Monday, April 15, 2002

...
This may be the single most damaging piece of pro-Palestinian propaganda ever.

Give me some time to recover and I may -- may -- have something intelligent to say about it.

LATER: ...Nope, sorry. My only reaction remains "There can be no peace with these people. Nuke them now." I realize that this is both (a) not an intelligent thing to say and (b) not an option. But if this photo accurately represents the resolve of the Palestinian people, then there is truly nothing left to say.
Follow the money
Instapundit pointed at Bob Ballard, who found the page I'd been looking for: OpenSecrets.org's list of individuals who have contributed to Cynthia McKinney. Scan the list and see if anything jumps out at you.

LATER: This just keeps getting better and better.

Those of you sentenced to live in Congresswoman McKinney's district (mostly in south DeKalb County), please be aware that you do have a choice. I know nothing about her opponent, but you owe it to yourself to check her out: Denise Majette. (Thanks for the good word, Photodude.)

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Peekaboo
You've probably seen pop-up ads for the X10 wireless camera. Apparently the company wishes us to think that if we mount these cameras in our home, women will appear in front of them. And, in a sense, that's true, since the manufacturer admits they are mostly used to monitor the baby's crib -- or the baby's nanny.

That's the least surprising revelation in this NY Times story (via Yahoo news).

Let's try a little logic here. (A) Wireless cameras that encode their transmissions cost $350 or more. (B) X10 cameras cost $80. Therefore...

Therefore, you've been broadcasting.

Yikes! What have we been doing in front of that camera?

Wanna know something even scarier? This kind of eavesdropping is legal. Yeah, I know, wiretapping isn't. But wiretapping is, well, wired. If you're going to broadcast a clear (that is, unscrambled) video or audio signal, someone else can legally receive it.

Legislators are beginning to realize that this same danger exists with cordless phones, but so far cordless video remains unregulated.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

It's about time
I know there are plenty more ardent Hayao Miyazaki fans than myself, but I also know what they are thinking.

Miyazaki, a writer-director-animator, is one of the most famous filmmakers in Japan. His Mononoke Hime (in English, "Princess Mononoke") was the highest-grossing picture ever in that country, until the record was overtaken by "Titanic". He has retaken the Japanese record with his newest release, Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (in English, "Spirited Away"). Yet for years the only (legal) American release of his films was "My Neighbor Totoro."

Fans had mixed emotions when English-language distribution rights to nine of Miyazaki's films were obtained by the Disney organization. On the one hand, at least these masterpieces (and they are that) would be widely available. On the other hand, no true anime fan really trusts anyone other than himself to get the translations right. In particular, they assumed Disney would dumb-down the story and dialog as much as possible to appeal to the "Little Mermaid" crowd. (Miyazaki's films, while animated, are intended for an adult audience.)

Instead, we encountered a third, unexpected possibility: Disney just sat on most of the catalog.

Eventually they released "Kiki's Delivery Service", a charming film about an adolescent witch finding her way in the world. Video sales were rewarding. "Princess Mononoke" achieved an American theatrical release through Disney subsidiary Miramax. It spent some weeks at "art houses" and secondary screens, returning respectable but not spectacular grosses. (Miyazaki insisted that Disney not publicize the films as Disney films, and although this has probably hurt sales, Disney has not done so.)

Purists argue that Disney's translations didn't capture all of the nuances of the original voice work. I can't argue the point, since I don't understand Japanese. It seems to me that these films work pretty darned well in English.

Finally, Disney has announced another release: The English-dubbed "Spirited Away", still in first-run release in Japan, will see American theatrical release sometime this fall.

More, the article promises that "Disney also is preparing several of the director's other titles for release on video and DVD later this year." The press release doesn't speculate on which ones, but it's known that a Disney English dub exists for "Castle in the Sky".

Ok, it's out of my system now.

LATER: I forgot to point you at Nausicaa.net, which compliles information about Miyazaki releases. (It's not the official Studio Ghibli website, but it is in English.)

STILL LATER: Having nothing to do with Miyazaki, another producer has optioned Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars. If Hollywood can create hobbits, can tharks be far behind?

And can I hang around while you audition actresses for Dejah Thoris?

Friday, April 12, 2002

What's wrong with local TV news?
Well, how long do you have? I could fill this page with what I think is wrong. Fortunately, Andrew Fisher has already figured it out.

Fisher is the president of Cox Television, a company we know pretty well here in Atlanta. (The most-watched station in town, WSB-TV 2, is a Cox station. And Cox Radio owns WSB-AM (#1 according to Arbitron) and WSB-FM, as well as outright ownership or programming control of sister stations WFOX, WJZF, WCNN, 95.5 The Beat, Kiss 104.4... And Cox Newspapers owns our only daily newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Yeah, we know Cox here.)

Anyway, surely Mr Fisher would know. So imagine my surprise to learn that the problem with TV news is... newspapers:

To much applause from a large, sympathetic audience, Fisher blamed "a combination of navel gazing and newspaper reporters who secretly wish they were working in television" for the presumption that local TV news isn't what it used to be.

Fred Young, senior vice president for news at Hearst-Argyle Television (a cousin of the Hearst-owned Seattle P-I), picked up Fisher's dagger and gave it a sharp twist.

"We need to quit being paranoid about the critics and what they write about us," Young declared. "With all due respect, many of these are the same people who waste columns day after day on whether Barbara and Diane get along, on whether Tom is coming home from vacation and on whatshername's facelift."

But, but local TV news wastes valuable broadcast time on all those same things, Mr Young. So by your own logic I should ignore you, too?
"Warner says Constitution can be a luxury"
Holy cow.

When national security is threatened, there are times when the United States cannot afford the luxury of adhering to the Constitution, said Florida Solicitor General Tom Warner Thursday afternoon.

Then what exactly are you defending, Mr Warner?
How embarrassing
We're not all like this, honest.

Representative Cynthia McKinney (EXTREME D, Ga) is calling for an investigation to determine whether President Bush knew, in advance of September 11, that an attack was imminent. "Democrat Implies Sept. 11 Administration Plot," says the WaPo headline.

(Have mercy. Just look the other way. She has a history of doing things like this.)

Aha. The light bulb just came on. The Democrats have been frantically searching for an issue on which they can run in November. The President has been calmly taking issues away from them (some might say "caving in") left and right (so to speak). What's left?

The War. They're going to run against The War. This should be entertaining.

LATER: Apparently both of our Senators (Zell Miller and Max Cleland, both also Democrats) also think McKinney crossed a line.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

A pot where nothing melts
Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she's got
Is the great American melting pot.


The words were sung in 1974, for Schoolhouse Rock, a fondly-remembered series of clever short animated "lessons" interspersed among ABC's Saturday morning cartoons.

Sometime since, and I haven't isolated exactly when, the very idea of a melting pot went out of style. The third century of the American experiment began with a very different set of huddled masses yearning to breathe free without losing any sense of their own cultural identity. The price of success, they felt, was heritage, and it was a price they didn't feel they should have to pay.

The melting pot faded from the lexicon of social studies, to be replaced by multiculturalism. To be sure, America has always been multicultural, and we have always had hyphenated-Americans -- many of whom were not well treated. Some of them, individually, have found their pieces of the American dream. Others are still looking.

The nature of America has always been derived from its variegated heritage. We pick and choose the best of what our citizens bring us, and those differences give us an unexpected strength and a unique national character.

I am uneasy at the continuing trend towards social balkanization, because it leads to... well, to situations like this. Two lesbians in Washington DC wish to have children. Specifically, they wish to have deaf children, because they are deaf themselves.

Several months before [the boy's] birth, Sharon and Candy -- both stylish and independent women in their mid-thirties, both college graduates, both holders of graduate degrees from Gallaudet University [defined elsewhere in the article as "the world's only liberal arts university for the deaf"], both professionals in the mental health field -- sat in their kitchen trying to envision life if their son turned out not to be deaf. It was something they had a hard time getting their minds around.

That is to say, it's very much the kind of issue they had been trained to deal with and resolve -- from the other direction. God forbid these two should permit some busybody like, well, themselves (only with hearing, and *shudder* probably straight besides) to interfere with the raising of their children.

When they were looking for a donor to inseminate Sharon, one thing they knew was that they wanted a deaf donor. So they contacted a local sperm bank and asked whether the bank would provide one. The sperm bank said no; congenital deafness is precisely the sort of condition that, in the world of commercial reproductive technology, gets a would-be donor eliminated.

As my daughter would say, no duh.

So Sharon and Candy asked a deaf friend to be the donor, and he agreed.

Though they have gone to all this trouble, Candy and Sharon take issue with the suggestion that they are "trying" to have a deaf baby. To put it this way, they worry, implies that they will not love their son if he can hear. And, they insist, they will. As Sharon puts it: "A hearing baby would be a blessing. A deaf baby would be a special blessing."

There's a distinction I don't get. They'll still love him if he can hear, but he'll be a "special" blessing if he cannot. I hope he reads this article.

"Mommy? Sis and I are the only children in the neighborhood who can't tell when the ice cream truck is coming. Why?"

Since the 1980s, many members of the deaf community have been galvanized by the idea that deafness is not a medical disability, but a cultural identity. ... Sharon and Candy share the fundamental view of this Deaf camp; they see deafness as an identity, not a medical affliction that needs to be fixed.

Oh, silly me. There's the answer to my snarky question. These deaf -- excuse me, Deaf -- kids are going to be raised in a Deaf community. Nobody will be able to hear the ice cream truck.

And because my wife and I wear glasses, we're going to have our daughter wear glasses that distort her vision so that she can see no better than we can. And I'm overweight, besides: Start eatin', girl, and don't stop if you can still see your feet.

I am not bothered by the desire, which technology is rapidly giving us the ability to enact, to produce the healthiest possible baby. I am not bothered by using that technology to produce a particular type of healthy baby.

But it is a perversion of medical science to set out deliberately to produce a deaf child.

I regret that the deaf feel separated from hearing society. I am delighted that they find a strength in community to replace that which a sometimes-insensitive hearing community unthinkingly denies them.

But deafness is not just another tile in the multicultural mosaic. It is an increasingly avoidable, often curable, almost always transcendable defect. We do no one any favors to pretend otherwise. Especially not Jehanne and Gauvin, children deaf by their mother's choice.
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: Red. Color me passionate...what are you passionate about? My wife. My children. Let's face it, I'm not a fiercely passionate person about much else.

Twosome: White. Color me truthful...or is it little white lies? What's the last "little white lie" that's come from your mouth (or keyboard)? I spend most of my life trying to be noncommittal when forced into a position where I might need to tell a "little white lie", and you want me to fess up to it on the Web? (You'll notice I didn't deny I've ever told them: That would be one.)

Threesome: Blue. Color me with music...what one piece of music really speaks to you? One piece? Good gosh. Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite". Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". Nanci Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime". Burt Bacharach's "April Fools" (the instrumental version, not the Dionne Warwick vocal). Rupert Holmes' "Town Square / The Old School". How can I choose between such radically different musical genres? One piece? ...Fine. One piece. "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday", by Paul Williams, sung by Gonzo in The Muppet Movie.

The Friday Five:
1. What is your favorite restaurant and why? Shells seafood restaurant in Clearwater, Florida. I love a good deviled crab, and most restaurants have given up on it. I don't think of myself as a picky eater, but most restaurants I visit I'm lucky to find one or two things on the menu I want. Everything's good at Shells. (There are Shells elsewhere, and they're nice too, but I really like the openness and decor at Clearwater.)

2. What fast food restaurant are you partial to? Boston Market. I'm also a sucker for a good chicken pot pie.

3. What are your standards and rules for tipping? I start at 20%, then revise it upwards or downwards as needed. Exception: If the restaurant "thoughtfully" precalculates the tip and adds it to the bill in advance, they will not get one penny more than that no matter how good the service was. (Does it show that I tend to travel with a group?)

4. Do you usually order an appetizer and/or dessert? Rarely. I find most restaurants' main dishes quite filling. I only order an appetizer when it's something I cannot resist (say, eggrolls) or I intend to eat light and order only that. I can't remember the last time I ordered dessert.

5. What do you usually order to drink at a restaurant? I am decaffeinated and nonalcoholic. This severely limits my options. Usually it's Sprite (I do live in Atlanta, after all). Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised and they'll have lemonade or 7up: Sometimes I end up with water. You'd be surprised how few waitpersons actually know whether they serve anything decaffeinated or not. This is a big strike against Pizza Hut, whose pizza I like, but the only decaf drink they seem to serve is Orange Slice.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Spring renovation
I told you I'd spring (ha ha) a new template on you.

If my site meter is to be believed, approximately 4% of you will not see it correctly, as you are using older browsers that do not support cascading style sheets (CSS). At my current traffic levels, that probably means two people who were Googling for "nude calendars" or "Ayat al-Akhras video" and didn't stick around when they saw I don't actually have either of those things. It should still be readable, though. And to the other 96% of you, I'll bet you didn't even notice.

While I was at it, I added a few links to the ever-growing list: CowBlog, Brushstroke.tv, Alice in TV Land, TV Tattle, and Manufacturing Dissent.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Under the knife
No, you do not need to surgically modify Koreans' tongues to enable them to properly pronounce their Ls and Rs. The "problem", if you want to call it that, is that the Korean language (like Japanese) draws no distinction between the two, so children growing up with these languages don't learn to hear the difference.

Americans of Korean descent who grow up speaking English seem to manage it OK. Doubtless many Korean adults have trouble with it; others find it learnable. And a lot of us dumb Americans have trouble with the complex tonalities of their language, too, for the same reason: We didn't grow up with a language in which it mattered.
I'm not needed there
Nor do I even feel a need to be helpful and tell you where the Warblogger Watch is (go see Reynolds or Jacobs, they're more generous than I). It's a Yahoo group, although (on a dare from the Professor) the anonymous 'watcher has begun his own blog as well. I popped in, looked around, and popped right back out again. I predict the anti-war group will soon be overwhelmed by bellicose warbloggers, out to see just how far the guy's chain can be yanked. Said Jacobs:

If criticizing U.S. policy is so dangerous, why is Michael Moore making millions of dollars, instead of munching granola bars in Gitmo? Why is Barbara Kingsolver walking free?

I think the point is wasted on him, but I enjoyed it.

I'll just make an observation, as the owner of several Yahoo groups myself: Ms Jacobs said that the moderator -- well, I'll call him the list manager, there's nothing moderate about him -- signed her up on his own initiative. (Apparently she's not the only one, although I suppose Drudge could have signed himself up.) On Yahoo's "Invite" form is a warning to "Use this feature responsibly." That means you shouldn't do it unless you're sure your target wants to be on your list -- Yahoo considers subscribing someone to a group without their permission to be abuse and responds accordingly.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

Somebody tell him to keep his hands off his template
I'm not going for the mutating-color template this time, but a very nice CSS-based template I found at BlogSkins. You can see a preview here. (BlogSpot's banner ad doesn't seem to like CSS, but it doesn't matter: That's just a temporary blog to show me what the page will look like.) The original was white with green and lavender boxes, but I decided to keep my current color scheme, mostly. When the ad isn't present, the pale yellow boxes to the left slightly overlap the darker title banner. Kinda cool.

Unless somebody says "God, no!", I expect to apply it to this page soon.

Advantages: The page should load faster. Disadvantages: I'll be forced to learn CSS.

LATER: You have to write extra code to allow what plain old HTML already does: Allow the person viewing the page to change the size of the text. I haven't found the advantage of this yet. (Unless the point is to prevent them from doing that and screwing up your layout.)
It's not AOL's fault!
A Philadelphia man -- a lawyer, of course -- is filing suit against AOL for defamation of character. Seems there's been a lot of spam originating from his daughter's account since last year, when AOL first threatened to suspend service over it. (!) When the lawyer complained to AOL, they replied (quite reasonably) that either someone had obtained his daughter's password, or her computer was infected with a virus.

He installed anti-virus software and scolded his daughter -- and let the matter drop. Apparently it never occurred to either of them to change the password.

A few weeks ago, daughter told dad that her friends had seen "terrible things" in her member profile. Dad took a look -- and wrote another sternly-worded letter to AOL. This March, AOL finally terminated the account. Now Dad is suing for slander and "identity theft".

It's not our fault. She was asleep when these messages were sent. It's AOL's responsibility not to let this happen!

"The security and integrity of a member's account is up to the member," he said. "If they see an e-mail that asks for their password and billing information, we tell them to never give that out."

Change the password, Dad.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Interactive TV
Emily Nussbaum covers participatory television in a story for Slate. Her use of the internet is exactly right, in that the article is peppered with links to other sites that illustrate her points. And, of course, every mention of a specific site is a link, as Tim Berners-Lee intended.

The series she has chosen to illustrate the close contact that viewers sometimes have with each other, and occasionally have with the creative team behind the series as well, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, of course, she has my attention.

I have no criticism to make of this article. It is thoughtful and well-researched, and Ms Nussbaum is funny and self-depreciating.

There's just one more nudge I might have suggested to make a good article into a definitive one, since we are descending into the depths of geekdom. No mention is made of the unprecedented availability of writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski to fans during the run of Babylon 5, most of which is chronicled at the newly-restored Lurker's Guide. That, I believe, was the first time a show's creator had extensive contact with the show's viewers while the show was in production. As the Web was not ubiquitous as it is now, the medium was the show's Usenet newsgroup.

But I guess Babylon 5 is ancient history now...
(The show premiered Feb 22, 1993, and its final first-run regular episode aired November 25, 1998.)
Nobel regrets
Members of the Nobel committee have expressed a desire to take back a 1994 decision, in which the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. Fair enough, I'd say. About damn' time, I might add.

But wait. It's Peres' award they want to take back, not Arafat's. "One member said Mr Peres had not lived up to the ideals he expressed when he accepted the prize."

And Arafat has?

InstaPundit says, "Words fail me." I can hardly wait to see what the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web has to say: They haven't missed a chance to point out, as the Palestinian suicide bomber count rises, that Arafat (at whose command these bombers operate) is a recipient of the Peace Prize.

In light of what the European opinion-masters have had to say on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict thus far, though, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise. I don't wish to blame the good people of Europe for the lapses of their pundits, but the more I read the more convinced I am that the anti-Semitism that reached its peak with the Holocaust didn't just come out of nowhere, and it didn't vanish when WWII ended. They haven't (quite) said that they think Arafat has the right idea, but they haven't said he doesn't, either.

I see three possibilities: (1) Arafat is in complete control of the Palestinian infitada. (2) Arafat is not trying to control it, attempting to maintain "plausible deniability" of actions with which he is in accord but dare not say so (in English). (3) Arafat cannot control it. None of these positions are that of a worthy recipient of a Nobel prize.

Some months ago, President Bush said "Israel has no better friend than the United States." Obviously this is true. Such criticism as Israel gets in America (and there is a fair amount of it) is nothing compared to its reception in the halls of European government, or the pages of the European press.

And now this fresh insult from Norway.

Just last night, all over cable news (well, Fox anyway), American interviewers were trying to get Peres (Israeli Foreign Minister, then and now) to answer provocative questions: Peres, in every instance, gave the right, statesmanlike answer. (I am paraphrasing.) Is Arafat a terrorist? It is not for me to say. I would say he has not done everything he could do to achieve peace. Should they take back his Peace Prize? It was given for good reason at the time. Should you even attempt to negotiate with him? It is for the Palestinians to choose who they wish to lead them.

Not to go Reuteresque on you, but I'm beginning to think we are overusing the word "terrorist". I have a feeling that's why the President didn't use it yesterday, choosing instead to say "They are not martyrs. They are murderers."
Words mean things
In what way is DirecTV simplifying my programming options when they offer me Total Choice, Total Choice PLUS, and Total Choice PREMIER?

How can there possibly be such a thing as Total Choice PLUS? If it's Total, there's nothing more to add to it. And if Total Choice Premier is really totally, er, total, then plain old Total Choice isn't Total at all, is it?

I wish this were unique.

Oh, I know, I know. The reason the dish companies dazzle us with options is to obscure the fact that the one option we really, really want -- true a la carte choice, channel by channel -- they're not going to offer. I'd love to get a package of twenty to thirty channels that we'd actually watch, without having to take thirty to seventy more channels that, for our tastes, are just taking up space on the dial.

I mean, obviously the technology is there, they could do it (they can do pay-per-view, after all), they just won't. They make money selling us those unwanted channels, so that isn't going to change.
The personals

Tuesday Too:
1.) If you're not too paranoid go post your photo on Andy's Sunny Pose. You must be kidding. I'm wa-a-ay too old for this.

2.) What do you think about the relatively new phenomenon of student rioting after games? Inexcusable.

3.) Show me your googlewhack. If you don't know what one is go here. I never whack my google. And if I did, I wouldn't do it here.


Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Love. Ever felt that "unconditional love"? Tell us about it.... Of course I have. I have children. I know how feeble that sounds if you don't, but the parents out there know what I mean, right?

Twosome. Labors. What was your first paying job (not counting baby-sitting)? Grocery bagger. Hated it.

Threesome. Lost. Have a knack for losing things? Is there something you lose "all the time"? I do have a knack for locking my keys in the car. Does that count? Typically I keep an extra copy of my car key in my wallet, just in case.


The Friday Five:
1. What are the first things that you do in the morning to start your day? Some days, I hurriedly drag my clothes on and shove the children out the door to school. They are generally capable of getting ready to go themselves, requiring only a loud enough parental voice to keep them moving until they are fully awake. (Because I work a late shift, I do not do this every day.) Check my e-mail; check blog comments. Take the leisurely bath I referred to last week.

2. What are the last things that you do at night before going to bed? Brew a gallon or two of iced tea for the next day. (We drink a lot of iced tea around here.) If needed, toss three cups of flour etc. into the bread machine and turn it on. (Home-baked bread is better than anything you can buy in the stores. Bread machines make that possible again.) Read an actual dead-tree-style book until sleepy. (Just finished Coloring the News.) I try not to check the e-mail at night, because I will stay up too late reading blogs.

3. What daily routine have you recently added to your day? Hmmm... Can't think of anything.

4. What routine do you wish you get rid of? Driving to work. It's about an hour each way.

5. What's the one thing that makes you feel like something is missing if you don't do it some point within your day? I could give several answers to this, but they all boil down to "see my wife and kids". My work schedule being what it is, I often don't see them at all during my Thursday-Monday work week: Only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays do I get to catch up with them, a little.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Nothing is Real
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned an article in the Wall Street Journal (link requires paid registration) about voice-tracking, a new technology being used by radio stations to allow a single DJ to host shows on several stations at once.

Now you can see a similar story for free, thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Chances are this link will only be good through Wednesday 4-10: The AJC doesn't keep its archives freely available.) (Or you could try this.)

Clear Channel Communications, which owns numerous stations here, is the biggest offender, but far from the only one. Of the thirteen FM music stations the AJC checked, only three had live DJs all the time. Some had relatively small percentages of voice-tracked programming, something many stations do overnights or on weekends. (But then, nobody is pretending that Casey Kasem is live and local.) And then there's The Max 105.5 (not coincidentally, a Clear Channel station), which has exactly one live/local DJ. Fox 97.1 (a Cox Communications station) is darned close to all-"Randy & Spiff" all the time.

Is there a shortage of people who can do this kind of work? Between voice-tracked music shows and syndicated talk-radio hosts, one gets the idea that the average city only has one person who knows how to do radio.

Doesn't that make it much harder to get into the business, if there are so few local positions open? Where will the next generation of DJs come from?

If you don't think listeners will care, why not tell them the show isn't live?

It matters to me. If I'm going to invest my time in listening to the radio, the station can by gum hire a human being to speak to me live.
Is this CD enhanced or protected?
Sony has just released the new Celine Dion CD. It features copy protection technology.

What does that mean? Well, not only will it not play in your computer's CD drive, but it'll probably crash the PC as well. Good luck getting the CD out.

Okay, okay, I know, I read Photodude, I know that silencing a Celine Dion CD can be seen as good citizenship. Just check every CD carefully before you buy. The last music store I visited bore a sign saying they would not accept a CD for return if the seal on the jewel case had been broken. What if you get a CD home that won't play, and the store won't take it back?

For myself, in such a situation, I break the CD in half, send half to the store, and half to the label. The cover letter would explain that "this is the final CD I'm buying from you".

But then, for myself, that doesn't mean much. I buy maybe four or five CDs in a year.

Hey, Sony? Remember DIVX? Some people never learn.
"A new phase in the legend"
Who does this remind you of?

Now more than ever in the entire lifetime of this most remarkable democratic experiment in the history of civilization have the instruments of our Constitution been more important to us.

Well, that sentence loses its way, I think. Perhaps he forgot and thought he'd started the sentence with "Never before...": I'm also not sure what's meant by "instruments of" the Constitution, a document that has provisions and sections, articles and amendments, but no "instruments". Obviously Constitutional thoughts do not come easily to the speaker.

But would you have guessed that it's Phil Donahue?

As you may have heard, MSNBC is continuing its remake from documentary programming to opinion programming, having lured Donahue out of retirement to host its prime-time flagship hour at 8pm, opposite Connie Chung and Bill O'Reilly. It seems obvious to me that, once this new schedule is in place, women will have a tough time deciding between Chung and Donahue, leaving the men all watching O'Reilly. But what do I know?

Taking advantage of the shuffle, MSNBC will also move Alan Keyes to 11pm, safely away from Greta van Susteren. Ashleigh Banfield takes his place at 10pm, a canny move given that Banfield is MSNBC's hottest new face these days and van Susteren is mopping the floor with Keyes. Chris Mathews will move to 9pm (and will no longer time-share with CNBC); Brian Williams will move to 7pm.

When it was mentioned that a 66-year-old host is an odd choice to target the 18-49 demographic, Donahue replied, "When you think Phil, you think hip-hop." When I think Phil, I think hip replacement.
"I've just been blogging." "Get any on you?"
Alex Beam of the Globe doesn't get it. Or doesn't want it, or something. But Norah Vincent of the Los Angeles Times does. Look for the blog wave (God, what a mental picture, like rivers of snot or phlegm falls) to continue flowing through dead-tree-type newspapers, since each market will want its own version of the essay.

Those bloggers who actually write professionally should consider leaping to the forefront and "breaking" this story in their markets. Eh, Mr Lileks?

LATER: Alice in TV-Land is frustrated at the frequent disparaging tone that many print columnists take when they "discover" blogs. "Good God, are newspapers that paranoid that bloggers will take over the world?"

Well, yes, they are that paranoid. But their negative attitudes towards bloggers (when they have them) are also attributable to Professional Writers' Ego, which tells them that if we were any good, we'd be getting paid for writing. Therefore, blogs suck. (And many of us do, so "proof" isn't difficult to find.)
Why blog II
Den Beste is having, well, not exactly growing pains: As he points out, he owns his server, so many of the traffic issues that occasionally take down other sites (like all of us at BlogSpot.com) don't affect him. Call it a blog's midlife crisis, I guess: His site has grown so popular that other blogs now ask to be linked from his, to share the attention his writing justly commands. And because he is a generous man, this issue causes him some conflict. You can't link to everybody.

It must be rather like being the fastest gun in the west, being called out on the street by countless wanna-be gunslingers.

For the record: I have not asked anyone to link back to my blog -- at least, I don't remember doing so. Nor do I ever intend to. I'm flattered that people do, of course, but I'm not in this to watch my page counter roll over. I'm pleased to observe many of the same people returning regularly (Hi, y'all!), which is reward enough.
And the tinfoil hat goes to...
Thierry Meyssan, author of 11 Septembre: L'effroyable imposture (commonly given English translation: The Frightening Fraud), which contends that the Pentagon was not, in fact, hit by a hijacked aircraft on September 11, and any reports you may have seen to the contrary are the result of an American conspiracy to conceal the operations of a truck-bomber -- and what his real target was.

I really want to believe this is someone's idea of an April Fool prank. But if Amazon.fr is to be believed, not only does the book exist, but it is the number 1 best seller for French Amazon, and among French brick-and-mortar bookstores as well. (There is utterly no mention of it, or its author, on the American site.)

Snopes.com documents Meyssan's claims, and refutes them effectively. I'm particularly puzzled, though, by "Where are the wings?" Snopes doesn't point it out, but it's my understanding that the wings contain the fuel tanks -- and aviation fuel, as we have all seen at length, burns real good.

Plus, there were witnesses.

File it with the books on crop circles and moon landing fakery. And remember how hard the French are falling for this, just in case we need to judge their credibility on other issues.

Assuming the book really exists.

LATER: It's worse. Damian Penny reports that the book has a lot to say about "the hidden agenda behind the war in Afghanistan and the secret aims of the "War on Terrorism"".
Why blog?
I've decided there really isn't any need for me to separate my comments into a "serious" blog and a "personal" blog. Each blog would just be updated half as often. So I've copied what little content I'd placed in the second blog into this one here. The other one will disappear soon, if it hasn't already.

Glenn Reynolds, Steven den Beste, and James Lileks are among the best there is at what they do. Their styles are disparate, as they should be, given their differing backgrounds, interests, and goals, but I admire them all. When I compare my own hunting and pecking to their mastery of the form, I feel... unfocused.

What I finally realized was that I was in danger of forgetting why I blog in the first place.

I write. It is not, and never has been, what I do for a living, but it's what I do. I've been writing for an APA (amateur press alliance) for over twenty years now, and in that time I've only missed one deadline. Much of what I put on this page finds it way into my APA pages as well: This is, in many ways, a "first draft" for that.

My goal is simply to present a point of view. It's what we all owe to the ongoing human conversation, in which we each perceive the world we share and describe it to each other -- hopefully to better understand it, each other, and ourselves.

If this page seems unfocused, it's because I am. It's by design, on purpose. I don't have the desire to impose sufficient dicipline on my writing (at least, not this writing) that the question "What is this blog about?" can have a simple answer, other than this: It's about me. It's about the world I see myself at the center of. Sometimes it'll be about the war. Other times it'll be about what's on television. I might mention the latest stupid politician quote (we never seem to run out of those). I might mention how much I enjoyed the "Amazing Spider-Man" Coming Home trade paperback.

Hope that's OK.

On rereading this post thus far it seems rather sophomoric, like college students at 3am discussing how they can know that those parts of the world they can't see are still there. Oh, well. Like Georgia weather, the atmosphere here is unstable: If you don't like it, wait five minutes.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

How to make a reputation
For weeks to come, possibly months (which is as far forward as I'm prepared to predict anything in the Wacky World of the Web), this Boston Globe article by Alex Beam will certainly be regarded as the landmark, the quintessential example of "real-world journalism takes note of weblog phenomenon and Doesn't Get It". Even Dvorak the Mighty has faded from memory, but the legend of Beam will live on.

Though, possibly, not as he had intended.

That said, better minds than mine have put him in his place. You'll find a comprehensive list at InstaPundit: Keep scrolling upwards from the linked entry, though. Just when you think it's all been said, there's more...

The article has numerous flaws, but I think the biggest "kick me" signs were painted by Beam himself, in the snide, condescending e-mails he wrote to a handful of the biggest-name bloggers offering them "a chance to reply" before he savaged them in print (as he clearly intended to do all along).

Monday, April 01, 2002

Selling out
Well, now that Glenn Reynolds, and about 200 of the biggest names in blogopolis, have been acquired by AOL Time Warner, that leaves me as one of the foremost independent blogs in the country.

At least, until Microsoft buys Pyra Labs and closes us all down. (Coming soon: All-new HotBlog!)

Sunday, March 31, 2002

81.1% support Arafat?
So says IMRA, reporting the results of a poll of 720 Palestinian adults on Saturday.

(81.1%) support Yasser Arafat.
(60.8%) support the initiative of the Saudi Crown Prince .
(76.8%) do not trust General Anthony Zinni.
(47.6%) support the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security.

Heck, I support their right to live in peace and security. There's a lot of straightening-out to do over there, and before it's over Washington is going to say a few things that Israel would rather not hear. But by the time that happens, there are going to be a lot fewer Palestinians left to agree with it.

On the other hand, this poll was taken during the Israeli siege on Arafat's compound, which might have affected the respondents' attitude. Duh. You think?
An experiment
I opened a second blog. I made a few posts there. Encouraged by comments received, I've concluded I really don't need two blogs. So here's what I posted there, and from now on you need only check this one: Soon I'll delete the other one.

Tuesday Too
1.) New evidence suggests expansion of the universe is speeding up. Your time is now limited. What unfinished personal business would be your highest priority? Hug my wife and kids. I don't do that nearly enough. I work an odd shift, so I rarely see them awake.

2.) Because you are an expert, you are asked to give a lecture at Harvard. What is your field of expertise (real or imagined)? Reversal of rectocranial inversion among the academic elite.

3.) This is your midnight or midday confession. Do you have an embarrassing vice to share? Only Buffy.

Thursday Threesome
Onesome. Bed. You spend a few hours a night there, so tell us about your bed - size, favorite sheets, comforter...oh, and do you make it or leave it unmade? My bed is a king size futon mattress on an Anderson frame. (Which means, yes, I've slept in apartments smaller than this bed.) Sheets are, well, whatever's clean. Flannel in the winter, cotton in the summer. My wife, who is always cold, has found an electric blanket that eschews the traditional 1-10 scale: Its top setting is "22". Fortunately, it has two controls: My half is usually off, except on the very coldest days of winter, when I will grudgingly turn it on at "1".

It is often left unmade, because with our wildly differing sleep shifts, one of us is usually in it.

Twosome. Bath. OK. How much time does it take you to get "ready" on the average day - from first step into the bathroom to stepping out fully dressed.... About an hour. But that is because I enjoy stretching out (some would say "languishing") in the bathtub. We have an antique (you're supposed to say that about old things, it makes them feel better) claw-footed iron tub in which even a 5' 10" male of *ahem* significant cubic displacement can stretch out. Because of the odd schedule I work (see previous comment), I rarely inconvenience anyone when I do this. Most workdays it's the best part of the day.

Threesome. Beyond. What is your favorite room / area of your home? Tell us all about it... I like my computer area. There are things I could change about it, certainly -- the desk is a modified folding table of the "banquet" variety, designed to be used as a computer desk, with a separate keyboard platform slightly lower than desk height. A swivel work chair sits in front of it (I'd prefer one with arms, but one takes what one can get), and software / book storage is behind me as I sit and type. The window is to my right. This, more than any other place in the house, is Mine.

The Friday Five
1. If you could eat dinner with and "get to know" one famous person (living or dead), who would you choose? Arrgh, what a choice. My first answer is Orson Welles, but I would be too awestruck to say anything. I'll bet Teller (of Penn and...) would be a ball to hang around with.

2. Has the death of a famous person ever had an effect on you? Who was it and how did you feel? Steve Allen. Everything he did, he made it look like any normal, reasonably-intelligent person could have done it -- but of course that isn't true. I was saddened to hear of his death: I was troubled to learn, later, that it might have been prevented had he seen a doctor immediately after the automobile accident, instead of going home.

3. If you could BE a famous person for 24 hours, who would you choose? Which 24 hours? Oh, maybe Garrison Keillor, just to say and do things on his radio show for which he would be apologizing for the rest of his life...

4. Do people ever tell you that you look like someone famous? Who? *Sigh* When my hair is long and straggly, I look like Jerry Garcia. When my hair is short and neat, I look like Santa Claus.

5. Have you ever met anyone famous? Thanks to the radio theater company I participate in, I have met several famous people. The high point was appearing on stage with Harlan Ellison, Anthony Daniels, and Brinke Stevens. (Tapes and CDs are available for sale in the lobby...)

I will also never forget my experience with Himan Brown...

The Web is complete
Anyone who knows me will know why I love CowBlog. As for the rest, well, some things you just can't explain.

The experiment is complete
The one I meant was whether I really needed two blogs. The answer is no. You needn't check the other one again: It will go away soon. Thanks for your indulgence. If this had been an actual schizophrenic episode, you would have been instructed to run like hell. No, you wouldn't. Well, maybe.
BlogSouth
I may have to take back some of the things I've said about the local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In today's edition, Phil Kloer has produced an intelligent look at blogging in general and Atlanta bloggers in particular.

Ranging from narcisstic rants to astute political commentary, they can link to communities full of caring people or degenerate into "bitchy little snipe wars," says Kalina McCreery, an Atlanta actress and journal keeper.

So, in short, they are pretty much like people are IRL -- In Real Life. OK, I'll buy that.

If you're interested in reading any of the bloggers mentioned, though, good luck: AJC.com doesn't link them. Photodude does, though, in his comments on the article. But then, he was mentioned and quoted, I wasn't... (A fact the Dude generously points out when he lists other Atlanta-based blogs Kloer missed. Reid even corrects the URLs that Kloer gets wrong.)

Oh, I'm a little dismayed that their list of non-Atlanta "Blogs of Note" is limited to Wil Wheaton, Andrew Sullivan, Tom Tomorrow, and William Shatner (?). I mean, it seems to me that if you're trying to present the Wonderful World of Weblogging to a public largely unaware of it, and you're trying to make bloggers look like People Just Like You rather than extremists and nerds, why would you start with two columnists (both well represented in print media) and two Star Trek actors just shy of "Whatever happened to..." status?

Oh, stop it. I know Wheaton's blog is lively, clever, thoughtful, and nothing you'd expect from "Wesley", and I even enjoy Shatner's musings from time to time (makes him look a little more like a regular fellow), but I'm already here. You have to start somewhere, and the name recognition alone might entice people into the tent. As I said, I'm only a little dismayed. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the presentation.

Friday, March 29, 2002

More about the Academy Awards?
Yes, I intend to make a dishonest man of myself and say even more, even though the previous item on the subject is headed "The only thing I'll say..."

Why? Well, in part it's because I said some wrong things, which have been dissected in the comments to the previous item. In part it's because I wanted to draw your attention to this soaring article by Peggy Noonan.

But mostly it's because I had an epiphany in this past week. I finally realized -- it isn't the first time I've thought this, but perhaps this time it will stay with me -- that the Academy Awards really have nothing to do with me. It's a private function for the motion picture community, intentionally and proudly self-congratulatory, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Dropping in uninvited (via television) and complaining that the "do" wasn't done to my tastes is, well, rude.
Ayat al-Akhras was a lovely girl.
Only Thursday, she was talking about her upcoming exams, and her future plans.

Friday, the 18-year-old was making very different plans. She made a videotape in which she read a statement that criticized Arab leaders for not being willing to do what was necessary to reclaim her homeland. Then, as directed by the Al Aqsa Brigades (an arm of Arafat's organization), she wrapped a bomb around her body, traveled to the SuperSol supermarket in southeast Jerusalem, and blew herself up.

From the ancient perspective of forty-seven, I discover in myself a surprising bias: I tend to assume that young people can see through old people's bigotry. I am saddened to be reminded that this is not true.

Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have legitimate claim to the lands over which they fight. For a time I found it possible, even valuable, to consider the Palestinian perspective. I wish that I still could.

Instead I'm reminded of the Biblical story of Solomon, who offered to divide a child in half in order to satisfy two women who both claimed it. One woman agreed: the other said no, let the other woman have the whole child. Solomon recognized that the first woman was thinking only of herself, but the second was thinking of the child.

Anyone who would wrap a bomb around a teenaged girl does not deserve to lead a nation. A nation that would endorse such a thing has no right to exist.

LATER:

Never has the blood of so many Israelis been shed in such a brief period and never have the Palestinians been subjected to such harsh conditions of occupation as they are now. So now, of all times, it has to be stated clearly once again: Interwoven with them as we are, as long as their holiday is ruined, ours will be, too.

From Ha`aretz.

LATER YET: The NY Times (link requires registration) profiles a suicide bomber and her victim.
World War IV
That's what the Wall Street Journal calls it ("III" having been the Cold War, in recognition that war doesn't always involve shooting things and blowing them up). I think I agree with the nomenclature.

It's also fairly evident to even the most simple-minded of us (hello) that it has started. Despite the first blow having been struck from somewhere in Afghanistan and landing in New York City and Washington, the epicenter of WW4 is the Middle East, specifically Palestine (wherever you consider that to be, these days).

Looking around the area, it's hard to locate any good guys. Everyone agrees that everyone should stop shooting, but no one does. Unless the international press is completely blind, Israel is at least attempting to target military placements, where the Palestinians do not acknowledge there is any such thing as a non-combatant. (That "dancing in the streets" footage cost them my sympathy.)

A lot more people are going to die soon. You don't have to be Miss Cleo to see that. Steven den Beste is probably right when he says Yassir Arafat's hours are numbered. As James Lileks said yesterday about Saddam Hussein, there's no longer any point in worrying about whether whoever replaces Arafat will be worse. It can't get worse. The Palestinians have given up on him. So, obviously, has Ariel Sharon. President Bush has almost said, in so many words, that he has too.

I do not envy the President and Secretaries Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld, trying to chart a course through rivers of blood. But it seems to me that if the President meant what he said about "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists", he's going to have to act. Is he going to try to stop Sharon? Can he?

LATER: Craig Kilborn, 3-28-02: "There�s disturbing news from the Middle East today � it�s no longer there."
Last on the bandwagon
Interesting, that with so much else to talk about, the "top story" on AOL's splash screen now (4:00pm 3-28-02) is that the Treasury Department is considering changing the color of U.S. paper money, to make it that much harder to counterfeit. Well, all right, with 39 percent of counterfeit bills last year being computer and inkjet-generated, surely this is a problem that needs attention.

But surely it needs less immediate attention than the second item, in small print below: "Arafat Says Ready for Cease Fire".

Oh, wait, now (12:00 midnight) the big headline says "It's all about love: test your relationship", while the second lead is "Israeli Tanks Ring Arafat Compound". (Was that before or after he said he was ready for a cease fire?) And the money story is still there, too.

Why do I get the feeling that, if not the world, certainly a world is coming to an end in the Middle East, and AOL's biggest worry is will my hair look OK when it happens?

I know, this makes me about the last computer user in the known world to complain about AOL. I tried not to, really, but do they have to work so hard to look like a parody of themselves?

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Call it what it is
Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times thinks that this is the final straw, Saddam Hussein is really in for it now, we should... sue.

No, really. He appears to be serious.

Pundit City and Blogopolis assembled have replied with one voice, but it took James Lileks to say it with just the right je ne se quois:

Now's the time. Let's throw the book at Saddam.
Agreed. Tape it to the nose of a thermobaric explosive.
...Extra credit for those who said �because we don�t know if the next regime will be worse.� Explain, in 50 words or less, how this is possible.

Have I mentioned that Saddam is paying a bounty to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers? Ah, I see I did.
Ready for the big time...
I've finally broken 4000 on the Blogdex list.
Inhuman Rights
I don't mention it much here, but I participate in a radio theater company in my spare time. Several years ago, one of our best writers (the selfsame Ron who has shown up in several comments here) turned in a parody of a talk show interrupted by various non-human rights activists. At the time, we felt it was so over-the-top that real life was unlikely to overtake it.

Smallpox is ... the most endangered viral species on Earth, existing only as two tiny, pitiful imprisoned colonies. Where once great tides of smallpox virus flourished within the bodies of Earth's mammals--

Now, nobody that I know of has actually suggested that smallpox has rights... but yeast?

In answer to Candy Sagon's question regarding whether vegans worry about such things as microbes in yeast [Food, March 13], the answer is yes. ... Being a vegan is more about protesting cruel treatment of living beings than about food choices.

I feel like such a... macro-scale chauvinist. What's left to eat, "circus peanuts"? And when I think of all the cotton that died so that I might have underwear, why, I am wracked with guilt.
Why there is no peace in the Middle East
Here it is, the website for the Country of Palestine.

Take a look at the outline map they use as a background graphic. That's what they want. That's what they're fighting for. That's the least they'll accept.

For those of you having a little trouble seeing it, it's *all* of the west bank, *all* of the Gaza Strip, *all* of the Golan, *all* of Israel as it now exists -- essentially Palestine as it existed pre-1948 (here's a better look at it), Palestine if the state of Israel had never happened.

But they say they'll let the Jews stay, unmolested, if they get that.

"The Palestinians are the only ones with a clear strategy," said NPR's Mara Liasson, on this weekend's Fox News Sunday. We keep forgetting that. It's not like they're being subtle about it. See yesterday's Fox Weblog from Ken Layne: Did you know that the families of the suicide bombers get paid off with $25,000 American? See also Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.'s column at Jewish World Review.

Monday, March 25, 2002

The only thing I'll say about the Academy Awards
Whoopi Goldberg: "America suffered through a great national tragedy but we have recovered. Mariah Carey has already made another movie.''

This is as close as anyone came to acknowledging that anything happened in New York last year.

LATER: Apparently not quite true. There were some comments in the acceptance speeches for the awards to Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down -- and at one point late in the show (after most of the country had gone to bed) Whoopi wore a caftan-like thing with "NYPD", "FDNY", and "PAPD" on the back. (I wonder how many people thought that last stands for "Pennsylvania Police Department"? Phil Hendrie offered that opinion on his radio show last night, but then so much of his show is put-on, what do you believe? It's "Port Authority Police Department", the jointly-held NY/NJ agency that had offices in the World Trade Center.)
More links
Jason Bougger just told me about his blog, Theme of Absence. It worked: It's cool. He's the newest of the new links to the left, which now include FoxNews Views (since the new "Fox Weblogs" feature doesn't have a home page of its own, a Major Oversight if you ask me, but who did?), as well as Sgt Stryker, Ipse Dixit, Linda Young, and Dr Weevil.

Hm. Soon I'll have to start weeding...

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Absolutely not
I will not fly, if it means I have to walk through one of these new full-body airport x-rays and have my virtual nakedness inspected by off-duty burger-flippers. Ain't gonna happen.

On the other hand, if Jeff Jarvis' "Fly Naked" movement gets off the ground (har har), I might consider it. If the guards are naked too. (Not that I've seen any guards I care to see naked.)

Saturday, March 23, 2002

You forgot my name, didn't you?
Susanna Cornett observes that the online Maxim makes no mention of the "Greatest City" survey. That is, extending the metaphor Maxim itself used -- "like a guy juggling different girlfriends, we told them all they were No. 1" -- this must mean they "must not have brought it home to meet the parents." Hee hee.

But if that's true, then when they shipped the New York edition to Philadelphia by mistake, they called out the wrong name in bed.

Life Lessons

My hometown newspaper printed an essay by recent Yale graduate Shawna Gale. The readers at Romenesco's MediaNews had plenty to say about it (as did the readers at Plastic.com, as did Moira Breen, Alice in TV Land and Neal Boortz), but somehow I can't resist taking my own shot.
Even a Yale pedigree could leave one unemployed
By SHAWNA GALE

I worked hard in junior high. I worked harder in high school.

I took home more straight A report cards than any kid in my class. I scored just shy of 1400 on my SATs.
1310 here, not far behind you. And I did it in the days before they recalibrated the scale.
I rode horses. I played tennis and basketball. I taught English as a second language.

I had no social life until I was 17.
How strange. Did you corral a wild horse? Did you play tennis and basketball alone? Did you teach English to an empty room? How could you possibly have done any of these things without interacting with other human beings?

Oh, I see. Those were not social activities. Those were merely boxes on a checklist, variables in an equation that was supposed to solve for some value for U greater than $100K/year. (That was a math joke, y'see... Never mind.)
But I got into Yale. Then I worked harder than I ever had.
You didn't say who paid for it. I'll draw no conclusions. If you earned the money yourself, congratulations. If your parents paid for it, tell them you love them.
I was sure the payoff would be a multitude of attractive, not to mention lucrative, job offers upon graduation. Then the bottom dropped out of the economy.

So far, my Yale degree has secured me an e-mail forwarding address and a lifetime of alumni dues notices. Not exactly what I expected.

I was an English major which, for most people, roughly translates into "I have no marketable skills." But that's not so. I have many valuable skills honed during my days with Dickens, my nights with Nabokov, those wee hours with Woolf.

First of all, you know I can read. And I don't mean read like "Hooked on Phonics" read. I can read long, wordy, small printed works with relative speed and what's more, I can remember what I have read and write long, wordy, papers about it without any trouble. I have developed impressive analytical skills. I am trained to think -- really think -- about everything I read. And I am accomplished at putting those thoughts on paper.
Surely someone who can read -- and not merely read, but read "wordy, small printed works" (like the back of a cereal box?) -- knows the difference between "valuable skills" and "marketable skills." Your confusion of the two, therefore, puzzles me, unless you are angling for a political career. I can't think in what other position the ability to deliberately obfuscate might be a "valuable skill". Law, perhaps.

I was similarly puzzled by the "impressive analytical skills" that nonetheless do not equip you to cope in a competitive world, the nature of which you might have deduced had you applied those skills to ongoing reports in any daily newspaper. I was puzzled, until I realized that the ability to analyze wordy works and put thoughts on paper about them does not translate into the ability to understand those wordy works, or the world they attempt to describe.

At what point did you decide what kind of work you wanted to do for a living? You neglected to mention it. And which of your faculty advisors told you that a major in English was the way to accomplish it? If I were looking for the point where It All Went Wrong, I'd start there.
So where does that all leave me? Unemployed.
You are spectacularly well qualified to teach English. It should be relatively short work for you to satisfy certification requirements: You could be in a classroom by September.
I have taken that Yale degree to marketing firms, publishing companies, advertising agencies, and it has not worked any magic. If I leave the degree behind, I am hired on the spot to wait tables for $10 to $20 an hour depending on tips (and since I have well-developed public relations skills from that internship with the Commission on Human Rights, I will get closer to $20 an hour).

Erase Yale from my past and with little trouble I land a retail position helping rich ladies whose most prized degree is their "Mrs." find handbags to match the only type of investment they know how to make: shoes. Take that degree off my wall and I easily obtain a position at a local Starbucks, serving up nonfat lattes to busy professionals and harried college kids who don't know that the degree they are currently working their butts off for will be worth less than their stainless steel coffee mugs.

So I can earn $0 an hour not working at a marketing firm with my Yale degree, or potentially earn a couple of hundred bucks a night serving up fajitas at Chili's.

I can forfeit a paycheck while not employed with a publishing company, or I can earn seven bucks an hour plus commission folding sweaters at that boutique down the street. I can be broke while the ad agencies keep sending me letters beginning with, "Thank you for submitting your r�sum�. . . ," but you get the picture.
Oh, yeah, I get the picture. Despite everything you're learning about the real-world market value of a degree in English from Yale, you still believe that Yale is right, the rest of the world is wrong, and anyone who can't see that obvious fact is not worth your valuable time.

Find the person at Yale who promised you a cushy job when you graduated and sue. I wouldn't give you such loony advice if I weren't fairly confident that nobody made any such promise. But really, that's the only response your education has prepared you to make.

It is in Yale's -- any college's -- financial interest to keep you in school and continue paying tuition. Whether you're qualified for a job when you leave doesn't affect them at all. Perhaps you've seen those late-night commercials for training institutes promising you a lucrative future in dental hygiene. Compare and contrast with Yale's recruitment brochures.
Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?
Well, here are some suggestions:

Whoever told you that working for a living was beneath you didn't do you any favors.

You can shop your resume in the daytime while slinging fajitas at night, you know. I daresay most of the the waitstaff at my local Chili's are not working their way up the ranks to deputy assistant shift supervisor -- they're just paying the bills.

You have spent the last seventeen years (I'm assuming kindergarten through grade twelve, plus four years of college) being told that school will prepare you for Life. Unfortunately, that's true, but you don't get the biggest lessons until after you graduate:

School is not like Real Life. Education doesn't end when you get your diploma. Now that you're safely away from the halls of ivy, you can start learning something useful. You've just completed the "theoretical" portion of your life's lessons. Now it's time to start on the "practical". If all goes well, this phase lasts the rest of your life.

Education is the key to your future. However, sometimes the future doesn't drive a BMW. Try that key in a second-hand Chevrolet.
More Moore?
Michael Moore is spending an awful lot of time on Fox News these days, which seems like a courageous move given his politics, but even the contentious Bill O'Reilly wasn't moved to challenge him much.

This weekend he will make another appearance on Judith Regan Tonight. Is anybody going to point out that Judith Regan is his publisher?
War news
Look, I realize that it can be frustrating to cover the Pentagon, especially when it seems that they can't (or won't) get their facts straight. But...

[Victoria] Clarke [assistant secretary of defense for public affairs] rejects such criticism. "Everything you hear and see and read out there says the American people have an extraordinary understanding of this ... very unconventional war," she said.
"I think we've made lots of progress" in providing access and information, Clarke said. "I don't think we'll satisfy everybody completely, nor should we."

(Emphasis mine.) Translation: Don't you people know there's a war on?

Friday, March 22, 2002

Short takes
Sarah Brady bought a gun.

The Taliban were working on biological weapons.

The Democrats just set a soft-money donation record! (Is this their way of forcing President Bush to sign the Incumbent Protection Act? "Look what we'll do if you don't"?) (Link requires free registration.)

InstaPundit likes this column by Mark Steyn. So do I.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Short takes
In an interesting twist on the multiple-cover "collectors' issues" many magazines indulge in (knock it off already!), Maxim magazine released thirteen different versions of its current issue, each released in a different geographical region, each naming a different city as the "Greatest City on the Earth". The Freep blows the whistle, and the NY Press explains it. (Uh-oh: The "New York" issues got sent to Philadelphia newsstands. Oops.)

Look, I know that teachers sometimes show movies to their classes, but what were they thinking when they chose Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part One"?

And what a relief it is that "Live" can go on without Regis or Kelly.
Don't mince words, James, what do you really think?
If I had the ego that Michael Moore has, I'd say something like, "Ah, I see James Lileks agrees with me," as if Lileks noticed my description of Moore as being Insufficiently Medicated and decided to expand on it. (As if James Lileks knows or cares who I am, as if I should be presuming to address him by first name.)

If you're offended by that on Michael Moore's behalf, then for God's sake don't go here.
The Digital Divide
Robert J. Samuelson debunks the Digital Divide in today's Washington Post. (Glenn Reynolds, where you probably saw it first, has some further comments.) It's badly in need of debunking after Tom Brokaw's shameless pandering last Sunday on MSNBC's "Silicon Summit III".

Last year, Brokaw brought a schoolgirl onstage to ask the Assembled Big Domes, "Why can't you make computers less expensive? I'm not going to be able to keep up in school without a computer, and we can't afford one." And three of the panelists fell over themselves to give her computers. (If there were a Digital Divide, would that be the answer?)

This year, they brought the girl back to wave to the television audience. "I'm smarter," she said. "It's like I have a whole new brain." A half-hearted attempt was made to observe that just-plain literacy is more important than computer literacy, and the key to that is teachers, not computers. A somewhat-lesser attempt to say that computers are the cheapest they've ever been finished the segment before returning to the subject of piracy (they never strayed far from it).

For some reason, no one was prepared to argue that a personal computer is not an entitlement, nor that you can learn perfectly well without one. There are two big reasons for that: One is that the panel was comprised of big-name players in the computer industry (all of whom can afford all the computers they want), and it's not in their interest to say that you don't really need one. The second reason: As someone with children in elementary and middle schools, I can confirm that many teachers do assume you have access to a computer when they make certain homework assignments. Students without have to use the computers in the school library (which is only available limited hours). You really will fall behind without one.

Nor did anyone suggest that giving a computer to every student who asks for one might not be necessary. Computers are a commodity now. If they get any less expensive, they'll be giving them away with breakfast cereal. Yet this notion of a "digital divide" simply won't go away.
Hanging with the big boys
My God. I've been mentioned at FoxNews.com, dragged in on the pithy coattails of Andrea Harris (Ye Olde Blogge).

Her "top story" at Fox is her reaction to Harry Browne's recent comments about the Afghan war, a reaction I share wholeheartedly. And if you don't know who Harry Browne is, well, after this I'd say that's the best thing that could happen to him.

As to how her conversation came to include me: Some days ago, in response to reports from Saudi Arabia that they're chasing girls back into burning buildings rather than let them leave without head coverings, I asked, "How can such a society survive?" Andrea replied, "It can't." There's more: go read it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Jaw drops in astonishment
Somebody head over to den Beste's place and make sure he's all right...
Be careful what you say in a weblog
It may come back to haunt you...
(Well, Megan actually found it...)
Just plane good news (ow)
Some time back, I mentioned the good people of Lewisporte and Gander, Newfoundland, whose normal activities came to a halt on September 11 when 37 transatlantic flights were forced to land there and remain there for five days.

Good deeds are occasionally rewarded, as this press release from Delta details.

For more information about the Gander Flight 15 Scholarship Fund, visit the Gander Connection.

(Thanks, Ron!)

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Nothing is real
The New York Times (link requires free registration) and the Wall Street Journal (link requires paid registration) have both recently published articles that expose the "man behind the curtain" in their respective media.

The NYT story is about television news. About forty TV stations around the country have news operations without newsroom "sets". Instead, the anchors report in front of a blue (or sometimes green) screen, and the room they appear to be in is computer-generated. In Lubbock, TX, in fact, the same newsroom serves two different stations, with completely different "looks". The current state of the art is such that the camera, and the reporter, can even move around the room, and the computer can match the perspective of the virtual set "on the fly". (That requires a more expensive Silicon Graphics workstation: If your cameras and anchors sit still, you can do it with Windows NT.)

We already know that much of local news is neither local, nor really news: Video "press releases" pop up in numerous markets, with introductions performed by local talent. Segments are borrowed from the network or from other affiliate or co-owned stations, lightly tailored for each market.

But there's still a local news anchor and content-gathering organization: It hasn't been completely replaced. Unlike radio.

The WSJ story is about "Cabana Boy Geoff" Alan, DJ for KISS San Diego. No, wait, make it KISS Santa Barbara. Boise. Medford OR. No, make it Channel 933.

It's all of the above. With a computerized mixing board, Alan can assemble a five-hour shift in less than an hour, dropping digitally-recorded voice clips into a preformatted schedule. Unless they subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, the people of Boise don't know that Geoff phones his show in from San Diego.

In-studio celebrity guests play along with the deception, pretending to be visiting Boise (or wherever).

An early indication of the impact came in Dayton, Ohio, in 1999. Dozens of teenagers showed up at a Clear Channel pop station early one morning looking for the Backstreet Boys, after hearing an interview with the band that morning. The teenagers were politely told that the band wasn't available and given promotional items. The interview was actually done earlier in Los Angeles.
"That's when we knew this could be huge," says Sean Compton, Clear Channel vice president and national program coordinator.

Nowadays, Boise's KISS has only one DJ who's actually in Boise. And one intern, known as "Smooch", who does personal appearances and answers the phone. Clear Channel uses voice-tracked programming extensively across its stations, especially among its KISS-branded FM franchise (there are 47 KISS stations). Their call-in contests feature a "fine print" burst of words informing the listener that the contest is national, the only hint that all is not as it sounds.

Is this fraud?

LATER: I still haven't decided.

In the case of television, I don't think it is. Fraud, I mean. I've been wondering for years whether the evening news is actually as live as it appears to be. The disclaimer "portions of this programming have been mechanically reproduced" covers a lot of ground. Live remotes from places where news isn't happening seem gratuitous to me. But I find I don't really care whether the set is real. Some of the financial shows on cable have placed their talking heads in front of a subtly-shifting abstract background that wouldn't be out of place as a Windows wallpaper or screensaver, not bothering to create the illusion of a newsroom, and that can be a pleasing effect.

But, so far, the television production facilities do not seem to be trying to digitally "place" a reporter in a venue he never visited. In radio, that subterfuge seems to be increasingly common.

Is it fraud to run a show from out-of-town? Certainly not -- if you admit it. There are dozens of nationally syndicated radio shows that don't pretend to be local to the markets they air in. For music-based shows, given the station format, the music is pretty much the same anyway. I don't think it's possible to run a talk show that way, and I'm not aware of any that try. (Kim Komando is probably the most up-front about it, reminding listeners that if they want to get on the air, they have to call when she's live -- and telling them when that is, and where.)

But the parts of the WSJ article I didn't quote (it is an article you have to pay to read, I don't intend to give it all away) make it clear that KISS Boise (actually KSAS-FM 103.3), their primary example, does everything they can to create the illusion that the on-air talent is live and local. Program director Hoss Grigg maintains an internal web page full of local research, events and trivia for his out-of-town talent.

A recent day began ... with a cellphone call from Mr. Grigg, who told [Cabana Boy Geoff Alan] of a Boise-area Olympic hopeful and recapped a station-sponsored party the night before at a Boise restaurant.
Sipping a large cup of coffee, Mr. Alan tried to convince himself it was 10 a.m., the time his show would air. With Mr. Grigg's briefing in mind, he told the Boise audience that last night's event was "a wild and crazy party," though of course he hadn't attended. "I personally saw a number of you hook up with people you had never hooked up with before."

Rival station KZMG ("Magic 93.1") promotes itself as "live and local", and takes calls from listeners on the air, something that "Cabana Boy Geoff" can't do. It doesn't seem to matter. KISS is ahead in the ratings -- and saving a ton of money on salaries.
It's a blogalanche!
I've just finished a major reorganization of the links on the left. Actually, to say I've reorganized them is giving too much credit to how they were organized before. In any case, I've removed no links, fixed a few, and added many more, since it's just occurred to me that many pages I visit daily aren't represented here. I've attempted to categorize them, the better to manage an increasingly unruly list, but some aren't easily pigeonholed.

The new links are: Jeff Jarvis, James Lileks, The Last Page, Moira Breen, Shiloh Bucher, Joanne Jacobs, Andrea See, Natalie Solent, Boing Boing, E-Media Tidbits, Lucianne, MediaNews, the Corner, the Obscure Store, Tech Central Station, and Ye Olde Blogge.

"LinkSwapping" means pretty much that: I'll link to anybody who'll link to me. I've found much of interest on those pages, and I hope you do too. "BlogRolling" is pretty much the same thing, with the following, perhaps trivial, distinction: The blogrollers have mentioned me in passing, in comments that will roll off into their archives; the linkswaps have "permanent" (or as permanent as anything is on the web) links back to me. And bolded links not in those two categories have also linked back to me. Me, me, it's all about me, ain't it?

You'll note there is no category for "warblogs". I've never understood what the label was meant to say.

Oh, and there is one "anti-link", I guess you might call it. I won't often link to pages I'd rather not go to, but Michael Moore is such an outstanding example of whatever he is that I can't resist.