Sunday, November 28, 2004

Frank Rich on "the great indecency hoax"

On the tired old saw about Monday Night Football being the "last safe haven for children" (as I heard it called recently, sanctimoniously, by one of the gasbags on Inside the NFL):

"Desperate Housewives" is hardly a blue-state phenomenon. A hit everywhere, it is even a bigger hit in Oklahoma City than it is in Los Angeles, bigger in Kansas City than it is in New York. All those public moralists who wail about all the kids watching Ms. Sheridan on "Monday Night Football" would probably have apoplexy if they actually watched what Ms. Sheridan was up to in her own series - and then looked closely at its Nielsen numbers. Though children ages 2 to 11 make up a small percentage of the audience of either show, there are actually more in that age group tuning into Mr. Cherry's marital brawls (870,000) than into the N.F.L.'s fisticuffs (540,000). "Desperate Housewives" also ranks No. 5 among all prime-time shows for ages 12-17. ("Monday Night Football" is No. 18.) This may explain in part why its current advertisers include products like Fisher-Price toys, the DVD of "Elf" and the forthcoming Tim Allen holiday vehicle, "Christmas With the Kranks."


Stem cells un-paralyze woman

SEOUL (AFP) - A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Is New York 'over?'"

This article is contributing to the world-wide shortage a scare-quotes.

But are overrun cafés, questionable art, and fading rock bands enough to drive the young and creative and fashionable-ish from the city long considered the most exciting in the world? Tiramisu admits that often there’s something deeper at root. She mentions García-Cohen.

“I knew Gabe. Look, he was a loser and everyone either knew it or had heard about it. He probably didn’t tell you the deal with his ‘T-shirt line,’ right? Well, his clever idea was to buy white Hanes Beefy-T’s and embroider them with tiny words—in Braille! What the hell is that? Some semi-sighted guys from Iceland beat the crap out of him.” She pets Fiji. “It’s funny, but it’s not, you know, because it does sort of get at the big picture of everything sucking.”


First non-fellating Halo 2 review

We want our imaginations pandered to, teased and titillated; we don’t want the product of a focus group of fat ten year olds who think that Linkin Park and stuffed pizza crusts are the defining moments in human civilisation.


Blog Torrent

If you hae a PHP-enabled website, this tool makes it easy to post torrents of files to your site, so you can host large files without killing your bandwidth.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Wimblehack post-mortem wrap-up

But the unanswered question in all of this was: If the nation was so bitterly divided, how come the campaign press corps wasn't? Why did they all look so charged up by the whole thing on television? Why did it seem like, no matter what they might have said as pundits on-camera, they were all such buddies off-camera? Why was an avowed Bush-lover like Howard Fineman sticking up for Maureen Dowd on MSNBC? Jon Stewart aside, was there anyone out there in the business who took this election personally enough to risk pissing off a colleague over it?

The answer is no, not a one. It was all a game to these people, which is why they covered it like a game. There were some people I know personally out there who hated it, who felt guilty about being part of the whole ugly charade. But there were a lot more who were really proud of this life of free lunches, VIP seating and the chance to be the planted audience for the occasional dick joke in an off-the-record chat with some of the hired liars on Air Force One. The maintenance of these privileges for certain people dwarfed the more abstract matter of which millions down there on the ground won or, more to the point, which ones lost.


When intellectual property law ATTACKS!

A look into what the protection of databases under IP law in Europe has done to the European database industry.


Apologies accepted ...

The world's response to


Friday, November 19, 2004

Microsoft attempts to patent the "IS NOT" operator

In an over-the-top case study of what is wrong with software patents, Microsoft has attempted to patent the computer equivalent of "not equal." Is it time to stop the madness yet?


Taking back Christianity

I didn't realize there were any of these left...

Let's wind forward 79 years. Bob Jones III is president of the racist Bob Jones University in Greenville, a favorite haunt of George Bush. Jones, a storm trooper of the religious reich-wing vanguard that claims ownership of Bush, sternly admonished the president after the election, "You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ." Ah, I get it. Bush & Co. own Christ.

The letter also underscores the message hammered home so successfully by the GOP during the recent campaign: Liberals despise Christ. That's a lie.

The example of William Jennings Bryan -- and millions of others -- makes clear that ultra-conservatives don't have an exclusive claim on Christ. It's time for Christians to start giving witness to that fact.

I've warmed you up with a little literary napalm. But what I'm going to write next isn't easy. It's the sort of thing journalists aren't comfortable acknowledging. Here it goes ...

I testify that I am a Christian. I have been ever since I came forward at a Billy Graham revival when I was 8 years old. I later fell from grace and had a lot of dark years I'll have to account for on Judgment Day. My life did not turn around until, 14 years ago, I got down on my knees and prayed. That's something I do every day now. I prefer small churches to the show palaces; Christ said to pray in private. I've felt called to be a minister, but figure I'd get to do less preaching than with this gig.

I don't pay heed to the false prophets such as Pat Robertson and Tim LaHaye of the Left Behind books because Christ said to beware of charlatans claiming to know when He is coming again.

The "rapture" isn't in the Bible, so it's not in my theology. I find it hard to conceive of Jesus returning to save a few smug Pharisees such as Jerry Falwell while brutally slaying billions of my brothers and sisters. The heaven I believe in has ample room for all men and women of all faiths who seek God and try to live good lives.


Music and the Brain

Why do C and C# sound so unpleasant when played together?

An imaging experiment in 2001 by Anne Blood and Zatorre of McGill sought to better specify the brain regions involved in emotional reactions to music. This study used mild emotional stimuli, those associated with people's reactions to musical consonance versus dissonance. Consonant musical intervals are generally those for which a simple ratio of frequencies exists between two tones. An example is middle C (about 260 hertz, or Hz) and middle G (about 390 Hz). Their ratio is 2:3, forming a pleasant-sounding "perfect fifth" interval when they are played simultaneously. In contrast, middle C and C sharp (about 277 Hz) have a "complex" ratio of about 8:9 and are considered unpleasant, having a "rough" sound.

Uh, ok...


Thursday, November 18, 2004

UC Berkeley weighs in on voter fraud

At first this study sounds a bit like the last one, but Berkeley did the analysis while taking into account:

Number of voters
Median income
Hispanic/Latino population
Change in voter turnout between 2000 and 2004
Support for Senator Dole in the 1996 election
Support for President Bush in the 2000 election.
Use of electronic voting or paper ballots


WIPO psychos steal and trash public-interest group papers

Copyright goons stole all the public-interest group literature at the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). The anti-Broadcast Treaty documents were stolen from their table at the 12th Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. They were "recovered from the trash can in the first floor men's restroom."

Let me try to convey to you the depth of the weirdness that arose when all the public-interest groups' papers were stolen and trashed at WIPO. No one gets into the WIPO building without being accredited and checked over, so this was almost certainly someone who was working on the treaty -- in other words, a political opponent (none of the documents promoting the Broadcast Treaty were touched).

As the Indian delegation put it, WIPO is an organization based on information. For someone who believes in an information-protection instrument like the Broadcast Treaty to sabotage the negotiation by hiding information from the delegates is bizarre.


Mel follows Howard to Sirius

Wonder how long Howard has known about this...

The Board of Directors of SIRIUS Satellite Radio has named Mel Karmazin as Chief Executive Officer.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What to say when someone repeats the "Schwarzenegger is a moderate" meme

In reality, the governor is neither moderate nor effective--his main economic advisers are the same right-wing academics (a lot older now) who promoted the ineffective "free market" theories used by President Ronald Reagan to cut taxes while running up record deficits and trade imbalances.



Society of Rockets gets their first live review, and it's pretty mean.

Formerly the Shimmer Kids Underpop Association, a fine collective of psychedelic indie folks, the Society has morphed ever so slightly in the wrong direction. The nonet, which includes players on accordion, theremin, trumpet, and keyboards in addition to the typical guitar-bass-drums thing, has taken the edge off what I remember to be a whimsical, mysterious sound. In their better moments, the musicians remind me of the Muppets' band, all enthusiasm and flair; for most of their set, however, they play boring, innocuous jangle-pop. (For what it's worth, Sunset Homes, the band's new album, is far more enjoyable than its live show.)


The Grey Video

Video mash-up of Jay-Z and The Beatles. Pretty damn well-done.


"Leave our homos alone"

When you take comfort in evangelical ministers sheltering gay kids in the hopes of "transforming" them back to being straight, you're living in a pretty ass-backwards part of the country. On the other hand, this is a hopeful story, of sorts...

Link Books | Welcome to the new cold war

Just one more a ton of new reasons to move to Europe...

If the EU has no intention of confronting America's military supremacy, that, Rifkin and Reid would agree, is actually Europe's ace in the hole. Let the Americans pour endless billions in taxpayer dollars down the Pentagon's money sink, the Europeans reason. As they see it, the key to future peace and prosperity lies elsewhere, in constructing complex webs of social interaction and economic cooperation that will undermine nationalism and fundamentalism of all stripes. While the United States foots the bill for the intractable conflict in Iraq and piles up huge budget and trade deficits, Europe has spent money on other priorities.

Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe -- I repeat, not a single person -- lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)

European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?

Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference


While Rifkin and Reid are unabashed Euro-boosters, both would urge Kerry voters rendered starry-eyed by the EU dream to ponder long and hard before pleading for asylum at the nearest consulate or scouring your family tree for relevant European ancestry. (Speaking as a dual-passport holder myself, I'm sticking it out -- at least for now.) For all the grandeur of its new vision, Europe still has relatively high unemployment and relatively sluggish economic growth. The continent faces major structural problems, most notably a declining birth rate and a long-standing hostility to immigration, which has led to a population that is aging much faster than America's. While the European welfare state is certain to remain generous by American standards, significant renegotiation of rights and benefits will be necessary unless this demographic time bomb can somehow be defused.

Of course, you could say the exact same thing about the USA under Bush.


TiVo sells out, big-time

By March, TiVo viewers will see "billboards," or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads. If a viewer "opts in" to the ad, their contact information will be downloaded to that advertiser — exclusively and by permission only — so even more direct marketing can take place.

Yeah, I bet their users were clamoring for this "feature." Time to snap up any Replay 50xx-series PVR you can find.


Better Link

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


DVD Jon is back, and he has screenshots of VLC playing Windows Media Video 9 content under Linux. I don't think this will break the DRM on WMV9 files, but even just the ability to play unencrypted content is cool.


Intolerance Is Not a 'Value'

Is anyone in the Republican party going to stand up to the modern-day "know-nothings" who are expoliting hate to win elections?


GOP plans to change rules to help DeLay

Nothing trumps power in the GOP of 2004, not even criminal indictments.

House Republicans plan to change their rules in order to allow members indicted by state prosecutors to remain in a leadership post, a move designed to benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, GOP leaders said today.

The rules change, which leaders said is likely to be adopted Wednesday, comes as House Republicans return to Washington indebted to DeLay for the enhanced majority they won in this month's elections. DeLay led an aggressive redistricting effort in Texas last year that resulted in five Democratic House members retiring or losing reelection. It also triggered the grand jury inquiry into fundraising efforts related to the state legislature's redistricting actions.

Link to Kos story

The Truth About Hybrids

Not so great after all? claims:

Few people realize that a hybrid’s power train adds roughly 10% to the weight of a car. Even fewer realize that manufacturers try to offset the weight penalty-- and add to the hybrid’s headline-grabbing mileage figures-- by the extensive use of non-hybrid gas-saving technology. Engine shut-off at idle, electric power steering, harder and reduced rolling resistance tires (at the expense of comfort and traction), reduced option content, reduced engine performance, and, in the case of the Ford, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) all help raise the cars’ overall efficiency.

Of course, if gas mileage is the ultimate goal, all of these strategies could be applied to a “standard” car. A non-hybrid model with the equivalent modifications would significantly narrow the mileage gap with its hybrid sibling. In fact, in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%-- hardly enough to justify the extra purchase price. And, lest we forget, the hybrid’s gas-saving advantage is not without its own particular environmental costs…

Of course, none of these gas-saving technologies ARE applied to non-hybrid cars, so some of this point is moot.


God's second term

Great op-ed on the use of god in politics. See comments for the full article.


In a shocking development, A.G. nominee picked for his loyalty to Bush

One interesting item the report found from Gonzales' time in Texas: "Gonzales was instrumental in getting Bush excused from jury duty in 1996 -- a move that allowed the governor to avoid having to disclose that he had been arrested for drunken driving in Maine in 1976, the Houston Chronicle reported. Bush was able to keep it a secret until the final days of his 2000 presidential campaign."

And that's just the stupid stuff.

The Reporters Committee points to several instances of Gonzales defending executive privilege, including Gonzales supporting its invocation against requests for official testimony and government documents by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which was appointed to study the circumstances surrounding 9/11 and the United States' preparedness for and response to those attacks.

Those included blocking efforts to have national security adviser Condoleezza Rice testify, withholding 360 of the President's Daily Briefing (PDB) reports after Rice indicated a specific reference to potential terrorist attacks in one of them, and preventing the House Government Reform Committee from seeing documents pertaining to three criminals pardoned by President Clinton.


Senate can ram this copyright bill up their ass

It seems like every two months congress tries to push through some horrible bill like this. Let's hope the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) can stop it. It wouldn't hurt to write your congressperson.

The bill lumps together several pending copyright bills including HR4077, the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act, which would criminally punish a person who "infringes a copyright by ... offering for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless disregard of the risk of further infringement." Critics charge the vague language could apply to a person who uses the popular Apple iTunes music-sharing application.

The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content -- like a gory or sexually explicit scene -- in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed law, skipping any commercials or promotional announcements would be prohibited. The proposed law also includes language from the Pirate Act (S2237), which would permit the Justice Department to file civil lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.


Update - here is a letter I sent to Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer:

Hello Nancy -

I'm writing to you today because there is a bill, the "Intellectual Property Protection Act," which is set to come before congress in the coming days, which I think you need to take a look at, and hopefully oppose. It combines the provisions of several copyright-related bills of the past few years, and I think it would be damaging to the electronics industry, of which I am a part, in your district. It would also stifle innovation in media content and services, and yes, even harm artists.

What these bills intend to do is to lock in the current business model of advertising-supported content. It would PROHIBIT skipping commercials in recorded content, and prohibit any devices which, in the view of current large-scale copyright holders, "encourage" copyright infringement. And to add insult to injury, it would have our already-overtaxed Justice Department take on the cost of punishing these "infringers."

As an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley who has worked on multiple innovative consumer electronics devices, I know the danger of kow-towing to the big Hollywood media companies. They have business models which they like (ad-supported, copy-protection, etc), and they would like to codify these models into national criminal law. This WILL stifle innovation, and in some cases, it already has. I worked for ReplayTV a few years ago, and watched the company wither away, its stock price held hostage under threat of lawsuit for a commercial-skipping feature that had been available on VCRs for twenty years. Members of the MPAA have even mused that going to the bathroom while commercials are playing shouldn't be permitted. This lack of imagination for new business models (pay-per-view, TV-on-demand, flat-fee, etc) is now about to be coded into law. The fact is, it may be hard for the large copyright holders to imagine a world without ad-supported TV, and maybe they won't be the ones to bring it to us; but it is not the job of congress or the Justice Department to prop up their profits. As for the record industry - the jury is out as to whether filesharing has hurt or helped them. However, as someone who is also in an independent band ( ), I can say that, for myself, I have no problem with people sharing my music on a p2p network. In fact, I would wager that for 90% of the bands out there (the 90% who don't belong to one of the 3-5 major media companies), they don't care either. The RIAA would have us ban entire product catagories to protect their profits against what they see as lost sales.

The ridiculous thing is that there are already widely-used copyright infringement laws which allow these companies to sue any infringers for large sums of money. The RIAA has sued all sorts of people, from children as young as ten years old, to eighty-year-old grandmothers, for sharing their content on p2p networks. Rather than having to deal with this expense and bad PR, the RIAA and others would rather spend tax dollars and Justice Department time prosecuting infringers.

I will send a copy of this email to both Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, but I think that since they represent the whole state, and Hollywood has poured huge sums of money into their campaigns, they will be less receptive to this message. As someone who represents the Bay Area, you have consituents who work at places like TiVo, Apple, Microsoft, and many others who will be adversely effected by this proposed legislation. Another thing to consider is this - The entire movie industry had revenues around $40 billion in 2003 (up from $36.5 billion in 2002, despite the existence of all this "infringement"). In the same period, the US revenues for consumer electronics in 2003 were $100 billion and the market for semiconductors was $156 billion.

I hope that you will carefully consider, and ultimately reject, this, and all such bills which protect the profits of an industry which has displayed a shockingly-low level of imagination, and seeks to stifle the industries which continue to drive economic growth in your district.

Thank you for your time. Feel free to contact me if you would like any more information or clarification about this subject.

-David Isbister
-Hardware Engineer and Musician
-San Francisco, CA

Monday, November 15, 2004

Reason on the election

The upshot is that Washington's governing establishment has moved further to the right of the country, and of the world, that Washington seeks to lead. A 50-50 country has produced a lopsided government and a sore temptation for Republicans to overreach. If they steer hard to starboard, they may capsize the boat.


Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, on filesharing

What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.

Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either.


Who will protect the click-farmworkers?

Great new Creative Commons-licensed short story from Cory Doctorow.


Friday, November 12, 2004

RoboDump 1.0

This is hilarious.


Video of Tanks at anti-war protest in LA

This makes me very sad.


Wait a minute:

There are conflicting reports about these tanks. Someone says they were there for a Veterans Day parade nearby.

Most even-handed comment:

I was among the protestors at the Federal Building on November 9th. I believe out nation faces profound risks and has lost its moral compass by adopting the Bush preemptive attack doctrine. His extraordinary and close-minded positions require extraordinary energy in opposition.

When the "tanks" (okay LAV's) passed us the first time, we all just found it to be utterly bizarre. When they came back, it seemed way past bizarre.

The comment under the lead "Robo Cop" says he was in one of the LAV's and that their visit was not part of some intended "fly by" exercise. I'm glad that he weighed in here; it is comforting to know that some of the soldiers know we are out here and participate in the discourse.

He doesn't say what they were doing there. Maybe, they were on some other top secret mission to protect Westwood (or just a little too embarrassed to admit that they couldn't navigate LA streets). I don't really buy either of those explanations, but I suppose I still believe his statement that this was not intimidation directed at the protest (since that goal wouldn't make sense either).

In the middle of the incident, I did not perceive any animosity from the soldiers on the LAV's (they actually seemed friendly). I also want to note that the LAPD, who stepped in, were also controlled and professional. Young men in uniform are instruments to carry out the policies of our country's leadership. Although that makes most of them pawns for George Bush's wrongheaded plans, many of them (unlike their commander in chief) are conscientious and openminded citizens. We don't want to alienate them unnecessarily. They are faced with a dilemma that no American should be forced to deal with.

In my view, the protestors were (in general) not hostile to the soldiers either -- although everyone was anxious to make it clear that U.S. military vehicles don't belong at antiwar protests for any reason. Oh, of course, a few protestors can't resist overstating the message when faced with troops and military vehicles. Hey, most people who take some hours out of their daily lives to hold signs on public streets have deeply felt emotions.

This "incident" arose in the context of post-election 2004. The Bush Administration has made it all too clear that they will now be increasingly aggressive in pursuing their extreme right wing agenda, both domestically and abroad, while reaching across the political spectrum to reconcile with everyone who agrees with that agenda (huh?).

So, I guess the Westwood incident was probably just some freaky thing. That was this time. But, in an odd way, this does foretell where we are headed.


A hopeful story for Democrats

From Montana, of all places...


The Bible says: "to thine own self be true"

Uh, really? Actually, no, not really.


Update on Dave Matthews "poop shower" story

After taking a DNA test to prove that it wasn't his shit that was dumped on a boat of innocent tourists while his tour bus was driving over the Chicago river, Dave Matthews has offered the poor saps $100,000 up-front to try and make amends.

In addition to the 100 grand, they have been apologizing up a [shit] storm, just in case they are found responsible. A spokeswoman from the Illinois Attorney General’s office admitted the band have been trying to make amends, telling BBC News that her office appreciated "the gesture of goodwill," but that the donation won’t have any effect on the legal proceedings.

Dave Matthews Offers 100 Grand To Receivers Of Poop

Best exit poll analysis yet

A level-headed look at the discrepancies, using the end of the day exit poll numbers, which were still way off, compared to the "results."

Link (pdf)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Interview with the King of the Pirates Music Downloaders

Very interesting article with a man who has downloaded over 900,000 tracks, and is commited to saving the music from the coming jihad against all things Western.

Some interesting bits:

"Before iTMS people had to rip their CD’s in order to fill up their iPods, or download it from a pirate site. A lot of people still believed that owning the CD was important. I see a change coming. In the beginning of the iTMS revolution people would buy songs as an impulse purchase. They would still rather buy a physical CD of a band or a singer that they really liked. They were using iTMS as a supplement to their CD collection. That is changing. Lots of people are now buying ONLY the digital album. They buy the latest album from, say, Green Day, without buying the CD. They might like Green Day, consider that band their favorite, and now owning just the digital album from iTMS is enough. They don’t need the CD anymore. Because of that, owning only digital music is becoming an accepted way of owing music.

"For some reason lots of people thought that the music they owned on CD and ripped with iTunes was their legitimate music, and the digital music they downloaded from Napster was not. Now, a pirate can download music from iTMS or some torrent site and both have the same value to the owner. This is a dangerous time for record companies."

"...take the new U2 album. When that album comes out you might run down to the local record store to buy it. When you get there it’s out of stock, so you run around town and visit every store that sells records. You might run around all day and not find it because it sold so well. That never happens on iTMS.

"No matter how strong the demand for the new album is, Apple never runs out. If you are a consumer of digital music and no longer buy CD’s then you will never again worry about having to wait for it. The iTMS is always stocked; you can’t say that about any physical store. Virtually inventory is just that…virtual. It’s the best kind of inventory, isn’t it? (Smiles broadly)"


"The Road to Abu Ghraib" by Phillip Carter

A great, detailed look at the decision-making that has severely harmed our image and compromised our national security.

Stop them cuz you've heard this one before

Smiths musical in the works:

Producers have described the Smiths musical as a "film without a text" and initial plans are more opera than theatre. The show will be neither biographical, nor set to a musical score but evolve through a loose pastiche of scenes linked to each of the songs. Video sequences may also be included.

Brazier added: "It is not a linear story. There will be action going on stage whether its dance or movement or acting without words depends on the scene. Sometimes the song - and what the singer is saying in the song - will be the main line of action. But other times when you are concentrating on the singer, out of the corner of your eye you will be seeing impressionistic goings-on elsewhere on the stage."

In other words: "this will be utter shite."


Patriotic TV viewing?

No, I'm not talking about the "O'Reilly Factor." Heather Havrilesky takes in Last Letters Home, a heart-wrenching HBO documentary set to air on Friday.

After reading her son's letter out loud, Cathy Heighter explains, "The minute that I opened this letter and read it, my heart sank from the very first line. Because I had never heard my son write this way, speak this way. He had never expressed himself in this manner, so I knew that there was something terribly wrong, something going on inside of him that he felt the need to let me know that he was thinking of me in this moment and how much he loved me ... Two days later, they came to tell me that my son had been killed in Iraq. Which just ... I went crazy. [Starts crying.] I'm sorry."


Read the letters

CJR on "he said/she said" science

I wish they would have focused more on "Intelligent Design" theory than global warming, but nonetheless:

As a general rule, journalists should treat fringe scientific claims with considerable skepticism, and find out what major peer-reviewed papers or assessments have to say about them. Moreover, they should adhere to the principle that the more outlandish or dramatic the claim, the more skepticism it warrants. The Los Angeles Times’s Carroll observes that “every good journalist has a bit of a contrarian in his soul,” but it is precisely this impulse that can lead reporters astray. The fact is, nonscientist journalists can all too easily fall for scientific-sounding claims that they can’t adequately evaluate on their own.


It's Blue in a Landslide

There's only one problem with the storyline proclaiming that the country swung to the right on cultural issues in 2004. Like so many other narratives that immediately calcify into our 24/7 media's conventional wisdom, it is fiction. Everything about the election results - and about American culture itself - confirms an inescapable reality: John Kerry's defeat notwithstanding, it's blue America, not red, that is inexorably winning the culture war, and by a landslide. Kerry voters who have been flagellating themselves since Election Day with a vengeance worthy of "The Passion of the Christ" should wake up and smell the Chardonnay.

The blue ascendancy is nearly as strong among Republicans as it is among Democrats. Those whose "moral values" are invested in cultural heroes like the accused loofah fetishist Bill O'Reilly and the self-gratifying drug consumer Rush Limbaugh are surely joking when they turn apoplectic over MTV. William Bennett's name is now as synonymous with Las Vegas as silicone. The Democrats' Ashton Kutcher is trumped by the Republicans' Britney Spears. Excess and vulgarity, as always, enjoy a vast, bipartisan constituency, and in a democracy no political party will ever stamp them out.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Naomi Klein, on Fallujah

In another demonstration of their commitment to freedom, the first goal of the U.S. soldiers in Fallujah was to ambush the city's main hospital. Why? Apparently because it was the source of the “rumours” about high civilian casualties the last time U.S. troops laid siege to Fallujah, sparking outrage in Iraq and across the Arab world. “It's a centre of propaganda,” an unnamed senior American officer told The New York Times. Without doctors to count the dead, the outrage would be presumably be muted—except that, of course, the attacks on hospitals have sparked their own outrage, further jeopardizing the legitimacy of the upcoming elections.


Bush people don't even know what he stands for

In further unhappy evidence of how ill-informed the American people are (blame the media), the Program on International Policy Attitudes found Bush supporters consistently ill-informed about Bush's stands on the issues (Kerry-ans, by contrast, are overwhelmingly right about his positions). Eighty-seven percent of Bush supporters think he favors putting labor and environmental standards into international trade agreements. Eighty percent of Bush supporters believe Bush wants to participate in the treaty banning landmines. Seventy-six percent of Bush supporters believe Bush wants to participate in the treaty banning nuclear weapons testing. Sixty-two percent believe Bush would participate in the International Criminal Court. Sixty-one percent believe Bush wants to participate in the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. Fifty-three percent does not believe Bush is building a missile defense system, a.k.a. "Star Wars."



I think Tracy and I were over it when we heard an Italian DJ shouting "shake-a it-a like a Polaroid picture-a" when we were in Sardinia in July.


LED light-bulb replacements finally available

They're $79 bucks each, for now. However, even at that price, they are cost-effective, due to their long life (50,000 hours) and power savings.

Link - follow the links down through "Products" if you want to buy...

Alberto "Abu Grahib" Gonzales to replace Ashcroft

Alberto Gonzales, the lawyer who made the case for torture in Guantanamo and Abu Grahib is now been nominated for Attorney General by Dubya, in this administration's continuing game of chicken with my sense of outrage.

Just to make my head explode, Kos points out:

Oh yeah. I'd forgotten that Gonzales was general counsel for Enron.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

It is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other. We torture the torturers, we call our God better than theirs - as one American general put it, in words that the president has not repudiated.


Ashcroft and Evans resign from Bush Cabinet

Na na na na...


DJ Danger Mouse on the copyright wars

From a Panel at the Web 2.0 conference:

There was a bunch of pretty uninspired discussion about copyright and how hard it is for everyone to make money, and how stuff is getting stolen all the time and how can we protect it? But Danger Mouse stole the show. I wrote down a couple of quotes from him, including this response to why creating new work out of old work has taken off so quickly.

Mashing is so easy. It takes years to learn how to play the guitar and write your own songs. It takes a few weeks of practice with turntable to make people dance and smile. It takes a few hours to crank out something good with some software. So with such a low barrier to entry, everyone jumps in and starts immediately being creative. I don't understand why that is illegal.

Then, at the end of the panel, someone asked why nobody was trying to solve the hard problems. There are tremendous fortunes to be made and lost, and those behind them are destroying democracy and technology to ensure the cash gets protected. Who, ultimately, is responsible?

Artists are responsible, because for some reason we think we should be millionaires for making people smile. But I don't worry too much, because it will be over soon. There won't be a market for making people smile because kids will just do it for free.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Andrew Sullivan "massages his hindquarters"

After Sullivan went on a shrill rant against Noam Chomsky and his "millions" in speaking fees, James Wolcott noticed this bit of creepy goodness:

The strangest thing in the broadcast happened when the show was over. The panelists stood, Sullivan's back to the camera, and as the credits rolled, he began squeezing, massaging his own buttocks with his hands. I thought he might be trying to dislodge a thong strap that had run up rather deep, but no, he seemed to be feeling up his own butt. I've never seen anything quite like it, unless I was hallucinating, and if I start hallucinating about Andrew Sullivan copping a feel of his own butt, it's time to check into the clinic for a little Elizabeth Wurtzel layoff.

James Wolcott: Touchy Feely

And of course, a video

Harshest "letter to the red states" yet

Look at economic output and educational achievement on a state-by-state basis: it's painfully evident that we Blues are immensely more productive and better educated than you Reds. We have lots more money. We live longer. We eat better. We work less. We fuck more. We do cocaine and smoke fine Canadian buds, not the homebrew crank and cheap Mexican headache reefer you guys are stuck with. We drink French wine and Stoli martinis, not Budweiser. Our children rarely bother us: we've got them on Ritalin and Prozac. Our teeth are straighter and whiter, our necks longer, and our fingernails cleaner. And many of us are the Republican elite who have just punked you.


Saturday, November 06, 2004

Evidence Mounts That The Vote Was Hacked

This is no longer just a wild conspiracy theory.

Edited to add - Ok, it's still in the realm of conspiracy. Most of the counties with wild variances from the "expected" voting patterns have very small populations, which means that they are more susceptible to wild variances...


Underpop Records is live

Adam has finished work on both the new Society of Rockets website, and the comprehensive Shimmer Kids Underpop Association archive. Have at 'em.


Friday, November 05, 2004

More E-voting problems

Perhaps this is all just user error. Perhaps.


Purple America

Link to larger version


Jane Smiley unloads on the "ignorant" Red States

Much of me agrees with this, but I also have reflexive discomfort with this type of condescending and hateful rhetoric. Still trying to sort my feelings out, I guess...


Would you poop in this?

A public outdoor toilet with one-way glass walls...


Chin up

David Rees of Get Your War On offers some words of encouragement.


Salon reviewed his collection today

Computer "glitches?"

Sure - it was aglitch that gave Bush 3,893 extra votes in this Ohio district.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Roundup-Ready cocaine

For years now, the USA has been providing Columbia with Roundup herbicide, which has been sprayed almost daily in an attempt to eradicate lucrative coca plants from the countryside. Over the past few years, however, a Roundup-resistant strain of coca, called "Boliviana negra" has appeared. Joshua Davis, from Wired magazine went to Columbia to determine if this strain had been created by nefarious geneticists, or if some lucky coca farmer just stumbled upon it, and then cloned the heck out of it.


This seems suspiciously perfect

But who cares...


thanks, Sam

Life-sized Simpsons house

Back in 1997, Barbara Howard, a 63-year-old retired factory worker from Richmond, Ky won a full-size replica of the Simpsons house.

Link to pictures, QTVRs, etc.

Kerry Won. . .?

Greg Palast gets down and dirty on the issues of provisional ballots and spoilage.


In other news...

A letter to Daily Kos

I work at a domestic violence shelter in a rural conservative district in Mich. that is has had its economy gutted by NAFTA and where Christianity dominates the culture.

Yesterday while reflecting about 4 more years of Bush I was talking with a woman staying in the shelter. I will give her a fake name, lets call her Laura B. Laura is 28, pregnant, (never considered an abortion). She finished highschool and did a year of college before dropping out to have a couple of kids with her military husband. Living in Virginia on base with her autocratic mate (he doesn't allow the boys 3 and 4 to say "yeap" they have to answer "yes sir") drove her crazy and she was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. Military dude divorced her and has custody.

She came home to Mom in Mich and ended up at our shelter to try and sort out her life. (Mom has no money either and her own problems.) We, like all secular agencies, have seen a steady erosion of funds.

Laura B. has found a job working in the kitchen at a local faith based Christian College. She makes $6/hour. She drives a dying Ford Escort wagon pays $2.15/gallon for gas. Her latest crisis is her insurance expired on Oct. 9 (her ex-partner cancelled policy). She needs to come up with $211 to get insurance for one month or face a $1,000 fine if she gets caught driving with no insurance. We have some public transportation, Dial-a Ride, minibus runs between 7 am and 6 p.m., M-F $1.50 one-way. She has to be at work at 6am.

She has been walking to work lately but it is about 2 miles she is 5 months pregnant, it is dark at 5 am, and winter is coming. Solution? Go begging at the churches who seem to have money for these things. They will give her the money if she attends bible school. So last night she was at bible school until 9 p.m.

She has never attended our domestic violence support groups as she is too tired at night and goes to bed early but the bible study was not optional.

She was excited about "God's message" when she came back.

This week she moves into low income subsidized housing. Her newest crisis is she has found out when the college is closed for the Christmas holiday (one month) she has no employment. She is hoping to find temporary employment as a seasonal retail worker if the Christmas sales are brisk to tide her over. She doesn't know what she will do when the baby is born, hopes she can work up till the last week (she is on her feet all day with this job). She will be eligible for subsidized daycare.

She voted for Bush because of his "family values."


The "One-question rule"

Bush is tired of answering follow-up questions after he gives his nonsensical sound-bite replies.

President's Post-Election Press Conference

How to start winning again?

William Saletan -

Go back to being the party of responsibility.

I'm not talking about scolding people. I'm talking about rewarding them. Be the party that rewards ordinary people who do what they're supposed to do—and protects them from those who don't.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Billmon - always ready with an appropriate quote from 30 years ago

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it -- that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
November 1972


Samsung Offers 35cm-Deep CRT

Just to prove that this blog is not just a political gloom-n-doom blog, here is a neato TV from Samsung. It's a 32-inch CRT TV (With 1080 lines of resolution!) that is about half as deep as a typical CRT. Plus, it's only gonna be about 1000 bucks.



Voter Fraud?

This could be a Photoshop job, but they claim they have several witnesses.


One more article bringing tears to my eyes today

When analysis of local races around the nation becomes available, it will become clear that theocrats have advanced everywhere, gaining control of even more school boards, gaining even more representation in city councils, winning even more seats in state legislatures.

Make no mistake, this election was the keystone of the theocrat coup. All that is left now is carrying out the agenda and changing the laws of this nation irrevocably to gut the Bill of Rights and establish a Dominionist government in America.

IN the coming days, Reinquist and others will resign, including half of the exhausted courageous liberals and moderates who held the line longer than anyone expected, and Bush will appoint a solid theocrat majority to the Supreme Court, and the Dems will not be able to stop it, fillibuster or not. The Dominionists have enough stealth candidates to push through like they pushed through Thomas, and the public pressure will be irressistible. In the next four years, theocrats will fill life-time appointments in the judiciary all over the nation, and essentially open the gates for the coming theocratic legislative agenda.

The administration will complete the overhaul of the science advisory committees and the Dept of Health and Human Services, laying the ground work for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and ending all biological research deemed objectionable to the theocrats.

They will complete their overhaul of the Education Department, starting a process of eliminating evolution from the national debate and working with the local and state boards, where they have now increased their control, to introduce creationism into the curriculum.

They will complete their overhaul of the Energy, Agriculture, Interior and EPA, which are already ridden with theocrats who reject the theory of evolution, and thus the concept of "fossil fuels", believing instead that their god has placed energy resources in the earth in just the right amounts for human domination of nature.

As soon as the theocrat majority is esconsed in the Supreme Court, Congress will pass three key theocrat bills, which already passed the House this time around and will pass the Senate next time around:

The Marriage Protection Act, which would bar federal courts, including the Supreme Court from intervening in cases involving a state's recognition of another state's civil rights bills regarding marriage;

The Pledge Preservation Act, which would bar the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing challenges to the "Under God" part of the pledge;

The big one, the Constitution Restoration Act, which would bar the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing any challenges to violations of the Establishment Clause, the bill having been written by Harb Titus, who defended former Judge Roy Moore, the "Ten Commandments" judges. The bill goes even further, potentially barring challenges to the constiutionality of state laws, for example, mandating stoning for adultery, if such laws are based on Old Testament rationale.


Blackboxvoting is still on the case

Black Box Voting (.ORG) is conducting the largest Freedom of Information action in history. At 8:30 p.m. Election Night, Black Box Voting blanketed the U.S. with the first in a series of public records requests, to obtain internal computer logs and other documents from 3,000 individual counties and townships. Networks called the election before anyone bothered to perform even the most rudimentary audit.


Some thoughts from various sources

Sidney Blumenthal:
Now, without constraints, Bush can pursue the dreams he campaigned for -- the use of U.S. military might to bring God's gift of freedom to the world, with no more "global tests," and at home the enactment of the imperatives of "the right God." The international system of collective security forged in World War II and tempered in the Cold War is a thing of the past. The Democratic Party, despite its best efforts, has failed to rein in the radicalism sweeping the country. The world is in a state of emergency but also irrelevant. The New World, with all its power and might, stepping forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old? Goodbye to all that.

Josh writes:

Positive nihilism - I think this is the healthiest mindset we can assume
right now... I'm used to watching people I vote for lose elections (matter
of fact, I've never voted for a winner in any major election), but it seems
to me the only productive way to cope is to look at this as an acceleration
of the self-destruction of American capitalist empire - there's no question
that this will be bad for the country economically and globally, and will
accelerate our slide into deranged self-absorption, perhaps culminating in
some sort of apocalyptic social breakdown when the world runs out of gas a
la Mad Max. To be honest, I choose to look at this as a good thing - I
mean, fuck this country. Who needs more SUVs, more fat, self-absorbed
xenophobes, more self-righteous greed, more idiotic adolescent
fantasy-powered media... let it all go. Let it all burn to shit - the
sooner the better so that something else can grow out of it.

From Salon's coverage of the Daily Show party:
Asked if "The Daily Show" could survive a Kerry win, [Colbert] said, "I'm sure there will be something incompetent somewhere." If Bush wins, "I'll go back to doing Carmen Electra jokes," he said. "They don't wound the heart as much."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

You know Bush is in trouble...

When this is the headline on Drudge:



PA 53/46 - Kerry
FL 51/49 - Kerry
NC 48/52 - Bush
OH 51/49 - Kerry
MO 46/54 - Bush
AK 47/53 - Bush
MI 51/47 - Kerry
NM 50/49 - Kerry
LA 43/56 - Bush
CO 48/51 - Bush
AZ 45/55 - Bush
MN 54/44 - Kerry
WI 52/47 - Kerry
IA 49/49 - Tie


Zogby calls election for Kerry

*crosses fingers*


Looking good so far

FL: 52/48 - KERRY
OH: 52/47 - KERRY
MI: 51/48 - KERRY
PA: 58/42 - KERRY
IA: 50/48 - KERRY
WI: 53/47 - KERRY
MN: 57/42 - KERRY
NH: 58/41 - KERRY
ME: 55/44 - KERRY

NM: 49/49 - TIE

NV: 48/49 - BUSH
CO: 49/50 - BUSH
AR: 45/54 - BUSH
NC: 47/53 - BUSH

These numbers do not count early or absentee voters. Last I heard, Kerry did pretty well with early voters, especially in Florida and Ohio.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Remember that "Schwarzkopf repudiates DNC dirty tricks" story on Drudge yesterday?

It was one of those classic stories that causes you to lose faith in both sides. Before this story, all the RNC could come up with were some overzealous voter registration tales - nothing as offensive as the disgusting stuff the RNC has pulled this year. The "developing" story that appeared for a few hours was the first story that really made me wonder if my partisanship was naive...

Well, turns out I'm not naive. The RNC doctored a phone call by Tony McPeak and tried to pass it off as Schwarzkopf.

Did they really think they could get away with this?

More born-again hypocrisy

These kind of statistics couldn't be more perfect:

The state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation is Massachusetts. At latest count it had a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 population, while the rate for Texas was 4.1.

But don't take the US government's word for it. Take a look at the findings from the George Barna Research Group. George Barna, a born-again Christian whose company is in Ventura, Calif., found that Massachusetts does indeed have the lowest divorce rate among all 50 states. More disturbing was the finding that born-again Christians have among the highest divorce rates.

I wouldn't say "disturbing;" I'd say hilariously ironic.


Sox did shots before each game

According to first baseman Kevin Millar, the team had an ally named Jack Daniel. On Friday's edition of Fox's Best Damn Sports Show Period, Millar noted it was about 35 degrees at Yankee Stadium before Game 6. "I got a thing of Jack Daniel's and we all did shots for about 10 minutes before the game. And we won," Millar recalled. "So Game 7 came and we had to do shots of Jack Daniel's. And we won the game." Millar said he was thankful the Red Sox won the World Series in four games "because the Jack Daniel's shots were starting to kill me."


How the eye evolved

One of the things "intelligent design" (neo-creationist) movement likes to point to as an example of something that couldn't have evolved naturally is the mammalian eyeball. Of course, they were happy to stop with their assertion. Real scientists, on the other hand, decided to actually tackle this question, and - surprise surprise - have come up with a pretty convincing model for eye evolution.


This is pretty pathetic

Republicans play dress-up and try to fool voters...
“We’re from San Francisco,” one of them said. He was wearing Kerry/Edwards pins, and holding a big Kerry/Edwards campaign sign alongside a homemade one that said: SUPPORT GAY ADOPTION. “We just want everyone to know what we support.”

There were four of them, two men and two women, all carrying signs with similar social wedge issues. One of them, wearing ratty boots and a denim shorts and vest matching suit with a leopard skin collar, walked up and down the line, yelling “Vote for Kerry — support gay marriage!”

Joshuah Bearman: How They Do, Part III
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