"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."

Monday, May 31, 2004

Headlines No One Wants to See 

  • "Drought Kills SpongeBob SquarePants; Beloved by children, now resembles own trading card"

  • "Surprise Election Day Victory! Write-in bid 'worked after all,' hails stunned President-Elect Fred Grandy"

  • "Another Ex-Seinfeld Star Cast in New Sitcom"

  • "Poodle Taught to Speak English; Won't shut up"

  • "Indicted Former Veep Cheney Granted Saudi Asylum"

  • "NHL Resolves Player Contract Issues; Strike averted, next season will happen"

  • "Rivers Mom & Daughter Finally Allowed Inside Oscars"


Sunday, May 30, 2004

Memorial Day 

The American Military CemetaryI went on a trip to France and England in May of 2002, and one of the places I visited was Normandy, the site of the D-Day invasion during World War II. Upon my return, I put my photos online.

Pointe-du-HocFeel free to click on the links below to see and read a little bit about some of these locations.If you ever get an opportunity to visit Normandy, I highly recommend it. Very well worth it, even if you only have two days there (as I did).

And, by the way, my photo site is hosted on free server space, so I apologize in advance for popups.

DMCRA Hearings 

As noted previously, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection is considering legislation that would affirm your consumer right to make backup copies of music (and movies or other media) for personal use.

While it seems reasonable to carry over firm rights you had with analogue media into the digital realm, the various Copyright Industries (especially the very heavy political contributors, the music industry and Hollywood) are so scared of losing money from digital copying, they are angling to eliminate through technical means what they can't through legal ones.

The Committee held hearings on Virginia Rep. Rick Boucher's Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (the "DMCRA," for short [not to be confused with the DMCA, the draconian 1998 technology law that the DMCRA seeks to amend]) on May 12th, and while they don't yet have a full transcript, they do have the prepared remarks by various witnesses online.

Cary Sherman, President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), was one of those testifying:
It is important to distinguish between "fair use" and "free access." It is not a defense to copyright infringement to illegally gain access to a work, whatever the motivation. You cannot steal a CD from a record store in order to make a fair use copy of a portion of it. You cannot break into a library to make fair use of a book. HR 107 would blur this distinction and allow the use of devices to circumvent controls that regulate original access to a copyrighted work.
He uses the music industry standard line that says any digital copying is stealing. But, while true in many cases, it's ridiculous in the larger view. No matter how much the industry wishes to portray it as so, most illegal downloads or burned compilation CDs do not equal a "lost sale."

Many people have used filesharing as a "try-before-you-buy" scheme. Others have used it to obtain one song from an album they would not otherwise purchase (and for which no CD or other format single exists).

And I, as well as millions of others, have been making mix tapes (or CDs) to share with friends for years. For the recipient, this functions just like listening to the radio: she hears music that she may not currently know from a variety of artists, any one of which she may take a liking and purchase further music from that artist. Rather than representing a lost sale, this (again, like radio) represents many potential future sales.

While it may be technically true to call this "stealing," this attempt to repeatedly portray downloaders as "thieves" and "pirates" is one of the central disconnects the the RIAA have faced since the beginning. While a file downloader may be obtaining an item of value for free, they fully understand that they're depriving no one of that item (as with physical property theft).

So to continuously decry such practices as stealing is about as effective as trying to reduce speeding with a P.R. campaign to paint leadfoot drivers as criminals. Breaking the law? Certainly. But "criminals?" Seems like overkill, and probably will make such a campaign more likely to ignore more reasonable arguments.

But back to Cary Sherman's testimony. He uses the somewhat bizarre comparison that "You cannot break into a library to make fair use of a book." He's trying to shoehorn in awkwardly fitting figurative language, but it's actually unintentionally revealing.

One of the things that the DMCRA would prevent is the copyright industries erecting technological barriers that could metaphorically padlock and shackle the metaphoric library, so that anyone attempting to read this metaphorical book who is not approved by the copyright holder could be liable for civil or criminal penalties.

UPDATE-- Expect U.S. companies to follow along similar lines as these:
On April 5, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corp) and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan began airing their programs with a special transmission signal that enables only a single, nonrecordable copy of the program to be made.

The move has made it necessary for viewers to insert a special card into their digital TV sets to watch or record digital content.
Once the technology allows, copyright industries will not only be able to further restrict consumer usages, but could even mandate that users must upgrade their equipment in order to continue using it.

SIDEBAR: My spellchecker gave "pleasuring" as substitute for "filesharing." Cary Sherman is probably not happy with my spellchecker.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Art & Abu Ghraib 

A mural in Iraq depicts the Statue of Liberty throwing the electrical switch on the infamous image of a hooded Iraqi in Abu Ghraib Prison.

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press:
A San Francisco gallery owner bears a painful reminder of the nation's unresolved anguish over the incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison — a black eye delivered by an unknown assailant who apparently objected to a painting that depicts U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners.

Holy shit! 

From the creator of Emogame, now it's Bush Game. Subtitled "The Anti-Bush Online Adventure," it's quite the Flash animation polemic.

Protagonists include Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Howard Dean, and Christopher Reeve, while the field of antagonists include the Bush, Cheney, Tom Ridge, Paris Hilton, and a copulating George & Barbara Bush. Yikes! (I must admit, I laughed out loud several times during the game intro and some of the unexpected character introductions)

The informational interludes make me think that this is the wave of the future: politics in an entertainment wrapper. (not unlike the U.S. Army's online recruitment game which received attention last year)

February 20, 1971 

I was just reading an interesting article which states that until 1977 the passcodes on nuclear missiles, intended to prevent unauthorized launch, were all set to "00000000" and everyone (with access) knew it.

Somehow this reminded me of February 20, 1971, the only time a national Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) alert was sent out. Accidentally. By NORAD.

We've all heard the "this is only a test" messages, and maybe some of us have heard legitimate system activiations for regional weather emergencies. This is more common these days during late nights and weekends as more radio stations are automated and have their units (now called the Emergency Alert System, or EAS, which replaced the two-tone alert sound with a series of digital chirps and squawks) set to autopilot.

But back in 1971, the whole system was actived for real. It was actually an error, although no one knew it until later.

A L.A. station engineer gives his personal recollection:
In Los Angeles it was exactly a week after a major earthquake that NORAD had inadvertently issued a real alert. The person on duty at NORAD had grabbed the wrong punched tape. At the time I was EIC at KFAC and KFAC-FM. One of the staff announcers, Bill Carlson called me at home just after 7 AM and asked what to do. Bill knew but was being cautious. I tuned around on both AM and FM and found that there were no stations giving "News or Information". Since we were supposed to tell our listeners to tune around for stations giving news and information I chose not to go off the air until someone was giving news and information. I continued to tune around while Bill stayed on the phone with me. We were prepared to follow the rules and read the message and go off the air immediately if only someone, anyone would give any news and or information. Shortly afterwards the alert was cancelled and a statement that it had been sent in error was issued.
Unfortunately, there was a website with a great, and dramatic, account of the event. I can't seem to find it now. But here's a brief overview of the event and its aftermath. And this is a personal account by another L.A. radio guy.

Ah, the Cold War. One almost feels nostalgia for air raid drills.

Special broadcasting note --D'oh! 

I'll be on the air this Sunday night (5/30) at midnight, for four hours of old-skool freeform radio. Feel free to tune in via the web.

My radio station has freeform overnights, and I've wanted to do one ever since I started working at WYEP. Being a holiday on Monday, I finally have a chance.

As I think about it, I've never actually done 100% freeform radio before. Most of my radio experience has been pretty loose, but it always had some kind of mandated structure to it. Even in college.

It should be fun.

Due to a scheduling mixup, I won't/amn't/wasn't on the air for this shift. My freeform debut will just have to wait...

Hitchhiker's Guide movie 

The long-awaited movie version of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is slated for release Memorial Day weekend 2005.

The screenwriter has done a nicely detailed interview with himself for the Official Movie Blog. Very worthwhile reading for interested parties.

I hate to get all fanboy on you, but I can't help it (besides being a fan of the series in all media, the radio version was absolutely instrumental in shaping my love of radio broadcasting):

Yam Alert II 

The latest YamStats: still 3 sprouts. Tallest: almost 10".

And due to popular demand, I've taken pictures of my l'il Yam Monster (as you can see). Click here to see a photo of the Yam Monster under the watchful eye of President Kennedy.

Does anybody know (or have an educated guess) how long the sprouts will live without being watered or planted?

Also, googling yam alert will, indeed, get you a genuine Yam Alert--actually a Chinese Yam Alert pdf from a Southern Illinois University faculty member ("Chinese yam has the potential to become a major pestplant in the United States due to its rapid growth and prolific reproduction."). There are also pages using various YAM acronyms like "Yet Another Move," "Young Adult Ministry," and "Youth Alert Mumbai" (although "Youth Alert Mumbai Alert" is a tad redundant, like "TCBY Yogurt").

Depleted Uranium 

Depleted uranium metal is a nuclear byproduct material used in tank armor and in armor-piercing shells. It's a very dense metal, about twice as dense as lead. It's also radioactive at a low level.

But, according to an unnamed professor in a British university physics department, "It's true that DU is not very radioactive. But when you inhale it, it does go to the lymph nodes surrounding the lungs, and that means it could irradiate all the blood cells which pass through the nodes."

British and American coalition forces are using depleted uranium (DU) shells in the war against Iraq and deliberately flouting a United Nations resolution which classifies the munitions as illegal weapons of mass destruction.

DU contaminates land, causes ill-health and cancers among the soldiers using the weapons, the armies they target and civilians, leading to birth defects in children.
It's a little unnerving that U.S. troops are finding out about DU contamination issues from sources such as Rolling Stone magazine:
Hell, I didn't even know about DU until two years ago. You know how I found out about it? I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine. I just started inquiring about it, and I said "Holy s---!"
~~Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey


For Bridge Fans Only 

(the structures, not the card game)

Span of French Millau bridge, world highest, is completed:
Engineers brought the two central ends of the Millau road viaduct in southwest France together, completing the span of the highest bridge in the world.

The road surface is 270 metres above ground, a world record, and the total structure, with suspension cables added will be 343 metres (1,132 feet) above ground at its highest point or 23 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower.
I'd hate to be traversing this span during heavy winds. I wonder what kind of sway this bridge has?

Future of Copyright 

Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution established powers of Congress, including "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Thus sprang our system of copyright.

Within that system, there is an established tradition of Fair Use, whereby copyrighted materials can be referred to and quoted without running afoul of copyright laws. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 basically affirmed that consumers may duplicate copyrighted materials for noncommercial use.

However, contract law can do what copyright law cannot: prevent even private, noncommercial copying. I expect that the music industry will soon put so-called "shrinkwrap licenses" on music CDs.

I recently received a promotional, pre-release CD which had the following warning on it:
Any promotional/pre-release CDs that you receive are supplied in the strictest confidence. They are supplied on the condition that they may not be sold, altered, transferred or copied in any way (including, without limitation, by CD burning or uploading to the internet). You will be held liable and responsible for any unauthorized use of the relevant recordings (such supply itself being a breach of these terms). Accordingly you are responsible for ensuring that pre-release CDs do not pass into the possession of any third parties.
The CD also had my name and radio station labeled on it and asserted that it had built-in encryption which would allow the record company to "trace any unauthorized use of these recordings" (which, despite their assertion, I doubt would be effective in any event).

While, obviously, promotional CDs sent to a radio station are not private, noncommercial uses of CDs, I have little doubt that these sorts of warning labels will soon be spotted in regular CDs.

Keep an eye on this issue. This sort of control-by-license could attempt to use contract law to limit your right to creating backup copies or even reselling the disc as used.

Taxpayers fight goths! 

Residents of Blue Springs, Missouri will now have to fend for themselves in the War on Goths.

Er, actually, they discovered that there really wasn't a problem:
Almost half of a $273,000 grant awarded in 2002 to fight the Goth culture in Blue Springs has been returned because of a lack of interest — and the absence of a real problem.

Blue Springs received the grant two years ago from the Youth Outreach Unit, money the city and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves trumpeted proudly as a way to fight a perceived Goth problem.
Some background...

In 2002, the city's Youth Outreach Unit ("YOU"!) applied for a $237,000 grant which would "enable staff members to research the Gothic culture."
Assistant City Administrator Eric Johnson...said the program is being implemented because there have been some trends in teen behavior which brought concern to YOU.

"What we have noticed is we're seeing some trends and criminal activity that is just alarming," Johnson said.

Johnson said there has been significant increases in uses of the drug ecstasy in this "Gothic" group. He also cited an increase in violence in schools associated with the culture. Another concern YOU has is an increase in depression leading to suicide among members.

Johnson also said self-mutilation is a problem.
The city's Youth Outreach Unit does things like stage realistic car accidents the day before the high school prom to warn of the dangers of drinking and driving.

The program's director, P.J. Petrillo, says of this car accident "docudrama," "If it saves one life, it is worth all the effort by the police and fire departments primarily responsible for the work to do the event."

While the "if it saves one life" argument sounds noble and reasonable, it could be used to justify anything. Hell, banning all car traffic and shutting down all roads the night of the prom could also be done in the name of "if it saves one life." Obviously, it comes down to (a) does the program have the intended positive benefits, (b) are the benefits worth the cost?

Thus also for the Goth Problem. Does Blue Springs actually have such a problem? Is the cost of "researching" this problem worth $273,000 of federal funds?

Rep. Sam Graves (the ironically named, as others have pointed out), who shepherded this initiative, is strangely silent about the whole affair on his official website, but California's Rep. Ed Royce is not. He included Graves' Goth grant in his 2002 "Pig Book," highlighting wasteful government spending.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow 


Scientists snicker:
Climatologist David Battisti...chuckled. "It's so absurd, I don't think anybody will take it seriously."
Yet it's a political football. From environmentalists:
"We all agree the movie is fictional, but it opens the door to talk about the serious subject of climate change and how it's already affecting us," said Seattle organizer Lisa Maschmeier.
To business groups:
"We're trying to let people know — in a tongue-in-cheek way — that what the environmental left is pursuing is very dangerous from a job and economics perspective," said Karen Kerrigan, co-chair of the United for Jobs Coalition. The group is running a newspaper ad called "The Day After Kyoto" that parodies the movie with a picture of an unemployment line and a litany of economic losses that pollution controls could trigger.
And all this from a Roland "Independence Day" Emmerich film?

SIDEBAR: The United For Jobs Coalition's website asserts that "At no time in the last 150 years – through the great portion of America's industrial age --has our air and water been cleaner."

It seems from my vantage point (especially here in Pittsburgh) that any improvements in air and water cleanliness on the past 150 years have come due to (a) the shuttering of industrial plants due to unrelated economic shifts, and (b) environmental protection legislation. Both of which would seem to be anathema to the United For Jobs Coalition, so it seems odd that they are trumpeting this fact.

Ye Gods! 

Nixon 'too drunk' for Cold War crisis chat:
Former US President Richard Nixon was too drunk to answer the phone when Britain's prime minister rang him at the height of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, according to newly-released records.
This, after so much has been written about Kennedy being hopped up during his term:
By the time [Kennedy] was president, he was on ten, 12 medications a day. He was on antispasmodics for his bowel, paregoric, lamodal transatine [ph], he was on muscle relaxants, Phenobarbital, Librium, Meprobomate, he was on pain medications, Codeine, Demerol, Methadone, he was on oral cortisone; he was on injected cortisone, he was on testosterone, he was on Nembutal for sleep. And on top of that he was getting injected sometimes six times a day, six places on his back, by the White House physician, with Novocain, Procaine, just to enable him to face the day.

Thursday, May 27, 2004


The music industry wants mobile ringtone market as revenue source. Thus:
So-called "sample" ringtones, the latest stereophonic tones pulled from actual studio recordings...carry a price tag of as much as four times higher than the typical Internet download price in Western Europe -- a price gap that could prematurely stifle a promising ringtone business, Informa said.

Record labels are demanding mobile operators and other ringtone resellers pay a royalty rate equivalent to between 25 percent and 55 percent of the total retail price for a "sample" ringtone, Informa said.
Once again (like the recent price creep in legit music downloads), the music industry prefers to slaughter the chicken instead of getting the eggs.

Meanwhile, D.I.Y. software might eliminate the ringtone market before it even can take root:
New software that lets anyone create unique cellular phone rings for free has some record labels worried it will kill the cash cow that is the ringtone.
Hey, guys, I know! Let's try to meet our quarterly revenue goals by destroying our future!

(The yes-men respond with thunderous applause, proving my brilliant idea is, well, BRILLIANT!)

Grace: The Legacy Edition 

Buckley Debut Expanded With Rarities, DVD:
The lone Jeff Buckley studio album released in his lifetime will be reissued in a remastered, expanded edition this summer, Billboard.com can reveal. Due Aug. 23 via Columbia, "Grace: Legacy Edition" features the original 1994 album, a 13-track disc of rarities and a DVD featuring four music videos, studio footage and live performances.
Definitely a fan-only release, but really great for fans.

What Rights? What Privacy? 

Rights Eroded in War on Terrorism, Amnesty Says:
The Bush administration has "openly eroded human rights" to win the war on terrorism and sparked a backlash that has made the world more dangerous, Amnesty International charged yesterday.

"As a strategy, the war on terror is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle," Amnesty's secretary general, Irene Khan, asserted in releasing the human rights group's annual report. She condemned militants unequivocally but said governments are "losing their moral compass."

"Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using preemptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty," Kahn said of the United States.

Meanwhile, GAO Report Reveals Rampant Federal Data Mining:
Scores of data-mining projects that collect and analyze U.S. citizens' personal information are in operation at dozens of federal agencies, the GAO found. Many of the nearly 200 projects planned or already under way rely on data purchased from the commercial sector.

Civil rights advocates have raised concerns that the government's use of commercial data—rather than data it collects itself—allows agencies to dodge laws protecting citizens' privacy.

The data mining article mentions the government's Total Information Awareness project (renamed Terrorism Information Awareness to put a friendlier spin on its mission: keeping track of bad guys by keeping track of everybody). Remember the TIA's unbelievably Orwellian logo (complete with happy slogan "Scienta est potentia": "Knowledge is power")?

Guilty Admission 

Rite Aid Ex-CEO Gets Eight Years
In one of the most prominent corporate scandals in recent U.S. history, six former Rite Aid officials faced charges for inflating profits and reaping rich rewards through executive compensation schemes during the late 1990s. The company was forced to restate $1.6 billion in profits in 2000.
I must admit, I feel a twinge of guilt.

I bought $1.4 billion worth of jordan almonds at Rite Aid stores through 1989, and then completely stopped by the early '90s.

I think I indirectly led to all the subsequent exec mischief. Damn.

"The Way the Music Died" 

Frontline aired a documentary tonight about the music industry titled "The Way the Music Died." A little one-dimensional, but still good.

Interesting interviews with Danny Goldberg of Artemis Records, Nic Harcourt of KCRW, and especially David Crosby.

With so much attention within the documentary given to Velvet Revolver, it's very interesting that Scott Weiland didn't do an on-camera interview.


Someone has attempted to make a detailed, definitive map of The Simpsons' Springfield!

While slightly skeptical of its accuracy, this blog wholly endorses usages of humongous amounts of time in this manner!

Blogs in the news... 

Hollywood is buzzing about the "Rance" blog (if the actual site is overloaded, try Google's cache). Rance is, according to Reuters, one who "skewers Hollywood and the cult of celebrity on an anonymous Web log that has spawned a cult following. He claims to be an A-list actor, writing under a pseudonym, but admits he may not be believed."

Meanwhile, the talk of Washington recently was one Jessica Cutler, a 24-year old Senate staffer who posted a sex-drenched previously-anonymous blog of her activities, including juicy tales of notable D.C. sugar-daddies. According to the Washington Post:
Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) on Friday fired a young staffer for "unacceptable use of Senate computers" after she posted her sex diaries on the Internet and raised a hubbub of speculation last week: Who is this wicked woman that calls herself "Washingtonienne"? Was she really bedding six different men or making it all up? And who is the married, high-level federal employee she claims paid her $400 for a lunch-hour tryst?
The Washingtonienne website is, apparently gone, but somebody created a cached reproduction. All in the name of, ahem, sociological research, no doubt.

Looking For Mr. Goodmedia 

Good article about search engines indexing web-based audio and video, using National Public Radio's audio-heavy website as a case study:
NPR's move points to the limitations of Google and Yahoo at a time when broadband Internet connections are becoming more popular among consumers, fostering new demand for multimedia content. Publishers are increasingly adding exclusive audio and video content for online access; educators are streaming courses online; broadcasters are bringing vast archives online in digital form; and small-time publishers are finding it cheaper and cheaper to create, produce and host multimedia on the Web. Yet you wouldn't find any of it on the primary search engines.
Side note: This article brings to mind another corporatespeak phrase which annoys the hell out of me--"rich media" (the buzzword for web-based audio and video, not the wealthy media corporations). In the above article, NPR's online director Maria Thomas continues the trend to blithely pummel buzzwords into complete meaninglessness:
"Our site is primarily full of rich audio, and we want people to find it when it's relevant," Thomas said.
"Rich audio"?

She actually means, "audio." In this context, audio is by definition "rich." "Rich audio" is about as meaningful as "audio sound."


He must've got contact lenses... 

= ?

Eee Yi Yo 

But will the narration be entirely in Hopelandic?
A group of young Icelandic filmmakers collectively known as Lortur are releasing a full-feature documentary on fellow Icelandic natives Sigur Rós. The filmmakers followed the experimental band on their summer 2003 tour and captured concert footage as well as the band’s offstage shenanigans. The film, which is slated for release this fall, will also feature an original soundtrack provided by Sigur Rós.
The article also mentions that Sigur Rós plans a new album in early 2005, one with actual lyrics and an titles.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Gwyneth Paltrow used Sigur Rós' music as the soundtrack to the recent birth of her and Chris Martin's baby.

Hippo Sweat 

Might be harnessed for consumer use if it didn't stink so bad
Not only is the sweat of the hippo a fetching shade of red that gradually turns to brown, it also acts as a sunscreen and has antibiotic properties, according to Japanese scientists writing in Nature science journal.
A more substantive article here (featuring this quote: "Hippos are basically fermentation vats.").

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Phish to break up 

Phish announces a breakup after this summer's tour:
The news came via a post on the band's official Web site, in which Anastasio explained the reasons behind the decision.

"Last Friday night, I got together with Mike [Gordon, bassist], Page [McConnell, keyboardist] and Fish [Jon Fishman, drummer] to talk openly about the strong feelings I've been having that Phish has run its course and that we should end it now while it's still on a high note," Anastasio said.

Finnside Edition 

The Finn Brothers are planning to release their first album together since 1995:
New Zealand siblings Tim and Neil Finn, formerly of Split Enz and Crowded House, will release their second album under the Finn Brothers moniker in late August.

The Devastated Necktie Industry 

According to a new study presented this week to the American Society for Microbiology, that perennial gift item may be a source of disease from health care workers:
Patients may want their doctors to look professional and tidy, but a new study says neckties worn by medical practitioners may actually harbour disease.

Researchers at a New York hospital say nearly half the neckties worn by medical workers are contaminated with bacteria that could pose health risks to patients.
The study follows last year's unpleasant news that tight neckties might cause glaucoma.

This may lead to the worst period for the Necktie Industry since the rise of Casual Fridays or Hitchcock's Frenzy.

Yam Alert 

I like yams.

I'm no yam freak or nuthin', but they are a tuberiffic taste sensation. I bought a yam recently but, for one reason or another, didn't eat it. So it began to sprout.

I have decided to call it my monster yam and to let it grow. Perhaps I'll use it to create my evil personal yam army. Perhaps I'll make crafty gifts out of the sprouts. Perhaps I'll just get bored with the whole thing and eat it.

Anyway, dear reader, I thought you'd want the current YamStats (tm pending): 3 sprouts. Tallest: 8".

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Floating Ads 

Jiminy, I hate those online ads that float over the page.

"Shoshkeles," they call 'em. At least, that's the name by one of the peddlers of this annoyance.
As the Internet becomes ubiquitous, Shoshkele™ will revolutionize the industry according to the principles of successful marketing and brand building, reaching the right target, at the right time with the right message.
As corporatespeak gobbledygook becomes ubiquitous, one will feel revolutionized with more unreleased rage.

I might (maybe) be able to tolerate these pesky shoshkebobs if it weren't for the included audio. I often surf the web while listening to music, so I cannot abide by websites with any embedded audio.

So I have my standard-issue IE browser set to ask me whether I want to run these do-dads. I'd rather have to plow through 5 prompt windows to see a webpage rather than to sit through 10 seconds of choice-free advertising. But that's just me.

Anyway, I was just reading Yahoo's advertising guidelines (I'm sorry, did I say advertising? I meant "marketing solutions"!).

Here's the guideline that caught my eye:
Cannot cover or fly over the Yahoo! logo ever.
Yup. So the user is guaranteed annoyance, but the company branding must never be interfered with! But it's not a Yahoo thing. It appears to be a pretty typical requirement.

CBS Sportline:
Cannot cover the CBS SportsLine.com logo, global navigation, or Scores At A Glance scoring box.
Chicago Tribune:
Freeform ads should be designed to come in above the fold but not cover the chicagotribune.com logo

Bile rising. Rising. RISING.

Modern Rock (BN) 

A friend just emailed me:
I'm still working on my 80's collection, and my Modern Rock B.N. (Before Nirvana). You said it best: "That's when Modern Rock wasn't afraid to have a good beat." Problem is, I'm not sure where to start. Do you have any FM 106.3 playlists from way back when? I'm really interested in the one hit wonders: Slow Bongo Floyd, Merchants of Venus, The Shamen, and so on. I even like the no hit wonders.
It doesn't have to be music from literally pre-Nirvana, merely before grunge got the stranglehold on modern rock. Anyone with suggestions, click the comments link. I'll start the ball rolling...

My Site Rollout Master Plan... 

...continues with fury.

Well, okay something less than fury. But something more than ennui.

Anyway, Step 1 was starting this puppy up. Step 2 was emailing a bunch of friends about it. Done, and done.

Step 3 was getting on "the grid"--being indexed by Google. Just happened yesterday or Sunday. See?

::consulting 400-page master plan:: Let's see, the next step involves getting mentioned in the Washington Post or the New York Times. Hmmm. Perhaps I'm overreaching here.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Bushes Loses Clancy 

Tom Clancy, that is:
The hawkish master of such million-selling thrillers as "Patriot Games" and "The Hunt for Red October" now finds himself adding to the criticism of the Iraq war.

"Is it a masterpiece or just some guy with his pants down?" ~~Kent Brockman, The Simpsons 

Michelangelo's David just got a sponge bath.

Helen Lovejoy: You've got to lead our protest against this abomination!
Marge Simpson: Mm, but that's Michelangelo's David. It's a masterpiece.
Helen Lovejoy: It's filth! It graphically portrays parts of the human body, which, practical as they may be, are evil.
Marge Simpson: But I like that statue.
Helen Lovejoy: [gasp] I told you she was soft on full frontal nudity!
Shameless excuse to quote The Simpsons? Yes!

"How did they teach you to be just a happy puppet dancing on a string?" ~~10,000 Maniacs 

So let me get this straight.

Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi allegedly supplies the U.S. with false intelligence to help nudge us into invading Iraq...

...and has alleged close ties to Iran...

...a country with a strong animus towards Saddam Hussein.

So one logical, although perhaps not supportable, conclusion is that the U.S. may have been, at least partially, manipulated into doing Iran's secret bidding. Which, if true, would be unbelievably Shakespearian.

More/Moore Movie Backstory 

Even ignoring the documentary, the behind-the-scenes tale of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is shaping up to be perhaps a future blockbuster in its own right:
Last week in New York Mr. Eisner told friends that Harvey Weinstein had made the movie despite his objections a year ago and had hidden the $6 million budget in loan financing documentation.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Anarchy in L.A.? 

Once guitarist for the Sex Pistols (before later peddling a cheesy heavy metal sound), Steve Jones is now a radio DJ in Los Angeles. And one with a unique perspective:
It helps that Jones knows many of the artists he spins, and if he hasn't met them, odds are good that he's stolen their equipment. A drug abuser for years and a kleptomaniac for far longer, he routinely heisted stuff found in studios and then hawked it for heroin.


Commencement Address Season 

Ah, 'tis the season when the learned and the lauded bestow a mortarboard full of wisdom to those hungry minds of Generation Z.

As long as the check clears.

Commencement addresses can earn the speaker as much as a cool $100K, although the standard range is in the five-figure area (many do, however, speak for free or cheap for reasons of prestige or personal sentiment).

According to the Brooks International Speakers Bureau & Entertainment company, here are some typical speaker's fees for a few recent commencement speakers:

Anyway, do yourself a favor and read Jon Stewart's address to his alma mater William & Mary from May 16th.

Without endorsement, here are also links to others in the current crop: Thomas Friedman, George W. Bush, Sen. Richard Lugar, Colin Powell, John McCain, and CNN's Judy Woodruff.

And, by the way, while researching this post, I kept running into the unattributed assertion that most people don't remember who gave their own commencement address. I don't know abut others, but this is completely untrue for me. I never graduated, so no one spoke at my commencement ceremony. So there.

I did, however, audiotape the ceremonies for my school during my junior year, so that's the closest I came to being so addressed. It was Tom Wolfe, resplendent in his white suit, proffering erudite wit and commentary right around the time his The Bonfire of the Vanities was published.

Or, in other words, ZZZZZzzzZZZzzzzz.

Goatee vs. Van Dyke 

Some folks are very militant about the official names of various facial hair styles. The Goatee vs. Van Dyke controversy is extremely virulent.

Here's a good, albeit brief, summation of the two styles.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Product Manuals 

The absolute, bar-none best warning message I've ever seen in an appliance manual is one read years ago in one for a blow-dryer: "Do not use while sleeping." (there's an amusing website featuring stupid consumer warnings which also mentions a similar one; people must purchase them all the time as a sleep aid)

I just read another odd warning, for a computer networking hub. I am cautioned to keep it at least six feet away from "nearest source of electromagnetic noise (such as...arc welder)."

Goddamit! I wanted to center my new computer network FOUR feet from my home office arc welding station!!

BTW, I read this shortly after a moment of Silent Consumer Rage (SCR) when I noticed that my supermarket carries a brand of ice cream describing itself as "superpremium." Apparently this is nothing new, but I never noticed it before.

Merriam-Webster defines "premium" as "a high value or a value in excess of that normally or usually expected." Sauter defines "superpremium" as "a category invented by superidiot marketers."

If I was rich, I would love to trash a supermarket. Just once.

Extreme quotes 

Richie Havens, on his performing his signature song at gigs: "If I don't sing the song 'Freedom,' they beat me up outside." (from the web)

Hamell on Trial (or, at least, his people), on an upcoming show the Mercury Lounge: "If Hamell doesn't sell this one out, he's retiring." (from a mailing-list email)

Bono, accepting an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania: "For a lead singer like me, a mullet is, I would suggest, arguably more dangerous than a drug problem. Yes, I had a mullet in the eighties." (from the web)


"Born and raised for the job..." ~~"A Wolf at the Door" 

Guitarist Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead has been hired to be a staff composer for BBC's Radio 3.
The assignment, expected to last three years, will allow Greenwood to use the BBC's musical resources, including the BBC Concert Orchestra. His manager, Bryce Edge, said Tuesday the appointment will allow him to "learn how an orchestra works."
On-the-job training. That rocks. Especially so, as the "composer-in-residence" gig is a three-year position for which he must write only one piece.

The BBC's own story on this is here.

Tribute Band Hunter: Pink Floyd 

Actual tribute bands found roaming the wild in their natual habitat:
  • Think Floyd (UK) self-described: "The ultimate Pink Floyd tribute"
  • Several Species (Baltimore) self-described: "The ultimate Pink Floyd tribute"
  • Pink Voyd (Boston) self-described: "New England's ultimate Pink Floyd tribute band"
  • The Machine (New York City) self-described: "America's premier Pink Floyd tribute band"
  • Pink Fraud (UK) self-described: "The only truly authentic Pink Floyd show"
  • Mac Floyd (Scotland) self-described: "The most accurate Pink Floyd tribute band in the world" [bonus points for localization of the concept]
  • Wish You Were Here (Cleveland) self-described: "The American Pink Floyd show; 8 year's [sic] strong & still the best!"
  • The Final Cut (Germany) self-described: "Germany's premier Floyd/Waters tribute band" [point deduction for German language website using scary crossed-hammer logo from The Wall]
  • The Wall (New Jersey) self-described: "The Pink Floyd tribute band for the new millennium" [point deduction for negative-sounding website name: "thewallzzz.com"]
  • Dark Side of the Wall (UK) self-described: "A terrific spectacle for all ages" [bonus fandom points: features a guitarist named John Wall; two band members force their respective sons to participate]
Remember if you spot a tribute band in your area, contact your local authorities. Do not approach, and for goodness' sake, DO NOT feed them! While they may seem fun as pets, relocation to a controlled, tribute-band preserve is the only humane thing to do. For their sakes as well as ours...

Nick Drake, Lost Boy 

BBC Radio 2 broadcasts Lost Boy - In Search of Nick Drake at 4pm EDT today (if my math is right; it airs at 2100 BST). They've posted a pretty good overview of Drake's career and life on the web.

Photo Phright 

Is it just me or is this picture frightening on several levels?

It's Keith Flint of The Prodigy along with Donatella Versace in Cannes. I fear I now won't sleep comfortably for days.

"Random Destructive Acts via Focused Solar Radiation" 

Puerile havoc with a giant fresnel lens. Cool!

Diddy Update 

Review of P. Diddy legitimate theater debut:
Reports that Sean Combs hasn't embarrassed himself nearly as much as Broadway insiders have been predicting are downright lies.
Meanwhile, you'll soon be able to smell like Diddy:
"People express themselves in many ways; through their music, through the way they dress, and also through the fragrance they choose, so deciding to make a fragrance was very natural for me," the hip-hopster said Friday in a statement.
I know you're ecstatic.

An administrative note... 

I've received a few emails from friends asking me about the links on the right-hand side of this page. First of all, inclusion on these links in no way indicates any endorsement of friendship! Or, more specifically, the reverse: omission does not indicate a lack of same!

Trust me, there are a handful of people linked that I am immmensely indifferent to, and at least one name that I actively despise ("Big Electric Cat" people might recall which one)!

I merely put links to anyone and everyone I could find with some sort of web presence. If you have a website that's not listed, let me know! Email me or click on "comment" below.

Friday, May 21, 2004

It might be worth it just to see Rene Russo in a biohazard suit... 

Whenever I see a news story saying that there's an Ebola outbreak somewhere, I always wonder if this is the dreaded "airborne transmission" mutation.

Aren't I cheerful?


Thursday, May 20, 2004

"You don't own me, masturbation! I'm taking my life back!" 

Oh, man. You just can't make this stuff up.

Know Your Money 

Didja Know Dep't: Didja know that it's illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency?

Sorry, I'm just perusing the Know Your Money section of the Secret Service's website. I collected coins as a lad (I still know which one year that pennies were made from zinc-coated steel instead of copper), so I'm fascinated with the design and associated attributes that are tangentially related to being legal tender.

For example, that people actually try to glue higher denomination corners to smaller value bills to try to pass it off as the higher amount (the T-men call it raised notes). Or that the life expectancy of a one dollar bill is 18 months (higher denominations last longer since they're used, on average, less).

God Bless You Please, Mr. Robinson 

I saw the tabloid headlines, but as usual, ignored them. Somehow I missed the actual news reports. Here's the word on Ray Charles' health status. Good news about the CD, though.

"Cause of Death: Death" 

Funny satire written by someone who once punched me in the groin as a gag:
The Apprentice, M.E.

to explain above incident reference:
college + dedicated humor-mongers + alcohol served at party = regrettable untreated groinal injury


Wishing Weller 

Paul Weller, former frontman for The Jam and The Style Council, has a new album coming out in September (at least, that's when it should be out in the U.K.). It's an all cover album, with a song by jazz iconoclast Gil Scott-Heron as the first single.

(the article mentions covers of Taj Mahal and The Lovin' Spoonful, but those are apparently only non-album, single B-sides)

Uh oh. 

I knew there was a reason why I usually get the bad convenience store coffee:
The gourmet coffees that Canadians seek out for their taste and purchase in dizzying quantities, contain whopping amounts of caffeine, according to research commissioned by The Globe and Mail and CTV News.

In fact, a 20-ounce jumbo cup of house blend at Starbucks or Second Cup contains almost 400 milligrams of caffeine — the upper limit of what Health Canada says an adult can consume healthily in a day.
While the article is from Canada, I would have little doubt it's a similar scenario in the U.S.

I, Proctorbot 

Indiana Essays Being Graded by Computers:
With the increasing number of mandates to test student writing, "there's a certain inevitability to computerized essay grading," said Stan Jones, Indiana's commissioner of higher education. Indiana's computerized essay scoring, he said, will reduce by half the cost of administering a pencil-and-paper test and will free teachers from distributing, collecting and, above all, grading thousands of test booklets.
Speaking as someone who was put a lot of student effort into either (a) being lazy, or (b) being non-traditional, this seems like a dangerous path to tread. Under such a system, lazy students (or those who cared only for grades not for education) can concentrate on technical precision and ignore actual creativity. As the article mentions,
Kathryn L. Allison, the English department chairwoman at North Central High School nearby, doubts that the computer can accurately assess the quality of grammatically correct and well-structured student essays that lack substance or are wrong on the facts. "Are kids going to be rewarded for having pedestrian-type answers?" she asked.
But additionally, non-traditional students--ones who might try to create a wildly original essay that might not fit into a standard structure--would, I suspect, get a smackdown under the computerized approach.

Nothing new, of course. Some human teachers stifle original thinking as a matter of routine.

I was once scolded and publically embarrassed by my 4th grade teacher because I thought it would be cool to initialize my first name and write out my middle name on several assignments. The teacher told me that's just not the way it's done. Years later, I would still feel a twinge of anger whenever I would learn of someone like M. Emmet Walsh or H. Ross Perot or A. Whitney Brown.

All personal childhood scarrings aside, methinks applying a corporate productivity approach to education is a really bad idea.

UPDATE: I don't know if they check your educational credentials, but the company that makes the robotic essay scoring software allows teacher to submit their own essays to see how well it works.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Fine dell'opera 

Actor Tony Randall passed away on Monday, May 17th at the age of 84.

Following triple heart-bypass surgery last December, he developed pneumonia and never left the hospital. He died in his sleep at New York University Medical Center with his second wife Heather Harlan at his side.

I saw Randall in person twice. The first time was in 1977 when I was 11 years old. It was a taping of a short-lived game show called Shoot For the Stars at The Ed Sullivan Theater (now the home of David Letterman's show). I had watched and enjoyed The Odd Couple at the time (what kid wouldn't be amused by Felix Unger's sinus-clearing honks and marvel at Oscar Madison's enviably disheveled bedroom?), but couldn't really be labeled a "fan" yet.

Before the actual taping commenced, the two guest stars for the episode--Randall and Vicki Lawrence--were introduced to the studio audience. To make a grand entrance, Randall bounded out onto the stage with an enthusiastic leap. It didn't strike me until years later, but the man was 57 at the time and appeared to have the energy of a twentysomething.

The second time was two decades later, in 1996. Randall was starring as Scrooge in the annual musical production of A Christmas Carol at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Though then a late septuagenerian, he still seemed amazingly vital.

These two appearances, in a way, sum up a lot about the man. While enormously dedicated to his craft and the theater, he was never above doing game shows or hawking foods products (as he did in the late '60s for Libby's and in the '90s for Eagle Snacks). And while he might have preferred to be doing something a little classier, he gave the lowbrow jobs as much zeal as the highbrow.

In his splendid 1989 book of acting anecdotes Which Reminds Me, Randall concluded the volume with a series of jokey proposed epitaphs for various theater and Hollywood luminaries. He couldn't politely run through this morbid amusement without including his own, and his choice illustrates that Randall imagined the same personal vigor in death that he always displayed in life.

It read, "Here stands Tony Randall. I am not going to take this lying down."

(more on Randall's life and work to come)


Last night's concert was a free Member Show with the Ugandan-born, Ithaca-based Samite (for the uninitiated, it's pronounced SAH-mee-tay).

A terrific performer who is unexpectedly fun and funny, Samite wowed and charmed the audience (who were on their feet and dancing by the end of the night).

He'll be returning August 6th for a show with his full band at the Frick Art Museum.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

In other Bowie news... 

Meanwhile, Morrissey is no longer a Bowie fan. Glass houses anyone?

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep 

Loong day yesterday, culminating in seeing David Bowie at the Benedum Theater. It was good to see him again, especially so since he played "Station to Station." Great call.

Started with "Rebel Rebel," closed with "Ziggy Stardust" ("for old times sake," as he said in the intro). Late in the set, he announced the next one was from Hunky Dory and I was sure it was going to be "Andy Warhol" (Pittsburgh being Andy's hometown and all), but instead he played "Quicksand" and "Life on Mars?"

"Under Pressure" was a particular high point, with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey doing a terrific job on Freddy Mercury's giddily soaring vocal part.

Some of the songs--"Hang on to Yourself" springs immediately to mind--sounded a little too slick in presentation (no pun with Bowie's guitarist Earl Slick intended, although judging from Slick's solo album of last year, Zig Zag, he should shoulder some blame).

Of course, the same can be said for nearly all of Bowie's recorded output since 1984's Tonight, so it's certainly not unexpected. And Bowie the Shrewd Businessman has been tirelessly working on the commodification of Bowie the Artiste for years.

I think part of the problem is that the too-dense sound was designed for arenas and amphitheatres, where it would carry the punch it needs to fill the space (which is odd since it appears most of the dates on this tour take place in theaters). But the 2900-seat Benedum could definitely have used a little less whallop.

Also featured in the set: "Changes," "The Man Who Sold the World," "Modern Love," "Fame," "All the Young Dudes," "China Girl," "Ashes to Ashes," "I'm Afraid of Americans" (dedicated to "Washington...I'll just leave it at that," Bowie said), "Sister Midnight," "The Supermen," "Hallo Spaceboy," and "The Loneliest Guy."

Bowie also did a less-than-ideal arrangement of "Heroes" (dedicating it somewhat oddly to the audience...and the audience's families...and to the band...and the band's families...and to himself...and to his family).

Covers performed included "White Light White Heat," "Cactus," and the unfortunate "Pablo Picasso" (love the song, hate the version).

Stereophonics opened the show. The sounded good and raucous, although they have the we're-pissed-because-we're-huge-in-the-U.K.-but-people-don't-know-us-here attitude. Not very endearing.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Waiting For Somebody 

The facts: Paul Westerberg has a CD scheduled for release in August called Folker. He's been very excited about Folker even prior to putting out last year's Grandpaboy CD and the documentary soundtrack Come Feel Me Tremble. As he told Billboard last fall, "The ones coming out next month are good and entertaining, but I'm really excited about [Folker], even though I know it's a ways off." He was booked to play in Louisville, Kentucky, last night (May 16th), for the Non-COMMvention in what was supposed to be the kick-off of promotion for the Folker album. He played first in an oddly-ordered bill that ran Westerberg, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, surprise guest John Cale, and closed by the Polyphonic Spree (logistics more than logic seemed to dictate bill placement).

Despite being a big Westerberg/Replacements fan (ever since first tracking through the Let It Be album in my college radio station's production studio during Spring Break of 1985), I ended up missing nearly all of Westerberg's set. Conventions being what they are, I was dining at a restaurant without a car to get me back to the show in time (I also had no idea Westerberg was going on first). Once I arrived at the Brown Theater, I made my way inside and opened the door to the theater itself--only to catch Westerberg already onstage. I only saw his blistering version of "Alex Chilton," which concluded with him whipping around, smashing his electric guitar on the amp stack, and striding offstage to thunderous cheers from the stunned audience.

That's about all of the factual info I know firsthand (except that when I was heading out to dinner, Westerberg was standing outside the hotel on the South 4th Street sidewalk, talking with a few people and clutching a baseball bat). But, damn, did I hear a lot of talk surrounding this show, both beforehand and afterwards.

What is described below was not witnessed personally, but reported to me by generally knowledgeable and reliable people. Like all conventions, however, the Non-COMMvention can be rather gossippy, so some grains of salt should be standard issue.

The pre-show talk: Westerberg, apparently, did not want to do this gig. It was scheduled when it might have made more promotional sense for Folker, but now that the album is scheduled for coming out in August it doesn't really do much for him. I'm told he tried to back out of performing.

Westerberg arrived in Louisville on Friday, and he was seen hanging out in "The Gallery" performance area on the 16th floor of the Brown Hotel (oddly enough, that evening's scheduled entertainment included one performer who actually DID back out at the last minute: Mark Kozelek, who, apparently unhappy that his solo set was being promoted as a performance by his band Sun Kil Moon, departed precipitously from Louisville). I heard he was puffing away on his typical stogie, and gave off the air of being very unapproachable. One person suggested he was wearing a top hat. Another said the 14-year sober musician was "obviously drunk."

Another report had Westerberg dropping by a nearly all-night poker party in a hotel room, but he soon departed with the suggestion that the dollar-ante stakes were too low for his taste.

The show: After Sonic Youth's set, I quizzed a few friends who were present for Westerberg and heard that highlights included "If Only You Were Lonely," "I Will Dare," "Valentine," and the aforementioned explosive set-closer. One report said that he changed the lyrics of "If Only You Were Lonely" from "Tonight I'll be doing pull-ups on the toliet bowl" to "The past couple weeks I've been doing pull-ups on the toliet bowl." Someone else pointed out that he altered "Alex Chilton"'s line "I never travel far without a little Big Star" to "I never travel far without a rented guitar"--shortly before destroying his rented $1500 guitar.

The post-show talk: Westerberg was seen by one conference attendee later the same night as the show hanging out near the Brown Hotel bar. The frequent chatter was that Westerberg had fallen off the wagon for the first time since before The Replacements broke up, not just this weekend but recently.

Postscript: I was hoping to be introduced to Westerberg this weekend. To date, my only interaction with him has been me shouting out "Androgynous" at a New Jersey concert on the Don't Tell a Soul tour and him replying "Naw, we'd need a piano for that one," captured on a bootleg I found. I've always gone back and forth about whether I'd like to meet him--frankly, sometimes it's best not to meet heroes. This time I had insiders ready and willing to introduce me, but I backed off. I decided maybe I should appreciate Westerberg only through his work.

In retrospect, I think I'm glad I made that decision.

UPDATE: There's a review in a Louisville paper which briefly mentions the Westerberg set. The news page of the official unofficial Westerberg fan site has a full setlist and a photo from the gig.


No posts the past couple of days, as I've been in Louisville for the Non-COMMvention, an annual non-commercial radio music shindig. I saw a ton of great live music. Highlights include:
  • Samite, the Uganda-born singer and traditional flute player who not only writes beautiful and delicate music, but performs with an unexpected fun and panache (and has surprisingly standup comic-esque stage patter)
  • Jamie Cullum, a U.K. vocal-jazz pianist/singer who runs through versions of "The Wind Cries Mary" and Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over" with tremendous energy like a Harry Connick, Jr. crossed with Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Paul Westerberg, who was the talk of the convention for reasons I will post separately
  • Zero 7, who came from England complete with their six-person band and four rotating vocalists
  • Catie Curtis, who performed in sort of a songwriter's circle with Mindy Smith (great voice but many problems tuning her guitar) and Garrison Starr (who always sounds better live and acoustic than on her electric albums)
  • Steve Forbert, who did a typically great job making the songs from his latest album come to life
  • Patty Griffin, who did a shortened version of the same sat she did in Pittsburgh last Wednesday night
  • The Subdudes, who were in great voice

Lots of exchanging of ideas, seeing old friends, and trying to peer into crystal balls of various foci.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Bypassing the System 

The Apple website has an in-depth article about Pearl Jam's use of low-cost video equipment to make videos and DVDs outside of the typical corporate industry orbits.

Meanwhile, here's a snapshot at the D.I.Y. music scene in Canada.


Don't Foo Me Like That 

Tom Petty has a new 32-page interview (pdf) up on his website. He mentions that following Stan Lynch's departure as drummer for The Heartbreakers, he (Petty) had serious talks with Dave Grohl to join:
We had done one television show and had used Dave Grohl from Nirvana. And Dave came close to joining the band. Kurt Cobain had just died. And I really discussed Dave joining the band. But Dave had his own career going. He had just done his Foo Fighters album. So it clearly wasn't going to work.
Also in there: a nicely detailed discussion of how the Traveling Wilburys meshed as a creative unit.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

"And all the roads we have to walk are winding" 

Oasis with Zak Starkey
Oasis are to take their fascination with The Beatles a step further by using Zak Starkey, the son of Ringo Starr, as their drummer at the Glastonbury Festival this summer.

America Awaits the Harrowing of Hell 

On days like this, the nation's descent into depression is palpable.

Some respond with a blind rage, and others with an emotional catatonia. Still others try to find something constructive to do.

I try to avoid the first and wish I could do the third.

This is bad; this is really bad.
I am quite fond of drifting off to sleep while listening to random shortwave radio broadcasts. The BBC World Service is a genuine favorite, but mostly, I enjoy what I hear on some sort of ironic level.

Besides the calming effect of listening to an announcer run through the day's news headlines in, say, German or Spanish (incomprehensible to me), one encounters many fringe religious and political broadcasts.

Oh, I'm sure there are those who might find a discussion of the "faked" moon landing or the upcoming Rapture as a stimulant--whether positive or negative--and not conducive to sleep, but I find these to be fantastic bedtime stories ("fantastic" in the based on fantasy: not real; conceived or seemingly conceived by unrestrained fancy; so extreme as to challenge belief: UNBELIEVABLE sense of the word).

But sometimes I wish I had a Tivo for my shortwave radio, so that I could get up the next day and actually answer the question, "Did they say what I seem to remember them saying?"

Occasionally, I remember enough about the content or the broadcasters to successfully google it and confirm my drowsy memory.

Last night, I heard a program called "Unravelling the New World Order," in which hosts Dr. Larry Bates and Chuck Bates team up to offer the hottest hour in talk radio (at least that what their website proclaims).

Dr. Larry's curriculum vitae says he's the publisher and editor of Monetary and Economic Review, a newsletter which "analyzes the economy and financial markets from a Biblical geo-political basis." His publication passes on such insights as determining that the good Clinton-era economy was illusory due to the slowness of the rare coin market: "we have to assume that collectibles are a good indicator of the real condition of the economy." I don't know if this includes beanie babies.

Chuck's resume includes, apparently, having been in prepositional hell in the elder Bush's administration as "Assistant to the Deputy to the President for Political Affairs."

Clearly, these are no bleeding-heart liberals.

That's why I was suprised to hear Dr. Larry's discussion of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse (about four minutes into yeasterday's broadcast):

Chuck, getting back to this, there are a lot of people are saying to, like I saw the Senators and some of the Representatives who mostly were the Democrats saying, "Well, why didn't we see these photos earlier?" Well, we have a thing called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It's the military legal system. Now, Chuck, if you have an ongoing investigation out here, and, you know, these alleged abuse victims--or the alleged perpetrators of the abuse they have rights, too, under the UCMJ. And so, Rumsfeld, if he had rushed out here for political purposes and said, "Hey, we're hanging these guys out to dry," then he could have been accused of circumventing a legitimate investigation and obstructing of justice. See, justice goes two ways, the accused as well as the victim. And if you obstruct justice, then you can be held to account.
They say politics makes strange bedfellows--it's interesting to hear ultraconservatives argue that alleged crimal perpetrators "have rights, too."


Better Business Bureau Nixes Egg Ads
The egg industry should stop advertising its products as humane as long as it continues such practices as clipping hens' beaks and depriving birds of food and water, according to a ruling issued Monday by the Better Business Bureau.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Howard Stern 

What Howard Stern has to say about George Bush.
What Howard Stern has to say about the FCC.

What Ira Glass has to say about Howard Stern.
What Rush Limbaugh has to say about Howard Stern.
What Rudy Giuliani has to say about Howard Stern.
What Anna Nicole Smith has to say about Howard Stern.
What Roger Ebert has to say about Howard Stern.
What Dan Savage has to say about Howard Stern.

What Reuters has to say about Howard Stern.

"Reality Used to Be a Friend of Mine" 

Reportedly real:
It was the lead item on the government's daily threat matrix one day last April. Don Emilio Fulci described by an FBI tipster as a reclusive but evil millionaire, had formed a terrorist group that was planning chemical attacks against London and Washington, D.C. That day even FBI director Robert Mueller was briefed on the Fulci matter.

Actually fiction:
Gamers take on the roll [sic] of Jack Wade, once the number one Headhunter (a special kind of bounty hunter) in the country, who wakes up in a lab and escapes his captors only to slip into a coma in the back alley. Waking up with no memory of what happened to him, Jack finds a woman named Angela Stern--the daughter of a murdered man who happened to have been Chief of the Anti-Crime Network (ACN). Angela hires Jack to find her father’s killer who she suspects is a crime lord named Don Fulci. ~~from review of game title Headhunter

I guess we do live in fictitious times after all, like Michael Moore said.

Sorry, I Gave at the Office. 

I hate it when stores ask me to donate to charity. I never have a problem with the charity itself. But the whole situation really bothers me.

Here's the standard scenario:
Me: "Just this coffee, please."
Cashier: "That'll be $1.19, sir. And would you care to donate to the Children's Charity for Sick and Dying Children?"
[she points to hundreds of cheerful paper balloons with other customer's name scrawled across them, all representing kindhearted souls who strongly desire to save Sick and Dying Children]
Me: Uh, sorry.
Cashier: [aghast] Oh, my god! Are you serious, sir? You won't even give a measly dollar to bring one shred of hope into a Sick and Dying Children's fading life??
Me: Thanks, anyway. May I have my change?
Cashier: [holding back of her hand across her forehead] I think I'm going to faint!
Other customer #1: What's going on here?
Other customer #2: Hey, dis guy don't wanna buy no paper balloon!
Other customer #3: Let's get him!
[A half-dozen or so ragtag people then chase me down the street while "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" plays]

Okay, perhaps it doesn't usually go down like that. Only sometimes.

But I feel like the lowest form of humanity when I turn down the cashier--even lower than people who answer cell phones in movie theaters.

My beef is this: why should I give to a fine and worthy charity under the aegis of a corporation to make it look good? Especially when said corporation may not be the nicest citizen in other important ways?

As soon as they complete their charity drive, they'll be sending out press releases touting how much they raised for the charity. So, in effect, Customer Mike's noble impulse becomes mere grist for their P.R. mill.

I'm sure that the recipient organizations benefit wonderfully from such donation apparati. And I work at a non-profit, so I know what the needs can be.

Yet I can't help feeling shamelessly manipulated and used by giving via this method. I know I'm just contrary by nature, especially when P.R./marketing/advertising is involved.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Home Taping is Killing Music 

Somewhere around the late '70s/early '80s, record labels inscribed a number of releases with "Home Taping is Killing Music." Beneath that looney slogan, they added a cassette-and-crossbones logo.

See a great example here (from this elegiac tribute to record inner sleeves).

Of course, this is ludicrous. Music existed looooong before the industry which today surrounds it, and music would continue no matter the state of any (or all) company's financial health.

Record label executives and their P.R. minions love to equate "music" with the "music industry," but unlike refrigerator manufacturers or the airline industry, record labels sell big budget versions of what can easily be done for free.

If you value being able to make fair-use copies of music, pay heed: a hearing will be held this Wednesday (5/12) on Virginia Representative Rick Boucher's Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA). Read more about it here. Here's a list of supporters.

As Boucher has stated:
The fair use doctrine is threatened today as never before. Historically, the nation’s copyright laws have reflected a carefully calibrated balanced between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the users of copyrighted material. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act dramatically tilted the copyright balance toward complete copyright protection at the expense of the Fair Use rights of the users of copyrighted material.... The re-introduced legislation will assure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which does not infringe the copyright in the work.
If any of the members of the House's Committee on Energy and Commerce are your representative, let 'em know how you feel!

Hundreds and hundreds of cat pictures 

Some days, I wish I had a digital camera so I didn't take pictures of my cats to "finish up the roll."

Saturday, May 08, 2004


from the AP:
While Smarty Jones stirred fans Saturday in his first public gallop since winning the Kentucky Derby, the colt's rider had little to say about his failure to disclose his criminal record on a license application. [...] The jockey pleaded guilty to assault three years ago but didn't disclose the information when applying for a license to ride at Churchill Downs.
Why the hell does a jockey have to disclose a criminal record? Yes, gambling is involved with the sport, so I could understand certain crimes being relevant, like say, boosting cars or check-kiting. But Stewart Elliott, Smarty Jones' jockey in the Kentucky Derby, was involved in an assault. Were they afraid he would give Lion Heart a mid-race knuckle sandwich?

I did a quick websearch and came up with jockey licensing criteria from racinglicense.com:
1. Criminal Record: Has in any jurisdiction at any time pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to, been found guilty or been convicted of, forfeited bail or been fined for, or currently has a criminal indictment or complaint pending for:
a) any crime involving race-fixing or any other effort to pre-determine the outcome of a race, bookmaking, touting, pool-selling, bet solicitation, or other similar conduct;
b) any other felony; or
c) more than two (2) misdemeanors, with the exception of traffic offenses, for which the date of conviction or other disposition of the most recent misdemeanor was less than five (5) years preceding the date of submission of his or her application to the Compact;
(a) is exactly the sort of riff-raff I would expect we need to keep out of the ranks of America's upstanding jockeys. Makes perfect sense. But then we get to the catch-all (b). So a convicted computer hacker is put on the same plane of suspicion as, say, a crooked bookie? Why? Come to think of it though, the hacker might try to mod the horse with a next-gen chipset and reverse-engineer the hoof.

But then we hit (c). More than two recent misdemeanors "with the exception of traffic offenses." This makes no sense to me. I would expect traffic misdemeanors might be more worthy of examination in a potential jockey. If someone can't keep from tailgating and making illegal left turns in an inanimate car, who knows what outrage they're capable of with a horse and a whip?

Perhaps I'm thinking too much of this situation, all this hand-wringing over Stewart Elliott's three-year old assault conviction. I mean, after all, the man only beat on a friend in the friend's own home with a beer bottle, a pool cue, and a wooden stool. What's the big deal?

Oh. Erm... uh, never mind.

You deserve a break today. 

I just read a review of Super Size Me, a documentary by a gent named Morgan Spurlock who decided to eat only McDonald's food for 30 days.
Mr. Spurlock, a fit, active New Yorker, happily set out to ruin his health, and succeeded beyond his wildest expectations. There was some weight gain — 18 pounds by the end of the experiment — and also mood swings, loss of sex drive and nearly catastrophic liver damage. His general practitioner, Daryl Isaacs, likens Mr. Spurlock's all-Mac diet to the terminal alcoholic binge undertaken by Nicolas Cage's character in Leaving Las Vegas and worries that his patient may succumb to liver failure before the 30 days are up.
That's some dedicated filmmaking.

Obviously Extreme 

from MSNBC:
Amateur war photography is as almost as old as photography itself. During World War I, the army would execute soldiers who took photographs, Howe said.

While that step is obviously extreme by today’s standards, perhaps the military, eager to manage public perceptions, might begin confiscating cameras of soldiers and contractors, Jenkins said.


The First Lady of Rock... 

...is, of course, Barbara Keith. Keith is the frontwoman for The Stone Coyotes, that nuclear family playing atomic rock 'n' roll. Their WYEP Member Show earlier tonight at The World (the former Rosebud) was nothing short of stellar.

After the show, I think I said "wow" about three times to Barbara. I mean, what else can you say? Except perhaps wonder "why the ---- isn't this band huge everywhere?"

A band that can evoke Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Buddy Holly, Liz Phair, and the Ramones--all within the same song--is something pretty special. And they're not only terrific musicians, but all great, wonderful people (including their manager, Marc).

Highlights of the show included "American Child," "The First Lady of Rock," "Detroit or Buffalo" (all from their Born to Howl album), "Church of the Falling Rain" (off their debut of the same name), "Lucky Day" (from 2000's Situation Out of Control), "Pennsylvania Coal Mine," "Born to Howl" (off of Ride Away From the World), and a few from their latest Rise From the Ashes: "House of Confusion," "The Phoenix," and the roof-raising set-closer "Rock Harder Than You."

Perhaps the nicest moment of the show was when Barbara introduced her husband Doug on drums and then their son/bassist John, John presented her with a bouquet a flowers for the Mother's Day eve show.

They're one of those bands that after seeing them once, they're an instant must-see ever after.

Friend Ryan 

Ryan Adams shut down his website in "tribute" to the finale of the Friends sitcom. It's being reported as if a reverential gesture by a show fan, but the clickable headstone that causes a flash-animated skeleton to rise up from a silhouetted cemetery seems more mockery than tribute.

Personally, I've never seen an episode of the show (on purpose). With all due respect to fans, I say good riddance to bad rubbish.

Teapots, and the Tempests who Love Them 

Much of the recent brouhaha over Michael Moore's next documentary--and Disney's refusal to distribute it--seems almost as clunkily scripted as a Joe Eszterhas potboiler.

The shifty villian Michael Eisner twirls his waxed moustache while laughing maniacally. He ties down the helpless artist Moore onto a crude raft, and kicks it away from shore. Moore's pitiable cries of "Shame! Shame!" slowly recede into the gathering roar of the dangerous river current, increasing speed as it heads towards the monstrous waterfall slightly downstream. Eisner dry-washes his hands in glee.

But the white knight Harvey Weinstein, resplendent in his shining armor astride his trusty steed Miramax, suddenly appears and tries to pitch Moore a hempen rope to pull him to safety.

Eisner, his head-rolling cackles suddenly interrupted by this undermining of his deviltry, bleats out a "Drat you, Weinstein!" and dashes toward the gleaming knight. Eisner smacks Weinstein with a mighty wallop of a rolled-up distribution contract, and nearly knocks the heroic would-be savior off his snorting horse.

As the scuffle continues on the riverbank, the poor artist Moore hurtles faster and faster downriver. Through the increasing mist kicked up by the nearing waterfall, one can barely even see the plane tickets for Cannes clutched in the director's hand.

Frankly, I can't hold it against Michael Moore for staging this pre-premiere backstory. I'm just stunned that Disney fell so hard for it. Like a boxer who never even saw the K.O. punch coming, Eisner & Co. haplessly walked right into the snare and played their role as if they rehearsed it with the late Lee Strasberg.

Moore knows, perhaps better than anyone, that unless you have a huge budget for promotion you must have at least two (and hopefully three) stories to tell with each film.

There's the tale told within the movie itself, the traditional storyline. But it's practically mandatory to also have a good "making-of" backstory. Something that the filmmaker can talk about on the chat shows beyond the plot synopsis. The "financed by credit cards" indie film story works well, the "powers-that-be tried to stop me" approach is an evergreen, and there's always the "one-in-a-million shot that it even got made" chestnut.

Ideally, you'd also want to have what I call the "tangential overlay" story. Like The Blair Witch Project's internet campaign to suggest the witch was a real-world legend. Or the "alternate reality" game that was embedded within the marketing campaign for the film A.I. This is a story overlay that, for the most part, is never discussed by the filmmakers and is mostly unknown to the mainstream public. It's a way to generate word-of-mouth amongst the cognoscenti to attemt to cultivate a foundation of coolness which may strengthen the formal marketing campaign (or to reinforce it in parallel).

Anyway, Moore wrote the backstory for his new film (Fahrenheit 9/11) perfectly. It'll be interesting to see how well he crafted the movie itself.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Mother's Day in Song 

Tip: "Mother" from John Lennon is not really appropriate for that mix tape for Mom. Ditto for the same title from Pink Floyd's The Wall.

On the other hand, "Drinking Beers With Mom" by New York singer/songwriter Lach might be perfect. If your mom is cool enough.

One nation, under ads... 

So Major League Baseball backed off plans to add spidey-webs to the bases. But it's only the bases that are saved from advertising, and it was actually Sony Pictures who pulled the plug:

Sony officials were extremely unhappy with the huge amount of negative publicity it received.

"I thought that was a great promotion," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in Oakland. "After talking about it the last 24 hours, we're still going through with it. We just want to keep the focus on the field."

"We don't want to do anything that takes away from a fan's enjoyment of the game," said Geoffrey Ammer, president of Worldwide Marketing for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group (a subsidiary of Sony).

The rest of the promotion will go forward. The Spider-Man logo will adorn the on-deck circle. Ballparks will feature in-club signage touting the film, teams will feature promotional giveaways tied into "Spider-Man 2" and highlights from the movie will run on scoreboards.

Selig loved the promotion. Hey, it's money! Who cares what's being sold out?

What pigs.

But these are piggy times. I was perusing Billboard magazine recently and hit this anger-inducing quote: "As many artists now recognize, there is nothing evil about having their music associated with a particular product" (Laurie Soriano, "In Defense of Advertainment"; 4/24 issue).

Um. But there is. At least, in my opinion, there is if an artist (1) is creating the music for the purpose of art and not commerce in the first place, and (2) if the associated song is not originally created to be about or related to the product.

I'm not saying that artists shouldn't have the right to bastardize their art. Just be honest and admit that you're selling out your creative intent.

Let's ignore the usual, meaningless epithet of an artist "sell-out," usually hurled around to describe a fan's mere dislike of an artist's change in direction.

But when you boil down a song being licensed for a commercial to basic, literal terms, unless the above two criteria are met, the artist is taking a song written for a non-commercial creative intent (or, at least, the only creative intent is to sell the song for simple public consumption) and selling the song to be used for a purpose not with a different creative intent (like, say, for sampling in a new song or inclusion on a movie soundtrack) but with no creative intent.

At least in my view, that's very plainly selling out the creative intent of the song. And while, okay, I'll agree that "evil" is a strong word for it, an artist is certainly being dishonest with oneself and one's fans if they don't, at least, admit that it's selling out.

And, yes, I know I started out talking about baseball--which is not only mostly shameless commerce, but it's actually a legally-sanctioned and even celebrated monopoly--but the world of endless, ceaseless marketing in which we live makes my eyes roll up into my head and removes linear thought from my head in a blind rage...

Everywhere there's lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.

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