Thursday, September 22

Balls

U.S. News & World Report to Shift Focus to the Web (Folio magazine):
U.S. News & World Report announced a major strategic shift away from print newsgathering to build its Web business.  The move comes as major newsweeklies?like newspapers?face the continuing struggle for relevancy as a growing number of readers are comfortable with getting their news online and elsewhere.


?There?s no point as a news magazine to try to compete with that,? says U.S. News president Bill Holiber. ?Rather than to try and chase everything down every week, we?re going to be more selective.? [See related Q+A with Holiber.]

Imagine: staking your business on the idea that news filtered and reported by dedicated, 24-7 information-gathering professionals is more valuable than spending your time clicking from one blowhard blogger to the next. Ballsy! Even more so is this statement from Holiber:
?I think Time and Newsweek are battling it out, trying to be all things to all people; they want to be big, very, very big,? says Holiber. ?U.S. News is not for everybody. There?s a large group of people who want their information in a fact-based way, without having to tell stories: ?Give me the facts, I?ll decide.??
I believe that, too, especially when it comes to business information: Trustworthiness and impartiality are the value-added. But then I'm just some guy, and I just wound up leaving a job where a lot of people seemed to disagree with me. Still, it makes me think there's hope for the world, Bush or no Bush. First thing we must do is rebalance the sales-to-editorial staff ratio in favor of editorial, like Bill is doing.

Saturday, September 17

Drunken Unsoliicted Opinion

The vintage responsible: Chauteau le Grand Faurie 1998, AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru: the best the corner liquor store (Love Liquors), which specializes in pints of Hennessy, has to offer. The opinion: Turner Movie Classics is single-handely carrying the cable TV industry. It, and the PBS News Hour, are the only reaons to continue paying for cable. Sure, it comes bundled now with cable Internet access. But why stick with the dead medium any longer? Especialy with BitTorrent here to stay? And though I am thoroughly sick of Marty Scorcese's jeremiad against pan-and-scan, I commend him for this educational message. If not for Marty & Ted & Frontline & Gwen Ifell and Ray Suarez with his ridiculously transparent hair transplants: fuck TV!

Friday, September 16

GringosBicycling


GringosBicycling
Originally uploaded by Colin Brayton.
My wife got an assignment to write about the NYC Century Ride for a Brazilian mag, captured this three-generation Team Cookie-Monster stopping for hydration. I think this casts gringo civilization in an appealing light, don't you?

Bush, Up to His Ass in the Mud

The New York Times editorial on President Bush's speech to the nation last night was too genteel in praising him for giving an effective discourse that might bump him up in the polls a bit, temporarily. But I suppose that is is one aspect of the situation, a legitimate one. The crux of the matter appears a few paragraphs down:
We have already seen what happened to the Federal Emergency Management Agency when it was taken over by an administration that didn't like large federal agencies with sweeping mandates. For Iraq, the White House asserted that open-ended and no-bid contracts doled out to big corporations run by people known to government officials would mean swifter, more efficient operations. What we got was gross inefficiency, which has run up costs while failing in many cases to do the jobs required. Given this history, it's impossible not to worry about what will happen to the billions of dollars being committed to New Orleans, especially since the Army Corps of Engineers' top man in the reclamation effort was once the corps' top man overseeing contracts in Iraq.

Neuza got annoyed with me, I was yelling and swearing at the television so much! Especially when Bush starting talking about turning it into a free trade zone so the entrepreneurs can build higher. This, to me, is code for the same kind of carpetbagging that pillaged Iraq and siphoned taxpayer dollars into the pockets of no-bid contractors who did not even provide the services they were hired for. Grrrrrrr!

It's official: I'm turning into Archie Bunker in my old age, or Homer Simpson--remember when Bart says, "I like the way you get mad at the news, dad"? I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Seriously though, in Brazil, they call endemic corruption "the sea of mud." What you didn't see in yesterday's speech was that, out of the television frame, Bush was up to his ass in it.

Wednesday, September 14

Anticipation

After figuring out how to get out of yum interdepency hell, I'm doing my yum -y update to upgrade my system to Fedora Core 4. I've arrived at this point:
Other Transactions: Obsoleting: compat-libstdc++.i386 0:8-3.3.4.2 with compat-libstdc++-296.i386 0 :2.96-132.fc4 Obsoleting: cryptsetup.i386 0:0.1-4 with cryptsetup-luks.i386 0:1.0.1-0.fc4 Obsoleting: db4.i386 0:4.2.52-6 with compat-db.i386 0:4.2.52-2 Obsoleting: db4-devel.i386 0:4.2.52-6 with compat-db.i386 0:4.2.52-2 Obsoleting: db4-utils.i386 0:4.2.52-6 with compat-db.i386 0:4.2.52-2 Obsoleting: gcc-g77.i386 0:3.4.4-2.fc3 with gcc-gfortran.i386 0:4.0.1-4.fc4 Obsoleting: httpd-suexec.i386 0:2.0.53-3.3 with httpd.i386 0:2.0.54-10.2 Obsoleting: kernel-utils.i386 1:2.4-13.1.49_FC3 with microcode_ctl.i386 1:1.11 -1.21 Obsoleting: libf2c.i386 0:3.4.4-2.fc3 with libgfortran.i386 0:4.0.1-4.fc4 Obsoleting: libtool-libs.i386 0:1.5.6-4.FC3.2 with libtool-ltdl.i386 0:1.5.16. multilib2-2 Obsoleting: nautilus-media.i386 0:0.8.1-3 with nautilus.i386 0:2.10.0-4 Obsoleting: openoffice.org.i386 0:1.1.3-11.5.0.fc3 with openoffice.org-math.i3 86 1:1.9.125-1.1.0.fc4 Obsoleting: openoffice.org-i18n.i386 0:1.1.3-11.5.0.fc3 with openoffice.org-la ngpack-sv.i386 1:1.9.125-1.1.0.fc4 Obsoleting: openoffice.org-libs.i386 0:1.1.3-11.5.0.fc3 with openoffice.org-co re.i386 1:1.9.125-1.1.0.fc4 Obsoleting: pdksh.i386 0:5.2.14-30 with ksh.i386 0:20050202-1 Obsoleting: xscreensaver.i386 1:4.18-4 with xscreensaver-base.i386 1:4.21-4 Total download size: 1.0 G Downloading Packages: Running Transaction Test
And now the cursor has been blinking for at least 40 minutes. Please, God, please! And there it is: done. I wish there was at least a message that said, "Transaction test passed, your machine is clean and ready to boot into advanced functionality!" The thing just stops. Still, never let it be said that there's no human drama in computer geekery.

Tuesday, September 13

Relationships


Apache Synapse
Originally uploaded by Colin Brayton.
This is the kind of social network stuff I meant, using a fabulous, Java-based "mind mapper," Kdissert. But Agna (google it) is even better.

Buffaloed

Bisonte is the art studio fo my in-laws, Bia and Geraldo, proud parents of the Fellini-handsome Fabio. Bia has just learned the evil ways of Macromedia Flash, and Geraldo dreams up the visual concepts with the help of an occasional baseado. My favorite: the dog playing a piano made of bones. But it's hard for illustrators in Brazil, as for all symbolic manipulators these days, and the poor pair's greeting card client just went out of business. I keep saying, you know, all kinds of crazy foreigners do wacky illustrations for the New York publishing hub, why not a Brazilian? As for me, I am spending my post-quit-my-job hiatus hacking like a monster. I upgraded my laptop to Breezy Badger Kubuntu--things got a little hairy and I had to do some clever bootstrapping with apt-get from the command line after the X server borked in the process--and decided to set up my desktop machine with Fedora Core 3. It seemed primitive, so at the moment, my Yum utility is grinding its way through the upgrade to Fedora Core 4. Some people put model ships in bottles. I endlessly reconfigure my boxes. And I'm getting excited about social network analysis as a way of exploring the relationships of firms in a given sector .... say, financial technology or trading centers, for example. Neuza's going to support us both now with her incredible exploding dog walking business, anyway. The woman likes to be surrounding by dumb beasts! Why she married me. Various other wheelings and dealings as well. Meanwhile, I have some slack time left, waiting for a project bid to go through for a Brazilian cilent, repeat business, they love me. I had an MRI for what turns out to be a bone spur in my shoulder that might be farking up my rotator cuff. Surgery? Hope not. Blogging when I can on my new tech and finance blog. Sending out resumes, activating networks, reading novels. That's my life. Still feeling a great sense of relief at being able to walk out of a bad situation instead of being stuck there. I realize I am very lucky to have that luxury. Finally, Citibank sucks. Rolled over my CD without ever telling me I had 7 days to reassign it. Claimed they sent me a letter. No e-mail alerts, though they are reputedly the best online banking outift around. My ass! I was ready to transfer that balance into an ING CD that pays at least TWICE the rate. I could have sworn I requested it be returned to Preferred Savings once it expired. But I have no record of my online session. I smell the work of a retention expert here. These people are scum. I want to take every fucking penny out of there as soon as I possibly can.

Thursday, September 8

Brain-Fart of the Year

David Brooks, the resident half-assed sophist at the New York Times editorial pages, sees a "silver lining" in the spectacle of bloated corpses rotting in the streets of New Orleans:

As a colleague of mine says, every crisis is an opportunity. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina has given us an amazing chance to do something serious about urban poverty. That's because Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty. It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide. That's because Katrina was a natural disaster that interrupted a social disaster. It separated tens of thousands of poor people from the run-down, isolated neighborhoods in which they were trapped. It disrupted the patterns that have led one generation to follow another into poverty. It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide.

"Every crisis is an opportunity." God, what a horrible, horrible clich´┐Ż (and a garbled version of the popular notion that the Chinese language uses the same word for "crisis" and "opportunity")!

There was another fellow who thought that uprooting people from their social milieu was a fine opportunity to achieve some serious social reform. His name? Pol Freaking Pot.

Please go see the Brazilian film City of God, which dramatizes the social history of a master plan by Brazil's military dictatorship to forcibly resettle the poor in happy, salubrious surroundings, more closely integrated with the mainstream of society--i.e., readily available as domestic servants to the bourgeosie--just as Brooks dreams of doing.

Seriously, this is one of the weirdest instances of false consciousness chewing on its own ass that I've ever read in the Grey Lady: an avowed conservative aiming to transform the blasted landscape of the Big Easy into a classless utopia by massive government intervention into the operations of the free market in real estate:

For New Orleans, the key will be luring middle-class families into the rebuilt city, making it so attractive to them that they will move in, even knowing that their blocks will include a certain number of poor people.

Right. In other words, welcome to Brooklyn, Mr. I Work at 229 W 43rd St--or should we call you Dr. Pangloss?

Tuesday, September 6

Truth Will Out

Peter Johnson in USA Today (via SPJ Press Notes):
The media shelf life for natural disasters is notoriously short: Within two weeks of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which cut a $30 billion destructive path through south Florida and the Louisiana coast, the story virtually disappeared from network newscasts. But experts and journalists predict that mounting questions about U.S. government preparation, policies and response to Hurricane Katrina will result in intense news coverage for months. Katrina "doesn't just have legs, it has tentacles," says Bob Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. ?Its implications reach into hot-button controversies involving race, poverty, economics and partisan politics. The reach of this story will make the O.J. Simpson case look like a news brief.? Network news analyst Andrew Tyndall predicts that TV news will focus on personal stories and massive aid efforts in the coming weeks, and then turn to looking at how relief efforts may have resulted in people dying. Stories on inner cities don't get much network attention "unless carnage is involved, and this is what you have" in New Orleans. In The New Yorker magazine this week, Nicholas Lemann writes, "We're all wondering what will become of New Orleans. A big American city has never before been entirely emptied of people, and had most of its housing rendered useless, and had all its basic systems fail at once."

As an amateur pundit, I am gloating. I had faith all along that these neoconservative, free-market fundamentalist philosopher-kings would trip on their own arrogance and stupidity sooner or later. As Allen Ginsberg used to sing, "Hypocrisy, is the key, to self-fulfilling prophecy." Catchy little calypso tune, that. Also a fine brief summary of a number of Greek tragedies.

So now the entire nation is clamoring for these bastards' heads for having done to New Orleans, on a much more egregious scale, what they did to New York City after 9-11--screw them on the public taxpayer funds necessary to protect the commons, which they're flushing down the putrid privy-hole of Iraq for the sake of their cronies at Bechtel, Halliburton and The Carlyle Group.

Ordinary people, who in the last election voted as though they were rooting for a local sports team, will now start to see what an enormously corrupt pork barrel the entire Homeland Security bureaucracy is. And other malfeasance, such as l'Affaire Rove-Plame, will enjoy a coattail effect as corruption scandal follows corruption scandal. I still have my money on a Bush impeachment by 2007.

The problem with hundreds, if not thousands, of bloated corpses in New Orleans is that it's much more difficult to shoot the photographer and claim he was trying to run a checkpoint, or whine to your base, at closed-door Nuremburg rallies, that the liberal media is deliberately censoring the GOOD things you're doing in Louisiana. I keep telling Neuza this, but she doesn't believe me: These people are bent on turning this nation into a Third-World military dictatorship. Like North Korea.

Fuckers.

Monday, September 5

West Indian Carnival, Brooklyn, 2005

Still raving on outside even as we blog. We live at ground zero for the annual follies, near Washington & Eastern Parkway. Huge army of cops this year keeping people off the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum. Nice going, artsy-fartsy "we love the community" coalition of cultural institutions, with your invitation-only cocktail parties for Ratner cronies.

Sunday, September 4

Important Fact for Me to Know

Today's New York Times:
Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, employers with 20 or more employees who offer health care coverage are required to offer departing employees an opportunity to extend their health benefits. This law, known as Cobra, extends an employee's health benefits for up to 18 months beyond the last date of employment. The law says that employees have 30 days after their last day of work to request information about Cobra, and 60 more days after that to enroll. Employees must pay the premiums themselves, and premiums vary, depending on the kind of coverage your employer offers.

This Just In: I'm Out

I quit my job as managing editor for a small weekly trade journal. I don't want to wash dirty linen in public, but suffice it to say that I was happy that my financial situation permitted me to make a swift, clean break with a situation in which some fundamental lines got crossed as far as I was concerned.

Now what? My freelance translation and editorial clients have been asking after me quite a bit, so I am not terribly concerned. Our maintenance fee is low and we have no mortgage. We'll have to get new health insurance through the union.

The only shame is that I worked so hard to learn a beat I had only studied tangentially before, and for which I have developed quite an enthusiasm!

I figure I'll continue to keep an eye on it by ... how else? ... blogging and wiking (wikkying? wikification?). I have this whole elaborate system set up that I call my "open source Bloomberg box," including a directory of dated TiddlyWikis that I was using to note, tag and organize the news of the week, often tracking more than 75 items at a time. Very handy. Why not dedicate the same time to blogging the same stuff? I learned to do it quickly, and it seems useful enough: an overview of developments, cross-referenced to a growing wikipedia.

Something to keep the idle hands out of the devil's sweatshop, at any rate. Neuza and I have also been invited to cover Brazil for the Global Voices Online project out of Harvard, which is very exciting!

In the end, I'm happy to have the leisure to blog more! This job was a 60- to 70-hour a week nightmare that left me extremely stressed out. I never even got around to finishing up my long overdue medical checkup. Some of that will come out of pocket, yes, but it's a small price to pay for my sanity.

I suppose, then, that the Red Actor is about done. I've created a category over on The New Market Machines for "financial media" where I and my collaborators if any (let me know if you are interested!) can practice our scathing criticism of ethically challenged reporting ...

So bon voyage, then, and remember: Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to screw you.