November 2007 Archives


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Vulcan, originally uploaded by swanksalot. new construction, between Wells and LaSalle
Thanks to phule for the art direction assistance.

BP is an Environmental Criminal

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No Blues

We already knew this, but....

The Alaska subsidiary of British energy company BP PLC pleaded guilty to a federal environmental crime for failing to prevent a 2006 spill in America's largest oil field. BP Exploration Alaska Inc. pleaded guilty to one violation of the Clean Water Act for a 200,000-gallon spill at the Prudhoe Bay field in March 2006. The company had agreed last month to a sentence of $20 million in fines related to the spill, the largest ever in the vast, oil-rich region of Arctic Alaska known as the North Slope. [From BP Unit Pleads GuiltyTo Environmental Crime -]
$20,000,000 may be a lot of simolians to some corporations, but BP's annual revenue is $265,763,000,000, so $20 million is 0.00752% of BP's income. If my back-of-the-envelope math is correct, this is the equivalent of a $7 fine to somebody who makes $100,000 a year. In other words, a slap on the wrist, at best.

links for 2007-11-30


Bob Dylan, the Artist

I'd go to a Dylan art exhibit, with low expectations, and probably be pleasantly surprised.

Ed Ward writes:
On the second floor of the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, the galleries are comfortably packed with people enjoying the watercolors on the walls. With over 120 paintings, there are enough of them to see. The heavy attendance is remarkable, in that this is the painter's first-ever exhibition anywhere, but it's readily explained by the fact that his name is Bob Dylan.

Dylan fans have long known about the singer's painting. The front cover for the Band's first album, "Music From Big Pink," was one of his oils, as was the cover of Sing Out! magazine in 1970 when he gave his first interview in years to John Cohen. Both were, to be charitable, amateurish, although the bulky guy with the guitar on the magazine cover had a certain charm. A couple of years later, a drawing graced Mr. Dylan's "Planet Waves" album, but based on what's on display in Chemnitz, both his draftsmanship and his color sense have improved greatly over the decades.
[From Bob Dylan, the Artist]

(Digg-enabled full article access here)

links for 2007-11-29

Death smiles at us all

Note, comments are turned off for a day or so to see if the massive spam comment attack will subside (which is rendering B12 almost unusable). Otherwise, we're good, thanks for asking.

Death smiles at us all

Title is more ironic than weepy.

Google Plans To Store Everything

Alternative Google

I wouldn't be adverse to placing some items at Google Storage aka GDrive. I would be unlikely to store anything too personal, or any document containing financial or medical information, but in general, GDrive doesn't seem like it would be that big of a potential privacy invasion as I already store certain files in my Gmail account.

Google Inc. wants to offer consumers a new way to store their files on its hard drives, in a strategy that could accelerate a shift to Web-based computing and intensify the Internet company's competition with Microsoft Corp.

Google is preparing a service that would let users store on its computers essentially all of the files they might keep on their personal-computer hard drives -- such as word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images, say people familiar with the matter. The service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and share them online with friends. It could be released as early as a few months from now, one of the people said.

The Mountain View, Calif., company plans to provide some free storage, with additional storage allotments available for a fee, say the people familiar with the matter. Planned pricing isn't known.

[From Google Plans Service to Store Users' Data -]

Digg-enabled full article available here

Ike at D-Day

"Ike: An American Hero" (Michael Korda)

Unfortunately, it is not online, but the December 2007 issue of The Smithsonian contains an excerpt from Michael Korda's new biography of General Dwight Eisenhower. Perhaps my memory is for shite (wait, don't answer that), but I don't recall reading about generals crying before. In the published excerpt, both Winston Churchill and Ike purportedly wept thinking of all the soldiers who were being sent to their death. Compare and contrast to The Dauphin, George Bush, famously deliriously happy when the invasion of Iraq was about to happen (can't find the video clip, but I've seen it a couple times, maybe on the Daily Show and Fahrenheit 9/11).

(p. 50): All the same, late on the evening of June 5, when the great fleet bearing almost 170,000 men was already at sea, and the paratroopers were already on their way through the dark night sky to their drop zones in Normandy, and the midget submarines were rising to the surface to mark the boundaries of the invasion beaches, Winston Churchill, getting ready to go to bed with tears running down his cheeks, said to his wife, Clementine, "Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning, 20,000 men may have been killed?"


(p. 58):
[Kay] Summersby drove Eisenhower to two more of the 101st Airborne's airfields, but then there was no time left to continue, so she drove him back to Greenham Common to watch the aircraft there take off. It was dark now, but an American correspondent saw tears running down Eisenhower's cheeks as he watched, one after another, the C-47s roll down the runway and vanish into the night.

On the way back to Southwick in the car, he said to Summersby, "I hope to God I know what I'm doing."
[From Smithsonian Magazine | Issue | December 2007]

"Smithsonian" (Smithsonian)

Trent Lott, Larry Flynt and Dennis Hastert

When I heard of Trent Lott's surprise resignation, my first thought was that perhaps Larry Flynt's upcoming (alleged) bombshell had been leaked to Lott and Denny Hastert. Hastert was a wrestling coach, lest we forget. Apparently, I wasn't the only one with that thought.

There is no proof Larry Flynt has photos of Trent Lott blowing goats behind a Klan rally as a young man.

That is wild speculation.
The boy happens to be real, and his “stage name” is Benjamin Nicholas. One of the politicos Big Head DC has learned he’s alleged to have been involved with is the married Sen. Trent Lott, 66, who unexpectedly announced his retirement on Monday. Lott is well-known to have been against a plethora of gay rights issues throughout his terms in Congress. He was also good friends with Sen. Larry Craig throughout his time in Congress.

Nicholas told Big Head DC today via e-mail that he didn’t want to go on the record to talk about his dealings with Lott, because, said Nicholas, “Trent is going through his fair share of scrutiny right now and I don’t want to add to it.” However, e-mail and other records confirm that the two have met on at least two occasions.

“All I can say at this point is no comment,” Nicholas told us. “It’s the professional thing for me to do.”

In a subsequent e-mail message, Nicholas confirmed that another publication is working on a story about a “possible relationship” between Lott and himself, but Nicholas also “politely declined” an interview for that story.
[Click to read the sordid (sorta) details Group News Blog: Trent Lott & The Goat Rumor]

Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Cermak Bridge

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Stumbled across a beautiful and unusual bridge, the only surviving example of its type in Chicago, erected in 1906.

Some info about the bridge itself

Square Pegs
Square Pegs
These seem to be some sort of counter-weight system

a massive gear

Sanitary District of Chicago 1906
Sanitary District of Chicago 1906
On Cermak

click to embiggen, and to juice my flickr stats

links for 2007-11-27


Drunken Angel Redux

"Drunken Angel - Criterion Collection" (Akira Kurosawa)

Since we were just talking about this film, in our ineffable manner...

This 1948 film by Akira Kurosawa is his first to feel solidly like a Kurosawa movie; not coincidentally, it was also his first collaboration as a director with the young actor Toshiro Mifune, who would go on to bring his characteristic explosive temper and brooding physical presence to Kurosawa masterworks like “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo.”

Here he’s a skinny young yakuza who swaggers around his territory — a slum with a symbolic body of polluted water at its center — sporting a wide-shouldered suit and a striped tie that the character seems to have copied from an American gangster film. When he pays a midnight visit to a clinic operated by an idealistic and alcoholic doctor (Takashi Shimura, Kurosawa’s other great star), the doctor discovers that the young gangster has an advanced case of tuberculosis, and tries to persuade him to shape up and care for himself.
[Click to read more re New DVDs - New York Times]

Shipping estimate: November 27, 2007.

Joe Klein Is an Idiot

or worse. Ryan Singel calls him "dangerous", we'd use slightly more pointed, salty language (like putz, or MoFo. You know, words that might be bleeped out on the network news, or words avoided by Ward Cleaver). So might Paul Krugman, or Dr. Alterman for that matter

For most people the third time is the charm, but in the case of Time columnist Joe Klein writing about proposed changes to the nation's spying laws, even his third draft gets it wrong.
[From Time Columnist Joe Klein Gets Wiretapping Debate Wrong a Third Time | Threat Level from]

Note, thanks to skippy, we will never confuse Joe Klein with Howie Klein again. Not that we should have confused Idiot Klein with non-Idiot Klein in the first place, but still, we once did....

Bonus round, Glenn Greenwald skewers Idiot Klein as well:
Seriously, in what country does Joe Klein live? Can someone please explain to him that in the United States, the President doesn't have the power to give "direct orders" to violate the law? And what kind of person who isn't in the military runs around talking about "direct orders" from the American President at all? That isn't how our country works. Presidents obviously don't have the power to give "direct orders" to anyone to break the law, let alone civilians and private companies. Why does that even need to be explained?

Raindrop Porn

Slight alteration of color, etc. in Photoshop to get this exact shade and luminosity. Taken while bored in a parking lot, waiting, waiting.

Raindrop Porn
Raindrop Porn, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Everybody should have one shot of raindrops on a window

Blogging is for the Dogs

Oh, don't worry, we'll get another burst of inane energy later on. Right now, the coffee just isn't working.

blogging for the dogs.gif

links for 2007-11-26

Mysterious and Blue

Interesting concept. We'll see what happens in three years.

Chicago’s effort to redo its alleys with sustainable road-building materials may be one of the most ambitious public street makeover plans in the country.

If this were any other city, perhaps it would not matter what kind of roadway was underfoot in the back alleys around town. But with nearly 2,000 miles of small service streets bisecting blocks from the North Side to the South Side, Chicago is the alley capital of America. In its alleys, city officials say, it has the paved equivalent of five midsize airports.

Part of the landscape since the city began, the alleys, mostly home to garbage bins and garages, make for cleaner and less congested main streets. But Chicago’s distinction is not without disadvantages: Imagine having a duplicate set of streets, in miniature, to maintain that are prone to flooding and to dumping runoff into a strained sewer system.

What is an old, alley-laden city to do?

Chicago has decided to retrofit its alleys with environmentally sustainable road-building materials under its Green Alley initiative, something experts say is among the most ambitious public street makeover plans in the country. In a larger sense, the city is rethinking the way it paves things.

In a green alley, water is allowed to penetrate the soil through the pavement itself, which consists of the relatively new but little-used technology of permeable concrete or porous asphalt. Then the water, filtered through stone beds under the permeable surface layer, recharges the underground water table instead of ending up as polluted runoff in rivers and streams.
[Click to read more of In Miles of Alleys, Chicago Finds Its Next Environmental Frontier]
a Word that Keeps you Guessing

Thanksgiving Prayer 2007

Bent Towards Golden Shade Light
Bent Towards Golden Shade Light
Toned in Photoshop

Bent Towards Shade Light
Bent Towards Shade Light
original shot, Morton Arboretum

Dance of the Devil Corn
Dance of the Devil Corn
Halsted and Canalport, or thereabouts.

My old stomping grounds. My first residence in The Big Potato was on 19th St. and Halsted, and I passed by this building several times a week. At that time, it was a burrito stand whose proprietor was an eery Alan Arkin clone. I joked about his resemblance once, and the faux-Arkin got sort of flustered, and claimed he never even watched movies and didn't know who I was talking about. Sort of a weird guy, maybe it was Alan Arkin preparing for a film role?

Moving On the Waters
Moving On the Waters
Morton Arburetum. Slight color correction/alteration.

1860 A.D. 1886
1860 A.D. 1886
Looks like there was a fire there a while ago.

Condos Condos Everywhere
Condos Condos Everywhere
Downtown somewhere

Carrots and Onions on the Street
Carrots and Onions on the Street
Randolph Street.

Snowfall in New York
Snowfall in New York
circa 1995. Not sure what museum this courtyard was, perhaps the MoMA?

from a 3x5 print

click to embiggen, and juice my Flickr view stats

links for 2007-11-25

Chicago Pimps Itself for Cash

Captains of Industry

Morton Salt sponsored salt trucks? Washington Mutual sponsored Harold Washington Public Library? Poland Springs sponsored Water Reclaimation Plant? What?

The Daley administration has settled on an East Coast company to help find ways to turn naming rights and sponsorships into cash to help pay the bills.

Octagon Inc. of Norwalk, Conn. has been awarded a $285,000 contract to examine what the city has to offer and, by next spring, produce a "comprehensive strategic marketing plan" designed to attract corporate sponsors and advertisers.
[From What's in a name? City hopes money.]

Well, better than eliminating city services, I guess. Though eliminating corruption would allow tax dollars to go a lot further.

Congressman Sees Bias in Chicago Traffic Stop

My Congressman gets stopped for driving while black. Of course, if the Moony's had their way, Congressman Davis wouldn't even be allowed to own a car, much less drive one.

A black congressman who was issued a ticket this week after being pulled over has accused the Chicago police of racial profiling in the traffic stop.

The representative, Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, said he was driving his Mercury Grand Marquis just after midnight Monday on the city’s West Side when two police officers pulled him over and asked to see his driver’s license and proof of insurance.

When Mr. Davis asked why they had stopped him, he said, they accused him of weaving, and they ticketed him for driving left of the center line.

Mr. Davis says he did not commit any traffic violation.

“I just could not believe it,” he said Friday. “I had to conclude that race had to have entered the picture, and that the only reason we were stopped is that there were four African-Americans a little after midnight, in a car going down the street. And it really breaks my heart to have to arrive at that conclusion, but I can’t conclude anything else.”
[From Congressman Sees Bias in Chicago Traffic Stop]

Regardless of my personal feelings toward Congressman Davis, harassment for DWB shouldn't occur to anyone.

links for 2007-11-24

Organized Religion is A Business

Self Portrait with complex

A corrupt business for the most part, if you ask me. Money is man's creation, and shouldn't be a barrier to church membership. Unless of course, the church is more concerned with worldly wealth than spiritual guidance. Any church that forces its members to donate should lose their tax-empt status.

Can you put a price on faith? That is the question churchgoers are asking as the tradition of tithing -- giving 10% of your income to the church -- is increasingly challenged. Opponents of tithing say it is a misreading of the Bible, a practice created by man, not God. They say they should be free to donate whatever amount they choose, and they are arguing with pastors, writing letters and quitting congregations in protest.
[From The Backlash Against Tithing -]

And here's my problem with Christian churches in a nutshell:

Steve Sorensen, director of pastoral ministries at Cornerstone, says the church requires its paid and volunteer leaders to tithe, and teaches new members to do so, although it doesn't make them show proof of income. "When you tithe, God makes promises to us, that he ... is not going to let anything bad or destructive come about," says Mr. Sorensen. For those who don't tithe, he says the Lord "is not obligated to do those things for you."
Some Baptist churches are trying to encourage tithing by accepting credit-card payments and automatic deductions from checking accounts. Two years ago, the Rev. Marty Baker, pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Ga., created the "giving kiosk" machine that allows congregants to donate at the church from their bank cards. He and his wife launched SecureGive, a for-profit company, which has placed 50 kiosks in churches. He says the machines can help track which families are giving the most.
In Gainesville, Ga., Crown Financial Ministries offers training courses to people who then teach churchgoers around the country about how they can save, budget and get out of debt -- while still giving 10% of their earnings to the church. "When they obey His word, that is to give, God creates opportunities supernaturally for them to save more and spend less," says the Rev. Rob Peters, who began offering Crown classes at First Baptist at Weston in Weston, Fla., five years ago. He says giving to the church rose 31% the first year the classes were taught compared with the year before.

When he objected to his church's instructions to tithe, Kirk Cesaretti took it up with the church leaders. In response, he received a letter from the pastor and elders of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, Calif. "At this time, we believe your concerns do not warrant any change in our church policy or positions," the letter read.

The letter closed with a verse from Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls; as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

Mr. Cesaretti, an engineer in Fortuna, Calif., says he took the letter to mean he was no longer welcome at the church. Hydesville's senior pastor, Michael Delamarian III, says he believes "the more you give the more you're going to be blessed."
(Digg-enabled full article can be accessed here)

Comcast Must Die

Boy can I empathize with Bob Garfield's experience with Comcast. Though, DHL has been better of late, perhaps all those visits originating from had some sort of effect.

"Never pick a fight," Mark Twain is reputed to have observed, "with a man who buys his ink by the barrel." It was certainly true.

A powerful publisher, if he was irritated enough, had the wherewithal to bury any adversary. It's still true, actually, although the truism needs to be slightly amended. In the digital age, never get in a dispute with someone with access to a computer.

Because if he is aggrieved enough, and righteous enough, and persistent enough, and connected enough, he can bury you. Or at least make your life miserable for a long, long time. He doesn't need to have a chain of newspapers; all he needs to have, basically, are fingers and rage.
[From Comcast Must Die - Advertising Age - News]

We've luckily been able to avoid changing ISPs for a while, but when it happens in the near future (our ISP is not financially solvent last I checked), I'm dreading the conversion.

First post (Comcast Must Die!), for background and amusement, also there are several follow-up posts.

Forbidden funk of the favelas

"City of God" (Kátia Lund, Fernando Meirelles)

New music to explore, from the favelas

Rio de Janeiro is a city divided by wealth, race and music. Along the waterfront are the grand promenades and beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, glamorised by the bossa nova stars of the late 1950s and 60s. But up on the hills behind, or sprawling alongside the highways on the edge of the city, are the poor, lawless and predominantly black shanty-towns - the favelas, with large areas currently controlled by rival drug gangs. It was out in these poorer parts of the city that samba, Brazil's national music, had its birthplace. And the favelas still provide some of the most varied, rousing styles in this music-obsessed country - from distinctively Brazilian funk and hip-hop to the latest form of samba.
It's not easy or safe for outsiders to check out the music of the favelas, simply because the security situation is so unstable, with sporadic violent battles between the drug gangs or the police. So the best way in is to secure an invitation from favela musicians, who can seek the agreement of the gang leaders. The band with the best contacts are AfroReggae, whose rousing, theatrical fusion of different favela styles (along with a hefty dash of Brazilian reggae) has brought them international success, and regular appearances at venues such as ike the Barbican in London. Meeting them on their home ground was a very different experience.
[From Forbidden funk of the favelas | World | Guardian Unlimited Music]

One of these years I'll make it to Brazil.

"Favela Uprising" (Afroreggae)

links for 2007-11-23

The Wine of the Moment, Year After Year

Cafe Bernard

Holidays mean Beaujolais Nouveau is available on shelves. I never plan or even anticipate purchasing Beaujolais, but always do.

Beaujolais Nouveau is the ultimate carpe diem wine, meant to remind all of us to enjoy the moment. And the 2007 Nouveau is excellent, the best since at least 1995.
But we are back with very good news: The 2007 Nouveau is excellent, the best since at least 1995. Wine after wine was charming and fun, with none of the negatives we feared. And while the prices are still too high, they appear to have moderated a bit this year. It's almost as if the Nouveau producers listened to consumers, realized that they were hurting themselves and acted positively. Imagine that.

The Nouveau you are most likely to see is Georges Duboeuf, which is fine because, once again this year, it was jammy and charming. We often find Duboeuf Nouveau a bit too smooth and round, without the just-from-the field tastes that we like. But it's certainly always pleasant and a real crowd pleaser.

Our best of tasting this year, Antonin Rodet, is the most spot-on Nouveau we have tasted in some years. It took us back to why we became Nouveau fans in the first place, with the kind of super-fresh, just-the-fruit-ma'am tastes that we love. Over the years, we've visited many wineries during or just after the harvest and have tasted their fresh juice, and this wine reminded us of those visits. What could be better? (The importer, Baron Francois of New York City, says Rodet made 3,000 cases of this, of which 800 were imported and distributed in Maryland, New Jersey and New York.)
[From The Wine of the Moment, Year After Year]

It does go well with left-over turkey dishes of all sorts, and with the general mood of the season.

(Digg-enabled version of complete article here)

Thanksgiving Prayer By: William S. Burroughs

Text reprinted from Inter-Zone

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind the own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the memories-- all right let's see your arms!

You always were a headache and you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Wheels on the Wall Go Round and Round

samsara, indeed

Wheels on the Wall Go Round and Round
Wheels on the Wall Go Round and Round, originally uploaded by swanksalot. no idea what this device would be used for

links for 2007-11-22

Batteries Redacted

note the over-sized battery on the roof

Batteries Redacted
Batteries Redacted, originally uploaded by swanksalot. for the Guess Where Chicago group, I redacted the address (and will reload unredacted as soon as the location is guessed).

Photo taken March 16, 1995, location now replaced by a Starbucks or a bank (or something equally generic).

Scanned from a crappy copy (negatives theoretically in Austin) of a Seattle Filmworks print. Remember them? I don't know what they do now, but Seattle Filmworks used to have a program where they would take unused pieces of cinematic film, roll and package for 35mm cameras, and send it to you via the mail. You'd return the film in the enclosed envelope, and they would process and send back. Sort of an early incarnation of Netflix. Or something.

The Witches


"The Witches" (Nicolas Roeg)

Another fragmented movie review from my film-moleskin.

A young boy named Luke (Jasen Fisher) and his grandmother spend vacation time together in a seaside town. Little did they know their hotel houses some very unusual and rather scary guests: witches. They're in town for a convention to listen to the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston) unveil her master plan to turn all children into mice. Will Luke fall victim to the witches' plot? [From Netflix: The Witches]

Nicolas Roeg must have been hard-up for cash. Any viewer of this movie needs to be in some form of altered consciousness as well, and even then only the absurdity is worth watching. Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), Angelica Houston, and some others. I only managed to watch about 30 minutes in total. Horrible.

Employer's Entitlement

Wow, would I ever be pissed off if such a thing happened to me.

A collision with a semi-trailer truck seven years ago left 52-year-old Deborah Shank permanently brain-damaged and in a wheelchair. Her husband, Jim, and three sons found a small source of solace: a $700,000 accident settlement from the trucking company involved. After legal fees and other expenses, the remaining $417,000 was put in a special trust. It was to be used for Mrs. Shank's care.

Instead, all of it is now slated to go to Mrs. Shank's former employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Two years ago, the retail giant's health plan sued the Shanks for the $470,000 it had spent on her medical care. A federal judge ruled last year in Wal-Mart's favor, backed by an appeals-court decision in August. Now, her family has to rely on Medicaid and Mrs. Shank's social-security payments to keep up her round-the-clock care.

"I don't understand why they need to do this," says Mr. Shank on a recent visit to the nursing home, between shifts as a maintenance worker and running a tanning salon. "This girl needs the money more than they do." Mrs. Shank, who needs help with eating and other basic tasks, spends more time alone since Mr. Shank had to let her private caregiver go. At some point, he says, she may have to be moved from a private to a semi-private room in the nursing home where she lives.

The reason is a clause in Wal-Mart's health plan that Mrs. Shank didn't notice when she started stocking shelves at a nearby store eight years ago. Like most company health plans, Wal-Mart's reserves the right to recoup the medical expenses it paid for someone's treatment if the person also collects damages in an injury suit.
[From Accident Victims Face Grab for Legal Winnings -]

And as Chuck Shepherd writes:

Something you probably didn’t know: Most employer health-insurance plans allow "subrogation" (like if you have an accident and get medical care on the policy, and you then sue somebody for the accident and win "medical expenses," the employer gets first dibs on that payout), but, relax, because apparently employers only insist on subrogation in the cases with the largest lawsuit payouts, i.e., the cases when an employee really needs the extra money, to pay for enduring life care

Who says America isn't a great country, one with an equitable system protecting all of its citizens equally? Well, maybe Deborah Shank's family might disagree.(Digg-enabled link to full article)

Rokku Mi Rokka

"Rokku Mi Rokka" (Youssou N'Dour)

I like the album immensely, having picked it up on a suggestion by mike (even though my comment left there vanished into the ether)

Senegal's Youssou N'Dour continues his exploration of the diverse, indigenous music of that West African nation with his new album, "Rokku Mi Rokka."

With his new album, "Rokku Mi Rokka" (Nonesuch), Senegal's Youssou N'Dour continues his exploration of the diverse, indigenous music of that West African nation. His shift away from the exciting polyrhythmic blend of African and Western pop known as mbalax began in 2002 with "Nothing's in Vain," which presented traditional Senegalese folk music. Two years later, his "Egypt" was built on Arabian-influenced orchestrations and lyrics shaped by Islamic and Sufi philosophy. And now "Rokku Mi Rokka" explores the music of northeast Senegal and its desert regions.

This doesn't mean the 48-year-old Mr. N'Dour has given up mbalax, which he's performed since the 1970s. For his huge following in Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe, and growing fan base in the U.S., he remains its great proponent. Confident and charismatic, he's a dynamic performer regardless of the style of music he's playing, a smart, stirring songwriter and a remarkable vocalist. Those who know him only through his contribution to Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" or his world-wide hit with Neneh Cherry, "7 Seconds," have experienced but a glimmer of his gifts.
[From Youssou N'Dour on CD and in Concert]

Mr. N'Dour's voice is instantly recognizable, and gorgeous.

(click here for Digg-enabled full link to WSJ article)

Brazil nut

For some reason, this topic fascinates me, as I finish the last handful of Brazil nuts in the house.

Brazil nuts only produce fruit in virgin forests (forests not previously disturbed by human activity), as forests that are not virgin usually lack an orchid that is indirectly responsible for the pollination of the flowers. The Brazil nut tree's yellow flowers can only be pollinated by an insect strong enough to lift the coiled hood on the flower and with tongues long enough to negotiate the complex coiled flower. The orchids produce a scent that attracts small male long-tongued orchid bees (Euglossa spp), as the male bees need that scent to attract females. The large female long-tongued orchid bee pollinates the Brazil nut tree. Without the orchid, the bees cannot mate, and therefore the lack of bees means the fruit do not get pollinated.

If both the orchids and the bees are present, the fruit takes 14 months to mature after pollination of the flowers, and is a large capsule 10–15 cm diameter resembling a coconut endocarp in size and weighing up to 2 kg. It has a hard, woody shell 8–12 mm thick, and inside contains 8–24 triangular seeds 4–5 cm long (Brazil nuts) packed like the segments of an orange; it is not a true nut in the botanical sense.

The capsule contains a small hole at one end, which enables large rodents like the Agouti to gnaw open the capsule. They then eat some of the nuts inside while burying others for later use; some of these are able to germinate to produce new Brazil nut trees. Most of the seeds are "planted" by the Agoutis in shady places, and the young saplings may have to wait years, in a state of dormancy, for a tree to fall and sunlight to reach it. It is not until then that it starts growing again. Capuchin monkeys have been reported to open Brazil nuts using a stone as an anvil.

Despite their name, the most significant exporter of Brazil nuts is not Brazil but Bolivia, where they are called almendras. In Brazil these nuts are called castanhas-do-Pará (literally "chestnuts from Pará"), but Acreans call them castanhas-do-Acre instead. Indigenous names include juvia in the Orinoco area, and sapucaia in Brazil.
Brazil nuts contain small amounts of radium, a radioactive material. Although the amount is very small, about 1–7 pCi/g (40–260 Bq/kg), and most of it is not retained by the body, this is 1000 times higher than in other foods. According to Oak Ridge Associated Universities, this is not because of elevated levels of radium in the soil, but due to "the very extensive root system of the tree.

[From Brazil nut - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia which has pictures]
Apparently, classified as vulnerable, so I guess I shouldn't eat thousands at a time.

Animation Isn't Just Kid Stuff

"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney Video)

Really? Is this a revelation to anyone? What about Linklater's weird Waking Life (and A Scanner Darkly using the same animation technique). I'd be surprised if many children liked either of those films.

This week's column is animated by the conjunction of two signal events -- the arrival of Pixar's glorious "Ratatouille" on DVD and the bursting forth of Robert Zemeckis's bemuscled "Beowulf" on big (plus the biggest, meaning IMAX) screens. The films are products of different animation technologies, and look as different as mutant peas in separate pods -- the one exuberantly artificial, the other suggesting, during much of its length, live action that has somehow taken on a fantasy life of its own. But the signal sent by both of these productions is unmistakable. A process once confined to a relatively small realm has become a vital force in the evolution of the movie industry. [From Animation Isn't Just Kid Stuff]

Alley Eyes Upward

Alley Eyes Upward
Alley Eyes Upward, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Evanston

Find a Razor This Weekend

"Battlestar Galactica - Razor (Unrated Extended Edition)" (Universal Studios)

My headline writing abilities worse than usual, but am still planning on watching the SciFi channel Saturday, November 24.

But that's OK, because delaying gratification is an important part of shedding your compulsive consumerism. See how good it feels not to get something you want seconds after you decide you want it? See how deeply satisfying it can be to look forward to something for once in your spoiled, sad little life?

Remember this feeling, because you're going to need it to get through the dark nights of the soul that follow next weekend's enormous tease: "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" (premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, on Sci Fi), a two-hour movie that will heighten your thirst for all things Galactican. Sadly, though, the show's final season doesn't air until 2008.
"Razor" frees us from these unpleasant memories, and resurrects one of our old favorites: Adm. Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes), the hard-assed commander of the Pegasus, the ship that Galactica rejoined after it wandered through the universe alone in the wake of the Cylons' nuclear attack. We begin our story right before the attack, when a young officer joins the Pegasus and must enforce Cain's brutal leadership. When Cain falls, Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) ends up working with Lee Adama and executes a mission to a Cylon base ship that involves a dark passage from Cmdr. Adama's past.

While plenty of fans of "Battlestar Galactica" have expressed their disappointment that there's only one more season of the show and it doesn't return until next year, it makes sense that the writers would hesitate to drag this show on indefinitely. Part of the problem for them is that "Battlestar's" very best episodes have set the bar so high for the entire series. President Roslin and Cmdr. Adama's standoff, the Cylon invasion of New Caprica, the discovery of the Pegasus -- so many of the episodes from the beginning and the last legs of the first two seasons were intense and suspenseful, it was hard to understand how the writers could keep the excitement pumped up so high. In its best moments, this show was one of the most riveting, intelligent suspense-thrillers on TV.
[From I Like to Watch: "Weeds," "Battlestar Galactica: Razor," "Project Runway" | Salon Arts & Entertainment]

Last season was not entirely riveting, but I still enjoyed watching it.

DEA War on Plants

Green Bug (Cicada)

So happy our tax dollars are being put to good use, eradicating a plant that grows in the wild, without human interference, and of no use to anyone wanting to alter their consciousness. Why can't the DEA eradicate poison ivy or hay fever instead?

More than 98 percent of all of the marijuana plants seized by law enforcement in the United States is feral hemp not cultivated cannabis, according to newly released data by the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program and the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics.

According to the data, available online at: (PDF), of the estimated 223 million marijuana plants destroyed by law enforcement in 2005, approximately 219 million were classified as "ditchweed," a term the agency uses to define "wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing, or tending." Unlike cultivated marijuana, feral hemp contains virtually no detectable levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, and does not contribute to the black market marijuana trade.
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre criticized the DEA program for spending millions of taxpayers' dollars to predominantly eradicate wild hemp. "The irony, of course, is that industrial hemp is grown legally throughout most the Western world as a commercial crop for its fiber content," he said. "Yet the US government is spending taxpayers' money to target and eradicate this same agricultural commodity."

According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, "The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop."
[From 98 Percent Of All Domestically Eradicated Marijuana Is "Ditchweed," DEA Admits - NORML]

Robert McCormick must be turning over in his grave

"Billy Bragg & Wilco - Man in the Sand (The Making of "Mermaid Avenue")" (Palm Pictures / Umvd)

Apparently, His Bobness has been listening to Mermaid Avenue, or watching the documentary about the collaboration between Woody Guthrie's lyrics, Wilco and Billy Bragg.

If Steppin' in It bassist Dominic Suchyta is to be believed, he's right in the middle of quite a bit of music history. Speaking with Paste Magazine, Suchyta explained that that Mr. Bob Dylan is spearheading an initiative to set some of country legend Hank Williams' "lost" lyrics to music. (By "lost" he means "essentially, the lyric sheets Hank died with in his briefcase.") And Jack White of the White Stripes is involved.

So how does Suchyta know all this? Apparently, Jack is his "oldest friend", and asked him to play upright bass on his contribution to the project, a take on the unheard Williams tune "You Know That I Know". Suchyta told Paste that "no one has heard" the song, "as it was a Hank Williams lyric sheet that Jack put to music and edited a bit. Jack was sent most of or all of the unfinished tunes and picked this one to finish.
Suchyta hinted that Willie Nelson and Norah Jones may very well also contribute songs, and that Dylan "no doubt" recorded a tune for the project during the sessions for last year's excellent Modern Times. No word on just what the end result of all this will look like, but it's probably safe to assume it'll be wearing a bolo tie.
[From Pitchfork: Jack White, Bob Dylan Rework Hank Williams Lyrics]
I'd be interested to hear what emerges, if anything. Hank Williams wrote some spectacular lyrics during his brief time making records.

"Hank Williams - 40 Greatest Hits" (Hank Williams)

links for 2007-11-18

Dirty Pretty Things

Another fragmented entry from my film notes moleskin

"Dirty Pretty Things" (Stephen Frears)

Okwe (Chjwetel Ejiofor), an illegal immigrant working as a night porter at a posh London hotel, stumbles across evidence of a bizarre murder. He and Senay (Audrey Tautou), a Turkish chambermaid -- and fellow undocumented worker -- venture into the city's seedy underworld to find out what happened. Stephen Frears directs this gritty urban thriller. [From Netflix: Dirty Pretty Things]

Excellent study of the immigrant underclass in London, though probably could be set in any major city: NYC, Chicago, LA. A Nigerian doctor turned cab-driver and bell-hop discovers a human heart stuck in the toilet, and the story unfolds from there to include corruption, gambling, and the black market of 'shadow workers' so important to Western economies. Illegal immigrants are not all farm laborers. As Okwe so memorably says,
We’re the people you never see. We drive your cabs, clean your rooms, and suck your cocks.

Thoroughly enjoyed this film.

The Ladykillers

Another fragmented entry from my film notes moleskin

"The Ladykillers (Widescreen Edition)" (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

D went to sleep, I kept watching more out of inertia than of any curiosity as to what happens in this eminently disposable faux-noir. A cartoon-esque thriller, a version of Ocean's Eleven set on the Mississippi (Natchez, Mississippi mostly), involving a poorly executed robbery of gambling casino, and as many southern stereotypes as could be stuffed into 104 minutes. Apparently, a remake of a 1954 British film.
Meh. Some of the music is good.

Drunken Angel


Another fragmented entry from my film notes moleskin, not sure when I saw this movie, though probably a couple years ago. Not really fair to type these, but perhaps the film will come back to me as I transcribe.

"Drunken Angel - Criterion Collection" (Akira Kurosawa)

Set amidst the postwar rubble of American-occupied Japan, Akira Kurosawa's film noir centers on hard-living gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) and the doctor (Takashi Shimura) who tries to save his life. After diagnosing Matsunga's tuberculosis, Dr. Sanada goes the extra mile to reform his self-destructive patient. Matsunga comes to respect Sanada, but ultimately his dark side leads him into a brutal battle with a mob boss (Reisaburo Yamamoto). [From Netflix: Drunken Angel]

Unfortunately, Netflix does not reliably mark which edition of a film they send: in this case, I didn't watch the Criterion Collection release, which presumedly is a better print.

A little stilted, stiff as if nervous, yet compelling drama. Toshiro Mifune Takashi Shimura* is wonderful, in a prelude to his more richly realized role in Ikuru. Dancing to American-esque swing music, music of the victors? Filmed in 1947-48, the burned-out, post-war Japan was no set, created by the crew. In fact, the desolated city becomes a character in the drama. Bomb craters and hot jazz. The tonality was so blue, was it filtered? or just a bad print?

The subtitles laughably poor, have to puzzle out the meaning of sentences like "He will find here." Sometimes the brevity works, "the man is drunk, and the lady is scared of it," chimed in rhythm with the clang of a metal utensil created a dramatic tension entirely appropriate to the scene. Sometimes not: "Why being shy for frightening?" or "Your conservative thinking is out!" You can glean the metaphors hinted at but not articulated, yet it grows tiresome.

I'd be very interested to watch the Criterion Collection version to see if
1. the sometimes stunning cinematography (a trademark of Kurosawa) is displayed in a cleaner print and
2. if the subtitles use more natural English so that the film's internal dynamic is not lost to vagaries of unclear syntax

Oh screw it, I bought myself a copy. I'll let you know myself.

*update, Ms. Mayerson fact checks me: Takashi Shimura is who I meant to type. Toshiro Mifune is good in Drunken Angel, but is not in Ikuru at all. Doh!



on Irving Park, I believe

Manz, originally uploaded by swanksalot. over-saturated, and yet...

links for 2007-11-17


"The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" (Bobby Henderson)

Pastafarian news from all over, as I am still a devotee.

When some of the world's leading religious scholars gather in San Diego this weekend, pasta will be on the intellectual menu. They'll be talking about a satirical pseudo-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs but also raises serious questions about the essence of religion.

The appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the agenda of the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting gives a kind of scholarly imprimatur to a phenomenon that first emerged in 2005, during the debate in Kansas over whether intelligent design should be taught in public school sciences classes.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that the order and complexity of the universe is so great that science alone cannot explain it. The concept's critics see it as faith masquerading as science.

An Oregon State physics graduate named Bobby Henderson stepped into the debate by sending a letter to the Kansas School Board. With tongue in cheek, he purported to speak for 10 million followers of a being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- and demanded equal time for their views.

"We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it," Henderson wrote. As for scientific evidence to the contrary, "what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."

The letter made the rounds on the Internet, prompting laughter from some and vilification from others. But it struck a chord and stuck around. In the great tradition of satire, its humor was in fact a clever and effective argument.

Between the lines, the point of the letter was this: There's no more scientific basis for intelligent design than there is for the idea an omniscient creature made of pasta created the universe. If intelligent design supporters could demand equal time in a science class, why not anyone else? The only reasonable solution is to put nothing into sciences classes but the best available science.
[From Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster -]

(h/t Chicago Sage)

Dover Sole

a recent meal, in all of its individual parts. The dover sole is a very delicate fish, and came out delicious. Sort of fell apart as I plated it however. Would certainly make a similar dish again, though perhaps with either a different fish, or perhaps bake it instead of sauté.

Cocktail Hour can strike at any time
Cocktail Hour can strike at any time
To me, a near perfect blend. Two parts gin, 1 part rosso vermouth, 6 drops of bitters, and two ice cubes. Yumm. Is 2 pm (when I'm uploading this) too early in the day? It is Friday after all....

Dover Sole
Dover Sole
raw, rinsed, and waiting to dry.

to be used as a sort of crust for dover sole. Should have used shallot and garlic, but oh well. My dining companion has some temporary dietary restrictions to comply with.

Under the Knife
Under the Knife
ingredients being chopped and/or minced

Nuts and Herbs
Nuts and Herbs
chopped, awaiting an egg

Egg Coating
Egg Coating
a binding agent for the nut 'flour'

Pot O Rice
Pot O Rice
Wild rice, brown rice blend with sage, portobello, and carrots. Oh and flax seeds. Still eating this in fact

Fry It Up in a Pan
Fry It Up in a Pan
Dover sole with a home-made nut flour experiment. Not perfect, but worth attempting again in the future.

click to embiggen

Wait, you mean American fuel economy might catch up with the rest of the world?

A federal appeals court ruled the Bush administration's fuel-economy standards for light trucks are too lax, a setback for the auto industry and White House efforts to address political concerns over oil consumption and global warming.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected new fuel-economy rules from the administration for sport-utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks sold starting next year. The ruling sided with environmental groups and 13 states and cities that argued the new rules, though more stringent than current standards, still won't do enough to curb oil consumption or emissions of carbon dioxide, a global-warming gas.
The ruling also represents a political setback for the White House at a time of $3-a-gallon gasoline and mounting public concern about global warming. Bush administration officials often have noted that they have done more to toughen federal auto-mileage standards than preceding administrations, Democrat or Republican. Now, going into an election year in which energy is sure to be a hot-button issue, a federal court has ruled the administration hasn't gone far enough.

There is no assurance that the auto industry would find a friendlier hearing in higher courts. This spring, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are air pollutants under federal environmental law and that the Bush administration acted illegally in refusing to limit emissions of those gases. As a result of that ruling, the administration now is developing new fuel-economy rules to take effect further down the road.
The appeals court cited several reasons for rejecting the Bush administration's pending fuel-economy rule. In addition to failing to take into account the "value" of reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, the court said, the pending rule maintains the "SUV loophole" -- holding SUVs and other light trucks to a less-stringent fuel-economy standard than cars -- and fails to regulate the fuel economy of most larger pickup trucks whose gross vehicle weight is between 8,500 pounds and 10,000 pounds.

Environmentalists praised yesterday's court ruling. It "may not dramatically change the next couple of years of fuel-economy standards, but I think it clearly will have an effect on how fuel-economy standards and greenhouse-gas standards are set by this administration for a long time to come," said David Friedman, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group.

[From Court Rejects Bush's Fuel-Economy Plan]
(Digg-enabled reading of complete article available here)

Uproar Over Blackwater Escalates

More tidbits re: our new mercenary overlords, Blackwater. I purchased Jeremy Scahill's book on the topic, but haven't been able to start it yet.

Democrats pushed for the removal of the State Department's inspector general, as Blackwater maintained it had done nothing wrong in recruiting the official's brother as an advisory board member.

As Blackwater Worldwide faced criticism for recruiting an advisory board member who is the brother of the State Department's top watchdog, the private security company responded with its trademark defiance, saying the arrangement doesn't pose any ethical concerns.

The latest Blackwater crisis continued to escalate yesterday, with Democrats pushing for State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard's removal, while Blackwater and the brother maintained they had done nothing wrong. Mr. Krongard recused himself from Blackwater-related investigations Wednesday, after saying he had learned during a break in a congressional hearing that his brother, Alvin Krongard, had accepted a position on Blackwater's advisory board. Blackwater is under scrutiny for a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.
[From Uproar Over Blackwater Escalates]

Blackwater, and its ideological buddies in the Republican Party, has never met a conflict of interest they couldn't ignore. I'm not sure if this particular complaint is even that big of a deal, yet based on the track record of the ethically-challenged Republican Party, we are right to be suspicious.

(Digg link here, which you can use if you are a non-subscriber to

links for 2007-11-16

Not the Daily Show

| 1 Comment
What do the writers of the Daily Show think of the ongoing writers' strike? If only there were some way to find out
Includes a cameo by John Oliver

Garfield Dino Dali

Garfield Dino Dali
Garfield Dino Dali, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Dinosaur Dali

West Loop Dreaming

from my rooftop

West Loop Dreaming
West Loop Dreaming, originally uploaded by swanksalot. construction site of R+D

Digg-released WSJ articles

Starbucks Elevators

Now, this is a novel way to build readership in the brief interval before all content is free at the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal Online is adding Digg buttons across the entire site, and you’ll now have full (free) access to the articles submitted to Digg. The Digg buttons have started appearing on articles tonight. Original Digg Page [From DIGG: View Wall Street Journal Online articles from Digg]

So if you see anything interesting at the WSJ, I'll digg it for you

Just to try out, made a Digg submission for a story entitled At Starbucks, Too Many Too Quick
Starbucks has about 10,500 locations in the U.S., or about 3,000 more than it did just two years ago. In its hometown of Seattle, there is one Starbucks for every 10,000 residents. That doesn't mean there isn't room for more Starbucks in the U.S. For example, Vermont, the state with the fewest Starbucks locations, has just four. The company plans to almost double its presence in the U.S. by one day having 20,000 locations.

The concern is that the company has been adding locations so quickly that the new stores are cannibalizing the old ones to the point where the chain can't increase its same-store sales at the rapid pace to which investors have grown accustomed. In the past year, shares of Starbucks have fallen about 37%.
Personally, I don't like the over-roasted flavor of Starbucks coffee, and avoid it unless there is no other option. -- ahh, you have to access the page via Digg for this trick to work. Meh.

Absinthe returns to the US

Green Fairies

ahhh, Absinthe, why do you tempt me so? All of the opportunities to imbibe your nectar have left me with little more than a sweetly delirious hangover, and yet...

We've discussed absinthe before, even requested a sample bottle from the new absinthe sellers (who cruelly ignored us), yet our mighty thirst has not yet been quenched.
Dear reader! Should this column impress you as being more than usually lyrical, recalling perhaps the imagery and elegance of poetry by Baudelaire or Verlaine; should it seem a bit decadent, redolent of Oscar Wilde’s withering hauteur; should it have a touch of madness or perversity, combining, say, the tastes of Toulouse-Lautrec with the passions of van Gogh; should it simply sound direct and forceful and knowing like one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters; should it do any or all of that, let me credit something that each of these figures fervently paid tribute to: the green fairy, the green goddess, the green muse, the glaucous witch, the queen of poisons.
Last spring a French brand, Lucid, made its debut here, using 19th-century distilling methods and replicating chemical analyses of pre-ban absinthe. A Swiss absinthe, Kübler. appeared on the American market a few weeks ago, using a 1863 family formula.

One reason legal barriers have fallen is that, as The New Yorker reported in 2006, the regulated chemical thujone, found in wormwood and once thought to have been the cause of absinthe’s lure and its dangers, did not show up in any significant quantities in analyses of historical absinthe. So these authentic replicas, despite containing wormwood, do not pose a legal challenge. And the alarmed pronouncements about absinthe made from the beginning of the Belle Époque have been proved groundless, which was decisive, a Kübler spokesman said, in swaying United States government regulators.
[From Connections - Absinthe - Column - New York Times]

Emulating Spalding Gray, always a dangerous task fraught with danger, I'm simply searching for a perfect moment, a singular experience of transcendence. One's life, in retrospect, is a litany of perfect moments, or their contrary.

More on the topic, to wet your appetite, so to speak:

"Hideous Absinthe: A History of the Devil in a Bottle" (Jad Adams)

"Absinthe: History in a Bottle" (Barnaby Conrad)

"Absinthe: History in a Bottle" (Barnaby Conrad)

One last quote to entice you to find a place to sit down, and have a drink:
Toulouse-Lautrec was so wedded to absinthe that he had a special cane made that hid a glass. He may have also introduced the drink to van Gogh, who threw himself into it with abandon. Aside from drinking the liquor, van Gogh painted it, and once threw a glass of it at Gauguin. Manet and Degas painted absinthe drinkers. So did Picasso. Munch drank it heavily and Strindberg fed his insanity with it. Verlaine felt enslaved to what he called “the green and terrible drink.”
Absinthe’s effects suggested, it seems, an inherent instability to perception, as if mixing and distilling the shimmer of Impressionism, the nightmares of Expressionism and the skewed images of Surrealism. Van Gogh made a glass of absinthe vibrate with energy. And when Manet, Degas or Picasso painted absinthe drinkers, they appeared introspective, alienated, not because they have been drugged into oblivion, but because they have seen too much.

At least in imagery, then, absinthe reflected a certain view of modernity: A firm, reliable order weakens, giving way to bleak uncertainties. For some this was a danger. A children’s anti-absinthe poem taught that the drink undermined “love of country, courage and honor.” During the Dreyfus Affair in France in the 1890s, when the French right considered Jews a threat to the old order, absinthe was denounced as a “tool of the Jews.”
I actually can see the relation between absinthe and impressionism. From my limited experience with absinthe intoxication, light descends upon one's eye in discrete packets of colors. I tried to take a photo which emulated this alteration, but it is only a faint approximation of the sensation of absinthe inebriation.

Write with Nouns and Verbs


"The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition" (William Strunk Jr., E.B. White, Roger Angell)

Of, if only....

William Strunk and E.B. White, in their highly-regarded book, The Elements of Style, say:
"Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place."
[From A.Word.A.Day--riant]

I can at least make the attempt, feeble as it may be.

Baby Steps Toward Police State

| 1 Comment

Yikes! So the guy was in a diabetic coma, slumped in his car, and the cops decided a taser was the most effective weapon to use against him, probably because the slumper didn't say "yes Sir!" with proper enthusiasm.

A driver apparently suffering from a diabetic episode, which was mistaken for intoxication, had some of the charges against him dropped, but none of them were the legal ones.

Ozark Deputy Police Chief Myron Williams said it was the towing charges on 54-year-old James Bludsworth’s Nissan truck that were dropped on Tuesday after Bludsworth was booked into the Dale County Jail, not the charges of driving under the influence and resisting arrest.

Williams said his initial interview with officers led him to believe the DUI and resisting arrest charges were those that were dropped, but that the charges will not be dismissed until after the arresting officer recommends such to the court system during Bludsworth’s court date in December.

Bludsworth was released from jail on Tuesday after posting a $1,000 signature bond and blowing a .00 on a breathalyzer.

Bludsworth had been arrested and a Taser was used on him by Ozark police officers for non-compliance after Bludsworth refused to get out of his vehicle around 4 p.m. Tuesday.
[From Criminal charges remain against driver found unconscious - local_news | The Dothan Eagle]

h/t - Chuck Shepherd

Registration for B12 readers

Create An Account

I've noticed that several of this webzine's regulars have not gone through the extra step of registration. I know, I know, one more registration, bleh, there are already so many websites that require registration that you probably don't even remember all the pages you have registered at. Nevertheless, there are benefits to registration at MT 4.0-based websites like B12's Solipsism. Here's what SixApart notes are the possibilities:

And then there's the part that's completely new: Real social media profiles, for every member of your site. Naturally, members can customize their names and profile pictures, but it doesn't stop there -- profiles show the blog posts you've written, the forum topics you've started, the comments you've left on any part of the site, the threads or posts you've marked as favorites, and the conversations that started as a result of your contributions. Think about it: Your profile is your resume in the community. If every comment you've contributed gets lots of positive replies from the community, a site administrator can use MT4's built-in permissions to promote you to a blog author, or even to an administrator. [From Movable Type: The Communities That Web 2.0 Forgot]

Also, if you are a registered user, your comments automatically publish without interference from me. I trust you implicitly not to publish comments that are just links to airline ticket websites or the like (still receive about 3,000 of these every ten days: probably from skeezy people selling so-called 'search engine optimization'.
Sign In

Of course, you don't have to register, you could just use your Typekey registration (though you don't get quite as many options) or Live Journal etc, or not register at all, and use the somewhat misnamed "comment anonymously" (misnamed because you don't have to be anonymous if you don't want).


Or you could continue to do what most of you do – leave me hanging and never comment at all. Ahem...

links for 2007-11-14

Narcodollars for Blackwater

I have a different problem with this contract, mainly that nobody should have it. $15,000,000 of tax-payer dollars to spray DDT on cannabis crops in the third world, among other questionable strategies, is a total waste of money.

A Defense Department contract involving antidrug training missions may test the durability of the political controversy over Blackwater Worldwide's security work in Iraq.

The Moyock, N.C., company, which was involved in a September shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead, is one of five military contractors competing for as much as $15 billion over five years to help fight a narcotics trade that the government says finances terrorist groups.

Also competing for contracts from the Pentagon's Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office are military-industry giants Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., as well as Arinc Inc., a smaller aerospace and technology contractor.

The contracts are expected to be awarded as the need arises, so the Pentagon's level of concern about employing Blackwater will likely be measured over time and by whether the company wins leading roles or is shut out.

Companies competing for the work might be called on to develop detection or surveillance technology; train U.S. and foreign forces; or provide logistics, communications and information-technology systems, among other areas.
[From Next Test for Blackwater -]

Too bad no politician in the US, currently in office, has enough mental fortitude to make even a token effort at ending the ridiculous War on Drugs that will never, ever end.

David Brooks is an idiot

part the nine-hundred million. Follow up on this bit from Krugman, apparently Brooks has picked up the opium pipe again, and is trying to claim Reagan was not really a racist; even if an independent observer examining Reagan's legacy might come to a radically different conclusion. In other words, Brooks is either an idiot, or a liar, or worse.

Bob Herbert writes:

The murders were among the most notorious in American history. They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.

That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign. The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”

Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

Reagan apologists have every right to be ashamed of that appearance by their hero, but they have no right to change the meaning of it, which was unmistakable. Commentators have been trying of late to put this appearance by Reagan into a racially benign context.

That won’t wash. Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.

Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination.

And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.
[Click to read the entire column Righting Reagan’s Wrongs? - New York Times]

WSJ to be set free

| 1 TrackBack

According to its new owner at least.

ADELAIDE, Australia -- News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday the company has seen a strong start to its fiscal second quarter and is currently tracking ahead of guidance.

Mr. Murdoch also said he expects to scrap subscription fees for The Wall Street Journal's Web site, The Web site is one of the few news sites globally to successfully introduce a subscription model. News Corp. has agreed to acquire Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Journal. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

On, Mr. Murdoch said, "We are studying it and we expect to make [the site] free and, instead of having one million [subscribers], having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth." He said he believes that a free model, with its increased readership, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
[From Murdoch Sees End to Fees]

Cool, there is a lot of interesting content at the WSJ that I don't link to because only paying subscribers have access. If only Murdoch keeps his promise to let the WSJ news department maintain its journalistic integrity, we'll all be happier. Perhaps the editorial pages could be subscriber only, I'd like that since I never, ever read more than a sentence of those fact-free rants.

Gonna Paint my Mailbox blue

Gonna paint my mailbox blue

a University of Illinois fan, who has so far evaded the Fire Hydrant police

Lyric stolen from Taj Mahal who might have borrowed it from Henry Thomas

University of Illinois colors are blue and orange, btw.

Welcome to obscurity

Speaking of splogs, the VP-Marketing of Technorati, Derek Gordon says in an interview with Patrick Reardon:

The number of blogs worldwide is growing by leaps and bounds. But, as popular as blogging is today, most blogs don't have anyone reading them, said Derek Gordon, vice president for marketing for the San Francisco-based Technorati, the Internet search engine for searching blogs, in an e-mail exchange.
[Question]: What percentage of the 109.2 million blogs are "spam blogs," or splogs, set up purely to impact search-engine results?

[answer] Technorati, Google and others have an aggressive program of identifying and removing spam blogs so the overall percentage of spam blogs tracked versus legitimate blogs remains largely in check. At any given moment, we estimate that 5 to 15 percent of the blogs we're tracking are spam blogs. At this point, we estimate that between 3,000 and 7,000 new splogs are created every day. They are mostly link farms with various nefarious ends designed to both game ranking systems and to get unsuspecting folks to click into sites that have dubious/illegal monetization schemes.
[click to read more of Welcome to obscurity: Blogs and the real world --]

Mr. Gordon also points out that a large percentage of bloggers have more than one blog. For the record, I have 4 blogs that get updated at least every month, plus a tumbler blog, not to mention my Facebook pseudo-blog, and even Flickr which is like a photo-blog. There probably are more, but not that get regular updates.

It is likely that the number of registered blogs will one day exceed the number of people who have Internet access, but one cannot extrapolate that, therefore, each of those persons actually has and uses a blog. The combination of spam blogs and individuals with multiple blogs means that the total volume of registered blogs will easily, one day, exceed even the total number of people on Earth, even if only some fraction of those people are, in fact, bloggers.

Splogs suck

I suppose I could be flattered, but instead I'm just annoyed. Some enterprising idiot has decided to take my RSS feeds, and my blog posting names (Seth A. and swanksalot, corresponding to the two computers I use to create a post) and steal them to make their own spam blog (also known as a splog), consisting mostly of content from B12, but also from other places. Computermacintosh is the website (not linking to it, hopefully it will go away soon). Asshole.

I've reported the site to technorati , Google, and Google's Adsense. There really ought to be a better way to make a living for Mr. Jooste - is my blog really so compelling? Wait, don't answer that.
Shawn Jooste
4 Mullet Close
Cape Town, 7945
South Africa

Registered through:, Inc. (
Created on: 02-Nov-07
Expires on: 02-Nov-08
Last Updated on: 02-Nov-07

Administrative Contact:
Jooste, Shawn
4 Mullet Close
Cape Town, 7945
South Africa
(082) 457-5766

Technical Contact:
Jooste, Shawn
4 Mullet Close
Cape Town, 7945
South Africa
(082) 457-5766
Domain servers in listed order:

links for 2007-11-13

Poppy in Sitka

in re: Armistice Day

Poppy in Sitka
Poppy in Sitka, originally uploaded by swanksalot. obviously, flower photography is not my forte.

Veteran's Day Support the troops


Bring them Home
Bring them Home
from a recent anti-Iraq war demonstration

Dollars for Vets
Dollars for Vets
Dollars for Vets, not for War, indeed.

Support the Troops End the War
Support the Troops End the War
makes sense to me, bring the soldiers

a quickr pickr post

Ronald Reagan Racist?

| 1 Comment

Ole Ronnie Reagan may have been many things (a cruel man, an easily deluded man, a callous man), but there is one thing he was not - a civil rights leader. Paul Krugman has more:

So there’s a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon’s Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that “I believe in states’ rights,” he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake. [click to read the rest of Innocent mistakes - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog]

Can we stop naming airports and buildings after him already?

Veteran's Day Repost

Oldy but goody.

Bullshit Protector

Bullshit protector Bill Moyer, 73, wears a “Bullshit Protector” flap over his ear while President George W. Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Kayaks on the river

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

links for 2007-11-12

  • "this movie takes the chance of switching points of view in midstream, and the last half of the film belongs to Dith Pran, who sees his country turned into an insane parody of a one-party state, ruled by the Khmer Rouge with instant violence and a savage

I Miss Dave Chapelle

| 1 Comment
Dave Chapelle riffing at Cork's Wine Bar in London. (h/t and elsewhere)


Ben Sargent's comic succinctly illustrates what bothered me recently.

[From Ben Sargent]

click to embiggen


links for 2007-11-11

Podcasts and Science Friday

| 1 Comment
Looking for as many podcasts as possible as we sit, propped up in bed. Found plenty of fun ones at NPR, including an interesting piece about Gary Taubes book:

"Good Calories, Bad Calories" (Gary Taubes)

from: Amazon
Noted science journalist Taubes probes the state of what is currently known and what is simply conjectured about the relationship among nutrition, weight loss, health, and disease. What Taubes discovers is that much of what passes for irrefutable scientific knowledge is in fact supposition and that many reputable scientists doubt the validity of nutritional advice currently promoted by the government and public health industry. Beginning with the history of Ancel Keys' research into the relationship between elevated blood-cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease, Taubes demonstrates that a close reading of studies has shown that a low-cholesterol diet scarcely changes blood-cholesterol levels. Low-fat diets, moreover, apparently do little to lengthen life span. He does find encouragement in research tracking the positive effects of eliminating excessive refined carbohydrates and thus addressing pernicious diseases such as diabetes. Taubes' transparent prose brings drama, excitement, and tension to even the most abstruse and clinically reserved accounts of scientific research. He is careful to distinguish the oft-confused goals of weight loss and good health. Given America's current obsession with these issues, Taubes' challenge to current nutritional conventional wisdom will generate heated controversy and create popular demand for this deeply researched and equally deeply engaging treatise.
Taubes's eye-opening challenge to widely accepted ideas on nutrition and weight loss is as provocative as was his 2001 NewYork Times Magazine article, What if It's All a Big Fat Lie? Taubes (Bad Science), a writer for Science magazine, begins by showing how public health data has been misinterpreted to mark dietary fat and cholesterol as the primary causes of coronary heart disease. Deeper examination, he says, shows that heart disease and other diseases of civilization appear to result from increased consumption of refined carbohydrates: sugar, white flour and white rice. When researcher John Yudkin announced these results in the 1950s, however, he was drowned out by the conventional wisdom. Taubes cites clinical evidence showing that elevated triglyceride levels, rather than high total cholesterol, are associated with increased risk of heart disease-but measuring triglycerides is more difficult than measuring cholesterol. Taubes says that the current U.S. obesity epidemic actually consists of a very small increase in the average body mass index. Taube's arguments are lucid and well supported by lengthy notes and bibliography. His call for dietary advice that is based on rigorous science, not century-old preconceptions about the penalties of gluttony and sloth is bound to be echoed loudly by many readers.

Golden Confidence


Golden Confidence
Golden Confidence, originally uploaded by swanksalot. I'm curious as to the story behind this mural being on the wall of this building as well as its artist.

One of my favorite "lost" 35 mm prints was of this mural, and a police office raising his hand to stop traffic below (negative probably gathering dust in a box in Austex). The digital revolution didn't come quickly enough for my archives.

links for 2007-11-10

Healthcare for All


Spent most of the day at Illinois Masonic Hospital, in waiting rooms. Nothing to worry about, but blog posts might be a little infrequent for a few days (not me, my Sig O if you really must know, but I have to be nursemaid until Monday). While reading my book, I overheard a heartbreaking conversation between a doctor, a nurse, and the mother of an infant. The nurse was translating the doctor's sentences into Spanish. One phrase in particular pierced me: "If you had had this surgery when your doctor first told you to have it, your son's eyes would have recovered 90 percent of their vision, but now the best we can hope for is 10 percent vision".

Unspoken - but obvious to all five of us in the room - the working class mother with shoes worn nearly to the nub (possibly an undocumented resident afraid of deportation) could not afford to visit the hospital until now, and because of that, her boy's degenerative eye disease is going to render the boy nearly blind his entire life.

And yet, over a billion dollars in cash disappeared without a trace in Iraq, and billions more are pissed away in the sand every day. But one kid becoming blind because his parents couldn't afford health care? Not at all important to the faux-Christian fuckers who control how our tax dollars are spent.

links for 2007-11-09

I'll Buy You A Drink

Just a whiff of corruption....

I'll Buy You A Drink
I'll Buy You A Drink, originally uploaded by swanksalot. While I hand you an envelope

Sign reads:
To Inspector of Buildings:
Meet me next door at the restaurant.

Buckets of Pork on Peoria

Buckets of Pork on Peoria
Buckets of Pork on Peoria
yummm, literal pork barrels

New Hard drive installation Mac Pro

"Seagate Barracuda ES - Hard drive - 750 GB - internal - 3.5" - SATA-300 - 7200 rpm - buffer: 16 MB" (Seagate)

In anticipation to installing Leopard, I ordered a new hard drive (a 750 gig number from Seagate). I used it to clone my system drive prior to installation in case anything happened to go awry. Nothing did, so now it is being used for Time Machine. Installing the hard drive on a Mac Pro was the simplest procedure I've ever encountered in my 25 years of working with computers. About 5 minutes from start to finish, including time to drink beer, and take these photos.

Opening Mac Pro Step 1
Opening Mac Pro Step 1
Step One: open the rear flap

Opening Mac Pro Step 2
Opening Mac Pro Step 2
Step 2 Pop open the side door

Opening Mac Pro Step 3
Opening Mac Pro Step 3
Identify which hard drive bracket to remove. I was adding a third drive, so door number three was the appropriate one.

Opening Mac Pro Step 4
Opening Mac Pro Step 4
Remove the hard drive bracket by pulling it toward you

Opening Mac Pro Step 5
Opening Mac Pro Step 5
Step 5 attach the screws to the bracket.

Opening Mac Pro Step 6
Opening Mac Pro Step 6
tighten screw, and do everything else in reverse order.

click to embiggen

Google’s “Nofollow” Rule

| 1 Comment

Personally, I think the whole industry of purchasing links and 'search engine optimization is sort of sleazy.

Google believes that a link which has been purchased or exchanged in a reciprocal manner should not benefit websites’ ranking in search results. Thus its “nofollow” rule calls on all website owners to use the “nofollow” tag when creating such links. According to (a blog created by the head of the Google “webspam team”), any website which doesn’t use the tag for a link of this type may be penalized. Some have speculated that the recent reductions in PageRank values for many websites were caused by violations of this rule.

This has created controversy and complicated the process of buying or exchanging a link.

[From Google’s “Nofollow” Rule | Search Engine Optimization SEO Blog]

I think MT uses the “nofollow” tag, or at least makes it a user selectable preference, and I hope it uses it.

Mt4 Nofollow

Evanston to Ignore Christian Taliban dictate

Speaking of Evanston, five of seven school board members voted to publicly ignore the ridiculous new "moment of prayer" law the Illinois legislature passed. The idiots who passed the law forgot to add penalties for non-compliance. Doh!

Evanston-Skokie School District 65 will ignore new legislation mandating a moment of silence in Illinois public schools after trying unsuccessfully to seek a waiver that would free the district from following the law, board members said.
It is unclear what steps, if any, the state might take to force the district to comply with the law. The legislation does not provide penalties for non-compliance nor offer guidelines on how to deal with schools -- or in this case school boards -- that choose to ignore it
"It sets up an unnecessary intrusion into the classroom," said board member Mary Rita Luecke.

Luecke said she suspects some supporters of the new law really want a moment of prayer but are settling for a moment of silence.

"This is really being encouraged by people who are trying to bring prayer into school," she said.
[From School board to ignore state moment-of-silence law]

Meanwhile, the same idiots in the Illinois legislature cannot seem to find a way to agree on how to fund the regional transit system, so the CTA (and Metra, etc.) have to operate without a proper budget.

The Yage Letters Redux

"The Yage Letters Redux" (William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Oliver Harris)

I'd been meaning to read this book for a while, and Nyarlathotep's brief review finally trigged my purchase.

City Lights Books (2006), Paperback, 127 pages [From The Yage Letters Redux by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Oliver Harris]

Actually, this is looks to be a better edition than the original City Lights 1963 print, as Oliver Harris written a long, contextual prologue, and assembled another 40 odd pages of Notes and Appendices. Having recently finished Daniel Pinchbeck's exploration of similar experiences, I'm interested in primary sources. I don't think my mind is strong enough at the moment to embark on a grand tour of inner space, I'll have to satisfy myself with reading the reports of others.

links for 2007-11-08

Fall Folliage Foiled

Courteous Shade
these are actually leaves found in Evanston, not Naperville

Devouring autumnal foliage with one's eyes is one of the pleasures of living north of the Mason-Dixie line. This year was pretty much a dud.

Warm weather slowed the appearance of the reds, oranges and yellows of autumn
Intense heat in late summer and early fall delayed the changing of the leaves in the area, with peak colors not arriving until last week, about two weeks later than normal.

Now, leaf enthusiasts like Blankenship are scrambling to enjoy the remainder of the season after gusting winds Monday stripped many trees bare and freezing temperatures expected Tuesday night threaten to turn leaves a dull brown.

In his 1862 essay

Autumnal Tints

philosopher Henry David Thoreau dubbed October "the month of painted leaves," but this October brought days with temperatures in the 80s to the Chicago area.

At Morton Arboretum in west suburban Lisle, sugar maples that traditionally turn vibrant shades of red stayed yellow and orange into November, said Ed Hedborn, a botanist at the arboretum.

"The plants did not get their normal cue from the temperature drop to start changing color in the fall," Hedborn said. "The concern now is if we get hard frosts, that can actually cause leaves to turn brown and drop off."

As the days grow shorter in autumn, photosynthesis shuts down and the green chlorophyll in leaves disappears, unmasking yellow and orange pigments below the surface.
[From This fall's foliage goes from green to gone]
We went to the Morton Arboretum a couple weeks ago, and the line of cars waiting to get into the park was outrageously long. We didn't have the stamina to wait our turn, and went to Naperville instead. Apparently, would have been disappointed even if we did manage to gain entrance. Global Warming denialists have some other sort of answer as to why the leaves are not their normal brilliant color, but I am skeptical of their skepticism:
The Chicago area's average temperature this September was 68 degrees, about 4 degrees above average. The warm weather continued into October, when it was 7 degrees above average, including a record high of 87 degrees Oct. 7, according to the National Weather Service.

The late arrival of fall foliage is not isolated to Illinois. In Missouri, abnormal weather conditions over the entire year, including a late freeze and persistent drought, have led to unspectacular colors, state conservation officials said.

Although fall colors can still be found across northern Illinois, all but a few southern counties in Wisconsin are past their peak, according to a fall-color report on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Web site.

Hedborn said that autumn in Illinois this year was an anomaly and that the season could return to its usual brilliance next year. Over the long term, though, scientists project that climate change will lead to longer summers in Illinois, which could delay frosts that trigger leaves to change colors.

links for 2007-11-07

Newman wine was inevitable

Breakfast drinks self-portrait

Though Newman's Own Wine seems a little steep at $16 a bottle for wine that isn't even handled by Mr. Newman. My price point is still stuck at $10 a bottle - any more and it better be either a special occasion, or a spectacular wine.

CHICAGO ( -- Newman's Own has a new kind of sauce with which to pour on the competition: California wine.

"We have come full circle," actor and philanthropist Paul Newman said in a press release. "We are back to wine bottles but this time we are filling them with a wine that will complement my salad dressing and pasta sauce. Wine was the only thing missing at dinner time. Now the meal is complete."

The Westport, Conn.-based food company has joined forces with Rebel Wine Co., a St. Helena, Calif., joint venture between Three Thieves and Trinchero Family Estates. The wine will hit store shelves in March, at $16 per bottle. As usual, the profits and royalties after taxes will be donated to educational and charitable organizations.
[From Wine Is Newest Offering From Newman's Own]

When Newman first started selling salad dressing, there wasn't a lot of organic/natural products on supermarket shelves, now the competition is fierce. Good luck to him though.

[Arthur] Shapiro [a wine and spirits industry consultant and former Seagram's executive] said that the price could be an issue.

"I'm not sure they can get $16," he said. "What's so special about it other than the name and the charities associated with it? I'm not sure that's good enough for consumers without another unique selling proposition associated with it."
Newman's Own has donated more than $200 million to various charities since it was founded in 1982. Among Mr. Newman's charities is the Hole in the Wall Gang, a three-season camp for children with cancer and serious blood diseases. The company, which got started selling salad dressings in antique glass bottles covered in parchment paper, now has 100 types of all-natural food and beverage products, including pasta sauce, salsa, marinades, cookies, lemonade, popcorn and pet food.

In recent years, the company has become increasingly focused on organics, and snagged coveted shelf space in high-priced natural and organic groceries.

Winter is Coming

and the flower pots are all empty
Winter is Coming
Winter is Coming, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

Salem Witch Trials Influential to FBI

"Mephisto (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)" (Klaus Mann)


A man in Sweden didn't like the way his son-in-law was acting, so he sent a note to the FBI accusing the guy of being an Al Qaeda operative just before he took a trip to the USA. When he landed, the DHS held him in a cell for 11 hours, then deported him
[From FBI will have anyone you call a terrorist detained - Boing Boing]

Even more disturbing because for a brief second, I considered using this tactic on a particular resident of my condo building. I won't ramble on with a litany of complaints against the asshole, suffice to say, I wouldn't be too unhappy if the FBI deported him back to pre-revolutionary Massachusetts, or somewhere else where I'd never have to listen to his madness and misguided bile spew forth again.

I've Done Everything You Asked


I've Done Everything You Asked

Found yard art, Evanston. If I had unlimited financial wherewithal, I'd own a home in Evanston. Tree lined streets, liberal (mostly) populace, health food stores, yadda yadda.

chicagobarproject copyright infringement

Since I've gotten zero response from the owner of The Chicago Bar Project (Sean Parnell) in re: his theft of my photos, I'm sending emails to his webhost.

705A Wesley Pines Rd
Lumberton, NC 28358


Administrative Contact: A
705A Wesley Pines Rd
Lumberton, NC 28358
Fax- +001.910.4021999

Technical Contact, Zone Contact: A
705A Wesley Pines Rd
Lumberton, NC 28358
Fax- +001.910.4021999
Record last updated on 23-Jul-2007.
Record expires on 04-Jun-2008.
Record created on 04-Jun-2003.

Domain servers in listed order:
Name Server:
Name Server:
IP Address: (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
Record Type: Domain Name
Server Type: IIS 5
Lock Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Web Site Status: Active
Web Site Title: Chicago Bar Project by Sean Parnell
Secure: No
E-commerce: No
Traffic Ranking: 4
Data as of: 17-Mar-2006
[From WHOIS domain registration information results for from Network Solutions]
Thanks to the efforts of Nyarlathotep, my photo seems to have been removed. It is good to have friends all over.

links for 2007-11-06

Cell phone-iphile

Ooooh, I want a cell-phone jammer!

As cellphone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cellphone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent.

The technology is not new, but overseas exporters of jammers say demand is rising and they are sending hundreds of them a month into the United States — prompting scrutiny from federal regulators and new concern last week from the cellphone industry. The buyers include owners of cafes and hair salons, hoteliers, public speakers, theater operators, bus drivers and, increasingly, commuters on public transportation.

The development is creating a battle for control of the airspace within earshot. And the damage is collateral. Insensitive talkers impose their racket on the defenseless, while jammers punish not just the offender, but also more discreet chatterers.

“If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,” said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University. “The cellphone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him, and the jammer thinks his are the more important rights.”
[From Devices Enforce Silence of Cellphones, Illegally]

If I owned one of these, I would use it more frequently than I think. Public places especially, even sometimes in my own building! Ahem.

Windpower baby

We've blogged about Frank Mauceri and his green business before, now he has wind turbines and other innovative features in his home as well.

Twirling like huge white sculptures, two 10-foot wind turbines sit atop the roof on Frank and Lisa Mauceri's Bucktown home, part of a system the couple hopes will make them selfsufficient in producing electricity.

They are the first wind turbines approved in Chicago for a private residence and are among a growing number of wind power devices appearing in the Chicago area as businesses and homeowners search for alternatives that will cut utility costs.

Unlike the massive pinwheel-style towers on commercial wind farms, the turbines at the Mauceri home resemble oversized, elongated screws. They whir as quietly as mobiles in the autumn wind and are integrated to work with 30 solar panels fashioned into a breezeway on the green roof garden. Both function with a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The installation is a pilot project expected to supply from 40 to 70 percent of the annual electrical needs at the couple's 3,800-square-foot renovated brick building.

Frank, 42, and Lisa Mauceri, 40, are the owners of Smog Veil Records, an independent record licensing and publishing company, which they moved to Chicago two years ago after living in Cleveland and Reno, Nev.

Advocates for eco-friendly packaging in their business, they decided to make reducing energy consumption a top priority in the rehab of the 100-year old former tavern where they now work and live.
[From Green power --]

We'd have to change our condo by-laws to install wind turbines due to a height restriction, but we can dream...

Chicago Bar Project Copyright infringement
Chicago Bar Project Copyright infringement, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Sean Parnell, the apparent author of the webpage
uses a photo of mine, without crediting me.

This photo is available via Creative Commons whose terms are quite clear -
Under the following conditions:

Attribution . You must give the original author credit.

I like when my photos are used on personal web pages, and this is even a useful review of a fun bar, but is it really that hard to give proper credit to the photographer? I also always include copyright information in the photos I upload to Flickr (including contact info), and Steve Parnell stripped this info out.
--- update: Thanks to the efforts of Nyarlathotep, my photo seems to have been removed. It is good to have friends all over.

Journey to the Underworld Republished

| 1 Comment

My photo republished by the webpage for the local NRP affiliate, WBEZ (and sister radio stations). Click to embiggen.

Earmarks Clog Military Bill

Killing People Is Rude

Culture of Corruption, indeed. A pox on both their houses- Republican and Democrats both. Bleh.

Even though members of Congress cut back their pork barrel spending this year, House lawmakers still tacked on to the military appropriations bill $1.8 billion to pay 580 private companies for projects the Pentagon did not request.

Twenty-one members were responsible for about $1 billion in earmarks, or financing for pet projects, according to data lawmakers were required to disclose for the first time this year. Each asked for more than $20 million for businesses mostly in their districts, ranging from major military contractors to little known start-ups.

The list is topped by the veteran earmark champions Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who is the chairman of the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee, and Representative C. W. Bill Young of Florida, the top Republican on the panel, who asked for $166 million and $117 million respectively. It also includes $92 million in requests from Representative Jerry Lewis, Republican of California, a committee member who is under federal investigation for his ties to a lobbying firm whose clients often benefited from his earmarks.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, requested $32 million in earmarks, while Steny H. Hoyer, the majority leader, asked for $26 million for projects in the $459.6 billion defense bill, the largest of the appropriations bills that go through Congress.

As promised when they took control of Congress in January, House Democratic leaders cut in half from last year the value of earmarks in the bill, as they did in the other 11 agency spending measures. But some lawmakers complained that the leadership failed to address what it had called a “culture of corruption” in which members seek earmarks to benefit corporate donors. Earmarks have been a recurring issue in recent Congressional scandals, most recently the 2005 conviction of Representative Randy Cunningham, Republican of California, for accepting bribes from defense contractors.
[From Even Cut 50 Percent, Earmarks Clog Military Bill - New York Times]

What about spending the money subsidizing alternative energy sources like solar panels? Or a thousand other better, more worthy recipients for our tax dollars?

Democratic Traitors

| 1 Comment

Any Democratic vote for Mukasey is a vote for the legalization of torture, and is a disgusting cave-in. Torture is not consistent with American values.

The confirmation of Michael B. Mukasey appeared to be all but certain after Senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles E. Schumer gave him their support. [From Justice Nominee Gets 2 Key Votes From Democrats]

Dianne Feinstein I could see: she is so often a Bush-enabler, and DINO (Democrat In Name Only) that I'm not surprised at her stance. But Schumer? I've had disagreements with his positions in the past, but I never thought Schumer would leave his party (and constituents) out to dry. Can't his roommate Dick Durbin set Schumer straight? Maybe leave a rat in his bed or something?

Spineless weasels.

links for 2007-11-03

Harmony in Blue White and Red

Harmony in Blue White and Red

managed to take a few photos yesterday with my new 50mm lens (well, closer to 70mm really), very pleased with it.


Pervy CEO


Dentsu is part of a Japanese holding company that is the largest advertising agency in the world, Dentsu USA is located in New York City. Steve Biegel got fired, and alleges that a few, shall we say, irregularities were part of the corporate culture.

part of the Dentsu litigation
(click to embiggen)

Former Dentsu USA Creative Director Steve Biegel's complaint against his former employer will go down as a sort of X-rated business travelogue that ascribes a whole range of pervy behavior to his former boss, Dentsu Holdings CEO Toyo Shigeta.

In the suit, Mr. Biegel claims that Mr. Shigeta forced him into several steamy environments, from a bathhouse to a brothel, against his will and then fired him after he complained.
One exhibit attached to the lawsuit is an image of tennis star Maria Sharapova allegedly taken by Mr. Shigeta during a 2004 commercial shoot for Dentsu client Canon. Ms. Sharapova is pictured with her legs propped up on the back of a director's chair exposing her panties as she snacks on what appears to be a can of Pringles. Mr. Biegel is claiming that Mr. Shigeta's crotch obsession led him to pass the photo around and is part of a pattern of behavior that created a hostile work environment that led him to complain. He was fired in November 2006.

Also included in the complaint is a link to a website for a Czech whorehouse. The internet home of Prague's Escade describes its services in a version of English reminiscent of Borat. Sample: "Young strippers and their performance will make you (sic) evening enjoyable." Another: "If you want to choise (sic) yourself, just call us and we take care of you. If you buy lady-companion for all night, we'll surprise you by an interesting discount." Also available is an interactive, panoramic view of the premises.
[From The Dirty Details of the Dentsu Suit - Advertising Age - News]

The Smoking Gun has more

From the complaint, section 32, page 7.
Apparently, defendant Shigeta maintained that having sex with prostitutes was a "Japanese" style of conducting business. For example, defendant Shigeta once told plaintiff (as well as Ronald Rosen and Douglas Fidoten) that he and another Japanese businessman sealed a deal not with a handshake, but by hiring a prostitute in Mexico and having "double penetration" sex with her -- i.e., where both businessmen had sex with the same prostitute at the same time. Defendant Shigeta explained to plaintiff that having "double penetration" sex was a way in which Japanese businessmen would commemorate business dealings.
Righto. Hey, when in Rome, yadda yadda. Actually, in all seriousness, if all parties are willing participants in whatever weird bonding ritual is tradition (Kerry and Bush's Skull and Bones pervy organization, for instance), fine, but unwilling participants shouldn't be punished.


Windows, West Loop alley, just east of Ashland near Hubbard Street. I have an inordinate fondness for such photos -cheerful decay.

Journey to the Underworld

Journey to the Underworld
Journey to the Underworld
construction site, West Loop

Passing along Desplaines, looking down on the Kinzie Station project.

links for 2007-11-02

Popsicle and Bean

Urban Bubble

Sounds like some funky hipster gourmet recipe, but it is public art instead. Photos later, when I see it for myself.

Millennium Park, home of iconic pieces of public art such as "Cloud Gate" and the video gargoyles of Crown Fountain, will offer yet another cool installation this winter -- a multicolored wall of ice, 95 feet long, with abstract patterns and shards of ice jutting out.
From afar, the 13-foot-tall sheets of brilliantly hued ice will look like a giant canvas of contemporary art. From close up, visitors can watch the pigments interact with the crystal ice structures, changing as parts of the wall evaporate, melt and freeze again.

Plans for the installation by Canadian artist Gordon Halloran, who was commissioned for similar work during the 2006 Turin Olympic Winter Games, will be unveiled Thursday. But in an interview Wednesday he discussed the paradox of his artwork -- keeping it intact while allowing nature to take its course.

The installation, called "Paintings Below Zero," will open Feb. 1 and be on display through the month. It will be kept mostly frozen by chilled glycol running through aluminum panels that make up the core of the wall. Pigmented sheets of ice, created offsite, will be suspended from the metal panels.
[From 'Bean' to get a companion: The 'Popsicle']

Some years, February is the coldest month.

Self Portrait Yellow

Durbin opposes Telecom immunity

Strapped On

Senator Richard Durbin (or more precisely, his staff's email-bot) just emailed me an interesting response to my inquiry re: the criminal Telecom Immunity bill which I've been yammering about for a while.
Here it is, in its entirety (with a few paragraph breaks added for readability. Senator Durbin's staff took the text-only email dictum a bit too far)
Subject: Message From Senator Durbin
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2007 14:26:50 -0400

November 1, 2007
Mr. Seth Anderson
Dear Mr. Anderson:

Thank you for your message regarding the surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue and share your concerns. Protecting both the security and the freedom of the American people is among my highest priorities. I share an obligation with my fellow senators to ensure that the federal government protects and defends the people of the United States while preserving the civil liberties that have helped make the United States the greatest and most enduring democracy in the world. President Bush has stated that he authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of communications made by American citizens living within the United States.

At the time of the President's authorization, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) required the government to seek a warrant from a special court in order to conduct electronic surveillance of communications between American citizens and anyone outside the country. The NSA did not obtain approval from the FISA court or from any other court before initiating its domestic surveillance program. For most of its existence, the NSA's program has operated without meaningful oversight. Few members of Congress were briefed about the program until its existence was revealed by the media, and those members were sworn to secrecy. The majority of the members of Congress still have not been fully briefed about the program's operational details.

The Administration has also shut down its own Department of Justice internal investigation into the NSA's program. In essence, the Administration has attempted to operate this program without any supervision or oversight. The lack of a mechanism for correcting potential abuses in the program undermines our Constitutional system of checks and balances and raises serious concerns about the possibility of excessive intrusion. In addition to the disclosure of the NSA's domestic wiretapping program, it has been alleged that the NSA has undertaken a massive effort to gather the telephone records of tens of millions of innocent Americans into a searchable database. Again, this program has been conducted without court approval or Congressional oversight.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas to the Justice Department, the White House, the Office of the Vice President, and the National Security Council for documents relating to the legal justification for the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. Although Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the committee, has extended the deadline for subpoena compliance on two separate occasions, the Administration has failed to comply. Congress has tried to work with Administration officials to update FISA in light of technological advances in communications. Too often, however, the Administration has taken advantage of the program's secrecy in its negotiations with Congress. In Augst 2007, the Administration proposed a bill to amend FISA. I believe the bill provided too much opportunity for excessive intrusion and potential abuse by the NSA and other intelligence officials. I voted against the measure, as did Chairman Leahy and the Intelligence Committee Chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Nonetheless, Congress passed the bill and the President signed it into law. Fortunately, the law will expire six months after the date it was signed. When the President and his Administration order actions such as the surveillance of American citizens, these actions must be conducted in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution's commitment to civil liberties. I am deeply concerned about the manner in which the Executive Branch has initiated and conducted the NSA surveillance programs. I will continue to work to ensure that government surveillance of American citizens is conducted in a manner consistent with the Constitution, the rule of law, and our security needs.

Thank you again for sharing your views on this issue with me.

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator RJD/tf

P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details.

Partitioning and Leopard

Old meet New

This exact thing happened to me when I attempted to install Leopard on my MacBook Pro.

If you have, in the past, swapped your system hard drive on your Intel Mac, you might want to check its partition scheme before upgrading to Leopard.
Apparently, I had used the Apple Partition Map when I formatted the drive, which is supposedly only good for using as a bootable system drive for PowerPC Macs. Leopard, however, will only install (on an Intel Mac) on a drive formatted using the GUID Partition setting, which is designed to be used for boot discs for Intel based Macs. I don't know why my MacBook was working fine till now, but that's how it was.
[From - 10.5: Verify partition map prior to upgrading ]

When I first purchased the machine, I copied the data from a 400 Mghz TiBook which had two partitions. I decided I didn't really need two partitions, so reformatted. I wasn't even aware there was an option to choose from, thus the disk got formatted using the so-called Apple Partition Map instead of GUID Partition. Hadn't noticed a thing wrong in all the months I'd used the machine before installing Leopard, but apparently a Leopard is a finicky beast, and wouldn't let me proceed. Strangely enough, after I went to the trouble of using SuperDuper! and cloning the laptop disk (via Firewire target mode to a desktop with enough free space), I somehow managed to change the partition mapping without reformatting. Don't ask me exactly how, but I did, using the Leopard install DVD's copy of Disk Utility.

Working fine now, installed without major incident on 4 other machines. I may or may not get around to blogging about my first impressions of Leopard, but am liking it so far. Go ahead and get yourself a copy if you haven't already.



West Loop, Hubard Murals

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