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December 29, 2004

Point Reyes

Sutter (pictured), Lane and I trekked up to Point Reyes National Seashore and saw a whole mess of cows as well as some amazing scenery.

Also, pictures were taken (tho' not of cows).

December 23, 2004

December 15, 2004

Nutsplosion

I bought some chestnuts the other day not realizing that you couldn't eat them raw. I'd always figured that the whole 'roasted' thing was optional.
(Raw chestnuts taste like cedar chips, incidentally.)

Luckily, a query for 'roasting chesnut' returned exactly what I needed - easy roasting instructions. This part of the recipe particularly intrigued me, "Take your chestnuts and make a cut across the round side of each to keep them from exploding."

So I cut the heck out of those roundsides, stuck 'em in the oven, and waited (as the site says) for my nutmeats to soften. If you cut a little cross into the top of the nut, the edges will curl back during roasting like the slimeflaps of an alien egg sack. Which is a bonus.

After 20 minutes, I removed the roasted nuts, placed them in a towel and squeezed to loosen the shells. I heard some light crackling at first and then POP! My hands seared with pain and I dropped the scalding hot towel.

When I peered inside, I saw that the biggest of the chestnuts had split along its equator and a dark crater had been left at its center. Apparently, I had not scored this giant deeply enough and pressure had built in its core during roasting. When I squeezed it, a plume of superheated nut gas escaped, leaving me with light burns on the palms of my hands.

The nuts were still tasty. But, nonetheless, this is why I don't cook.

December 13, 2004

End of Innocence

I saw this story on BoingBoing - Wal-Mart sells a CD with 'fuck' in its lyrics, Maryland family buys the album for daughter, Maryland family seeks "damages up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music."

It's a great American moment, really. The combination of puritanical outrage coupled with down-home litigiousness.

But I'm wondering about this: "Skeens said he and his wife, Melanie, let their daughter buy the music for her 13th birthday and were shocked when they played it in their car while driving home."

Here's what I figure happened: The Skeens are wending their way home from a successful outing at the 'Mart, bopping along to the new Evanescence CD. Dad's saying stuff like "These guys've got nothing on Credence" and the young birthday girl rolls her eyes. Outside, fall leaves shine on damp asphalt.

The fifth track cues up on the CD player and the minivan's speakers ring out:


Why are you trying to make fun of me?

You think it's funny?

What the fuck you think it's doing to me?

You take your turn lashing out at me

I want you crying with your dirty ass in front of me


At first, Skeens' brains refuse to process the f-bomb with which they've been hit. But the chorus repeats (oh, why not a verse!) and the vulgar shockwave washes over the family a second time.

A moment of silent disbelief.

And then ... panic.

Mom screams in anguish and claws at her blouse. Dad roars and turns his head to the backseat. He sees - literally sees - the dissolution of the profanity-free bubble that's encased his little girl for thirteen years. The soft glow that's always surrounded her fades and her face becomes ashen. She begins to visibly adolesce.

Dad jerks the car over to the shoulder and leaps from the driver's seat. He pulls his little girl from the backseat and sees she's now sporting a bare midriff and black fingernail polish. He holds her face close his and watches as her pupils contract and tiny track lines appear in the small blood vessels of her eyes.

"Why God! Why?!"

His daughter mumbles back, "What the fuck you think it's doing to me? I want you crying with your dirty ass in front of me."

And Dad now does begin to cry - a high-pitched, tortured whine punctuated by heavy sobs. And his ass is indeed dirty.

December 10, 2004

What's wrong with Sutter?


Seriously, I've been asking that for years.

December 08, 2004

Clockwork Khaki

Meet Sgt. Frank Ford. Up until recently, Ford was a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard. He has been in the miliary for over 30 years.

That is, he had been in the military until he reported incidents of prisoner abuse to the commanding officer at his base in Samarra, Iraq.

At that point Salon reports that "According to both Ford and a credible witness, Ford was strapped to a gurney and bundled off to a mental ward on the basis of a coerced diagnosis for an indefinite period of time."

Surprisingly, this somewhat soured Ford on military life. He's retired now and looking to get involved with human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

In short, we're actually sending soldiers off to the booby hatch if they're unwilling to go along with torture.

Honestly, what could possibly be next.

Safety

Rumsfeld had a question and answer session with the troops in Kuwait - which is a pretty daring choice, really. When asked why soldiers had to root through local landfills to scavenge armor for their vehicles, Rumsfeld offered reassurances that more armor was being produced.

He then added that armor wouldn't actually save troops from the roadside bombs being used by insurgents. "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up."

Which is sort of like being told that you shouldn't worry about not having any seatbelts because the car's breaks don't work either.

December 03, 2004

Tranny Spam



Christine - you had me up 'til when I found out your real name was Milford.

Update: On the other hand, that Milford is a looker ... if a bit churchy.

December 02, 2004

Snake Eater

I was in a bathroom stall here at GoogleHQ when a security guard entered (the bathroom, not the stall). I didn't hear him enter - I was alerted to his presence by the crackling of his walkie talkie.

Reflexively, I groped for a non-existent R2 button so as to arm myself with my MK-22 "Hush Puppy" Tranq Gun - I had to lullaby this bad mamajama before he saw through my camouflage and radioed in for HQ to send reinforcements.

And that's when I realized that maybe I'd been taking Metal Gear Solid 3 a bit too seriously.

November 25, 2004

Stop the love you save

The FAQ for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas gets meta:


NOTICE: I really, really, really don't give a flying eff about girlfriends. I think that the whole concept is stupid and pointless. If you are having a problem with any girlfriend, please, don't hesitate to not ask me about them. I cannot give you a straight answer about any of them. There is a nice guide up on GameFAQs that tells you all about girlfriends.

Written by AggroSk8er.

November 24, 2004

Hoc est corpus

Nick Kristof takes the Left Behind folks to task for being ridiculous and challenges them to a bet:

"if the events of the Apocalypse arrive in the next 10 years, then I'll donate $500 to the battle against the Antichrist; if it doesn't, you donate $500 to a charity of my choosing that fights poverty - and bigotry."

It's a bad bet for LaHaye and Jenkins. Presumably, they're planning on being raptured to Heaven when the 'pocalypse starts cooking. So, they won't be around to collect.

November 20, 2004

Crag



And I'm back.

And what a beautiful day in San Francisco to come back to. I pedalled myself out to beach and it was warm and clear the whole way.

November 18, 2004

Neighborhood

One of the benefits of working in New York is that my daily commute time has been drastically reduced. The 12 hours of flight notwithstanding, this week I'm staying all of 5 blocks away from the office. Of course, those 5 blocks are from 46th & Broadway to 41st & Broadway.

Having the evening stroll home be through the heart of Times Square is a bit odd. Not a good time for quiet reflection.

There are some benefits. I can get a hot pretzel with spicy brown mustard any time I want. As an added bonus, they're heated in same incubator in which the hot dogs grow. So you don't have to eat the most questionable sausage on earth in order to get the smokey-flavor benefits.

Also, my block of 46th St. is home to the Billy Joel dance musical, the production of Beauty & the Beast and a giant Scientology retail center. Tough choice, there.

Remembrances of drinks past

As noted on my previous trip to New York, they make a funny chai tea here. So I'm currently sipping cappuccino in a Village cafe where I can surreptitiously steal wifi from some anonymous hotspot. Cheers, cleverly-named open network called linksys.

I don't really drink coffee and haven't had the foamy kind since back in the day when me and others would trek out to busted ass cafes in suburbs of suburban St. Louis.

Sometimes there were open mic nights.

Strong memories coming offa these steamed beans on this caffeinated night in Manhattan.

Update: A guy just came in and went table-to-table trying to sell pocket calculators ... that didn't happen in St. Louis.

November 17, 2004

Space baby

My hotel, the Paramount, is the most designed place I've ever slept in. The headboards are puffy, blow-ups of Dutch masterworks. I'm hungry for a little more substance and a little less style.

In particular, my room is super small and looks like it belongs in a miniaturized version of the set from the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn't sleep well last night because the bed's too hard and I kept bumping into a superannuated version of myself who kept stealing the covers.

On the plus side, the bathroom sink looks like a giant mechanical pencil tip.

So I've got that going for me.

She swallowed the spider to catch the fly

The AZ Central's take on the recent Vibe awards fracas:

Hip-hopper punched at awards; puncher stabbed, stabber sought

November 15, 2004

Salve the wound

So I'm off to New York City tomorrow for a little business. While there, I'm hoping to bring a little west coast joy to my downtrodden brethen out east.

You know, some laughs, some sunshine.

Some chopped up Nancy Sinatra videos. The usual.

November 05, 2004

And another thing ...

Stephen Colbert explaining why those in the Red States voted for Bush because of gay marriage and terrorism ... despite not living near gay people or sites likely to be targetted in terrorist attacks:

We in New York are too close to the terrorism and the gay people. Only the Red States, with the advantage of a safe distance, can take in the whole picture.


Man ... it sucks to be New York City. Your shit gets blown up by terrorists, you vote overwhelmingly to replace the guy in charge because of how he's handled terrorism, and those least likely to be harmed by terrorism keep the guy in office.

And the Red Sox won.

2004 sucks.

November 04, 2004

Humbling

I had a sober realization today. I'm not yet 30 years old, but 20 years of my life will be spent under Reagan-Bush administrations.

What's more, I think I'm now fondly nostalgic for Bush I. He was a fun, goofy guy, right? Listened to C&C Music Factory and such?

Ah, the 90s.

November 03, 2004

Natch

It figures that, after a night of obsessively refreshing FireFox tabs open on MSNBC, CSPAN and CNN, I'd find out about the Kerry concession from BoingBoing.

Bah.

October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween


costume credit: kimbalina

October 28, 2004

Easey Peasey

The widely, wildly blogged Crash Ballet contest produced a pretty nifty video of 'sploding planes. But it was the remix of the Interpol track that really grabbed me. Turns out you can grab it for free from matador records.

October 27, 2004

Softie

St. Louis is my hometown, but I started following baseball when I lived in Jersey. As a result, I'm both a Yankees fan and a Cardinals fan.

In other words, this is about as bad as it gets.

Almost 2 weeks ago, I was eating fish n' chips in Lower Haight as the Yanks were stomping the BoSox in Game 3 of the ALCS - their 19 to 8 victory and 3-0 series lead all but guaranteed them another pennant.

A young couple, dressed head-to-toe in Boston gear, passed by the window where I was sitting. The boyfriend stopped and looked forlornly at the restaurant TV set. He was in anguish. The girlfriend moved in close and gently stroked his arm, trying to offer some small comfort.

And I thought to myself, "Wow. I actually feel bad for those guys. It must really suck to think your team's gonna win it each year and then just get the bejeesus knocked out of you."

This is what my sympathy has wrought.

Having been cruelly punished for my moment of weakness, I, therefore, commit myself this day to evil. It is the hard heart that kills. The meek will inherit jack squat. And so on.

Additionally, I may swear off fish n' chips.

October 26, 2004

Has been

I have to admit that when I first saw Dragon's Lair in the arcade, I thought it was pretty frickin' cool. Surrounded by 8-bit games, a playable cartoon looks pretty compelling.

The FAQ for Dragon's Lair II reveals how truly crappy the whole idea is. Apparently, to win the game all you need to do is:


SWORd, SWORD, SWORD. SWORD, RIGHT. LEFt onto the ledge then SWORD, SWORD. RIGHT, SWORD, SWORD, UP. Call out Daphne's name. RIGHT, RIGHT then embrace and kiss. RIGHT, RIGHT. SWORD, SWORD then RIGHT to go home

Now you're playing with power.

October 25, 2004

Increase the Wealth

I got this email from Netflix today:

Since our price increase in June, some of our members have expressed concerns about the new pricing. We've listened to this feedback and are pleased to inform you that we're lowering the price of your Netflix 5-at-a-time program from $33.99 per month to 29.99 per month.

Sweet! I'm taking that $4 to the bank!

October 24, 2004

Parable

No books have ever been as repeatedly reviewed by Harper's as those in the apoc-o-tastic Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

It makes sense. The books, over the course of 12 volumes, tell the tale of the End Times as tho' it were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer ... but, you know, some gentile Jerry Bruckheimer who likes a little New World Order conspiracy mixed in with his eschatology.

Just a taste: After the righteous are raptured up to Heaven, a band of Tribulation Force warriers cruise around in suped up Range Rovers so as to do battle with the Anti-Christ ... who was also voted People's Sexiest Man of the Year. Seriously.

Left Behind is a perfect combination of American consumerism, religious fundamentalism, straight-up hypocrisy and right-wing wackiness. As a result, it not only hits the mark for its intended audience, it also provides the barrel, the fish and the arsenal to the good folks at Harper's. Which is why they've reviewed it, like, twenty times.

There's something a bit disingenuous in all this ... I mean, yeah, there's always legit critical review of the books (here's a shocker - they're not particularly well written). But the larger point is really, "Ohmi-fucking-god, can you believe this shit!"

But, who am I kidding, this is one of the chief charms of Harper's. To wit, this selection from Gene Lyons latest salvo:


LaHaye comes close to revealing his own hocus pocus. He concedes, 'No one passage of Scripture teaches the two phases of Christ's second coming separated by the Tribulation.' But he adds, 'no one passage teaches against the pre-Trib view,' either. Of course, the Bible is likewise silent on the Treaty of Versailles and the designated-hitter rule.

...

The books are pagan tribalism writ large, complete with soothsayers and magic spells. All of history has conspired to turn suburban Americans into apocalyptic superheroes. The end is near, and dude - you're, like, the star!

Good times.

October 23, 2004

Dorksposé

Now that Ev's retired, he's apparently selling photos to CNET for some extra cash.

And proving I'm the world's biggest nerd in the process.

October 22, 2004

Grr. Argh.

Today, I received spam with the following subject:

Subject: Goldman Need software?

Goldman angry! Goldman smash!!

October 17, 2004

Where my good people at?

Last night I was catching up with a friend who was running a bit behind schedule. He explained, "Yeah, you know, Chinese People Time."

The funny thing is I've also heard of Black People Time, Indian People Time and so on. I've not heard of Jew Time ... but that's probably just because it sounds funny.

I'm not one to try to begrudge any group of folks a bit self-selected identity. But let me say, as a project manager, that when it comes to schedules everyone runs late.

October 16, 2004

Take Two

I've watched the Jon Stewart on Crossfire video several times. Man it's hard to watch. What the hell was it like to sit up there during the commercial breaks, for crissakes?

It's to be expected, I guess, given that he showed up on live TV to shame the hosts about what they do for a living (and fair enough). But aside from the content, it's an odd performance as he's going out of his way to say things in a pained, I-hate-to-tell-you-this sort of way. In short, he's trying specifically to be unfunny.

This differs from when he went on O'Reilly, for example, where it was so chock-a-block with jokes you could keep a running tally. The indictment count was negligible.

But, as he points out at the beginning, Stewart's had a special hatred of CNN and Crossfire for quite a while. In an interview with Bill Moyers last year he said:


Crossfire or Hardball? Which is funnier? Which is more soul-crushing, do you mean? You know, the whole idea that political discourse has degenerated into shows that have to be entitled Crossfire and Hardball. And you know, 'I'm Gonna Beat Your Ass' or whatever they're calling them these days is mind-boggling.

Crossfire, especially, is completely an apropos name. It's what innocent bystanders are caught in when gangs are fighting.


The underlying argument is that CNN has a burden, not shared by Fox, to offer legitimate commentary on politics. Fox, as Stewart has said previously, has simply "taken the AM radio mentality and labeled it fair and balanced just to upset you guys."

The argument is that shows like Crossfire are inherently disingenous because the participants are partisan hacks reciting talking points rather than substantively debating the issues. And I completely believe that to be true.

Going back to the video, however, the weird thing is the way in which this all plays out. After laying out the above argument, Tucker Carlson seeks to debate Jon Stewart on the merits of their respective shows. The fact that he has a graphic prepared suggests he knew the argument was headed this way.

This is, obviously, boneheaded. Stewart's response that "You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls" is both consistent with his original argument about the responsiblity of legitimate news and it gets a laugh.

It is, in fact, a joke that Jon Stewart uses a lot. In other interviews, he goes out of his way to eschew journalistic responsibiltiy by pointing out the fakeness of the Daily Show (and frequently using the puppet line).

For example when Bill Moyers asked if he viewed himself as a media critic or a social critic, he said no to both:

I think of myself as a comedian who has the pleasure of writing jokes about things that I actually care about. And that's really it. You know, if I really wanted to enact social change… I have great respect for people who are in the front lines and the trenches of trying to enact social change. I am far lazier than that.

Here, I think, Jon Stewart is being a bit disingenuous. Certainly if you show up on cable TV to indict folks for how they do business, you're doing a bit more than throwing tomatoes from the back of the class.

Which goes to the overall impression I'm left with given the Crossfire appearance. It's either appropriate or ironic that this flawed debate show ends up producing a really awkward and poor debate on the topic of what a debate show should be. Tucker Carlson's too busy being a dick (and getting called on it) to be aware of the real issue and Paul Begala's doing his best to avoid being noticed.

There's a real argument to be had about the responsibility of all those involved in shaping public discourse. And I feel being on Comedy Central (or Fox) doesn't exempt you from that responsibility. Maybe Jon Stewart ends up proving his point by showing exactly how that debate's never gonna happen on a show like Crossfire. But, yeesh, it ain't pretty.

October 15, 2004

I bomb you

Jon Stewart went on Crossfire and beat the ever living crap out of the Tucker Carlson, CNN and the media establishment. It's stunning. The transcript is available on CNN and I'm hoping a video will turn up soon.

The obvious highlight is this exchange:


Carlson: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.

Stewart: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

But while that might get the most play, it's his explanation of what's so wrong with political media coverage that's truly important. The man actually showed up on CNN to face the talking heads and call them partisan hacks. To indict them, in particular, for hurting America.

"See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns."

"After the debates, where do you guys head to right afterwards? You go to spin alley, the place called spin alley. Now, don't you think that, for people watching at home, that's kind of a drag, that you're literally walking to a place called deception lane?"

Jon Stewart - you are a great man.

Update: BoingBoing's got the goods.

Update
: Whoa. Watching the video gives it a whole new level of uncomfortableness. Reading the transcript doesn't convey the dire awkwardness of the whole deal.

October 12, 2004

The more you know

So, how high does your irony tolerance need to be before you add After School Specials: 1974-1976 to your Netflix queue?

A nervous boy avoids a bully in "The 18th Emergency" (with Lance Kerwin)

Not the Lance Kerwin!

October 06, 2004

Best Comment Ever

Chris Wetherdeal built a boat out of javascript and sailed to Vietnam. When he returned, he wrote about it on his blog.

But then, via comments, he got utterly dorkslapped for technical inaccuracies in his extremely popular Elvish Name Generator.

Seriously, go look right now. There's a list. With cited sources.

Okay, I'll just quote one of my favorite parts:


3. No mixing of languages from different races. You have Quenya, Sindarin, Ilkorin, Nandorin, and Doriathrin mixed up with Adûnaic. Adûnaic belongs to the men of Númenor only.

Wetherdeal's disrespect of the rich linguistic traditions of the elvish people not withstanding, one has to wonder if the comment was meant ironically. I mean, no one's that serious about Tolkien stuff, right?

September 24, 2004

Tron

Hey! Apparently, I've been digitized and put inside the Sims 2.

September 22, 2004

Bank of America: Aftermath

Contrary to what I was promised, my money was not returned to me at midnight last night. So, once again, I was on the phone with BofA. And, once again, they had no coherent explanation for what had happened.

Eventually, they hypothesized that maybe the banks on the East Coast were just a bit slow. Perhaps because of the recent hurricanes, they guessed. Apparently, in the world of BofA, hurricanes can steal your money.

About an hour ago, they ended up crediting my account so that I can at least withdraw money. The initial deposit is still on hold, because, you know, checks issued by other banks can't be trusted like BofA.

But just to review, my checking account was wrongly wiped out by the Bank of America and by way of explanation I was told:

  • the deposit had been lost
  • a teller had miskeyed the account information and had to be tracked down
  • the various BofA systems simply "don't work well together"
  • a hurricane stole it
And, of course, that this was completely out of the ordinary and has never happened to anyone. But would happen to me again, most likely.

September 21, 2004

Bank of America nightmare

On Saturday, I went to my local branch of the Bank of America and deposited a check. Because I originally opened my account in Maryland, I had to do an out-of-state deposit on the check. This, in combination with the fact that the check was more than the balance of my account, meant that a hold was placed on the deposit.

Fine. It makes sense. Even tho' the check was from a bank, they want to make sure it clears. I was a little shocked that this would take 15 days and suspected it took that long simply because they wanted to get some free interest on the transfer. But whatever.

This morning I tried to purchase a BART ticket with my debit card and got refused. Upon checking my balance online, I discovered that I was massively overdrawn. In fact, Bank of America had taken the amount of the check I'd attempted to deposit and *subtracted* it from my balance!

Not just put a hold on - but actually removed! I was left with the $6 in my pocket.

Thus began a long and terrible time trying to get my money back from the bank that stole it. The converstation involved a three-way call between BofA HQ, a branch in Maryland and the branch in SF. The conversation involved me being asked to describe the teller who had handled the transaction in an attempt to track down the wayward funds.

Everyone agreed that this was a ridiculous thing to have happened, but no one knew how it could possibly be fixed. "These systems just don't talk to each other well" was the best explanation I could get.

At midnight, I've been told, my pumpkin of a balance is supposed to turn back into a carriage. There's apparently a 24 hour time limit on this kind of insanity. But I've also been told that the same thing will happen should I do another deposit of this type.

When I asked why I should possibly want to do business with BofA again, it was suggested that I close my account and open a new one. One that's on a system "that makes sense." It's good advice I plan to heed.

Update: Day Two and BofA still has my money! Amazingly, the problem did not magically fix itself at midnight. How long before I file a robbery complaint?

September 18, 2004

Faith

Salon interviewed Seymour Hersh - the man knows stuff:


Is there someone who is the Henry Kissinger in this administration?



Oh, believe me, I pray for one [clasps his hands and looks beseechingly upward]. Wouldn't it be great if the reality was that they were lying about WMD, and they really didn't believe that democracy would come when they invaded Iraq, and you could go to war with 5,000 troops, a few special forces, a few bombs and a lot of American flags, and Iraq would fold, Saddam would be driven out, a new Baath Party would emerge that's moderate? Democracy would flow like water out of a fountain. These guys believe it.

September 16, 2004

Ponder

photo credit: mbostock

September 14, 2004

Rolled

At the start of Labor Day weekend, I dedicated myself to a mission. I was going to play the heck out of the new Square/Enix RPG, Star Ocean. I hadn't delved into an epic role-playing game in quite some time, but I figured I still had the obsessive chops needed.

I was wrong. I've managed to log some 30+ hours on the game but last night I finally surrendered.

To its credit, the Star Ocean battle system is a remarkable upgrade for the genre. The turn based system that's been around since before the first Final Fantasy games hadn't really changed in over a decade. In Star Ocean, they introduce a real-time, free range battle system where you have to actually, you know, fight to win battles. Figuring out how to string together combos is much better than scrolling through menus of neat effects you'd like to watch.

However, all of the other trappings of the anime-styled RPG remain. The obsessive collecting - in which you're presented with countless opportunities to spend untold hours making some counter creep toward 100%. The arbitrary role-playing elements - in which some dialog choice you make at hour 3 will shape events at hour 35. And, most devastingly, the preposterously convoluted plot.

The story is your basic "boy separated from his parents/turns out to be key to universal salvation" type deal. But then, at around hour 25, the twist happens and the "universe as reality tv show" plot emerges like a moist turd from betwixt the greaves of a blue-haired celestial warrior.

Anyway, I've had enough. And, luckily, just in time because my birthday present arrived today (thanks, Mom!) and I've got a new world of Xbox gaming to explore.

September 12, 2004

Angelis

I left my house this morning wiping away grey cloud from my glasses. I was making yet another attempt to visit Angel Island and it looked like the whole thing might be spoiled by bad weather. But I biked out and met up with mbostock and together we hit the Embarcadero where we saw one of the laps of San Francisco Grand Prix come screaming by.

Those guys were flying ... especially the one guy who had somehow latched himself to a support vehichle and was being carried along as a crew member dangled out a passenger window to repair the bike's back wheel. Seriously. It was quite something to see but it was still fairly bleak weatherwise and we had yet to get to Fisherman's Wharf, our departure point and Home of All Things Indecent in San Francisco.

But we boarded the ferry and a short hour later (the ferry first went to Alcatraz and then to Tiburon) we exited the clouds and deboated on the sunny shores of Ayala Cove.



There are two bikeable roads that encircle Angel Island - the 5 mile Perimeter Road and the 3 mile Fire Road. We trekked up to the higher Fire Road, and despite being an lung busting climb, it was well worth it. As we rode along, we had amazing views of the Bay, both bridges, the City and Marin.

Additionally, the abandoned immigration buildings are spooky cool. And, I believe, my family once past through them when they first arrived in the New World from Poland (via Tokyo).

Tuckered out, Mike and I ferried home having biked the heck outta that island. Hopefully, I'll figure out how to make it back for some camping one day in the future.

September 11, 2004

Street fair

Walking home from dinner just now, I saw a trio of naked 3 year-olds come running down the steps of an upstairs apartment and squeal about on the sidewalk of my street. Their parents were attempting to round them up, but only half-heartedly.

I think it was some kinda toddler Burning Man.

Incantation

September 09, 2004

September 02, 2004

Commuter

I'm in LA today checking out some new cults working from Google's Santa Monica office. This morning at the airport, in front of snarled security checkpoint traffic, a TSA agent broke out into a operatic ditty about removing shoes. "Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!" it went.

It was at this point that I realized that air travel is just plain broken.

Haven't seen much of LA and we're flying back this evening. But, let me tell you, that smog thing is no joke. Descending into LAX, it looked like the Los Angeles basin had been topped off with a layer of greyish-orange foam. Yeech.

August 30, 2004

Kurt & Ramtha had nothing left to offer the school...

In my previous post, I said that What the Bleep was a spiritual recruitment film. I didn't mention that one of the talking heads in the movie is JZ Knight. JZ Knight is a spiritual guru who channels a 35,000 year old warrior from Atlantis named Ramtha. She also sells a line of elfin capes and brooches.

I avoided the whole Ramtha thing because the movie was a failure regardless of the wackiness of one of its participants. Also, everytime I read a skeptic debunking of someone like Ramtha, I usually end up not liking the debunker very much. It's hard to be a likeable know-it-all and not end up just being a smarmy ass. I should think.

The thing is tho' ... it turns out that What the Bleep is an actual recruitment film for Ramtha. While there's probably no financial relationship between Ramtha's School of Enlightenment and the filmmakers, the ideological ties help explain why it's such an uncomfortable movie to watch.

The filmmakers address this in their FAQ in which they reveal that they are all students of Ramtha. In answer to the question "Is this a recruitment film?" they say "The short answer is No." Which makes one wonder what the long answer is. I feel the longer version is that they sought to create a movie influenced by - but independent of - the spiritual school they follow. But they failed and created a propaganda film instead.

The influence of Ramtha over Bleep is significant. Mark Vicente, the director of Bleep, has also directed Where Angels Fear to Tread, a self-described rockumentary about Ramtha. Two of the other talking heads in the movie are associated with Ramtha - chiropractor Joseph Dispenza, whose book is for sale on Ramtha's site, and Amit Goswami who collaborated with JZ Knight in 1997.

Additionally, the filmmakers and their production company are headquarted in Yelm, Washington - home of JZ Knight's school. The company's publicist, Pavel Mikoloski, (who also appears in Bleep as a priest) is also the spokeperson for RSE. Even the production company's name, Lord of the Wind, comes from one of Ramtha's teachings in which he recounts his enlightenment.

All of which helps explain the relentless tone of the film ... as well as the soft-focus, ultra close-ups of JZ Knight. The film is not an exploration of spiritual ideas - it's an indoctrination. From someone who charges $1000 per retreat and sues in Austrian court for copyright infringement should anyone else claim to channel the spirit of Ramtha.

Boo.

August 28, 2004

Bleep

Halfway through watching What the #$*! Do We Know?!, I realized I was seeing a spritual recruitment film.

The movie promulgates a worldview based on eastern mysticism and quantum mechanics through a combination of talking head interviews, a loose narrative starring Marlee Matlin and CGI.

It was a really uncomfortable movie going experience. I'd been very petulant about going to see it in the first place and I realized that leaving in the middle would definitely cross the melodrama threshold. But still - I was squirmy, largely because I agreed with what was being said, but was dying at the way in which it was said.

Part educational filmstrip and part instructional video, the movie posits answers to the mysteries of life by invoking precepts such as be here now, visualize peace, see the divinity within and so on. These ideas are presented in short soundbytes from talking heads and go largely uncontextualized. (Well, the narrative part of the movie tries to shoulder some of the load here. But it's like the story in a health class video - it is slave to the message. Also, this whole part really sucks eggs from an execution standpoint.) As a result, these ideas come off as slogans or tips for happy living rather than what I feel they're meant to be - pointers to a transcendent truth.

The filmmakers make matters worse by poorly contextualizing these spiritual ideas in the study of modern physics. Throughout the movie, quantum mechanics is invoked as a talisman to bridge the gap between mysticism and reality. On the whole, this is, again, a line of thought to which I'm very sympathethic having really dug on Fritjof Capra's whole deal. But the Tao of Physics puts a lot of effort establishing the traditions of both eastern spirituality and western physics - as such the associations are rich and meaningful. In What the Bleep, they are completely superficial.

Of course, Fritjof had a whole book - maybe this stuff just can't be done in a movie. I don't think that's actually the case. Instead, I feel the film fails because it ends up flying over the propaganda line.

But, then again, Fahrenheit 9/11 was a propaganda film and I enjoyed it as such. What the Bleep is, similarly, an activist movie but the whole thing ends up eating itself precisely because of the spiritual truths it attemps to convey. The movie hammers away with soundbytes and hand wave-y science until the tone is one of pure dogma - which is just an awful thing to do to a philosophy that is completely un-dogmatic.

This post has been cross-posted to Flicknut

August 22, 2004

Poke

The clouds in Dolores Park were amazing today.

August 21, 2004

Lined

The New York Times online is frequently infuriating, largely because they're so close to doing amazingly cool stuff. The Al Hirscheld Archive is a good example.

The drawings are incredibly cool and having them all compiled in one place made me realize how great Hirschfeld's work truly is. However, the browsing kinda sucks and, most annoyingly, there's no way to see larger versions of the pictures.

This one of Fiddler on the Roof looks phenomenal but how's the NYT not gonna let me see more detail on Tevye's crazy beard?

August 16, 2004

Queen of Slime

Last night, I dreamt I was attending a music theory lecture at some Hogwartish fancy pants school where you have to wear a tux and tails, like, everywhere.

The Beatles, as the guests of honor, were exempt from the dresscode and instead wore their Sgt. Pepper's outfits and chatted cattily as we watched a movie on renaissance music composition.

Apparently, the style back in the day was to use a needle and thick, red thread to sew the notes into thin sheets of burnished plywood. The demonstration in the movie - a quick hand effortlessly looping through a dozen quarter rests - was really striking and I very much wanted to take a picture that would capture both the screen and the regalia'd Beatles.

(At the time, Ringo was saying that the symbol for the quarter rest was taken from arabic. Unsurprisingly, Ringo is full of shit - I didn't know it at the time, but the crooked symbol is called the crotchet from the French who also named a style of needlework)

Sadly, the light was too crappy to get a good picture and I was nervous about using the flash and going all paparazzi on the Fab Four who, I'm sure, get that all the time. But I do have this nice one of some slime in Golden Gate Park.

August 13, 2004

Rally!


Originally uploaded by evhead.

The cap totally worked! In the last inning, we came back from a 8-5 deficit to win the intra-Blogger team kickball game.

August 11, 2004

Exit Light / Enter Night

Steve and I, having been prevented from seeing baseball at PacBell due to the insidious trickery of the US Naval Observatory, reveled in good-seat glory last night in Oakland.

One of the great pleasures of baseball is that its slow pace gives you time to contemplate the mysteries of life with good friends. For example, what would your intro music be if you were a major league closer? My list:


  1. "Isolation" by Joy Division
  2. "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails (probably only in New York)
  3. "The Centaur" by Buck 65
  4. "It's the End of the World as We Know It" by REM
  5. "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode

"Personal Jesus" takes it for me by a wide stretch because of the salvation themes. But it's clear that there can be no worse choice than "Dancing Queen" ... maybe the PSB version of "Go West."


August 10, 2004

So is it over?

As widely reported:

"Kerry said he would have cast the same Yes vote in Congress that he did on Oct. 11, 2002, to authorize the president to launch a pre-emptive war that began March 19, 2003, even if Kerry had known that Saddam Hussein had no ties with Al Qaeda terrorists, no weapons of mass destruction and posed no real threat to the world."

How is this anything less than Kerry slitting his own throat? Besides just being wrong in principle, it makes no sense politically. If Kerry can't distinguish his stance on Iraq from that of Bush, he's nowhere.


Bah.

August 09, 2004

Barack Obama: Still Awesome

Today, Alan Keyes said the following ridiculous thing about abortion:

"I would still be picking cotton if the country's moral principles had not been shaped by the Declaration of Independence," Keyes said. He said Obama "has broken and rejected those principles he has taken the slaveholder's position."


Obviously, the point was to have the quote picked up. He's said something similarly preposterous in a number of other interviews - for example, arguing that Barack Obama (by supporting gay marriage) has turned his back on everything decent in the world and that Keyes, like Lincoln, must defend our fundemental principles of Union.


Will Barack Obama, the greatest thing to happen to Democratic politics in a generation, be sidetracked like so many others by the social issue sideshow?



Fuck no.



"As I travel around this state, I don't get asked about gay marriage, I don't get asked about abortion. I get asked, 'How can I find a job that allows me to support my family.' I get asked, 'How can I pay those medical bills without going into bankruptcy.'"

Alan Keyes, Barack Obama is a righteous political whirlwind. You are but the cracked out trailer park in his path.

August 08, 2004

Snappy

There's nothing remarkable to say about David Mamet's Spartan. It's Jack Ryan with staccato dialog.

But seeing it did make me check out what Mamet's up to next ... apparently he's working on a Will Farrell vehichle called Joan of Bark: The Dog that Saved France.


Seriously.


August 07, 2004

More miraculous

If you've ever wanted to experience the awe of someone from the 19th century gazing upon our modern world, go out and get an AirPort Express. Sending audio from a laptop to your stereo without wires! All hail the future!

August 01, 2004

Modern Miracle

jew-paySick of being bald? To cheap to buy a real hairpiece? Help has arrived!

Now you can own a homemade toupee in just 5 easy steps:



1. Find a friend with a thick head of hair. The thicker, the better. Take Eugene, for example. His hair is so thick he gets it cut every couple weeks ... with garden shears! (buh-dum-bum).



2. Next, go over to said hirsute friend's house when he's getting a trim. Try not to salivate as you watch all that luscious hair pile up on the floor (the spit would make the hair clumpy).



3. After the haircut is over, get a couple strips of wide, transparent tape. Packing tape is perfect. Duct tape, not so much.



4. Dredge the the strips of tape through the piled hair clippings.



5. You should now have a couple chia-esque strips of tape. Plop those suckers on your noggin and you can hold your head up high from now on!


July 30, 2004

Jiggedy-Jig

During my junior year of college, I once stayed up for 50 hours during which time I wrote my semester thesis, flew to Athens and physically collapsed during the welcoming ceremony at the World Debate Championships. The upshot is I broke something in my brain such that I no longer have the ability to function without sleep.

Last night I got about 2 hours before trekking to Logan and hopping the 6 hour flight back to SF. Around an hour into the flight, I honestly thought I wasn't going to make it. I'd already tried listening to the KLF's Chill Out but there was still 5 hours to go and my eyeballs were trying to claw their way out of my skull.



But then - a miracle. JetBlue, the world's best airline, was testing out a movie channel supplement to their signature DirecTV service. This meant I didn't have to try to occupy myself with 5 hours of Animal Planet as I did on the flight out - the highlight of which was a heartwarming tale of, seriously, a blind and deaf dog who befriends a three-legged cat (see above).



Instead, I had the Princess Bride (which is a special treat if you know Biz Stone and can imagine him doing all the parts as he's often wont to do) and The Sound of Music.



Man, The Sound of Music is good. Best movie involving Nazis? Possibly, if you discount Das Boot.



What made it especially compelling is that I quickly realized I'd never seen the theatrical cut. The copy I watched growing up was taped off of TV and severely editted for length. As a result, there's all kindsa stuff I'd not seen despite having watched the movie dozens of times (so much so that I have a clear memory of where each commercial break occurs in the 'movie').



Anyway, Sound of Music is also good because it's 3 hours long ... it was already time to land and the Von Trapps hadn't even escaped to Switzerland.



Thanks JetBlue!

July 29, 2004

Balloon!


Welp, that about wraps it up for the DNC. My back is killing me from having sat for 6 hours waiting to see a bunch of ballons John Kerry.


But I thought the speech was solid. Strategically sound if not inspirational - "health care is a right," "screw the Saudis," "we're taking back the money from the rich" ... these are all messages I can get behind.

I talked about it some with Noah and I assure you that when I said President Douche instead of President Bush, it was an honest slip.

Floor to Rafters

Yesterday was a wacky, hectic day filled with Indiana Jones-themed parties (for the congressional whips don'cha know) followed by the traditional scramble for convention passes. But it all turned out well when Shellen and I gained access to the delegate floor and got to experience the full force of Al Sharpton's amazing speech.

I talked about it with Noah on the audblog - I feel the Democrats had to address the recent Republican effort to court the Black Vote. Sharpton nailed it with his "we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as we could take it" line and the Florida delgates with whom I was embedded went stark raving nuts.



And then we retired to the Blogger afterparty. Blogs are big news here even if most people aren't sure why. But it's always fun to get together with clever folks and talk technology ... I did some audio rambling with Noah on the state of the blogowhatnot.



This is definitely one of most heavily mediated environments I've ever seen. Everywhere you look someone is covering something ... sometimes it's just the coverage itself. The intermingling of politicos and celebrities feeds some kinda primal excitement - last night I saw a woman lunge outta nowhere just to rub James "That'll do, Pig" Cromwell's arm. She just wanted to grab a little squeeze to take home with her.



I find it painfully weird to run up and try to capture a celebrity momemt, but I also don't want to be left out of what's clearly an essential part of the convention experience. Therefore, I present my own series of awkward celebrity photographs:


Eat your heart out, Anne Leibovitz.

July 28, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

More audio over at listenlab.

Chain link fences and velvet ropes

The big thing I've learned on day 1 of the DNC is that political conventions, like politics, is all about access. As I talked about with Noah, we started out the evening as uncredentialed outcasts - stuck on the wrong side of the riot-proof fencing, deafened by over-amped protesters and under-muffled diesel generators.

By the end of the evening, we had traded up our color-coded badges several times and were able to peer down on the convention floor from a lofty skybox inside the Fleet Center.

It's like a baseball game where you try to sneak into better and better seats as the game goes on.

The whole process is a little strange because it relies on exploiting connections and a good deal of guile. (Neither of which are paradigms I'm particularly comfortable with).

But both led to us jumping a partition into an adjoining skybox which happened to contain Michael Moore. There was a weird celebrity awkwardness as folks were struggling with their digicams to snap souvenir photos.

But we ended up having a real conversation about blogs, Google and the terrible state of copyright. Michael Moore is a clueful dude. And hungry ... which I can appreciate.

The one completely genuine moment of the evening was Barack Obama's speech. The man gave me chills. In terms of what public service should mean, Obama nailed it when he said "If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent."

That the poverty of others can make all of our lives poorer goes right to heart of the problems government is meant to address.

(For what it's worth, the least genuine moment of the day was dancing to Come on Eileen at a convention after party. Apparently, I'm going to be awkwardly dancing to that song for the rest of my life.)

July 27, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

July 26, 2004

Jump


Foot Dangle, originally uploaded by goldtoe.
During my trip to NYC in May, I was amazed at the coastal difference in what it means to 'follow politics.' Out here it seems that politics is essentially what happens in the rest of the country. No one bothers strongly campaigning for national office in California because what's the point. Locally, the question is "are you liberal enough" and statewide politics is an absurdist play.

Out East, I found that my college friends were following politics like folks follow sports. Day-to-day coverage, highlights everynight, and compulsive, point-by-point analysis.

Tomorrow morning Shellen and I depart for Boston and for what is sure to be the quintessential example of the latter behavior.

I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Lt. Col. Steve Brozack's speech on Wednesday night. My onetime roommate and debate pal, Dave, works on Brozack's campaign and helped write the speech. Obviously, to a debate dork like me, this is the sort of thing you hope to do one day if you're rhetorically inclined.

Should be a blast.

P'shew

The Flacksmiths recently got new bicycles, so we set out this morning on a Grand Bike Adventure. The initial plan was just to cruise to the Embarcadero but before we knew it we were in Sausalito.

The weather was perfect and along the way we took in many great sights ... including an elderly gentleman with a head full of white plaster.

We got to cross the Golden Gate Bridge (a hoot!) and stuff ourselves full of fish parts over in Marin. I also highly recommend the ferry ride back. Ferries always make me feel like re-enacting the opening scene to Working Girl.

Or that one Madonna video.

Regardless a good time was had by all.

Golden Gate Bridge (detail)
Originally uploaded by goldtoe.

July 24, 2004

Puppy Digital

puppy to good home
I've returned to the land of the camera'd! My new Sony Dsc-T1 is amazing. Ultra-small, quick, and crazy good quality.

I'm easing back into taking pictures ... sticking with the safe subjects - dogs, cats, flowers. Go with what works, they say.


Next week, however, I plan to branch out as I'm headed to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Blogger's doing a shindig with the DCCC and I'm looking forward to blogging about the pols, the convention, the bloggers at the convention, etc.


Oh, and Flickr rocks!

July 19, 2004

Do you think you're what they say you are?

During August 1997, before my junior year of college, I watched the filmed version of Jesus Christ Superstar approximately 7 times in row in less than 2 days. After some viewings, I would cry.

It was a confusing time and, frankly, my weepiness was much more a pharmacological by-product than a spiritual awakening.



Needless to say, I approached the new direct-to-video version of JCS with some trepidation. Filmed in 2000, the goal of the producers was to update the look so as to reach a wider audience. So it's out with bell bottoms and in with the Gap.




As a result, when we first see Jesus, he's wearing a ribbed wifebeater and cargo pants. The apostles are portrayed as some kinda metrosexual paramilitary group outfitted with blue camo muscle tees and automatic weapons.




Which brings up a confusing part of the whole production ... who exactly are we rooting for here? The apostles force Jesus to go pop, his followers quickly become an unruly mob, even the lepers are shown as being annoying ... well, maybe that's not a stretch.




Pilate, as is the modern style, comes off amazingly well. Sure he's wearing Goering's hand-me-downs, but that's just 'cause he's Roman. Pilate hearts Jesus.




In fact, one of the movie's more interesting touches is the scourging. In the film, folks from the mob come running up and slap their hands on JC's body as Pilate counts out the lashes. Their hands are dripping with red paint so the streaks they leave on Christ's torso represents the whipping. At the end of the scene, we zoom in on the ghoulish jewmob (they're wearing goth eye makeup) as they reach out with their blood stained hands.




Them's my peoples!



This post has been cross-posted to Flicknut

Confessions

Recently, I had to send the following message to the good people at Netflix:

Hello -

I am an idiot.

I accidentally sent back a non-Netflix dvd in the return mailer. The
movie I was trying to return was Derrida. Instead, I sent you back my friend's copy of the second disc of the Two Towers.

I know.

I just dropped it in the mail this morning (7/10) so you wouldn't have received it yet. But I'm wondering if there's anyway you can send it back to me once you get it. (At my expense, obviously).

Thanks for you help. I love Netflix and have always found it very easy to use.

Which is important, considering the fact that I am quite stupid.
And, what do you know, less than a week later Eugene's copy of the Two Towers was returned!

Right after I sent this message I also ordered a replacement copy from Amazon just in case. I briefly toyed with the idea of not telling Eugene and just replacing the missing disk with the new copy in a covert-Blue-Heaven-this-is-the-same-turtle-you've-always-had style.

In the end, I confessed and now have my own copy of the Two Towers to accidently send back to Netflix! Incompetent honesty truly is the best policy.

July 17, 2004

Solutions

I don't miss owning a car, but I have noticed that my view of San Francisco has shrunk to a very small strip that extends from the Mission to Lower Haight. I've gone on some bus-bound adventures as of late, but inertia pretty much keeps me in the neighborhood and at the same restaurants I've been eating for nearly 4 years.

Don't get me wrong - I love the hood. But I need a little expansion. (Partly I feel this is due to my obsessive playing of the new Spiderman 2 game. Long since having won the game, I continue to swing around Manhattan just because it's so frickin' cool to be able to go anywhere. How sweet to swing from the Chrysler building and leap into Times Square ... and do it all in high pixelated-style).



Anyway, as I cannot (yet) be Spiderman, I bought a bike. I don't know much about bikes but mine's red and silver and let's you sit upright instead of hunched over and has a giant squishy seat. And it rocks! On my maiden trek I made it all the way to the ocean and saw parts of Golden Gate Park I never knew about (including the SFPD horse stables).



As soon as my legs recover I fully intend to cruise the Embarcadero ... I hear there aren't any hills.


July 16, 2004

Rich

As discussed elsewhere, we've released a wizz-uh-muh-wig editor for Blogger.

 


It's got features and such and will be a boon for text manipulators everywhere.  I'm a particular fan of the new glyphs that Chris came up with for the toolbar.  I feel like quoting stuff all the time now.









July 10, 2004

Scorecard

NPR's got a good audio clip on the Senate's 500 page 'Fuck You!' to the CIA. I'm fond of this quote by Sen. Jay Rockefeller:

"Our credibility is dimished, our standing in the world has never been lower, we have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world and that will grow. As a direct consequence our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."

So, it was a good thing, right?

July 06, 2004

Policy wank

Once upon a time, Charles and Marie Robertson gave $35M to Princeton in order to establish a public policy school. The result, the Woodrow Wilson School, is housed in a neo-neo-classical temple and home to the most over-achieving of what's already a massively type-A student body.



Perhaps unsurprisingly, in recent years the would-be wonks are pretty much not becoming the nation's next generation of career diplomats. So the Roberston kids want their money back as the school is "instead turning out journalists, bankers and -- most appalling of all -- a professional oboist."



Yeah, fuck oboists. The kids should definitely get a refund ... with interest it comes to $600M. D'you think they'll take store credit at the bookstore?



I have a hard time picking a winner here. On one hand, $600M lawsuits should probably involve some kind of mutagenic orange juice sold to orphan children. On the other hand, the Wilson school is primarily used as an elite credential for undergrads seeking to maximize their future remuneration.



Princeton should be forced to put all the money into fusion research. Success will lead to oil independence thus negating much of the diplomatic cost incurred in having to do business in the Middle East.



While not a funding of diplomacy per se, there will be more diplomatic resources left over as a result. Which will allow us to invest in international affairs where we might have a snowball's chance in Saudi Arabia at having a positive impact.

July 03, 2004

Carnal embrace

I first read Tom Stoppard's Arcadia in the winter of 1999 when I was busily dropping out of grad school. It turned out that studying astronomy as a techincal discipline wasn't the bucket of fun I'd been hoping for. The wow factor I felt in doing astro as an undergrad was replaced by dread at having to slog through another problem set session.



Arcadia covers a lot of thematic ground; one of the main ideas is the tension between rationalism and romanticism. Throughout most of the play, characters lash themselves to one or the other of these two poles and teeter about as a result. The teetering's pretty damn funny. (In reading the play, I've always been amazed at how much mileage he can get out of stuff like 'the conversation at cross purposes.')



Last Tuesday, Sutter, danah and I saw Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Deals. It's quite something to see it performed after having read it so many times. For one thing, the sucker is dense. Reading 10 minutes of dialog on iterative functions is one thing - to see it pulled off is something else.



Also, the play takes place in a single room in an English estate, but in two separate time periods (early 1800s and present day). In the last few scenes, the action from both time periods overlap, with both sets of actors performing at the same time. To make the staging of such a thing seem important rather than gimmicky is quite a feat.



Technical stuff aside, Arcadia's always hit home for me and that was strongly reinforced seeing it live.

June 28, 2004

Life outside the diamond is a wrench

I saw two solid flicks this weekend. And it's a close call but, I'm giving Dodgeball the nod over Fahrenheit 9/11.



Partly, it has to do with crowds. 9/11 was showing at cramped, underlit Metreon with a riled up hoard of liberals who were very agitated about proper line etiquette. Also, seriously, thanks SF Lefties for taking the time to make neat anti-Bush fliers and dress up like a tranny Condi Rice, but you kinda get on my nerves after awhile. Especially when you refuse to pass out your own pamphlets.



"Take one and pass it down" does not a movement make.



Dodgeball on the other hand was at the spacious Coronet. (Incidentally, I called 411 to find out the theater's number and they gave me the movie times! Who knew.) And while it is solely a broad physical comedy with a Ski School-inspired plot, man, is it funny.



With respect to 9/11, I agree with Matt's comments about how there're some good Morrisean touches, especially the soundtrack. However, I was a little bothered by the amount of time spent on Carlyle Group stuff and the now-revised Bin Laden Airlift business. Also, there's no denying the relevance or power of the story of the mom who lost her son, but, gosh, he really left her up there to bleed for us.



It was only slightly harder to watch than the Senate footage of Al Gore certifying the 2000 election results. That's got to be the single most agonizing professional experience of all time.

June 25, 2004

Wooden pickle

I've heard lots of speculation as of late about what wacky tactic the GOP will whip out to turn the tide. Not listed among those at October Surprise are the following:


  • Instead of dropping balloons at the GOP convention, Osama bin Laden will be lowered from the rafters in a cage

  • The GOP will launch a "John Kerry blows goats" smear campaign (courtesy Dave)

  • Bush announces a new reality show: "Who Wants to be King of Iraq?" (Johnny B's vote)

  • Cheney is dropped from the ticket and is replaced by Colin Powell


The last is pretty scary, don'cha think?

June 23, 2004

Sch'meh?

Ralph Nader tried to explain to the Congressional Black Caucus what the hell he's doing in the presidential race ... and it didn't go so well.



Apparently, his explanation is that "he will help elect presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry in November by splitting the conservative vote and siphoning support from President Bush."



In what world does that make sense? Which conservatives are gonna say, "You know I was gonna vote for Bush because I'm a pro-life supporter of the war in Iraq, but now that Nader's involved I just gotta make sure that whacko liberal doesn't get elected. Count me in John Kerry!"



Ralph Nader, I invite you to explain yourself at your earliest convenience.

June 22, 2004

Purple

Today, Bush said: "They are trying to get us to withdraw from the world so that they can impose their dark vision on people."



Impose their dark vision ... so that's like when the Emperor shoots Force Bolts at Luke in order to get him to submit to the Dark Side, right?



I have to say, this is a powerful phrase. I think whoever wrote probably saw Lord of the Rings the night before. You can just picture the forces of Good being beaten back by marauding hordes of barbaric beheaders.

June 21, 2004

Double Down Weekend

Moderation, I know ye not.



On Saturday, I took a double dip of Mission-style BBQ action. Final poultry-fruit sausage count: 3.



But that was just the opener to yesterday's showcase of intemperance. By way of background, I've recently been having a Netflix-based crisis of conscious in which I only rent really bad movies. For example, Deep Impact followed up by Gods & Generals. (The latter being Ted Turner's 4 hour paean to the muscular piety Stonewall Jackson.)



It's hard to say why I watch these movies. Partly, I believe you can sometimes find a kernel of beauty in the dungheap of mediocrity. Mostly, it's trainwreck curiosity.



Anyway, I went to see Chronicles of Riddick yesterday. That's the epic, far-future sci-fi movie that's gonna end Judi Dench's career. I had such low expectations, that I was quite pleasantly surprised.



In the minus column you've got cringeworthy dialogue and downright goofy action editing. But it is a legitimately good story with awesome production design. Three Headed Staff of Evil = KickAss! And Colm Feore's supervillian is Evil from Time Bandits with badass superpowers and a penchant for inlavafying planets.



Inspired by Riddick, I decided to go back-to-back and catch the Harry Potter flick as well. Here's a case where the collective opinion is right on; it is the strongest of the three, partly because it is more 'mature' i.e. the kids are older and some of that stuff's downright scary.



And, like, the scenes with the hippogriff were pleasantly reminiscent of Spirited Away.



All-in-all a fun, supersized weekend.

June 17, 2004

Coke is it! (It is Coke.)

And the winner for Best Tautological Argument in Defense of an Unjust War ... George Bush!


"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

June 16, 2004

Cheer

This month, Ronald Glasser writes the quintessential closing lines to a Harper's article:

We have grown so foolish and so incompetent that perhaps we do not deserve to survive. Perhaps it is simply time to die.


In this case, doom is coming in the form of super charged diseases. Diseases to which we are particularly susceptible because of a lack of a coherent public health policy.



Incidentally, back in the heyday of high school debate, Matt was running a killer opp based on the rise of supertuberculosis due to health care mismanagement and the over-prescription of antibiotics. I remember well the card which declared "Hospitals are the Temples of Death and Doctors their High Priests!"



Good times.

June 07, 2004

You're talking about memories!

So, yeah, Ronald Reagan's dead.



In 1984, we had an elementary school mock election. I knew that my mom was going to vote for Mondale, but that all my friends (and, it turns out, everyone else) were going to vote for Reagan. I stood in the voting booth for 10 minutes and changed my vote 3 times before finally going with the herd.



I've been dreading Reagan's demise for awhile. Now, it's only a matter of time until Mt. Rushmore and the $5 are remade in his likeness.



However, like Christmas, it seems that by living in San Francisco and avoiding TV you can escape almost any mass marketed phenomenon.



I did see some CNN today. It was Anderson Cooper but without sound. The banner graphic at the bottom read as follows: "Ronald Reagan Remembered - What to Remember."



It's nice that TV wants to be so helpful.

June 04, 2004

Drummed

Previously, when I wrote about the documentary Control Room, I was particularly struck by Lt. Josh Rushing's struggle to make sense of the war and his role in it.



Rushing, now a Marine captain, talked to the Village Voice about the depiction of war:



"I think it should all be shown, the dead on both sides ... In America war isn't hell — we don't see blood, we don't see suffering. All we see is patriotism, and we support the troops. It's almost like war has some brand marketing here.



"Al Jazeera shows it all ... It turns your stomach, and you remember there's something wrong with war."


Today, Salon is reporting that Rushing is leaving the military having been ordered to keep quiet. His wife is quoted as saying:


"Everything that my husband represents in the military - the defense of freedom, and hopefully the expansion of freedom throughout the world - that's what a soldier is supposed to be, one would think. But it seems that he's denied some of those basic freedoms."


Genius.

June 03, 2004

Take Two

Despite it being a favorite of friends far and wide, I've never known anyone who saw Donnie Darko in the theater.



Turns out it made $500K when it was initially released in 2001. On opening weekend it was only ever on 58 screens - by the fourth weekend only 6 theaters carried it.



By way of contrast, I did see Congo in the theaters - a movie featuring laser-armed grey apes. It made $81M.



I also saw The Next Karate Kid (starring Hilary Swank in the title role) on opening night no less. It managed to make $9M domestically.



Fortunately, Donnie Darko's being given a second shot this summer. Even if it's only in 50 theaters again, I'm betting that 5 will be in SF and that opening night will be completely sold out.

May 29, 2004

Packed my bags and ready to go

Welp - they're calling my row. See you next time NYC! It's been an awesome vacation.

Come On (Eileen)

Woot to JetBlue for providing great service and free wifi here at JFK.



Last night I was at Princeton for Reunions. When I mentioned to folks that I was planning on hitting up my reunion while out here, I invariably got the same response: "What? Your college reunion?"



College reunions may be a rarer breed, but at P'ton it's a tradition. Wrapped up in the graduating ceremonies for the current class is a multi-day, drunken extravaganza for all sons and daughters of Old Nassau. It culminates in the P-rade - a march through the campus of all classes, lead by the superannuated Old Guard.



After some consideration, I've decided the whole thing is whack.



I'm all for the idea of running into old friends; certainly the best part of this trip has been spending time with so many folks from back in the day. In particular, I got to see a good chunk, tho' sadly not all, of the debate folks with whom I spent nearly every weekend. Partly as a result of spending so many weekends away from Princeton, I feel that going back to campus didn't resonate with me in the same way as it does for others.



But it's more than not having the same sentimental bond with the place because of time spent away. I found myself recoiling at the parts of Princeton which I was able to ironically dimiss when I was an undergrad ... the spirit of self-congratulation; the exaltation of the place for its abstract qualities alone.



Yes - this is a Caufieldian argument. And it's not as tho' 'phony' sums up all my feelings about Princeton; I loved it there and had the proverbial kickass time. But, walking around campus last night, all I could see were the places where I'd nearly had a nervous breakdown broken up by packs of middle age white men slapping each other around in celebration of the grand trajectories of their lives.



I'm sure in another 5 years, I'll see it differently still.



I will say that George's chicken wings are still very tasty and that Whig Hall is an awesome place to have as your own private clubhouse.

May 27, 2004

More silly rankings

I visited the Met today for the first time. In my book, it easily beats both the Louvre and the Prado.



It has the same "We've got everything, ever" vibe as the great European museums I've seen, but blows away the competition with stuff like Room with Giant Temple and Hey, Here's a Facade from a Building But Inside. Very cool.




Also, there was an Andy Goldsworthy installation on the roof.




By the way, the Cristo deal that's going to be going on in Central Park next year is going to be something to see.

May 26, 2004

Soysauge

The Baltimore Apocalypse as blogged by Ffoggy.

Fact

Chai tea is made with some sort of powder here rather than, you know, tea. I've had it from 3 different places and each time it's been this Swiss Miss Chai Mix.



Questionable.

Post-apocalypse

The SoHo Apple Store is housed in a former post office giving it the coolest exterior of those I've seen (tho' I'm still voting for the Michigan Ave. Apple Store in Chicago for best evah). The wireless is also free ... I'm blogging this during a lecture on OS X which makes me feel like a bad student.




Yesterday, Steve and I drove down to Baltimore to catch the Yankees at Camden with Anna, Lauren and LEG. During my debate days, I drove up and down I-95 oodles of times, en route to Hopkins, UMBC, Georgetown and so on. Whenever we'd pass over into Maryland from Delaware, we'd see signs for the Decoy Museum in historic Havre de Grace. Many, many jokes about it being a carved, wooden museum.




Not so! Steve and I stopped by, and tho' it was closed, we could easily see the many cases of 19th century duck decoys. Seriously. I'm not sure what's going on in historic Havre de Grace, but, man, they *hate* ducks. There are poems on pedestals about tricking ducks into going after the decoys.




The hunter's ploy has worked.

For it was not real canvasbacks that lured the ducks, but well crafted decoys.




When we reached Baltimore, we heard that there were tornado warnings in surrounding counties. Giant, black thunderheads gathered over Camden and during the 2nd inning it began to pour.




I'd realized recently that I hadn't seen a serious thunderstorm in many years; I think there's been lightning once in SF in 4 years.




After last night, I've seen it all.




Saucer-sized raindrops forced our retreat to the top railing of the upper deck. That's when horizon-wide forks of lightning erupted over downtown Baltimore and thunderclaps rocked the interior of the stadium. Hearing thunder reverb off of the seats of a baseball stadium is quite the harrowing experience.



But not as freaky as noticing that the sky had turned green. As every midwesterner knows, green sky = windy death. I was seriously figuring how I could use the straps of my backback to lash myself to the handrails in case a tornado touched down on homeplate when we realized that the strange sky was due to the setting sun.



The storm passed, the grounds crew drained the 3 feet of water from the visitors' dugout, and the sun set spectacularly as the Yanks went on to win behind a monster A-Rod homer.


May 23, 2004

Spin

This evening Steve and I saw Jehane Noujaim's new documentary, Control Room. Noujaim first flick was Startup.com, a big favorite of mine. (I find myself quoting "But I wanna name it renderuntocaesar.com" a bit too often around the office.)



Control Room is signficantly better. It documents the media coverage of the current war in Iraq from within Al Jeezera's headquarters and the US CentCom in Qatar. It's an amazing illustration of one of Robert McNamara's points in Fog of War - the need to empathize with the enemy. The US military repeatedly and continually refuses to understand why Arabs across the Middle East would react with horror to the death of civilians at US hands ... regardless of the brutality of Saddam.



That being said, there is an amazing scene in which a marine media officer reflects on how he felt at seeing images of the war's brutality. And another when an Al Jeezera correspondant confidently declares that he believes completely in the US Constitution and the American people to take it upon themselves to stop what it happening to Iraq.



Damn.



In the spirit of proving him right, I think Rummy's on the way out. There's no way he can survive Chalabi being turned out as an Iranian spy. Steve and I were discussing who should be his replacement and we decided on McNamara. Basically, he's on this redemption kick anyway ... might as well give him his shot at pulling us out of this generation's Vietnam, caused by another Texan president.


Parkwire

My tour of famous, public WiFi hotspots continues ... Today's stop: Bryant Park.



This is a swell fusion of old and new. Bryant Park feels like an old world public commons - largely because it is. On my left, the Great Lawn stretches out to New York Public Library. On my right, 41st stretches out to Times Square. And in the middle ... hot & free WiFi. With tons of available tables upon which to perch your 'puter.



Good work Bryant Park. Someone needs to do this for Dolores Park back home.

Reuned

And they say people in New York aren't friendly. I'd been here only a couple hours and found myself entrenched with a ton of former debate pals ... folks visiting from DC, others who had just gotten here, some I hadn't seen in 5 years. Good timing.



Incidently, things in the ole' debate world have taken a turn for the preposterous. Which is saying something because it is collegiate debate afterall. But while we may have been an astonishing group of obsessive dorks, no one ever created a debate fantasy draft.



This is sort of like if you've got a group of dorkfriends with whom you play Dungeon & Dragons, and all of a sudden they start getting into LARPing.



Also I hear that there was a musical.



Seriously.

May 20, 2004

How high's the water, mama?

Things are getting pretty dire over at my elementary alma mater. Mom reports from the front:

We are deeper in the stuff than we thought. The sewer collapsed and permits are needed to repair it. No school for us today.
A clear sign that I've been playing way too much SimCity 4 - my first reaction was to reach for the public utilities slider.

After Posted by Hello

Before Posted by Hello

May 15, 2004

Blogs save my day

I've been having this intermittent problem with my 15" PowerBook where it won't wake from sleep. I've asked various experts but been completely unable to figure it out.



Today I was clicking through Jason Sutter's blogroll and went to read Daring Fireball, which I check out infrequently. Basically, there're a whole host of sites I check out every couple weeks - these are the links in blogrolls of the sites in my blogroll.



Anyway, DF has a post about how he had this problem with his Mac and when he wrote it up, he wrote it not as a blog post for his blog readership, but for Google. "Or, more specifically, for people using search engines to find an answer to the same problems I had."



That's savvy thinking and the sort of thing that makes working at Google so cool. Folks understand how they can make the product better without even using the product.



But what's amazingly hot is that the problem he's describing is the freaking Mac-won't wake-up trouble I've been having for the last 3 months! And now it's hypothetically fixed (altho' if having a custom date format is what threw off the energy management thus Rip Van Winkling my Mac, that's odd).



And, of course, I found it not because of Google, but because of blogs!



And thus I learned why we were acquired.

Friday to Friday

So ... it's weird. I've got, like, free time now.



Last Friday, my mom came in from St. Lu and graciously sat around BloggerHQ as we sanity checked the Blogger release candidate. 'Happy Mother's Day, Mom! Wanna execute some test plans?'




A side story here. My mom enters the bloggerarium and there's a bunch of dudes hanging around. You know, the team. I say, "Hey guys, this is my mom - Mom these are the guys. Uh ... we also have some ladies but just not right here."



Chris Wetherdeal: "Yeah, it's a regular sausage factory up in here."



Nice!

Had a great weekend with Mom - nearly distracted from thinking about work obsessively ... but you know, not entirely. Sunday happens. Sunday is amazing! And I've spent the whole of this week in some kind of bouillabaisse of stressed, joyful amazement.



And now things are creeping back to normal. It's no longer about the giant huge thing that's left to be done. So I need to find a hobby or something. I'm not sure if blogging counts.



Luckily, I'm going on vacation week after next. A week in NYC with side trips to various points on the eastern seaboard. I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends, both lanky and ffoggy. And just breaking away from the set of activities that, tho' immensely satisfying from a personal and professional perspective, have completely defined my life for the past little while.