July 2003 Archives

Theory and Practice

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So..... anyone up for a mix-CD swap?

Praise The Lord! Allelujah!

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There is justice in this world:

J.Lo and Affleck: We Will Never Work Together Again.

Admittedly, I think the last Ben Affleck movie I saw was Shakespeare In Love and the only Jennnifer Lopez movie I've ever seen (unless you count bits of Money Train and The Wedding Planner caught whilst flipping through channels on cable TV) was Out of Sight, so it's not like I'll be personally impacted that much by the news...

Update: The New York Post has a story on the initial reaction to Gigli; some choice quotes are "It's very bad storytelling," and "It's horrible ... the worst movie ever made."

Your Tax Dollars At Work

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On the same day that "the Department of Homeland Security is warning that Islamic extremists might be plotting suicide airliner hijackings to be carried out before the end of the summer", the "Transportation Security Administration has alerted federal air marshals that as of Friday they will no longer be covering cross-country or international flights". Of course, what flights are most likely to be hijacked? They wouldn't be cross-country or international flights, would they?

The best part is that the air marshal policy is apparently the result of a "decision to rework schedules so that air marshals don’t have to incur the expense of staying overnight in hotels."

Open-source Marxism

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There was a very interesting story up at the Black Table by Will Leitch a couple of weeks ago about a Page Six article that sniffed about Jodi Kantor's (the current NYT Sunday Arts & Leisure editor) habit of hiring web writers and (gasp) bloggers. Disregarding the multiple layers of irony (in the classical sense of the word, not the hipster sense) in the story, which include the fact that Elizabeth Spiers, who writes Gawker (where I first picked up the story) has written for both the Sunday A&L section and Page Six, Leitch makes a very interesting point at the bottom of the article:

"The Web is where the next generation of writers is coming from -- the workers have developed the means of production..."

Aside from the fact I had no idea that Will (nice guy from small-town Illinois and Cardinals fan) was a closest Marxist, the idea that the internet is where the workers own the means of production is one that extends far beyond just writers.

Let's look at it another way: why is the RIAA seemingly far more interested in malicious prosecution of internet file traders than it is in pursuing real CD pirates overseas? Because, while CD pirates overseas do cost the record companies money, they do not threaten the basic structure of the industry itself, while file sharers do.

In the information age, the "means of production" is really just another phrase that means "the means of distribution". When dealing with fundamentally ephemeral objects -- like words, music, or even computer software -- distribution is essentially the same thing as production.

The recording industry has built their entire business model on controlling the distribution of their product. As a whole, they are far less interested in the actual production of music (why else have we been inflicted with the mediocre vocal stylings of American Idol?) than the distribution and selling thereof. But the internet, by potentially moving the ownership of the means of distribution, and therefore, the means of production, threatens to completely destroy the record industry's control of the music business. On the other hand, the pirates who counterfeit CDs are inherently parasitic and could not exist without the major labels. They cannot overturn the structure of the industry because they are dependent on that very structure to exist. No record industry=no CD pirates.

One could, in theory, extend the argument to discuss the differences between open-source software development and the current commerical model.

See, knowing something about dead 19th-century philosophers can pay off...

Remind Me, Please

Well, it looks like US troops are resorting to kidnapping civilians to effect the capture of wanted Iraqis.

We are supposed to be the good guys, right?

Evil Cackling

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After reading that "David Gest has vowed to fight [Liza] in the divorce courts - claiming 'it's going to get ugly'", my first reaction was "Catfight!"

I can't have been the only one.

It Lives!

From Wired News: The G4 Cube Lives!

I really gotta say that I love my Cube (named, without irony, "Rubik"). It's small, it's whisper-quiet, and it's not horrifically slow yet. Maybe I'll buy myself a dual-processor upgrade kit for Christmas or something.

It's All About the Guns

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There's apparently a new pickup line sweeping the nation:

Pickupper to Pickuppee: Hey, I was wondering...do you have your tickets to the show?
Pickuppee: Um...what show?
Pickupper [Spoken while flexing arms energetically]: THE GUN SHOW, BABY!

At least that's what Ken tells me.

This would, apparently, only work with male pickuppers. I guess that it could work for some women...

Well, Well.

Look at that, look at that.

And no, they're not exactly the same colors...

Dividends

Well, it looks like that Benitez trade is already paying dividends...

How Do You Spell Roadtrip?

R-E-D-S-O-X-T-I-C-K-E-T-S.

tickets.jpg

At least that's how I spell "roadtrip".

Oooouch!

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And on the subject of horrific poetry, you might want to check out William McGonagall's "The Tay Bridge Disaster", a perennial candidate for the worst poem ever written. Here's the first verse:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

Reading it in a Scottish accent helps, I find.

And Speaking of Writers

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One of the oldest scams ploys in the publishing industry is to run a short story/poetry/essay contest, announce that everyone's a winner, and subsequently publish a volume of the "winning" entries. Which just happens to be on sale for the low low price of $19.95 (or some such fee).

Now I'm not saying that poetry.com would be guilty of trying to exploit the dreams of aspiring writers in order to make a quick buck, but... oh, where was I? I digress.

Seems that Dave Barry (your friend and mine) is suggesting that people submit poems to the site containing a certain classical poetic phrase.

Hours of fun, guaranteed. See if you can find mine!

Blogennale

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The Venice Biennale has a blog. I think that it's kinda cool, but at the same time, there's more than a bit of blog overload. I mean, actors have blogs, writers have blogs, presidential candidates have blogs...

Next thing you know, cats will start blogging. Oh, wait, nevermind...

Mutable Type

Divine Bovine

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Gawker is turning on comments: Metrosexual: variations on a theme @ Gawker

Who woulda thunk it?

Welcome to the 21st Century

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The Chicago Manual of Style enters the 21st century. But they still have 16 paragraphs on ellipses.

I might have to get myself a copy of one of those.

Other style guides I can recommend are the AP Stylebook, the unusually well-written and witty Economist Style Guide, and, of course, Strunk's The Elements of Style (which is really less a style guide than a writing manual, but whatever).

Chalk One Up For The Good Guys

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The Boston Globe is reporting that Boston College and MIT are refusing to bend to the RIAA's legal blackmail by not naming students that the RIAA is subpoenaing.

This should turn out to be an interesting legal battle (and I'm sure that university presidents who did fold under pressure are calling their counsels and giving them an earful)...

Update: Here's MIT's official press release on the subject, via my brother.

Vaugahn Williams Never Even Came Close

"Train and Tower for Chamber Orchestra and Tape", a concerto for orchestra and passenger train. The closest antecedent I can think of is Antheil's Ballet Mechanique.

I am, though, reminded of a recital my sister gave once many years ago that was interrupted by the faint but clear sound of a freight train rumbling through town.

I just caught the first episode of what looks to be the highly addictive new series The Restaurant, and I gotta say, I think that that's the first time I've ever seen two product placements in the opening credits.

The plugs in the show were really annoying and forced, too.

Of course I'm going to watch next week's show.

My friend Jen Crowe is prominently featured in this article in the Times about thirtieth birthday parties (OK, she's actually not in the article itself, but that's her in the picture headlining the piece in both the web and print versions of the paper, which is more than close enough for me).

Now that makes, by latest count, three friends who've been featured in the Paper of Record in the last two months alone. Which only makes me wonder (I know, a Daily News mention isn't bad, but...): what do I gotta do to make it to the Old Gray Lady?

That international fugitive thing is looking better and better.

By Proxy

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Well, as some of you may have noticed, The Fat Guy won lunch with me with a high bid of $15.

However, as Mr. Chaffin lives near Ft. Worth and is unlikely to visit in the near future, he's taking nominations for proxies.

So leave a comment and explain to us why you should be appointed Scott's proxy.

So, What Is It With Those Crazy Canucks, Anyway?

Wham, Bam, Thank You

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Two New Ones

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lousytshirt.gif   yams.gif

Don't forget to check out the other shirts at the emporium.

Neeeeeeeigh

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Maccers was kind enough to point out Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul: Inspirational Stories About Horses and the People Who Love Them over at Amazon.

At press time, there were no testimonials from Catherine the Great on the site.

Why Can't I Have a Job Like That?

R.W. Apple, writing for the Times, goes on a distillery tour in Scotland (just like the Scotch tasting Kenny G. and I went to, except a thousand times better -- and it was in Scotland, not west Chelsea). Now, eagle-eyed readers will remember that Mr. Apple wrote an article several weeks ago extolling the pleasures of Scottish food that somehow failed to mention haggis. Perhaps all the scotch he was 'tasting' caused him to forget the haggis?

And in other Timesian food news, Lawrence Downes desperately tries to put lipstick on a pig in this article about poi. In fact, he's so effusive about the stuff that I wonder if he's ever actually had any. Poi, for those unfamilar with it, is a gooey, starchy, tasteless paste made from taro root. It's so appetizing that there is an enduring fake legend that suggests that poi was originally used as roofing paste, and only became a foodstuff after a starving western explorer (it varies, depending on who's telling the joke, but it's usually Captain Cook) mistook it for sustenance.

$15

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Bidding's currently at $15, and it ends at midnight eastern time tonight.

In the event that the winner is from out of town, they'll have the option of picking any stand-in they want, or they can save the lunch in the event that they come and visit le pomme grande (or in the event that my varied travels takes me to the winner's locale).

Go Sox

Great article in the New Yorker about Bill James and the Red Sox.

"Schadenfreude" Isn't Quite the Right Word...

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It would appear that I'm not the only person on the planet who was inappropriately gleeful on hearing the news that Blair Hornstine has had her acceptance into Harvard rescinded.

One of the consequences of Harvard's late action is that virtually every college and university in the nation has already closed their incoming freshman class; moreover, given the gravity of the plagiarism charges against Hornstine, it seems unlikely that she'll ever get accepted to an elite university, even the second time around. How unfortunate. I've heard that the dorms at Rutgers are quite nice and full of very sociable people.

"I am not a crook," Richard Nixon said in 1973; "I am not a plagiarist," Blair Hornstine says thirty years later. Her non-apology apology for her plagiarism is not only a staggering act of hubris but comes across as the cries of thief who's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar yet continues to claim that she didn't do it. At least Jayson Blair, Hornstine's namesake and spiritual partner in crime, admitted to his malfeasance; his gleeful boasting, while ugly and distasteful, at least demonstrated that he was willing to take responsibility for his misdeeds.

Does Hornstine really not know that what she did was wrong? Does she really think that she is due $2.7 million dollars because she wasn't named sole valedictorian? Maybe she does; maybe she really does think that the world owes her something. And if she does? I feel just a bit sorry for her. Twenty years down the road she'll be one of those tired, pinched and angry social x-rays, wondering why her husband is trading her in for a newer, younger, hotter model; angry that the world hasn't given her her due, her rightful place in the firmament; lonely as the circle of friends she hasn't alienated grows smaller and tighter.

Personally, I find it vastly amusing that Hornstine, who sued a public school district for $2.7 million, claims that her "Dream Job" is poverty lawyer.

No word yet on if she's gonna sue Harvard.

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Spike

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lsagn.jpgI've noticed a recent surge ("surge" being relative here, but she's now only second to the ever-popular Leah McLaren in my search results) in hits for Ludivine Sagnier.

Ms. Sagnier is, if you recall, the young actress who appeared as a coltish tomboy in 8 Women last year; she's currently starring in the summer art-house hit Swimming Pool.

Of course, reviews like this may be the real reason behind her sudden popularity. Might have to add another movie to the must-see list this summer...

RRRRRRRRRR!

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After seeing Pirates of the Caribbean and enjoying it greatly (an opinion that Mike Whybark shares), I came across this keyboard (via the ever-industrious Amy Langfield).

As for the movie itself? It's a great deal of fun. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush compete to see who can chew more scenery (one movie critic dubbed Depp's performance "The Lavender Pirate"). Orlando Bloom (Legolas in LoTR) and Kiara Knightley (the blonde tomboy in Bend it Like Beckham, brunette here) are appropriately pretty all the time and appropriately dashing when the script calls for it as the straight leads. The marvelously talented Jonathan Pryce and Jack Davenport are, unfortunately, wasted in relatively minor roles as a colonial governor and a British commodore, though Davenport has moments here and there when he realizes that he's in far over his head.

I'm not entirely happy with the ending (for one thing, it misses a wonderful chance to pay homage to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly), but it's still a wonderfully fun couple of hours at the movies.

What's the Big Fuss About?

Some of you may remmeber the big brouhaha about iTunes 4.0 being able to stream over the network and the subsequent removal of that feature.

What's funny is that any OS X user can share their entire music library with the entire world (admittedly, it's not nearly as cool as the automagic playlist sharing), not just with fellow iTuners, with four mouse clicks and one simple command-line instruction (hint: it uses the "ln" command).

You can do the same in Windows 2000/XP, but it's a little more complicated.

Winner

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winner.gif

I'm kinda suprised at how fast (less than two days, actually) we went from about 950 (955, actually) to 1,000 comments.

I might have to hold another one for 1,500 comments.

Luuuuuuuuuuunch

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And in other news, bidding on lunch with me is currently all the way up to $12.

In the interests of educating my reading public, I went down to the Flatiron Lounge, a new, rather swanky bar on 19th Street that's rapidly looking like it's becoming the latest 'in' spot.

It's a very pretty space -- lots of deco touches, from the antique bar itself to the elegant, nearly enclosed banquettes. It's the kind of bar that looks like it should have Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald singing "Stormy Weather", accompanied only by a solo piano at a glacial pace, playing over the sound system.

Of course, they were playing the Beastie Boys instead.

Anyway, the drinks themselves are very, very good (if somewhat pricey). It's a bar that specializes in sophisticated drinks and it shows on the menu. The look of horror on the mixologist's face when a clueless fratboy type asked for a Red Stripe (which is not one of the featured beers) was indescribable. One of the featured drinks on their menu is the Sidecar, which is, I would have to say, probably my favorite cocktail (when made correctly, which is rare, which is why I end up drinking so many Manhattans).

The classic Sidecar is two parts cognac (or brandy), one part Cointreau (or triple sec), and one part fresh lemon juice; they serve their version in a cocktail (aka a martini) glass rimmed with sugar. It's a elegant balance of sweet and sour; the tang of the lemon juice floats above tha alcoholic sweetness of the Cointreau with the cognac providing a nicely complex base. Sidecars made with Rose's Lemon water are invariably cloyingly oversweet; they're far more like the dreaded and far-overrated Cosmopolitan than anything else.

I also tried a Nicky Finn, which is a sidecar with a teaspoon of Ricard (or absinthe, or other licorice-based alcohol) slipped into the mix; the extra bitterness of the liqueur gives the drink a surprising depth that you didn't know was missing. I'll have to have that again.

What was, perhaps, most impressive was the fact that Julie, the proprietor, made an excellent Americano -- one of the more obscure cocktails around -- without prompting or pausing to look up the recipe. An Americano is Campari, sweet vermouth, ice and soda water in a highball glass. It's a bitter, complex drink that almost nobody makes anymore; the sort of thing that's perfect for slow sipping in a seersucker suit on a hot, slow, lazy summer day.

Don't know why
There's no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my baby and I ain't together
Keeps rainin' all the time

I Want My NTV (No, that's not a typo)

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All football, all the time: the NFL launches the NFL Network. Yeah. I just hope Time Warner picks it up for the fall. Here's the NFL's offical press release.

One Thousand

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According to the internal MT counter, we're closing in on 1,000 comments for this blog (we're slightly less than fifty away right now).

So it seems appropriate that I sponsor a contest: the user who posts the one-thousandth comment on this site will win a fabulous prize pack (note: not a fabulous prize, but rather a fabulous prize pack!) So for all of you who've been bugging poor old previously unemployed me about getting free T-shirts, well, now's your chance.

Here are the official rules:

1) No ballot-box stuffing. That means no more than three comments in a row, and all comments must be germane to the post at hand.

2) Should the 1,000 comment poster be unable to accept the prize, the 1,001th comment poster will be the winner. In the event that the 1,001 comment poster cannot accept the prize, then the 1,002, and so on and so forth.

3) Immediate family members are not eligible to win.

Everybody happy?

On Truth in Advertising

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Via Gawker:

Lunch with Warren Buffett, one of the richest men ever, is being auctioned off. The bidding's currently at $22,600 $26,300 $27,000 $27,600 $28,100 $29,300 $30,000 $32,600 $35,100 $38,100 $95,100 $105,100 $118,100 $126,100 $195,100. The winning bid was $250,100 (the bidding itself jumped $20,000 in the last 90 seconds alone). That's a quarter of a million dollars. For lunch.

Note that the lunch is for you and seven of your closest friends, so you figure that $30K $100K $200K $250K split eight ways isn't so bad is still a crapload of money. On the other hand, $3,750 $12,500 $25,000 $31,000 is an awful lot for lunch, and I can think of plenty of other things to spend the money on.

In related news, I'm auctioning off lunch with myself. Bidding starts at $0.25.

More Politics

Or, why electronic voting machines are a terrible idea: How to hack a voting machine.

Following Allan's return from his hiatus, both Jim and Elizabeth have updated their blogs (and on the same day, too!).

Whatever will happen next?

You're In The Army Now

First, the Army Times points out the yawning gap between the Bush Administration's rhetoric and action when it comes to what really counts in the military -- little things like, say, imminent-danger pay and family-separation allowances for troops who are getting shot at.

With support from above like that, it's really no wonder that troop morale in Iraq has hit rock bottom and is falling fast.

A Girl And Her Boy

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A new story up on Mimeograph: A Girl and Her Boy, by Bea Sypher.

It has what the television people call "Mature Themes", so if you don't like reading about sex, don't click here.

On The Differences Between XX and XY

It occurred to me this weekend that when women talk about "man trouble", they're usually talking about "relationship issues", otherwise known as specific problems with specific guys.

But when guys talk about "woman trouble", it's almost always about the absence of the opposite sex.

Blogs in the workplace

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This article focuses on using blogs as internal communication tools inside a business, not necessarily as a tool for communicating with the public.

But the cool thing is that my (second) cousin is quoted liberally throughout.

Birthday Pictures

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4th.jpg

Click the big picture for highlights.

Chum!

By way of Amy Langfield:

250 pound Great White found off the Hamptons.

Well, we can always dream, can't we?

Oh, and why aren't you out there enjoying the Fourth of July? Go eat a hot dog or something!

The Man from Serendip

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  1. Ned Batchelder, the brother of a friend of mine, comes up with the phrase "Machete mode", something that he describes as "working hard to write some code using technologies that I really don't understand." Or, in other words, what I do every time I even attempt to code anything. Which kinda makes sense when you realize that the last time I ever really knew what I was doing when I was coding was, oh, 1990.
  2. For all the photo geeks out there: this looks cool.
  3. On Friendster: Gothamist wonders about etiquette -- "When someone messages you with just 'Want to meet for drinks?' ... is it wrong to reply, 'No way and never contact me again'? -- while Dori says that it's already jumped the shark (and she may have a point: when I tried it a few minutes ago (i.e. about 11:55 p.m.), I couldn't get in). Me, I'm wondering about this whole 'messaging' thing myself -- it doesn't seem to really work for me. Anyway, if for some reason you feel the need to be my friendster friend, you know what to do.

On The Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

Over 500,000 people took to the streets in Hong Kong today to protest a so-called "anti-subversion" law. These are the largest protests in Hong Kong since June 4, 1989: the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Here are some pictures from Yahoo News.

Updated: replaced the first link with a link to a longer, more in-depth story. Here's also the BBC story.

Exercise Your Democratic Rights

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Don't forget to vote for the All-Star Game.

My ballot (with the assistance of ESPN.com's sortable statistics) has, on the AL side, two Red Sox, two Blue Jays, one Ranger, one Mariner, one Athletic, one Oriole, one White Sox and no Yankees; on the NL side, I've got two Marlins, two Cardinals, one Rocky, one Expo, one Brave, and one Giant.

And speaking of baseball, howzabout Greg Maddox and the Season of Doom? Back at the beginning of the season, I noted that Maddox had gotten off to a rough start, but he apparently bounced back after that.

Well.... after getting roughed up by the Marlins last night, Maddox is 6-8 with a (for him) astronomical 4.84 ERA. He's only throwing 82.5 pitches per start, but the flip side is that he's averaging less than 6 innings per start. About the only really positive thing you can say about this season is that he's on track to start 38 games this year, which would be a personal best.

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