Sunday, May 29

Monique Buzzart�'s Directory of Women Trombonists

Monique Buzzart�'s Directory of Women Trombonists:

Alphabetizing is according to the preference of the individual; trombonists may be listed under maiden, married, or both last names.

That's Annie Whitehead (above), described by Beat International as "The Sly and Robbie of British brass,the woman everyone turns to when they want a class trombone player."

She has worked with many well known artists including Joe Jackson,Elvis Costello, Joan Armatrading,Chis Rea, The Style Council and Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart.She is well known on the international Jazz scene and was a member of Chris MacGregor's Brotherhood of Breath and the Carla Bley Very Big Band. She also tours regularly with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Jasper van't Hof's Dutch/African group Pili Pili. She is also a member of "Rude" with Ian Maidman, Liam Genockey and Harry Beckett . Currently Annie has her own band "The Annie Whitehead Experience".The line-up is Annie on trombone,Ian Maidman on guitar, Steve Lodder on keyboards, Steve Lamb on bass and Liam Genockey on the drums.

Once, I dreamed of being a go-to "class trombonist" listed in teh European Free Improvisation yellow pages. I even met Annie's heroes Frank Rosolino and J.J. Johnson at an International Trombone Association convention in Salt Lake City when I was fourteen.

If professional women trombonists banding together on the Web doesn't count as a prime example of karass discovery, I don't know what does.

Thursday, May 26

The Plagiosphere

Rise of the Plagiosphere, a windy but compellling essay on technology, intellectual property, and plagiarism from MIT's Tech Review.
The 1960s gave us, among other mind-altering ideas, a revolutionary new metaphor for our physical and chemical surroundings: the biosphere. But an even more momentous change is coming. Emerging technologies are causing a shift in our mental ecology, one that will turn our culture into the plagiosphere, a closing frontier of ideas. ...

What NASA did to our conception of the planet, Web-based technologies are beginning to do to our understanding of our written thoughts. We look at our ideas with less wonder, and with a greater sense that others have already noted what we're seeing for the first time. The plagiosphere is arising from three movements: Web indexing, text matching, and paraphrase detection.

... Two years ago I heard a speech by a New Jersey electronic librarian who had become an antiplagiarism specialist and consultant. He observed that comparison programs were so thorough that they often flagged chance similarities between student papers and other documents. Consider, then, that Turnitin's spiders are adding 40 million pages from the public Web, plus 40,000 student papers, each day. Meanwhile Google plans to scan millions of library books--including many still under copyright--for its Print database. The number of coincidental parallelisms between the various things that people write is bound to rise steadily. A third technology will add yet more capacity to find similarities in writing. Artificial-intelligence researchers at MIT and other universities are developing techniques for identifying nonverbatim similarity between documents to make possible the detection of nonverbatim plagiarism. While the investigators may have in mind only cases of brazen paraphrase, a program of this kind can multiply the number of parallel passages severalfold. Some universities are encouraging students to precheck their papers and drafts against the emerging plagiosphere. Perhaps publications will soon routinely screen submissions. The problem here is that while such rigorous and robust policing will no doubt reduce cheating, it may also give writers a sense of futility. The concept of the biosphere exposed our environmental fragility; the emergence of the plagiosphere perhaps represents our textual impasse. Copernicus may have deprived us of our centrality in the cosmos, and Darwin of our uniqueness in the biosphere, but at least they left us the illusion of the originality of our words. Soon that, too, will be gone.

I was just thinking the same thing the other day! Should have patented the topic, I guess. Reminds me of a book I'm reading, The Victorian Internet, about the invention of the elegraph. When Samuel Morse got excited about the idea, he had never read the "prior art" and so wound up recapitulating a lot of the errors that had been made in the past before settling on his ticker tape solution. Ignorance can be useful. On the other hand, given the same premise and a shared set of reasoning tools, people will often conceive the same set of possibilities and go through the same process of elimination. You don't need to posit the Jungian collective unconscious to account for it.

On the other hand, I think there's also a parallel sphere, the mixosphere. Take "The Grey Album," a remix of Jay-Z's "The Black Album" with samples from the Beatles' "The White Album." This is a more classical sense of originality, a process by which we recompose and reuse the building blocks that history and culture have provided us to suit our present-day needs. Ovid rewrote the Greek myths he was interested in, mostly from the sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll point of view, cribbed his account of the creation of the world from Lucretius, and joked around with two very restrictive verse forms, the elegaic couplet and the dactylic hexameter. His creative process was not all that unlike the creative process of Rahsan Roland Kirk. You can't play jazz until you've mastered your scales, and Mary had a Little Lamb and Fur Elise.

In classical rhetoric, the idea of invention and discovery has little to do with creation and innovation and everything to do with finding a piece of prior art--the sayings of the philosophers and poets and historians, says, or something out of your own experience--that you can adapt to present circumstances. It's called heuristics, and the Tribe Called Quest used it when they snapped up two bars of "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" as the basis for "Can I Kick It?" Code-writers do it all the time when they snag an open source module developed for one purpose and stick it into a doodad of another kind.

The meaning of a poem is always another poem, as Harold Bloom liked to say. In fact, this whole plagiosphere thing is just a rehash of "The Anxiety of Influence"! Someone oughta sue.

Wednesday, May 25

A Shot in the Mr. Butts
SMOKING causes a third of cancer deaths, but quitting brings immediate benefit. In fact, someone who quits before the age of 50 is half as likely to die of cancer in the subsequent 15 years as he would be if he kept smoking. The trick, then, is helping people quit. With that goal in mind, Cytos Biotechnology, in Zurich, has, as it announced to the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting held last week in Florida, made progress in developing a vaccine against nicotine. Normally, when someone smokes a cigarette, the nicotine in it is carried to his brain in the bloodstream. Once there, it stimulates a neural circuit that provides a sensation of pleasure. That sensation reinforces the desire for another cigarette, making it hard to relinquish the habit. The idea of a nicotine vaccine is to stop the drug getting to the brain in the first place. People who are vaccinated should develop antibodies that bind to the nicotine in their bloodstreams, disabling it. If no nicotine reaches the brain, there will be no pleasurable reward for having a cigarette. So vaccinated individuals should?in theory?be less likely to relapse. This approach is not unique to nicotine. Vaccines against cocaine, another addictive recreational drug, are also being developed. But the results announced in Orlando suggest that Cytos's nicotine vaccine is now the closest to being deployed.

I suppose the idea of a vaccine that inoculates you against illicit stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain has some Big Brotherish overtones. On the other hand, I am so tired of being a dupe of the evil empire of tobacco, mired in mental slavery. I volunteer! Dropping my pants now. What? In the arm? Well, all right.

Tuesday, May 24

Eros, Thanatos and Strategic Content

American Anxiety Is High--But Few People Are Adequately Insured Against the Things They Fear Most .

Crass, ill-considered press release headline of the week. Implication: Why aren't you sales guys selling behind the fear? The apples are ripe upon the tree.

Interesting question, that.

Given the continuing impact of 9/11, the Iraq situation, and talk of looming crises in everything from healthcare to Social Security, to the real-estate market, communications group JWT decided it was time to explore the nation's preparedness for life and death, and its attitudes toward insurance. In early May 2005, the agency conducted a survey of the general American population online, netting a total of 2,5681(1) respondents from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.

Within today's general climate of free-floating anxiety, the survey turned up some very specific concerns about death itself. Overall, 55% of respondents have become more concerned about dying unexpectedly, 52% have become more concerned about a friend dying, 76% have become more concerned about an elderly relative dying, and 81% have become more concerned about a close family member dying.

Despite these concerns, the survey shows many Americans don't even have insurance coverage for the most basic contingencies. Only 53% of the sample have homeowners insurance, for instance, and only 12% have renters insurance; fully a third of respondents (33%) are without any form of housing insurance, leaving them open to potentially enormous costs in the event of fire or another such event. The dwellings of the youngest cohort, those aged 18-29, are predictably the least insured-just 42% have home or renters insurance. But even the older cohorts aren't properly covered: 73% of 40-49s, 83% of 50-59s, and 81% of over-60s.

In other words, now that the government has raised the terror alert level to Permanently Elevated, you would think that insurance sales among the risk-conscious citizenry would soar. But no. The explanation:

"This is a delicate time in which two big trends are coming together," notes Marian Salzman, EVP of Strategic Content at JWT. "Americans have become highly sensitized to risk and death since 9/11, yet at the same time they've become used to getting their feel-good gratification quickly-get-it-now-pay-later credit, broadband, wireless connectivity, and everything-on-demand have made everything quicker and have narrowed the gap between wanting and getting. We expect to get our paybacks fast. The problem with insurance is that it just doesn't fit into this emotional environment. For many people, the essential pay-now-get-it-later nature of insurance is too abstract, too far off, and does very little to reduce their feelings of anxiety in the here and now. In fact, the prospect of having to pay for the insurance now may well add to the anxiety, which is a big disincentive."

Emphasis mine. It's amazing how tenaciously the psychoanalytic Marxism of the 1960s lives on in the advertising and marketing game. This study is just soooooo Norman O. Brown. The hard-headed economics is thrown in as an afterthought. You insure what you have; If you have nothing, you don't insure it until you get it. The rise of the McJob has reduced us to a hand-to-mouth, bread and circuses, existence.

In the words of the old Sixties folk song, "If life were a thing that money could buy / the rich would live, and the poor would die." That actually does turn out to be the case, as a general rule, though 9/11 was an exception: the worst casualties were among Wall St. types trading bonds a mile in the sky.

Monday, May 23

Buzzphrase of the Month

Random, irrelevant (or only marginally relevant) item from the BUSINESS WIRE:

IncaGold, a world-wide leader in mass-market, impulse-purchase priced entertainment software, will join the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in London on 24th May 2005. The company will raise approximately $2 million of new money net of expenses and will have a market capitalisation of roughly $9.5 million after the float. Based in the Isle of Man, IncaGold has become a global leader in licensing and publishing casual gaming entertainment and edutainment software for the PC CD-ROM, mobile devices and public entertainment systems.

" ... mass-market, impulse-purchase priced entertainment software." Coming from a company incorporated on the Isle of Man (with a branch office in Switzerland), that's just so, well, rich, so to say. Gibraltar is another hot spot for Internet gambling these days.

"Edutainment" is a good one, too, but that's been around for a while.

If You're Finished, Choke It / 'Cause I Wanna Smoke It

"Lord, I'm a fool for a cigarette ..." An old Ry Cooder recording.

The latest from the fabulous Gotham Gazette: Nonsmoking New York?

In the past few years, New York has become a far less friendly place for smokers. Cigarettes cost about $3 more in New York City than the national average, thanks to heavy state and local taxes, and there are far fewer places to light up thanks to state and local bans on smoking in workplaces. The city and state have also been focusing increasingly on programs to help smokers quit. As a result, say city and state officials, fewer New Yorkers smoke, and New York has served as a model for other places wanting to take similar antismoking actions. Antismoking advocates see this as part of a sweeping nationwide, and even international, trend that goes beyond government initiatives.

Smoking sucks, and I say this as a smoker. It should be stubbed out. But when New York outlawed Internet cigarettes by mail (I was getting mine from the Mohawk sovereign tribe for $10 a carton: Cigs are $6.50-$7.00 a PACK now in NYC), did it make me want to quit? Hell, no! Cigarettes are MORE ADDICTIVE THAN HEROIN! When I saw the GG's illustration above, you know what I did? I automatically lit up a cigarette. I see someone smoking in a movie on TV: I light up. Just writing about it right now makes me want to ... light up.

I hear now you can by them by Internet and mail from abroad. Rothman's, $20 a carton. That's $2.00 a pack. In Brazil, a pack of Marlboro is like $0.50! And the tobacco companies LOVE the way the Chinese love to chain-smoke. 1.2 billion chain-smokers! No wonder they can give up a half-trillion and keep on trucking. It's a massive health-risk transfer from here to there. The new Opium Wars, if you will.

What Blogging Is Really Good For

This Seattle nerd saved me endless hours of agony. I screwed up my network at home trying to get my wireless router working right again. I had to download the firmware for Linux and install it. But the folks at Linksys did a half-assed job. The compiler kept crashing. I'd get something like this:
realpath(/nfs/verin/array0/home/darkness/tmp/wrt54g/WRT54G/release/src/linux/linux/include/asm/gcc) failed, No such file or directory

So I just enter that gobbledygook into Google and bam! Here's this nerd journaling a similar experience with great sprezzatura:

It looks like it wants asm/gcc. There is include/asm-mips/gcc and include/asm-mips64/gcc. So I?ll just ln -s asm-mips include/asm and? that seems to have fixed the above error. So we?re moving on.

While my machine is running make dep I?ll go ahead and mention that the default configuration for the kernel it builds is in arch/mips/defconfig-bcm947xx. Also, check out WRT54G/release/src/router/rc for a good time. Lots of interesting stuff in there that I?m guessing is performed on boot by the Linksys.

On the Internet, there could be a unique solution to any kind of arcane problem you're trying to solve, whether it's C++ for Gnome or you're a Brazilian in a New York who wants to surprise her husband by making Yankee pot roast for dinner (thanks, honey!).

Web journalism will be useful when everybody starts writing what they know from experience instead of the blogging industry marketing geniuses encouraging everyone to write what they think about things they know nothing about except from Googling up what other know-nothings have said about it. When it starts raining toads in Texas, the one scientist out there who studies this sort of thing as his life's work will be googled up and get the guest shot on CNN instead of Jerry Falwell, who thinks the Book of Revelations explains it. (Hell, it rains toads in Brazil all the time, they have special umbrellas made for it).

Thanks, wireless guy. You saved my hash.

Sunday, May 22

All Your Copy-Editing Job Are Belong to Robot

Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude (Chron. of Higher Edukashun): An article on Sandeep Krishnamurty's "A Demonstration of the Futility of Using Microsoft Word?s Spelling and Grammar Check."
I knew Microsoft Word's Spelling and Grammar Check feature was bad. However, I never realized how bad this feature really was until a student turned in a poorly written report that was ?spellchecked? and ?grammarchecked?. I have since tested this feature out hundreds of times. My conclusion is that the ?Spelling and Grammar Check? feature on Microsoft Word is extraordinarily bad (especially the Grammar check part). It is so bad that I am surprised that it is even being offered and I question the ethics of including a feature that is this bad on a product that is so widely used.

A colleague observes: I have always found it interesting that the message we receive after the spelling and grammar are checked reads: "The spelling and grammar check is complete." To me these are two different types of checking and in my opinion the message should read "the spelling and grammar checks are complete."

Quibble with Sandeep's prose if you wish, but the lesson is clear: Anyone who replaces a biological language professional with a machine programmed by non-language professionals (language non-professionals?) is a nidiot. I blame Chomsky.

Saturday, May 21

Ubuntu Saved My Bacon!

I've mentioned my recent adventures in Linux, haven't I? To make a long story short, I got a copy of SuSE Pro 9.2 and started dinking around with it on an old desktop machinie. It was great! Except for one thing: My network settings got all out of whack, and the network configuration tool (a YaST module) just made things worse. I learned more than I ever wanted to about routing tables, device configuration files, and manual network configuration from the command line ... to no avail.

Finally, I had a serious need to get some work done and little time to do it. What to do? I had SuSE on my laptop, too, but hadn't done much with it, so I popped in the Ubuntu installation disk and hit "start." Fifteen minutes later, a rocking, rolling, kick-ass functioning Debian-Gnome system was purring along. I met all my desperate deadlines while downloading the complete works of Carmen Miranda in the background, ripping them into MP3s, and burning them to CD.

Hail, Ubuntu, my personal orixa! Sorry, SuSE. In trying to recreate a Wintel user experience, you have succeeded all too well. I may work you into a dual-boot system or stick you on my old junk box to mess around with you more, but for my personal production environment, it's the Swahili dealie.

Sunday, May 15

On Background: The Rumor Mill

Some Sunnis Hint at Peace Terms in Iraq, U.S. Says (New York Times):
The Bush administration, struggling to cope with a recent intensification of insurgent violence in Iraq, has received signals from some radical Sunni Arab leaders that they would abandon fighting if the new Shiite majority government gave Sunnis a significant voice in the country's political evolution, administration officials said this week.

"Administration officials said." If I'd been reporting that story and the source declined to go on the record or identify the parties beyond characterizing them as "what they called 'rejectionist' elements among Sunni Arabs," I'd have written the lead this way:

Bush Adminstration officials who declined to identify themselves for the record claimed that "rejectionist" elements among radical Sunni Arab leaders are ready to stop fighting if they get top government posts. The unnamed officials declined to identify or further characterize the person or persons with whom they've had contact.

Then my editor would have thrust it vigorously onto the spike as a non-story, risking impalement with the vehemence of her contempt. And letters to the Times' public editor seem to agree with me, on the whole.

I thought the Washington press corps was putting its foot down on the question of unattributed background briefings?

The mental picture I'm getting here is some cab driver tells some low level diplomatoid that his uncle plants roadside bombs but will knock it off if made Garbage Commissioner where he can make some easy graft.

And look, it took a bunch of guys to pull this joke together:

Steven R. Weisman reported from Washington for this article, and John F. Burns from Baghdad. Reporting was contributed by David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker from Washington, and Richard A. Oppel Jr., Sabrina Tavernise and Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedy from Baghdad.

Not one interview with an Iraqi outside of a government flack and the leader of the National Dialogue Council--whose offices were bombed by insurgents on April 30, and about whom the Times reporters write that it remains unclear how much influence they have over the insurgency. If insurgents are bombing their offices, yes, it is unclear whether they can get the insurgents to follow their lead. Duh! And never mind talking to an insurgent:

The attitude of insurgent leaders is another unknown, not least because American officials, two years into the war, acknowledge that they have little understanding of who the leaders are, apart from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant and operative of Al Qaeda who has claimed responsibility for many of the insurgents' suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.

Yes, there are many things we know we don't know. But there is this:

Many Iraqis say Sciri's leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who holds no government post, may yet prove the decisive voice on crucial policy issues--like Sunni involvement.

Many Iraqis who? Cousins of your stringer? How many? Questioned where by whom?

That's just a tranparently BS story all around. "Administration officials say" what they'd like to see printed in the paper. The Times obliges them with only perfunctory reality testing of the claim. If you can't leave the hotel, you shouldn't pretend you know what's going on.

Friday, May 13

The Fox Rox Big Blue

Get Firefox!

IBM backs Firefox in-house (Tech News on ZDNet):

IBM is encouraging its employees to use Firefox, aiding the open-source Web browser's quest to chip away at Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Firefox is already used by about 10 percent of IBM's staff, or about 30,000 people. Starting Friday, IBM workers can download the browser from internal servers and get support from the company's help desk staff. IBM's commitment to Firefox is among its most prominent votes of confidence from a large corporation. Based on development work by the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, Firefox has been downloaded by more than 50 million people since it debuted in November. Internet Explorer still dominates the overall market by far, though, with Firefox's share in the single digits. For IBM, the move is a significant step in lessening dependence on a product from rival Microsoft. By supporting Firefox internally, IBM is also furthering its commitment to open-source products based on industry standards, said Brian Truskowski, chief information officer at IBM.

Hooray! If they would switch all their desktops to Linux, they could go even further in that direction, but they've made a pact with devil in the form of Lotus Notes, I guess, I dunno.

I switched my desktop and laptop both to SusE Pro 9.2 myself. Very proud! Very into it! A few hurdles to get over: WLAN card configuration, getting Apache2 and PHP to play nice together.

Sunday, May 8

Flubber Is Real | Computerized shoes aid mind, sole:

Each shoe contains a microprocessor capable of making 5 million calculations per second. A magnetic sensor in the shoe's heel measures its compression on impact, taking 1,000 readings per second. A secret algorithm (Adidas engineer Mark Oleson says they intentionally omitted it from the patent) decides on the optimal amount of cushioning required. To achieve that, a tiny electric motor, spinning at 6,000 rpm, turns a metal rod that adjusts the hollow plastic heel. All of this is powered by a replaceable 3-volt battery said to last for 100 hours.

Read more from those cheeky bastards at Gizmodo.

Saturday, May 7

Original Thoughts on Plagiarism

The Post's Howard Kurtzman:
Has journalism become an ethical cesspool, or just been forced to adopt greater standards of cleanliness? In the past month alone, four reporters for major newspapers have been ousted, and a columnist was suspended, for ethical missteps. The drip-drip-drip of disclosures about sloppiness, fabrication and plagiarism have further eroded the media's reputation, leading to a one-strike-and-you're-out policy at many outlets.

And some follow-up reporting from Kurtz:

A USA Today Pentagon correspondent, Tom Squitieri, resigned under pressure yesterday after the paper learned he had lifted quotes from another newspaper for a front-page story and used several other quotes, without attributing them to other publications, that were cut during editing. . . . "This is a clear violation of our sources and attribution policy, and when that happens, a reporter has to leave the paper," Editor Ken Paulson said. "When you see a pattern of misuse of quotes, you have to take steps.

And this from the Boston Herald:

The Christian Science Monitor has "banished" a regular contributor for two years in a flap over alleged plagiarism. The Hub paper also published an editor's note, explaining that the article bore too many similarities to one in an online journal, and pulled it from its own Web site. It is a rare lapse by the newspaper, which is owned by the Church of Christ, Scientist, and prides itself on the highest ethics. Managing Editor Marshall Ingwerson said he could recall only one other example of alleged plagiarism at the newspaper, and that was "about four years ago." It was on April 18 that the paper published the article, "Can mutual funds that hedge give you an edge?" by freelance writer Jonathan P. Decker. Days later editors got calls from financial journal, noting that four paragraphs in the Monitor piece were remarkably similar to those in a similar article by its own writer, Gregg Greenberg.

A professor friend of mine uses the Turn It In to catch students at this sort of thing. With Google and Gutenberg and the Internet Archive setting out to make every utterance ever committed to print or Web machine-searchable, this could easily turn into a weapon in the war over the soul of the press. "Similarity" is a slippery concept, unlike the precision of "checksum" used to check the integrity of files in a computer system. George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" lost a plagiarism suit to a doo-wop song called "She's So Fine," by the Rondanelles or Shamalamadelles or something. Just imagine if Lou Reed set out to claim ownership over the chord progress of "Sweet Jane." Bob Marley's estate might be in trouble over "No Woman No Cry," along with a lot of other people. There would be only one three-chord rave-up left in the world. Might as well be "Wild Thing" by the Troggs, I guess, though I'd miss "Louie Louie."

I'm not saying lifting quotes gathered by the opposition without attribution is not a sin, but so much of what journalists do is churn out three-chord songs that all sound like the chorus of the Ramone's "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World." We share a huge depository of dead metaphors, cliches, stock phrases, stock leads, story templates, headline-friendly words like "mull" and "slay" and all sorts of tired shtick. I'll bet you could build a statistically convincing case that all weather reports and crime blotters are written by the same guy, who could sue all the rest of us and live like a king for the rest of his life.

That is not even to mention the mighty river of press releases out there whose fondest ambition is to get their words into your story under the imprimatur of your "independence." The White House knows very well how to play that game, as we know.

In a past life, I studied oral traditions, like the cordel tradition of topical poetry in northeastern Brazil. When a cordel poet dies, the others will often buy the man's work from his widow to help support her, then begin to reproduce and freely adapt it as their own. But there's also a tradition of paying homage to the people you owe your debt to, like Baden Powell's Samba de Bencao or Chico Buarque's Paratodos. My old Western Civ prof used to scare the hell out of every incoming freshman class by thundering this as the first utterance of his first lecture: "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOU WILL NEVER HAVE AN ORIGINAL THOUGHT IN YOUR LIFE."

The real ethical imperative behind attribution and not claiming someone else's work as your own has less to do with allocating credit where credit is due--the content as commodity model--than with enabling the reader to know how you put the thing together so they can go back and recreate the steps you took themselves. You will inevitably miss or skew something in your haste, with your editor yelling at you to get the lead out, but if you at least provide the metadata, the audit trail, you have set the public on the trail to discovering the whole story, if they care to pursue it.

It's just like the scientific method: It's worth nothing if the results can't be reproduced by someone else. Of course, there are folks out there who believe the Grand Canyon was put there as a nice landscape gardening flourish by the Almighty some six to ten thousand years ago, and are fighting tooth and nail to get this claptrap into the public school curriculum. What spiritual arrogance! Every Christian soldier armored with the infallibility of the pope. Where's the humility? Where's halving your cloak with your sword to share it with a naked beggar?

This has been a hangover rant that digressed as the coffee kicked in. You can quote me on that.

Thursday, May 5

Life at Ground Zero: It's a Blast

Makeshift grenades responsible for Consulate blasts (Ireland Online):
Two small makeshift grenades were used in the explosions outside a building housing the British Consulate in New York today. Slight damage was caused to the building but no one was injured, officials said. The blasts occurred at 8.50am Irish time and originated inside a cement flower box outside the consulate in midtown Manhattan, said police department spokesman Noel Waters. Police said the devices were both toy grenades that had been altered to explode by the addition of black gunpowder. Police made the conclusion after piecing together the shrapnel. They estimated that one was the size of a pineapple, the other the size of a lemon.

Great, now we have our own miniature version of the Basque-Islamist debate the Spaniards had about 11M: Was it the Irish Republican Army--which normally doesn't sh*t where it eats--or an Islamist terror cell run out of a Brooklyn bodega? I'm keeping the TV off, I don't want to hear it, especially when the part where the Homeland Security director comes out and makes political hay of it, like last summer. I see those double-decker tourist buses filled with Red Staters and think of something I read in Harpers this month: a radical evangelical needling the reporter with, "You're from New York? KaBOOOOOOOM!" I know it's a stereotype, but explosions bring out the worst in me.

As Lou Reed says, you can all go take a walk. Welcome to New York. Now gimme your wallet and beat it.

Wednesday, May 4

As If I Ever Got to Read Books Anymore

From Powell's Books:
From the acclaimed bestselling author of Fight Club and Lullaby comes twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales readers will ever encounter, told by people who have answered an ad for a writers' retreat ? "Abandon Your Life for Three Months" ? unaware they're headed to a cavernous and ornate old theater where they are utterly isolated from the outside world. ... This free event takes place at the First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th St., downtown Portland. Seating is limited to first come, first served.

Can't make it, darn. I have been trying to turn Neuza on to Pahlanichukamuk as a great way to immerse herself in the American vernacular, but there are too many strange nouns and syntax twists. Mirrors my experience with Guimaraes-Rosa--whose German translator's memoirs I am still supposedly reading.

Monday, May 2

Ouro Preto, MG, Brasil

Ouro Preto
Originally uploaded by Luiz Felipe.
This is where we are going on vacation this year. A sort of literary pilgrimage.