Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun
The Next Phase of the War Will Not Be Televised

The lucid David Warren writes in "Next" that the evolving nature of the war means fewer announced missions and more clandestine operations.

The reality is that the Bush administration now finds itself in the position of the one adult in a room full of unhappy children. The adult carries responsibilities that none of the children fully understand. A mortal threat presents itself to adult and children alike, but only the adult appreciates this. He must find a way to proceed in spite of the children's very active non-cooperation.

I realize this is not a flattering account of the spectacle of the "United Nations" at work, but it is unfortunately true. And it is the most useful analogy I have found to guess how the Bush administration must proceed, given the nature of its actual problem -- an enemy vowed to the destruction of the West, which will stop at nothing, and must soon be armed with unimaginably lethal weapons and nearly undetectable methods for delivering them.

My impression from speaking with several administration, especially Pentagon, insiders, and by observing what one can discover of the extension of U.S. operations overseas (through the securing of basing and landing rights and other joint agreements), is that we should expect the field struggle against international terrorism to disappear off our television screens. The media have been discovered to be an enemy, pure and simple, and no attempt to brief or include them in operations makes any sense. Indeed, shaking off media attention is now intrinsic to the strategy.

Moreover, it has been discovered that for both political and tactical reasons, it is counter-productive to build up forces in any one location. Since this is necessary to full-scale invasions, full-scale invasions have to go. They only give the enemy a chance to prepare his resistance, whether directly or indirectly.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 30, 2003 11:36 PM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Sordid Truth About DVDs

Bruce Sterling's worth reading even when he's writing about the Yellow Pages. Here he's going that several times better when he takes on Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die. Manned space flight, cosmetic implants, and nuclear weapons all take their turn, but he's especially lucid when he outlines everything you knew about your DVDs but were afraid to tell yourself:

The DVD was the most eagerly adopted electronic consumer gizmo in history, but I'd feel bad if I failed to complain about the evil of these things. First and worst, DVDs are unbearably frail. Any benefit one gets from "clearer pictures" -- on what HDTV superscreen, exactly? -- is quickly removed by the catastrophic effects of a single thumbprint or scratch. Plus, just like CDs, DVDs as physical objects will prove to warp and delaminate.

Most loathsome of all is the fiendish spam hard-burned into DVDs, which forces one to suffer through the commercials gratefully evaded by videotape fast-forwards. The Content Scrambling System copy protection scheme doesn't work, and the payoff for pirating DVDs is massive, because unlike tapes, digital data don't degrade with reproduction. So DVDs have the downside of piracy and organized crime, without the upside of free, simple distribution. Someday they will stand starkly revealed for what they really are: collateral damage to consumers in the entertainment industry's miserable, endless war of attrition with digital media.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 30, 2003 10:58 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Urban Vehicle Camo

From the priceless and highly recommended Recomendo portion of Kevin Kelly's pages comes this brilliant use of automotive accessories to make your vehicle just a little more acceptable in odd places.

"My Jeep is camouflaged to look like a commercial fleet vehicle. I made up a fake company name, appropriated a 1950s-era logo that once belonged to a nuclear energy mutual fund, painted safety stripes on the back, and plastered a fake vehicle number all over the place. I also added flashing yellow lights in the rear window, and a police-style spotlight and rubberized push bumper to the front. VERY FUN accessories ... and useful too (when used with discretion). The spotlight is incredibly versatile -- you can point/rotate it while sitting in the driver's seat -- and it's come in handy countless times for roadside emergencies, setting up campsites, or finding house numbers on dark streets.

This urban camouflage guise is very useful for parking in yellow zones, urban/industrial exploration, and crime deterrence. And the thing is... it really works!" -- Todd Lapin

Where do you get this equipment and get started making your vehicle "official?"

At the everpopular Galls Catalog of course.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 30, 2003 8:16 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The News of the World

Light of late night - Rob Gonsalves

Click to enlarge

From Amazing Art

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 30, 2003 2:46 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner on National Review Online has crafted a short and sweet position paper on the "Leak" scandal that blew up over last weekend.

"I need to see more than what's out there to think this is anything like the big deal the press and the Democrats are making it out to be. I'm all in favor of having the Justice Department investigate. I'm all in favor of firing whoever did the leaking, if he or she did as the reports suggest. But it sounds like the leaker is dropping in rank and importance as is the transgression. Wilson's wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already.

It seems to me that the energy driving this is A) Obvious Democratic opportunism and scandal-hunger B) Media opportunism as this is the first Bush "scandal" that isn't manufactured outside the White House (could someone explain what Bush did wrong on Enron again?) C) A burning desire to flesh out a fleshless storyline that the Bush White House clamps down on "dissenters" D) An even more burning desire to make Karl Rove into the Sid Blumenthal of this administration.

Which brings us to another issue: comparisons between this administration and the last. First of all, Rove is not Blumenthal for several reasons but the most important is that Rove's got real power. Blumenthal was a Tolkieneque Wormtongue at best and more likely a slipper-carrier. On the larger front, I will be able to take only so much sermonizing from liberals over this scandal considering the fact that the last White House knowingly filed false criminal charges against inconvenient employees (the Travel Office), invented new privileges and abused old ones to stonewall at ever turn (Bush is commanding full cooperating), and generally accused critics of every form of bad faith imaginable.

So yes, by all means investigate what I predict will be a very minor story. But let's not pretend the Republic is in danger.

Terse, sensible and shows all the signs of turning out to be true.

I confess I didn't get the whole "huffing and puffing and blow the house down" tone of this story from the get-go. It seemed, as all these stories will seem in the current political climate, just another effort by the administration's enemies to find something, anything, that would bring it into disrepute. This has been tried numerous times in the past six months and it will be tried numerous times again in the run up to the election.

It is a variation of the 'Big Lie' technique -- spread a lie or series of lies often enough and loud enough and people will start to believe them no matter how small or far-fetched they may be. This variation may be called the "Lie Inflation Gambit" in which the opposition takes a small lie or even a small bit of truth and blows it up into something resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy attacking New York in the last few minutes of Ghost Busters. It lurches, it casts a big shadow, people run screaming from the onslaught -- but in the end it simply blows up and leaves a large mess behind.

We've seen the Yellowcake Inflation in which the famous 16 words occupied a part of pundit mindspace larger than Australia for several weeks. We've no doubt got a week or so more of the CIA Outing blatherfest to suffer through. But all in all I can't help thinking that the spectacle of the opposition spending the next year blowing frantically into an endless series of thin trial balloons is going to be, in the end, simply an undignified political posture from which to conduct an election. In the end, if you bend over to blow up tiny items to more than life size, the electorate just kicks you in the rear.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 30, 2003 1:46 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Last Word on Word

Stooge or Scourge?

You know, if Bill Gates had used an Apple II billions and billions of mental meltdown moments could have been saved, and the United States' current return to full productivity and employment advanced by at least 18 months. Several months ago a friend, ancient and wise in the ways of the computer (My "go-to guy" when I just can't take one more crash.), advised me to switch from Mac Classic to OS X. Being a fan of the eternal computing adage, "That which does not actually reformat my hard drive unbidden makes me stronger." I delayed and equivocated. I was used to the pain of Mac Classic and Microsoft Office and, besides, I was too cheap to buy Office all over again.

In the end, however, I divorced Mac Classic and married OS X. After a small period of adjustment, I find I am happier than I ever thought I could be. The new system can be left up for days on end and, best of all, when a program does auger into the ground from a high altitude, the rest of the system just chuggles along merrily down the bit stream.

There was only one leetle drawback -- Microsoft Office. Now Office is always a drawback even if you only use Microsoft Word since, over time, all your files tend to be in Word format and Word is the Doggie Diner of formats. It isn't the snappy interface that hooks you into Word ( The interface seems, upon close examination to be akin to something seen in passing in a bank of instruments in some Intensive Care Unit), no, it is the format of the documents themselves. Once you've piled up a couple of hundred or several thousand, you are cooked since the idea of converting all of them fills the user with inertia.

Indeed, no writer has yet summed up the nature of Word better than Louis Menand in this week's New Yorker: The End Matter -- The Nightmare of Citation

First of all, it is time to speak some truth to power in this country: Microsoft Word is a terrible program. Its terribleness is of a piece with the terribleness of Windows generally, a system so overloaded with icons, menus, buttons, and incomprehensible Help windows that performing almost any function means entering a treacherous wilderness of pop-ups posing alternatives of terrifying starkness: Accept/Decline/Cancel; Logoff/Shut Down/Restart; and the mysterious Do Not Show This Warning Again. You often feel that you're not ready to make a decision so unalterable; but when you try to make the window go away your machine emits an angry beep. You double-click. You triple-click. Beep beep beep beep beep. You are being held for a fool by a chip.

When, in the old days, you hit the wrong key on your typewriter, you got one wrong character. Strike the wrong keys in Word and you are suddenly writing in Norwegian Bokmal (Bokmal?). And you have no idea how you got there; you can spend the rest of the night trying to get out. In the end, you stop the random clicking and dragging and pulling-down and have recourse to the solution of every computer moron: with a sob of relief, you press Ctrl/Alt/Del. (What do Control and Alt mean, by the way? Does anyone still know?) A message appears: "You will lose any unsaved information in all programs that are running" O.K.? Cancel? End task? End life? The whole reason for rebooting was that you didn't have access to your information, so how can you save it? You can always pull the plug out of the wall. That usually ends your "session" (a term borrowed -- no accident -- from psychoanalysis)....

Never, btw (which, unlike "poststructuralism" is a word in Word spellcheck), ask that androgynous paper clip anything. S/he is just a stooge for management, leading you down more rabbit holes of options for things called Wizards, Macros, Templates, and Cascading Style Sheets.

"A stooge for management..." Well, when it comes to Microsoft Word, aren't we all?

I despaired over Microsoft Office. I wanted to end my years of servitude to Microsoft. When I married OS X I thought I had at last made a clean break with the past, but "Just when you think you're OUT, they pull you back in." Using Word from Classic required me to boot Classic on a daily basis and, just as it had in the past, Word would crash in Classic at least once a day for no reason at all other than Word's deep inner perversity. It was like getting a daily harassing phone call and hang up from an old girl friend in the midst of a happy second marriage -- you're not happy, your new OS is not happy, the only happy thing is some deeply antisocial nerd in the Microsoft basement who wrote the deepest code inside of Word that instructed it to leave you high and dry with no warning if you hadn't purchased any Microsoft products within the last 14 days.

Yes, it began to look as if the only recourse was to drop a whopping $399 (Hey, at least it's not $400! ) for a version of Microsoft Office for OS X. But that would be like importing an old issue into my new marriage. No good could come of it. Besides it would make me a stooge for Microsoft management for the rest of my days. (Just when did we accept the idea that the entire world has to pay to be beta-testers for Microsoft?) No, I decided to just tough it out.

But then I was saved.

Saved by my go-to guy for advanced computing fret and foo. A telephone call to him saved me forever.

"Did you switch to OS X?"

"Yes, and my joy knows no bounds ... except.... except...."

"Except for what?"

"I'm so... so... so ashamed."

"You can tell me. What happens here stays here."

"I've been unfaithful to OS X when it comes to Microsoft Office. I.... I ... boot Classic in order to run Word ... I'm too cheap.... I'm too weak... I just don't know what to do and I'm sure OS X knows."

"There ... there .... no shame.... Millions of Office users are suffering the same regret, the same shame ... when there's no need ."

"No need? But I hate Word. I hate it. There's no escape. It wants a payoff and I'm going to have to fork it over."

"Not if you know the not-so-secret, dare I say it?, "word."

"And that is?"

" Open Office. Open Office is the answer to your suffering. Go there. Go there my son, and sin no more."

"But will it read Word documents? And what does it cost? And will it automate the typing of hyperlinks on my blog?'

"Yes. Free. Who cares. Now, I've really got to go. I've got a problem with my web project promising a new reality to millions who can't stand this one."

And I went to Open Office. With any luck at all, this will be my last word dot doc.

I'll keep you .... posted.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 30, 2003 9:14 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Proof Positive That Too Much Money Can Make You Intellectually INSANE!

"Thar he blows!"

"If I had to predict, the way things are going, I'd say the chances are about 50-50 that humanity will be extinct or nearly extinct within 50 years. Weapons of mass destruction, disease, I mean this global warming is scaring the living daylights out of me."
-- Ted Turner World's Biggest Buffalo Rancher.

It is always interesting to us that predictions of the end of "the world as we know it" often come about long after the predictor assumes he will be dead and buried. Nobody likes to see the end of the world in their lifetime.

You know, Ted, if you'd just cut back on the Buffalo and the Bull greenhouse gasses would fall by around 80% in the next quarter alone.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 29, 2003 2:43 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A Porn Page for Every American?

"N2H2 Reports Number of Pornographic Web Pages Now Tops 260 Million and Growing at an Unprecedented Rate"
from - - N2H2 Press Releases

Yet another milestone blown away the road to Oblivion. Another month or so and we'll have a page for every man, woman, child and dog in the nation.

This figure, which is probably exaggerated coming from a company whose revenue depends on the growth of the pornographic industry it exists to filter, still gives pause. And coming a week after the announcement by Microsoft that its chat rooms in Europe will be shut down to limit the exposure of children to inappropriate material it underscores a trend which we hope will start up in the USA.

Several years ago I was invited to speak to a congressional committee in Washington on how the country and the government might reverse the tide of porn that was washing over the country via the Internet. There were, on my day there, a bunch of people from what is called 'the industry' by those in the game -- Playboy, Penthouse, Danni Ashe, and others of lesser ill-repute. There were a number of things proposed by the committee as it struggled to find a way to reconcile the Holy First Amendment with the endless reams of porn spam leaking into little Dick and Jane's email from unscrupulous pornographers. There was the porn-free Internet domain, there were more draconian ideas involving imprisonment for decades, there were the hopes of filtering trotted out for the umpteenth time. It was, all in all, your typical government committee's exercise in futility and impotence. And I kept notes which I pulled out today when I read the news from N2H2.

During my wait to testify and answer questions, I reviewed the list of those who were there that day and those who would be called at future meetings. There was one omission which, when my turn came, I asked the committee about:

"My problem here with my own testimony and those of other in the industry is that I don't find a representative from the largest purveyor of porn spam and the largest promoter of inappropriate activity with children and teenagers on your list of those invited to testify.

"I've looked and looked but I don't see a single person from America Online scheduled to testify.

"It would seem to me that if the US government and our society was serious, really serious, about stopping children from being exposed to porn and pandering from pedophiles, the very best thing it could do... the one thing that would have the greatest immediate effect on curbing this phenomenon... would be to convince America Online to shut down all its chatrooms immediately.

"There doesn't seem to be any thought that has been given to this. Surely, everyone with any rudimentary knowledge of how the Internet works and with even a brief experience with the AOL chat rooms is wise to the facts about them. Surely we know that the vast amount of inappropriate sexual contact online at the chatrooms doesn't happen between a teen and an adult but between a teen and a teen. You can bet that AOL knows this. It is one of their many dirty and not so little secrets. So why, I ask again, hasn't a single person from this company been called before this committee? I'll be glad to answer any of your questions of me, but I'd really like you to answer this one question of mine."

It's been more than five years and I am, of course, still waiting.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 29, 2003 1:37 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
On Democrats and Pollywogs
In which the author examines the curious relationship of today's Democratic Candidates to a pool of land-locked frog wannabes...

We polliwoggle.
We polliwiggle.
We shake in lakes,
Make wakes,
And wriggle.
We quiver,
We shiver,
We jiggle,
We jog.
We're yearning
To turn ourselves
Into a frog.

-- Douglas Florian

Thanks to the usual conjunction of overweening ambition and a Sahara of empty airtime, the American public has been sentenced to have its teeth set aflame with great regularity until the motley collection of Democratic primaries puts paid to the current Peanut gallery of Presidential hopefuls. Yes, due to the malign convergence of a media with far too much time and far too little news, we are doomed to be exposed for months without end to nearly a dozen Democratic candidates with way too much time and far too few policies. The result will be much like watching pollywogs contend for resources as the heat of the approaching elections shrinks their pond.

Since the news, much to the distress of serious people, always seems to focus 'where the action is,' this is the season where all electoral action is to be found watching the gelid mass of Democratic pollywogs struggle to transform themselves into one gigantic frog that the party hopes the electorate will kiss into Princedom come November, 2004. It has not been a pretty picture and it is going to get worse.

In the end, it will look a lot like pollywog ponds towards the end of a long, hot summer day, and smell about the same. But it is going to be "where the action is," and we're going to find it hard to avoid watching it -- even if the only sane response to watching the twentieth stump speech of Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, or Al Sharpton is poking out your pupils with red-hot needles.

When I was a boy I lived in a rural town in Northern California. Behind our house was a fallow field with a small stream cutting through it. In that stream, at certain times of the year, frogs mated and laid eggs which, in time, became pollywogs (aka "tadpoles"). Collecting a group of tadpoles was a simple matter of quick hands or a small net. Either way, my brother and I, in the manner of wanton boys, would collect a dozens in a jar on idle summer afternoons, and transfer them to a small pond we'd scooped out of the dirt a yard or so from the main stream and filled with water. Since there were a lot of pollywogs in the stream we always had a lot of pollywogs in our ponds. Once there, we'd sit down and watch what they did.

The pond always seemed to support a few pollywogs in fine style. They'd wriggle and wiggle about freely and dive into the cool mud. They seemed, for a time, happy in their new environment. They were free of all the challenges and dangers of the main stream. They didn't have to buck the current. They didn't have to worry about the large bass that seemed to hoover the stream bottom for pollywogs whenever they felt a bit peckish. The pond's water even had a warmer, more languid feel to it. It promised to support slime and pollywogs love slime. And they had the undivided attention of a small, but fascinated, group of supporters who had brought them together. The artificial pond to the side of the main stream seemed pollywog paradise.

Ah, but paradise on earth is a fleeting thing -- especially on a hot summer day. As the day wore on, the sun began to shrink the pool. (Sometimes aided by my brother and I with a couple of jars and the impatience of small boys.) As the pool got smaller and the water more shallow, the pollywogs began to find themselves in a pickle.

Less water meant less room. They began to bump up against each other. Even less water started to threaten them with annihilation. They began to crowd together with the weakest being forced, inexorably, towards the surface and the strongest starting to burrow as deep into the mud as they could.

If they could have found their way back to the main stream from the pond, they all could have survived. But they had been removed from the main stream by their erstwhile supporters and placed in the pond. They didn't know the way back and, by that time, lacked the means to get there. If they had been full grown frogs, they'd have reached safety with a few well chosen leaps, but they hadn't yet been transformed and so, even though they didn't know it, time had run out for them when they had let themselves be captured by those with a special interest in them and taken from the main stream.

Sometimes my brother and I would take pity on the mass of pollywogs now lumped together in a muddy, gelid mass, but often times it would get late in the afternoon and our mother would call us home to dinner. And so, we'd run off to a good dinner and a blameless sleep while our most of our pollywogs continued their metamorphosis into compost.

The next day we'd go out to the pool and glance with only a momentary interest at the previous day's pollywog pond. At times there would be a few left alive gasping and throbbing in a half-cup of water. We might take those and put them back in the main stream, but most of the time we'd just kick dirt over them to stop the smell, dig a new pond a few yards further down the main stream, scoop up some more pollywogs and begin anew.

And so it goes in this run-up in what has to be the most contested struggle for the Democratic nomination in memory -- which will be followed in short order by what will most likely be the most uncontested Presidential election in memory.

A lot of main stream commentary has now flowed over us about the struggle of the Democratic party to make itself acceptable to a wide majority of Americans. But this, to my mind, is not fresh water but hogwash.

The Democratic Party as it was in its salad days no longer exists. What we have instead is a rag-tag collection of extremely liberal and frankly leftist interest groups that have managed to hijack the name of the party for their own uses. The genius of Bill Clinton was to recognize that the Democratic Party had ceased to function as either Democratic or as a Party, and to heave enough towards the center in order to be elected once, and keep it centered enough to re-elect him to a second term. Without a Bill Clinton in office these last few years, the real nature of the Democratic Party as it evolved beneath the Clinton camouflage has reemerged to take control and to send up the pile of pollywogs that currently contend.

But what are they contending for? Surely it cannot be the Presidency since, no matter what current polls may say, there is no candidate among the pollywogs that can become anything other than a frog. And a frog will not defeat George W. Bush in 2004. The only rational goal any candidate can hope to achieve will be the leadership of the Democratic Party through becoming its chosen but hopeless nominee. And of the most likely victors, Kerry, Dean, and (only possibly as of this writing) Clark, none of these can be seen to have the vision or the character to hop the Democratic Party out of its shrinking pollywog pond and back into the main stream.

Indeed, the only hope currently on the national scene that could return the Party to the main stream and back into the Oval Office is the one Democrat that is known to have kissed a frog that magically turned into a Prince -- Hillary Clinton. The fact that her Prince reverted to a very large frog is beside the point in politics. The kissing of the Frog Prince is all that counts to today's desperate Democrats.

The only question for Hillary, who has been wise enough so far to stay out of the Pollywog Pond, is whether or not she will be foolish enough to challenge Bush in 2004 and lose, or will wisely wait until 2008 when the water will be less likely to dry up around her as she begins to find her way back to the main stream with a hop, skip, jump.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 29, 2003 12:26 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
We will be flying today at a cruising altitude of 4 feet.

We seldom have an image of the exact moment when the history of the world changed. But we do have this one from a century ago.

"This is it. This is the moment, and you can see Wilbur. He's caught in mid-stride. You can see Orville on the machine. It's just all_ all right there. it's that moment frozen forever."
The following telegram was sent from Kitty Hawk:
Success. Four flights Thursday morning. Longest fifty-seven seconds. Inform press. Home Christmas.

-- From The American Experience -- The Wright Stuff

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 29, 2003 10:18 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Modern Book Doomed by Antique Industry

Now how much would you pay?

Today's Wall Street Journal relates a fascinating tale about a book that should be, from all signs, a winner in U.S., Through Digital Lens

Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen, the creative team behind the best-selling coffee-table book "A Day in the Life of America," have rejoined forces for another book, ending a legal dispute with their former publisher and a decade of giving each other the cold shoulder.

Putting a digital spin on a publishing genre they helped define, Messrs. Smolan and Cohen are about to publish "America 24/7 ," a panoramic view of life in the U.S., as captured in more than 1,100 digital color photographs. The book, to be published next month by Pearson PLC's DK Publishing unit, is an enormously ambitious project. It distills more than 250,000 digital photographs taken during a week in May by an estimated 25,000 photographers, including 1,000 professionals outfitted with new digital cameras.

That means a "high concept" book by a team that has previously produced "a hit" coupled with a lot of grassroots' input and professional panache. It means a book produced to high values by DK, a house that knows how to make a book of pictures shine, that knows how to layout and produce a coffee table book at the top of that genre. What could possibly go wrong?

There's other good news about this book -- well, good news and bad news depending on how you look at it. First there's a digital gimmick that gives a nod to the rise of the Web in publishing: Consumers can upload a picture of their choice for the cover for only $5.99 at a web site and have a cover custom printed for their edition. Think of it, a book replete with images of America done by some of our best photographers with you picture of Aunt Nettie, Jimmy's new puppy, your sister's new baby, or your wife's great legs in brand new fishnet stockings on the cover. What's not to like about this? Second, Barnes and Noble has made this title their "lead Holiday book." Third, the publisher is claiming a print run of 400,000 copies against 320,000 orders. Fourth, a print and TV campaign is "being planned." Fifth, there will be the standard touring exhibit winding its way through the rocks and rills of middle America.

All in all, a stunning plan. What could possibly go wrong?

What could go wrong is that this is a book that is being published with a list price of $50.00. And, like so many others of its ilk, it can run aground on the shoals of instant remainderism due to the single fact that the entire trade book publishing industry simply cannot and will not look at in the clear light of day: the price of books fare exceeds their perceived value.

Perceived value is the key to the buying of books by ordinary people, and ordinary people not only think that books are overpriced, they are taught that they are overpriced by the publishing industry itself.

When a person decides whether or not to buy a book, the price is not the first thing they look at but the last. Other questions come first. Is it by an author I know? Is it about a subject that I am interested in? Is it beautiful to look at and handle? Does it promise me a great experience in reading or looking at it? If the answer is yes to those questions, the potential customer then looks for (sometimes with difficulty) the price of the book. When he finds it, the price goes into the balance not only against the level of attraction felt at that moment, but against an industry whose chief message to its customer over many decades is: "No matter what price you see here, you can get it cheaper somewhere else if you search hard enough or wait long enough." This is the magic moment in which the august industry of book publishing merges with the less august industry of the automobile sales industry. And the answer is often, "I think I'll look around a bit more" as the selected volume is slipped back on the shelf.

Book publishers know that their goods are vastly overpriced and will be more than happy to supply you with all the reasons, current and historic, for why this is so -- "it is a sale-or-return industry," "every book is a unique product," "shipping costs are out of control," paper or ink or printing or binding costs "simply cannot be contained," "magnesium futures have exploded," etc and so forth. And these things are all true. Also true are the unmentioned facts that many books are published that should never see the light of day; that many books have commanded advances that should never have been paid; and that, deep down, the book industry is saddled with a sales force and a sales machine that might have made sense when Eisenhower was President, but has absolutely nothing to do with how business is done in 21st Century America.

Nor do all these excuses alter the fact that many potential book-buyers are not at all attracted by the $25 hardcover novel, the $35.00 hardcover non-fiction release, or the $50.00 and going-up coffee table book even when you can put your own pan on the cover. When people look at most books with these asking prices they think, "Twenty-five dollars? Where?" and make a mental note to check the library or to see if they can get a deal. But mental notes are seldom worth the paper they are printed on and all too often they potential customer forgets the title and moves on to other items entirely. Everything the book industry has done to sell that book has come to naught through the final asking price.

America 24/7 for all the elements it has going for it will be easily rendered into another expensive failure this Holiday season through the very simple fact that it has simply priced itself out of the market. A fact that it shares with every other new book you can find on the shelves.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 29, 2003 8:58 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Animal White House: How Clark Decided to Run

Our far flung correspondents have finished reviewing the set of tapes made by the Committee to ReElect the President, 2003 (aka Creep, the Return) and have supplied American Digest with the following transcript. We take no position on its credibility.

August 15, 2003 Little Rock:

Bill Clinton and Wesley Clark are knocking back a few while pouring over Clinton's collection of Oval Office Polaroids at the Clinton Library.

Clinton: this one's name was Amanda. They never even got a whiff of her. Worked in the kitchen. Man, she could put quite a froth on your latte.

Clark: C. U. T. E. ! Bill. You old hush puppy.

Hillary enters unannounced.

Clark: Urrr... Good evening, Senator.

Clinton:(Slipping polaroids out of sight quickly): What's new, pussycat?

Hillary: Election's over, Bill. G.W. is going to drop the big one. My inside source at the White House, Amanda, tells me he's going to run with Condi Rice as his VP. We're toast. It's all over.

Clinton: Over? Did you say "over"?

Nothing is over in this country until I decide it is!

Was it over when the Ken Starr suponeaned the vid caps from my Oval Office web cam? Hell no!

Hillary: Webcam?

Clark: Forget it, he's rolling.

Clinton: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough...

[thinks hard]

Clinton: the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's Roll!

[runs out, alone; then returns]

Clinton: What the Great-JFK's-Ghost has happened to the Clinton/Democratic Party I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? Where's the need to feel other's pain?

"Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bill, we might tank at the ballot box." Well, just kiss my grits from now on!

Not me! I'm not gonna take this.

Dean, he's a dead man!

Kerry, dead!

Liebermann... dead.

Gore.... oh, okay, dead in 1994...

Braun... well, she's a girl....and sorta cute too...

Sharpton... victim... but I can't stand the man's hair so....--

Clark: Dead!

Hillary, Bill's right. Psychotic, but absolutely right.

We gotta take on these Republicrat bastards like the great Democrans we are.

Now we could do it with conventional candidates but that could take years and bore millions of voters senseless. No, I think we have to go all out.

I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid candidate to be put forward.

Someone that has looks of a winner and absolutely no clue on how to win.

Someone who can make sure that none of these nine clowns has a candle's chance in Hell of getting elected and queering the pitch for Hillary in 2008.

Someone so out to lunch that the press will embrace their candidacy for at least three months before waking up to find they are in the midst of another hysterical pregnancy.

Somebody impossible.... somebody like...

Hillary: You! Yes, you! General, you're just the hunky, commanding, independent guy to do it.

Clinton: Hill's right. Let's do it.

Clark: Sir, yes, sir! LET'S DO IT!!

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 26, 2003 7:12 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Pictures of the Gone World

Click for larger view

From William Gedney's photographic chronicle of San Francisco, 1966-1967 comes this startling photo of Pigpen of the Grateful Dead backstage at a concert in 1967.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 26, 2003 6:50 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Straight Talk About Nuclear Proliferation

A lucid and balanced article at Tech Central, The Game Theory of Nuclear Proliferation by Tyler Cowen is worth reading whole and passing along. The nub of his argument is:

When we confront an opponent with nuclear weapons, we will misread cues, signals, threats, and responses, most of all when the opponent stands outside of Western culture. They will misread us in turn. We run the risk of unintended escalation from deluded sets of leaders, noting that you need only one side to make a fatal mistake. The more countries have nuclear weapons, the more likely is such a mistake to happen, and we haven't even considered the problem of non-deterrable terrorists. That is why I view the nuclear future with trepidation.
You might want to clip this and save it for the next person who tries to convince you we should continue to pay-off the North Koreans.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 26, 2003 6:28 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Allah's Eternal Evenings

This just in from the relentless and brilliant ALLAH Is In the House

Osama came over tonight. He and Allah popped some popcorn, kicked back and watched "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" for like the fiftieth time. Allah typically does not watch it all the way through since it is long and the ending sucks. But tonight he and the Sheikh indulged. Osama always remarks on how much he likes the costumes. Allah, however, was more interested in the campaign posters used by the glorious mujahedeen in the 1932 election. Check this one out, kufr. Allah is older than time and he has yet to see shit freakier than that. In fact, this is precisely why Allah always laughs when he hears elderly Germans say they did not realize Hitler was a lunatic until it was too late. Infidels, what did you think you were getting when you voted for a disembodied head floating in the darkness? Does he look like he kisses babies? He looks like he eats babies. Allah tried to bring this up with Osama but a certain douchebag kept interrupting by calling Allah and dropping hints that he would like to come over and watch the movie too. Hey, Atta? VCRs cost like 50 bucks now. Allah suggests you pick one up.

Anyway, Allah is leading up to something here. If there is one thing that makes Allah feel funnier in the pants than the three women on his blogroll, it is Bush/Hitler comparisons. Equating the systematic mass murder of six million Jews and millions more Communists, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals with rejection of the Kyoto Treaty is such a fiendishly clever form of Holocaust denial that Allah almost has to believe a Hebrew came up with it. Truly it is a meme which must be propagated--and when Allah saw the Hitler placard in that film tonight, he knew just the way to do it. So behold, glorious mujahedeen and far-left American liberals! The Bush 2004 campaign poster is now available for dissemination!

If you aren't checking in on this site on a daily basis, what is your major malfunction?

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 26, 2003 5:51 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Clark Snowball Enters Hell

Less than a week into his political career, Wesley Clark is coming unclued. As stated in stunningly picaresque prose by Doc Searls in his entry: Wesley Clark Suicide Watch

If Wes Clark wants his campaign to snowball, he's going to need a lot more snow downhill than he's got right now. If he keeps scorching the grass under that snow, his ball's going to be rolling in dirt.
Now Doc Searls has got to be one of the most sane and optimistic people on the Internet. I don't always agree with him, but that's not important. What is important is that Doc Knows Net as few others do. If he thinks the Clark campaign has the sniffles, it's pretty sure that the campaign has contracted walking pneumonia and just hasn't gotten the results back from the lab.

This particular Clark campaign cockup [Follow Doc's links] involves shutting down a number of "Draft Clark" websites in order to engulf and devour and centralize, centralize, centralize the message.

Once a general with a command and control Jones, always a general with a command and control Jones. It would seem that Clark is a case of "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Ah, well, I'm sure the Dean campaign could always use a few more disaffected web heads to row his boat merrily down the stream.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 26, 2003 4:56 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
To Build the Impossible Dog House

How is this possible?

Simple. (Well, perhaps, not so simple.) Click on the link at the site to see the explication.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 24, 2003 12:26 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Hasta La Vista, Babies

The Dixie Chicks career's death spiral continues with: Chicks to break with country scene - Ananova

The Dixie Chicks say they don't want to be a country music band any more.

Violinist Martie Maguire told Spiegel magazine: "We don't feel part of the country scene any longer, it can't be our home any more."

....Going home empty-handed from the Country Awards ceremony also made them decide to break with the scene, Maguire said

I don't know who their agent is but he'd better not be buying that country house on anticipated commissions.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 24, 2003 8:51 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
One of the earliest images of Native Americans

Click to enlarge

From the new online collection of seldom seen holdings at the Smithsonian: HistoryWired

This ambrotype of of Mea-to-sa-bi-tchi-a, or Smutty Bear, a Yankton Dakota, is among the first photographic images of Native Americans. Smutty Bear was part of a large Native American delegation that came to Washington, DC, during the winter of 1857-58. Under duress, members of the delegation signed a treaty that greatly reduced their lands in return for promises of money and provisions that were never fulfilled. This prompted the Sioux Revolt of 1862, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of settlers and the mass hangings of 38 Native Americans."

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 24, 2003 7:20 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Eye of Heaven

Click to enlarge

Yet another stunning image from the Hubble

This photograph of the coil-shaped Helix Nebula is one of the largest and most detailed celestial images ever made. The composite picture is a seamless blend of ultra-sharp images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope combined with the wide view of the Mosaic Camera on the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. The image shows a fine web of filamentary "bicycle-spoke" features embedded in the colorful red and blue ring of gas. At 650 light-years away, the Helix is one of the nearest planetary nebulae to Earth.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 24, 2003 6:51 AM | QuickLink: Permalink

Roger Simon asserts that this site is the the wittiest site on the Internet. He’s got my vote.

Here's a brief excerpt of the deeply inspired words of Allah direct from those party animals at Blogspot (I hope Google has those servers underground and under deep security.):

Many infidels are probably wondering tonight why, with hundreds of billions of dollars of Saudi oil money and limitless logistical support from Arab governments at their disposal, it took the mujahedeen five years to knock down two fucking buildings. Good question. Tell Allah something: Have you ever seen interviewed members of the Ku Klux Klan? How did they strike you? Did their white sheets and sputterings about "nigras" give off a strong aura of competence? Or did they instead seem "special," and more likely than not to smell of sweat and horses? Alas, kufr, there are many qualities that American and Arab Jew-haters share, and a strong presence in Mensa is not one of them.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 23, 2003 10:52 PM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Great Moments in the Protection of Idiots

From the archives of Consumers Reports: Instant glue, 1973

Instant glue, 1973
One drop of this instant glue formed a bond between man and hammer in five seconds. We called it an instant hazard--and rated it Not Acceptable.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 22, 2003 3:48 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Items in Passing

Photodude's Life and Times in a List with pix, of course.

A Day for Accounting - Anyone who really knows me also knows that lists, statistics, and “counting” are Things Reid Likes. The following was inspired by this from Crystal Lyn, and something that happened 45 years ago today.

Roger Simon's Sticking With Arnold.
So I guess I'm giving a rather apocalyptic vision of the California Recall Election... and yes it's probably excessive... but there are bigger issues than tax rates involved here (although not, I'm sure, to McClintock). Anyway, I'm sticking with Arnold because today, at least--it's the foreign policy, stupid!

DenBeste is at his best with an analysis of the Poster Girl for Human Shields.
The less-than-subtle message is that this is the beginning of the great Republicanazi crackdown on dissent. Fippinger is portrayed as being in legal peril because she opposed the war, and soon they'll come for all the other dissenters:
Supporters argue that she was simply exercising her right to freedom of travel and speech and accuse the Bush administration of trying to make an example of her.

And that, my friends, is baloney. It is not why she's in peril, and this doesn't represent the first stage of the long-rumored conversion of the US into a police state.

There's a deeper message in the BBC's article, and it's one which resonates in much leftist thinking: it's that intentions are more important that acts.

The Bush Lie is clear now to Donald Sensing:

"... when he did not say that Saddam was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, and in fact has denied Saddam’s complicity in the attacks, because 70 percent of Americans believe Saddam was complicit in the attacks and that’s Bush’s fault even though he never said Saddam was complicit and in fact has denied it, but his denial is a lie too, because we all know he misled the American people to believe Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks even though we can’t point to a single statement Bush made that even hints that Saddam was involved, but it doesn’t matter because Bush is a liar to begin with and even if he didn’t lie about this, he wanted to and would have if he’d gotten the chance and probably wishes he did because if he’s going to be called a liar no matter what he says he might as well have actually told a lie for once."

David Warren takes his usually lucid look at the Satanic Legacy of Canadian Politics Today:
I have called this attack -- on Canada, on our freedoms, on moral order, on human decency -- the "Trudeau legacy". And yet that describes it too narrowly. It does not really explain one of the mysteries of post-modern Canadian history: that this most conservative and cautious and civilized of countries is now leading the attack on Western civilization itself.

Lileks, as usual, has one short kicker that sums up our fellow citizens in 2003 at his weekend roundup:
Thought of this story again while reading about the soldiers who were offered the chance to leave their post because of Isabel. They were guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington; this would have been the first time the tomb was unguarded. They said, in essence, sir no thank you sir.

You can break down the entire country into two camps, two reactions to the story:
1. Bemusement.
2. Gratitude.

Totten continues to try and save the Democatic Pary from itself: An Open Letter to the Party of Wilson and Roosevelt
An old left-wing slogan says Fascism Means War. Slap it on a bumper sticker. Now is not the time to retire it. Our enemies in the Terror War are totalitarian religious fanatics, everything liberals and the left despise. They killed and enslaved millions on the other side of the world. Then they attacked our country. They are not, as Franz Fanon put it, the wretched of the earth. They are the murderers and oppressors of the wretched of the earth.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 22, 2003 12:52 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Down the K-Hole of K-Street

And the star of our show is....

I was late to the party when it came to K-Street, the new HBO Pseudo-Reality show that “ventures inside the world of powerful political consultants--a world that few people ever experience first-hand.” Viewers that experience this show at first hand will find themselves wanting to wash those hands at the end of the program.

So far, the chief achievement of this bit of cultural blight seems to have been feeding Howard Dean a line from the show for use in real life. Or the reverse. Or the inverse. I wasn’t paying attention, but it had something to do with Dean.

It seemed strange to me that all the effort that goes into putting anything on the air would come down to slipping a stinger into a politician’s stump speech, but, hey, George Clooney’s gotta do something with his free time. Still, after watching K-Street’s erstwhile “cast” bumble through a half-hour episode last night my first thought was, “At least it isn’t an hour even though it seems like three.” But why did it seem like three? Then it struck me. K-Street had slipped some “K” into my caffeine-free Diet Coke and I had fallen into the K-Hole.

I’ve never taken Ketamine ( “K”) but from what I’ve read the effects are similar to what we see on K-Street. An online guide to drugs lists the effects of K as: “Users may babble or speak gibberish. They may believe that their mind has separated from their body or that they are outside themselves and watching their own actions.” In the case of K-Street players, not only have the minds separated from the bodies, but the morals as well.

I yield to nobody in my cynical view of professional politics as practiced in the US, but it is stunning to watch an entire a chunk of people playing themselves (more or less) that comes up with a show that is about as edifying as watching remoras look for places to attach themselves to sharks.

The role of the "political consultant"

Last night’s episode dealt with the James Carville trying to find a way to suck some money out of the RIAA by helping it in its quest to arrest children and ruin their families financially. Carville snaps and snarls about in a meeting room. He slaps in some down-home insults to his staff and glowers at them like some oversized ferret with not enough fiber in his diet. Others in the room are silenced, confused or contrite. This stumbling state continues in and out of the room for the rest of the program. Muffled sound competes with cheap video tricks (That blue tint to the scene -- so edgy -- in 1993.). Actors or real people acting as themselves. (Curb your enthusiasm, congresspern!) lurch about the offices and various Starbucks of DC with enough issues to render them utterly incomprehensible. This show seems to be about a meeting and a pitch for money for nothing. The meeting doesn’t come off and they’ll have to get money for more nothing somewhere else. A focus group of kids gives us some insight into just how lame the adults are, but other than that the show has the staying power of a Post-It doused with WD-40.

Unless you are treated to another view of the “powerful political consultants” poster boy for their reptile theme park, James Carville.

It isn’t news that Carville revels in his standing as Lizard King of DC. What is shocking is discovering that he is actually looking more and more like a lizard with every passing year. The camera isn’t doing the shaved head look any favors, and of his on-screen persona the less said... well, suffice it to say that it is little wonder that his wife, Mary Matalin, spends a lot of time away from home. Even if that means she has to hang with career Republicans.

Be that as it may, it is more than evident that the show is suffering from a deep moral disconnect. Check that. It is more than obvious that this show portrays the entire political profession is suffering from a deep moral disconnect. There’s not an instant in this show that has an iota of elevation associated with it. It is almost as if the producers have a policy that anything that even hints of idealism or real service to the public be ruthlessly chopped out. I imagine that they believe that bringing the actual venal aspects of politics to the attention of the American people is somehow worthy in and of itself.

From my couch, however, it just looked like another parade of self-impressed actors and assorted ego-maniacs preening and preparing for a close-up that will forever elude them. It is as if the HBO pitch meeting for “K-Street” centered around the premise: “We’ll show them the ugly process of making the sausage of politics. It will be really ugly. It will star James Carville. What do you say?”

I say that if I want to see sausage made I’ll wait for the rerun of the Hormel Pork Packing Factory on “Industry on Parade.”

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 22, 2003 11:47 AM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Political Pied Piper Keeps the Kids

Dean to Dems: My way or the highway.Tucked away at the bottom of an interminable feature in the LA Weekly (Out of Left Field), comes this glimpse into Howard Dean's scorched earth plan. Asked about the Clark campaign's chances, Dean said:

"I mean, we've already got 39,000 people working for us all around the country . . . I really do believe - and I think about this - I want to get this nomination, and if I don't . . . these kids are not transferrable. I can't just go out and say,"Okay, so I didn't win the nomination, so go ahead and vote for the Democrats." They're not going to suddenly just go away. That's not gonna happen."
Does this mean that Dean's current Online Children's Crusade will transmogrify into some sort of Internet-powered hybrid of the Ross Perot and Ralph Nader campaigns?

Pointer via Tacitus

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 22, 2003 9:44 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Never Eat at a Place Called...

Mom's Cafe in Salina, Utah.
Best Chicken Fried Steak on Planet Earth

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 21, 2003 3:56 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
World Cuisine Made Simple

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good."

--Alice May Brock

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 19, 2003 12:46 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
BackChip Drivers Coming Right Up

Sung in the key of "You'll Never Drive Alone," is this very dubious innovation in "safe' driving.

Keep your eyes on the road

Coming soon: cars that can tell when you're not paying attention. Seeing Machines is working on a facial recognition system called FaceLab that uses lasers and dashboard mounted cameras to tell when you're not keeping your eyes on the road or are starting to nod off, issuing an audible alarm to snap you back to attention.

Read... [Gizmodo]

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 19, 2003 11:48 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Ultimate in Auditing College Classes

The good news is that college will "only" cost you your first ten years salary. The bad news is that you'll have to spend an extra 36 bucks to attend.

Keeping track in class

Worried that class sizes are getting to big and that students aren't getting enough out of lectures, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is requiring students to pay $36 for a small, wireless handheld transmitter for giving feedback and answering questions.

To connect with students in vast auditoriums, professors sprinkle multiple-choice questions through their lectures. Students point and click their transmitters to answer, pushing blue buttons numbered 1 through 9 on their keypads. A bar graph appears on the professor's laptop, showing the number of right and wrong answers; teachers can slow down or backtrack when there are too many wrong answers.

There is one major downside, at least for students. The transmitters are registered and assigned a number, so it's possible to keep track of who is showing up and who is skipping class. As we dimly recall from our raucous university days, one of the few upsides to taking one... [Gizmodo]

We see a huge business opportunity for students that would simply wear a couple of dozen of these gizmos to class for his fellow students.

Photo of UMass-Amherst's wireless handheld transmitter
Photo of one of those wireless handheld "Personal Response System" transmitters that are being used in large lecture classes at UMass-Amherst (and apparently in some classes at Rutgers University, as well). [Gizmodo]

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 19, 2003 11:46 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Faster Pussycats Ring! Ring!

Yes, in the future, the very near future, like this afternoon we will all be multitasking so fast we won't have any idea of what we're saying, doing, or thinking.

Cellphones speeding up cities?

As a result of the extra telephone-enabled work accomplished while commuting or moving from place to place within a city, Townsend believes the pace of urban life is quickening. "As every person completes more tasks, communicates with more people, coordinates activities among more social networks in the same amount of time, the aggregate effect is an acceleration of the urban metabolism." If Townsend is right, today's New York minute will seem too leisurely for tomorrow's crowds of hypercoordinated and autoscheduled city-dwellers. One key challenge to civic leaders and urban planners is to create more public spaces that attract transient communities of wireless urban...

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 19, 2003 11:46 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Activities of the Hard-Core Unemployed

How many CDs can be labelled with one sharpie?

In an experiment aimed at determining qualitatively how much ink is inside a sharpie, the How Much is Inside people spent two days labelling CDRs with a single Sharpie. The answer:

The total was 968 CDs labeled with one Sharpie marker. You can view tiny images of the CDs on the gallery page.

I estimate the total distance marked to be 1,800 feet.

(via Ambiguous) [Boing Boing]

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 19, 2003 11:38 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Endless Highway

"You`re gonna walk that endless highway,
Walk that high-way till you die.
All you children goin` my way,
Better tell your home-life sweet goodbye."

Image by Van der Leun. Click to enlarge

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 19, 2003 11:28 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to Outer Space

Slashdot | Principal Photography on Star Wars III Complete

An anonymous reader writes "Principal photography for Star Wars III ended yesterday, and they're starting up on the 18 month post-production.
In a related development,Waiting In Line For Star Wars: Episode Three Tickets
First in line on Olin Street is Matthew Serna, 25, one of the few people in line here who was alive--if barely--when Star Wars was released in May 1977. He arrived at the Century 22 Theater in San Jose on September 18, set up a folding chair, pitched a tent and made himself comfortable. By the time opening day rolls around next week, he will have been living on a 3-foot-square patch of sidewalk for 2 years. "It gets a little monotonous sometimes," admits Serna, whose wife stopped by this morning to spell him so he could go home and take a shower. "I've been playing Game Boy, reading books and stuff, but mostly talking to the other guys."

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 19, 2003 11:15 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Howard Dean "Less Candid" When Asked About Clark

Feelings like I wanna deck you
Feelings like I gotta get you
Out of my life"

In a spontaneous moment during a Boston TV station's interview " Dean Brings Campaign To Kerry's Turf," Howard Dean apparently forgot cameras were rolling.

"I have met with Wes Clark a number of times, that's how I know him. And I like him, and I think he's smart. He'll bring a lot to the Democratic field," said Dean. "I'm not going to say what we discussed."

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 18, 2003 5:06 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Isabel by the Dawn's Early Light

Warning: clicking on image loads a very large
but very spectacular image from the NOAA servers.

Under the general heading of the ill wind, file this series of NOAA shots of Isabel as pointed out on:brianstorms

"What's neat about this shot (when you click on the image on the right, note it's a 1280x1200 jpeg from NOAA) is that it was taken in the early morning, and you can literally see dawn's early light shining on the storm, giving it a great 3D feel. Note how the eye is as big as Lake Okeechobee, or the city of Miami. "

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 17, 2003 10:37 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
All Watched Over by Judges of Loving Grace

Let me see if I've got the California voting problem figured out:
1) Grasp punch.
2) Read cards.
3) Locate candidate of choice's name.
4) Locate black spot next to candidate's name.
5) Push punch through black spot.

Got it?
Yet another failure of the California Educational System.
These poor, impoverished, disenfranchised and uneducated people obviously need something simpler.
Like a touchscreen computer.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 16, 2003 9:22 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Tender Mercies of Plot Summaries

Yesterday, one of the invaluable blowhards at noted a terrible truth about the current and deeply sad state of reviewing:

Are you as amazed as I am at the amount of space movie and book reviewers these days devote to plot summaries? It's common for more than half a review to be spent telling the movie or fiction-book's story. Who wants this amount of plot synopsis? I may be an extreme case, but I hate it when a work's story is given away; I want a work's surprises to be allowed to surprise me.
In general, we are in complete agreement with this. Plot summaries seem to us to be simply the hapless reviewer's way of saying, "I have nothing to say and I am saying it." Still there are times when a plot summary is a gentle mercy, as in this morning's WSJ review of Madonna's book for children when we are given:
Briefly put, "The English Roses" is about an eponymous clique of four girls who out of jealousy behave frostily to a radiantly beautiful fifth girl. The mother of one of the clique members remonstrates with the girls about this. At their slumber party that night, the girls are visited in their sleep by a plump, cookie-gobbling fairy godmother who offers them a glimpse into what they assume is the fabulous and spoiled life of the envied girl. They are chagrined to find that the girl they've shunned is motherless, loaded with chores and desperately lonely. This changes their attitude, and they all become friends and "grow up to be incredible women one day."
Here the summary is not only saving a lot of parents a lot of pain and a chunk of change, but, if it were properly employed it would save a lot of children from literary abuse. All a caring parent has to do is to clip this paragraph out of the Journal, whip it out at bedtime, rattle it off, and the child would be up-to-date on Madonna's literary pretensions. Nothing like keeping your kid on the cutting edge without exposing them to toxic prose.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 16, 2003 9:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Middle Earth Driving Directions

From here to Eternity or Mordor.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 16, 2003 8:35 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Here's Looking At You Kid

Mona to the left of me, Mona to the right of me,
Mona staring straight at me. Oh my.

From the "Almost Infinite Clip File with No Originating Links," a new way of looking at the Mona Lisa -- or say, rather, a new way that she looks at you.

Click on image for full effect.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 14, 2003 4:53 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Maureen Dowd: The Jimmy Olson of the New York Times

Mo Dowd in "The Return of Jimmy Olson"

In Gunsmoke and Mirrors the Time's eternal schoolgirl intern with an attitude, Maureen Dowd, muses:

This is how bad things are for George W. Bush: He's back in a dead heat with Al Gore.

(And this is how bad things are for Al Gore: He's back in a dead heat with George W. Bush.)

One terrorist attack, two wars, three tax cuts, four months of guerrilla mayhem in Iraq, five silly colors on a terror alert chart, nine nattering Democratic candidates, 10 Iraqi cops killed by Americans, $87 billion in Pentagon illusions, a gazillion boastful Osama tapes, zero Saddam and zilch W.M.D.

[”And a partridge in a pear tree!”]
have left America split evenly between the president and former vice president.

"More than two and a half years after the 2000 election and we are back where we started," marveled John Zogby, who conducted the poll.

Yes, we can just hear, like the chiming of a crystal bell, the tone of Zogby's awed marvel in the quote above. Perhaps he started off with a "Can you believe it, Maureen, can you believe it? Who'd a thought it?" -- which Ms. Dowd cut in order to give herself a little stretching room for the long chain of flat quips and lame plays on words that have more and more become the weak reeds she is forced to rely on twice a week or so.(“I’ll call this one ‘Gunsmoke and Mirrors’,” thinks La Dowd, “and end it with the stunning zinger ‘His gunsmoke has gone up in smoke.’ -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”)

We feel, at times, sorry for the Times. Here it is, stuck with having one its prime column slots filled up with recycled tripe week after week simply because there's no editor or publisher strong enough to get rid of the Dowd two-fer. The publisher's core dinner party guests simply wouldn't stand for it. The nattering nabobs of NOW wouldn't stand for it. The Democrats on the Upper West Side wouldn't stand for it. Nope, the Times is stuck with her for the duration.

The decline of Dowd into dotage has been painful to watch. At first, many years ago, she could easily match such comic giants as Bill Maher quip for quip. And she had the added advantage, unlike Maher, of actually being an attractive person. But the years and the unrelenting stress of -- can you imagine? -- 1200 words a week for six figures a year has taken a toll even Botox cannot burnish. And while this toll can be hidden behind the flattering picture that has been consciously not updated for years, it cannot be hidden from those readers in search of something, anything, that signals Ms. Dowd is on the cutting edge of anything other than the shared spleen of the disenfranchised.

Today's effort is, alas, not yet the spark on the horizon that signals brilliance rising beyond.

We note that she has taken refuge in that elephants' graveyard of columniists -- "What would happen if the election were held today?" In Dowd's column it seems to be the case that she is saying that if the election were held today it would be the last election of 2000 with Gore and Bush in a dead heat. There's just no heat in this dead idea, however, since the real election -- as one never tires of pointing out -- will be held over a year from now. The whole hook on which the column is, literally, hung is about as irrelevant to today as some black and white scene from the newsroom of the Daily Planet in the original Superman TV series.

Indeed, if her work over the last few years is any indication, Ms. Dowd, instead of being in line for yet another Pulitzer, seems to be angling to become the new Jimmy Olson, Cub Reporter, in the Times newsroom. (With optional Prada accessory kit.) Like Jimmy, her overall tone has turned breezy and bootless. It is as if, in the very recent past, she discovered that her loyal readers and dinner-party companions liked her best when she just rolled out the Bash-Bush Welcome Wagon and started handing out a party favor per paragraph. A few choice examples can come, these days, from just one column since they are all the same column:

"The Bush administration thought it could use scientific superiority to impose its will on alien tribal cultures. But we're spending hundreds of billions subduing two backward countries without subduing them."
Just because the rebuilding of Iraq doesn't proceed with the rapidity of a shopping spree at Barney's is disappointing to this unseasoned reporter.
"Secretary Pangloss at Defense and Wolfie the Naif are terminally enchanted by their own descriptions of the world. They know how to use their minds, but it's not clear they know how to use their eyes."
Let's face it, this is cub reporter prose of the first water. It would be more at home in some free San Francisco weekly wedged between the ads for breast enlargements and paid companions in search of others who share their love of goats. Old-time Times hands have to shudder when sentences like this cross the copy desk. Unless, as appears to be the case, Ms. Dowd has been given a "Get out of editing free" card by Pinch."Mocking all our high-priced, know-nothing intelligence, Osama is back in the studio making his rock videos.

The cadaverous caveman has gone more primitive to avoid electronic detection, operating via notes passed by couriers.

We haven't forgotten all Mr. Bush's bullhorn, dead-or-alive pledges." Without even going into the willful boneheadedness evinced by this passage, we would just like to note, and pass on, forever pass on, the leaden strokes of "rock videos" (Get it?), the lilting phrase "cadaverous caveman" (repeat six times swiftly), and the last self-referential insertion of 'bullhorn." As far as we know, President Bush used a bullhorn on only one occasion, where Ms. Dowd cranks one up twice a week.

Would it be too much to hope for a single instance in the future when a Dowd column would have some content other than bile passed so many times through the writer's CPU that it's no more than thin sour gruel?

If only the election for the worst and most jejune of columnists were held tomorrow. Dowd would be in a dead heat with Jimmy Olson. If he had a column.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 14, 2003 3:22 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The American Way of Fools
This site issues a timely reminder on: "Part of what we're all about..."
"Those who spent a lifetime pasting the US as a patriarchal, racist, fascist theocratic enemy, haven't recovered from finding there actually is such an entity out there primed and willing to kill. After an initial stumble of, "Wha..? So that's what that actually looks like..." they shook their heads and attached even stronger blinders. Can't have a whole lifeview crumble just because of reality. But that is fine. They may weigh us down, but we'll pull ahead anyway because part of what we're about is letting fools be fools."
Still, isn't there something about not suffering fools gladly?

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 14, 2003 12:13 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Don't Ask...

Just click RIGHT HERE

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 14, 2003 1:25 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Always Another Martyr in the Line

Give me back my broken night
My secret room, my secret life
It's lonely here
There's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
Over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby
That's an order!

-- Leonard Cohen, "The Future"

Image via LGF

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 13, 2003 10:24 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
There's Nothing Cooler Than This. Nothing.
The coolest thing in the Universe is now a cloud of sodium atoms in a laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Physicists from the MIT-Harvard Centre for Ultra-Cold atoms have chilled 2500 sodium atoms to within half a billionth of a degree of absolute zero, the temperature at which atomic oscillation slows to a standstill.

"Nothing in the Universe that we know of is naturally this cold" says Aaron Leanhardt, who led the research. Even deep space is six billion times hotter.

"The old record for 'lowest manmade temperature' was published in the journal Nature, so hopefully publishing our result in Science will be considered good enough for acceptance as a Guinness world record" he says.

-- As reported in New Scientist

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 9:12 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
This Just in from the California DMV

-- from Strange Cosmos

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 8:08 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The First Contrails
My dad says he first saw a contrail in 1947. He was walking with friends down a street in St. Louis. That was forty-four years after the Wright Brothers' flight, twenty years after the Spirit of St. Louis touched down in Paris. My dad was eleven then. I asked him about it earlier this year and he recalled a streak of pure white and a low rumble. A tiny plane atop the expanding line. I imagine my father and his chums standing there, a bit slack-jawed. Crewcuts, white t-shirts and denim pants with the cuffs rolled up to show plenty of sock. Chins up. Squinting. They knew this must be a jet airplane -- they'd read about jets and had even seen images of them in magazines and on newsreels. They stood there until the plane was gone, until the clang of a streetcar out-decibled the fading jet, until the odd white line had slipped back into the ether. -- Contrails - Matt Rasmussen /Orion

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 7:34 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Twin Towers

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 2:47 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Guilt Tripping the Rich

Here's a clever way to raise money from the connected of the world at:Global Rich List

Every year we gaze enviously at the lists of the richest people in world. Wondering what it would be like to have that sort of cash. But where would you sit on one of those lists? Hereï¿•s your chance to find out.
The program parses your income and then presents you with a bar graph showing your position on a scale from poorest person in the world to richest one. It is no suprise that if you can even read these words on your screen that you are very, very close to the richest person in the world. Yup, compared to the "poorest person in the world" you'll be right up there in the top 1% every time.

The page then allows you to "donate securely in 2 minutes" to CARE INTERNATONAL. Exactly how much is going to reach the poorest person in the world isn't that clear, but at least you will be swelling the coffers of CARE.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 2:22 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Deeper Meaning of "American Pie"

He sticks in his thumb, and finds that it's dumb. When he's not bleating into the dry Minnesota wind, James Lileks can often be found hanging over the Backfence: Say goodbye to that American pie -- it's all dry

Singin' this'll be the day that I die / This'll be the day that I die

Cheery lads, eh? I've always wondered what prompted the Good Old Boys to belt out this assertion of imminent mortality. Think back to your own high school days, when perhaps you found yourself out with some people you didn't know as well as you thought you did. You're in the woods, or by the lake. You had no ride home. The driver, who is a friend of a friend of a friend and three years older than everyone else and doesn't go to school, has started shouting WOOOOO! for no good reason. Then he starts singing "This'll be the day that I die!" over and over again. And he wants everyone else to sing it, too. Go home? he grins, flicking his Bic. We're just gettin' started!

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 12:10 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Flash Mob Power Supply


Posted by Vanderleun Sep 12, 2003 11:49 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Scraping the Icing Off the Galapagos

No icing on this cake.

Our far-flung correspondents: Michael Wilson is back from a sojourn in the Galapagos with an interesting analysis of how that remote ecosystem functions, and a hopeful prognosis for the future of the islands at Michael's Web: Galapagos

What makes [ecological management] striking in the Galapagos is how well it works. Animals there aren't "tame", they just don't care about you, any more than they would a rock or other animal not recognized as food or prey. Sea lions find people interesting, not because they're people, but because they find everything interesting, from sharks, to shells, to anchor lines. We just happen to be more extra cast members in the little theatre of their lives.

You see the same thing in Botswana's safari camps, or in the arctic. In he latter case, you don't go on land when you see polar bears because they regard you as part of the landscape (except that you're part of the food chain in their case). Sure, the older ones (who remember when they were hunted for their pelts) are still shy, and they all understandably avoid things like large ships, but by and large people have been reduced to insignificant features of the landscape.

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 12, 2003 10:59 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
In the Clear Morning of September 12, 2001
"A day cannot live in infamy without the nourishment of rage. Let�s have rage. What�s needed is a unified, unifying, Pearl Harbor sort of purple American fury�a ruthless indignation that doesn�t leak away in a week or two, wandering off into Prozac-induced forgetfulness or into the next media sensation (O.J. � Eli�n � Chandra �) or into a corruptly thoughtful relativism (as has happened in the recent past, when, for example, you might hear someone say, �Terrible what he did, of course, but, you know, the Unabomber does have a point, doesn�t he, about modern technology?�).

Let America explore the rich reciprocal possibilities of the fatwa. A policy of focused brutality does not come easily to a self-conscious, self-indulgent, contradictory, diverse, humane nation with a short attention span. America needs to relearn a lost discipline, self-confident relentlessness�and to relearn why human nature has equipped us all with a weapon (abhorred in decent peacetime societies) called hatred."

-- Lance Morrow: " The Case for Rage and Retribution" Time Magazine, 9/12/2001

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 11, 2003 2:06 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Missing

Their silence keeps me sleepless for I know
Within the smoke their ash revolves as snow,
To settle on our skin as fading stars
Dissolve into pure dust at break of day.

At dawn a distant shudder in the earth
Disclosed the fold of fire into steel,
The rumbles not of crossings underground
But screams from out of flowers built from flame.

We stood upon the Heights like men of straw
Transfixed by flames that started in the sky,
And watched them plunging down in death’s ballet
To land among those dying deep below.

By noon the band of smoke leaned low
Upon the harbor’s skin like some dark shawl,
A pall of smoke that in its curdled crawl
Kept reaching to extend its fatal fall.

The harp strung bridge held up ten thousand souls
Who’d screaming run beneath the paws of death,
As dusted ghosts that lived but were not sure
They lived in light or only in reprieve.

They’d writhed and spun within a storm of smoke
And stumbled out to light and clearer air,
To find upon the river’s further shore
That sanctuary is not savored but secured.

The sirens scraped the sky and jets carved arcs
Within a heaven empty of all hope,
And marked its epicenter with one streak
Of black on polished bone where silver stood.

By evening all their ash had settled so
That on the leaves outside my window glowed
Their souls in small bright stars until the rain
Cleaned all that could not be clean again.

We breathed the smoke that bent and crept and crawled.
We learned to hate the smoke that lingered so.
We knew that blood could only answer blood,
And so we yearned to go and not to go.

That last, lost summer faded into ash
Their faces faded as endless autumn flowed
Through chill and heat into the winter sea
Where warships prowled in search of stones.

Within the city, shrines were our resolve.
We placed them where we stood or where they lay.
Upon our bricks and stones their faces loomed
To gaze at us from times beyond repeal.

In time, their ash and smoke became the shapes
Of stories told at dinner, found in books,
Or in the comments made by magazines
For whom the larger issues were of worth.

At first their faces faded with the rains,
The little altars thick with wax were scraped,
But now beneath clear plastic they endure
To remind those passing that we’ve not escaped.

Their silence keeps me sleepless for I know.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 10, 2003 10:04 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Yet More Words to Live By
"The Left should have figured that Osama was out to get them on September 11, when he targeted New York instead of Salt Lake City. Those who missed the point might have caught on when a truck bomb demolished the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The Islamist war against Marxist Algeria, which kills 150 people a day might have suggested that they too, were on the jihad hit parade. But the Left is clueless, so it was hardly surprising to hear Howard Dean say in response to recent attacks in Israel that "it's not our place to take sides", little reckoning that Islam may have already assigned Howard Dean his 'side' whatever he says, whatever he does.
-- From the brilliant and lucid Belmont Club

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 10, 2003 5:15 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Falling Man


"The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else —something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears."
Tom Junod, "The Falling Man" Esquire

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 10, 2003 2:49 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Words to Live By
"So when I listen to some semi-literate political candidate go on about how Saddam didn't want any part of these people because he isn't or wasn't religious, (yeah, right, as if we know that Bin Laden really is religious, as if history isn't filled with leaders who have cloaked fascism in the mantle of phony devotion, even to the extent of convincing themselves of their sadistic piety) I have to think he is either stupid or a liar. Or just simply a pol out to get his opponent at any cost, even if that cost is the Enlightement itself."
-- Roger L. Simon

Posted by Van der Leun Sep 10, 2003 2:18 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Let freedom ring, Let

Let freedom ring,
Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know
That today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong,
Let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away,
Let the guilty pay.
It's Independence Day

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 10, 2003 1:52 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Death of Father Judge

It was dark, too dark to see,
you held me in the light you gave
You lay your hand on me
Then walked into the darkness
of your smoky grave
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty
called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love bring us love...

May your love bring us love

-- Bruce Springsteen - "Into The Fire"

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun Sep 10, 2003 1:40 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Notes Made on 11 September 2001

If peace needs to be purchased with the sword,
we should be ready to do this. We must become
what we were during the Second World War
--ruthless and unrelenting.

[What follows is a slightly edited transcript of what I saw and how I felt on the 11th of September, 2001 from Brooklyn Heights in New York City. On that day I was posting to a West Coast Computer Conferencing system known as The Well. As a result, even though I was writing from Brooklyn Heights, directly across from the Towers the time stamp reflects PST]

Tue 11 Sep 01 08:07

Saw the first tower collapse from the Promeade across the river in Brooklyn. Fine white and pale yellow ash everywhere. Lower manhattan covered in smoke with ash still drifting down.

Military jets overhead every five minutes or so.

Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles.

Sirens in all directions. Ferry ships emerging from the smoke heading to the Brooklyn shore riding low in the water… fully loaded.

This is monstrous.

Deaths in the thousands in New York.

My body is trembling with sorrow and rage. I saw the first tower fall. Everyone in it would have been killed. This, all this, must be stopped. Those who have done this must be wiped out to the last.

War with whom?

Any and all terrorist organizations, foreign or domestic, must now be brought to a swift and complete halt no matter where they are located.

I watched this happen. The enormity of it cannot be communicated. Vile and bestial.

We need to destroy any and all capacity of anyone living anywhere to do anything like this ever again. There were thousands in those buildings. Thousands.

There is no justice swift enough or sure enough.

All that we have must be brought forward and used without restraint. This is an act of war beyond Pearl Harbor.

Military jets overhead again.

More ash on the street. I am cooled down. Way down.,

This is pure evil.

*Tue 11 Sep 01 12:33 *

There is no more World Trade Center visible from the Promenade. But you can smell it from there—a sort of burnt stench as if someone lit newspaper in a trash can and then poured water on it. That kind of wet burnt stench.

It is bright in the sunshine now except for where the Trade Centers stood and there is still a plume of thick brown smoke smouldering up from there and making the sun behind it look dim and oily.

Just now I saw three large military helicopters land across the river from the Heights on the big pad at the foot of Wall Street. People on the streets are talking quietly many of them on cells now that some of those nets are back up.

Everything is as quiet as it was this morning when I got up and began to take a


Posted by Gerard Van der Leun Sep 10, 2003 11:36 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
No CDs for the Holidays: 2003 - Make It Happen

Image by SYA


You have to be utterly unconnected to everything not to have noticed that the recording industry, represented by RIAA, has decided to get medieval on its customer base. The latest moronic move by this organization to halt P2P file sharing is a deluge of subpoenas and lawsuits designed to 'really teach music downloaders a lesson.'

Will it work? It will for those unfortunate enough to "win" this Lawsuit Lottery. Nothing like the prospect of large legal bills and crippling fines to make the "bad" consumers of music see the error of their ways.

Is it fair? Not by a long shot. The Register estimates that it will take RIAA over 2,000 years to sue everybody at the current rate.

Is it sane? The RIAA thinks it is very sane to attack, at random, individuals, and
to take a look at their hard drives to see if there was ever a track downloaded that the person under their guns still has somewhere.

Well, if that is the case, who among us will escape hanging?

And while you are contemplating that, contemplate whether or not you want to allow a tactic that lets any government or business interest start poking around on your computer on the basis of information gathered from your ISP go unopposed.

Are you sure all those "accidentally" collected jpegs are really expunged?

Would you prefer to balance your checkbook the old fashioned way? How about your online bank account? Any copies of that floating around along with letters to your significant other?

That (journal entry) (unsent email) about your boss, your lover, President Bush... is that really erased or hidden so that it can never be recovered?

Not a pretty picture, is it?

Think of this RIAA tactic as "random cyberterrorism with lawyers." It stinks. It is part of the axis of evil interests determined to control your online behavior. And it is a very dangerous precedent. What's more, looked at from any reasonable perspective, it is merely the last in a series of attempts by the executives behind RIAA to save their cushy jobs and perks. That, at bottom, is all it is. This possibility that all these lawsuits will add a dime to the royalty checks of the musicians it is said to represent is close to zero.

If these litigation junkies at the RIAA could wake up from their money induced dementia and smell the coffee of online micropayments and the clear signals from Apple's online music store, they'd find billions more in revenue than they are currently seeing from grinding out half-baked albums and pricing them into the stratosphere.

But they can't wake up. They need to be shaken.

What I'd like to see happen, so that the RIAA and the recording industry deeply understands that suing people at random is VERY BAD FOR BUSINESS is a Web wide boycott on CDs as holiday gifts in 2003.

It is simple and it will be, if broadly based enough, effective. It simply targets the one season of the year when all the recording companies are hoping to make a killing in sales. What would happen if those sales fell dramatically? They might get the message that while downloading music that you don't pay for is wrong, destroying individuals financially at random is equally wrong.

It has something to do with that old adage about: "Two wrongs don't make a right."

Yes, just that simple and sometimes simple ideas are strong ideas.

My idea, simply put:

Pass it on.

If the Web can get their attention, perhaps we can help them kick their addiction to lawyers at the same time we kick out addiction to "free" downloads of music.

P.S. Can someone design a nifty little ribbon and button for this campaign? Gotta have a ribbon and a button you know.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is out in front on this issue.
Reid Stout at is a sane man about this issue.
The Inquirer gives you an idea of the reality of this issue.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 10, 2003 9:11 AM | Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Digiholics Unite!

Yes, I took this in a movie theatre. Should I be ashamed I can't stop?

If you or someone you know suffers the dreaded affliction of "digiholism" you owe it to yourself to read this hilarious analysis that rips the polite facade off this terrible disease that cripples millions of relationships a year.

Till Pixels Do Us Part (
By Sheryl Van der Leun

This past summer, I almost lost my husband, the man I love desperately. Not in a car crash. Not to SARS. Not to another woman, and no, not even to golf.

Tragically, I almost lost him to digital photography. I was just this side of becoming a digi-widow. Day after day, night after night, the camera was his de facto companion. He'd be out at all hours, his Nikon Coolpix 5000 strapped around his neck, lens cap dangling, hand intimately caressing the case, thumb ever-quivering above the shutter button.

In the old days, when it was just film, it was never this bad. Back then, he would take pictures like a "normal" person. A roll here. A roll there. But once he started dipping into pixels, well, it was like Fast Times at Digital High. .... (More here.)

And it was too. I know. I don't say this just because the author is my beloved and brilliant wife, but because I was there. Now, I'm in recovery. I think.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 9, 2003 8:11 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Road Trip Reports: Near Moab

20th Century Kiva in Southeastern Utah

by Gary Snyder

There is another world above this one; or outside of this one; the way to
it is thru the smoke of this one, & the hole that smoke goes
through. The ladder is the way through the smoke hole; the
ladder holds up, some say, the world above; it might have
been a tree or pole; I think it is merely a way.

Fire is at the foot of the ladder. The fire is in the center. The walls are
round. There is also another world below or inside this one.
The way there is down thru smoke. It is not necessary to
think of a series.

Raven and Magpie do not need the ladder. They fly thru the smoke holes
shrieking and stealing. Coyote falls thru; we recognize him
only as a clumsy relative, a father in old clothes we don’t
wish to see with our friends.

It is possible to cultivate the fields of our own world without much thought
for the others. When men emerge from below we see them
as the masked dancers of our magic dreams. When men dis-
appear down, we see them as plain men going somewhere
else. When men disappear up we see them as great heroes
shining through the smoke. When men come back from above
they fall thru and tumble; we don’t really know them; Coyote,
as mentioned before.


Posted by Vanderleun Sep 9, 2003 6:26 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Meet the New Puppet, Same as the Old Puppet

"Okay, I'm the good cop and you're the bad cop, right?"

In the eternal shuffle of Palestinian musical chairs, we will now be forced to endure yet another exercise in duplicity as Arafat's pick agrees to be new Palestinian premier. The new unfortunate lad designated as Arafat's beard will be one "Qureia."

Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia agreed on Monday to become his people's new prime minister while insisting he cannot move forward on the U.S.-backed peace plan unless he gets more support from Washington than was given his predecessor.
That phrase "his people's new prime minister" has a rather special bouquet, don't you think? Haughty, a bit spicy and redolent of rich echoes of mendacity and hypocrisy. One the one hand, it is clear that "his people" have had their will expressed by the eternal Arafat alone. On the other, who among "his people" caught up in this reptilian thugocracy would dare to gainsay this appointment? Only those who relish being hanged in the streets of Gaza, and those are few and far between.
Qureia, 65, whose appointment must still be confirmed by Palestinian lawmakers, said he would not set himself up for failure, an apparent reference to outgoing Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned Saturday.

Abbas quit after losing a power struggle with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and failing to get the White House to put more pressure on Israel to follow through on peace plan provisions.

We note that there is no mention that he also failed to get the demented Hamas to cease killing Israeli civilians, but that seems to play no part in the news reports. Only his failure to induce Washington to pressure Israel to willing commit suicide seems to be a factor here.

Our admiration for Colin Powell's seemingly limitless appetite for listening to the limitless blather pumped out by the Arafat spin factory in order to give Hamas more time to kill more Israelis continues to grow. How can he bear it day after day? Our theory is that Powell must just take the phone call and then plug into his Ipod until the whole thing is over, muttering, 'Yes... of course you can... we'll see ... okay.... wake me when this guy's term is over.... Have a nice day."

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 9, 2003 5:42 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Words to Be Spoken at Ground Zero

A great American president, invited to speak at the second anniversary of September 11 in New York City, might put it something like this:

Two years ago our enemies brought to us on this continent a new war, conceived in hatred and dedicated to the proposition that all Americans are to be slaughtered because they are Americans.

Now we are engaged in a great global war, testing whether this nation or any nation so attacked can long find the courage to endure the duties and sacrifices necessary for victory.

We are met on our first mass grave of that war. We have come to remember it as a final resting-place for those who here were murdered in our airplanes, at their desks, or trying to save others. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

Our fellow citizens, living and dead, who struggled here and in the war since that day have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The old world and those among us still weak and dedicated to appeasement will little note nor long remember what we say here, but we can never allow ourselves to forget what happened here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the as yet unfinished war which by their deaths these victims and heroes have required of us.

It is rather for us to become more deeply dedicated to finishing the great task remaining before us--that from the ashes of our honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that all nations under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that governments of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 1, 2003 9:04 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Today: Last Weekend of the Summer

by David MacDonald

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 1, 2003 10:09 AM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Minim for Monday


Today is the first day of the rest of your week.

From Tom Weller's MINIMS

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 1, 2003 10:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink

A view from decades hence as brilliantly presented at Silent Running in There's going to be a war

"Doesn't change a thing Timmy - I remember it today as clear as if it were just yesterday. That fireman looking up as the first plane dove into the tower like a swimmer going into a swimming pool. The second plane banking..."

"I remember Granddad, you only told me, like, a zillion times. But you know, other things happened too, not just the start of the War."

"Yes, of course. Seattle was a terrible day for us all, and so was Brisbane. And the death toll from the Al-Qaeda Influenza was one of the worst pandemics in history, sure. But you see Timmy, by then, we had steeled ourselves."

"What, you didn't care as much, you'd become blase about civillian casualties?"

"Absolutely not! We NEVER grew callous, not even about their civillians, despite what your university history lecturers may have told you. But it was different from that first day."

"How so?"

"September 11th shocked us. We didn't expect it. It came literally out of a clear blue sky. I knew right there and then that the world I knew was gone, and it wasn't coming back. Ever."

"But Seattle..."

"I think we'd already accepted that we were in a war, and that there'd be casualties. When I saw that mushroom cloud Timmy, I have to tell you it wasn't like September 11th. There was a sort of grim fatalism when that happened. Like when you're in uniform, and the guy next to you catches a bullet. He's gone, sure, it's a goddamn tragedy, but you don't have time to think about it. You still have a job to do."

"That's a bit cold."

"No, not cold. Neccessary. After Seattle, some folks thought everything would change, that there'd be some sort of negotiation. Huh! With who? About what? The difference between Seattle and New York is that Seattle happened to us when we were all soldiers and knew it. New York happened when we were civillians. There's a difference."

Pointer via LGF

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 1, 2003 9:46 AM | QuickLink: Permalink

From Michelle's moving and important Voices: Stories from 9/11 and Beyond

My wife and I live in Tucson, Arizona where I am stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. That morning I had decided to sleep in a little later than normal. I don't remember why, but for some reason I didn't have to be to work at 0730.

I was just starting to wake up when the phone rang. It's on my wife's side of the bed so she answered it. She let out one of those wailing "NOs!" that you know only comes from the most horrific news. I assumed that one of our family members had died so I was instantly wide awake and waiting for her to tell me the bad news. Instead she slammed the phone down and grabbed for the remote with these frantic motions which made her clumsy. She was scrabbling around the bed trying to pick up the remote and point it at the television. All the while she was repeating, "It's gone, it's gone. The World Trade Center is gone." I had no idea what she was talking about, but as soon as she turned on the television there was a plane hitting one of the towers. I had a moment of utter confusion, my wife was saying the trade center was gone, but it looked like I was watching it getting it hit. Then it hit me, this was a replay. I knew in that instant it was no accident.

My mind flipped. You understand if you're in the military, or civilian emergency services. I compartmentalized, my world got cold and everything had a sudden sharp clarity. I got up and without looking at my wife, told her, "There's going to be a war. I better get to work." I took a shower, got dressed and left. Later my wife said I had turned into a machine and in a way I had.

I got to work and we had the benefit of a television in the office so we spent the rest of the day watching the news. All the while I had this cold refrain running through my head, "People are going to die. People are going to die. They are fucking going to die."

Pointer via Silent Running

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 1, 2003 9:37 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
American Digest Road Trip

"The mad road, lonely, leading around the bend into the openings of space towards the horizon Wasatch snows promised us in the vision of the West, spine heights at the world's end, coast of blue Pacific starry night---nobone halfbanana moons sloping in the tangled night sky, the torments of great formations in the mist, the huddled invisible insect in the car racing onwards, illuminate." - Jack Kerouac, "Visions of Cody"
Reid Stott has maintained a fascinating web site for years at His weblog is one of those rich and rewarding pages packed to the edges with ideas, insights, opinions and a photo diary. But the real riches are to be found off the main page in Stotts' selection of his own photography around various themes. Chief among these are his hymns to one of the central myths of America: The Road Trip.

The image above is from his 8-day Red Rock Road Trip. By itself, it is an iconic image of all those roads that connect to all the other roads that let Americans travel at will, without internal passports, across the vast land sea that lies between the coasts. Taking a journey through Stotts' images, from the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley, won't be the same as doing it yourself, but perhaps it will inspire you to do the same the next time the open road calls.

Until then, if you see an image that moves you, and you will, think about dropping by Stotts' online store and ordering an archival print.

Posted by Vanderleun Sep 1, 2003 8:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
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