September 2007 Archives

links for 2007-09-29

Debbie Riddle - R, Clueless

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Debbie Riddle shouldn't talk to the cameras

Museum of Contemporary Art's 40 days

Cool. Some interesting events occurring here. (PDF file of the MCA events by date)

MCA - Hubbard
MCA - Hubbard
a warehouse, one presumes

Spiral Fish Pond
Spiral Fish Pond
at the MCA

Celebrate 40 years with 40 free days! We’re talking 40 free days at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Footloose and fancy. Unconfined. Unrestrained. Spontaneous. Free. And all yours. Beginning September 29 and running through November 14, the MCA brings you Kidrobot, Todd Oldham, Cynthia Rowley, our first outdoor rock concert, hands-on activities for the whole family, dogs in costumes, DJs, photo booths, prizes every day, and more, more, more, and then a little more. This is our 40th-anniversary gift to you. Here’s your guide to everything MCA over these next 40 days. We’re the MCA -not modern. Contemporary.
[From Museum of Contemporary Art]

Reflecting on the Museum Contemporary Art at Hubbard
Reflecting on the Museum Contemporary Art at Hubbard
so to speak

Green is Good in Austex

Rain Collector

Good for Austin. My dad says his rain collectors are overflowing at the Land of Many Names, so they are figuring out how to make a massive garden there.

Austin attacks the problems of climate change -- right at home

This environmentally conscious city is already home to the headquarters of the Whole Foods organic grocery store chain, a new City Hall built mostly with recycled materials and a municipal electric utility that features solar cells on the roof of its parking lot. The Texas capital also pays residents rebates if they install extra attic insulation or high-efficiency clothes washers. There are steep discounts on rainwater collection barrels. Low-flow toilets are practically free. But those are just eco-baby steps compared with Austin's latest, and most ambitious, environmental quest: to lead the nation in slashing emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. ...
Within five years, this fast-growing city of 680,000 intends to power 100 percent of its municipal facilities with renewable energy, such as solar or wind-driven power. Within eight years, every new home built in Austin will be required to be so energy efficient that, if an optional solar system is added to its roof, it will consume no more energy than it produces over the course of a year.

And by 2020, fully 30 percent of the city's total residential, commercial and industrial energy consumption is to be weaned from carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels and shifted to clean, renewable sources -- a five-fold increase from current levels. Those carbon-reduction targets rank as the nation's most aggressive, environmental leaders say, outpacing efforts in Portland, Ore., Chicago and other cities that have set "green" agendas in recent years. [From In heart of Texas, drumbeat for green]

Austin has always been slightly ahead of the curve in re: environmental concerns. Must be that history of free-thinking anarchist/populists from central Europe who settled in the Texas Hill Country in the 1880s....

It's easier for Austin than for many cities to go green, not least because it's so blue. On electoral maps, the city always shows up as a stubbornly blue Democratic island in a bright red Republican state -- and Democrats, led by former Vice President Al Gore, have adopted global warming as a signature issue. Home to the flagship campus of the University of Texas and to numerous technology companies, Austin is the kind of eco-friendly town where thousands of locals journey downtown every evening to spread out picnic blankets and watch North America's largest urban bat colony take flight.

and action is always preferable to talk, as in the case of Daley's faux-environmental pledges:
Other cities have struggled to fulfill green promises. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, for example, earned international praise from environmentalists when he pledged in 2001 that within five years the city would buy 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and curb its emissions of greenhouse gases by 4 percent.

In reality, the Tribune found, by the end of last year Chicago's greenhouse emissions had increased 10 percent from a baseline average from 1998 to 2001. And the city had not purchased any green energy since 2004.
In the long run, green buildings are better:
But Austin officials are confident they can meet their pioneering goal of powering nearly a third of the city's energy from renewable sources by 2020. (Today, that figure is 6 percent.) Partly that's because Austin owns its municipal electric utility -- an increasingly rare arrangement in an era of utility privatization -- which allows city leaders to drive energy policies. That's why Duncan, the city's chief authority on renewable energy, was able to order the installation of a bank of solar panels atop the parking lot beneath his office window as a demonstration project. And it's why Austin Energy subsidizes more than half the cost when homeowners agree to install $20,000 solar systems.

City leaders figure such a subsidy makes sense because reduced electricity demand means they will not have to build more power plants. Wind power is even more promising, city officials say. Texas already leads the nation in new wind farms, and Austin is driving demand for even more. Last year, when the city offered a fresh batch of wind-driven power contracts to consumers -- at a lower cost than electricity generated from natural gas -- the offering was so popular that a televised lottery was held to pick the winners.

Ultimately it's those kinds of bottom-line economic benefits, rather than feel-good politics, that will drive more consumers into the green camp, Austin officials maintain. In the hot central Texas climate where water is scarce and electricity is expensive, Wynn is certain that energy-efficient houses that promise sharply lower utility bills will be in increasing demand, even if they cost more upfront to build or retrofit.

links for 2007-09-28

Bush Moves to Ease Flight Delays

By waving his magic wand, and re-regulating the airline industry.

Or not. Emptiness
“There’s a lot of anger amongst our citizens about the fact that, you know, they’re just not being treated right,” Mr. Bush said. Some, he said, have been subjected to “egregious behavior.” [From Bush Moves to Ease Flight Delays - New York Times]

How exactly does he know what average citizens experience at airports anyway? When is the last time Bush/Cheney took a commercial flight anywhere, or for that matter, any of their CEO cronies or minions flew somewhere not on a private jet?

After years of airline delays and a truly miserable summer at the airports, President Bush publicly directed his transportation secretary today to corral airline executives and aviation officials to take steps to reduce delays in the nation’s airspace, beginning in New York.
The Transportation Department and the airlines have been slow to develop solutions to congestion problems that are steadily growing worse. Rising public frustration and scattered action by states to try to guarantee “passenger rights” combined to push the president to convene an Oval Office session today to seek action.The transportation secretary, Mary Peters, told reporters that air travelers “are cranky, and they have good reason to be.” After meeting with Mr. Bush, she and the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration discussed the high-profile announcement, but the steps themselves were fairly modest. They will convene an advisory group, including executives of airlines, airports, corporate aviation interests and consumer groups, to work out a plan by the end of the year to cut traffic at Kennedy International Airport..
Oh I see, they are taking a page from the Nancy Pelosi playbook, all talk, no action.

Oh Nancy

Nine months after taking control of the House, Nancy Pelosi is taking credit for "changing the debate" on the war while in Iraq there are 30,000 more troops than on the day the San Francisco Democrat first rapped the Speaker's gavel.
As to cries from liberal activists to impeach President Bush and/or Vice President Dick Cheney, such suggestions remain strictly verboten. "I've always said that impeachment is off the table," Pelosi said Tuesday at the tail end of an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "This is President Bush's war; it's Vice President Cheney's war, and now it's become the war of the Republicans in Congress."
[From The Raw Story | Pelosi: Democrats will hold Bush 'accountable,' despite inability to end war, unwillingness to impeach]

How about we impeach Ms. Pelosi instead?

Blitzer asked if Pelosi was simply "telling your angry base" that "there's nothing you can do" given Republican obstructionism.

"How could you have ever gotten that impression?" Pelosi lectured Blitzer, adding condescendingly "for those who pay attention" that she said Democrats will "hold this administration accountable, time and time again for the conduct of this war."

The CNN host persisted, "When you hold the president accountable, I want you to to explain, What does that mean besides just complaining and holding hearings?"

I hate to even consider the possibiity, but the Beard is right. What exactly has changed since the 110th Congress took office? Hearings into corrupt practices of the Bush mal-Administration are nice, but is something substantive ever going to happen?

"An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It" (Al Gore)

Al Gore's group (well, he is the chairman and founder, I believe) selected an agency after a brief review this summer.

NEW YORK ( -- The Alliance for Climate Protection, the organization created by Al Gore to educate the public on global warming, has selected Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, according to a spokesman for the group.

... Spending on the campaign, expected to roll out this fall, hasn't been disclosed, but is expected to rival other major social-marketing efforts, meaning it will likely be more than $100 million in measured media.

The request for proposal suggested the campaign, a three- to five-year global effort, will launch online in coming weeks, followed by a heavy broadcast presence.

[From Gore's Environmental Group Taps Martin Agency]

links for 2007-09-27

West Loop at lunch

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Lunch photo stroll with Rob, started at Ashland, went west and north. I took too many photos, but only a couple processed yet, including these:

a Carl Zeiss sculpture
Carl Zeiss sculpture

update of this photo

taken at the entrance to Prairie Production/

Shop Floor 3846
Shop Floor 3846
West Loop. The owner wanted some color. Slight camera shake if you look closely.

Eagle Machine
Eagle Machine
Another shot. Took several others, but the light was too poor to capture anything without lens shake.

click to embiggen

Toilet to tap

Fire Hydrant

Remind me to bring some bottled water when/if I travel to California, specifically San Jose.

With water shortages a possibility looming in the state's future, this city's starting to look at what it would take to turn sewage back into water that's pure enough to drink.

"This is a homegrown resource. It is the most reliable supply you can have," said Eric Rosenblum, division manager for San Jose's South Bay Water Recycling Project. The Santa Clara Valley Water District and the city of San Jose are partnering in initial discussions of the potentially controversial idea. If they can get the public to support the plan, millions of gallons of purified waste water could one day be pumped back into the aquifers the county now relies on for half of its drinking water. The other half comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta.

Officials noted that technology exists to treat sewage water using methods such as reverse osmosis, microfiltration and ultraviolet light, and render it pure enough to meet California drinking water standards. But they also explained the idea is still in its initial phase, and a final, detailed proposal isn't expected until next year. ... The Orange County Water District will inaugurate in November a plant that will recycle up to 70 million gallons of waste water a day, then use it to recharge drinking water aquifers.

[From Toilet to tap? San Jose probes plan - Yahoo! News]
I realize most of the world is going to run out of fresh water, especially if construction and birth rate trends continue as they are, but still, ewwwww. fountain

Ethical lapses? On federal land? Involving oil and gas companies? Shocking.

The department that collects royalties from oil and gas companies is plagued with ethical lapses, a report says.
But it offered a sharp description of failures at the Minerals Management Service, the agency within the Interior Department responsible for collecting about $10 billion a year in royalties on oil and gas. Many of the issues, including the complaints by whistle-blowers, were initially reported last year by The New York Times.

Prepared by the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, the report said that investigators found a “profound failure” in the agency’s technology for monitoring oil and gas payments.

It suggested that the agency was too cozy with oil companies and that internal critics had good reason to fear punishment.

In one case, senior officials decided that it would impose a “hardship” on oil companies to demand that they calculate the back interest they owed after having been caught underpaying. The agency itself was years behind in billing the companies, because its computers could not perform the calculations.

When asked about this matter by investigators, the agency’s associate director, Lucy Querques Denett, responded, “How do you define hardship, just because they have a lot of money?”

[From Inspector Finds Broad Failures in Oil Program]

No wonder oil and gas companies have enjoyed record profits in recent years....

links for 2007-09-26

Keep Children's Museum Out of Grant Park


Lions and Bears Lions and Bears, in front of the Art Institute of Chicago, prior to the Chicago Bears getting spanked in the Super Bowl

When I first read of the Chicago Children's Museum proposal to move from Navy Pier to Grant Park, I was mildly against it. Then I read additional facts, and was more firmly opposed. Now, as I've heard more details, I'm adamantly and fiercely resistant to the idea.

Dennis Byrne (resident curmudgeon, and reliably conservative bloviator who I usually roll my eyes at) writes:

After all is said, the rationale for relocating the Chicago Children's Museum into Grant Park comes down to this: Nothing's there, something has to go there and it might as well be the museum.

Obviously, that reasoning flunks all tests of logic, but, at base, it's the best that the move's backers can do. Put aside all the red herrings (racism, classism, adultism) raised by Mayor Richard Daley. A Tribune headline succinctly got to the heart of the argument: "Fixing 'nowhere.'" The northeast corner of Grant Park is "underused;" enter it from the serpentine bridge from Millennium Park and you'll find yourself "nowhere." Because large-scale work must be done on the parking garage below, we'll have an opportunity to fix the supposedly desolate park by relocating the privately operated, fee-to-enter Children's Museum from its cramped Navy Pier quarters.

Of course, that's bunk. There is a "there" there. A "there" with a grand view of the park and Buckingham Fountain to the south. The lake to the east. The skyline to the west. In the heart of downtown, it is a rare and valuable place of quietude. It was my favorite lunchtime refuge when I worked downtown, a place to be immersed in the city's beauty and to forget the office lunacy. The wildflower gardens; the expansive lawns; the plunk of tennis balls on nearby courts; the fountain, framed by rows of trees, rising like an exclamation point blocks away. Anyone who doesn't see the something in all this has nothing for brains.

But wait, museum backers say this won't change after the museum moves there. All that you will see of the subterranean museum are some skylights poking through the landscape. The grass, benches, the opportunity for solitude and all the rest will stay, only better.

Museum backers appear to overlook the irony in their argument: We need to fill in that corner of the park with something; after we fill in that corner, nothing will still be there.

[From Free, clear, endangered by our mayor --]

Bad enough, but how about:

As you weigh the proposed relocation of the Chicago Children's Museum, consider this sentence from Sunday's Tribune: "If located in Grant Park, the museum would also receive a subsidy from the Chicago Park District, part of a program that has netted millions for other museums on park land."

What a nice bonus: In addition to getting a lease on a Grant Park parcel -- perhaps 99 years at $1 a year -- the privately owned, nonprofit museum would get a phased-in subsidy from Chicago property taxpayers.

This year, 10 cultural institutions are divvying up $33.8 million in Park District subsidies; the Lincoln Park Zoo gets a separate $5.6 million, according to the district. The money is allotted according to a formula that factors in their respective attendance figures and budgets.... What is certain is that taking another slice from the pie would -- barring some unanticipated infusion of city money -- reduce the subsidies the other institutions receive. In recent years that total pie has been constricting, not growing, Fassnacht says. As is, the Art Institute of Chicago (1.2 million visitors), the Field Museum (2.1 million visitors) and the Museum of Science and Industry (1.4 million visitors) each receive $6.7 million. The Adler Planetarium, with 400,000 visitors a year, receives a $2.1 million subsidy.

[From Following the money --]

Summer Henge Summer Henge

Now, we're getting somewhere. No wonder the Children's Museum is so eager to relocate.

Of course, the officials of the private museum differ, but their arguments don't make sense, unless you factor in the unmentioned subsidy angle.

[blah blah blah]

This concept, currently being embraced by corporations, Hollywood and non-profits alike, encourages organizations to take responsibility for the choices they make by looking at how those choices impact the larger society, constituents and their communities, and the environment.

I therefore ask that Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the vocal residents of the 42nd Ward and all other entities, including this newspaper, that are engaged in this debate also consider using social responsibility as a context for their position. If that were to happen, the question of the Children’s Museum would sound something like this:

"Would putting the Chicago Children’s Museum in Grant Park positively or negatively impact the citizens of Chicago, visitors to the city, the public perception of Chicago, the communities served by the museum and the ecology of Grant Park?"

In my view, the answer is clear.

[blah blah blah]

Suzanne Muchin


Chicago Children’s Museum, Board of Advisers

[From Chicago Tribune | Blog | Voice of the People]

Right, somehow Hollywood corporations worked itself into her argument. Wonder why? A convenient shorthand for what - meddling liberals? and to answer her question: yes, it would negatively impact the citizens of Chicago, by diluting the funding base for the public museums of the entire city to help a private museum, who just happens to be affiliated with the Pritzker family.

South Loop landmark on the move

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy
Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy

The white cross that hung from the Pacific Garden Mission in the South Loop and proclaimed "Jesus Saves" in blinking red neon lights for at least 50 years was removed today, destined for a perch atop the shelter's new building about 1.5 miles away. The 15-by-10 foot cross was installed sometime after the mission bought the four-story red brick building at State Street and Balbo Avenue in the 1950s, said Phil Kwiatkowski, mission vice president.

The mission is moving to 1458 S. Canal St. to make way for an expansion of nearby Jones College Prep high school.

[From South Loop landmark on the move --]

zero is a percent

I love when real life emulates a Simpsons episode

zero is a percent
zero is a percent, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Google warning that Apple will take zero percent of my Adsense revenue.

"Zero is a percent" borrowed from The Simpsons episode: Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner? (AABF21, 10/24/99)

Newspaper editor: … And to protect Mother Earth, each copy contains a certain percentage of recycled paper.
Lisa: And what percent is that?
Newspaper editor: Zero. Zero’s a percent!

Suckling Pig

Small store about two blocks from my office.

suckling pig

Notice the friendly butcher waving at me in my car….

links for 2007-09-25

Microsoft opposes Google-Doubleclick merger

Perpetual Motion Machine

So who at Google (or Doubleclick) spilled the beans to Mr. Guth and Mr. Forelle?


Microsoft Corp. executives and a public-relations firm retained by the software giant are waging a quiet campaign to convince Internet companies, advertisers and regulators to oppose Google Inc.'s planned $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising specialist DoubleClick Inc.

In recent months, public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller pitched media outlets and Internet companies on what it said were the dangers of the deal, which would bolster Google's already strong presence in online advertising. In the written pitches reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Burson cites the deal as part of a larger discussion of "fair and free competition" in Internet-search and privacy rights of consumers.

• Quiet Campaign: Microsoft has been working with public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller on an effort to drum up opposition to Google's DoubleClick deal.

• Tough Market: The deal, which requires approval by regulators, would bolster Google's already strong position in online advertising.

• Frequent Target: Microsoft has faced pressure in Europe and elsewhere over its size and tactics, and has been a target of similar campaigns by rivals in the past.

In Europe, Burson urged Internet companies to become signatories on an online petition for a more "transparent and competitive Internet," according to the pitches. It directed the companies to a Web site,, and provided user names and passwords to log in.

The pitches cited a number of groups and an individual who had signed on to the effort. The pitches didn't disclose that Burson was working for Microsoft, Google's largest rival.

Josh Gottheimer, an executive vice president at Burson, said the firm was hired by Microsoft to set up as a "discussion forum" for issues of privacy and competition. He said the firm doesn't disclose its clients as a general practice, but said in some cases companies were told Microsoft was a member of the group. He said Burson -- a unit of Young & Rubicam, which is owned by WPP Group PLC -- pitched the effort to more than 100 companies and organizations.

[From Microsoft Goes Behind the Scenes -]

Corporate cat fights amuse me. This particular one is fairly prosaic, but still is a glimpse at what oft happens behind the scenes.

Still not enough

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"Good Luck Chuck" (Mark Helfrich)

even with such lovely and awe-inspiring keywords (as annotated at IMDb), and even considering the implication that Jessica Alba gets nude, or partially nude, there is no way in hell I'd ever pay (with anyone's money) to see the (alleged) film - Good Luck Chuck. Nice try though, Sexual Wiles is usually a sign of a quality flick.

Sexual Wiles
Fat Girl
Casual Sex
Female Nudity
Blow Job
Strong Sexual Content
Self Discipline
Sex On The Beach
Sex Comedy
Male Female Relationship
Character Name In Title
[From Good Luck Chuck (2007) - Plot keywords]

idea suggested by Ms. Rachelle Bowden



using a faux Kodachrome effect

Scooter, originally uploaded by swanksalot. zipping down Randolph St.

Scene from Performance

Ginger Mayerson found this Youtube gem, from the Nicholas Roeg film


“Performance” (Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell)

recorded for the soundtrack to the movie Performance, starring Mick Jagger as the song title's “Turner”.it is credited as a Jagger Richards song though Keith and probably no other Bandmate other than Mick plays on this version of the song.
If only the Rolling Stones had disbanded when Mick Taylor left the band, circa 1974, we'd all have a lot more respect for the music the Stones made before then.

The lyrics, which combined with the homo-eroticism of the clip, are probably too racy to be played even today on network television:

Didn't I see you down in San Antone on a hot and dusty night?
We were eating eggs in Sammy's when the black man there drew his knife.
Aw, you drowned that Jew in Rampton as he washed his sleeveless shirt,
You know, that Spanish-speaking gentlemen, the one we all called “Kurt.”
Come now, gentleman, I know there's some mistake.
How forgetful I'm becoming, now you fixed your bus'ness straight.
I remember you in Hemlock Road in nineteen fifty-six.
You're a faggy little leather boy with a smaller piece of stick.
You're a lashing, smashing hunk of man;
Your sweat shines sweet and strong.
Your organs working perfectly, but there's a part that's not screwed on.
Weren't you at the Coke convention back in nineteen sixty-five
You're the misbred, grey executive I've seen heavily advertised.
You're the great, gray man whose daughter licks policemen's buttons clean.
You're the man who squats behind the man who works the soft machine.
Come now, gentleman, your love is all I crave.
You'll still be in the circus when I'm laughing, laughing on my grave.
When the old men do the fighting and the young men all look on.
And the young girls eat their mothers meat from tubes of plasticon.
Be wary of these my gentle friends of all the skins you breed.
They have a tasty habit - they eat the hands that bleed.
So remember who you say you are and keep your noses clean.
Boys will be boys and play with toys so be strong with your beast.
Oh Rosie dear, doncha think it's queer, so stop me if you please.
The baby is dead, my lady said, “You gentlemen, why you all work for me?”

The Manhattan project

Ya know, on a day like today when I'm feeling cranky/unmotivated/surly/yadda yadda, a nice cocktail might be just the spark to get me going. Unfortunately, I don't have any bitters in the house, and my bourbon is years old. Irish whiskey makes a nice substitute, in my experience, but I drained my last drops a couple weeks ago, and haven't bothered replacing it. So, more coffee it is.

8220Angostura Aromatic Bitters, 45% Alcohol, 4.00 fl oz8221 (Angostura)

At first glance the Manhattan looks like such a simple affair - whiskey, sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. I'm the first to admit that it's not too hard to make a halfway decent version of this cocktail, but a truly great Manhattan can be made only by someone who truly understands the magnitude of what's at hand. Indeed, the mark of a bartender who is truly worth his or her salt lies solidly in his or her interpretation of the Manhattan.
It is virtually a San Francisco tradition to knock back a Manhattan at the well-worn bar of the Tadich Grill, a restaurant with roots that stretch back to the Gold Rush. Mike Buich, Tadich's owner, allows his bartenders to personalize their Manhattans to a certain extent, but they must be made with three parts bourbon, one part vermouth and just one dash of Angostura bitters. (Although I'm more likely to make my Manhattan with two parts whiskey to one part vermouth, and I'm known to be a hog on the bitters front, the ratios used at Tadich can work, providing the right whiskey is used, and providing it's married to the correct vermouth.) Buich also mandates that his bartenders stir their Manhattans over ice long enough for them to be very cold when they reach a customer's lips. That's another piece of the equation - stirring the drink for a minimum of 20 seconds is mandatory if it's perfection you seek.
Consider the Rob Roy, for instance. It's just a Manhattan made with Scotch as opposed to American whiskey, but with the right Scotch this can be a glorious quaff. Peychaud's bitters, by the way, work very well indeed with Scotch, and I often add just one dash of these to the mix when I make a Rob Roy. The Paddy cocktail is a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey; with the right bottling and with liberal dashes of Angostura, this, too, is a desirable dram. Add Benedictine to the Rob Roy and you have yourself a Bobby Burns, a drink created at the Waldorf Astoria in the days prior to Prohibition.
[From The Manhattan project: A bartender spills his secrets on the king of cocktails]

Interstellar Overdrive

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (Pink Floyd)

The original lineup of Pink Floyd perform “Astronomy Domine” from Piper At The Gates Of Dawn live on the BBC. Interview and comments by Hanz Keller, 1967

(via who write:)

extraordinary on so many counts. For one thing, it captures the band performing, rather than miming, “Astronomy Domine,” the effects-laden song that opens their debut album,

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (40th Anniversary Edition)

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

which is just now getting its lavish 40th-anniversary rerelease. For another, it captures Syd Barrett actually talking–and not just talking, but chatting thoughtfully, lucidly, and with remarkable equanimity given the hostile questions of his interviewer.

The segment’s presenter is Hans Keller, a prominent and controversial music critic and theorist of the era. In his introductory segment, he might as well be John Cleese. With his posh-Viennese accent, Murrowesque cigarette, and a pushbroom mustache that seems to have come from the prop department, he cocks his head contemptuously and asserts of the band, “Proportionately, they are a bit boring.” And then he allows, disingenuously, that “Perhaps it’s my fault that I don’t appreciate them.”

In the post-performance interview, which begins about five minutes into the clip, Keller kicks things off by asking Barrett and Roger Waters, “Why has it all got to be so terribly loud?” The two Floydians, well-brought-up boys from Cambridge, answer this and all of Keller’s questions with remarkable politeness. But Waters palpably seethes under his veneer of good manners, while Barrett remains unprovoked. (Though his occasional smiling glances at Waters hint that he finds Keller’s tone absurd.)

The outgoing announcer calls the song, Games for May. Ooops. Also, hard to visualize this incarnation of Pink Floyd playing in a ballroom or dance hall, as background noise for people to “jig about to”, as Roger Waters puts it.

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Mattel Grovels


Perhaps I'm just jaded, but Mattel apologizing to China was a bit surreal.

Mattel Apologizes to China Over Recall:
Mattel apologized to China for damage to the country's reputation and said its own "design flaw" is responsible for the vast majority of recalled toys.

In its apology, the world's largest toy maker said its own "design flaw" was responsible for the biggest recall by far, involving around 18 million playsets studded with potentially dangerous magnets.

While soothing China's pride, the apology could make Mattel a target in lawsuits. "I can't think of any other instance where" a major toy company "has actually come out with such a public announcement of a defect," said Andrew Krulwich, a former general counsel for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission who now practices at Wiley Rein LLP.

Coming from a company with a history of fighting liability accusations, the move also suggests the escalating diplomatic and public-relations pressure Mattel faces around the world.

Chinese officials have ratcheted up criticism recently of Mattel and U.S. regulators, believing they are putting too much blame on China in the recent recalls of toys and other Chinese-made products. Mattel's apology is a reminder that U.S. companies dependent on business in China offend Beijing's government at their peril.

Mattel, which gets 65% of its products from China, quietly began to mend fences three weeks ago. In a letter dated Sept. 1 on Mattel's corporate letterhead, Jim Walter, the company's senior vice president of world-wide quality assurance, wrote directly to the director of China's quality-control agency, Li Changjiang, to "address any possible misunderstandings." Mr. Walter wrote that Mattel has a "deep commitment to working together with the Chinese government," according to a copy of the letter seen by The Wall Street Journal.

Mattel is very worried about pissing off the generator of a major portion of its profits - namely exploitative factory labor in China.

links for 2007-09-24

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others
"The Lives of Others" (Sony Pictures)

Shipped: The Lives of Others:

Shipped on 09/13/07.

Set in 1980s East Berlin, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut feature (which earned an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film) provides an exquisitely nuanced portrait of life under the watchful eye of the state police as a high-profile couple is bugged. When a successful playwright and his actress companion become subjects of the Stasi's secret surveillance program, their friends, family and even those doing the watching find their lives changed too.
In contrast to our other weekend film fare, Das Leben der Anderen was excellent. If you've never seen the film, pay attention to the use of color (red and blue, especially). Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck spent six years on this film after graduating from film school, and it shows. [redacted a bunch of film-school nerd speak, because I no longer want to write like that. Sorry.] Anyway, 1984 is appropriate a setting for a Big Brother movie as 2007, right? As Roger Ebert writes:
The Berlin Wall falls in 1989 (the event is seen here), and the story continues for few more years to an ironic and surprisingly satisfactory conclusion. But the movie is relevant today, as our government ignores habeas corpus, practices secret torture, and asks for the right to wiretap and eavesdrop on its citizens. Such tactics did not save East Germany; they destroyed it, by making it a country its most loyal citizens could no longer believe in. Driven by the specter of aggression from without, it countered it with aggression from within, as sort of an anti-toxin. Fearing that its citizens were disloyal, it inspired them to be. True, its enemies were real. But the West never dropped the bomb, and East Germany and the other Soviet republics imploded after essentially bombing themselves. [From :: :: Reviews :: The Lives of Others (xhtml)]

Louis Armstrong American Hero

The Essential Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is an American hero (as opposed to Senator Feinstein).

As David Margolick recounts, a 21 year old journalist student by the name of Larry Lubenow ignored the instructions of his editor, and asked Louis Armstrong about what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement of Eisenhower era America....

With the connivance of the bell captain, [Lubenow] snuck into Mr. Armstrong’s suite with a room service lobster dinner. And Mr. Armstrong, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, agreed to talk. Mr. Lubenow stuck initially to his editor’s script, asking Mr. Armstrong to name his favorite musician. (Bing Crosby, it turned out.) But soon he brought up Little Rock, and he could not believe what he heard. “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country,” a furious Mr. Armstrong told him. President Eisenhower, he charged, was “two faced,” and had “no guts.” For Governor Faubus, he used a double-barreled hyphenated expletive, utterly unfit for print [like, mother-fucker, perhaps? Stupid New York Times pearl-clutching.]. The two settled on something safer: “uneducated plow boy.” The euphemism, Mr. Lubenow says, was far more his than Mr. Armstrong’s.

Mr. Armstrong bitterly recounted some of his experiences touring in the Jim Crow South. He then sang the opening bar of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” inserting obscenities into the lyrics and prompting Velma Middleton, the vocalist who toured with Mr. Armstrong and who had joined them in the room, to hush him up.

Mr. Armstrong had been contemplating a good-will tour to the Soviet Union for the State Department. “They ain’t so cold but what we couldn’t bruise them with happy music,” he had said. Now, though, he confessed to having second thoughts. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said, offering further choice words about the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say?”

Mr. Lubenow, who came from a small North Dakota farming community, was shocked by what he heard, but he also knew he had a story; he skipped the concert and went back to the paper to write it up. It was too late to get it in his own paper; nor would the Associated Press editor in Minneapolis, dubious that Mr. Armstrong could have said such things, put it on the national wire, at least until Mr. Lubenow could prove he hadn’t made it all up. So the next morning Mr. Lubenow returned to the Dakota Hotel and, as Mr. Armstrong shaved, had the Herald photographer take their picture together. Then Mr. Lubenow showed Mr. Armstrong what he’d written. “Don’t take nothing out of that story,” Mr. Armstrong declared. “That’s just what I said, and still say.” He then wrote “solid” on the bottom of the yellow copy paper, and signed his name.

Freedarko Manifesto number 4564

And this manifesto, one of several I've read written by a freedarko denizen, is why I am, at this very moment, wearing with pride my freedarko T-shirt, emblazoned with swinging 70s cartoon logos of the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Kansas City Kings né Sacramento Kings. Crappy photo yes, but therefore more authentic.

FreeDarko Tshirt.jpg

The latest manifesto begins:

Very early on in the Great Mainstream Stat Wars, Silverbird5000 called me on the phone with misery in his voice. He was concerned that everything he typed for this site ended up flush with Marxist longings, the kind that make pavement crinkle and birds take flight. Silverbird's promising academic career was not built on this sort of celebratory posturing, and the tunnels of his mind are proofed against fire. Yet somehow, FreeDarko brought out the booming rector in him.

There's a good reason for that: since its inception, FreeDarko has been rife with overtones of prophecy, revolution, imminent change, and apocalyptic fervor. Hence the preoccupation with Futurism, the Old Testament, Islamic extremists, the Black Panthers, Heidegger, the First Continental Congress, and Herzog. I can't exactly say what draws me to these things, other than ennui and impatience. And though when I start writing about sports, these are the reference points I glom onto. Part of it is a reaction to the NBA's massive style quotient; the only appropriate response seems to be some mix of nihilism and idealism. But I also should probably confess that, like most people, I like to feel I'm in the presence of important stuff. And nothing dribbles weight quite like imminent upheaval.
[click On Warfare and Mr. Dill to continue]

Pardon Poor Larry Craig

Frank Rich is right: why should Senator Larry Craig resign exactly? Other than the amusement at seeing yet another closeted Republican hypocrite outed, Craig didn't really do anything illegal. He was arrested for basically flirting. Especially since the Butch Republican Governor of Idaho will just replace him with another, less tainted model.

Not only did the senator do nothing wrong, but in scandal he has proved the national treasure that he never was in his salad days as a pork-seeking party hack. In the past month he has served as an invaluable human Geiger counter for hypocrisy on the left and right alike. He has been an unexpected boon not just to the nation's double-entendre comedy industry but to the imploding Republican Party. Gays, not all of them closeted, may be among the last minority groups with some representation in the increasingly monochromatic G.O.P. If it is to muster even a rainbow-lite coalition for 2008, it could use Larry Craig in the trenches.
As we learned in the revelations surrounding the years-long cover up of the Mark Foley scandal, there may be more gay men in the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill than there are among the Democrats. Even Rick Santorum, the now-departed senator who likened homosexuality to "man on dog" sex, had a gay director of communications. Homophilia and homophobia have been twin fixtures in the modern G.O.P. at least since the McCarthy-era heyday of Roy Cohn.
[From Frank Rich: Pardon Poor Larry Craig - New York Times]

Factory Girl

Factory Girl (Unrated)
"Factory Girl (Unrated)" (The Weinstein Company)

Netflixed: Factory Girl:

Shipped on 09/18/07.

Director George Hickenlooper's biographical drama charts the meteoric rise and subsequent fall from grace of Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller), an ambitious starlet who becomes the muse of Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce). Heading for New York City's bright lights after dropping out of college in 1965, Edie meets pop-culture icon Andy, who turns her into the toast of the town. But she soon discovers that glamour and fame have a price.

Meh. Guy Pearce's portrayal of Warhol as a total cad is fairly believable, but Hayden Christensen was the worst Bob Dylan impersonator I've ever witnessed. Sienna Miller's southern accent kept coming and leaving, sometimes in the same sentence. We watched the whole thing, but barely. A lot of mush-mouthed dialogue, so if that's your thing, you'll be well served to rent this film. Otherwise, wait for the book. Or something. Lifetime TV?

Senator Feinstein is no American hero

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Of Ms. Feinstein, not much good can be said.

California's Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein provides a perfect case study for understanding why the Congress has done virtually nothing to oppose the most extreme Bush policies, while doing much actively to support it. Feinstein represents a deep blue state and was just easily re-elected to her third term last year. She won't run for re-election, if she ever does, until 2012, when she will be 80 years old. Her state easily re-elected a Senator, Barbara Boxer, with a much more liberal voting record than Feinstein's. Political fear cannot possibly explain her loyal support for the Bush agenda on the most critical issues decided by the Senate.

Additionally, Feinstein is a 74-year-old divorced Jewish woman currently on her third husband, and it is thus extremely unlikely that she harbors any hopes of running in the future on a national ticket. She has as secure a political position as any politician in the country. Whatever explains what she does, it has nothing to do with "spinelessness" or fear. What would she possibly fear?

And yet, her votes over the last several years, and especially this year after she was safely re-elected, are infinitely closer to the Bush White House and her right-wing Senate colleagues than they are to the base of her party or to the constituents she allegedly represents. Just look at what she has done this year on the most critical and revealing votes:

[From Glenn Greenwald - Dianne Feinstein -- Symbol of the Worthless Beltway Democrat]

I despise categorization of politicians with a broad brush, but Senator Feinstein is a poster child for what's wrong with the Democratic Party.

links for 2007-09-23

Fear of Phthalates

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Air fresheners, the $1 billion-plus category that's among the hottest in household products in recent years, is officially a political and health hot potato, thanks to a report and petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council linking them to possible hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems in males. [From Advertising Age - Fear of Phthalates Spreads to $1B Air-Freshener Category]

Oh, what's a few phthalates amongst friends.....

And is our biggest worry how companies can best market this crap to us? How about ban phthalates first, then worry about selling us non-toxic nail polish, yadda yadda? Where was the EPA in all this? Rhetorical question, of course, we know they were too busy wining and dining corporation executives at SCJohnson and Walgreen's to busy their little brains with protecting citizens.

The NRDC, joined by the Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes and National Center for Healthy Housing, has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Products Safety Commission to investigate and regulate air-quality and health issues related to air fresheners.

Their concern is that phthalates, a chemical found in some air fresheners, have been shown in some lab-animal studies to disrupt testosterone production and cause malformation of sex organs. Some studies of humans have linked exposure to the chemicals with adverse changes in the genitals of baby boys. The groups' petition also said volatile organic compounds such as benzene, linked to cancer, can be found in some of the air fresheners, though it did not specify levels of that chemical in individual products.

While marketers challenged the validity of research by the NRDC, which tested 14 products for sale at Walgreens for phthalates, the drugstore chain has pulled three of its own private-label air fresheners off shelves of its 5,850 stores nationwide and initiated testing of other brands. The Walgreens brands had the highest levels of phthalates among the products tested.


The environmental groups urged the government to conduct more thorough tests and possibly enact measures to limit consumer exposure to the chemicals. They also said "consumers may wish to avoid using air fresheners -- especially in places where there are children or pregnant women."

The NRDC report noted that 10 of the 14 products tested had no ingredient listings whatsoever, and none indicated phthalates were present. The report by the NRDC also found levels of volatile organic compounds in the air fresheners, which have been cited as an important source of indoor air pollution by the European Union.

The EPA said it would review the petition and respond in the 90 days allowed by law. A spokesman for the CSPC didn't return a call for comment.

Gina Solomon, an internist and researcher at the NRDC, said the group tested levels of phthalates in the products, rather than in rooms where they were used, because it doesn't have facilities to test dispersal of the chemicals in the air. "That's why we consider our results preliminary," she said, "and that's why we petitioned [the government agencies] to follow up on our results. We just think there's a potential risk that consumers should know about and needs to be followed up."

From the wikipedia:

Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are a group of chemical compounds that are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility). They are chiefly used to turn polyvinyl chloride from a hard plastic into a flexible plastic.

Phthalate esters are the dialkyl or alkyl aryl esters of 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid; the name phthalate derives from phthalic acid. When added to plastics, phthalates allow the long polyvinyl molecules to slide against one another. The phthalates show low water solubility, high oil solubility, and low volatility. The polar carboxyl group contributes little to the physical properties of the phthalates, except when R and R' are very small (such as ethyl or methyl groups). They are colorless, odorless liquids produced by reacting phthalic anhydride with an appropriate alcohol (usually 6 to 13 carbon).

As of 2004, manufacturers produce about 400,000 tons (800 million pounds or 363 million kilograms) of phthalates each year. They were first produced during the 1920s, and have been produced in large quantities since the 1950s, when PVC was introduced. The most widely used phthalates are di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). DEHP is the dominant plasticizer used in PVC, due to its low cost. Benzylbutylphthalate (BBzP) is used in the manufacture of foamed PVC, which is mostly used as a flooring material. Phthalates with small R and R' groups are used as solvents in perfumes and pesticides.

Phthalates are also frequently used in nail polish, fishing lures, adhesives, caulk, paint pigments, and sex toys made of so-called "jelly rubber." Some vendors of jelly rubber sex toys advise covering them in condoms when used internally, due to the possible health risks. Other vendors do not carry jelly rubber sex toys, in favor of phthalate-free varieties.[1] The Dutch office of Greenpeace UK sought to encourage the European Union to ban sex toys that contained phthalates

Less plastic, more hemp!

Bush Hates Poor Kids


In the Democrat's response, also broadcast Saturday, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell turned the tables on the president, saying that if Bush doesn't sign the bill, 15 states will have no funding left for the program by the end of the month.

At issue is the Children's Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, mostly children, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. It expires Sept. 30.

Of course, President Bush sees it a little differently:

President Bush again called Democrats "irresponsible" on Saturday for pushing an expansion he opposes to a children's health insurance program.

"Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed," Bush said of the measure that draws significant bipartisan support
[From Bush: Kids' Health Care Will Get Vetoed --]
Right, because we need to save money for the Iraq war instead of wasting it on healthcare for US children. Makes perfect sense.

Bush to seek more war funds If OKd, spending would be highest of Iraq war...

After smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq, President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure -- totaling nearly $200 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2008, Pentagon officials said.

If Bush's spending request is approved, 2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war. U.S. war costs have continued to grow because of the additional combat forces sent to Iraq in 2007 and because of efforts to quickly ramp up production of new technology, such as mine-resistant trucks designed to protect troops from roadside bombs. The new trucks can cost three to six times as much as an armored Humvee.

The Bush administration said earlier this year that it probably would need $147.5 billion for 2008, but Pentagon officials now say that and $47 billion more will be required. Secretary of State Robert Gates and other officials will formally present the full request at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday.

The funding request means that war costs are projected to grow even as the number of deployed combat troops begins a gradual decline starting in December. Spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will rise from $173 billion this year to about $195 billion in fiscal 2008, beginning Oct. 1. When costs of CIA operations and embassy expenses are added, the war in Iraq currently costs taxpayers about $12 billion a month

[From Bush to seek more war funds --]

Media Industry Helped Drug Firms

When the Democratic-led Congress started debating a big Food and Drug Administration bill earlier this year, pharmaceutical companies worried that it would sharply restrict one of their most powerful sales-boosting tools -- drug ads.

But in the final bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly on Wednesday and the Senate last night, such marketing is largely spared. One major reason: the drug industry found powerful allies among media and advertising firms who were determined to protect one of their biggest and fastest-growing advertising categories.

The toughest drug-ad restriction in early drafts of the bill gave the FDA authority to block a drug company from advertising a medication that carried serious safety concerns. That was left on the cutting-room floor. The FDA will get new power to require drug companies to submit TV ads for review before they run, but it can only recommend changes, not require them. The bill lets the agency levy fines for false and misleading ads.

Some are glad drug-advertising rules aren't headed for a major shift. "The upside is the fact that it's not changing significantly, because it could have been an ugly picture," says Mike Rutstein, executive vice president of consumer health care at Interpublic Group PLC's DraftFCB, which creates ads for companies including Wyeth and Eli Lilly & Co. [From Media Industry Helped Drug Firms Fight Ad Restraints -]

Surprisingly, Democratic Congress-critters are no less immune to the siren call of lobbyist dollars than their counterparts in the Republican Part. Who woulda thunk?

links for 2007-09-22

Terror Theater strikes again

If it wasn't so depressing, this would be funny.

But instead, it's depressing. Can we have our civil liberties back now? Pretty please?

Think Progress » Harman: Conservatives Falsely Hyped Terror Threat Against U.S. Capitol To Pass FISA Expansion:
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), speaking at a FISA event yesterday organized by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, stated that the terror claims were “part of a well-orchestrated campaign” by the administration to politicize the FISA debate. She referred to the efforts as part of the “Rovian strategy of using terrorism as a wedge political issue.” Harman asserted that the intelligence agencies “knew” the terror claims propagated by conservative lawmakers were false:

That specific intelligence claim, it turned out, was bogus; the intelligence agencies knew that –apparently had communicated to Congress or to relevant people that it was bogus, the source was unreliable. But that communication wasn’t in any published form until the day that the Senate passed the amendments to FISA.

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Daley vs Reilly

Trees Vents Grant Park
(Tree Vents, Grant Park, very near where the proposed Children's Museum would go)

Even though we feel ignored by Alderman Reilly (after meeting him several months ago, and after several phone calls, we are no further along muddling through the city bureaucracy to build our pocket park than we were after meeting Alderman Natarus. You'd think our project was too small or something, or that Reilly doesn't care about increasing green space for his constituents), we still agree with him in regards to this dustup with Daley. Is this really the only location possible for the Children's Museum (which costs $8 a head to enter, even adults, as Eric Zorn laments)? Why not place it near the Museum Campus? or Hyde Park? or on that huge patch of land south of the Roosevelt Whole Foods?

Daley is wrong here, and Reilly should stand his ground.

Grant Park fireworks over kids museum --

An angry Mayor Richard Daley, his chin jutting out, squared off Tuesday against freshman Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), calling on leaders citywide to “fight for the future of this city” by supporting plans for a new Chicago Children's Museum in Grant Park.

In opposing the location, Reilly has cited a long-standing Chicago tradition that gives local aldermen virtually absolute say on projects in their wards that require city approval. But Daley said that so-called “aldermanic prerogative” should not apply on the museum issue because it goes far beyond the interests of the residents of the 42nd Ward.

“I hope all 49 [other] aldermen, I hope everyone in the city, understands what this fight is about,” the mayor said. “It's a fight for the future of this city. That is why I am very strong on this. If you lose this one, you lose the strength of our city. I have never seen anything like it in the city of Chicago in my term of office. This is worth fighting for. If we don't fight for our children, who are we going to fight for?”

But Daley, used to getting his way with the City Council, may have a difficult time persuading aldermen to vote against a colleague's wishes. Overriding a fellow alderman, even a freshman, could erode their own ability to call the shots on local developments, including any that may be planned if Chicago wins the 2016 Olympic Games.

Several aldermen on Tuesday said they either were backing Reilly in the fracas or studying the merits of both sides of the debate before making up their minds.

Reilly said he attended nine community meetings on the issue and did not hear, nor would have tolerated, race-based comments. Burton Natarus, who preceded Reilly as alderman and was opposed to building the museum on the proposed site because of traffic concerns, also discounted racial motives.

The area has an array of colors and ethnicities among its residents, Natarus said.

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Corruption, War Profiteering and Iraq


Lost Causeways

Every investigation into where the billions of dollars of wasted in Iraq seems to turn up more corruption. Too bad impeachment is off the table: the Bush White House is waist-deep in incompetence and fraudulent conduct.

Spencer Ackerman writes:

TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Today's Must Read:
So what defense contract in Iraq didn't involve a kickback? What contract was awarded through competitive bidding? As Pentagon investigators conduct an unprecedented review into corruption in the department's Iraq contracting, it's a rare bid that wasn't crooked.

Yesterday, Congress learned that $6 billion worth of contracts are under criminal review. That's right -- criminal:

click to read more

Love Fashion

| 1 Comment

Love Fashion
Love Fashion, originally uploaded by swanksalot. 18th St, Pilsen. The guy looks like he might be rocking the zoot suit.

Don't Taser My Civil Liberties Bro

In case you didn't already see/hear of this incident:

Apparently brandishing a copy of Greg Palast's book and talking about Skull and Bones is grounds enough to be tasered by belligerent cops and/or bemused former Presidential candidates.

Jason Rhyne writes:

Author of tasered student’s ‘mystery book’ points to irony in incident Greg Palast:

The book Andrew Meyer clutched in his hands moments before being swarmed and eventually tasered by police–a “mysterious” yellow book, reported the Washington Post–isn’t so mysterious at all: it’s the latest from BBC investigative reporter and author Greg Palast.

“About eleven people called me after it happened,” Palast told RAW STORY. “Then I saw the full clip on YouTube.”

Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans–Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, was the basis for Meyer’s comments to Sen. John Kerry, who had been fielding student questions in a forum at the University of Florida.

On video, Meyer can be heard telling Kerry he’d like to recommend the book to him.

“It’s called ‘Armed Madhouse’ by Greg Palast,” the student said, “He’s the top investigative journalist in America.”

“I’ve already read it,” Kerry replied, as Meyer went on to repeat conclusions from Palast’s book, which contends Kerry actually won the 2004 presidential election.

What Meyer was referring to, according to Palast, was a chapter in the book called “Kerry Won. Now Get Over It,” in which he says millions of votes cast in the 2004 election were discarded, not counted or prevented from being cast in the first place–a fact the author says has special relevance to the locale of Meyer’s arrest.

“There’s an entire dimension here that’s not being covered here,” Palast said of the controversy. “The interesting thing to me as a journalist, is that the [Meyers incident] occurred in Alachua County, Florida, one of the worst places in the country for black voters.”

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Fishing for Ducks

Two versions of the same scene, neither photo came out perfect, so I converted them to faux-black and white, for my amusement, and theoretically, yours too. Both taken as we walked along Fullerton, towards the restored prairie fields of wild flowers abutting the Peggy Notebaert Museum

Sepia-Fishing for Ducks
Sepia-Fishing for Ducks
my Norman Rockwell/stalker moment

Fishing for Ducks-Selenium
Fishing for Ducks-Selenium
my Norman Rockwell/stalker moment

click to embiggen

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links for 2007-09-21

Dan Rather vs. CBS

Separation Anxiety

Dr. Alterman doesn't feel sorry for the $8,000,000 a year man, Dan Rather, but has a couple of points to make about his case anyway:

Media Matters - Altercation by Eric Alterman:
[Dan Rather was ] screwed by CBS when they dropped him in response to right-wing-driven hysteria, lest anyone look too carefully into George W. Bush's draft-dodging. Remember, not even the Thornburgh commission ever determined whether those documents were fake, though it is a given of virtually all discussion of the matter that this was somehow proven. What the right has always understood is the fact that the one of the most powerful forces in the universe is the fear of the heads of large corporations feeling themselves to be embarrassed. This is nowhere more true than for the heads of large media corporations.

Rather became an embarrassment for CBS and so he was unceremoniously dumped, just as CNN dumped its producers way back when for a story on the use of nerve gas in Vietnam that may or may not have been true but fell within the radar of the right's minions.

L 92


Anyway, Dan-O's big bucks come in handy right about now because he couldn't be bought out with a confidentiality agreement.

According to the suit, Rather contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a “biased” and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, “seriously damaged his reputation,” and charges that CBS and its executives made him “a scapegoat” in an attempt “to pacify the White House,” though the formal complaint presents virtually no direct evidence to that effect. To buttress this claim, Mr. Rather quotes the executive who oversaw his regular segment on CBS Radio, telling Mr. Rather in November 2004 that he was losing that slot, effective immediately, because of “pressure from 'the right wing.' ” Sounds true to me.

And how telling is this? “Instead of directly vetting the script he would read for the Guard segment, Mr. Rather says, he acceded to pressure from Mr. Heyward to focus instead on his reporting from Florida on Hurricane Frances, and on Bill Clinton's heart surgery.”

And this: “Under pressure, Mr. Rather says, he delivered a public apology on his newscast on Sept. 20, 2004 -- written not by him but by a CBS corporate publicist -- ”despite his own personal feelings that no public apology from him was warranted.“

I hope Karl Rove gets deposed.

The NYT has more

[Rather] also continues to take vehement issue with the appointment by CBS of Richard Thornburgh, an attorney general in the administration of the elder President Bush, as one of the two outside panelists given the job of reviewing how the disputed broadcast had been prepared.

and Greg Palast wonders why the main story is still being ignored

Rather’s ”unsubstantiated story of Bush’s military service“ (says USA Today) got him canned. Yet, all the poor man did was repeat a story we put on BBC Television a year earlier — that Poppy Bush put in the fix to get his son out of ‘Nam and into the Texas Air Guard, spending his war years guarding Houston from Viet Cong attack. But Dan never reported this: the documentation from inside the US Department of Justice detailing the fix. Why not? Because it opened up a far more serious charge: that those who kept Little George out of war’s way ended up very well rewarded. We ran that full story — from the evidence of the fix to the evidence of the lucrative pay-backs — on the world’s biggest network, BBC, and we’ve never retracted a comma of it. Nor, by the way, has the White House denied our accusations despite our repeated offers to respond.

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MP3s and your ears

CDs shelf one

Compressed digital music is usually inferior to analog, uncompressed music, yet I would not want to go back to a life without iPods and CDs. I do transfer my CDs to high bit rate MP3s (192 kbps with highest quality VBR encoding), but would never argue they sound better than a properly mixed analog vinyl record, only nearly as good, and also infinitely more convenient to carry around.import_settings.jpg

The real problem is that (nearly) every artist/producer wants their music to sound louder than everyone else's music when played on a stereo, and this fundamentally alters the range and sound possibilities. If you've ever noticed, CDs recorded in this century are almost always much much louder than CDs remastered from music recorded before the 1990s.

Lee Gomes wrote (a few days ago:)

Are Technology LimitsIn MP3s and iPods Ruining Pop Music?

If it seems like you are listening to music more but enjoying it less, some people in the recording industry say they know why. They blame that iPod that you can't live without, along with all the compressed MP3 music files you've loaded on it.

Those who work behind-the-mic in the music industry -- producers, engineers, mixers and the like -- say they increasingly assume their recordings will be heard as MP3s on an iPod music player. That combination is thus becoming the "reference platform" used as a test of how a track should sound. (Movie makers make much the same complaint when they see their filmed images in low-quality digital form.)

But because both compressed music and the iPod's relatively low-quality earbuds have many limitations, music producers fret that they are engineering music to a technical lowest common denominator. The result, many say, is music that is loud but harsh and flat, and thus not enjoyable for long periods of time.

"Right now, when you are done recording a track, the first thing the band does is to load it onto an iPod and give it a listen," said Alan Douches, who has worked with Fleetwood Mac and others. "Years ago, we might have checked the sound of a track on a Walkman, but no one believed that was the best it could sound. Today, young artists think MP3s are a high-quality medium and the iPod is state-of-the-art sound."

It isn't. Producers and engineers say there are many ways they might change a track to accommodate an iPod MP3. Sometimes, the changes are for the worse.

For example, says veteran Los Angeles studio owner Skip Saylor, high frequencies that might seem splendid on a CD might not sound as good as an MP3 file and so will get taken out of the mix. "The result might make you happy on an MP3, but it wouldn't make you happy on a CD," he says. "Am I glad I am doing this? No. But it's the real world and so you make adjustments."

This shift to compressed music heard via an iPod is occurring at the same time as another music trend that bothers audiophiles: Music today is released at higher volume levels than ever before, on the assumption that louder music sells better. The process of boosting volume, though, tends to eliminate a track's distinct highs and lows.

Fiddle About

Corruption - thy name is Republican

Rings of fire

Weller reportedly will leave House --
Rep. Jerry Weller, dogged by ethics questions surrounding his Nicaraguan investments and his wife's finances, is set to announce his retirement in the near future, Republican sources said Wednesday...Weller, a seven-term incumbent who boasts the most extensive foreign land holdings of any House member, has faced questions about his re-election intentions all month, following a Tribune investigation that revealed he failed to disclose several land transactions in Nicaragua on his congressional ethics forms.

On other sales, he reported vastly different purchase prices for the land in American and Nicaraguan records.

The Tribune also reported last week that a charity formed by Weller's wife -- Zury Rios de Weller, a member of the Guatemalan Congress -- raised questions about whether Weller could legally exclude her assets from his congressional filings.

links for 2007-09-20

Fall Colors

taken about a year ago

Fall Colors
Fall Colors, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Sears Tower and foliage, West Loop

Fox says Bush is cocky

Well, perhaps in his book, but not to the editors of the Tribune.

Waiting for Senor Fox
Waiting for Senor Fox
took my dad and his brother to go see the National Museum of Mexican Art but unbeknownst to us, former Mexican President Vincente Fox was also scheduled to make an appearance at the museum for interviews and a lecture. Doh! Since Mr. Fox was running late, we eventually left without seeing anything in the museum other than the gift shop. And the lobby. (I was given the hard stare by a bodyguard, he really wanted to look inside my backback in case I was planning an assignation or something. I wasn't, and was only carrying a bottle of water and my camera, so he could have peeked in if he had asked politely. )

Did Fox call Bush cocky? He's mum --
To the world, they were the "dos amigos," but their private impressions may not have been so chummy. In an interview with Tribune editors Tuesday, former Mexican President Vicente Fox refused to confirm or deny reports that he calls President Bush "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life" in his new memoirs, scheduled to come out next month.
"You have to read the book," Fox said. "There are a lot of pages dedicated to Mr. Bush, a lot of pages dedicated to other leaders. ... What is written is written

Fox was in Chicago to deliver several speeches to business groups and promote his latest venture since leaving office last year: The Fox Center, Mexico's first presidential library, which will host a think tank and an archive of documents from his 2000-2006 administration.

... After Bush first took office in 2001, he and Fox gave the impression they had struck up a close friendship and vowed to push for immigration reforms together. The relationship cooled off after Sept. 11, when Bush shifted his attention to the war on terror.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Fox, in his memoirs "Revolution of hope," calls Bush "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life" and "a windshield cowboy." Citing an advance copy of the book, the Post reported that Fox praises Bush for his "cultural sensitivity," but asks if the U.S. can afford "invading every nation with which it does not agree."

My impression of the relationship between Bush and Fox is that Bush used Fox solely as a campaign prop to woo Hispanic voters, but once the election was over, Bush/Rove discarded Fox.

35 E Wacker Drive aka Jewelers Building

with the reflection of a crane from from the Trump building construction site in a window....

A Green Movement Is Roiling America

Add to the file about suburban living. Shudder.

A Green Movement Is Roiling America:

To Susan Taylor, it was a perfect time to hang her laundry out to dry. The 55-year-old mother and part-time nurse strung a clothesline to a tree in her backyard, pinned up some freshly washed flannel sheets -- and, with that, became a renegade. The regulations of the subdivision in which Ms. Taylor lives effectively prohibit outdoor clotheslines. In a move that has torn apart this otherwise tranquil community, the development's managers have threatened legal action. To the developer and many residents, clotheslines evoke the urban blight they sought to avoid by settling in the Oregon mountains.

“This bombards the senses,” interior designer Joan Grundeman says of her neighbor's clothesline. “It can't possibly increase property values and make people think this is a nice neighborhood.”

Ms. Taylor and her supporters argue that clotheslines are one way to fight climate change, using the sun and wind instead of electricity. “Days like this, I can do multiple loads, and within two hours, it's done,” said Ms. Taylor. “It smells good, and it feels different than when it comes out of the dryer.”

The battle of Awbrey Butte is an unanticipated consequence of increasing environmental consciousness, pitting the burgeoning right-to-dry movement against community standards across the country.

Actually, as a teen in Austex, I remember my mother hanging clothes in the back yard, but it was more because we didn't have a clothes dryer. We had a privacy fence, so our neighbors wouldn't have complained even if they were able to.

Also, I would severely chafe under the restrictions of a subdivision's power-mad board of directors like these jerks. I think it is bad enough living in a condo.

Ms. Taylor in Bend had always used a clothesline before moving to the subdivision in 1996. Awbrey Butte's Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, established by local developer Brooks Resources Corp., require that “clothes drying apparatus...shall be screened from view.” Not an easy task in a community where fencing is also “discouraged” in the covenants.

The clothesline ban gave Ms. Taylor pause when she moved here, she says, but she and her husband decided they could live with it. Then, in May, she heard an environmental lawyer on the radio who “talked about this narrow window of opportunity for us to respond to global warming,” Ms. Taylor recalls. “I said, 'Dang it, that's it. My clothesline is going up.' ”

Then the trouble started. One neighbor asked if it was temporary. Next came a phone call -- and then a series of letters -- from Brooks Resources. The first letter, dated June 12, warned that “laundry lines are not permitted in the Awbrey Butte Subdivision,” adding that “many owners in Awbrey Butte take great pride in their home and surrounding areas.”

Ms. Taylor responded two days later with a letter asserting that the rule is “outdated.” She requested a change in the rules to “reflect our urgent need and responsibility to help global warming by encouraging energy conservation.”

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River City Condos

South Loop

links for 2007-09-19

China and Garlic, Ginger Exports

Organic onions

Oh great, so every meal I eat out has been with contaminated garlic and/or ginger (seemingly a staple of my diet). Where's the FDA been anyway? Wouldn't you like to read a headline about how the FDA protected consumers before an event, not after? In fact, the FDA isn't even mentioned in this story. What agency is taking the lead in protecting American food from poison?

China Curbs Garlic, Ginger Exports to U.S. -
China in recent weeks has sharply restricted the exportation of garlic and ginger to the U.S., a huge importer of the crops, amid continuing concerns about the safety of Chinese exports.

The Chinese government has ordered numerous facilities in Shandong province, a hub for the nation's agricultural exports, to stop shipping the foods until they can abide by tougher safety standards, according to several U.S. companies that import the products from China. The move has curtailed the supply of garlic and ginger in the U.S., resulting in higher prices as buyers shift to alternative sources.

China's action follows a host of import-safety incidents in the U.S., including a July recall of fresh ginger, tainted with an illegal insecticide, that was imported from China by a California company and sold in at least two dozen supermarkets.

China is a major supplier of garlic and ginger to the U.S., which is finicky about the Chinese-grown produce it allows into its borders. China accounts for more than 80% of garlic imported into the U.S., according to the U.S. government. Hawaii is the only source of ginger farmed in the U.S., so the country depends heavily on exports from China. In the wake of China's action, California garlic growers are enjoying increased demand, as are Brazilian ginger growers, according to U.S. buyers.


New York Times Drops TimesSelect

Wow, the New York Post was actually correct for once.

New York Times Drops Web-Site Fees -
New York Times Co. said it would drop its paid TimesSelect service, which charged a fee for online access to certain New York Times columnists, and make the vast majority of its Web site -- and archives -- available free.

The move comes two years after the Times introduced the subscription service, an effort to generate an additional revenue stream. But the revenue was relatively modest, and the publisher believes the revenue it is giving up will be more than offset by the additional ad revenue it can generate by broadening the site's audience.

The decision highlights a conundrum for newspaper publishers, which are struggling to increase the revenue from their online businesses amid steep declines in print revenue industrywide. It also shows how difficult it is for Web sites to start charging for content previously available free
TimesSelect had caused dissatisfaction among some columnists, who complained they were losing readership and influence. TimesSelect had blocked access to 23 columnists. "We are happy that they will be happy now, but that's not why we did this," said Ms. Schiller. "This was a business decision."

The move will take effect tomorrow. The Times will make available free the past 20 years of the paper's archives as well as its archives from 1851 to 1922. The paper will still charge for archives between 1923 and 1986.

well, there goes some of my site traffic

Kidding, I would never steal from Tom Friedman's mouth. Ewww.

Kayaks on the river

from earlier this year.

Kayaks on the river
Kayaks on the river, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Chicago River, not quite San Antonio's riverfront, thank godz.

links for 2007-09-18

Chicago at Night

this is my September wall-calendar image

Chicago at Night
Chicago at Night, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
I was flying into Chicago at night
Watching the lake turn the sky into blue-green smoke
The sun was setting to the left of the plane
And the cabin was filled with an unearthly glow
In 27-D I was behind the wing
Watching landscape roll out
Like credits on a screen
The earth looked like it was lit from within
Like a poorly assembled electrical ball as we moved
Out of the farmlands into the grid
The plan of the city was all that you saw
And all of these people sitting totally still
As the ground raced beneath them thirty thousand feet down

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away

And I was pretending that I was in a Galaxie 500 video
The stewardess came back and checked on my drink
In the last strings of sunlight, a Bridgette Bardot
There's a hat on my headphones
Along with those eyes that you get
When your circumstance is movie size

-Liz Phair

Biking to work

got to make the donuts.....

Biking to work
Biking to work, originally uploaded by swanksalot. or from work. Wacker Drive.

New Desktop

Finishing up transferring old data (from a single chip G5) to a new MacPro. Whoa. So much snappier, cannot even believe it.

The real difference noted so far has been opening an iTunes information window. Literally 30-40 seconds on the G5 vs. 2 seconds. I'm sure I'll find lots else to be amazed at, and I have a cynical suspicioun that next week Apple will release the a computer for the same price that will be twice as fast, and will be able to hold 8 internal hard disks - for $200 less. When I bought the G5, less than a month later the same price would have bought me a dual chip machine (albeit one that ran so hot that it came with an internal-combustion water cooling system). Couldn't wait though.

One complaint: I have to buy yet another adapter to connect my (admitably aging yet still functioning) second monitor. Somehow I didn't notice the ports were different. Feels so cramped typing on only 17 inches of monitor space. Also, haven't been able to open the second DVD burner yet - there is no button of course, and am puzzled how to open the door via software. Ahh, can use iTunes. Though, cannot rip two CDs at the same time, bummer, dude.

Macpro .

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links for 2007-09-17

Party Crashers

Wacker Drive, Chicago

Party Crashers
Party Crashers, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Uninvited guests (Solarized)

May Day and police

from 2006

May Day and police
May Day and police, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Chicago Police came out in force to witness a few anarchists and communists speak at the Haymarket, May Day.

I watched one officer make an ironic Black Power fist for the amusement of another officer. He looked too young to be reminiscing.

Don't have a third Caipirinha


Blue Curtain Caipirinha - the national drink of Brazil:

especially if the hour is late, and one's belly is already full of Bass Ale. I had never imbibed this particular cocktail, and our out of town guests were describing Caipirinha in such alluring phrases I had to try at least one. The second was even better than the first, but the third melded time, space and gravity, and I haven't quite recovered yet.


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links for 2007-09-16


When Harrry Met Nancy

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Impeachment, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi meet in a bar, guess who goes home alone?

Harry Met Nancy Ted Rall 070915

cartoon via Ted Rall:

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abstraction partially because I flubbed the lighting on this, partially because it just was interesting lighting.

Abstraction in Light, Shadow and Purple spraypaint
Abstraction in Light, Shadow and Purple spraypaint, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Wicker Park

links for 2007-09-15

Double Door Liquors

Double Door has been home to a great many mid-level touring indie rock shows. Now they've added this sign.

Double Door Liquors
Double Door Liquors, originally uploaded by swanksalot. on Milwaukee Avenue

Friday referral Search words

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When my mind cannot process any more information, and the minutes on the clock drag, and the hours jerk (full lyric), then t'is time to make fun of some recent search terms that landed intrepid internet tube travelers upon our humble zine. Bonus points if you find the page in question, double bonus points if you remember the original post without prodding.

  • bioethics joke
  • mad spy nose gun
  • Controversial Film About Corn to be Released
  • interprete the movie jaws from start to finish in film language
  • urban grunge black and white
  • alternative curse words
  • porn pose
  • space cartoon porn
  • simpsons porn
  • kim possible porn
  • stars on belly porn
  • russian woman porno
  • medieval porn
  • washington dc prostitutes
  • holographic film sculpture
  • pubic hair ball
  • golden shower
  • penis showers and growers
  • women with blonde pubic hair
  • women ruling the universe with corn
  • exclusive materials for adult! kinder suprise!!
  • super penis
  • porn wiki
  • lsd sex
  • fast and bulbous
  • comic porno
  • mential
  • what does 43 mean
  • satan crush
  • restoring tractor
  • dhl driver stealing
  • michael jordan hair
  • syd barrett, 5th june 1975
  • nacho history
  • freedom airlines oral exam
  • tuvai voice
  • cat killer
  • list of words and phrases banished from the queen's english for misuse, overuse and general uselessness

Triple bonus if you can use all of these terms in one comment/blog post....

Feel free to draw your own conclusions about both this zine and its readers

Puritan by legislative dictate

Fat Blak n Happy

A goofy charge against a woman could result in a ruination of her life. California: SoCal court reinstates 'men only' sex charge against woman:
If convicted, Garcia faces up to a year in county jail and would have to register as a sex offender for life.

Her crime? Escalating a neighborly spat by showing her breasts to fourteen year old boys. Mind you, she was on her own sundeck, not even on their court.

Garcia, 41, of Corona, was cited in May 2006 after parents of a neighbor boy said she displayed full-frontal nudity as he played basketball.

Prosecutors said Garcia had complained that the 14-year-old was making too much noise while playing basketball. When her complaints went unheeded she allegedly went out onto her sundeck and disrobed.

Prosecutors said the boy's parents called police after the woman threatened to disrobe every time the boy played basketball.

If my neighbor had done that, back on Sheraton Avenue, Austin, we would have snickered and possibly even stared, and probably invited over more neighborhood kids to play and gawk, but I sincerely doubt we would have involved the police, nor would we have turned our music down (which probably was the problem Garcia was complaining about).

Crazy puritan country, scared of the sight of a couple of naked butter pillows.


Johnny Cash Pardoned for Picking Flowers

At San Quentin
“At San Quentin” (Johnny Cash)

Strangely enough, I just was listening to Johnny Cash's song about Starkville's anti-flower picking agenda recently, on the expanded Live at San Quentin album. Apparently, the tale was true, and Starkville, Mississippi, just came to their senses, four decades later.

Pitchfork: Johnny Cash Pardoned for Picking Flowers!?!:
After holding a 42-year grudge, the city will soon issue a posthumous pardon to Cash for the night of public drunkenness he had there on May 11, 1965, according to an AP report.

Cash documented the night in jail in the song “Starkville City Jail”, which points to his flower-picking and curfew-breaking as the reason for the arrest. There are plenty of other versions of the story, but the point is, the city of Starkville is posthumously pardoning Johnny freakin' Cash for a petty crime he committed over 40 years ago!

Here's the tale (but not the song itself).

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links for 2007-09-14

Interior of the Palmer House

before its $150,000,000 rehab, natch.

Interior Palmer House
Interior Palmer House, originally uploaded by swanksalot. from my archives. Need a better photo, one day.....

Alternative Travel Choices

flickr pal TheeErin says succinctly what I blathered about earlier.

Ron Huberman can suck my “alternative travel choices." My petite 6.5 mile commute already takes 55 minutes.

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US and Iran

Alexander Cockburn is scaring me. It sure sounds like the US is at least seriously considering starting a war with Iran. Yikes!

He also asks Noam Chomsky what he thinks about the possibility, and Chomsky emails back:

Alexander Cockburn: Will the US Really Bomb Iran?:
Yes, I was quite sceptical. Less so over the years. They're desperate. Everything they touch is in ruins. They're even in danger of losing control over Middle Eastern oil -- to China, the topic that's rarely discussed but is on every planner or corporation exec's mind, if they're sane. Iran already has observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- from which the US was pointedly excluded. Chinese trade with Saudi Arabia, even military sales, is growing fast. With the Bush administration in danger of losing Shiite Iraq, where most of the oil is (and most Saudi oil in regions with a harshly oppressed Shiite population), they may be in real trouble.

Under these circumstances, they're unpredictable. They might go for broke, and hope they can salvage something from the wreckage. If they do bomb, I suspect it will be accompanied by a ground assault in Khuzestan, near the Gulf, where the oil is (and an Arab population -- there already is an Ahwazi liberation front, probably organized by the CIA, which the US can “defend” from the evil Persians), and then they can bomb the rest of the country to rubble. And show who's boss.



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Red Light

A semi-review in photos.

Even though Red Light is just down the street from me, I've eaten there only a few times. Partially because D doesn't like spicy food. Some of these photos were taken as I walked by, but two are from yesterday when I had a spectacular Hawaiian snapper, with asparagus, red pepper, corn, shiitake, and a broth made of either potato and/or coconut milk. Served with steamed basmati rice. Mmmmmmm.

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When I was concerned about burnishing my Indie Cred, Led Zeppelin was a semi-guilty pleasure. Now that I could give a shite about my Indie Cred (and since Zepp is now cool in a way they were not in the late 80s), I just consider that Zepp made 3-4 great albums, and a few more really good ones, and they all sound great turned up fracking loud.

I'd love to be a jet-setter, and attend this show, even though it might suck.


Led Zeppelin to Reunite for Ertegun Tribute --

Led Zeppelin will perform a one-time comeback concert in memory of Ahmet Ertegun, a co-founder of Atlantic Records.

The band will perform together for the first time in 19 years on Nov. 26, at London's The O2 venue, on the banks of the River Thames.

Promoters said the concert would pay tribute to Ertegun -- the label boss who popularized Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin -- who died in December at age 83.

Mr. Ertegun was a record executive who I respected, a dying breed. Oh, and remember this story?

Led Zeppelin: 1968-1980

“Led Zeppelin: 1968-1980” (Keith Shadwick, Led Zeppelin)

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CTA short term solution

Station hopping shuffle

According to today's Tribune, our Gov Blah Blah has generously filched money from the 2008 budget to prop up the CTA 2007 budget. Of course, this only makes the long term problem worse, but hey, he fulfilled his wish of getting his face in the media.

The CTA agreed to accept $24 million in stopgap state funding Wednesday to avert the doomsday service cuts and fare hikes set to take effect next week, but the cash advance only puts the agency in a deeper financial hole. If approved by the Regional Transportation Authority, the money would hold off fare hikes and service cuts until November, officials said. But the emergency cash offered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich is an advance on CTAs portion of the 2008 state budget and could mean even more drastic cuts and hikes if the governor and lawmakers cannot agree on a long-term solution.
Under increasing pressure to help resolve the mass transit crisis, Blagojevich offered to come up with the emergency funding by essentially advancing money already earmarked for the RTA in the 2008 budget. The CTA's share would be $24 million.

I had sent an email to various Illinois politicians re: their priorities, Tom Cross responds thusly:

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links for 2007-09-13

Palmer House refurb

Low Key Lobby

According to the Chicago Magazine:

The Palmer House Hilton is undergoing a staggering $150-million restoration, and naturally that includes a shiny new restaurant to play off the famed grandeur of the lobby. Lockwood, a 125-seat contemporary spot with French and Italian touches, launches in early November in the former Windsor’s Bar and gift shop spaces. The exec chef, Phillip Foss, a veteran of Le Cirque in New York and Bistrot Margot in Chicago, has worked everywhere from Brazil to Israel. He’s got free rein in his new position. “I did a dish today that was highly decadent; I’m calling it surf, turf, and turf,” says Foss, a Culinary Institute of America graduate. “It’s a seared prime filet mignon with braised short ribs, butter-poached Maine lobster, with sauce Périgord and sauce Béarnaise.”

I need a better photo of the interior with my D80 (instead of this one with my D70)

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Sex sells

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but who's buying?

Fashion advertising usually annoys me, as a matter of fact, and nearly always uses some sort of sexuality and/or exploitation as part of its language. But this guy Tom Ford really is pushing the envelope. There's all sort of subtext about the smells and fluids of sex acts and of perfumes, but I'm letting you ruminate on them in your own mind.


and this one too:

Strangely enough, this perfume is supposed to be for men. I have yet to see the ad in context: I wonder what magazine is running it?

(from )


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Fact-free editorials like this are why I stopped reading the WSJ’s opinion pages. Never even open them anymore to scan a headline. I don’t mind reading opinions that don’t conform to mine, in fact, I like shaking my head in befuddlement of other’s wrong thinking or willful misinterpretation of facts. However, reading the WSJ editorial pages is just a waste of time.


Trashing Petraeus -
Important as was yesterday’s appearance before Congress by General David Petraeus, the events leading up to his testimony may have been more significant. Members of the Democratic leadership and their supporters have now normalized the practice of accusing their opponents of lying. If other members of the Democratic Party don’t move quickly to repudiate this turn, the ability of the U.S. political system to function will be impaired in a way no one would wish for.

Well, with one exception., the Democratic activist group, bought space in the New York Times yesterday to accuse General Petraeus of “cooking the books for the White House.” The ad transmutes the general’s name into “General Betray Us.”

“Betrayal,” as every military officer knows, is a word that through the history of their profession bears the stain of acts that are both dishonorable and unforgivable. That is to say, didn’t stumble upon this word; it was chosen with specific intent, to convey the most serious accusation possible against General Petraeus, that his word is false, that he is a liar and that he is willing to betray his country. The next and obvious word to which this equation with betrayal leads is treason. That it is merely insinuated makes it worse. calls itself a “progressive” political group, but it is in fact drawn from the hard left of American politics and a pedigree that sees politics as not so much an ongoing struggle but a final competition. Their Web-based group is new to the political scene, but its politics are not so new. More surprising and troubling are the formerly liberal institutions and politicians who now share this political ethos.

… blah blah blah Can this really be the new standard of political rhetoric across the Democratic Party? There was a time when the party’s institutional elites, such as the Times, would have pulled it back from reducing politics to all or nothing. They would have blown the whistle on such accusations. Now they are leading the charge.

Under these new terms, public policy is no longer subject to debate, discussion and disagreement over competing views and interpretations. Instead, the opposition is reduced to the status of liar. Now the opposition is not merely wrong, but lacks legitimacy and political standing. The goal here is not to debate, but to destroy.

Today General Petraeus testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its Democratic Members include Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer and Jim Webb. This would be the appropriate setting to apologize to General Petraeus for the ad. Or let it stand.

Right, because the Republicans are so gentile and dainty in comparison.

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CTA negligence and budgetary woes collide


Yesterday evening rode a Blue line train, and we eventually got out and walked the last mile home. The track was so damaged and/or the driver was so reluctant to go over 15 mph that a trip that should have taken 35 minutes was going to take twice as long.

This report doesn’t surprise me at all.

CTA blasted in ‘06 crash:
NTSB cites bad management, bogus inspection records in Blue Line accident

The Chicago Transit Authority, already preparing to balance its budget by increasing fares and cutting service, was rocked Tuesday by a federal report that blamed missing and falsified records, deferred rail maintenance and poor safety oversight for a 2006 Blue Line subway derailment.

A yearlong National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the July 11, 2006, derailment and fire that injured more than 150 passengers found that the probable cause was “the CTA’s ineffective management and oversight of its track inspection and maintenance program and its system safety program, which resulted in unsafe track conditions.”

“The track had clearly been deteriorating for a long time,” said Bob Chipkevich, director of the safety board’s office of railroad, pipeline and hazardous materials investigations. “It did not happen overnight.”

The CTA’s track inspection and maintenance, Chipkevich said, were the worst he has seen at any U.S. transit agency.

train yard

On a related point, in the CTA car, and presumedly in every CTA owned vehicle, there was a chart explaining that Chicago lags behind most major U.S. cities in providing state money to help fund the public transit system. According to the chart, CTA only gets 48% of its revenue from state budgets, whereas cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia get much more. I haven’t found the actual numbers yet, they seemed a little suspect (since when did LA have a subway?), but it might be true in general. (I did find detailed info about the Chicago regional capital numbers, but not other cities Regional capital needs 5 year plan, PDF)

from the CTA’s SaveChicagoTransit page

Why is the CTA funding crisis happening now?
Public funding for transit in Northeastern Illinois, which was established by state law 24 years ago, has not kept pace with inflation or with the steadily increasing demands on transit. Transit needs additional funding in order to accommodate population growth, job growth, the end of federal operating support, and the rising costs of fuel and security.

CTA is underfunded compared to many other major transit systems in the United States. For example, public funding covers a higher percentage of total operating costs of transit systems in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Why can’t CTA run a deficit like the federal government?
Under the Illinois Regional Transportation Authority Act, the CTA is required to submit a balanced budget for approval by the RTA Board each year.

I believe it is incredibly short-sighted of the Illinois legislature to cut money from public transit - thereby increasing congestion for the entire region. Not to mention there is a lot of federal money that is being drained away from investment in our national infrastructure, and instead being wasted in the Dauphin’s futile war in Iraq.

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Bike Rentals Downtown

Bike the Drive 14
All well and good, and even cool, but what about making the bike lanes passable and safe for actual bikers instead of theoretical bikers? Just yesterday, a 19 yr. old woman was killed on her bike, hit by a garbage truck. Granted she probably was being unsafe, but still…

Mayor’s latest idea import: Bike rentals:
Mayor Richard Daley, known for taking early-morning rides along the lakefront, just loves bicycles, and he delights in getting ideas from other cities.

So is it any wonder that Daley is eyeing a bike rental program that could make Chicago just a little bit like Paris?

On the other hand, could a ride down a Michigan Avenue jammed with short-tempered rush hour motorists possibly compare with a leisurely cruise along the banks of the Seine?

Blue Without Angst
Also, talk is cheap, remember this program, launched with great fanfare a few years ago?

Daley also tried Venice-like gondola service on the Chicago River a few years back. The businessman who won city approval for that one is now nowhere to be found.

Though to be fair, I think the Wacker Drive reconstruction also happened that same summer, and many businesses along Wacker suffered.

More, including this understatement:

In Paris, Daley said he wants to have a bike program “very shortly” but noted that Chicago was less “cycle-compatible” than Paris…

Paris’ program, much bigger than what Daley envisions here, now provides 40,000 trips daily, said Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

“That’s a lot of people not riding a car that day. … That is a lot of carbon not being put into the air,” he said. Other benefits include less auto congestion and exercise for the user, he said.

Sadowsky visited Lyon, another French city with a similar program, about two years ago and briefed Chicago’s transportation commissioner and the mayor shortly thereafter. Daley already had been told of Lyon’s program by that city’s mayor, Sadowsky said.

Two companies have made proposals for Chicago: OYBike, which has a rental operation in London, and JCDecaux, a French company that operates the Paris and Lyon programs and that won a controversial bus shelter contract in Chicago several years ago.

Chicago’s request for proposals asked interested companies to submit a 500-bike plan and a separate 1,500-bike plan for operations in the central part of the city. City Hall left it up to the firms to come up with financial plans, and now, the proposals are being evaluated.

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Are you eating GM food without knowing it?

If the FDA and its client, Monsanto, had their way, consumers would never realize if the food sold at grocery stores and restaurants was some sort of franken-food created in a laboratory, with long-term health effects unknown. Furthermore, Monsanto and a few other similar corporations would own the patents to the majority of the world’s food supply, with seeds that only lasted one year. Their nefarious plan is well on the way to being permanently in place.

Alexis Madrigal writes:

Wired Science - Wired Blogs:
The other part of the explanation is that US consumer attitudes don’t actually matter very much to the current GM food business. All Monsanto needs is for you to love Twinkies and Coca-Cola, the food machinery of this country does the rest. Monsanto’s model is business-to-business (B2B), like server sales or logistics. Monsanto is more like Oracle than Apple. To the average consumer, GM crops are invisible, especially because you don’t have to label them in the US.

The attitudes towards GMO that matter to Monsanto are those held by big agribusiness seed buyers and corporate farmers, not Joe Six Pack. And the IT managers of the farming world love Monsanto. The chart is of US GE crop adoption of their big three products, corn, soybeans, and cotton, which just happen to compose 75 percent of the revenue generated from non-fruit and vegetable cash crops.

If you’re an opponent of GM foods, here comes the scary punchline. A big chunk of all that genetically modified corn and soy go right into our processed foods and into feed for the animals we eat. So chances are, unless you are a raw or organic foodista, you ate a GM food derivative this very day.

Even organic food is probably tainted in some degree by GM food.

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Party of Moral Values

Senator Vitter of course is not going to resign, nor should he. However, if he ever utters one word of moralizing blather about anyone else’s sex life again, he should be thrown into Lake Pontchartrain, weighted down with a gunny sack of chicory root around his neck.

Louisiana: Woman Claims Affair With Senator - New York Times:
A former New Orleans prostitute said she had an affair with Senator David Vitter in 1999 when he was a newly elected House member. The woman, Wendy Ellis, said she saw Mr. Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, two to three times a week from July to November 1999. Ms. Ellis released a transcript of a lie test that she took at the request of Larry Flynt, the Hustler magazine publisher who has offered $1 million to anyone who can prove a sexual encounter with a high-ranking government official.

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A Spectacle the Knicks Don’t Need

David Stern undoubtedly wishes Dorkweed Dolan and Isiah Lord Thomas would quietly settle this case. Doesn’t seem like that’s happening though.

A Spectacle the Knicks Don’t Need - New York Times: As jury selection began yesterday in the sexual-harassment case against a longtime basketball superstar and his employer, often referred to as the world’s most famous arena, perhaps the essential question was who might be blinded or biased by the presence of Isiah Lord Thomas III and the power of his standing as president and coach of the Knicks.

Lucky for the judge, the Knicks have been lousy, their television ratings could be mistaken for Court TV’s and there are people all over New York who wouldn’t know David Lee from David Lee Roth. …

What if Thomas and Dolan lose a case likely to turn on interpretation? Will Dolan jettison Thomas for having to make up to a $10 million payoff? Will N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern, known to punish players for failing to hem their shorts, suspend Thomas and even Dolan for staging a public spectacle the league needs at this point like another crooked ref?

“No comment on pending litigation!” Stern wrote in an e-mail message yesterday. Who could blame him for wanting to drive that exclamation point through Dolan’s thick skull?

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Bill Clinton's Light Bulb Moment

Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World
“Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World” (Bill Clinton)


From last weekend's Sunday NYT:

Bill Clinton - Philanthropy - New York Times:

Jonathan Rauch writing in The Atlantic about former President Bill Clinton’s approach to philanthropy:

Clinton says he has been concerned about climate change for years, but that a hostile Congress and cheap oil prevented him from doing much about it when he was in office. Out of office, one day he decided to replace every light bulb in his house with a compact fluorescent. But when he went to his local hardware store in Chappaqua, N.Y., he couldn’t find bulbs in a lot of the shapes and sizes he needed. “So I literally picked up the phone and called Jeff Immelt” — the C.E.O. of General Electric — “and I said, ‘I’m trying to be a good customer. I’m trying to buy American, support G.E. I like your eco-initiatives. But I can’t fill half these sockets. What am I going to do?’ And he said, ‘Well, make me a bigger market, and I’ll make whatever bulbs you want.’ ”

It’s a charming story, if somewhat tarnished by the fact that, through a spokesman, Immelt said he had no recollection of the conversation. In any event, a light bulb had lit up in the ex-president’s head. “It struck me that we were in the same sort of deal,” he says, “where we have very low knowledge of the economic options among consumers, drastic undercapitalization, and a completely disorganized market.”

We have mostly halogen lights, and are still looking for low-energy fluorescent replacements that will fit into the light cans.....

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Surveillance requires a warrant

at least in a free society. Bush and his minions have attempted to circumvent this civil liberty, with the assistance of their telecom buddies.

In response, the EFF has launched a new website that you should check out (backstory here):

The president is unconstitutionally wiretapping the telephone and Internet communications of millions of ordinary Americans.

Companies like AT&T want immunity for their illegal collaboration with the President’s program.

And Congress might let them get away with it.

Stop the Spying Now!

Americans fought a revolution in 1776 to end the government’s blanket power to invade individuals’ privacy. We must return to our roots and restore the Constitution immediately: No surveillance of Americans’ communications without a warrant.

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Bloviating and Global Warming

Climate Change notes from all over:

» Is hot air a greenhouse gas? Or just ear pollution? | GreenTech Pastures |
How does a nation that holds so much American debt consider itself poorer than the U.S.?“ you might ask. And are we measuring American wealth by national debt or per capita wealth? We do still lead the league here in America for energy used per person. Just consider what it takes to air condition Phoeniz or Las Vegas. Despite China’s newly gained #1 spot in total greenhouse gas emission, they’re still far behind us in per capita greenhouse gases

Strangely enough, Japan is trying to change their culture to reduce the use of air-conditioning. If I had to live in Tokyo, Phoenix, or even Texas without AC, I’m not sure I would be able to work in an office. It’s bad enough in Chicago in the summer….

Sebastian Moffett writes:

Salarymen Shed Their Ties And Endure the Shame On Steamy Summer Days TOKYO — Late last month, the presidents of Japan’s three biggest banks gathered to make an important announcement: They were abandoning formal attire for the rest of the summer — and insisting that their 1,630 branches nationwide keep office temperatures at a steamy 82 degrees Fahrenheit in order to conserve energy. In a formal ceremony in Tokyo, young women in cotton kimonos splashed water from wooden buckets on the baking ground — a traditional way to cool it down without using extra power.

”I want the banking world to get together to promote Cool Biz,“ said Mitsui Sumitomo Banking Corp. chief Masayoshi Oku, lined up with two other bank presidents and the environment minister — all with open-necked shirts and no jackets.

Cool Biz is the latest stage in Japan’s aggressive campaign to lead the world in reducing energy use. Japan already uses less energy per dollar of output than other major economies. But the government is eager to do more. If all offices raised their temperatures to 82 from 79.2 degrees between June and end of September, when the hot season ends, it says Japan could reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 2.9 million tons over the summer — roughly the amount caused by six million households in a month.

…. Some experts say Cool Biz is too hard on the body. Kozo Hirata, a physiology professor at Kobe Women’s University in western Japan, has studied the interaction of clothes and skin and says 82 degrees can be comfortable only if you’re thin, naked and stay still. Any physical activity warms up the body, and even light clothing hinders the skin’s natural cooling mechanism. Because fat is an insulator, he says, just an extra millimeter under the skin makes a big difference. For overweight people, 82 degrees ”is impossible,“ he says.

But there is growing social pressure in Japan not to complain. In fact, too much air conditioning is now seen as shameful — the equivalent of unnecessary trips in gas-guzzling automobiles.

Good for Japan, but I doubt this would catch on in the US.

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Greg Palast on Bush's Saudi Love

George Bush should be impeached today for his gross incompetence, and for his wink and nod approach to Saudi Arabian relations.

September 11: What You “Ought Not to Know” Greg Palast:
we made another call, this time to an arms dealer in the Mideast. He confirmed that his partner attended a meeting in 1995 at the 5-star Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris where, allegedly, Saudi billionaires agreed to fund Al Qaeda fanatics. We understood it to be protection money, not really a sign of support for their attacks. Nevertheless, rule number one of investigation is “follow the money” — but the sheiks’ piggy banks were effectively off-limits to the US agents during the Bush years. One of the men in the posh hotel’s meeting of vipers happens to have been a Bush family business associate.

Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me tell you that we found no evidence — none, zero, no kidding — that George Bush knew about Al Qaeda’s plan to attack on September 11. Indeed, the grim joke at BBC is that anyone accusing George Bush of knowing anything at all must have solid evidence. This is not a story of what George Bush knew but rather of his very-unfunny ignorance. And it was not stupidity, but policy: no asking Saudis uncomfortable questions about their paying off roving packs of killers, especially when those Saudis are so generous to Bush family businesses.

Yes, Bill Clinton was also a bit too tender toward the oil men of Arabia. But this you should know: In his last year in office, Clinton sent two delegations to the Gulf to suggest that the Royal family crack down on “charitable donations” from their kingdom to the guys who blew up our embassies.

But when a failed Texas oil man took over the White House in January 2001, demands on the Saudis to cut off terror funding simply stopped.

… Why now this belated move on the bin Laden’s former operation? Why not right after the September 11 attack? This year’s FBI raid occurred just days after an Islamist terror assault in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Apparently, messin’ with the oil sheiks gets this Administration’s attention. Falling towers in New York are only for Republican convention photo ops.

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links for 2007-09-11

Metallic Sunset

Metallic Sunset
Metalic Sunset
30 day trial of Adobe's Lightroom yielded this at first blush

Girls Only

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I afraid this is what the Christian Taliban wishes would happen to America - separate and unequal treatment for women (and others, atheists, liberals, GLBT, lovers of coffee, et al)

Girls Only
Girls Only
Not sure if there is a separate drinking fountain as well

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Hard Drive issues

nothing like waking up, still recovering from the previous nights libations, and discovering a main work computer is non-responsive. Of course there are backups of the data, at least theoretically, but hope I can rescue the damn thing without investing a whole day (or more) to do so. Bleh.

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links for 2007-09-10


I do so love this building.

Croesus, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
yet another postcarder of the Merchandise Mart

Gorey tale

newspaper stand

Have been meaning to blog about Evenia Peretz's article about Al Gore in the October, 2007 Vanity Fair for a while. Was the media just naive about Bush, or part of the conspiracy? Gore has to shoulder some of the responsibility for the fiasco of 2000, but still....

Going After Gore, by Evgenia Peretz: Politics & Power:

Al Gore couldn't believe his eyes: as the 2000 election heated up, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other top news outlets kept going after him, with misquotes ("I invented the Internet"), distortions (that he lied about being the inspiration for Love Story), and strangely off-the-mark needling, while pundits such as Maureen Dowd appeared to be charmed by his rival, George W. Bush. For the first time, Gore and his family talk about the effect of the press attacks on his campaign--and about his future plans--to the author, who finds that many in the media are re-assessing their 2000 coverage.

As he was running for president, Al Gore said he'd invented the Internet; announced that he had personally discovered Love Canal, the most infamous toxic-waste site in the country; and bragged that he and Tipper had been the sole inspiration for the golden couple in Erich Segal's best-selling novel Love Story (made into a hit movie with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal). He also invented the dog, joked David Letterman, and gave mankind fire.

Could such an obviously intelligent man have been so megalomaniacal and self-deluded to have actually said such things? Well, that's what the news media told us, anyway. And on top of his supposed pomposity and elitism, he was a calculating dork: unable to get dressed in the morning without the advice of a prominent feminist (Naomi Wolf).

Today, by contrast, Gore is "the Goreacle," the elder statesman of global activism, and something of a media darling. He is the Bono of the environment, the Cassandra of Iraq, the star of an Oscar-winning film, and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. To the amusement of his kids, some people now actually consider him cool. "If you had told me 10 years ago that people were going to be appealing to me for tickets to a hot rock concert through my parents, I would have fallen over," says his daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, 34, referring to the Live Earth 24-hour extravaganza in July.

What happened to Gore? The story promoted by much of the media today is that we're looking at a "new Gore," who has undergone a radical transformation since 2000--he is now passionate and honest and devoted to issues he actually cares about. If only the old Gore could have been the new Gore, the pundits say, history might have been different.
But is it really possible for a person--even a Goreacle--to transform himself so radically? There's no doubt that some things have changed about Al Gore since 2000. He has demonstrated inner strength, rising from an excruciating defeat that would have crushed many men. Beyond that, what has changed is that he now speaks directly to the public; he has neither the patience nor the need to go through the media.

Eight years ago, in the bastions of the "liberal media" that were supposed to love Gore--The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN--he was variously described as "repellent," "delusional," a vote-rigger, a man who "lies like a rug," "Pinocchio." Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, "He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters.... Everybody kind of let loose on the guy."

How did this happen? Was the right-wing attack machine so effective that it overwhelmed all competing messages? Was Gore's communications team outrageously inept? Were the liberal elite bending over backward to prove they weren't so liberal?

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As the Iraqis Stand Down, We'll Stand Up

Frank Rich notes the vaunted marketplace in Iraq, host of many visits from politicians and journalists, is more flash than substance, and that's being kind.

Frank Rich: As the Iraqis Stand Down, We'll Stand Up:
The war in Iraq has gone on so long that perhaps President Bush has forgotten the price our troops paid the last time he taunted our adversaries to bring it on.

As always with this White House, telegenic artificial realities are paramount. Exhibit A, of course, was last weekend's precisely timed "surprise" presidential junket: Mr. Bush took the measure of success "on the ground here in Anbar" (as he put it) without ever leaving a heavily fortified American base.

A more elaborate example of administration Disneyland can be found in those bubbly Baghdad markets visited by John McCain and other dignitaries whenever the cameras roll. Last week The Washington Post discovered that at least one of them, the Dora market, is a Potemkin village, open only a few hours a day and produced by $2,500 grants (a k a bribes) bestowed on the shopkeepers. "This is General Petraeus's baby," Staff Sgt. Josh Campbell told The Post. "Personally, I think it's a false impression." Another U.S. officer said that even shops that "sell dust" or merely "intend to sell goods" are included in the Pentagon's count of the market's reopened businesses.

One Baghdad visitor left unimpressed was Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Chicago, who dined with her delegation in Mr. Crocker's Green Zone residence last month while General Petraeus delivered his spiel. "He's spending an awful lot of time wining and dining members of Congress," she told me last week. Though the menu included that native specialty lobster tortellini, the real bill of fare, Ms. Schakowsky said, was a rigid set of talking points: "Anbar," "bottom up," "decrease in violence" and "success."

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Old School Inanity

MoDo Get a Clue

MoDo has one good paragraph in her column today:

Maureen Dowd: Old School Inanity:

Fred Thompson acts tough on screen. And like Ronald Reagan, he has a uniquely masculine timbre and an extremely involved wife.

Fred is not Ronnie; he’s warmed-over W. President Reagan always knew who the foe was

namely, this one:

Republicans are especially eager for a papa after their disappointing experiences with Junior. After going through so many shattering disasters, W. seems more the inexperienced kid than ever.

In Australia, the president called Australian soldiers in Iraq “Austrian troops,” and got into a weird to-and-fro on TV with the South Korean president.

W. cooperated with Robert Draper, the author of a new biography of him, yet the portrait was not flattering. Like a frat president sitting around with the brothers trying to figure out whether to party with Tri-Delts or Thetas, W. asked his advisers for a show of hands last year to see if Rummy should stay on. And W. is obsessed with getting the Secret Service to arrange his biking trails.

“What kind of male,” one of his advisers wondered aloud, “obsesses over his bike riding time, other than Lance Armstrong or a 12-year-old boy?”

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Or put in another way, short term profit versus long term livability. Ask the residents of coal-rich West Virginia how much they appreciate having fresh water trucked in.
Eagle on Ice

Mining plan could help and hurt Alaska - The Boston Globe:

For more than a century, the wealth of this southwest Alaska watershed has sprung from the astonishing volume of salmon nurtured by those wild rivers. Bank-to-bank, gill-to-gill, tens of millions of silver-hued fish thrash upstream to spawn each year, unrestrained by dams, untainted by pollution.

It is the largest sockeye run in the world, accounting for more than a quarter of wild salmon harvested in the United States, feeding millions at a time when fisheries are dwindling across the globe.

But if fish have made the region's past and present fortune, the future sparkles with the promise of precious metal. Beneath the rolling tundra, straddling the headwaters of two of the watershed's most productive rivers, a Canadian company has discovered North America's biggest deposits of gold and copper, worth about $300 billion in today's soaring commodities markets.

The dilemma is whether Alaskans will have to choose between the two - and whether the watershed, its fish, and a host of other wildlife will be casualties of what could probably be one of the world's biggest mines. The project would entail five earthen dams, of which two would be bigger than China's Three Gorges Dam.

Opponents say a proposed Pebble mine would destroy one of the planet's last sustainable fisheries, dry up spawning streams, and poison lakes and groundwater with acid runoff. Biologists have found that salmon's genetic radar, which enable the fish to return from the bay to the very streams where they were spawned, can be ruined by microscopic particles of copper dust.

And Bristol Bay's other wildlife - including one of the world's largest brown bear populations, a 45,000-head Mulchatna caribou herd, moose, wolverines, beavers, and eagles - also depend on clean water.

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FBI: Everyone proven guilty

The FBI figured that since they only had a couple of years until the Bushites were kicked out of office, and at least theoretically the return of a society of laws and civil liberties, they might as well scoop up as much surveillance information on every citizen possible. So they did.

FBI sought phone records from associates of its suspects:
WASHINGTON - The FBI cast a much wider net in its terrorism investigations than it has previously acknowledged by relying on telecommunications companies to analyze phone calls of the associates of Americans who had come under suspicion, according to newly obtained bureau records.

The documents indicate that the Federal Bureau of Investigation used secret demands for records to obtain data not only on individuals it saw as targets but also details on their "community of interest" - the network of people that the target in turn was in contact with. The bureau early this year stopped the practice in part because of broader questions raised about its aggressive use of the records demands, which are known as national security letters, officials said Friday after being asked about it.

More here, including:

privacy advocates, civil rights leaders and even some counterterrorism officials warn that link analysis can be misused to establish tenuous links to people who have no real connection to terrorism but may be drawn into an investigation nonetheless. Typically, community of interest data might include an analysis of which people the targets called most frequently, how long they generally talked and at what times of day, sudden fluctuations in activity, geographic regions that were called, and other data, law enforcement and industry officials said.

and for what that really means, remember Mahar Arar?

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The Corn Supremacy

Roasted Corn

Corn has nearly taken over the world in some sort of sciFi manipulation of humans. We've spread the plant in regions it never existed, grow more and more of the stalks even though we don't necessarily eat it directly. Instead, we feed it to our chickens and cows, and use the byproducts in all sorts of unusual applications, turn it into sugar (high fructose corn syrup), ethanol and corn-only-knows what. We give massive amounts of federal dollars to agribusiness consortiums like ADM so that corn price is kept artificially cheap even as we genetically modify the genum into a monoculture. Who is the master and who is the plant?

The Corn Supremacy:
Over thousands of years, it has gone from humble weed to worldwide staple, alternative fuel and now potential medicine. But as the crop's value has grown, so has its challenges.

For the aging farmer on the hillside, the motions of planting are rote, timeless, almost mechanical, yet as human as the need to lay down roots, to experiment, to multiply. His thick hands never stop moving, even as he segues from grumbling about the government to chuckling at his own saucy jokes to fumbling through the names of his 22 children. Perched on the steep slope of his field, Jesus Garcia grips the sweat-shined shaft of his planting pole, called a barreton, and drives its rusty iron-tipped blade into the dirt. Then he levers the pole away from him, opening a divot in the earth. With two quick sweeps of his hand, he skims two kernels of corn from the tin can tied to his waist and aims them downward in an arc off the back of the blade. From there, they slide neatly and perfectly into the hole.

... Today's enormous hopes for corn-based ethanol fuel and efforts to genetically engineer corn for surprising new tasks are the latest manifestations of the link to Zea mays, an offshoot of a weed from what is now southern Mexico that developed into corn. It underpins much of the Midwest's rural economy, fattens America's beef cattle, turns up in thousands of unexpected brand-name products on supermarket shelves and serves as a staple food from the Zambian forests to the Tibetan plateau.

A technological light-year from the crop in Garcia's fields, corn has uplifted the fortunes of Steve Ruh and other Illinois farmers, who chased after record corn prices this year with their computerized, 16-row planters. It also fires the imaginations of Kan Wang and other researchers at universities and agri-chemical companies, who are turning corn into ever more sophisticated biofuels to reduce our dependence on imported oil, "slow-breakdown" starches to help diabetics, biodegradable plastics to keep us from burying ourselves in our own garbage, even vaccines that one day may save lives.


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links for 2007-09-09

Lapis Pools of Limpid Blue

Facts are dangerous, part the 3422nd. Better eat desert first, cause we’re all gonna die soon.

Melting ice cap triggering earthquakes | Environment | The Guardian:
Robert Corell, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, said in Ilulissat yesterday: “We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at 2 metres an hour on a front 5km [3 miles] long and 1,500 metres deep. That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one year to provide drinking water for a city the size of London for a year.”

He is visiting Greenland as part of a symposium of religious, scientific, and political leaders to look at the problems of the island, which has an ice cap 3km thick containing enough water to raise worldwide sea levels by seven metres.

Yesterday Christian, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist and Jewish religious leaders took a boat to the tongue of the glacier for a silent prayer for the planet. They were invited by Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.

Dr Corell, director of the global change programme at the Heinz Centre in Washington, said the estimates of sea level rise in the IPCC report were based on data two years old. The predicted rise this century was 20-60cm (about 8-24ins) , but it would be at the upper end of this range at a minimum, he said, and some believed it could be two metres. This would be catastrophic for European coastlines.

Blue Crack

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Cafe Suron reviewed in photos

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Cafe Suron is a new fave: such delicious Persian food. We went two weeks ago, and were the only people in the entire place. I hope their lease is on favorable terms, I wouldn't want to see them vanish.

Click to embiggen.

Jougeh Kabob

Jougeh Kabob

Portrait with Blue - Cafe Suron

Portrait with Blue - Cafe Suron

Suron Salad

Suron Salad

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Ferris Wheel at Dusk

Navy Pier

Ferris Wheel at Dusk, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
everyone has to be a tourist sometimes....

links for 2007-09-08

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Al Franken, Senator

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The Truth (with jokes)
“The Truth (with jokes)” (Al Franken)

Sort of sad that the Minnesota Republicans can only criticize Al Franken for his jokes and not for his liberal politics. There are more substantial policy issues after all, yet it sounds like jokes are all the Minnesota Republicans are going to focus upon. I wonder if their assumption about Minnesotans being uptight is still accurate. For that matter, what I've heard of Al Franken, he isn't necessarily a vulgar jokester, more of a sardonic quipster. He isn't Bob Saget for pasta-sakes. Why do politicians always have to be so freakin' boring? Why not Al Franken - at least he has a good role model, Senator Paul Wellstone.

Heard the One About Al Franken, Senate Candidate? -
MINNEAPOLIS -- A man walks into a political campaign and calls his opponent for high public office the president's lackey -- no, actually, he says something cruder, more insulting.

Could that help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate?

The man is Al Franken, the 56-year-old former “Saturday Night Live” comedian and the bane of conservative talk-radio. The campaign is for the Senate seat now held by Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman.

And the question is no joke. Mr. Coleman is widely considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable members. His defeat would help secure the Democrats' control of the closely divided Senate.

Mr. Franken still needs to win the Democratic nomination before he can face Mr. Coleman. But with 15 months to go before the general election, he's competitive in the opinion polls. He has raised more money than Mr. Coleman has, with the help of contributors including comedians Dan Aykroyd and Robin Williams and cartoonist Garry Trudeau. His $3.3 million war chest puts him among the year's top congressional fund-raisers.

But in a 30-year comedy career, much of Mr. Franken's humor has been bawdy and crude -- not the tight-lipped chuckles that Minnesotans tend to favor, says University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs.

Mr. Franken is known for “the kind of trash talk and potty mouth that people find offensive,” he adds. “I can imagine a whole line of attack ads,” Mr. Jacobs says, and “all of a sudden, the challenger is on the defensive.”

Mr. Franken has a ready response. “People should give Minnesotans credit for knowing what a joke is and what it isn't,” he says before launching into examples of what a joke isn't, including the Iraq war, veterans' care and congressional earmarks.

In Mr. Franken's defense (not that he really needs it), events turned him partisan:

Mr. Franken says his humor was political but nonpartisan during the 15 years he wrote for “Saturday Night Live.” That changed in 1995, he says, when the Republicans began to pare funding for social programs while also portraying themselves as the party of family values.

His response was to write a string of books -- starting with “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot” -- that relentlessly needled Republican Party luminaries and conservative talk-radio. He signed on as a talk-show host on the liberal Air America radio network, where he honed his outrage. He left that gig in February.

Two years ago, he began planning a run for the Senate seat that Mr. Coleman won in 2002 after the death, in a plane crash, of Mr. Franken's political idol, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone. Mr. Franken moved from New York to Minneapolis where he had grown up as the son of a printing salesman, and spent a year headlining local-level party events.

He now runs his campaign from his downtown Minneapolis house. A billboard across the street advertises conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity, who is a regular object of Mr. Franken's scorn.

Mr. Franken's chances of winning Mr. Coleman's seat are helped by the revival of the Democrats' liberal base, whose politics neatly mirror his own. He is also helped by Mr. Coleman's support for the Iraq war and for President Bush, who headlined a Coleman fund-raiser last month.

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Pair is carbon neutral

Bling Bling USA 14

My web host announces they want to be part of the good guys on the planet…..

pair Networks - World Class Web Hosting - Latest News:
As of August 1, 2007, all of pair Networks’ operations, including data centers, support operations, and administrative facilities, are carbon neutral. pair Networks has chosen to balance its carbon emissions through TerraPass, a leading vendor of carbon offsets (
What does it mean to be carbon neutral? With TerraPass’ assistance, pair Networks first calculated its carbon footprint, the sum total of greenhouse gas emissions created from on-site energy use. We then balanced those emissions by sponsoring a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through clean energy and efficiency projects such as wind farms.

During September 2007, we’ll be unveiling our comprehensive Corporate Environmental Policy. We will include specific details about our carbon neutral status as well as our other commitments and practices that are based on good environmental stewardship and business practices.

pair Networks, Inc. has been operating in a socially responsible manner since the company was founded in 1995. We want all of our customers to know that the company that they trust with their Web site and domain names is working hard to have very little negative impact on the natural environment.

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links for 2007-09-07

Unpatriotic Act


A sliver of good news: a tiny portion of the (Un)Patriot Act was struck down. Ruling available here (PDF). A hearty cheer for the rule of law - why shouldn’t our government have to abide by the Constitution as well?

Dan Eggen writes:

A federal judge today struck down portions of the USA Patriot Act as unconstitutional, ordering the FBI to stop issuing “national security letters” that secretly demand customer information from Internet service providers and other businesses.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York ruled that the landmark anti-terrorism law violates the First Amendment and the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions because it effectively prohibits recipients of the FBI letters (NSLs) from revealing their existence and does not provide adequate judicial oversight of the process.

Marrero wrote in his 106-page ruling that Patriot Act provisions related to NSLs are “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values.”

The decision has the potential to eliminate one of the FBI’s most widely used investigative tactics. It comes amid widespread concern on Capitol Hill over reported abuses in the way the FBI has used its NSL powers.

NSLs allow agents in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations to secretly gather Americans’ phone, bank and Internet records without a court order or a grand jury subpoena. Although the FBI has had such power for many years, the Patriot Act, enacted in October 2001, significantly expanded its ability to issue the letters.

But Marrero wrote that “in light of the seriousness of the potential intrusion into the individual’s personal affairs and the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association—particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies—a compelling need exists to ensure that the use of NSLs is subject to the safeguards of public accountability, checks and balances, and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes.”

He ruled that only some of the NSL provisions were unconstitutional, but found that it was impossible to separate those provisions from other parts of the law. He therefore struck down the FBI’s ability to issue NSLs altogether.

Take Your Stand Take Your Stand

Here’s one reason I’m a so-called card carrying member of the ACLU:

Judge Strikes Down Part of Patriot Act —
A federal judge struck down parts of the revised USA Patriot Act on Thursday, saying investigators must have a court’s approval before they can order Internet providers to turn over records without telling customers.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said the government orders must be subject to meaningful judicial review and that the recently rewritten Patriot Act “offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.”

The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law, complaining that it allowed the FBI to demand records without the kind of court order required for other government searches.

More details here at the ACLU site.

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Squares and Repairs.

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What I say

bonus self portrait of the photographer.

What I Say

Chocolate city

unfortunately, this location went belly-up after about a year.

chocolate city
Chocolate city, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
with apologies to George Clinton

Speaking of spitting

Sarah and Sean are in China, and the gobbage is outrageous

The spitting here is pretty crazy. I’d heard about the spitting before but I didn’t really expect this. The men here have perfected the lugie- it begins with a hacking sound that comes from deep within and ends in a flying ball of spit. Gross, I know. We get to hear this sound about 20 times a day and you really have to watch where you set your bag down. We’ve heard that Beijing has instated a spitting fine to encourage people to stop spitting before the Olympics happens but we haven’t actually seen anyone get fined.

Apparently, China is not the only country with a problem:

Indian city punishes spitting workers - Yahoo! News:
MUMBAI, India - Mumbai’s top civic agency is trying public shame in hopes of keeping its employees from spitting in the halls and stairways at work.

Offenders will find their photographs, names and titles posted on bulletin boards at the headquarters of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the body responsible for sanitation standards and the upkeep of roads and buildings.

They will also be fined 200 rupees ($5), an agency official, R.A. Rajeev, said Wednesday.

One worker already has become “Spit Employee of Today” since the campaign started Monday, Rajeev said.

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at least nothing really happened. We wouldn’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

Save Our Oney

In Error, B-52 Flew Over U.S. With Nuclear-Armed Missiles:
An Air Force B-52 bomber flew across the central United States last week with six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads that were mistakenly attached to the airplane’s wing, defense officials said yesterday.

I don’t understand how one can mistakenly attach nuclear weapons to a wing. What did you mean to do? I’m sure there is more to the story.

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65 Restaurant


from Flickr photog and friend of B12, Chicago Sage, who writes:

I went in to 65 for a smoothy (which was tasty) and saw that the take-out menu explains the name:

“About 50 years ago, my father, Danny Hong, and his brother, Kim Hong, came to the United States. They started work at the same restaurant back then.

”Our family's last name is 'Hong' which when spoken or written in Toi Sahnese (one of many Chinese dialects) means 'soup.' At that time, a large bowl of soup was a dollar and a small bowl of soup 65 cents. Since my father was much shorter in height than my uncle Kim, all of his relatives and Chinese friends called him “Small Soup.”

“One day, my father came back to his apartment where many other Chinese men lived. They shared the apartment to save money. He knocked on the door and one of them asked, ”Who is it?“ My father answered ”Small Soup,“ in Chinese. Another said, ”Small soup, that's 65 cents,“ again in Chinese. My father then tried to show off his English and said, ”Look Moe Five.“ 'Look Moe' means 'sixty' in Cantonese (another Chinese dialect). Five was what little he could pull out of his limited English vocabulary. All of them, being amused, then gave him the nickname ”Look Moe Five.“ These days, his friends from way back then have almost forgotten his real name since they've called him ”Look Moe Five“ for all these years.

”I opened a tofu factory some years back. This was just after my mother had passed away, so I named it after her, as “Mei Shun Tofu Products, Co.” I then established these restaurants and wanted to name them after my father's real Chinese name, but he said he'd rather have his nickname used. This was how the name “Sixty-Five Restaurant” came about.

Louis Hong
Owner of Look Moe Five“

65 Restaurant, originally uploaded by ChicagoSage.

Season Five of the Wire

I cannot wait for Season Five of the Wire to start (nor for Season 4 to be available on Netflix so I can watch it again and wonder how closely it hews to Nyarlathotep’s new life as a teacher in B’more.).

Anyway, Kottke is back from hiatus, and notes David Simon explaining:

Summer news regarding The Wire (including season five info) (
My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.


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Sun Ra mixed with Disney


I’ve probably posted this before, but it’s probably been a few years.

Best viewed late at night, ahem, cough cough. Or not. I’ve decided to become a straight edge, so no more inebrients for me….

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links for 2007-09-05

Yellow Line Fever

posted by Flickr tech support

Yellow Line Fever, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
repainting a parking lot, West Loop.

Adblock and removing Google ads

We’ve had Adblock installed on Firefox for quite a while, and it is true: all advertising is gone. If everyone used Firefox and Adblock, B12’s webzine would no longer be self-sufficient because that 56¢ a day in google ad revenue would dry up, but the really hard-hit will be Google’s main sources of income - highly trafficked sites like the New York Times, and ultimately, Google itself. That said, I’m not about to uninstall Adblock anytime soon (though I use Safari 60% of the time, and Firefox only 40% of the time).

Noam Cohen writes:

Whiting Out the Ads, but at What Cost? - New York Times:
What happens when the advertisements are wiped clean from a Web site? There is a contented feeling similar to what happens when you watch a recorded half-hour network TV show on DVD in 22 minutes, or when a blizzard hits Times Square and for a few hours, the streets are quiet and unhurried, until the plows come to clear away all that white space.

But when a blizzard hits Times Square, the news reports will focus on the millions of dollars of business lost, not the cross-country skiing opportunities gained.

Likewise, in the larger scheme of things, Adblock Plus — while still a niche product for a niche browser — is potentially a huge development in the online world, and not because it simplifies Web sites cluttered with advertisements.

The larger importance of Adblock is its potential for extreme menace to the online-advertising business model. After an installation that takes but a minute or two, Adblock usually makes all commercial communication disappear. No flashing whack-a-mole banners. No Google ads based on the search terms you have entered.

From that perspective, the program is an unwelcome arrival after years of worry that there might never be an online advertising business model to support the expense of creating entertainment programming or journalism, or sophisticated search engines, for that matter.

For now, however, the big players have decided to ignore the phenomenon. Neither Google nor, for example, would comment on ad-blocking programs, which can also be added to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7. (The Internet Explorer add-ons are not necessarily free and do not necessarily work as seamlessly as Adblock Plus working with the open-source Firefox browser.)

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Tom Waits youtubery

Because we never stop thinking about you, here’s two gems from another era (before Mr. Waits went avant-garde)…..

Tom Waits sings “Tom Traubert’s Blues” at the Montreal International Jazz Fest in 1981

Tom Waits performing a verse from one of his classics, The Piano Has Been Drinking on some variety show I’ve never heard of called Fernwood 2Nite

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Pivot Boutique

Slowly but surely, our little urban environment creeps towards becoming SoHo for real (or as one wag named it, SoFu)

Rebecca Little notes:

The West Loop boutique Pivot (1101 W. Fulton Market; 312-243-4754, has merged eco-friendliness and high fashion. "I want people to see nothing has to be sacrificed in terms of fashion," says owner Jessa Brinkmeyer, 24.

Everything in the store--from the clothing to the recycled fixtures--is made using environmentally friendly materials and processes. The merchandise is surprisingly stylish; we found a sexy tank made from bamboo from Brooklyn-based Sans ($197) and an organic cotton shirt dress by Nature vs. Future with a modern asymmetrical button front.

Dressier options include the metallic hemp silk tank ($246) from U.K. brand Ciel and Linda Loudermilk's designs, coming later this month, such as her organic fur coat. The boutique also carries lingerie (articles from Paris brand g=9.8 are made from a soft, white pine pulp that is gentle next to sensitive skin) and accessories (Ashley Watson make her bags from thrift-store leather jackets). The store opens its doors today, Sept. 4th, at 11 a.m.; a grand opening is set for Oct. 3rd.


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Rumors and Facts

First off, if the corporate media wasn't so subservient to power, some of these stories would have been revealed a long time before they eventually were. Did you know FDR was in a wheelchair! Shocking! 21st CE Republicans who campaigned on platforms of Family Values and American-style Talibanism are actually hypocrites! Mon Dieu! and so on. On the other hand, Drudge and his sludge-mates spreading rumors about Vince Foster and Hillary Clinton is no template to follow, for readers or writers. There should be some accountability on the part of both media and blogosphere.

Abby Goodnough writes:

Oh, Everyone Knows That (Except You):
The “open secret” lives in a netherworld, until one day it doesn’t. What road does it travel into daylight? In this era of blogosphere gossip, viral e-mail and infinite YouTube video archives, the open secret — unacknowledged by its keeper, theoretically hush-hush but widely suspected or known — arguably should be a thing of the past in public life.

But the case of Larry E. Craig, the Idaho senator arrested when an undercover police officer said he made overtures to him for sex, suggests otherwise. Though rumors had long swirled around the conservative Republican senator, the mainstream news media pointedly overlooked them until last week, when Roll Call broke the news of his arrest in June.

Most notably, The Idaho Statesman investigated reports about Mr. Craig for months after a gay blogger published a claim last fall that the senator had had sex with men, but decided against running uncorroborated accusations that Mr. Craig denied and continues to deny. As much traffic as the speculation generated on blogs before Mr. Craig’s arrest, it gained currency — that is, it became a “story” suitable for national publication and broadcast — only when it was backed by an arrest report.

Austex and High End Fashion


CIA and the art of brussel sprout earings

Seems like a contradiction: I lived in Austin for nearly half my life, and haute couture was never a very obvious part of the woof and weave of the city’s fabric. Things have changed, which might be good for the value of my property, at least according to Teri Agins:

High-End Brands Expand, And Austin Gets a Makeover -
AUSTIN, Texas — This is the year high-end retail discovered Austin.

While Dallas and Houston have long tended toward gowns and spangles, this intellectual hub — home of the University of Texas, the state capital and some 700,000 people — had a jeans and T-shirt reputation. But now, as new technology wealth comes to town and the local charity-gala circuit booms, Austin has become one of dozens of U.S. cities undergoing a fashion and luxury-goods makeover.

This year, some 30 high-end retailers have opened boutiques in Austin, including Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, David Yurman, Louis Vuitton and Burberry. These names — the vast majority represented in Austin for the first time — are among the retail tenants of a $250 million shopping and residential complex, Domain, that Indianapolis-based developer Simon Property Group Inc. opened in March. Neiman Marcus, which has exclusive rights to sell Chanel and other labels here, is the anchor tenant.

Boots Made for Walkin

All of this has spurred a backlash of sorts, as some local entrepreneurs pine for a return to the days when this liberal college town was referred to as the “blueberry in the tomato soup.” This summer, a group of local businesses banded together to protest the tax incentives handed out to the new Domain complex. Similarly, a few years ago, a different group of small businesses began circulating “Keep Austin Weird” bumper stickers. At Neiman’s charity gala last March, 1,100 well-dressed young partygoers danced to local bands until midnight. Neiman’s slogan for the evening: “Keep Austin Fabulous.”

There’s a Flickr group dedicated to Keep Austin Weird, it needs more members though.

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MT upgrade continues

sirens of the skyscrapers

Continuing on configuring and tweaking our install of Movable Type 4.0. Finally, after four years, I’ve built an ‘include’ blog, which is functioning as a blogroll mostly, but with the ability to add other items as needed. Ole Wolf’s clear and cogent instructions on how to build an ‘include’ blog were excellent.

Fairly happy with the CSS, still want to tweak the blockquote a bit, but haven’t decided exactly how. Also, adding a randomly generated photo into the header is on the list of ‘things to figure out’.

You have the option to subscribe via email to new comments (I’d seen this before, Robert Synnott built it for MT 4.0). Let us know if it doesn’t work correctly for you, or if anything doesn’t work as it should (email: swanksalot at

Still have to fix the dash vs. underscore bug, I’m waiting for to get back to me (holiday weekend I suppose). Years worth of links to B12 will break unless this is fixed, so now both options (blog-post-about-this and blogpostabout_that) are created for new entries.

I blew up my category archives for the most part when I changed web hosts, now we’re considering adding them back, since now MT is theoretically able to split them into smaller monthly archive bits (previously, some category archives were so massive as to take 10-20 minutes to load correctly, with no way to paginate).

I’m sure that are more changes in store - that’s half the fun of running a webzine, right?

Vaginal Rejuvenation


Apparently perking up one’s, ummm, personal appearance via surgery is over-rated and exploited by surgeons just trying to make a buck off of insecure women. Who would have guessed?

Rachel Zimmerman writes:

Genital Procedure Draws Warning -
An influential physicians group is expected to warn today against so-called vaginal rejuvenation and other cosmetic procedures, saying the methods are unproven and potentially risky, and that medical claims about results are exaggerated.

Doctors who perform the procedures say the opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is overly cautious. They say the procedures are safe and that more women are requesting such surgeries, having seen TV shows and magazines featuring them. The E! entertainment cable network’s “Dr. 90210” reality-television program has spotlighted doctors performing genital surgery.

The warning from the physicians group also targets procedures such as “designer vaginoplasty,” which is billed as a way to enhance a woman’s look — or to tone and to tighten areas altered by aging and childbirth.
… Many gynecologists say the majority of such procedures aren’t backed by solid scientific studies. They say potential risks, including infection, scarring, nerve damage and loss of sensation, outweigh possible — if any — benefits. “To do this for cosmetic reasons, and to say it will improve sexual fulfillment is totally absurd,” says Thomas Stovall, past president of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons and a clinical professor at the University of Tennessee at Memphis.

links for 2007-09-04

Featured on Gapers Block 8-27-07

Forgot to toot my own horn (again, like it is a habit or something ingrained from years of misuse. Ahem). Gapers Block saw fit to feature my photo of the Cirque Shanghai.

Gapers_Block 8_29_07.png

links for 2007-09-03

The Unfriendly Skies

| 1 Comment

Free Enterprise

Air travel sucks, and isn't going to get better via the magick of the Free Market as far as I can tell.

James Surowiecki concurs:

The Unfriendly Skies:

In the summer of 1999, after a series of highly publicized customer-service debacles, the nation’s major airlines collectively promised Congress that they would revamp their operations, offering a “service commitment” that they dubbed “Customers First.” Eight years later, airline passengers are waiting in vain for any sign of that promise's being kept. They're also waiting in vain, period. This summer, nearly a third of all flights have been arriving late, more flights have been cancelled, many planes are overbooked, and, in June, reports of baggage problems were up twenty-five per cent from last year. A service commitment like this should probably be called "Customers Last." . . .

In other words, we're stuck with the current system, because it isn't really in any airline's interest to try to change it. As long as no airline makes a dedicated effort to distinguish itself from the pack, all the airlines can stay lean, even at the expense of quality. In that sense, the most honest thing about the airlines may be their advertising, which tends to emphasize the flying experience--lulling us with talk of leg room and fully reclining seats. You may end up waiting on the runway for a couple of hours, the message seems to be, but at least you'll do it in a comfortable chair.

I wouldn't call that a comfortable chair even.

Huun Huur Tu and Tinariwen

Two excellent shows coming in November to the Old Town School of Folk Music:

Huun Huur Tu:
The world's premier Tuvan throat singers, Huun Huur Tu, are always a sight and sound to behold. Their multi-phonic vocal technique is "peculiar, haunting, hypnotic...It is wind and rushing water and crumbling earth, it is called throat singing and masters of the technique are headed our way..." - The Montreal Gazette.

The Orphan's Lament
"The Orphan's Lament" (Huun-Huur-Tu)

and I'm especially excited by:
Tinariwen The triumphant return of Tinariwen! This group of amazing Touareg musicians are members of the nomadic culture of northern Mali's Sahara region and completely mesmerized the 2005 Folk & Roots Festival crowd with their raw, hypnotic desert blues.

Mamadou Diabate

The Festival in the Desert Tour pairs Tinariwen up with Mamadou Diabate, who grew up in southern Mali. He comes from a family of griots, performing that traditional role in his community as he perfected his playing of the kora, the 21-string harp. This show is not to be missed!

"Amassakoul" (Tinariwen)

Aman Iman: Water is Life
"Aman Iman: Water is Life" (Tinariwen)

"Heritage" (Mamadou Diabate)

We've discussed our love for music of the desert previously, a few times in fact. Also have mentioned Tuva a time or two.

Hope to see you there! (Am not kidding)

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Never Gonna Be....

links for 2007-09-02

Haymarket Memorial

Labor Day is related to the Haymarket Riot Memorial, especially if one squints a bit. Which reminds me, Richard Linklater is supposedly working on a film about the riot - I hope they film in Chicago and not in some sound stage in South Austin.

anyway, we plan on slacking ‘till Tuesday mostly, also discovered the Movable Type bug that was driving me crazy (underscore vs. dash - and links to pages that don’t exist). Fix forthcoming, hopefully.

Haymarket Riot memorial, old version.
Haymarket Riot memorial, old version.
(old) Haymarket memorial. Now removed. If you want a copy of this photo, there is one available at cafepress New statue here

We Are workers not criminals
We Are workers not criminals
some signs at the immigration rally

Haymarket Riot memorial geotagged

Stop Snitchin
Stop Snitchin
Sign reads:

Community Watch Area Trust, Respect, and Communication are essential to healthy community; Protect your friends and neighbors from uniformed gang members and other suspicious characters. Police Not Welcome

Haymarket Touchup
Haymarket Touchup
prep work for the May Day rally at the Haymarket Riot memorial site

click photos to embiggen

More images below, at least theoretically.

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NBC gets greedy

| 1 Comment

I already think television shows are over-priced on the iTunes store: yet NBC Universal wants to double their (wholesale) price. There isn't a series currently in NBC's fall lineup that is worth paying $1.99 an episode for, much less more. If the episode was free, perhaps, or 20¢, maybe. Not more.

This seems more like a preliminary skirmish over the upcoming launch (an NBC/Fox joint venture which will be a competitor to the iTunes store)

Rebecca Dana and Nick Wingfield write:

NBC, Apple Battle Over iTunes:

NBC Universal on Friday confirmed a New York Times report that it would pull its TV shows off the iTunes service when its contract expires in December unless it was able to get better pricing for its shows, which include popular sitcom “The Office.” In response, Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., said it has decided not to offer NBC television shows on iTunes for the coming season, starting in September.

Apple said it had refused NBC demands that Apple pay more than double the wholesale price for each NBC television episode on iTunes. NBC, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., denied this in a subsequent statement, saying “our negotiations were centered on our request for flexibility in wholesale pricing.”

While Apple is still a relatively small player in video sales, it is the third-largest retailer of music in the U.S., after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Best Buy Co., according to NPD Group Inc.

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