Like many personal blogs of its era, this blog is moribund, a casualty of what we might call "the Facebook effect." However, as of late 2015, two things are clear: (1) The Indie Web is a thing, and (2) the re-decentralization of the web is a thing. So who knows?
2016 2017 2018 (!) could be the year this blog rises from its own ashes. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, 20 December 2005
I love it when this happens. A team of psychologists at U.C. Riverside took a look at happiness and the things that go along with it. As the Guardian puts it
The findings suggest that happiness is not a “feelgood” luxury, but is essential to people’s wellbeing. What is more, happiness can also extend across an entire nation, with people in “happy” nations being more likely to have pro-democratic attitudes and a keenness to help others.
You don’t say. But wait, there’s more:
“Almost always it has been assumed that things that correlate with happiness are the causes of happiness, but it could be just the opposite — that those things tend to be caused by happiness,” said Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, another author on the paper.
Now this is interesting. I read a Zen book a while back that stressed the point that, in any causal situation, the effect is also a cause, and the cause is also an effect. (There’s a whole big Zen-ish rant on the inherent bogosity of all dualistic models I could spin out right here, but I shan’t.) So, what does happiness bring ya?
“There was strong evidence that happiness leads people to be more sociable and more generous, more productive at work, to make more money, and to have stronger immune systems,” said Prof Lyubomirsky.
So let’s see. Be happy, stride right on out into the universe and create your own reality, and you have a good chance of finding yourself in good health, living well? Actually, that sounds about right. Good work, science!
Thursday, 08 December 2005
John Winston Ono Lennon, October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980
[Happily, I know the truth. John lives.]
Wednesday, 07 December 2005
I love it when there’s a bear in the news! This time we’ve got a 600 pound black bear up in Pennsylvania who decided he’d hibernate under some poor family’s porch
this winter. There’s only one way this can go:
On Sunday, Sainvil sent his two children, ages 8 and 9, outside to play in the snow. “After 15 or 20 minutes, they came back screaming, ‘Dad, Dad! There’s a bear under the house!’” Sainvil said.
Earlier today, the bear was relocated
[previous editions of Bears in the News]
Wednesday, 30 November 2005
Many of my friends, I have discovered over the past few years, are fellow members of the Church of NyQuil — true believers in the product’s ability to mitigate the inherent nastiness of a winter cold that’s set in. I imagine they’ll be as horrified as I am to learn that one of NyQuil’s key ingredients, pseudoephedrine (a.k.a. Sudafed, the lowest-common-denominator knock-you-out-but-clear-your-sinuses decongestant) has been removed
from the NyQuil mix, apparently because too many FUCKING TWEAK JUNKIES* were stealing NyQuil to make crystal meth. So, this Public Service Announcement: When your winter cold sets in, look for the generic NyQuil equivalent that hasn’t yet removed the precious de-snotting ingredient.
* Sorry for the caps. But tweakers suck.
[spotted at digg.com — finally, a better Slashdot than Slashdot!]
Thursday, 17 November 2005
There’s a nice little piece
over at the WSJ Online (the free part of their online presence) about interactive fiction (or IF — sometimes referred to as text adventures). The 11th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition
has just come to a close, and there are a clutch of new games to be played. Color me excited. Sure, modern games are great, but to a wordsmith like me, there is something special about interactive fiction. Beautiful prose that responds to the “reader’s” impulses may seem quaint by today’s gaming standards, but I find something restful and unique about a largely blank screen, a few magical words, and a blinking cursor. (As I have said before
Flying out to (and back from) Boston last June, I played For a Change
, two award-winning, free works of IF. Neither will drive you nuts with insane puzzles, and both contain some top-notch, engrossing writing. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, 09 November 2005
On the ballot I filled out yesterday for our Special Election, there were only eight items: the eight statewide propositions. (There were no local issues in Oakland.) I gleefully went to my polling place and electronically checked “NO” eight times. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at the ballot box. It felt shockingly good. And I wasn’t doing this just because I think the initiative system is terribly out of control — none of the props were worth supporting. Every single last damn one of them had fatal flaws, even the ones that good folks managed to sneak onto Arnold’s Ballot of Evil.
I awoke this morning to hear on the radio that all eight measures went down in flames. So for the first time in my life, the complete results of an election matched my own votes exactly. How much you wanna bet that never happens again?
Wednesday, 02 November 2005
columnist and fellow Oaklander Jon Carroll
About 10 years ago I realized that my idea of reality was changing. It was as though I were in a room, an ordinary square room with a sofa and a table and floor lamp, and slowly all the edges began separating. Slowly the walls pulled away from the floor and the ceiling, and the walls pulled away from each other. I could see something between the cracks.
For want of a better word, I called the space outside the walls “sky.”
of the piece is definitely worth reading. I think I know what Carroll is talking about: A couple of years ago now, I was sitting in a room of my own when there was suddenly a fantastic explosion that blew the walls out about three feet, and the sky just poured
in. Everything has been different since then. In my happy moments, I am literally overwhelmed by the beauty of said sky, which I had never even noticed before.
Thursday, 20 October 2005
When I was at Cal, I had to take a damn physical sciences course, so as a freshman, I took Integrative Biology 33, a famed Dinosaurs 101* sort of class usually taught by one Kevin Padian, who turned out to be one of the top five professors I ever had. Padian is Mr. Paleontology at Berkeley, and his classes are absolutely electric. The dude has the kind of passion for his work that is contagious. When you hear him talk about how birds developed from raptorish dinos, you get excited
, not just because he pumps the story full of wonder and energy, but because the man knows his stuff like no one else, and he manages to work every last shred of evidence for his case into the folksy talk he’s giving you.
But wait, he gets better. Here’s how big a cross-discipline thinker Padian is: He taught a seminar
in the English
department, which I had the honor and pleasure of taking. The subject of the course was something like “Darwin’s ideas in literature” — it was basically a survey of how Darwin’s world-shaking theory of natural selection (not
“evolution” — remember, that word appears nowhere in The Origin of Species
) got into people’s brains and stuck there and started dripping out into art and culture. We read Tess of the D’Urbervilles
and The French Lieutenant’s Woman
with an eye toward Darwinian ideas emerging in plot and character motivation. It was fantastic stuff. more
Thursday, 13 October 2005
In 1997, in a handwritten note to Harriet Miers, George W. Bush wrote
P.S. No more public scatology
[spotted at Boing Boing]
Monday, 10 October 2005
is an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.”
[spotted at robot wisdom]
Monday, 03 October 2005
At long last, I got off my ass and culled through all the pics I took at Burning Man this year, and put the best ones up in a gallery
over in the museyroom.
My second Burn was different in many, many ways from my first, but it was nevertheless a fantastic experience. There were highlights I wouldn’t dare talk about here, and low points that only make sense if you’ve been inside my head. There was growth. There were journeys, each and every day. I spent much of the week with a couple of friends whom I rarely see and who are as dear to me as anyone. And I came back to the default world feeling about fifteen degrees out of kilter, like I was looking at everything freshly, from a new angle. And that, in one sense, is what the Burn is all about.
Wednesday, 28 September 2005
Thanks to conservative know-nothing white schmuck Iowa Representative Steve King
— a man who believes that Joe McCarthy was “a hero for America” — and others, Berkeley’s main post office will not be renamed after local hero Maudelle Shirek. The Chronicle
has the infuriating story
Monday, 26 September 2005
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the lyrics Jim Morrison wrote for The Doors’ first three albums were largely about his ex, one Mary Werbelow, who has never spoken to the press. Until now
Morrison has always struck me as one of the twentieth century’s great poets in pain*. I’ve never listened to the three albums in question — I’ve just got the ubiquitous two-disc “Best of the Doors” compilation — but I’ve been on quite a classic rock kick lately, so perhaps it’s time to finally explore them.
[*A memory: An enchanting and sylphlike girl named Selby introduced me to the phrase “poet in pain” back in college. She described me with those words before adding heaps more pain to the load I already carried at the time. She then danced, awkwardly, out of my life forever. I very likely listened to some of The Doors’ darker stuff while I was lamenting her exit.]
Tuesday, 20 September 2005
I remember reading this Malcolm Gladwell piece
in the New Yorker
back in 2000, and am glad to see it up on Gladwell’s site, since the New Yorker
doesn’t put their archives up on the Web. I think that every woman on the Pill should give this a read. Synopsis: The Pill’s chief designer didn’t know as much about how women’s bodies “should” work as he thought he did. Result: Uncertain, but there’s a lot of interesting info in here that I’d imagine you’d be interested in if you are putting a chemical into your body every day that affects your reproductive system. There’s also some discussion
of the article over at MetaFilter, where I found the link today.
I’ve said it before
and I’ll say it again: Three cheers for rubbers and diaphragms!
Yes, I came back from the playa in one piece. Changed, but in one piece. Pictures will post soon, and a few of them are really great. I’ve had damn little time for proper “decompression” (the Burner word for re-integrating yourself into the non-playa world without going nuts), having been Best Man in a best friend’s wedding a few short days after I returned, and having been kept on a total freaking treadmill by work and a few other obligations since then. I just want things to calm down and be still for a day or two, but it’s looking like there’s no chance of that for at least another week. Sigh.
Monday, 22 August 2005
When I was young, I was unfortunately taught to expect a certain bargain out of life. “Work hard,” they told me, “be nice to others, always do your best, and you’ll be rewarded. Good things will come your way.” Of course it isn’t true. There is no bargain to be had with life, no contract you can sign that will remove the uncertainties, the unsatisfactoriness, and the occassional crippling blow.
The playa is different. Last year
, the playa made a bargain with me: “Go back out there into that crazy, hardhearted, messed-up world, and survive it for just another year. Get through twelve more months of all that frightful bullshit, and you’ll get to come back here. You’ll get to come back home.” more
Sunday, 07 August 2005
My home-grown, bare-bones comments system here on the mahna mahblog has long remained esoteric enough to be untouched by comment-spam bots.
Sadly, it’s no longer true. There’s been a shipload of comment spam around here lately. I’ve cleaned up most of it, and, sadly, destroyed a few legit comments along the way. I’ve also made some changes to the site code so as to perhaps hide myself from these evil bastards once again. We shall see.
Saturday, 06 August 2005
When I arrived home yesterday, the following was taped to my front door:
Hell yeah I’m excited! The Man burns in 28 days!
[So much to do, so much to do!]
Friday, 05 August 2005
Here’s an amazing collection of photos
from subway stations around the world, highlighting some remarkable architecture and public art. Sweet Jesus, I’ve gotta go to Stockholm
[been meaning to post this for a while; I’ve forgotten how I found it…]
Tuesday, 02 August 2005
We are extremely lucky to live in a part of the world where the water that flows from the tap is potable. (I have a friend in India who’s only known that luxury during the years she lived here.) This fantastic op-ed
at the New York Times
reminds us that bottled water, the trendy alternative so many of us adore, is just plain evil. My brother, a civil engineer who knows a thing or two about what happens to our tap water in this country, told me years ago how big a crock bottled water is, and gave me this fantastic tip: If you don’t like the way your tap water tastes, let it settle in a refrigerated, glass jar. And as for any concerns you have that your tap water ain’t safe to drink, here’s the scoop: It’s very likely safer than that designer H2
O you’re paying too much for.
[yep, spotted at Boing Boing; use “gatsby” / “daisy” at the Times if you need credentials, and be sure to catch the piece before it disappears behind their darned wall]
Friday, 22 July 2005
Troubletown’s E-Z Guide to Today’s Economy
seems accurate, and is a perfect encapsulation of the economic reasons why fleeing this country might be a good idea. (I’m still looking for a nice encapsulation of the cultural reasons getting the hell out sounds like a better idea all the time…)
[spotted at Robot Wisdom. Wanna learn more? Read this from Molly Ivins.]
Wednesday, 20 July 2005
Also recently spotted in my neighborhood. (Click to embiggen.)
Tuesday, 19 July 2005
Recently spotted in my neighborhood. (Click to embiggen.)
Monday, 18 July 2005
Just a couple hours ago, I got out of the shower and stumbled into my bedroom to discover that for the third time in as many weeks, my 15-month old cat had pissed all over the recently-vacated bed. Frown. Perhaps she’s trying to tell me something. Perhaps she’s trying to say, “No, look, stay home and do laundry. Don’t go in to work. You know you don’t want to go.”
Yeah, perhaps that’s it. Because now, here I am at work, and I cannot think of a worse place on the entire planet to be on this beautiful July day.
Friday, 15 July 2005
This has been making the rounds the last couple of days, but perhaps you have not seen it: La Pâte à Son
is an amazing, goofy, wack-ass music making machine that will gobble up a whole bunch of your time if you’re not careful. (Shockwave required.)
A coupla weeks back, the new SFGate CultureBlog had a little writeup
on a book called PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings
. They offered a snippet that got me intrigued. A sample:
Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don’t fully understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you’ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that’s just right for your body’s needs, as it was before you fell asleep. more...
Wednesday, 13 July 2005
The English translation offered at this Russian news site ain’t exactly perfect. Excellent
Drunk man has tried to scuffle with a bear in a zoo in Ukraine and has been heavily hit… . [The man] decided to show his force, jumped over the gate and started to pretend a trainer. In response, the bear weighing 270 kilograms [595 pounds] seriously hit the man. more…
[Spotted at Fark. Blurry bear photo from PDPhoto.org. Thank you for visiting mahnamahna.net, where we do the wacky measurement conversions for you.]
Tuesday, 12 July 2005
Animal experts in Croatia say a bear has learned how to trick people to let him in by knocking at the door. They believe the 35-stone [490-pound] brown bear probably learned the trick while nudging a door to get it to open. more…
[spotted at Follow Me Here; previous Bears In the News: here and here]
Monday, 11 July 2005
Here we have a list of the “Leatherman Micra
, and I have to admit that thing looks pretty damned sweet, but I am fond of my smaller, simpler Swiss-Teck Utili-Key
. It’s saved my butt more than once. Check.
$150+ jeans. Not $150, no. But I have spent three figures on a pair of jeans, and it was worth it.
$200+ dress shoes. Again, no. I have nice dress shoes, but they didn’t have the inflated price tag that would make me a true winner.
300-thread-count cotton sheets. No. But I did buy a new down comforter just yesterday. The bed gets the attention it needs.
The Joy of Cooking. Yes. A copy liberated from my ex! Check.
[There’s also J-Walk Blog.]
Thursday, 07 July 2005
…but there will be new wisdom posts. And other sorts of posts as well. Yes, new posts here. Sometimes blogs stall, as this one has. I have some ideas about why, but those will be the subject of another post, perhaps, assuming I can get this thing cranked up again. Right now, though, Jon Carroll has some things to say about wisdom
Monday, 16 May 2005
Have you made up your mind on John Bolton, W’s nominee to represent us at the United Nations? Even if you have, you won’t believe this 90-second QuickTime video
of Bolton first stating his view that “there is no United Nations” and then proceeding to go absolutely apeshit
when someone (in this case, a very mild-mannered individual) has the audacity to politely disagree with him in a public forum.
This guy is both a moron and an ass. It will be a very sad thing if the Senate confirms him. There is no place in diplomacy for people who lose their cool and begin shouting when confronted with opposing ideas. Diplomacy is all about working with
people when ideas clash. That’s why we call it DIPLOMACY, dammit!
[spotted, oddly enough, at The Huffington Post]
The important reviews are in. Roger Ebert gives Revenge of the Sith
three and a half stars, and his review
contains this non-spoiler gem:
Because the story leads up to where the original “Star Wars” began, we get to use the immemorial movie phrase, “This is where we came in.”
Over in the New York Times, A.O. Scott also has praise for the film
, including some interesting notes on the political message (!) it carries. And lastly, in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane does his typical routine of trying to impress you with a snarky and somewhat mean-spirited
dismissal of the film. (Lane’s work is and has long been that of a complete ass, and the only thing that saves film criticism in the New Yorker these days is that Lane shares his duties with David Denby, who actually writes intelligent, non-spoiler reviews that are often a joy to read.)
Me, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I have tickets to the midnight showing of Sith
when it opens this Thursday. I’ve never done a midnight premiere before, but this is the last Star Wars film ever (or perhaps not, as Ebert notes), and it seems clear that the mistakes of The Phantom Menace
and Attack of the Clones
— both of which I hated — have been left behind. Color me “very excited.”
Wednesday, 11 May 2005
The United States Senate passed a law yesterday that, for all intents and purposes, mandates a national ID card. If nothing else changes, you’ll have a new driver’s license in three years, and, as noted cryptography and security expert Bruce Schneier explains, this new card will make you less safe
. (If you’re not familiar with the issues he raises, his links are helpful.) The new cards will also, of course, cost your cash-strapped state a fortune.
This legislation was rammed through the Senate as an attachment to the latest military spending bill, which Senators just can’t bring themselves to vote against, no matter what is attached. In fact, there wasn’t even any debate held over the national ID card provisions. And the press? So far, they’re turning this into the most underreported story of the year thus far. (And they wonder why people are quitting newspapers and the evening news…)
Thursday, 21 April 2005
I’ve been trying to procure a copy of The Inform Designer’s Manual
for a while. The book has been out of print since 2001. The big online used book shops don’t have copies. So I thought I was out of luck until I happened upon this listing
at eCampus.com, which states that new copies are available through them via print-on-demand. The listing clearly states that the order could take up to four weeks to fill, which seems odd, but I went ahead and ordered anyway, on March 9. The site let me know that print-on-demand orders cannot be canceled, but that no credit card charge is made until the book ships. more
Thursday, 31 March 2005
“I imagined if I’d assume the responsibility for unleashing the third World War — and I said, no, I wouldn’t.”
Ever heard of Stanislav Petrov? Nearly 22 years ago, his job was to watch a screen for signs of an American attack on the Soviet Union, and press a big red button to launch a nuclear counterstrike if necessary. Late one night, the screen lit up. But Petrov didn’t push the button
[spotted at dashes.com]
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Just one of the reasons the Boy Scouts
continue to bar gays and atheists from their organization is a misguided belief that this somehow keeps kids safe. So I’m interested to learn from an article
[registration required — sorry] in the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram
that Douglas Smith, the Scouting official who pleaded guilty
today to charges of possessing and distributing child porn, was “a churchgoing, happily married man and father of three grown children.”
You like your iPod? You dig that part of 21st Century life is a neverending stream of new and exciting gadgets? Salon’s Andrew Leonard has a fantastic piece up about why the Grokster case — argued
before the Supreme Court yesterday — is so damned important
. Edward Felten, a Princeton prof who’s no stranger to this and related issues, notes a brief real-world example
of the future that awaits us if this decision goes the wrong way. If the court fails to, uh, grok what’s at stake here, you can kiss certain kinds of innovation good-bye, and you’ll have the big entertainment companies to thank.
It’s interesting to note that in arguments yesterday, one idea that got kicked around was that business models might be useful in determining whether a new technology is legal. If that’s the way the court goes, what will it mean for new technologies offered up by geeks for free
, absent any business model at all?
Wednesday, 23 March 2005
Not since the war started has there been a story in the news that has upset and angered me as much as the goings-on revolving around poor Terri Schiavo. I’m not going to offer my own rant here; instead, I’ll link to three truly fine takes on the situation, all spot-on, all worth reading: Jon Carroll
, Dahlia Lithwick
, Get Your War On
Thursday, 17 March 2005
Unbelievably, the Wall Street Journal tackles this topic
“It was never meant to be yelled at a cool concert — it was meant to be yelled at someone really lame,” he says. “If you’re going to yell ‘Freebird,’ yell ‘Freebird’ at a Jim Nabors concert.”
[spotted at The Morning News]
Monday, 14 March 2005
It is only mid-March (beware the Ides tomorrow, yo!) and yet it is sunny and warm outside. Pollen.com
reports that the pollen levels are through the roof ‘round these parts, and the wind is blowing like mad today, stirring all that shit up. I have a terrible case of the sneezles. I think I need one of these
Friday, 11 March 2005
Ya still think our compassionate-conservative Republican majority has the interests of average Americans in mind? Have you heard
about the bankruptcy bill that just passed the Senate and will now certainly pass the House? No? Pay attention
[link updated to one that doesn’t require login; sorry about that!]
Tuesday, 08 March 2005
Many of my geek friends chastise me for my love of certain pat phrases about technology, like “the Internet changes everything” and “information wants to be free.” Thing of it is, these two in particular keep proving themselves true over and over again.
Case in point: Fiona Apple
’s new album, Extraordinary Machine
. Or perhaps I shouldn’t call it “new,” since work on it apparently wrapped up more than two years ago. But then Fiona’s label, Sony, decided that none of her new work was radio-friendly, and thus they refused to spend money publishing and promoting the work. So Extraordinary Machine
has sat collecting dust.
Some Fiona fans
have been working on a grassroots effort to get Sony to release the material, but in the past week, something else has happened. All the music in question has been leaked — a lot of it going out over the airwaves of KNDD 107.7
in Seattle, apparently — and now you can grab your own complete copy of Extraordinary Machine
online: Just ask your favorite Torrent search engine where to go. (Here’s a link
that works for now.)
Information wants to be free, and in the digital age, music is just another form of information. And yes, the Internet changes everything: It can even make the art-hostile decisions of a moneygrubbing megacorp irrelevant.
[How’s the album? So far, sounds like stuff Fiona fans like me will enjoy…]
Friday, 04 March 2005
An 18-year-old high school junior has been in jail since Tuesday
for having written a story about zombies taking over a high school.
“Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it’s a felony in the state of Kentucky,” said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill.
Take note, now: “Anytime you … possess matter involving a school or function” Kentucky says that’s a felony. I’m not sure I even know what that means
. If I possess a pencil stamped George Rogers Clark High School, am I headed to the big house? I don’t know. It’s not like I needed another reason to stay the fuck out of Kentucky, but crikey. Paralyzed by the fear of school shootings and the fear of terrorism, it seems a large number of Americans have simply lost their minds. And apparently they can arrest and lock up those of us who haven’t.
Wednesday, 02 March 2005
It’s been a while since I’ve encountered a photoblog that stopped me in my tracks. The images of Hong Kong appearing at overshadowed
have me totally mesmerized. The city, bathed in artificial light on a foggy night, looks like a cleaner, saner version of Blade Runner’s “Los Angeles 2019.” And the subway
shots! Don’t even get me started about the subway
[thanks to the_lucky_duck for the link]
Thursday, 24 February 2005
- Whether you are on a hiking trip, day trip, athletic event, between classes, or at a board meeting, the BananaBunker will keep your fruit safe until you are ready to snack.
- The Banana Guard currently comes in 9 colours, available online: Ravishing Red, Outrageous Orange, Mellow Yellow, Sublime Green, Skyhigh Blue, Brilliant Blue, Passionate Purple, Pretty in Pink, Glow in the Dark.
- Our BanaBox is the perfect second skin for your bananas. Your days of worrying about smashed bananas in your bag are over.
Who volunteers to write a comparitive review of these products? Anybody?
Friday, 18 February 2005
I usually love it when an Adam Gopnik
piece shows up in The New Yorker
. But a coupla issues back, Gopnik chose to rant
about the new street signs popping up around New York. His first complaints make him sound like a bitter old copyeditor:
[The new signs] name the street that runs beneath them (and therefore, of course, announce to drivers the street they may want to turn onto), and they do this loudly and with unfortunate abbreviations. Over the intersection of Park Avenue and Eighty-sixth Street, for instance, there is now a long green sign proclaiming “Park Av,” with no period. A couple of blocks east, it gets worse: the green sign rubbernecks its way out into the middle of the street and announces “3Av.” This keeps up (2Av, 1Av) until 86St runs, at last, into East End Av. more...
Wednesday, 16 February 2005
Ladies, are you on the pill? There’s a new study
about how those hormones can affect your taste in men:
All women preferred the healthier face on average but those on the pill were significantly more choosy. “Women using oral contraceptives expressed stronger attraction to apparent health than women not using oral contraceptives,” the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
This reminds me of a different study
from a couple of years ago:
Psychologists have found that women who are taking the pill tend to fancy macho types with strong jaw lines and prominent cheekbones. However, women who are not taking that form of contraception seem to be more likely to go for more sensitive types without traditionally masculine features.
Three cheers for rubbers and diaphragms, sez I.
Tuesday, 15 February 2005
Earlier today, the_lucky_duck
asked me a hypothetical question which I shall rephrase thusly:
The Gestapo is enforcing a new rule: Everyone gets to own five (and only five) books, and those five are the only books you ever get to crack open again. (Book sharing will be punishable by death or something. I dunno. Just play along, okay?) So, which five books do you want to have with you for the rest of your days?
A ridiculous question, and one that’s perfect to answer on a blog and solicit additional answers to in the comments. My five (at this point in time, anyway):
The Sound and the Fury
Stranger In a Strange Land
The Power of Now
It’s been a little over a year since I last rode the NYC subway. Boy, do I miss it. You ride around underneath Manhattan long enough, and you’ll see a bit of everything
. An example: The Fourth Annual No Pants! Subway Ride
[spotted at kottke.org]
Friday, 11 February 2005
When I visited Paris
in 2001, I was told ahead of time, “Just be friendly and try to speak the language, and you’ll be treated well.” Uh, no. Pretty much everywhere I went, I was treated with disdain. This piece
in The Observer
is fantastic in that it both (a) makes it clear your poor treatment is probably not your fault and should not be taken personally and (b) gives you specific tips for vanishing that snooty little garçon’s attitude.
Monday, 07 February 2005
One of my guilty pleasures is Jon Carroll’s column in the Chronicle — which of course I never read in the Chronicle, but instead on SFGate. Today’s column
is fantastic for at least three reasons:
- He refers to “fine East Bay people,” which many City dwellers think is a mythical species. No, friends: We exist.
- He speaks of folks who send him angry e-mails about his columns. My own column (very different from Carroll’s, and orders of magnitude less exciting) only posts once a month, but still generates messages from malcontents who write like this: “CLEARLY you are one of those PATHETIC tech journalists who has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what he’s talking about.” As Carroll notes: “Clearly they are not trying to persuade. I know what persuasion looks like … and it rarely involves words like ‘pathetic.’”
- When he gets to the meat of the column, so to speak, he never actually names the thing that he’s talking about. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode “The Contest,” which was all about masturbation but never used that word or anything close to it. Here’s Carroll:
Here is the problem: A naked female actor can mime erotic involvement with another person and be completely convincing. A naked male actor cannot, because the deal-breaker, as it were, is right out there in the open. Are you unhappy to see me, or is that nothing at all in your pocket?
Today’s lovely dose of Carroll reminds me that we are coming up on the five-year anniversary of the greatest Jon Carroll column ever. Stay tuned for coverage.
[Ya like that statue? $79 gets you one of your own.]
has long maintained that when Deep Throat
dies, we’ll all finally find out who he was. According to John Dean
, it all may happen soon
Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source’s identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat’s obituary.
Friday, 21 January 2005
The Buffalo Beast brings us the 50 Most Loathsome People in America
(the 2004 edition). I don’t think I disagree with a single choice they’ve made. Some excerpts:
Colin Quinn: “Blamed cancellation of his awful show on reverse racism, ignoring his pathetic ratings, stumbling speech and the fact that his entire C-list entourage couldn’t beat Pamela Anderson at Trivial Pursuit.” … Dick Cheney: “The kind of guy who starts talking cannibalism the minute he steps on the lifeboat.” … Ben Affleck: “His uncanny ability to produce an unending stream of shitty movies and still get work rivals that of even Kevin Costner.” … Dan Rather: “Made Peter Jennings the most credible anchor in the business.” … Jessica Simpson: “The aesthetic equivalent of vitamin D milk.” … Donald Rumsfeld: “Carries himself in press conferences like a cranky grandfather who is sick of hearing his daughters whine about how he molested them every now and then.”
Any additional nominees? Oh, by the way, you should give this a read, just in case you’re on the list too…
[spotted at MetaFilter]
Your screen is looking kinda filthy. Here: Clean Your Screen For Free, Now
Thursday, 20 January 2005
[photo by Chris Hondros for Getty Images]
“America’s influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.” — George W. Bush
Tuesday, 18 January 2005
There is a fantastic and lengthy documentary series about the Civil Rights Movement called Eyes on the Prize
. I am lucky enough to have seen most of it during my public-school education. It’s an amazing piece of work that drives home to “the kids today” just how different America was prior to the social upheaval of the 1960s, and how hard that entire fight was.
Alas, due to the way that our unbalanced system of copyright and “intellectual property” laws function, you pretty much can’t see this amazing educational material anymore. And this isn’t the only bit of our history that big corporations are walling off. There’s more in a great article
at the Globe and Mail. The Washington Post has more, but they’ll make you register to read it
[of course, BugMeNot can help you with the WaPo; this material spotted at Copyfight]
There was a really great piece
in the Chron this weekend about my favorite Bay Area street musician, the self-described Artist General
and Global Village Idiot Savant, the master of the cymbalom, Michael Masley. Whenever you see this guy out on the street playing, it’s fun to stop and watch people have their first encounter with his music. You don’t have to wait long before you spot a jaw or two just hanging open in awe and wonderment.
Thursday, 06 January 2005
House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay has shown the world his true colors once again. On Tuesday, at the traditional Congressional Prayer Service that helps kick off a new Congressional session, DeLay read a passage
from the Gospel of Matthew. It has to do with the homes of non-believers being swept away by the mighty flood of Tom DeLay’s God:
And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined.
DeLay is, at best, an insensitive prick. At worst, he’s the sort of fundamentalist who honestly believes that people who don’t believe in His God deserve to die. In either case, he’s an embarrassment. But this is where we’re at as 2005 begins: Hateful people are running our country.
[spotted at MetaFilter]