Thursday, June 30

They Killed Some Clueless Kid

Went to the doctor this morning, then worked at home all day--a compromise with his order to relax completely, turn off the infernal machine. Had to wake the wife up at 2:00 last night to massage me to sleep, had that palpitation thing going, along with this arthritic shoulder that's crept on me like the white hairs turning up in my chin-beard. Unplug from the network? Not. But at least I can do my interfacing in my underwear with the air conditioning turned up to max, in blessed silence, for a day, using a keyboard that doesn't give me carpal tunnel syndrome and an e-mail client that reliably expunges Chinese spam before I have to be bothered with manually deleting it. I find that very relaxing. We had a "workflow" consultation at work yesterday, I was completely out of it but I think it went well. That was satisfying.

Anyway, Just got back from the Yemeni bodega on the corner. Bought three packs Marlboro and the Lucky Star Dream Book they sell for $5 there to the lotto players. Open it at random and discover that dreaming of reading a magazine is a bad, bad omen. There's a lady in there speaking pretty decent Arabic with the guys, so I let out a "Hal anti tatakallimina al-lugha al-arabiyya?" Good move, I'm now a preferred customer instead of a leprous yuppie interloper now.

Then it hit me as I'm walking out: They shot some kid for drug debts around the corner from the Yemenis' a week or two ago. A few crappy candles and bottles of cheap booze, guys flying gang colors pulling up in their SUVs and scribbling on some soggy butcher paper hung up there. Drove by and shotgunned him while he was chilling at a street barbecue on the next block.

A week before that, Neuza, my wife, heard some loud noises in the street, stuck her head out the fourth-story window of our apartment, and saw two guys in the middle of the intersection have a showdown at the OK Corral, with Glocks. Saw one guy go down, pooling blood and stuff.

I've just been kind of glossing over this in my mind until just now, the first really quiet day I've had in months. The first thing was not neighborhood business, just people from elsewhere leaping from automobiles at random and going berserk. That can happen anywhere, at any time. The second, though, that's pretty damn close to home. The local drug traffic has up to now been very professionally run, completely on the QT, so's you almost wouldn't notice if you hadn't already lived in some dicey neighborhoods in your time. I got some good stories, ask me sometime. Lately, though, scungy hippie junkie freaks hanging around in front of certain tenements, sucking up, not taking hints. Bad for business, bad for the neighborhood, with its five Pentecostal tabernacles and the constant sound of praise, old ladies playing some mean Motown bass next door.

Good thing I've been too stressed out to think rationally lately or I might have been very upset by it. On the other hand, I've always been super careful and vigilant on the street. Not that necessarily will save your ass--every atom of creation has the potential to explode at any moment--but it's comforting, at least, to feel like you are managing your risk as effectively as possible. I really don't like to see the Brazilian bombshell (wife) going off to night classes at LIU-Brooklyn by herself, but then again, she's from Sao Paulo, which in spots concedes nothing to Baghdad. The key is to recognize and avoid those spots. Plus she usually bringsme back a brisket on a hero from Junior's, with cheesecake.

I keep thinking of this Time Out cover--or was it New York or something else? Glossy, at any rate--declaring Brooklyn "the new Manhattan."

Bleep that. Brooklyn is Brooklyn.

Who was it? Toni Negri? Said that the Third World is not a place any more, but an archipelago of floating zones attached to every First World place? Always makes me think of naked Indians beggin in traffic in the streets of Manaus, and "The Gods Must Be Crazy." Seems intuitively right once you leave the mall.

Our block is the Kingdom of God. Next block, the renovated Brooklyn Museum, with Basquiat currently enshrined. Next block, corpses lying the street. Once a year, in September, it all turns into Carnival Central. Everybody's eyeing the storefront for rent cattycorner from us. What moves in there could alter the equilibrium of the whole cultural ecosystem in catastrophic ways. ...

OhmyNews International

An idea whose time has come:OhmyNews International:

My introduction to OhmyNews came in June 2003. I had learned about the victory of Roh Moo-Hyun winning the presidency of the Republic of Korea (ROK) with the support of Korean netizens, when he took office in February 2003. I was curious to learn more about how this happened. I posted on a relevant Usenet newsgroup and in response received a url to an article about OhmyNews written in English by Jean Min, who was then a student at Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the famous technical university in Korea. Also I learned about the OhmyNews newspaper. At the time, it was only published in Korean. A Korean student I knew was glad to translate some of the newspaper, both describing the content of an article I found of interest and also translating several of the comments on it. I was also interested in how the ideas about citizen reporters who functioned in online forums, would work in an online newspaper environment. I was already writing for Telepolis, an online newspaper in Germany which functioned in some ways that were similar to Ohmynews, encouraging discussion on its articles and paying contributors a small payment for the articles they wrote. I first wrote Jean Min in June 2003 describing some of my interests and questions. Also I found the article Jean had written in English about OhmyNews very interesting, so I wrote him asking if we could reprint it in the Amateur Computerist, a newsletter I work on. He agreed. This was in November 2003. We published the article. (1) Then in February 2004, I heard from Jean that he was going to work on the International edition of OhmyNews which was just being launched. If one wanted to be a citizen reporter, however, one had to be able to register online in Korean. I let Jean know that this was difficult, and soon he sent me the beta version of an overhead set of directions in English about how to register, so I would be able to go through the registration process in Korean. While I didn't manage to go through the Korean registration process at the time, I did begin to send articles to OhmyNews. My first OhmyNews article was translated into Korean by a Korean netizen I had met on Usenet. She submitted it to OhmyNews. It was published in Korean and English. Subsequent articles were written only in English and submitted via email. This went on for most of 2004 and some of 2005. Then the English version of the citizen reporter registration software was installed and I eventually signed up so I could submit articles on my own and go through the official processes for a citizen reporter.

This is really a more appropriate post for Blogalization

Wednesday, June 29

Word of the Day

Bloggers Go Mainstream to Fight Regulation :
Are bloggers going mainstream? Web log founders who built followings with anti-establishment postings are now lobbying the establishment to try to fend off government regulation. Some are even working with a political action committee, lawyers and public-relations consultants to do it. ADVERTISEMENT They say they have no choice. "There's a certain responsibility I have to help protect the medium. I have the platform, the voice to be able to do so," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Web log www.DailyKos.com. Moulitsas testified Tuesday at a hearing on a Federal Election Commission proposal that would extend some campaign finance rules to the Internet, including bloggers. He urged the FEC to take a hands-off approach. "We have a democratic medium that allows anyone to have true freedom of the press. We have average citizens publishing their thoughts through research, through journalism, their activism and encouraging others to do the same," Moulitsas told commissioners. Moulitsas also is working with a lawyer who volunteered to help bloggers fight new government regulations and whose efforts were promoted in a PR firm press release Monday. Moulitsas is prepared to lobby Congress himself if necessary, and he is the treasurer of BlogPac, a political action committee formed last year by bloggers. Another witness, Michael Krempasky, founder of RedState.org, a pro-Republican blog, called bloggers "citizen journalists" and said that like traditional media, they should get an exemption from campaign finance regulation.

Oh, bleep that. If you take money from one of the political parties or a political action committee, you're a hack and flack and your claim to independent citizen-journalist status is highly suspect what falls out the hind end of the male of the bovine species.

Word of the day: "co-option."

2 a : to take into a group (as a faction, movement, or culture) : ABSORB, ASSIMILATE b : TAKE OVER, APPROPRIATE

I love the fact that Arthur C. Danto, one of my favorite philosophers, is the source of the usage example chosen by Merriam-Webster to illustrate the definition.See also Sartre's notion of "bad faith." Not entirely useless, that Sartre.

I shoulda become a lexicographer, like my hero, Antonio Houaiss. Unfortunately, my high school didn't have a career track for that.

Tuesday, June 28

Is Your Editorial Workflow Out of Control?

Hardly anyone discusses editorial workflow as a human process anymore, or so a hasty google of the term seems to indicate. Instead, it's something built into software. And that's just fine with me.

Headline of the month, about new contracts being offered on the CBOE: Soy to the World!

Also on my mind this week:

Do you have employees complaining that work is not fun anymore? Do you have employees that overreact to minor hassles, report being overwhelmed, and complain of minor health aliments? If so, you could be dealing with employees who are feeling burnt out with their work.

I continue to deny that my health ailments are minor, and I hardly ever complain, so perhaps I'm not burned out.

Monday, June 27

Gringos, Go Home

Jordan bans Saddam novel (Guardian Unlimited):
Critics judge it boring, but some in the Middle East consider Get Out of Here, Curse You!, the latest novel by Saddam Hussein, dangerous. The former Iraqi dictator is behind bars and stripped of power but Jordan was anxious enough to ban his tale yesterday, claiming it could damage regional relations. Some 10,000 copies had been printed for this week's launch, a literary and political event authorised by Saddam's daughter, Raghad, who is based in Jordan. Reportedly finished by Saddam on the eve of the US-led invasion in March 2003, it is the story of an Arab warrior who vanquishes a foreign intruder. Initially Jordan, a longstanding Washington ally which has had tetchy relations with Baghdad, approved publication. But censors changed their mind after a local newspaper flagged the imminent arrival in bookshops of a novel whose title can also be translated as 'Damned one, get out of here'. 'Publishing this novel will harm the Iraqi-Jordanian relationship and we are keen to have the best relations with Iraq,' said Ahmad al-Qudah, head of the government's press and publications department. 'Jordan will not approve its publication. If they want to publish it they have to do it abroad.' The book, Saddam's fourth, relates how a heroic tribesman foils a Jewish and Christian plot to take over his town. It was published in Iraq as 'by its author'. In a foreword to the new edition, Raghad Hussein confirms her father's authorship.

"He who wrote, wrote it." Some of this appeared in the Az-Zaman newspaper right after the war, I translated the passages. Saddam apparently thought of himself as a kind of kitschy philosopher-king. His heroes are always kind of hen-pecked, apparently. THE summer read, if you can get your hands on it and learn Arabic very quickly.

Saturday, June 25

Slimy Little Thugs

New York Times' Frank Rich says the, er, flap over Big Bird and the fate of NPR and PBS is a, heh heh, red herring:
Look instead at the seemingly paltry $14,170 that, as Stephen Labaton of The New York Times reported on June 16, found its way to a mysterious recipient in Indiana named Fred Mann. Mr. Labaton learned that in 2004 Kenneth Tomlinson, the Karl Rove pal who is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, clandestinely paid this sum to Mr. Mann to monitor his PBS b�te noire, Bill Moyers's "Now." Now, why would Mr. Tomlinson pay for information that any half-sentient viewer could track with TiVo? Why would he hire someone in Indiana? Why would he keep this contract a secret from his own board? Why, when a reporter exposed his secret, would he try to cover it up by falsely maintaining in a letter to an inquiring member of the Senate, Byron Dorgan, that another CPB executive had "approved and signed" the Mann contract when he had signed it himself? If there's a news story that can be likened to the "third-rate burglary," the canary in the coal mine that invited greater scrutiny of the Nixon administration's darkest ambitions, this strange little sideshow could be it. After Mr. Labaton's first report, Senator Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, called Mr. Tomlinson demanding to see the "product" Mr. Mann had provided for his $14,170 payday. Mr. Tomlinson sent the senator some 50 pages of "raw data." Sifting through those pages when we spoke by phone last week, Mr. Dorgan said it wasn't merely Mr. Moyers's show that was monitored but also the programs of Tavis Smiley and NPR's Diane Rehm. Their guests were rated either L for liberal or C for conservative, and "anti-administration" was affixed to any segment raising questions about the Bush presidency. Thus was the conservative Republican Senator Chuck Hagel given the same L as Bill Clinton simply because he expressed doubts about Iraq in a discussion mainly devoted to praising Ronald Reagan. Three of The Washington Post's star beat reporters (none of whom covers the White House or politics or writes opinion pieces) were similarly singled out simply for doing their job as journalists by asking questions about administration policies. "It's pretty scary stuff to judge media, particularly public media, by whether it's pro or anti the president," Senator Dorgan said. "It's unbelievable." Not from this gang. Mr. Mann was hardly chosen by chance to assemble what smells like the rough draft of a blacklist. He long worked for a right-wing outfit called the National Journalism Center, whose director, M. Stanton Evans, is writing his own Ann Coulteresque book to ameliorate the reputation of Joe McCarthy. What we don't know is whether the 50 pages handed over to Senator Dorgan is all there is to it, or how many other "monitors" may be out there compiling potential blacklists or Nixonian enemies lists on the taxpayers' dime.

Slimy little thugs and snake-oil salesmen. This is the vanguard of the army of the righteous. I only wish I had a hope of getting on one of these enemies list before these cheap con-men bring the house of cards down over their own heads. But the momentum seems to be building. I think we'll see a bill of impeachment by the end of 2006.

Amen of the Week

Patricia Nelson Limerick's Dining With Jeff (NY TImes):
When I find myself puzzled and even vexed by the opinions and beliefs of other people, I invite them to have lunch. Multiple experiments have supported what we will call, in Jeff's honor, the Limerick Hypothesis: in the bitter contests of values and political rhetoric that characterize our times, 90 percent of the uproar is noise, and 10 percent is what the scientists call "signal," or solid, substantive information that will reward study and interpretation. If we could eliminate much of the noise, we might find that the actual, meaningful disagreements are on a scale we can manage.

To put this hypothesis to the test, we will now apply it to two well-known people who are not, at this moment, friends. In a recent fray, escalated by the conflict-enhancing powers of the Internet, the journalist Bill Moyers misquoted James Watt, Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior. Mr. Moyers gave a speech last winter at Harvard, criticizing the Bush administration's environmental policies and making the case that an unfortunate theology, particularly a belief in an imminent Second Coming, was the driving force behind these policies. At the start of his speech, to illustrate this theology, Mr. Moyers shifted back in time and quoted Mr. Watt. Mr. Moyers said that Mr. Watt "had told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony, [Watt] said, 'After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.' " But there is no evidence that Mr. Watt ever said this improbable thing, and Mr. Moyers acknowledged his "mistake" in quoting a remark that he could not confirm. But between these two very interesting Westerners remains a canyon of misunderstanding, in which people of Christian faith accuse each other of holding beliefs that jeopardize the well-being of the earth and its inhabitants. By casting many evangelical Christians as enemies of the earth's well-being, Mr. Moyers has made a not entirely strategic move to alienate people who could, should they be persuaded to recognize the hand of the Creator at work in the creation, prove to be remarkable and effective supporters for a cause that he considers urgent and crucial. It's surely time for lunch. So I invite Mr. Watt and Mr. Moyers to break bread with me, in a setting where a transcendent Western landscape both stirs our souls and reminds us of the economic, aesthetic, biological and spiritual riches at stake in our conversation. (The good news is that one man has already accepted.)

Amen, I say. Still, I bet it was Moyers who said yes.

"The Best PR Strategy Is No PR Strategy" as PR Strategy: A Case Study

I'm going to indulge in a bit of personal editorializing about a work topic. I have to admit I am--personally--ambivalent about Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog. Writes the power-suit-wearing hippy, the executive-hackerdude:
One of the big upsides of my job is hobnobbing. I clearly didn't check with our corporate communications team before saying that, but let's be honest - it's cool to sit with a head of state, or a head of a corporation, or a CIO with an IT department bigger than Sun's entire employee base. The perspective is always fascinating.

See, I just don't believe that. I tend to think corporate communications, or some marketing consultant, told him to say that. "This is not flackery, this is just me talking" has been a standard flackery maneuver since Marc Antony took out a full-page ad in the Daily Lares et Penates to say he came, not to praise Caesar, but to bury him. Yes, Jonathan is an honorable man. Unlike Marc Anthony, however, he tends to use the rhetoric of the flame wars--that shockingly balls-out insult-fest that has been going on in Usenet for years and has now been picked up by the vast right-wing blog conspiracy--to tag Sun's competition, effectively, as evil hypocritical soulless corporations. What, and Sun is not? Its culture is so unique and revolutionary? I seriously doubt it.

I visited their booth at the recent SIA show of financial services tech, for example, and basically found another company trying to sell boxes. Really, Microsoft had the really state-of-the-art PR model going, with its new "experience Financial Services" model. On the other hand, the Sun boxes I saw were actually pretty cool boxes. The demo guys saw I was from the press and started condescending to me painfully, explaining what OpenOffice was in kindergarten terms. "I've been using it since it came out," I'm telling 'em. I note one of the screens is running X-windows--it's got XMMS open--another showing a Windows app, so I ask 'em about that. And they're all like, "See, XMMS is like Winamp for Linux and Solaris ..." I KNOW that! Hey, I'm hip! I speak the lingo! I have compiled my own kernel! So finally I have to walk away. Still, they had this little beige box that was running a trading workstation demo--and the whole big vendor suite--that really did show some snazzy platform-agnosticism and power. It's ugly--no fancy transition behaviors in the interface--but it seems to work damn good. Bip bam boom.

On the other hand, the Zen PR strategy of no PR strategy might actually be an effective PR strategy, crude as it sometimes seems. This approach appeals to an emerging demographic of hacker wannabe techies ... of which I admit I am kinda one. In theory, a generation growing up on open source software is going to produce a user base of people with contempt for the "hide all the geeky stuff in the background so you can just be free to create" marketing that's driven Windows. Call it command-line chic. High-school kids will be all like, "oh, I do that from a command-line client, it's much better."

So I guess that if Jonathan's blogger propaganda campaign is crude, it might represent a smart bet. Don't think the flack corps is not polling behind these charmingly spontaneous and refreshingly undiplomatic remarks. They're targeting a demographic with increasing purchasing power, just like anybody else. How do I know this? Well, I don't, but if you attended their Sun on Wall Street flufffest at the W earlier this year, there was a comic moment where it seemed to show: Jonny boy dragging bigtime corporate technology partners up on the stage and saying, "okay, this is spontaneous, right?" and the responses sounding really canned. "Yes, I say spontaneously, of my own free will, that Sun is better than sliced bread. Their technology saved spring break." So much overemphasis on the spontaneity theme that you began to feel perhaps Jonathan doth protest too much. ...

And this IBM bashing, I just don't get it. IBM folks don't even want to talk about it. And why should they? They just refer you to their balance sheet, and Sun's. Profits talk, BS walks, in other words. Don't have to be a rocket scientist to get that, none of this fancy talk about revolutionary market models. We build the better mousetrap and people buy them. As the dude generation grows up, they'll surely get wise to that at some point. The IBM attitude: too busy building Wintermute and programming it to take over the world to bother to swat the flies. I find that impressive, too: their spiel is "Here's what we built and here's what it does: It can defeat the human chess champion of the world. Impressed? Thought you would be. Now here's how we did it ..." Maybe Sun needs a moonshot like Deep Blue, something like, oh, say, helping build the $100 laptop and getting it distributed to, oh, say, 100 million people in developing countries. THAT would impress the hell out of me, and would in theory only cost 'em $10 billion. In theory, Bill Gates & friends could afford to give every single person on earth one of these things.

All I can say is that I'm glad the head honcho at work doesn't blog. The top dog should listen more than he talks and when he or she speaks, it should be to clarify things once and for all, with no room for reading between the lines. IMHO. Bozo that I am.

Friday, June 24

The Effective Lead Paragraph: Exhibit 47

The Sins of Judith Miller (Russ Baker, Alternet):
As a media critic, I spend what feels like far too much time trying to persuade people that most reporters are not sloppy, agenda-driven, biased, or lazy. But it seems that whenever I get up on my high horse, back into the news rides Judith Miller.

Zing! The choice of "rides" as the verb in the last clause is nice, it resonates with "high horse."

Miller is a publicity nightmare for the Times, which has a lot better to offer: people writing about obscure developments in the Bronx with great precision and empathy. Why not send her off to write a book on the experience of surviving a year on the world's bleakest continent, Antarctica?

If I had to choose between the lazy reporter and the agenda-driven reporter, I'd take the lazy one every time. A truly lazy reporter follows the standards & practices to the tee because it keeps the editor from kicking it back, making more work. A truly lazy reporter is never sloppy because sloppy gets you fired, which means having to look for a job, which is a lot more work than actually having a job, usually. The lazy reporter lacks ambition and so is just as happy covering a kitten in a tree or the deliberations of OASIS as a brutal celebrity sex slaying with a book deal and spot on Geraldo at the end of it. Writing books give you carpal tunnel syndrome. The lazy journo likes to go home at five.

Long live the lazy. It's important to remember that journalism is a job, not a crusade. A lazy reporter doesn't care what anybody does with the facts that get dug up. The lazy reporter does the essential digging only and does not ponder the cosmic meaning of those facts. Shit happens, whereupon more shit happens, occasionally but not normally having to do with the first shit that happened. Time marches on. Empires rise and fall. Learning to type in junior high sure has paid off.

Ich bin ein lazy sod.

Runner up for the lead graf of the week: "Newspapers are cockroaches." (Net to Newspapers: Drop Dead, in Businessweek). The prosody works very nicely: two dactyls separated by the one-syllable main verb. Would fit a 5/4 time signature nicely.

Odeo: Listen, Sync, Create

Odeo will change the world.

Just got my invitation to check out the beta version of the new podcasting site from Blogger founder Evan Williams, late Google employee, and Noah Glass of Listen Lab.

Beta my patootie. It's about as beta as Google News is still beta. It is simply just amazingly awesome. Too bad the Odeo Sync tool, which automaticaly downloads from subscribed channels, is Windows-Mac only. I'm sure the Linux crowd will hop right on it, though.

Slight branding problem: The name of the company sounds looks just like "I hate it" in Portuguese. Shades of the legendary Chevy Nova ("It doesn't go, run, work") branding disaster in Mexico (which never actualy happened, I think I read). Rebrand for the exploding South American market?

Wednesday, June 22

Neuro-Linguine With Bullshit Sauce

It frightens me to think that the guy who is trading for my retirement account might, like this fellow, who blogs on Tales from a Trading Desk, turn out to be a devotee of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

What a lot of nonsense! Imagine, being able to to influence your own mind and behavior and the mind and behavior of others using only language! The thing is, what else is language for except influencing the mind and behavior of others, and allowing yourself to be influenced in turn--or not? NLP is the equivalent of putting a tutu on a hog and calling it a prime example of pseudo-brutalist conceptual juxtapositionism (second post-Iraq caviling cabal of the post-ironic heresy).

I say "Watch out for that tree!" and you swerve to avoid it. It is pretty complicated when you think about it, but it's really requires no fancier designation than "using language," or, if you prefer, "communicating." If you need a fancier term for the art of influencing people with your words, there's always good old "rhetoric." I'll even go along with the Austin-Searle notion of the "speech act." But no further. Entia non multiplicanda sunt.

The same point applies to the post on how blogs will change your business. Imagine! All you have to do to make your business thrive is coordinate your efforts with the efforts of others by using WRITING to store knowledge and retrieve it at any time! Wow! That's so, like, deep! Why didn't I think of that? Can I donate all my worldly possessions to your foundation and sell roses on the street to help you bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth?

Stop trying to pretend that buying low and selling high is some kind of freaking Miltonian epic and finance my retirement bungalow in Ceara, will you?

Google Patent Nonsense, Plus Mixed Metaphor of the Week!

New Google Patent May Be Less News For Small News (Search Insider):
Google's never ending search for providing a quality end user experience has culminated into a bullet with patent number WO 2005/029368 imprinted across the side. Unfortunately for smaller news services, the bullet may strike the heart of aspiring upstarts-a casualty of Google's friendly fire. How will Google's new News patent affect the smaller news sites? Will it keep them out of Google News completely? If so, what other sources do these authors have that will display their work? Discuss at WebProWorld. Of course, it will all depend on how heavily certain things are weighed in the news algorithm technology Google has just sealed in the patent offices of the US and other countries. News giants like CNN and the New York Times will barely notice the decrease of air pressure in the blogosphere, and probably won't mourn the impending loss of younger cousins vying for their thrones. The patent is aimed at increasing the quality of news delivered into search results, a noble effort to weed out inaccurate, biased, and disreputable sources. Until the implementation of the new algorithm, news is ranked according to relevance to the search word query and by the date (or timeliness) of the article. The source is not considered. The new technology will take several new things into account, continually measuring qualitative factors like how long the news source has been in existence, the number of stories published, the credibility of the source, average story length, number of stories with bylines, the size of the organization's staff, circulation, number of global operations, number of links to stories from the source, and Web traffic to the site.

"Culminated into a bullet"? With "a number imprinted across the side"? In every spaghetti Western I've ever seen, the bullet with Chincho the Bandit's name on it always has the writing running along the length of the bullet.

Is my Brazilian wife secretly moonlighting as a tech journalist now? Will the English-language news of the future be written by Carmen Miranda or in the bawdy English of hookers from Tijuana, whose Spanish as they mock you afterwards could not be more eloquently Cervantine?

Actually, this by staff writer Jason L. Miller--who looks to be a red-blooded American boy who sported a mullet in high school to hide the fact that his HEAD culminates into a bullet. Hire a freaking copy editor, people! This is an important story, but I just can't take you seriously if you don't take language seriously. Of course, try selling that proposition to a publisher groomed his whole career in ad sales--a frequent occurrence in the language-and-union-print-shop racket, where the Teamsters rub elbows with those of us who've read Titus Andronicus.

There's nothing that makes my teeth ache like someone was poking a red-hot needle into my root canal than (1) high-school-remedial-English-bad prose in the editorial, (2) TOEFL-bad-prose in marketing materials that appear on the same PAGE as my decent editorial, and (3) whining copywriters and journalists so in love with their own spoonerist bombast that they want to conference with you endlessly, on deadline, about the adjectival phrase you blue-penciled out of their immortal freaking prose. Take a night class, you freaks!

Tuesday, June 21

Whacky WikiWiki in Gaga La-lA

The Los Angeles Times has canceled a novel Internet feature that allowed readers to rewrite an editorial on the newspaper's website, after some users sabotaged the site with foul language and pornographic images. The newspaper launched the experimental "wikitorial" Friday and killed it early Sunday after an unknown user or users posted explicit photos. An announcement on the newspaper's website, http://www.latimes.com , said the feature had been removed "at least temporarily, because a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material."

Wouldn't you? If you really want to make publishing these days, you charge a premium for stuff the riff-raff never get to read and respond to publicly. You know, like hedge-fund newsletters. I know one that goes for $1500 a year, publishes quarterly in an 8"x11" newletter format. Ten pages. Murdoch--and Plato's Republic, minus dramatic irony, as the neocons read it--are right: trash for the trash and the cream for the creme de la creme--who still have to be written for at a sixth-grade level, just like the general readership.

Source: LA Times. I won't even bother linking to the story on their Web site because their registration routine is such a freakin' hassle.

The PR Nightmare Grows

Chinese Blogger Slams Microsoft (Wired):
Twenty-eight floors above the traffic-choked streets of China's most wired city, blogger and tech entrepreneur Isaac Mao sums up his opinion of Microsoft and its treatment of the Chinese bloggers with one word. "Evil," says Mao. "Internet users know what's evil and what's not evil, and MSN Spaces is an evil thing to Chinese bloggers." Mao, 33, knows something about the topic. In 2002, he was one of China's first bloggers, and since then his ideas on harnessing blogs, peer-to-peer and grass-roots technologies to empower the Chinese people have made him a respected voice in the global blogosphere. Today, Mao is a partner in a venture capital firm that funds Chinese internet startups, including a blog-hosting service occupying part of the market Microsoft hopes to move in on with MSN Spaces. The Chinese version of MSN Spaces is linked to the new MSN China portal, launched last month in partnership with Shanghai Alliance Investment, a company funded by the city government here. Last week that partnership plunged Microsoft into the long-standing controversy surrounding the Chinese government's internet censorship policies, after Asian blogs and news reports revealed that MSN Spaces blocks Chinese bloggers from putting politically sensitive language in the names of their blogs, or in the titles of individual blog entries. The words and phrases blocked by Microsoft include "Taiwan independence," "Dalai Lama," "human rights," "freedom" and "democracy." In a statement, lead MSN product manager Brooke Richardson said, "MSN abides by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates. The content posted on member spaces is the responsibility of individuals who are required to abide by MSN's code of conduct." Mao dismisses that statement as disingenuous. The company, he says, is going above and beyond official censorship practices, which deal decisively with speech critical of the ruling communist government, but don't outright ban words like "freedom." "They could try to reach a balance, so the users will understand, but the government won't try to make trouble for the business," says Mao. "Instead, they're just trying to flatter the government."

I've been reading Elio Gaspari's history of the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1984), so I'm especially aware of the puxa-saco collusion of big media companies with police states these days. This looks like a classic case. Bill: Fire your PR consultant. Any story in a major publication that calls you evil in the first paragraph is a sign that you've totally lost control of your message.

Reminds me of something that goes on at a certain workplace I know of. They cover financial transaction technology, but their stupid firewall will not let them google sites with the word "gambling" in them, lest they be playing Texas hold'em instead of working. Thing is, the gambling sites and casinos are huge users of the really advanced straight-through transaction processing stuff. Cantor Fitzgerald even recently got a WiFi gambling venture cleared by the Nevada legislature, very similar in concept to its Blackberry bond-trading gizmo.

It's so absurd. I'm sure by now everyone in China has started using the phrase "matzo balls" or "bicycle seat" as a code word for "freedom." The Dalai Lama could be referred to as "Big Bird" or "Kurt Cobaine." Instead of T'ienamen Square, say Barbara Streisand or Mickey Mouse. Why not just unplug the Internet, send everyone back to the countryside to grow rice, and get it over with? Free, powerful personal cryptography and the human capacity for irony means nothing short of genocide is going to root this out.

Saturday, June 18

Last Laff

MasterCard Says 40 Million Files Are Put at Risk (New York Times):
MasterCard International reported yesterday that more than 40 million credit card accounts of all brands might have been exposed to fraud through a computer security breach at a payment processing company, perhaps the largest case of stolen consumer data to date. MasterCard said its analysts and law enforcement officials had identified a pattern of fraudulent charges that were traced to an intrusion at CardSystems Solutions of Tucson, Ariz., which processes more than $15 billion in payments for small to midsize merchants and financial institutions each year.

Oh, maaaan. We've been writing about every little incident leading up to this, so we can sit back and feel a little smug. Hell, one of our staffers has a spouse working for a Fortune 100 company, one of whose IT products there's a good chance you're using as we speak, whose data vendor LOST THE BACKUP TAPE along a truck-driver's pickup route. They got a year's free credit insurance. These companies are letting scruffy Latvian criminals--not even masterminds, mind you--basically nuke their industry. And it's their own damn fault. See my blog entry on dinner with Mitchnik and some folks who are probably having a very bad weekend right about now.

I'll bet Kevin is laughing his ass off. His jailers wouldn't let him have a telephone because they thought he could whistle into it and launch nuclear missiles on a submarine. He's a smart guy, but the fact is, he was really just a a commendably dedicated and motivated independent learner with a lot of enthusiasm for a subject most people kind of dry. And he's genuinely friendly and charming. That's all it takes to start nuclear armaggedon rolling, or the moral equivalent, which in Kevin's case was making a lot of free phone calls.

I'd be laughing my ass off too if not for the fact that my only piece of plastic is a MasterCard credit-debit from my bank. I'm REALLY going to have to close those accounts now. Maybe I should do like an old business contact I subcontracted for a few times--Russian-speaking ex-military guy--and only do business using e-gold. Tell my employer I want to be paid in platinum ingots or AK-47s. I'd probably pull in 100-200 AKs a month, depending on the vintage and manufacturer, and I could resell them to the janjaweed with a tidy margin. Ain't globalization cool?

Snootier Pubs Than Ours Foul Up, Too

Former Linux Architect Moves to Microsoft, from eWEEK, is an interesting story in itself, but what grabbed me was this at the bottom:
Editor's Note: This story was corrected to reflect that Robbins is working with Bill Hilf and Microsoft's Linux group, not Bill Hill and the ClearType group.

Now that makes more sense! Robbins is the former chief architect at Gentoo, not a top-notch Postscript and TeX hacker. I once mispelled the name of one of the most famous lawyers in America, a Harvard law professor, and misidentified the party affiliation of an SEC commissioner. That was before we finally got a third editor in to make the editorial process actually workable ... in theory. This week, for instance, we almost ran a photo of the interview subject's famous father rather than the international banker himself. But the Boss, who knows all these people personally, was there to catch it.

Saturday Morning Coffee Browse

Woke up this morning to find the wife chasing the cat around and yelling "Mao! Mao!"

This reminded me of the cartoonist B. Kliban and his famous cat cartoons, so I googled him up. Neuza is enchanted: Cartoons are her major passion in life. She used to write the Portuguese scripts for the Li'l Lulu strip, and she's been reading everything she can get her hands on about R. Crumb lately. I keep telling her she should do what Harvey Pekar does: write scripts and storyboards and find artists to realize the drawing.

Of course, the search for Kliban cats also turned up some enthusiasts of cartoon cats in general, whence the illustration, above, of one of Felix the Cat's archenemies from the Moon. I can remember being very disturbed by Felix cartoon when I was four or five.

I guess I'm in that still-sleepy, impressionable semi-dream state. Ah, here comes the coffee now!

Now to the e-mails. I'm using procmail, fetchmail, and pine now: command line clients instead of any of the stupid GUIs. Fast, efficient, and relatively foolproof. On the list of tinkering for this weekend is to get SpamAssassin configured properly and I'll be home free. I'm using Webmin to tinker with some of the stuff I've always wanted to learn about, like SSH and VPN.

Also have to figure out how to forward from my wireless router to my own machine here so I can access my desktop remotely.

That would have certainly come in handy this week at work. My copy editor was stricken with some horrible plague just as we got rolling on the biggest issue of the year. We were swapping files back and forth electronically, which normally is no problem--mostly because it's Mike on the receiving end in the office tending to our Stone Age content management system: Three open folders on the server called Edit, Final, and Ship (corresponding to line edit, copy edit, and layout, basically).

This time, though, it was me on the receiving end, and with the pressure mounting, I started to cut corners. Mike would send me back both the Word file to put in final and the plain-text file that the art director flows, but I would just copy the text file into SHIP. So then the art director starts complaining that some characters are coming in wrong, quote marks and apostrophes. I tell him to just run a global search and replace and we'll check it in proofreading, but he launches into some elaborate explanation of why that's not a good idea and proposes to just resave the files from FINAL into SHIP as plain text. I tell him not to because those are the wrong versions. He finally says okay, but later apparently forgets. Result: Two pages go out with raw copy instead of copy that has passed through three edit cycles.

&$^##@!!!!

I calculated that we commissioned, wrote, edited, designed, laid out, and shipped more words in one week that we used to on some of the consumer monthlies I have worked on, with less than half the staff. I myself contributed 2,300 words on top of everything else, and another 1,000 words worth of pull-em-out-your-ass graphics. 700 of my words were complete shit, written with people screaming in my ear and flacks phoning me up every 15 seconds.

And we still have writers who react to the first edit like you just botched a plastic surgery on their first-born. No, let's not have a long conversation about why you think taking out the adverb in the last sentence of the sixth paragraph and casting the sentence in the active voice destroys a nuance that I am too stupid to perceive. The process kicks it back to you for a reason: shut up and fix it! I'm ordering a desk copy of strunk & white for everybody.

In the end, we prevailed. Mike rose heroically from his sick bed to manage his end of the process. Masterfully, as always. Total mensch that guy. And at the end we didn't hate one another too much, though there were a few incidents of harsh sighing passing back and forth.

Pretty decent issue, really. Should impress favorably when handed out with all the other tchotchkes and ephemera at the big trade show. I knew we could do it, and we did.

Now for the ninety routine tasks I had to neglect to push it through. But don't get me started on THAT.

Anyway, here's a fascinating little piece I find in the personal intelligence stream that flows into my pine inbox--from a Google Alert series I use to track linguablogging items, including a search on "arabic": Food ingredient experts are concerned that the petroleum industry and the janjaweed are spoiling the vital Sudanese gum acacia supply, and are working to stabilize it:

P.L. Thomas, the only US representative at the recent Gum Arabic industry meeting in Sudan, tells Anthony Fletcher why the international commitment to secure long-term supplies of gum Arabic is such an important breakthrough. The market for the ingredient, obtained from Acacia trees and used extensively by the food and beverage industry as a means of preventing sugar crystallization and the emulsification of fat, has been subject to tremendous external pressures such as war, exhausted stocks and unstable prices. But the Khartoum summit between leading gum producers Sudan, Chad and Nigeria and international firms and organizations could be a major breakthrough. It achieved a vital consensus on a number of crucial issues, not least the importance of building stockpiles of about a year?s worth of supplies. ?There is hope that the current effort will help improve the information flow, price stability, supply assurance and overall reputation of gum arabic,? New Jersey-based ingredient supplier P.L. Thomas president Paul Flowerman, the only US participant at the meeting, told FoodNavigator-USA.com. ?We want to make the supply of gum arabic sufficiently predictable and stable that the industry can, with confidence, increase the usage in new applications. This will lead to increase business volume and help the industry grow. The aim is to make gum arabic a reliable ingredient.? For this to happen, producers need to be guaranteed a fair price for an ingredient that requires incredibly careful cultivation. It is hoped that the security stock plan will provide producers with a guarantee that will help them secure future finance to develop the industry. The acceptance of the security stock model, developed by Prof. Enrico Casadei of FAO (the United Nation?s Food and Agriculture Organization), will now be implemented to the specific requirements of each country. ?The existence of a security stock will be a reassurance for the manufacturers and users of gum arabic in the whole industry,? said Flowerman. ?If successful the process will mean assurance of supply, price stability and clear flow of information. It will make the industry feel more comfortable using gum Arabic in new formulations.? The security stock will be built by and held in the exporting countries. The details for each country will be worked out in the next 6 months. It is for this reason that Flowerman believes the Khartoum Declaration is such a significant step forward in helping to secure an industry that faces numerous difficulties. ?Three major producing countries are now oil exporters and this presents a major demographic challenge,? he said. ?Many traditional collectors are now attracted to jobs related to the oil industry. Due to less collection, the growing countries were not able to replenish their reserve stocks as in previous years. ?Also five per cent of Sudan gum supplies were inaccessible due to the problems in Darfur state. Fortunately the peace treaty between north and south has opened up new areas for gum collection.? The meeting, hosted by the FNC, (Forest National Corporation) of Sudan, was attended by representatives of exporters and producers from Sudan, Chad and Nigeria. Representatives of NGARA (Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa) / FAO, FNC and the World Bank, and delegates from the Association for the International Promotion of Gum (AIPG) including AIPG President Hinrich Wolff. P.L. Thomas said that many Americans were put off attending because Sudan remains a daunting and difficult destination. At the conference Flowerman chaired several sessions and urged the participants to make tangible demonstration of their commitment and unity. He also supported the efforts to set up a follow up process to make sure that certain actions are being implemented. "For PLT gum Arabic has been an important product for two generations, and we want to see it grow," he said. "This meeting will be remembered as historic if the participants make good on their promises to do the necessary and doable to put gum arabic business and public relations on a stronger footing."

God forbid that when we drive our groceries back from the supermarket in our HMMVV we should find that the sugar in our Ding Dongs has crystallized.

Thursday, June 16

Adversative Disjunction

A lot of people are arguing about the meaning of the word "fixed" in the The Downing Street memo:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

To me, the important word here is not the participle but the conjunction: "but."

They seek to justify the invasion with WMD and terrorism. But.

But. However. On one hand, the search for justification. On the other hand, intelligence fixed around the policy. The important logical implication here is that the search for justification and the method used to create the justification are, as the logicians say, disjoint:

Definition: A set whose members do not overlap, are not duplicated, etc.

In other words, there is the sought-after justification, on one hand, and the fixing of intelligence around policy, on the other. No member of the latter set is a member of the former set. Thus, no fixing of intelligence around policy produces a valid justification for war on the basis of WMD and terrorism.

The implication is clear: the man was saying that the U.S. had presented no valid justification for war. Of course, he could have been mistaken. How about we review all the information he had in order to determine whether HIS reasoning was sound?

The adversative disjunction, that's the real semantic issue here.

Tuesday, June 14

Two Headlines Star in Journalistic Rashomon

Two headlines, same story:

Snow hits out at EU antipathy to business: John Snow, the US Treasury secretary, urged European leaders to stop using anti-capitalist rhetoric or risk losing US investment during a visit to Brussels.:

Here's what Snow said in an interview with the blokes from the Eff-Tee:

There?s always anti-business sentiment. It seems to me to be better to think of this not so much as anti-business or pro-business as anti-market/competition and pro-market/competition. Do we want to let markets play a leading role in how economies get organised, how resources get deployed, how risks get taken or not? ?So I always try and frame it in terms of market forces, and support for market forces. I think countries are going to come out ahead that embrace market forces, obviously within a framework of law and responsibility, but embrace market forces on the widest possible basis. Market forces lift people, market forces eradicate poverty, market forces -- properly employed -- raise standards of living. Market forces writ large are one of the great allies of the downtrodden. American business people are going to put capital where they feel they are welcome, where capital is honoured and where they can get good returns. It is not so much the language that is used, it is the policies that get embraced. And if policies get embraced that make capital feel unwelcome, capital won?t come. Those who manage capital have lots and lots of alternatives, and it seems to me short-sighted on the part of anybody to discourage investment in their own country with a set of attitudes that makes capital feel unwelcome.

Preach it, brother John! Yes, maybe the Europeans ought to take a page from American Internet firms doing business in China (see below). Or those French telcoms bringing cell phones to Iraq and Syria. Hell, the cell phones probably would have done more good bringing democracy than the smart bombs, come to think of it.

Now, the Wall Street Journal: Freer Financial-Services Trade Would Benefit EU, Snow Says: Breaking down barriers to financial-services transactions between the U.S. and European Union members would provide a needed lift for the EU economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said yesterday

You see why you should read more than one newspaper every day? In one take, he's thumping the Bible of market fundamentalism and menacing the pinkos, the next he's "breaking down barriers"--think of Kennedy and Reagan at the Berlin Wall--by way of giving helpful advice to a dim-witted pal who's not doing so great. The former, the plot of The Ugly American, the latter, the plot of a Chick comic ...

Public Relations Nightmare of the Year

Microsoft joins hands with Yahoo!, Google to censor China's web (AFP):

BEIJING (AFP) -- Users of Microsoft's new China-based Internet portal have been blocked from using the words "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights" in an apparent move by the US software giant to appease Beijing. Other words that could not be used on Microsoft's free online blog service MSN Spaces include "Taiwan independence" and "demonstration". Bloggers who enter such words or other politically charged or pornographic content are prompted with a message that reads: "This item should not contain forbidden speech such as profanity. Please enter a different word for this item". Officials at Microsoft's Beijing offices refused to comment. Internet sites in China are strongly urged to abide by a code of conduct and self-censor any information that could be viewed by the government as politically sensitive, pornographic or illegal. For many Chinese websites, such content also includes news stories that the government considers unfavorable or does not want published.

Never underestimate the reputational risk of a sleazy business relationship. This looks bad, bad, bad--and I'm trying hard not to regard Redmond as the Evil Empire this year in quite the same knee-jerk fashion I used to. It's the ultimate victory of "content" over the free press. Whatever sells and keeps the government taking those kickbacks to maintain your franchise.

I guess in all conscience we as individual internauts ought to be boycotting all three: Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. I do love my G-mail, though, and Google's Blogger does host a lot of blogs that would not be welcome in their author's home country. Take Iraq4Ever, the Ba'athist insurgency blog (in Arabic). Watch out, Evan, Rummy has a tiger cage ready for you in Guantanamo.

I wonder if All The Web is ethically compromised, too? It's a nice alternative for you purists out there.

Doing business with folks desperate to do business with folks who use conscript labor and a police state to drive their free-market miracle and you, too, may wind up with main battle tanks running over your college-age kid in the public square.

Saturday, June 11

A Moment to Mice Elf

Why I am sitting here on Saturday morning reading Paul Atkins' femarks before the SIA Industry Leadership Luncheon, San Francisco, CA: June 8, 2005? Because I am a news junky, which is what I like about my job. That's why talking over our impending vacation with my wife is getting a little interesting: There's a little voice in my head that says that if I find myself on a white-sand beach in Pernambuco, I might die from lack of WiFi--or soon, I hope, WiMax--access. Not to mention that nifty 3-G network that my CrackBerry runs on. Only the roar of the ocean and the answering echo inside my empty head. Yaaaaaagh! Could I bear it?

All we have really firmed up so far are the dates and the initial destination, once we have kissed the in-laws in Sao Paulo and petted the lonesome dogs over there on the Rua Juranda. We were thinking seriously about a posh resort at Porto de Galinhas (below) near Recife (above), then started envisioning ourselves moping around with a lot of fat German tourists, listening to Beck's Tropicalia over and over and over again:

When they beat / On a broken guitar / And on the streets / They reek of tropical charms / The embassies lie in hideous shards / Where tourists snore and decay / When they dance in a reptile blaze / You wear a mask / An equatorial haze / Into the past / A colonial maze / Where there's no more confetti to throw / You wouldn't know what to say to yourself / Love is a poverty you couldn't sell / Misery waiting in vague hotels / To be evicted / You're out of luck / You're singing funeral songs / To the studs / They're anabolic and bronze / They seem to strut / In their millennial fogs / 'til they fall down and deflate / You wouldn't know what to say to yourself / Love is a poverty you couldn't sell / Misery waiting in vague hotels / To be evicted / Now you've had your fun / Under an air-conditioned sun / It's burned into your eyes / Leaves you plain and left behind / See them eyes and fall / Into the jaws of a pestilent love / You wouldn't know what to say to yourself / Love is a poverty you couldn't sell / Misery waiting in vague hotels

On the upside: they have a fleet of what the Brazucos like to call "doony boogies" ... dune buggies, that is. It's just committing to a package of 7 days and 8 nights that we are balking it.

When I go to Brazil, I like to hang out with Brazilians ... or at least with unarmed Brazilians. I'd really like going to Recife this time out, to see where Lenine and Zeca Baleiro--first poet ever to rhyme "Recife" with "Jimmy Cliff"--hail from. Maybe we could book a few days at Porto de Galinhas when we get there, or day-trip the 60km: Our Brazilian facilities guy at my last company said it was the bitchenest beach in all Brazil. But I ain't takin' no bus from Minas Gerais! We bused it from Sampa to Salvador, Bahia, last year and boy, did our asses hurt when we finally got there!

The plan now: ficar a vontade as much as possible. We'll just block out our 4-5 days in Ouro Preto and then see where we go from there: Rio or Recife, as the mood strikes us. Both Recife and Ouro Preto are university towns, so we'll feel at home in that sense. I always have to come back with about 100 kilos of books to read. And I am on a mission from God this time for pre-1980 Chico CDs.

The best way for me to ameliorate media withdrawal pains is for me to tune into the Brazilian mediasphere full-bore while I'm there: read every newspaper and magazine in site, watch tons of TV, visit an Internet cafe every day, and generally soak in the zeitgeist, like a diver taking a gulp of air. Yes, definitely Recife and environs, but a toa e por ocaso ...

Sunday, June 5

Tour de Brooklyn

If I get up early today and ride in the Tour de Brooklyn, sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, Neuza has promised she will let me install and fire up the air conditioning this afternoon. Deal! Summer is officially here. Marty Markowitz says so.

Friday, June 3

My Once-Monthly Post-While-Semi-Drunk: Adventures in Mutella

MUTELLA is ... "is a terminal-mode Gnutella client with an intuitive and easy to use interface. Initially written by Max for himself, Mutella has now been released to the general public for the benefit of all of us in need of a solid, high-performance client."

Actually, it's hooked into quite a few interesting little pools of cultural information, not just Gnutella. Some of them you've never heard of, and the minute the authorities move to quack down on them, they'll spring up spontaneously elsewhere. Not to put too fine a point on it, it's a wicked little peer-to-peer file-sharing client. No graphic user interface to slow things down, shill products, or install nasty little software agents into the inaccessible guts of your Microsoft monopoly-box.

Mostly I use it for orgies of nostalgia: Type "find the minutemen" and three minutes later you're burning a disc with most all of "Double Nickels to the Dime," reliving that kickass show at the On Broadway in San Francisco in 198whateverthehellitwas. The fact that "Little Man With a Gun in His Hand" is nowhere to be found on the network, however, means that if you have it on CD, I'm still likely to open up my wallet and contribute to the royalties due to SST Records, if anyone's still alive to collect 'em.

Many have said it better than me, but that's what continues to puzzle me about the behavior of the entertainment consortia. FILESHARING IS FREE PUBLICITY! It's CULTURAL FERTILIZER! I predict the day will come when some creaky old band will wangle a tour on the strength of their Napster-clone stats alone. I mean, look at the New York Dolls, touring around these days. It's not as if their record company or FM radio kept their catalogue current all these years. No way, man, it was the LOVE! The FANS! "Vietnamese Baby" was the song I popped my cherry to, maaaan!

And the Yardbirds, gigabytes of whom I just drag and dropped over to my 200-giga personal transportable cache. Imagine a whole generation of dopey wired kids hearing Jimmy Page jamming with Public Enemy, typing a short string on the command line, and instantly discovering the long strange journey of James Marshall Page (who now lives in a remote inland region of Bahia, Brazil). You can't sell information without context. Why should I give a damn about MTV band No. 47 unless I can immerse myself in the Hegelian processes that culminated in their divinely predordained manifestation?

And The Clash, wow, man. I saw them in '79 at some really grungy auditorium in East LA. The Maoist Socialist Workers of Chairman Bob Avakian were there in force. Mick Jones was kicking people in the front of the mosh pit straight in the teeth with his hobnailed boots until the blood was flying through the air. L.A. hipsters heard that English punks spit a lot and didn't want to be out of fashion. Served 'em right to exit toothless. I remember running into the drummer from my high school jazz band, total loser sitting there doing the lame swing cymbal jive of "Night Train." Now he's wearing a Japanese kimono and a green mohawk and he's going, "Hey, man! You inspired me! I went and got my ass in a PUNK BAND!"

The point is, decades later, I've gotten over the snobbery that dictated that Clash post-Give 'Em Enough Rope were sellouts. Next time I see Sandinista in the bin, I might just make an impulse buy. Stick it on the network to convert my friends to cult of Strummer. Feed some heads.

I'm having another one of those "open-source will change the world" moments, sorry. It's unstoppable, the same way you can't shut down the public highways to keep people from moving around, because commerce would grind to a halt. Why we won the Cold War, right? I am simply using my data connection to engage other human beings in conversation. Wanting to make this illegal is like trying to make it illegal to overhear conversations on the subway. It's like trying to outlaw my ears, for crying out loud, install filters designed to prevent me from hearing the F-word and liberal media bias. Pass software patents in Europe and hordes of postadolescent Finns with T1 lines will be ransoming you back your data, I'm warnin' ya. And Dell will be filing amicus briefs in their behalf because this is their customer base. And this is the "customer-centric" brave new world.

Stress + alcohol make Gringo dull, dull, dull. Good thing me not alpha-blogger, this probly won't come back to haunt me. If it it does, what the hell. My life is an open book. For the record, the bottle in front of me in lieu of frontal lobotomy is a 1996 Pomerol from the Chateau Gombaude-Guillot, "mis em bouteille au chateau." Good thing you can't download this stuff, I'd be dead in weeks, with a smile on my face.

Thursday, June 2

Routines Amid the Flux of Yucks

Little changes in the daily routine: Suddenly Yahoo! has changed the way it classifies businesses on its financial pages. A lot of that going around, I notice. Then, the robotic coffee machine in the office turns out to have been reprogrammed. Now, instead of just blinking "Your beverage is being prepared ..." over and over again--leaving you to listen for the overtones rising as the cup fills up to judge when the process is nearing an end--it counts down: "Your beverage is being prepared ... 5," "Your beverage is being prepared ... 4," "Your beverage is being prepared ... 3," "Your beverage is being prepared ... 2," "Your beverage is being prepared ... 1," ENJOY YOUR BEVERAGE ENJOY YOUR BEVERAGE ENJOY YOUR BEVERAGE ENJOY YOUR BEVERAGE ENJOY YOUR BEVERAGE.

I, for one, welcome the additional information, it helps me to manage my schedule better, since I'm usually reading something while the thing churns but then have somewhere else to be right away.

Score one for usability in Flavia's account, then. And try putting the coffee packet in before you put put the mylar frothy topping in the next time you order a two-phase capuccino. I think you'll find the results amusing if you add half a pack of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix. Of Yahoo's new taxonomy of what people do in order to consume at a higher level of status, I am frankly dubious.

Times Go Home.

New York Times to hand out free weekly tabloid in city (via SPJ Press Notes):
The New York Times Co. will roll out a free weekly tabloid in New York City, offering an alternative to daily free newspapers that have been established in the last two years, including Metro New York and AM New York. Street hawkers will hand out the New York Times publication, called MarketPlace Weekly, at 250 commuter points, such as Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal and Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, beginning next week, the company said Wednesday. The Thursday afternoon paper will begin with a circulation of 150,000. The company, the third-biggest U.S. newspaper publisher, is seeking to boost ad revenue with MarketPlace Weekly as circulation and sales stagnate at the company's flagship newspaper. The tabloid will include classified ads and articles from the Times's Job Market, Business, Dining Out, Real Estate and Automotive sections.

Grand Army Plaza? Nobody hangs out at Grand Army Plaza, though I suppose you get some Park Slopers heading off to work. Does anyone really want a free pape with Times attitude, however?

Especially if it's mainly job market and business. What, Brooklynites don't need news of world affairs? Both the first-movers in this free subway-ride-length paper dealie have a nice mix of news for people in a hurry, not the 65 column inches the Times will devote to a sewer-repair bond in Minsk as a metaphor for the contradictions of neoliberalism. In my neighborhood, everybody's unemployed and the closest most folks get to an investment is playing the weekly lottery. Sending us classifieds full of ads for executive-level jobs is a freaking insult.

The Times should just stay on the safe side of the East River where its advertising demographic lives. This is Brooklyn, baby. This ain't no shopping spree at Bergdorf-Goodman, this is minor league baseball, senseless beatings, crooked storage facilities and public breastfeeding on the buses.

Wednesday, June 1

Press Release of the Day

CRACKED Announces Kick-Ass Additions to Editorial Staff; New Hires Point to Plans for World Domination:
NEW YORK, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- CRACKED Magazine, which promises to be the funniest magazine in world history when it re-launches in 2006, today announced new additions to its already mind-blowing and awesome staff. Speaking from Cracked Entertainment's worldwide headquarters atop Park Avenue, Publisher and CEO Monty Sarhan announced that Zena Tsarfin, the former Managing Editor of the acclaimed hip-hop magazine XXL, has been named the new Managing Editor of CRACKED. Also joining the team are Darren Kane and Jonathan Yevin, both of whom have been named Contributing Editors. 'Our new editors highlight our commitment to broadening CRACKED's scope and appeal. We are committed to bringing exceptionally talented people from the magazine and entertainment worlds on board as we re-create CRACKED into a leading entertainment and comedy brand,' said Sarhan. Zena Tsarfin first broke into the publishing industry as an intern for High Times magazine at the tender age of 19 and despite that still managed to graduate cum laude with dual degrees in Journalism and Political Science from Brooklyn College. After graduation, Zena went on to work briefly as an Assistant Editor at Marvel Comics, eventually returning to High Times and becoming its Managing Editor. For the past four years, she's served as Managing Editor of XXL. Her written work has appeared in Revolver, Alternative Press, Terrorizer, High Times and Playgirl. Darren Kane is a graduate of the University of Delaware's honors program, where he amazingly earned a degree in business administration and illustration. Go figure. He then went on to work with Batman Executive Producer Michael Uslan before taking a position assisting high-profile agents at the William Morris Agency. Darren left WMA to pursue writing and standup comedy, selling his first show, All-Nighter, to MTV. Darren has helped to develop several other ideas for MTV and has become one of New York's hottest young standup comedians. Jonathan Yevin, a graduate of New York University, has had his writing contributions grace the pages of many magazines - from laddy Stuff to manny Men's Fitness. While still in high school, Yevin landed his first pieces within the smart, funny and fearless pages of Spy Magazine, until they were obliged to hire him on staff. Since then, he has expanded his creative repertoire to include film and television work for ESPN and MTV. He also had a pet monkey once. The company's redesign of the 47-year-old CRACKED Magazine is already underway, with an all new website slated to come online sometime in the fall and the magazine making a return to newsstands in early 2006.