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

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Mike's Minutiae unveils its new Laughable Ninnies(R) CorpoMock(R) program! 

DALLAS, May 26 /PRNewswire/ --
After a pre-launch featuring thousands of Beatles songs, Mighty 1190(SM) returns to its roots as North Texas' top AM music station when it unveils "Rock & Roldies(R)" Friday at 3 p.m. Under its "Guess What's Next?!(SM)" slogan, the station features local radio's broadest and deepest mix of pop, rock, soul, disco, R&B, classic rock, and oldies.
Let's ignore the fact that there are only about 210 songs in the official Beatles canon, not "thousands" (a couple of dozen more if you include BBC recordings and Anthology rarities).

Instead, let's focus on the ridiculous sloganeering. The trademarked "Rock & Roldies" and the service marked "Guess What's Next?!" phrases have to be the dumbest thing I've heard in radio all month (and I've heard a lot of dumb radio things this month).

The press release also concludes itself in fine MidManageSpeke(R) fashion, making itself sound important by padding the prelease with meaningless doubletalk in the hopes that no one will notice:
First Broadcasting Investment Partners, LLC is a leading investor providing strategic capital and strategic expertise to the radio industry, enhancing value through investments, technical upgrades and operational expertise.
Leading! Providing strategic capital! Enhancing value! Wow, these guys don't sleep!

And now you, too, can convert action verbs into brain-clogging gobbledygook with our propietary new CorpoLanguBloviator(R) software which turns simple sentences like "Jim, I'm heading over to have lunch" into self-important MidManageSpeke(R) like "Jim, all the projections from Research suggest that a proactive defamishification process will send the day's hunger trend into a massive downsizing." Jim will instantly know that you are more important and smarter than him, and will present a submissive posture in all future corporate and personal dealings. Now that's strategic capital!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Happy 75th, Chrysler Building 

Terrific piece in the New York Times on the Chrysler Building celebrating its 75th year of existence.

There's also separate write-ups about the building's now-closed private restaurant, The Cloud Club, and current occupants high in the tower (including the revelation that office windows open, even 70 stories up).

At left is a photo by yours truly, taken on a beautiful, crisp October day in 2002. Eagle-headed gargoyles fend off the automaker's demons beneath the chrome top.

Reason enough to visit Little Rock 

At Clinton Library, The Sound of Music:
Musical memorabilia in the new exhibit include a recorder Clinton received from former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel and a kerar, a lute-like instrument, presented by the people of Eritrea. Presidential guests often gave Clinton saxophones, a handful of which are part of the library's permanent exhibit.


The show offers a feast of memorabilia for music lovers, including Bono's handwritten lyrics to "The Hands That Built America," a song the politically active rocker sang at the library's dedication in November.
The exhibit, which runs through December 31st, also features a Beatles album cover signed by each bandmember donated by Louise Harrison, George's sister (the article doesn't mention which album).

According to the library's official press release:
Among the other exhibited items will be a Gibson Lucille-style guitar presented to President Clinton at the VH-1 Concert of the Century and autographed by B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Ethridge, NSYNC, Eric Clapton, Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz, John Fogerty, Gloria Estefan and John Mellencamp, and a Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar signed by the Isley Brothers.

Friday, May 27, 2005

WWII not over for some 

Japanese 'wartime soldiers' found in Philippines:
Ten weeks short of the 60th anniversary of Tokyo's second world war surrender, diplomats were today investigating claims that two octagenarian Japanese soldiers had emerged from the mountains of the southern Philippines.

According to Japanese media reports, the men were separated from their division six decades ago. Although they wanted to return home, they feared they would face a court martial for withdrawing from action.
Pretty amazing. Would these reportedly 87 and 85 year-old men even recognize Japan now?

I've been there, man 

Pizza rage lands US woman in jail:
An 86-year-old US woman arrested for incessantly calling emergency services to complain about a pizza parlour has spent two nights behind bars.

Dorothy Densmore of Charlotte, North Carolina, called the emergency 911 service 20 times in 38 minutes.

Angry she could not get the meal delivered to her home, she demanded police arrest the pizza proprietors.
Like, who doesn't want to call 911 almost once every two minutes for the better part of an hour when the local pizza concern doesn't operate up to snuff? I mean, really. What's the big deal?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Radio Free Bullshit 

Radio conglomerate Clear Channel says:
Gone are the days of multiple viewpoints and opinions. Instead we get corporate mandated opinions from talking heads. Corporate controlled music playlists, and so on.... It has to stop. Stop Now.
This would be refreshing it was from a press release from Corporate HQ, but it's from a fake "pirate" radio station set up by the lumbering behemoth itself.

Of course, they helpfully registered the website in Clear Channel's own name, so it wasn't that hard for a curious observer to track down the b.s. behind the website.

To establish their "street cred," the website of the fake pirate station disses all of the radio stations in the market, so here's what Clear Channel has to say about its own stations:

Clear Channel on its own news/talk station WHLO:
WHLO features overbearing personalities that have little or no knowledge of actual facts. They allow their lack of knowledge to never get in the way of pushing W's plan and opinions upon us like a dealer addicted to his own crack.... Where are our Barf bags?
Clear Channel on its own Adult Contemporary station WKDD:
Fedex can’t find the studios of WKDD. That’s our theory to explain why WKDD plays nothing more than Matchbox 20.
Clear Channel on its own sports station WTOU:
Here’s another one to add to the “nobody has listened in 20 years file”.
A smart competitor should take these quotes for a great marketing campaign. And, Clear Channel: stop with the fake "anti-corporate" b.s. It's embarrassing.

UPDATE: Clear Channel pulled the plug on this half-assed attempt at viral marketing earlier today [5/26] after their message board of their purported anti-corporate radio website was flooded with expletive-laden Clear Channel-bashing screeds. If there's a lesson for corporate America in this little episode, try being honest and truthful to the public instead of this sort of deceptive posturing and you won't get burned. K?

Eureka vs. Doy 

In a study on the reactions in people's brains to others, Arizona State University researchers have produced a profoundly foolish conclusion:
Consistent with the researchers' hypotheses, findings revealed that distinct prejudices exist toward different groups of people.
Not only are their findings chock full o' doy, but their analysis of the study's usefulness is likewise insipid:
"For instance, given that whites stereotypically perceive blacks as threats to physical safety, it would be inadvisable to suggest a game of outdoor night-time basketball, given that darkness heightens people's fear. Sharing a plate of nachos might be a better choice," [study co-author Catherine] Cottrell says.
Nachos. The solution to descrimination. Ugh.

UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not the only one to notice scientific research into the blindingly mundane.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Prithee, let him alone; we shall have more anon!* 

Off the record, newspapers have a problem:
Since the days of the penny press, anonymous sources have been a way for reporters to get information that they presumably couldn't get otherwise. But even many in the industry admit the practice can be abused - and may, at the very least, be overused today.

Even The New York Times story last Wednesday on the aftermath of the Newsweek piece used two unnamed sources - an "outside Bush adviser" and an "administration official."

"If you play the anonymous source game, sooner or later you'll get burned," says Tim Porter, a Mill Valley, Calif., newspaper consultant. "I don't know how many more times the American press is going to put its hand on that stove before they say, 'It's hot, don't touch it.' "
Why can't reporters just tell their unnamed sources, "You're anonymous unless you're lying to me"? Then if the reporter gets burned, they can return the favor with no remorse.

*Henry IV, Part I, Act II, Sc. IV. Wm. Shakespeare. 1598.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hoax, or just bad idea? 

Broadband Over Gas Lines:
A telco would string high-speed fiberoptic cable to your neighborhood. From there, it's typically much cheaper to deliver broadband to individual homes via copper lines or wirelessly. And Nethercomm's wireless technology could be the highest-bandwidth and the cheapest out there.

Nethercomm claims it can send as much as 100 Gigabits of data per second via a wireless signal beamed through a gas pipe. That would allow a household to watch High-Definition TV.
I know I'm no engineer, but I fail to understand how a wireless signal can be "beamed through a gas pipe."

And don't they insist that we turn off cell phones at gas pumps and in airplanes because a wireless signal might induce a spark? Um, couldn't this be a slight drawback in gas pipes?

I'm confused.

The New Post Millennial Outlook: Embrace the Strange 

MEDIA ALERT: Spaceships Will Appear Over Las Vegas On My Signal:
For only 45 days, starting June 1st until July 15, 2005, Prophet Yahweh, Seer of Yahweh, will be calling down UFOs and spaceships for the news media to film and photograph. During this time, a spaceship will descend, on Prophet's signal, and sit in the skies over Las Vegas, Nevada for almost two days.
Hey, if Prophet Yahweh, Seer of Yahweh, says so, that's good enough for me. After all, according to his website, Yahweh (and His Angels, it must be noted) are superhuman beings on other planets who fly in spaceships.

Oh, and the Prophet Yahweh's broadcasts membership fee is only $7.95 per month. But don't worry, the Prophet Yahweh is "bound to Yahweh by a vow of poverty, and because of this, [he] will not receive a salary, in any way, from the money" he raises.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Whilst traveling this weekend... 

Read on a packet of airline peanuts:
Dry Roasted Peanuts

Ingredients: Peanuts, Dry Roasted, with Salt and Tapioca Dextrin.

Produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts.

Oh. So my peanuts we made in a "facility that processes peanuts." Really. Wow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hmm, wonder where this is leading? 

Eggheads Invent Tele-Petting:
A hollow, chicken-shaped doll sits on a mechanical positioning table close to your computer.

The doll whirs to life as soon as you switch on the system, duplicating the motion of a real chicken in the backyard whose movements are being captured by a webcam.

Fondling the doll translates into touching the real fowl.

Touch sensors attached to the doll convey tactile information to a nearby PC through radio signals. The data is sent over the internet to a remote computer near the chicken; the remote computer triggers tiny vibration motors in a lightweight haptic jacket worn by the fowl.
Ah, that's right. You got it:
When showcased at the Version 05 arts festival in Chicago, viewers suggested using the system for internet sex.
If the history of technology has shown us anything (think photography, the VCR, AOL, the web, and DVDs), it's that (a) technologies which CAN be used for sexual activites, WILL be used so, and (b) technologies so used will develop faster and spread farther than other ones.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"Remix the Web" 

Firefox Users Monkey With the Web:
While Greasemonkey is still only used by Firefox users on the bleeding edge, Willison sees the extension as a harbinger of a change in the web's power dynamics.

"Greasemonkey enables people to remix the web," Willison said. "You are giving control of people's browsers back to users.

"There's always a balance between what a website designer wants people to be able to do and what they are actually doing, and Greasemonkey swings it very firmly in the direction of the user."


"There's a script targeting Amazon pages that lets you know if a book you are looking at on Amazon is available at your local library," Pilgrim said. "Think about that. That's amazing, and it happens automatically. You configure it once for your library, and Greasemonkey goes and gets the data."
Oooo, are content providers gonna be mad!

Despite the fact that savvy sites can currently block Greasemonkey (although fans will likely block-the-block, leading to another front in the tech arms races), this whole initiative yet again provides a lesson that both traditional and internet content companies refuse to accept (and I say this as a cog in the "content" wheel, as both a DJ and a professional writer): people want to experience media their way, and they don't ultimately care whether it comes from professionals or amateurs.

Content thus gets sent into a deflationary spiral, in which a lot of the past ways of distributing media gets knocked over. Which I'm fine with, since I enjoy mashing up content as much as the next mug. So I say, bob's yer uncle!

Sorry, don't know where the cockney came from.

The Early Days of Desktop Computers 

Macintosh Prehistory:The Apple III and Lisa Era:
[Steve] Jobs insiste[d] that the machine have no fan made for a very hot board. After being used for a day or two, the mainboard would get so hot it would warp and unseat some of the chips. Apple refused to install a fan to fix the problem and instructed users to drop the machine on their desk to bang the chips back into place.


Kan. Debate Challenges Science Itself (May 15, 2005):
The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution weren't limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself. Advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world.

Instead, they want to define it as "a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards.
"THE MONKEY TRIAL": A Reporter's Account (July 9, 1925):
On the eve of the great contest Dayton is full of sickening surges and tremors of doubt. Five or six weeks ago, when the infidel Scopes was first laid by the heels, there was no uncertainty in all this smiling valley. The town bloomers leaped to the assault as one man. Here was an unexampled, almost a miraculous chance to get Dayton upon the front pages, to make it talked about, to put it upon the map. But how now?

Today, with the curtain barely rung up and the worst buffooneries to come, it is obvious to even town boomers that getting upon the map, like patriotism, is not enough. The getting there must be managed discreetly, adroitly, with careful regard to psychological niceties. The boomers of Dayton, alas, had no skill at such things, and the experts they called in were all quacks. The result now turns the communal liver to water. Two months ago the town was obscure and happy. Today it is a universal joke.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Finally, empirical proof that rock music is evil 

According to a religious website (which includes helpful checkboxes to choose "life" or "death"), rock stars die demonstrably younger:
Average Age at Death of Included Rock Stars: 36.9 Years
Average Age at Death of Americans: 75.8 Years
Please ignore the fact that rockers from the infancy of the genre like Chuck Berry and The Everly Brothers are still alive--to say nothing of the vast majority of rock stars from later eras. Therefore, inconveniently, death data cannot be collected on all of the aging, and often still-rocking, rockers which God has apparently not yet crossed off his "to do" list.

The religious website (highly recommended reading, by the way, especially if you seek Biblical guidance on whether to get a tattoo or want to read a "shocking" expose on Christian Rock) quotes the Bible's Job 36:6,14: "He preserveth not the life of the wicked.... They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean."

Well, according to Townshend 65:6, "Things they do look awful c-c-cold/Hope I die before I get old." But despite Moonie's death at 31, and Entwhistle "dying in youth" at age 57, that pesky Daltry (61) and Townshend (turns 60 on Thursday) keep defying the Almighty by choosing life even while selecting the wrong checkbox.

Note to self: investigate whether the phrase "crossed off" might be considered rude when discussing God...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Microsoft Fights the Thought Thieves! 

Thought Thieves is about people stealing and profiting from your creation or innovation. Think about it: how would you feel if you saw your hard work being passed off as the property of someone else? What would you do?
So asks Microsoft in encouraging budding UK filmmakers to enter a film contest.

Entries must be a "film of 30-45 seconds in duration" and be "on the theme of intellectual property theft and how this affects both individuals and society." To be selected as a finalist, all films "should demonstrate a clear understanding of intellectual property theft and the impact this can have." Did they mention this is about theft? Theft? THEFT!

Also, harumph, all films must be "submitted on DVD or CD-ROM in a format compatible with Microsoft Windows Media Player." Cough.

Oh, and "nothing in this clause 10 shall limit Microsoft's liability in respect of death or personal injury arising out of its own negligence or arising out of fraud." Death? Fraud? I have no idea what this might possibly mean, but it's part of their official rules so I'm passing it along.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Pac Man turns 25 

A pizza dinner yields a cultural phenomenon - and millions of dollars in quarters.:
In the late 1990s, Twin Galaxies, which tracks video game world record scores, visited used game auctions and counted how many times the average Pac Man machine had been played. Based on those findings and the total number of machines that were manufactured, the organization said it believed the game had been played more than 10 billion times in the 20th century.


So go ahead and be impressed as you hear about sales numbers for the next "Grand Theft Auto" or see anxious gamers camping overnight to be the first to get their hands on next generation consoles. But weigh that frenzy to the one Pac Man sparked when it was originally released in Japan. The game proved so popular that it incited a shortage of yen coins in the country.
Sure. After all, how many video games have inspired life-sized versions?

And, for a more contemporaneous outlook on Pac Man, here's what the The Winners' Book of Video Games (1982) has to say about the game.
The keys to its unique sales success may be the two ways in which it's distinct from every other giant seller in U.S. history. For one thing, it can be controlled by just one hand on just one lever. For another, Pac Man, far more than any other video game in history, has strongly appealed to women.
It was also, as far as I can recall, the only classic videogame that actually illustrated the process of monster reincarnation. Pretty heady stuff for the early '80s.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

King Tut Revealed! 

Tut Was Not Such a Handsome Golden Youth, After All:
Pictures of Tutankhamen's reconstructed face and head were released yesterday by Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo. The new photos presented an apparently more realistic depiction of Tut than the stylized image of him on his golden burial mask.
The article is accompanied by a startlingly photorealistic reconstruction of what Tutankhamen probably looked like.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


So on Pat Sajak's offical website, he has his own, well, not a blog really...it's more of a soapbox for his politial and cultural views. He calls it "Sajak Says..."

One of his essays is titled Celebrities & Politics: A Few Ground Rules. Here is one of his "ground rules":
A celebrity has just as much right to speak out as people who hold real jobs. This is America, after all, and you should not be precluded from voicing your opinions just because you sing songs, mouth other peoples' words on a sitcom or, for that matter, spin a giant multi-colored wheel on a game show.
Okay, cool. I think we can agree on that. But then immediately afterwards, he states:
A celebrity should try to consider the appropriateness of a venue before opening his or her yap about political and social issues. Just because an arena is full of screaming kids who have come to hear your latest songs doesn't mean you have the right to abuse this captive audience with speeches, tirades or political proselytizing. When you go up to a bank teller for a transaction, you don't want to hear a lot about politics or the environment before your check is cashed.
"Doesn't mean you have the right"? Uh, didn't he just get done saying celebrities have the right to speak out?

Oh, I see! He means that no one should speak their mind while working, like a bank teller.

I guess he doesn't believe in the free market. Either that, or one of those spikes on the wheel rim lodged in his temple years ago and he's never noticed.

Jesus Christ tries to prove his identity 

Jesus Christ in legal battle in W.Va.:
Described by his attorney as a white-haired businessman in his mid-50s, Christ is moving to West Virginia to enjoy a slower lifestyle. He bought property near Lost River, about 100 miles west of Washington, and has a U.S. passport, Social Security card and Washington driver's license bearing the name Jesus Christ.

But he still falls short of West Virginia title and license transfer requirements because his Florida birth certificate has his original name on it and he has been unable to obtain an official name change in Washington.

"We just need official documentation that that's his name," said Doug Stump, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles. "He will be treated no different than anybody else."

Christ applied for the legal name change in May 2003, but it was denied by District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Tim Murphy because "taking the name of Jesus Christ may provoke a violent reaction or may significantly offend people."
I'm surely no religious authority, but doesn't this seem to be the ultimate usage of taking one's deity's name in vain?

Even bassist Bill Wyman sued a music journalist to stop him from using the same name, and he's not even in the Stones anymore much less worshipped by millions. Just think, then, WWJD?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Oh, dear lord 

The Supersizing of the School Play:
High school theater - that land of expressionistic face-painting and galumphing tap routines, that refuge of nerds and spazzes, directed by former nerds and spazzes in endless cycles of "Annie" and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" - has evolved into something far more elaborate. The facilities at New Albany include closed-circuit television monitors, 30 fly rails for raising and lowering set pieces, a large scene shop with its own loading bay. Forget cardboard sets and costumes made from sheets; New Albany's "Beauty and the Beast" last fall featured flying teenagers and motorized vehicles and cost $165,000.
Pardon me if I erupt in profanity within this post, but where are educational priorities when there are schools which, as the article mentions, "can spend more on one show than they do on the drama teacher's annual salary"?

Well, at the aforementioned New Albany (IN), there's a $60 to $100 costume fee and ticket quotas for students to sell. Further:
The school does not subsidize the productions beyond the teacher stipends and the building itself; no matter how much is spent, it must all be earned back. The largest source of income is tickets ($15 for adults; $12 for everyone else), followed by program sponsorship from merchants and concession sales. The company is continually harangued to solicit more of the $10 "costume ads" that fill pages and pages of the printed program. "Clay, sorry we have to miss your show - Love Mamaw & Papaw." "Wesley - You always make me proud. Love you, A Very Lucky Dad." And for their biggest productions, like "Beauty and the Beast," New Albany even makes money by selling sets and costumes to other schools or professional theaters. Over the last two years, one way or another, the program has brought in about $500,000 and spent almost as much.
So the parent of a student in one of these productions is on the hook for a lot of cash. Granted, this does have educational value (although productions of "Beauty and the Beast" provide less actual literary value than potentional vocational skills).

The question is whether a $165K school play provides a corresponding inflated educational merit than the cardboard-backdrop-swaying- whenever-somebody- enters-through-the-door variety.

The article quotes the former theater teacher, one sagely Mr. Weatherston, thusly: "We used to do a show on a couple hundred dollars! Now, they're giving more kids an experience, but it's an inferior experience. And, realistically, where do they go next? Where are they going to have budgets like these again?"

Okay, no profanity. I'll save that invective for a professional production of tripe like "Beauty and the Beast," or Shakespeare save us, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Live Aid II? 

On the one hand, Bob Geldof:
Singer and campaigner Bob Geldof has denied reports he plans to stage a Live Aid gig to coincide with the UK hosting July's G8 summit of world leaders.

Geldof, who was at the Rose d'Or TV festival in Switzerland, said: "It is kite flying, that's all it is. It is just talk.

"Why would I possibly repeat something I did 20 years ago?" he told TV Plus.
On the other hand, his own spokeswoman:
His spokeswoman confirmed discussions are taking place about holding shows to raise awareness about Africa.


Geldof's spokeswoman confirmed that the Live Aid Trust had been "discussing the plans to hold an event around the time of the G8 summit".


"If the Princes Trust have already indicated that they are prepared to step aside, then it would appear people are keen to see this happen."
Check out the article's accompanying photo of Geldof. Preparing to play Dr. Jeckyl anytime soon, Bob?

Lisa Simpson's favorite dinosuar... 

Killer dino 'turned vegetarian'
The "mass graveyard" of a bird-like dinosaur has been uncovered in Utah, US, Nature magazine reports this week.

Scientists believe the previously unknown species was in the process of converting to vegetarianism from a rather more bloodthirsty diet.

Falcarius utahensis seems to represent an intermediate stage between a carnivorous and herbivorous form.

The creature, which lived about 125 million years ago, provides a "missing link" in dinosaur evolution.

'Big Lie' 

Underpass 'Virgin' Painted Over
Authorities painted over a yellow and white stain on a concrete wall of an expressway underpass that some believed was an image of the Virgin Mary after it was defaced, police said Friday.

Authorities charged Victor Gonzalez, 37, of Chicago Friday morning with criminal damage to state supported property, a misdemeanor, for allegedly writing with black shoe polish the words "Big Lie" over the image, police spokesman David Banks said. A public telephone listing for Gonzalez could not be found.
As previously mentioned briefly here, this was the latest in a series of windows, walls, and grilled cheese sandwiches worshipped by Mariologists.

Probably the only way ours is not the strangest of all possible worlds is that birds do not blurt out current stock quotes as they fly. Otherwise....

Friday, May 06, 2005

Meet at 42:21:36.025 degrees north, 71:05:16.332 degrees west 

Time Travelers to Meet in Not Too Distant Future:
What's more, it is possible to travel back in time, to any place, any era. Where would people go? Would they zoom to a 2005 Saturday night for chips and burgers in a college courtyard, eager to schmooze with computer science majors possessing way too many brain cells?

Why not, say some students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have organized what they call the first convention for time travelers.

Actually, they contend that theirs is the only time traveler convention the world needs, because people from the future can travel to it anytime they want.

"I would hope they would come with the idea of showing us that time travel is possible," said Amal Dorai, 22, the graduate student who thought up the convention, which is to be this Saturday on the M.I.T. campus.

The Fingers 

All major newspapers are now planning a new "Severed Digit Saturday"
section. There's, apparently, more than enough material to fill it and
an obvious advertising base (lawyers, doctors, and restaurant chains' PR
firms) to support it.


This blog celebrates its one-year anniversary today. From the first inauspicious (and headlineless) post to the most recent, um, also inauspicious post, the blog and I thank you for your patronage.

From 1991 to 1999, I did a morning show on WHTG-FM and started my day by yapping about music, pop culture, and the unusual news of the day. As verbal methadone for that experience, this blog is primarily written for my own amusement. That others enjoy it is quite the sweet frosting on the cake.

Okay, before I start using further metaphors of questionable quality, I'll conclude this post.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I read the news today, oh boy. Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. 

It was just like the Wizard of Oz, say tornado villagers:
Helen Simpson and her boyfriend, Adam Porter, were driving home on Monday when they saw the mini-tornado in the distance. "We were making jokes about it," she recalled.

"It just seemed so astonishing to see a twister in Lancashire. I thought these things only happened in Kansas."

Miss Simpson added: "We turned into the road to see 12 fire engines with police and firemen everywhere.

"It turns out the tornado went straight through our house. The chimney has crashed through the roof into our bedroom and our garage is down completely."
Okay, the twister wasn't actually in Blackburn, but in the small town of Hoghton (west of Blackburn). I still couldn't resist the Beatles reference of this post title.

Anyway, in case you're interested, according to Peter Sutherland, chief forecaster at the Manchester centre of the Met Office, the UK's national meteorological service:
"Tornadoes are not all that infrequent in this country but nothing like as powerful as the ones you get in Central America. There are over 1,000 in the UK and in Lancashire about 10 a year. They would be getting up about 70 mph and be around 100 yards in diameter - compared to 300mph in America."
BTW, I believe Mr. Sutherland means "central America" (e.g., Kansas), not "Central America" (e.g., Honduras).

Hot Club Thief Sandwich 

Golfers getting clubbed by criminals:
Golf club thefts are likely to eclipse $200 million this year, according to Don Stafford of Insurer's World Evaluation Services. That's about 10% of the $2 billion spent annually to buy new clubs, according to Golf Datatech.

"Even though the overall number of thefts and burglaries have declined significantly, golf club claims appear to be on the rise," says Stafford, whose company calculates replacement costs for the insurance industry.
I guess the 20th Hole is a police station, writing out descriptions of the stolen item.

I don't indulge in the sport/pastime/obsession myself, but I come from a whole family of golfers.

And Keanu says 'Whoooa!' 

Why are IQ test scores rising around the globe?
The ultimate test of the "cognitively demanding leisure" hypothesis may come in the next few years, as the generation raised on hypertext and massively complex game worlds starts taking adult IQ tests. This is a generation of kids who, in many cases, learned to puzzle through the visual patterns of graphic interfaces before they learned to read. Their fundamental intellectual powers weren't shaped only by coping with words on a page. They acquired an intuitive understanding of shapes and environments, all of them laced with patterns that can be detected if you think hard enough. Their parents may have enhanced their fluid intelligence by playing Tetris or learning the visual grammar of TV advertising. But that's child's play compared with Pokémon.
Very interesting article about a measured increase in people's general intelligence and the search for causal factors.

The "cognitively demanding leisure" hypothesis. That's my new phrase that pays for this week.

Scrappin' on Copyright 

Cary Sherman, President of the Recording Industry Association of America, Sunday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Stealing music on the Internet -- just because it can be done easily and, as some mistakenly think, anonymously -- is somehow being accepted as OK. It is not OK. It is illegal. It steals the livelihoods of current artists, technicians and manufacturers and limits possibilities for future creative innovation. The acceptance of theft is not a value we desire for today's students, and it is a dangerous pollutant in a climate in which innovation and creativity are nourished and protected.

It was with this in mind that the Recording Industry Association of America, on behalf of the major record companies, took action last week against a new strain of the epidemic of music piracy emerging on our campuses. Of the 405 students at 18 universities identified in the new copyright infringement lawsuits, some 10 percent of them are enrolled at universities here in Pittsburgh.
Roger Dannenberg, Associate Research Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, responds:
Sherman suggests that universities should remind users of "the necessity of responsible use of network resources." In my computer science class at Carnegie Mellon, "Introduction to Computer Music," I spend a little time doing just that. I teach students how, historically, the major recording labels have dominated the recording industry, refusing to record some of America's greatest artists, including Louis Armstrong. (His first recordings were manufactured by a former piano company in Indiana, which was sued by the major labels of the day for patent infringement.) Mr. Sherman, is this an example of "a climate where creativity is valued" that you are seeking?


Mr. Sherman, you say that stealing "is not OK," and yet I have musician friends who cannot get RIAA members to pay them the royalties they are due. While you are asking universities to address your problems, please don't forget that you too can be a "powerful leader in curbing theft of copyright materials on campus." If you'll stop your members from stealing from my friends, and then study some history, maybe I can help you.
Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated development,
Boy Scouts in Hong Kong now can earn merit badges for learning about the wonders of copyright law--at least the version described by the Motion Picture Association.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Rock of Salvation 

On Nov. 24, 1996, then-Cardinal John Ratzinger proclaimed, according to Richard Owen, the Rome correspondent for The Times, (quoted in a newsgroup), that there were
"diabolical and satanic messages" in much of today's heavy metal music. But he also warned the young against the "subliminal" satanic influence to be found in songs by such groups as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Queen, Led Zeppelin and the Eagles.
Although he averred that...
there were many good things in modern pop music, but added that there was also a great deal that "endangers the human soul". He urged heavy metal bands in particular to "purify themselves".

Vatican officials identified some of the "worst offenders" as Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and AC/DC, whose initials they claimed referred not to alternating current or even bisexuality, but to the satanic phrase "Anti-Christ, Death to Christ".
Unfortunately, I can't find any transcript of the current Pontiff's words. But to discuss ostensibly the music of "today" and to use The Beatles, Black Sabbath, and Queen, is not going to win you many points for knowledge about your subject.

And something tells me that this sort of reasoning is not going to do much to reverse the steady exodus from the church in Europe, a stated goal of Pope Benedict's.

Anyway, dude should lighten up. After all, as the Good Book says, "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you made."

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Current Events Class 

North Korea test fired a missile today, official says:
North Korea shocked the region in 1998 by test-firing a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.
"Hey, you kids in the back. Stop that snickering right now!"

Wasn't the above line remarkably like something from The Groove Tube? I seem to recall some line about a "Scratchinitch 3" Soviet missile, or some such...


The U.S. military is tomorrow issuing their report on the killing of Italian agent Nicola Calipari following the rescue of journalist Giuliana Sgrena in March. Like many military or security-related reports, it had a good deal of information redacted before being issued to the public.

Newsday's article on the report mentions that "The military report was heavily redacted, but Newsday obtained the full text, which included additional details and the names of the reservists involved in the incident."

Newsday, however, wasn't relying on some Deep Throat in the military leaking the unredacted text. No, the military distributed a PDF file of their report which, while heavily redacted, still contained the full original text. A simple "select all," "copy," and "paste" into a blank text editor or word processor retrieved the entire text.

As the BBC explains,
A Greek medical student at Bologna University who was surfing the web early on Sunday found that with two simple clicks of his computer mouse he could restore censored portions of the report.

He passed the details to Italian newspapers which immediately put out the full text on their own websites.
Italian media is making both the redacted .pdf and a full-text file available for download.

Naturally, there are already conspiracy theories floating across the internet, like dirty bottles on a lake. I think good, old-fashioned incompetence explains the whole situation quite nicely. I also think somebody's getting a pay-grade reduction in the very near future...

More Auction Items: Titanic relics 

Auction of Titanic relics draws heavy interest:
A gold pocket watch once owned by an Irish immigrant who survived the sinking of the Titanic sold at auction Sunday after heavy bidding drove the price more than three times above its estimated value.

Dozens of Titanic relics auctioned by Bonhams & Butterfields brought a total of $151,000 for a private collector from Britain, said Jon Baddeley, the auction house's marine collectibles expert....

The top sale price for a Titanic item was $44,650 for the only known example of a 3rd class menu postcard, dated April 14, 1912.

The next highest was $28,200 for an original poster promoting the Titanic's return trip from New York. Both went to American collectors.
I forgot to mention the anniversary of the Titanic's sinking on April 14th, but rest assured I was rereading my dog-eared copy of Walter Lord's A Night to Remember.

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