Thursday, November 30, 2006
What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.
Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.
Nintendo has dropped out of this race. The Wii has few bells and whistles and much less processing power than its “competitors,” and it features less impressive graphics. It’s really well suited for just one thing: playing games. But this turns out to be an asset. The Wii’s simplicity means that Nintendo can make money selling consoles, while Sony is reportedly losing more than two hundred and forty dollars on each PlayStation 3 it sells—even though they are selling for almost six hundred dollars. Similarly, because Nintendo is not trying to rule the entire industry, it’s been able to focus on its core competence, which is making entertaining, innovative games. For instance, the Wii features a motion sensor that allows you to, say, hit a tennis ball onscreen by swinging the controller like a tennis racquet. Nintendo’s handheld device, the DS, became astoundingly popular because of simple but brilliant games like Nintendogs, in which users raise virtual puppies. And because Nintendo sells many more of its own games than Sony and Microsoft do, its profit margins are higher, too. Arguably, Nintendo has thrived not despite its fall from the top but because of it.
Look at the two of us. Me, buried in the couch cushions, surrounded by soggy mugs of tea and a half-eaten bag of Nestle's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. You, blinking your one eye against the dying sunlight reflecting off its surface. You lured me in just like Lisa Rinna seduced that guy in Another Woman's Husband.
Where has the time gone? It seems like mere moments ago that I was waking up full of good intentions. I was going to go to the gym. I was going to purchase and wrap several belated birthday gifts. I was going to do three loads of laundry. I only flipped on the TV to check the weather, only sat down for a moment, just to see if little Emily's estranged biological father was a match for the bone-marrow transplant she so desperately needed
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Daniel MacIvor, Mike Daisey and Anne Bogart are among the artists who will participate in the Public Theater's annual 12-day Under the Radar festival from Jan. 17-28, 2007.
The works include MacIvor's play A Beautiful View, about "two women who forge a romance that keeps falling apart," according to a release. Solo writer-performer Daisey's Invincible Summer is about the New York subway and Daisey's Brooklyn neighborhood in "the last glorious summer before everything changed."
The interesting thing is that Deno's Wonder Wheel Park sits between Sitt's other properties and Astroland. Is that the next shoe to drop? Will Deno's end up hemmed in by Sitt projects like the proverbial building whose owner refused to sell surround by highrises? Will the only things left of the past in Coney Island be the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump, the equivalent of those big, old signs that are preserved when the factories to which they were attached are torn down? Will Thor use preserving Astroland as an amusement park as the bargaining chip to get the zoning changes to allow boardwalk condo towers? Is the grand plan--as cynics have suggest--to turn Coney Island into an absolutely desolate ghost town by the end of next year to pressure quick action on their plans?
I'm sure there's a whole team of UI designers, programmers, and testers who worked very hard on the OFF button in Windows Vista, but seriously, is this the best you could come up with?
Every time you want to leave your computer, you have to choose between nine, count them, nine options: two icons and seven menu items. The two icons, I think, are shortcuts to menu items. I'm guessing the lock icon does the same thing as the lock menu item, but I'm not sure which menu item the on/off icon corresponds to.
On many laptops, there are also four FN+Key combinations to power off, hibernate, sleep, etc. That brings us up to 13 choices, and, oh, yeah, there's an on-off button, 14, and you can close the lid, 15. A total of fifteen different ways to shut down a laptop that you're expected to choose from.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Bogart, Daisey, MacIvor, et al. Set for Under the Radar 2007 Festival
This weekend I was handed an opened wheel of processed cheeses by a friend. He said that his brother-in-law had caught wind of a frequent flyer promotion whereby you get 500 miles for each purchase of this cheese wheel and had purchased 75,000 miles for ~$300, which also means he's got more opened cheese wheels than he knows what to do with. The frequent flyer forums and blogs are already on the case. These forums are actually pretty fascinating...there's a lot of free/cheap travel to be had for those with a little time on their hands. This fellow claims to have taken advantage of airline pricing errors to fly 16 flights this year for a total cost of $77.57.
At a dinner honoring those who stand up for freedom of speech, former House speaker Newt Gingrich issued his opinion that the idea of free speech in the U.S. needs to be re-examined in the interest of fighting terrorism. Gingrich said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message. The article has few details of what Gingrich actually said beyond the summary above, and no analysis pointing out how utterly clueless the suggestion is given the Internet's nature and trans-national reach.
National Telefilm Associates took over the rights to the U.M.&M. library soon afterward. However, a clerical error at NTA prevented the copyright from being renewed properly in 1974. Around this time, people began to take a second look at this film. A popular fallacy began that it entered the public domain and many television stations began airing the film without paying royalties. The film was still protected by virtue of it being a derivative work of all the other copyrighted material used to produce the film such as the script, music, etc. whose copyrights were renewed. In the 1980s (the beginning of the home video era) the film finally received the acclaim it didn't receive in 1946, thus becoming a perennial holiday favorite. For several years, it became expected that the movie would be shown multiple times on at least one station and on multiple stations in the same day, often at the same or overlapping times. It was a common practice for American viewers to jump in and out of viewing the movie at random points, confident they could easily pick it up again at a later time. The film's warm and familiar ambiance gave even isolated scenes the feel of holiday "comfort food" for the eyes and ears. The film's accidental public domain success is often cited as a reason to limit copyright terms, which have been frequently extended by Congress in the United States.
Knoop was paid for her impersonations of LeRoy in wigs and sunglasses, which allowed her to quit her waitress job. For six years, the charade went on -- until this January, when writer Laura Albert was outed as the author. Albert's former partner, Geoffrey Knoop, is Savannah Knoop's half brother.
"It was a relief when it was over,'' says Knoop, 25, with considerable understatement, about the controversy.
These days, she is out of the literary limelight and back pocketing tips on the night shift at Soi 4, a Thai restaurant in Oakland's Rockridge district. Her customers would no doubt be shocked to learn about the entry on her in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, for playing LeRoy.
"To those who might think that I might be exaggerating when I describe the RIAA's litigation campaign as a 'reign of terror', how's this one: in UMG v. Lindor, the RIAA not only subpoenaed the computer of Ms. Lindor's son, who lives 4 miles away, but had their lawyer telephone the son's employer. See page 2, footnote 1."
From Ray's comments: "You have a multi-billion dollar cartel suing unemployed people, disabled people, housewives, single mothers, home healthcare aids, all kinds of people who have no resources whatsoever to withstand these litigations. And due to the adversary system of justice the RIAA will be successful in rewriting copyright law, if the world at large, and the technological community in particular, don't fight back and help these people fighting these fights."
The reason, I think, is a little unexpected -- iPod. With a little help from Microsoft's wannabe music player, Zune. Zune, just out in time for Christmas, is not only getting some lukewarm reviews, it is reinforcing Microsoft's worst image problems.
Either the Micro-guys are clueless dorks -- Zune is as expensive as iPod, bulkier, and is neither as easy to work as iPod nor as cool. Or, worse yet, the boys up north are malicious bullies. According to at least one review, the music system only works with the Microsoft Explorer browser, not Firefox, which many others and I prefer.
Banania was always THE brunch place. I would come all the way from my native Kensington (so far that most of you have probably never heard of it!) and friends would come from the city just to meet there and enjoy a delicious omelet with goat cheese, or eggs benedict, or any of their other great dishes, along with the terrific accompanying home fries, salad, and basket of crazy-good breads.
As we all know, the place we renovated and renamed - to “Porchetta,” perhaps a bad sign of things to come - but the brunch menu remained the same. So I kept eating there happily.
However, two weeks ago I convinced two former Brooklynites to make the trip from the city for a Banania/Porchetta brunch, promising that even though the name was changed, the menu remained.
I was in for one of the worst changes since Han shooting first.
A week ago, I went for a spin in the fastest, most fun car I've ever ridden in—and that includes the Aston Martin I tried to buy once. I was so excited, in fact, that I decided to take a few days to calm down before writing about it. Well, my waiting period is over, I'm thinking rationally, and I'm still unbelievably stoked about the Tesla.
The Tesla Roadster won't hit the streets until next year. If you see one on the street, then, you should ask for a ride. Even from the passenger seat, the car feels impossibly stronger, faster, and safer than it should be. The trick is Tesla's torque curve—the arc of the motor's strength as it revs from a standstill to top speed. Compared to gasoline-engined cars, the Roadster's torque curve feels—and is—impossible. That's because the Tesla's motor is electric.
It's snowing hard enough that the taxis aren't running.
I'm walking home, my night's work finished,
long after midnight, with the whole city to myself,
when across the street I see a very young American sailor
standing over a girl who's kneeling on the sidewalk
and refuses to get up although he's yelling at her
to tell him where she lives so he can take her there
before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk
and my guess is he picked her up in a bar
and later they got separated from his buddies
and at first it was great fun to play at being
an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with
hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to
find a solution to the infinitely complex
problem of what to do about her before he falls into
the hands of the police or the shore patrol
and what keeps this from being squalid is
what's happening to him inside:
if there were other sailors here
it would be possible for him
to abandon her where she is and joke about it
later, but he's alone and the guilt can't be
divided into small forgettable pieces;
he's finding out what it means
to be a man and how different it is
from the way that only hours ago he imagined it.
Pretty much every time we glance over at our friends in the UK, they seem to be implementing surveillance technology that surely wouldn't make George Orwell too thrilled. In the last two months alone we've seen those CCTV cams with accompanying loudspeakers debut in Middlesbrough, which was more recently followed by a handful of London cops getting some head-mounted cams. Sure, it's easy to invoke the spectre of Big Brother into any conversation about the expansion of the watchful eye of government, but the new discussions afoot have even us Yanks a little concerned for our British brethren. According to The Times, UK police are considering using high-powered microphones that will home in on a particular public conversation, if "aggressive tones" are detected, based on decibel level, pitch and the speed of the speaker's voice.
The Maker's Bill of Rights
*Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included.
*Cases shall be easy to open.
*Batteries should be replaceable.
*Special tools are allowed only for darn good reasons.
*Profiting by selling expensive special tools is wrong and not making special tools available is even worse.
*Torx is OK; tamperproof is rarely OK.
*Components, not entire sub-assemblies, shall be replaceable.
*Consumables, like fuses and filters, shall be easy to access.
*Circuit boards shall be commented.
*Power from USB is good; power from proprietary power adapters is bad.
*Standard connecters shall have pinouts defined.
*If it snaps shut, it shall snap open.
*Screws better than glues.
*Docs and drivers shall have permalinks and shall reside for all perpetuity at archive.org.
*Ease of repair shall be a design ideal, not an afterthought.
*Metric or standard, not both.
*Schematics shall be included.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is on trial for laundering money by purchasing copyright licenses from MPAA members. Accused of co-conspiring with him is David Mills, the "estranged husband" of Tessa Jowell, the British copyright minister who has taken many extremist stances in support of the handful of US-led Fortune 100 companies that dominate global entertainment.
Next time you hear an entertainment exec spouting evidence-free garbage about P2P being used to fund terrorism, ask him about Berlusconi and his company's complicity with high official corruption and money-laundering.
Because these days, this is pretty much the feeling Apple products instill in millions of increasingly dazzled and devoted fans. Their products have become coated in some sort of hot golden fairy dust. Their gizmos come freely adorned with a luminous halo that tastes of hope and sex and candy. Their incandescent tech junk possesses a reek, a perfectly intoxicating stench that heralds another world, some sort of sleek well-lit utopia where people never steal and vibrators are free and dolphins teach babies to sing.
- - - -
(JUDITH REGAN is in bed. She wakes up.)
Last night I had the strangest dream.
An angel came to me. It seemed
As though he tumbled down from heaven high.
He had the gentlest tone. His voice, it did beguile.
He wanted me to make a book
That turned back time to take a look
At the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Then he flew back up into the endless vault of sky.
Part of me would like to go right back to bed.
Instead I think I'll do just what the fallen angel said.
(While she is singing, O.J. SIMPSON appears at her bedside. He walks slowly as a result of his injured knees, but when he hears his name mentioned he brightens.)
Two weeks ago, I bade fond farewell to my trusty PowerBook G4, and welcomed - with very, very open arms - a shiny new Intel (Core 2 Duo-based) MacBook Pro.
Without putting too fine a point on it, this is the machine I've been waiting for.
(I've just made this jump myself, and my experiences mirror Gavin's.)
A video of two Bank of America employees singing a version of U2’s “One” to commemorate their company’s acquisition of MBNA recently made the rounds of the blogs, prompting amusement and some ridicule from online viewers.
But the intended comic effect of their performance and the retooled lyrics (“One spirit, we get to share it/Leading us all to higher standards”) seemed lost on lawyers on the lookout for copyright violations.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for the Universal Music Publishing Group, a catalog owner and administrator, posted the text of a cease-and-desist letter in the comments section of Stereogum.com, a Web site carrying the video. It contended that Bank of America had violated Universal’s copyright of the U2 song.
Robert A. Heinlein and Dr. Smith were friends. Heinlein reported that E.E. Smith perhaps took his "unrealistic" heroes from life, citing as an example the extreme competence of the hero of Spacehounds of IPC. He reported that E.E. Smith was a large, blond, athletic, very intelligent, very gallant man, married to a remarkably beautiful, intelligent red-haired woman named MacDougal (thus perhaps the prototypes of 'Kimball Kinnison' and 'Clarissa MacDougal'). In one of Heinlein's books, he reports that he began to suspect Smith might be a sort of "superman" when he asked Dr. Smith for help in purchasing a car. Smith tested the car by driving it on a back road at illegally high speeds with their heads pressed tightly against the roof columns to listen for chassis squeaks by bone conduction—a process apparently improvised on the spot.
I just cured sinus problems that had plagued me for weeks with one dose of original Sudafed. If you've been dogged by what seemt to be allergies or a cold for an unusual time, I finally realized my symptoms started after I stopped buying Sudafed Non-Drying capsules in September. The stuff had been removed from stores because of the revised Patriot Act. When it came back, it had been made much more inconvenient to buy.
Instructions for Americans
To buy original formula Sudafed, Wal-fed, or other pseudophedrine sinus medicine that actually works (not the new Sudafed PE), go to your supermarket or drugstore and look in the cold remedies sections where it used to be. They now have little fake boxes or cards you take to the pharmacist to say "I want one of these." The pharmacist checks your ID and you sign for it.
Why can't you buy Sudafed over the counter anymore?
The renewed USA PATRIOT Act signed into law in March includes a "Meth Act" aimed at reducing production of methamphetamines, which can be manufactured from pseudophedrine, aka Sudafed. That's why Sudafed changed their over-the-counter formula to Sudafed PE. You can still buy Sudafed original if you go to the pharmacist at Safeway or Walgreens. But you can only buy one box a day and three a month, and you need to present a photo ID and sign a log for the pharmacist. The idea is to keep meth dealers from buying Sudafed in quantity to cook it into methamphetamine. The bill was attached to the Patriot Act after co-authors Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jim Talent (R-MO) were unable to get it passed by other means.
Monday, November 20, 2006
John McCain doesn’t believe that being gay is a defect or a sin. But he’s against gay marriage. McCain doesn’t think gay people should be discriminated against. But he’s against laws that would protection gays and lesbians from being fired solely for being gay or lesbian. McCain used to be against overturning Roe v. Wade. But now he’s for it. McCain used to bash “agents of intolerance” like Pat Robertson. Now he tours the country with his tongue lodged in Robertson’s asscrack.
Tonight! Monday, November 20th, there will be a
special Park Slope edition of The Variety Shac at
Our guests are:
MUSIC, COMEDY, FILM! For more info go to
brought to you by:
Come out - to Union Hall
702 Union Street @ 5th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Union Hall is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn, right
off the corner of 5th Avenue on Union Street.
R train to Union Street. Walk 1 block east.
F train to 4th Avenue. Walk north on 4th Ave and
turn right on Union Street. 1 block up.
Q, 2, 3, 4, 5 trains to Atlantic Avenue. Walk south
on 5th Ave. Make a left on Union Street.