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June 30, 2003

Hey! Ho! Let's Gomorrah!

The rhetorical tack that opponents of last week's Supreme Court decision seem to be market-testing is, if you think what gays and lesbians do in private is their own business, then you must be in favor of incest--or you might as well be, because as sure as candy's sweet that'll be legal tomorrow, too. (Between adults, anyway.)

Which is, of course, horseshit six different ways, but it's interesting that I've heard the word "incest" a half-dozen times since Thursday, and not once from somebody who actually wanted to do his own sister. Am I so out of touch? It never even occurred to me that there might be a Brother/Sister Love Lobby just waiting for the right cultural moment to bring their shame into the sunlight. (To think I used to work in a liquor store that carried "Family Love" magazine on the porn rack. Right under our noses, people!) And Rick Santorum sternly intones that marriage isn't open to man and dog (no matter how committed their relationship)--but that could change.

I'm not ignorant of the Abyss that beckons in the heart of Man; I know there is vile business being conducted in attics, cellars, and darken'd apartments the world over. But if religious conservatives truly believe the Rehnquist Supreme Court has set a course for the depraved dystopias that burn blackly in their tortured sleep, they ought to be spending more time in therapy and less in church.

I'm a card-carrying Married who's successfully bred once. There are a lot of things I worry may threaten my family. This isn't one of them.

Posted by pk at 6:55 PM

After a Bit of a Hiatus

. . . Jorn is back. He's got a link to horrifying article about a kiddie reeducation camp that's been making the rounds.

Posted by mph at 5:12 PM

Go Ye Into All the World

Who knew Scientology could be both so hip and so useful?

scientology12.jpg

(via memepool)

Posted by mph at 5:07 PM

They Just Get Madder

Re: Supremes/Sodomy: Let the backlash begin. Or whatever you care to call all the grunting and squawking that'll get 'em whipped up in Nashville.

Posted by mph at 5:37 AM

June 27, 2003

Livin' La Vida Outlook

This week we're playing with Outlook.

But there's a followup...

Something about Outlook and UWash IMAPD doesn't mesh quite right. Outlook ate a few folders, then barfed them back up, then started crashing every time I tried to start it. It took a little googling, a little head-scratching, and two sane IMAP clients to work it all out, but not before I ended up running in to the living room and firing up the iBook to rescue a few messages in the IMAP store's cache that Outlook ate.

Sum result?

I'm not ever letting Outlook near my mail again. I don't need that kind of stress. It's either Mozilla Mail or mutt from a shell, thanks.

Posted by mph at 5:46 PM

no conspiracy

Not at the Carlyle Group, cause the guys who really run shit don't have to conspire--they just plan and implement. Got a link to an old article at Red Herring in a comment from Mikal at the BeliBlog.

This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel like I should just put my head down and take what pleasures I can from my pathetic little life, and enjoy the fact that, by fortune of birth, I'm one of the lucky ones, because I will never understand how things really work, much less be able to change it. Men will make money and use money to arm men to kill men to gain power to make money. These things happen on an entirely other plane from the one we inhabit. Any full-scale attempt to dismantle it all would drive us into the sewers, scurrying from the Grid's watcher droids.

Posted by pk at 4:20 PM

Anyone know...

where Jorn went?

Posted by mph at 7:52 AM

June 26, 2003

neoconspiracy

This has been out there awhile--since September 11, 2001, in fact, when you might have been wondering about it yourself--but a lot of strange things did or inexplicably did not happen around the president that morning, and questions about it have been gathering steam, at least in this steamy little world. It's hard to tell the difference between substance and smoke in the allegations implicit in these stories, but there is certainly evidence of weird behavior and flagrant incompetence.

Bob Harris at This Modern World links to a video (with a story and stills) at The Memory Hole showing Bush remaining seated in that Florida classroom for over 5 minutes after Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him of the second plane impacting the World Trade Center. Released video evidence before now was only 2 minutes in length: this video cuts off at 5+ and he's still seated.

So there's your 5 moments of Zen. More interesting is this long piece, "An Interesting Day", that exhaustively details all Bush's movements that day, including information I didn't know about suspicious arrests in the same town as Bush's a.m.-9/11 photo op. Again, I don't know if there's fire under all that smoke, but you'll wrinkle your brow and say "What the hell...?" more than once.

Frankly, it's damned odd, and a little creepy.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I made the flip ref above, then thought, I actually would like to see The Daily Show run that video, uncut. Just let it roll, let people see what their president was doing in the first 5 minutes of a disastrous attack whose scope was then completely unknown. If nothing else, it's clear evidence that his handlers were more concerned with how they wanted to appear, politically, than with having the president do his fucking job. This is why, on that day at least, Rudy Giuliani, who was doing his job, was my leader.

Posted by pk at 10:19 PM

GNU to Me

Emacs lover? Enduring Win32? Cygwin and Emacs for Win32 can be livable.

Posted by mph at 7:09 PM

June 25, 2003

Scrumpdillyishus

Well, it's been a while, and Alison just dug this out of her bookmarks, so here's a reminder to go visit Scrumpdillyishus Land. (And go armed with Flash and RealPlayer.)

scrump.png

Posted by mph at 1:12 AM

June 23, 2003

Finding Her Level

Reflexive bile? Subjectivist fallacies? Outrageous positions staked out to rise above the din of ten thousand others chattering about the same topic? Ann Coulter has finally found her medium. (Though she seems to be suffering from a little stage fright today.)

Posted by mph at 5:19 PM

Travel Advisory

Spent a pleasant evening in Newport, OR. Enjoyed a walk on the beach, a visit to the tidal pools at Yaquina Head, a walk down the Newport bayfront, and a visit to the most appalling cash grab ever: the Underwater Gardens, which consist of a very large tank someone filled with fish and concrete lawn ornaments left over from some dotty aunt's Classical Revival phase. Oh, there's a small "tidal pool" that periodically spits water over a few dispirited anenomes and a starfish that have been hassled and mauled by angry children whose parents are not going to be in the mood to buy them nautical-themed tchotchkes having been taken for a horrid ride. Avoid. Avoid avoid avoid.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium, which costs a few dollars more (I refuse to admit to how much I paid to get into the Undersea Gardens), but manages something a little better than "gigantic tank with concrete lawn ornaments," is much better.

Posted by mph at 7:43 AM

Unsympathetic First Reaction

"Top artists" aren't happy with services like the iTunes Music Store because they allow listeners to download a decent single or two and bypass the crappy fille... rest of the album.

Posted by mph at 7:23 AM

June 22, 2003

you either know this or don't care.

There's a new Radiohead album.

I was late to Radiohead-is-brilliant (which began with the release of OK Computer, an album I didn't like or buy for some months) and I don't get the compulsion to declare that they are or are not the salvation of rock and roll and/or Western civilization, but I do like Radiohead. A lot.

This new album seems to be too much of one thing to still be so much of the other. It's a hybrid of the distressful ambience of the preceding diptych, Kid A and Amnesiac, and the rafter-rattling angst of OK Computer and, I guess, the earlier two albums, neither of which I've given much time to. My short review of the new album is that they should choose to either levitate me or sedate me, but not try to do both, because one creates expectations of deliverance and the other forces terms of surrender, and the dissonance is not pleasurable. Deliverance becomes jarring; sedation dull and tedious. And I'm not quite ready to grant Radiohead the meta-credit of believing that setting up that particular dissonance is their intent, because then I'd have to think about not only the dissonance, but what critique might lead a bunch of young Englishmen to anticipate and provoke it.

Which brings me to my point--the reason I landed in the computer chair, two scotches up and close to midnight when I'm pledged to get up with the wee lad on the morrow--which is that I don't think Radiohead are quite as self-conscious as all that, and I don't think it's necessary to claim or prove they are to believe that they're a really good band making music that speaks to the condition of any thinking person these days.

The Clinton years were borrowed time. We all felt it, and the Republicans and their wealthy benefactors made damn sure we didn't forget it. Liberals felt like Clinton was a compromise, yet the frothing conservatives made it clear that even his mealy-mouthed version of social decency wasn't going to fly for long, and next time they wouldn't make the mistake of being less than ruthless in wresting back the levers. There's no question that the world we live in now is very different, and not just because we believe terrorists are stalking our airports and condo clubhouses. Empowered by our fear, the government is sweeping us up in currents of extremism, protectionism, and imperialism (what else would you call it?). The only thing that gives humanists any hope at all is that the conservatives (an outdated term--what are they conserving?) are in danger of overplaying their hand; that simple folk inclined to support their avowedly simple moralities but who generally wish not to be jangled may tire of their alacrity in remaking the world in the image of Joe McCarthy, J.P. Morgan, and Boss Tweed.

Radiohead makes music for those of us waiting for the simple folk to wake up: music that expresses fear for people who understand yet are powerless to confront the evil that controls their lives. Not evil as Mr. Bush defines it, but true, mundane, merciless evil--the one that even Mr. Bush's declared enemies battle, misguided though they may be. Electronica mavens who claim that Radiohead are derivative and/or amateuristic miss the point exactly. Radiohead utilizes the tools of electronic music to emphasize the alienation ordinary minds feel from the technology that dictates the rhythms of 21st-century life. But much more up-front and effective is the way they use the basic rock tools: guitar, bass, drum, voice.

After September 11, 2001, as a New Yorker of more than three years living out my last four weeks there, Radiohead (and some jazz and country blues) was about the only music I could listen to sober. It was sonically expansive, yet comfortingly claustrophobic in a time when it seemed a claustrophobic space was the only place small enough to be safe.

Claustrophobia is no longer comforting, but it's still operative. Clearly we have outgrown the place. The world is too goddamn small if men like George W. Bush can fancy they can control it, and we are stuck in steerage with people ignorant enough to approve of him trying. Media hotheads pander to our fellows' baser instincts, attempting to convince us of the reason in Mr. Bush's plans, because this is a democracy, in theory, and none of it can be undertaken without our assent--which makes it more troubling than if we were simply pawns under an open tyranny.

In theory, we have assented to all of it--"my planes, my guns, my money, my soldiers, my blood on my hands: it's all my fault!"--but I *HAVEN'T*, motherfuckers. There's a target on my head and on America and on my beloved New York City, and it's not because of anything you or I have done or will benefit from, no matter how many empty "tax relief" calories they offer up like sickly-sweet sugar-milk from the bottom of the Cheerios bowl.

And there I have to stop, for now. If you're still reading, and you like rock music, buy Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. You might dig it.

Posted by pk at 7:12 AM

June 21, 2003

RSS Reader Roundup

I've spent the past few days poking around at RSS aggregators trying to find something on Linux or Windows that's as nice as NetNewsWire, which is sporting a nifty new "combined view" in its latest release, which happened tonight.

On the Windows side, it looks like NewzCrawler is pretty similar to NNW, with some extra features. Looks to be pretty nice. Less aggressively crashy than several others I looked at.

On the server side, there's nntp//rss, which turns RSS feeds into NNTP you can read with Pan, Outlook Express, GNUS, or whatever other Usenet reader you might prefer. Needs Java, but it's a snap to set up. It can also run from a desktop (and seems to have been designed with that in mind, despite how much of a natural it is for running from a server.)

Finally, there's Feed on Feeds, which is a PHP-based aggregator that includes autodiscovery and a few other niceties. Also pretty nice if you're running a server.

Posted by mph at 10:04 AM

June 20, 2003

Cremate All GIFs

Ding-dong the GIF patent is dead. So, whither PNG?

Posted by mph at 7:47 PM

hilarious. appalling. hilarious. appalling.

I hate getting sucked into considering Ann Coulter. Or Matt Drudge, for that matter, but, via Tresy at Eschaton, I took the bait:

"The myth of 'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie."

...and...

"Despite the left's creation of a myth to defeat legitimate charges of treason, McCarthy had so badly stigmatized Communism, his victory survived him. In his brief fiery ride across the landscape, Joe McCarthy bought America another thirty years. For this, he sacrificed his life, his reputation, his name. The left cut down a brave man, but not before the American people heard the truth."

God curse those liberals for pouring all that booze down Gin-Mill Joe's neck. I swear, sometimes I think she's actually a piece of meta-satire whose strings are being pulled by Al Franken. "No! Wait! What if we crossed Peggy Noonan with ANDREW DICE CLAY?! Can you IMAGINE?!"

Yes, better than I can imagine what sort of creature would actually fit Coulter's definition of a "liberal." Speaking from what I consider to be a liberal viewpoint, if the slander and ruin of Senator Joseph P. McCarthy, (R) OH, is one of "liberalism's" greatest crimes/achievements, I hardly think that makes "us" powerful enough for Coulter to waste ink denouncing. I can think of 10 things I'd rather have had "liberalism" accomplish, and with the unlimited power and bottomless depravity she accords to "liberals," why didn't they happen? And why am I not on a Ukrainian commune, high on opium and getting a blow-job right now?

Posted by pk at 6:41 PM

Fighting Fox with Fox

As far as I'm concerned, there's no epithet foul enough for the Fox "News" Network. I believe that everyone associated with their crimes against journalism and American political discourse will one day smoke a turd in purgatory, with crueler torments awaiting a few individuals whose names I need not spell here. However, because its programs are such a distasteful mix of laziness, ignorance, dishonesty, pandering, and irresponsible rabble-rousing, I can't stand to actually watch it long enough to mount an informed case against it.

But this fellow Dale Steinrich apparently can.

Posted by pk at 5:04 PM

June 19, 2003

History Lessons for True Believers

Jim Henley breaks down the Comic Ages, including "the decline of the 'anti-mutant hysteria' trope into less an allegory for societal prejudice than an apocalyptic version of its readers' adolescent persecution complexes."

avengers4.jpg

I guess the bulk of my reading happened during "The Bubble Age," but when I think "comics" I think what Henley calls "The Bronze Age," particularly Kirby's angular, lantern-jawed work. Everything Marvel tossed out after that looked sort of anemic in comparison. Especially the debacle that was "Secret Wars."

Posted by mph at 7:56 PM

depends on your definition of "real"

My wife and I work in publishing, and our friend and her colleague Brice is a publishing director for Frommer's travel guides. He is also the cast's boss on the current season of MTV's "The Real World." Which means we have to watch it, even though watchers of the show (guilty, your honor) will know that its editors keep the cast's "job" in a distant back seat behind booze, sex, and cat fights.

But since I have to watch it, and since Mike hasn't jerked my leash yet, and since life isn't all rage and tediously reasoned political analysis, I thought I'd provide sporadic summaries and analysis until I get bored or the complaints pile up. So click below for...

OK, I'm somewhat loathe to do this, but here's a link to The Real World: Paris homepage, so I don't have to waste time providing bios on the cast. If you get curious as we go along, go there. (There's loads of hot pix!)

So, by way of propers, Real World has been a guilty pleasure/compulsion of mine for awhile (one for which I suffer much scorn from my wife, Cindy). But this season we have to watch--and we get what seems like the most callow, shallow cast yet. I have to wonder if they intentionally picked the dumbest Americans to send to France thinking it would make for what show-biz types call "great television." Our friend Brice is supposed to supervise their assembly of a hipster's travel guide to Paris, and that's why we're watching.

The only thing compelling about "Ace," the partying rube who's made willful ignorance central to his image, is the presumed universal appeal of his down-home charisma. (Is MTV trading in political metaphors?) He owns a string of bars! (And his mother died.) His lost-puppy bewilderment when required to demonstrate internal conflict over being confronted with the open lust of not one but two genuine babes while a third waits at home is cute, if disingenuous. (But his mother died.) Beneath his backwards ballcap, his attic-window eyes show the gears of his mind contemplating a) How next to draw himself and everyone else into the intoxication that excuses everything, and b) How to slide off-camera and get busy. A plan determined, he gets in-character as everybody's favorite wacky guy! "Limbo party"! (Remember, his mother died.) And then, eyes wide with fright, his affected bravado failing to hide that his frat-boy insouciance has vanished, he announces at the first editorial meeting that he doesn't like Paris, doesn't like the French, and is "an American true and true." Or was the Georgian consciously adopting a Brooklyn accent--"t'roo and t'roo"--as a post-modern homage to the "Yankee G.I. in France" archetype? Discuss.

Much more interesting is "Mallory," whose mother has expressed concern that this sojourn may not be part of God's plan for her, and who is acting out before our eyes the classic Jerry Lee Lewis internal conflict between idealized moral purity and the downward pull of the flesh: Incapable of believing these are not mutually exclusive--if you're not following Jesus, you're following the Devil--she swings between extremes of high morality and complete abandon. In other words, she gets calculatingly DRU-UNK, and when she gets DRU-UNK: ANYTHING GOES! No longer responsible for herself or her behavior, because she has been told and believes that it's all or nothing, she drinks to high excess, makes out with boys, loses her purse: Comes completely undone. How could she do otherwise? Her mother tells her SHE IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH to handle temptation. The next day, in a wild fugue of guilt and self-recrimination, she succumbs with relief to fulfilling her mother's prophecy: "I deserve to be exposed." She's a bad, bad girl. Hey, honey: Just try stopping at two or three, and keep a grip on yourself. There's only a devil in the bottle if you believe in him.

"Adam" has some intellectual promise, but his means of personal expression seems confined to jotting down raps (which with his apparent mixed-race background I guess makes him the token minority), and he's clearly in the grip of a chemical imbalance that constantly threatens to send him flying off his tether. If he gets the right meds or determines which number of "Ace's" vodka concoctions is the one to quit on, he may have something to teach his housemates, but ain't no way he's gettin' next to any of the girls.

"Chris" is inarticulate, yet perhaps has more going on mentally than we've seen thus far. The only opportunity to explore his workings was his egg-based interaction with the Vegas diva-in-training "Christina," which he carried off with a refreshingly grounded aplomb. Otherwise, he seems aloof and a bit out of his depth, though he certainly dresses fly.

As for "Christina," she manages to look like the most mature and sophisticated cast member, and it seems likely that, despite her brief play for "Chris," the boys in the cast will prove too young for her. (After her third Cosmopolitan, she probably goes for the 27-year-old stockbroker.) But so far her intellect and character depth are best revealed in two words: boob job.

"Leah" will likely end up being the wise den mother of the bunch. She showed her hand early on and, humbled yet wised-up by her ill-fated tilt at the enigma that is "Ace," she has realized that she's a junior in a dorm full of freshmen. As the weeks progress, she will issue forth like a Greek oracle lessons in responsible drinking, sensible up-hooking, and playin' it off legit the next morning.

"Simon the Irish homosexual" is the most sympathetic and interesting character, mostly because, however smart he is or isn't, he's a European who sees his castmates as the real real world sees them. He will almost certainly fade into the background as he realizes that he shares a house with six living examples of why America is a despised and disrespected global Rottweiler, opting instead to explore alone Paris's bohemain underground. (There will be at least one incident where he will overhear evidence of the American boys' thinly veiled and boorish homophobia.)

See you next week!

Posted by pk at 4:11 PM

June 18, 2003

It's a Whole BioRegion

Ed asks:

"Why has PuddingTime never taken a stand on the issue of Cascadian independence?"

Good question. Probably because the second we secede, all the farmers will secede from us, leaving the whole region vulnerable to annexation by Utah, which is apparently still bitter about the deal it got in 1850.

Posted by mph at 11:30 PM

June 17, 2003

when the right goes wrong, they're left

Pat Buchanan practices some tentative doomsaying, attempting to carve some daylight between neocons and the rest of the right, and identify some high ground to retreat to if the Bush administration's schemes go awry. He has apparently lost his zeal for riding to the sound of the guns.

Posted by pk at 8:39 PM

unthinkable?

Paul Krugman has a piece on this administration's "dereliction of duty." As he inflames world opinion and uses the war on terror to excuse its worst excesses, Mr. Bush can't be bothered to actually fund and implement the less glamorous details of homeland security: Tax relief for the wealthy is more important, it seems, than anything.

Krugman references this frightening, frustrating interview in yesterday's Washington Post with former National Security Council counterterrorism advisor Rand Beers, who resigned in dismay from the Bush administration and is now speaking out. (CURSOR notes that few major outlets have picked up on this story, but over 100 blogs have linked to it.)

There's also more on the tax squabble Krugman mentions from the Post's E.J. Dionne Jr., and--just for fun, I guess--the reliably opaque George Will, in a column from two Sundays ago, lines out how the Bush tax cuts are a political home run--while managing not to say whether he thinks they're actually good for the country.

Defenders of the Bush administration get the best traction against its critics by declaring the unthinkability of their accusations. To suggest that Mr. Bush failed to take identifiable measures prior to September 11; that his subsequent military adventures were poorly planned, executed on the cheap, and remain inconclusive potential disasters; that his explanations for them were at best exaggerated because his true motivations weren't geopolitically defensible; that his administration's blatantly fraternal relationship with corporate power is exactly what it appears to be; that he continuously exploits American terror victims and military personnel for political purposes--all these things are simply unthinkable, and so you shouldn't be thinking them.

But despite Mr. Bush's shirt-sleeve religiosity and the ad-man alliteration of "compassionate conservatism," his administration is and always has been about enriching the rich, eliminating government regulatory and public-assistance functions, and broadening American corporations' global hegemony.

September 11 radically changed Mr. Bush's plans, but rather than a sober reassessment and perhaps reduction of his tax-reapportionment plan, he revised up: He synergized Americans' new insecurity, the global ambition of his administration's neoconservatives, and his own feckless audacity to expand and enact various preexisting agendas. Winning support by stoking voters' selfishness and paranoia while offering the vast majority little in the way of tax relief or domestic security enhancements, he is extending the reach of American corporate influence with his willingness to use military muscle. Indeed, the military appears to be the only function of government for which Mr. Bush has any use, as a growing number of uniformed Americans now find themselves mired in two wars whose purposes and conclusions get murkier every day. Meanwhile, an unrecovered economy and the demands of homeland security drive states and citizens to seek federal assistance, but Mr. Bush is too busy conducting wars of influence and diverting revenue to the wealthy to actually take care of the country.

Posted by pk at 8:02 PM

the other war we haven't won

Bob Harris, Tom Tomorrow's co-blogger at This Modern World, pulls together some interesting stories about just how not-stable Afghanistan is. So unstable, in fact, that American officials are floating terms for peace talks with the Taliban. Who were supposed to be defeated. But apparently aren't, quite. (And keep reading for the dust-up over a weekend New York Times story that reported, then didn't, that Republicans were hoping to finesse the timing of cornerstone ceremonies for the WTC memorial to coincide with the party's national convention this summer.)

Posted by pk at 4:31 PM

June 16, 2003

when the wind blows...

Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were among those celebrities singled out for special criticism for having the gall to take advantage of their status to speak out against President Bush's war in Iraq. Those who follow baseball will know that for their views they were disinvited and festivities cancelled by the Baseball Hall of Fame for this spring's planned 15-year anniversary of the release of the film Bull Durham. (The Hall's chairman is a Republican who worked in the Reagan administration. Republicans' disdain for free speech is well documented. The once-ubiquitous Kevin Costner, the star of the film, failed to comment publicly.)

In addition to being an outspoken lefty, Robbins is a funny guy, so no doubt some part of him appreciated how being blacklisted by an American Institution paralleled some of the themes of Cradle Will Rock, the 1999 film he directed (which stars Sarandon as well as many others).

Cradle Will Rock is a kaleidoscopic, entertaining, "mostly true" tour of 1930s America and the political and creative energies unleashed by Roosevelt's New Deal--specifically the Federal Theater Project, which became a lightning rod for grandstanding politicians for the alleged prevalence of dangerous Communist thought in its productions. As Orson Welles and John Houseman were preparing to premiere the class-conscious musical "The Cradle Will Rock," the project's funding was suddenly cut, the theater company was put out on the street, and the performers unions pulled out. A guerilla theater version went on anyway. In addition to Welles and Houseman, heavyweights like William Randolph Hearst, Nelson Rockefeller, and Diego Rivera inhabit a swirling, clashing ecosystem of money, power, and radicalism, as a homeless young American woman and a struggling Italian father try to stay afloat and stay true to their ideals.

It's a funny, moving, politically and artistically inspiring history lesson, and a dynamic piece of cinema to boot. It also speaks loudly in such times as these. I don't know what Mike's criteria are, but for everything it attempts and how much it succeeds at, I'd say Cradle Will Rock goes to 11.

Posted by pk at 11:19 PM

June 12, 2003

Draft Bill Moyers!

On June 4 in Washington, Bill Moyers gave this amazing speech to the Take Back America conference, sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future. (I arrived at it via the indispensible CURSOR and The Nation.)

Read it, link it, print it: get it out.

He's only 69, people. You got anybody better in mind?

Posted by pk at 10:32 PM

June 10, 2003

if a wmd doesn't fall in the forest...

All together now: Saddam was a murderous tyrant whom his people are well rid of. But how does the world, and history, judge a government that does the right thing for the wrong reasons? Is it even possible, or does having the wrong reasons, in the end, corrupt the right thing done?

Maybe we'll know when the war is over. Wars have three parts: a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Hollywood movies, TV news, and the audience at home are generally only concerned with the Middle, and in this case it was conducted as well as one could expect. It was quick, with fewer casualties all around than expected, and Saddam is out of power. Mass graves have been found and horrible accounts of the regime have trickled out, so a majority of Americans have declared themselves pleased with the whole affair, especially the parts where they rescued the girl and pulled down the bad man's statue.

That certainly works for the Bush administration, which would also be happy to let the End justify the means. But two things are necessary in order to have an End: the losers have to either be dead or done fighting, and everyone else has to agree that the reasons for the Beginning were good and are settled. Otherwise, there is no End at all, just more messy Middle. As it happens, a general scoldingly informed us last week that, on the ground in Iraq, the war is in fact not over. American soldiers and their families didn't need to be told that, but a lot of folks at home were fooled when the president landed on a ship in a pilot suit with a big sign that said "Mission Accomplished."

So how about that Beginning? We all heard the president's message of fear and danger as he beat the drum for war. Watching his spookily scripted prime-time "press conference" back in March, I was disgusted by how he overplayed his hand, so I'm hardly shocked to see it proven on the ground that he was, at best, wildly exaggerating. I might have agreed that there were valid reasons to build a global consensus to force Saddam out, but the Bush administration chose to base its case on these thin allegations, apparently convinced that its hidden, honest intentions would be even harder to sell than its flimsy, stated ones.

Supporters of Mr. Bush charge that his critics are mired in mere politics, unable to see the great good this war has already brought to those Iraqis whom it did not kill. But war is politics, and so is terrorism, and Mr. Bush in his rush to war resorted to the cheap political tactics of a demagogue, playing to hotheads and paranoid simpletons, bulldozing all who counseled caution and cultural sensitivity. Leaving aside the hotter accusations that this war is about misguided revenge, resurgent imperialism, and oil profits for administration cronies, this has been a political campaign conducted on the global stage by George W. Bush, and America had better wake up to the fact that we are losing.

Mr. Bush was either woefully inept, or he was cravenly dishonest. Thanks to his obfuscation, we can't know for sure what his and his advisers' goals for this war were, and that is why the world is visibly not--indeed, never has been--at peace with it, or with America. If America is willing to see this for what it is, this will be his "Read my lips" moment--inevitable because conservatives learned the wrong lesson from that: Bush Senior wasn't wrong for raising taxes, he was wrong for saying, for short-term political gain, that he never would. The son and his father's advisers have once again arrogantly tried a shortcut.

Winning the war on terror is not about brass balls and flight suits. It's about fairness and firmness. It requires mature leaders and smart politicians--politicians who can reach out to and make peace with our enemies. Saddam Hussein has killed many times more Arabs than Mr. Bush. Who is more detested in the Arab world? The one who's a bad politician.

Posted by pk at 11:14 PM

June 9, 2003

Set Your Sights on the Tastiest Prey

After years and years of hanging out at the catalog counter of indy record shops, listening to frustrating "yeah, dude, I saw that one, like, two months ago" recollections of sightings, and a futile attempt to piece together a copy from gnutellla (yes . . . I was driven to attempt violation of someone else's IP), I finally own my own CD of Beware Records' Wavy Gravy: For Adult Enthusiasts.

wg.jpg

Shoutout to the kick-ass folks at Crypt Records who shipped me their last copy.

I think I can rest now.

Posted by mph at 9:21 PM

June 8, 2003

Home again, home again

Back from the show.

Sometime around Day Two I realized the backs of my eyelids had been colonized by snapshots of ad copy slapped up all over the show floor.

Tech companies are served by ad agencies that understand the futility of even trying to convey the virtues of a product it takes a team to operate, or that's made of so many interlocking bits and pieces even its architects think of parts of it as remote from their experience as a remote field in Manitoba. So they've resorted to trying to lure the passerby with bright colors and pictures of impossibly attractive gel-haird variants on the geek archetype. You might not think it was possible to emotionalize a 32-way server or a cluster, and you'd be mostly right: the ad people have instead decided to emotionalize whatever that bold red and black blur in your peripheral vision was. You don't know what it is, but you know it's sort of cool looking, and maybe sexy -- or sexualized.

The net result is going back to your hotel room at the end of the day and seeing Oracle red or IBM blue every time you close your eyes, thinking in punchy one-word structures that end in "-ble", like "unbreakable," "indestructible," "scalable," "expandable." A day spent padding around on unnaturally thick show floor carpet means the second you're off your feet, they're twitching as if searching for some sort of balance on a treacherous plush surface.

Outside the show hotel, Silicon Valley is what it is: office buildings, strip malls, strip business mall plazas, and bad restaurants. It's the land of the jumbo prawn and the fatty, greasy $27 prime rib dinner served under an aspargus tee-pee, padded out by hardened mashed potatos and washed down with a Cantaloupe Mongorita.

The hotel offers a turndown service, but only if you ask for it, raising several questions. The terrycloth bathrobe has a cardboard price tag affixed to its hanger, as if it's more offensive to be told not to steal it than to be offered the scratchy, stiff, bleach-reeking thing for $99. Room service? 19% "tax," $3 "service charge," which turns your $6 hamburger into a $10.50 feast. Down in the lobby, there's not a concierge . . . there's a video concierge who speaks to guests from a 50" plasma monitor with a two way video feed and dispatches bits of data and directions from a fax machine perched on the counter. It's nine o'clock . . . is she done for the night? "No," explains the clerk, "she's offline."

Plus side? Broadband in the room for an extra $11 and random wireless access wherever a geek happens to have hooked his room drop to a WAP. And air conditioning that allows goose down comforters to make sense even on the west side of a California hotel.

Net? It's good to be home. I can almost close my eyes and not see a gelled "nerd" in tinted glasses trying to sell me a cluster.

Posted by mph at 12:22 AM

June 6, 2003

slapstick, pathos

At funny, strange explodingdog, where you provide the caption and he provides the crudely line-drawn yet iconic and expansive picture. (Thanks to the BeliBlog for the rec.)

Posted by pk at 7:43 PM

once mighty, now fallen

Any swinging dead cat is odds-on gonna hit a public figure who sucks and always has: P-Diddy, Geraldo Rivera, Carrot Top, Creed, Vin Diesel, Mariah Carey. The world's lousy with 'em, and you know when they wash up that the tide will eventually wash 'em back out again. (It sometimes takes awhile, given the whole "impossible to underestimate the public" thing.)

But what about the ones you used to be able to count on, the ones you could share knowing looks about, the ones whose next trick you eagerly anticipated.... The ones who have now so thoroughly strip-mined their souls for payoffs in money or ego that you now wince at ever taking pleasure, guilty or honorable, in their efforts. The ones who have run headlong into a quagmire of hubristic sucking so viscuous and bottomless that there may be no union-scale indie-film supporting role or back-to-basics album produced by Steve Albini (who might make the list himself) that can save them now.

Just supposing this became a semi-regular feature, my list might include, oh, Robin Williams, David Lee Roth, Nicholas Cage (oh, but he's wavering!), Chevy Chase, Sting, Aerosmith, Henry Rollins, Harrison Ford, Courtney Love, the Democratic Party.... You could argue that some have always sucked, or that some don't really suck now--go ahead, that and your own suggestions are what the Comments button is for.

But here's what triggered the post: If you've been thinking about Dennis Miller at all lately, this might be what you (in the voice of his own bad 1988 self) were thinking.

Posted by pk at 7:22 PM

Define

megalomania: noun 1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.

Posted by mph at 2:23 AM

June 3, 2003

the matrix and me

The Consortium features a long piece by Robert Parry describing "America's Matrix"--the world of deception and illusion conjured by those presently in political power.

I didn't like "The Matrix," and I doubt if I'll see "Matrix Reloaded" or the next one. I don't get out to the pictures often, and when I finally saw "The Matrix" this winter, this was a much different world than the one in which it came out. (Though my ability to stomach Keanu Reeves probably would have been just as limited.)

Aside from him, and the fact that the media had by then absorbed and regurgitated the digital-Hong Kong visuals and general bling of the thing, I had a hard time getting over how this popular movie served as a halfway-decent metaphor for Bush Era America (a disturbing reality I hardly need an escapist version of), and clearly few of the millions who saw it get it.

And then Neo streaks into the "sky" ("oh, he can 'fly' now"), and the credits roll to a Rage Against the Machine song. I never really liked Rage--too much crunch, not enough funk, and the guitar player's a dork no matter how radical his politics or his effects pedals--but their songs protested real injustice happening right here. They weren't die-cut nu-metal bellyaching about being stuck with last year's PlayStation. It seemed a manipulative juxtaposition that allowed Johnny and Sally Massmentality to hit the mall exit rocking righteously, believing that Keanu's fighting the power, when in fact they're re-entering an even grander illusion.

OK, so I was feeling smug in my red vinyl rocker. I'm not singular in my brilliance: You probably get it, too. And this is hardly the fault of the movie, anyway: It predates our present circumstances, and its makers aren't responsible for how their audience perceives or acts upon their message. I loved the movie "Brazil," and in watching it again recently only marveled at its horror, humor, and prescience. I didn't scoff that we don't need this claptrap now that we've got the real thing right here. But maybe that's because only 300 people ever saw "Brazil," and that's not enough to bring down Bush's overall approval rating.

But if everyone who saw "Matrix Reloaded" was somehow made aware that they're suspended in one right now, as Parry outlines in detail here, and unplugged themselves from the comforting illusions they're being fed by their masters, then maybe its overburdened philosophical chassis will have managed to convey something meaningful.

I'd prefer it if that didn't entail rave music, but I know reality isn't pretty.

Posted by pk at 9:10 PM

Grip, Grin, Repeat

You won't hear much from me for the next few days. I'm off to the Enterprise Linux Forum in sunny Santa Clara, CA where I'll be moderating a forum, introducing a few speakers, and working on a paper on Creative Commons licenses in my down time. Oh, and maybe taking in some of the local culture.

Posted by mph at 8:43 PM

June 2, 2003

drunk with power!

No, not the handful of media conglomerates that will soon set the political and cultural agenda for the nation--ME...well, and Mike, and all the other bloggers and fast-multiplying outlets for alternative news and arts. Our proliferation in this wild new tomorrow has wiped away any concerns about losing cherished media ideals like diversity, independence, and public service.

So completely have bloggers and local-access cable altered the landscape, who in your town will care if Fox owns three radio stations, two TV channels, and your local newspaper, and GE and Clear Channel own the other four outlets? You'll still have the measured analysis of Mad Rick's Blog-Diggity, and who better to offer local perspectives than an overweight, voluntarily housebound 19-year-old?

Thus did FCC Chairman Michael Powell and his band of fearless visionaries hold a meeting today to free us from regulations against consolidation and monopoly. It was conducted in the language of Mordor, which I will not utter here, but Tom Shales at the Washington Post has this breakdown of what it's all likely to mean.

Enough with the gallows sarcasm. Conservative Republicans may see this as potentially the biggest club in their arsenal--bigger even than stacked courts and control of the Hill. With our descent into another endless, vaporous war on our corporations' behalf, and tax cuts that will gut the government's ability to curb or ameliorate their excesses, they've seen to it we'll be fucked for a long time to come. Now they've green-lighted the media conglomerates to step up with the blindfolds and the reach-around.

Posted by pk at 9:40 PM

June 1, 2003

Bait

Andrew Orlowski tosses out more red meat for the blogosphere as he reports "Most bloggers 'are teenage girls.'"

Posted by mph at 8:18 AM