December 2007 Archives

Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever

"Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever" (The Cribs)

The Cribs new album, and especially the track, "I've Tried Everything" totally reminds me of classic-era Sonic Youth, Sister perhaps, or EVOL, complete with someone who sounds a lot like Lee Renaldo reciting hipster poetry over crashing guitars. (Pacific Coast Highway? or similar at least)

This has been another edition of brief reviews that reveal little or nothing about the work in question.

RIAA hates the iPod


Of course, this means the RIAA also hates most of its own best music-purchasing customers.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings. [snip]

The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said.

[From Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use -]

I think the music industry would be in much worse shape if the iPod revolution hadn't happened.

update, poorly worded WaPo story (surprised?).
The only problem: No such claim was made. What RIAA lawyer Ira Schwartz wrote in a supplemental brief was: "Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs' recording into the compressed .MP3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs."

The critical phrase there is "shared folder" because the rest of the brief makes clear that the RIAA is claiming that Howell not only ripped his CDs but also put them in his shared folder in Kazaa, thus making them available for worldwide distribution. The RIAA has successfully argued that mere presence of copyright files in a shared folder constitutes "distribution" under copyright law.

"This is a garden-variety case with a very typical dispute over what constitutes distribution," Eric Goldman, director of Santa Clara University Law School's High-Tech Law program, said in a telephone interview.
from CIO Today and elsewhere.

Circles and Squares

Circles and Squares
Circles and Squares, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Mural and Motion

links for 2007-12-30


for the interstitial flickr group

Sombre, originally uploaded by swanksalot. alley/El


Hope, originally uploaded by swanksalot. sidewalk art, Rogers Park


from sometime this summer

Full, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Downtown Chicago

Iowa Doesn't Speak for Everyone

I hate our electoral college system, and the inane way we select our leaders.

click carton to embiggen.


Bush Vetoing a Military Bill for Cheney

I haven't been following Congress closely this December, but reading about the surprise Bush pocket veto of the military policy bill, I was struck with the thought that Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, has been accused of dealings with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Perhaps they got nervous about some enterprising future legislator asking uncomfortable questions? I could be wrong, and it could be just that Bush is a dick.

CRAWFORD, Tex. — For months President Bush harangued Democrats in Congress for not moving quickly enough to support the troops and for bogging down military bills with unrelated issues.

And then on Friday, with no warning, a vacationing Mr. Bush announced that he was vetoing a sweeping military policy bill because of an obscure provision that could expose Iraq’s new government to billions of dollars in legal claims dating to Saddam Hussein’s rule.

The decision left the Bush administration scrambling to promise that it would work with Congress to quickly restore dozens of new military and veterans programs once Congress returns to work in January.

Those included an added pay raise for service members, which would have taken effect on Tuesday, and improvements in veterans’ health benefits, which few elected officials on either side want to be seen opposing.

Mr. Bush’s veto surprised and infuriated Democratic lawmakers and even some Republicans, who complained that the White House had failed to raise its concerns earlier.

And it gave Democrats a chance to wield Mr. Bush’s support-the-troops oratory against him, which they did with relish.

“Only George Bush could be for supporting the troops before he was against it,” Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement, reworking a familiar Republican attack during his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2004 that he supported the war in Iraq before he turned against it.

The veto was an embarrassment for administration officials, who struggled on Friday to explain why they had not acted earlier to object to the provision, Section 1083 of a 1,300-page, $696 billion military authorization bill. It would expand the ability of Americans to seek financial compensation from countries that supported or sponsored terrorist acts, including Libya, Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
[Click to read more of In Surprise Step, Bush Is Vetoing a Military Bill]

Strange especially how even the Republicans were initially surprised by Bush's actions as well.

Inside The Wire

The final season of The Wire about to begin, every critic wants to file something about it. There isn't much that is new in Lauren Mechling's piece, other than noting the show was conceived as an 60-hour film (instead of a collection of 60 one hour shows set in the same milieu).

Come New Year's, wine guru Robert Parker, rapper Mims and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner all expect to be in the same place: curled up on their couches at home, watching the premiere of the final season of "The Wire." Says Mr. Kushner: "It's my favorite TV show -- and I watch TV a lot."

The HBO series, which begins it fifth season Jan. 6 (and will be available on the network's On Demand channel starting Monday), tends to inspire this kind of manic devotion. What the show lacks in numbers -- last season averaged 1.6 million viewers per episode premiere, HBO says, compared with 8.9 million for "The Sopranos" at its height or, say, 30.7 million viewers for an "American Idol" season finale -- it makes up for in cachet. A favorite among the hip-hop world and the intelligentsia, "The Wire" doesn't have casual fans -- those who watch, watch obsessively.

In the post-"Sopranos" world, "The Wire" is more central to HBO's strategy than in years past. The network's looking to the series to retain subscribers at a time when many in the industry say it's on shaky ground. In many ways "The Wire" is HBO's closest cousin to "The Sopranos" -- they're both gritty dramas and they're loved by critics. (Slate's Jacob Weisberg has called "The Wire" "the best TV ever broadcast in America.") It doesn't hurt that the season will be premiering in early January, against other lineups weakened by the writers' strike -- much of what's being scheduled is reality television and reruns.

Named for the wiretap that a special police unit uses to listen in on members of a Baltimore drug ring, the show's title doubles as a metaphor for viewers' experience of listening in on worlds they're not usually privy to. When the show first aired in 2002, it focused on a police investigation. In the four subsequent seasons, the program's scope has spiraled out to include the stevedores' union, local politics, the school system and the media -- in short, it's a portrait of a struggling American city.

It's also storytelling at its most stunning. Heartbreaking, wry and novelistically complex, "The Wire" has run roughshod over practically every television convention. While the police drama typically honors formula (See Bad Guy run! See Good Guy catch him!), "The Wire" is content to let questions go unanswered, investigations get bungled, and characters escape being pigeonholed. The would-be hero Officer Jimmy McNulty may be "good police," but he's short-tempered and reckless when it comes to whiskey and women. Drug soldier Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice is one of the city's toughest gangsters -- and the loving owner of a roomful of tropical fish. Series creator David Simon spent 13 years as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun and draws on his own anecdotes and grievances. His decision to tell "The Wire" as a 60-hour movie rather than 60 one-hour episodes gives him room to expand characters and threads that develop texture more than plot.
[From Inside 'The Wire' -]

(Digg-enabled full access to entire article here which includes some details about the final season, set in a fictionalized version of the Baltimore Sun.)

Caetano Veloso's Album from Prison


Sounds good to me

VELOSO, CAETANO s/t (Irene) (Lilith) cd 21.00 It is with no small significance that we end this year highlighting one of our very favorite artists of all time, Caetano Veloso. If we were anything like Time Magazine, we could definitely see ourselves making him Man of the Year, because indeed, it has been a stellar year for Veloso. Not only have some of the many highlights of his extensive back-catalog been made available once again, but he also began the year, at age sixty, releasing one of the best rock albums of the year (Ce) that has made many of our top ten lists. If you were lucky enough to catch his performance at this year's San Francisco Jazz Festival, he shocked and delighted the audience by performing with just a stripped-down rock band, three young men on electric guitar, bass and drums, barely over a third of Veloso's age, his voice in amazing form, running from one side of the stage to another working the audience into a frenzy, causing a seemingly endless string of female (and one male) fans to jump on the stage for a quick kiss. Here was someone who could of easily just sat on his laurels and played his popular hits with the kind of over-orchestrated band you see in concerts on PBS, but instead embraced his forward-thinking musicality playing mostly new songs with a tight killer band and still managed to sway his oldest fans to cheer along. One of the best shows of 2007 for sure!

Years ago, when we first discovered the sounds of Tropicalia, it was through the more blatant psychedelic spectacle of Os Mutantes and their first three well-beloved records. But while we were aware of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil being the main songwriters and architects of the movement, most of their songs, until recently, we got to know through compilations and cover versions rather than through their full length records. While we have seen in the past couple of years so much amazing music being dug out of the far reaches of that fertile period and the post Tropicalia boom from Alceu Valenca, Jorge Ben, and Lula Cortes, as well as the amazing Soul Jazz comp, Brazil '70, it's been nice to see some of the best full length albums from Gilberto Gil and Veloso becoming available again. Earlier this year, Lilith reissued Veloso's first solo record from 1967 and his post-exile experimental jaunt from 1972, Araca Azul. So for a year that began with a return to musical form from this beloved Brazilian musical master, it's even more fitting that by years end we see the reissue of arguably the most important and most essential album of his vast discography, the second self-titled solo album from 1969. Notice the blank cover with just a signature? Much different from most of Veloso's records which almost always feature his picture. That's because when he recorded this album, Veloso and Gilberto Gil were in captivity by the Brazilian Government for violating recently imposed orders against artists performing non-nationalistic music or expressing any statements that could be perceived as antigovernment. While confined, their long hair was shaved off, hence the decision to not display a picture. Allowed to play acoustic guitar and record songs through a masterful use of the media to keep a connection with the public for fear of being "disappeared" or tortured, both Gil and Veloso recorded albums (Gil recorded his masterful 1969 album as well at this time) using just voice and guitar and then sending the tapes to Rogerio Duprat, who added all the arrangements: electric guitars, strings, flutes and rhythm tracks. For such a strange and backwards production process, what results is a fervently articulate statement of politics and personal freedoms, with some of his first songs sung in English, namely the very pointed, "The Empty Boat".

Of course with time, it may be difficult to understand how radical the situation was, especially with the language barrier. Album opener "Irene" may seem like a pastoral groover with its opening flutes and guitars, but when he sings in Portuguese, "I want to see Irene laughing", it's rumored that the "Irene", he was referring to was the name of the machine gun of Tenario Calvacanti, a robber famously celebrated in leftist circles. While "Os Argonautas" is based on the belief that all oppressive dictatorships are fated to be temporary (Let's hold on tight to that belief!). The penultimate track "Acrilirico" is Veloso's response to the Beatles' "Revolution #9", a track very fitting to be on Veloso's own white album. Like most Tropicalia albums, the urgently emotional song writing is tempered by a need to unite multiple populist musical forms together. So there are bits of Fado, Tango, Carnival music, psychedelic rock, with lyrics sung in English, Spanish as well as Portuguese. Veloso through the Tropicalia movement understood that the politics of freedom are best communicated through the musical language of the people. This record is more prescient than ever!
[From [ aquarius records new arrivals list #282 ]]

Click through for more goodies, including MP3 samples.

Circuit City Sucks

Circuit City execs must have gone to the same business school as so many other corrupt companies, this story is fairly common.

The basic story is that last March, the wise men who run Circuit City came up with the brilliant idea of laying off their more senior salespeople, who get $14-$15 an hour, and replacing them with new hires who get around $9 an hour. It turns out that this move was not very good for business. One of the reasons that people go to a store like Circuit City, rather than buying things on the Internet, is that they want to be able to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson. Since Circuit City had laid off their knowledgeable salespeople, there was little reason to shop there.

Apparently Circuit City came to this same conclusion earlier this fall and tried to hire back some of the people it had dumped. In any case, things have not gone well for the bottom line. The company is now losing money and its share price is down more than 75 percent from its value earlier this year.

We all know what happens when you mess up in the dog eat dog world of big business -- you get retention awards (that's because your stock options aren't worth anything). The Post reports that Circuit City's executive vice-presidents will get retention awards of $1 million each. That's 35 years worth of pay for one of sales clerks who earned $14 an hour. And that's just the bonus.
[From Beat the Press Archive | The American Prospect]

The Washington Post has the source story:

Circuit City laid off 3,400 workers in March to replace them with lower-paid new hires. This week, it announced the approval of millions of dollars in cash incentives to retain its top talent after the departure of several key executives over the past year. Executive vice presidents could claim retention awards of $1 million each, and senior vice presidents could get $600,000, provided they stay with the company until 2011, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bonuses didn't sit well with Merrill Lynch analyst Danielle Fox, who questioned whether Circuit City should instead focus on incentives for the people who sell its products in stores. "It seems like the top executives are getting paid more for poor performance," Fox said.
Stealing while they can, in other words. Typical for a Republican entity

Film Noir and The Wire

"Illegal / The Big Steal (Film Noir Double Feature)" (Warner Home Video)

"Whirlpool (Fox Film Noir)" (Otto Preminger)

Years ago, in a moment of financial exuberance (don't ask, I can't tell you), I paid the shareware fee for a great little Netflix application called Netflix Freak. The best two features, for me anyway, are that one's queue can be sorted by year or genre (sometimes I'm looking for something recently released, sometimes I want a SciFi flick), and most importantly, there is a "shuffle" feature. I love the shuffle feature. Otherwise, my queue would echo whatever mood I was in, six months after the fact, and who would want that? Instead, I get a healthy dose of film noir mixed into my steady diet of film critics favorites, recently released block-suckers, and Criterion Collection releases. Netflix should really add a shuffle feature to its' website.

Anyway, the astute writers of Heaven and Here (a blog mostly about the Wire) have suggested three more additions to my film noir list (links lead to Netflix).

Sorry for the lazy transition, my mind is certainly on vacation along with the rest of me.

I’ve been watching a lot of film noir lately. I’m hardly a expert, but I do know that these movies are responsible for much of language of cops-and-robbers moving pictures. In one sense, they should be anathema to the Wire-viewing part of my brain. However, I’m increasingly struck by the number of characters that seem direct reference points for The Wire’s universe. I’m not implying that the writers do this intentionally; nor so I believe in some great big soupy reservoir of cosmic creative brain-mass that we all dip into. Yet almost at random, performances crop up that evoke my Wire faves. Just this week: In East Side, West Side, Van Heflin plays a goofy, lovestruck cop who turns abruptly into obsessed, nearly grim, case-solver. Maybe I’m tainted, but me (and Pizza Whale) both saw McNulty at both ends. And it wasn’t just the narrative; the acting itself reminded us of ol’ Bushy Top.

Morris Levy, too, is often in my thoughts and prayers. Last night, I watched Illegal, with Edward G. Robinson as a theatrical D.A. whose hurbis drives him to mob defense. Now, I’m sure that Levy is actually based on so-and-so, who defended such-and-such, with a nod to Simon’s cousin Mel, plus a few in-jokes about Baltimore Jews that I don’t get. But if I didn’t know about The Wire’s pipeline to “the real,” I would swear Levy was modeled after characters like this. Actually, I had to kick myself and yell that three times after meeting Jose Ferrer’s villain from Whirlpool. Dude even has Levy’s look and nasally insolence:

[Click to read more discussion of Those Provident Fires]

Daily Show Returns

I've missed the Daily Show.

Being writer-less is expected to put a particularly heavy burden on the "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." These shows, which return on Jan. 7, have a greater dependence on scripted material. The shows, which also are more focused on politics than their broadcast-network counterparts, have some prepared material on the election in the can. That would likely be supplemented by unscripted grist from Messrs. Stewart and Colbert. "The Daily Show" may also be able to rely on help from some of its correspondents, most of whom aren't in the guild. [From Late-Night Talk Shows Set to Go Scriptless -]

Colbert too, but less so.

(Digg-enabled full version to this article available here)

Page 69 - Proust was a Neuroscientist

"Proust Was a Neuroscientist" (Jonah Lehrer)

I bought this book partially because I used a new metric (not original to me, Marshall McLuhan first thought of it): I read page 69.
is ultimately an idea, and that our sensations are strongly influenced by their context. "Even horsemeat," Escoffier quipped, "can be delicious when one is in the right circumstances to appreciate it."
This is a suspicious-sounding concept. It smacks of solipsism, relativism, and all those other postmodern -isms.
Hmmm, solipsism? Sounds familiar. Consider me sold. And yes, my gentle and not-so gentle readers, titling my webzine/blog solipsism is an example of my sort of humor.
With impressively clear prose, Lehrer explores the oft-overlooked places in literary history where novelists, poets and the occasional cookbook writer predicted scientific breakthroughs with their artistic insights. The 25-year-old Columbia graduate draws from his diverse background in lab work, science writing and fine cuisine to explain how Cézanne anticipated breakthroughs in the understanding of human sight, how Walt Whitman intuited the biological basis of thoughts and, in the title essay, how Proust penetrated the mysteries of memory by immersing himself in childhood recollections. Lehrer's writing peaks in the essay about Auguste Escoffier, the chef who essentially invented modern French cooking. The author's obvious zeal for the subject of food preparation leads him into enjoyable discussions of the creation of MSG and the decidedly unappetizing history of 18th- and 19th-century culinary arts. Occasionally, the science prose risks becoming exceedingly dry (as in the enthusiastic section detailing the work of Lehrer's former employer, neuroscientist Kausik Si), but the hard science is usually tempered by Lehrer's deft way with anecdote and example. Most importantly, this collection comes close to exemplifying Lehrer's stated goal of creating a unified third culture in which science and literature can co-exist as peaceful, complementary equals.
more from page 69 -

High Fidelity Nostalgia Trip

Fiddle About

A topic we've discussed a few times before emerges again. Overly compressed digital audio is a bane of our modern existence, or something like that. You'd think a few artists with the status to release their music how they like it would be able to correct this aberration, but apparently not. Another reason the music labels are doomed.

Biking to work
Over the past decade and a half, a revolution in recording technology has changed the way albums are produced, mixed and mastered — almost always for the worse. "They make it loud to get [listeners'] attention," Bendeth says. Engineers do that by applying dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in a song. Like many of his peers, Bendeth believes that relying too much on this effect can obscure sonic detail, rob music of its emotional power and leave listeners with what engineers call ear fatigue. "I think most everything is mastered a little too loud," Bendeth says. "The industry decided that it's a volume contest."

Producers and engineers call this "the loudness war," and it has changed the way almost every new pop and rock album sounds. But volume isn't the only issue. Computer programs like Pro Tools, which let audio engineers manipulate sound the way a word processor edits text, make musicians sound unnaturally perfect. And today's listeners consume an increasing amount of music on MP3, which eliminates much of the data from the original CD file and can leave music sounding tinny or hollow. "With all the technical innovation, music sounds worse," says Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, who has made what are considered some of the best-sounding records of all time. "God is in the details. But there are no details anymore."

The idea that engineers make albums louder might seem strange: Isn't volume controlled by that knob on the stereo? Yes, but every setting on that dial delivers a range of loudness, from a hushed vocal to a kick drum — and pushing sounds toward the top of that range makes music seem louder. It's the same technique used to make television commercials stand out from shows. And it does grab listeners' attention — but at a price. Last year, Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone that modern albums "have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like — static."
[From The Death of High Fidelity : Rolling Stone]
Not to say we don't love some aspects of the digital music revolution, we love having access to everything all the time, just wish CDs were mastered to include more breathing space between instruments. CDs shelf one

Five Cents is not Much


Margaret Lyons of the Chicagoist writes about the article I had earmarked from todays paper, a fluff piece obviously sponsored by the beverage industry. She makes essentially the same point I had planned to make (at least in my mind), namely that five cents per bottle sure doesn't sound that big of a deal. If I purchased bottled water on a regular basis (I don't, have several of those fancy-schmancy swiss bottles that I refill from my sink), would I even notice if I spent an extra quarter a week?

The Illinois Beverage Association is really, really not psyched about the 5-cent tax on bottled water effective January 1. They're teaming with the American Beverage Association, the International Bottled Water Association, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Food Retailers Association to sue the City once the law goes into effect. Oh, and they've sent out a press release every day for the last week to remind us all how unhappy they are about the tax, how fucked up it, how unfair, etc. Looks like all that hard work paid off because today's Trib has a story that effectively backs the IBA and their co-plaintiffs by taking a completely uncritical look at their claims.

"State law prohibits the City of Chicago from imposing a tax on a single product like they have done with this bottled water tax," Bramlet said. "If this tax is allowed to go into effect, then what is to preclude the City Council from deciding to tax salad dressing or lawn mowers?"
Except the City already taxes soft drinks, right?
[Click to read more of Chicagoist: Bottled-Water Tax Story Even Bigger Sham Than Bottled Water]
Water Tower Train Trestle

Mayor Daley proposed a ten cent per bottle tax back in October, by the way. The bill that passed cut this tax in half.

Mayor Richard Daley reached for bottled water to slake his thirst for new tax revenue Wednesday, proposing a 10-cent tariff on every bottle sold in the city.
That $1.25 water from a vending machine could soon cost $1.35. And a 24-pack of Aquafina, advertised for $4.50 at a local grocery chain, would cost $6.90 with the proposed tax, an increase of more than 50 percent.

With millions of water bottles drained each year across the city, the dime-per-bottle tax would add up to a projected $21 million, part of a $293 million package of new taxes, fees and fines proposed by Daley on Wednesday.

The tax would place Chicago squarely in the center of a national debate over the environmental and economic impact of bottled water. The tide appears to be turning on bottled water, a national trend that has spawned a backlash from those who complain that landfills are awash in clear plastic empties. Suddenly, bottled water seems to have fallen to the level of cigarettes and soda pop -- an easy tax target. "Money-wise, it's a good idea, and environmentally, it's a good idea," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who proposed the bottled-water tax in August.

"People get upset when they hear the word tax," Cardenas said. "There's no tax on water. There's a tax on the plastic. [Tap] water is practically free."
The city's tax on soft drinks -- 3 percent of a distributor's gross sales receipts, or 3 cents for a $1 bottle of soda pop -- is already factored into vending machine prices, Stein said.
If the beverage corporations are so worried that folks will drive 30 minutes to Skokie (or wherever) to buy a bottle of Lake Michigan-filled water for five cents cheaper than the local convenience store, perhaps the beverage corporations could shave four cents off of their profit margin, and sell the water cheaper within the city limits. Seems to work well with sodas.

Not Everything is a Sad Story

Not Everything is a Sad Story
Not Everything is a Sad Story, originally uploaded by swanksalot. at the Garfield Conservatory

San Fran Legs


San Fran Legs
San Fran Legs, originally uploaded by swanksalot. From my most recent SF trip (I believe, in the car with Aunt P., Aunt M., and my mother. Could be wrong, we were in Haight-Ashbury....

Musical snippets I like

Part 535. (Part 534)

"More Songs About Buildings and Food" (Talking Heads)

Another edition of soundscapes that define something heretofore ineffable about me. Today, the outro / last 30 or so seconds of The Good Thing + the first minute or so of Warning Sign from More Songs About Buildings and Food. I've always grouped these two songs together, adding them together on mix tapes (back in the stone age, before CDs and iPods and all that digital confusion). Songs don't necessarily cover similar lyrical ground - witness - but I cannot hear one without the tune from the other leaking into my mind.

Extra points because this is the first Talking Heads album I owned, purchased used at The Sound Exchange (now defunct) for a couple bucks, and I played the hell out of it. Nine stellar tracks (and two ok ones - The Girls Want to be With The Girls and Take Me To the River were/are not always worth listening to in their entirety, for reasons that I'm too lazy to articulate at the moment. Maybe later. Ahem.)

After The Good Thing's last phrase, David Bryne cries out, "Watch me work", the song twists to some new riff for an extended 30 seconds, then quickly segues into the danceable bass and drum opening of Warning Sign (possibly related to Brian Eno's producing). Strange how certain pieces of music always grab one's attention, this minute and 30 second interlude always pierces through so I have to listen to it intently.

Netflixed: The Simpsons Movie

Homer Simpson is used to alienating people, but nothing compares to the level of animosity he's inspired with his most recent foul-up: polluting the river with toxic waste from the nuclear power plant. Now, Homer's been fired and the citizens of Springfield forced to evacuate in this first-ever big-screen outing for Matt Groening's animated clan. Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith voice the Simpson family. [From Netflix: The Simpsons Movie]

Watchable, funny even, every once and a while, like the last several years of the television series.

Waterboarding is Torture

Lest you have ever entertained the thought that waterboarding was somehow a more humane torture. It isn't. And also, misleading Congress is an impeachable offense, especially if the lies told are to cover up evidence of torture.

So much talk of waterboarding, so much controversy. But what is it really? How bad? I wanted to write the definitive thread on waterboarding, settle the issue. Torture, or not?
To determine the answer, I knew I had to try it

[Click to read more of this horrifying account Straight Dope Message Board - I waterboard!]

via Kottke

Bad Choices for the Bulls

Scott Skiles got fired because the Bulls were no longer playing the drive and kick game well, among other reasons. Are there any quality coaches available this year? Or is it going to be a year that got away? Last years Bulls were seemingly poised to advance to becoming an elite team, but this year is already slipping away.

NBA Blogger extra-ordinaire Kelly Dwyer discusses some possibilities, including these three cast-offs.

Fellow Bulls assistant Jim Boylan, meanwhile, is being interviewed by Chicago GM John Paxson to test his interests in running the team for the rest of the season. Overtures from Rick Carlisle (no, please), Larry Brown (seriously?), and Paul Westphal (anyone have a fork I can stab myself with?) have been made, but Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is loathe to pay the salaries of two head coaches for a team that will have to win 40 of 57 games just to match last year's record.
[Click to read more of In the interim, the Bulls have a lot to think about]

Gahh! Not even mentioning fellow slow-down specialists Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Fratello, that's already a pretty sad list of options (especially Carlisle!).

Mr. Dwyer ends with a bit of optimism, albeit for the 2008-2009 season:

The Bulls can still win, mind you; assuming Myers steps aside after a few games and Boylan takes over. There are a dozen sound assistant coaches (I'm a fan of San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer, and Dallas' Mario Elie would be an intriguing hire) out there that should be ready to turn this Chicago team around next summer, but it's nigh-on-impossible to hire those sorts of talents away from their respective teams in the middle of a season.

Carlisle, Brown and Westphal have won in the past; but the first two offer a slowed-down attack that doesn't really benefit Chicago's small roster and jump-shooting guards, and the latter was more or less being ignored (and not in the typical, "players tuned out the coach"-sense) by his last two teams toward the end. A team as talented and malleable as these Bulls remains a head coach's wet dream, which is all the more reason Paxson needs to make the right move this week, and next summer.

The answer, for now, has to come from within. The answers behind winning with this team, to me at least, seem obvious. Here's hoping Chicago's next coach doesn't follow Skiles' line of unpredictable orthodoxy, because this is a young team that still has an outstanding chance to be great.
Kirk Hinrich Maybe this was simulated blood on Kirk Hinrich's billboard after all.

Behind the Scenes at the Garfield Conservatory
Behind the Scenes at the Garfield Conservatory, originally uploaded by swanksalot. another 'men at work' shot. I should really make a flickr set for these....

Ok, I did.

Strangers in the Street

links for 2007-12-25

Happy Holidaze

There's a joke about 72 virgins somewhere, but I'm not making it.

click to embiggen

Happy Holidaze
Happy Holidaze, originally uploaded by swanksalot. 1. The Pope gets bagged, 2. Haymarket Riot memorial, old version., 3. Washington Block El, 4. Rookery, 5. Killing People Is Rude, 6. Chicago at Night, 7. Danger! Sound Horn, 8. The fall of our footsteps ringeth too hollow through their streets.,

9. Colleen and Seth - Colfax 1971, 10. Station hopping shuffle, 11. Architectural Photography Forbidden, 12. Harmony in Blue White and Red, 13. Stinky Panties, 14. Formal and solemn revocation, 15. Designated Bird Feeding Area, 16. Croesus,

17. Any Porthole in a Storm, 18. No Masturbation Jokes, 19. After You've Gone, 20. Lake Street El to somewhere else, 21. It's all in the Motion, 22. Take Your Stand, 23. Drink Up, 24. Flavin triangle,

25. Gone Away, 26. Flavin yellowizer, 27. Loneliness is an ATM, 28. Winter, Oh Winter, 29. Swank Franks, 30. Top of the World, 31. Train I Don't Rides (sic), 32. giraffe delivery,

33. Before the Rain blues, 34. Chicago Dog, 35. Old meet New, 36. USPS ate my Netflix, 37. Reflections at night, 38. I wish I was this rich, 39. Puma Store wall of Shoes, 40. Green Orange Blue Yellow,

41. Elek-Tek, 42. Muncha Muncha, 43. Golden Confidence, 44. Graphic Arts Finishing, 45. Lost Causeways, 46. BP Amoco is not greener than me, 47. Curves of Ice, 48. Domestic Violence,

49. Bud Pisarek painting, 50. Schlitz, 51. Bridge Milwaukee IR2, 52. Wall of those On the List, 53. Sale of Art to Minors, 54. No More Number 3, 55. Time to go home, 56. Surgeon of Fades,

57. Sunrise Late ride, 58. Captains of Industry, 59. Not Easy Being green, 60. astronomy dominé, 61. Odds and Ends infrared, 62. MacBookPro Battery Explosion, 63. I'm With Stupid, 64. curbs,

65. Lonely Bike, 66. Angular View Self Portrait, 67. Spiral Fish Pond, 68. jumpman_23, 69. Vivo interior Still Life, 70. Photography is not legal at Boeing either, 71. Exit, Zimmerman, 72. Green Fairies

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

Lakota Tribe Secedes

"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West" (Dee Brown)

If there was one history book I read in college that made me weep out loud, it was Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it oversea
The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.

The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.

Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.

"This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution," which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, he said.

"It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and independent," said Means. [From The Raw Story | Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US]

After reading about COINTELPRO, I'm not surprised about this move. I don't have a clue as to what practical changes will ensue, but more power to the Lakota.

"A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present" (Ward Churchill)

"Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (South End Press Classics Series, Volume, 7)" (Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall)

Press release here

Map of the Lakota Nation, taken from this Wikipedia entry.

The Lakota Freedom website has more back story

Huckabee Absurdity

Speaking of religious nutters, Ed Brayton laughs at Huckabee's ridiculous assertion about the Ten Commandments being the basis of U.S. law. Not necessarily a unique thought, but fun reading nonetheless

Every time [Mike ] Huckabee starts talking about religion he comes off looking like an ignoramus. MSNBC reports on a conversation Huckabee had with reporters on his campaign bus that included this gem:

"The Ten Commandments form the basis of most of our laws and therefore, you know if you look through them does anybody find anything there that would be all that objectionable? I don't think most people would if they actually read them," he said.

Utter nonsense. I can't see how anyone who has actually read them could possibly think that they are the basis of "most of our laws. Of the ten commandments, only two would even be constitutional in the United States, with a third being constitutional in limited circumstances. The other 7 could not possibly be the basis for any law because they would be clearly unconstitutional. Let's take a look at them one by one: [Click to finish reading Dispatches from the Culture Wars: More Huckabee Absurdity]

Thank the pasta gods our Founding Fathers had the forethought to place some impediments against the Christian Taliban (as they're known now), otherwise most of us would be publicly whipped and thrown in the stocks at least once a year for thinking 'unpure' thoughts.

Isaiah 35

traffic blues

These people are insane if they think I-35 is somehow holy. I've driven on it many times, and let me tell you, there are a lot of demons who traffic their hatred up and down the highway.

If you turn to the Bible -- Isaiah Chapter 35, Verse 8 -- you will see a passage that in part says, "A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness."

Now, is it possible that this "highway" mentioned in Chapter 35 is actually Interstate 35 that runs through six U.S. states, from southern Texas to northern Minnesota? Some Christians have faith that is indeed the case.

It was with that interesting belief in mind that we decided to head to Texas, the southernmost state in the I-35 corridor, to do a story about a prayer campaign called "Light the Highway."
Jacobs also points out that perhaps there is a link between the area near this highway and tragedies that have happened in history, such as the bridge collapse on I-35 in Minneapolis last August and the assassination of JFK 44 years ago near I-35 in Dallas. That's why prayer certainly can't hurt, she adds.

Now, it's only fair to say most people, the religious and the non-religious alike, don't buy any of this, but none more than the owners of some of the adult businesses along I-35.

At an adult go-go club, the owner tells us he resents people trying to impose their will on others. And he says his club holds fundraisers, food drives and toy drives to help the community.
[From Tuchman: Hitting the road (literally) with some faithful -]


Celebration of the Troll

There are several benefits to being a D-list blogger, not having (regular) trolls is high on the list. Brian O'Neill sounds like a putz who needs a hobby, but whatever. I guess he enjoys the attention he receives by pissing in the swimming pool.

Brian O'Neill, a 33-year-old part-time bartender and full-time college student, has been marauding on Sen. Hillary Clinton's Web site for the past few months, even though his posts attacking the candidate are frequently scrubbed from the site within hours. Mr. O'Neill turned to Mrs. Clinton's site after being booted from online forums of former Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee.
Mr. O'Neill, who lives in this small town outside Cincinnati, has a "special blogging place" two levels underground at the library on the campus of Northern Kentucky University in nearby Highland Heights. On a break between classes, he sits down at a bank of computers in the back corner of the stacks, places his large cup of nutmeg-seasoned French roast coffee on the table and logs on.

While many of the students browse the social-networking site MySpace, Mr. O'Neill gets right to work posting an unfavorable article from the online Drudge Report to a bulletin board on Mrs. Clinton's site. He keeps looking for disparaging news before finding a link to her personal financial disclosure filing. He adjusts his chair and leans in toward the screen, muttering, "Let's get me some dirt." Grabbing a piece of unlined copier paper left on the desk next to him, he begins scribbling notes about her stock holdings for his next raid.
[From A Web Troll's Toll on the Clinton Campaign -]
(Digg-enabled full access to entire article here)
I have stopped wading through the Daily Kos comment threads as life is too short to waste reading the ideological flame-throwers who frequent the Great Orange Satan, though I still read the main page now and again. The recipe reply is a funny response, I'd be amused to read that.
At the liberal discussion Web site Daily Kos, "trusted users" can block people whose comments regularly offend members.

Daily Kos has another tactic: the recipe. When a troll attempts to start a conversation at that site, loyalists post recipes instead of engaging them. With so many trolls, the recipes have proliferated -- enough so that Daily Kos compiled a 144-page "Trollhouse Cookbook," including crab bisque inspired by President Bush's second inauguration and "Liberal Elite Cranberry Glazed Brie."

While that approach seems comical, the problem is real. Michael Lazzaro, a Daily Kos contributing editor who goes by "Hunter," says about 10 people are banned each week, but many return by setting up new accounts. One person, easily identified by his writing, has opened more than 100 accounts since 2005, he says. "He basically comments for awhile really nicely and then out of the blue he'll start ranting about women or Jews or something like that," Mr. Lazzaro says.

Dead Bee in the Middle of the Snow

(apologies to Loudon Wainwright III)

Dead Bee in the Middle of the Snow
Dead Bee in the Middle of the Snow, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Outside at the Garfield Conservatory

Orgasm Addict

Nyarlathotep tipped us to Global Orgasm day, always worth celebrating. My public contribution is The Buzzcocks tune, Orgasm Addict.

"Singles Going Steady" (Buzzcocks)

Couldn't find a version from the Buzzcocks peak (late 70s), so this version will have to do.

Speaking of, here's bonus footage of the Buzzcock's performing What Do I Get live in Manchester, 1977.

Basic math


Just like zero being a percent, a 100 hundred percent chance is still not a certainty.

Chance of precipitation is 100%. [From 7-Day Forecast for Latitude 41.86N and Longitude -87.68W]

a rounding error perhaps, since numbers add up to nothing.

links for 2007-12-22

Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch

Francis Ford Coppola

Speaking of Coppola and Youth Without Youth, Apple's website posted some info about the making of the film

After decades of work-for-hire directorial efforts for studios to pay off debt accumulated from the demise of his ambitious Zoetrope studios, Coppola has found a way to make a film in his own style and of his choosing. He was introduced to the works of Eliade by his childhood friend Wendy Doniger, a religious studies professor at the University of Chicago. After his long-planned film project Megalopolis, about a new utopia in a near-future New York, was undermined by the real world events of 9/11, Coppola shifted his interest to Eliade’s novella. Says Coppola: “I suddenly thought: ‘I can make this into a movie. I won’t tell anyone. I’ll just start doing it.’”

Coppola admits that like the lead character Dominic, he was stumped by his inability to complete his next important work. “At 66, I was frustrated,” he says. “I hadn’t made a film in eight years. My businesses were thriving, but my creative life was unfulfilled.”

With his project set, Coppola decided as well on a return to self-funded, low-budget, personal filmmaking, the kinds of efforts he made briefly before the runaway success of The Godfather changed the course of his career. He scouted locations in Romania, hired a largely Romanian cast and crew, including the young cinematographer Mihai Malaimare, Jr., and had his technical crew outfit a special Dodge Sprinter van with two Sony 900S digital cameras, lenses, and other necessary equipment sufficient to create a complete studio-on-wheels.
[Click to read the rest of Apple - Pro - Profiles - Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch]

"Youth Without Youth" (Mircea Eliade)

I have new-found respect for Francis Ford Coppola (though it has been a long, long time since he' made a great film), I like his wine, and his new film sounds interesting. Coincidently, I have several volumes of world religion study from Mircea Eliade on my shelf, yet I was unaware Eliade wrote fiction too. From the NPR podcast

Coppola's success allows him, at this stage, a certain freedom. He financed Youth Without Youth himself — "as I intend to do with all my films now, (in) this last part of my career."

That means, of course, that he's not required to shop his script around, taking edits from every producer and studio chief with a finger in the financial pot. And while every script can benefit from outside input, Coppola says he gets that from his own production team: actors, cameramen, editors and other colleagues.

"I think it's the market research aspect that's trying to eliminate risk in the movie that's partly what's wrong with films," he says.

Not that he's immune to public opinion.

"I make movies in the same way I would cook a dinner," he says. "I want people to come and enjoy it. I don't want the dinner to be over and (have) people saying, 'Well, that was interesting; I want to think about it." [not transcribed: Robert Siegel, the interviewer, cracking up]
So, from here on in, it's Francis Ford Coppola, independent filmmaker?

"I think in my heart I've always been an independent filmmaker," he says. "Oddly, and very strangely, I became wealthy in other businesses.

"In a sense, everyone who buys a bottle of Coppola wine is my executive producer and makes it possible for me to pursue other movies that I feel passionate about — that I love — and that I make irrespective of whether they'll be commercial or not."
[From NPR : Francis Ford Coppola Seeks Answers in 'Youth']

Well worth listening to the entire interview (also available for free at the iTunes store - search NPR - Movies)

WaMu and Bankruptcy Reform

Reserved Light

Atrios linked to this news tidbit about how Blowback's a bitch

Washington Mutual Inc. got what it wanted in 2005: A revised bankruptcy code that no longer lets people walk away from credit card bills.

The largest U.S. savings and loan didn't count on a housing recession. The new bankruptcy laws are helping drive foreclosures to a record as homeowners default on mortgages and struggle to pay credit card debts that might have been wiped out under the old code, said Jay Westbrook, a professor of business law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

``Be careful what you wish for,'' Westbrook said. ``They wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, and what they're getting is more foreclosures.''

Washington Mutual, Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. spent $25 million in 2004 and 2005 lobbying for a legislative agenda that included changes in bankruptcy laws to protect credit card profits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan Washington group that tracks political donations.

The banks are still paying for that decision. The surge in foreclosures has cut the value of securities backed by mortgages and led to more than $40 billion of writedowns for U.S. financial institutions. It also reached to the top echelons of the financial services industry.
[From Exclusive]

Prior to the 2005 reforms, if one had to choose between defaulting on a credit card and defaulting on a mortgage, the choice was pretty obvious. Not so much anymore. I wonder which of the 75 Senators who voted Yea would change their vote now? (Hillary Clinton abstained for some reason)



Would hate to answer the phone at the corporate office for Putzmeister Incorporated.

Putzmeister, originally uploaded by swanksalot. The Original, no less

Backlash Endangers California Pot Dispensaries

Speaking of the false concern for State's Rights, here's another reason I'll be glad when there isn't a Bush (or a Clinton) in the White House - maybe the inane Drug War will get dialed back, at least in regards to medical marijuana users.

Californians legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215. But a recent crackdown in this Southern California enclave and elsewhere in the state by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has forced a number of dispensaries out of business and highlighted the awkward tension between state and federal laws.

California has an estimated 300 medical-marijuana dispensaries, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit group that backs medical use of the drug. Their number rose sharply after a 2003 state Senate bill strengthened the 1996 law. Initially confined to big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the dispensaries cropped up in smaller communities across the state.
But the Food and Drug Administration maintains that marijuana offers no health benefits and that its possession and sale remain banned by federal law. Last year, the FDA issued an advisory with other federal agencies stating that "no sound scientific studies" support medical use of the drug.

The dispensaries' critics have found an ally in the federal government. When the DEA, which has raided about 70 dispensaries in the state since 2001, issued notices to Santa Barbara dispensary landlords threatening to seize their properties, several operations closed, including Mr. Mowrer's Acme. He says his mother owns the property, and he doesn't want to risk losing it.

Joshua Braun, 30, owned another local dispensary, Hortipharm Caregivers, for 2½ years, but in light of the recent actions by federal authorities, he says, he turned the business over to others. Mr. Braun thought Measure P and the initial acceptance by Santa Barbara's community would insulate him from such problems, but he says the federal government has found an effective tool to discourage the business.
[From Backlash Endangers California Pot Dispensaries -]

(Digg-enabled full access to article here)

Crib Sheets for Guitar Heroes

Fender Strat

We've written about this topic a few times, annoyed that the copyright thugs stopped us from learning new songs. The MusicNotes site was supposed to have launched last summer, I suppose convincing ASCAP/BMI to relinquish control has been more difficult than first assumed.

Last year, Olga shut down on what Mr. Meyer recalls as a "black day," after the National Music Publishers Association sent the Web site a letter objecting to its posting songs without permission. Robert Cathal Woods, a philosophy professor at Virginia Wesleyan College, who ran Olga from 1994 until last year, didn't answer requests for comment. Dozens of other smaller tab sites stepped in to fill the void: Mr. Meyer recently used Google to find a note-for-note transcription of the guitar solo from the jazzy Steely Dan tune "Kid Charlemagne." But despite its size, the online trade in guitar tabs has generally been viewed as operating on thin legal ice.

Now, the music industry is looking to replicate the popularity of amateur tab sites -- and get paid.

Two advertising-supported Web sites -- one from Guitar World magazine, another from the online sheet-music seller MusicNotes Inc. -- have secured permissions from some publishers and are in talks with others to post guitar tabs of copyrighted songs. In exchange, the sites are offering to pay publishers an undisclosed cut of ad revenue.

The sites, set to launch in early 2008, plan to offer user-generated tabs at no charge. On Guitar World's site, users submit tabs using a list of licensed artists and songs, so the site can avoid unlicensed postings. MusicNotes plans to let users ask whether a given song is cleared for posting before they submit.
[From Crib Sheets for Guitar Heroes -]

Digg-enabled full access to complete article here

Still ridiculous on its face, 98 percent of the files on OLGA, for instance, were created by guitarists listening intently to the song, and laboriously transcribing what they heard. Not always accurate, but good enough to get by. Like going to a guitar (or bass) teacher, and learning to play a song. Copyright lawyers are ruining this country. - comments closed due to spam rats

Don't be a tourist

Friendly Conversation

Boing Boing pointed out this bit of Chicago Police ridiculousness.

Each year, the Winter Holiday Season tends to spur larger crowds and increased traffic throughout the City. As it pertains to shop-ping districts, public transportation routes, and all other places of public assembly, the increased crowds become a matter of Home-land Security concern. During this holiday period, as a matter of public safety, we ask that all members of the general public heighten their awareness regarding any and all suspicious activity that may be an indicator of a threat to public safety. It is impor-tant to immediately report any or all of the below suspect activi-ties.

• Physical Surveillance (note taking, binocular use, cameras, video, maps)
• Attempts to gain sensitive information regarding key facilities
• Attempts to penetrate or test physical security / response procedures
• Attempts to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, etc.
• Suspicious or improper attempts to acquire official vehicles, uniforms, badges or access devices
• Presence of individuals who do not appear to belong in workplaces, business establishments, or near key facilities
• Mapping out routes, playing out scenarios, monitoring key facilities, timing traffic lights
• Stockpiling suspicious materials or abandoning potential containers for explosives (e.g., vehicles, suitcases, etc)
• Suspicious reporting of lost or stolen identification

See Something, Say Something CALL 911
[From See Something, Say Something CALL 911 ]

(Original PDF here)

So, in other words, if you see anyone lost, looking at their map, or taking photos, call 911, because anyone who is a tourist is suspect. Err, ok, doesn't seem like the greatest use of police resources. I bet most police on the street think this instruction is a big waste of everyone's time.

links for 2007-12-20

State's Rights Redux

State's Rights are ignored not just in the Drug War, but also if Bush donors interests are comprised.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday denied California and 16 other states the right to set their own standards for carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

The E.P.A. administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said the proposed California rules were pre-empted by federal authority and made moot by the energy bill signed into law by President Bush on Wednesday. Mr. Johnson said California had failed to make a compelling case that it needed authority to write its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks to help curb global warming.

“The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules,” Mr. Johnson said in an evening conference call with reporters. “I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone.”
[From E.P.A. Says 17 States Can’t Set Emission Rules for Cars - New York Times]

So transparent.

A long list of California and other officials denounced the ruling:
California’s proposed rules had sought to address the impact of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from cars and trucks that scientists say contribute to the warming of the planet.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the states would go to federal court to reverse the E.P.A. decision.

“It is disappointing that the federal government is standing in our way and ignoring the will of tens of millions of people across the nation,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “We will continue to fight this battle.”

He added, “California sued to compel the agency to act on our waiver, and now we will sue to overturn today’s decision and allow Californians to protect our environment.”

Twelve other states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — had proposed standards like California’s, and the governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah have said they would do the same.

If the waiver had been granted and the 16 other states had adopted the California standard, it would have covered at least half of all vehicles sold in the United States.
The California attorney general, Edmund G. Brown Jr., called the decision “absurd.” He said it ignored a long history of waivers granted California to deal with its special topographical, climate and transportation circumstances, which require tougher air quality standards than those set nationally.

Mr. Brown noted that federal courts in California and Vermont upheld the California standards this year against challenges by the auto industry.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, said: “I find this disgraceful. The passage of the energy bill does not give the E.P.A a green light to shirk its responsibility to protect the health and safety of the American people from air pollution.”

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the E.P.A. decision defied law, science and common sense. He said his committee would investigate how the decision had been made and would seek to reverse it.

Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut, called the ruling “outrageous.”

“The excuses for this mockery of law and sound public policy are like the outworn treads on automobiles,” Mr. Blumenthal said, “and the administration will be no more successful in court on this issue than it has been in a string of decisions in our challenges against it.”

[snip] Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general, said the state would challenge the decision.

Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board, which had geared up to enforce the proposed emissions rules on 2009-model cars, said the reasoning was flawed. “Thirty-five miles per gallon is not the same thing as a comprehensive program for reducing greenhouse gases,” Ms. Nichols said.

David Doniger, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the decision was scientifically and legally indefensible. Since 1984, Mr. Doniger said, the agency has not distinguished between local, national and international air pollution.

“All the smog problems that California has are shared with other states, just like the global warming problems they have are shared with other states,” he said.

Rolling Stone and Camel stepped in It

| 1 Comment

Yikes. $195,300,000,000 is a lot of cash for Rolling Stone to lose, in the unlikely event that this case goes to trial.

The messy saga we've lovingly dubbed Camelstonegate took a fairly expected turn this week as Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up filed a class action lawsuit against Camel cigarettes' parent company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Rolling Stone, and the magazine's parent company, Wenner Media
The suit-- filed December 17 on behalf of 186 artists whose names appeared in Rolling Stone's "Indie Rock Universe" feature, tucked conspicuously within a fold-out advertisement for Camel's indie-friendly "The Farm" campaign in the magazine's November 15 issue-- accuses the defending parties of "unauthorized use of artists' names; unauthorized use of artist names for commercial advantage (right of publicity); and unfair business practices."

Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up essentially claim that Rolling Stone created and presented their feature with full knowledge that it would appear part and parcel with the Camel ad. The plaintiffs ask that the magazine print a follow-up feature equal in size to the original clarifying that artists' names were used without consent. They're also seeking financial recompense for damages: Rolling Stone alone, the Daily Swarm suggests, could be forced to pony up as much as $195.3 billion if found guilty.
[From Pitchfork: Indie Bands Sue Camel, Rolling Stone Over Ad]

I am further amused by the fact that I ripped this insert out, unseen, as I do for all inserts in all magazines. So, a waste of money for RJ Reynolds altogether. I should have saved the insert, and put it up for sale on eBay.

There are so many bands named (184 by my count, with most having several band members.), that the First Cause of action alone could add up in aggregate:
On the First Cause of Action, for an award of $750.00 for each violation for each plaintiff and each member of the Class, or in the alternative an award of actual damages proximately caused to them, whichever is greater

More here, including a copy of the complaint (fun reading, but PDF), and a scan of the actual insert, here
The 18-page complaint filed today reads partially like a Pitchfork review written by a music-nerd attorney. Xiu Xiu’s work is described as “often thematically dark, marked by non-narrative, evocative lyrics delivered in small fragments, and is varied in instrumentation, which can include koto, digital sound samples, and whistles, as well as bass, keyboards, percussion and guitar – or some combination of some or all or more.” Fucked Up’s work is described as “direct, sonically violent at times, and often characterized as hardcore punk, with the sometimes acknowledged influence of Spanish Civil War-variety anarchism, Viennese Actionism and the Situationist International.” Another section of the lawsuit cites Joanna Newsom’s “complex, rapidly shifting orchestral arrangements acutely attuned, moment by moment, to the content and color and emotional pitch of the narrative;” Stephen Malkmus’ “witty and sometimes gnomic lyrics, angular and arresting melodic lines, and unusual, adroit instrumental invention;” and the White Stripes’ work is described as “instrumentally and vocally spare, without backing by bass guitar, and sometimes reminiscent of early Detroit-area garage rock music harking back to Mitch Ryder, the Amboy Dukes and the Scott Richardson Case, but also partaking of Appalachian folk music and other genres.”
-- update, according to one interpretation, the damages could be multiplied by the number of issues of Rolling Stone circulated
The California law, as written, allows for $750 in damages per violation. If a "violation" is defined as a single issue of Rolling Stone, and there were 1.4 million copies printed (RS's circulation), and there are 186 bands...then *conceptually* the payouts could total in the billions. Of course, that will never happen. But the damages awarded to the bands could, realistically, be quite large.

Here's the law:
Cal Civ Code § 3344 (2007)
§ 3344. Unauthorized commercial use of name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness

(a) Any person who knowingly uses another's name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services, without such person's prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the prior consent of his parent or legal guardian, shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof. In addition, in any action brought under this section, the person who violated the section shall be liable to the injured party or parties in an amount equal to the greater of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or the actual damages suffered by him or her as a result of the unauthorized use, and any profits from the unauthorized use that are attributable to the use and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages. In establishing such profits, the injured party or parties are required to present proof only of the gross revenue attributable to such use, and the person who violated this section is required to prove his or her deductible expenses. Punitive damages may also be awarded to the injured party or parties. The prevailing party in any action under this section shall also be entitled to attorney's fees and costs.

My new ride

This is a Cadillac S62 1948, special body by Saoutchik of Paris.

My new ride
My new ride, originally uploaded by swanksalot. From the 2005 Chicago auto show.

Constituency of One for FCC Chair

His Royal Highness, Bushy, of course. There aren't many government officials who can keep their jobs when they are unpopular with the Congress, with the citizenry, and with the industry being regulated.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission is set to ram through two measures likely to roil the media and telecommunications industries and deepen political dissatisfaction with the agency's chairman.

Kevin Martin, a 41-year-old Republican, has already drawn heavy criticism with his determination to pass a rule making it easier for media companies to own both newspapers and television stations in the top 20 markets. The five-member commission is expected to pass that rule and another saying that no single cable company can serve more than 30% of the nation's cable subscribers.
In a highly partisan capital, Mr. Martin is unusual in that he is coming under attack by members of both parties and several industries. The cable restriction, for instance, has stoked the anger of an industry that expected an orthodox laissez-faire Republican as chairman, only to find an aggressive regulator.
[From Industry Seethes as FCC Sets Curbs]

Mr. Martin's only government experience seems to be his work on the Shrub's 2000 Presidential Campaign, and on Kenneth Star's impeachment theater.

Mr. Martin worked as a telecommunications lawyer in private practice and briefly assisted independent counsel Kenneth Starr in 1997 during the Whitewater probe. Later, he left Washington for Austin, Texas, joining then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush's presidential campaign. Mr. Martin's wife, Cathie, whom he met at Harvard Law School, also worked on the campaign.

In 2001, the newly elected Mr. Bush appointed Mr. Martin as an FCC commissioner. His wife worked for Vice President Dick Cheney for several years before moving to the White House's communications office.

Despite what Amy Schatz asserts in the article, there aren't many consumer groups who think Mr. Martin's tenure is worth celebration. There might be some consumer groups who are members of the Christian-Taliban who celebrate Martin's quest to "clean the smut out of the airways", and protect our precious ears from dangerous words like fuck and shit, but these consumer groups don't have the support of most of the nation. The only group who would praise Mr. Martin on the record is Consumer Union's Gene Kimmelman, for some reason:
Consumer groups are among those who offer kind words for Mr. Martin. "He's been as accessible as any chairman in the past 25 years to consumer interests. He's reached out for input," says Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs at Consumers Union.
Is indecency on cable really what is important?
Soon Mr. Martin's concerns about indecency on television began to steer him into conflict with the cable and broadcast-TV industries. His staff proposed record fines against broadcast networks for showing racy programming. Mr. Martin suggested that the FCC should fine broadcasters for each instance of a profanity used during a show, instead of just one fine per broadcast.

Mr. Martin pushed for a fine in cases of inadvertent broadcast of profanities, such as an incident involving U2 singer Bono during a live broadcast of the Golden Globes awards. This summer, a federal appeals court sided with the broadcasters and tossed out the agency's decision.

Mr. Martin has suggested that indecency laws should apply to cable programming, prompting an outcry about free speech. Profit-spinning cable shows such as "The Sopranos" and "Real Sex" on HBO are rich in profanity and sexual images.
Note that Mr. Martin doesn't have much support:
Intense lobbying in Congress, the FCC and the White House paid off, as a stream of lawmakers began calling the FCC and sending letters decrying Mr. Martin's plan. Internally, several FCC commissioners complained about the data Mr. Martin's staff relied on in the report. Ultimately, Mr. Martin was forced to drop his proposal.

"Because we didn't agree to [a-la-carte pricing] early in his tenure, I believe, and I believe the evidence is overwhelming, that he embarked on a punitive regulatory regime on the industry," says Mr. McSlarrow, the cable association president. He says private enterprise is "more likely to get it right than someone who's never been in the business world."

The media-ownership rules up for a vote today have also sparked a backlash, this time in Congress as legislators complain Mr. Martin is rushing the issue onto the agenda. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of 25 senators warned in a letter to Mr. Martin that they will pursue legislation to block his plan if the FCC adopts it today.

On Friday, former and current Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Barack Obama threatened to block FCC funding to implement the new media-ownership rules. Veteran Michigan congressman John Dingell, head of the House committee that oversees the FCC, said he is "rapidly losing confidence" and recently opened a broad investigation into Mr. Martin's management of the agency.

Seems only the White House is Mr. Martin's supporter. Remind you of anyone?
(Digg-enabled full access to the complete article here)

John Nichols of the Nation writes:

The Federal Communications Commission has, as expected, voted along party lines to approve the demand of Rupert Murdoch and other communications-industry moguls for a loosening of limits on media monopolies in American cities.

Now, the real fight begins.

There was never any doubt that FCC chair Kevin Martin, a Bush-Cheney administration appointee and acolyte, would lead the two other Republican members of the commission to a 3-2 endorsement of a move to begin dismantling the historic "newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership" ban which has long served as the only barrier to the buying by one powerful individual or corporation of newspapers, television and radio stations and other media outlets in a community.
[Click to read more FCC Votes for Monopoly, Congress Must Vote for Democracy]

Telecom Immunity Priorities

Bush's buddies, the telecom giants, are still worried they might have to answer for their crimes.

From the Senate floor, Ted Kennedy just cut through all the crap:
"The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA.  But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retro-active immunity.  No immunity, no FISA bill.  So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies." [From Daily Kos: Kennedy on Telecom Immunity]



links for 2007-12-18

Weinstein vs. Netflix


I wondered if this announcement from November, 2006, would impact my movie viewing, but apparently, Netflix is purchasing Weinstein Company releases and renting them out anyway. I've noticed a couple of Weinstein Company films with a disclaimer at the beginning that reads something like, "This film for Sale Only". I imagine Netflix gets bulk rates on the purchase of DVDs from other studios, perhaps Netflix just decided to buy Weinstein Company films at retail price?

Viva capitalism!

Smoke-free Illinois


Let us say, for the record, we are quite pleased about this impending legislation. I'm an ex-smoker, and not at all militant about it (I never send clouds of moral indignation wafting over in the general direction of public smokers), but am eagerly anticipating a sharp increase in the number of nightclubs I frequent, once January 1, 2008 arrives.

The Smoke-free Illinois Act protects the public from the harmful effects of exposure to tobacco smoke by prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment and within 15 feet of any entrance, exit, windows that open, or ventilation intake of a public place or place of employment. Public places and places of employment include, but are not limited to, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, private clubs and gaming facilities. Smoking also is prohibited in public conveyances, such as taxis, buses, shuttles, and any vehicle owned, leased or operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state.
Beginning January 1, 2008, business owners shall:

Not permit smoking at their business, or within 15 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes.
Post “No Smoking” signs at each entrance to the place of employment or public place where smoking is prohibited.
“No Smoking” signs must comply with the specification in the Smoke-free Illinois Act.
Remove ashtrays from areas where smoking is prohibited.
Old Timey
If a business owner fails to comply with the Smoke-free Illinois Act, an employee or patron may file a complaint. The Illinois Department of Public Health, state-certified local public health departments and local law enforcement agencies are designated enforcement agencies under the Smoke-free Illinois Act.

Businesses found in violation of the Smoke-free Illinois Act are subject to fines. Fines are assessed at $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation and a $2,500 minimum fine for all subsequent violations within one year of the first violation.

Fines for individuals who violate the Smoke-free Illinois Act are not less than $100 and not more than $250.
[From Smoke-free Illinois - A Guide for Restaurants and Bars]

Please, smoke 'em if you got 'em, at home, and not next to me. Thanks!

I wonder if I'd report someone? Probably not, but if I wanted to, here's the procedure.

War on Drugs Also Ignores Civil Liberties

Lest we forget, the predecessor to the endless War on Terror, the endless War on (non-prescribed) Drugs, is still churning away, eating up our civil liberties too.

Ryan Singel writes:
Do not let it be said that the Bush administration forgot the War on Drugs while waging the War on Terror.

The Drug Enforcement Agency, for one, continued and expanded the data mining records of phone calls and emails from the United States to Latin American countries in order to catch smugglers, according to the New York Times. The program began under President Clinton in he 1990s and expanded under President Bush. [Click to read more Phone and Email Data-Mining Used in War on Drugs, Too | Threat Level from]

But, but, but that dime bag of cannabis might contain the nuclear bomb pass-key! Or might contain DNA from a terrorist-supporting nation!

Big Pot of Smiley Faces

I should have rotated more balls so the smiley faces were visible, but didn't have much time before Pip got bored and left the frame.

Big Pot of Smiley Faces
Big Pot of Smiley Faces, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Pip had to investigate, of course.

links for 2007-12-17

Cracked Blind Shaft

"Blind Shaft" (Yang Li)

Received a damaged disc from Netflix, which does happen occasionally. Reported it, sent it back, and received the exact same disc again. At least it sure seemed like the same disc - cracked in same three places. This time, am waiting until I receive a replacement before I send back the cracked version.

True loyalty has no place in the hearts of criminals, especially two back-stabbing Chinese mobsters, Yi Xiang Li (Qiang Li) and Yuan Fengmin (Baoqiang Wang), who aren't afraid to turn on their own bosses in the name of greed and envy. Soon, however, they find that performing their misdeeds is one thing, but getting away with them is another business altogether. Although one decides to change his ways, trouble looms for both. [From Netflix: Blind Shaft]
Netflix Cracked

Where I blog 2007

As requested by PSoTD, I'm uploading a photo of my current desk, warts, clutter and all.

Desk - December 2007
(click here for bigger version).

Not to mention bad exposure and composition, but who cares. This is a document, not a contest.

Hidden History

Hidden History
Hidden History, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Former Checker Cab

links for 2007-12-16

Snow snow snow


Oh, this kind of snow brings out the seven year old not-so-well hidden in me, and I want to go outside and play in the snow. Not quite enough accumlation to snowshoe, but soon.

Tonight...Snow....heavy at times late evening and overnight. Areas of blowing snow after midnight. Snow accumulation of 4 to 7 inches. Blustery. Lows in the lower 20s. North winds 10 to 20 mph increasing to 15 to 25 mph. Gusts up to 35 mph at times. Chance of precipitation 100 percent. [From 7-Day Zone Forecast for Cook County]

links for 2007-12-15

Unsecurity at Nuclear Plants

Tunnel of Blues

Security? What security?

The Exelon Corporation said it would replace the Wackenhut Corporation with an in-house security force at its 10 nuclear power plants after the discovery about two months ago that guards at a Pennsylvania plant were sleeping on the job. [From Illinois: Security at Nuclear Plants - New York Times]
There's bound to be more to this tale, why the two month delay? How was it found out? Is there a pending news article exposing even worse security lapses?

covers - Guess the Album 2

| 1 Comment

Another variant of the Friday musical randomizer meme: albeit just with the album covers.

Click through to Flickr to add notes to name the album/artist.

covers - Guess the Album 2
covers - Guess the Album 2, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Name the artist and album, win big prizes. Ahem.

Created randomly with the iTunes screensaver, and a timed screenshot.

Ike Turner RIP

"Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner" (Tina Turner, Ike Turner)

Rocket '88 was a great slab of vinyl, too bad Ike only got $60 for it. In fact, Ike Turner was a great guitar player who doesn't get the respect that other guitar heros do, mostly because Tina Turner was a compelling and talented victim who went public. Not excusing Ike at all (wife beaters are vile), but there have been a lot of troubled artists who enjoy post-humous success in spite of violent or unsavory aspects of their personal lives.

Ike Turner, who died Wednesday at age 76 in his suburban San Diego home, changed the course of modern music, scored numerous hits and yet is best known as the scoundrel who abused Tina Turner.
When his days with Tina Turner were brought up in the 2001 Tribune interview, Ike Turner was defiant. "I did a lot of wrong things in my life, and a lot of good things, and I don't regret any of them,” he said. “The only regret I have -- I made one mistake in my life, during the time I was doing drugs -- I signed a contract with Walt Disney [makers of ‘What's Love Got to Do With It'] giving them permission to portray me in this movie any way they wanted, not realizing I was signing away my right to sue them. They totally exaggerated everything she said in the book on the screen, and that sabotaged my career."
“It doesn’t matter if I invented rock ‘n’ roll, because it didn’t make me any money,” Turner told the Tribune. “I made $60 from ‘Rocket 88’: Six-oh. I don’t care about the glamour or the money. I don’t care about the nominations and Grammys, all that bull. I just care about making people happy --- getting onstage and getting everybody going.”
[From Music legend-turned-villain Ike Turner dead at 76]

Without Ike Turner, no Jimi Hendrix, and no rock music as we know it.

Speaking of Ike Turner, the track on the Atlantic Blue Guitar compilation

"Atlantic Blues: Guitar" (Various Artists)

called I Smell Trouble is a smoking, 6 minute 58 second long workout, recorded live. (Parenthetically, this is one of those rare albums that the vinyl edition contains more songs, go figure).

CO2 levels highest ever

I like to eat paste

As happens every year, the levels of CO2 are the highest they've ever been.

More than two miles above the Pacific surf, at the summit of the world's largest volcano, the evidence of human influence on global warming is in the air.

For a half century, sensors atop Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii have captured the world-wide signature of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due largely to burning coal, oil and natural gas. The carbon dioxide traps heat. For 50 years, these CO2 readings, known as the Keeling Curve, have been climbing steadily, setting and then breaking a new record every 12 months or so

Global concentrations of CO2 in 2006, not surprisingly then, reached the highest level since the record-keeping began in 1958, the World Meteorological Organization recently announced in its annual greenhouse-gas bulletin. Based on samples from 40 countries, the level of carbon dioxide in the air reached 381.2 parts per million, up fractionally from 2005 -- concentrations not seen in 650,000 years, scientists said.

This week, while diplomats from 180 countries argued over the cost of staving off predicted climate changes, the Mauna Loa readings started to approach even higher levels.

These annual measurements are the world's longest continuous record of CO2 concentrations and, plotted as data points in a rising arc, form one of the most important graphs in science.
[From Science Journal -]
(Digg-enabled full access to complete article)

Meanwhile, our presidential candidates compete to be the most god-loving, or in other meaningless categories, while the currently elected politicians are too busy fundraising to effectuate any changes to policy. Fiddling while the planet burns in other words.

links for 2007-12-14

Flickr Stat Porn

flickr stats 12 13 2007

Flickr finally released more detailed stats about (pro users) referral traffic. More info porn for flickrites to obsess over. You can drill down to individual photos (for instance, this photo gets a ton of traffic, mostly from search engines with a variant of the phrase, "panties", no doubt)

Sign up here if you are curious (yellow):

Takes a few hours before it'll be ready.

Streets In Motion

I could probably do a better Photoshop job with this, but got busy, and didn't finish twiddling before uploading to Flickr.

Streets In Motion
Streets In Motion, originally uploaded by swanksalot. After the recent snow.

links for 2007-12-13

Baby's On Fire

Baby's On Fire

With apologies to Brian Eno.

Not quite sunset, but the light was certainly streaming.

Ham and cheese-aucracy

So to speak. Anyway Chuck Shepherd points to a recent Hillary Clinton stump speech hors d'oeuvre, which went as follows:

"A ham and cheese sandwich on one slice of bread is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects manufacturers daily. But a ham and cheese sandwich on two slices of bread is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects manufacturers about once every five years."

To find out if her sandwich example was correct, we turned to government reports on food safety, interviewed the head of the USDA's food inspection service and studied the government's Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, a fascinating manual that provides rules for Wiener schnitzel "a veal cutlet prepared by dipping in egg, flour and bread crumbs, and frying to a golden brown", whole hog sausage (must contain all primal parts; hearts and tongues in "natural proportions" are allowed) and vinegar pickle ("sausage in vinegar pickle is approved with the understanding that sausage is completely covered with pickle and that the pickle has a pH level not higher than 4.5"). The manual also spells out which foods are under USDA jurisdiction.

We found that Clinton is correct about the regulation of sandwiches - indeed, the ham and cheese example is often cited by critics - and she is correct about the big disparity in inspections by the two agencies.

In an interview with PolitiFact last week, Richard Raymond, the USDA's undersecretary for food safety, acknowledged that the sandwich rule is silly.

"There is no rationale or logic that I can explain to anybody," he said. "It defies logic."
[From Worldandnation: Ham and cheese, but hold the bureaucracy]

Ahhh, nothing like the lip-smacking taste of government in action....

Music I Like Part 534

Remember Chuck Klosterman's Music I Like Manifesto? I've been keeping my ears de-waxed, listening intently for snippets to add to my own narrowcast, my musical blueprint, and have found two so far (rather, these two found me by streaming through my speakers recently. I haven't participated in the hunt yet - by playing songs I know I love - because I've been distracted by year-end financial shite).

"Heartbreaker" (Ryan Adams)

1. Ryan Adams - Come Pick Me Up's chorus, which always grabs my attention with its mix of longing and regret:

I wish you would
Come pick me up
Take me out
Fuck me up
Steal my records
Screw all my friends
They're all full of shit
With a smile on your face
And then do it again
I love this chorus, this whole record is pretty good actually. If I get around to writing up a best-of 2007 (about a 60/40 chance), which would include as fair game anything added to my library in 2007, there is a strong likelihood that Heartbreaker (released in 2000) will be named. How did I miss this album for so many years?

"Berlin" (Lou Reed)

2. The opening minute and a half of Lou Reed's Berlin (the title track), especially the piano chords. Starts out what sounds like studio tape-manipulation of some recording of a birthday party. I imagine Reed (or Eno, or Iggy Pop, or whoever his compatriots in the studio was at the time) actually putting their hand on the tape to make it sound like it warbles. Of course, this betrays my ignorance of actual recording studio practice, I don't even know if this is possible. I only remember having a portable reel-to-reel tape as a kid and doing similar experiments with music recorded off a record player. Reed's singing is not what I love about the song, or album, Berlin, though it certainly adds to the general mood of urban angst. No, I really like Allan Macmillan's piano melody swelling out of the tape collage.

YouTubery below, with John Cale playing the piano, and two versions of Come Pick Me Up

Turn That Shite OFF!

12000 volts
[where: 60614]

err, well, unplug it at least...

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has done extensive studies of standby power since 1996 for the Department of Energy. In particularly inefficient appliances, standby power use can be as high as 20 watts.

“For a single appliance, this may not seem like much,” the laboratory’s Web site says, “but when we add up the power use of the billions of appliances in the U.S., the power consumption of appliances that are not being used is substantial.”
For making an estimate, a laboratory Web site — — provides tables of the minimum, average and maximum power used by appliances that cannot be switched off completely without being unplugged. For television sets, the laboratory estimates a minimum power use of zero watts, an average of 5 watts and a maximum of 21.6 watts.
[From Standby Power - How Much Electricity Do Appliances Use When Plugged in but Not Turned On? - New York Times]

Simple solutions, in aggregate, add up to something. Or is it, "Numbers Add Up to Nothing"?

Senate Refuses To Cut Farm Subsidies

Too bad this bill is being debated during a presidential campaign, with a primary in farm-reliant Iowa occurring soon. Though, there is always some reason politicians seem to find to excuse their lack of willpower. From paying attention, this was the closest to real (and much needed) reform in the farm omnibus bill in a long, long time.

The U.S. Senate blocked the first of several planned attempts Tuesday to slash farm subsidies in the $286 billion farm bill.

The Senate rejected, 58-37, an amendment by Sens. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) that would have phased out most farm subsidies and replaced them with stronger crop insurance for all farmers. The money saved would have been shifted to nutrition and conservation programs designed to protect environmentally sensitive farmland.

Mr. Lugar said current government farm programs benefit the wealthiest farmers and should be scaled back as crop prices are hitting all-time highs.

Supporters of the legislation are pushing for final Senate passage before lawmakers adjourn for the year. The five-year bill would extend and expand crop and dairy subsidies along with popular nutrition aid programs. Most of those programs have been operating under a temporary extension since the last five-year farm law expired Sept. 30.

The Senate is expected to vote later this week on an amendment sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) and Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) that would limit overall farm payments to $250,000 yearly per married couple. The current limit is $360,000. Southern lawmakers have traditionally opposed attempts to limit the payments because crops grown in that region, such as rice and cotton, are more expensive to grow
A separate amendment offered by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) would bar farmers making more than $750,000 a year from receiving government payments. The overall bill would limit the amount of subsidies paid to those who don't make a large portion of their income on farming but puts no new limits on farmers.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) indicated Tuesday that an expanded renewable fuels mandate for gasoline production would be part of the farm bill. A similar provision is included in stalled energy legislation, and supporters want to include the language in the farm bill in case the energy bill does not pass.

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Pete Domenici (R., N.M.) and John Thune (R., S.D.) would require 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year be blended with gasoline by 2022.

[From Senate Defeats Amendment To Cut Farm Subsidies -]

So, status quo until 2013. Bleh.

Some previous coverage:
Congress wants to kill you
Free Funds for Factory Farms
Farm Subsidies Seem Immune to Overhaul
I'm Ripping You Off
Debate Over Subsidizing Corn, Cotton, Soy and Rice

links for 2007-12-12

Led Zeppelin Finds Its Old Power

Is it obvious that the corporate media rock reviewers are bored with the bands currently touring? That said, I'd still like to see Zepp, just because John Bonham died before I bought my first Zepp album (on cassette, no less).

Some rock bands accelerate their tempos when they play their old songs decades after the fact. Playing fast is a kind of armor: a refutation of the plain fact of aging, all that unregainable enthusiasm and lost muscle mass, and a hard block against an old band’s lessened cultural importance.

But Led Zeppelin slowed its down a little. At the O2 arena here on Monday night, in its first full concert since 1980 — without John Bonham, who died that year, but with Bonham’s son Jason as a natural substitute — the band found much of its old power in tempos that were more graceful than those on the old live recordings. The speed of the songs ran closer to those on the group’s old studio records, or slower yet. “Good Times Bad Times,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and “Whole Lotta Love” were confident, easy cruises; “Dazed and Confused” was a glorious doom-crawl.

It all goes back to the blues, in which oozing gracefully is a virtue, and from which Led Zeppelin initially got half its ideas. Its singer, Robert Plant, doesn’t want you to forget that fact: he introduced “Trampled Underfoot” by explaining its connection to Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues,” and mentioned Blind Willie Johnson as the inspiration for “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” (Beyond that, the band spent 10 luxuriant minutes each in two other blues songs from its back catalog — “Since I Been Loving You” and “In My Time of Dying”).
There was a kind of loud serenity about Led Zeppelin’s set. It was well-rehearsed, for one thing: planning and rehearsals have been underway since May. The band wore mostly black clothes, instead of its old candy-colored wardrobe. Unlike Mick Jagger, Mr. Plant — the youngest of the original members, at 59 — doesn’t walk and gesture like an excited woman anymore. Some of the top of his voice has gone, but except for one attempted and failed high note in “Stairway to Heaven” (“there walks a la-dy we all know{hellip}”), he found other melodic routes to suit him. He was authoritative; he was dignified.
[Click to read more of Ben Ratliff's review Led Zeppelin Finds Its Old Power - New York Times]
See also Led Zeppelin's Rocking Return

BLT This Way


BLT This Way
BLT This Way, originally uploaded by swanksalot. .
Couldn't find that confounded sandwich however

Kashmir London O2 Arena


Moderate quality Youtube footage (I guess the ghost of Peter Grant was not around to punch out the bootleggers) of the Led Zeppelin concert at the London O2 Arena. Watch it while you can (or don't). If I find any other bits that are at least this quality, I'll add em' later.
[where: Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0DX]

Chicago ... without us

"The World Without Us" (Alan Weisman)

Fall Colors
[where: 11 N May St, Chicago, IL 60607]

I heard the author (Alan Weisman) discussing his book on a recent NPR podcast, quite fascinating.

Imagining a crumbling, rotting, ratless urban wasteland; the squirrels move in

Standing on Navy Pier, scanning the imposing forest of proud Loop towers, Alan Weisman envisions a Chicago without us.

He sees roofs leaking, frozen pipes bursting, basements flooding and falcons nesting in the former offices of corporate go-getters. He pictures Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" and Georges Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -- 1884" covered with mold, ruined. Trees growing out of the State Street pavement. Bricks crumbling to dust. Fires. Vines crawling up the sides of buildings. And skyscrapers with weakened foundations tumbling down.

"If a building topples," he says, "it'll bring down other buildings, just like a big tree falling in the forest will bring down other big trees."
Weisman, an environmental journalist who lives in western Massachusetts, is the author of "The World Without Us." The book, based on interviews with scientists and other experts around the world, describes what would be likely to happen across the planet if, for some reason, human beings were suddenly to vanish all at once.
[From Chicago ... without us]

Plastic-devouring microbes would be useful already, if they weren't misused in some sci-fi terrorism plot.

Netflixed: You Kill Me

Alcoholic hit man Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) botches an assignment, leaving the mob family he works for to clean up the mess. Relocating to San Francisco, Frank dries out, gets a job at a mortuary and falls in love with Laurel (Téa Leoni). But when the family is threatened, he returns to take care of business, with Laurel in tow. Philip Baker Hall and Dennis Farina co-star in director John Dahl's quirky crime comedy. [From You Kill Me]

Watchable, dark comedy, set in Buffalo and in San Francisco (disguised as Winnipeg, well, really the other way around). Somewhat predictable, but still fun, with a great premise. Kingsley's menace a replay of his role in Sexy Beast.

Oh, and the 'bonus' materials on the DVD are lame, the only thing I learned from watching the extra material is that Ben Kingsley insists upon being called, "Sir Ben". Or at least it seems to be the case, all of his co-stars carefully referred to "Sir Ben" this and "Sir Ben" that. Egoism and acting? Strange.

links for 2007-12-11

Scanning my Life Away

ScanSnap S510M
ScanSnap S510M
Last week, picked up an awesome document scanner. One touch button scans document, saves as PDF, and runs OCR. I'm cleaning my brain. There is a windows version too, I think, but cannot vouch for it (Windows that is). Discovered via 43 Folders

More photos/screenshots below, and a brief description of my workflow. My job and many of my hobbies are closely tied to written text: research is a constant part of my day. My partners and I both take lots and lots of scribbled notes, these are often hard to process (in a GTD sense), much less organize. We have so many stacks of magazines, trade journals, newspapers, and scraps of paper that we are nearly drowning in it all.

I like to eat paste

says our Preznit

I like to eat paste
I like to eat paste, originally uploaded by swanksalot. mercury comes from other planets.....

Twist and Ouch

My back often betrays me. If I wasn't such a dilettante, this is what I'd do:

Most athletes will have back trouble sooner or later -- if they’re not suffering already. Here’s what to do about it. [From Phys Ed: Twist and Ouch]

links for 2007-12-10

Stop Asking What Kind of Music I Like

I'm with with Chuck Klosterman, on both points really. I'm extremely unskilled at the art of small talk, and I don't like answering the oft-asked question, "What sort of music do you like?" I used to say, "everything but country", but this is no longer true as the Hank Williams, Carter Family, Willie Nelson and Jimmie Rodgers tunes oft-played on my iPod will attest. A definite advantage of living in the post-digital age is that it is compelling to explore music previously unknown, and that the journey itself takes one both forward and backward in musical history. Hmmm, so what does one say to this question, as described by Mr. Klosterman?

I spend a lot of my life attempting to avoid situations where people make small talk. As a rule, I generally don't enjoy conversing with anyone I haven't already spoken with on at least 120 previous occasions, which makes acquiring new friends difficult. But whenever I do find myself meeting a stranger for the first (or second or third) time, I'm struck by how often they ask me one specific question: "What kind of music do you like?" For many years, I did not know how to answer this. I experimented with a litany of abstract responses: "rock," "active rock," "hair metal," "disco metal," "girl metal," "everything," "nothing," or whatever I suspected the other person might not actively hate. But (I think) I've finally found a response that is both accurate and honest: Whenever someone asks me what kind of music I like, I say, "Music that sounds like the opening fourteen seconds of Humble Pie's 'I Don't Need No Doctor,' as performed live on their 1971 album Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore."

Beyond being true, this reply also has the added bonus of significantly changing the conversation (or ending it entirely).

But I'm starting to suspect this seemingly innocuous inquiry (and my unnecessarily specific answer to this unspecific question) might be weirder and more complex than I originally assumed. When someone asks me what kind of music I like, he is (usually) attempting to use this information to deduce things about my personality; this is (usually) the same reason we casually ask people about what TV shows they watch or which NBA franchises they support or what political movements they align with. It's the normal way to understand who other people are. But here's the problem: This premise is founded on the belief that the person you're talking with consciously knows why he appreciates those specific things or harbors those specific feelings. It's also predicated on the principle that you know why you like certain sounds or certain images, because that self-awareness is how we establish the internal relationship between a) what someone loves and b) who someone is. But this process is complicated and (usually) unconsidered. It's incredibly easy for me to grasp that I love the first fourteen seconds of "I Don't Need No Doctor." A harder task is figuring out exactly why I feel that way.
[Click to read more, including listening to sound samples, of Me, On Shuffle - Chuck Klosterman - Esquire Magazine - Esquire]

Since I read this article last week, I've been wondering what my favorite musical snippets might be. I won't bore you with them at the moment, perhaps I'll bore you with them later. Ha ha. The list is too big, I'll have to winnow it down. I currently have 1610 songs rated 4 star or higher in iTunes (these are the songs I like the best, the songs that always are loaded to all of my iPods, the songs I've identified as identifying me), and I don't have the keyboard stamina to comment on all 1610 of these tunes, especially right now. My eyes would glaze over, yours too. Small talk, if you will.

Anyway, to paraphrase Henry Miller, "listen as you like, and die happy."
For the record, Humble Pie is a new history lesson for me, and they do rock.

"Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore" (Humble Pie)

But not as much as Mott the Hoople

Starch Made Us Human


Sure, just don't forget that psilocybin gave us language.

Traditionally, when scientists spared a thought for our hunting and gathering forebears, they focused on the hunters and the meat they brought in. But it may be that it was our ancestors' less glamorous ability to gather, eat and digest roots, bulbs and tubers -- the wild versions of what became carrots, onions and potatoes -- that increased the size of our brains and made the hunt and the territorial expansion that came with it possible.

In a paper published in September in Nature Genetics, George Perry, a graduate student at Arizona State University, Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and their colleagues demonstrate something significant: unlike our fellow primates, modern humans have many copies of a gene that makes a protein in our saliva that is crucial for breaking down starch into glucose. Our brains run on glucose. DNA and saliva samples taken from populations all over the world -- from locals in Arizona and Japan to the Hadza, hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, and the Yakut, Siberian animal herders and fishermen -- showed that if you have more copies of the gene amylase 1, you have more of the protein. Groups like the Japanese, who eat diets high in starches, have on average a higher number of copies of the gene. "In human evolution, starch may have played a particularly important role," Perry says. After all, if you possessed the ability to efficiently convert starch into the glucose that fuels your brain, "you'd have a big advantage nutritionally," Dominy says. [From Starch Made Us Human]

Impeach Pelosi

Misleading Congress is an Impeachable Offense! Oh wait, Ms. Pelosi is already in Congress, and misleads every day. Badda Boom. Still, now we know why impeachment was off the table. All the more reason to dump Nancy Pelosi as Majority Leader, and install a rabid attack dog in the position.Well, if such an individual still exists in the Democratic Party.

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
[From Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002]

In fact, all of these Congress-critters ought to be tarred and feathered for betraying American ideals of human rights (however laughable the ideal has been in practice, we still ought to strive to avoid committing crimes against humanity). Or just water-boarded. Jane Harman spoke up after the fact, she could just be chained up in a tiny, cold cell, and be forced to hold a stress position for hours. Or maybe just banned from ever appearing on television again - she didn't appear too eager to blow the whistle on Geneva Convention evasions when Bush's party controlled the pork-barrel dollars.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. Graham left the Senate intelligence committee in January 2003, and was replaced by Rockefeller. "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said in an interview. He said he now believes the techniques constituted torture and were illegal.

Pelosi declined to comment directly on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.

Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee's top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program. Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA's program because of strict rules of secrecy.

"When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath -- one of secrecy," she said. "I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything."
Any official who gave a green-light to torture conducted in the name of the United States should lose their job, at the very least.

iTunes artwork - Guess the Album!

In flickr, choose "add Note" to name albums

iTunes artwork - Guess the Album!
iTunes artwork - Guess the Album!, originally uploaded by swanksalot. random screen grab of iTunes covers
(using this hint from MacOSXHints:
timed screengrab)

Guess as many as you can to win big prizes
(artist, album)

The large size
is pretty large (but then you can't add notes)

Or something like that

look for a moment at China through the eyes of young [American] athletes on their first visit, and China can feel, once again, like a new frontier.

Take, for example, Mandarin's most unfortunate homonym. The English word "that," when used as an adjective to indicate something as in "that glove," is translated as neige and pronounced "nay-ga." It also is used routinely as a space-filler akin to "umm" in English. But as American visitors frequently attest, neige can sound uncomfortably close to the n-word.

"We spent the whole first week thinking, 'What?'" said one U.S. boxer.

The confusion is hardly unique to the team. Robert Davis, a fluent Mandarin speaker who heads China programs for the Chicago Public Schools, has escorted more than 150 Chicago principals and administers to China in the past eight years, many of whom are African-American, he said. He discovered long ago that he should feature a discussion of the word neige in his pretrip orientation.
[From U.S. Olympic team learns to roll with the punches on trip to China --]
Usage here, dictionary definition here

Stereo Sanctuaries

I don't know about the brass fixtures part (prefer wood, steel and brick), but I certainly have always had a room sort of like the one I sit now: filled to the brim, and beyond, with books, music (complete with as good as speakers as I can afford, natch), maps, photos, and in more recent editions, including a DVD player and monitor. In a perfect edition of 'my room', I'd have some sound-proofing as well, so as to be able to noodle on my guitar without neighbors and co-conspirators complaining about the racket. Who knew it was a Y-chromosome trait?

Men have always had personal retreats — antiseptic or wood-paneled — filled with concert mementos, career trophies and esoteric collectibles. And women have always been mystified by them. After all, they lack the red-currant candles and yoga paraphernalia associated with true Me Time. The classic male hideout is a musty captain’s quarters, all brass and wood polish, featuring billiards, tobacco, brandy, books and maps. [From Virginia Heffernan - The Medium - Television - Internet Video - Media - New York Times]

I'd also prefer if I had a sunlit room permanently equipped to splash colors on a canvas as the mood struck, but that isn't quite as important.

Memories Like Dandruff Flakes

I should go to sleep, but instead I'm answering campfire questions like this:
In as much detail as you like, describe your first...
- Overseas Trip
- Kiss
- Job
- Apartment/House (sans parents)
- CD purchased
[From bandersnatch_02: Firsts]
I'll probably delete this post when I wake up tomorrow, sober, but until then....
Trip: first time off of the North American continent, post undergrad, spent several weeks (9 I think, maybe 11) as a cheerful wastrel in London, Tuscany, and Amsterdam, visiting the pubs and art museums. This trip is where I decided I was an artisté and not a slacker. Upon return to the US, my pure, laser focus faded a bit. Ahem. Especially when my smuggled Amsterdam brick dwindled.

Kiss: was also a late bloomer, a senior in high school at the over-ripe age of 16. Kissing ramped up with the same lass, over a few blissful months, until I also wasn't a virgin. You don't need to know more. In fact, this is probably too much information.

Job: worked part-time as an assistant in the Physics Lecture hall at UT-Austin. My job was to supply professors with whatever tools or props they required for their lectures, including exploding things like acetylene-filled balloons, liquid nitrogen and flowers, laser light shows, Faraday devices, films about Physics, etc.. A surprisingly cool job, but I didn't leverage it into anything cooler. In fact, I blew my only television interview on the local news by insisting upon looking directly at the camera instead of the interviewer. Doh!

House: moved out of home at 17, to the great surprise of my mom, but the rented house was nothing special, and I only lasted a few months there, before moving to another shared house, with some of the same room-mates (but not all). Thinking back, I can still visualize the place: here is where I did my first real drugs (umm, self-censored the rest of this anecdote). I think it was a three bedroom house on 32nd street, but I'm not positive about that.

CD: see, I'm an old geezer, comparatively, and the tale of my first CD (Sonic Youth's Experimental Jet Set, couldn't find a vinyl edition for a reasonable price, so finally purchased a CD player,and CDs to play on it) isn't really what your question seeks to answer. You want to know what the first music I purchased, which to my mix of shame and shoulder-shrug was AC/DC's Highway to Hell. I do have MP3 copies of those songs still, but I notice most of the tracks have 2 star ratings, and thus never get played. At the time, I lived in East Texas, and AC/DC was the devils music, so any listening to it was akin to eternal damnation. Or something.

I risked it.

links for 2007-12-08

Laughtracks and Humor

a scene from Season 4, with laugh track added for your amusement. Puts everything in perspective, doesn't it? Shameless manipulation and all that free-jazz.

New Tool Toy

Per discussion on Tidbits Talk, I picked up a fun new tool to record guitar noodles on my Mac.

"Line 6 Tone Port GX" (Line 6)

Minor kvetch, installation of the software required a reboot, but didn't warn me before installation began. Otherwise, I'm quite happy with it: but then my standards are pretty modest. I haven't done much multi-track recording before. Speaking of recording, the Take Control e-book only covers an earlier version of GarageBand. Still, I bought it and its companion book about recording in GarageBand, as there are free upgrades eminent, once the books are finished.

The Tone Port emulates various amp setups and guitar effects, so there are a myriad of soundscapes to explore. I've been riffing, adding (guitar generated) bass notes, and drum samples, and generally having a grand old time. I doubt anyone other than my neighbors will hear any of my output, but I'm still having a blast.

Tone Port GX
Sample rate conversion: 16 and 24 bit at 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz
Gearbox amp and effects modeling software for Guitar, Bass and Vocals includes:
23 guitar/bass amp models with 29 cabinet models
6 vocal mic preamps for amazing, studio-quality tracks
29 stompbox and studio effect models, including Overdrive, Delay, Reverb, Wah, Flanger, Chorus, and more
1/4-inch instrument/mic input
Line 6’s exclusive low-latency ToneDirect monitoring
Attaches to a guitar strap or sits on a desk
GearBox music player software lets you jam along with CDs or MP3s, even at half-speed playback without changing pitch
[From Line 6 - TonePort]

CIA destroyed evidence of torture

Doesn't surprise me, what surprises me is that the government doesn't automatically convert video to digital video, and store it somewhere underneath Utah or similar. The technology exists, and is pretty fool-proof. As far as destroying evidence of crimes (against humanity, even if tacitly encouraged by the thugs currently running our country in the ditch), the CIA are not stupid fools: torture video porn is very, very popular grist for the corporate media mill, worldwide.

The CIA says it destroyed tapes on the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects, raising fears over the use of torture.
The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the agency of showing an utter disregard for the law.

"The destruction of these tapes appears to be a part of an extensive, long-term pattern of misusing executive authority to insulate individuals from criminal prosecution for torture and abuse," an ACLU statement said.
There are also questions over whether CIA agents withheld information from the courts and a presidential commission.

The CIA's failure to make the tapes available to a federal court hearing the case of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui or to the 9/11 Commission could amount to obstruction of justice, according to the New York Times.

Lawyers in the Moussaoui trial and officials from the 9/11 Commission had both requested from the CIA details of any relevant interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects.

Michael Hayden wrote to all CIA employees about the tapes After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, President George W Bush authorised the use of "harsh techniques" in the interrogation of suspected terrorists.

According to our correspondent, those techniques are alleged to have included water-boarding, a method in which a suspect is held down and gagged while water is poured into his mouth in order to simulate drowning.

Human rights groups say that water-boarding - and other techniques allegedly used by the CIA - can be defined as torture under various international treaties to which the US is a signatory.
[From CIA destroyed interrogation tapes]

links for 2007-12-07

Sunset over the CTA empire

Sunset over the CTA empire
Sunset over the CTA empire, originally uploaded by swanksalot. metaphorically, of course, at CTA headquarters.
[where: Chicago, IL 60661]

links for 2007-12-05


Hupeh Wingnut

My first encounter with an actual wingnut that didn't end in acrimony

(Morton Arboretum)

Durbin News from All Over

Semi-puff piece on the better Senator from Illinois

If there were a yearbook for Illinois senators, Dick Durbin might mistakenly be labeled as the guy who is "also pictured."

After all, when he first arrived in the U.S. Senate, his fellow Illinois senator was the controversial Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American woman to serve in the chamber.

Next followed Peter Fitzgerald, the Republican firebrand who stayed in the spotlight with his ongoing war against establishment figures of every stripe.

Now comes Barack Obama, who would be drowning in newspaper ink if not for his Olympic ability to swim laps in it. While he's a top contender for the Democratic nomination for president, some people might forget that the best-selling author and "Saturday Night Live" guest is actually the junior senator from Illinois.

In the meantime, there's Durbin, an affable Downstate native who cuts the unimposing figure of a government lawyer, or maybe an accountant. Bob Newhart, only in a crisper suit.
[From Dick Durbin's challenge --]

We criticize the Dems quite a lot on these pages (from the left), but Durbin at least gets my respect, especially since he voted against the Iraq debacle in the first place.

Durbin was one of only 23 senators to vote against the original authorization to go to war in Iraq, saying he believed the Bush administration had failed to make the case for it.

Since then, he has been a regular critic of the way the president has carried out the war, and one of the most outspoken on the question of how far the American military should go in the interrogation of detainees.
and we also respect Durbin for this stance:
Two summers ago, Durbin gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he decried some of the reported interrogation techniques in use at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In that speech, Durbin read out loud from an e-mail from an FBI agent about "torture techniques" he witnessed at Guantanamo, including details of a scene in which a detainee was chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor with no chair, food or water. Prisoners had urinated or defecated on themselves and been left there for up to a full day, sometimes in ice-cold temperatures.

"If I read this to you, and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control," Durbin said, "you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings."
He's right about how history will look back on the Bush Administration's wink-and-nod approach to torture, it won't be a kind look. Torture should never be an acceptable practice for American governments to engage in, or its citizens.
To guide him, Durbin acknowledges that he sometimes consults public opinion polls, trying to figure out how far he can go with his agenda.

"I read them as a politician," he says. "It's like reading the scores in a sports page. But there comes a time when you have to take a position that might not be popular.

"There aren't many of us who continued to raise this torture issue," he says. "It's not one that members like to talk about. It could hurt you politically."

He says he contemplates how future generations will judge this period in American history. "I think the issue of torture will be the same in the future as Japanese internment camps are today," he says. "We'll look back and say we should have acted differently."

links for 2007-12-04

| 1 Comment

Netflixed: The Wind That Shakes the Barley

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" (Ken Loach)

Finally released in the U.S., over a year since it was released in Ireland and Europe (June, 2006), and since I was intrigued by its subject matter.

As political tensions brew in early 1920s Ireland, brothers Damien and Teddy (Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney) abandon their civilian lives and take up arms to liberate their country from the oppressive "Black and Tan" squads of Britain. Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Ken Loach's provocative drama, co-starring Liam Cunningham, examines a microcosm of civil war in Cork, Ireland.[From Netflix: The Wind That Shakes the Barley]

Slightly meandering, yet eminently watchable. I'm sure the film was not too popular in London, the British in the film are extremely brutal to the Republican Irish, and to the Irish in general. Also yet another film that cannot help but be viewed through the desert dust of the current occupation in Iraq; torture as a tool for extracting information (and teeth and fingernails) is no modern invention, though the information thus elicited always has a questionable rate of accuracy.

Socialism is a distinct thread of the movie, celebrating the power of the trade unions for instance (train conductors union refusal to transport English soldiers or arms, even under duress). There is not much romanticism, no unbelievable optimism, no comic book heroes, in other words, and no sentimentality in regards to the spiraling violence and counter-violence.

The landscape is so compellingly beautiful (and so green, natch), richly filmed.

Irish history is not quite my history, not something I feel intuitively in my bones from half-remembered tales, recited in rhythm by my grandparents over a steaming plate of potatoes. I do have some ancestors (allegedly) from the County Cork however, and there is most certainly a strand or two of Celtic fringe double-knotted in my body's cells. More precisely, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a filmic history of oppression, and I always root for the oppressed.

Facebook Admits Ad Service is Creepy

Ummm, privacy evasions, surveillance, surreptitious opportunities to market shit to people who didn't even know they needed the shit, what's not to love? Or hate? I wonder, was Beacon the sole reason that Microsoft invested the big bucks in Facebook? Or is there more that we don't know about, yet, like some back-door into the TIA databases?

Facebook has confirmed findings of a CA security researcher that the social-networking site's Beacon ad service is more intrusive and stealthy than previously acknowledged, an admission that contradicts statements made previously by Facebook executives and representatives.

Facebook's controversial Beacon ad system tracks users' off-Facebook activities even if those users are logged off from the social-networking site and have previously declined having their activities on specific external sites broadcast to their Facebook friends, a company spokesman said via e-mail over the weekend.
on Friday, just hours after Facebook had scored some points with its modifications to Beacon, Stefan Berteau, senior research engineer at CA's Threat Research Group, wrote in a note about Beacon's until-then unknown ability to monitor logged-off users' activities and send the data back to Facebook.

Users aren't informed that data on their activities at these sites is flowing back to Facebook, nor given the option to block that information from being transmitted, according to Berteau.

If users have ever checked the option for Facebook to "remember me"-- which saves users from having to log on to the site upon every return to it-- Facebook can tie their activities on third-party Beacon sites directly to them, even if they're logged off and have opted out of the broadcast. If they have never chosen this option, the information still flows back to Facebook, although without it being tied to their Facebook ID, according to Berteau.

Facebook's admission over the weekend contradicts previous statements from the company regarding this issue. For example, in e-mail correspondence with Facebook's privacy department, Berteau was told, among other things, that "as long as you are logged out of Facebook, no actions you have taken on other websites can be sent to Facebook."
[From Facebook Admits Ad Service Tracks Logged-Off Users - Yahoo! News]

scum, in other words.

(h/t Lambert)
Express Train

In case I ever need to refer to this, as I frequently take photos wherever I happen to wander, including CTA platforms.

CTA Photography Policy The general public is allowed to take snapshots in public areas.
Equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. is not allowed – except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA.

Photographers are not allowed to enter or photograph non-public areas of CTA stations.

Photographers are prohibited from obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers and blocking doors or stairs.

CTA personnel may evaluate the actions of photographers on a case by case basis to determine if a photographer is in compliance with guidelines. If a determination is made that the photographer is not in compliance, CTA personnel may ask them to stop.
[From CTA | Chicago Transit Authority - What's New]

Though the phrase, "obstructing transit operations" is slightly vague. Especially since it is the CTA personnel who decides.

Trains Coming, and Going

links for 2007-12-03

BP facility still polluting

Fisk Station BP has more important things to do than comply with regulations, there's money to be made, lives to be destroyed, pristine environments to be sullied.
Air pollution up in Whiting, U.S. says

BP is facing more questions about pollution from its massive Whiting refinery, this time from federal regulators, who accuse the oil company of significantly increasing toxic air emissions.

In a notice sent Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said BP failed to obtain a permit in February 2005 when it altered equipment that turns crude oil into gasoline.

The modifications led to significant increases in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, soot and carbon monoxide -- air pollution that can damage the lungs and cause heart problems, according to the EPA complaint.

Regulators said the violations are particularly troublesome because Northwest Indiana, like other parts of the Chicago area, already violates federal standards for harmful smog and soot pollution.
[From BP facility catching fresh heat from EPA]
I hope (without reason for hope) that BP does not get the permission to expand their plant
BP recently applied for a new air permit to help clear the way for a $3.8 billion expansion of the Whiting refinery, already the nation's fourth-largest. The project will enable the refinery to process more heavy Canadian crude, which is considerably dirtier to refine than conventional oil.

The company expects that overall air pollution will decline. But BP acknowledged the project will increase emissions of certain pollutants, including lead, and will dramatically increase emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
Just what the area needs, more lead in the air. Yayy for pollution!! You'd think there would be better places to locate this plant than near a major metropolitan area, and spewing into the fresh water supply for millions of non-BP executives.

Gene and Georgetti Remains

Gene & Georgetti

Certain things remain constant, the venerable Chicago institution, Gene & Georgetti, is one such place.

Alex Witchel writes:
YOU always remember your first time, but what about your last?

The last time you sat at a restaurant table, swaddled in warmth, just inches from the bread basket, a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other. You took a good long swallow of bourbon, which soothed the raw edge of smoke in your throat. You looked at a menu that listed every cut of beef known to man, watched platters of golden cottage fries go by and raised your glass to 20th-century ecstasy, American style.

The date? Oct. 29, 2007. The place? Gene & Georgetti, a family-owned steakhouse nestled under the El in Chicago, in business since 1941. Chicago, God bless its retro heart, is the rough-and-tumble big city that has somehow managed to elude the smoking police. But on Jan. 1, it’s over. Out on the street with you, just like New York.
[From To the Things That Remain - New York Times]

We actually won't miss the smoking as part of the Gene & Georgetti mise en scéne, in fact, we'll probably visit more often now. They do make a good drink, and the same waiters have worked there for decades, another sign of a quality establishment.

I grew up watching all the movies of the ’40s and ’50s, in black and white, filled with danger and Barbara Stanwyck — for whom my mother was named — and I imagined myself in each locale, whether glamorous or lowdown.

Gene & Georgetti captures the ethos of both. On one hectic weekend night I watched a desperate man try to slip the unflappable captain, Tommy, a $100 bill for a table. He waved it away like a fly. No table. Cut. Print. I would pay $100 myself to know the reason.

I never will, of course. I concentrate on my drink instead. They pour a good one, Maker’s Mark and soda in a tall glass, not too strong and not too weak.
500 N Franklin St Chicago, IL 60610
View Larger Map

Like a Lead Zeppelin

"Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same (Two Disc Special Edition)" (WARNER HOME VIDEO)

"Led Zeppelin" (Dick Carruthers)

"Led Zeppelin: 1968-1980" (Keith Shadwick, Led Zeppelin)

I was lucky as a youth: there were no DVDs of Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, so no extended camera shots of Robert Plant making Rock God pouts™ with his chest exposed, nor of Jimmy Page slagging off the heroin blues. I only saw the somewhat tired, end-of-a-long-tour document, with its moments of grandeur, called The Song Remains the Same as a midnight show in college (UT) when my eyes were practically slits from the effects of various inebriates. In other words, all I heard was the music, and it rocked. And it lead me to Blind Willie Johnson, Chess Records (Swan Song definitely should have purchased Chess Records when it was on the market) and other Delta Mississippi blues masters, as well as Sandy Denny's Fairport Convention (and subsequently Richard Thompson), so I'll always be grateful.

I've been zipping through Keith Sadwick's intriguing biography of Led Zeppelin which gives short shrift to the drugs, groupies, hotel wrecking, and John Bonham punching-women-in-the-face stories (though, they are often mentioned in passing), and concentrates nearly exclusively on the music. Of course, this leads me to listen to the albums again, with fresh ears. If you are like me, and have listened to Led Zeppelin on (and off) for a long, long time, take a second listen to the music on the DVD recently released of their live show. When on their game (and not falling down drunk or high), Led Zeppelin were in sync to each other as tightly as any jazz quartet, as apt to remain locked into the groove as any James Brown funk band. Amazingly tight actually: Jones and Bonham made the band into something special. Plant's lyrics are, to be kind, mostly disposable, and Page was no Jimi Hendrix. Yet the band's creation is rocking enough to sustain ten thousand replays. Watch them smile at one another, as they launch into something else.

Led Zeppelin's last good album was Presence, a heroin-influenced shimmering slice of rock-star life (Achilles Last Stand being of course reference to Robert Plant's near-fatal auto accident which permanently lamed him - again, watch as Plant sings the song to Page). Page was too fucked up to participate on the ode to anal sex, In Through The Out Door, and his limpness shows, there are only a handful of songs on that album worthy of replay.

I don't know if Page ever has shown up since actually, Coda is pretty good, but the band was over, Bonham was dead, and subsequent albums are just remixing and/or re-releasing of old materials - nothing new. Not that they aren't worth listening to (How The West Was Won is excellent, and the DVD of live Zeppelin is as well), but Jimmy Page isn't making any end-of-year lists in 2007.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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