July 2007 Archives

house, Ketchikan Alaska

house, Ketchikan Alaska, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
sort of a random shot of somebody's house in Ketchikan, Alaska, with hand-made no parking sign.

I wanted to go in and have a cup of tea or something, but didn't have the nerve.


Yellow escalator

Yellowscalater, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Inside the Seattle Public Library

I dread these ramps


Actually, since I live so close to them, I usually just avoid them altogether, and add 4-5 minutes to my journey (and 4-5 years to my life) by driving to a different ramp.

Formal and solemn revocation

Daily Herald | Cook County:
The ramps from Chicago's downtown roads onto the Kennedy Expressway spit cars into a left lane buzzing with speeding sedans and trucks.

Drivers have a second, maybe two, to decide whether to swerve into the aggressive traffic and slam the gas or jam the brake and hope drivers behind notice.

What many drivers may not know, however, is that the state has had a plan to fix the dangerously short merges since 1995, but it really won't get done until around 2011 or 2012.
In fact, the state cut off ramps to two of the downtown bridges over the Kennedy in a project state transportation officials said would increase safety. Yet, the project was not finished because of nearby Dan Ryan construction and the full safety improvements have yet to materialize.

“That stretch remains a good example of poor planning compounded by the slow pace of modernization,” said Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. “For motorists, it is one of the trickiest choke points in the city.”

The Kennedy lanes near the rapid succession of left-lane entrance ramps - at Jackson Boulevard, Adams Street, Madison Street, Monroe Street and Washington Boulevard - have been prone to crashes.

Somehow, the scariest highway ramps in the entire city are not worth fixing immediately.

traffic moon

The existing three northbound left-lane merges and three southbound left-lane merges have been in place since at least the mid-1960s, says Joseph Schofer, interim director of Northwestern University's Transportation Center.

“They are scary ramps. They are very short and they don't meet design standards,” he said. “That is the kind of compromise you make to squeeze in the access.”

In 1995, IDOT officials drafted a plan to fix the short-merge problem by removing some ramps and then using the extra road space to extend the remaining left-lane merges.

The project would not finally begin until 10 years later. Crews closed off the left-lane entrance ramps at Washington Boulevard and Monroe Street in 2005 and 2006, respectively, as Chicago was rebuilding those bridges.

Yet, large chunks of those unused ramps still remain on the ground, growing weeds and blocking vehicles merging from bridges to the north and south.

If those hulks of concrete were removed, the left-lane merges from Madison Street and Adams Street could be lengthened from about 170 feet to about 520 feet, giving drivers more time to negotiate the speeding traffic. The average merge length is about 1,000 feet.

IDOT spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said the job wasn't finished in 2006 because reducing lanes for construction would further hamper traffic during the Dan Ryan Expressway rebuild. That two-year project ends this winter.

Instead, IDOT officials have tucked the $7 million project into the middle of their five-year construction plan, so crews may not get around to finishing the job until 2011 or 2012.

That has planners like Schwieterman perturbed.

“It is hard to believe it takes five years to clear away those kinds of traffic hazards,” he said. “This is a recipe for chronic accidents.”

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Why the secrecy?
Loneliness is an ATM

Energy Bill Aids Expansion of Atomic Power:
A provision buried in a recent Senate bill could make new nuclear plants eligible for tens of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees.
... Lobbyists have told lawmakers and administration officials in recent weeks that the nuclear industry needs as much as $50 billion in loan guarantees over the next two years to finance a major expansion.

The biggest champion of the loan guarantees is Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Committee and one of the nuclear industry’s strongest supporters in Congress.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico and the energy bill’s author, has long argued that nuclear power plants do not need federal loan guarantees. Mr. Bingaman said that the industry was over-interpreting the provision and that it would provide loan guarantees for only the most innovative power plants.

I am ambivalent about nuclear energy - better than coal, probably better than petroleum, yet the problem of everlasting nuclear waste has not yet been solved. However, I most certainly do not like the system of public financing of nuclear plants. Public financing, yet private profit. Sounds like welfare to me.

But the provision could go much further than many lawmakers had in mind by giving the Department of Energy the power to approve an unlimited amount of loan guarantees for “clean” power generation. Under legislation enacted in 2005, nuclear power qualifies as a clean technology because it does not emit carbon gases that contribute to global warming.

Power companies have tentative plans to put the 28 new reactors at 19 sites around the country. Industry executives insist that banks and Wall Street will not provide the money needed to build new reactors unless the loans are guaranteed in their entirety by the federal government.

Many experts fear that the proposed subsidies could leave taxpayers responsible for billions of dollars in soured loans.

“Such projects, by their nature, pose significant technical and market risks,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned last month in an analysis of the provision. “Studies of the accuracy of cost estimates for pioneering technologies have found that estimates are consistently low.”

Michael J. Wallace, the co-chief executive of UniStar Nuclear, a partnership seeking to build nuclear reactors, and executive vice president of Constellation Energy, said: “Without loan guarantees we will not build nuclear power plants.”

The little-noticed provision in the Senate bill subtly refines and expands the loan guarantee program that Congress passed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

As before, the Department of Energy would be allowed to guarantee 100 percent of the loans and up to 80 percent of the total cost to build a reactor.

But the bill essentially allows the department to approve as many loan guarantees as it wants for both new reactors and plants that use other “clean” technologies.

That is a big change. Under current law, the government is only allowed to guarantee a volume of loans authorized each year by Congress. Last year, Congress limited the government to awarding just $4 billion in loan guarantees for clean energy projects during the 2007 fiscal year

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The NYT finally notices this two week old story.

Lake Point Tower

Chicagoans Protest as Indiana Lets a Refinery Add to Lake Pollution:
Tens of thousands of people here have signed petitions protesting a permit granted in Indiana that allows the largest oil refinery in the Midwest to discharge more pollutants into Lake Michigan.

Area residents signed petitions protesting an Indiana oil refinery’s plans to increase its daily discharge of pollutants into the lake.
The petitions, which advocates say they expect to deliver next week to Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, reflect growing concerns in the Great Lakes States that the permit undercuts efforts to clean up Lake Michigan.

Organizers said Monday that they had collected 45,000 signatures.
Last week, by a vote of 387 to 26, the United States House of Representatives approved a resolution urging Indiana to reconsider the permit. The resolution was introduced by Representatives Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, and Vernon J. Ehlers, Republican of Michigan.
Regulators in Indiana allowed the refinery in Whiting, Ind., just across the Illinois state line, to increase the amounts of ammonia and suspended solids that it releases into the lake after the facility undergoes a $3 billion expansion. BP last received a discharge permit for the refinery in 1990.

Backers of the expansion, including Governor Daniels, said a bigger refinery would mean more jobs for Indiana — an estimated 2,000 contract jobs for the expansion and 80 positions at the refinery.

Mr. Daniels said he had no plans to rescind the permit.

“Here’s one of the biggest steps forward for the Midwest, really the whole nation,” Mr. Daniels, a Republican, told reporters last week. “I don’t think it should be held up without a good scientific reason, and none has been provided.”

Nope, no scientific reason at all that increasing the amount of pollution in a fresh water lake, shared by the population of 5 or 6 states, would be a decision to avoid. Gee, thanks, Gov Daniels. I'm sure all of your drinking water comes directly out of BP's spigots, right? Perhaps we should put you in Grover Norquist's famous bathtub, except instead of filled with Federal dollars, the tub is filled with water released from the Whiting plant?

A number of governors, from Democrats Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Mark Warner of Virginia to Republicans like Mitch Daniels of Indiana, have pushed through significant tax increases...Daniels's apostasy was particularly meaningful, since he was once Bush's budget director and had been a lifelong fellow traveler of antitax warrior Grover Norquist.
(from Chris Hayes of The Nation)

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Chosen Few

Random visit to my photo archive

Chosen Few, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Solarized in Photoshop

links for 2007-07-31

Anti SUV

I bet it is a rough ride, but fun to drive

Anti SUV, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
A Fiat 500, as big as my head, nearly.


Don't see many of these around Chicago.

Notice the sticker "Actual Size"

Doctors and commissions

KWD-808-II Multi-Purpose Health Device

This, if true, is very depressing. Not that I have made many visits to a healthcare provider so far, but still. Doesn't make one trust that the expensive procedure is actually worth agreeing to, without a few second opinions.

Doctors - Managed Care and Health Insurance - Medicine and Health - Wages and Salaries - New York Times:
Primary care doctors and pediatricians, who rarely perform complex procedures, make less than specialists. They are attracting a declining percentage of medical students, and some states are facing a shortage of primary care doctors.

Doctors are also paid whether the procedures they perform go well or badly, Dr. Bach said, and whether they are crucial to a patient’s health or not..

“Almost all expenditures pass through the pen of a doctor,” he said. So a doctor may decide to perform a test that costs a total of $4,000 in order to make $800 for himself — when a cheaper test might work equally well. “This is a highly inefficient way to pay doctors,” Dr. Bach said.

Medicine shouldn't be treated as just another commodity, traded at the Mercantile Exchange. A 20% commission is pretty high - I pay that in a restaurant, if the service is decent, but I don't pay that to my local bartender ($1 a drink, unless they make special efforts on my behalf), or my cab driver (10%-15% depending on the trip).

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Ingmar and Woody

Woody Allen liked Bergman too. The NYT republishes part of book review written by Woody Allen, which includes this tidbit....

Ingmar and Woody - Paper Cuts - Books - New York Times Blog: In addition to all else - and perhaps most important - Bergman is a great entertainer; a storyteller who never loses sight of the fact that no matter what ideas he’s chosen to communicate, films are for exciting an audience. His theatricality is inspired. Such imaginative use of old-fashioned Gothic lighting and stylish compositions. The flamboyant surrealism of the dreams and symbols. The opening montage of ‘’Persona,'’ the dinner in ‘’Hour of the Wolf'’ and, in ‘’The Passion of Anna,'’ the chutzpah to stop the engrossing story at intervals and let the actors explain to the audience what they are trying to do with their portrayals, are moments of showmanship at its best.


His breakdown is in there too, over the income tax scandal. It’s mesmerizing to read about it. In 1976, Bergman was crudely snatched from a rehearsal and taken to police headquarters over money owed the Government because of his mishandling of income tax payments. It was not unlike the type of thing that occurs so frequently where one hires an accountant, presumes he will handle everything brilliantly and aboveboard and finds later one has trustingly signed papers without understanding them or even reading them. The fact that he was innocent of willful dishonesty and a national treasure did not prevent the authorities from dealing with him harshly and boorishly. The result was a nervous breakdown, hospitalization and self-imposed exile to Germany with profound feelings of rage and humiliation.

I'd comment more, but cannot.

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Hmmm, don't have these issues currently, as I am the IT department at our company, but I know some who do (I'm looking at you, Aunt P!)

Ten Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You - WSJ.com:
Admit it: For many of us, our work computer is a home away from home.

It seems only fair, since our home computer is typically an office away from the office. So in between typing up reports and poring over spreadsheets, we use our office PCs to keep up with our lives. We do birthday shopping, check out funny clips on YouTube and catch up with friends by email or instant message.
... There's only one problem with what we're doing: Our employers sometimes don't like it. Partly, they want us to work while we're at work. And partly, they're afraid that what we're doing compromises the company's computer network -- putting the company at risk in a host of ways. So they've asked their information-technology departments to block us from bringing our home to work.

End of story? Not so fast. To find out whether it's possible to get around the IT departments, we asked Web experts for some advice. Specifically, we asked them to find the top 10 secrets our IT departments don't want us to know.

Especially this problem


The Problem: Companies often block employees from visiting certain sites -- ranging from the really nefarious (porn) to probably bad (gambling) to mostly innocuous (Web-based email services).

The Trick: Even if your company won't let you visit those sites by typing their Web addresses into your browser, you can still sometimes sneak your way onto them. You travel to a third-party site, called a proxy, and type the Web address you want into a search box. Then the proxy site travels to the site you want and displays it for you -- so you can see the site without actually visiting it. Proxy.org, for one, features a list of more than 4,000 proxies.

Another way to accomplish the same thing, from Mr. Frauenfelder and Ms. Trapani: Use Google's translation service, asking it to do an English-to-English translation. Just enter this -- Google.com/translate?langpair=en|en&u=www.flickr.com -- replacing “flickr.com” with the Web address of the site you want to visit. Google effectively acts as a proxy, calling up the site for you.

The Risk: If you use a proxy to, say, catch up on email or watch a YouTube video, the main risk is getting caught by your boss. But there are scarier security risks: Online bad guys sometimes buy Web addresses that are misspellings of popular sites, then use them to infect visitors' computers, warns Mr. Lobel. Companies often block those sites, too -- but you won't be protected from them if you use a proxy.

How to Stay Safe: Don't make a habit of using proxies for all your Web surfing. Use them only to visit specific sites that your company blocks for productivity-related reasons -- say, YouTube. And watch your spelling.

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BP Vs. Whiting


Tina emailed a friend of hers who lives in Whiting, Indiana, home of the proposed BP pollution plant, about our disgust with BP. She sent me this email, published without edit - with her explicit consent.

I just wanted to let you know that I live in Whiting and I have two small kids and I am totally disgusted by the feudal state I live in that BP governs. I fought them for a few years regarding what I consider to be a human rights issue. Let me explain.

In 2003 (I believe) BP Amoco succeeded in passing two bills in legislation. HB1858 and HB 1902. These two bills allowed BP to exorbitantly cut back on their share of property taxes. Let me put this in perspective for you. They take up about 3/4 of the town of Whiting. The rest are mostly senior citizens who spent their lives working in said refinery back when it was Amoco, before it was bought out by BP.

As a result our property taxes went up 1000%. Yes that is the right amount of zero's, I'll type it again. 1000%. Next, we were retrobilled for three years in arrears. That's right! Our mortgage
doubled. Our knees buckled. We are still making it but really we are not making it at all. We are in debt, we have re mortgaged, we cannot sell, the property values have plummeted as people panic and try to move out of the area.

It's a disaster for the elderly, who abandon their homes, or sell life insurance policies, automobiles, and give up health insurance. As I said, these are the same elderly who worked to make BP Amoco what it is today.

We fought it, we fought it hard, but it soon became apparent that we needed to pay attention to our little family. My own family. We missed many birthday parties, play dates and parades because mommy and daddy had to go to the protest/meeting/etc etc etc.

I'm not giving up. But I need to get my family through these next few years. I need to stabilize our situation first.

BP I believe is the second largest oil corporation in the world. Their actions are reprehensible and deplorable. They behave as if they are the only corporation on the planet.

The more light can be shed on their ill doings the better.

some previous coverage of the topic:

More BP vs Lake Michagn news

BP Dumps Mercury in the Lake

BP Screws the Midwest

Chicago vs. BP

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Hillary Rodham Poured Her Heart Out

I don't begrudge John Peavoy saving letters from his high school friend, Hillary Rodham né Clinton, however, plastering them on the front page of the Sunday New York Times feels a little exploitative on the part of the NYT editors. As I was telling a long-lost, college-era friend*, I wouldn't want the writings of my 19 year old self to be circulated across the nation, to be pored over with morning coffee and bagels, or pitchers of Bloody Marys, or whatever. And unfortunately, none of the male candidates of either party wrote letters interesting enough to save, so only HRC gets the treatment.
words Seattle Public Library

In the ’60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters:
Letters written by Hillary Rodham provide a rare unfiltered look into the head of a future first lady and would-be president.
They were high school friends from Park Ridge, Ill., both high achievers headed East to college. John Peavoy was a bookish film buff bound for Princeton, Hillary Rodham a driven, civic-minded Republican going off to Wellesley. They were not especially close, but they found each other smart and interesting and said they would try to keep in touch.

Which they did, prodigiously, exchanging dozens of letters between the late summer of 1965 and the spring of 1969. Ms. Rodham’s 30 dispatches are by turns angst-ridden and prosaic, glib and brooding, anguished and ebullient — a rare unfiltered look into the head and heart of a future first lady and senator and would-be president. Their private expressiveness stands in sharp contrast to the ever-disciplined political persona she presents to the public now.

Yeah? What a surprise....


*Ms. Dolmanet, who found me via my webzine - nobody should claim blogs aren't worth the ink they are printed on. In fact, everyone should have a blog of one's own!

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Ingmar Bergman, RIP

Geoff pointed out that one of the masters of cinema died.

Ingmar Bergman, Famed Director, Dies at 89:
The Swedish filmmaker, considered one of the greatest directors in motion picture history, died today.
Ingmar Bergman, the “poet with the camera” who is considered one of the greatest directors in motion picture history, died today on the small island of Faro where he lived on the Baltic coast of Sweden, Astrid Soderbergh Widding, president of The Ingmar Bergman Foundation, said. Bergman was 89. ... He moved from the comic romp of lovers in “Smiles of a Summer Night” to the Crusader’s search for God in “The Seventh Seal,” and from the gripping portrayal of fatal illness in “Cries and Whispers” to the alternately humorous and horrifying depiction of family life in “Fanny and Alexander.”

Mr. Bergman dealt with pain and torment, desire and religion, evil and love; in Mr. Bergman’s films, “this world is a place where faith is tenuous; communication, elusive; and self-knowledge, illusory,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times Magazine in a profile of the director. God is either silent or malevolent; men and women are creatures and prisoners of their desires.

For many filmgoers and critics, it was Mr. Bergman more than any other director who in the 1950s brought a new seriousness to film making.

“Bergman was the first to bring metaphysics — religion, death, existentialism — to the screen,” Bertrand Tavernier, the French film director, once said. “But the best of Bergman is the way he speaks of women, of the relationship between men and women. He’s like a miner digging in search of purity.”

Bergman was 89, so his death was not unexpected, but still, a great loss to the world of film. I loved his films so much I tried (unsuccessfully, it turned out) to learn Swedish.

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Checkered Past

hand painted garage

Checkered Past, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Bucktown, perhaps.

Dance Floor Dylan

This could either be interesting, or real shite. No middle ground.

Dylan has agreed to let Mark Ronson, the dance world’s hottest producer, weave his magic on 'Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)' [sic], the bittersweet break-up song from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde.

After years of rejecting all offers to remix his catalogue, Dylan, 66, has decided that a dancefloor makeover is the best way to introduce his generation-defining work to a new teenage audience.
... Ronson and Smith were invited to trawl through the entire Dylan catalogue for a suitable track to reinvent. Smith said: “We hit on 'You’ll Go Your Way' because it already has a great rhythmic breakbeat. It’s also got a timeless, universal lyric.

”It’s not such a familiar song that people will cry, ‘Sacrilege’. It will also confound people’s expectations of Bob, which he has done throughout his career.“

...Smith said: ”We hope the fans will see this as an addition to the canon, not a desecration. It’s a new interpretation of Bob’s world and adds to the mystery. We all approached the remix with respect and awe.“

Ronson said: ”It’s the first time Bob Dylan has given anyone the original multi-tracks of his songs to do remixes. I’m a huge Dylan fan, so it’s a great honour, along with the fact that he heard it and approved it, because, as you imagine, he’d be quite picky.“

(30 second sample available here)

Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine is from

Blonde on Blonde

Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan)
, if you didn't remember.

lyric and sample available here

(1996 performance here, recorded with somebody's cellphone camera in the 17th row.)

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Xerox invents a Greener Paper

Follow-up on Xerox and their environmentally efficient color printer, now there is a paper to go along with it.

Xerox Develops a Green Paper, But Will Firms Add It to Fold? - WSJ.com:
Xerox Corp. has invented an environmentally friendly copy paper that costs less.

Xerox's new cut-sheet “High-Yield Business Paper” isn't as white or as smooth as the kind most businesses run through their copiers and laser printers, and it yellows badly as it ages. But compared with average 20-pound bond paper, Xerox says it requires half as many trees and fewer chemicals and less energy to manufacture. Sheets weigh about 10% less, reducing postage and trucking costs. ... The High-Yield paper is made with a process similar to that used to make newsprint for newspapers. Trees are ground up, bark and all, and mixed into a slurry that is then sprayed out onto a moving belt where it is squeezed, dried and cut up. Unlike newsprint or the new Xerox paper, high-quality bond paper involves chemical processing to remove the lignin in wood that makes aged newsprint brittle and yellow and bleaching to brighten the paper.

I'd probably try it, once it is available for the SOHO market: much of our printed paper ends up in the recycling bin anyway, and we have special heavier weight paper for presentations.

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Trees Vents

random stroll through my photo archive

Trees Vents, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Trees with their ventilation system

Dancers on Crack

Well, I don't know exactly what they are on, go-pills maybe. I guess you had to be there. For me, looking at this performance through the veil of modernity, I can't stop laughing at the dancers' unabashed exuberance as The Byrds lip sync a Dylan tune on some show called Hullabaloo (no affiliation with Digby, as far as I know).

Bonus, more serious footage of Eight Miles High, albeit with annoying text crawl in the beginning of the clip. David Crosby doesn't look too high.

and double bonus, the seminal band, Hüsker Dü ripping through their cover version, live in London, circa 1985.

and live at the Pink Pop Festival in 1987 (slightly longer version)

I still have this 45 record somewhere gathering dust.

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links for 2007-07-29

Site display question


A question to our readers (subscribers and random browsers alike) - do you notice certain pages displaying text incorrectly? I have noticed that sometimes on the main page, certain typographical characters are displayed incorrectly. Often “quotation marks” are garbled, for instance. However, if I click through to the individual page entry, the fonts are displayed correctly. Before I start troubleshooting (is it just on posts created on certain computers, or just on posts created in ecto, posts containing text from certain websites, etc.), and open a support ticket at SixApart, I wonder if it is a real problem, or just a problem with my peculiar setup.

Answering this poll would help me out a lot (assuming that it works). If you are feeling generous with your time, leave your system details in comments (but you don't have to do that if you don't want, I can figure out enough about that out by looking at my sitemeter log)


Thank you!

(update, I guess the poll will live in the sidebar to the right for a while, even though that's sorta ugly, or else click here)

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John Lee Hooker Youtubery


The best use I've found for LastFM (other than in a general stat-head way) is somebody's clever mashup, using Yahoo's pipe tool, of LastFM and Youtube. The page searches for youtube videos based on recently played tracks. Lots of false hits, and plenty of unwanted results, but some gems too.


1966-ish John Lee Hooker sings Boom Boom.

John Lee Hooker sings Hobo Blues at the 1965 American Folk Blues Fest

John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison sing, Gloria.

Bonus - footage from the Band's farewell concert, The Last Waltz featuring Van Morrison and his foot kicks. Straight out of the 70s.

The Last Waltz

“The Last Waltz” (MGM)

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Another reason to avoid Florida jail

Coryus Veal has issues with control. Doesn't she have better things to do then watch prisoners jack-off?

Inmate found guilty in masturbation trial - 07/25/2007 - MiamiHerald.com:

A Broward prisoner accused of committing a sex act while he was alone in his jail cell was found guilty Tuesday of indecent exposure.

Terry Lee Alexander, 20, unsuccessfully fought the charge, which had been brought by a female Broward Sheriff's Office detention deputy who saw him perform the sex act in his cell in November.

...The sole witness in the case, BSO Deputy Coryus Veal, testified that Alexander did not try to hide what he was doing as most prisoners do. Veal saw him perform the act while she was working in a glass-enclosed master control room, 100 feetfrom Alexander's cell. There was no video tape or other witnesses.

Alexander's attorney argued that the prison cell was a private place and that what Alexander was doing was perfectly normal.

''Did other inmates start masturbating because of Mr. Alexander?'' McHugh asked Veal. ``Did you call a SWAT team?''

''I wish I had,'' Veal answered.

Veal, who has charged seven other inmates with the same offense, insisted that she was not against the act itself -- just the fact that Alexander was so blatant about it. Most inmates, she testified, do it in bed, under the blankets.

and this was probably amusing. What exactly were prospective jurors asked? and what were their answers?

The case drew snickers in the courtroom, especially during jury selection, when prospective jurors were quizzed about their own habits.

“Juror number 13, how often do you masturbate? Could you describe your technique for the court? Have you ever masturbated in front of another person?”


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Fishbone Party at Ground Zero

| 1 Comment

Fishbone music video, from the 1985 EP Fishbone.

I played the hell out of this EP, circa 1986. Didn't own a television, so never saw this music video, until just now. The video is about 3 minutes shorter than the EP version, but is still fun. Looks like the EP is out of print, but this excellent compilation contains a version.

The Essential Fishbone
The Essential Fishbone (Fishbone)

(reminded by UBM)

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What I carry

click image for annotated version

What I carry, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
pockets, plus my camera bag, emptied out. Not pictured: D80 with a 18mm-200mm VR lens, and my crummy wallet, cause I forget to take it off my dresser.

printout of the Photographer's Right, in case I get hassled taking photos of buildings again

Mashups Reshape Mapmaking

A few hundred years ago, I might have studied cartography. As a small boy, I made maps, obsessively creating legends, and laboriously drawing page after page of islands, oceans and unchartered territories for made-up lands.

In our modern age, there are all sorts of tools for map mashups: mixing google maps (or Yahoo maps, Microsoft Collections, or whatever) with new sorts of overlays. I just mentioned the walking map a day or two ago.

With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking - New York TimesOn the Web, anyone can be a mapmaker.

With the help of simple tools introduced by Internet companies recently, millions of people are trying their hand at cartography, drawing on digital maps and annotating them with text, images, sound and videos.

In the process, they are reshaping the world of mapmaking and collectively creating a new kind of atlas that is likely to be both richer and messier than any other.

They are also turning the Web into a medium where maps will play a more central role in how information is organized and found.

Already there are maps of biodiesel fueling stations in New England, yarn stores in Illinois and hydrofoils around the world. Many maps depict current events, including the detours around a collapsed Bay Area freeway and the path of two whales that swam up the Sacramento River delta in May.

ParkingSearch.com was mentioned in the WSJ a few days ago:

Web Sites, Satellite Radio Offer Real-Time Parking Info to Drivers - WSJ.com:
Locating a parking spot in a big city ranks among drivers' most nagging frustrations and new services aim to direct drivers to open spots.

Taking advantage of the Web and new generation vehicle navigation systems, these offerings give drivers more information to help them find the closest – and sometimes cheapest – available spot.

ParkingSearch.com is a “virtual exchange” that lists open parking spaces within ZIP codes, said the company's founder Stephen Sinclair.

While the majority of the roughly 6,000 spaces currently listed on ParkingSearch.com are from commercial lots, there are a small number of residential spots for sale, rent or sublet. The availability may range from a six-month sublet to a space that is only available during the weekend. The number of parking spaces listed fluctuates seasonally as well as regionally, Mr. Sinclair said.

ParkingSearch.com's biggest markets are Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Mr. Sinclair. Parking in some cities, especially Los Angeles, is so in-demand that listings are sometimes snapped up within a day of posting. “The spots come on and off so quickly that people think that in certain areas there's no parking available,” Mr. Sinclair said.

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BP dumps mercury in lake

For your daily anti-BP dose - apparently, BP thinks we want mercury to be part of our drinking water too. Gee, thanks. Is this fact going to be mentioned in the BP PR page, the one probably still linked through a google ad, found somewhere on this page?

Sunrise Late ride

Poor, poor, BP - record profits for years and years, and yet cannot find it in their budget to add anti-pollution devices to their plants.

BP dumps mercury in lake:
Refinery has been exempt -- and new permit gives it 5 more years

Although the federal government ordered states more than a decade ago to dramatically limit mercury discharges into the Great Lakes, the BP refinery in northwest Indiana will be allowed to continue pouring small amounts of the toxic metal into Lake Michigan for at least another five years.

A little-noticed exemption in BP's controversial new state water permit gives the oil company until 2012 to meet strict federal limits on mercury discharges. In documents, Indiana regulators predict the refinery won't be able to comply and will ask to continue polluting after that date.

Federal records analyzed by the Tribune show BP puts 2 pounds of mercury into the lake every year from its sprawling plant 3 miles southeast of Chicago in Whiting, Ind. That amount is small compared with the mercury that falls into the water from air pollution, but mercury builds up in the environment and is so toxic that even tiny drops can threaten fish and people.

The BP refinery and a power plant in nearby Chesterton, Ind., are the only two industrial polluters that still dump mercury directly into Lake Michigan, federal records show. Under standards adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1995, BP's annual discharge of the metal should be reduced to 8/100th of a pound.

Morning profits

Some industrial plants have spent the money to comply, but BP is complaining they cannot. Because, you know, BP is such a Green company, at least according to their own advertising.

Peter Swenson, chief of the water permits section at the EPA's regional office in Chicago, said some Great Lakes polluters have been granted exemptions to the mercury limits when they renew their permits. But others have been forced to comply immediately, he said, noting that emerging technology can remove the metal from waste water.

A Tribune review of federal records shows that the waste water the BP refinery pumps into Lake Michigan includes more than a dozen toxic byproducts of oil refining, including benzene, toluene and suspended solids containing mercury, lead, nickel and vanadium.

The refinery is the top industrial source of lead, nickel and ammonia pollution directly released into the lake, according to the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory. It also is one of only two industrial polluters on the lake that dump acetonitrile, a chemical that metabolizes in the environment to cyanide.

If BP were to meet the federal mercury standard for the Great Lakes, it would take the refinery 25 years to put the same amount of the toxic metal into Lake Michigan that it does now in one year.

BP sought a new water permit to accommodate an expansion project that will enable the refinery to process more heavy Canadian crude oil, which is considered a more dependable source than supplies in the Middle East.

When Indiana regulators last month allowed the company to increase its pollution, they justified the move in part by noting the project will create 80 new jobs.

Oh, not those 80 jobs again. Still not quantified.

Ladder Lake Michigan

Why should anything BP says be taken seriously?

The “waste-water permit for BP's Whiting refinery fully complies with the federal Clean Water Act and assures the full protection of Lake Michigan,” Thomas Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said in a prepared statement. “The permitted levels will not affect drinking water, recreation or aquatic life.”

In documents filed with the permit, though, the agency noted that levels of mercury and lead detected in the refinery's waste water “show a reasonable potential” to violate water quality standards.

Mercury concerns environmental regulators because of its staying power in the environment. The metal accumulates as it moves up the food chain from bacteria to fish to people.

All of the states on the Great Lakes advise people to limit eating certain types of fish because of high levels of mercury contamination. Consuming even small amounts of mercury can damage the developing brain and nervous system of infants and young children.

Prodded by Congress, the EPA moved during the 1990s to virtually eliminate direct mercury discharges into the lakes. “The risks posed to human health and to the Great Lakes themselves by these toxic pollutants are simply too high to ignore,” then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner said in 1999.

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links for 2007-07-27


Sufjan Stevens and Bill Callahan

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The music of Sufjan Stevens, in certain Nick Drake-esque moods, is quite beautiful.

Sufjan Stevens playing “Chicago” live in San Francisco

Though, I think I like the version on the album better


“Illinois” (Sufjan Stevens)

and I miss going to Emo's (in Austin)

Bill Callahan performing “Cold Blooded Old Times” at Emo's in Austin, Texas on July 24th, 2003.

I love this song.

The version on the album is more sedate and poignant, excellent in fact.

Knock Knock

“Knock Knock” (Smog)

Here's another favorite song of mine, from the same Smog show.

not the best performance/sound quality (some flubbed notes, and the keyboard too loud, guitar too low), but good enough.


Dongs of Sevotion

“Dongs of Sevotion” (Smog)

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Random Whiny Complaint Day


Rain Comes for the Archbishop's Cat

Random whiny complaints, in no particular order. Probably not the best post to increase my daily google ad earnings (which have plummeted into near single cent range as more folks use Firefox with Adblock). Fuck it.

• My mind no longer is resilient enough to compensate for a lack of sleep. Large thunderstorms passed through last night around 2 am, and even a mind-boggling expensive tuck-pointing (last year) still has not sealed the brick against leakage. Thunderstorms mean jumping out of deep slumber and catching drips and cascades of rain from destroying anything important, unplugging electric devices, and cursing furniture that seemingly moves of its own accord in the middle of night. Shins are our friends, unless they are enemies. Last night they were enemies of the state - my peaceful state of mind.

• Some random Flickr-ite who I've never heard of before yesterday left me a snotty comment, paraphrased: “You have some nice photos, but I think they are too saturated and therefore not realistic on my fancy monitor, model number I Am A Big Ass”. Well, thanks, for your unsolicited and unwelcome advice. I'm happy you have an expensive, flashy monitor, in fact, that impresses me so much I am going to change my entire photo collection so that it will make you happy. Honestly, I don't really give a shit what you think, don't look at my photos if the amount of saturation offends thee. Perhaps I'm just petulant today, or perhaps you should concentrate upon scraping individual molecules off the bottom of your Nikes and leave me the fuck alone.

• Clients who waste our time by insisting upon changing artwork at the very, very last minute - changing the point size on a URL, by 1point. Will anyone even notice your change? No. Did your three phone calls and two emails about this important alteration cause us to waste time conveying your request on down the chain? Yes, it did, thanks. While we're discussing this topic- did you know that you are supposed to make these changes before requesting a proof of your artwork? When you submit 'Final Artwork', there aren't supposed to be aesthetic changes - only checking for typographic errors, color corrections, things of this type. Not removing sentences, increasing font size, adding words.

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So all the talk a few weeks ago was just blathering for soundbite purposes, and nothing is going to change. Can I request my third party again? A political party not beholden to conservative, corporate interests? For the nth time: a pox on both their houses.

Farm Subsidies Seem Immune to an Overhaul - New York Times:
For the many critics of farm subsidies, including President Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this seemed like the ideal year for Congress to tackle the federal payments long criticized as enriching big farm interests, violating trade agreements and neglecting small family farms.

Many crop prices are at or near record highs. Concern over the country’s dependence on foreign oil has sent demand for corn-based ethanol soaring. European wheat fields have been battered by too much rain. And market analysts are projecting continued boom years for American farmers into the foreseeable future.

But as the latest farm bill heads to the House floor on Thursday, farm-state lawmakers seem likely to prevail in keeping the old subsidies largely in place, drawing a veto threat on Wednesday from the White House.

A veto threat from the White House? Laughable. Unless one of the farm subsidies was for stem cell research, I sincerely doubt Bush will veto anything.

Faced with fierce opposition from the House Agriculture Committee, Ms. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders lowered their sights and are now backing the committee’s bill, in part to protect freshman lawmakers from rural areas who may be vulnerable in the 2008 elections.

Instead, Ms. Pelosi helped to secure more modest changes, pushing the committee to provide $1.8 billion for programs that aid fruit and vegetable growers, generating support from lawmakers in states like Florida and California, Ms. Pelosi’s home, and deflating some traditional opposition to the farm bill.

Always an excuse, and the beat goes on.

Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill
“Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill” (Daniel Imhoff)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
“The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” (Michael Pollan)

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Federal Raids on Marijuana Clinics

Now, here's a good use of federal resources. States rights are so 1990s. Must eradicate the thought that a substance not created by Big Pharma might have some positive qualities.

Flavin tunnel

California: Raids on Marijuana Clinics:
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided 10 medical marijuana clinics in Los Angles County just as Los Angeles city leaders backed a measure calling for an end to the federal government’s crackdown on the dispensaries. Federal officials made five arrests and seized large quantities of marijuana and cash after serving clinics with search warrants.... The raid, the agency’s second largest on marijuana dispensaries, came the same day the Los Angeles City Council introduced an interim ordinance calling on federal authorities to stop singling out marijuana clinics allowed under state law.

Update: adding to my disgust with Democrats and Republicans both - apparently, Congress doesn't give a shit about cancer patients.

Marijuana Policy Project - Press Releases:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An amendment to block the U.S. Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws failed to pass today, despite receiving record support on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure failed by a 165-262 vote on the same day the Drug Enforcement Administration raided 10 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, over the vehement objections of the Los Angeles City Council.
"We continue to make progress, but we are disappointed that with the DEA terrorizing California patients even as the House debated, Congress chose not to act," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "New studies continue to demonstrate marijuana's medical benefits, and public support is overwhelming, but many in Congress seem not to care how many patients suffer."
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s attacks have stepped up in recent weeks, with new raids on medical marijuana providers in California, as well as new threats that the Los Angeles Times called a "deplorable new bullying tactic" -- asset forfeiture against landlords who rent space to medical marijuana providers.

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Afghan Opium Output


Meanwhile, on the other front of the Never-Ending-War, the Taliban is resurgent, the U.S. military apparently has no plan for victory, and Washington doesn't really pay attention. Indiscriminate spraying of the entire countryside is not the solution. How about redeploying troops from Iraq to Afghanistan?

Greg Jaffe writes:

Why Afghan Opium Output Keeps Growing - WSJ.com:

U.S., Afghan and European officials remain divided over how best to deal with the poppy crop, leading largely to inaction.

“There is really no clear consensus from my view for a comprehensive way forward on the counternarcotics in Afghanistan,” said Adm. William Fallon, the top commander of U.S. forces in the region.

European and Afghan officials worry that a very aggressive approach could hurt the local economy and drive farmers to join the Taliban movement. U.S. officials would like to rely on aerial spraying, which is the most effective way to destroy the poppy crop. But Afghan and NATO officials in Afghanistan say such an approach is indiscriminate.

Poppy in Sitka

With this conflict-torn country on track to produce another record amount of opium this year, U.S. officials want to significantly step up efforts to eradicate poppy crops before the fall harvest.

The problem for the U.S. officials is that their Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies oppose their aggressive plans.

The United Nations estimates that farmers in Afghanistan are cultivating about 457,000 acres of poppy, the source of opium. That would represent a 10% increase from last year and an 80% jump from the 254,000 acres harvested in 2005, according to the U.N.

“We are all disappointed with the eradication efforts so far,” said U.S. Ambassador William Wood.

Profits from the opium trade are being used to fund both Taliban insurgents and local warlords' militias. These groups have sapped the influence of the central government in Kabul and contributed to increased unrest in the southern part of the country, where the Taliban movement was born.

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links for 2007-07-26

walking score

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full size image is just a click away (or maybe two clicks)

walking score
walking score, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Taken from www.walkscore.com/index.shtml

Sort of a high score (86), but then (under restaurants) Meiji, Grace, and D Kelly are all listed - even though they all three occupied the same space, at different times. Must be an 'unstuck in time' moment, ala Billy Pilgrim.

More BP vs Lake Michigan news



More fallout from the BP pollution plan. Don't forget that BP is the company that didn't spend the necessary money to maintain their pipelines in an Alaskan wilderness area, even while reporting record profits.

BP takes lumps on Hill:

Executives from the oil company BP hit a bipartisan buzz saw on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, as Illinois lawmakers rebuked them in a private meeting and the House prepared to condemn BP's plans for increasing the dumping of pollutants into Lake Michigan.

Bashing BP, which recently secured an Indiana state permit to discharge more ammonia and suspended solids from its massive oil refinery in Whiting, is a new sport for Illinois politicians who see big problems with the permit -- and little political downside to attacking an oil giant over drinking-water quality, especially with no Illinois jobs hanging in the balance.

The House appears set to approve a resolution Wednesday, sponsored in part by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), that condemns the dumping permit. It allows BP to release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more solids, tiny particles of pollutants that make up sludge, than it already dumps daily into Lake Michigan.

BP said Tuesday it has done everything possible to keep more pollution out of the lake. And BP executives -- including the company's American president, Bob Malone -- pledged to re-evaluate their Indiana expansion plans by Sept. 1 with environmental quality in mind during a noontime meeting in the office of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the politicians in attendance said and a BP spokesman confirmed.

Everything possible, other than not going ahead with their nefarious scheme.

and here comes this nearly-fact free statement about the 80 jobs:

There were no Indiana lawmakers at the meeting. They generally have been reluctant to criticize BP, at least in part because the refinery expansion would add 80 jobs.

I still want more detail about these 80 alleged jobs: what exactly are they? How many are secretarial? How many are for plant security? How many pay above minimum wage? Is the wages of 80 jobs equal to 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of sludge released daily into the largest source of fresh, drinking water in the world? I doubt it.

Lake Michigan Blues
Lake Michigan Blues

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Jazz is an art-form too

Jazz Band BW
(Bruce Mak, Bo Berry, and friends. They don't get any cash from this organization, unfortunately.)

Corporations have so much free cash, they ought to invest in cultural groups more often, and in more cities. This group should increase their funding to the Chicago Jazz Partnership

How innovative funding transformed city's jazz scene -- chicagotribune.com:

wo years ago, several of Chicago's most famous corporations and foundations dared to invent a new model for funding the arts.

In a dramatic move, they joined forces to create an informal philanthropic consortium dedicated to supporting music. This meant, in effect, that each of these big-league organizations risked losing some of the high visibility -- or the “branding” power, in marketers' terms -- that accrues with being the sole or lead underwriter of an arts event.

More radical still, they decided to pour their resources not into safe and conventional musical outfits, such as symphony orchestras and opera companies, but into a less formally organized music that long has been an orphan when it comes to funding: jazz.

Since then, the aptly named Chicago Jazz Partnership has funneled approximately $1.5 million in cash (and nearly as much in in-kind contributions, such as production costs and musician airfares) into a music that's internationally identified with this city.

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Less Coal is More Better

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Good - the less coal that is burned the better! Does this mean we as a nation have solved our energy problems? No, but eliminating coal as an option will be good for us in the long run, despite what coal industry shills claim. I would suggest that research into alternative sources of energy is stimulated when options like “more coal plants” are removed.

Coal's Doubters Block New Wave Of Power Plants - WSJ.com:
From coast to coast, plans for a new generation of coal-fired power plants are falling by the wayside as states conclude that conventional coal plants are too dirty to build and the cost of cleaner plants is too high.

If significant numbers of new coal plants don't get built in the U.S. in coming years, it will put pressure on officials to clear the path for other power sources, including nuclear power, or trim the nation's electricity demand, which is expected to grow 1.8% this year. In a time of rising energy costs, officials also worry about the long-term consequences of their decisions, including higher prices or the potential for shortages.
...But as plans for this fleet of new coal-powered plants move forward, an increasing number are being canceled or development slowed. Coal plants have come under fire because coal is a big source of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming, in a time when climate change has become a hot-button political issue.

Industry and Commerce Black and White

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I've been Farked

Ring a Ding Ding

Some very cool photoshop mashups and remixes of this photo are located here.

I wonder if it has happened before, there doesn't seem to be any link to the original - I don't check Fark regularly, though I often really like the work folks do.

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links for 2007-07-25

The Democrats Increased Funding for WHAT?

Proving once again, to my utter dismay, that the Democratic party is not a whole lot different than the Rethuglicans. Disgustingly craven behavior.

Firemans Dump

Katha Pollitt writes, in a shrill tone:

The Democrats Increased Funding for WHAT?:

I'm way late on this, so I hope you've already squawked to your congressperson about a particularly nasty bit of gristle buried in the big fat bratwurst that is the 125-page Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. Passed by the House on July 19 by a comfy 276-140 vote, HR 3043 increases federal funding for abstinence-only education by $27.8 million -- $4 million more than Bush asked for. That brings to a whopping $141 million the amount of your taxes the feds will spend annually on religion-ridden error-strewn information-denying propagandistic-boondogglish school programs that--as a Congressionally mandated 10-year evaluation by Mathematica Policy Research showed back in April -- do not even work.

So who voted to keep filling young people's minds with sexist fairy tales and potentially fatal falsehoods? Henry Waxman! Along with Nation favorites Maxine Waters, Jan Schakowsky, Dennis Kucinich, and indeed every other House Dem present (Nancy Pelosi, although present, by tradition as Speaker, didn't vote). Practical explanation: throwing Republicans this trivial bone would build a veto-proof majority for a bill Bush has promised to reject-- a $152 billion bill crammed with good things, from more funding for Pell grants and for math and science education to $27.8 million more for Title X, the family planning program for low-income people. $27.8 million for claptrap, $27.8 million for reproductive health care. That's only fair.

Did the strategy at least succeed? Apparently not. Republicans did not provide that veto-proof majority. Instead, the reality-based community has been demoralized, while the Purity Ballers whirl happily round the dance floor. And just to put the cherry of masochism atop the sundae of cynicism (yes, I know, what happened to that sausage?) federal abstinence dollars, as Michael Reynolds reported in The Nation, have a way of morphing into huge slush funds for Republican candidates. Even if David Obey, Nita Lowey and the other members of the HHS Appropriations committee who ground this sausage don't care about young people, you'd think they'd balk at funding their own opposition.

After all, they're doing such a good job of discouraging their supporters on their own.

A pox on both their houses.

Linda Beyerstein has more, if you can take it.

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Bill Moyers on Rupert Murdoch

Short video essay from Bill Moyers re Murdoch and the WSJ purchase.

Here's how it begins:

Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS:

A Bill Moyers essay on what the potential buyout of Dow Jones and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL means for business coverage?

BILL MOYERS: If Rupert Murdoch were the Angel Gabriel, you still wouldn't want him owning the sun, the moon, and the stars. That's too much prime real estate for even the pure in heart.

But Rupert Murdoch is no saint; he is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power he's carnivorous: all appetite and no taste. He'll eat anything in his path. Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract or the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash. He hires lobbyists the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes, and stacks them in his cavernous closet, along with his conscience; this is the man, remember, who famously kowtowed to the Communist overlords of China, oppressors of their own people, to protect his investments there.

The ambitious can't resist his blandishments, Nor his power to get or keep them in office where they can return his favors. Mae West would be green with envy at his little black book of conquests. Tory Margaret Thatcher. Labor's Tony Blair. George Bush. Even Jimmy Carter couldn't say no. Now Bill and Hillary Clinton, who know which side of their bread is buttered, like having it slathered by their new buddy Rupert. Our media and political system has turned into a mutual protection racket.

You will not be surprised to learn that Murdoch's company paid little or no federal income tax over the past four years. His powerful portfolio positions him to claim a big stake in Yahoo and his takeover of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, now owned by the Bancroft family, which, like Adam and Eve, the parents of us all, are tempted to trade their birthright for a wormy apple.

Bill Moyers for President! (as Molly Ivins wrote)

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Bulls got robbed

I watched this game, but didn't notice the waist-tap.

In Analyzing Donaghy, Tap on the Waist Could Be Filled With Meaning - New York Times:
The Bulls-Warriors game of Feb. 9, played at Golden State and broadcast on ESPN, was tied, 112-112, with 23 seconds remaining. While a Bulls guard dribbled between midcourt and the 3-point shot line — clearly working the clock down for an attempt at a final shot — Warriors center Andris Biedrens stood in the lane without guarding anyone for about seven seconds, which is grounds for a defensive three-seconds violation.

Donaghy, stationed behind Biedrens on the baseline, clearly stepped forward and tapped Biedrens on the waist with 16 seconds left. Biedrens, by then at the edge of the lane, then immediately moved clear of the paint, and play continued.

The penalty for defensive three seconds is the assessment of a technical foul and retention of the ball. Golden State could have faced a 3- or 4-point deficit before getting the ball back.

Instead, the Bulls had a shot blocked with six seconds left, and Golden State missed a half-court heave to leave the score tied as regulation time ran out. The Warriors won in overtime, 123-121. According to several gambling Web sites, the odds opened with the Warriors favored by a point and a half.

Wow, all sorts of repercussions from this: Bulls ended up in the more difficult seeding on the last day of the season, if they had won this game, would have played two sub-500 teams (like Cleveland ended up doing). Golden State meanwhile squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season (and ended up humiliating the Mavericks for which I will be forever grateful). Is there a chance that if this foul would have been called, the same end result would have occurred? Sure, but....

and Ronnie Nunn must be screaming at his copy of the newspaper when he read this quote:

A veteran official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because speaking with the news media violates the referees’ collective-bargaining agreement with the N.B.A., said that in such a situation he would not have blown the whistle because the violation was too trivial in a crucial moment. “I would let the players determine the game,” he said.

The official added that touching a player or providing any sort of a warning that a whistle is imminent — from either that referee or another on the floor — is forbidden.

“I would never touch him — it would show up on tape,” the official said. “We used to be able to say something like ‘Get out! Get out!’ But they said that was cheating. We considered it game management.”

Ronnie Nunn, the NBA Director of Officials, has a fascinating television show called “Making The Call with Ronnie Nunn” which analyses several questionable or confusing fouls. One of his constantly reiterated points is that a foul is a foul, no matter who the call is on, or what time of the game it happened.

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Ban Plastic Bag

Not quite a Nanny State item, but something to pay attention to.

The Pope gets bagged

Pressure Builds to Ban Plastic Bags in Stores - New York Times:

San Francisco enacted a ban in April, but it applies just to larger groceries and drugstores. Similar measures are being considered in Boston; Baltimore; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Santa Monica, Calif.; and Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau and director of EarthEcho, an environmental education group in Washington, said, “Banning plastic makes sense for the simple reason that it takes more than 1,000 years to biodegrade, which means that every single piece of plastic we’ve ever manufactured is still around, and much of it ends up in the oceans killing animals.”

“It sounds good until you consider the cost,” said Barry F. Scher, a spokesman for Giant Food, the grocery chain based in Landover, Md.

Instead of taking away plastic bags, which cost 2 cents each compared with 5 cents for paper bags, Annapolis should enforce its litter laws, Mr. Scher said.

He added that Giant already offered a 3-cent credit for every plastic bag that customers return to the store and that 2,200 tons of bags a year were recycled and turned into backyard decks and park benches.

Paper bags are bulkier to transport than plastic bags, Mr. Scher added, and more trucks, fuel and pollution are involved in delivering them to stores.

“That may be true,” said Alderman Sam Shropshire, the sponsor of the bill here. “But what they don’t tell you is that to make 100 billion plastic checkout bags per year, which is how many we use in the U.S. each year, it takes 12 million barrels of oil. No oil is used to produce recycled paper checkout bags.”

Jeffrie Zellmer, legislative director of the Maryland Retailers Association, said it took far less energy to recycle plastic than to recycle paper. Mr. Zellmer added that 90 percent of retailers used plastic bags and that costs could increase threefold or sixfold, eventually reaching consumers.

The commercial recycling coordinator for the City and County of San Francisco, Jack Macy, said that nationally 1 percent of all plastic checkout bags were recycled. “That means the rest end up in landfill,” Mr. Macy said. “And so the argument about plastic recycling being energy efficient isn’t a strong one.

Previous coverage
San Fran Bag Ban

San Francisco and Plastic Bags

Airport bags

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Illinois statewide smoking ban


About freaking time! And I say that as a former social smoker. Also, the specious argument about economic hardships for bars and taverns doesn't impress me. Since Illinois is the 19th state to pass such a restriction, don't you think if the 18 other states suddenly swooned into economic depression, we would have heard about it?

Jazz club

Governor signs statewide smoking ban -- chicagotribune.com:
Smokers throughout Illinois soon will have to step outside or into a private setting to light up after Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday signed into law a smoking ban that extends to nearly all public places across the state.

The governor's action, which state health officials said makes Illinois the 19th state with a broad smoking ban, culminated nearly two decades of intense efforts by anti-smoking advocates to curtail smoking in public.

The law will take effect on Jan. 1, stitching together a patchwork of local smoking bans passed mostly in the Chicago area in recent years.

Yet as the anti-smoking advocates cheered and hugged each other, tavern owners and smokers across Illinois had quite a different reaction. Bar managers criticized lawmakers for succumbing to political pressure that they said almost certainly will hurt, if not destroy, some of their businesses.

They were heartened, however, that the ban would extend across the state instead of being targeted to specific locales. Currently, 44 communities have smoking bans, and bar owners in no-public-smoking areas have complained that smokers are traveling out of town to hoist a beer and light up a cigarette.

“I think it's going to cost me a lot of money—I hope I can stay in business,” said Bill Broukal, owner of Cuzin's Tavern and Pizza in Tinley Park. “I don't think the governor cares—whatever looks good for him. I think the governor should let the people decide.”

At Jake Moran's pub in Mundelein, which allows smoking, response to the ban among the 10 or so patrons ranged from the merely angry to the unprintable.

“It's the General Assembly being our new nanny,” said Wally Degner, 70, of Palatine, a pipe smoker for 50 years. “After this they'll ban foods that are too fatty. You'll have to ask the state what you can eat and drink—they'll start regulating hamburgers.”

Sure, we are no fans of the Nanny State, but the act of smoking tobacco in public is more annoying to me than other Nanny State decisions like enforcing motorcycle helmet laws and bans of cannabis products. Repeal those first, and then we'll talk.

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Ketchikan Alaska redux


More snapshots from Ketchikan, Alaska. Sorry Aunt P.

Spectators in Ketchikan
Spectators in Ketchikan
They happily barked at passersby. My Aunt P and I took a wrong turn, and ended up in the 'wrong' part of Ketchikan - the part the tourists never go. Lots of industrial tools, canneries, hatcheries, fisheries and other monuments to the mighty salmon's financial might.

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Battlestar film this fall

BSG is making a side-quel film (doesn't advance the main BSG plot, but rather gives depth to the entire BSG universe, ie, neither a prequel nor sequel) - called Razor. And Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) might get killed again....

Unreliable Narrator

Maureen Ryan writes:

Secrets to be revealed, says 'Battlestar' team -- chicagotribune.com:

In the upcoming “Battlestar Galactica” movie “Razor,” which airs Nov. 24, one scene will take fans of the acclaimed drama back to where it all began.

“You'll see a glimpse of the first Cylon,” executive producer Ron Moore said in an interview last week.

“Razor,” is a stand-alone, two-hour film that does not pick up where “Battlestar's” third season left off.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (Episodes 10-20)
Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (Episodes 10-20)

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Soccer Fans take their sport seriously

Could you imagine if this had happened after the Dallas Mavericks choked against the Golden State Warriors (or even against Miami the year before)? Angry fans storming Donnie Nelson's house/yard, or at Avery Johnson's place, or even owner Mark Cuban? Now that would have been broadcast on ESPN in HD for many, many hours. The US sometimes seems like it takes sport a little too seriously (it is, after all just entertainment like a reality show or a dramady), but I've never heard of fans leaving a game and immediately going to the GM's mansion to protest the loss. Wow.

Corinthians fans protest at president's house after loss | Breaking News | Guardian Unlimited Football:
Around 100 angry Corinthians supporters protested in front of the home of club president Alberto Dualib after their team lost 3-0 at home to Nautico on Sunday.

Brazilian media reports said the supporters went straight from the stadium to Dualib's house in the Alto de Pinheiros district of Sao Paulo, where they threw eggs and firecrackers and chanted insulting slogans.

Photographs showed police cars protecting the house from the fans, who demanded Dualib's resignation.

....But, but, they used sarcasm (from the Piranha Brother's sketch - see if I can find the Youtube clip).

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links for 2007-07-24

The Boot Van is on the Prowl


Jon Hilkevitch writes:

New city booting van on prowl -- chicagotribune.com:
The city is experimenting with three new license-plate recognition vans for future use in booting vehicles with at least three unpaid parking tickets, said Revenue Department spokesman Ed Walsh. No decision has been made to purchase the two-camera vans, which are in the testing phase and not yet being used to boot vehicles, he said.

But, hey, scofflaws, the city says it's all in the spirit of efficiency. The van drivers make only one trip on a street because the paired cameras simultaneously read license plates of vehicles parked along both curbs. A beeping noise is emitted when license recognition software identifies a vehicle plate that is boot-eligible.

The older, one-camera enforcement vans that began operating earlier this year must make two swipes along the street, burning extra gas and wasting precious booting time.

With one camera or two, the automated license-plate readers remove the need for booting crews to manually enter license-plate numbers into devices to flag scofflaws.

“The new cameras are also able to read license plates even if there is only a couple of inches between the cars,” Walsh said.

Walsh advised drivers who are concerned about having their vehicles booted to get on a payment plan. Information is available at www.cityofchicago.org/Revenue.

More than 27,000 vehicles have been booted in the city this year through June, Walsh said. Last year, 55,621 vehicles were booted.

Youch. Can we invest the money into public transit and bike lanes at least? and not on more surveillance?

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News America vs the World

News America has a dark reputation in the in-store media arena as well.

Tatsuda IGA

News Corp.'s trouble in aisle three - Jul. 20, 2007: For months now, Rupert Murdoch's quest for Dow Jones has riveted the business world. But another juicy melodrama is unfolding at News Corp., one that may shed some light on how the $25 billion company sometimes does business.

It involves a little-known subsidiary called News America marketing, which comprises the bulk of News Corp.'s magazines and inserts division. It produces newspaper coupon inserts, in-store supermarket ads, and the like. That may seem boring next to, say, movies or MySpace, yet, its profitability is anything but: Its 28% operating margins are the highest at News Corp., while operating profit is triple that of Dow Jones (Charts). Even more scintillating is a series of lawsuits alleging that News America used anticompetitive behavior to try to drive its rivals out of the market, and the recent emergence of a former employee who claims the company tried to pay him off to keep quiet. His lawyer: Philip Hilder, best known for representing Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins. The saga has become the talk of the industry.

News America's $1.1 billion in sales make it a small player by Murdoch standards, but it has a market dominance that's unrivaled in most industries: It controls 50% to 60% of the insert market and as much as 90% of the in-store business, estimates analyst Robert Evans of Craig-Hallum Capital Group. “They are the hands-down 800-pound gorilla,” says Peter Hoyt, executive director of the In-Store Marketing Institute, a trade association.

It's a gorilla that likes to throw its weight around, according to four separate lawsuits filed by competitors that accuse it of using illegal tactics against them.

A business acquaintance used to work at News America, and is full of stories of anti-competitive behavior and shitty treatment of employees, but of course, without hard evidence, and subsequently no involvement with this case:
But now there may be a smoking gun in the form of an ex-employee who is alleging unsavory conduct on the part of his erstwhile employer. Robert Emmel, a former account manager who worked in in-store marketing, was fired late last year; a few months later, after Floorgraphics subpoenaed him as part of its lawsuit, Emmel revealed he had kept a copy of his computer hard drive because, he said in a deposition, he “had some concerns about some of the business practices that News America had engaged in.” Just what is on those disks is still unknown, but News America isn't taking any chances: In April the company sued Emmel personally, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. Emmel countersued under Georgia's RICO statute.

The charges in Emmel's countersuit read like headlines ripped from Murdoch's New York Post. Among them: “the extortionate use of economic fear,” “theft and scheme to commit wire fraud,” and the allegation that News America broke into Floorgraphics' computer system 11 times during one three-month span.

Emmel also alleges that News America's president, Christopher Mixson, offered him $30,000 in “severance” after Emmel told a colleague he was weighing speaking with the state of Minnesota's attorney general's office, which is a co-plaintiff in one of the lawsuits. Reached for comment, Emmel would say only, “I'm a pro-justice individual.” Mixson declined to comment.

As for Carlucci, a quick look at his background suggests a man with a soft spot for tough guys and how they operate. A board member of the Guardian Angels, he has invited founder Curtis Sliwa to speak at a company meeting for several years running. And according to the Valassis lawsuit, Carlucci once tried to motivate his sales force by playing a scene from the film The Untouchables in which Al Capone crushes a rival's skull with a baseball bat. In Murdoch's eyes, though, Carlucci is a star: In 2005 he gave him the added job of publisher of the Post, replacing Murdoch's son Lachlan.

(previous coverage of Carlucci and News America)

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random trip through my photo archive

Lincoln Park Foliage - paper lanterns, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Some foliage in Lincoln Park


The Manual Hand Crank model at that

Hi-Jacker, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Sort of an unfortunately named device, don't you think? In a corridor of River City.

The Donaghy scandal

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Ha, I thought the same thing as Bill Simmons, though without extending it to three paragraphs, and without casting the film.

ESPN Page 2 - The Sports Guy: The Donaghy scandal:
On Friday afternoon in southern California, you could hear the cacophony of frustrated screenwriters pounding their desks in disgust. The Tim Donaghy scandal doubled as the easiest movie pitch ever.

Imagine how simple it would have been to sell that script. A white NBA referee with a gambling problem (Matt Damon) loses too much money to a bookie (Timothy Olyphant) who's connected with a dangerous family of mobsters (led by head boss Alec Baldwin). One of their muscle guys (Turtle from “Entourage”) threatens to beat up the ref unless he gives them inside information. Which he does. Now they have him. They tell him to start throwing a couple of games or they'll go after his wife (Evangeline Lilly) and daughter (the little girl from “Little Miss Sunshine”). He agrees to affect the over/under of games by whistling more fouls than usual, which should drive the scores above the over/under because everyone will be shooting more free throws. For a couple of games, it works. Eventually, they want more. Fearing for his life, he crosses the line and helps fix a few outcomes without realizing the mobsters will never say, “All right, we're good, nice working with you.”

Meanwhile, a renegade FBI agent (Ryan Gosling) overhears the ref discussing one of the games on a tapped phone line, then gets tipped off by a mob informant (Joe Pantoliano) that they turned an NBA referee. They track the weasel for a solid year, gather all the evidence they need, then break the news to the NBA commissioner (Ron Silver) and his staff that their league has been compromised. It's too late. Too much damage has been done. The referee resigns, the feds swoop in and that's that. The movie ends with a sobbing Damon going to jail, Gosling getting promoted and Silver glumly watching the tape of a pivotal playoff game from the previous spring, a horribly officiated game that could have potentially affected the championship ... and the sight of that same compromised referee jogging down the court, ready to blow the whistle at a key moment.

The End.

and the Spurs-Suns playoff series will really have an asterisk now, as Simmons writes:

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links for 2007-07-23

Frank Rich uncorks on the moral hypocrites such as David Vitter and his peers (thos sexual scolds who can't keep their own puny stuff in their pants).

Dog on a Bender

If you haven't already read the column, with links, check it.

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Top of the World

Time Out Magazine interviews Jeff Zimmerman

Top of the World
Top of the World, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
On the corner of Damen and Lake Street, Chicago. See my blog for more

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Millennium Park

Another from my photo archives

Millennium Park, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Taken the evening before Millennium Park officially opened. This pond is about 2 cm deep, so you can walk right on top of the water if you have a heel on your shoe. Of course, plenty of people just take off their shoes altogether.

Sin will find you out glow version

looks better printed 20 x 40

Sin will find you out glow version, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Scan of 35 mm, taken years ago, somewhere in NYC. Store front church, with neon sign. I think over by 51st and 8th Ave, but I can't remember exactly. Natural light, but added a little depth in Photoshop.

Once and Future Prince

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Planet Earth
Planet Earth (Prince)

Whether or not you like Prince's music (I do, most of the time, but not always), his career arc is worth respect. Not enough musicians have the intestinal fortitude to follow their own muse through thick and thin. The ones that do so - Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Miles Davis, et al - are worth paying attention to.

Music: The Once and Future Prince:
The architect of “Purple Rain” knows that in this century, it’s not about CD sales, it’s about music.
I’VE got lots of money!“ Prince exults in ”The One U Wanna C,“ a come-on from his new album, ”Planet Earth“ (Columbia). There’s no reason to disbelieve him. With a sponsorship deal here and an exclusive show there, worldwide television appearances and music given away, Prince has remade himself as a 21st-century pop star. As recording companies bemoan a crumbling market, Prince is demonstrating that charisma and the willingness to go out and perform are still bankable. He doesn’t have to go multiplatinum — he’s multiplatform.

No Need to be Nervous

In Britain he infuriated retailers by agreeing to have a newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, include the complete ”Planet Earth“ CD in copies on July 15. (The album is due for American release this Tuesday.) Presumably The Mail paid him something in the range of what he could have earned, much more slowly, through album sales. British fans have remunerated him in other ways. On Aug. 1 he starts a string of no fewer than 21 sold-out arena concerts, 20,000 seats each, at the O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in London at the relatively low ticket price of £31.21, about $64. The O2 ticket price also includes a copy of the album; Prince did the same thing with his tour for ”Musicology“ in 2004. Those ”Musicology“ albums were counted toward the pop charts, which then changed their rules; the ”Planet Earth“ albums will not be. But fans will have the record.

Prince’s priorities are obvious. The main one is getting his music to an audience, whether it’s purchased or not.
Other musicians may think that their best chance at a livelihood is locking away their music — impossible as that is in the digital era — and demanding that fans buy everything they want to hear. But Prince is confident that his listeners will support him, if not through CD sales then at shows or through other deals.
But Prince is different. His way of working has nothing to do with scarcity. In the studio — he has his own recording complex, Paisley Park near Minneapolis — he is a torrent of new songs, while older, unreleased ones fill the archive he calls the Vault. Prince apparently has to hold himself back to release only one album a year. He’s equally indefatigable in concert. On the road he regularly follows full-tilt shows — singing, playing, dancing, sweating — with jam sessions that stretch into the night. It doesn’t hurt that at 49 he can still act like a sex symbol and that his stage shows are unpredictable.

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links for 2007-07-22

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Ring a Ding Ding

overexposed photo, somewhat rescued in Photoshop CS3. Burned the concrete, added a orange filter, etc.

Found in Lincoln Park near Belmont.

Ring a Ding Ding, originally uploaded by swanksalot.
Lincoln Park. Probably (based on style) by Pat McDonald who also did this piece


Lonely Zenith

Lonely Zenith, originally uploaded by swanksalot.discarded electronics, West Loop alley

click to embiggen

am testing Flickr 'blog this settings' which seems to fail every time, but still appear on my site. Hmmmm.

There is something about this photo I like, but I haven't figured out exactly what. Not necessarily the subject matter, though that is poignant, I think it is the shadow and blue to the center left. Who knows, I shouldn't post in such a state

Solve Danger

Solve Danger, originally uploaded by swanksalot.Lincoln Park

click to embiggen

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Bob Dylan either had an affair with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, or just really liked her, and her music. Listening to the Dylan XM radio show and Dylan's intro to Don't Take Everybody to Be Your Friend, and you could hear the admiration and longing in his voice, even over the span of 40 years. Surprisingly, there is no mention in the

The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

(or its companion website) about Ms. Tharpe.

Allmusic's thumbnail (by Jason Ankeny) says:

Alongside Willie Mae Ford Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is widely acclaimed among the greatest Sanctified gospel singers of her generation; a flamboyant performer whose music often flirted with the blues and swing, she was also one of the most controversial talents of her day, shocking purists with her leap into the secular market -- by playing nightclubs and theatres, she not only pushed spiritual music into the mainstream, but in the process also helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel. Tharpe was born March 20, 1921 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas; the daughter of Katie Bell Nubin, a traveling missionary and shouter in the classic gospel tradition known throughout the circuit as “Mother Bell,” she was a prodigy, mastering the guitar by the age of six. At the same time she attended Holiness conventions alongside her mother, performing renditions of songs including “The Day Is Past and Gone” and “I Looked Down the Line.”

In time the family relocated to Chicago, where Tharpe began honing her unique style; blessed with a resonant vibrato, both her vocal phrasing and guitar style drew heavy inspiration from the blues, and she further aligned herself with the secular world with a sense of showmanship and glamour unique among the gospel performers of her era. Signing to Decca in 1938, Tharpe became a virtual overnight sensation; her first records, among them Thomas A. Dorsey's “Rock Me” and “This Train,” were smash hits, and quickly she was performing in the company of mainstream superstars including Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman. She led an almost schizophrenic existence, remaining in the good graces of her core audience by recording material like “Precious Lord,” “Beams of Heaven” and “End of My Journey” while also appealing to her growing white audience by performing rearranged, uptempo spirituals including “Didn't It Rain” and “Down by the Riverside.”

During World War II, Tharpe was so popular that she was one of only two black gospel acts -- the Golden Gate Quartet being the other -- to record V-Discs for American soldiers overseas; she also toured the nation in the company of the Dixie Hummingbirds, among others. In 1944, she began recording with boogie-woogie pianist Sammy Price; their first collaboration, “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” even cracked Billboard's race records Top Ten, a rare feat for a gospel act and one which she repeated several more times during the course of her career. In 1946 she teamed with the Newark-based Sanctified shouter Madame Marie Knight, whose simple, unaffected vocals made her the perfect counterpoint for Tharpe's theatrics; the duo's first single, “Up Above My Head,” was a huge hit, and over the next few years they played to tremendous crowds across the church circuit.

However, in the early '50s Tharpe and Knight cut a handful of straight blues sides; their fans were outraged, and although Knight soon made a permanent leap into secular music -- to little success -- Tharpe remained first and foremost a gospel artist, although her credibility and popularity were seriously damaged. Not only did her record sales drop off and her live engagements become fewer and farther between, but many purists took Tharpe's foray into the mainstream as a personal affront; the situation did not improve, and she spent over a year touring clubs in Europe, waiting for the controversy to die down. Tharpe's comeback was slow but steady, and by 1960 she had returned far enough into the audience's good graces to appear at the Apollo Theatre alongside the Caravans and James Cleveland. While not a household name like before, she continued touring even after suffering a major stroke in 1970, dying in Philadelphia on October 9, 1973.

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links for 2007-07-21

Don't they dare!

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busy day for me, but couldn't let this past without notice. Obviously, my blog and flickr conspired to quadruple post, doh!

Don't they dare!, originally uploaded by Louise LeBourgeois.

Dear Concerned Citizen:

The City of Chicago and Chicago Park District are concerned about the planned expansion at BP's Whiting Refinery. With this intended expansion a considerable amount of additional ammonia and industrial sludge will be polluting Lake Michigan, the very source our city depends on for fresh water.

We are outraged at the exemption BP has received from state environmental laws by Indiana state regulators threatening the efforts of the last 30 years to preserve and protect the Great Lakes, our region's greatest natural resource. We are so fortunate to have one of the world's largest sources of fresh water right at our doorstep and we need to take action in protecting this resource.

On Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22 we will be staging a volunteer effort along the City of Chicago's entire Lakefront to "Save Our Lake." We will be asking everyone to help out by signing a petition to "Save Our Lake." In addition we are recruiting volunteers to help in these efforts by informing citizens about the detrimental effects of dumping ammonia and industrial sludge in Lake Michigan and seeking additional signatures for petitions.

Clean, fresh water is an essential human necessity that we require to sustain a healthy lifestyle. It is a basic human right. We must unify to preserve and protect this valued natural resource, Lake Michigan, so that future generations can use and enjoy its clean water. I urge you to join us in asking for BP's leadership in its protection, rather than its destruction.

To start getting signatures in your neighborhood, click here to download a copy of the petition. If you are interested in helping "Save Our Lake" this weekend please call 312.742.4775 or email us at janis.taylor@chicagoparkdistrict.com.


Timothy J. Mitchell
General Superintendent & CEO, Chicago Park District

links for 2007-07-20

FBI's Secret Spyware

| 1 Comment

Just in case you didn't think the FBI wasn't capable of gathering information about you, your habits, your computer passwords, what blogs you visit, and more, they can, and they do.

FBI's Secret Spyware Tracks Down Teen Who Made Bomb Threats :
Sanders wrote that the spyware program gathers a wide range of information, including the computer's IP address; MAC address; open ports; a list of running programs; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer's registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and the last-visited URL.
The CIPAV then settles into a silent “pen register” mode, in which it lurks on the target computer and monitors its internet use, logging the IP address of every computer to which the machine connects for up to 60 days.
Under a ruling this month by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, such surveillance -- which does not capture the content of the communications -- can be conducted without a wiretap warrant, because internet users have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the data when using the internet.


and even though the court filings don't explicitly say keystrokes are captured as well, one would imagine they are. Why not, if you are already collecting everything else?

No cases have been publicly linked to such a capability until now, says David Sobel, a Washington, D.C., attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It might just be that the defense lawyers are not sufficiently sophisticated to have their ears perk up when this methodology is revealed in a prosecution,” says Sobel. “I think it's safe to say the use of such a technique raises novel and unresolved legal issues.”

The June affidavit doesn't reveal whether the CIPAV can be configured to monitor keystrokes [why wouldn't it?], or to allow the FBI real-time access to the computer's hard drive, like typical Trojan malware used by computer criminals. It notes that the “commands, processes, capabilities and ... configuration” of the CIPAV is “classified as a law enforcement sensitive investigative technique, the disclosure of which would likely jeopardize other ongoing investigations and/or future use of the technique.”

The document is also silent as to how the spyware infiltrates the target's computer. In the Washington case, the FBI delivered the program through MySpace's messaging system, which allows HTML and embedded images. The FBI might have simply tricked the suspect into downloading and opening an executable file, says Roger Thompson, CTO of security vendor Exploit Prevention Labs. But the bureau could also have exploited one of the legion of web browser vulnerabilities discovered by computer-security researchers and cybercrooks -- or even used one of its own.

“It's quite possible the FBI knows about vulnerabilities that have not been disclosed to the rest of the world,” says Thompson. “If they had discovered one, they would not have disclosed it, and that would be a great way to get stuff on people's computer. Then I guess they can bug whoever they want.”

The FBI's 2008 budget request hints at the bureau's efforts in the hacking arena, including $220,000 sought to “purchase highly specialized equipment and technical tools used for covert (and) overt search and seizure forensic operations.… This funding will allow the technology challenges (sic) including bypass, defeat or compromise of computer systems.”

Read more here. The little punk who made threats (Glazebrook) is no hero, but the incident bring up the question: how often has the FBI installed spyware on other folks' computers who are careless enough to use a Windows computer?

Especially in light of the revelations of a 'rogue' FBI office, under criminal investigation.

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Murdoch’s Arrival Scares Journalists

I'd actually like to see a Page 3 drawn in stipple-style (or Hedcut). In fact, I used to own a Photoshop plugin that would turn any photo into a WSJ-esque drawing. (Page 3 wiki, if you are blocked from cheesecake viewing by your employer). There is a tutorial how to make the image on your own, if I fake one well enough to recognize, I'll post it.

Anyway, the journalists at the WSJ are nervous about the upcoming Murdoch purchase, and are marking time until they all get fired and/or reassigned to cover Whitewater.

Murdoch’s Arrival Worries Journal Employees - New York Times:
Journalists are also facing two futures they never expected when they signed on to jobs they saw more as a mission, not a business — the uncertainty of what Mr. Murdoch would do as an owner, or the uncertainty of a suddenly harsh advertising climate that could lead to deep job cuts.

“There’s a real culture of passion for the truth, for shining lights in dark places and making the mysterious understood,” said a reporter, one of dozens of people interviewed at The Journal and Dow Jones, nearly all of whom asked for anonymity, fearing a backlash from the current regime or the next one. “The overwhelming view here is that under Murdoch, that gets compromised from Day One, and that idea is devastating, heartbreaking, to people.”

At times, that heartbreak has been expressed in gallows humor, as newsroom employees answered phones with “News Corporation” and mimicked Mr. Murdoch’s Australian accent.

In a conference call among editors and bureau chiefs, one said The Journal would follow the lead of The Sun, one of Mr. Murdoch’s British tabloids, which prints pictures of topless women on its third page.

“Rupert has confirmed to me that we will have Page 3 girls,” he said, according to another person on the call. “But in a concession, they will be dot drawings,” like The Journal’s traditional hand-drawn portraits.

previous coverage

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Chicago vs BP

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Kudos to the City of Chicago for responding to Indiana's short-sighted and craven capitulation. BP shouldn't be allowed to pollute Lake Michigan, no matter how many McJobs result (BP only claims 80 jobs will be created if they are allowed to build their plant. How many of these are just internships?), several states share the water of Great Lakes, not just Indiana.

yellow BP Amoco building is taller than me
(photo of Amoco building, Amoco now has merged with BP)

City to fight BP refinery over pollution waiver | Chicago Tribune :
The City of Chicago joined the fight Wednesday to stop the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., from dumping significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan.

City administrators said they hope to meet with BP officials next week. They've hired a consultant to review the water permit granted by Indiana regulators that will allow BP, one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes, to dump 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day.
City officials also said they are exploring legal options. ... Speaking to reporters Wednesday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Kennedy-King College in Englewood, Mayor Richard Daley said increased pollution from the refinery would work against the city's long-term efforts to clean up the lake.

“We are very concerned about that,” Daley said. “We protect the Great Lakes. ... That is our drinking water. That is our economic development. That is our recreation.”

Indiana officials exempted BP from state environmental laws, allowing the refinery to move forward with plans for a $3.8 billion expansion to process more heavy Canadian crude oil.

and the US EPA takes its mission of protecting citizens as seriously as the FDA does, ie, not very seriously at all.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which steps in to oversee permits and enforcement, did not object to Indiana regulators' decision in the case.

Industry and Commerce toned

Doesn't sound like BP tried very hard to let interested parties have any input until the deal was already completed, and certain Indiana legislators got paid off (or whatever it took).

Chicago's Environment Commissioner Sadhu Johnston said neither state officials nor BP had informed Chicago officials of the refinery's plans. Instead, he said, city officials read about it in Sunday's Tribune.

“They really didn't do any outreach,” he said. “Since they are expanding in this community, they should have told us of their plans and what that would do to the lake.”

Johnston said he thinks increased pollutant levels could be addressed if BP added more modern technology to the site.


“Whether it's sludge or particulate, either way it's a pollutant and it's going into Lake Michigan,” Johnston said.

Park staff will collect signatures for the “Save Our Lake” effort at 14 lakefront locations including beaches, Navy Pier and the Museum Campus.

Carolyn Marsh, a Whiting resident who appeared at the Chicago Park District news conference, said the public comment period lasted only 2 months. She said she was appointed to a citizen's committee by BP, but the refinery never mentioned any increase in ammonia or other pollutants.

previous coverage

Fuel for Thought


It isn't just auto industry executives who think every change is going to have dire consequences for their company's bottom line. For instance, energy companies resist making their plants more efficient and less polluting because they are afraid it will 'cost too much', without any real evidence that this is the truth.

James Surowiecki writes:

Fuel for Thought:

In the auto industry, there’s one thing you can always count on: if a new environmental or safety rule is proposed, executives will prophesy disaster. In the nineteen-twenties, Alfred Sloan, the president of General Motors, insisted that the company could not make windshields with safety glass because doing so would harm the bottom line. In the fifties, auto executives told Congress that making seat belts compulsory would slash industry profits. When air bags came along, Lee Iacocca told Richard Nixon that “safety has really killed all our business.” A few years later, when Congress was thinking about requiring fuel-economy standards, auto executives warned that instituting such standards would create “massive financial and unemployment problems.” And now, with Congress debating a bill to raise fuel-economy standards, for the first time in almost twenty years, the Chicken Littles are squawking again, forecasting doom for Detroit and asserting that making higher-mileage vehicles is technologically unfeasible and economically suicidal.

Mr. Surowiecki goes on to argue we should raise fuel economy standards to “save ourselves from ourselves”.

Americans may want to buy the biggest and most environmentally damaging vehicles available, but polls show that, given an option, some three-quarters of them vote for dramatic increases in fuel-economy standards—increases that may well force automakers to sell fewer (or at least smaller) S.U.V.s. We buy gas guzzlers but vote for gas sipping. This isn’t because people are ignorant about how higher fuel-economy standards would affect them personally; polls that explicitly lay out the potential trade-offs involved still find support for tougher standards. And it isn’t as if voters and car buyers belong to two different groups; one recent survey of pickup owners found that seventy per cent strongly favored tougher requirements. The curious fact is that many people buying three-ton Suburbans for that arduous two-mile trip to the supermarket also want Congress to pass laws making it harder to buy Suburbans at all. ... People believe that bigger and heavier cars are safer in a crash (forgetting that, often, bigger cars are also more likely to crash). And people like the fact that driving a higher-horsepower car makes you look better at the stoplight. So our desires as individuals to protect ourselves and to outclass our neighbors encourage us to buy bigger and bigger vehicles with more and more horsepower. And the market doesn’t create counter-incentives that would push us in a responsible direction, since someone who drives a Hummer doesn’t suffer the effects of pollution and global warming any more than someone driving a Prius does, and isn’t charged more for the extra environmental damage.

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links for 2007-07-19

FDA Food Inspections Inadequate

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More details of the FDA food inspection travesty. If the agency wasn't so concerned with a CYA mentality, and if it wasn't connected at the hip with Agribusiness, perhaps some positive change might occur from these hearings. I'm skeptical. I don't have the figures in front of me at the moment, but there is a tendency for Agribusiness and food manufacturing executives to work for the FDA, then return to work in the same industry.


FDA Food Inspections Inadequate:
The FDA is spread so thin inspectors see less than 1% of food imports, a report to Congress found. The situation is on course to get worse.
Congressional investigators are expected to tell a House subcommittee today that the Food and Drug Administration's ability to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply is “minimal” and agency plans to overhaul its inspection regime could make a bad situation worse.

FDA officials, under fire for the recent string of high-profile food scares involving both domestic and imported foods, have been asked to appear before a House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee hearing to discuss the agency's food inspections.

Committee staff reviewed the system extensively and found that a shrinking inspection staff examines less than 1% of all imported food. A typical inspector in the FDA's San Francisco office examines nearly 1,000 food entries a day -- roughly one every 30 seconds, the committee report found. The agency, it says, allows importers to take possession of their high-risk goods and arrange for testing by a private laboratory. Before melamine-contaminated pet food killed and sickened thousands of pets, the FDA had never inspected those ingredients from China.

The FDA is trying to reorganize its field operations, but the report says some of its measure may backfire. Only a small percentage of its senior scientists are willing to be transferred if the agency closes seven of 13 laboratories. And in boxes of documents delivered to congressional investigators to explain the reasoning behind the closures, the agency didn't appear to have conducted any cost analysis.

The committee investigators also raise questions about the adequacy of the FDA's mostly voluntary approach to domestic and imported food. Because of lack of authority, FDA inspectors had been refused by some companies to access their records and test results. With the exceptions of several food categories, “FDA has no rules governing testing protocols, record retention...manufacturing, quality assurance and control, or the right to examine any records that a food-processing firm chooses to keep voluntarily,” the report said.

and from the Trib a few days ago:

Food safety lacks teeth, critics say:

Recent recalls underscore gaps in oversight

The makers of Veggie Booty, a popular snack food recalled from stores late last month, weren't sure what was wrong with their product, according to federal food safety officials. All they knew was that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were telling them that people had eaten Veggie Booty and fallen ill, eventually 61 sickened in 19 states.

That confusion points up just how cumbersome -- badly flawed, critics say -- the nation's food recall procedures can be, both for consumers and companies. Under the current system, the federal agencies responsible for food safety can't actually force companies to issue recalls. And when recalls do occur, just a fraction of the tainted food is ever recovered.

Robert's American Gourmet Inc., Veggie Booty's maker, recalled its product at the suggestion of the Food and Drug Administration. But neither the CDC nor FDA ever discovered on their own just what was wrong with Veggie Booty.

That answer came from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which took it upon itself to test suspect bags of Veggie Booty. It informed Robert's American Gourmet of its findings: rare Salmonella Wandsworth.
Following a year of several high-profile food scares and recalls, including cases involving Peter Pan peanut butter tainted with salmonella and bagged spinach that carried E. coli bacteria, some in Congress maintain that the nation's food safety system needs an overhaul.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have introduced a bill that would strengthen the authority that the FDA and the Department of Agriculture have over food recalls. The USDA regulates meat, poultry and eggs; the FDA regulates all other foods.

The Senate has adopted most of Durbin's bill as an amendment to the FDA's budget reauthorization legislation. It includes provisions that would create a food contamination early warning system and requirements that food companies provide records to regulators upon request.

The House did not include the food safety provisions in its version of the FDA bill, so final adoption is in doubt.

The FDA and USDA currently lack mandatory recall authority; they must ask companies to take back bad food, or, if the situation is extreme, they can go to court to force a company's hand. An exception is the FDA's authority over infant formula.

The Senate declined to approve a mandatory recall provision in Durbin's bill. But the voluntary nature of recalls, critics contend, often leads to a series of expanding recalls as companies reluctantly come to the expensive conclusion that more and more of the product might endanger consumers.

The bill follows recommendations by the Government Accountability Office, which for several years has been sharply critical of the nation's “fragmented” food safety structure. Earlier this year, the GAO placed food safety enforcement on a list of “high risk” items.

The FDA, for some reason, thinks they do a great job, and surprisingly [/sarcasm], so does a main industry lobby group, the Food Marketing Institute.

“I think FDA has found over the years that manufacturers, when they learn about a problem either through their own testing or complaints that come to them provided by FDA or other organizations, they generally try to do the right thing,” said Dave Elder, director of the FDA's Office of Enforcement.

Deborah White, vice president and associate general counsel of the Food Marketing Institute, said the government has an “extremely efficient recall system. We and others agree that it can be improved. We're always looking for ways to do that from the retail perspective, and working with our supplier partners as well.

see also

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Murdoch and the WSJ

Open letter to the Bancroft family:

Don't Do It!!!!

Sincerely, a long-time WSJ subscriber.

Toles Wsj Murdoch 07182007

Dow Jones Board Reaches Deal With Murdoch - New York Times:
It’s now down to the Bancrofts.

After months of back-and-forth negotiations, the board of Dow Jones voted last night in favor of recommending a tentative deal to sell the publisher of The Wall Street Journal for $5 billion to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

The final decision will be made by Dow Jones’s fractious controlling family, the Bancrofts, which could still seek to scuttle the sale, people who have spoken with family members said. That point was underscored by the fact that two of the four Bancroft family members on the board did not take part in the vote.

Several of the Bancrofts have expressed their disapproval of selling to Mr. Murdoch, fearing that he would bend news coverage to further his political or business interests. And two family members on the board, Christopher Bancroft and Leslie Hill, have been actively seeking alternative bids. According to an adviser briefed on the meeting last night at which the offer was weighted, Mr. Bancroft left the meeting early, before the vote. Ms. Hill stayed but abstained from voting.

A third director, Dieter von Holtzbrinck, who attended the meeting by conference call from Europe, did not stay on the line long enough to vote, the adviser said. The company’s 13 other directors, including two other Bancroft representatives and the chief executive, Richard F. Zannino, voted in favor.

and sounds like Al Gore (and Hillary Clinton) have decided to curry favor with Murdoch even before the deal is done:

Mr. Murdoch’s potential stewardship of The Journal gained an unlikely endorsement yesterday, given both his and The Journal’s traditionally conservative politics.

In an interview, former Vice President Al Gore defended Mr. Murdoch as someone who supports independent voices and keeps his word. Mr. Gore was referring to his own experience negotiating a contract to carry Current TV, a cable channel he helped found.

Mr. Gore, who has spoken out against media consolidation by conglomerates like the News Corporation in the past, said that he was mainly concerned with ownership of broadcast outlets. “That’s an issue — but on the question of his openness to independent points of view, I want you to know that my experience has been that when he gave his word, he kept his word.”

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The Taliban's Opium War

George Bush's War-that-he-hopes-we-all-forget-about is still raging, 6 years later. Jon Lee Anderson spends some time in Afghanistan (avoiding the Taliban and dodging their bullets), and files an interesting report. The U.S. cowboy style is at odds with the other countries who maintain a military presence in Afghanistan, and of course, the poppy eradication is poorly implemented. I don't think one can fault farmers for growing crops that yield $700 an acre vs. $33 an acre for wheat. The U.S. often destroys every crop, and slowly makes more and more enemies among the peasants and farmers and their families.
Another Poppy in Sitka

The Taliban’s Opium War:
In the main square in Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan Province, in central Afghanistan, a large billboard shows a human skeleton being hanged. The rope is not a normal gallows rope but the stem of an opium poppy. .... Doug Wankel walked up to an angry-looking farmer who was watching his field being destroyed and asked him, through an interpreter named Nazeem, how much he got for his opium. Twenty-one thousand Pakistani rupees for a four-kilo package, the farmer said, and he harvested three to four kilos per jirib (a local land measurement equivalent to about half an acre). He added, “I get only a thousand rupees per jirib of wheat, so I’m obliged to grow poppies.” That comes to about thirty-three dollars from an acre of wheat, and between five hundred and seven hundred dollars from an acre of poppies. In Uruzgan, the opium was sold to middlemen who then smuggled it out of Afghanistan to Pakistan or Iran.

“How long have you been growing poppies?” Wankel asked him.

The farmer looked surprised. “When I was born, I saw the poppies,” he said.

When we were ready to move on, the farmer said, as if to be polite, “Thank you—but I can’t really thank you, because you haven’t destroyed just my poppies but my wheat, too.” He pointed to where A.T.V.s had driven through a wheat patch. Wankel apologized, then commented that it was only one small section. “But you have also damaged my watermelons,” the farmer insisted, pointing to another part of the field. “Now I will have nothing left.”
Wankel turned away. As we walked on, the farmer called out, “Are you destroying all the poppies or just my field?”

About a dozen men and boys gathered on a low dirt wall next to another field and watched the proceedings impassively. A young girl wiped away tears with her scarf and yelled angrily at a policeman. Nearby, several Americans were resting in the shade of some mulberry trees, talking to each other. One of the local men, who wore a black turban, said to them, “We’re poor—we’re not with the Taliban or anything. You’ve made a big mistake. Now we’ll grow more against you.” He added, “I have to feed my children.”

Nazeem, the translator, spoke to the men in Pashto, and recited passages from the Koran proscribing opium. One of the men retorted, “The Koran also says to fight against kafirs”—that is, infidels. His companions stirred and nodded.

Poppy in Sitka

Read the whole thing here

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links for 2007-07-18

F.D.A. Inspections a Joke

We've been reading in horror the last few days re the incredible ineptitude and malfeasance of the FDA, who only seems concerned with getting through the day without too many kids dying. The Republicans who controlled the FDA budget must have calculated a few deaths would only help cull out the weaker members of society - you know, those who don't reliably vote Republican anyway. But the Dems (allegedly) are in charge of the Congressional purse strings now (at least in the few instances when they haven't already caved in to demands from the White House), are there going to be changes at the FDA?

Sometimes A Fish(erman) needs a Bicycle

F.D.A. Inspections Lax, Congress Is Told:

According to testimony Tuesday, exporters have been able to bring tainted products into the U.S. because the F.D.A. has neither enough resources nor inspectors to stop them.

ccording to testimony Tuesday before a House subcommittee, they have been able to bring tainted products into this country because the F.D.A. has neither enough resources nor inspectors to stop them. And each year it has become easier: since 2003, the number of inspectors has decreased while imports of food alone have almost doubled.

Recently consumers have had a crash course in the hazards of imported products, especially those from China: pet food and pig and chicken feed contaminated with melamine; counterfeit toothpaste with diethylene glycol; fish contaminated with antibiotics and a suspected cancer-causing agent; the use of carbon monoxide to make decomposed fish look fresh.

Despite headlines about these imports, the F.D.A. intends to close 7 of its 13 laboratories that test for these problems. Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the subcommittee, said the closings “would likely expose Americans to even more danger from unsafe food, particularly imports.”
Over all, the Agriculture Department inspects 16 percent of imported meat, while the F.D.A. inspects about 1 percent of the food over which it has jurisdiction. Just a fraction of that is actually sampled.

Another witness Tuesday was David Nelson, an investigator on the oversight subcommittee’s staff who spent more than four months visiting F.D.A. laboratories and customs offices at ports, as well as talking with former and current F.D.A. employees. He said the agency allowed importers to take possession of suspect goods and arrange for their testing by private laboratories that are not approved by the F.D.A.

The subcommittee staff report quoted an F.D.A. official whom it did not identify as saying private lab results were “shoddy” and “driven by financial rather than scientific concerns.”

Once there have been five consecutive analyses of an exporter’s products by private labs, with no violations, importers are no longer required to test products of that exporter.

Importers of swordfish, tuna or mahi mahi, the largest of which are likely to have unacceptable levels of mercury, will switch to smaller fish that can pass the mercury test, the report said. Once the importers have passed the five consecutive analyses, they switch back to the large fish. The report quoted one F.D.A. seafood expert as saying that over half of the imported swordfish probably contains unacceptable levels of mercury.

Importers often go port shopping, the report said. Some fish, for example, are sent to Las Vegas to avoid the lab in San Francisco lab, where inspectors have earned a reputation for their analytical skills. The San Francisco lab is scheduled for closing.

and this isn't a recent problem:

According to the subcommittee report, the F.D.A. has long been aware of the widespread use of antibiotics in farm-raised fish from China and other countries, but it did not issue an import alert for catfish, shrimp and several other farm-raised fish until the committee started investigating. China produces 70 percent of farm-raised fish worldwide.

“The timing of the import alert is curious,” the report says.

Since the 1990s the agency has known that in imported fish frozen after being treated with carbon monoxide to keep it looking fresh, 20 percent was actually decomposed. Yet in 2001 the agency gave use of the gas the status of “generally recognized as safe.”

“How does a public health authority permit this?” Mr. Nelson asked.

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2 Buck Chuck

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I hardly ever drink Two-Buck Chuck wine, a fave of my Aunt P, as Trader Joe's is not part of my circle of grocery stores for some reason. Still, pretty funny results.

Ode to Dionysus

6abc.com: California's Wine Surprise:
Charles Shaw Chardonnay, better known as “Two Buck Chuck,” beat hundreds of other wines and was named the top prize in a prestigious tasting competition in California.

“The characteristics that we look for in our gold medal winner & a nice creamy butter, fruity & it was a delight to taste,” said 2007 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition judge Michael Williams.

The affordable wine beat out 350 other California chardonnays to win the double gold. Second place went to an $18 bottle, and the most expensive wines at the event, at the price of $55, didn't even medal.

To find this prize winner, you need not go to a fancy wine shop or elite retailer. Charles Shaw Chardonnay is mass produced in California and only sold through the quirky Trader Joe's grocery stores.

I especially liked this quote: I'm adopting this motto for other artistic endeavors as well

No one said this was an exact science. Just ask the chief judge of the competition that gave the gold to a wine that costs less than a latte.

“There's going to be people out there that don't like the wine and that's OK,” said chief judge G. M. “Pooch” Puchlowski. “You know, there are a lot of wines I don't like. So you drink what you like, don't drink what you don't and you go home a happy camper.”

or as Henry Miller says:
“Paint as You Like and Die Happy” (Henry Miller) (which I need to find a copy of one day. If you ever see a copy in a used bookstore, please buy it for me)

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July is ebullient

most of the time, anyway. You want proof?

Crowne Plaza at Night

Crowne Plaza at Night
from Skybridge. We are considering renting an apartment there as a second office, a spare bedroom for when (if) we do construction, but haven't yet decided.

Evening View from Skybridge
Evening View from Skybridge
looking at the magnificent skyline view. Oh, if I only had my tripod with me.

(more below)

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links for 2007-07-17

Energizer Buys Playtex

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What is their new slogan going to be? For the flow that keeps on going?

Energizer Buys Playtex Products:
ST. LOUIS — Energizer Holdings, which diversified from the battery market by buying razor-maker Schick-Wilkinson Sword in 2003, will now acquire Playtex Products, the companies said last week. Playtex, Westport, Conn., is a manufacturer in the skin, feminine and infant care industries, with a portfolio that includes sun care products like Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropics.

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The Bridge on the River Kwai


Over the weekend finally saw Bridge on the River Kwai. Oscar winners are often lame-o, and while BRK was not exactly a stinker, it wasn't the stellar, gripping film I had anticipated. Too many Technicolor-era cliches.

The Bridge on the River Kwai
“The Bridge on the River Kwai” (David Lean)

The Bridge on the River Kwai:

Director David Lean's sweeping epic is set in a Japanese World War II prison camp where British POWs are forced to construct a railway bridge as a morale-building exercise. Yet the real battle of wills is between "play by the rules" British colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), who is dedicated to the project, and his American rival (William Holden), who vows to destroy it. The POWs' whistling work theme became legendary.

So, in 2040, or whenever 10 years after the War in Iraq is over will turn out to be, will an Iraqi make an update of BRK? With Abu Ghraib replacing Japanese-occupied Burma, sadistic MPs, and so on.

The British class system baffles me - the enlisted men are doing hard labor in a brutal prison camp, yet the officers are celebrated for not adding their sweat to the group effort.

Other than the whistling-scene of “Hitler Has One Ball” (which I knew of since, like everyone who went to high school in the 80's, I saw the Breakfast Club a few times), the musical score was fairly horrible. How did it win an Oscar?

William Holden is no great actor either, at least in this film. Ok in Network, ok in Sunset Boulevard, but otherwise, meh. Is there a performance that I'm missing? Really bothered me (for some reason) that in the commando scene involving stealth and blackface, both Holden and Geoffrey Horne insisted upon flashing their gleaming white teeth in the dark, and splashing around in the water while Japanese soldiers paced the bridge above. The guards must have been wearing iPods or something. Holden's BRK character in general is prosaic and mostly unremarkable.

The story is based on the building in 1943 of one of the railway bridges over the Mae Klong - renamed Khwae Yai in the 1960s - at a place called Tamarkan, five kilometres from the Thai town of Kanchanaburi. This was part of a project to link existing Thai and Burmese railway lines to create a route from Bangkok, Thailand to Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) to support the Japanese occupation of Burma. About a hundred thousand conscripted Asian laborers and 12,000 prisoners of war died on the whole project. Although the suffering caused by the building of the Burma Railway and its bridges is true, the incidents in the film are mostly fictional. The real senior Allied officer at the bridge was Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey. Some consider the film to be an insulting parody of Toosey.[1] On a BBC Timewatch program, a former prisoner at the camp states that it is unlikely that a man like the fictional Nicholson could have risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel; and if he had, he would have been “quietly eliminated” by the other prisoners. Julie Summers, in her book The Colonel of Tamarkan, writes that Pierre Boulle, who had been a prisoner of war in Thailand, created the fictional Nicholson character as an amalgam of his memories of collaborating French officers.

Toosey was very different to Nicholson and was certainly not a semi-collaborator who felt obliged to work with the Japanese due to legal loopholes. Toosey in fact did much to delay the building of the bridge as much as possible. Whereas Nicholson disapproves of acts of sabotage and other deliberate attempts to delay progress, Toosey encouraged this: white ants were collected in large numbers to eat the wooden structures and the concrete was badly mixed.
The destruction of the bridge as depicted in the film is entirely fictional. In fact, two bridges were built: a temporary wooden bridge and a permanent steel and concrete bridge a few months later. Both bridges were used for two years until they were destroyed by Allied aerial bombing. The steel bridge was repaired and is still in use today

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City Sluts

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City Sluts
City Sluts
I know, I know, very juvenile, but this sign has made me laugh for a long time.

What exactly is happening in this photo? The stylist has removed his shirt, and the client is either scared of his technique, or very interested in a meeting of the, err, flesh. D and I walked at least 15 miles of Chicago streets since Friday: lots of slices of urban life captured. Some will show up for Aunt P's company to block viewing of.....

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links for 2007-07-16

Don't Ask Me Questions

Graham Parker and the Rumour perform “Don't Ask Me Questions” on a show called UK Gold. This is a rare opportunity to see what GP's eyes look like

(h/t the Kelly Dwyer show - who I might add is actually having more fun covering the NBA than Henry Abbott has seemingly had in a while. I don't know if it is the corporate pressure, or ESPN's general suckiness, or what, but TrueHoop's joie de vivre quotient seems way, way down. Kelly Dwyer should have a blog of his own, one not constrained by the Sports Illustrated ethos either.)

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July snapshots

Since I got nothing interesting to say, and I want to be outside enjoying the vitamin D infusion opportunities

Click to embiggen

Marley, MLK and Aung San Suu Kyi
Marley, MLK and Aung San Suu Kyi
Lyrics from The Heathen, on Marley's seminal album, Exodus.

Tick Tock
Tick Tock
bikes fly down Milwaukee Ave

more below the fold (except for Aunt P)....

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links for 2007-07-15

Mad for Muscle Cars


I may be biased, perhaps because I haven't driven a so-called muscle car since high school (though, that was hell of a lot of fun), but I can't see spending $500,000 on a 1970 Barracuda in any circumstance.

Doug Sease's brother wants to buy a

1960s-vintage Dodge Charger or an early 1970s Plymouth Duster. Clearly he is insane. Doesn't he know these were among the cars -- sloppily engineered and assembled, overpowered, unsafe and inefficient -- that opened the door to the great wave of Japanese cars that now threatens the very existence of Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit?

It is generally accepted that the late John Z. DeLorean pioneered the muscle-car concept in 1964 by stuffing an oversized engine into the lowly Pontiac Tempest, ushering in the GTO. The light and lively GTO was an immediate sales hit for General Motors, and put pressure on other auto makers to make performance affordable and fun. New muscle cars sold for around $3,000 to $3,500, making them accessible to a generation spoiled by gasoline prices of less than $1 a gallon.

The love affair faded in the early 1970s with the advent of higher gasoline prices and higher insurance premiums. Today, the best-of-class muscle cars can fetch astounding prices. A 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, in pristine condition and loaded with a 426-cubic-inch “Hemi” engine, might bring a half-million dollars at auction.

You can join the crowd first by setting parameters for your search, based on the make, model and year of the car you want and what you can afford. You can always restore a less-than-perfect model, or have someone do it, though you need to take into account how much you are willing to spend after a purchase. Remember, routine components are going to break on these oldsters.

Mad for Muscle Cars - WSJ.com:

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Is it time to move yet

I don't even smoke joints anymore, and I strongly believe the drug war in the US is bullshite.

Judge rules Canada's pot possession laws unconstitutional:
A Toronto judge has ruled that Canada's pot possession laws are unconstitutional after a man argued the country's medicinal marijuana regulations are flawed.

Lawyer Brian McAllister says the potential ramifications of a ruling that Canada's pot possession laws are unconstitutional are 'pretty big.'
The 29-year-old Toronto resident had been charged with possession of about 3.5 grams or roughly $45 dollars worth of marijuana.

The man has no medical issues and doesn't want a medical exemption to smoke marijuana. In 2001, Health Canada implemented the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, which allow access to marijuana to people who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses.

In court, the man argued that the federal government only made it policy to provide marijuana to those who need it, but never made it an actual law. Because of that, he argued, all possession laws, whether medicinal or not, should be quashed.
The judge agreed and dismissed the charges.

“The government told the public not to worry about access to marijuana,” said Judge Howard Borenstein. “They have a policy but not law.… In my view that is unconstitutional.”

Defence lawyer Brian McAllister, who represented the man, said the ramifications of the ruling have potential to be “pretty big.”

“Obviously, there's thousands of people that get charged with this offence every year,” he said.

McAllister said Ontario residents charged with possessing marijuana now have a new defence.

“That's probably why the government will likely appeal the decision,” he said.

Borenstein has given prosecutors two weeks before he makes his ruling official. Prosecutors told CBC News they want a speedy appeal to overturn the decision.

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Tom Wolfe is a putz

Speaking of the LSD experience, and culture, Tom Wolfe, in an article about the ten year anniversary of the weblog, scrawls on a crayon:

Happy Blogiversary - WSJ.com:

One by one, Marshall McLuhan's wackiest-seeming predictions come true. Forty years ago, he said that modern communications technology would turn the young into tribal primitives who pay attention not to objective “news” reports but only to what the drums say, i.e., rumors.

And there you have blogs. The universe of blogs is a universe of rumors, and the tribe likes it that way.

Blogs are an advance guard to the rear. For example, only a primitive would believe a word of Wikipedia (which, though not strictly a blog, shares the characteristics of the genre). The entry under my name says that in 2003 “major news media” broadcast reports of my death and that I telephoned Larry King and said, “I ain't dead yet, give me a little more time and no doubt it will become true.”

Oddly, this news supposedly broadcast never reached my ears in any form whatsoever prior to the Wikipedia entry, and I wouldn't have a clue as to how to telephone Larry King. I wouldn't have called him, in any case. I would have called my internist. I don't so much mind Wikipedia's recording of news that nobody ever disseminated in the first place as I do the lame comment attributed to me. I wouldn't say “I ain't” even if I were singing a country music song. In fact, I have posted a $5,000 reward for anyone who can write a song containing the verb forms “am not,” “doesn't,” or “isn't” that makes the Billboard Top Twenty.

Favorite blogs: Mr. Wolfe, “weary of narcissistic shrieks and baseless 'information,' ” says he no longer reads blogs.

Ummm, Mr. Wolfe, I think you have confused the Wikipedia with the weblog. You also seem to be confusing MySpace entries of your 19 year-old mistresses with the type of blogs discussing weightier matters. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Wolfe is just practicing subterfuge, and is really employing himself as a sock-puppet for some anonymous blogger. You know, protesting a wee bit too much.

Same article (free I think) gives links and/or mentions to BoingBoing, FiredogLake, DigbysBlog.blogspot.com, Eric Alterman, Daily Howler, MoveOn.org, CrooksAndLiars.com, and other blogs on my regular rotation of reads.

Not the most compelling of articles about the blogosphere (with the exception of Jane Hamsher's rant), but if you had never heard of a weblog/webzine/blog, and wanted a jumping off point.....

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BP screws the Midwest

I hope the legislators got a really nice dinner out of this deal. In balance, I'd say promising 80 alleged jobs vs. the the governmentally sanctioned ability to dump ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan is a sweet deal for an evil company. The so-called 80 jobs are probably Mc-Jobs, going to the legislators kids. A total travesty.

self portrait with coal cooling tower that looks like 3 Mile Island
(photo taken at the Indiana Dunes National Park)

BP gets break on dumping in lake | Chicago Tribune
The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.

Indiana regulators exempted BP from state environmental laws to clear the way for a $3.8 billion expansion that will allow the company to refine heavier Canadian crude oil. They justified the move in part by noting the project will create 80 new jobs.
Under BP's new state water permit, the refinery—already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes—can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals.

...federal and state officials acknowledge this marks the first time in years that a company has been allowed to dump more toxic waste into Lake Michigan.

BP, which aggressively markets itself as an environmentally friendly corporation, is

full of shite, and despicable.

BP can process more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily at the plant, first built in 1889 by John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Co. Total production is expected to grow by 15 percent by the time the expansion project is finished in 2011.

In sharp contrast to the greenways and parks that line Lake Michigan in Chicago, a string of industrial behemoths lie along the heavily polluted southern shore just a few miles away. The steady flow of oil, grease and chemicals into the lake from steel mills, refineries and factories—once largely unchecked—drew national attention that helped prompt Congress to pass the Clean Water Act during the early 1970s.

Paul Higginbotham, chief of the water permits section at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said that when BP broached the idea of expanding the refinery, it sought permission to pump twice as much ammonia into the lake. The state ended up allowing an amount more than the company currently discharges

I wonder what prompted this change of heart? I doubt the so-called 80 jobs really was the balance-tipper, more likely the equivalent of 12 months salary deposited in a suitcase.


The request to dump more chemicals into the lake ran counter to a provision of the Clean Water Act that prohibits any downgrade in water quality near a pollution source even if discharge limits are met. To get around that rule, state regulators are allowing BP to install equipment that mixes its toxic waste with clean lake water about 200 feet offshore.

Actively diluting pollution this way by creating what is known as a mixing zone is banned in Lake Michigan under Indiana law. Regulators granted BP the first-ever exemption.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing to eliminate mixing zones around the Great Lakes on the grounds that they threaten humans, fish and wildlife

but also turned a blind eye, thinking nobody would notice.

“This is exactly the type of trade-off that we can no longer allow,” wrote Shannon Sabel of West Lafayette, Ind. “Possible lower gas prices (I'll believe that when I see it!) against further contamination of our water is as shortsighted as it is irrational.”

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links for 2007-07-14

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Gapers Block selection

My favorite Chicago-esque webzine, Gapers Block, selected my photo as their 'shot of the day'. The Photoshop version on my computer looks better (imho) than this somewhat pixelated jpg, but still am pleased by the selection - it's been a trying day for reasons I won't explain.

Gaper Block 7-13-07
(click to embiggen)

Flickr photo here
Boarding Stable

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Fake Franchise

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There is actually a long line of fake franchise players - players conceited enough to think that because teams are foolish enough to over-pay for their services, somehow they are franchise players.

Peter Vecsey, everyone's favorite acrid commentator, writes:


Bottom line: Kobe has evolved into a fake franchise player . . . same as Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady and now Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal. They’re not conceited; they’re convinced they’re bad to the bone, all commanding max money - a lot more in K.G.’s (grandfathered) case.

All of ’em repeatedly failed to carry their respective teams to the Finals sans another superstar; McGrady can’t even get out of the first round with Yao Ming, as opposed to Allen Iverson and LeBron James, who reached the Supreme Court surrounded by role players.

Right. A year ago we made a list of the All Overpaid Team (high contracts, no playoff success). Who would be on it in 2007?

Lets see, off the top of my head (salary data from hoopshype):

Kobe Bryant ($19.4 Million)
Jermaine O'Neal ($19.7 M)
Kevin Garnett ($22 M)
Allen Iverson ($20.1 M)
Stephon Marbury ($20.1 M)
Shaquille O'Neal ($20 M)
Tracy McGrady ($19 M)
Steve Francis ($16.4 M)
Antawn Jamison ($16.3 M)
Paul Pierce ($16.3 M)
Ray Allen ($16 M)
Michael Redd ($14.5 M)
Pau Gasol ($13.7M)
Joe Johnson ($13.5 M)
Mike Bibby ($13.5 M)
Zach Randolph ($13.3 M)
Lamar Odom ($13.5 M)
Rashard Lewis ($15.6 - not sure if this is his new contract. Still he was second highest paid member of a horrible team, the Seattle/Oklahoma Sonics)

plus as reserves:
Jason Kidd ($19.7 M - though Kidd might be worth max money, if only he could make a jump shot)
Dirk Nowitzki ($16.3 M)

Some of these fellas did make the 2007 playoffs true (8 of these 20, but none got further than the first round. Strangely enough, these are among the highest salaries in the league (20 out of the top 30 salaries). Wonder if having a more flexible payroll would have helped their respective teams?

The question is moot /Rev. Jesse Jackson voice, as you go to the playoffs with the team you got, not the team you wish you had /fake Donald Rumsfeld voice

Nowitzki might get a pass, Dallas is a good, balanced team, and probably would have advanced against any team besides Golden State. But on the other hand, Michael Finley got a ring with Spurs coming off the bench as the second highest paid player on the league, courtesy of Mark Cuban's largess.

Oh, and I guess Flip Saunders gets to coach, even though he made it to the conference finals. George Karl gets to be his assistant, and Pat Riley ball boy.

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iTunes giving me grief

Since installing iTunes 7.3 (added iPhone connectivity I think) and/or 10.4.1 (including 7.3.1), I have been unable to bludgeon iTunes into working properly. Apparently, I'm not alone. In my case, iTunes acts like it is performing some function, but is totally unresponsive to mouseclicking, or any interaction at all, for that matter. Activity Monitor reports iTunes is using 70%-80% of my CPU.

Jul 12 18:03:44 diskarbitrationd[44]: iTunes [749]:44559 not responding.

Itunes Activity

If I delete my iTunes preference file (~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iTunes.plist), iTunes will gamely start over; ask me my preferences again, load my library, convert my library to whatever new format it now requires, and then play normally, for about 2 hours. Very irritating.

Since the heyday of SoundJam Pro (software history lesson here, if you're curious), I've run music more or less continuously in this room. Not 24 hours a day, but easily 100 hours a week. Sometimes the volume is low, and I can barely hear tunes over the air conditioner, sometimes I'll watch basketball sans announcers with music wafting through and around the visuals -not really listening and not really not listening, sometimes my playlists end and silence explodes, whatever. Most of the time, music inserts its tendrils into my waking consciousness. So these last few days have been odd.

I emulate the practice of the Dean of rock criticism, Robert Christgau. Christgau famously wrote (back in the day of stackable vinyl record turntables):

I divide my life between two apartments. One is equipped with an excellent stereo system, the other with a pretty good portable. In the first I store records I really like--the permanent collection. In the other I store records I kind of like or think I kind of like or think I should hold on to--the reference collection. After I lug the day's haul home from the post office, I divide it immediately into three categories: Maybe, Conceivable, and Forget It. Maybes are placed near the good sound system; the rest are transported to the second apartment and placed in either a sell pile or a listen pile. Maybes I have usually been hyped on somehow (some of them are really Certains) or else look interesting. Records from the relatively dependable labels--Warner Bros., Atlantic, Columbia, Stax--are usually Maybes. The Forget It category includes movie soundtracks, third-rate country artists, most straight pop and soul jazz. Conceivables are everything in between. I play every rock record I receive at least once.

That does not mean that I try to get into every one. Except with records I have been actively anticipating, I work chronologically and with dispatch, sometimes piling records on the changer ten at a time as I read, write, make phone calls, or fart around. If the record makes me want to listen more carefully, good. Usually it doesn't. Sometimes I can tell a record is a Forget It after one cut or one side. More often, it will play through and then find itself in one of the second-listen piles. Eventually, at least half of the rock records I receive are discarded altogether. Others are kept but never really apprehended, just singled out as having some good quality and forgotten. Others, of course, become part of my life. That's what it's all for.

Even though music is my greatest pleasure, the pleasure is often casual. I rarely listen carefully to lyrics or follow a solo note for note unless I'm reviewing something at length or I'm stoned. When I'm stoned, I rarely play records I don't already love. (Stoned or unstoned, I listen constantly to the Stones, less constantly to Otis Redding, and less constantly than that to everything else. Newer acquisitions, naturally, get disproportionate attention.) I suspect that many rock fans would say (though I'm not sure I agree) that they dig the music more than I do because every record they buy has its day or week or glory. Nevertheless, I feel a certain obligation to pass along my findings. Some people, I know, actually buy records because they like the group's name or admire the jacket. This is a bad practice. I can't think of three records in the permanent collection that didn't involve some sort of tip-off: news in the trades, other reviews, advice from friends, hype from one of the few industry people I trust, or familiarity with personnel. So I have devised a rating system and will occasionally run one of these Consumer Guides--the rating plus whatever information seems pertinent. Results are not guaranteed--I change my mind a lot, and I've missed good things in my time. I will make no attempt to be systematic or current--records have a way of getting lost in the second-listen piles.

Itunes Problem

Yesterday afternoon, I relaunched iTunes again, and decided to let it run for a while to see if there was some process with a finite end time. I figure if by Monday, iTunes is still unresponsive, I'll try deleting preferences and laboriously rebuilding the library (twice), and

At least I managed to sync my new Videopod before iTunes choked, and stuff it with enough tracks to amuse my fancy for a month or so (14,812 songs). Listening to an iPod is not quite the same though: one cannot walk in and out of a room and walk in and out of a song. An iPod directs one's attention more directly to the lyric and melody.

Obscure (to me) code below: Activity Monitor's “Open files”, and “Sample”.

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links for 2007-07-13

Unhealthy Interference

More on the Bush-ites belief that Loyalty to Bush trumps Loyalty to Country, in reference to the former Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona.

Nick Anderson 070712
(Nick Anderson, click to embiggen)

Unhealthy Interference - New York Times:
The official job description calls for the surgeon general to serve as “America’s chief health educator.” But the Bush administration instead tried to turn Dr. Carmona into a propagandist and political cheerleader, and when he refused to go along, it stopped him from speaking at all on a host of essential health issues.

Dr. Carmona told a House committee that the administration would not allow him to speak on the scientific and medical aspects of stem cell research, emergency contraception, comprehensive sex education and prison or mental health issues. He said a surgeon general’s report on global health issues was quashed because he refused to insert glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration. His report on prisoners’ health care was held up for fear it would lead to demands for costly reforms.

Other disturbing improprieties included an order that Dr. Carmona insert President Bush’s name at least three times on every page of his speeches, requests that he make political speeches on behalf of Republican candidates and an admonition not to speak to a group affiliated with the Special Olympics because of the charity’s longtime association with the Kennedy family.

It all sounds so ham-handedly partisan that it would be laughable if it weren’t so damaging to the public’s understanding of important public health issues

So, what is the answer? Other than November, 2008 finally rolling around, of course. The Surgeon General is a largely ceremonial position - just eliminate it. And if Dr. Carmona had such a horrible time being Surgeon General, why didn't he quit?

previous coverage

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Unrepentant patriarch of LSD

An unusual dude, but an interesting one. I'd buy him an espresso with pleasure. Don't know about an all-meat diet (sushi, perhaps, but steak?)

Shadowed Portrait Psychedelic 1995

For the unrepentant patriarch of LSD, long, strange trip winds back to Bay Area:
Because Augustus Owsley Stanley III has spent his life avoiding photographs, few people would know what he looks like. ... For more than 20 years, Stanley -- at 72, still known as the Bear -- has been living with his wife, Sheila, off the grid, in the outback of Queensland, Australia, where he makes small gold and enamel sculptures and keeps in touch with the world through the Internet.
As a planned two-week visit to the Bay Area stretched to three, four and then five weeks, Bear agreed to give The Chronicle an interview because a friend asked him. He has rarely consented to speak to the press about his life, his work or his unconventional thinking on matters such as the coming ice age or his all-meat diet.

Sporting a buccaneer's earring he got when he was in jail and a hearing aid on the same ear, he keeps a salty goatee, and the sides of his face look boiled clean from seven weeks of maximum radiation treatment for throat cancer. Having lost one of his vocal cords, he speaks only in a whispered croak these days. At one point, he was reduced to injecting his puree of steak and espresso directly into his stomach.


When he was younger, Bear read about the Eskimos eating only fish and meat and became convinced that humans are meant to be exclusively carnivorous. The members of the Grateful Dead remember living with Bear for several months in 1966 in Los Angeles, where the refrigerator contained only bottles of milk and a slab of steak, meat they fried and ate straight out of the pan. His heart attack several years ago had nothing to do with his strict regimen, according to Bear, but more likely the result of some poisonous broccoli his mother made him eat as a youth.

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival - Criterion Collection

“The Complete Monterey Pop Festival - Criterion Collection” (D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus)

By conservative estimates, Bear Research Group made more than 1.25 million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967, essentially seeding the entire modern psychedelic movement.
Less well known are Bear's contributions to rock concert sound. As the original sound mixer for the Grateful Dead, he was responsible for fundamental advances in audio technology, things as basic now as monitor speakers that allow vocalists to hear themselves onstage.

Says the Dead's Bob Weir: “He's good for a different point of view at about any given time. He's brilliant. He knows everything.”
Bear, whose grandfather was a Kentucky governor and U.S. senator, grew up in Los Angeles and Arlington, Va. He was thrown out of military school in the eighth grade for being drunk and dropped out of school altogether at 18. He managed to get accepted to the University of Virginia, where he spent a year studying engineering. By 1956, he was in the Air Force, specializing in electronics and radar.

Later, Bear studied ballet, acting and Russian, worked in jet propulsion labs as well as radio and television, and then entered UC Berkeley in 1963, but lasted less than a year.
Then he discovered acid.
By the time he made a special batch called Monterey Purple for the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival -- Owsley Purple was the secret smile on Jimi Hendrix's face that night -- “Owsley” was an underground legend.

Read more

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Flirty Girls

A new trend: boomer women who want to retain their sensuality against the oppressive forces of our culture, and their own encroaching age. I say, more power to ya. Self-esteem building can be fun after all. Wouldn't even be a topic for discussion if America was not so sexually repressed.

Flirty Girl Fitness

Chicago Tribune news: Beyond Botox:
Emboldened by tumbling taboos and enabled by advancing technologies, women are going well beyond Botox in the quest to enhance their appearance and explore their sensuous side.

Erotic accouterments, cosmetic enhancements and activities once blushingly associated with Playboy playmates and exotic dancers now comfortably fit into the repertoire of corporate lawyers and soccer moms. Even the most intimate cosmetic surgery is as easily accessible and openly discussed as an episode of “Desperate Housewives.”

Some consider this a healthy reawakening of the seductress innate in every female. Others bemoan it as further evidence of the over-sexualization, or “stripperization,” of American girls and women.

Either way, it's happening, it's proliferating and it's a growing business.

Out of the strip clubs and into the strip malls, classes in striptease and pole and lap dancing are popping up around the country for women who want to learn to look hot while they burn calories.

On June 18, Toronto-based Flirty Girl Fitness made its U.S. debut in Chicago's West Loop, kicking off what it plans as a national franchise chain featuring such classes as “Chair Striptease,” “Hottie Body Boxing,” “Booty Beat” and, of course, pole dancing.

“I've had doctors, attorneys, pharmacists, police officers and housewives. Women from [ages] 19 through 68 take my classes,” says Mary Ellyn Weissman, owner and instructor of Empowerment Through Exotic Dance Ltd. in Chicago Heights.
Kerry Knee, 36, who founded Flirty Girl Fitness in December 2005 with her 32-year-old sister Krista, agrees. “I think every single woman, I don't care who she is, how old she is, wants to be sexy. They want to be thought of as sexually attractive creatures, but no one ever teaches you how to do that,” she said, noting she finds the increase in confidence among clients striking.

Jarecki, a movie producer, came up with the betty product line after watching Roman women leave hair salons with doggie bags of dye for their nether regions. Her best-selling kit is FUNbetty, a hot pink hue particularly popular in Middle America, she says, adding, “Who knew?”

“Our new demographic is older people. People are dating again and at an older age,” says Jarecki, noting many buy betty not “just for the gray, but for fun.”

We've discussed the ever popular Betty Crocker pubic hair trend previously.

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links for 2007-07-12

  • Berkeley physicist has found a way to help keep Darfurians alive, by building a better kitchen stove.
  • Chicago has an unbelievable history through the years. Things that stick out in my mind immediately are Howlin’ Wolf and Hubert Sumlin, Mavis Staples — people like that. All these artists who made their home here form a huge part of my record collecti

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Lady Bird Johnson, RIP

No way LBJ would have had the success he had without LBJ. She was a class act.

Austin (and Texas, and the US) would have been a much more drab place without Lady Bird's green thumb.

Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady, Dies at 94 - New York Times:
Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was once described by her husband as “the brains and money of this family” and whose business skills cushioned his road to the White House, died this afternoon at her home in Austin, Tex. She was 94.
... Mrs. Johnson was a calm and steadying influence on her often moody and volatile husband as she quietly attended to the demands imposed by his career. Liz Carpenter, her press secretary during her years in the White House, once wrote that “if President Johnson was the long arm, Lady Bird Johnson’s was the gentle hand.”

She softened hurts, mediated quarrels and won over many political opponents. Johnson often said his political ascent would have been inconceivable without his wife’s devotion and forbearance. Others shared that belief.

After Johnson became the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1960, James Reston, the Washington columnist of The New York Times, said, “Lyndon could never have made it this far without the help of that woman.”

Mrs. Johnson had one major cause during the Johnson presidency, highway beautification, and her husband pushed Congress into passing legislation to further the program.

Mrs. Johnson made many trips to explain her husband’s programs like Head Start, the Job Corps and the War on Poverty.

Mrs. Johnson developed her own public projects. She was an early supporter of the environment and, in championing highway beautification, worked to banish billboards and plant flowers and trees.

The Lady Bird Johnson Park in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, is an outgrowth of her First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital. She founded the $10 million National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, Tex., which opened in April 1995 and changed its name to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1998. The center conducts research and provides information on plants, landscaping and conservation.

Flowers at Chicago Botanic (Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense')

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Whole Foods CEO Mackey's sock puppet

John Mackey is an interesting cat. I wonder if this stock pumping pseudo-scandal took place during working hours? Well, he only gets paid a dollar a year anyway.


Whole Foods CEO Mackey Posted Comments on Stock Message Board - WSJ.com:
In January 2005, someone using the name “Rahodeb” went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share.

“Would Whole Foods buy OATS?” Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats' stock symbol. “Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small.” Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock price dipped below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats' management “clearly doesn't know what it is doing... OATS has no value and no future.”

The comments were typical of the banter on Internet message boards for stocks -- but the identity of the writer was anything but. Rahodeb was the online pseudonym for John Mackey, co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market Inc. Earlier this year, his company agreed to buy Wild Oats for $565 million.

For about eight years until last August, Mr. Mackey posted voluminous messages on Yahoo's stock forums as Rahodeb, the company confirms. The moniker is an anagram for Deborah, which happens to be the name of Mr. Mackey's wife. Rahodeb routinely cheered Whole Foods' financial results, trumpeted his personal gains on the stock, and bashed Wild Oats.

Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey's haircut when another user poked fun at a photograph in Whole Foods' annual report. “I like Mackey's haircut,” Rahodeb said. “I think he looks cute!” ... Rahodeb began posting messages about Whole Foods shares on Yahoo.com in the late 1990s. He quickly gained a reputation as being one of the stock's biggest cheerleaders, and gamely defended himself when other posters chastised him for being too rosy. “I've never pretended to be anything but enthusiastic about WFMI,” he wrote in 2000, using Whole Foods' stock symbol. “I admit to my bias -- I love the company and I'm in for the long haul. I shop at Whole Foods. I own a great deal of its stock. I'm aligned with the mission and values of the company... Is there something wrong with this?”

Rahodeb often expressed pride in the work of Mr. Mackey. “While I'm not a 'Mackey groupie,' ” he wrote in 2000, “I do admire what the man has accomplished -- building a $1.6 billion business from scratch is quite an achievement.” He then asked another user, “whtmewrry 99,” what he or she had accomplished by comparison.

My aunt used to work in the online department of Whole Foods in Austin, “developing communities” or some such technobabble, she probably has a few tales to tell. In fact, I've heard some, but won't bother relating second hand gossip.

Mr. Mackey, a 53-year-old vegan, co-founded Whole Foods in 1980. He built the Austin, Texas, company into the world's largest organic and natural-foods grocer, in part by acquiring many smaller chains. Like Whole Foods itself, Mr. Mackey is unconventional. He slashed his annual salary to $1 starting last January, explaining later that “this is what my heart is telling me is the appropriate thing to do right now.” Outspoken and opinionated, he writes his own blog on the company's Web site.

Love Mackey or hate 'em (or neither option: I just shop there), he certainly is not a typical executive. Can you imagine Jack Welch writing this?

From his blog post about raising the ratio of executive pay to average employee pay

This will be the third time we have raised our salary cap since we created one about 20 years ago. The original salary cap was set at 8 times the average pay. It was raised to 10 times the average pay in the early 1990's and raised again to 14 times the average pay in 2000. This increase to 19 times the average pay remains far, far below what the typical Fortune 500 company pays its executives. As you can see from the following chart, the average CEO received 431 times as much as their average employee received in 2004, while the Whole Foods Market CEO (me) received only 14 times the average employee pay in cash compensation.

Most large companies also pay their executives large amounts of stock options in addition to large salaries and cash bonuses. However, this is not the case at Whole Foods Market. As the chart below indicates, the average large corporation in the United States distributes 75% of their total stock options to only 5 top executives with the remaining 25% going to everyone else in the company (actually most of the remaining 25% goes to the next level of executives below the top 5). At Whole Foods, the exact opposite is true: the top 16 executives have received 7% of all the options granted while the other 93% of the options have been distributed throughout the entire company with all Team Members eligible for a grant after 6,000 hours of service to the company.

The second part of today's announcement has to do with my own compensation. While it has become necessary to raise the salary cap at Whole Foods to help ensure the retention of our key leadership, this is not true in my case. The tremendous success of Whole Foods Market has provided me with far more money than I ever dreamed I'd have and far more than is necessary for either my financial security or personal happiness. I continue to work for Whole Foods not because of the money I can make but because of the pleasure I get from leading such a great company, and the ongoing passion I have to help make the world a better place, which Whole Foods is continuing to do. I am now 53 years old and I have reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money, but simply for the joy of the work itself and to better answer the call to service that I feel so clearly in my own heart. Beginning on January 1, 2007, my salary will be reduced to $1 per year and I will no longer take any other cash compensation at all. I will continue to receive the same benefits that all other Team Members receive, including the food discount card and health insurance. The intention of the Board of Directors is for Whole Foods Market to donate all the future stock options I would be eligible to receive to our two company foundations – The Whole Planet Foundation and The Animal Compassion Foundation. In case there is some technical, tax, or legal reason why these stock options cannot be given to our two foundations, then I will retain future option grants and will pledge to donate 100% of the gain from those options to the foundations. This donation of future options received doesn't apply to the stock options already issued to me prior to January 1, 2007.

One other important item to communicate to you is, in light of my decision to forego any future additional cash compensation, our Board of Directors has decided that Whole Foods Market will contribute $100,000 annually to a new Global Team Member Emergency Fund. This money will be distributed to Team Members throughout the company based on need when disasters occur (such as Hurricane Katrina last year). The money will be placed in a special account and any money not distributed in any particular year will roll over and be added to the following year's contribution. We are still working on the exact way Team Members will be able to access this money. The first $100,000 will be deposited on January 1, 2007.

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A few Seattle snapshots

For your viewing pleasure, or whatever.

The entire Seattle-Alaska-Seattle trip has a slide show, available here. As much as I remember with my aging neurotransmitter device, every new photo gets added to it. Currently 95 shots, some better than others.

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From the Department of No Duh.

Former Surgeon General Says White House Edited Speeches - WSJ.com:
The most recent U.S. surgeon general told Congress the Bush administration routinely blocked him from speaking out on controversial issues, including stem-cell research, emergency contraception and sexual abstinence, and pressured him to support an “ideological, theological” agenda.

Dr. Richard Carmona, surgeon general from 2002 until 2006, said that his speeches were edited to remove material about controversial issues and that he was encouraged to attend internal “political pep rallies.” He said he was prevented from releasing a report on global health because he wouldn't make it a “political document” touting actions by the U.S. The report has yet to be released.

“The reality is that the 'nation's doctor' has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas,” he told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday. “Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried.”

What exactly did Dr. Carmona expect when he signed on? By 2002, even marginally intelligent folk realized the style of the Bush Regime: every speech must contain a variant of All Hail Dear Leader! Rinse, repeat.

Dr. Carmona told the committee that, as surgeon general, he hadn't been permitted to talk about the importance of comprehensive sex education or emergency contraception. He said he wasn't permitted to discuss the science of embryonic-stem-cell research. Under the Bush administration, there are strict limits on federal funding for such research. “I was blocked at every turn,” he said. “I was told the decision had already been made -- stand down, don't talk about it,” he said.

He also said he was prevented from attending a Special Olympics event to talk about health and disabilities. “I was told I would be helping a politically prominent family, [and] why would I want to help those people?” Dr. Carmona said. The Special Olympics were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.).

He said his speeches were regularly vetted to ensure they weren't controversial. Speeches were edited to add references to Mr. Bush -- he was told there should be at least three per page. “The vetting was done by political appointees who were specifically there to spin my words to ideologically preconceived notions,” he said.

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links for 2007-07-11

Abusing Iraqi Civilians

| 1 Comment

Haven't yet read the Nation article in question, details of brutality turn my stomach. By the way, the Nation is being screwed by a sudden rise in postal rates and is requesting donations.

Bob Herbert writes:

Bob Herbert: Abusing Iraqi Civilians - New York Times:

With no end yet in sight for the long dark night of the Iraq war, The Nation magazine is coming out this week with an article that goes into great and disturbing detail about the brutal treatment of Iraqi civilians by some U.S. soldiers and marines.

The article does not focus on the handful of atrocities that have gotten substantial press coverage, like the massacre in Haditha in November 2005. Instead, based on interviews conducted on the record with dozens of American combat veterans of the war, the authors address what they describe as frequent acts of violence in which U.S. forces have abused or killed Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — with impunity.

The combination of recklessness, wantonly destructive behavior born of panic and deliberate acts of cold-blooded violence by G.I.’s are believed to have cost the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the article says. The soldiers interviewed said they believed that only a minority of U.S. troops engaged in objectionable behavior, but the toll of their actions has been huge.

Flavor of the Month

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Awesome! Was hoping one of the Dems had the gumption to follow through with their threat to cut off Cheney's budget.

Take Your Stand

U.S. Senate panel moves to cut off funding for Cheney in flap with Dems over executive order - International Herald Tribune:
Senate Democrats moved Tuesday to cut off funding for U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office in a continuing battle over whether he must comply with national security disclosure rules.

A Senate appropriations panel chaired by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin refused to fund $4.8 million in the vice president's budget until Cheney's office complies with parts of an executive order governing its handling of classified information.

At issue is a requirement that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify. That information is to be provided to the Information Security Oversight Office at The National Archives.

Cheney's office, with backing from the White House, argues that the offices of the president and vice president are exempt from the order because they are not executive branch “agencies.”

Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said Cheney's office was flouting requirements that it comply with the reporting requirements on classified information.

“Neither Mr. Cheney or his staff is above the law or the Constitution,” Durbin said. “For the vice president to believe that he has no responsibility to meet this requirement of the law is a dereliction of duty.”

Kudos to Rat-Killer Durbin.

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Four Noirs


Oh, sure, cram more noir film in my overstuffed queue.

Kansas City Confidential (MGM Film Noir)
“Kansas City Confidential (MGM Film Noir)” (Phil Karlson)

Critic’s Choice: New DVDs:
Digging into the murky depths of the United Artists film library, MGM Home Entertainment has come up with four significant films noirs, all independent productions released in the ’40s and ’50s.
...“Kansas City Confidential,” an imaginative little noir from 1952, exemplifies the bread-and-butter UA film of the ’50s. a meeting point for the up-and-coming and the down-and-out. It was directed by Phil Karlson, a gifted filmmaker who had recently graduated from the Poverty Row studio Monogram, and starred John Payne, a popular crooner of the ’40s who was working his way down from Technicolor musicals at 20th Century Fox.

The Woman in the Window (MGM Film Noir)
“The Woman in the Window (MGM Film Noir)”

“Kansas City” aside, this batch of releases functions as a midcareer retrospective of the always commanding work of Edward G. Robinson, who appears (with his old Warner Brothers stablemate George Raft) in Lewis Allen’s minor but enjoyable “Bullet for Joey” (1955). The other two Robinson films need less introduction: Fritz Lang’s “Woman in the Window” (1944) and “The Stranger” (1946), directed by Orson Welles. Again these are films that have circulated for years in substandard copies but are presented here in versions very close to the original materials. (Both were originally released through RKO, though the rights apparently went to UA after RKO closed down.) “The Woman in the Window” casts Robinson as a stuffy professor of psychology who becomes dangerously involved with a woman (Joan Bennett) whose portrait he has seen in the window of an art gallery. Though rife with Lang touches (like the clock faces that seem to stare down at the characters), this slow-moving, deliberately morose film is too diffuse to be truly effective, something Lang himself must have realized when he reconvened the same cast (including Dan Duryea, as the heavy in a straw hat), for a do-over in 1945: the masterly “Scarlet Street.”

Scarlet Street (Remastered Edition)
“Scarlet Street (Remastered Edition)” (Fritz Lang)

The Stranger (MGM Film Noir)
“The Stranger (MGM Film Noir)” (MGM (Video & DVD))

“The Stranger,” in a radiant new print, gains most in this collection. Long and, to me, unaccountably dismissed by Welles scholars for being too “commercial,” it may be Welles’s most explicitly political work, made at a time when his activism was at its height. Robinson is a soft-spoken agent of an international war crimes commission who comes to a small village in Connecticut in search of one of the architects of the Holocaust, the notorious Franz Kindler, and finds him (Welles, of course) teaching at a boys’ school under an assumed name and about to be married to the daughter (Loretta Young) of a Supreme Court justice. If “The Stranger” feels like the most conventional of Welles’s films, it may be because it is told in chronological order, without the flashbacks and competing narrators that give his work its cross-stitched density. But his distinctive storytelling technique remains intact, as he passes the point of view from character to character, offering a span of perspectives. He begins with Robinson’s investigator, shifts to the war criminal (made strangely sympathetic, like Norman Bates in “Psycho,” when we see him cleaning up neatly after a murder) and finally adopts the point of view of Ms. Young’s character, an angelic figure (named Mary) who refuses to believe in her husband’s guilt. Welles did not control the editing (a prologue, showing Kindler in South America, was chopped off) and his depth compositions are relatively restrained. But so is his taste for the bizarre and carnivalesque, making this his most naturalistic film. He seems surprisingly comfortable in this register, though he would never again return to it

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Sun-Times calls audible

I am surprised this hasn't happened in more cities, actually. The country on the whole is at least balanced 50/50 liberal/conservative (or more likely 60/40 liberal/conservative if you add in marginal, infrequent voters), yet nearly all the newspapers are conservative in outlook. Austin, Tx is a pretty liberal place, but the Austin American-Statesman is conservative; same with Seattle's crap paper (based on my brief, recent visit). Yadda yadda.

Also, I'll believe it when I read it. Talk about value is a lot easier than actually following one's professed precepts (David Vitter sound familiar to anyone?).


Chicago Sun-Times Looks to Redefine Itself as 'Liberal, Working-Class' Paper :
CHICAGO The Chicago Sun-Times is turning left.

The tabloid that shifted toward political conservatism under the brief ownership of Rupert Murdoch more than two decades ago now says that it is “rethinking our stance on several issues, including the most pressing issue facing Americans today: Bush's war in Iraq.”

Under marching orders from Publisher John Cruickshank and Editor in Chief Michael Cooke, new Editorial Page Editor Cheryl L. Reed introduced a new Commentary section Tuesday with a promise to turn the tabloid back into the liberal-leaning paper it was for decades before the Reagan administration.

“We are returning to our liberal, working-class roots, a position that pits us squarely opposite the Chicago Tribune -- that Republican, George Bush-touting paper over on moneyed Michigan Avenue,” Reed wrote. “We're rethinking our stance on several issues, including the most pressing issue facing Americans today: Bush's war in Iraq.”

... The Sun-Times was a liberal paper through the 1960s and 1970s, and turned right when it was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in 1984. “You may wake up one day, and the Chicago Tribune will be the liberal paper in town,” then-Publisher Robert E. Page told a news conference around that time. Though Murdoch soon sold the tabloid to an investment group fronted by Page, the conservative bent remained in the editorial pages.

To be fair, the Chicago Tribune is not quite of much of a Bush-toady as an Eisenhower Republican newspaper, which isn't so bad. All in all, the Tribune isn't a bad paper, and is much better than a lot I've read.

and this isn't really an auspicious start to the Sun-Times turning liberal:

Without being specific, Reed said the paper would be changing its mix of columnists. In recent years, the regular non-staff columnists on the opinion pages have included the conservatives George Will and Mark Steyn, who is an outspoken fan of Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Chairman many at the paper blame for the Sun-Times' perilous financial state. It also regularly runs liberal commentators, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Andrew Greeley.

One new columnist introduced Tuesday was the paper's previous editorial page editor, Stephen Huntley. Huntley identified himself as a conservative, though with “a more liberal or libertarian stance” on social issues such as abortion, gay rights, and embryonic stem cell research. His column will appear three times a week.


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Facebook Has Google Sweating


Don't ask me why (wasn't because of this article exactly), but I joined Facebook even though I feel much older than their target demographic (much, much older). The social networks are akin to a great Alaskan gold rush: much more hype than usefulness. I did find a buddy from high school days though (one not called Beth), so I suppose Facebook is good for something.

Advertising Age - Digital - 23-Year-Old Mark Zuckerberg Has Google Sweating:

What's the only company that scares Google? Facebook.

Just as Google has become what some people call the operating system for search, Facebook is turning itself into the operating system for social networking. While Google knows what millions of people are searching for, Facebook has something the search giant hasn't been able to grow: a network of connections between people that creates a viral distribution platform unrivaled by any portal or search engine.

Mr. Zuckerberg has shunned acquisition approaches (including a $1 billion bid from Yahoo) and counts Microsoft's Ray Ozzie and the Washington Post's Don Graham as friends and mentors. Many believe the future of Facebook could include an IPO and that remaining independent was key to Mr. Zuckerberg's ability to execute his vision.

At the core of Mr. Zuckerberg's message is what he calls the “social graph,” or the connections people create on the site. Those connections can be used to improve typical web services such as shopping or searching for product recommendations.

Owen Van Natta, Facebook's chief operating officer, said a visit to Amazon.com will uncover all the product recommendations one might want but the value can be limited in the anonymity of the people posting the reviews. On the other hand, if you take your online activities and put them through the filter of the people you know well, those actions take on greater meaning.
Adds Mike Murphy, senior VP-sales: “In order to get great applications built, we needed to make sure developers could be rewarded and have a business model around it.” He said with 29 million users, there's plenty of inventory for him to sell and that he envisions the better the applications are, the more time people will spend on the site and the more he can sell to marketers.

Few marketers have launched applications within Facebook, mostly because Facebook isn't encouraging that -- “unless they really understand how to build something useful for users, not just put up a brand,” said a spokesman.

In the 30 days since Facebook opened up its platform to developers on May 24, more than 10 applications had at least 1 million users and more than 400 had 1,000 users.

To be sure, it's early -- five weeks in. And for all the blustering, there are doubters. Some developers have questioned Facebook's commitment to keeping its APIs free and open and others suggest the instant success can be enough to topple all but the most well-funded developers since Facebook places the burden of serving traffic on the developers. The music application iLike, for example, was almost done in by its success when it logged more than 50,000 users within hours of launch.

and for neophyte Facebookers like myself, here's what the lingo means:

Ad Age's Facebook addict Andrew Hampp decodes the native tongue.

Poke: The most nonsensical of all FaceBook functions, the “poke” feature allows you to essentially do just what it implies: “poke” your friend's profile, giving him or her the option to poke back. It's the social-networking equivalent to passing someone a note in algebra class.

The Wall: Think of it as a yearbook you can sign 24/7. Friends can use it to recap the previous night's events (“OMG! I still have your keys from Amanda's party! LOL!”), schedule get-togethers (“Lunch with the crew on Saturday? Hit me up!”) or carry on entire conversations that would normally be conducted through phones, e-mail or, at the very least, text messages.

Tag: A feature that allows you to identify friends in photos. Can become a college grad's worst nightmare when it comes time for the ever-crucial job search. “You totally detagged that picture of me bonging that box of Franzia last summer, right? I don't want my future boss to think I'm a total wino!”

Minifeed: It's like any other RSS feed, only instead of breaking updates on the war in Iraq, it's streaming bulletins about your friends' latest likes and dislikes. Sample minifeed: “8:41 p.m. -- Ashley added Fall Out Boy to her Favorite Music. 10:01 p.m. -- Dave removed 'Old School' from his Favorite Movies.” It can also serve as a passive-aggressive kiss-off to an ex-flame. “2:41 a.m. -- John and Sarah are no longer in a relationship.”

See what I mean about the target age group? Well, at least there won't be a Seth Anderson imposter.

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Galaxie 500 Ceremony and Lena Horne

Galaxie 500 perform their cover of New Order's first single 'Ceremony' live in 1990

ah, a blast from my past. I did so love this band....

On Fire
“On Fire” (Galaxie 500)

and a bonus

Lena Horne is sensational in the opening sequence. Cab Calloway and Fats Waller are also shown in this clip from the 1940's movie.

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The Beard gets plucked

slightly long clip (15 minutes), including a smear by Sanjay Gupta. Michael Moore gets his licks in though afterwards, and Wolf Blitzer doesn't have answers.

The rebuttal promised by Moore is here.

Raw Story

When given a chance to speak, Moore immediately put host Wolf Blitzer on the defensive.

“That report was so biased, I can't imagine what pharmaceutical company's ads are coming up right after our break here,” said Moore. “Why don't you tell the truth to the American people? I wish that CNN and the other mainstream media would just for once tell the truth about what's going on in this country.”

Moore argued that CNN has such a lousy track record of reporting the truth about the war in Iraq and asking tough questions, that Americans should be skeptical of their reporting on health care.

“You're the ones who are fudging the facts,” said Moore. “You've fudged the facts to the American people now for I don't know how long about this issue, about the war, and I'm just curious, when are you going to just stand there and apologize to the American people for not bringing the truth to them that isn't sponsored by some major corporation?”

Blizter grew defensive and backed up his fellow CNN employee, saying that he would stand behind correspondent Sanjay Gupta's record on medical issues. Moore, in response, vowed to post a rebuttal to his website, MichaelMoore.com, showing that Gupta's facts weren't accurate.

“I'm going to put the real facts up there on my website,” said Moore, “so that people can see what he just said was absolutely wrong.”

Turning to the war in Iraq, Moore accused Gupta, who spent time embedded with US troops in Iraq, and the mainstream media at large of refusing “to ask our leaders the hard questions, and demand the honest answers.” Moore laid the blame for the continued US involvement in the war in Iraq at the feet of the media, arguing that they failed to do their jobs and question the Bush war policy.

Still waiting for CNN's apology for misleading America into war with Iraq....

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links for 2007-07-10

Elton Brand is cool

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Speaking of Elton Brand's involvement with Werner Herzog's film about Dieter Dengler, some schmoe from the Associated Press interviewed Mr. Brand.

There is the hoary stereotype about athletes being idiots, but I would never place Mr. Brand in that category, especially after reading this interview. Too bad the Bulls traded him away for, basically, Michael Sweetney and some snacks.

Here's an excerpt:

LA Daily News - Clippers star Elton Brand is a Hollywood player on and off court:

Elton Brand: I write — I write a lot of stuff — and I actually wrote a screenplay.

AP: Wow, what's it about?

Brand: Well I wrote a few — I don't want to give it away. There are some talented people that could take it up real fast.
AP: Ah, intellectual property and all that.

Brand: Yeah, intellectual property rights, copyright infringement, things like that. So my good friend and partner in Gibraltar Entertainment is (nightclub owner) Steve Marlton, and he said, “Why don't we make a production company?” I was like, “OK.” But we had no projects, so we were searching for projects, and “Little Dieter Needs to Fly” was a documentary that I fell in love with.

AP: What is it about movies that appeals to you?

Brand: Just that you can take your mind to a different place. It's like an escape — even if it's a scary movie and you're fearful, or a romantic movie and you're sad, or a comedy and you're laughing. I enjoy that aspect of watching movies and moviemaking.

AP: So growing up, you must have loved movies.

Brand: Growing up, we didn't have cable or nothing. There was cable in Peekskill (N.Y.), but I didn't have it. But when I got the opportunity to go to the movies, it was a special treat.

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Beertender soon

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I first heard about the Heineken-Krups table-top beer maker, called Beertender, in 2004, even going so far as asking Heineken when they planned on releasing it in the States. If they were more clever, they would have kept my email on file (I still have the same address), and they would have sent me a press release to trumpet the fact that the Beertender is being introduced in the US (well, wherever you place Rhode Island) as a prelude to a national roll-out the barrel event. I'd even volunteer to test out a model. Are you listening, M. Vrijenhoek?

New beer delivery methods:
This fall Heineken bumps the mini-keg up to an even five liters and is currently testing out its BeerTender, another product available in Europe for years but only now coming to the U.S., in Rhode Island.

The idea behind the BeerTender, which is essentially a countertop cappucino machine for beer, is to create more “usage opportunities” for the mini-keg. Whereas most college students have no problem getting rid of a mini-keg in 30 minutes, it will actually keep beer fresh for 30 days, and the Rhode Island trials are aimed at people who aren't trying to get laid at Kappa Gamma Phi; adults can use the BeerTender to have draught beer in the house, one sensible glass at a time.

Krups FSB 444 Beertender B75 (nur für Bierfässer aus Österreich der Marken Heineken, Zipfer und Gösser)
“Krups FSB 444 Beertender B75 (nur für Bierfässer aus Österreich der Marken Heineken, Zipfer und Gösser)” (Krups)

There's even a wiki entry. I imagine the Beertender will be a blockbuster in the U.S.

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Long, long overdue. The ideal of the New Deal farm subsidy program has been perverted for far too long. There should be caps on the size of farms that are covered: factory farms should not be eligible. And why exclude vegetable farmers? I think the US has more than enough corn, soy, rice, wheat and cotton planted.

The Debate Over Subsidizing Snacks - New York Times:
Increasingly, people are blaming the farm bill, and the longstanding agriculture policy it embodies, for some of the problems afflicting the country: the growth in obesity, the increase in food poisonings, and the disappearance of the family farm. Payments for farmers were started in the 1930s during the Depression to help save family farms; now the program costs billions and benefits about one-third of the nation’s farmers.

Changes in the farm bill are being supported by the Bush administration and an unusual alliance that includes the American Heart Association, Environmental Defense, Taxpayers for Common Sense and GMA/FPA, a food industry association. They agree that some subsidies should be cut and money spent instead to help fruit and vegetable growers, protect farmland, support small farmers and promote healthier eating.

For the first time, lobbyists for farm subsidies are facing off in the halls of Congress against hundreds of activists.
Organic onions

Michael Pollan's book, Omnivore's Dilemma, covered this same topic as well.

The article continues:

The 2002 farm bill provided $143.3 billion for nutrition programs like Food Stamps, $16.8 billion for conservation and $67.6 billion to subsidize the planting of certain crops. Almost all of the subsidies usually go to growers of five commodities: soybeans, corn, rice, wheat and cotton. Fruit and vegetable farmers do not get subsidies.

Supporters say the subsidies have kept food affordable for Americans. Critics disagree and say the subsidies lead to cheap snack foods and soft drinks, made from ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Meanwhile, the lack of subsidies for fruits and vegetables makes them expensive by comparison.

Between 1985 and 2000 the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables increased nearly 40 percent while the price of soft drinks decreased by almost 25 percent, adjusted for inflation, according to a study done by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a group in Minneapolis set up to help save family farms and rural communities.

Health professionals say calories from those subsidized foods are partly responsible for the epidemic of childhood obesity and the increased incidence of diabetes.

Prince wants to rock you all night

The Purple One wanted to get his groove on in Minny, but neighbors didn't want to be participants, and shut him down, albeit at 4 AM. When did the show start?

Prince and his big dick
Prince at the Super Bowl with his giant penis


“3121” (Prince)

Prince brings the heat to his hometown | News | Guardian Unlimited Music:
It was a busy weekend for Prince. In just under twelve hours, Minneapolis' Rock & Roll hall of famer returned to his hometown for his first performance in 20 years, played 3 sets to enraptured audiences and was only finally stopped when police intervened.
For the first time since 1987, Prince returned to First Avenue, the venue he made famous when it appeared in his 1984 film, “Purple Rain”, an emotional return preceded by two less sentimental events in Macy's department store and the Target Centre.
The Purple one's first words of the day were “Minneapolis, I am home,” but 12 hours later, the message was 'Minneapolis, go home' when irate residents called in local law enforcement and had Prince removed from the stage at 4am.

The BBC clarifies: the show started at 2:45 AM.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Police shut down Prince concert:
The musician, 49, was halfway through his set at the legendary First Avenue nightclub when he announced: “The authorities say we gotta go.

”We always listen to the authorities,“ he added. ”I promise I'll be back.“

The club, which Prince made famous in his movie Purple Rain, is allowed to stay open until 0300, but the star only took to the stage at 0245 on Sunday....

”Minneapolis, I am home,“ he declared after the opening number. He later played a full concert at the Target Center arena.

The multi-instrumentalist is renowned for his late-night after-show parties, where he performs loose, extended versions of songs from his vast back catalogue.

Prince will play his first gig at the O2 arena in London on 1 August
He comes to London in August for a 21-night residency at the O2 arena. He releases his new album, Planet Earth, next week.

In the UK, the record is being given away free with The Mail On Sunday newspaper and to fans attending his concerts.

The decision to give the album away with a national newspaper sparked outcry from traditional music retailers, with HMV chief executive Simon Fox calling the move ”absolutely nuts“.

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Pogues iPhone ditty

Oh what the hell. Enough people have mentioned this already, but if you haven't seen it, and you know who David Pogue is....

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Venice gondola cartel

gondola postcard
Some institutions resist change. Apparently gondolier guilds are one of them. Alexandra Hai finally broke the glass boat bottom (err, something like that) to fulfill her dream of being a gondolier.

Venice Canal

Chicago Tribune news : Woman takes on Venice gondola cartel:
If Alexandra Hai ever had second thoughts -- or third, fourth or fifth thoughts, for that matter -- about challenging the male hierarchy of Venice's gondolier class, they were swept away last week after a simple rowing test.

For more than a decade Hai has maneuvered Venice's ancient waterways as an apprentice but time and again has been denied a gondolier's license. In her latest test, a four-man panel, entrusted with selecting students for a newly conceived school for gondoliers, graded her as too inept to even be a student of the trade. Forty men were accepted; three women, including Hai, lost out.

“Well, no, she's not dangerous. She was a little stiff but she was good. ... In my opinion, she knows how to row,” gondolier commissioner and judge Aldo Rosso said of Hai.

But Rosso said there is much to understand about being an oarsman: “The tradition is to keep this from father to son. The idea was to keep the tradition. ...Venice is Venice. A gondolier only makes so much money. If he has a son, to whom their license can be passed, that furnishes them with a pension.”

Hai's battle with the gondoliers has become part of the lore of doing business in Italy's north. A woman and a foreigner -- Hai is German -- she had failed three times to pass a test to become a gondolier. She called foul in two of the three tests, saying bias against women and outsiders kept her at bay.

Lost Meanings

This spring, she went to court to secure her right to work privately. A hotel that hired Hai as a private gondolier -- without a license -- asked the courts to review the city transport laws.

The court found that Locanda Art Deco had the right to hire whomever it wanted to provide for “essential needs,” and surprisingly, the court defined hotel guests as needs.

The ruling meant hotels, or any businesses with such needs, could do end-runs around all city-licensed gondola stations and find their own boatmen. A cozy and lucrative trade barrier was suddenly breached.

The gondoliers reacted by huddling with city fathers in hopes of filing an appeal. They also scrambled to begin a school for gondoliers, the first ever, to prove they have standards that outstrip private concerns.

Most of those included in this inaugural class of “professional gondoliers,” as trade representatives said last week, just happened to be sons or male relatives of gondoliers. Other observers said that the gondoliers were intent on preserving their own.

“If you look at it from the marketplace, the gondoliers can lose everything,” said attorney Antonio Iannotta, who is coordinating legal strategy for an appeal to a higher court in Rome. “The court went much further than we thought -- and this could go much further than we anticipated. That's the fear.”

...Her detractors remain adamant that she has no right to wear the distinctive blue-and-white stripes of a canal man.

“Don't even call her a gondolier. She's no gondolier. She failed her test,” said Roberto Luppi, head of the trade group.

Luppi turned out last week to watch Hai, 40, row, as well as his 23-year-old son, Stefano, who made the grade for the school.

Luppi, a longtime critic of Hai, said the German should never have tried, even though he said he supported other women from Venice who did.

“A woman is the best thing in the world, but she shouldn't be a gondolier. What does she want?” Luppi said. “In my opinion, she should stay at home and take care of a family.”

The gondola is the symbol of Venice's centuries-old grandeur and, perhaps more importantly to the gondoliers' fortunes, a magnet for tourist dollars. A licensed gondolier can reap $110 for every 40-minute ride in a 12-hour day -- and even more depending on the gullibility of tourists.

Gondola ride Town Lake Austin

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Werner Herzog wants to fly


Werner Herzog is the anti-Gus Van Sant. Not to pick on Mr. Van Sant too much, but a viewer knows if they are watching a Herzog movie. I personally haven't yet seen every Herzog picture, but I'm working towards that milestone as quickly as possible, and I haven't encountered a dud yet. Not every Herzog film is a masterwork, mind you, but all are interesting, intriguing and thought-provoking.

Am looking forward to seeing Rescue Dawn (and his previous film, Wild Blue Yonder).

Patrick Goldstein (of the LA Times) writes:

In his life and work, Werner Herzog welcomes risks:

In the living room of his cozy home in the hills above Los Angeles, Werner Herzog has a quiver of brightly colored arrows from a tribe of Amazon Indians he met while making one of his many documentaries. Tribe members were the last people in the Amazon to be, as the filmmaker puts it, “contacted” by white people.

As I went to touch the point of one arrow, he cautioned, “They're still quite poisonous. The brown stuff on the inside is anticoagulant. If you get hit with one, you won't stop bleeding easily.”

When Werner Herzog issues a warning, it's prudent to obey. At 64, he is our filmmaking god of dark adventure, a willful artist whose characters -- both in his features and documentaries -- test the boundaries of human madness and quixotic folly. Herzog is best known for German classics such as 1982's “Fitzcarraldo,” the story of a man who attempts to build an opera house in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. In recent years, he has devoted himself to documentaries about equally obsessive characters, notably “Grizzly Man,” the 2005 film about Timothy Treadwell, the ill-fated adventurer whose affinity for bears led him to a grisly end in the wilds of Alaska.

Herzog's new film is something of an event, being his first widely distributed feature since the early 1980s. Due out in Chicago July 13, “Rescue Dawn” is another of his fables about the dark recesses of human nature. Set during the Vietnam War, the real-life story stars Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler, a German-born U.S. fighter pilot who escapes from a POW camp after being tortured by the Pathet Lao deep in the Laotian jungle. Audacious and ingenious, Dengler is the most accessible hero Herzog has ever put on screen.

Herzog knew Dengler personally -- he did a 1997 documentary (“Little Dieter Needs to Fly”) about the same events. Well acquainted with the horrors of war, having grown up starving and fatherless in postwar Germany, Herzog refuses to shy away from the brutality that Dengler, who died in 2001, and his fellow prisoners suffered at the hands of their guards.

As with so many of his films, Herzog shot much of the picture documentary-style, filming for weeks in the jungles of Thailand. He instructed his actors to lose weight -- Bale lost 55 pounds to give himself an appropriately skeletal look -- and dropped nearly 30 pounds himself as a form of “solidarity.”

Even if the filmmaker's reputation for rigor hadn't preceded him, the actors knew they wouldn't be coddled. “My first question to Christian was, 'Would you be prepared to bite a snake in two?'” Herzog recalls. “He immediately said, 'Yes.' As it happens, he did catch a snake that tried to bite him. But it wasn't poisonous.” The filmmaker sighs, as if brooding about a deadly snake was hardly worth the bother. “I always offered to demonstrate anything the actors were worried about.”

The film's torture scenes have an unsettling resonance today, with one former prisoner of war, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), running for president and the country at odds over America's treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Herzog is especially proud that “Rescue Dawn” opens shortly after the 4th of July.

“It's a day, after the fireworks and the beer, that America looks at itself,” he says. “The film doesn't engage in any America-bashing or primitive patriotism. But I would say that everything that is great about America was contradicted by Abu Ghraib. If Dieter had been in that prison, we wouldn't have seen what we did. One single man could've made a difference, especially someone like Dieter, who came to America as an immigrant wanting to live out his dream -- a dream to fly.”

Herzog is also an immigrant to America, though his dreams have always been more complicated. The filmmaker's worldview is best captured in “Grizzly Man” when, in his role as narrator, he says, “I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony but chaos, hostility and murder.”

I respect Elton Brand (who should still be on the Chicago Bulls team) more than ever for the simple fact that he is a producer on the film.

Thwarted for years from doing a major feature, Herzog wasn't all that choosy about who financed “Rescue Dawn.” His neophyte backers included nightclub operator Steve Marlton and Los Angeles Clippers star Elton Brand. According to a New Yorker piece that ran not long after filming was completed, key members of the crew quit in disgust or were fired during production when paychecks didn't materialize. The crew also was frustrated by Herzog's unorthodox shooting style, which included an insistence on using himself as a stand-in for Bale and other actors.

From a recent New Yorker review (Anthony Lane) comes this insight into Herzog:

What links the showman behind “Transformers” with the maker of “Fitzcarraldo,” “Aguirre, Wrath of God,” and other excursions into savagery and silence? The answer lies in a charge that Herzog has levelled at himself: “I am someone who takes everything very literally. I simply do not understand irony.” Neither man is embarrassed by this lack, but, while it has helped to unbridle Bay and send him galloping into bombast, Herzog has been left to browse among the eccentrics and daydreamers who populate his films. To him, indeed, they are the opposite of eccentric; Kaspar Hauser, the hero of “Every Man for Himself and God Against All” (1974), is raised like a beast in a stall, and yet, as the director says, “he is at the center.”

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Sweat Stains for Science

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There are those, unnamed, who retain their skepticism as to our planet's warming, or at best claim humans have nothing to do with it. I don't have a ready answer, other than to point out the phenomenon's frequent mention by scientists. Data is data.

James Janega has more:

Chicago Tribune news : Sweaty? Blame global warming. If you are feeling stickier this summer, scientists can explain:

When it comes to global warming, climatologists say, it's not just the heat, it's the humidity.

Despite widely varied regional differences -- drought here, torrents there -- the world as measured by average dew points has dampened, for the simple reason that warmer air has the capacity to store more water vapor.

That includes the Midwest, where summers have been getting muggier, just slightly, but enough for us to feel a difference.

In the 1960s, Chicago's mean summer dew point, the temperature at which water condenses from the air, was 58.9 degrees Fahrenheit. It has increased 1.5 degrees since then, and has hovered the last 10 years around 60.4 degrees.

As a general summer guideline, meteorologists at AccuWeather say dew points below 60 degrees Fahrenheit are comfortable. We start to notice humidity at dew points between 60 and 64 degrees, about where it will be Saturday in Chicago.
With dew points somewhere in the 60s, the atmosphere loses the capacity to absorb sweat as fast as we can produce it, say meteorologists with the National Weather Service.

“When [dew points] start getting up into the 70s, that's when it gets really miserable out there,” said Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey.

Because heat and humidity are so closely related, it was one of the first places looked at when climatologists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, in Colorado sought evidence of global warming. They used satellites to monitor patches of warm, damp air for signs they were expanding.

“If there's global warming, you almost have to find it,” NCAR project scientist John Fasullo said, referring to expanding humidity. “We found it.”

In time lapse images, water vapor over hot equatorial seas expands from the Earth's middle, advancing over the last 30 years into what once were more moderate climates.

Recent research has found water vapor increasing around the world -- about 4 percent more than 30 years ago -- a byproduct of global oceans warming by 1 degree Fahrenheit, explained climatologist Kevin Trenberth, who has co-authored research with Fasullo.
A look at weather records resulted in a string of papers. One showed 40 years of rising dew points at O'Hare International Airport, another went back still further at Midway Airport, and a third found 50 years of increasing dew points from St. Louis to South Bend, Ind.

“We basically found out we've had a lot more frequent high dew point days and hours in the last 20 years or so, since the 1980s, than we did in the period before that,” Changnon said.

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links for 2007-07-09

Country in the Texas Hill Country

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Regular readers of our humble blog remember that I purchased 2 acres of land outside of Austin, near lots several other members of my family also purchased. (See here for some details, and here for some photos). Apparently, we got a good deal, though we don't yet have water lines, the county is suggesting that shall occur sooner rather than later. Also, I don't think any residents of The Land of Many Names is planning to build a McMansion: a few green, eco-friendly cottages perhaps, but nothing ostentatious. Perhaps we could invite Mr. Nelson to come to a camp-out, and bring his guitar?

Wildflowers at Yurt-i-stan

Battling to Keep the Country in the Texas Hill Country - New York Times:
... The Hill Country, an area that extends about 150 miles west of Austin, is quickly becoming suburban. With its rolling hills, lakes and rivers, it is attracting Texans eager to escape city life, and out-of-state buyers who can buy more acreage for less, real estate agents say, than they might pay in other states.

“People want to live out in the country,” said Charles Gilliland, a research economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University in College Station.

Water, once so difficult to find, is, at least for now, not a problem because of new water lines. Thousands of new homes are planned, and last year the Real Estate Center reported that land prices had reached as high as $25,000 an acre. In certain areas, the prices have ballooned even further.

Ranchers and farmers, enticed by multimillion-dollar payouts, retirement or the lack of heirs, are selling thousands of acres of their large properties to developers eager to put up homes and strip malls. Other landowners, threatened with rising property taxes, see no option but to sell some of the land they have held in their families for many decades.

The beauty of the Hill Country may also be its undoing. The crush of new people is likely to put more cars on county roads, pollute creeks and streams and eventually drain underground water supplies, according to the Save Our Springs Alliance in Austin.

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Deadwood - The Complete Third Season
“Deadwood - The Complete Third Season” (Michael Almereyda, Davis Guggenheim, Timothy Van Patten)

Season 3 of Deadwood is consuming my free time. What a spectacular drama, especially when episodes are seen in sequence, rapidly, with subtitles enabled. More on that subject at a later time. A pity the show was cancelled: much better than the Sopranos. Rent it.

Al Swearengen gives A.W. Merrick a pep talk.

Involves this ancient of words

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links for 2007-07-08

The Most Happy Bordello

The historic bordello district was slightly south of where I currently reside, the city still has certain residues of days gone by, if one knows where to look.

"Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul" (Karen Abbott)Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul sounds like an interesting overview of the period.

The Most Happy Bordello - WSJ.com:
One doesn't hear much nowadays about bordellos, also known as cathouses, brothels, houses of ill repute or simple whorehouses. When I was an adolescent in Chicago, in the early 1950s, the trip to such a place was a rite de passage for nearly every male youth of unambiguous appetites. In my day the chief such institutions, operating on assembly-line principles, were to be found outside the city, one in Kankakee, the other in Braidwood. Students at the University of Illinois relieved the tedium of their sound liberal arts or business educations by visiting establishments in Danville, birthplace of Dick Van Dyke and Bobby Short.
...But the great cathouse era of Chicago was in the first decade or so of the 20th century. This era and those cathouses have now been described with scrupulous concern for historical accuracy and in clear, lively prose by Karen Abbott in “Sin in the Second City.” Lavish in her details, nicely detached in her point of view, Ms. Abbott has written an immensely readable book. “Sin in the Second City” offers much in the way of reflection for those interested in the unending puzzle that goes by the name of human nature.

Ms. Abbott's account of fleshly sin and the response to it in the city of Chicago in the early 20th century centers on a bordello known as the Everleigh Club, which even now is talked about in Chicago by men interested in the sporting life. The club was the creation of two sisters, Minna and Ada Everleigh, who themselves had earlier worked the hard trade of harlotry in Omaha and elsewhere.

The Everleigh Club opened on Feb. 1, 1900, and closed on the morning of Oct. 25, 1911. In between times, the sisters accrued assets, by Ms. Abbott's estimate, worth more than $20 million in today's dollars, while their establishment acquired world-wide fame as one of the wonders of the city of Chicago, which, in the words of First Ward Alderman Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna, “ain't no sissy town.”

The Everleigh Club was a cathouse with a vast difference -- it was more like the Ritz, with, of course, added attractions. Sumptuous food was served (entrées on the buffet included guinea fowl, pheasant and broiled squab), music both serious and popular played while a basso continuo was supplied by the popping of champagne corks, and the downstairs décor included a gold piano that set the sisters back no fewer than 15 grand.

Unlike their consoeurs in the Levee, as the whorehouse district on Chicago's South Side was called, the sisters Everleigh enforced a high standard of luxury, carefully culled their clientele and monitored the behavior of staff. They also treated their girls -- known as courtesans, and sometimes as the butterflies -- with fairness and an utter absence of cruelty, which was far from the case in other houses in the Levee. Girls working at the Everleigh Club made more than a hundred dollars a week, a fine wage at the time. To give some notion of the general tone of the place: While customers were upstairs frolicking with the girls, downstairs their suits were being pressed.

Although Ms. Abbott does not describe what went on in the girls' rooms chez Everleigh, she informs us that corporate accounts were available to good customers, and she chronicles the gaudier scandals. These include one of the Marshalls Field, of the famous department-store family, being shot in the Levee; and, later, Herbert Swift, of the great meatpacking family, dying of unknown causes after supposedly departing the Everleigh Club with one of its girls. The heavyweight champion Jack Johnson served time in jail under the Mann Act for transporting an Everleigh butterfly named Belle Schreiber across state lines.

The characters of Minna and Ada Everleigh and their thoughtful way of going about their business are intricately delineated by Ms. Abbott, who, I think it fair to say, views them affectionately and with measured admiration. But her book is ultimately a saga of a clash between the forces of vice and those of reform in the city of Chicago. In this battle, reform has right but absolutely no humor on its side -- right, that is, if one assumes that human weakness is easily eradicated through the changing of institutions.

The methods proposed for dealing with the extensive prostitution in Chicago early in the last century were, first, to segregate it in a particular part of town, and, second, to root it out and eliminate it altogether. Ministers, ambitious young lawyers set on forging political careers, anti-smoking campaigners, temperance workers, the B'nai Br'ith, vegetarians, and others on the side of sweetness and light naturally enough went for complete elimination.

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links for 2007-07-07

blur the edges

hey, I thought that was my line....

Roses Are Red: Obama, Poet: The Talk of the Town: The New Yorker:
In his first book, “Dreams from My Father,” Barack Obama described the marijuana that he smoked as a young man as “something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.” This confession of youthful indiscretion was at once more sober and more lyrical than those proffered by Presidents Forty-two (“I didn’t inhale”) and Forty-three (“When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible”), and it comes as little surprise to discover that another, less publicized intoxication to which the young Obama succumbed was the composition of lyric poetry.

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Whole Foods Roosevelt


Finally going to open: delayed for what seemed like a long time. Just slightly beyond walking distance, but well within bike range (ten minutes or so) - I assume we'll visit frequently. Traffic going south of the Loop is much friendlier than traffic going north up Halsted or wherever.

Whole Food Roosevelt

A Whole new ballgame :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Business:
The Whole Foods store opening Aug. 8 in the South Loop shows off the retailer's theatrical food flair, complete with a waterfall, a smokehouse for meats, and railyard motifs that harken to the neighborhood's industrial past.

Shoppers will be able to buy wine by the glass to sip while they browse the aisles, smell the aroma from an in-store coffee-bean roaster, and use a dressing room to try on Whole Foods' largest array of organically grown clothes, including a “Whole Baby” section.

“The decor will feature train yards, the Chicago skyline and historic photos of Maxwell Street,” said Laura Henke, the South Loop store team leader, a Chicago native and a 14-year veteran at Whole Foods. .. “Our South Loop store is an excellent example of the rising trend of people looking to simplify” and find healthy foods in their community, said Patrick Bradley, Whole Foods' Midwest Regional president.

The store, with driving entrances from Roosevelt and Canal and a mall entrance, will have 200 dedicated parking spaces and 140 bike racks, plus access to the mall parking lot with 1,100 spaces. The Canal Street entrance will be closed Sundays during August for the Maxwell Street market, which is being moved.

Whole Foods also will open new stores at the Center on Halsted, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community center at Halsted and Waveland Avenues, on July 25; in suburban Northbrook on Aug. 29, and next year, a relocated flagship store just south of North Avenue near the intersection of Sheffield and Kingsbury.

On the other side of the street:
Soon To Be Something
an empty space, probably the last undeveloped location in downtown Chicago, soon to be Something (and not very likely to be a park).

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Funny how the Produce Marketing Association wants to label their product properly, but the governmental agency purportedly in charge of protecting the general public doesn't want the public to know if vegetables are irradiated or not. Hmmmm, wonder why that is?

Purple Hayes

PMA Supports Disclosure on Irradiated Produce:
The Produce Marketing Association here this week said that irradiated produce should be clearly labeled as such. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed that irradiation labeling would only be needed when the sterilization process causes a “material change” in a food. In a release this week, PMA said that it believes the technology, which uses radiation to eliminate pathogens such as E. Coli, is safe and useful. However, “we believe consumers should know whether a food has been irradiated, and they should have a choice of irradiated and non-irradiated produce,” Kathy Means, PMA’s vice president of government relations/public affairs, explained in the release. “Our concern is that by changing the labeling requirements from ”irradiated“ to ”cold pasteurized“ or some other phrase may only confuse the public and could even be perceived as misleading.”

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Organic food better for heart

Costuluto Heirloom

I wonder if this article will get much press coverage in the U.S.? Agribusiness is big business, and the FDA continues to side with factory farms over family farms whenever possible.

Organic food 'better' for heart:
Organic fruit and vegetables may be better for you than conventionally grown crops, US research suggests.
A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found almost double the level of flavonoids - a type of antioxidant.

Flavonoids have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the team said nitrogen in the soil may be the key.

Dr Alyson Mitchell, a food chemist at the University of California, and colleagues measured the amount of two flavonoids - quercetin and kaempferol - in dried tomato samples that had been collected as part of a long-term study on agricultural methods.

These findings also confirm recent European research, which showed that organic tomatoes, peaches and processed apples all have higher nutritional quality than non-organic.

They found that on average they were 79% and 97% higher respectively in the organic tomatoes than in the conventionally grown fruit.

New Scientist magazine reported that the different levels of flavonoids in tomatoes are probably due to the absence of fertilisers (sic) in organic farming.

Wine and Tomato
Of course, for me, I prefer to have my organic tomato flavonoids with a red wine flavonoid, whenever feasible.

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links for 2007-07-06

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (Tom Wolfe)

I haven't read this book in years, but could be an interesting adaptation.

Variety.com - Van Sant in the 'Kool-Aid' mix:
Nearly 40 years after its original publication, Tom Wolfe's hallucinogenic tome “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” is headed for the bigscreen.
Gus Van Sant is attached to direct, and Lance Black (“Big Love”) will write the script. FilmColony's Richard Gladstein is producing, and he's in the process of setting the project with a financier.

The book told the story of a cross-country road trip that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” author Ken Kesey orchestrated with a group called the Merry Pranksters. Driving in a psychedelically painted bus from California to visit the World's Fair in New York in 1964, Kesey and his band used the trip as a way to turn on those they met to the mind-expanding wonders of LSD.
... Van Sant, whose latest film, “Paranoid Park,” was honored at Cannes, signed on quickly. The filmmaker cast Kesey in his 1993 film “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and dedicated his 2002 film “Gerry” to the author, who died in 2001. Van Sant enlisted Black, with whom he's collaborating on a biopic of slain San Francisco pol Harvey Milk.

It's likely Wolfe will not be a major character in the film, which will focus on Kesey and include events that occurred after the road trip.

I am afraid the film might suck: glancing at previous Van Sant movies, there have been some interesting stylistic attempts, but nothing that I really liked. Drugstore Cowboy was ok, for the decade it was released (I haven't seen it since then, so can't really say much), and My Private Idaho didn't do much for me either (though it has been released by the Criterion Collection, so I might take a second glance, one year). So a skeptical eye is probably in order.

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More thanks to those enablers who elected the Bush mob to rape and plunder our fair land.

Tongass Rainforest

After Lobbying, Wetlands Rules Are Narrowed:
New federal guidelines for enforcing a key Supreme Court ruling could have a profound effect on how water laws are applied. After a concerted lobbying effort by property developers, mine owners and farm groups, the Bush administration scaled back proposed guidelines for enforcing a key Supreme Court ruling governing protected wetlands and streams.

Environmental advocates said the policy adopted in the June guidance reflected the concerns of developers and polluters and could have a profound effect on how federal water laws are applied.

“There are definitely waters that will not be protected because of this latest guidance,” said Navis Bermudez, a water policy analyst at the Sierra Club. “The final guidance is clearly weaker than what we saw in the September guidance.”

The draft guidelines, leaked to environmental groups by someone within the government, allowed officials to look at the impact of dredging or discharge of pollutants on a wide region or watershed, potentially putting millions of acres of land adjacent to streams and wetlands off limits to industry, agriculture and development. Lobbyists for these groups immediately raised objections.
Oh, I bet they did. And of course, since secrecy is so important to the current gang of thugs occupying the White House, FOIA requests were the only way to even learn of the lobbying.

Beer Money at the MCA

Virginia S. Albrecht, a prominent Washington lawyer representing property developers, wrote to the White House in September to express concerns about the breadth of the proposed rules. Among her chief objections was that the rules as written would allow the government to regulate development over a wide region even if the impact on a stream or swamp of a proposed project was highly localized. Ms. Albrecht also said projects should be reviewed case by case to see if they met the tests set out by the Rapanos decision.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Alliance Coal, one of the nation’s largest coal producers, also weighed in on the proposed guidelines, expressing concern that the new rules would affect temporary drainage ditches and “ephemeral” streams that appear only after heavy rain.

The Sierra Club, Earth Justice and other environmental groups concerned about the new rules obtained their communications with the White House under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Harry's Hot Dogs in city's meat grinder

Harrys Hot Dogs

Sounds like a politically motivated use of eminent domain to benefit a local developer to me.

Elephants at Showman's League

Hot dog joint in city's meat grinder :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State:
It's the City of Chicago vs. the hot dog vendor. And vs. the carnival workers. And a Giordano's restaurant. And throw in a travel agency too.

All have operations in buildings at 300-308 W. Randolph that City Hall wants to see torn down. The Daley administration wants to replace the three low-rises with a small park that would enhance a 46-story office building the John Buck Co. will put up next door.

All have operations in buildings at 300-308 W. Randolph that City Hall wants to see torn down. The Daley administration wants to replace the three low-rises with a small park that would enhance a 46-story office building the John Buck Co. will put up next door.

Buck has tried to buy the Randolph properties but has been unable to reach a deal. Tuesday, the city's Community Development Commission gave the Daley administration authority to acquire the properties by force.

The hit list includes an unusual sliver of a building at 300 W. Randolph owned by the Showmen's League of America. Notable for the elephants on its facade, the building contains the league's offices and has a ground-floor business that's been around more than 50 years, Harry's Hot Dogs.

All the businesses involved, including a Giordano's and Greaves Travel LLC, would have to close or relocate to accommodate the city's will.

Connie Buscemi, spokeswoman for the city's Planning Department, said the Daley administration was acting on long-term plans to beautify Randolph Street. She denied the city was doing favors for the Buck firm

Uh, yeah, ok.

Jonathan Fine, president of the group Preservation Chicago, said protecting the businesses is the last thing on the city's mind. Fine said the city is trying to force the creation of a plaza that benefits Buck.

Tearing down the Showmen's League building destroys “a little piece of history at the same time,” Fine said.

A fraternal group for itinerant carnival workers, the league was founded in 1913 and chose William “Buffalo Bill” Cody as its first president. Executive Secretary Rick Haney did not return calls Tuesday.

Harry's Hot Dogs is owned by Harry Heftman, who wouldn't comment about the condemnation. Said by acquaintances to be “in the vicinity” of 98 years old, Heftman is a slightly built man who still comes to work every day, making sure the lunchtime rush gets moved along.

I'm all for the City of Chicago adding more green space, but this isn't the right place to do so.

(h/t Phule)

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Excessive Sentence

just depends upon your connections: there is no such thing as Justice For All. Our propaganda always claims that America has an egalitarian justice system, but that hasn't been completely true for years.

Pat Oliphant:

Scooter Libby Oliphant 070705

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links for 2007-07-05

links for 2007-07-04

  • “pointless mention of Beyoncé at this juncture, so I can get her name in here for page-view purposes. I don't have any free hot nude photos” Good thing.
    (tags: porn NBA)

1st Amendment vs NYC PD

Wait, I thought Rudy G was no longer in charge of NYC. I guess some of his cronies are still left behind, running the NYC Police Dept.

Cops on Bikes

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

NYC man held for reciting 1st Amendment - Yahoo! News: ... [Reverend Billy, whose real name is Bill Talen] latest run-in with the law began after he turned up to support people gathering in Union Square last Friday for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride asserting cyclists' rights.

The NYPD has aggressively policed the rides, arguing that they can interfere with traffic and threaten public safety. Advocates for Critical Mass have accused police of infringing on the riders' constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly.

The video shows Talen preaching the “44 beautiful words of the First Amendment” to a visibly annoyed congregation of police commanders huddled a few feet away. At one point, an officer approaches and warns him that his sermon is breaking the law.

“What's the law?” Talen asks.

“Harassment,” the officer answers.

When Talen persists, another officer comes up behind him and slaps on handcuffs. When being put in a police van, the satirist shouts, “We have a right to peaceful assembly!”

Talen was held overnight before being released without bail. A criminal complaint alleges he harassed police officers by approaching them and “repeatedly shouting at such officers through a non-electric bullhorn.”

Amazing really, how much this Amendment's scope has been contracted, just in my lifetime. Ironically, the conservative wing of the judiciary often mouths words about respecting the Founding Fathers' intent. Ha. Free Speech zones at political events, cops restricting Critical Mass rallies, investigations of Quaker anti-war groups, the list goes on and on.

from the wiki entry on this phenomenon of our eroding rights:

After World War I, several cases involving laws limiting speech came before the Supreme Court. The Espionage Act of 1917 imposed a maximum sentence of twenty years for anyone who caused or attempted to cause “insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States.” Under the Act, over two thousand prosecutions were commenced. For instance, one filmmaker was sentenced to ten years imprisonment because his portrayal of British soldiers in a movie about the American Revolution impugned the good faith of an American ally, the United Kingdom. The Sedition Act of 1918 went even further, criminalizing “disloyal,” “scurrilous” or “abusive” language against the government.

The Supreme Court was first requested to strike down a law violating the free speech clause in 1919. The case involved Charles Schenck, who had during the war published leaflets challenging the conscription system then in effect. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Schenck's conviction for violating the Espionage Act when it decided Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., writing for the Court, suggested that “the question in every case is whether the words used are in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

The “clear and present danger” test of Schenck was extended in Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), again by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The case involved a speech made by Eugene V. Debs, a political activist. Debs had not spoken any words that posed a “clear and present danger” to the conscription system, but a speech in which he denounced militarism was nonetheless found to be sufficient grounds for his conviction. Justice Holmes suggested that the speech had a “natural tendency” to occlude the draft.

Thus, the Supreme Court effectively shaped the First Amendment in such a manner as to permit a multitude of restrictions on speech. Further restrictions on speech were accepted by the Supreme Court when it decided Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925). Writing for the majority, Justice Edward Sanford suggested that states could punish words that “by their very nature, involve danger to the public peace and to the security of the state.” Lawmakers were given the freedom to decide which speech would constitute a danger.

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The Nietzsche Family Circus

Randomly served image/quotes here:
The Nietzsche Family Circus:

Religious Man

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I used to love to hang around in this wonderful library, even though my studies never required a visit for research purposes. You were only allowed to bring a pencil and a yellow legal pad. I sometimes amused myself by checking out pulp paperback editions of then-out-of-print Philip K Dick novels. In retrospect, I wonder what the librarians thought?

Tools of the Trade- Slideshow

A portfolio of images of literary artifacts and documents from the archive at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

Article here

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the literary archive of the University of Texas at Austin, contains thirty-six million manuscript pages, five million photographs, a million books, and ten thousand objects, including a lock of Byron’s curly brown hair. It houses one of the forty-eight complete Gutenberg Bibles; a rare first edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which Lewis Carroll and his illustrator, John Tenniel, thought poorly printed, and which they suppressed; one of Jack Kerouac’s spiral-bound journals for “On the Road”; and Ezra Pound’s copy of “The Waste Land,” in which Eliot scribbled his famous dedication: “For E. P., miglior fabbro, from T. S. E.” Putting a price on the collection would be impossible: What is the value of a first edition of “Comus,” containing corrections in Milton’s own hand? Or the manuscript for “The Green Dwarf,” a story that Charlotte Brontë wrote in minuscule lettering, to discourage adult eyes, and then made into a book for her siblings? Or the corrected proofs of “Ulysses,” on which James Joyce rewrote parts of the novel? The university insures the center’s archival holdings, as a whole, for a billion dollars.

The current director of the center is Thomas Staley. Seventy-one, and a modernist scholar by training, he is mercurial and hard-driving. Amid the silence of the center’s Reading Room, he often greets visiting scholars with a resonant slap on the back.
From his office in Austin, Staley keeps tabs on writers who interest him—e-mailing and writing to them about their plans for their papers. To him, the world is a map of treasures whose locations he already knows. His eyes are fixed equally on the aging British literary couple (who are moving to a smaller house, now that the children are grown) and the Pulitzer-nominated phenom (who thinks that his inclusion in the same archive as Graham Greene will help cement his stature). Staley can wait years for the right moment to make a bid. “It’s chess, not checkers,” he likes to say. “You have to think ahead.” Once, he put a woman he thought was dating Cormac McCarthy on the Ransom’s advisory board in the hope—vain, as it turned out—that it would prompt the reclusive author to sell his papers. Gene Cooke, an investor who is an old friend and tennis partner of Staley’s, says, “You can always tell if Tom’s ahead or not. When he’s winning, it’s Hopkins.” (Staley will recite “The Windhover”: “I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon.”) “When he’s losing, it’s Milton.” (Staley likes to quote from “L’Allegro”: “Hence loathèd Melancholy, of Cerberus and blackest midnight born.”)

During Staley’s two decades in the job, he has bought nearly a hundred literary collections—including papers of Jorge Luis Borges, John Osborne, Julian Barnes, Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard, Penelope Fitzgerald, John Fowles, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Don DeLillo—and, as he moves toward retirement, his buys are getting bigger. In 2003, Texas bought the Watergate papers of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for five million dollars. (A sealed file revealing the then secret identity of Deep Throat, Mark Felt, was deposited at a trustee’s office in Washington.) In 2005, Staley paid two and a half million dollars for the collection of Norman Mailer, which included twenty-five thousand of Mailer’s letters, along with the identification tags of his late poodle, Tibo. The archive—weighing twenty thousand pounds in all—came to the center in a tractor trailer. The New York book dealer Glenn Horowitz, who brokered the two deals, says of Staley, “He’s looking for projects that have a culminating quality to them.”

read more, including this fun tidbit:

At Texas, Staley quickly learned to avoid the mistake of his immediate predecessor, Decherd Turner, who focussed on the preservation of manuscripts. “Acquisitions are what people like,” he says. “They like to be a part of it.” Shortly after he took the job, Staley had his first big success. In 1988, one of his curators got word that the archives of Stuart Gilbert, who had been James Joyce’s translator and friend, might be for sale. Staley went to the senior administrators of the university—some of whom, he was convinced, did not know who Joyce was. “I said, ‘This is an opportunity for the University of Texas to get back in the game, in a big way.’ ” Gilbert’s widow wanted an offer up front. Staley took the gamble, paying her the full two hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars that she was asking, without examining the papers.

There were also legal hurdles. Gilbert was British, his widow French; they had been living in France. Staley feared that France, under its cultural-patrimony laws, might lay claim to the papers. To avoid litigation, Staley hired a bakery truck and had workers stuff the papers in it and drive it to the English Channel. “I said, ‘Look, a very good day to do it would be on Ascension Thursday. There might not be as many guards out.’ ” The strategy worked. Gilbert’s literary remains were loaded onto the Channel ferry; in London, they were repacked and shipped to Austin.

The archives were more than worth the price. They contained Gilbert’s unpublished diary, which provides an intimate portrait of how Joyce wrote “Finnegans Wake.” On January 1, 1930, Gilbert wrote, “At last J. J. has recommenced work on W. in P.”—the work in progress. “Five volumes of the Encyclopedia Brit. on his sofa. He has made a list of 30 towns. New York, Vienna, Budapest. . . . Whenever I come to a name (of a street, suburb, park, etc.), I pause. J. thinks. If he can Anglicise the word, i.e., make a pun on it . . . the name or its deformation [are recorded in a] notebook. Thus ‘Slotspark’ (I think) at Christiania becomes Sluts’ park. He collects all queer names in this way and will soon have a notebook full of them.”

A student who was unpacking the Gilbert material for Staley found, as Staley puts it, “an odd thing.” It was a typewritten sheaf of onionskin pages with handwritten emendations: Joyce’s edit of the first chapter of “Finnegans Wake.” Any document with Joyce’s handwriting would be valuable, but these pages answered the question of how “Finnegans Wake,” parts of which had originally been published in the magazine Transition, assumed its final form. “No one knew how those changes had been made,” Staley says. “It was the missing link in the stemma.” He estimates the value of the pages at seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

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Dear Abby

Old, hoary joke makes a comeback. Read on.

No Masturbation Jokes

Dear Abby:

I am a crack dealer in New Jersey who has recently been diagnosed as a carrier of the HIV virus. My parents live in a suburb of Philadelphia and one of my sisters, who lives in Bensenville, is married to a transvestite. My father and mother have recently been arrested for growing and selling marijuana and are currently dependent on my other two sisters who are prostitutes in Jersey City. I have two brothers.  

One is currently serving a non-parole life sentence in Attica for murder of a teenage boy in 1994. The other brother is currently being held in the Wellington Remand Center on charges of neglecting his three children. I have recently become engaged to marry a former Thai prostitute who lives in the Bronx and, indeed, is still a part-time “working girl” in a brothel. Her time there is limited, however, as we hope to open our own brothel with her as the working manager. I am hoping my two sisters would be interested in joining our team. Although I would prefer them not to prostitute themselves, it would get them off the street, and, hopefully, the heroin.
My problem is this: I love my fiancée and look forward to bringing her into the family, and of course, I want to be totally honest with her.

Should I tell her about my cousin who voted for Bush?

Worried About My Reputation

Hey, every family has some black sheep....

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links for 2007-07-03

Darwin at The Field Museum


I wonder if this link for a two-for-one ticket to the Darwin show would work for non-Tribune subscribers?

Chicago Tribune Buy 1 Get 1 FREE to Darwin at The Field Museum :
The Origin of Species stands as the foundation for all modern biology. Now, 150 years after its publication, discover the man and the revolutionary theory that changed the world. In this spectacular exhibition, you will view the most complete collection of Charles Darwin's manuscripts, artifacts, memorabilia, and other rare personal belongings. Follow the development of Charles Darwin's ideas at Chicago's world famous Field Museum. Receive one FREE admission to Darwin at The Field Museum when you purchase one full-price exhibition ticket (a $19 value). Print out coupon and redeem at The Field Museum box office.
I plan to go.
The Origin of Species stands as the foundation for all modern biology. Now, 150 years after its publication, discover the man and the revolutionary theory that changed the world. In this spectacular exhibition, you will view the most complete collection of Charles Darwin's manuscripts, artifacts, memorabilia, and other rare personal belongings. This extraordinary portrayal reveals Darwin's endless curiosity, exceptional power of observation, and scientific genius. Family photographs and letters reveal a different side of this famous scientist: Darwin as a family man, husband and father of 10 children. Trace the historic five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle that brought him to the Galápagos Islands, and experience some of the unique animals Darwin encountered on his journey, such as live South American horned frogs and a green iguana. This unique in-depth exhibition includes hands-on interactive displays and interviews with contemporary scientists.

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Justice for Thee and Not Me

| 1 Comment

What a crock. Too bad Martha Stewart contributed to Democrats and not Bush-ites, right?

Bush Spares Libby From Prison Term - WSJ.com:
President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2½-year prison term that Mr. Bush said was excessive.

Mr. Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Mr. Libby couldn't delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Mr. Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Mr. Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I respect the jury's verdict,” Mr. Bush said in a statement. “But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.” (See Mr. Bush's statement.)

Mr. Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Mr. Libby, and Mr. Bush said his action still “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby.”

Mr. Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative's identity. He was the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.

Reaction was harsh from Democrats.

“As Independence Day nears, we're reminded that one of the principles our forefathers fought for was equal justice under the law. This commutation completely tramples on that principle,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) said through a spokesman.

Can't we drum up a lynch mob with tar and feathers?

Gotta love this:

Commutation was suggested by a former attorney in the first President Bush's administration, William Otis, in a recent Washington Post article.

The essay sparked a debate on the Internet among law professors. Eric Muller, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, called Mr. Otis's argument “garbage.” Interviewed last night about the news, Mr. Muller said, “It is very difficult to reconcile the commutation of a sentence that was chosen from within the sentencing guidelines range for this sort of offense for this kind of offender.”

Pardon lawyer Margaret Colgate Love said she hopes the commutation will make Mr. Bush more generous in other clemency cases, where he has displayed notable stinginess so far. Mr. Libby's commutation skirted regular procedures, coming before appeals had run their course, and the Justice Department's pardon attorney wasn't consulted by the White House.

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Scared Libby would flip

Razor red Scooter on broadway

In re: the Libby travesty, Christy Hardin Smith writes:

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog » BREAKING: Bush Commutes Libby Sentence — The Bush Statement :

The sentence as laid out carefully by Judge Walton was well within the sentencing guidelines — in fact, it was mid-range in the guidelines. The President may well feel that a 30 months sentence is excessive for someone who has been convicted of multiple federal felonies — but, it is entirely false to say that the sentence is excessive within the guidelines. It is an attempt at spin and shold not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

Just got this from Harry Reid’s office:

Washington, DC — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today after President Bush commuted the prison sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for obstruction of justice:

“The President’s decision to commute Mr. Libby’s sentence is disgraceful. Libby’s conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq War. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone. Judge Walton correctly determined that Libby deserved to be imprisoned for lying about a matter of national security. The Constitution gives President Bush the power to commute sentences, but history will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own Vice President’s Chief of Staff who was convicted of such a serious violation of law.”

UPDATE #2: More statements from Dem. leadership: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Louise Slaughter, and Sen. Chris Dodd:

“By commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence, the President continues to abdicate responsibility for the actions of his Administration. The only ones paying the price for this Administration’s actions are the American people.”

Still waiting for the Presidential apology to Valerie Plame Wilson for his Administration betraying her cover and her work on Iranian WMDs, among other important national security investigations. Not exactly holding my breath for it, though…

UPDATE #3: Statement from former Sen. John Edwards:

“Only a president clinically incapable of understanding that mistakes have consequences could take the action he did today. President Bush has just sent exactly the wrong signal to the country and the world. In George Bush’s America, it is apparently okay to misuse intelligence for political gain, mislead prosecutors and lie to the FBI. George Bush and his cronies think they are above the law and the rest of us live with the consequences. The cause of equal justice in America took a serious blow today.”

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40 gig iPod sick

Mid-plane ride home, my iPod died. Thought nothing of it, other than annoyance that I couldn't continue to be amazed at my Bose noise canceling headphones, but the iPod was still dead this morning, and giving a variety of error message icons. I could hear the disk churning away inside, but after resetting it (hold the Menu button and the Select circle button simultaneously for 6-10 seconds) and enabling Disk Mode (as soon as the Apple logo appears, press and hold the Select circle button and the Play/Pause button for another few seconds). Busily resetting itself now, which means I can't justify getting a newer iPod with color screen. Doh!

Apple 80 GB iPod video Black (5.5 Generation)
“Apple 80 GB iPod video Black (5.5 Generation)” (Apple Computer)

Maybe later: once a hard disk starts showing signs of decay, the end is usually near.

ru-oh, maybe spoke too soon.
iPod error

Even with Diagnostic Mode, no luck.

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The Final Days

Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism
“Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism” (Daniel Pinchbeck)

I took this book on my travels, and read most of it one afternoon while recovering from self-inflicted alcohol poisoning. Strongly recommend it to any potential fellow travelers, or ethno-botanists. I may be an atheist, or a pastafarian spagnostic, most days, but sometimes, at night, or in thrall with certain wavelengths, I speculate about the other hidden, mystical dimensions of our universe. Since I don't know you well enough, I won't elaborate right now, suffice it to say, the year 2012 is a year worth paying attention to.

The Final Days:

A growing community of amateur scholars believe that the world as we know it will come to an end in 2012, as prophesied by the ancient Maya. Is the New Age apocalypse coming round at last?

“We’re coming to an end time beyond anything that anybody has ever imagined,” Rod said with a trembling urgency. “The scientists right now, they’re not even studying the real causes. The Kyoto treaty and CO2 have nothing to do with anything.”

“Coast to Coast AM” is an overnight radio show devoted to what its weekday host, George Noory, calls “the unusual mysteries of the world and the universe.” Broadcast out of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and carried nationwide on more than 500 stations as well as the XM Radio satellite network, “Coast to Coast AM” is by far the highest-rated radio program in the country once the lights go out. The guest in the wee hours that February morning was Lawrence E. Joseph, the author of “

Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End

Apocalypse 2012

” — billed as “a scientific investigation into civilization’s end” — and he came on the air to tell the story of how the ancient Maya looked into the stars and predicted catastrophic changes to the earth, all pegged to the end date of an historical cycle on one of their calendars, Dec. 21, 2012.

“My motto tonight,” Noory intoned at the beginning of the program, “is be prepared, not scared.” What followed was a graphic recitation of disaster scenarios for 2012, including hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by solar storms, cracks forming in the earth’s magnetic field and mass extinctions brought on by nuclear winter.

I have no special insight as to whether these particular quacks are accurate in their predictions, but the Field of Opportunity is ready to be plowed, as the poet sang.

Strangely enough, after I was ready to post this blog, even before finishing the entire article (as is my wont: for some reason, I read a paragraph or two of source material, fire off my inane blog post, and then finish reading the source material. I guess I don't want to be sullied by facts, or something. Maybe I'm just an idiot. Wait, don't answer that.), I notice Daniel Pinchbeck is cited in the article. Strange, I hadn't made the connection between 2012 appearing in the New York Times Magazine and my reading Mr. Pinchbeck's book on a cruise to visit vanishing Alaskan glaciers, celebrating my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary along with 38 other family members. What I'm mumbling about, in my fuzzy manner, is that I had no expectations to encounter Mr. Pinchbeck in this article, but wanted to mention how much his essay/history on entheo-botany intrigued me, and figured a 'kooky report' on talk radio rubes was an appropriate lead-in.


But it isn’t just on the lower frequencies, late at night, where people are waiting on the Mayan apocalypse. Daniel Pinchbeck, author of the alternative-culture best seller “2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl” — and a guest on “Coast to Coast AM” — has introduced a young and savvy audience to the school of millenarian thinking that has gathered around Mayan calendrics. To do so, he has employed viral marketing and a tireless schedule of public appearances at bookstores, art spaces, yoga studios and electronic-music festivals. When Pinchbeck appeared on “The Colbert Report” last December to promote his book, the host confronted him in front of a life-size manger scene: “You have been called a new Timothy Leary. Why do we need another one of those?”

Over breakfast at Cafe Gitane in Manhattan, Pinchbeck told me recently that “there’s a growing realization that materialism and the rational, empirical worldview that comes with it has reached its expiration date.” A youthful 41, with long, drooping hair and heavy-framed designer eyewear, Pinchbeck exudes a languid fervency that is equal parts Jesuit and Jim Morrison. His BlackBerry sat face up on the table, the screen dark, beside his bowl of organic fruit, yogurt and granola. “Apocalypse literally means uncovering or revealing,” Pinchbeck went on, “and I think the process is already under way. We’re on the verge of transitioning to a dispensation of consciousness that’s more intuitive, mystical and shamanic.”

and since the topic was on my mind, here's video of Mr. Pincbeck on Steven Colbert's show, if you can get it to work for more than two seconds at a time. Bonus: Pinchbeck jumps into the comments.

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links for 2007-07-02

Airports suck


I totally mistimed how long it would take to go from my hotel to my check-in gate, so now I have a couple of extra hours to kill. Since I'm an idiot, I should be rewarded for my ineptitude, right? I agreed, thus I impulse-purchased the Bose noise canceling headphones. I haven't tried them on the plane yet, but I suspect I am going to use these frequently. Great sound, and less baby cries interrupting my iPod (and I brought along a DVD that I haven't watched yet, if I find a power plug not guarded by airport personnel.), plus I don't have to crank the volume up quite so loud to get my groove on.

Bose® QuietComfort® 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones, with free MP3 player (a $50 value)
“Bose® QuietComfort® 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones, with free MP3 player (a $50 value)” (BOSE)

Just because Fixer asked, I'll give some details of the cruise itself. I snagged a copy of the “Ships Log”, which was full of interesting factoids, but this document is stowed away in my luggage. 39 of us went on Holland America's Alaskan Cruise, out of a total of 1298 passengers. We thought we were a large group, until I asked a crew member if she had seen more, and she said one cruise was entirely filled with one family. Youch! I thought my family was large.

I was not sure what to expect, as I had never even considered going on a cruise before, but I was pleased with my experience. Of course, with such a large family, there were some minor dramas, dustups, but not really of great significance. (7 of my grandparents 8 kids eventually made it onboard, with various members of their family, plus a couple of cousins. I'm not sure what percentage of the entire clan made the journey, but I'd guess more than half. Unfortunately neither my brother nor my sister were able to get away for a week, maybe next time.)

We ate like royalty: I consumed more calories in a week than I did in the prior month combined, not to mention drinking enough liquor (wine, beer, gin, Jameson's mostly) and coffee to fill a few bathtubs. An uncle tried to make a contest over who would be able to gain the most weight in a week, but we never actually got around to weighing ourselves. With a couple of exceptions, we ll get along famously, a rarity really.

More later, my laptop battery is weakening.

our boat in the harbor at Juneau

Amsterdam in Sitka
Amsterdam in Sitka
our boat in harbor at Sitka. Have to look up the mountain range later.

Parliament Buildings in Victoria
Parliament Buildings in Victoria
they have been lit thus every night since Queen Victoria's jubilation in the 19th C.E.

Glacier Fishing
Glacier Fishing
at Tracy Arm en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sawyer_Glacier

Buckethead and Breadface
Buckethead and Breadface
a most flattering photo of my parents.

click to embiggen

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Seattle mostly


About to check out of my hotel and head to the airport, here are a few photos for your amusement.

We Mean It this time
We Mean It this time
well, we may change our minds again later. If I had a car in Seattle and got a ticket here, I'd dispute it.

Spice Orient
Spice Orient
love the pattern of this wall. I regret not getting a bowl of Pho - my brother raved about a great pho restaurant here in Seattle.

Duncan and Sons
Duncan and Sons
faded, near the Safeco Stadium. Nothing to do with the San Antonio Spurs.

Window to the world
Window to the world
room where I spent the last week

Wrong Bus
Wrong Bus
a metaphor? or not? Took us to the Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau.

click to embiggen and engorge my flickr view count. Please, no gambling.

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links for 2007-07-01

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