Thursday, September 27, 2007

Much ado about nothing

Be afraid, be very afraid, of hackers!
The video, produced for the Homeland Security Department and obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, was marked "Official Use Only." It shows commands quietly triggered by simulated hackers having such a violent reaction that the enormous turbine shudders as pieces fly apart and it belches black-and-white smoke.

The video was produced for top U.S. policy makers by the Idaho National Laboratory, which has studied the little-understood risks to the specialized electronic equipment that operates power, water and chemical plants. Vice President Dick Cheney is among those who have watched the video, said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because this official was not authorized to publicly discuss such high-level briefings.


The electrical attack never actually happened. The recorded demonstration, called the "Aurora Generator Test," was conducted in March by government researchers investigating a dangerous vulnerability in computers at U.S. utility companies known as supervisory control and data acquisition systems. The programming flaw was quietly fixed, and equipment-makers urged utilities to take protective measures.
First there's no money in it--almost all malware currently out there is designed to either garner personal information, or take over a computer so it can be used as a spam-bot (or both). Second, such an attack has not happened, and is not likely to happen. Regardless, everyone needs to take steps to better protect their systems and computers against hacks. Keeping supervisory command and control computers off-line seems to be common sense.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

General Zod in 2008

Zod 2008 Campaign Headquarters
When I first came to your planet and demanded your homes, property and very lives, I didn't know you were already doing so, willingly, with your own government. I can win no tribute from a bankrupted nation populated by feeble flag-waving plebians. In 2008 I shall restore your dignity and make you servants worthy of my rule. This new government shall become a tool of my oppression. Instead of hidden agendas and waffling policies, I offer you direct candor and brutal certainty. I only ask for your tribute, your lives, and your vote.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The monkey's paw

This little tale starts with the classic "It was a dark and stormy night.", which is longhand for "fantastically good".

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This is just sad.

It seems that whales can live a long long time: 19th-century weapon found in whale.

Just amazing

Go and watch.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Viva Roma

Rome Reborn.

Neat but I wish it had more web-tools.


Another from Way Out West, from Intensify.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Let the beats roll

Let the beats roll, the latest from Tim Deluxe.

See you all when I get back.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

spam blogging and nota bene

This blog has been identified as a spam blog.

Just another headache. (The headache is having to do the word verification at the bottom of each post... which I invariably have to do twice. I can't tell when letters are capitalized or not--or maybe its a mild dyslexia.)

N.B.: I will be away from my computer starting early tomorrow morning. So minimal posting at best until I return. Sometime next week.

Discourse and Intercourse, I. Prologue

Poetry is a martial art—
    its rhythms
                are the rhythms
   of combat—pacing—
  its words
                are etched with blood
                           with sweat
                           with body blows
its meanderings
        are long arms
  its punctuation
                hits to the head
its messages
                    in the silence
                     the scream.

The Future of the Future

The Future of the Future
from Deep Dish's first album, Junk Science.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Edmund the Confessor

The pay phone is broken.
The night manager reads the horoscopes
     from the day before—
does he ever think,
     “These aren’t for today.
          They were yesterdays”?
I don’t know,
and I don’t know if the pay phone
     has succumbed
     to heart break, existential pain,
          abuse, being used,
       or if it's waiting for an assignation.
I hear a woman, at the phone next to mine, say,
          “I’m here now”—
but I’m not,
          I don’t know where I am.
     My ink has already stained the bed spread.
     The ink bleeds now
          in the phone book.

I think Edmund the Confessor
will be waiting for me in hell.

The woman next to me gets up—
          I think she’s disappointed.
     I want to offer her a cigarette,
but more than that
I want to use the phone.
What am I doing here, I think,
     because I know this shouldn’t matter,
yet it does
and I don’t know why
I just move on.

A king, I remember, must always be a king.
A lover, once consigned to the role,
     must be a lover,
even if it's wrong.


Ajare from Way Out West's first self-titled album which is sadly out of print.

Friday, June 1, 2007

the limit

                           “I confess to find
          Myself astonished by the outskirts of things:”

               —Sarah Hannah, from Cassetta Frame (Italy, circa 1600)

At first there were these little strips of wood,
then larger pieces, connected pieces—
I dislocated my jaw a few times—
large stretches of painted chamfered poplar
and when that picture frame was done—no rest—
my distorted mouth would open wider
for a rococo niello frame.

I wondered if I had swallowed some strange
emetic. For hours each day I retched
increasingly complicated pieces
carved gilded painted molded all designed,
or so it would appear, for some canvas
or photograph or painted panel.
(I began to feel incomplete.)

What was the meaning of this, this vomit,
that drove me away from my family
with my strange gurgling sounds of agony
and interrupted my work with visits
to my doctor, who, despite this piece
of walnut extruding from my
mouth, could find nothing wrong with me?

Perhaps my mouth became an artisan—
a form of glandular psychosis—
with dreams and ambitions and emotions
all unto its own, separated.
What could I tell the rest of me?
“Let’s stick together boys. The mouth
will come around. He’ll come around.”

But without my mouth to echo my speech—
strange how resonance adds authority—
parts of my body deserted me.
My left leg became a dancer,
jumping about in odd rhythms
and at odd times of day. My ears,
annoyed with my mouth, stopped listening.

Lame, deaf, and muted—spewing brushed alum-
inum with gold inlay—and writhing,
I had long lost what dignity
I may have thought I might have had.
I scolded my mouth, little good
that it would do: “It’s all your fault.
Why not make art? Why only frames?”

But we are all caught by the edges—
the edges between life and death,
hatred and desire, reason
and insanity, between breaths,
longing, friendships, loss, and heartache.
The border is where my heart gasps
and I redefine who I am.

I dance more often now, listen
more acutely, and speak more freely,
no longer hindered by spewed wood
(however beautifully ornate).
The absurdity of it all
confounds me. I should learn to paint,
if only to show off these frames.

They Still Shoot Horses

They still shoot horses
          who break their legs
                    tangled twisted
               no more a race horse
          no longer desired.

They train you
     give you amphetamines
     and they tell you who to kill—
     the wife of a dissident in hiding
          the ten year old son
          of a minor official
          whose loyalty is suspect.
     You don’t know why you kill these people.—
          you sight the scope
          you calm your breathing
          you squeeze
a puff of smoke
     and it is done—
     but you imagine
you have to imagine
     a reason.
You tell yourself
     these people are terrorists
     these people are insurgents
but there are too many men who kiss their children goodbye
     too many wives
     too many children.
The reasons you imagine are lies
     and you realize this
     and it is the loneliest, most desolate night
               of your life.

You remember a racetrack in your youth
     a trampled jockey
     the horse neighing in pain
     silence both before and after
               the firing of the gun.

Anything But You

Anything But You from Way Out West.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

American Oratory

Kermit the Frog's commencement speech to Southampton Graduate Campus, 1996.

Stephen Colbert's 2006 commencement address to Knox College.

Fred McFeely Rogers 2002 Commencement Address at Dartmouth College.

Text of Mr. Roger's Congressional testimony, 1969.

I found the video through Oliver Willis.

worthy of crime

Sao Paolo graffiti artists decorate a Scottish Castle: The Graffiti Project.

Barista provides context

Filling in the gaps

Thomas Heffelfinger, the former U.S. Attorney for Minneapolis, was fired for protecting the voting rights of Native Americans.

When Anubis

When Anubis places my heart
in front of Ammit and Thoth unrecords
my name from the scroll of the blessed dead
I will plead, pleading first to Thoth,
for the god of writing writes and unwrites
with sacred ink that has known no mistake
a hierography of all things
worth reckoning in their truest measures.
I will plead not for release, but for pause,
and should his plumed quill arrest
I will lie prostrate in front of Ammit
mumbling the litany of the guilty—
do not devour everything,
just that which is lacking inside of me—
and this petition will amount to naught
for I will have been adjudged.
Ammit’s crocodile tears will bring no cheer
when I no longer cease to be.
Perhaps Thoth might make a note,
“of insufficient literary or historical value”,
a note that, too, will be unwritten
in the golden scroll of the blessed dead.

Jack Kerouac on the Road

A video excerpt from Kerouc's appearance on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nice work if you can get it.

Profiting from profiling: The nice life of a female dealer (via TalkLeft)
The Latino drug dealers on the sidewalk below "Jennifer's" apartment in the Mission keep getting arrested. Not once a year or even every few months, but constantly. (If the city wanted to be efficient, it would just have its mail carriers do the arresting, since they're there anyway.) Off to jail they go, and then others fill their place, and then the first ones get released, and all the while the dealing continues.

Jennifer, who is white, and who dresses tidily and arranges flowers for a popular art gallery, talks about the dealers with clear discomfort. Not because they're troublesome or violent. It's more that she feels guilty. The police never arrest her.

Jennifer enjoys the flower arranging, but mostly it functions as a legitimate income to show the IRS. Really, she's a marijuana dealer.

In many ways, Jennifer's a typical one for the Bay Area: She sells a relatively small amount, she sells almost exclusively to friends and she draws a line between pot and harder drugs. What's atypical is that she's a middle-class she.

Why do some people resist reality?

Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg look at why some adults refuse to accept science. (via Pharyngula)
It is no secret that many American adults reject some scientific ideas. In a 2005 Pew Trust poll, for instance, 42% of respondents said that they believed that humans and other animals have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. A substantial minority of Americans, then, deny that evolution has even taken place, making them more radical than "Intelligent Design" theorists, who deny only that natural selection can explain complex design. But evolution is not the only domain in which people reject science: Many believe in the efficacy of unproven medical interventions, the mystical nature of out-of-body experiences, the existence of supernatural entities such as ghosts and fairies, and the legitimacy of astrology, ESP, and divination.

Noting the obvious

Valerie Plame was a covert agent at the time of being 'outed' by Bob Novak. (via Atrios)
An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.

Well worth reading: An exposé of SAIC, one of the largest government contractors.
It is a simple fact of life these days that, owing to a deliberate decision to downsize government, Washington can operate only by paying private companies to perform a wide range of functions. To get some idea of the scale: contractors absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000. In other words, more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to SAIC or some other contractor rather than to the IRS.

tiger, jungle, fog

It is approached
     as one would approach a tiger
     in the jungle
          in the fog—
what is this song you sing,
who is this lover you are leaving?

There is no need to explain
     the particulars—fogs, jungles, tigers—
     in describing the path,
     the particulars fade
               to shadows and dust.

I want you—
     who is this lover you are leaving?


Sexual by Amber (1999). Perhaps the video should be titled, how much flesh can you show without showing anything.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A grieving father becomes disillusioned

Colonel Bacevich writes: I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.
Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."


To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.
Bacevich's editorial reminds me of Major General Smedley Butler, who after retirement became a vociferous speaker against the military industrial complex (long before it was called the military industrial complex by President Eisenhower).
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.
General Butler's book, War is a Racket is available to read online.

Propaganda and history

Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages

a question

Not that I mind it too much, but why is celery a staple vegetable in soup? And if there is a secret law (#149, perhaps) stating that all soups must contain celery, why isn't it cut into smaller pieces?

Hubert Védrine on US and European views of the Middle East

Nur has finished translating an interview with Hubert Védrine. Well worth reading: part 1, part 2.

Nu Flow

Nu Flow by Big Brovaz.

the star

          a spot of light

Friday, May 25, 2007

Alec takes a stab at an important question

Why blog when you could be doing porn?

Tracking Treasure Down

Today's music video is Tracking Treasure Down by Gabriel & Dresden.

The End of the Poem

[. . .]
something seems to be lost,
   but in time,
like the memory of a lover,
it returns. . .
                in an unexpected way.

Do not ask the big questions—
                and why
                and why now—
   with the expectation of an answer.
  the lack of an answer
is the reason
        for being:
it is what the sailor hears
            when he is seduced
by the sound
        of the sea.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I was at this show (Starscape in 2000).

This year's Starscape looks to be pretty good.

I stumbled on all of this because every now and then I wonder about this band that blew me away... Big in Japan. They're playing again at Starscape this year. But its not the kind of name that leads to a distinctive search on the interwebs... (Also... doesn't look like they have much of an internet presence.)

Jon Carroll reminisces

I had a ticket to "The Last Waltz" concert, but I gave it away. I knew it would start late and end later, and I hated staying up late. I was a very bad hippie. (via Nancy Nall)

trends in crime

Virtual Kidnapping, a new phenomenon in Latin America, made possible because real kidnappings are common.
Reliable statistics don't exist because most police forces register virtual kidnappings as robberies or assaults. Many victims also don't come forward at all because police are often unresponsive, inept or corrupt. Some people fear revenge for going public, while others are embarrassed about falling for the hoax.

But anecdotal evidence suggests virtual kidnappings are big business. In the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, police reported at least 3,000 virtual kidnapping complaints between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14. A Mexican citizen's group used polling to estimate that in 2004, 36,295 kidnappings took place in the country. They haven't reported newer data.

The criminals often get household details by hacking into databases or posing as service workers. Then they monitor the family's habits and choose a moment when the family is separated to make the call demanding money.

Others simply steal a cell phone, dial the preprogrammed number for "home," "mom" or "dad," and tell whoever answers that a kidnapping is in progress.

Virtual kidnappings have surged partly because criminals are increasingly adept at using new technology such as cell phones and computer databases, said Alejandro Zunca, a consultant who advises Brazilian and Argentine police. Criminals of all stripes also have embraced the scheme because it can be carried out from behind bars.

Another reason is that real kidnappings are so frequent. While an estimated 90 percent of victims don't report the crime, most experts agree that Mexico, along with Haiti and Colombia, is a world leader in kidnappings, and victims' relatives have so little faith in authorities that they usually try to resolve abductions on their own.

Mitt Romney positioning himself as The Great White Hope

Carpetbagger looks at two over-the-top news stories from NewsMax.
Look, I know NewsMax is a conservative political magazine. I don’t expect hard-hitting investigative journalism, and I don’t expect anything but flattering coverage of Republican candidates and officials.

But Ben Smith noted yesterday that NewsMax wrote a profile about Ann Romney, Mitt’s wife, that is so remarkably over-the-top, one almost wonders if it’s a joke. Alas, it isn’t.
“Ann is warm and very natural. She has the look of an outdoors woman bred to be an equestrian, which she is — good carriage, rosy complexion, square jaw, and blond mane.

“When she is not flashing her truly unbelievable smile, she may lower her eyes demurely. But Ann Romney is not demure — she may be modest, but she isn’t meek. She is unpretentious, but she isn’t shy. She lowers her eyes, thinking, and then looks up directly at her interviewer and dazzles him with that smile.”
The article Carpetbagger notes is one of several fluff pieces from NewsMax positioning Romney and his family as the beautiful family we should all envy and admire.

It seem outlandish and over-the-top, but bear in mind that propaganda usually is outlandish and over-the-top.

If you pay attention to the Romney campaign, you'll notice that it is a campaign that pays a great deal of attention to style while doing the bare minimum for substance. You are supposed to envy and admire Romney for his wealth and his good looks and his beautiful wife and their beautiful children. In his campaign videos he is always shown speaking to a sea of white people.

He is running as The Great White Hope, and I fully expect him to win the Republican nomination--following the theory that in a field where all of the candidates are damaged goods the candidate with the winningest smile and the most presidential appearance will carry the field.

The Great White Hope is a 1970 drama starring James Earl Jones that more people should see. It is loosely based on the true story of Jack Johnson the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. The title refers to the furtive attempts of the white boxing world to find a white boxer who could beat him.

You can bet that racism and misogyny will be prominent undercurrents in the 2008 campaign. You can also bet that anyone who points out those undercurrents will be openly derided in the main stream media.

Romney's tighty-whitey campaign is calculated. The Democratic field is heavily dominated by a woman and an African-American. And Governor Richardson has decided to run as a the Latino candidate. On the Republican side, McCain regularly shows African-Americans in his advertising. And Giuliani's campaign, as befitting a former mayor of New York, also embraces diversity.

The only opponent that Romney could potentially face that could throw his 'white-man-deluxe' campaign out of kilter would be John Edwards--the other handsome white man. In fact the comparisons between them are stark. Romney grew up rich and privileged. Edwards was the son of a mill-worker. Romney has always used connections (prime example: his appointment to head the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee). Edwards is a former trial lawyer. They both have essentially the same amount of national experience: Romney, 1 term as Governor of a liberal state; Edwards, 1 term as Senator of a conservative state. And their messages are strikingly different. Romney is for social stagnation, and Edwards is for social mobility.

Thus the contrast between the Romney is handsome and well-groomed stories, and the Edwards is a Bret-girl stories. These contrasts are deliberate. They are planted. They are propaganda.

There are many Democratic partisans who think that there is no way that Romney can win the nomination, with his record of flip-flops (was for abortion before he was against it; was for gay rights before he was against it). But these partisans haven't learned the lesson of IOKIYAR: it doesn't matter. What matters is looking good while saying the right things.

p.s.: Go read this excerpt from Al Gore's new book on media manipulation and political discourse.

still life, with memoranda (1)

wooden chair
   fabric of a fine dress
   on its arm, its shoulder, its back

  after the evening rain
                two nights ago,
I looked out of the window—
a few cars
        every once in a while—
and even after we made love
     I was tired
             and tragic.
I told you
     I was trying not to be depressed,
but there are times
   when this anguish
          overtakes me—
that night,
  even the streetlights
were crying.

The Daily Music Video

Diana Krall, live in Paris, performing an extended improvised All or Nothing at All.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


A naked American tourist raised eyebrows when he went for a walk through a German city and told police he thought this was acceptable behavior in Germany.
"We have been having unusually hot weather here lately but, all the same, we can't have this," a spokesman for police in the southern city of Nuremberg said Tuesday. "The man said he thought walking around naked was tolerated in Germany."
Some people really are that clueless.

a field guide to geek humor

Read the post and then read all of the comments...

An important day

Today is the day that, for the first time in human history, more people will live in urban areas than in rural areas. Another inevitability? Or perhaps a chance to stop and think about how societies are changing?

I mention this because of a light-hearted post at Pharyngula whose discussion thread is a mess of ambivalent observations and questions: i.e., where do suburbs and exurbs fit into the urban-rural divide? But lets start with a global perspective.

In large part the world population shift is due to large-scale changes in India and China--the two most populous countries in the world. People from rural areas move to urban areas to find employment. Its an age old story (think Les Miserables), but when these changes take place on a large scale social movements are not far behind. Pockets of urban poverty, historically, make great incubators for social unrest and often this unrest is violent. Couple this potential social unrest with nuclear weapons, and headaches for everyone...

In the United States the picture is different. You don't have to leave your rural environment at all... the exurbs will come to you. When they sold it a few years ago, my parents' farm was surrounded by exurban houses. It was depressing to drive out there yearly and see the steady transformation of farm after farm into tracts and houses. Everyone, it seems, wanted a chance to have the 'good life'.

The creation of exurbs has been particularly disconcerting. Instead of neighborhoods with neighborhood bars, neighborhood restaurants, a neighborhood post office, and a neighborhood school... millions of Americans have traded that in for gated communities, large weed-free yards, and soulless copycat bars, restaurants and box stores that you have to drive to. We are a nation that, by becoming more attached to our homes, has become less attached to each other*.

Economically, suburbs and exurbs are not sustainable, as their very existence requires both a thriving metropolitan area and cheap fuel. Well gasoline is not going to become cheaper--although we might save on our long term costs by switching to hybrid cars. But... well I don't want to derail this entry too much by going into the state of our cities. Let's just say that my city, Rochester, gets by... but barely. Also, it is used to wearing a lot of hand-me-downs.

This rural-exurban exchange is troublesome on many levels--cities need rural areas to provide food and farm products (cotton, flowers, and dope)--but few people actually think about the realities of farming--the increased incidences of cancer and accidents involving machinery. Sure, people may have a vision of farmers as living the good life. But it is a life of long hours, hard work, and high occupational risks. Also, hay fever sucks and animals stink (this may be obvious, but it is never mentioned in the brochures).

Yet in the end, exurbs suck at the life of our country. They take land out of production. They landscape land that could have been a wildlife area. They transform landscapes with black asphalt and cars. And yet at a time when household debt continues to rise and household savings are at an all-time low, the exurbs continue to expand. In part this is because people are willing to borrow what they cannot afford--it is no longer a question of being able to pay it all back, now it is a question of making the minimum monthly payment. And in part it is because developers cut deals with county commissioners (look: jobs!) and because 5 houses will always bring more tax revenue than 1 farm... never mind the fact that 1 farm will use less of a county's resources.

I've always thought that exurbs were an example of all of the shortcomings of classic economic thought--anyone who assumes that people make decisions about money in a rational manner is out to lunch. But that could just be me.

*This is actually a Fascist's wet dream. The Vichy slogan--work, family, and patriotism--is embodied in the exurban dream.


More at The Challenge of the Super-Duper Friends. (via The Flying Facist)

Clothing for emperors...

I guess Asians have an outsider’s perspective on that western religious book and they can see it for what it really is.


Meteor Blades says:
It would be hard to find a progressive who had a good Tuesday as far as Iraq is concerned. The Senate-House conference committee put together an ugly compromise that would give Mister Bush tens of billions of dollars to continue the catastrophe in Iraq. Call it what you will - a blank check, a sell-out, a surrender - it ultimately amounts to failure, unless victory is defined as getting a signable bill on the President's desk regardless of its contents.
I don't understand the deluded political calculus that our politicians are laboring under.

72% of Americans don't like the President. Virtually the same number think we're losing in Iraq. Certainly it doesn't take genius to figure out that, if you take the moral stance this once, not only will you remain popular with the voters, you might even begin to reclaim a part of your soul... you know... that thing you sold a long time ago in order to get sex, fame, money, and power. Maybe, you should have kept a receipt...

the moment

History is a subtle music,
developing in long complicated movements
with touches of brash
          which seem significant
          but amount to nothing.
The melody we hear
     is harsher
     than the melody
          we remember hearing.
At the end of the moment
we will not notice its passing
     it is long gone.

Give us our daily video

Open Up, by Leftfield with John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) on vocals, is exhibit A in the case that punk evolved into techno. Exhibit B is the wild and funny movie 24 Hour Party People.

Carry on, revolution.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

He can bend spoons...

(via First Draft)

The dream is dead

Bill Maxwell, who was friends with my father when they both taught at Santa Fe Community College, goes back to teaching, this time at a historically black college, with depressing results. (via Nancy Nall)

By the end of the spring semester, I knew that I could not remain at Stillman another year. I had a few good students, but a few were not enough. One morning as I dressed for work, I accepted the reality that too much of my time was being wasted on students who did not care. I felt guilty about wanting to leave. But enough was enough.

A week before I left Stillman as a professor, I drove through the main gate en route to a final exam. As always, I saw a group of male students hanging out in front of King Hall.

The same four I had seen when I drove onto campus nearly two years earlier were milling about on the lawn. I parked my car and walked over to the group.

"Why don't you all hang out somewhere else?" I asked.

"Who you talking to, old nigger?" one said.

"You give the school a bad image out here, " I said.

They laughed.

"Hang out somewhere else or at least go to the library and read a book, " I said.

They laughed and dismissed me with stylized waves of the arm.

I walked back to my old Chevy Blazer, sad but relieved that I would be leaving.

In my office, I sat at my desk staring at a stack of papers to be graded. I'm wasting my time, I thought. I've wasted two years of my professional life. I don't belong here.

Aside: this thread at Nancy Nall's is fascinating.

Culture and Ownership

John Scalzi hits on some important points.
In Helprin's formulation, the value of a copyright resides in monetizing the content the copyright represents. In the real world, however, there's also value for the copyright holder in manipulating copyrights in ways that have nothing to do with the content itself.

Stronger than me

Stronger Than Me by Amy Winehouse. This was her breakthrough single in the UK and is a great example of British Soul.

Who owns culture?

In Search of Lost Copyright: Disney & Proust, Viacom vs. YouTube, CSI: Miami, 2 Live Crew, & the Carpenters
Save for stylish mustaches, Walt Disney and Marcel Proust probably had very little in common. That is, until the enactment of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, a.k.a. the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act."


The big deal arises from the prohibitive environment the Copyright Extension Act and the DMCA promote. For fear of being slapped with lawsuits and injunctions, the ordinary citizen's ability to engage in cultural and political criticism is severely limited. In a cultural lexicon increasingly dominated by corporate-generated images, the inability to comment and critique these images for fear of retribution cuts at the very heart of what it means to engage in "speech." This prohibitive environment especially curtails the speech of "emerging" artists and political actors, whose lack of financial resources and public regard afford them little help in taking on an allegedly infringed-upon wealthy and/or corporate adversary. The most important kind of speech, that which critiques the images and concepts of our media culture, becomes "chilled."

When the day buttons up her petticoat

When the day buttons up her petticoat
and prepares to go home, we want to walk
through the park and see the softball players
sweating it up for the church league, or the
pick-up basketball game on the concrete
courts, or walk across that unplowed pasture
down at the end of the block and spread the
blanket over the soft, uncut grasses
and huddle there, cuddle there, watching the
sky, the sky which holds the mysteries of
night, and is known for her scarcity of kisses.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Future trends in music

The Inevitable Guitar Hero Controller Band Finally Surfaces
A band called The Guitar Zeros deciphered the Guitar Hero controller's data commands and connected them to the limitless Max/MSP software to create music more complex than what would seem to be possible with a five-button fretboard.
Both videos are worth watching. I expect that some version of this will become commercially available for 'musicians' in the next few years.

The next crime wave?

Crime rises as police fight other threats

"We're at a tipping point in violent crime in many cities," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based law enforcement think tank that released data in March showing the murder rate rising by more than 10 percent in dozens of big U.S. cities since 2004.

"What we're seeing over the past 24 months is a new volatility. In some big cities violent crime and murder are up. Some are seeing a reduction. It's a dramatic shift from the past 10 years when it was mostly all decreases," he said.

Criminologists are worried. Federal Bureau of Investigation data shows murders and shootings hitting smaller cities and states with little experience of serious urban violence. The last similar period of volatility was right before the big crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s.

Explanations vary -- from softer gun laws to budget cuts, fewer police on the beat, more people in poverty, expanding gang violence and simple complacency. But many blame a national preoccupation with potential threats from overseas since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"Since 9/11, police obligations have increased substantially above and beyond decreasing street crime," Jens Ludwig, a criminal justice expert at Georgetown University.

"So even if police resources were held constant, there is this growing obligation on their part, so the resources available to fight street crime have gone down."

I normally don't link to these types of stories--panic, panic, panic now!--but I found the notion that Homeland Security is making us less secure to be... well, a dose of common sense.

religion gets postmodern

Theological atheism: The belief that God exists, but he does not want us to believe in him.

God created evidence to prove that the universe, earth, and life came into existence and developed slowly by natural processes, without any apparent divine intervention. He left this evidence everywhere for us to discover — in the rocks, in fossils, in the DNA of all living things, and in outer space. Since God chose to hide his divine creative powers by using only natural processes that make him redundant, we can conclude he wants to remain invisible and not be acknowledged or worshipped.

The diarist is an atheist writing tongue-in-cheek – however, she believes the world would be better off if religious people actually followed this advice.

Love Letters

In love letters there are two themes.
There is the theme of longing—
the writer wishes to be
the letters words pages envelope
delivered by the force of wild desire
into the hands eyes and heart
of the person being written to—
no matter what the circumstance—
and we are not naïve,
we know that circumstances
defy, even drown,
It is circumstance that makes longing
a wild howl of life
in a dark night of sadness—
sometimes the howling is beautiful.

There is the theme of belonging
which completes the circle
and transforms this bestial hunger
into love—
the writer delineates a transformation
from a solitude
into a nation of two
and hopes that this documentation of identification—
a visa for a faraway heart—
will suffice, if just for a moment,
for the writer’s voice, laugh, touch, smile
as the words dance under the eyes.

I became a different person
when I learned to belong—
just being in the same room with you
brought a certain joy
and thus I have been lonely
since this divorce of sorts.
We were not naïve, we knew the circumstances
some pain here, some pain there
was worth it.
We created a shared life.

Perhaps there is a third theme—
I have not decided—
that of gratitude.
Thank you for your heart your love your kisses.
Thank you for holding my hand in yours
for howling with me
with life.

Friday, May 18, 2007

an observation

Phil Nugent makes a well-informed observation:
I guess there are just certain names that, by dint of some mystical connection of being just not common enough and being linked to some public figure who's just weird enough, take on a special power of their own. If your name is Newman, I don't suppose you have to worry too much about being asked if you're related to Paul. But if your name is Knieval...
In New Orleans, Helen Hill and Me discusses the death of his friend and the death of his city.

Gulp moments

Jon Stewart asks a good question about sodomizing the constitution. (via Atrios)

from the department of duh

Breaking News: Guerilla Tactics Work

Wikipedia has a nice article on the Irish War for Independence. It is a war well worth studying, as it was the first modern war against colonialism and relied heavily on urban terrorism.

Another war worth examining was the Algerian war for independence (not only is the film Battle of Algiers a masterpiece, it is also an expose of why defeat is inevitable if one side is seen as occupiers.

Given that the historical antecedents were there... the question then is: why did the advocates for the invasion believe that victory was self-assured? Especially when many of them knew that the case for invasion was based on lies?

The evidence available suggests that the answer is hubris. Given the nature of things, this is turning into a Greek tragedy--the kind where there are no victors, there are no lessons learned, there are only a whole lot of dead people and tears.

Rasoul Sorkhabi talks about Rumi

Master Rumi
Eight hundred years ago, in a northeastern town of the Persian kingdom, a boy was born. When he was twelve years old, he chanced to meet the great Sufi master and Persian poet Attar, who told the boy’s father: “The fiery words of this boy will kindle the souls of lovers all over the world.”

That boy was later to be known as Rumi. And this year, 2007, many literary, cultural and spiritual organizations are celebrating his 800th birth anniversary. UNESCO has issued a medal in Rumi’s honor. According to various sources, including The Christian Science Monitor (1), TIME Asia magazine (2), and the US Department of State’s Washington File (3), Rumi has become the most widely-read poet in North America, and translations of this Asian poet are increasingly popular in the other Western countries. For three decades, I have been reading Rumi everywhere I have been — India, Japan, and the USA. It is thus a personal delight to see the growing popularity of Rumi’s poetry.

the exposé

Her bra
     fell to the floor
into a tangle
          of dancing lines —
psychosomatic waves
               [DRIVERS: No exp. needed]
  first there was the jack,
then the five,
       a bitter-sweet king
           by the ace
with the knowledge
         that the jack
need not have been played
                [OFFICE SUPPORT: Immedi-
                 ate opening avail. for self start-]
a string of pearls
  a million petit moans
  a long cry to heaven
                [Thank You, Saint Jude for
                 favors received. S.C.]

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I scored a 10 on the Kamber-O'Leary "Are You Liberal or Conservative?" test. I answered every question, even when I disagreed with the premise or with the given answers (quite often).

But seriously, anyone who thinks that Reagan was a better president than FDR is historically retarded.

Inserting oneself into the culture...

Kevin Drum has an interesting bit on music placement in prime time TV shows. (I made a comment, woo-hoo for me...)

This is a subject that I find fascinating, because in any society in which there are de facto cultural gate keepers, there will arise subversive strategies to bypass the gate keepers. It is emblematic of our (perhaps hyper-) capitalist society, that the primary gate keeper for music is money. In 2001, before the War on Terror, Salon ran an excellent series on payola and the music industry in the US. Having that as background, you can understand why TV and advertising became such attractive avenues to reach an audience for many independent musicians. As I note in my comment to Kevin's note... TV and TV-advertising has been a significant outlet for techno for a number of years--to the point where there are awards for 'best electronic dance song featured in a television ad'.

I expect with the continuing boom of YouTube, that the internet and word-of-mouth will become ever more important in giving teenagers the music they want to listen to, and in allowing them to claim a cultural identity of their own. And artists and independent labels will continue to find crafty ways to insert their works in out of the way places where they can be found.

Rock and roll died a long time ago. But I expect in the next ten years we will see the beginnings of a new generational form--blending and bending current genres into a new fusion.

Somewhat related: WalMart as a cultural gatekeeper.

a fun waste of time

Al Gore's new book

Al Gore has a new book, called The Assault on Reason. The following is an excerpt (more at (via Atrios)).

Our Founders' faith in the viability of representative democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry, their ingenious design for checks and balances, and their belief that the rule of reason is the natural sovereign of a free people. The Founders took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas so that knowledge could flow freely. Thus they not only protected freedom of assembly, they made a special point—in the First Amendment—of protecting the freedom of the printing press. And yet today, almost 45 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers. Reading itself is in decline. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television.

Radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistants all now vie for our attention—but it is television that still dominates the flow of information. According to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of 4 hours and 35 minutes every day—90 minutes more than the world average. When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time the average American has.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.

In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics—and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics. And as a result, ideas will continue to play a diminished role. That is also why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources.

practical cartography

xkcd draw the internets...

The Stars and Moon

They roll in mud—because it feels good.
They smell each other, they smell you—
     they like the way people smell,
     but prefer the way they smell.
When wet, they shake their bodies
     twisting contorting—
    the world around them is the world around them—
when happy, they shake their tails,
     sometimes, they drool.

They roll in mud—it feels good.

Interview with Hubert Védrin L'Orient-Le Jour, translated by Nur al-Cubicle:
The overall theme of my book is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the West went overboard with euphoria in the notion that it had won the battle of history. It believed that its notions would then be automatically applicable everywhere : its ideas of democracy, its conception of the market economy, its values –which it believes are universal. In its mindset, there will be no more policy problems because there will be no more fundamental disputes on anything. All that would remain is how the world would be organized. It has even been adopted World Bank jargon, talking about things like "governance" which suggests business management rather than policies.

This Western illusion is split into two branches: one is American and the other European. The American branch attributes primordial importance to military superiority. It is here where the Neocons suceeded in hijacking US foreign policy with their very peculiar understanding of the Middle East –an interpretation which they tried to foist on the rest of the world. In their minds, the Palestinian question is of no importance –it is merely a pretext invented by the enemies of Israel– and therefore it is necessary to transform Arab states willy nilly and make them democratic, which would naturally make them pro-Western. But this type of reasoning is borrowed from Dr. Strangelove. How in heaven’s name did the United States, a great country, –certainly very nationalistic but overall very smart– get hijacked in this way ? This is worth investigating.

The other branch, the European branch, is very different but I would lable it ingenuous. Modern Europeans believe that the world is made up of Boy Scouts who want to protect the overall well-being of humanity. They believe that we are part of an international community that works to prevent conflicts through the United Nations, etc.

These two irrealistic branches of thought, which are very different, really don’t work. Actually, a kind of multi-polar world is in the process of forming.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Richard Wilbur


Advice To A Prophet


Video of the week

I am quite taken with this song by the Fountains of Wayne.

Bush finds a patsy

Lt. Gen. Lute to be named War Czar.

My take is the same as Atrios's... this will be another excuse to give the war another 4-6 months.

More at Carpetbagger.

Room 47

My neighbor is searching through the drawers of his dresser
      and perhaps
          he might find,
  since the clumsy way seems to be the only way,
      those things I am trying to find
               would try to find
if I knew the way.

I changed, without realizing that I changed—
      it wasn’t the mirror that told me—
strange how no one tells you anything to your face—
   but a whisper that I wished I was whispering
            into someone’s ear. . .

I stopped singing the blues some time ago,
    but you told me that if I sang you would dance,
            and even though this is
                  the Age of Lies
      I want to believe you,
         I need to believe you,
              I need that chance.

Maybe you’ll have reservations about your reservation
  to hear the strange song I will sing—
      barely a whisper—
  what words, what notes, what phrases. . .
perhaps you will hear in them
            the things I’ve lost
     and the things
I’ve gained.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

August Kleinzahler

Ruined Histories

four poems

A Baroque Scot's Excess

Silence (10 of 10)

Both the broth
      in a cup of noise
and cup
      that holds a broth of noise—
we sip
      eye to eye
knowing that nothing is complete
      except this moment
and moments are fleeting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Metamorphosis 3: A Passage from Philip K. Dick’s VALIS

In my interconnected dreams
I live another life—sometimes
I drive north in my red Capri
to my house on the shore of the lake—

I enjoy working with my wife
in the garden—she is slim and
attractive and loves to smile—
we tend to the wild roses planted

near the retaining wall in our
back yard—the house next to us is
a mansion—we’re quite modest in
comparison. And for an hour

after I awake from these dreams
I can still see in my mind’s eye
my wife in her blue jeans, dragging
the garden hose across the driveway.

And yet I am not married—I
have never loved anyone as
deeply as I love my wife in
my dreams—I live in an apartment—

I would never feel comfortable
in an upper-middle class life—
and to my knowledge there is no
such lake in the north one could drive to.

I am different from how I am
in these dreams. These dreams baffle me—
I awake disoriented,
living a double life—wondering

which one is really more fulfilling—
the life I have when awake
or the one which seduces me,
those long peaceful drives north, to the lake?

I may have more to say about these metamorphosis poems later. But I felt compelled to share this given the news that Dick has been given a volume in the Library of America series (see below).

Canonizing Dick

From Danny Yee I find that Philip K. Dick is being canonized into the Library of America. The Library of America volume includes Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Ubik. Wow. Just wow.

I've always found Philip Dick a guilty pleasure. His writing was not particularly polished. His plots went in bizarre tangents and didn't necessarily mesh. His characterizations could be cold. And yet... it worked. He presented some much needed truths, holding a mirror to the world around him and within him.

Silence (9 of 10)

In this ragged breathing
as we nuzzle
fresh smells of sex and sweat
me with you, you with me
there is no need to explain
explore or negotiate.
Everything is evident.
You smile.
I brush your cheek.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Goodling to get immunity

It's a done deal.

I share the skepticism that others have expressed and worry that she will turn out to be the next Ollie North--whose high-profile testimony turned up very little that Congress didn't already know and effectively hobbled the independent prosecutor's pursuit of his co-conspirators.

What is worse: she may be turned into the next right wing-martyr-hero, a la North... a living example of the value of trashing the constitution, breaking the law, and unethicality in the pursuit of a pure all-white, all-republican America.

Its official: half the people my age are out to lunch.

30-39 year olds more likely to support the war than any other group (via Atrios)
Did the United States make a mistake in sending troops to Iraq?


18-29 Yes - 56% No - 41%
30-39 Yes - 48% No - 50%
40-49 Yes - 52% No - 47%
50-59 Yes - 61% No - 38%
60-69 Yes - 62% No - 37%
70-79 Yes - 70% No - 28%
80+ Yes - 69% No - 26%
This data raises a host of questions about the influence of the Reagan years on the views of my cohorts--do they really believe that Reagan won the Cold War? How much do they really know about the secret wars in Central America? Do they think Olliver North is a patriot or a traitor? Do they understand what the economic consequences of the military arms buildup were and are?

The answers to these questions are likely troubling.

Media Reelects Sharpton

Media Re-Elects Al Sharpton As Official Spokesman For Black America
Every four years representatives from broadcast and cable news, newspapers, local television and a few conservative bloggers go to the ballot box and vote to see who will represent "the blacks". Harry Throckmorton, editorial director for Fox News Channel said "A lot of people say we should look for more black voices in the media, that when a racial issue comes up we shouldn't just always run to Al Sharpton. To those people I say: I couldn't make my tee time if I did that."

"I'm a loudmouth who just says any old thing that comes to my head", Sharpton told the throng of microphones that follow him 24-7, "and that means the media loves me. Sure, coming to me all the time gives many Americans a warped perspective of what all blacks believe, but hey, what am I going to do - not talk? Better God strike me down dead."

an important moment

Atrios discusses why and how he became one of them radicals. For Atrios the pivotal moment was seeing how the media skewed its reporting on the inauguration. Well worth reading.

The inauguration was also a radicalizing moment for me... however, my take on it was obviously different than Atrios's. I assumed that the whole system was corrupt--that the media was working hand in hand with the republican party to create an overlord paradise.

The relatively swift passage of tax cuts for the wealthy, the slashing of the estate tax, and the imposition of harsh 'bankruptcy reforms' only cemented the notion I had that Clinton was merely a band-aid in the face of forces hellbent on the destruction of the middle class and the possibility of upward mobility.

For some reason, my cynicism remains quite intact to this day.

Grace and grace

Nancy Nall has a nice muse today on the ritual of grace. Along the way she mentions a couple of amusing articles that are worth reading for the giggle factor (Dearborn lets cop quit without a drug charge in marijuana brownie case and California Website outsources city council reporting to India)--sheesh it may just be me, but it seems that James Macpherson has no friggin clue what real journalism is.

Unreality watch

Alberto Gonzales, Zen Master (via Political Animal)
The House Democrats are furious. To them, there is only one plausible explanation for what happened to the eight (now nine?) fired U.S. attorneys. There is only one narrative that works with the facts. The White House wanted party loyalists placed in either key battleground states, or in states where Republicans were being investigated or they thought Democrats should have been. Gonzales rolled out the welcome mat at the Justice Department and told them to install whomever they wanted while he played hearts on his computer. If Gonzales truly wants to rebut that narrative, he needs only to offer some plausible alternative. Anything at all. But he doesn't. He offers only distractions.


Long silence. Pause. "They wouldn't do that," hems Gonzales. "The White House has said publicly that it was not involved in adding or deleting people from the list." Someone needs to tell that to Kyle Sampson. And as for Gonzales, he has made himself immortal by merely willing himself to be so. That must be what accounts for his Zenlike state today. It's an ingenious strategy. Instead of letting the president throw him under the bus to protect Karl Rove, Gonzales just lies down in the road, then giggles as the bus runs over his head.

Confucius and his uncle

Before he became a wise old man,
Confucius was a young man.
      In his youth, he traveled,
      read great texts,
      talked to intelligent men,
      made it known
            he intended to become wise—
You wish to be wise, his uncle asked him,
better a mule wish he were an ox—
his uncle did not think much
            of reading
      or of learned men—
They know much about tea,
      but little about tea leaves,
he said—
meaning either:
      They enjoy the hard labor of others,
      They know nothing about the forces
            which shape destiny—
his uncle had a gift
      for saying more than one thing
                  at a time.

Silence (8 of 10)

All of this comes to a close
a bathrobe I grasp close around me.
In this moment
looking beyond the ephemera
the memorabilia of my life
I feel that hold
      that wholesome whole
beneath fleeting desires
      the me within me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


A handbook of rhetorical devices

Glossary of poetic terms

Notes on literary technique

Saving these links for future reference. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

The poetry reading


The room was not antiseptic. Ancient stains of blood
littered the floor. John Keats, where did you sit—
not sure if life was worth living, love worth loving,
not sure you would escape TB?
No anesthesia, and the young physicians-in-
training huddling in their seats, standing in the back
against the wall, the heat of each other’s bodies
compacting compressing a small stuffy room,
but on the stage, their patient—blindfolded—without
anesthesia. . . Were you doodling Keats when they screamed?
Were you imagining mountains in Greece, fields in
Kentucky? Did you see the blood hit the sawdust,
the fragments of flesh which were discarded,
as Michelangelo discarded flawed marble?
If you had known you would not have written,
wouldn’t you? You would not have loved,
you would have ceased in your heart to live. . .
Is that, was that the meaning of your exile—
into the city of myths, fables, and
Michelangelo, your very own Rome?

There is a story behind this poem, but it is not worth telling with too much telling detail. Suffice it to say that I once attended a poetry reading given by an accomplished, intelligent, academic poet who read a poem about John Keats sitting in his college’s surgery theatre musing about moving to Kentucky to live with his sister. The poet in question painted Keats as an idealistic romantic always looking afar... it is a stock image, and it belies the reality of who Keats actually was.

I think central to the poet’s misconception was a complete inability to appreciate how primitive surgery was in Keats’ time. Keats lived from 1795-1821. The first surgical anesthetic ever used, ether, was first used in 1842. Prior to that time, patients would have to be strapped down, given a healthy dose of liquor, and something to bite on. Lister’s ground-breaking article “Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery” was published in 1867. The idea of germs (put to the test by Louis Pasteur in 1862) didn’t exist when Keats was a student.

In this context, can anyone imagine any of the students staring wistfully into the distance—while the subject of that day’s demonstration was writhing in pain?

Keats was naturally drawn to medicine as a young man given his family circumstances. His father died early in his life from an accident. His mother and brother both died from tuberculosis, a disease which would eventually claim Keats himself.

So the questions that struck me, listening to this poet meter and rhyme on about Keats the dreamer was: how can you get this so wrong? You are an academic, writing about a particular time and a place, didn’t it occur to you to do some fact-checking? (This was 1994. Well before Google. I think the era prior to 1998 will be known as B.G. And this era’s anthem could well be “I started a joke”.)

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe this poem (the poem I wrote, above) has two flaws. First, it is a poem that needs context—having read what I’ve just written here, I’m sure if you re-read the poem it will make more of an impact with you. And second, it is a poem written to two people, two disparate people, at once: the academic poet and John Keats, the deceased. Because it has two audiences, there is a cognitive disconnect.

Anyway, not sure why I was thinking about it, but I thought I would share it with you today. (And yes, this poem was written in 1994.)

Postage stamp rates change

New postage rates on May 14.

This has been the Literateria PSA for today. Now back to regularly scheduled nonsense...

Reaction in the face of change

Taxi rides in NYC going high-tech
The monitors, already in 200 cabs as an experiment, allow riders to pay by credit card, map out where the cab is going and find information about restaurants and bars.

Taxi officials say the monitors will help passengers make the most of the 13 minutes they spend on an average ride in the city. But many drivers have decried the cost — up to $7,400 for equipment and fees over three years — and say the technology will let taxi owners and officials check up on them.

"I cannot afford the computer. What is going to happen to me?" driver Oscar Luzzi said at Thursday's commission meeting.


The global positioning system in the technology, from Englewood, N.J.-based TaxiTech, automates required record-keeping. It could help with lost items, as well: If a customer reports losing a wallet, the taxi commission could send alerts to drivers in the neighborhood where the customer was dropped off to be on the lookout.

Objecting drivers have raised concerns about the costs of the technology, credit-card fees and potential working time lost if it needs repair. Some worry that the global-positioning system will be used to track their movements, although the taxi commission says it will record only the pickup and drop-off points and fare, which drivers already are required to log.

"It's trampling on our constitutional rights, and it will cut deeply into our income," said Bill Lindauer of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers' advocacy group with more than 7,000 members.
There may be legitimate problems with the gps-credit card computer systems. That said, the way these things usually go, I expect that within five years no one will be able to imagine getting into a taxi without one of these systems.

Next time I'm in NYC, I'll probably take a taxi just to try out the system.

a sense of perspective

Bush's Approval Remains Ridiculously High In Viriginia (via Sharp Sand)
Representative Tom Davis told Mr. Bush that the president's approval rating was at 5 percent in one section of his northern Virginia district.
So... You're driving along the streets in Tom Davis' district, enjoying the scenery of what I'm sure's a lovely place - Tom's district includes Mt. Vernon, after all. There's an all-day Stevie Ray Vaughan festival on the radio and you - why, you're feeling just completely safe. Traffic's moderate, not so bad. Coming your way down the other lane are, I dunno, something like 10 cars a minute. In other words:

Five drivers are hurtling your way every ten minutes that are so batshit crazy they actually approve of George W. Bush. Five drivers every ten minutes who can't (or won't) meet the most basic requirements of consensual reality - such as evaluating the performance of the worst president ever, let alone agreeing to drive on the right side of road! Five drivers every ten minutes whose cognitive and moral judgment is so impaired they might create a head-on collision just for kicks.
It is somewhat more staggering when you consider that Bush's approval rating is at 28% across the nation...

I think it is empirical evidence of the innate insanity that clings to our innate humanity--the idea that two people could see basically the same thing (i.e.: a car crash or a chimp-emperor) and come to two different conclusions, while having similar backgrounds, is proof, is it not, that the age of reason is dead?

Maybe I'm being too cynical.

Silence (7 of 10)

You pout, wanting to argue the night away,
but I’ve said what I have to say.
There’s no point in putting my hand on your thigh,
      but that’s what I want to do.
I am an ant,
      bathing in amber.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The thin line between ignorance and stupidity...

Vegans sentenced for starving their baby.

It is a sad case. However at first glance this looks like a miscarriage of justice: a prosecution based more on emotions than on the evidence. Maybe I'm wrong... but I find it hard to believe that a couple would starve their baby to death.


Chopped Liver: Photographs by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.

Fort Dix plot

One of the keys to the alleged terror plot at Fort Dix is a family tragedy in the making:
One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father's pizzeria — Super Mario's Restaurant — in Cookstown and made deliveries to the base, using the opportunity to scout out Fort Dix for an attack, authorities said.

"Clearly, one of the guys had an intimate knowledge of the base from having been there delivering pizzas," Christie said.

Tatar's father, Muslim Tatar, 54, said the accusations against his son were hard to accept.

"He is not a terrorist. I am not a terrorist," he told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The elder Tatar told ABCNews he had gotten no indication his son harbored a deep hatred of the United States.

"I came here from Turkey in 1992, and this is my country. I love this country," Muslim Tatar told ABC.
It is common among second generation immigrants to feel out of place in their country and to embrace everything that they perceive as belonging to their old country--especially when their parents are so eager to leave their old country behind and embrace their new country. Of course, the second generation--either born here or growing up here--often has a limited grasp of what constitutes the culture, traditions, and religious attitudes of their old country.

It says something profound that the suspect Tatar appears to have embraced fundamentalist islamic extremism. It suggests a severe disconnect between father and son. What we see in this newspaper narrative is the outline of a deep and jagged father-son dynamic--one where both participants have different hopes and dreams, where the son feels awash and alien in this country, and where the two lost the ability to communicate.

Race and Sports

ESPN poll shows race plays a role in perception of Bonds

Blacks are nearly twice as likely to think Bonds has been treated unfairly (46 percent to 25 percent). Why? The survey found that 41 percent of black fans think this is due to the steroids issue, 25 percent think it's because of his race, and 21 percent blame Bonds' personality.

For whites who think Bonds has been treated unfairly, 66 percent blame steroids. Virtually none blame race.

Older blacks (50 and over) are less likely to think Bonds took steroids (29 percent) than younger blacks (44 percent). There is no age difference among whites.

A majority of fans -- 58 percent -- think Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. That's 10 points higher than a similar poll conducted last summer. Among blacks, 85 percent think Bonds belongs in Cooperstown, compared to 53 percent of whites. Also, 78 percent of blacks think Bonds should be recognized as the home run leader, compared to 53 percent of whites.

Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls

A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”


But they said they continued to find the same phenomenon: that players who were similar in all ways except skin color drew foul calls at a rate difference of up to 4 1⁄2 percent depending on the racial composition of an N.B.A. game’s three-person referee crew.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a vocal critic of his league’s officiating, said in a telephone interview after reading the paper: “We’re all human. We all have our own prejudice. That’s the point of doing statistical analysis. It bears it out in this application, as in a thousand others.”

“The dream is busted, broken,”

The dream is busted, broken,
  but we should have known that
    when they sold us the car
       that we used to replace
   the one we bought
         three years before.
The property taxes are too high,
  the traffic is miserable in the morning
            and even more miserable at night.
The children are overfed and overstuffed
  and if they know anything
  it isn’t about life—
       movies and videogames do not a life make—
and what did I want here anyway—
  a freshly mowed lawn,
  making love to my neighbor’s wife,
  sprinklers and car alarms?

This is a world which blossomed
    like flowers in a desert.
    The rains have come and gone.
    It’s over now,

Silence (6 of 10)

a word that defies that for which it is
a nagging finger in the eye

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

“He played a lawyer”

He played a lawyer
    in a made for TV
    movie about cloning, murder, and genetic testing,
but in real life
    he was working on his law degree—
“Look Sidney, just between you and me,
the script needs work—no, not at all. . .
the story’s good, but there are technical problems,
like when Mike tells Janice about the will—
it’s flawed.”
So Sidney gave him a technical consultant slot
and soon he was inundated
with discrete requests
from the acting and artistic communities
about the law of reproductive biology.
And thus his life followed a natural progression,
one which flowed from one pond into another
without much thought,
    following happenstance.
We are startled, sometimes,
    by the avenues luck seems to take us,
but on its face it can seem banal,
    when we would wish it to be sublime.

I am thinking about my narrative poems, so I decided to share this little one from 1998. Hope you enjoy.