Thursday, March 28, 2002

Step Away From The Internet: It is supposed to be a beautiful weekend. I'm going to make every effort to enjoy it and keep myself OFF-LINE. That means I probably won't be back until early next week. So here's some clever stuff for your entertainment until my triumphant return.
  • Hall of Shame #1: Lawmakers who whine about doing without their French chef. 'Scuse me while I go get a stale sandwich from the vending machine.

  • Hall of Shame #2: Maxim magazine names Detroit the greatest city on earth - but only in the issues distributed to the Detroit area. This gets big 'What Were You Thinking?' But then, Maxim readers probably don't spend a lot of time on the articles.

  • You're a citizen of mainland China. You've paid your dues to the post-communist system. You've played the autoritarian protocol well enough to find yourself in a position of wealth and power. What are you going to do now? I'm going to Vegas!

  • Longtime reader Inne Ten Have points out that Capt. Kirk seems to be the new ruler of Liberia. Another swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood for a struggling third world nation.

  • I haven't read much of the Pop Cult e-zine, but I will. I am such a sucker for retro graphics like that. Definitely one of the best looking sites I've seen.

  • From the How Did I Get Along Without This? file, we have Sleeping in Airports. If you are getting on a plane, take a look at the write ups for the airports you'll be visiting. It may get you a decent nights sleep.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

You'll Get Nothing and Like It: I am frustrated beyond all reason. I finally found a service that would digitize the tape of my interview. I brought the tape in, and we watched it to identify the section of the show that I wanted digitized; it was the first 11 minutes and 34 seconds. I also asked for 2 duplicate VHS tapes. Fine. I leave and a couple of days later I get a call to come in and pick everything up. When I get there I there are two digitized copies waiting and no VHS tapes. Great. Whatever. I take the digitized stuff and figure I'll deal with the tapes later. So I get the files home and I look at them and they are not the first 11 minutes and 34 seconds that I played in his presence. They are everything from the first 11 minutes and 34 seconds on. So the guy digitized the exact footage that I didn't want and neglected to digitize the footage I wanted - the footage I sat down and went through with him.

Excuse me while I slap my forehead with a brick a few times.

So tonight you get no links. Just venomous remarks.
Why Do I Live Here?: I had been looking forward to warmer weather. A few reasonable days coupled with the start of spring training made me optimistic. Then yesterday we get what amounts to an ice storm - 5 mph on the highway. It took me 40 minutes to cross town, when it usually takes me 15 or 20. Scraping the windows of my car. Sliding about on black ice. This is bloody paradise. So why don't I quit sniveling and move somewhere warm? Cuz then I wouldn't get to have a nice, satisfying tantrum about it.
And?: The Oscars occurred. Some awards were given out. I really don't care.
Death by TV: TV sucks. Except for Six Feet Under and Seinfeld reruns. The Always Delightful Chrissy recommends Andy Richter Rules the Universe, which is pretty good and will probably get better, but I seem to remember there always being a couple of nights a week I didn't want to miss. Now it's all reality shows and dramas such as West Wing that are so full of self-importance they make me want to gag. As I write this, The Court, a drama with Sally Field as a supreme court justice, is about to debut. 1) Spoon. 2) Eye socket. 3) Gouge.

And I UTTERLY DESPISE the miserable sycophants who are employed as TV critics. They watch that tedious, mind-numbing tripe and declare it to be "ground-breaking" or some other breathless cliche. Get a real job.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

New Adventures in Surfing:
  • Deer are vermin. If you have lived in rural, or even rural-suburban Michigan, you know what I hazard they pose, and you also know that they are not anywhere near endangered (there are, in fact, as many now as there were at the turn of the last century). It might annoy animal rights activists to hear my feelings, but on the other hand, I've never actually killed one.

  • The Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 and I don't have a lot to argue with, other than the egregious omission of Alex Kim from Apple Pie.

  • I love my weekly Boot Camp class. This one is intriguing; a daily, two-week long, super-intense, Navy Seal session, as described by a geek who braved it.
  • Here's a tricky one. What's wrong with this picture? Just stare at it for a minute and it'll come to you.

  • Last words. My favorite: "Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult."
Follow Up:
Liquid Issues: I don't ask for much from grocery stores. Virtually all I buy from them is stuff to drink. I have a policy against drinking anything that has more than a few calories, unless it contains alcohol, then all bets are off. During the day, I keep myself pretty well-caffinated via Diet Coke/Pepsi (please don't lecture me about the difference), so in the evenings I want something non-carbonated. Water, you suggest. Well yes, but I like flavor - I'm not a minimalist. So I have found four drinks that fit the bill. Sobe Lean Peach Mango, Snapple Diet Air (I think its actually a pear flavor), Snapple Diet White Grape, and Propel (a lightly-flavored, carbohydrate-enhanced water from Gatorade). For whatever reason, there is not a grocery store in the area than can keep any of these in stock, except Propel, presumably because Gatorade has the marketing clout to keep these people on their toes.

Meijer's is the worst for this. They can stock 497 different varieties of canned tomatoes, 943 different flavors of pork rinds, and 1024 different colors of condoms, but they can't manage to restock the drinks I like. Losers. I hope Wal-Mart puts them out of business.

That turned into a nice little rant, didn't it? I sure wish I could order this stuff on the web by the case. It's enough to make a guy drink more beer.
Unoriginal Programming: You're right, I haven't written anything new for this site in a while. I've been pouring it on doing Misspent Youth and I may post an excerpt soon. And I've re-engaged my agent search. And I'm redesigning ReadApplePie (not updated yet), it was a mess below the surface. And I've got the video of my interview being digitized. So stay tuned.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Moore is Less: Michael Moore has made of career of either being stupid, inane and obnoxious, or he has made a career of pretending to be stupid, inane and obnoxious in which case he is anything but stupid and inane, but is still obnoxious. (I don't actually know him, so I can't say for sure). He has made millions of dollars because there are a significant number of people who will pay $26.00 for a book filled with rants against millionaires who overcharge their customers to line their pockets.

Needless to say, I was delighted when my favorite webblogger-with-an-attitude, James Lileks, completely demolished Moore for all the world to see.
Days of High Adventure: The Congo Expedition of 1909-1915 has inspired a remarkable web site. The expedition was rife with remarkable accomplishments:
By the end of their six years in the Congo, Lang, Chapin, and their assistants had collected spectacular specimens of okapi and square-lipped rhinos (still on exhibit in the Museum's Carl Akeley Hall of African Mammals). More importantly, they had collected the most complete record of the plants, animals, and cultures of the Congo Basin up to that time, including 5,800 mammals, 6,400 birds, 4,800 reptiles and amphibians, 6,000 fish, over 100,000 invertebrates, and 3,800 anthropological objects. In addition, they had 9,890 photographic negatives, more than 300 watercolor paintings, and many volumes of field notes. At least fifteen volumes of scientific findings were later published based on the expedition's work, many of which continue to stand as both seminal and definitive works in their fields.
Sadly, it was cut short by WW1. The site itself is fascinating and rife with remarkable web design accomplishments, including a multimedia presentation that is actually usable over a 56K modem. Well worth some time exploring.
Blog-Snobbing: The Pixie dropped me a note to let me know that she took a shot at Blog-Snobbing. I believe the word she used was "freaky." She stumbled on a number of sites filled with details of personal lives, "like little pieces of a soap opera." Freaky, yes, but you can't look away.

In case you missed my previous post, one Blog-Snobs by following the random link to a weblog via BlogSnob, located at the bottom of the left hand column. Take a minute to read whatever site you land on, then find the BlogSnob link on that site and repeat the process. A brief tour through the sublime and the preposterous.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Save Internet Radio: You made have heard of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It is a law passed by Bill Clinton that is intended to address copyright issues as they are affected by new technologies. I am ashamed to say I know little about it, other than everyone I know who does know about it thinks it is apocalyptically bad. Why am I ashamed? Well just about everything I do in my life hinges on copyrights and intellectual property rights to some extent, so I probably should have some familiarity with it. I intend to get hip on it and possibly write a bit about it once I do.

This was all prompted by a message from Gary O., who pointed me to Save Internet Radio. Apparently many folks think that a recent royalty arbitration decision under the DMCA by the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) is likely to price many small internet radio broadcasters off the air. That would be bad. Not just because I like internet radio, but also it plays into the hands of outfits like Clear Channel that are pretty much bleeding music radio of any vitality (see my previous post Turn It Off).

Like I said, I'm going to try to look deeper into this before I go off half-cocked. I'll let you know what I find.
Time in Jail For Dummies: This cracked me up. There this rather obnoxious hacker named Jerome Heckenkamp who has made a habit of vadalizing sites such as Lycos and Ebay. Even though he's misguided, the guy must be pretty sharp to be able to do that, right? Not. Hauled up before a judge for a routine hearing to set future court dates, he managed to get himself tossed in jail.
During what was to be a routine proceeding to set future court dates, Heckenkamp challenged the indictment against him on the grounds that it spells his name, Jerome T. Heckenkamp, in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized, and subsequent letters in lower case.
Ah ha! The rekowned Case Sensitivity Defense. And
The computer whiz then asked the court to identify the plaintiff in the case. [Judge] Ware explained that the United States was the plaintiff, and was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Ross Nadel. Heckenkamp said he wanted to subpoena Nadel's "client" to appear in court, and Ware asked him who, exactly, he wanted to bring into the courtroom.

When Heckenkamp replied, "The United States of America," Ware ordered him taken into custody.
Either he's going for an insanity plea or he just wants to go out in a blaze of abject stupidity. Best laugh I've had in a week.
Who's Hacking Whom: There is a big underground market for pirated pay-TV. Basically, hackers figure out how to break the encryption on a pay-TV signal and then sell you a cheap card that slips into your set-top box which allows you to watch the signal for free (similar to pirating cable). Canal Plus, a division of media giant Vivendi and one of Europe's biggest pay-TV providers, has brought suit against NDS, another digital cable provider and mostly owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (meaning Fox).
According to the complaint, Canal Plus became aware that counterfeit smart cards were being distributed in late 1999. The company investigated and "was shocked," according to papers it filed with the court, when the trail led straight back to NDS.

The investigation was carried out by Canal Plus technicians who developed contacts within the hacking community, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Tips provided by the hackers indicated to Canal Plus that NDS had an Israeli lab crack the technology that was used in the smart cards. The company then distributed information on how to create or alter the smart cards on the Digital Reference website.
They are bringing a RICO suit which allows for all sort of lucrative damages. The latest is that hackers are sitting back and laughing at the two giants going after each other.
Meanwhile, TV hackers, who try to find ways to get fee-based TV services for free, claim it's not unusual for companies to leak details of competitors' security systems...

TV pirates also claim that the security systems of most smart cards, including Canal Plus' product, don't present a cracking challenge and can be successfully hacked without corporate funding or encouragement...

All of the pirates were puzzled by the digital TV companies' lack of interest in their activities, claiming that all the money and time that will be invested in Canal Plus' lawsuit could probably put a serious dent in the piracy industry.
The truth is out there. Or is it?
Extra, Extra! Read All About Me: A transcription of my profile in the Community Observer is right here.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Weekly Reader: Interesting links to keep you feeling Shower Fresh!
  • Drop your digital camera in water and you may be pleasantly surprised by the images that come out. Or you may think they are scenes from the spirit world. Oooohh.

  • I shall come out of a shallow closet and point out that I played Dungeons and Dragons as an adolescent - and you can wipe that condescending smirk off your face. The originator of the game that launched a million geeks, Gary Gygax, recently sat for an interview with some modern day geeks. If you were an early geek, it's a trip down memory lane.

  • Speaking of early geekdom, I remember spending an unconscionable amount of time at the video arcade in the early eighties. I was a killer Missile Command player, but there was no doubt that Asteroids was probably the most popular game. has found the highest scorer ever in Asteroids. A bit late, turns out he died in an accident a few years ago, but he gets his posthumous due.

  • File this under Really Bad Marketing.

  • If you ever need to do research, Reference Desk is probably a good place to start. Links to everything.

  • If you are a screenwriter, or a screenwriter wanna-be, or just interested in movie scripts, INflow's Screenplay Repository has tons of scripts available for download. The even have Ferris Buellar.

  • You can get thoroughly MODern at Cool design. I love retro.

  • It's a dog's life. Kids and Dogs can live like royalty in luxury homes. You can raise little Donald Trumps. That's messed up.

  • More games, this time, javascript versions. Try Frogger.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

One Night In Chelsea: Chelsea is one city west of my home of Dexter, which is in turn one city west of Ann Arbor. Whereas Dexter is essentially a rural town making a graceful transition to a bedroom community for Ann Arbor, Chelsea has chosen to take a more stylish and trendy path. There are two truly exceptional things that Chelsea has going for it. One is The Common Grill, which is quite probably the best restaurant in the world. The name comes from the founder and head chef Craig Common, and specializing in fish but with more varied menu, I would put the food up against any place in the world. In the couple dozen times I've been there the service has always been swift and professional. Reasonably priced. Astounding fresh-cooked bread with every meal. If I have any criticism at all, it's that the beer list could benefit from a little imagination. If you are within 100 miles or so of Chelsea, it's worth the trip.

The other thing Chelsea has is The Purple Rose Theatre. Founded by Jeff Daniels and named for Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo, in which he starred. The other night I went there for the first time ever. The name of the play was Months on End. At this point you are expecting me to trash it. I won't. It was a lighthearted romantic comedy with the usual themes - love, loss, infidelity, marriage, divorce, death. There were some slow moments and some funny moments. I'd be remiss if I didn't point that was also a bit of Deus Ex Machina, too. There were twelve vignettes representing the months of the year, but sometimes it was as if that theme was all that was binding the otherwise somewhat disjunct scenes -- there I go again. I'll stop now except to say that it was very well acted and enjoyable.

What stands out about the Purple Rose that you are right on top of the action. It is a small and exceedingly intimate venue. If you are in the first row the actors are often within arms reach. I would think that would be somewhat unnerving to the actors, but it certainly gets you feeling involved.

I do hope to see more plays there in the future. And eat more at the Common Grill. Lucky it's all only fifteen minutes away.
I've Been Bad: I have been taken to task for being so cranky last week. But you see, I am not cranky and sarcastic out of malice. Cranky is my way of keeping all the evil frustrations of life in perspective. If I can laugh at things for being stupid and annoying, then they can't cause me too much distress. Then I get in a better mood. So it's actually a positive thing. You may just have to deal. For the moment, though, I'll lay off.
Everything Old Is New Again: I've received this little story a couple of times via email:
An unemployed man goes to apply for a job with Microsoft as a janitor. The manager there arranges for him to take an aptitude test -- (Floors, sweeping and cleaning).

After the test, the manager says, "You will be employed at minimum wage, $5.15 an hour. Let me have your e-mail address, so that I can send you a form to complete and tell you where to report for work on your first day.

Taken aback, the man protests that he has neither a computer nor an e-mail address. To this the MS manager replies, "Well, then, that means that you virtually don't exist and can therefore hardly expect to be employed.

Stunned, the man leaves. Not knowing where to turn and having only $10 in his wallet, he decides to buy a 25 lb. flat of tomatoes at the supermarket.

Within less than 2 hours, he sells all the tomatoes individually at 100% profit. Repeating the process several times more that day, he ends up with almost $100 before going to sleep that night. And thus it dawns on him that he could quite easily make a living selling tomatoes. Getting up early every day and going to bed late, he multiplies his profits quickly.

After a short time he acquires a cart to transport several dozen boxes of tomatoes, only to have to trade it in again so that he can buy a pickup truck to support his expanding business. By the end of the second year, he is the owner of a fleet of pickup trucks and manages a staff of a hundred former unemployed people, all selling tomatoes.

Planning for the future of his wife and children, he decides to buy some life insurance. Consulting with an insurance adviser, he picks an insurance plan to fit his new circumstances. At the end of the telephone conversation, the adviser asks him for his e-mail address to send the final documents electronically.

When the man replies that he has no e-mail, the adviser is stunned, "What, you don't have e-mail? How on earth have you managed to amass such wealth without the Internet, e-mail and e-commerce? Just imagine where you would be now, if you had been connected to the internet from the very start!"

After a moment of thought, the tomato millionaire replied, "Why, of course! I would be a floor cleaner at Microsoft!"
Very cute, I'm sure.

What's really interesting is that it is a retread of a Somerset Maugham short story entitled The Verger, which is in turn a retread of a bit of old Jewish folklore. has run down the history of it.
Random Blog Journey: You have probably noticed over on the lower left hand side there are the words "random link via blog snob." It's not entirely random. As a blogger, you can join Blog Snob and put that little link on your front page. Then your blog gets thrown into the pot and randomly appears on other blogs. Take five minutes and click through on the current blog. You should see a similar link on the page that comes up (look for the little bs graphic). You can then click through on that. It is interesting to see what kind of blogs are out there and what people write about. I'm sure there are sociological implications, but I really don't want to think about that.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Words, Not Deeds: I apologize for not posting very actively in the last few days. I've been swamped with the rest of my life - sadly, nothing that would be of interest to read.

I do have ideas. In my head, I'm twirling around a couple of article ideas (including a comparison review of free HTML editors, since I've been using a couple lately adn there are some clear differences), but I have nothing concrete.

Misspent Youth is coming along, or rather, it was until lately. It will again.

And I will have some more substantial stuff for you Any Day Now. For the moment, if you're looking for some interesting links, there is a new issue of Forbes Best of the Web which includes a section on on-line car buying. Very timely for yours truly.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

It's A Hard Knock Life: In an interview many years ago, Nobel prize winner V.S. Naipaul referred to publishing as a "shoddy, dirty, dingy world." Recently, Thomas Hauser published this article about how contracts have gotten worse and worse for authors; so bad that, he argues, they may effective represent restraint of trade. That may be going a little far, contracts can be negotiated.

The fact of the matter is, it's a buyer's market, unless you're a best seller, then it's a seller's market. That has probably always been the case, and not just for books. Anybody entering the world of bookwriting with the expectation that they will be selling like King or Grisham is more of a dreamer than that kid shooting hoops on the schoolyard who's convinced he's the next Shaq.

This entire industry is based on hope. Writers hope to get agents. Agents hope to sell manuscripts. Publishers hope to sell books. Once in while, like in Vegas, someone makes a big score, but typically you just work like a dervish and, with luck, you may possibly break even one day. It's hard to imagine anyone is in this business is in it for the money. I'm lucky to have my day job.
I'm Ready For My Profile: As I said before, the profile of yours truly in the Community Observer is out. It's quite good. Very sharply written given the space constraints. I had interviewed with the writer, Kate Kellog, for over an hour, I think. She asked excellent questions, the kind that I had to think about before I answered. Clearly, she knew what she was doing. Also clearly, she ended up having to distill all that down to what can't be much more than 300 words, and she did it extremely well - not a wasted word. It's interesting to see what sort of compromises are made in the course of journalism (especially considering how down I have been on the press lately). If I can find it on-line I'll link it up - or maybe digitize it.

On the other hand, in the same issue there is a big multi-page feature about a local man known as "Harvey" who seems to have made a life out of photographing naked people in front of local businesses. Ah, well.
This Too...: It appears my crankiness has turned to cynicism. It'll pass. Soon it will be Spring and I'll feel better. There is still much to do.
The Mating Season: I've been rereading my favortie P.G. Wodehouse, The Mating Season. Wodehouse is the antidote to many ills. When I grow up I want to be Bertie Wooster.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

Reading List: Just some time passin' (or killin') material.
  • Speedpass, that thing Mobil offers so you can just wave your little pass in front of the pump to pay - versus going to the vast inconvenience of swiping your credit card - is going to be available on a Timex watch. Nice. I noticed that McDonald's is picking up on this. I bet this thing is a babe magnet.

  • Harry Connick Jr. has patented a kind of electronic sheet music. I always thought he had a certain look of geekiness about him.

  • And William Shatner gets all geeky - going Where No Weblog Has Gone Before.

  • I find it very odd that ABC readily featured Dennis Franz's butt in prime time, but they felt the need to censor this relatively harmless scene from Diamonds are Forever.

  • I find the whole concept of tornados highly suspect. I have lived in Michigan for most of my life, experienced hundreds of tornado watches and warnings, I've heard all the stories, and I've seen the pictures and videos - but I have yet to actually observe one. Makes no sense. I am of the firm belief that all "tornados" are really just special effects, the result of some shady conspiracy, probably involving Extraterrestrial Communists or something. You can read this article about storm chasers to see how deep the conspiracy goes.

  • If you haven't wasted enough time by now, check out Orsinal for way too many Flash games to waste your time on.
Wait Five Minutes: There's a saying in Michigan: If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. In truth, I've heard that used in many states, all of which it applies to uniquely. I think someone even said that about the weather in Bermuda in February.

Some people claim to like the winter. They say it is so beautiful. Of course, as the cold wears on and we have storms like this, said winter lovers get harder to find.

The last couple of days have been unseasonably warm for this time of year. In the fifties. We had a savage downpour here earlier today. The lights flashed on and off, all my clocks reset. An odd experience: the laptop didn't reboot. Laptops generally auto-switch over to battery when the AC is shut off. It happens so fast that you don't experience a reboot, or even a flash of the screen. One minute you're typing away with all the lights on and the TV going, next your sitting in silent darkness, illuminated only be the screen. An odd feeling, indeed.

Now, in early evening, it's starting to get cold again. High today was upper fifties. High tomorrow will be in the twenties. Just five minutes in Michigan.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

I Hope You Remember How To Wang Chung: I guess it was inevitable. The children of the Eighties are now old enough to experience full-on nostalgia. That coincides with that same group reaching the point where they have considerable disposable income.

The end result will be a tidal wave of Eighties obsession coming real soon. The signs are all there. Eighties web sites (here and here); there's the new That '80s Show, which I haven't seen; the Lengendary KK has pointed out that you can vote for the new M&M color from one of three '80s pastels worthy of Miami Vice; and scariest of all: The 1980 J.C. Penny Fall/Winter Catalog.

Steel yourself. It will get worse before it gets better.

On the other hand, I can't see Ferris Buellar often enough. (I am considering writing an essay entitled "Everything I Know I Learned From Ferris Buellar")
Causing Trouble: There are few things more instructive than visiting a fast food restaurant at non-peak times and observing the workers. Taco Bell is my favorite for this. Confusing a Taco Bell worker into catatonia is as easy as walking in the store and placing an order. Burger King seems to have a policy of taking your order then preparing random items from the menu for you. Then the other day I stopped at McDonald's and it took the little circle of employees longer to decide who was responsible for taking my order than it did for me to get served and finish eating.

There are two lessons from all this:

1) The recession, such as it was, is over and fast food restaurants are reduced to employing those with the misfortune to be born without a cerebral cortex.

2)I really need to eat better.
Sounds Like Trouble: As a follow-up to the Newsweek article on the music industry I linked up last time, weblogger Ken Layne has similar, but somewhat more brutal, assessment in this Fox News article.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Beware: Crankiness follows. Sorry. I'll try to be more cheerful next time around. Or I may just fake it.
The Longest Fifteen Minutes: Well, Monica Lewinsky, a woman whose only notable accomplishment has been accomodating illegal Cubans, has been all over the the media lately. She was intereviewed by Wierd Larry King. She had her own Undercover Special on HBO. Interestingly, her HBO special came on right after the season premiere of Six Feet Under. One has to wonder whether there is any intersection between the audiences for the two shows. On the other hand, it appeared in a time slot that is usually occupied by OZ, which is probably the only show on TV that could match its quotient of grotesquery. (See my review of HBO Original Programming for details.) All right, I admit I'm guessing at that since I didn't watch. But really, you don't have to see the trash to know it stinks.

In other White Trash News, Amy Fisher had to bow out of her scheduled boxing match with Tonya Harding - parole violation concerns and so forth. So they just moved down the sleezebag ladder and dredged up Paula Jones, who apparently is unconcerned about that expensive nosejob. I would point out that I am not making this up, but I do that so often, why would you think otherwise. All they need to do is bring Bill Clinton in to referee. Imagine the quid pro quo.
Turn It Off: The current state of popular music is dismal; it reminds me very much of the seventies actually. Back then there was Rock and Roll, which consisted of over-produced pablum like Styx and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and there was Disco, which consisted of over-produced tripe with triplet drum licks, generally disco "artists" were manufactured and disposed of after a single million seller. What everything was actually about, was marketing.

Today, little is different. Britney/Backstreet Boys/Destiny's Child etc. amount disco. Creed, Vertical horizon, Linkin Park, etc. amount to Rock and Roll. And everything is still about marketing.

This excellent article in Newsweek of all places says it all pretty well. Also makes the point that there is good stuff out there but you gotta dig.

This is something I didn't realize:
If your “local” top 40 radio station (which may now play only 25 songs) isn’t owned by Clear Channel (which has nearly 1,200 stations in the United States), it’s probably owned by Viacom (a mere 186, but it also owns MTV, which owns the hearts and minds of millions of teenagers).

Such stations, as identical as Gap stores and McDonald’s franchises, exist not to turn you on to cool new music, but to keep you from turning them off before the commercials; that’s why the stuff they play is so robotic and formulaic.
If anything that is a good omen for satellite radio like XM and Sirius .
Speaking of Me: The profile of me that got cut from the local Community Observer last year apppears to be rescheduled for the upcoming Spring issue. I gather it may be on the short side, but if you're interested be on the lookout.

I'm currently in the process of refininacing, out of which will come enough cash to get me a new car. I occassionally get tempted to pursue a Jaguar or a BMW of some sort, but the fact is I worry less about impressing anybody and more about how well the thing will survive it's 900th pothole. As a result, I'll probably end up getting another Camry. But that will have to wait until the re-fi is done, which is a frustratingly tedious process.

I've been spending my evenings, pluggin away at my laptop with the TV on in the background, sitting cross-legged at the coffee table until my legs fall asleep.

And I have a load of laundry in.

There you have it. Don't I lead an exciting life?

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Stupid is as Stupid Does: It looks like the saga of the supposed child super-genius Justin Chapman (which I previously linked back on Feb 15) is drawing to a close. It was all a scam.
Ms. Chapman said Justin never took the SAT's. Instead, she scanned the score report sent to a former neighbor's son into a computer and substituted Justin's name. When Justin, at 3, was given the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised, he completed only 2 of the test's 13 subtests. Ms. Chapman said she later filled in the rest.

Ms. Chapman also said that a month or so before taking the Stanford Binet, Justin found a copy of the manual in the University of Rochester library and memorized the answers.

She denied coaching Justin. But she said she did tell him: "When you take the test, make sure you don't say the full answers and make some mistakes."

Ms. Chapman said that although she lied about the records, Justin demonstrated his own abilities in his college and high school work and in the syndicated column he wrote, called The Justin Report.

"The problem is that it's hurting Justin because he is still a really gifted boy," she said.

"I know what I did is wrong, but what social services is doing now by treating him like an average 8-year- old is also harmful," Ms. Chapman said.
This really, really chafes me.

What we have here is an extended exercise in how to really mess up a kid. Mom is a clearly an idiot in so many ways that it would be difficult to recount them all in one sitting. On the other hand, I have nothing but sympathy for her fear that social services are going to mangle the kid up even worse, by making sure he becomes the correct 8-year-old square peg. They'll probably put him on Ritalin and give him a pamphlet explaining why.

I can't help but think all this would have been avoided if people realized the purpose of Justin was merely to be Justin, and be accepted as such, instead of being a tool to fight Mom's neurotic insecurity or a cog in the gears of formulaic state-sponsored compassion.
Not Necessarily the News: This article in Time magazine is causing something of a stir. It's an evaluation of anti-terrorist activities and strategy before and since 9/11. In typical Time magazine fashion, it is all bombast and drama; filled with dire warnings and defeatist allusions. Note the breathless title: Can We Stop the Next Attack?

Apart from the revelation that some folks in the intelligence community had strong suspicions that someone had a nuke in NY last October, the upshot of the whole article is that some things must change in our security strategy to better combat future terrorism and that no matter what we do we will never be certain that we are safe.

File that under D for "Duh."

This is to be expected from a publication as vapid as Time magazine, but the thing that amazes me is how the author builds a what seems to be a powerful and significant article from what may be the most obvious concept imaginable. Believe it or not, there are times I wish I had that talent. I'm struggling to come up with a topic for a new feature for this place. There are lots of concepts that come to me but I reject them if I don't think I can generate anything of informational or entertainment value. My life would be so much easier if I could just take whatever minor, commonplace idea that comes to me and expand it into some extended blather that carries a tone of weighty social and political importance.

But no. I must suffer for my art.

Similarly, The Guardian, a British news rag, recently stationed some clogged-sphinctered Euro-snob at an Olive Garden restaurant in Alabama from whence he waxed ignorant about the food, the state, U.S. international policy and everything else that occurred to him that wasn't properly European. Thoroughly obnoxious. I'd link the abomination up, but weblogger James Lileks published a withering dismantling of it that is much superior to the original article.

My respect for the press these days has dropped from minimal to just about zero.
Not Quite Nirvana: The laptop is pretty well set up now, but I have yet to achieve Nirvana. The Port Replicator I ordered was listed on the packing slip but nowhere to be found in the box. I suspect that was because I at first ordered a refurbished one, under the assumption it would be cheaper, then changed my order to a new one when I discovered the new one actually cost less. The customer service dude handled my request with aplomb, but sadly, communications broke down somewhere. We'll see how it all works out in the next couple of days. But the laptop itself is truly sweet. I am posting from it now.

BTW, I'm struck by just how significant the display color differences are from machine to machine. The pretty blue background I agonized over looks absolutely green on the laptop screen.

Friday, March 01, 2002

Dexter City Dump: Link dump that is. My laptop finally arrived. This heralds the onset of a new Golden Era in my life. I shall be totally fulfilled and blissfully happy from this point on, I'm sure. Sadly, there is some configuration and set-up before I achieve Nirvana, so here's some curious nonsense I've been hoarding:
  • I may have mentioned before that Hunter S. Thompson is doing a sports column for ESPN. I thought is was just for football season, but it appears to be on-going. I've permanently linked it up over on the left.

  • Remember the line in Kentucky Fried Movie, "Take him to Detroit!"? That's what I thought of when I found out Metro Times (A Detroit Weekly) has an Abandoned House of the Week feature.

  • Good deals over at GotApex. Check it out whenever you're in the market for something.

  • There is life in games, other than video, as evidenced by Games Magazine's Top 100 Games for 2002, and by the apparent cult following of Marquis De Sade of puzzles.

  • I still maintain that there was more interesting stuff going on in commercial graphic art, versus fine art, for the better part of the twentieth century. This exhibit of air travel posters is good evidence. On the fine art side, I would love to visit this Fairly inaccessible museum.

  • The end of the world is nigh.

Neglected Hallmark Moments: Courtesy of The Legendary KK we have these Hallmark Cards They Will Never Print.
1.) So your daughter's a hooker, and it spoiled your day.
Look at the bright side, it's really good pay.

2.) My tire was thumping. I thought it was flat.
When I looked at the tire... I noticed your cat. Sorry!

3.) You had your bladder removed and you're on the mends.
Here's a bouquet of flowers ... and a box of Depends.

4.) Heard your wife left you, how upset you must be.
But don't fret about it ... She moved in with me.

5.) Looking back over the years that we've been together,
I can't help but wonder ... What the hell was I thinking?

6.) Congratulations on your wedding day!
Too bad no one likes your husband.

7.) How could two people as beautiful as you ...
Have such an ugly baby?

8.) I've always wanted to have someone to hold, someone to love.
After having met you .... I've changed my mind.

9.) I must admit, you brought Religion into my life
... I never believed in Hell till I met you.

10.) As the days go by, I think of how lucky I am
... that you're not here to ruin it for me.

11.) Congratulations on your promotion. Before you go
... would you like to take this knife out of my back?
You'll probably need it again.

12.) Someday I hope to get married ... but not to you.

13.) Happy birthday! You look great for your age.
Almost Lifelike!

14.) When we were together, you always said you'd die for me.
Now that we've broken up, I think it's time you kept your promise.

15.) I knew the day would come when you would leave me for my
best friend. So here's his leash, water bowl and chew toys.

16.) We have been friends for a very long time
... what d'ya say we stop?

17.) I'm so miserable without you
... it's almost like you're here.

18.) Congratulations on your new bundle of joy.
Did you ever find out who the father was?

19.) You are such a good friend that if we were on a sinking
ship and there was only one life jacket ....
I'd miss you terribly and think of you often.

20.)Your friends and I wanted to do something special for your birthday.
So we're having you put to sleep.

21.) Happy Birthday, Uncle Dad!
(Available only in West Virginia)
I always suspected KK was pure evil.