February 2008 Archives

The Idiot of Buffalo

Autumnal Waste

For the record, I haven't watched a single Presidential debate in its entirety this election season, they are seemingly exercises in annoyance, and my life has been too busy (you know, I had to wash my hair, and excuses like that). But also for the record, I simply cannot stand to watch Pumpkin Head Tim Russert talk. What a complete putz, without redeeming characteristics.

Charles Pierce, writing at Altercation, skewers Russert's performance:

I suspect that truth may never get its boots on in reference to the job L'il Timmy Russert did last night. Since social climbers, courtiers, and people who think Don Imus is funny likely already have set the performance in marble, do let me just say in meek dissent that the man now stands revealed for the simmering tub of abject Fail he's always been.

"What if giant metal monkey beasts land on the Mall and eat the Capitol Dome? What will you do then, huh? HUH?"

"Will you take a pledge right now to make sure that Ayman al-Zawahiri never comes to the Vineyard and steals my newspaper off my lawn? Will you? WILL YOU?"

"Your pastor has praised somebody who said something odious -- Here, let me read you the most garish highlights -- and now will you REJECT him? Not denounce him. REJECT HIM?"

"In my hometown of Buffalo."

Oh, bite me, please.

This isn't journalism. I don't know what it is. Investigative collating, I guess. The next time MSNBC decides to treat us to 90 minutes of TV star dick-waving, it should advertise it as such, and then I could've watched Tennessee play Vanderbilt like I wanted to in the first place.

[Click to read more in this vein Media Matters - The proud son of Buffalo ... ]

One more quote:

In a week when St. John McCain was being roasted over his lobbyist-laden past and when the FEC had started to look at the Straight Talker's cheap-ass lawyering around the campaign-finance statutes, Russert chose to spend useless minutes chasing Barack Obama around something Obama had said last year. Hillary was dead right there at the end, although she needs work on the snark, too. Nothing about China. Nothing about FISA or signing statements or the wreck of the constitutional order. Nothing about climate change. But plenty of time for a three-rail shot about Obama, his pastor, and Farrakhan, whose name I swear I have not heard twice in the past decade. (Marty Peretz hears it through the fillings in his teeth, but that's another matter.) That stuff was truly rank. What in the name of god does the relationship of Obama's pastor to Louis Farrakhan have to do with being president of the United States? John McCain's state co-chairman in Arizona, a sitting congresscritter, got himself indicted this week. Think that'll come up any time soon? Hell, if you wanted to tweak Obama about somebody with whom he had a more tangible connection, Tony Rezko went on trial YESTERDAY. No mention of it that I heard. The only reason to bring up Farrakhan was to play the Scary Negro card. At this point the lines between hackery and shillery form a perfect right angle and stretch on to infinity. And, by the way, it would help MSNBC's campaign to become the Scourge Of Public Bigots if it didn't keep putting Pat Buchanan on my TV screen every 11 seconds.

McCain Not Natural Born

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McCain Kennedy supporter

Hey, if McCain qualifies, then so do I. Of course, the US electorate would have to become a lot less prudish for me to be elected, but that's a different issue altogether.

Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.

Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.

[From McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out - New York Times]

Of course, my parents were in the anti-military, which is why I was born in Canada. I've always been an American citizen though.

Mr. McCain’s situation is different from those of the current governors of California and Michigan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer M. Granholm, who were born in other countries and were first citizens of those nations, rendering them naturalized Americans ineligible under current interpretations. The conflict that could conceivably ensnare Mr. McCain goes more to the interpretation of “natural born” when weighed against intent and decades of immigration law.

Mr. McCain is not the first person to find himself in these circumstances. The last Arizona Republican to be a presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, faced the issue. He was born in the Arizona territory in 1909, three years before it became a state. But Goldwater did not win, and the view at the time was that since he was born in a continental territory that later became a state, he probably met the standard.

It also surfaced in the 1968 candidacy of George Romney, who was born in Mexico, but again was not tested. The former Connecticut politician Lowell P. Weicker Jr., born in Paris, sought a legal analysis when considering the presidency, an aide said, and was assured he was eligible. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. was once viewed as a potential successor to his father, but was seen by some as ineligible since he had been born on Campobello Island in Canada. The 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, whose birthplace is Vermont, was rumored to have actually been born in Canada, prompting some to question his eligibility.

Quickly recognizing confusion over the evolving nature of citizenship, the First Congress in 1790 passed a measure that did define children of citizens “born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born.” But that law is still seen as potentially unconstitutional and was overtaken by subsequent legislation that omitted the “natural-born” phrase.

Aspect Ratios and Last Emperor

Criterion Collection's Last Emperor

We’re getting a huge amount of mail about our edition of The Last Emperor, specifically about the aspect ratio, which is 2:1. Some people seem to believe that we’ve lost our minds, forsaken our mission, and taken it upon ourselves to crop the sides off the picture. Others assume we just got careless. Either way, a rising chorus is asking how we could do this to Vittorio Storaro’s Academy Award–winning compositions. And to Bernardo Bertolucci’s framing. The answer is, we couldn’t, and we wouldn’t, and we didn’t do anything to violate the filmmakers’ wishes. This is the way the filmmakers want the film to be seen.

From the start of this project, Bertolucci has insisted that Storaro have ultimate approval of the mastering of the feature. This master was made in Rome under Storaro’s direct supervision, with Bertolucci’s approval. When we asked Storaro about the framing of the film, he unhesitatingly told us that the correct aspect ratio for The Last Emperor was 2:1, even though the film was commonly projected at 2.35:1. He told us that The Last Emperor was the first film he shot specifically for 2.0 framing, and Bertolucci backs him up. Our mission is to present each film as its makers would want it to be seen, and in this case the director and cinematographer asked that we release their film in the format they say they had always envisioned. We had quite a lot of discussion over this, and we certainly knew it would be controversial, but in the end the decision was not made by us. It was made, as it should be, by the filmmakers.

[Click to read more discussion of Emperor 2.0]

I haven't seen this movie since it came out, but I remember it mostly as being ponderously slow. I wonder if my aging brain would appreciate the film's grandeur better?

Buddy Miles, RIP

Live at Fillmore East

Buddy Miles, the drummer in Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and a hitmaker under his own name with the song “Them Changes,” died on Tuesday at his home in Austin, Tex. He was 60.

His death was announced on his Web site, which said he had been battling congestive heart disease.

Mr. Miles played with a brisk, assertive, deeply funky attack that made him an apt partner for Hendrix. With his luxuriant Afro and his American-flag shirts, he was a prime mover in the psychedelic blues-rock of the late 1960s, not only with Hendrix but also as a founder, drummer and occasional lead singer for the Electric Flag. During the 1980s, he was widely heard as the lead voice of the California Raisins in television commercials.

Mr. Miles was 12 years old when he joined his father’s jazz group, the Bebops. As a teenager, he also worked with soul and rhythm-and-blues acts, among them the Ink Spots, the Delfonics and Wilson Pickett. By 1967, he had moved to Chicago, where he was a founding member of the Electric Flag.

That band included a horn section and played blues, soul and rock; it made its debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and released its first album in 1968. But the Electric Flag was short-lived. Mr. Miles then formed the Buddy Miles Express; its second album, “Electric Church,” was produced in part by Hendrix, whom he had met when both were sidemen on the rhythm-and-blues circuit.

Mr. Miles also appeared on two songs on “Electric Ladyland,” the groundbreaking Hendrix double album released in 1968. After Hendrix disbanded his group the Jimi Hendrix Experience, whose two other members were British, he formed a new trio, Band of Gypsys, with African-American musicians, Mr. Miles and Billy Cox on bass.

On the last night of the 1960s, a New Year’s Eve show at the Fillmore East, they recorded “Band of Gypsys,” an album that included “Them Changes.”

[From Buddy Miles, 60, Hendrix Drummer, Dies]


Solve, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Not sure if we can solve the Belushi problem.

links for 2008-02-29

Halliburton Stealing Tax Money

Speaking of KBR and Halliburton, check out this 9 minute clip:
Pretty shocking, when you condider regular troops are ill equiped poorly fed and treated with such disdain.

This is a small excerpt from a video called "The Decline And Fall Of America", Directed by B.A. Brooks. Many people compare it to Aaron Russo's "Freedom To Fascism". This part is about Halliburton, and the incredible waste of taxpayer's money in Iraq.

The cost of the war: $275 million per day $11,458,000 per hour $190,972 per minute $4,100 per household Almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 60,000 wounded 700,000 Iraqis killed and 4 million refugees

Booted and Befuddled

No Parking

I could see fist fights occurring if the Booters are not quick enough to get the boot on before the parking scofflaw returns.

Downtown restaurants and businesses could use the Denver boot to keep intruders out of their parking lots under a crackdown advanced today by a City Council committee.

At the behest of Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the License Committee added the marquee ward that includes the Loop, River North and the Gold Coast to the handful of Chicago wards that allow booting on private property.

Small businesses struggling to survive in congested Chicago neighborhoods view booting as a kinder, gentler and less-costly way to handle the chronic problem of parking poachers. It doesn’t require towing, which could damage a car.

Reilly agreed, adding, “It doesn’t force the motorist who’s in violation to travel to remote lots to retrieve towed vehicles. There would be a full-time attendant in the private lot who could remove the boot once the fine is paid. It seemed like an interesting concept. I figured we’d give it a try.”
In 1999, License Committee Chairman Eugene Schulter persuaded the City Council to prohibit private booting amid reports of price-gouging and fisticuffs.

Consumers complained about booters who swarm in for the kill, even if a motorist stops at an ATM to get money to shop at a local store. There were also complaints of booters targeting motorists for “double-shopping” — first at the store with the parking lot, then at a shop down the street.

[From City may give businesses ability to boot cars :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Politics]

Actually, I'd like to be able to boot people who park in front of my garage (worst culprits are the restaurants across the street)

links for 2008-02-28


A blast from the past....

Logorrhea, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Some window, Wells St. I think, maybe near Tizi Melloul.
Is Flickr whacking a game yet? It should be.... Flickr Whacker

Logorrhea defined:

Unlimited Devotion

Since I haven't been on a photo-stroll in a while (weather, winter and work conspiring to keep me inside), have instead been strolling through my photo archives. Simultaneously testing out Aperture 2.0 (30 day trial period), so loaded several months of last years photos in to Aperture. Here is one such discovery - a worker replacing a window in some alley in the South Loop.

Unlimited Devotion BW

One corner (upper left) was overexposed, and it bothered me enough to convert the photo to black and white. Looks better in BW anyway.

Roundy's Expansion into Chicago

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Afternoon traffic painting [where: 800 W. Monroe, Chicago, IL 60661]

Slight change of plans from when we last noted Roundy's in Chicago expansion prospects. I agree the foot traffic in the downtown wouldn't seem to be enough to support a 50,000 square foot location. Rents must be expensive, and there just aren't that many people who live downtown. Grocery is a cut-throat industry, with very slim margins. To survive, a location must have lots of folks loading up their cars with a weeks worth of supplies. Chicago's downtown is crowded, but with tourists and office-drones, not families of four.

[Robert Mariano, chairman and CEO] said he has been approached to open a grocery store in the former Carson Pirie Scott & Co. building at 1 S. State, but he said he remains unsure whether the foot traffic would support a supermarket.

"Is the walk-in trade enough? I don't know yet," he said.

[snip] Roundy's previously announced two store openings in Chicago:

• • One will open late this year or in early 2009 at Monroe and Halsted streets.

• • The other will open at 1515 N. Halsted and serve as the anchor for the planned New City complex of retail shops, restaurants and residential buildings at Halsted and Clybourn.

Roundy's has also been reported to be in talks to open a store at Webster and Ashland.

Roundy's is a full-service supermarket, with most stores a minimum of 50,000 square feet.

"We think of ourselves as foodies," Mariano said, noting that Roundy's is working with prominent architect Lucien Lagrange to design its stores in part because Lagrange is a fellow foodie.

[From Chicago is Roundy's grocery chain's kind of town :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Business]

As an aside, this is fairly interesting:

Mariano also repeated a concern voiced by Safeway CEO Steven Burd last week, that the federal government's policy of underwriting farmers' planting of corn to use in ethanol production is causing food prices to increase.

"It is bad fuel policy," he said. "It's great for farmers and ADM" (Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Decatur-based agribusiness giant).

Has Mr. Mariano been reading our blog?

Odd tamale

Phil digging in

Republican Call Girls

From 2007, but still funny.

Don't forget, the call is free because your grandchildren will be paying for it....

Rings of fire

from my vast photo archive, a closeup of tree rings. On my list of tools to buy when I'm wealthy is a good macro lens. I'd like to take this photo again, but get really, really close, past the point of abstraction.

Rings of fire
Rings of fire, originally uploaded by swanksalot. At the Chicago Botanic Gardens (which are actually in Glencoe, IL) www.chicagobotanic.org/

links for 2008-02-27

Texas Delegate Two Step


Can we please retire the tired joke about voting when dead? It may be true, or fact-esque, but if everyone uses the same joke, it is no longer funny, just cliché. Thanks. Anyway, I had been wondering what exactly were the arcane Texas rules that apportion delegates? Here's an explanation (from Molly Ivins old magazine, the Texas Observer)

Fearless Symmetry BW

The Obama and Clinton campaigns, volunteers, and voters are dusting off the rulebooks and learning, or relearning, the peculiar ins and outs of how Texas selects Democratic presidential candidates. Unique in the nation, Texas hosts a primary and a caucus, both of which allocate delegates. In essence, Texans get the opportunity to vote for their candidate of choice twice, and we don’t even have to be dead to do it.

This hybrid system, which the Obama camp has taken to calling the “Texas Two-Step,” is governed by a maze of jury-rigged rules, and navigating them will likely look about as graceful as a plow horse on ice skates. A total of 228 delegates are in play. Thirty-five of these are so-called superdelegates, party apparatchiks assured of seats at August’s national convention in Denver. These delegates are deemed “super” because unlike pledged delegates, who arrive at the national convention locked into their choice, the supers can support whichever candidate they choose and can change their minds, for any reason, at any time, up to and including during the convention.

Texas’ superdelegates comprise the state party’s chair and vice chair, 13 Democratic congressmen, 10 members of the Democratic National Committee, five “add-on” delegates drawn from various Democratic constituencies, and three superdelegates to be named at the state party convention in June. For the first time in recent memory, they’re poised to make all the difference.

[From Back in the Saddle by Forrest Wilder and Dave Mann - The Texas Observer]

Sort of a strange system.

A complete and accurate accounting of Texas’ superdelegates probably won’t be possible until just before the Democratic national convention in August.

Another 126 garden-variety “primary-sourced” delegates will be decided March 4, but this delegate cache too is apportioned in an idiosyncratic fashion. Each of Texas’ 31 state senate districts is assigned a number of delegates based on the number of votes received by John Kerry in 2004 and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell in 2006. Senate districts that turned out the vote are rewarded with a greater number of delegates than those that sat on their duffs. At the extremes, the nearly Democrat-free Panhandle Senate District 31 has only two delegates at stake, while District 14, home to state Sen. Kirk Watson and liberal Travis County, has eight.

Adding to the confusion, an additional 67 delegates will be chosen by a three-tier caucus convention system that could alternately be described as a three-month endurance race. Of those 67, 25 slots are reserved for pledged party and elected officials who will be picked at the state convention but will vote based on the outcome of the caucuses. The remaining 42 are “at-large” slots, open to any Democrat willing to slog through the process.

Each precinct is assigned a number of delegates based on the number of votes received in that precinct for Chris Bell. Fifty percent of the 87,356 precinct-level delegates are concentrated in Harris, Dallas, Travis, Tarrant, and Bexar Counties.
Click to read more

Bag to go

The Pope gets bagged

Amazingly quick result to something only initiated two months ago.

China's war against "white pollution" has claimed its first large-scale victim with the closure of the country's biggest plastic bag manufacturer.

The shutdown of Suiping Huaqiang Plastic, which employs 20,000 people, highlighted the social costs of a government drive to clean up one of the world's most polluted environments.

It comes less than two months after the state banned production of ultra-thin bags and ordered supermarkets to stop giving away free carriers from June 1.

That surprise move - which went further than anything done by the US, the UK and many other developed nations - was hailed by Greenpeace, Earthwatch and other green groups as a sign of growing environmental awareness in China.

[From China's biggest plastic bag maker closes after ban | World news | The Guardian]

I really just wanted an excuse to use the photo of the Pope again, as she helps me create of my blog posts (by sprawling right in front of my monitor, demanding attention)

Clinton and NAFTA

Wouldn't it be ironic if Clinton's presidential bid finally foundered on the rocks of NAFTA? I'm sure the voters of Ohio (and to a lesser extent, Texas) remember the Clinton Administration's flowery rhetoric, and championship of the travesty that is NAFTA as it wasn't forced through Congress all that many years ago. Al Gore will forever be compromised by his support of NAFTA too, no matter what good he does on the war against global warming. David Sirota writes:

Barack Obama is today criticizing Hillary Clinton on her efforts to pretend she never supported NAFTA. Just as a follow-up to my post on Friday, I want to remind folks who claim Hillary Clinton never praised NAFTA that, in fact, she did praise NAFTA - repeatedly.

According to NBC's Meet the Press, in 2004, Clinton said, "I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America."

In her memoir, Clinton trumpeted her husband's "successes on the budget, the Brady bill and NAFTA."

And in 1998, Bloomberg News reports that she praised corporations for mounting "a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of NAFTA." Another direct quote.

I went over two of these three quotes - and some more - in my recent syndicated column…And, as predicted, this issue has now become the central focus in the Ohio primary - the primary that could decide the Democratic nomination.

However you feel about NAFTA - and if you are a typical American, polls show you likely do not like it - Clinton now trying to lie and say she never really supported NAFTA is an absolute insult. It further suggests that on really important economic issues, she's more than happy to lie about provable facts when it suits her political needs.

UPDATE: Here's another direct quote from Hillary Clinton on NAFTA. The Associated Press reported on 3/6/96 that she said, "NAFTA is proving its worth" and later praising NAFTA as "a free and fair trade agreement."

[From David Sirota: Clinton Gets Caught Again on NAFTA - Politics on The Huffington Post]
I'm With Stupid

If you've forgotten the details, Jeff Faux wrote a "Ten Years After" article in 2004:

Ten years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement was sold to the people of the United States, Mexico and Canada as a simple treaty eliminating tariffs on goods crossing the three countries' borders. But NAFTA is much more: It is the constitution of an emerging continental economy that recognizes one citizen--the business corporation. It gives corporations extraordinary protections from government policies that might limit future profits, and extraordinary rights to force the privatization of virtually all civilian public services. Disputes are settled by secret tribunals of experts, many of whom are employed privately as corporate lawyers and consultants. At the same time, NAFTA excludes protections for workers, the environment and the public that are part of the social contract established through long political struggle in each of the countries.

As Jorge Castañeda, Mexico's recent foreign secretary, observed, NAFTA was "an accord among magnates and potentates: an agreement for the rich and powerful...effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies." Thus was NAFTA a model for the neoliberal governance of the global economy.

Prozac Useless

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Healthy or insane shelf 2

Prozac just as good/bad as homeopathic remedies, though the cynic might add, placebo users don't have murderous rages and suicidal thoughts afterwards. There were reports (since downplayed, at least locally) the recent NIU campus killings were triggered by Steven Kazmierczak going off his meds. I am no health care professional (!!), but I'd suggest finding other solutions for curing your depression besides Prozac.

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

The study examined all available data on the drugs, including results from clinical trials that the manufacturers chose not to publish at the time. The trials compared the effect on patients taking the drugs with those given a placebo or sugar pill.

When all the data was pulled together, it appeared that patients had improved - but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs.

The only exception is in the most severely depressed patients, according to the authors - Prof Irving Kirsch from the department of psychology at Hull University and colleagues in the US and Canada. But that is probably because the placebo stopped working so well, they say, rather than the drugs having worked better.

"Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments have failed," says Kirsch. "This study raises serious issues that need to be addressed surrounding drug licensing and how drug trial data is reported."

[Click to read more of Prozac, used by 40m people, does not work say scientists | Society | The Guardian]
-- Update: Kevin Drum adds:
The complete study is here. I have no particular opinion about the quality of this study, and not really any special interest in SSRIs either. In fact, what really drew my attention was the range of news outlets that reported this news. According to Google News, here they are: the Guardian, the Independent, the London Times, the Telegraph, the BBC, Sky News, the Evening Standard, the Herald, the Financial Times, and the Daily Mail. In fact, it's getting big play from most of these folks, including screaming front page treatment from some.

So what's the deal? Why is this huge news in Britain, where most of the stories are making great hay out of the amount of taxpayer money the NHS is squandering on these drugs, and completely ignored here in the U.S.? The conspiracy theory version of the answer is obvious, but what's the real version? Do American newspaper editors universally know something that I (and their British colleagues) don't?

Million-dollar Mark Penn’s real allegiances

K Marks the Spot
(K Marks the Spot, not K Street, don't get the two confused)

Pam Spaulding expands a bit on the Clinton lobbyist front. You know, the reason Clinton's campaign couldn't pay small vendors on time

Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist, would obviously benefit from a Clinton win. One thing he doesn’t have is any vested interest in supporting Obama as the Democratic nominee against John McCain. Take a look at this:
Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist is Mark Penn, and Charlie Black, John McCain’s top adviser, is chairman of BKSH, the DC-based lobbying subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller — of which Mark Penn is CEO.
Yes, this is the same lobbyist Barack Obama was referring to when he criticized John McCain for allowing lobbyists to conduct their business on board his bus.

BKSH is a bipartisan lobbying firm. Black, the chairman is the top Republican. The top Democrat is R. Scott Pastrick, who like Penn, supports Hillary Clinton.

Mark Penn’s personal interests would clearly be best served by a Hillary Clinton victory.

A McCain presidency wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize, however. It would be far better to have the head of his lobbying be tight with the president than to have a president like Obama who sought to impose new restrictions on his lobbyist operation.

[Click to read more of Pandagon :: Million-dollar Mark Penn’s real campaign allegiances - and that Obama photo :: February :: 2008]

The ironic part of the tale is that Ms. Clinton isn't spending her money well: Mark Penn isn't exactly a proven primary winner.

links for 2008-02-26

FDA is Useless

suckling pig

Worse than useless, really, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a blight on the health of the nation. The corrupt Congressional enablers with their deregulatory zeal are to blame as well.

Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing, which issued the biggest meat recall in U.S. history last week, probably will shut down permanently, the company's general manager said.

[From Meatpacker in Cow-Abuse Scandal May Shut as Congress Turns Up Heat]

If you haven't seen the video, and you have a strong stomach, seek it out. I couldn't watch many minutes, so won't be linking to it.

Hallmark/Westland struggled for years, but it began turning a profit consistently after being approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin supplying beef for the federal school-lunch program in 2003, Mr. Magidow said. Within two years, it was supplying about 25 million pounds of beef a year to the program through competitive bidding.

Only 23 of the about 900 boneless beef suppliers in the U.S. are approved to supply such USDA commodity-purchase programs, said Les Johnson, a consultant and former director of the food-distribution division of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service.

To qualify, each facility must have its financial statements reviewed, be federally inspected, receive visits from USDA officials to examine plant processes and equipment and submit a technical explanation about how the plant does everything from controlling germs to testing the fat content of its products.

For the 2004-05 school year, the government named Hallmark/Westland the school lunch program's Supplier of the Year. But the company began to unravel in late January, when a video made by an investigator from the Humane Society of the U.S. came to light.

The video showed workers at the plant trying to make sick or injured cattle stand up with electrical-shock devices, forklifts and high-pressure water hoses. Cattle that can't walk or stand on their own are generally banned from the nation's food supply. Such "downer" cows can be sources of mad-cow disease, which can cause a rare but fatal brain disorder in humans.

The video "just astounded us," Mr. Magidow said Friday. "Our jaws dropped....We thought this place was sparkling perfect."

Here's the real question: how corrupt is the USDA? They apparently had inspectors directly assigned in the plant itself, and still didn't find anything wrong. Quality Meats
The scandal has triggered a heated debate in Congress and elsewhere over the safety of the U.S. meat supply, as well as criticism of both the company and the USDA, which had inspectors stationed at the plant. Lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento have scheduled hearings starting this week to explore how the problem occurred despite the presence of federal inspectors, whether the USDA is doing its job, and whether the meat supplied to the school-lunch program is safe.

When Fats Waller met Al Capone

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"The Very Best of Fats Waller" (Fats Waller)

Kottke pointed out this great incident in Jazz history.

One evening Fats felt a revolver poked into his paunchy stomach. He found himself bullied into a black limousine, heard the driver ordered to East Cicero. Sweat pouring down his body, Fats foresaw a premature end to his career, but on arrival at a fancy saloon, he was merely pushed toward a piano and told to play. He played. Loudest in applause was a beefy man with an unmistakable scar: Al Capone was having a birthday, and he, Fats, was a present from "the boys".

The party lasted three days. Fats exhausted himself and his repertoire, but with every request bills were stuffed into his pockets. He and Capone consumed vast quantities of food and drink. By the time the black limousine headed back to the Sherman, Fats had acquired severeal thousand dollars in cash and a decided taste for vintage champagne

[From First encounters: When Fats Waller met Al Capone | Independent, The (London) ]

I've always had an affection for Fats Waller (and in fact, we have a song of his that is 'penciled in' to our screenplay), now I love him even more. What a cool cat.

Reflections Upon a Warmer Time


Walking along Wacker Drive

Reflections Upon a Warmer Time
Reflections Upon a Warmer Time, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Chicago River, summertime....


Spotlight, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Ummm, that's a really long time to wait.
2,147,483,648.0 hours
89,478,485.3 days
12,782,640 8weeks
3,195,660.2 months
266,305.0 years.

Maybe I'll reboot instead (or delete the spotlight index, or both)

links for 2008-02-25

Three Sleepless Nights

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Another film idea, suggested by Beau tonight: unexplained world-wide sleeplessness. Three should be long enough for a story arc.

Jazz Band BW
Jazz Band BW, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Beau Barry, Bruce Mak, and friends


Clinton’s Money Troubles

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Decidedly minor, yet doesn't portend good outcomes. If you can't pay vendors who supply your campaign, how do you win an election? How about stiff some already wealthy political consultants or lobbyists instead of not paying small business owners who have much tighter cash flow, and probably need the money to pay business expenses now?

It was just $2,492.63, a pittance, really, alongside million-dollar television buys and direct mail drops.

But with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination enduring a rough patch, Peter Semetis, the owner of a deli and catering business in Lower Manhattan, had been following the news and growing increasingly worried that he was not going to be paid for the assorted breakfast trays, coffee, tea and orange juice he had provided the campaign for an event in mid-December.

“I’m afraid of her dropping out of the campaign and me becoming a casualty,” Mr. Semetis said.

So on Thursday, he went to small claims court and filed suit.

[From Small Vendors Feel Pinch of Clinton’s Money Troubles - New York Times]

Not an isolated incident either:

Mr. Semetis, however, is not the only one who has been having trouble lately collecting money from the Clinton campaign. The Hotel Ottumwa, a family-owned hotel in Ottumwa, Iowa, played host to an event attended by former President Bill Clinton on New Year’s Eve for several hundred people and had been trying for almost a month and a half to get paid.

The hotel had initially asked for payment of the $9,125 bill up front but kept being put off. But the owners figured that if any political campaign was good for it, Mrs. Clinton’s would be.

“People were a little more comfortable with Clinton because they’ve got money,” said Kay Whittington, one of the hotel owners.

Last week, the owners heard about an item on the local news about a Des Moines cleaning company, Top Job Services Cleaning, which had been trying unsuccessfully to recoup $7,500 from the Clinton campaign.

links for 2008-02-23

Harmony in Red White and Blue Album Cover

Harmony in Red White and Blue Album Cover
Harmony in Red White and Blue Album Cover, originally uploaded by swanksalot. As part of a fun new CD Cover meme

1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angoroj

2. "Outer space is no place for a person of breeding.
Lady Violet Bonham Carter (1887 - 1969)"

3. and my own photo (cause I tired of looking for CC licensed photos, and this particular one was in explore at one time)

(Oh yeah, this is my own handwriting font, or at least, my handwriting circa 1999 when it was made into a TrueType font)

And yes, my CD Cover skills sort of suck...

Corporate Media Lazy


Stop the press! Well, you know what we mean. Poor (ex-mayor of Austin) Kirk Watson was caught on live television without an answer to the gotcha-question of the moment - is Obama a light-weight Senator? Blogger hilzoy answers

it's only a Rorschach test for people who don't bother to find whether or not Obama actually has any actual legislative achievements. If he does, then of course this just shows that this one supporter didn't know what they are. If he doesn't, it might show something more, e.g. that Obama is a lightweight. As it happens, Obama does have substantive legislative achievements. I have written more about them here. A few highlights, all of which became law:

[Click to read them The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - Dear Chris Matthew Please Do Your Job]
Asleep at the Post

He concludes:

There's a lot more. Honestly, there is. I wrote a summary here (and an earlier one here), and provided lists (1, 2, 3) of all the bills and amendments sponsored or co-sponsored by Clinton and Obama in the 109th and 110th Congresses, just so it would be as easy as possible for people to see for themselves. (Fun fact about each side's legislative records: during the 109th and 110th Congresses (which is to say, the time that both Obama and Clinton have been in the Senate), only one sponsored a substantive bill that became law. Guess who it was? Hint: the bill concerns the ongoing conflict in the Congo.) Which brings me to my larger point:

I did this because I had heard one too many people like Chris Matthews talking about Obama's alleged lack of substance, and I thought: I know that's not true, since I have read about Obama's work on non-proliferation, avian flu, and a few other issues. And if people are saying he lacks substance, then surely I, as a citizen, should try to find out whether I just hallucinated all this interesting legislation, or whether this talking point was, in fact, completely wrong. So I sat down with Google and Thomas and tried to find out. But I'm just an amateur. I have a full-time job doing something else. Chris Matthews, by contrast, is paid large sums of money to provide political commentary and insight. I assume he has research assistants at his disposal. He could have done this work a lot more easily than I did. But he didn't. He was more interested in gotcha moments than in actually enlightening the American people.

So here's a challenge for Chris Matthews, or anyone else in the media who wants to take it up. Go over Clinton and Obama's actual legislative records. Find the genuine legislative accomplishments that each has to his or her name. Report to the American people on what you find. Until you do, don't accept statements from either side about who has substance and who does not, or who traffics in "speeches" and who offers "solutions". That's lazy, unprofessional, and a disservice to your audience.

Amen to that. Why make up a fluff question when the answer is something an intern could turn up with a few days work? The obvious answer is the question isn't supposed to get answered, it's just a form of mud-slinging, and laziness.

Public thanks to hilzoy to doing the legwork.

The Saintly John McCain's bad week continues:

Denying that he ever spoke with Paxson's CEO when he testified under oath that he did -- and then misleadingly claiming that he was using the royal "I" and meant only that his staff spoke with Paxson -- is clear and deliberate deceit. [Click to read the details Newsweek catches McCain in a serious contradiction]

No wonder Huckabee Hound is still hanging around.

Elegy of the Big Lie

Google to Store Patients' Health Records

Alternative Google

Google joins the online medical record fray.

Google Inc. will begin storing the medical records of a few thousand people as it tests a long-awaited health service that's likely to raise more concerns about the volume of sensitive information entrusted to the Internet search leader.

The pilot project to be announced Thursday will involve 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic who volunteered to an electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be retrieved through Google's new service, which won't be open to the general public.

Each health profile, including information about prescriptions, allergies and medical histories, will be protected by a password that's also required to use other Google services such as e-mail and personalized search tools.

Google views its expansion into health records management as a logical extension because its search engine already processes millions of requests from people trying to find about more information about an injury, illness or recommended treatment.

But the health venture also will provide more fodder for privacy watchdogs who believe Google already knows too much about the interests and habits of its users as its computers log their search requests and store their e-mail discussions.

[From My Way News - Google to Store Patients' Health Records]

and here's the part that bothers me

Rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) last year introduced a similar service called HealthVault, and AOL co-founder Steve Case is backing Revolution Health, which also offers online tools for managing personal health histories.

The third-party services are troublesome because they aren't covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, which just issued a cautionary report on the topic.

Passed in 1996, HIPPA established strict standards that classify medical information as a privileged communication between a doctor and patient. Among other things, the law requires a doctor to notify a patient when subpoenaed for a medical record.

That means a patient who agrees to transfer medical records to an external health service run by Google or Microsoft could be unwittingly making it easier for the government or some other legal adversary to obtain the information, Dixon said.

If the medical records aren't protected by HIPPA, the information conceivably also could be used for marketing purposes.
Could be fine, but I'd be a bit leery allowing any large, third-party corporation store and profit from my medical records.

links for 2008-02-22

Obamania and the corporate media

Playing in the Dirt

Dr. Alterman notes the common theme emerging, disparaging Obama supporters as being mesmerized by his hypnotic glare, or something.

So is Sen. Obama the next Charles Manson? Or the next John Lennon? Or ... do his supporters just not drink enough water?

Notes one photographer who regularly covers large rallies, "There are always people that faint. Guaranteed. When somebody has to stand at one spot, at a view up front of their candidate, and they wait hours upon hours with no water, no food, it's expected and understandable." This is borne out by numerous fainting episodes at the events of other candidates -- both Hillary Clinton (here and here) and John McCain (here).

Never, during any of this coverage, has any reporter actually found someone who fainted at an Obama rally after being over-come by his message or star power. If you watch the Matthews clip above, the incidents seem to all come during apparently calm moments in the speech -- some of which are given outside, like this speech on a hillside in Southern California, packed with 1,000 supporters, one of whom fainted.

But, as we sadly know about election coverage, the facts can sometimes become incidental to pre-determined themes. Just ask the know-it-all inventor of the Internet, Mr. Gore...

[Click to read more of Dr Alterman's Media Matters - His cheatin' heart ... , which is mostly about the Saintly John McCain, but also other topics]

No doubt. And if that meme doesn't stick, there's a few others in the pike:

there's always the fascist connection according to guess who. Because, along with eating vegetarian, a campaign theme of "unity" is inherently fascist. ... If that doesn't stick, one might try the Communism charge. A former speechwriter for Dan Quayle writing at the Corner assumes that since she knew some interracial couples in the '60s who met at Communist events, and Barack Obama's parents are interracial and met in the '60s, he may be a Communist. (No, really.)
I'm sure there are others, and probably entire blogs devoted to disseminating the anti-Obamania vacines to an unsuspecting body politic.

Scumbags at KBR

KBR (formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, and a subsidiary of Halliburton Company, heard of them?) should be forced to void all contracts with the US Government, should lose their corporate charter, and all KBR executives should be jailed. Of course, Diamond-Dick Cheney probably already granted KBR immunity for any crime done, in a deal just like the telecom corporations negotiated.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill.—Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.

The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors' pockets, records show

[From Inside the world of war profiteers -- chicagotribune.com]
Balls of Stone


Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Rock Island sentenced the Army official, Chief Warrant Officer Peleti "Pete" Peleti Jr., to 28 months in prison for taking bribes. One Middle Eastern subcontractor treated him to a trip to the 2006 Super Bowl, a defense investigator said.

Prosecutors would not confirm or deny ongoing grand jury activity. But court records identify a dozen FBI, IRS and military investigative agents who have been assigned to the case. Interviews as well as testimony at the sentencing for Peleti, who has cooperated with authorities, suggest an active probe.

Rock Island serves as a center for the probe of war profiteering because Army brass at the arsenal here administer KBR's so-called LOGCAP III contract to feed, shelter and support U.S. soldiers, and to help restore Iraq's oil infrastructure.
Disgusting, yet too frequent an occurrence to just be coincidence. Read the rest if you have a strong stomach.

Lunar Eclipse Noisy

Lunar Eclipse Noisy
Lunar Eclipse Noisy, originally uploaded by swanksalot. I thought I had turned my ISO setting to 200 (I actually did, but not in both places I needed to), so most of my eclipse photos that weren't overexposed were extremely noisy. Oh well, there's another lunar eclipse in 2010, I might be read by then.

links for 2008-02-21

Blue Without Angst

from my archives

Blue Without Angst
Blue Without Angst, originally uploaded by swanksalot. across the street from the Art Institute Lions.

Slightly modified in Photoshop

Hey Over Here

There is a story going on here, just barely below the surface

Hey Over Here
Hey Over Here, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Street scene unfolding


tiptoeing through my photo archive for 2007 yielded this puzzler....

Standard, originally uploaded by swanksalot. guess where! History of the building gets bonus points.

links for 2008-02-20

Noonster Emerges

Your Choice

I assiduously ignore the editorial columns of the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan's especially. But this column has a couple of interesting points, if you can ignore oddly formed sentences like:
her moral standing within her own party and among her own followers has been dragged down
Moral standing? Really? Care to explain? Apparently not.

Anyway, Ms. Noonan's other, better points:

We know she is smart. Is she wise? If it comes to it, down the road, can she give a nice speech, thank her supporters, wish Barack Obama well, and vow to campaign for him?

It either gets very ugly now, or we will see unanticipated--and I suspect professionally saving--grace.

I ruminate in this way because something is happening. Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It's not one big primary, it's a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation. The trends and indices are not in her favor. She is having trouble raising big money, she's funding her campaign with her own wealth...and the legacy of Clintonism tarnished by what Bill Clinton did in South Carolina. Unfavorable primaries lie ahead. She doesn't have the excitement, the great whoosh of feeling that accompanies a winning campaign. The guy from Chicago who was unknown a year ago continues to gain purchase, to move forward. For a soft little innocent, he's played a tough and knowing inside/outside game.

The day she admitted she'd written herself a check for $5 million, Obama's people crowed they'd just raised $3 million. But then his staff is happy. They're all getting paid.

Political professionals are leery of saying, publicly, that she is losing, because they said it before New Hampshire and turned out to be wrong. Some of them signaled their personal weariness with Clintonism at that time, and fear now, as they report, to look as if they are carrying an agenda. One part of the Clinton mystique maintains: Deep down journalists think she's a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched. Prince Yusupov served him cupcakes laced with cyanide, emptied a revolver, clubbed him, tied him up and threw him in a frozen river. When he floated to the surface they found he'd tried to claw his way from under the ice. That is how reporters see Hillary.

[From Declarations - WSJ.com]

But then Ms. Noonan adds:
What I really mean is they see her as the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction": "I won't be ignored, Dan!"
Youch. Noonan redeems herself a bit with:
With Mr. Obama the campaign will be about issues. "He'll raise your taxes." He will, and I suspect Americans may vote for him anyway. But the race won't go low.

Mrs. Clinton would be easier for Republicans. With her cavalcade of scandals, they'd be delighted to go at her. They'd get medals for it. Consultants would get rich on it.

The Democrats have it exactly wrong. Hillary is the easier candidate, Mr. Obama the tougher. Hillary brings negative; it's fair to hit her back with negative. Mr. Obama brings hope, and speaks of a better way. He's not Bambi, he's bulletproof.

The biggest problem for the Republicans will be that no matter what they say that is not issue oriented--"He's too young, he's never run anything, he's not fully baked"--the mainstream media will tag them as dealing in racial overtones, or undertones. You can bet on this. Go to the bank on it.

The Democrats continue not to recognize what they have in this guy. Believe me, Republican professionals know. They can tell.
Well, partially redeems herself. The raising taxes bit is a joke, cruel only to those who aren't managers of hedge funds or CEOs. Us, in other words.

Sepia Sucked

We had the worst meal in years at a newcomer to the West Loop called Sepia.

[From S E P I A Chicago Restaurant ~ 312.441.1920 123 N. Jefferson, Chicago, IL 60661] - warning: one of those annoying flash websites that take forever to load, and worse, one that autoplays music. You can turn the music off, but the toggle doesn't appear until after 8 warbled bars by a Billy Holiday imitator. I should have canceled my reservation once I visited the web site. Though some of the sepia-toned photos are nice.

Sepia Interior

This is the only photo I managed to take as before we were served any food or drink, four different people visited our table to ask who we were (I think they wanted to know if we were food critics or not) before a manager came and told me that "Photos were not allowed".

I am certainly not a food critic (read below if you want proof), just a typical consumer. Perhaps if we had said we were writing a review, we might have been treated better.

Here were my scribbled notes from later that evening.

•The service was ok, once we let the waiter rattle off his spiel without interruption. He was initially 'annoyed' at us for daring to ask questions, but eventually he warmed up, and was ok. I've waited tables, so I know how sometimes customers can be irritating for no particular reason. The bus buy in charge of our table hovered nearby, refilling our water every 2 or 3 minutes. Perhaps they get a bonus if they sell more than one bottle of water? Grade: B.

•As mentioned, was told firmly there would be no photographs allowed, per 'policy'. Not sure what that's about. Perhaps afraid of proof of bad reviews? Grade: F.

Atmosphere, not quite to the level of the home of a tribe of serial killers, but still kind of freaky. I wonder how many folks ever return to have another meal? I could easily visualize ritual sacrifices occurring in the basement. The tables are crammed up against each other, you can borrow napkins from adjoining tables without even turning your torso. We ate early, so most of our meal enjoyed a buffer, in three dimensions, but the staff constantly bumped against our chairs, or stumbled over our feet. Sepia's layout obviously was not approved by a Feng Shui master.

Flat breads: sauteed mushrooms on a homemade cracker. Profit margin of 99%. I calculate the ingredients as 1 mushroom diced (perhaps 2, of different varieties, but hard to tell), some butter, some oil, about .05 of a garlic clove, and a bit of flour and water. $7. If I made this, even if I was more generous with the amount of mushrooms, and if I didn't have the benefit of economy of scale, still would be hard to spend $0.25 on the dish. After the 300 word buildup mouthed by our waiter (and probably written by the owner), I expected more. Grade: D-.

Salad - a handful of moldy lettuce, or perhaps a sour vinegar dressing. Served with cold, marinated grilled carrot strips, of there must have been a surfeit, as these same carrots appeared in all our other dishes too. Grade: F.

Fish - a nice chunk of sturgeon, cooked to the consistency of leather. Yummm, chewy! Served on a bed of watercress, with mold- marinated carrots. $26 dollars. Grade: C-.

Grilled vegetables. Actually not bad, the only thing we completely finished, though again, 20 dollars for a couple ounces of grilled/baked vegetables (squash, carrots, brussels sprouts, red cabbage) seems a little steep, especially since nothing was organic or locally grown. Sysco vegetables are pretty damn cheap. Perhaps the kitchen staff has a very competitive pay scale, or perhaps there are too many of them, or perhaps the rent is not favorable. Or something. We were hungry about an hour after leaving Sepia, and had to have a second dinner.

Goat cheese cake, cloyingly sweet, but not bad. Served with a bitter, insanely dry cookie, and one lonely pistachio nut, crumbled, and spread out across an over-large plate. Actually, I think it was less than one pistachio nut, perhaps 1/4 of a whole nut. Whatever. We left most of it uneaten, lonely on the vast plate. Allegedly the desert chef is going to be featured in some food magazine, but that is no guarantee of quality, just evidence of payola in the corporate media. Grade: D+.
Final Grade - are you kidding? We didn't even drink wine (contrary to my habit), and our bill was still over $100. If I want a special, delicious, romantic meal, and am willing to spend more than $100, there are several options to choose from in Chicago. Sepia is not one.

9 great movies

scripts to aspire to

9 great movies
9 great movies, originally uploaded by swanksalot. or rather, 9 great posters of 9 great movies. I've seen them all, have you? Would be a great film festival, wouldn't it?

How Green Is My Realtor

Take Your Stand

Green, Daddy-o, is the buzzword of the year. Usually more hype than substance, but what's the downside of claiming your business is "green"?.

In a bid to stand out in a sagging housing market, an increasing number of real-estate agents are marketing themselves as eco-friendly -- connecting environmentally conscious buyers to "green" homes and helping sellers make their homes more eco-sensitive.

These agents are promoting their knowledge of eco-friendly and energy-efficient properties on their Web sites and blogs. Some are taking courses to learn about things like geo-thermal heat pumps and how to help home buyers qualify for grants and tax credits for energy-saving improvements.

Green Key Real Estate in San Francisco asks on its site: "Wouldn't you rather work with a Realtor who shares your values in environmental and social responsibility?" and sends its agents to environmentally friendly building courses. Last fall, Harry Norman Realtors in Atlanta had 48 Realtors certified by EcoBroker International, which educates Realtors on eco-friendly homes and marketing. Meanwhile, individual Realtors are carving "green" niches for themselves: Celeste Karan, of Keller Williams Realty in Chicago, started www.greenhomechicago.com, a site where she lists properties and promises "to help home buyers understand what truly constitutes a 'green building.'"

Real-estate agents say they will sort through the confusion. Celeste Karan, of Keller Williams Realty in Chicago, asks to see prior utility bills or whether the home is Energy Star rated so she can promote how much actual savings a buyer can expect. She also points out that some homes with quick-fix improvements -- so-called greenwashing -- may not be as eco-friendly as they sound: Bamboo floors, for example, are often touted as "green" because bamboo is a rapidly renewable material. But most bamboo comes from China, and lots of energy is used in shipping the products halfway around the world.

[From How Green Is My Realtor - WSJ.com]

Can't hurt to look, but come on.

[Digg-enabled full access to article here]
Yet some consumers say that when it comes to environmentally friendly homes, it's easy enough to do research on their own. Bruce Ray, a Chicago pastor, is seriously considering a $400,000 three-bedroom apartment in Green Armitage, a new building made with features like recycled and locally sourced materials, nontoxic paint, and insulation so tight it promises buyers no more than $600 a year in energy bills for the first two years. He says his belief in stewardship of the environment led him to research the various eco-friendly properties and understand the features they offer. As for the "green" agent who showed him the place, he said she was knowledgeable, but her pitch wasn't what sold him on the property. "There's so much green information for people now," he says. "I think people who are interested in these buildings are already pretty eco-friendly, already driving a Prius and recycling and composting."

Netflixed: Pierrot Le Fou

"Pierrot le Fou - Criterion Collection" (Criterion Collection)

Recently released Criterion Collection disc. Jean-Luc Godard's films are a gamble for me, some are simply unwatchable. Pierrot le Fou sounds intriguing however, there are warning signs I might roll my eyes at the datedness of it.

Shipped on 02/18/08.

Director Jean-Luc Godard's popular 1965 drama captures '60s French cool as only Godard could depict it. After attending a mindless party full of shallow chatter, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) suddenly feels a desperate need to escape and runs away with his baby-sitter, Marianna (Anna Karina). But Marianna's dark past still haunts her, and what follows is a roller-coaster ride filled with passion and desperation as the two lovers meet their fate. [From Shipped: Pierrot Le Fou]

Not sure if this will help or hinder my nascent screenplay, but according to IMDb, Godard allegedly shot the film without a script.

Godard also said:
"it is not really a film, it's an attempt at cinema. Life is the subject, with [Cinema]Scope and color as its attributes...In short, life filling the screen as a tap fills bathtub that is simultaneously emptying at the same rate."
Roger Ebert had this to say on the original release:
"Pierrot le Fou" was made in 1966 but only released in the United States this year. Thus it comes to Chicago after "Weekend" (1968), a film it superficially resembles. Both films are about a man and a woman on a cross-country odyssey. The form is convenient because literally anything can happen. (When the couple in "Weekend" entered that forest, they even met Emily Bronte.) But "Pierrot le Fou" is more relaxed, more fun, less bitter than "Weekend." And it contains Godard's most virtuoso display of his mastery of Hollywood genres.

It seems to be a gangster picture: Jean-Paul Belmondo leaves his wife and goes to live with his former girlfriend, Anna Karina. She has apparently killed a man. They go on the lam in a stolen car, wind up on a deserted island, play the Robinson Crusoe bit for awhile, and then go back to the mainland to face the music (as Edward G. Robinson might have put it).

But Godard never sticks closely enough to this plot to make it important. He does a curious thing. He will have a scene that is perfectly conventional, like a scene in a Hollywood gangster movie. But it doesn't come out of anything or lead into anything; it is important because of its tone, its texture and not because it advances the plot. Thus a Godard movie becomes a montage of pure technique; the parts don't fit together -- but they add up to an attitude. Does this make sense? More than any other director, Godard resists being written about.

but then had some second thoughts in 2007:
Godard's "Pierrot Le Fou" (1965) is the same film I liked so much when it opened here in 1968, and assigned a 3.5 star rating. In fact, it is probably a better film, because the Music Box is showing it in a new 35mm print. But while I once wrote of it as "Godard's most virtuoso display of his mastery of Hollywood genres," I now see it more as the story of silly characters who have seen too many Hollywood movies.

There was a point when it was revolutionary to show young lovers flaunting society, committing crimes thoughtlessly and running hand-in-hand over hill and dale, beach and field. And then there was a point where it was post-revolutionary. Or maybe, to take a more optimistic view of the progress of cinema, pre-revolutionary.

9/11 De-Commissioned

V is for Victory

Impeachment is too lenient of a punishment for these goons who are mis-leading our country. I'd prefer jail time, or worse.

But what if it was revealed that in the months leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, the administration had ample evidence that the attack was imminent, and was negligent in its response? What would become of the 9/11 presidency? The White House faced this very real problem in 2003 when public and congressional pressure forced Bush to sign a law creating a commission to examine the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks.

Philip Shenon, the New York Times reporter covering the 9/11 Commission, has since discovered the great lengths that the administration went to in order to neuter the findings of the Commission. Among his discoveries:

[Click to read a few blood-pressure-elevating facts Think Again: 9/11 De-Commissioned]

Tar and feathers, perhaps?

New Portishead Album

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"Third" (Portishead)

"Portishead" (Portishead)

"Dummy" (Portishead)

Cool! I had wondered what had happened to Portishead. I played the hell out of their first two albums.

This is how the new Portishead album starts. A friendly voice says something vaguely introductory in Brazilian-Portuguese. There's a bit of subdued chatter in the background, and the reassuring plink of a distant piano, as if you're arriving at a half-empty Latin nightclub. Then a huge pummelling beat comes in (Geoff Barrow insists that he was 'massively unhappy' with this rhythm for many long months, but it sounds pretty unstoppable now). Sawing strings summon up a demonic echoing cowbell, before this in turn gives way to ominous slashes of spaghetti western guitar - the sort of thing you'd expect to hear just before a hired gun played by Lee Van Cleef accidentally shoots an innocent child.
Article continues

Two minutes and 10 seconds in, the scene is finally set for Beth Gibbons's vocal to make its entrance. But however effectively the listener has been softened up for this momentous event, no one will quite be prepared for the pitch of ecstatic anguish at which her voice announces itself. 'Wounded and afraid inside my head,' Beth flails poignantly, as a Tardis seems to take off in the background, 'falling through changes ... Did you know what I lost? Do you know what I wanted?'
It's stunning stuff. And this is just the opening number. Later on, once Third (for that is the title: it is, after all, Portishead's third album - well, if you don't count the live one) is properly up and running, it features a run of five or six songs which are not just worthy of the records this band were making 10 or even 14 years ago, but feel like the sonic destination which they were always meant to arrive at.

[Click to read more details Light in the west | Electronic | guardian.co.uk Music]

Not sure when the album is going to be released, but the name of it, currently, is Portishead 3. I'll be looking forward to hearing it. Of course, I don't ingest drugs like I used to, so maybe the experience won't quite be the same....

Office upgrade

"Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Home & Student Edition" (Microsoft)

I might give in, and purchase one copy of the new Microsoft Office 2008 (home edition - no use for Exchange Server crapola). I skipped the last version, it didn't offer any compelling reasons to upgrade, but the 2008 edition is compiled for Intel Macs, of which we have several now (including laptops). Still is no great reason to upgrade, I haven't read or encountered any 'killer' feature. Apple's iWork suite is useful, but sometimes is not enough.

No, the real reason is the Office vX does not play well with Spaces (the new virtual monitor scheme in Leopard that I've come to depend upon). Neither does Eudora, so it itoo s going to be phased out of our office, with great sadness. I've used Eudora for all my email for what seems like forever (but is really probably only 10 years). Nothing is static, especially in the technology sector. No use crying over spilt bits. Pippin's New MBA

Shadow Juggler

This is me today - juggling things that don't juggle well.

Shadow Juggler
Shadow Juggler, originally uploaded by swanksalot. I can only juggle two orbs at once though, still learning. Could do a better job with a tripod, but oh well.

links for 2008-02-18

Sexy Queen Ida

"Caught in the Act" (Queen Ida & Her Zydeco Band)

Queen Ida rocks! (or rolls, or swings, or whatever you want to call it). If you play an album of Zydeco (Clifton Chenier, Queen Ida, Professor Longhair, Buckwheat Zydeco, Boozoo Chavis, you get the idea) at a wedding, at a party, even while cooking dinner for your family, watch as people get up off their asses to dance a little. Such infectious music. Nothing complicated, no weird time signatures or off-beat keys, just happy music.
(YouTube stolen from)

Screenwriting 101

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"The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style" (Christopher Riley)

Have spent most of the afternoon sipping Jameson's, and discovering my nascent screenplay is totally written wrong. According to Christopher Riley (and he sounds like he knows what he's talking about), there is a very precise form and style to any screenplay, and screenplays that break the rules get discarded, unread. We've mostly been brainstorming, but last weekend I wrote out a couple scenes, in a seemed-like screenplay-like format. Apparently, I'm going to have to rework those pages, changing nearly everything except for the font. Not difficult necessarily, just hard for me to kowtow to the dictum of using so much white space on a page. I tend to want to fill up every part of a page with words. Riley claims it has something to do with the rule of thumb that a page of script covers about a minute of filming.

I've tackled film treatments before, but never had a solid enough idea to actually write an entire screenplay, nor had a willing collaborator. This script covers some of my pet ideas (and favorite visual themes) - urban decay, industrialization, and merges them with other (fun) themes - murder, insanity, duplicity, racism. I can't say more because you might steal our concepts, and type faster than our inexperience allows us to type. A competitive game, film making.

Wish us luck. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Evening is icumen in


Title stolen from Richard Thompson, who stole it from Trad Arrangement

Evening is icumen in
Evening is icumen in, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Yet another sunset porno. Partial HDR treatment.

links for 2008-02-17

Jesus of Cool

Jesus of Cool

On the cover of his solo debut album Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe is pictured in six rock & roll getups — hippie, folkie, greasy rock & roller, new wave hipster — giving the not-so-subtle implication that this guy can do anything. Nick proves that assumption correct on Jesus of Cool, a record so good it was named twice, as Lowe’s American record label got the jitters with Jesus and renamed it Pure Pop for Now People, shuffling the track listing (but not swapping songs) in the process. As it happens, both titles are accurate, but while the UK title — now restored for Yep Roc’s terrific 30th Anniversary edition — sounds cooler, capturing Lowe’s cheerfully blasphemous rock & roll swagger, Pure Pop describes the sound of the album, functioning as a sincere description of the music while conveying the wicked, knowing humor that drives it. This is pop about pop, a record filled with songs that tweak or spin conventions, or are about the industry. Only a writer with a long, hard battle with the biz in his past could write “Music for Money” and much of Jesus of Cool does feel like a long-delayed reaction to the disastrous American debut of Brinsley Schwarz, where the band’s grand plans at kick-starting their career came crumbling down and pushed them into the pubs. Once there, the Brinsleys spearheaded the back-to-basics pub rock movement in England and as the years rolled on the band got loose, as did Lowe’s writing, which got catchier and funnier on the group’s last two albums, Nervous on the Road and New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz.

[Click to read more of The Allmusic Blog » They Called It Rock: Nick Lowe’s Jesus of Cool Gets the Reissue This Pure Pop Classic Deserves]
Cool, have to take a new listen to this album, as I'm late to the Nick Lowe party.

We've been believers in the Howard Dean 50 State strategy. There are liberals in every state, discarding them without even making an attempt to win their support seemed like a stupid policy by the Democratic Party leadership (The DLC especially), and we were glad Dean ended it.

Bob writes:

Dean realized that it wasn't enough to spend money to grow the party in places like LA and New York. He realized that there were Democrats in places like Utah, who, if given some resources, could build a strong party. We now have 2.5 paid DNC staffers working with the state party, and we are starting to see some return on the DNC investment in Utah.

The way Barack Obama has run his campaign, he is a firm believer in the 50-state strategy. By concentrating resources in lesser-populated areas of Nevada, he was able to capture one more delegate than Hillary Clinton, who "Won" the state. He has taken the lead in the delegate count by being dominant in small states like Utah and Idaho, while staying relatively competitive in large states like California and New York.

[Click to read more The World, According To Me: Obama, Hillary, and Dean's 50-state strategy]

Bottom line, Hillary Clinton's camp eschewed the 50-state plan to focus on the large population centers, and it hasn't really worked to their advantage, especially in the long run.

Cruel and Gratuitous

I was just ruminating yesterday to all those within earshot that since the New York Times lifted their online paywall (aka TimesSelect), I haven't read (nor blogged about, natch) much of the vaunted NYT columnists recent work. Frank Rich, yes, and Bob Herbert, but I used to read both religiously before the TimesSelect fiasco. Maureen Dowd, for instance, is much less interesting without the added spice of 'sticking it to the man', ie, ballooning my site traffic by evading subscriber restrictions to within an inch of copyright law. I don't think I have read a single column of hers (beyond the teaser paragraph) since the paywall went down. Don't miss her words either. Same with David Brooks, though to be fair, I couldn't stand his facile reasoning in any circumstance. William Kristol is just a joke, and even Paul Krugman has lost his lustre, with his defense of the Clinton's bridge-burning primary strategies.

Aliens window shopping

Anyway, pointless rambling aside (blame the FDA! I had to self-medicate! I had to, honest.), Bob Herbert is worth your reading time today. He writes about a strange, racially tinged incident that occurred in New York a few months ago.

Thirty-two people were arrested on that Bushwick street last May 21, including young women and children. They had been walking along a quiet, tree-lined block of Putnam Avenue on their way to a subway station where they had hoped to catch a train to attend a wake for a friend who had been murdered. The police, who have said that the friend was a gang leader, surrounded the group and closed in.

The youngest person arrested was 13. All of the kids were handcuffed, cursed at and humiliated, and several spent 30 hours or more in jail.

To date, there has been no evidence produced — no witnesses, no photographs or videotapes, no dented vehicles or broken mirrors, nothing whatsoever — to indicate that any of the youngsters had done anything at all that was wrong.

How is it that you can have a rampage in broad daylight on a street in New York City and not be able to show in any way that the rampage occurred?

[From Cruel and Gratuitous - New York Times]

The police and the district attorney seemingly perjured themselves (well, if they had been speaking in a court of law. Public officials are free to lie to the media without repercussion) describing the alleged crime in the most dire fashion:

The police commissioner’s office and a New York City police captain tried to convince the public that a marauding band of kids had gotten out of control and terrified residents, motorists and pedestrians on a street in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

The cops were wrong. And they must have known that they were wrong, that the picture they were creating of youngsters climbing on top of cars and blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic was completely false.

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, carried the canard further. That had to have been deliberate, too. He went on the Brian Lehrer radio program on WNYC and said that his office had investigated the matter — had conducted what he described as an “independent inquiry.”

“We had many, many interviews with local store owners and people who live in the neighborhood who are, frankly, scared to death of these kids,” he said. “And they were not just walking on one car; they were trampling on all sorts of cars. It was almost as if they were inviting their arrest.”
Very, very curious. Read the rest for yourself

Mark Penn is a loser

Josh Marshall is not going to be invited to Mark Penn's President's Day BBQ this year.

You've seen my continuous barbs at Mark Penn, Clinton's 'chief strategist'. The last couple days have shown very clearly I think that Clinton could do nothing better for her campaign than to throttle this clown and let her get down to the business of making a case to voters for her candidacy. Perhaps good spin is an oxymoron, moral if not linguistic. But good spin is clever and forward-leaning pitches of actual realities, facts. The word in the sense we use it today actually came into being in the early 90s and to a great degree around the '92 Clinton campaign, which had such mastery in its practice. But this Clinton campaign has been doing it in a weird parody mode. Not sharp 'spins' on favorable realities, but aggressive pitches of complete nonsense. So now you have Penn successively saying caucus wins don't really count, small state wins don't really count, medium state wins don't really count, states with large African-American populations don't really count, all building up to yesterday's gem: "Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn't won any of the significant states -- outside of Illinois? That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama."

Clinton is ultimately responsible for putting her political fate in this fool's hands. But this is a guy who has basically one big political win under his belt and whose record in seriously contested races, particularly Democratic primary races is one of almost constant defeats. Much of Clinton's current predicament stems from Penn's disastrous, glass-jaw 'inevitability' strategy and the mind-boggling decision not even to contest a slew of states where Obama racked up huge victories and many delegates.

[Click to read more of Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall | Won't Go There]

Still partying like its 1992 again, instead of 2008. Is being the junior Senator from New York really so bad?

Barack and Hillary wonder about Swank Franks

ru-oh. Is this a test run for 2008 election shenanigans to come?

Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem’s 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district.

City election officials this week said that their formal review of the results, which will not be completed for weeks, had confirmed some major discrepancies between the vote totals reported publicly — and unofficially — on primary night and the actual tally on hundreds of voting machines across the city.

[From Unofficial Tallies in City Understated Obama Vote - New York Times]
I knew Ms. Clinton is friendly with Rupert Murdoch, but she must really be in trouble if she's already resorting to voter disenfranchisement in the primary in her own home state! Well, if this is as bad as it sounds. Facts are still being discovered.

Gee, you'd think the FDA would be a little smarter about managing their public relations by now. Apparently not. Perhaps if the FDA mission wasn't so transparent - protection of American pharmaceutical companies profits at all costs - more might get done to solve these recurring problems.

The F.D.A. approved a crucial blood-thinning drug for sale without first inspecting a Chinese plant which, along with a plant in Wisconsin, made the drug’s active ingredient.

“It was obviously a glitch” that the drug, heparin, produced and sold by Baxter International, was approved for sale without a plant inspection, said Karen Riley, an F.D.A. spokeswoman. The agency does not know who was at fault, and it is still “preparing to send inspectors over there,” Ms. Riley said.

Peter Barton Hutt, a former top lawyer for the agency, said that since 1980 it has had a policy requiring that plants be inspected before drugs are approved for sale.

Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of a House investigative subcommittee, said that no matter what happened with the heparin inquiry, the F.D.A.’s inability to provide basic information about the Chinese manufacturing plant weeks after concerns were first raised was deeply troubling.

“They can’t tell us if they’ve inspected this plant, what other problems might have been identified at this plant, or what other U.S. firms might be getting supplies from this plant,” he said.

Mr. Stupak’s committee and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, both sent letters to the agency on Thursday, asking for more information about inspections of plants making heparin.

Baxter International announced on Monday that it was suspending sales of its multidose vials of heparin after four patients died and 350 suffered complications, many of them serious. Baxter bought the active ingredient for this product from Scientific Protein Laboratories, which has plants in Waunakee, Wis., and Changzhou City, China.

[From F.D.A. Broke Its Rules by Not Inspecting Chinese Plant With Problem Drug]
All Made Here

As a parenthetical thought, the active ingredient in Heparin is pig intestines. Was that on the label? Do Muslims and Jews knowingly ingest pig intestines just because it is not in pill form? Can bacon be sold at a pharmacy?

Anyway, the pharmaceutical giants have figured out how to make greater profit margins - use factories overseas, without proper regulation or oversight. The FDA has turned a blind eye on this practice for years, and the deaths keep adding up, as do the number of FDA officials who get lucrative jobs in the pharmaceutical industry months after leaving government service. Hmmmm.

Dr. Ajay Singh, director of dialysis at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said he was astonished by what he called the many failures to ensure a safe supply of heparin. There are 450,000 people in the United States on dialysis, and nearly all of them need copious doses of heparin, he said. Heparin is also used in cardiac surgery and among chronic care patients.

“We need to ensure that this country has access to the crucial medicines it needs,” Dr. Singh said. “This is a national security issue.”
The heparin scare comes at a particularly delicate time for the F.D.A. Over the past year, a wave of tainted goods from China, including deadly pet food ingredients and tainted fish, has prompted concern about whether regulators are adequately monitoring imports’ safety.

The Government Accountability Office released three reports in recent months that found that the drug agency provided little oversight of the increasing number of foreign plants that export food, drugs and devices to the United States.

Although the agency must inspect domestic drug plants once every two years, the investigators found that it inspected foreign drug plants at best once every 13 years. The agency’s record in China, now one of the biggest drug suppliers in the world, is even worse. Of the 700 approved Chinese drug plants, the agency has been able to inspect only 10 to 20 each year and would need 40 to 50 years to inspect them all

Dandy. Just dandy. One day, sooner than we think, the levy is going to break, and thousands of people are going to die from some contaminated drug and/or food item.

Obama, Clinton court Toronto supervotes


An international (ahem) correspondent sent me this:

In the hunt for superdelegates who could determine the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are looking north to Toronto.

The only two superdelegates in Canada, Robert Bell and Toby Condliffe, are being targeted and wooed by both campaigns.

Superdelegates can vote for any candidate, unlike regular delegates who are bound by primary results and may, this year, be deadlocked.

"Oh, I tell you, I get three or four calls a day," says Bell. "It started late last year. I've had calls from both (former) president (Bill) Clinton and Senator Clinton. Dick Durbin, the senator from Illinois (an Obama supporter and majority whip) called me from his cellphone. I've been polled by The New York Times, CNN and AP."

Yesterday, Condliffe arranged his afternoon around a conference call from Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe. Last week, there was a call from the candidate himself.

"Clinton's campaign has called me a couple of times to say `We want you to know we're here and available if you want to talk to us.'"

The best of friends, Bell and Condliffe live near each other in midtown Toronto and regularly compare notes over breakfast at Seniors on Yonge St. or Rosie's Kitchen on Bayview Ave. or Boom on College St.

They're both 63, retired and American citizens. Both moved here from the U.S. in the mid-1970s. Both are executives of the Toronto chapter of Democrats Abroad.

And both will attend the party convention in Denver in August as superdelegates because of their affiliation with Democrats Abroad. That's where the similarity ends.

Bell is endorsing Clinton.

Condliffe is backing Obama.

[Click to read more of TheStar.com - USElection - Obama, Clinton court Toronto supervotes , including a brief bio of the two.]

Too funny. Who even knew about superdelegates before this election season, much less about international superdelegates? A brief history of the rise of superdelegates found here.

links for 2008-02-16

Hypocrisy Thy Name is Clinton

Perhaps the Clintons were unaware that the media landscape has changed since 1992. Back then, investigative reporting and fact checking was covered solely by the corporate media elites, another way of saying, not really covered at all. One could gleefully cast aspersions at one's opponent, and none would be the wiser. While that might still be true in the corporate media landscape, the equation has changed with the blossoming of the blogosphere. I predict this particular Clinton hypocrisy will soon leak over to the corporate media, and you'll read/hear about it elsewhere.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post writes:

Even as Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was blasting Sen. Barack Obama for his ties to the Exelon Corporation, the firm of Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from the very same nuclear energy giant.

This past week, Burson Marsteller, Penn's powerhouse consulting agency, was paid more than $230,000 by Exelon to help renew a nuclear energy license in New Jersey, the Huffington Post has learned. The payment was for work that took place over several months, and Burson is still employed by the company.

"They did some work for us in New Jersey between June and November," said Craig Nesbit, vice president of communications for Exelon Generation, a subsidiary. "That bill was invoiced on December 12 and it just took that long to pay these things... We still are paying them a little bit but it is ramping down."

It has been public knowledge that Exelon is a client of Burson. But news of the recent payment comes less than two weeks after the Clinton campaign, and Penn himself, took Obama to task for what they implied was preferential treatment for the company.

On February 3, 2008, the New York Times reported that Obama had backed away from criticism of Exelon following revelation that the company had not disclosed radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants. The Illinois Senator, the paper noted, chose to push legislation that offered guidance, rather than mandates, for prompt reporting of leaks. Moreover, the Times added, Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod worked as a consultant to Exelon, and "since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama's campaigns for the United States Senate and for president."

Following the article's publication, the Clinton campaign pressed the notion that Obama had succumbed to pressure from his donors, even though Clinton had supported the bill. In a radio ad before the Nevada primary, the campaign used Obama's Exelon ties to cast doubt about his opposition to Yucca Mountain, a proposed nuclear waste depository. And in a memo to "interested parties," Penn himself highlighted the Times story, arguing that what Obama says is often contradicted by what journalists find "when they dig into the facts."

Nine days later, Penn's firm, Burson Marsteller, received $230,627.05 from Exelon -- roughly $3,000 more than the sum of Obama's campaign donations from Exelon employees -- for work deemed "Public Affairs."

[Click to read more of Mark Penn Tied To Controversial Nuclear Firm - Politics on The Huffington Post]

Note: there are no good guys in this story, just typically venal politicians grubbing for corporate dollars. The sad part of the whole tale is that no politician is going to get elected without kowtowing to corporate interests, first, second and last. Notice how much media coverage Kucinich gets, or John Edwards for that matter? Not much.

Enchanted Sky Machine

still recovering from a bout of the flu.

Enchanted Sky Machine
Enchanted Sky Machine, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Evanston. Slightly modded in Photoshop.

links for 2008-02-15

links for 2008-02-14

Step Into the Light

where's summertime!

Step Into the Light
Step Into the Light, originally uploaded by swanksalot. A tunnel leading to the lakefront.

Apologize Pull out his eyes

from last summer

Apologize Pull out his eyes
Apologize Pull out his eyes, originally uploaded by swanksalot. found in that neighborhood (Pulaski Park?) east of Ashland, north of Division, west of the interstate.



links for 2008-02-13

CD Baby loves its customers

Per the suggestion of the usually-reliable-arbiter-of-taste over at Blog-Sothoth (I think, can't find a direct link at the moment), I ordered a CD by Rachael Davis and Steppin' In It from CD Baby.

The album sounds fun,
Rachael Davis and the boys from Steppin’ In It found a common love for Jazz music of the 1930’s and ‘40’s after playing concerts as a double-bill. The summer of 2006 found the two Michigan acts working at the same festivals, as classic tunes from Nat King Cole or Sarah Vaughan found their way onto set-lists. By the fall, the quintet was dubbed ‘Shout Sister Shout’ (after the Sister Rosetta Tharpe classic of the same name) and an album was in the works. Combining the timeless rhythm section of Steppin’ In It and Rachael’s velvety vocals, this group “creates a live show that is hot, energetic and brilliant…” WXPR Radio- Rhinelander, WI

Their self-titled debut release was recorded on location at The Creole Gallery in Lansing, MI. Built in the late 19th century, the Creole provided the perfect atmosphere to record and album of classic standards, lending to the character of the project.

Although both are known nationally for their folk repertoire, Shout Sister Shout focuses on old-time American Jazz featuring torch swing numbers alongside bluesy ballads. Old-time radio fanatics Steppin’ In It provide the perfect backdrop for Rachael, who posses a voice that demands your attention.

“The quintet is a tribute to the smoky, sophisticated sound of 1930s and '40s jazz, with plenty of influence from Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole Trio and Sarah Vaughan, and it's a trip to hear Davis channel those old greats. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a bunch of guys playing the hell out of vintage instruments as backup.” The Metro Times- Detroit, MI

but the confirmation email I received from Derek Sivers, President and founder of CD Baby, cracks me up:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Tuesday, February 12th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year." We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Not all record label executives are shriveled up corporate drones, some obviously still love music and the musicians that make it. I'll be buying more from CD Baby if I can.

Free Gram Parsons Downloads

"Gram Parsons Archive, Vol. 1: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969" (Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brothers)

If you haven't already purchased the newly released Gram Parsons album (and why haven't you!), then you can sample a track or two via the kind folks at Amoeba.

“We've Got To Get Ourselves Together”, is the 5th track from Gram Parsons Archives Vol. 1: The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969. Subsequent free downloads will be taken from disc one of this release every other week. The next download will be posted here beginning on January 28th.

[From Amoeba Music > Free Downloads!]

Check it out. (Part of the liner notes available here as PDF for your reading and educational pleasure. Of course, the free MP3 track is only 128 kbps, so if you are like me, and prefer higher resolution sound, buy the album itself.

Circadian Riddems and Spare Tires

Ahh, now it makes sense why my waist size went from 28 to, umm, something larger.

For some people, packing on unwanted pounds might have more to do with the functioning of their internal body clocks than with willpower.

Researchers from Northwestern University and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare have been studying how a faulty circadian clock, which regulates different parts of the body, including the mechanisms that control sleep and hunger, can damage the metabolism thus raising the risk for obesity and diabetes.

[From Researchers: Faulty body clock may lead to obesity, diabetes -- chicagotribune.com]


So far, 32 epidemiological studies have shown an association between inadequate sleep and higher body-mass index, a measure of overweight, said Dr. Eve Van Cauter, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. Van Cauter studies the effect of circadian rhythms on the endocrine system.

Van Cauter and her colleagues have published two studies examining the effects of short-term sleep restriction in young, healthy, lean adults. They found that individuals experienced different levels of hunger and satiety, depending on how much sleep they got.

"Leptin, an important hormone regulating appetite, is disturbed by sleep deprivation and no longer determines caloric need accurately," Van Cauter said.

In one study, sleep-deprived subjects were asked to rate their hunger for certain foods. Not only were they hungrier, they had a higher appetite for starchy, sweet and other high-carbohydrate foods.

"They did not have a need for food based on their energy expenditure, but they nevertheless felt more hunger," Van Cauter said.
On a related target, we have started using a device that is supposed to re-calibrate one's circadian rhythms using the blue light part of the spectrum.

"Apollo Health GoLite P1 Blue Spectrum Light Therapy Device" (Apollo Health)

Winter blues got you down? Boost your mood, energy, and sleep with a blue-spectrum light therapy device from Apollo Health. For years the world's leading light therapy researchers and doctors have known that full-spectrum, 10,000 lux light boxes can be very effective at treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other circadian rhythm related mood disorders. But there is something new in store for light therapy: blue spectrum. If you or a loved one is affected by these type of disorders, the Apollo Health GoLite P1 Blue Spectrum Light Therapy Device may help easy your suffering and improve your life.

Widely acclaimed as the best-selling, most-recommended manufacturer of 10,000 lux light therapy boxes, Apollo Health has taken a technological step forward with the GoLite P1. Recently, researchers have discovered that a very specific range of blue light is, in fact, the most effective color (wavelength) in treating these disorders. After years of research, Apollo has released this patent-pending product that delivers only the most effective blue spectrum light. Utilizing only the most effective wavelengths, the GoLite P1 provides a more convenient treatment, and fewer side effects than traditional 10,000 lux full-spectrum light therapy devices.

The patent-pending Bluewave technology is the result of 10 years of research with medical universities and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Although other companies may tout the benefits of this new research, only Apollo Health participated in the actual trials. In fact, Apollo is the only company to produce lights that provide 100 percent of the effective blue light spectrum. Bluewave is the most important because it provides a higher effective response than most full spectrum light at one-tenth the intensity of a regular 10,000 lux light therapy device. This means light therapy is not only convenient, but easier on the eyes with fewer side effects. Because Bluewave is so effective, all of the Apollo Health Britewave products have also been upgraded with the new technology. It is clear: Bluewave is the light therapy technology of the future.

Apollo Health recommends keeping the GoLite P1 at 20-22 inches from your face. Once you are comfortable with using the device, you'll be ready to take advantage of the GoLite P1's fully programmable interface and advanced features. This light therapy device is equipped with an adjustable treatment timer with an automatic shut-down, a protective flip cover, long-lasting eye-safe LEDs, and an anti-glare diffuser lens. After you've established your personalized treatment schedule, the GoLite P1 will remember your personal settings. For your convenience, the GoLite P1 has a built-in clock and a backlit digital LCD display. And as the world's smallest light therapy device, the GoLite P1 weights less than one pound. This device is UL, CUL, and CE safety listed, EMF-free, UV-free, and comes equipped with a two-year limited warranty.
There's also a version with a battery, which might find its way to our office soon. We have definitely noticed a positive difference in our moods and energy since using the light. I read the paper and drink coffee, and don't even really notice that it is on.

"Apollo Health GoLite M2 Blue Spectrum Light Therapy Device" (Apollo Health)

Bush Screws Us All Again

I like to eat paste

Gee thanks, (p)Resident Bush and your cronies and lackeys, thanks tons for your energy policy that willfully ignores what refiners do with their emissions, and thus pollute our air, water, soil.

Global-warming pollution from Midwest oil refineries is expected to soar by as much as 40 percent during the next decade, a dramatic increase that runs counter to regional and national efforts to curb heat-trapping gases.

Expansion plans at the BP refinery in Whiting would boost the facility's greenhouse-gas emissions to 5.8 million tons a year, the company told the Tribune. That would be equivalent to adding 320,000 cars to the nation's highways.

While greenhouse gases from the tailpipes of cars get the most attention, the refineries that keep cars and trucks running also contribute to global warming. Fuel must be burned to make gasoline from oil, generating carbon-dioxide pollution.

With no greenhouse-gas regulations in place, the companies face no costs for the extra pollution they will churn into the atmosphere.

"This is a glaring example of how our energy policy and climate policy are at cross purposes," said Judi Greenwald, director of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Companies are making decisions that really don't make sense on a national level when you fail to take climate change into account."
[From Refinery pollution may soar -- chicagotribune.com]
Impeach - Ketchikan

Of course Governor Blah Blah is right on it. Not.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gases in Illinois by 25 percent by 2020.

Yet the state failed to address global-warming pollution in a draft air permit it gave ConocoPhillips to convert its Wood River refinery in Downstate Roxana to process Canadian oil. Nor is the issue part of the discussions about refinery projects in other Midwest states.

Most state environmental officials contend they can't act unless Congress provides explicit authority to regulate global-warming pollution.

The exception is California, where Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown pressured ConocoPhillips to offset its carbon-dioxide emissions and make a refinery expansion carbon-neutral.

"If ConocoPhillips can do this in California, they and the other oil companies can do it in Illinois and every other state," said Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. "They should be cleaning up now rather than later."

links for 2008-02-12

Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War

Frank Rich sticks his toe into the Clinton campaign waters, and immediately wants to take a bath to wash off the stink.

The campaign’s other most potent form of currency remains its thick deck of race cards. This was all too apparent in the Hallmark show. In its carefully calibrated cross section of geographically and demographically diverse cast members — young, old, one gay man, one vet, two union members — African-Americans were reduced to also-rans. One black woman, the former TV correspondent Carole Simpson, was given the servile role of the meeting’s nominal moderator, Ed McMahon to Mrs. Clinton’s top banana. Scattered black faces could be seen in the audience. But in the entire televised hour, there was not a single African-American questioner, whether to toss a softball or ask about the Clintons’ own recent misadventures in racial politics.

The Clinton camp does not leave such matters to chance. This decision was a cold, political cost-benefit calculus. In October, seven months after the two candidates’ dueling church perorations in Selma, USA Today found Hillary Clinton leading Mr. Obama among African-American Democrats by a margin of 62 percent to 34 percent. But once black voters met Mr. Obama and started to gravitate toward him, Bill Clinton and the campaign’s other surrogates stopped caring about what African-Americans thought. In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), “the black candidate” (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself).

The result? Black America has largely deserted the Clintons. In her California primary victory, Mrs. Clinton drew only 19 percent of the black vote. The campaign saw this coming and so saw no percentage in bestowing precious minutes of prime-time television on African-American queries.

[Click to read more of Frank Rich - Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War - New York Times]


But the wholesale substitution of Hispanics for blacks on the Hallmark show is tainted by a creepy racial back story. Last month a Hispanic pollster employed by the Clinton campaign pitted the two groups against each other by telling The New Yorker that Hispanic voters have “not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.” Mrs. Clinton then seconded the motion by telling Tim Russert in a debate that her pollster was “making a historical statement.”

It wasn’t an accurate statement, historical or otherwise. It was a lie, and a bigoted lie at that, given that it branded Hispanics, a group as heterogeneous as any other, as monolithic racists. As the columnist Gregory Rodriguez pointed out in The Los Angeles Times, all three black members of Congress in that city won in heavily Latino districts; black mayors as various as David Dinkins in New York in the 1980s and Ron Kirk in Dallas in the 1990s received more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. The real point of the Clinton campaign’s decision to sow misinformation and racial division, Mr. Rodriguez concluded, was to “undermine one of Obama’s central selling points, that he can build bridges and unite Americans of all types.”
Are the Clintons racist? Sister Souljah notwithstanding, I'd say no. A more apt description of the Clintons is power-hungry, and Obama stands in their way.

Brief History of Super Delegates

Mayor Daley the Dictator

We've been discussing so-called superdelegates for a couple weeks now (some blog entries may not have been posted yet, but trust me, there are several), so Ari Berman's brief history lesson is interestingly appropriate.

Rewind to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which showcased the undue influence of the party's old guard. Big-city bosses like Chicago Mayor Richard Daley handed the nomination to Hubert Humphrey, despite Humphrey's support for a deeply unpopular war and the fact that he hadn't won a single primary. As Rick Perlstein recounts in his forthcoming book, Nixonland, Eugene McCarthy won 79 percent of the vote in the Pennsylvania primary but got less than 20 percent of the state's delegates at the convention. The rest were picked by the party machine. The will of the voters was ignored at the convention, and protesters on the streets outside it were met with clubs and tear gas.

Despite the backroom double-dealing, supporters of McCarthy and Robert Kennedy were able to pass a rule at the convention mandating a study of how the party picked its nominee. This rather innocuous effort, initially led by Iowa Governor Harold Hughes, a popular liberal reformer, led to the McGovern Commission, whose 1970 report, Mandate for Reform, led to a sweeping revision of party politics, which greatly expanded the number of primaries and ensured that convention delegates were roughly proportional to primary vote results; drastically reduced the power of party officials to serve as delegates and dictate the choice of nominee; and mandated a greater role for rising forces within the party--young people, women, minorities. The new rules helped catapult two dark horses to the nomination, McGovern himself in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

By 1980 the party establishment had seen enough. It struck back with a commission of its own, led by North Carolina Governor James Hunt. It returned power to elected officials and party regulars--the superdelegates, who will make up about 20 percent of the 4,049 delegates at the Democratic convention. They include all Democratic members of Congress and every governor, but roughly half of them are Democratic National Committee officials elected by state parties, who range from top party operatives to local city council members. Key interests in the party, like labor groups, can also name superdelegates. According to political scientist Rhodes Cook, superdelegates were created as a "firewall to blunt any party outsider that built up a head of steam in the primaries."

That's what happened in 1984, when Senator Gary Hart launched an insurgent challenge to front-runner Walter Mondale. Hart won sixteen state primaries and caucuses to Mondale's ten, and barely lost the popular vote. Yet Mondale locked up virtually all the party's 700 or so superdelegates even before the primary began. Hart likely would have lost anyway, but the superdelegates sealed his defeat. "I got almost none of them, because [Mondale] was considered inevitable," Hart told me.

[Click to read more of Not So Superdelegates]

Bottom line, if there are riots on the streets of Denver this summer, we'll know why: Bill Clinton's DLC party buddies fixed the election in Ms. Clinton's favor.

The obvious beneficiary of the superdelegates this time around is another establishment favorite, Hillary Clinton. Before Super Tuesday, Obama had sixty-three pledged delegates, compared with Clinton's forty-eight. But as we went to press Clinton had a huge advantage in superdelegates, 184 to ninety-five, according to CNN. "Many of the superdelegates were in and out of the Clinton White House, invited to dinners, have received contributions from Clinton allies," says Hart, who has endorsed Obama. "There will be pressure brought to bear to cash in those chips."

Clinton has a wealth of contacts to tap, in the party and in her campaign. There's the former President himself, of course, and Clinton's campaign chair, Terry McAuliffe, who ran the DNC from 2001 to 2005, and a top Clinton surrogate, Harold Ickes, who serves on the DNC's influential rules committee. The Clintons are working hard to bring the large bloc of uncommitted superdelegates into the senator's camp. "I know Hillary is calling superdelegates regularly, which is a smart play," says Art Torres, California Democratic Party chair. Interviews with superdelegates in Alabama, California, Colorado and Massachusetts--a random sample of February 5 states--illustrate this close attention. After Ramona Martinez, a Denver city councilwoman, switched her support from Bill Richardson to Clinton, she received immediate thank-you calls from McAuliffe and Clinton adviser Ann Lewis. In Alabama "Hillary would get the majority of the superdelegates," predicts state party chair Joe Turnham. "A lot of it is longstanding relationships. People go back to the 1980s with Bill Clinton, when he first came to Alabama."

Blue Ball

I got nothing, but this blue ball moment

Blue Ball
Blue Ball, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Tungsten Filtered view of Chicago River near the Boeing Building
(the real water in the Chicago River was more greenish-grey, but I was sick of that color, so I altered nature to suit my will via the magick of Photoshop.)

links for 2008-02-11

Daley's CTA Rant

Ah, Hizzoner is never a polished speaker, but he makes his points. Classic rant.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley goes off on a rant against certain city council members who are not voting the way he wants them to. The vote is a for real estate tax increase to fund Chicago's chronically underfunded CTA Mass Transit System (the El). But who cares what it's for - this is some good TV. Democracy at work with Da Mayor! Note the laughing in the background.

Lake Street El to somewhere else

from my vast archives

Lake Street El to somewhere else
Lake Street El to somewhere else, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Lake Street El Tracks

Color photo, duotoned in Photoshop, and added a few filters for contrast.

not sure if a road can be an object, but I think so.

links for 2008-02-10

Bush Emissions Unlawful

| 1 Comment
Industrial Temple

A Bush policy unlawful? How could that be?

A federal appeals court struck down a Bush administration policy exempting power plants from certain environmental regulations. The court said the policy was unlawful.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit negated a rule known as cap-and-trade. That policy allows power plants that fail to meet emission targets to buy credits from plants that did, rather than having to install their own mercury emissions controls. The rule was to go into effect in 2010.

The court struck down the cap-and-trade policy and the Environmental Protection Administration's plan to exempt coal- and oil-fired power plants from regulations requiring strict emissions control technology to block emissions.

New Jersey and many other states challenged the policy in federal court. The agency defended the rule, saying it represented the nation's first attempt to control such emissions and would reduce mercury emissions by 70%.

The three-judge panel agreed with the states that the EPA did not have the authority to exempt the power plants. The court unanimously ruled that EPA's arguments were "not persuasive."

[From Setback for Bush Emissions Policy]

I think more than half of the Bush administration policies are unlawful and should be overturned forthwith. Not to mention, misleading Congress is an impeachable offense.

Kudos to the governments of these states:

Joining New Jersey in the lawsuit were: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Dreary February

Blue and lazy afternoon

If you, the astute reader, wondered why our blogging has been perfunctory, even prosaic, here's the reason

February's lack of sunshine, combined with the biggest seasonal snow tally here in nearly three decades, has Chicagoans complaining of cabin fever. Through sundown Thursday, the city has received only 11 minutes of sun, placing it among the four cloudiest February starts since sunshine measurements began here in 1893, and ranking as the cloudiest such period in 22 years. A persistent overcast is predicted to linger Friday. If so, this Feb. 1-8 becomes the cloudiest on record during the last 115 years. [From Tom Skilling's weather blog -- Dreary February becoming 1 for the record books]

Excuse me while I self-medicate with whatever I can find. Caffeine probably.

"Apollo Health GoLite M2 Blue Spectrum Light Therapy Device" (Apollo Health)

Jokerman in Person

"Infidels" (Bob Dylan)

I'm stealing all of these from Steven Hart, who has also written some astute commentary (read for yourself). For me, 80's Dylan is imminently disposable for the most part, but the Letterman version of Jokerman sounds like indie rock of the era, and I like it. Though, Dylan has never been a very interesting harmonica player.

-- (License to Kill) --

Don't start Me Talking

The music video of Jokerman is pretty good too, but 'embedding is disabled', so you'll have to see it here. Oh, here's potentially a way around that restriction:

Museum of Modern Ice

Strolled over to take a peek at this today (evading work is such a joy).

This February, experience Chicago’s new winter celebration in downtown Millennium Park.  The free, month-long outdoor festival features the U.S. debut of Canadian artist Gordon Halloran’s work, Paintings Below Zero. 

Situated behind Millennium Park’s famous Cloud Gate sculpture, Halloran will create his largest and most spectacular installation to date, a monumental and colorful ice wall measuring 95 feet long and nearly 12 feet tall. 

One side, visible from Michigan Avenue, echoes the city’s renowned skyline.  The other side—full of color, complexity and variety—is meant to be interactive and seen in close proximity.  Inspired by a glacial wall in its final stages of movement toward the ocean, the installation will evolve over time with natural and planned changes, encouraging visitors to return frequently to observe the activity.

Halloran’s ice paintings use portable refrigeration technology: modular aluminum plates that efficiently conduct the cold.  These tabletop-size plates assembled into different configurations help in crating, displaying and maintaining the ice works, regardless of temperatures.

[From Museum of Modern Ice]

Here are a few snapshots (sorry Aunt P).

Cold Cuts
Cold Cuts
Part of the Museum of Modern Ice by Gordon Halloran www.museumofmodernice.com/aboutExhibition/

Yellow Blues
Yellow Blues

Yellow Icicle
Yellow Icicle

But What Is it?
But What Is it?
Tourists gape at the Museum of Modern Ice. I missed the dude's massive, face-distorting yawn by a fraction of a second.

Don't Eat the Yellow-Green Snow!
Don't Eat the Yellow-Green Snow!

Sometimes I am a Tourist
Sometimes I am a Tourist
There are never enough Bean photos, are there? Ahem.

click to embiggen

Pippin's New MBA

Pippin's New MBA
Pippin's New MBA, originally uploaded by swanksalot. replacing an (old!) White iBook G3/800. It didn't have a DVD-capable optical drive either (but still is substantially heavier).

Ode to the Fallacy of Words

from last October

Ode to the Fallacy of Words
Ode to the Fallacy of Words, originally uploaded by swanksalot. West Loop/Fulton Market

How about re-regulating the airlines altogether?

Air-traffic controllers are leaving their jobs at the fastest rate since President Reagan fired more than 12,000 striking controllers 27 years ago, spurring a rancorous debate over the safety of commercial aviation. But for fliers, the turnover is more likely to affect when their flight arrives than whether it gets there safely.

[From At Airports, Fewer Eyes on the Skies - WSJ.com]
Oh really? Says who?

In recent months, fully certified controllers have been retiring in droves. Some of this was expected since many controllers hired after the 1981 air-traffic controller strike are becoming eligible to retire. But the retirement surge has accelerated beyond the Federal Aviation Administration's projections because of a bitter labor feud that has dragged on since 2006.

In January, there were roughly 11,000 fully certified controllers, marking the lowest level in more than a decade. In September 2002, the FAA employed 12,801 fully certified controllers.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents the FAA's work force of roughly 15,000 fully and partially certified controllers, has declared staffing emergencies at high-intensity facilities in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Southern California. It calls the loss of so many veteran controllers a "growing crisis" amid surging traffic volumes and a big, hidden factor behind the persistent delays plaguing air travel.

The FAA acknowledges that shortages in the control tower can cause delays

Pilots resigning/retiring, not enough mechanics to service the planes, and now, not enough air traffic controllers? What is going to take to restore trust in airlines/airports? Is there going to be a huge catastrophe before any politician decides to take action?

Union officials also contend the shortage of fully trained controllers -- those who have been trained to perform all the major control functions -- is increasing the odds that a fatigued controller working overtime will make a catastrophic mistake.

"It's amazing that it hasn't happened so far," Mr. Ramsden said. "The staffing issue has a direct impact on the safety of the public. It has to."

Happy Birthday to Bob

"Catch a Fire" (Bob Marley & The Wailers)

Happy Birthday to the other Bob, Robert Nesta Marley (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981). Certain songs still pierce me, make my blood tingle, even after thousands of replays. Such a powerfully distinct voice, transcending the genre he popularized, reggae. Died much too young, much too young (36 years old). My favorite Bob Marley albums are still the ones that included Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, but every Marley album I own has an honored place in my musical pantheon.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds

"Natty Dread" (Bob Marley & the Wailers)

"Burnin'" (Bob Marley & The Wailers)

I don't want any of the Republicans to win the presidency, of course, but Huckabee is the candidate who really scares me, Stephen Colbert's faux support notwithstanding.

The night buoyed Mr. Huckabee, who had been all but written off after his cash-starved candidacy struggled in the wake of his surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses. He defied expectations Tuesday by winning the West Virginia convention and primaries across a broad swath of the South, including Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and his home state of Arkansas.

“You know, over the past few days a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race,” he told his supporters in a suburb of Little Rock, Ark. “Well, you know what? It is. And we’re in it!”

[From Huckabee Revived With Strong Showing in South - New York Times]

Theocracy is not an appropriate model for the government of the United States.

links for 2008-02-06


Obama v. Clinton: Green-off

Who is greener? According to David Roberts, a bit of a toss-up, with a slight edge to Obama.

In terms of climate/energy policy proposals, there's not a whole lot of distance between Obama and Clinton. On this issue as on so many others, they both followed Edwards' early lead and ended up with strong, ambitious plans. Both would substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost clean energy; both pitch sustainability as an issue of shared sacrifice and economic opportunity; both have an impressive grasp of the policy details.


Clinton burned all those tires (long story). As a Democratic power broker and high-powered lawyer of long standing, she's been cozy with some fairly unsavory corporate players, from Alcoa to Wal-Mart.

Obama, on the other hand, is an Illinois pol. That means he is, by necessity, a little friendlier with coal, ethanol, and nuclear interests than greens might like. Those allegiances led him to vote for the monstrosity that was the Energy Act of 2005, a porkfest that funneled subsidies to all three interest groups (Clinton voted against it). Early last year, he pushed legislation boosting liquid coal. (When greens threw a fit he backed off somewhat, making clear that liquid coal is kosher only if it meets low-carbon fuel standards.) As the NYT exhaustively documents, he gets big campaign contributions from Exelon, a nuclear outfit based in Illinois; his campaign adviser David Axelrod once consulted for the company.

There is, however, no smoking gun of quid pro quo in either's career, and both are well-regarded by greens.

[From Obama v. Clinton: Who's Greener?]

Fact sheets here (Clinton) and here (Obama)

Clinton Gets Most Lobbyist Money

Your Choice

More lobbyists usually means more favorable news coverage. We'll see by August if Clinton's lobbyist lead parlays into Democratic Party nomination.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has raised more money from lobbyists than any other presidential candidate while Republican John McCain has more of them assisting his campaign.

Clinton took in $823,087 from registered lobbyists and members of their firms in 2007 and the second-biggest recipient was McCain, who took in $416,321, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group which tracks political giving. Barack Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, doesn't take money from registered lobbyists, although he received $86,282 from employees of firms that lobby, according to the center.

[From Clinton Gets Most Lobbyist Money, McCain Most Help - Yahoo! News]

Lobbyists also have plenty of influence among the super delegates, those 900 or so party officials who may have an outsized influence at the convention if Clinton or Obama don't have a firm majority of state delegates. Ask Gary Hart about how that played out in the 1984 convention (short answer, Walter Mondale won the nomination with the help of the super delegates, and subsequently got creamed in the national election).

For a brief history of superdelegates, click here

Chicago convention bureau to Pump It Up

| 1 Comment
Station hopping shuffle

Show's how clueless I am: was not aware there even was such an entity. Please don't remind me that my sister works at the Austin Texas version, to do so would be mean and trifling.

The selling of Chicago as a convention destination is becoming a more highly customized and international effort, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau reported today.

The bureau, the sales and marketing force for McCormick Place and Navy Pier, has begun tailoring its sales assistance to 45 key customers, with the goal of extending those services to 80 customers by the end of 2009.

Its recently redesigned Web site will begin to feature microsites for key shows. [From Chicago convention bureau to focus sales efforts, make international reach]

Minor kvetch at the publishers of the Chicago Tribune: would it be so very hard to include a link to a website mentioned? Granted Google is a click away, but why not include the URL at the bottom of the article? Especially on an article's online version.

Tomb of the Unknown Stupid Heads

Inflated Importance Toned

"Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege."

[From Unknown]
[where: West Loop, Chicago, IL 60661]

Social Sites Don't Deliver Big Bucks

Gee, ya think?

As Microsoft Corp. makes a $44.6 billion bet on Internet advertising with its unsolicited offer for Yahoo Inc., there are signs that some of the biggest new places where consumers are flocking on the Web -- social networking and video-sharing sites -- are yielding advertising revenue slower than some Internet companies had hoped.

The latest warning that the hottest Web properties are proving difficult to make money from came from Internet giant Google Inc. While announcing disappointing fourth-quarter earnings Thursday, Google executives said the company was having a harder time than it expected generating ad revenue on social-networking sites and figuring out the best ad formats for its YouTube video-sharing service. Social-networking phenomenon Facebook Inc. also has been publicly grappling with how to make money amid its massive spurt in usage. Microsoft, which owns a 1.6% stake in Facebook, has a long-term deal to sell ads that appear on the site -- and analysts estimate that arrangement is losing money for Microsoft.

The challenges of making money from social networking and user-submitted videos are potentially significant for Microsoft as it pursues Yahoo. A central focus of Microsoft's efforts is to access Yahoo's 500 million-strong global user base and combine the online ad systems of the two companies.

[From Social Sites Don't Deliver Big Ad Gains - WSJ.com]

Is the dot-bomb really so long ago?

(Digg-enabled full link)
Facebook had 2007 revenue of about $150 million, half of it from its deal with Microsoft. Facebook also sold its own ads to companies; advertisers have reported mixed results. "The approach to advertising for social media is going to need to be different than it has been for other sites," says Owen Van Natta, Facebook's chief revenue officer.

Google sells advertising that appears on News Corp.'s MySpace.com social-networking site as part of a three-year contract under which it guaranteed $900 million in payments to News Corp. Google declined to comment on MySpace specifically last week, but hinted the revenue from such an arrangement wasn't covering the guaranteed payments. Google co-founder Sergey Brin told analysts, "We have had a challenge with social networking inventory as a whole and some of the monetization work we were doing there didn't pan out as well as we had hoped." On its earnings call yesterday, News Corp. executives said they were pleased with revenue growth for the fiscal second quarter at Fox Interactive Media, MySpace's parent division, which rose 87% from the year-earlier period, to $233 million.

Phthalates in Baby Items

Sin will find you out

Deregulation - works great, less filling. Side effects include....

Baby shampoos, lotions and powders may expose infants to chemicals that have been linked with possible reproductive problems, a study suggests.

The chemicals, called phthalates, are found in many ordinary products including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies. They are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible. [From Study Warns of Chemicals in Baby Items]

Of course, the FDA claims ignorance of the matter, and has no plans to begin testing without first consulting with their corporate overlords. The FDA would prefer if "data would emerge" proffered from the Lady In the Lake, or from Mount Sinai, or somewhere mythical. The FDA is too busy to conduct any studies on their own.

Concerned parents can seek products labeled "phthalate-free," or check labels for common phthalates, including DEP and DEHP.

But the chemicals often don't appear on product labels. That's because retail products aren't required to list individual ingredients of fragrances, which are a common phthalate source.

The Food and Drug Administration "has no compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk when used in cosmetics," spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek said. "Should new data emerge, we will inform the public as well as the industry."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the health effects in humans are uncertain.

"Although several studies in people have explored possible associations with developmental and reproductive outcomes (semen quality, genital development in boys, shortened pregnancy, and premature breast development in young girls), more research is needed," a 2005 CDC report said.
Gee, thanks!

Bush Budget Increases Deficit

George Bush and his party are not fiscal conservatives. Can we stop claiming they even want to be?

President Bush sent Congress a $3.1 trillion budget on Monday that would increase military spending and curb the growth of Medicare and Medicaid but raise the federal deficit by nearly $250 billion, a major setback for a president who is trying to restore his credentials as a fiscal conservative. [From Bush Presents Budget That Would Increase Deficit]

This massive budget doesn't even factor in the cost for the Iraq War, although the Pentagon receives huge increases for other items, how's that for honesty and accountability.

Mr. Bush proposes a significant increase in spending for the Pentagon. If the Defense Department’s proposed $515.4 billion budget is approved in full, it will mean that, when adjusted for inflation, annual military spending will reach its highest level since World War II. The figure does not include spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror and supplemental items.

Trash Can Montrose

From the Tribune:

Includes deficits, not cost of wars

President Bush, facing his final go-around on spending with a Democratic-run Congress during this presidential election year, on Monday unveiled a $3.1 trillion budget for 2009 that boosts defense spending and pares Medicare costs while leaving a near-record deficit.

[snip] The spending plan proposed by the White House envisions a 7.5 percent boost in defense spending, while acknowledging that the full costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not included. As it stands, the proposal represents a 70 percent increase in defense spending during Bush's two terms.

[From Bush presents $3 trillion budget]

70 percent increase, if one excludes spending on the Iraq/Afghanistan debacles.

While Bush is seeking boosts in defense and homeland security (7.7 percent), he proposed cuts at the Justice Department (10.7 percent), for agriculture (4.8 percent), at the Environmental Protection Agency (4.4 percent), and in health and human services (2.1 percent).

Putting limits on Medicare payments and moving seniors into privately run Medicare plans "target the most vulnerable," said George Kourpias, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. "Only in Washington could this be the work of a 'compassionate conservative.'"

The White House maintained that cuts in Medicare can be painless -- even lowering premiums that seniors pay by capping what doctors and hospitals can charge -- and will help control Medicare costs that could, if unchecked, consume the entire budget in four decades.

Yet, at the same time, the White House is low-balling the costs of war in 2009, seeking just $70 billion in this budget, after already seeking nearly $200 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008.

"This is just utterly dishonest," said Norman Ornstein, a senior scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who criticized the White House for "hiding" war spending.
Is it 2009 yet? Oh, and Corpus Callasum has more thoughts about the $200 billion in cuts to Medicaid/Medicare.
What is less obvious is this: many of the hospitals and clinics that provide primary care are already in rough shape, financially. Inflation alone will cause some to close entirely, if they do not at least get some increase. Energy costs, in particular, are going to be tough for hospitals to deal with.

Thus, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid will affect a lot of people, not just poor and/or elderly people. Health care will be less available in general.

Because hospitals are required to provide at least basic emergency care, the cuts will lead to an unfunded mandate. That is something that already occurs. It leads to cost shifting. Thus, health care for paying patients will become more expensive.

Virginia Beach is not for lovers

back perch

Remind me to never live in Virginia Beach.

The police in Virginia Beach plan to drop a misdemeanor obscenity charge filed against the manager of an Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store that displayed two photos of scantily clad men and a woman, a city attorney said. The police said they confiscated the photos from the Lynnhaven Mall store on Saturday after some customers complained and Abercrombie management did not heed warnings to remove the images of three shirtless young men, with one man’s upper buttocks showing, and of a woman whose breast was mostly exposed. Deputy City Attorney Mark Stiles said the photos might technically meet the nudity portion of city code. But he said it would be difficult to meet the other standards of the law: that the display had to appeal to prurient interests, lack redeeming artistic merit and be offensive to prevailing community standards. [From National Briefing | SOUTH: Virginia: Police to Drop Obscenity Charge]

On the other hand, one could argue that crime is so low in Virginia Beach, police have extra time to devote to pointless investigations of partially exposed breasts in store windows.

Sappho Street Poetry

from my vast archive

Sappho Street Poetry
Sappho Street Poetry, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Like a hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd crushes underfoot

links for 2008-02-03

God vs. Gridiron


What's the cliché: the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, damn it? Something like that. I honestly don't know who to root against more, the cult of football, or the cult of Christians with big televisions who want to 'witness' at half-time.

One unlikely match-up Sunday pits two powerhouse opponents against each other: the National Football League and the Christian church.

On one side are church-sponsored Super Bowl parties with big-screen TVs, soft drinks and some soul-saving talk at halftime. On the other are NFL lawyers threatening to crack down on unauthorized use of the game. The league, which owns both the Super Bowl name and the broadcast, has restrictions that limit TV screens to 55 inches at public viewings, except at venues like bars and restaurants that regularly broadcast sporting events. Airing the game at events that promote a message, including a religious message, is forbidden.

Churches have long used the Super Bowl to draw newcomers and build fellowship among congregants. But in the face of legal threats, many are scaling back. Last month, a congregation of deaf Christians in upstate New York scratched plans to broadcast the game with closed captioning after learning they might be sued. At the First Baptist Church in Summerfield, N.C., the Rev. Richard Odom canceled plans to host 500 people. "God didn't command us to watch the Super Bowl," he says.

Others have rebranded their events as "Big Game Fellowship" or "Superb Owl" parties to avoid the trademarked phrase Super Bowl, or moved their parties to restaurants or congregants' homes to dodge the league's screen-size restrictions for "mass out-of-home viewings."

[From God vs. Gridiron]
(Digg-enabled full access to complete article)

I guess if I had to choose, I'd side with the cult of the football, though the NFL is pretty much an anti-consumer corporate bully, and not a sympathetic victim in the slightest.

World's Hottest Chili

Red Pepper

Yummm. I want to try it.

It's 200 times hotter than the jalapeño. Workers handle it with goggles and face masks. And spicy-food lovers can't wait to get their hands on it. It's the bhut jolokia chili pepper from India, and it's recently been declared the hottest in the world.

The Indian pepper is the latest discovery by a fraternity of eaters who relish the sweaty, addictive pleasures of hot chilies.

The bhut jolokia pepper, which is farmed in the northeast part of the country, was plucked from obscurity last year when the Guinness Book of World Records declared it the world's hottest. The standard measure for such things is the Scoville Heat Unit, or SHU, named after Wilbur Lincoln Scoville, a chemist who in 1912 developed a method of assessing the heat given off by capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers. Jalapeño peppers measure about 5,000 SHUs. The bhut jolokia tops a million.

"When you eat it, it feels like dying," touts one online retailer. Even packaging the stuff is a pain. "Our workers wear goggles, face masks, head cover and protective clothing," says Ananta Saikia, whose firm is the pepper's sole exporter. "They look like astronauts." He and his wife have started shipping tons of dried bhut jolokia around the world, including Germany, England and the U.S. Annual sales, he says, are expected to jump 500% this year.

Locals here in Assam and the neighboring states of Manipur and Nagaland add fresh chopped chilies to the pot when cooking curries. The hardiest eat them raw as a condiment. Dried pepper powder and flakes are sold online in the U.S. and abroad.

[From The World's Hottest Chili/Digg-enabled full access to complete article here]
and this is certainly true:
Food scientists speculate that hot chilies have an unexpected side effect that boosts their popularity. A publication of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York described it this way: "When capsaicin comes into contact with the nerve endings in the tongue and mouth, pain messengers, called neurotransmitters, are sent to the brain in a panic. The brain, mistakenly perceiving that the body is in big trouble, responds by turning on the waterworks to douse the flames. The mouth salivates, the nose runs and the upper body breaks into a sweat. The heart beats faster and the natural painkiller endorphin is secreted. In other words, you get a buzz."

It's similar to a runner's high, says Bruce Bryant, a researcher for the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, which specializes in analyzing taste. That may explain why plants shunned by starving animals end up in party bowls next to the chips. "We're about the only species who like hot peppers," he says. "You can't even train a rat to like them."

Sperm Made From Female Bone Marrow


Now here's a premise for a sciFi movie. Better get to work on my treatment and story boards.

Shaitan Apistos writes "British scientists have discovered a way to turn female bone marrow into sperm, allowing women to reproduce without the need of male companionship. All children born of this method would be female, due the lack Y chromosomes, and there is high chance of birth defects. Eggs also can be created from male bone marrow, but men looking to reproduce would still need to find a surrogate mother to handle the gestation period. I'd like to take a moment to welcome our new amazonian overlords and remind them that men are still very good at mowing lawns and fixing cars." [From Sperm Made From Female Bone Marrow, Men Obsolete?]

More details

"Adventures in the Screen Trade" (William Goldman)

"The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style" (Christopher Riley)

"Secrets of Screenplay Structure" (Linda J. Cowgill)

links for 2008-02-02

Flickr Rebellion Over Microsoft Acquisition

Reading about the hostile take-over late last night and early this morning, my first thought was how this would affect Flickr. My oldest remaining Flickr photo was uploaded June, 2004, a long time ago. The other Yahoo properties that I use, I am not that attached to - I could find other methods or replacements. I do like the link-dump service of del.icio.us, for instance, but if it went away tomorrow, I'd figure out a way to replace the functionality. Same with my Yahoo mail, I mostly use it for spam anyway.

A small but vocal minority on Flickr are already staging cyber-protests at the prospect of a Microsoft takeover of Flickr's owner, Yahoo. Flickr is one of several popular Web 2.0 sites owned by Yahoo that loyal users fear will suffer under Microsoft ownership.

Microsoft has focused on back-end and enterprise companies like devBiz or DesktopStandard, while Yahoo and Google are more adept at scooping up choice consumer startups like YouTube, MyBlogLog or Feedburner.

Microsoft’s approach to online communities strike many Flickr users as being directly at odds with Flickr’s ethos. Yahoo’s efforts to embrace the latest online standards — like OpenID, a single login mechanism, which was recently added to all Flickr accounts — might not succeed under Microsoft.

Yahoo declined to comment for this story.

Flickr user Xenolon addresses many users’ fears, saying, “Microsoft is not a customer oriented company, they’re an enterprise company.” [From Flickr Rebellion Brews at Specter of MS Acquisition]

Flickr has been part of my daily web journey since Flickr offered free Pro accounts if one signed up enough friends. I did, and got a Pro account, and was hooked. Microsoft's main skill set seems to be to suck the fun out of anything they unleash their software engineers upon. I'm not a Microsoft hater, I have Office Vx installed on all of our Macs, I use Excel daily, and even use Map Point sometimes (using XP in Parallels). However, I hope John Gruber is correct, and Microsoft sells Flickr off. I have a sneaking suspicion that Microsoft would leverage Flickr photos through Corbis, or similar, and start reselling my photos. Or else, Flickr might just cease to be fun, and I'd have 2 hours of my day back.

The Other Side of the Tracks

"The Third Man - Criterion Collection (2-Disc Edition)" (Criterion Collection)

I rented this film a couple years ago, but Netflix didn't include the second disc of bonus material (lame corporate choice on Netflix's part - two discs should be included as one rental). I'll have to rectify that oversight: The Third Man was worth analyzing/exploring further. However, there is a re-relase of the entire film which might be worth looking for instead.

The Criterion Collection's executive producer, Kim Hendrickson, writes:
At Criterion, producers spend a lot of time talking about each DVD release—from cover art and liner notes to the special features we present. In the case of the latter, we have a pretty elaborate system in place. We start out discussing the title with each other, hashing out what we think the release should be. Then we go to the archives and reach out to our friends in the film community for materials and more insight. In the case of our upcoming rerelease of The Third Man, producer Susan Arosteguy had assembled a treasure trove of new material related to Carol Reed, Graham Greene, and the production of the film. What we all wanted was a filmmaker’s perspective.


People often talk about Criterion releases as “film school in a box,” and that term also basically describes a Soderbergh commentary track. He talks about film stocks, camera lenses, films he’s ripped off, production difficulties, editing woes, and working with actors. Sometimes you even get a fight. If you’ve never heard his conversation with Lem Dobbs for The Limey, have a listen. Dobbs wasn’t happy with Soderbergh’s take on his script and goes head-to-head with him during the recording. It’s about as close to the process as you can get.

He’s also quite generous. He sat down with us for a conversation about The Battle of Algiers; recorded a commentary with Lodge Kerrigan for Clean, Shaven; and suggested we look at William Greaves’s Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One—a film we decided to pick up. I asked if he’d help out on this project, and he agreed.


Steven [Soderbergh] brought with him Charles Drazin’s In Search of "The Third Man," a book recounting the complicated history of the film’s production. I don’t think he bought this in preparation for the recording; I’m quite sure it’s part of his library and that he took it down and reviewed it again before the session. As I mentioned, it’s also a film that he watched repeatedly when making The Good German, so he’s thought about it a lot. From every angle. And if you haven’t seen the film of late, it’s got quite a literal slant to it.

It’s fascinating to see how other directors view films—in this case, from character development and casting to the tilted camera work of Reed/Krasker. Steven and Tony talked about how to sketch a scene, what makes good dialogue, and how casting alone can make a good script into a great film. Of course, they touched on Orson Welles’s performance as Harry Lime, which amounts to arguably the most important eight minutes of an actor on-screen. This is one of those rare films where film history intervenes: When Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) meets Harry for the first time, we never doubt that Cotten and Welles are old friends. We’ve been here before. It’s this kind of detail that makes a great film a classic.

And given that Graham Greene wrote the screenplay, they spent a lot of time talking about writing. The Third Man is a unique case because it didn’t start out as a Greene novel. He wrote a novella in preparation for writing the screenplay, but it was never intended as a stand-alone work, like his other novels
[Click to read the rest of The Other Side of the Tracks]

Routing Tables

I always forget this terminal command: netstat -rn | lpr
Nocturne Number 417

Jonny Greenwood is the Controller

"Jonny Greenwood Is the Controller" (Sanctuary Records)

err, composer

There may be no scarcer commodity in modern Hollywood than a distinctive and original film score. Most soundtracks lean so heavily on a few preprocessed musical devices—those synthetic swells of strings and cymbals, urging us to swoon in tandem with the cheerleader in love—that when a composer adopts a more personal language the effect is revelatory: an entire dimension of the film experience is liberated from cliché. So it is with Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie “There Will Be Blood,” which has an unearthly, beautiful score by the young English composer Jonny Greenwood. The early scenes show, in painstaking detail, a maverick oilman assembling a network of wells at the turn of the last century. Filmgoers who find themselves falling into a claustrophobic trance during these sequences may be inclined to credit the director, who, indeed, has forged some indelible images. But, as Orson Welles once said of Bernard Herrmann’s contribution to “Citizen Kane,” the music does fifty per cent of the work.

[Click to read more of Welling Up: Musical Events: The New Yorker]

I'll admit that I don't always pay close attention to film scores. Mostly because there isn't much going on that interests my ears, maybe because I am a blockhead. I have yet to see There Will Be Blood, but I will see it once it arrives via Netflix. After reading Alex Ross' paean to Jonny Greenwood, I'll also be paying close attention to the music

The movie opens with a shot of dry, bare Western hills. Then we see a man prospecting for silver at the bottom of a shaft. He blasts the hole deeper with dynamite, falls and breaks his leg, and, with a titanic struggle, draws himself back up. Finally, we see him lying on the floor of an assay office, his leg in a splint, signing for the earnings that will enable him to drill for oil. The sequence is almost entirely wordless, but it is framed by music, much of it dense and dissonant. At the very beginning, you hear a chord of twelve notes played by a smoldering mass of string instruments. After seven measures, the strings begin sliding along various trajectories toward the note F-sharp. This music comes from a Greenwood piece called “Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” and, although it wasn’t composed for the film, it supplies a precise metaphor for the central character. The coalescence of a wide range of notes into a monomaniacal unison may tell us most of what we need to know about the crushed soul of the future tycoon Daniel Plainview.

As Plainview signs his name, another monster chord blossoms, in the violins and violas. This one is superimposed on C-major harmony in the bass, resulting in a less abrasive, more dreamlike atmosphere. The cellos play staggered glissandos—crying, sighing downward slides. Disembodied major triads rise through the harmonic haze, like mirages on the barren terrain outside Plainview’s shaft. The music is at once terrifying and enrapturing, alien and intimate.

As the movie goes on, Greenwood writes rugged open-interval motifs, which evoke the vastness of the land; mechanically churning Bartókian ostinatos, announcing the arrival of Plainview’s crew; primitivist drumming to propel an apocalyptic scene in which a derrick catches fire; and long-limbed, sadly ecstatic, Messiaen-like melodies to suggest the emotional isolation of Plainview’s ill-fated son. It’s hard to think of a recent Hollywood production in which music plays such an active role. (Unfortunately, Greenwood was judged ineligible for an Academy Award nomination, because the soundtrack contains too much preëxisting music.) When, in the closing scenes, Plainview evolves into an obscenely wealthy ghoul, Greenwood’s score retreats toward silence. In its stead, after a bloody final shot, the robust finale of Brahms’s Violin Concerto ironically fills the air: it sounds more like a radio blaring in an empty house than like music played for human beings.

- Ooops, I forgot to include a link to the soundtrack CD. Doh! Also available on a track-by-track basis.

"There Will Be Blood" (Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch)

Microsoft Bids $44.6 Billion for Yahoo

Yikes!$46,000,000,000 is a lot of simolians

Microsoft said Friday that it has made an offer to buy Yahoo for about $44.6 billion, or $31 a share, in a mix of cash and stock.

The offer represents a 62 percent premium over Yahoo’s closing stock price of $19.18 on Thursday.

If consummated, the deal would redraw the competitive landscape of the Internet consumer services business, where both Microsoft and Yahoo have struggled to compete with Google.

Microsoft said the combination of the two companies would create efficiencies that would save approximately $1 billion annually. The software giant also said that it has an integration plan to include employees of both companies and intends to offer incentives to retain Yahoo employees. [From Microsoft Bids $44.6 Billion for Yahoo]

Yahoo has slowly been buying up various web 2.0 properties that I use, Flickr, del.icio.us, Upcoming.org, etc., I don't want Microsoft to suddenly become my overlord. No real reason, I just trust Microsoft with my data much less than I trust Yahoo. I hope this deal falls through.

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