28 February 2006
27 February 2006
Dig this new track "Cowboys are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other)." Yes, that's really him.
It seems that a fella named Ned Sublette wrote the song in the '80s. I recently heard Sublette interviewed on the radio, and he said that he heard Willie Nelson's voice singing it in his head when he wrote it, and that Nelson had liked it for years and had been talking about recording it ... and with the success of Nelson's work on the soundtrack for Brokeback Mountain, it seemed like the propitious moment to finally record and release it.
26 February 2006
Matisyahu is a Lubavich Hasidic reggae / hip hop star, "combining the sounds of Bob Marley and Shlomo Carlebach, yet remaining wholly original" according to the bio on his website. No, really; he played the Bill Graham Civic last night, and I missed it because I didn't know he existed.
Whaddaya know, the music is pretty good. And he's done a couple of slickly-produced videos, of course; they have to be seen to be believed. "King Without a Crown" is pretty straightforward, and not such a stretch if you know your reggae well—just substitute Ha'Shem for Jah, and there you are. But "Youth" is truly astonishing: we get Matisyahu wrapping Tefillin, Matisyahu rapping for an audience in his black fedora, Matisyahu doing his hip-hop hand gestures in a zip-up hoodie, Matisyahu looking street smart on the mean streets of New York. I know, it sounds comical ... and there is a bit of the queasy feeling you get from the usual culture industry efforts to tell you This Is Cool ... but mostly, it's just eerily sincere.
Mazel tov, Matisyahu. You keep doing your thing.
25 February 2006
This is a parable of San Francisco and freak nation.
Once upon a time, I was keeping company with a lady who had just migrated north from Los Angeles. She was a cacophanist and burner and so forth — a citizen of freak nation. Like many women of the nation, she owned a pair of costume cat ears, and was very fond of wearing them. They are a silly but flattering accessory for almost anyone, and this particular pair was as subtle and elegant as cat ears can be, plus something about them happened to suit her especially well.
When we would make plans, she would ask of the venue, “can I wear my kitty ears there?” I would shrug and say “sure,” and she would sometimes get quite exercised about my failure to take the question seriously. At the time, I presumed that she thought she looked sillier in them than she actually did, not understanding that there was some alchemy to this particular pair on her that worked especially well.
Looking back, I have a different explanation.
See, I'm writing this because last night, a neighbor rang me up, saying “I hear that zombies are massing in Union Square.” I was disappointed to have missed the downtown zombie attack last summer, so we went to check it out, singing “The Time of the Season” as we made our way down Geary Street.
Disappointingly, it turned out that there were only about a dozen zombies, doing a little zombie dance, rather than a terrifying horde marauding through town moaning for b-r-a-i-n-s. But hey, I love living in a town where I can afford to be disappointed when an unplanned fifteen minute foray out of my apartment for random guerilla street theatre only nets a dozen dancing zombies.
So, returning to the cat ears: I had forgotten that in most of America, you can't wear cat ears anywhere you want. Having recently come from Los Angeles, this lady was still accustomed to thinking before wearing too much whimsical costumery, because she had undoubtedly encountered some disapproving looks. But here in San Francisco, if you turn up at a shmancy blow-the-rent restaurant wearing cat ears with your elegant cocktail dress — or a tailcoat and top hat, or a well-made zoot suit, or a little understated face paint — the maître d’ will smile warmly and show you to a good table. There are limits, mind you; you probably couldn't get away with a pirate costume at a fancy restaraunt. But cat ears? In San Francisco, you could wear cat ears to the opera and even the society matrons with the scary facelifts will smile.
It's easy to forget how extraordinary that is. Oh, I love my town.
24 February 2006
I hate to do this to y'all, but look at what they did. What is wrong with us?
I felt that Act I didn't quite have the focus necessary to draw audiences in as well as one might hope, but the conflict in Act II—further developing the theme of strength introduced in Act I—shows both wit and a sense of dramatic tension. Certainly the best puppet theatre I've seen since Jessica Hird's magnificent sock puppet Bacchæ, "still the gold standard for Bay Area puppet tragedy."
Kudos also to the director of this film adaptation, who manages the Jonathan Demme trick of capturing the spirit of the live performance through some good choices in editing and title cards.
Let me also use this opportunity to commend finger puppets to my readers as an ideal yuletide gift for all your loved ones. Not only am I pleased to see that they were as inspiring for Atticus as I hoped, but I note that another finger puppet recipient on my list (who will remain nameless) has been putting the little theatrical implement to good use. Finger puppets come in a variety of styles, so you can find something to suit even someone difficult to shop for ... and they are inexpensive, charming, portable, and just the right sort of frivolous that you know they're something that one would appreciate but never get for one's self.
Mmmm, finger puppets.
21 February 2006
This last weekend, while on a foray deep into the wilds of Freak Nation, I accidentally introduced a real cultural anthropologist to the expression “Freak Nation.” The meme appears to be spreading quickly, so I'd like to get my thoughts on the subject in order.
The coinage is not my own; to my knowledge, it was coined by a friend of mine who used it in an offhand comment, and I and a few friends have picked it up as a useful expression in the past year or so. But a quick trip to Google reveals that it's an expression already in use, and I notice that the current top listing means pretty much the same thing I mean, as do many of the other folks saying it.
The Nation is a broad semi-coherent community of people committed to living weird lives. There are several strata, like cacophanists and burners and various sorts of perverts and people who look for occasions to dress up funny and on and on. If you're familiar with Freak Nation—if, for instance, you know that opening a RE/search or Charles Gatewood book, you're likely to see someone you know—then you're probably nodding with understanding about what I mean. If you've never encountered Freak Nation, I fear that its boundaries are mysterious from this description, which is fair since they are a bit slippery. (But then, if you don't recognize what I mean, who are you, and how did you find my blog?)
The main rhetorical purpose of Freak Nation in my usage is not so much to refer to the nation itself, but rather to refer to an individual's level of "citizenship" in it. A proper citizen of Freak Nation typically has a unique collection of a few different qualifying characteristics: a heavily tattoo'd belly dancer, a professional clown with a taste for orgies, a pagan mechanic who goes out in drag Friday nights, a painter racking up skills at circus school, and so forth. (Yes, I know real people answering to all of these descriptions.) And this is part of the way that Freak Nation coheres: the mechanic might not know the clown, but likely they have several acquaintances in common if they live in the same city ... and Freak Nation is heavily networked all across the country, thanks to cheap airfares, restless FN citizens, and the internet.
A “full-time” citizen of Freak Nation has slipped the surly bonds of ordinary society, like the full-time deadheads of yore, making their living tree sitting or performing Reiki or teaching yoga. One can be said to hold “dual citizenship:” project manager by day, goth go-go dancer by night. Or to be a resident alien ... or to live in America and spend long vacations in Freak Nation ... or to have friends in Freak Nation who you visit on a tourist visa ...
Law & Order is always on. Find the remote right now and see for yourself. Between NBC, TNT, and USA, including Law & Order and its two spinoffs, you could watch 26 hours of Law & Order this week alone, if you felt like it.The answer is, lots of people. Or at least one person, who has set up a web page keeping a current schedule so you can make sure not to miss a single chung-chung.
But who would feel like it?
20 February 2006
Invariably, one group of questioners will complain about the quality of jobs or inability to find jobs – arguing the statistics simply overstate economic strength.This is quite consistent with what I saw last year, doing some work for a client in the job recruiting business.
The people who are doing the hiring, however, tell the exact opposite story. They simply do not believe that there are any potential employees available. For instance, one employer described the difficulty finding entry level workers for jobs that pay $30-35k with benefits. The jobs required something equivalent to an associate’s degree, and they would pay for education if they could find suitable candidates. Higher level workers were equally difficult to find. Another employer described a maintenance technician opening that had been unfilled for 8 months.
They are facing a shortage of what they view as qualified workers. Note that qualified workers could be of both the skilled and unskilled variety.
work history is seen as evidence that the potential employee can get out of bed and show up to work on a regular basis
17 February 2006
Looking for a decent Hebrew font, I stumbled across a fascinating page about an un-decent Hebrew font, Hugh Schonfeld's reformed Hebrew script, proposed in the 1930s and long since forgotten, which looks like the half-mad love child of Hebrew and Roman letters.
This is one of those labour-of-love little web pages on an obscure subject that I just love. The author has an excellent list of tongue-in-cheek justifications for even caring about this script.
- You can impress your linguistics professor with an example of how not to design a writing system.
- It is wierd and creepy enough to be good for writing gothic poetry in Hebrew.
- Writing sensitive files in Schonfieldian will drive industrial spies crazy.
- Hebrew/Assyrian has too many holy associations for writing profane and vulgar loanwords.
- Whenever they need a sign printed for a linguistics convention, people will think of you first.
- You can punish your children by making them write long essays on type design in Schonfieldian.
- It will make you very popular among Hebrew-speaking geeks.
- Schonfieldian will scare your parents.
- You can make a lot of money by creating and selling documents allegedly from a parallel universe.
- Because all the glyphs have no seperated pieces, they work better as noodles in alphabet soup.
- You know you want to.
- All the cool kids are doing it.
- Chicks dig it, dude!
Since I know for a fact that there are chicks — hot chicks — reading this blog who will in fact dig Schonfeldian Hebrew typography (and you know who you are!) allow me to suggest that y'all ping an email out to the page's author, Barry “Iguanaman”; Adelman. Tell him I sent ya.
16 February 2006
15 February 2006
If you don't know about Pillow Fight Club, Tyler explains the rules.
I love my town. (And for the uninitiated, this is an example of flashmobbery.)
- Tell everyone about Pillow Fight Club.
- Tell everyone about Pillow Fight Club.
- Turn up at the arranged Pillow Fight Club venue with pillow hidden in a bag.
- At the exact given time pull out pillow and fight.
- You cannot fight anyone without a pillow (unless they want it).
- Nothing heavy can be hidden in the pillows
Now, find a building or structure that will attract the magnets, form a crew, wait until night, and get some throwies up. If you do it around a crowd of people, they will probably try to get into the act. It can quickly dissend into chaotic fun. Give a hand-full of throwies to a stranger and let them get up too. Remember, Throwies are only a temporary alteration of your local environment. Depending on the color, Throwies can last upto two weeks, but you arent going to cause any permanent damage, so most property owners wont mind. And The NYPD loves throwies!Throwies are described on the Instructables website, which also includes countless other cool DIY projects, like an iron pipe bed, a treehouse, a zoetrope, and pesto. Mmmm ... pesto.
14 February 2006
Rule 5 is a long-standing favourite of mine.
- Document everything you do; if you didn't write it down, it didn't happen.
- [The Sixty Minutes Rule]: Never do anything that would cause Ed Bradley, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Steve Croft, Leslie Stahl, or even Andy Rooney to persue you down a hallway with a camera crew.
- Nothing Simple is Ever Easy
- It's about the money; follow the money.
- Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
- Politics is the enemy of good government.
- The biggest detriment to public service is the public.
- The second biggest detriment to public service is the service.
- There's a reason; there's ALWAYS a reason.
- The Law is a harsh mistress: The rigorous and exacting application of which can benefit of society when used correctly to advance good policy and block bad, and be the bane of society when used incorrectly to advance bad policy and block good.
- Public service often involves waking up in the morning, opening up the newspaper, and discovering that someone, somewhere out there thinks that you're a dickhead.
- No one really knows what you do.
- [Luke's Rule]: No one ever acts like the bastard they really are.
- Bureaucracy endures.
- The longer you work in bureaucracy, the more Catch-22 resembles non-fiction.
Oh, and TADB offers the best wry commentary which I have yet seen on the Vice President's poor aim.
13 February 2006
Panexa. Ask your doctor for a reason to take it.Yeah, it's a parody. Click through. Then learn about another powerful drug from Indigo.
No matter what you do or where you go, you're always going to be yourself. And Panexa knows this. Your lifestyle is one of the biggest factors in choosing how to live. Why trust it to anything less? Panexa is proven to provide more medication to those who take it than any other comparable solution. Panexa is the right choice, the safe choice. The only choice.
Update: It turns out they have a TV spot, too.
I'll start a conference call.Via Rivet Pep Squad
"But since conference calls are so lousy on their own, I'm going to bring up a chat window at the same time." And then, in the first meeting, I think it was Pete Kaminski said "Well, I've also opened up a wiki, and here's the URL." And he posted it in the chat window. And people can start annotating things. People can start adding bookmarks; here are the lists.
So, suddenly you've got this meeting, which is going on in three separate modes at the same time, two in real-time and one annotated. So you can have the conference call going on, and you know how conference calls are. Either one or two people dominate it, or everyone's like "Oh, can I -- no, but --", everyone interrupting and cutting each other off.
It's very difficult to coordinate a conference call, because people can't see one another, which makes it hard to manage the interrupt logic. In Joi's conference call, the interrupt logic got moved to the chat room. People would type "Hand," and the moderator of the conference call will then type "You're speaking next," in the chat. So the conference call flowed incredibly smoothly.
Meanwhile, in the chat, people are annotating what people are saying. "Oh, that reminds me of So-and-so's work." Or "You should look at this URL...you should look at that ISBN number." In a conference call, to read out a URL, you have to spell it out -- "No, no, no, it's w w w dot net dash..." In a chat window, you get it and you can click on it right there. You can say, in the conference call or the chat: "Go over to the wiki and look at this."
This is a broadband conference call, but it isn't a giant thing. It's just three little pieces of software laid next to each other and held together with a little bit of social glue. This is an incredibly powerful pattern.
12 February 2006
11 February 2006
On any given day, a group of Shiite police might be hit in a Sunni suicide attack or ambush. A militiaman in the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security services might arrest, torture and kill a suspected Sunni insurgent. Or a Kurdish official in the new government might be gunned down between home and office.This is not a civil war in the Blue-and-Gray sense of the American civil war, but more analogous to the Balkans in the '90s, if not so intense. Yet. This is the three-way national fragmentation that folks like me have been watching for a while.
Unless the assassination target is prominent, or the number of victims rises to at least the high single digits, such events barely rate a mention in Western news reports. Yet the most reliable estimates are that about 1,000 Iraqis have been dying each month, most of them killed by fellow Iraqis.
The article ends by quoting Juan Cole, an Iraq expert whom I respect, who has argued that this makes a continuing, but dramatically transformed, US presence in Iraq necessary because of how much worse an Iraq civil war could get with out American help.
Personally, I think "US out now" as a simple mantra neglects to consider the full range of possible disasters that could ensue. For one thing, there would be an Iraq civil war. Iraq wasn't having a civil war in 2002. And although you could argue that what is going on now is a subterranean, unconventional civil war, it is not characterized by set piece battles and hundreds of people killed in a single battle, as was true in Lebanon in 1975-76, e.g. People often allege that the US military isn't doing any good in Iraq and there is already a civil war. These people have never actually seen a civil war and do not appreciate the lid the US military is keeping on what could be a volcano.I'd be more sympathetic to ongoing American military intervention in Iraq if the folks who were going to end up running it were different from the folks who got us into this mess in the first place.
All it would take would be for Sunni Arab guerrillas to assassinate Grand Ayatollah Sistani. And, boom. If there is a civil war now that kills a million people, with ethnic cleansing and millions of displaced persons, it will be our fault, or at least the fault of the 75% of Americans who supported the war. (Such a scenario is entirely plausible. Look at Afghanistan. It was a similar-sized country with similar ethnic and ideological divisions. One million died 1979-1992, and five million were displaced. Moreover, all this helped get New York and the Pentagon blown up.)
I mean, we are always complaining, and rightly so, about the genocide in Darfur and the inattention to genocides in Rwanda and the Congo earlier. Can we really live with ourselves if we cast Iraqis into such a maelstrom deliberately?
And as I have argued before, an Iraq civil war will likely become a regional war, drawing in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. If a regional guerrilla war breaks out among Kurds, Turks, Shiites and Sunni Arabs, the guerrillas could well apply the technique of oil pipeline sabotage to Iran and Saudi Arabia, just as they do now to the Kirkuk pipeline in Iraq ....
10 February 2006
On Wednesday morning I emerged from my girlfriend's building by U.N. Plaza to find that you had sawed the tops off both the sparkplugs on my motorcycle. At the time, I had no idea why anyone would do that. Other than the sparkplugs, the bike was untouched. Some kind of bizarre vandalism? A fraternity prank gone awry? I had no idea. All I knew is that I looked like a huge douchebag riding the Muni to work in a padded motorcycle jacket and helmet.I know the feeling. I know the feeling exactly.
Because the bike was immobilized I got a $35 street sweeping ticket that night. Thursday I had it towed to the shop ($45) where they replaced the sparkplugs and the boots ($50 including labor). They explained to me that "people" - I use the term loosely here - like you break off the tops of spark plugs and use the porcelain tubes to smoke crack. As an engineer and former MacGyver fan, in a way I think this is kind of cool. But then I remember that I just paid $100 for YOUR crackpipes, and I get angry again.
What I don't understand is,
YOU ARE A CRACKHEAD. WHY DON'T YOU OWN A CRACKPIPE?
I am an engineer. Do you ever see me shaking down bums in the Loin for a calculator and sliderule? No, you don't. Because engineering is the main thing I do, I went and bought myself a calculator. The main thing you do is crack. How do you get by without a crackpipe? The other crackheads must clown on you non-stop. I mean, the fucking saw you used to saw off my sparkplugs is probably worth five or ten bucks. Why not sell or trade it for a crackpipe? You really haven't put much thought into this, have you?
08 February 2006
A year ago, I wrote a post that I was pretty proud of about how the different lessons that the right and left had taken from Vietnam were informing thinking about Iraq. I said that in the right's memory ...
Vietnam was a failure of American will — had we really tried hard enough of course we would have "won." But the meddling politicians, under pressure from the cowards in the antiwar movement, dishonorably stayed our military's hand.
I had always imagined that this was a myth of Vietnam that emerged in the late '70s, after the dust had cleared a bit and mythologizing could begin.
It seems I was wrong. This idea was brewing at least as early as 1969, while the war was going on, as demonstrated by this Nixon speech which I just stumbled across.
So tonight: to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge. The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge can be redeemed, for the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris. Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat — or humiliate — the United States. Only Americans can do that.
Any failure is the fault of political opposition to the President. Why does that sound familiar?
06 February 2006
05 February 2006
No big deal? Tell that to Pam Noles.
Later that summer, during the weekly hajj to the library, the librarian gave me a copy of A Wizard of Earthsea. She told me it had just come in, that she held it special for me, and that she knew I would like it a lot.Ms. Noles goes on to take the genre press to task for not making a stink. Check it out; she's right.
I know I didn't start reading it that day. But I was deep into it before the week was out. And because Le Guin snuck up on it, let us thrill with Sparrowhawk as he made his way, the Revelation came as a shock. I do remember bursting out into tears on the living room couch when I understood what was going on. And the tears flowed again when Mom came home from work and I showed her the book while trying to explain. Sparrowhawk is brown. I think he's like an Indian from India. And Vetch is black like from Africa. There's a bunch more and they have real power. Not the girls, though. But still they are also the good guys. It's the white people who are evil. And Sparrowhawk is also Ged, and he's going to be the most powerful one of them all, ever.
I probably overdid it with the thanks to the librarian. When she gave me the next one, I flew home.
04 February 2006
I've learned that you'd need to liquidate the Grand Tetons to pay for a suit against Big Tobacco.I am embarassed to admit that I have watched Wing carefully enough to find this entertaining. (I also find it amusing that this discussion is located in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue forum.)
I’ve learned that not even an admiral can tell if it’s wartime or peacetime anymore, but he will notice if his boyfriend is using a new shampoo.
Next: Opera Tickets
I've learned that the killing of an Admiral only get a proportionate response whereas the killing of a doctor with a new baby could generate a disproportionate response harking back to the Roman Empire.
I learned that if you have a cricket bat that was given to you as a gift by Her Majesty Elizabeth Windsor, you can threaten to pummel the president with it, while the Secret Service remains seemingly unconcerned.
Next: I think opera tickets got skipped
I learned that there is such a thing as Chinese Opera and, yes, one can get tickets to it...
Next: secret service
The secret service does not comment on procedure.
Not entertaining enough, however, that I am willing to read all 230 pages of this stuff that's on TwoP, however. I'm a fan, but I'm not crazy.
03 February 2006
I've been thinking about the word -- and concept of -- awesome, and how it applies to my life. Awesome is even more important than excellent, and I've discovered that I've probably devalued awesome a little bit in the last year or so.I noticed what he's talking about in his writing, but I'm cool with it. It's a poetic effect that a lot of people have used.
01 February 2006
Oval OfficeMy favourite bit is a little navigation in the system.
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.
There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.
What do you want to do now?
> INVADE IRAQ
You are not able to do that, yet.
> LOOK MIRROR
Self-reflection is not your strong suit.
> PET SEAL
It's not that kind of seal.
> EXAMINE CHAIRS
They are two several chairs arranged around the center of the room, along with two couches. Under one couch you find Clinton's shoes.
> FILL SHOES
You are unable to fill Clinton's shoes.
> EXAMINE DESK
It is a large, oak desk, with several drawers.
In one drawer you find a bag of pretzels.
> EAT PRETZEL.
I don't think the pretzel would agree with you.
> GO LEFTThings get worse from there, of course.
Pat Buchanan is here.
Sean Hannity is here.
> GO LEFT
You are right-of-center on the political spectrum.
John McCain is here.
Joseph Leiberman is here.
> GET REELECTED
You get reelected.
> GO RIGHT
Tom DeLay is here.
Michelle Malkin is here.
> GO RIGHT
Rick Santorum is here.
Ann Coulter is here.