with just singing, in the following pages, she will guide you in the fundamentals of the vital laser components that have made it possible to hear her super music in a digital format.

Wow. If this doesn't help you remember the classwork, perhaps studying will.
ANOTHER SURPRISE FROM FOX
Jake crashed this afternoon at about 4:30 and never fully awoke for diner. He moved from bed to couch and drifted into his nighttime sleep (yes, I've checked on him and he's fine, he's not in a coma, as Natalie suggested, just exhausted). Left with the evening to myself, I was watching short films for the Florida Film festival when I stumbled upon a Fox News interview with UC Berkeley professor John McWhoter, a black linguist (loved by conservatives) who has written about the victim mentality of blacks and how that's holding them back far more than any white racism. His comments (which mercifully, the Fox anchor let pass without many interuptions) were fascinating and lucid eye-openers. In a world buried in bullshit, this guy could cut to the chase.

I immediately got online and started digging up information about John McWhoter. I ordered his book "Loosing the Race" and found this article, which is a transcript of a speech he made for Frontpage Magazine. It's long, but well worth reading. I've excerpted some of his better bits below.

We need to realize that a people can achieve despite there being racism, especially residual racism. It doesn't matter that maybe all White people don't think Black people are too wonderful. That changing is not what is required for a group to move up. And therefore our solutions to our problems must aim at giving the Black community inner pride through its own accomplishment.

I think that affirmative action in university education is an obsolete idea. I know many people think that it never should have happened. I would disagree, but I would say that it’s now about 15 years obsolete...

Lowered standards equals lowered performance. There’s your slogan. That’s it. There is not one group in the world – and I’ve been asking around, I’ve been talking to historians – there’s not one group in the world where standards have been lowered where the group has then jumped over the bar. And that doesn’t surprise any of us. When you take the bar and you lower it to here, everybody goes to about here except for the strange. You know, every now and then you get somebody like that [makes hand motion]. But for the most part everybody just stops right here. Simple as that.

I’ve seen at night, two glasses of wine, you know, relatives of mine who sound like Larry Elder. Then, the next day at the office or at some forum, all of a sudden, because they were trailed in a store once, they are, you know, victims in the same way as their slave ancestors, they weren’t promoted as quickly. All those things are very real, but there’s such a thing as degree...


Like I said, interesting stuff. I always appreciate somebody who presents a solid challange to the way I think. For further reading, here's a list of articles by John McWhorter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

NEED TO WASTE SOME TIME?
For a long list of links to silly, web-based content generators and games, check out The Brunching Shuttlecocks: Toys. My faves include the Alanis Morissette Lyric Generator (frighteningly accurate), the Goth Quote Generator and the Porn Star or Toy Pony? name game. Order lunch in and hang out at your desk today.
WOW...I AGREE WITH MSNBC'S CHRIS MATTHEWS!
Fearing the Bush administration's lust for war with Iraq, Matthews writes:
This country is led by a pair of oil-patch veterans who share an affection for the petroleum industry and a sense of entitlement about the world's oil reserves regardless of what flag flies above it. George W. Bush, reared by a wildcatting father whose Zapata oil company did business in the Gulf and counseled by a veep straight from the oil business, sees Saddam's chief weapon of mass destruction as his threatened grip on the Persian Gulf oil tap.

This confluence of interest between ideology and oil has put this country on the road to Baghdad. It's time for the country as a whole to realize that American principles have precious little to do with this costly military campaign, either as cargo or motive.


Hmmmm. Read it all at The road to Baghdad
WARREN VS. THE KAJUN HIPPIE
Warren says he believes the Kajun Hippie made "a remarkable number of mistakes in a very short time."

About Israel, the Kajun Hippie wrote They want a theocracy. Seriously. They want to be Jewish state, they want to set up an official home for Jews. Peopled by Jews and run by Jewish law.

Warren responds "No, no, no, yes, sort of, and absolutely not."

Says Warren:
Israel is nothing like a theocracy. They are a democracy. They have elections in which Arab citizens' votes are every bit as valuable as Jewish votes.

Israel is not a "Jewish state." It is a soveriegn nation set up as a democracy on the ancient and historical homeland of the Jewish people, as a refuge for the many displaced people after WW II. Jewish homeland, yes, Jewish state, no.

So, an "official home for Jews" -- yes. "Peopled by Jews" -- sort of, because Israel is peopled by anyone who wants to live there, including Arabs. Those pesky "refugees" weren't chased out, remember -- they left willingly when Arab leaders warned them of the coming invasion in 1948.

Run by Jewish law? NO. The connection between Israel's government and the canon of Jewish law (the Torah and the Talmud) is no different from our government's basis in traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs. But for instance, you can buy a pepperoni pizza on Passover in downtown Tel Aviv -- that would seem to run counter to a lot of Jewish laws.

The Kajun Hippie seems to have confused the Muslims with the Jews. It was the Ayatollah and the Taliban, for instance, that set up actual governments based on their religious beliefs.

Most man-on-the-street Israelis are very non-religious. For them "Jewish" is an ethnicity and a culture worth fighting for. It would not be incorrect to term many Israelis as Agnostic. There is a noticeable (and growing) fringe of fundamentalist-type Ultra-Orthodox who might want a theocracy, but they are much like our own American religious fringes.


There you go. I rather agree with Warren on much of this. Although I think that fringe of Ultra-Orthodox folks have a growing power in Israel, partially due to the country's Parlimentary system of government which tends to amplify the voices of minority groups (a fact -which I feel is neither good or bad - that was pointed out to me by Warren in another letter).

Also, the refugee issue (which is tied into the Palestinian's claim for a Right of Return) is not so cut and dry. Israel has said, Hey, we didn't throw out those folks, they fled. They could have stayed and enjoyed being Israel citizens. But we can't take them back now because their numbers have swelled to millions and they would tip the balance of power in our tiny country.

That statement ignores one obvious point - had the Palestinians stayed in Israel in 1948 and produced the same number of children over the years, their numbers today would have grown at the same rapid rate and they would all be inside Israel as citizens. Following that line of logic, today Palestinian's could right now be installing an Arab Prime Minister of Israel.

Anyone believe Israel would ever allow that to happened?
THE MUSIC BIZ AS DO-GOODER
From the NY Times a few weeks back, here's the rare snapshot of music biz folks doing something good for a change. It involves the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, a lot of money and a guy who recorded a song 40+ years ago while serving as a prisoner in Mississippi. They producers worked long and hard to track him down in order to hand him a check for $20,000 of unpaid royalities. Wow. Anybody need one of my songs for a flick?
CONSIDERING A SWITCH TO MAC FROM PC?
Every since the new iMacs hit the scene, about five of my PC friends have switched to Macs or are strongly considering doing so. If you fall into this swelling category, Apple Computer wants to hear from you. Check out their pitch and drop a line asking all your questions or venting as you se fit. Though some might consider such a move crass, I rather like that Apple understands it needs to properly speak to that market.

BTW - I've read that something like 40% of the new iMac buyers are coming from the PC platform.
MEDIA BIAS?
Remember the claims in that book BIAS, that our evil liberal media identifies conservatives as conservatives in print but not liberals. Turns out that might not be true. As reported on NPR, some guy did a study on the Use of Political Labels in Major Newspapers and found that in fact, Liberals were identified as such more often than conservatives. This was true in a large general group of newspapers as well as a smaller group of "liberal" newspapers such as the Washington Post and New York Times.

From my own experience, ever since Uncle Ron was in the White House, I've noticed media conservatives are a lot more eager to identify themselves as such, as opposed to media liberals. As a result, it often appears to me that the vast majority of media voices in cable TV, radio and most newspapers (particularly in the second- and third-tier markets) eagerly speak from a conservative bias.

Even though the report linked above offers convincing proof of reality, I don't expect anyone who believes the claims of BIAS to change their minds any time in this decade. Such is life.
LOOKING PRESIDENTIAL
The Smoking Gun is usually good for a few laughs when they dig some dirt. While checking out Scorpio Monkey, I stumbled upon a link to a Smoking Gun video of George W. Bush getting interviewed while slightly drunk at a wedding. I was really hoping for something embarassing, but GW doesn't come off looking too bad in it. Sure, he's a bit plowed, but he's kinda funny and in a lot better shape that most wedding guests I've seen.

Monday, March 25, 2002

DOES THIS LOOK RIGHT?
Two folks have emailed to mention this blog looked wrong - one said the pictures and text were all mixed up and jumbled, the other mentioned that all the text was in italics.

I think the problem might be which browser is used to view it. I use Internet Explorer 5 and 5.1 for the Mac as well as Omniweb for Mac OSX. It all looks good with those. The reader who saw the jumbled text and photos was viewing with Netscape/Mac. There might be some issue with how it reads line breaks.

In any case, if you notice something weird, drop me a line and I'll pass it on to Chris at blogger.com central. Just for reference, this entry includes a title line in bold, followed by three paragraphs with empty lines inbetween the paragraphs.

UPDATE: I think I fixed the italics problem - there was an open tag and I closed it. That should be that. Thanks much to M of drinkdeeplyanddream.com for pointing out the exact entry and graph with the problem.
THE OSCARS
Four hours and 23 minutes. Can anything that takes long be any good? Jeeze, if they could just dump all the useless category introductions, they'd save 30 minutes (Cinematographers are the people behind the camera...). Who cares? Get on with.

Halle Berry's acceptance speech was interesting in a car crash sort of way. I was kinda hoping she'd never recover from the crying jag and instead rush offstage in a burst of tears and sobs, clutching the trophy to her vine-laced torso. It would have been so refreshing for a winner not kiss the ass of their managers, lawyers and business contacts in front of the 1 billion plus audience (there's some ego stroking, hmmm?). Of course, they probably would never work again, so we can't expect that to happen.

I could have sworn that in an earlier interview, Halle was asked about the racial implications of her winning earlier and she claimed it wasn't about race, it was about the work, the acting. I guess she changed her mind once she climed the steps. When she turned that acceptance speech into the black actress role call, I bet the Academy old-timers were cringing and muttering, Jeeze, we give the award and she has to bring this up in front of everybody?

Wasn't it odd that Randy Newman won his first Oscar in 16 tries for a feather-weight song he probably wrote in 10 minutes while sitting on the john? The guy's last album (which was great) sold 70,000 copies and it's his little monster buddy song that every is going to hum. There is no justice in the music biz.

And finally, something tells me Cirque du Solei was hired specifically to embarrass Debbi Allen for those years of hapless dance routines she inflicted on Academy Award Show viewers. Not that Cirque was so great or original (in fact, most of the routines were lifted from Cirque's running productions), but their sense of spectacle alone won a righteous standing ovation.

Not if we could just be rid of those cue-card reading presenters, perhaps the show could be put to bed before 11:30 pm.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

LETTERS AND ISSUES
Many great letters have come in from new readers. Thanks much to all. Most have been positive, although Sadie looked at the Saudi newspaper blurb below and wrote Are you serious? We live under what is probably one of the world's most racist regimes ever. Period. Don't let the gloss fool you. Dig deeper.

Wow. I have no clue what to make of that. Is she saying the US is more racist than Saudi Arabia? Suggesting the canard about Jews baking with the blood of non-Jews is true? That the reasons for dealing with the Saudis go deeper than our lust for oil?

Whatever, I disagree on every count. Okay, maybe the oil issue can be augmented by US geopolitial needs (wanting a large country with a friendly government in one of the world's hotspots, near Russia). Hey, I can do the obvious liberal chants too (ca'mon, I was a folksinger!). Yes, racisism exists on a large scale in this country, but face facts - the US is by far the most integrated country in the world (especially for its size). We have more people from more nations living successfully here than any other patch of dirt in the world. We're one of the few countries whose population is almost completely imported. That alone makes us unique and drives us to face ugly problems like racism years before other nations deal with them. Europe is just starting to wrestle with some race issues the US fought over in the 1950s and 1960s. The Middle East, Africa and Asia continue to be virtually tribal (and highly sexist) in their outlook on outsiders.

Our country's ruling class is far more based on economics than race or nationality. As annoying as that is, economics is a field on which anyone can compete. There are wealthy male and female blacks, Jews, Latin-Americans, Eskimos and white Anglos. You want to play that game? Play it. Wall Street is there for everyone. I know, I used to work on it. Yes, you have to wear a suit and follow certain long-established rules, but the door is open if one is willing to make those concessions. Frankly, with the internet, a suit isn't neccessary anymore. In fact, clothing is optional for day-traders.

I tend to shy away from patriotic flag-waving because it's often used as an excuse to intimidate others. But the reason I fight and argue about the direction and policies of America is because I care deeply about its existence. The ideals on which America is founded are good and deserve to succeed. Those ideals are often twisted to fit somebody's need for money or power (hello John Ashcroft), but it's our job as citizens to twist them back into something more respectable.

So yeah, complain about racism all you want. Fight the good fight. But admit the truth - the US is years ahead of almost any other country in this issue.That doesn't mean we're perfect or close to solving the problem. Sadly, it just means much of the rest of the world is still divided into xenophobic tribes lying about the baking needs of Jews.

Saturday, March 23, 2002

THIS JUST IN ...
Finally...a Saudi newspaper editor has retracted an article that defamed Jews by reprinting an old canard that they use the blood of non-Jews to bake holiday cakes. I guess I'm suppose to feel good about this retraction, but can somebody please explain why a country such as ours does business with people who print such anti-Semetic shit in their government-controlled newspapers? Oh yeah, I forgot. Oil.

Friday, March 22, 2002

GREETINGS
Due to a kind plug for Suburban Limbo on the front page of blogger.com, our daily readership has shot up to nearly a 1,000 from the double digits (and the low double digits at that). Wow...we got us an audience. At least for a little while. Hope all you new folks enjoy the rants. Check back often and feel free to comment on whatever you see.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

A DAY AT DISNEY
Last week, gracious Natalie and I decided to take young Jake on his first adventure to Disneyworld here in Orlando. We figured Ooo, Monday afternoon, nobody will be there. Hmmm...it just goes to show how fucking little we locals know. It turned out Monday was not only the first day of Spring break, but it boasted some of the best weather in weeks. Thus, our trip trip turned out a bit differently than expected.



This is the 11:00 am ticket mob at the front gate. We waited about 55 minutes to crawl through this maze and plunk down $314 for three 4-visit passes (special rates for us Florida idiots - we can't figure out a ballot, but we get discounts at Disney!).



This snug little cruise across the lake turned out to be the least-crowded ride we would visit all day. At least there was a breeze.



Security was air-tight at the Magic Kingdom's Main Entrance. Many, many Disney cops. BTW, did you know that if you dial 911 on any Disney property you are routed to a Disney employee? Besides owning their own city, Disney also owns their own police force.



For amusment (or perhaps a secret Disney code), this guy kept a loud running count of every banana found in a guest's backpack. He was up to 35 when we passed by.



Jake knows nothing about most Disney characters (Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story is an exception). Even so, he instantly embraced any and all large felt creatures we encountered. I give them credit - the Disney folks know more than anyone about what's attractive to kids. We waited on a line for 15 minutes for this shot. For most of that time, Goofy's Handler kept shouting Goofy must leave in two minutes to perform at Cinderella's Castle! Just when we were next in line, some bitch of a 65-year Midwest tourist hag jumped the line in front of my three-year old son so that she could take a picture with Goofy. Ahhhh! I wanted to punch her. Goofy wanted to punch her (I could tell, even if his expression never changed). Happily, Goofy's Handler had him stay and pose with Jake before sending him off to dance and mime in front of the castle.



As you might guess, the park was packed beyond all belief. Jake announced he wanted to visit Mickey' in Toonland (probably the least interesting Land in the Magic Kingdom). We agreed, as we figured the rides would be packed at Noon. We fought the crowds, walked all the way to the back of the park and found Toonland was also mobbed. Jake discovered a playground and dissapeared inside this cave structure. We waited about 35 minutes for him to emerge.



In the meantime, I paid $3.25 for this massive hot dog that was as big (and tasteless) as my forearm. In a marketing screwup, the Toonland Hotdog girl doesn't sell beverages. For that, you're supposed to wait on another line. Fuck that. I did without a $2.25 can of soda.



Finally, Jake was ready to visit Mickey in his "house." This adventure started with a scrum moving through Mickey's rooms then out into the garden, where the real line began.



The garden line led to Mickey's Judge's Tent. What was Mickey was judging. Beats me. Perhaps he's counting number of idiots who will stand in the burning sun to visit him.



Here's Jake about 20 minutes into the Visit Mickey line, still in the garden, after he demanded that Natalie carry him. I felt about the same as he looked.



Finally we got out from the scorching sun and inside Mickey's Judge's Tent only to find...yet another line. This one was slightly better due to A/C and cartoons playing on screens, but I'd had enough and left. I'm too old to stand in line for an hour, or so I thought.



After about 65 minutes of waiting, Jake and Natalie enjoyed a brief session with Mickey along with another 6 folks. You see, Mickey stands in a room and they bring in 8 to 10 people at a pop for photos. Again, Jake spontaneously hugged the mostly felt character. Photos were like $15 bucks each, but the staff was kind enough to take this picture using my camera.



After all the fun and excitment of waiting on line for Mickey, we took the long train ride around the park in a half-successful effort to cool off and avoid crowds. After that, it was a 35 minute line for the Jungle Cruise, which kinda sucked because the "Captain" of our boat was obviously counting the seconds until his next smoke break. When I was a kid, I did this ride and the Captain said To our left is Livingston Falls, named after the famous explorer who discovered it, Dr. Robert Falls To this day that joke cracks me up, all the more so since it was obviously not on the Disney script.



Inbetween the Captain's droning comentary, Natalie snapped this shot of Jake and me. I'm the one on the right.



We next attended the Pirates of the Carribean, following a breath-takingly short 20 minute line. It might be 40 years old, but I still like this ride.



Following the traditional ride theme, we next hit the Haunted House. Even though we had Fast Pass tickets for this one, we wait for more than 30 minutes. I guess greeting the dead takes time. This ride also remains excellent, despite it's age. Jake was scared but hung on and made it without a tear.



The line for Winnie The Pooh's Adventure was a mind-boggling 65 minutes (at 6:00pm!). Luckily, our Fast Passes reduced that to less than 10 minutes. The ride was a silly line-up of pictures and figures, but Jake dug it.

We capped off the day with the Buzz Lightyear Adventure (wait time 30 minutes). I'm sure I took a picture on line, but I can't find it now. Anyway, the ride itself was a lifesize video game. Each cart had two light guns and a control shift that allowed the driver to point the cart. Points were awarded for "shooting" various elements of the displays. It was okay, but made me long for the days when Disney put in the effort to give their rides a special story.



Following Buzz, we fled the park before the evening parade started and trapped us all like rats (as Don Brody used to say). The crowds stayed with us all the way through the monorail ride back to the Main Gate and the tram back to our car. Fun? Well, sometimes. Next time, we'll check to see if school is in session or not. There's no way I'm gonna pay $35 to mingle ass to ass with 100,000 sweaty tourists for 8 hours ever again. If I ever make noises like that's my plan, please club me to death.
SHAMELESS WHITE HOUSE BASH OF THE DAY
The ever-lovely and grammatically correct Farran (from either NJ or NYC, depending on the time of day), sent us this clip from the Feb. 27th Financial Times. Since it's short, I'll run the whole thing here and save you a link. It ran under the headings of New Math and Aptless Ari.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer seems to be suffering from a touch of his boss's problems with policy "verbalisation".

Briefing reporters this week in the wake of Daniel Pearl's murder, Fleischer cited a US-Pakistan extradition treaty signed in 1932. It had come into effect in 1942 when Pakistan was "under the British empire".

A hard trick to pull off, that: after all, Pakistan only came into existence when India was partitioned in 1947. So one reporter attempted to give Fleischer a history lesson: "There was no Pakistan in 1942."

So was the treaty with the British? "The treaty was with Pakistan, which was under British rule," insisted Fleischer.

Then, oblivious of the rule that when in a hole the best thing to do is to stop digging, he delivered his trump card. Fleischer said he was confident that there were Pakistani authorities at that time "because we just looked it up".


Farran notes My sister's comment on this was perfect: "So much for Bush being okay because he had surrounded himself with smart people."

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

NETWORK BLAHS
If the internet is ever going to replace TV or print it's going to have to get as reliable as those mediums. Last night, I tried to log on after midnight to blog a bit and my cable modem was crashing hard. The lights were flashing weird patterns and the 24/7 service Time Warner is supposed to provide turned out to be taking the night off. I tried various resets, then went to bed. This morning, it was fine. Who knows why. Gotta love this brave new world.


A MUSEUM OF GIGGLES


Finally, there's another reason to visit Iceland besides the bands, volcanic landscape and sky-high alcholism - The Penis Museum. Yes, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is the place to go if want to compare your manhood against the shafts of other mammals. That monster above is a whale member. Six foot long when flaccid. Ouch! If you're feeling threatened, check out the two millimeter hamster bone.

Oddly, the museum is missing a human contribution, although an Icelandic doctor has promised to provide his when he's done with it.

LOTS OF LETTERS
The good point of missing a few blogs is you folks start writing me. Regarding my rant about copy protection schemes in CDs, the ever-rocking Otis noteed Here's the reason copy protection will never work. I can always plug my CD walkman in my iMac's sound input and make MP3s that way. Sure, more time consuming, but time is what these kids have.

True, true - the analog solution will always be there. All these schemes prevent digital-digital-digital copying only. Drop in an analog step and all bets are off. If worse came to worse, kids will figure out how to set up speakers and stereo microphone and rip music that way. Analog technology is so good that most people will never hear the difference.

Reader Foxy wrote that he Loved the thread on Ashcroft. I think he meant the Ashcroft singing thing. Thanks! The Guardian in London has such a great sense of humor about covering American politics. But my question is this -- who is Foxy? He signed his name, but I don't recognize it. Wow! A real reader! Somebody I don't know! That's as good as a non-relative actually buying my CD in a store!

But wait, there's more! A free Ginzu knife! No, actually, it's a thoughtful letter from The Kajun Hippie who wrote:

You know why Israel is such a "grand experiment doomed to failure"?

They want a theocracy. Seriously. They want to be a Jewish state, they want to set up an official home for Jews. Peopled by Jews and run by Jewish law.

And history tells us that theocracies do not survive long-term because they are beset on all sides by religious enemies, and they rot from the inside due to religious dissent.

Meanwhile in the United States, our First Amendment prohibits our government playing favorites with any religion, so all religions are theoretically allowed to flourish and there are no genuine holy wars going on. We still get crazies bombing buildings -- mostly women's clinics -- but the general consensus is that they're nuts, and nobody's denying them the right to be Christians, even if they're very bad ones.

I don't think a Palestinian state will be the answer to Israel's problems, or Palestine's either. I believe Israel needs to rethink its priorities. I think they need to go about creating a nation in which Jews and Muslims can peacefully co-exist because neither group is violating the other's religious rights.

I guess when hell freezes over...


Another reader I don't know! Wheee! And smart too. I like the thought of standing back from the brink and looking at the bigger picture, although I don't know that I agree completely with the Kajun Hippie. I think in Israel's earliest days, they were willing to create a state that embraced local Arabs as well as Jews. And there are Arab Israeli citizens. But over the years, they appear to have fallen to second-class citizen status. And as Kajun rightly notes, the bickering from within is a sign of internal rot

During my last exchange with Warren, he suggested I (and Chris in NJ) read The Flame for a more rounded view of Israeli history. FLAME stands for Facts and Logic About the Middle East . It is a fascinating site and I suggest everyone check it out. After doing so, I wrote back the following to Warren:

I did check out the Flame as you suggested and found it quite interesting. But you do realize that it's a propaganda publication, right? Granted, I'm pre-disposed to agree with much of the material because I believe Israel has a right to exist in peace and that regional Arabs are the aggressors who want to force Israel into the sea. But there's no way any impartial organization can look at five decades of Israel history and never find a single flaw with the country's policies except that they're not aggressive enough dealing with the Palestinians.

Are you aware of the history of the Flame? How it's an offshoot of The Camera, a similar but even more one-sided group that formed in the wake of the bad press Israel got in 1982 after the Lebanon invasion and refugee camp incidents. These are organizations formed by Jewish American supporters to promote Israel's hard right line in America and go after anyone who dares to disagree (The Camera has been fighting with NPR for years because NPR has the audacity to interview Palestinians on air). They might be correct on many points, but still they are not making any effort to be impartial.

Mind you, the Camera and Flame are not alone. For the Palestinian version, check out The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It claims to be "published by the American Educational Trust (AET), a non-profit foundation incorporated in Washington, DC by retired U.S. foreign service officers to provide the American public with balanced and accurate information concerning U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states." Bullshit. A simple read of the headlines announces quite clearly that WRMEA reps the Palestinian side of the matter.

In the end, I'll read them all because it's always good to know what the hard liners think. But just as Arabs really want Israel out of the region, the Flame makes it pretty clear that from their point of view, there will never be peace with Palestinians because Palestinians don't exist, the West Bank doesn't exist, and no Israeli occupation exists. Reading the Flame just confirmed my original thoughts about the problem - it's a depressing mess. You've got two side who are not even arguing about a common reality anymore, they're just inventing different versions of history and trying to circulate them to the rest of the world.

Didn't somebody once say that truth is the first victim in these situations
?

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

BLAH, BLAH, BLOGGING
I've spent most of the day and evening trying to email a press release to 150 media folks and my computer has not been co-operating. It's really more a problem of trying to do something complicated when I'm half-way into changing the system. In any case, it's been a pain in the ass. I have 15 shorts to watch before Thusday night plus finish all this computer upgrading. Ugh.

On the plus side, I finally fixed the carb in my Rambler. A few weeks ago, my father-in-law convinced me that rebuilding a carb was easy work. Well, he was half right. Rebuilding it was easy. Putting it all back together so that it didn't spew gasoline all over the engine block was another matter entirely. Total time - about 3 weeks.

BEBOPPING WITH BILL
On another note...about 5 years ago, I was interviewed by Forrester Research about the future of music online. I totally missed the Napster concept (which wasn't happening then anyway), but my prediction was that lesser known musicians - be they niche players or guys who had hits years ago - would find their new homes on the web, selling their CDs privately all across the globe.

I found the perfect example of my concept with Permanent Flame - The Bill Nelson Web Site., For those who spent a few years in the world of art rock, Bill Nelson was the raging guitarist and leader of Be Bop Deluxe, a fine 70s band that I discovered in college, after they'd broken up. Bill continues to release music to this day - frankly, I don't think he could stop. He's got something like 50+ albums to his credit. His site is like a glorified blog - he jots messages about his day etc, but also gives email addresses where fans can write to complain about BeBop albums being out of print. It's kind of the ME ME ME site, but that's cool. It's Bill's world and if you hang out long enough, you might start to care about NOISE CANDY, Bill's latest box set of 6 double-length CDs.

Like I said, the guy does not stop working.

In any case, check it out for no other reason that it's a taste of how I think musicians of future might offer themselves to the world audience.

CD PROTECTION
There's a lot of talk about CD protection schemes which will prevent users from ripping copies of their music. It will probably go a lot further. In an effort to extort some money from everyone each time they listen to a piece of music, record companies will probably try to rent the music - users can download the file, but it self-destructs after you fee runs out.

There are many, many schemes being considered, all of which stem from the fear record companies have about music being digitally copied fo free from CDs. Some would say the problem is the record companies themselves - for signing shitty performers and them refusing to sell the product in any other format except full-length CDs (someone compared that to Coke only offering Coke in 64 ounce bottles).

Here's my prediction - if record companies go the encryption route, audiences will rediscover vinyl. Yes, there are mountains of records all over the world and with a turntable, preamp and free software, you can record that music into your computer and rip a custom CD (and frankly, if the record's in clean shape, it sounds just as good or better than a commercial CD). Add to that all the indie musicians willing to give away their music, the few musicans who create something so unique people will pay them for it (in my book, Tom Waits) and whatever other forms of diversion/entertainment out there, and you've got an equation that spells the end of the music biz as we know it.

I, for one, won't be too sad to see it go. My turntable is set up and I'm looking at nearly a 1,000 records that I haven't heard for a while.

Monday, March 18, 2002

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO...
I know I promised a Disney picture spread last week. It's coming soon. I've suddenly gotten busy with real and imagined work. I need to stop creating projects for myself.
MORE REASONS TO FEAR JOHN ASHCROFT
As if we need any...it turns out that between fighting international evil by preventing American bookstores to mention FBI requests about customer purchases, Mr. A keeps busy writing patriotic songs. His latest is "Let The Eagle Soar." Yes, bad musicians scare me. And not only is he bad, he's public about it. According to the usually snarky Guardian Unlimited Mr Ashcroft's staff are complaining that printed versions of the song are being distributed at meetings so that they will be able to join in. When asked why she opposed the workplace singalong, one of the department's lawyers said: "Have you heard the song? It really sucks."

Want to hear the golden throat for yourself? Check him out here, via CNN.com. He has an impressive vibrato.
COVER ME
Paradise City, a Guns 'N Roses tribute band gets the biggest press they'll ever experience in the The Pretenders, part of yesterday's delightful music-themed NY Times magazine. The writer is unafriad to reveal the dark conflicts within the band, as when he notices the group's Slash is a bit dumpy - Unfortunately, Young can't learn how to look like a mulatto former heroin addict, and he holds the only position in America for which that is a job requirement. He only vaguely resembles Slash, and his bandmates tell him he looks like an Oompa-Loompa from ''Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

My favorite quote comes when in describing the cheezeball bar in which Paradise City is gigging - This is the kind of place where you will see a college girl trying to buy a $2.25 glass of Natural Light on tap with her credit card -- and have her card denied.

My friends, this is rock and roll.
KILLING TIME
Remember PONG? Even if you don't, this little flash animation PONG - THE MOVIE is tons of fun. In fact, it's more fun than the game itself ever was. When you're done with that, consider the more intellectual challenge of playing PONG - THE TEXT VERSION. Look for the link on the same page as the PONG - THE MOVIE

Friday, March 15, 2002

HITLER'S APPLICATION TO US ART SCHOOL ACCEPTED 78 YEARS TOO LATE
Following revelations that student visas for two of the 9-11 hijackers were approved and received 6 months after their flights into the World Trade Center, (Bush bashes INS over hijackers' visas), it's been learned that Adolph Hitler's 1924 application to the Parson's School of Design was recently approved.

"Welcome incoming freshman!" reads the acceptance letter sent to Hitler's original Barvarian PO Box. "Your years at Parson will be a most challenging and rewarding time and could help you to change the course of history!" The letter's final paragraph notes Hitler has been assigned to the "Yoni Shimelman dormatory."

Representatives from Parson's School of Design stumbled to explain how Hitler's application could have "fallen through the cracks" for most of a century. "The girls in the admissions office are young, bridge and tunnel types," offered one official. "They're all La Vida Loca, you know? Maybe they just didn't recognize the name as one of the last century's most heinous and evil murderers?"

Hitler's drawing and painting skills were well-developed by the time of his application (see his portfolio piece to the right). Had he been exposed to exciting new cultures and giving the proper structure and training, it's widely assumed Hitler could have developed into a painter of renown. Instead, his application was lost, Hitler developed an interest in politics and eventually started a genocidal war in which more than 50 million died.

"Had we known approving this one application could have changed the course of history, I'm sure some financial aid could have been arranged," said a Parson spokesman. "But these things happen. Stuff gets lost all the time. For instance, I'm always losing my apartment keys.

"Hey do me a favor," requested a Parson's board member. "If anyone finds out Osama's kids are applying to art school, somebody call and give us a head's up."

Thursday, March 14, 2002

AND THIS SURPRISES WHOM?
Several recent books such as BIAS have been very critical about the mainstream media. To absolutely nobody's surprise except the publishers, those same mainstream media outlets have declined to interview the authors of these books. We are shocked that the mainstream media doesn't invite these authors on-air for a critical drubbing . Not. Read about here: Media critics being ignored / Authors say press is biased against their books

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

DISNEY ADVENTURES
Yesterday, Natalie and I took Jake to DisneyWorld on what was probably the park's most crowded day of the year...perhaps the decade. At least it felt that way. I'm preparing a slide show now. Check back soon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

A NICE PIECE OF WORK
Lisa Carver is into smut. That's why she writes for Nerve, a web and print journal of smut for thinking folks. Most all of Lisa's writings are excellent, but this one is super special. In Life's Work: Mr. Clean, Lisa interviews a guy who mops up after customers in a XXX store/video booth porn theater (luickily, he's the owner too). Squeal with delight when Lisa bumps into someone she knows! Thanks to CB for the recommendation.

Monday, March 11, 2002

FOR THE MAN ON A BUDGET
Dot com meltdown got you down? Feeling a pinch in your wallet? Worry no more, because you can always find happiness and female companionship at Frugal John - Where Cheap Bastards Find Quality Ladies. Yes indeed, this site lists cut-rate beauties available for companionship and more in the Bay Area. Actually, they're not that cheap - just $200 versus a $300 average in that area. But when you're a 24 year-old ex-millionaire internet has-been, every little bit helps.

BTW - this site should not be confused with Frugal John Bogel, CEO of the fine Vanguard Securities company. He wouldn't like that.
BAD MEDIA SKILLS HURT
Following the theme of last week's Middle East thread, here's an interesting (and fairly balanced) article I came across from the excellent Jewish Weekly, which details Why Israel is Losing The Media War. The Hebrew word for spreading the news is hasbara and this writer finds reporters who care agree that Israel "couldn't be doing a worse job" of hasbara, as one of them puts it.

"The spokespeople don't know how to talk to the camera," he says with exasperation, "they have poor English, they often appear in uniform, which makes them seem like part of the problem, and they speak in bombastic, self-righteous terms."


Surprisingly, the writer makes the case that the Palestinians are great to reporters, providing them with access, photos and all the returned phones calls they can stand. This, of course, flys in the face of reports claiming that TV reporters are regularly threatened by Palestinians with physical injury or death if they dare photograph any image or scene that makes Palestinians look bad.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

MORE ME


Bianca from NYC likes to send me pictures of guys she finds on the internet whom she think resemble me (or at least could be my relative). This guy is some internet executive. I don't know if I agree with her. The guys she picks all seem to have this vacant, chunky, white guy look to them - like they just farted at the company office party and other people are starting to smell it. This country is full of people matching that description - what else makes them look like me?
ANIMAL ADVENTURES
I'm starting to feel like Dr. Doolittle.

Late last week, while driving Jake home from school, I spotted a large turtle trying to cross a busy street. Needless to say, I pulled over, told Jake to wait in the car, and went to help the turtle, who had stepped off the curb into traffic. I was planning to pick him up and run him over to the nearby lake. As I had in the past with other turtles, I tried to tap him on the shell with my shoe so that he would button up and I could pick him up.

This turtle was having none of that. This turtle was of the mean-ass snapping variety, the brand that's known to clamp down with jaws of steel and kill pets on occasion. He promptly spun around and took a small piece off my shoe. Yeeeow! I tried to move around but that turtle followed me every step of the way, advancing on my and snapping some more. The turtle was chasing me! I got a golf club from my car in hopes of just lifting him by the shell out of the street. He made another stab and locked his jaw on that putter. Finally, I flagged down a Winter Park Street Divisions truck and the guys inside got out a shovel and finally - after dropping him once or twice when he spun around - got him back into the lake.

Why was he so pissed off? My only thought was that he was old and tired and trying to committ suicide. After a day of slowly walking from the lake into traffic, just a few feet shy of his goal, I showed up to do my good deed and screwed up his leap to the afterlife.

The next day, the family had dinner outside on the patio and Natalie discovered a large fron flopping about in our pool. That might seem okay, but if that frogs can't get out, they drown and end up a swollen mess in our skimmer system. I fished out Froggie, put him under a bush to dry out and he left by day break.

That morning, the final chapter of our animal adventures - Natalie found a 6-inch ring snake in the pool skimmer basket (she thought it was a big worm, but it wasn't). I picked out the leaves and snake with a pair of kitchen tongs (Note To Self - Buy new kitchen tongs), put everything into a bucket, then emptied it in some bushes on the front lawn. I'm always telling Jake not to play in those bushes because snakes could be in there. Now he knows I'm not kidding.

Friday, March 08, 2002

IS THIS WHY YOUR PALMS GET FURRY?

From Dave S. of Hoboken. He's about to hit the road playing drums for the Hangdogs (Texas and the Midwest). Gee, six guys in a van? I guess this subject is on his mind.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

THIS JUST IN...
From Amy B. in God Knows Where PA.

French Intellectuals to be Deployed to Afghanistan to Convince Taliban of Non-Existence of God

The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or 'Black Berets', will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris' Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement Cafes at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man's lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers' ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else.

Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, "The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it. Take your Tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking."

Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man's nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmen's endless Gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area.

Speculation was mounting last night that Britain may also contribute to the effort by dropping Professor Stephen Hawking into Afghanistan to propagate his non-deistic theory of the creation of the universe.

Other tactics to demonstrate the non-existence of God will include the dropping of leaflets pointing out the fact that Michael Jackson has a new album out and Jesse Helms has not died yet. This is only one of several Psy-Ops operations mounted by the Allies.
COUNTERPOINT
And from the other side (both politically and geographically), Chris from PA enters the fray to back up my initial thoughts. He writes:

There is NO ONE over there admirable, or even close. Israel has lost all moral authority. It is shameful. That aside, and closer to your point, it's also just stupid. A complete lack of insight into human behavior.

Colin Powell is right on this one (and I agree, I think he's speaking on his own; it's been pretty much shown he's a lone voice of reason at 1600 PA these days).

As long as the Israelis keep treating the Palestinians like dogs, the Palestinians will act like dogs. Not too hard to figure out, and it doesn't matter who's side you're on.

Case closed on that one.
MORE MIDEAST
Here's an interesting bit from an AP story about Israel. Even though the US isn't being pro-active in negotiations, Colin Powell is trying to make his thoughts known (it makes me wonder if he's doing it on his own initiative). Overall, this reads like a black comedy.

Referring to Sharon's statements this week that force would replace diplomacy and that Israel would strike relentlessly to crush Palestinian militants, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Congressional committee: "If you declare war on the Palestinians and think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don't know that leads us anywhere."

Sharon's office said in response that Israel has not declared war on the Palestinians and that the conflict "was imposed on Israel by the Palestinian Authority and its leader."

The Palestinians asked for immediate U.S. intervention. "They (the Israelis) are imposing a daily war against our people, our leadership and the peace process," said Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

Sharon ordered the military strikes after more than two dozen Israelis were killed last weekend in a string of Palestinian attacks. The prime minister has come under sharp attack at home for not offering Israelis a way out of their malaise. The past week has been one of the bloodiest in 17 months of fighting, with 80 Palestinians and 31 Israelis killed.

A key target in the new Israeli campaign has been Arafat's compound in Ramallah, to which he has been confined since December. Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the complex for three straight nights, including late Wednesday, when two rockets struck several minutes apart.

At the time, Arafat was meeting in his office with Miguel Moratinos, the EU envoy to the Middle East. "We don't know where it hit, but it was very, very close," said the envoy's spokesman, Javier Sancho. The lights went out and the EU delegation was escorted out by flashlight, Sancho said. Arafat adviser Ahmed Abdel Rahman said that the windows were blown out in the room where Arafat and Moratinos had met just moments before.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was speaking to Arafat by phone at the time of the air strike, Arafat's advisers said. Arafat held out the phone and told Peres "Do you hear this?" when one of the missiles hit, the aides said. Peres, who has been saying publicly that force alone cannot bring about a resolution, declined comment Thursday.

BLACK, WHITE OR GREY?
My frustration over the Mideast conflict - as if I could really do anything about it - generated a typically thoughtful comment from Warren from LaLa. He was kind enough to focus on just one comment made, no doubt to avoid another month-long email battle. He wrote:

On your recent post regarding the Middle East, I toyed with sending you a long and angry response. I think you are off on many counts there, both morally and factually -- but I decided against it.

I will instead respond to one sentence:

"It is so disappointing to look at a conflict and not admire anyone."

Well, Rich, it is disappointing to me to see a good friend, someone whose intellect I have always admired, look at a conflict and then choose not to condemn the obvious evil of one of the parties to that conflict.

Sharon visited a settlement and inflamed tensions. The Palestinians strap bombs to their chests and blow up babies.

Case closed.


I wish I could see the world in such black and white terms.

Sure, I can condemn. The Palestinians are wrong for stapping bombs to their chest and blowing up babies. There. I join a nation - no, a world of people condemning those acts. And where does it get us? Nowhere. That fight has grown so old and out of control that it can no longer be reduced to simple rights and wrongs. The only constant is that the Arab world hates the Israelis, considers them a proxy U.S. in the region and blames them for all things bad. But guess what - the Arab world ain't going away any time soon. Like them or not, their feelings and reaction have to be taken into account. They have to be dealt with. The West can't treat the Arab world like ignorant, naughty children, smacked whenever they step out of line.

Is there anybody in the middle of that mess willing to step out and be big enough to say We are all wrong to continue this maddness. Since I wrote it, a few people are speaking out. Israel Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israel's Labor Party are considering leaving Sharon's "Unity" government in frustration over the handling of this matter. I don't know that they have a solution, but they're starting to feel the current "solution" ain't working. And there was an excellent clip on NPR today from some famous Israeli pianist who was blocked by Israeli border guards when he tried to to perform in Gaza. As he put it (and I'm paraphrasing here) "If this wasn't so tragic, it'd be ridiculous. It's like a kindergarden class - He hit me! No, he hit me first! No, you hit me before that! Well, now I'm going to hit you for when you hit me yesterday!"

I think it comes down to this - what's going to solve the problem? Will the current Sharon plan of pressing a virtual war force Palentinians to quit their tactics and press for peace? I don't think so for two reasons. 1) Israel will never press full-fledged action against the Palestinians unless another Arab country joins Arafat militarily. The Israeli people would revolt as would the Arab world. So in a sense, Israel is fighting with one (or both) hands tied behind its back - more like an occupying force then a goal-oriented army. 2) The Palestinians have done the math and decided they're meat pies one way or another, so they might as well go out with a bang. There is an endless supply of Palestinians willing to turn themselves into ammunition and those folks aren't going to be dissuaded by Israel tanks rolling through Palestinian cities. If anything, that will make more of them willing to strap on bombs.

Thus, we have an eternal conflict (especially when the Bush gang doesn't want to take the lead in negotiations). By embracing Warren's black and white interpretation (Palestinians are evil), we are doomed to watching generations die in Middle East Wars. That solves nothing and that's why there're few, in any people to admire in that mess.

Mind you - I don't have any answers myself. I think the deeper root of this problem is that the Palestinians and most of the Arab world hate the Jews and want Israel abolished. Even if tomorrow, the Saudi Peace Plan was enacted, I'm sure Palestinian militants would continue to terrorize Israel because they want to push them into the Mediterranean Sea.

Maybe the solution is business? If every surrounding Arab state was convinced the entire region would dissolve into decades-long chaos and economic ruin, perhaps they'd gang up on the Palestinians and press them to solve the situation. But I don't think Arab are ever going to let themselves be dragged to a bargining table at the barrel of a gun, just as the Israelis don't want to attend on the threat of a bus bombing. Frankly, I wish some Arab country would just airlift the whole lot of Palestinians to another chunk of the desert. But then, I'm sure they're saying the same thing about the Israeli (We we're here first! No, we were!)

It's just a big mess and like I said before, my feeling is the world is going to have to wait for another generation of leaders - perhaps the US included - to either push this conflict into an purging, explosive war or back down, look for answers and start fighting extremism instead of each other.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

OKAY, HERE'S WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE USA PATRIOT ACT
That John Ashcrofty is one crafty guy.

We had this discussion weeks ago, and now (finally), we have decent piece explaining how that flag-waving weasel Mr. A. is infringing on our Civil Rights (He knows what you've been checking out - Salon.com). Not only can the Men In Black demand sales and lending records from libraries and bookstores, but they've passed a law that prohibits librarians and bookstore owners from making such demands public. In addition, they can't reveal who made the requests and what they asked for, or keep track of such requests in any way.

Now ain't that a bitch? Warren and I agreed that once Mr. A stepped over the line and intruded on citizen's rights, the American people would unite to get rid of the laws or him (or both). But how are we suppose to know if lines been crossed when the parties involved are forbidden to discuss the matter? That's a slick set of laws, huh? So let's say the FBI acquires your reading list and you're brought to court. You, as the accused, can't even get the library to confim that the FBI acquired your reading list. And what if the list is wrong? What if they spelled the name wrong or got the wrong ID number. Ooops, you're fucked because the library can't comment (or even keep track of the request).

In my book, as far as legal sleezery goes, this is a whole lot worse than debating the meaning of the word "is."
DON'T TRUST THE TOP TEN
I always knew the music industry charts were bogus, bought and sold as part of a marketing plan. It was rather fun to learn book sales charts are manipulated in much the same way. A recent article online by Publishers Weekly, explains how one author, David Vise, did a bulk purchase of 17,000 copies of his latest novel from B&N.comm, then returned most of them. Vise says says both the figure and the story are a result of misunderstandings. Most everybody else says bullshit. BTW - the book hit the bestseller charts.
KICKIN' BACK WITH THE OZ MAN

As I suspected, the Ozzie Osbourne show on MTV was fine. My favorite scene involved Ozzie sitting at home and mumbling along as he watched himself perform on the Jay Leno show. In the next chair was his black, middle-aged male security guard who knew not what to make of the screech and bash coming from the TV set.

In case you didn't know it, Ozzy is about 80 years old and has a pronounced palsey shake. So many things to learn that VH1 never covered!

The only thing that bugged me was that many of the best gags were explained in the preview articles. Doesn't anyone recall how to write a preview article that doesn't ruin the best bits of a show? The whole Rosebud mystery never would have stood a chance in this decade.
TIRED
You don't know tired until you see a tired dog. Tesla usually spends every night running between my legs and demanding to go outside to bark at shadows. Today is Tuesday, the day my in-laws come over to watch Jake. They bring with them Pepe, a white furball and Tesla's closest same-species friend. They must go nuts all day because when night time comes around, Tesla is wiped out. She's been lying doggo on her mat since about 8:30 pm and shows no signs of moving until dawn.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

STEVE STRIKES BACK
Having been accused by Disney Executives of aiding copyright pirates with the iPod, Apple CEO Steve Jobs fired back today, pointing out that a lack of creativity in the record industry. According to the article, The lesson of Napster, which popularised unauthorised music-sharing on the Internet, had more to do with convenience than the fact users could get music free of charge, in Jobs' view. "We believe that over 80percent of people are willing to pay," he says. "But there is no one offering you a choice."
OTIS ROCKS
Need an ass-kicking mp3? I suggest you visit the site of one Otis Ball (a former band boss of mine) and download his very excellent and unashamedly psychedelic Banana Splits cover, I Enjoy Being A Boy. It's smokin'.
TO WAR OR NOT TO WAR?
I'm pulled apart by all the aggression and war talk these days - mostly because I see no real answers being offered by anyone. I admired Bush for going into Afghanistan pronto and pulling the very un-Republican move of taking a role as the world's cop and nation-building. But I'm bothered by his administration's belief that there's some simple and easy way to repeat this success throughout the world. I don't think that's true. More important, I think that's exactly the kind of trap that gets the US in trouble - we march across the globe convinced we have all the answers (isn't that what conservatives say liberals always do?). We are asking to be hated even more than we already are.

The Middle East is just genocide waiting to happen. The only question is who will be the victim. There was a NY Times article months ago by a US citizen who had moved to Israel. After the violence started, he and his wife were starting to wonder if Israel was just a grand experiment doomed to failure. I'm starting to wonder too. It is so disappointing to look at a conflict and not admire anyone. Sharon started this latest mess 18 months ago when he marched into the Temple Mount in some sort of political stunt. Now he's PM and can't resolve anything. Though they usually play the role of underdogs, the Israelis are starting to look like the Roman Empire after it's peak. Because they are the area power, they are a big fat target for anyone eager to die with a bomb strapped to their stomach. Q. How does a well-trained army fight that? A. They don't - unless they are willing to be more brutal than Slobodon Milosovich. Middle East problems have reached a epidemic stage where I except a massive armed confrontation or years-long stagnation until a new generation of leaders can be brought to power. Neither option is particularly nice.

In the US, my fear is that the WTC Massacre will look small in comparison to what comes years later. As weird and violent as America can be, we are generally a nation built on trust. We drive on the right had side and trust the guys coming from the other direction will follow the same rule and not smash into us. What happens if a Middle East style conflict comes here and people simply start fighting from the inside? I have the recurring dream some crazed soul announces his political agenda by showing up at Gatorland and without warning, throwing little kids into the Gator swamps. I don't want to be around for that.

ON A BETTER NOTE
I caught the Monica Lewinsky documentary on HBO and it was excellent. The filmmakers placed her on the stage of Cooper Union Hall and let an audience ask her questions (some very mean-spirited ones too). Sure, she cried a lot and there was obviously some showboating on her part, but I feel like it was the first time we heard the story from her side and I welcomed it.

Listening to her tale again, it's hard to believe it brought the nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis. On playback, it all seems sooooo minor. We were laughing about it then. I think Monica is close to laughing about it herself.

One more note. I hear conservatives pundits asking - Why didn't Clinton deal with terrorism when he was in office? The Lewinsky special quietly noted that at the same time Clinton was firing missiles into Afghanistan, he was knee-deep in Lewinsky Poop. Hey, the guy's only got so many hours in the day - do you want a defendant or a President? Maybe if he had been allowed to do his job, his response to terrorism would have been a bit different?

Monday, March 04, 2002

A DAY AT THE SANFORD ZOO


Jake liked the screeching monkeys best.
HERE'S A GIG THAT DOESN'T SUCK
Got a call from my old friend Jon tonight. He's on the road doing sound for comedian Robin Williams. Quite a gig, no? First-class travel, no heavy lifting and a performer who makes you crack up every night. Almost makes me wish I had stuck with recording studios and live sound. Well, no. I hated live sound. I hated the smell of the clubs and the generally stupid people on stage. It was fun when I was 23, but I never sawa future.

But what the hell did I know? Had I stuck with it, maybe I'd be wandering around the country with Robin Williams? Jeeze, more to be annoyed about.
EVER WONDER?

Ever wonder where all those fiberglass statues come from? Find out here - FAST Corp. - statues,cows horses fish fiberglass. Thaks to Tom Tomorrow for listing it.

Friday, March 01, 2002

COVER YOUR BUTT AS FOREIGN POLICY
It's good to see the media going after the Bush Boys as they blame everything from the Lindberg kidnapping to Middle East violence on the Clinton Administration (typically followed by a hypocritical demand for respect of the Presidency whenever a Democrat asks "What the fuck was that Axis of Evil comment all about?"). That Conservative=Good, Liberal=Bad game ain't gonna fly anymore, especially when you're asking the American people to fight an endless war against an invisible enemy and spiraling into debt in the process.

The latest blame game happened yesterday, when Ari Fleischer laid Mideast violence on the Clinton administration for raising expectations too high with their peace-making efforts. Yeah right. Ari corrected himself soon afterward.
Salon.com News | The meaning of Ari's blunder explains it nicely.

It you don't have Salon's premium service, here are the two best graphs unavailable to you.

Bush and those who make his foreign-policy decisions for him blame Clinton for screwing up the Middle East because they're desperate to cover their butts over the administration's failure to get involved in the most crucial foreign-policy arena in the world -- and Clinton is a convenient scapegoat. But at some level, they really seem to believe it.

For Bush, who has done nothing at all so far except sign off on Ariel Sharon's failed hard-line policies, to blame Clinton for his tireless, 11th-hour efforts on behalf of peace is shameful. But the shameful, when it comes to the Bush administration's foreign policy, is becoming the expected.

OSX SOFTWARE
Here are some recommendations for OSX software. Cheap, fun, reliable and not Microsoft. You can find links to all of this stuff at VersionTracker.com

Word Processor The best shareware I've found so far is Mariner Writer. It wonderfully rich, but totally lacking all that Mico-bloat. It also saves to RTF (Rich Text Format), which is something all Word programs can open. Unfortunately, it can't open Word files without additional help (Dataviz, etc). And it costs $50. Special mention to Text Edit Plus which is almost as useful for half the price as Mariner.

Web Browser OmniWeb is incredible! A very smooth browser that looks better graphically than IE5.1, renders type better, offers the option to block ads and much more. It's my new standard, except that I can't use it to update my Blog (the problem appears to be Java implimentation regarding some of the shortcuts I use). It also costs $25 or so, but think that's worth it for obvious reasons.

Little Stuff
WindowShade -X-151 Reinstalls windowshade function to OSX and adds the ability to make windows transparent .

iTunes Visual Plug-Ins They're popping up everywhere and they make listening more fun. Install them into the iTunes Plug-In folder in your personal Library Folder.

AudioCD Dockling from On-Core A simple little app that allows you to play CDs from the Dock without involving the much larger iTunes app. It kind of replaces CD Player from OS9.

As I see it now, there's absolutely no reason for me to purchase any software that's not OSX ready. By my count, I still need the following OSX programs:

a) Quark (their new version 5 still isn't OSX ready)

b) Photoshop (OSX-ready Version 7.0 was just released. I'll probably get the upgrade in a few months)

c) Dreamweaver It is remarkable that this company hasn't gotten off it's duff to port an OSX version yet. This could be an opening to anybody who comes up with a good GUI Web page builder.

d) Final Cut Pro - Yeah, I need to get the 3.0 upgrade.

e) Whatever is necessary to make my laser printer do some printing

f) Palm/Handspring softwear for OSX

g) Something to make typefaces show up in font menus.

h) Quicken Deluxe Intuit has always been excellent about charging resonable prices for its products, so I don't mind paying. I think the latest version costs about $40 for an upgrade.

All in all, there's a lot out there in Shareware land. I just need to keep looking