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Friday, 26 September, 2003
Little Things

The little things are good. I miss them when they are not around. Little things like: electricity, lights, telephony. Refrigeration and cooked meals (Hot food hot, Cold food cold). Salmonella under sanction. Dry clothes and dry carpets. Charged laptop batteries. Candles. My friend Huyen-Tran still did not have the little things yesterday, a week after they had gone away. "You need to build a barricade on your street, to trap one of those Pepco trucks when they come by - that's the only way", I told her. When I got down to the bike path which runs along a creek, yesterday, on my way to work. I discovered that the MNPPC (Parks n' Planning Commission) had taken a mini bulldozer and plowed down the length of the path. getting it back down to the original pavement. A little thing, but appreciated. For most of this summer sections of that path have been an off-road experience as the creek jumped its banks often and left layered piles of silt on the path. A heavy rain had come Monday after the hurricane and on Tuesday the path was under about three feet of fast moving water and closer to the middle of the current than usual. I would have taken a picture but my digital camera was stolen over the weekend (along with my iPod, alas Mono-man Connolly I knew thee well tho brief). After briefly considering roping together a log raft and floating downstream towards work, I decided to take Metzerott and Adelphi instead. It is always good to have more than one way of arriving at your destination.
10:13:24 AM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, 25 September, 2003
author edward said dies

Edward Said was an all over the map kind of person. Just this side of being an enigma he was a comfortable gadfly - which is what a professor of mine once dismissed him as even as he assigned readings by him. He didn't seem afraid of being foolish, maybe he didn't realize he was. Whether throwing rocks at Israel, which he once did as a grand symbolic gesture of some purpose or other. Or accusing Yasir Arafat of selling out the Palastinian people - which Arafat certainly did, but perhaps not the way Said was thinking. Said always flirted with not being able to be taken seriously. Still everything I read by him I always counted as being worthwhile read. I am sad he will write no more.
._._. pb _._

Scholar Edward Said dies. The renowned Palestinian-American academic Edward Said dies in New York aged 67. [BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition]
11:25:47 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Tuesday, 16 September, 2003
Given the choice...

This story - Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship set a strange image in my mind, a stray almost random picture. I thought of a set piece you would see in old movies. Think the Night they Raided Minskys or some such. The scene: the performers are on the boards, working, the stage lights are on and bright. The camera pans - the back of the theatre is filling up with New Yorks Finest and their billy clubs. The performers can just dimly make them out. One more off-color joke, politcally sensitive reference, showgirl in a less-than-fully-developed-costume - and the show is over. Here CNN War Correspondent Christine Amanpour: I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did. Now Torrie Clarke former DoD spokesperson: In my experience, a little over two years at the Pentagon, I never saw them (the media) holding back. I saw them reporting the good, the bad and the in between. And finally Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti: Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda. Fox au naturale.

That's all for tonight folks. Thanks for coming out everyone. Good night! Have a safe drive home. (curtain drops, house lights come up)
11:42:03 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Alternating red and White Stripes

Last Thursday I think it was, possibly Friday, whenever Apple's Quicktime Newsletter landed in my e-inbox . I propagated myself over to the White Stripes web site, the people responsible for the song 7NationArmy. Where I had been promised a viewing of their lastest cineste treat: the video to Hardest Button to button. I enjoyed it and thank them sincerly. Catchy stuff with a bit of Detroit to it we don't know you and we don't owe you, but if you come round I got something to show you...I had opinions that didn't matter, I had a brain that felt like pancake batter. After viewing the video I poked and proded the site some. Under messages I found a little weblog like structure intended to carry the news to the candy-cane children. Such as Jack White's breaking his hand in July and missing playing Glastonbury etc. Also there, was "Retriever's" story cast - for clarity's sake - as a discussion between Mr. Cotton, Amazing, and Exemplify. This I like I thought.

Over the weekend I found my continually humming the old Charlie Pickett song Tarwater, while dreaming of drum kits, Dreiser, stone staircases and Ted Nugent.
10:29:56 AM    comment [];trackback [];

Monday, 15 September, 2003
People like him

Journalist and commentator David Brook has an essay in the Atlantic magazine People Like Us, this month, that left me non-plussed the first time I read it. Mostly I know of Brooks from his appearances on the Newshour with Jim Leher. From that I am mostly well disposed towards him, he seems like an reasonable and intelligent sort of person. At the same time I don't follow the writing he does for the alternate reality that is the Weekly Standard. The article had a thick dense air of a mono culture hothouse to it, ironical in light of its ostensive theme. I set it aside intending to look at it again later. I noted that it popped into blogdex and stayed there over several days. When I did get around to rereading it, it didn't seem any better. The tag-line of the piece is: We all pay lip service to the melting pot, but we really prefer the congealing pot. Initially this strikes one as a succinct clear-eyed observation on a hypocritical drift in modern culture. Benjamin Barbour invited to give a talk at our library on multi-culturalism two years ago came in and said precisely that (I recalled this in a post in April). Scanning the essay quickly leaves the impression that Brook is saying this, and offering a caution that we need to do more and to get beyond ourselves. Take the penultimate paragraph: a summary look might leave one thinking he advocates an institutional common work experience for citizens of all backgrounds.
...Human beings, if they are to live well, will have to move through a series of institutions and environments, which may be individually homogeneous but, taken together, will offer diverse experiences. It might also be a good idea to make national service a rite of passage for young people in this country: it would take them out of their narrow neighborhood segment and thrust them in with people unlike themselves.
but he continues
Finally, it's probably important for adults to get out of their own familiar circles. If you live in a coastal, socially liberal neighborhood, maybe you should take out a subscription to The Door, the evangelical humor magazine; or maybe you should visit Branson, Missouri. Maybe you should stop in at a megachurch. Sure, it would be superficial familiarity, but it beats the iron curtains that now separate the nation's various cultural zones.
He's actually saying something different. He's saying liberals would lose their smug cosmopolitan elitism if they flocked beyond the coasts and got in touch with the true diversity of the silent and moral majority of the interior. Here I briefly recall that portion of my Navy years attached to a unit stationed in the south and largely made up of the sons of the south. I recall a man reduced to tears of nostalgic mirth over memories of only a year or so earlier - memories of cruising the streets, and waterways of Tampa/St Pete leaning out the window of his car waving a baseball bat. Why would someone do that? Well, there was a reason of course, to smack n****** off bridges. An aberration Mr. Brooks might demur, insisting on his vision of a wise compassionate conservative heartland. Let me make one thing very clear to Mr. Brooks, the aberration lay with those who did not see this as hilarious and rightful fun. The Navy and military in general were institutions considerably more diverse and institutionally committed to diversity than my hometowns in Massachusetts - I grew up in Plymouth and Holliston. Towns tainted by sea salt in the air and an unhealthy proximity to Boston, Holliston even named after the man who gave Harvard its library. Has there ever been a greater crime in history than that? The people; however, who came to this institution - the military - were not committed to diversity, they were disciplined, sourly, to it.

Unlike the straw men and women of his essay; I cannot speak to what $750,000 house I might prefer in Great Falls over Bethesda. I live in an apartment in Silver Spring by Adelphi and am the sole anglophone in my neighborhood. But I have listened to the small talk here and there, and would agree there is difference across the Potomac.

Mr. Brook points to how well firms like the market research company Claritas are able to distinguish and identify predictable us (his us being mainly middle class conclavists). Yet he fails to consider the role of such exacting measurement and determination of this fine grained segmentation - and attendant product creation, sales targeting, and market positioning - to the creation of these branded identities. You are what you eat what you wear, what you drive. If you do not believe this; they will explain it all to you again, and again and again. Mr Brook can ignore these machinations for his purposes. I note only that those who do this work, for theirs, don't.

His example of elitist clustering from the book the Bell Curve is an indicatively odd example. He expects his readers to feel the rising warmth of embarrassed incorrectness when they recognize themselves as far outliers in the american melting pot population with their post-graduate degrees and circle of friends with degrees. I don't see myself in his example, experience no twinge of guilt. I look at what he is saying here and see it in a different light. He is going to great lengths to point to something like class stratification without identifying it as such or taking responsibility for what that might mean. He faults Universities for not being diverse in their work force (never mind that in their total work force they likely are quite diverse). He supposes that the average tenured Brown Phd might harbor a psychological block against bringing in an NRA member or evangelical Christian into the department. Further he hints this active prejudice is what keeps Conservatives from being hired:

Republicans and evangelical Christians have sensed that they are not welcome at places like Brown, so they don't even consider working there. In fact, any registered Republican who contemplates a career in academia these days is both a hero and a fool.
Maybe it is their inability to be truly and rigorously intellectually honest that might have more to do with it. There is more to education than the term 'return to education' buys you. More results from continued education than a particular and higher arc of a lifetime earnings curve. If brainy people with conservative mores flow elsewhere -- to the business world - entering business and management vocational programs well within their undergraduate years. It must be acknowledged that this world: modern American capitalism asks little, if anything, from its practitioners childlike mores. Leaves them unexamined, unawakened , in a silk crucible untested. Advanced education will put one through changes - if you learn - you learn to see things. See from broader and different perspectives. With more information to guide you as to what you are seeing , a heightened experience, combining with reflection and critical re-examination. It is not true that the learned man is no different from the ignorant except for a higher pile of facts by their side. Many studies have traced the course of education on a persons outlook. What is being called here liberalism an increasing tendency to share values with the population of those belonging to (for instance) the democratic party increases in correlation with additional years of education. And it tends to remain stable even when removed from the socializing blackbox of academia. Brooks it seems would have us believe that it is not learning and critical thinking that makes academia liberal, but merely the result of some game of capture-the-flag.

In a further column that Mr. Brooks has written in the past few days Bred for Power. He compares George W Bush with Howard B Dean. Acknowledging that George Bush could not have gotten where he is, having lived the way he did, without being a member of a a certain establishment. One that supports wayward individuals with a firm hand on elbow and shoulders and continues, as long as the feet move, to open doors and propel him through. This is not to say that GW is without his charm, far from it. As the song goes 'Brooklyn knows the charmer in me'. The curious side of this piece by Brooks is that he finishes it by damning Howard Dean for more fully exemplifying the New England Establishment which he declares dead and being shook into the dustbin of history.

Republicans walk a dangerous path, similar in many respects to a path the left walked for much of the former century. On one hand they will speak in carefully coded language about school choice, affirmative action, and culture. They will talk competiveness, against the commons - any commons. Into their other hand they talk about the hypocrisy of a "coastal socially liberal" for eschewing the value system of the midwest, that they have packaged and declare. This is a closed dialog, a conversation by the a conservative elite to a know-nothing voting base they desire to create. It is the politics of resentment. It is fire.
9:37:22 AM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, 12 September, 2003
Less typing, More iPoding.

Didn't write much this week. Mea Culpa -- I've been trying to read a book, I've been playing with my new iPod (i notice when I say iPod i tend to say it the way Homer simpson says "dough--nuts", except i try not to drool). I generally avoid buying things that I can't use creatively or consume as food or food like substances. I think the iPod hypmotized me. Some people I know tell me - "Well, if you were a truly creative person - you could use anything creatively." "Yeah", I say, "I'll keep that under advisment. You know that sort of thinking whats got Rumsfeld started."

In other lower-case-i news Alexander Clauss has released iCab 2.9.5 for OS X the indie Mac browser which now does support tabs. And I was just making fun of them a few weeks ago for not having it. Hmm CSS_2 positioning, which I just checked on one of my favorite weblog sites. still seems slated for 3.0.0.

One last thing... remember: "No A La OMC"
9:12:22 AM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, 11 September, 2003
Eleven September

Another Eleven September has come around. The second now since the one that they say changed the world. It is unlikey that any one thing can truly change the world these days. The world is as large as it has always been; though, one could probably find a way to go around it by taxi cab and in under 180 days. Mainly there are just so many people in the world, and on the earth, and their interests are all so irr-divertably parochial that it is unlikely that any one set of events could change it. Unless they were to crack it whole like an egg shell.

All the same, the events of two years ago are as close as I would like to have things come to transforming cataclysm. It is true that I question some aspects of the universal war being waged on behalf of the fight against terror. Less the campaign in Afghanistan, which has more of a directed and focused practical sense to it. More the investigation into the sins of Iraq. Which signifies only the determination of some men to conduct a fishing expedition in a dessert. Terror is too open ended a word, available to too many fights and points of view. It is not a singular thing to conduct a war on in any sense that gives due respect to the meaning of war. It is all purpose all around, and where one sees it. It is, just for that reason, a dangerous thing to fight against.

I remember dimly from the long cold war recently fought, the opinion of some that an enemy was necessary for a people - to keep them focused and contingent, lest contagioned. When that war was over, won one might say, some missed it. For those this one comes on the wings of the mourning dove.

I would not want anyone to think I take the events of two years ago lightly or believe that I do not care. At 0938 this morning when I will be arriving at work (flex time) as I was two years ago. I will stop and think about those people that day. I will think especially about those in the Pentagon. More about them perhaps because I worked in the Pentagon for two years. I was there for the second half of my early career as a sailor. Petty Officer Bushmiller in the language of the people, or more specifically, IS2 Bushmiller. I worked in a unit known as the Chief of Naval Operations Situation Room for Current Intelligence in the Office of the Director of Naval Intelligence. (then Rear Admiral Sumner J. Shapiro). We were mostly all IS's and 1630's there. Navy tours of duty generally last about two years and never more than an enlistment - four years. I was there (deep breath) in 1981, so by 11 Sept. 2001 twenty years or five billet generations separated me from my old unit. Still from what I read in the papers in the days after that attack it seemed to me that except for two people, every one on duty in that office that day - approximately twenty people - were killed. You should believe that I take it all quite seriously and in a measure quite personally.
8:37:55 AM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, 5 September, 2003
Casablanca: should they make a sequel or prequel?

This piece in the NYT Tech Section is an interesting read its own right - all about creating digital sprites and making movie stars of them. Begging the question: when hasn't Hollywood been doing this? Now they believe by examining Brando's face and movement carefully, they can graft a thousand points of potential contender light onto a CAD wire frame and make themselves a Brando. Because Brando or Humphrey Bogart are not in their lived experience and thought - not in their psychology, certaintly not in their souls, but in their photographable faces. I make light of this, but actually I believe this is quite likely. I couldn't tell you where the soul connection is in the mind-body-soul complex (possibly however it is a Firewire tm 3.0 connexion located by your left heel), the mind - our thoughts our feelings are, I believe, are hardwired into our bodies. Into our faces and eyes especially. For most people the face you have, by the time you cease to be able to count your years on fingers and toes, tells of of the life you've led. There are few secrets in a face, but many stories. Still my favorite line from this story would have to be this one
"When we finally understand what makes Humphrey Bogart look like the character that he is, we won't want to see new Bogart movies," said Dr. Ulrich Neumann, director of the Integrated Media Systems Center at U.S.C

This guy is waiting for new Bogart movies?
._._. pb _._

It's Tricky, Grafting Brando's Sneer to Bogart's Shrug. Researchers are trying to deconstruct the basis of what makes humans look human. By Eric A. Taub. [New York Times: Technology]
10:29:35 AM    comment [];trackback [];

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Last update: 9/26/03; 10:23:25.