Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun
What's Just-So-Wrong With This Picture?

At the end of the exercise, Private Smitters was reduced in rank
and sent to sleep with the fishes by the rest of his unit.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 18, 2004 10:21 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
A Man, A Plan, A Font... Gleeburger?

James Lileks has a new site design and I’m afraid it is time, once again, for a Goudy Old Style intervention.

One of the problems with fontaholics is that, like bears, “once they get hooked on garbage, there’s no cure.”

Regular readers will know that I believe Lileks is one of the precious living treasures of the Net -- except for his, well, “fonting problem.” He as much as confesses to it with:

When you have thousands of fonts, and each speaks to you in a particular way, it’s hard to choose. To make it worse, no matter what font I choose, I have the most boring characters to work with: L and I.

I chose Gleeburger, a freeware font designed by someone named “Etherbrian.” His home page 404s, alas. It’s a font taken from a 1950s LA coffee shop. Much different from the old retro script font I was using -- which was League Night, by House -- but it’s about time I retired that one. It shows up everywhere. Pottery Barn Kids used it for Christmas. It’s on a Hello Kitty valentine Gnat got. I think I’m alone my gleeburgery for a while. -- Confession signed: LILEKS (James) The Bleat
The shameful elements are all contained in that brief cry for help: the "thousands" to choose from each ‘speaking to you;’ the view of the self as a bunch of “boring characters;” the association with people of low degree such as ether abusers; the desire to escape into the nimbus of nostalgia in “a 1950s LA coffee shop;” the rejection of basic and decent Pottery Barn and Hello Kitty family values (previously his trademark); and the desire to abuse his own special highly toxic font in solitude.

I’m here to help. It is my hope that if people would download the following note to Lileks and send it to him at all known email boxes, he will, at the least, admit he has a problem with fontahol. That’s the first step. Let’s help Lileks take it.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 17, 2004 1:35 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
What's Just-So-Wrong With This Picture?

[Click to enlarge]

Another fun product from: Gobler Toys

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 17, 2004 11:57 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Poets of Popular Science

In today’s wild, wild world of new age magazine design, it is always difficult to tell whether or not a known and trusted magazine is trying to become cutting edge, or is merely sinking into functional illiteracy. So it is this month with the venerable Popular Science.

A two page “Buy Things from Our Advertisers” plea called “The Goods” endeavors to bring a little learning to a terrible feature. It attempts to blend what is cunningly called a “service feature” with the ancient Japanese art of Haiku. This is like trying to mate a sea lion with a butterfly. You know the outcome, but you still need to watch the instant replay in slo-mo.

As I know from brutal experience, the “service feature” is one most editors with a shred of integrity loathe. The essence of the feature is to hide the scurvy little deals of the advertising department under the white bridal gown of the editorial department. It is, in the fullest sense of the term, a “servicing of the reader” since it hides those items the ad salesmen promised their clients inside of a host of other items the editor probably feels are worthy of some note or comment.

In magazines that still pretend to have editorial integrity this is done with a nod and a wink. In the other 99.9% of magazine this is done up close and personal with no foreplay whatsoever. An editor’s only recourse, other than quitting, is to find some way to salvage their self-esteem.

Hence, in this case, haiku to the rescue.

Within “The Goods” ( A motley collection that might be wisely subtitled -- ‘More crap you really don’t need’) the editor’s need for creativity is gratified by a need to inflict the dreaded haiku on the reader. How many of PopSci’s readers know haiku from seppuku is probably in the low triple digits, but that never stopped an editor with a high concept for a low job.

Some of the gems from this effort include:

First, the inevitable way new version of the computer --
“A full computer
In your hand. Pen-based, hidden
Keyboard, Windows. Wow”

Second, the pitch for a Wurlitzer jukebox that only idiots can love--
“A classic reborn
For the digital age. Malt
Shop not included.”

Third, working in the word “cool” without which no service feature would be complete --
“Unlock your front door
Secret-agent-style with just
One fingertip. Cool.”

Fourth, the obligatory nod to ‘stuff that really matters’ with the sardonic zinger --

“Our best and brightest
Design folding shoes. World peace
Will just have to wait.”

There are sixteen more examples, but I will spare you, as will the Popular Science website since it has not put this bit of poetry up for perusal.

As to the merit of these as haiku, we shall leave that for the ages. For now, it is nice to know that at Popular Science, when they send an editor out to do a service feature, they supply him with literary kneepads.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 17, 2004 11:35 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Michael Moore: The Early Years


Posted by Vanderleun Feb 16, 2004 8:59 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Blogs, Social Software, Mobile Culture, Emergent Democracy, Collapsing Contexts, User-Centered Flux Capacitors -- Humbug!

A friend writes to tell me to watch this spot: The Diary of a Blog Sceptic

The current entry holds much promise as does the blogs overarching motto:"Blogs, Social Software, Mobile Culture, Emergent Democracy, Collapsing Contexts, User-Centered Flux Capacitors -- Humbug!"

Where are you going, where have you been? Here's a preview on some of the subjects I plan to touch on in the days ahead. Feel free to suggest others.

Debunking the Myth, Part 1: Show me the Money!

Debunking the Myth, Part 2: Show me the Numbers; or, My High-School Newsletter Had More Readers!

Debunking the Myth, Part 3: Social Change, Revolution and the Mouse that Roared: Traditional Journalism, Real-time Blogging and the CalifornIrani Paradox; or, Food? Drink? Shelter? What they Really Need is Free WiFi!

Bloggers and the People Who Read Them Part 1; Hey, Look at my Shiny New Toy! Hey, Let's Have a Deep Conversation (about Polka-Dot Socks)! Hey, I'm Posting Live from PunditCon (and Here's the Moblog)!

Bloggers and the People Who Read Them Part 2: Birds of a Feather Flock Together, or A Blog for Every Opinion

Social Software, or I'm So Bored with Orkut--Wait, You Mean Nobody Invited You?

Biting the Hand that Blogs You: A Critical Look at Blogger, TypePad and LiveJournal

We can only hope the deeper promise of this blog is fulfilled.... as is the demand of one of the comments: " if you want to do something useful, come up with a non-stupid word for 'blog'."

And so say we all.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 13, 2004 9:18 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
We'd Like to Thank All the Little People

As we begin our second year here at American Digest, we looked about the charred wreckage of our first year and scrambled to find something that could be salvaged from the ruins.

Fortunately, there was one thing which, in the heat and the whirl of the last year, had completely escaped our notice.

We've become used to the deluge of awards and the kudos of our peers during the tumult of the great American realignment. Indeed, we've had to put in several extra trophy cases in the last year just to keep up with them. But we have to admit we did let one award slip by us a few months ago that we really should have mentioned.

It was on a lackluster day here at American Digest headquarters last April when we accepted a collect call from the Academy of LiveJournal Studies. Imagine our surprise when a husky voice informed us that we had been designated at the "Official WebLog of the Internet" by a unanimous vote of every website known to Google, including the cached copies.

Not being inclined to trumpet such an achievement, we let it go at the time and also declined to pay the $15,000 fee for a listing in all the major search engines that came with it.

Still, the memory of the brief flutter we felt on that day came back to us this afternoon and we thought, "Why the Hell Not?"

After all if Pentax, an otherwise also ran in the realms of photographic equipment can become "THE OFFICIAL DIGITAL CAMERA OF THE INTERNET" there's really no point in our hiding the fact that we have, for some time now, been "THE OFFICIAL WEBLOG OF THE INTERNET."

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 12, 2004 3:30 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Born This Day in 1809 -- "His Truth is Marching On"


Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether".

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 12, 2004 10:05 AM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Hope Forlorn

The elegant Belmont Club has yet to comprehend the depths to which political ambition drives men.

With the announcement that nuclear nonproliferation lies in ruins, America has entered a period as critical as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The whole world, not simply the United States, may now be in the age of the nuclear car bomb. The speed with which the crisis has descended has left political parties without a set response to the nightmare which they had deluded themselves into thinking would never happen. They will in consequence, temporize the way actors who have walked into the wrong play have done, by repeating snatches from other parts, however ludicrous, however inappropriate. No one is ever truly ready to face a diagnosis of cancer.

One hopes that lingering in the minds of partisan politicians is the realization that this is real, that they can die in a nuclear fireball too. Or that some memory of fellowship or love country, left over from childhood, returns to make its claim. If any of that still lives, let it come forth now. The hour is here.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 11, 2004 8:21 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
In the Right Place at the Right Time


Posted by Vanderleun Feb 11, 2004 8:08 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Clark Keeps Running

Wesley Clark Drops Out of Race

WASHINGTON - Wesley Clark, the novice politician with four-star military credentials, abandoned his presidential bid Tuesday after two third-places finishes in the South, the Associated Press has learned.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 11, 2004 8:01 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Just Imagine

Pakistan Suspected Nuke Expert for Years

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Warnings from fellow scientists about the father of Pakistan's nuclear program and his ostentatious wealth raised suspicions Abdul Qadeer Khan was selling weapons technology abroad years before the government was compelled to take action against him, officials say.

Scientists who worked in Pakistan's covert program to build a nuclear deterrent against rival India had warned the government even before its first bomb test in 1998 that Khan was involved in suspect activity, a government official told The Associated Press, speaking Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Fade up. Cue white piano chords.

Abdul Khan’s “Imagine”

Imagine I’m still at it,
It's easy if you try.
Selling hell for Allah,
That infidels may fry.
Imagine all your people
Blown away today...

Imagine there's no America,
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to hate or envy,
No Christians and no Jews.
Imagine all survivors
Praying to the East...

Imagine no Seattle.
I wonder if you dare?
No need for OS or lattes,
As our bomb ignites their air.
Imagine all the people
Turning into ash...

You may say I’m a schemer,
We hope some day to nuke you,
And the world will end as one.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 11, 2004 7:26 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Novel As A Box of Art

Frontispiece for "Third Wish" -- A novel by Robert Fulghum

As a writer, Robert Fulghum knows a thing or two about telling a story. As an artist, he knows a thing or two about building a novel:

"The outside box is wooden - fine cedar - Japanese style. The inside of the box is lined with incense cedar - wonderful smell - and tanned leather - likewise a lovely smell. The wood is left natural - no stain or varnish."
To see the fascinating detail of how this novel-as-object was made look at: Robert Fulghum "Third Wish" -- a novel in a box.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 10, 2004 2:04 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
In passing,

I note that the official theme for this year's WEF Davos meeting at which Eason Jordan disgraced himself, his company, and his "profession" was:

"Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices"

Still no word from Jordan or the WEF on when the tape will be released.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 10, 2004 11:13 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Rosie? Roseanne?: Even Professors Get Confused

Rosie, Roseanne, Rodan: It's Just That Simple

In a moment of candor Professor Glenn Reynolds issues a retraction and confession at

EUGENE VOLOKH WRITES on animals, perversion, Jerry Falwell, and Rosie O'Donnell.

UPDATE: Sorry - confused Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell earlier

Little wonder and no shame to that as we learn at: "Cloning Experiments Gone A Wry [sic]

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 10, 2004 10:31 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Signs of Political Desperation

"Neither Snow, Nor Sleet, Nor Numbing Repeated Defeat...."

:As you are watching the Washington and Michigan caucuses, keep reporting back on your visibility day (read the visibility day thread below if you want to be inspired about the Dean roots)..." -- Blog for America
We think the sign makes his roots pretty clear, thank you.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 7, 2004 7:16 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Satan's Packaging

Filed under "Brilliant observations about the really irritating little things of modern life" --

"What's all this about a food product? We're a drywall concern, Jenkins."

"Exciting new product, sir : thin slabs of lightly-baked dry cracker meal marketed as a base for cheeses and the like, or to the spastic person who would rather appear gluttonous than drool in public."

"Interesting. Naked unglazed cracker meal? They must stale in a manner of minutes after exposure to air."

"Yes sir. Inedible."

"How do you plan to package such a fragile product?"

"Well sir, we think the obvious way to go is a tough, form-fitting ripstop plastic sleeve with a false seam down one side."

"Yes, yes... name the product Cracker Meal Everywhere. No, not enough sex appeal... Crumbs In Your Hair... no, you could never get a pun like that over."

"Saltines sir. The name preserves the surprise, and sets up a false expectation of flavor."

"Excellent. Slaughter those two baby goats and begin production immediately. Hail Satan!"

"Hail Satan!"

From-- Genius at work

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 7, 2004 10:22 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mars Rover: The Right Tool for the Right Job?


On Mars, nothing can go wrong,
...go wrong ...go wrong...

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 6, 2004 11:26 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
New York Life: Images After the Fall

Click for Larger Image

Exhibition Information and Background at New York Life.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 8:42 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Edwards' Candidacy Begins Death Spiral

1. "Read my lips: no new wardrobe malfunctions."
0. "If I could get Al Gore to endorse me, I could get off
this damn bus. The 3-year old is driving me nuts."

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards took his turn at late-night comedy Wednesday in hopes of building on his success in winning the South Carolina primary. Edwards taped an appearance on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" in which he presented the Top 10 list.
Also known as "The Bit They Do When They Decide It's a Good Day to Die"
The last Democrat to deliver a Top 10 list was [Howard the Duck], who did so Jan. 22 after a much-ridiculed concession speech in Iowa.
Rep. Dick Gephardt, of Missouri, read his Top 10 list a week before his poor showing in Iowa. After losing Jan. 19, Gephardt abandoned his presidential bid.
....and DOUBLE-check

From: The Union Leader

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 4:27 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Jackson Bares Soul. A Nation Mourns.

In a videotape released to the media, Janet Jackson
apologized for the breast-baring incident.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 4:16 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
More Bad News for the Institution of Marriage
Man dies after marrying dog for luck

A Nepalese man has died three days after marrying a dog in the hope it would bring him good luck.

Phulram Chaudhary died after he had tied the knot with the dog, reports daily Gorkhapatra.

The 75-year-old, from Durgauli in Kailali district, was reportedly followed a practice prevalant in the Tharu community which believes that an old man who regrows teeth must take a dog as a bride

The wedding was attended by the man's son and other relatives

The paper said: "He thought the marriage would avert a great misfortune at a later stage of life but he died within a few days."
-- Ananova

The sexual orientation of the dog was withheld by the Supreme Court of Nepal pending suttee.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 3:47 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Still More Mush from the Wimp

Back in early November, I wrote a short item entitled "More Mush from the Wimp:"

�MORE MUSH FROM THE WIMP�� was the famous headline from the Boston Globe mistakenly left on a story about Jimmy Carter�s views while he was president. Evidently some typesetter who didn't share Carter's enthusiasms slugged it in while waiting for the real head to come down from editorial. It never made it and the story ran with a more accurate if less polite headline.

We've come a long way since then. Now we don't have to wait for the big media to filter the candidates views to us. No. With the blight of online campaign blogging we can cut right through the media filters and reap the spew of the various presidential wannabes right from the source! Why we can read their very thoughts as their very hands type them in to the blog.

Yes, we can get our mush straight from the wimp.

At the time, I was busy excoriating the phoney "candidate blogs" supposedly keyboarded by the candidate himself or someone close to him or her.

Little did I realize that it was only a matter of time before the original Mush Wimp would get in the game. Why? I'd don't know. I shouda seen it coming.

Alas, today, the great era of blogdom came to an end more sure and certain than the implosion of Howard the Duck's online minions. Yes, it is over. Pack it in. Scrub the servers. Move along. Nothing to see here but Mush from the Wimp.

Jimmy Carter, the ex-President who can never seem to learn to just shut up and sit down, has a blog.

Well, he would have a blog if he was certain what to call it. The current title reads, I kid you not:

"Web Logs (Blogs) from West Africa: President Carter's Reflections"

Sigh. I mourn for this once bright and promising medium. I always knew it would survive the hype of Howard the Duck, but how, I ask you, can blogging hope to survive Jimmy Carter's "Reflections?"

Monday, Feb. 2, 2004: Togo

This marked the first full day of our West African journey, made possible by traveling in the "magic carpet" Gulfstream owned by our Trustee Dick Blum. In addition to him, Dr. John Hardman, our son Jeffrey, and Kathy Cade were on the plane. After a midnight refueling stop in Cape Verde, where we were met and briefed by the U.S. Ambassador, we arrived early this morning in Lome, Togo's capital city. We received a warm greeting from the Prime Minister, U.S. Ambassador Gregory Engle, our Carter Center colleagues, and school children bearing flowers. On our drive from the airport to the hotel, we noticed signs that the economy has deteriorated since our last visit ten years ago. In fact, annual per capita income has dropped from $600 to $293.

In fact, how can Togo survive this Carter mission? The last one obviously cost each capita in Togo about $307 in annual income. By the time the Carters leave, if the past is any clue, everybody in Togo will owe the rest of the world ten bucks a year just for living.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 3:40 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Divided We Stand Still ... in Bookstores

Click to Read

Valdis Krebs at Political Patterns on the WWW has been making node maps of book buying habits to the Left and Right for over a year. The latest node map is fascinating to look at and even more interesting to ponder. Krebs key observation:

"It appears that the many of the books have changed from last year but the pattern is the same. Two distinct clusters, with dense internal ties have emerged. These political books are preaching to the converted! This year we find more bridges between the clusters. Yet, this network of 67 books is dependent on just 2 nodes to remain connected -- Sleeping with the Devil and Bush at War."
Fascinating and interesting because it tells us what the intelligensia of America may be thinking politically. It also underscores the great political divide of American minds at this time in history. But, alas, it only looks at books and, as much as I love books, I've spent enough time in the book business to know to a fare-thee-well, that book buyers and readers are a tiny jot of the population.

Knowing that book buyers tend to read books that reinforce their point of view isn't too illuminating. That's obvious to any constant reader.

What would be more interesting would be if we could know just how influential these book buyers were in aggregate. We assume that, because they are mainly part of the 20% of the text-driven part of the population that they enjoy no little influence in their spheres and careers.

The real question for 2004 is: Can they nominate and elect a President? Short form, especially in light of the recent crash and burn of the Internet Poltical Intellectuals, is probably not. In politics, nobody really likes a know-it-all -- at least not one who is so willing to share that he knows it all.

What, I believe, this mind-map actually shows is the shape of the Great Realignment that is taking place in American Politics. Not the vast bulk turning beneath the surface of the Center, but the two tips of the iceberg. And since there seem to be more books on the blue side, that would be the one tilting towards the cold cruel sea.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 3:12 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
A Relgion of Peace,Love and Underfoot

We note this tragic headline from that garden spot of the globe, Mina, Saudi Arabia :244 Muslims killed in Saudi' stoning the devil' stampede

MINA, Saudi Arabia -- At least 244 persons were trampled to death and hundreds were hurt yesterday under a crush of worshippers in one of the deadliest disasters during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
    The stampede occurred during the stoning of the devil, an emotional and notoriously perilous hajj ritual. Pilgrims frantically throw rocks, shout insults or hurl their shoes at three stone pillars -- acts that are supposed to demonstrate deep disdain for Satan.
Someone not completely convinced that what we are dealing with here is "A Religion of Peace and Compassion" might point out that, in general, when the faithful keep to this sort of stoning only one person dies.

Perhaps the deeper meaning in this tragic event is: "One woman, okay, but don't mess with Satan's stones."

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 1:44 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Non-Profit LePetomaines

Donald Sensing is being sensible again at One Hand Clapping with his terse observation that do-good organizations tend to outlive the good they do and end up just "protecting their phoney-baloney jobs."

Earlier today we grabbed a document listing the kind of government pork that is doled out to non-profits in the name of the greater good. You might want to glance at it. It's right here. I found a few things I approved of. Everyone will. But there are hundreds and hundreds of grants being pumped out to... well to do-gooders who have run out of good to do. Yup, as Sensing sensibly says:

It's not mission creep, it's the "Governor LePetomaine syndrome"

In Mel Brooks' classic western comedy, Blazing Saddles, Brooks plays the corrupt western Governor William J. LePetomaine.

When a report reaches him that a town faces a crisis, LePetomaine turns to his attorney general, Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and exclaims,
"We've got to do something to save our phony-baloney jobs!"

The need to justify a job's existence is what I call the "Governor LePetomaine syndrome." It applies to organizations also. Say, the Southern Poverty Law Center:
"The Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC made a name for itself chasing Klansmen and militias. Now, it focuses on serving diabetic prison inmates, 10 commandment-toting judges and writing movie reviews. [via Instapundit]"

Humm, it's only a question of time before someone starts a non-profit dedicated to understanding and limiting "The LePetomaine Syndrome." That's a group that need never go out of business.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 1:25 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mother of Mercy, Can This Be the End of Tux!

It seems like only yesterday.... in fact it was yesterday that we were wondering if THIS could be a metaphor for The Meaning of Life. But now we know the secret subtext of the Yeti batting the Penguin for distance. How could we have been so blind?

This mysterious web page which has brought so many hours of senseless but pleasurable fritter to so many millions is actually, yes, a CRY FOR HELP from our beloved Tux, the Linux Penguin.

Yes, it came to me like a diamond bullet through the center of my skull (or an acid flashback), that what we are seeing when we see the Yeti, the White Ape, the *ALBINO* snowman whack the "Anonymous Penguin" is a message from somewhere deep within the corporate labyrinth that is IBM. The message? That Tux is going to be sent to sleep with the Taco Bell chihuahua.

Think about it. Since IBM started making this big deal about being "Open," have you seen beak or feather of Tux? You have not. Instead, you've seen only the silent adventures of a strangely mute nordic Albino of dubious gender coupled only with the ominous promise that "Linux is Growing."

The tout of "open software" is one thing when it is sung by the likes of Richard Stallman, quite another when it becomes a corporate message at the Superbowl.

It's clear that the old fishbait-and-switcheroo of the corporate marketing gill-netters at IBM are out to deep-six Tux, and that some programmer, some Tux mole within IBM is trying to get the word out.

Do you doubt it? Here are some screen grabs from this evening's email to me after I had run a search deep into the root of IBM's Linux web farm. They came in with the sender marked as "" I wasn't fooled. I opened them. And just before my laptop melted in my lap, the attachments told "The Tale of Tux:

Attachment 1:

Attachment 2:

Attachment 3:
This... THIS... is the shocking inner meaning behind all this penguin bashing that's been going on. I leave it to those with more skill at hacking than I to save the little penguin from his fate.

Remember: If IBM can replace Tux, it is only a question of time before it reformats your hard drive. That which is open can always be closed.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 5, 2004 12:54 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
They're Coming to America

So, tell me again about how everyone, everywhere hates this arrogant, terrible, violent, imperialistic, overbearing country.

"Got a '59 Buick to take them there..."

A group of Cubans sails toward the Florida Straits on a modified 1959 Buick Tuesday February 3, 2004. The pilots were the same two men who tried to sail a converted 1951 Chevy flatbed truck to the U.S. last year. Nine other Cubans, including wives and children, were intercepted by the U.S Coast Guard on Tuesday Feb. 3, 2004. (AP Photo/CBS4, HO)
Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America.
Everytime that flag's unfurled,
They're coming to America.
Got a dream to take them there,
They're coming to America.
Got a dream they come to share,
They're coming to America.
They're coming to America.

-- Neil Diamond-America

Now you might think these refugees from a Communist dictatorship are crazy to try and get in this way, but do you have any idea what a cherry '59 Buick is worth in Florida, once you dry it out?

You'll note they tried it before with a flatbed Chevy truck. Bad idea. No resale value.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 4, 2004 11:05 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
News from the Near Future

Eyewitness account of the Linux monopoly trial
By: Robin Miller

Washington DC, January 31, 2014 -- Riot police have finally managed to beat back the milling throng of displaced Visual Basic programmers who attacked the courthouse after Judge Cotter Kathelly announced that Linux was not an illegal monopoly and that neither Linus Torvalds nor his company, Linux Development, Inc, owed damages to former employees and shareholders of now-bankrupt Microsoft or to any of its business partners.

Protestors have been a daily feature of this trial since it started early last year. A bald, bearded man wearing a poncho who identifies himself only as "Balls," but who some say is really former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been fingered by police as the ringleader, but so far their efforts to capture him have been fruitless. His appearances have been brief, and he has melted back into the crowd and disappeared after each one, while thousands of demonstrators carrying signs with "Flying Windows" logos on them have blocked police whenever they tried to pursue the fleeing figure.

Inside the courthouse, a greying Torvalds has been like the calm point in the center of a roiling whirlpool, allowing his poker face to show emotion only when making one of his famous quips, several of which have brought the trial to a halt while Judge Kathelly recovered his composure and laughter from others in the courtroom -- including from the plaintiffs' table -- died down....

[Continued at: NewsForge | Eyewitness account of the Linux monopoly trial]

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 4, 2004 8:11 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
A Metaphor for... for...

... for The Meaning of Life?

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 3, 2004 7:29 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Just When You Thought the DotCom Bombs Were History....

Priceline is Back!

But with a, er. "new look."

So click, Grasshopper, and be enlightened.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 3, 2004 3:37 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Only 9,827 Days Left to Bid!

Skippy -- In His Younger Days Before Dementia

The bizarre operating system of eBay continues to toss up bizarre items at stranger terms. Witness this long and grinding battle for "eBay item 237479800 -- (Ends Dec-31-30 00:00:00 PST)" also know as the quest to own
Skippy's Brain in a Jar and Head on a Pike.

Current bid:
US $99,999,999.00

Time left:
9827 days 12 hours
11309-day listing
Ends Dec-31-30 00:00:00 PST

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 3, 2004 11:31 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
New York Life: An Exhibition and Open Invitation

On Sunday the 29th of February, I will be showing New York Life: Images After the Fall, an exhibition of photographs at Harlow's Gallery in Laguna Beach, California. The opening reception will be held from 12 noon to 5. All are welcome to attend. Clicking on the New York Life link above will take you to the web site for the show with the location, some background and sample images. Those with fast connections and a need to see really big images can look Here.

The exhibition itself will run through March. It will be a small selection from the over 10,000 photographs I took of New York City in 2002. My reasons and rationale for such obsessive behavior are contained within the statement below drawn from the exhibition:

"When a man has lived a long time with a city and then decided to leave her, it seems best to make a record before departing. Otherwise, for all the years he has lived with her, all he will have left will be the shards of moments and not the mosaic complete.

The archives he retains will, invariably, be merely personal -- clippings from the local papers, a box of business cards, filched matchbooks, a sheaf of menus, random pay stubs, a well-thumbed Rolodex, and a few albums filled with pictures of friends and acquaintances remembered with varying degrees of accuracy. And his snapshots.

They will be snapshots of his personal celebrations; the birthdays, anniversaries, shared summer houses, days in the park and nights on the town. He’ll be in some of them. Friends will proliferate in others. And the city will persist, implied, either in the background or intruding in the middle distance; like the air, unnoticed until absent. When you leave her, this is what you will carry away. It will fit in a medium-sized cardboard box. We’ve all packed this box. Mine was labeled, “New York.”

Your memory of the city will fade long before the snapshots in the box. True, they fade slowly -- pushed into the mist by other days and other scenes -- but fade they do. And so you will find yourself pretending you know what she looked like, and how you felt, when you lived with her through all those white nights and bright days.

But it will be a lie; one that will grow more elaborate and comfortable as the distance dissolves the experience. In time, you won’t even recognize it as a lie. Just as an old love remembered anew can appear in warmer tones than the last days that drove you apart, so too a city can rise in radiance as the memory, always protective of the self, tints in some false rose of dawn or the sham melancholy of twilight.

Knowing this, I resolved to record her as I knew her without sham or falsity.

Beginning in early May of 2002 and ending at around ten in the evening of November 9, 2002, I kept a detailed photographic record of what we were like and how we lived in New York in that shaky first year of our unsought new era. During those months I took over 10,000 shots. Of these I destroyed most. In the end, I kept about 3,000 that struck me as worth preserving for one reason or another.

To show you, to make you see what I saw during my walks around the city in those months, would take a thousand images and an iron constitution. Instead here are a few. I’ve selected them because they seem, in aggregate, to give a reasonable impression of my last days in New York, the city I had lived in and loved for the better part of 30 years.

It is said that “There are eight million stories in the naked city,” but that’s another lie. There are, if you could read the secret hearts of New Yorkers, eight million stories squared in that city. In these rooms is a very short version of just one of them.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 2, 2004 7:58 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Facts on the Ground

The Middle East in 2001 A. D.
Red indicates those countries hostile towards the United States in word or in deed.
White indicates those countries friendly to or neutral toward the United States.

The Middle East in 2004 A. D.
Red indicates those countries hostile towards the United States in word or in deed.
White indicates those countries friendly to or neutral toward the United States.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 2, 2004 7:29 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Fallen Star

Courtesy of: Cox & Forkum

In a moment like this, one must not focus for long on the negative. I am reminded of the words of the American hymn "Hail Columbia" by Joseph Hopkinson:
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

We stand wounded, but not defeated. One day, the flags our men and women carried with them into space will fly on the surface of Mars. And on that day, we will once again Hail Columbia.
-- Nicholas Provenzo

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 1, 2004 1:52 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
On Beyond Botox


I'm bringing this back because the makeover seems to be working.

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 1, 2004 12:03 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mars:"Man, you gotta go"

There's a hell of a nice universe next door. Let's go."

For the first time in decades, the possibility of going to Mars has been brought forward and placed on the table for discussion and debate. Ive been carrying on a conversation with a friend over the past few weeks about the immediate ramifications of this, the worst of which is, to my mind the abandonment of the Hubble.

But the Hubble issue and others that have swirled around the Mars gambit in the last few weeks are merely political and transitory; of no more moment, really, than a primary election in a dinky state. There are larger issues that Mars illuminates.

Those issues came to mind this morning when an email from the friend mentioned above said:

....if, indeed, life and intelligent life is as prevalent as we think it should be, why aren't we (a) intercepting millions of alien broadcasts in the electromagnetic spectrum, and (b) positively inundated with alien landings?

One reason that is disturbing in a deep way is that we're all wrong, and we're all alone....What if, in all those billions of galaxies, we're it. Gives me the shivers.

....Look at us, mankind. We've been given the gift of intelligence, and the ability to expand our ecosystem out into space, where, with some significant but not insurmountable effort, we could spread like a proverbial virus.

Heaven above. All we need do is figure out how to make a wheel within a wheel to take us away to the middle of the air.

But the ILIE Religion requires proof that our ETC Gods exist and from that you get the High Church of SETI. All we need is one, just one, captured episode of some far-stars afternoon sit-com and well know ILIE is the one true religion. It will show us that we are not, as mentioned above, a fluke of the universe; that we are not alone.

But I suspect that we are, indeed, alone. Or, if not exactly alone, alone enough that it makes no practical difference.

Many years ago I read a very stirring and beautiful book by Guy Murchie called The Seven Mysteries of Life. It is a complicated bit of scientific romanticism and I wont go into it here in detail. Besides Im sure if I re-read it now it would seem antiquated, even quaint. But at some point in that book, Murchie began to take on the Google stars - X stars = X Stars Supporting Intelligent Life proposition that forms the foundation for the ILIE Religion. The argument removes stars from the board of life for being in the center of galaxies, being multiple, being too big, too small, too young, too old, etcetera, etcetera and turtles all the way down. This gets you a much smaller number of stars with planets and then, through application of other elements, makes that number smaller and smaller until you get to, well, the single planet on which we have found intelligent life, Earth. Its at least as compelling as the arguments for ILIE.

But they are both still religions and we are returned, just when we thought wed escaped into the one true faith of ILIE, back to a situation of dueling faiths each playing a slightly different tune even if the underlying harmonic blends. But lets boost the all alone track for now and dampen the ILIE part of the mix. Lets say that we are all alone and that Murchies argument is correct. After all, the all-aloners do have a planet to stand on. The others need at least two planets to get going.

If we are alone and we are in the fluke category, then what we do will hardly matter to anything other than ourselves. Hence, we need to take responsibility for our actions as a race. If we are all that is we need to keep going -- if only from the imperative that life must keep going even if it is to no purpose other than simple replication. To achieve that with any certainty we have to create, it seems to me, a second planet just as an insurance policy, a safe haven. This is, to my mind, the most cogent argument for Mars.

Of course, in technical terms, going to Mars in the near future with the technology on hand will probably be similar to launching balsa log rafts into the Pacific in the Kon Tiki era, but that doesnt mean we wont do it. (The only real limits to this are 1) the vehicles cost a lot more than balsa rafts and 2) a foolish desire on our part to make sure that everyone gets there safe and sound 100% -- i.e. We cant repair the Hubble because it isnt safe.)

In the Home and Alone theory of intelligent life in the universe, Mars is key. If we can get there and establish ourselves then we will have transformed ourselves from fluke to seed. This is especially stimulating to the ILIE Religion because it will seem to be something weve done all by ourselves without any help from metaphysical realms or something named God. And keeping God out of the new ILIE religion is essential. It is more essential to ILIE than finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Keeping God out preserves the ILIE religion as the one true faith and a religions first imperative is that there can be only one.

I keep returning to the words God and Religion. The injection of these terms into a discussion of things scientific always makes people very uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. Today, one seems to have nothing to do with the other. In fact, we did at some time in the 20th century come to a tacit agreement to keep science and religion in separate spheres where: Never the twain shall meet / Til Earth and Sky stand presently at Gods great Judgment Seat.

I am not a man of traditional religion. My church going activities are sparse to say the least. Im what I call A Christian in Crisis Only. Make me fearful or make me terrified or make me hurt deeply on an emotional level, and youll find me on my knees praying in a church or even on a back lawn somewhere. Other times I go blithely about my business. But thats not the state Im talking about when I bring God into this discussion.

To my mind, limited as it is, Ive been noting a tendency at the extreme reaches of physics and the observable universe to touch the metaphysical. This is the phenomenon thats called A universe not only stranger than we imagine, but a universe stranger than we *can* imagine. The high church of physics/astronomy/biology/mathematics has its high priests, and what they are preaching from their visions of the far edges of the microsphere and the macrosphere on a lot of levels boggles the minds of lesser mortals. But we take them on, well, faith.

Mine is a primitive mind driven by, to tell the truth, poetry and romanticism with a veneer of pragmatism to get through the day. I tend to look at the whole of what is now known, and know that right now all we know is just how deeply ignorant we are. Weve advanced at a great rate, but I think that all this advancement has gotten us is a vague inkling of what there really is to know. And because of this I think, or rather believe, that what we are about to become, in a way we are too ignorant now to know, is a seed.

If we are home alone then, if we have any purpose whatsoever, we are a means by which the universe can not only know and perceive itself, but also a way of whipping up a hot-fudge sundae for itself. (Not so trivial as you may think.) Were certainly a driven form of matter. You see that around you everyday. And we are impatient. We want the stars and we want them now. We dont understand the gap between desire and gratification, and that creates no end of trouble for us. We think we are doing so many things wrong because we can see what is wrong with what we do. We seldom think of all the things we are doing right, not the least of which is taking only about a century (an inch of time) to get out of the gravity well.

So, at the end of the day, I guess Ill have to take Pascals wager and go with it until there is evidence of something other than absence. Im on the side that believes we are here with some sort of purpose that we are not yet equipped to understand (Please recall that all we really are is a smart monkey.). We dont really know why we do the things we do, but we will be driven outward, in time, until we do understand it. How, I do not know, but the hominid paddling a log across a river didnt know about the Lunar Lander, did he?

Everybody needs something worthy of belief. I believe we have a purpose, and probably a purpose given to us by what I would call a non-interventionist God who just sets things up and lets them roll. But for the roll out to work out, free will has to be in the mix. Otherwise, this one planet would be hip-deep in slime mold and that would be the end of the story. Since it isnt, it comforts me to believe that we have greater ends in store for us and that, as a race, we will somehow make it through our current difficulties. Measured against the sweep of time and the universe, our present problems are quite trivial.

Remember that the moon is already part of our story, if only for a golf shot. Mars? That will be added to the story soon. Beyond that I cant see, but I do like Our Story So Far.

And I like stories that dont let you know the ending. Mars is one of them. Ill probably be gone before this chapter ends and the next begins. I like to think at some point well be at the part of the story where somebody like Gully Foyle in Alfred Besters The Stars My Destination stands up in front of a crowd somewhere and rants at them, Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me. I make you men. I make you great. I give you the stars.

Or, in perhaps a less dramatic way, somebody says: We are here. The stars are there. It is only a matter of going.

Were either alone in the universe or part of a maddening crowd. Either way, man, you gotta go.
But what do we do? Like dung beetles on the last bolus of shit, we cling harder and harder to the Earth, multiplying and strangling it. Resources which could go to expansion, instead go to more weapons to ensure that we have firm control over our little ball of nutrients, all the while depleting it and making it more uninhabitable. Of course, unlike the dung beetles, there's no elephant waiting around to drop us another one in the foreseeable future.

I think we've misinterpreted the slogan "Earth First." Perhaps it really means "First stop of many on the line".

Are we alone and will we, in the vernacular, blow it. I think the answer to the latter question is no. As for the former, well....

For quite a few years now, Ive been a bit unpopular when I suggest that we need to consider the fact that we might, indeed, be all alone; that we might be a fluke or a seed or simply something of no purpose struggling to no avail and heading towards an ignominious ending in a backwater of a third-rate galaxy.

There is currently no real evidence that sentient life 1) exists elsewhere in abundant quantities or 2) exists but is rare. If intelligent life were at all common the electromagnetic spectrum should be awash in signals. And while the old saw Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence tugs at me, the phrase No information is no information also comes into play.

Another possibility is that What we have here is a failure to communicate. This would suppose that the electromagnetic spectrum is simply not the means by which communication between Extraterrestrial Civilizations (ETC) happens and something else that we are too primitive to understand is being used. Weve certainly imagined such things just as weve imagined Faster Than Light drives. But so far these are devices that merely help our science fiction narratives along. It would be boring indeed to have to dunk around the same old solar system forever using chemical rockets. Pushing off to the stars in them would give new meaning to the phrase slow boat to China.

Arthur C. Clarke reminds us that Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Id bend that around to say that Any proposition asserting the existence of ETC is indistinguishable from religion.

I say religion for two reasons. The first is that, regardless of the many arguments advanced for it, there is still no proof that any ETC exist and thus it is purely a matter of faith.

The second reason that the ETC assertion is religious in nature is that technotronic types need to believe it because they need, in their lives, something that is worthy of belief beyond mentation and purposeless matter hovering in the dark. Any specific religion can be denied but need to believe in something seems to be hard wired into humanity.

One of the many curses of free will is that it can remove, at will, God from the equation of the universe. But removing God does not remove the need to believe. The result is a host of secular faiths of which the assertion of Intelligent Life Is Everywhere (ILIE) is central to the catechism. No God means that Mind is God, no Soul means that Self is Soul. When the Kingdom of Heaven that is within is denied, then the Kingdom of Heaven must be lurking in, well,

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 1, 2004 11:46 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
No Bush at the Bowl

To nobody's surprise, least of all MoveOn and PETA, CBS blew off their pleas to be included in the today's Ad Superbowl that will be interrupted from time to time with something resembling a football game. The New York Times reported that, commenting on the decision:

Wes Boyd, a founder of, told The Associated Press that he had no evidence that the ad was rejected because it was anti-Bush, he said, "I worry that it's about ideology."
Poor fretful man. Of course it is about the ideology. And controversial ideologies are clearly proscribed by CBS' long-standing policy. Bush is either very good or very bad, depending. Hence, controversy. But this move by MoveOn was never about actually getting the ad on the tube, it was a cynical effort to get the ad talked about when it DIDN'T get on the tube. Media is always happy to oblige since it clearly thinks that news = something that didn't happen.

In the same vein, the mouth-droolers at PETA pushed their little eating meat= impotence screed forward for the press pickup. They never believed they'd have to write a check. That way they could be outraged on the cheap;

A spokeswoman for PETA, Lisa Lange, told The Associated Press that CBS's policy was inconsistent, because she had seen ads condemning smoking and drunken driving on past Super Bowl telecasts.
Since Ms. Lange obviously suffers from the brain drain that occurs when empathy completely replaces sanity, let me help her out. Lisa, drunken driving is bad. No controversy there except perhaps in New Orleans. Smoking? Bad. Not a lot of disagreement there either. But even you have to know that the jury is still out on meat eating at every McDonalds in the land. Okay? Thanks. Now go cuddle a bunny to death.

CBS's Martin Franks is the only one in this story that's sane.

Antidrug abuse or antismoking ads, on the other hand, he said, do not wade into such controversial waters. "If you can find somebody responsible who is for drug abuse," Mr. Franks said, "or someone responsible who is for teenagers seeking to smoke, then it would be a credible rebuttal of our policy. I don't know anybody who does."

Asked about last year's drug policy advertisement that linked drug sales to international terrorism, Mr. Franks said, "Is it an absolutely perfect system? Absolutely not. On the other hand, the ad wasn't even close. I didn't need to rewind that one in the VCR."

Perhaps MoveOn will attempt to hit up Franks for a $1.00 rewind fee when he ships the tape back.

-- From Ad Rejections by CBS Raise Policy Questions

Posted by Vanderleun Feb 1, 2004 11:14 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
G2E Media GmbH