Atomized junior

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Atomized junior

Saturday, November 29, 2008

 Firefox has been driving me batty for the last ten days. The problem is that it is crashing. Crashing daily, if not hourly and the period before it finally crashes you can't do much with it. The general symptoms are slow lagging sluggish behaviour then complete unresponsiveness. It seemed to start when Firefox 3.04 came out, but I pushed Quick Time 7.5.5 into my MacBook about the same time. The one thing I can guarantee is that Firefox will not come up after the machine goes into sleep mode.

  The solutions I've attempted so far are restarting (and restarting and restarting) Firefox. Each time with a force quit is necessary because it doesn't formally crash or ever bring up the crash reporter it just goes into SBBoD mode  Firefox OS X Crash OR freeze OR "spinning beach ball of death" - Google Search. I've also rebooted OS X, frankly though with Firefox down rest of the system behaves. I've tried rebuilding the Firefox prefs. (pull "org.mozilla.firefox.plist" out of the User/Library/Preferences folder and restart Firefox), and I've tried disabling functions. I've turned off Java in Firefox, and the Flash plugin. I've disabled various Firefox add-ons Download helper is off. Google toolbar, Scrapbook, Taboo, Zotero I've been turning off and on to judge effect. It's like OS 8 extensions all over again. If I can't turn the corner on this, I'll have to switch over to Safari, go back to using iCab, or wait for Mac-Chrome to come out. I would seriously miss Zotero though. It's making it hard to be on the interwebs and I'm getting little reading or writing done, wasting time wrestling with this.

 I should take care of some minor housecleaning while I'm techno-venting.  URLs. Readers of this weblog may have noticed that the formal url has changed to  Atomized junior. This happened back at the start of the fall semester. I ignored it at the time because the old url: maps to it so it makes no real difference, and UM OIT did this briefly once before about a year ago. This time it seems permanent, so I may try to change over how Atomized's links read. At any rate the second part of the url reamains ~pbushmil/atomized_jr/.  For that matter there is the identical version of Atomized jr. at which comes with the Userland package  Atomized junior - Radio Weblogs. Also regarding comments: the comments function that comes with Userland is a little touchy, it is a popup window first of all so your browser must allow popups at least for the comments url Or, I suppose, just open the comments function in a new tab or page. 

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Sunday, November 23, 2008
Best Buy at the End Of The World

 Every so often I hit a point where I realize I have no stories to tell. Little happens in my life; I get up, go to work, go home. Lather rinse repeat. A few weeks ago I ate lunch outside - one of the last warm days this could be done. A squirrel looking for a handout came up to me. Came right up to where I was sitting, sat up on its haunches and just stared at me for a long moment. Then slowly deliberately it put out one of its paws. I gave it the last fifth of my sandwich, and it went away. This constitutes the only noteworthy thing that has happened to me all fall. For this reason I am willing and even consider it advisable to occasionally tell other peoples' stories.

  My favorite story from among a number in the last twelve months is one a coworker Jeremy W. tells of how he obtained his current laptop two years ago. The story came up in the context of another discussion now forgotten.

 It was the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, ground zero of American retail. The day all Americans come together to fight entropy in the way this nation knows best. Jeremy was looking for a laptop computer as it happened. Supply and demand now mixed with market information and came together on this Thanksgiving out at his grandparents (or cousins) house where the family is congregated. A local paper had an advertisement for a grand opening promotional sale. Name brand laptops at $200 below list. Those and other gadgets. While supplies last. Doors open at dawn. At some point during the evening it becomes apparent that just getting up early or even staying up all night and setting out early wasn't going to make it. A line was forming, it was necessary to get out there immediately.  Now all this is occurring in Morgantown West Virginia. Morgantown is countryside such that all destinations lie in one of two places: at the foot of a mountain, or at the top of a mountain. So it comes to pass that Jeremy finds himself winding along a dark spare switchback road at 10 o'clock at night up to the Best Buy at the End Of The World.

   In the illustration (provided by Google maps)
View Larger Map  

you see some confusion as to which side of University Towne Center Dr the store is located on.  Details of the story would suggest it is one of the three buildings to the southwestern side.

 Once he arrives there it becomes apparent this is no mere sales event, a commerce commonplace. A chord in the people had been touched, it was becoming a human event, a happening. The line grows from the front door, wraps around one, then two, three, and finally round all four sides of the building. The parking lot becomes the effervecsing outer ring of this circus as a light snow begins to fall. Sight-seers drive by, and compatriots of the inline come along, spelling and provisioning their atomized troops. Police cars add the center to a special segment of their regular rounds.  Behind the store, beyond a narrow loading dock alley, there is only a sudden drop down the mountain now covered in a layer of mounting snow, 200 feet to I-79 below - a considerable local hazard for the more festive minded present. Jeremy, as he tells this story, captures the moment with a quality I can't really re-transmit. But I could see in my mind the stretch of the line, the sodium vapor light reflecting off the falling snow,  a numinous glow between individuals there at that moment. 

 The remainder of the night as it pushed on towards dawn was chiefly very cold he recalls. When the first employees begin arriving in the night's small hours they quickly realize they have gotten far more than they bargained for. They move into an ad hoc damage control mode, inventorying the line and passing out coupons. It is as much as they can do. When the doors open a mad rush begins; overwhelming an order that consisted of little more than yellow tape barriers that attempted to channel people in one direction or another. Confusion reigned and temperaments ranged across the boundary of excitable to irritated. Loss leader inventory inevitably falls. General inventory like Foch's yielding center eventually proves resilient and holds. It all ends with Jeremy taking triumphant possession of a laptop,  a different model than the one advertised but a laptop, which I believe possibly he still has.

  It is still an open question on many peoples minds as whether the climate this year prevails under el nino, or la nina retail conditions. The watchword of the hall as always is strength through consumption. That is fine no matter what they say Don't Buy It - I need stuff, you need stuff, we all need stuff.

 From childhood's memory I recall a good year was one where the shopping trips went to Shopper's World (the giant wooden toy soldiers, Santa Claus, the dancing waters), or to Natick Mall. The years not as good as those, it was to Zayres, Filenes Basement, or Two Guys.  At any rate our world for years never extended further than Framingham to one side, Milford to the other.

 There is; though, no leaving alone the desires of the American consumer. There is a school of thought - excess capacity  Capacity utilization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A robust and insatiable industrial capacity will yield an overflowing cornucopia of production. Modern advertising is built on the premise and understanding that a fire of sorts must be lit under the psyche of the American consumer. To absorb as much of this as possible to keep inflation in check and meet such other sundry needs of the few, and effect only the storage of the many.

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Monday, November 17, 2008
Good Kenny Bad Kenny

I processed through a book  at the library recently: the title was AlpTraum Deutschland. The book was in entirely in german Alptraum, Deutschland : Traumversionen und Traumvisionen vom "Dritten Reich" so I couldn't get much sense for the theme. The meaning of title, I considered after a moment, was Nightmare Germany or perhaps the German Nightmare. Yes, the German nightmare. Whatever bad that we dream today the German nightmare was so very much worse.  A good name for a band  though, I thought. Or at least a good song title for the Sic Alps who already have that whole 'alp' thing tied up. This is a band after all that has already done a song called the Battle of Bretton Woods.

  Sic Alps are part of WFMU's San Francisco centric teaser to their about-to-be launched Free Music Archive. Along with Thee Oh Sees and Xiu Xiu and several many others WFMU's Beware of the Blog: Free Music Archive preview: SF Bay Area (mp3s) (video)

A simple idea, a grant (from the New York State Music Fund), and Creative Copyright licensing will come together to form an extensive library of free music.  It will be, one of the great wonders of the modern world. Currently holding down that spot on the nets is their pre-lauch weblog  Free Music Archive pre-launch blog: full site coming December 2008.

  This is a good moment to pause and give Radio Props to the stations I listen to. For what radio does. Here I place Liz Berg having Parts and Labor, the Brooklyn noise n' pop band on her show recently, I enjoyed that a lot. Over at Boston College's WZBC John Straub did a special on Robyn Hitchcock, this to illuminate Hitchcock's current tour where apparently he is performing his "I often dream of trains" lp through whole. It occurred to me, that all these years I only knew the Replacements version of Sleeping Nights of Jesus. That 'trains' record was hard to get hold of.  I vaguely recall Robyn Hitchcock lived in DC for a while in the late 1980's

 Also I applaud what radio doesn't ordinarily do. Such as singles week on WFMU, where a modern, albeit free-form, radio station attempted to play nothing but singles and 7" records for  a week. I guess radio used to do that. Pretty much all rock n' roll radio did at one time, but it's been a long time (been a long lonely lonely lonely, time). Somewhere I have a 12" of MotorHead doing the Holland Dozier Holland penned "Leaving Home", which I should pass along to Diane. Shading further along to what radio never did, there was Pip also over at WZBC playing 25 different cover versions of Bang Bang (my baby shot me down) an old Sonny Bono song written for Cher  Psychotic Reactions (Specialty)With PIP Wed Oct 15th 2008 5.00pm - 6.00pm. My friend Trân thought this was a French song as the Vietnamese versions are understood as covering French singers. Taking the cake though - again was WFMU's Kenny G. Who, the day after the recent election, played Parliament's Chocolate City (gaining on ya) some forty or fifty times in a row. I lost track, possibly lost consciousness, or gave up and went to lunch, after the first two hours. 

 What I like about WFMU, is it being a place where art and avocation come together. Kenny offers a bit of midday surrealism one day a week. No mean feat at that. The sort of radio host who will get hold of a two year old Yankees broadcast transcript and read it through over the air ("low and outside, ball one"). Occasionally shading towards difficult for difficult's sake in approach to radio. Whether a poet, academic, or intinerant ne'er-do-well the rest of the week hardly matters. More critical is the question I call good Kenny bad Kenny, and how to tell the difference. Quite out of the realm of intention Good Kenny makes us better people, Bad Kenny doesn't.

Addendum 19 Nov 08

 "Torture the listener, Kenny?" Not under an Obama administration. That's Cheney talk right there, that is.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Jubilation Day

Or praise is as praise does.   On Sunday, the first Sunday since the election, there were many, including our pastor, expressing sentiments of victory and celebration during worship. This went down well with most of the congregants, in our church a majority so large as to habitually assume they are complete. I admit I was happy enough myself, in a transitive electoral sort of way. Occaisionally I'm puzzled by the choices we end up with on election day, but this seemed to work out just fine.

 Not all were in the same frame of mind, however. This ecumenical toasting did not sit well with my father, one of the three or four republicans at our church. It aggrieved him and he pronounced himself aggrieved, and became increasingly malcontented. Stating repeatedly: He didn't need this, and didn't need to come here and listen to this - tripe. Of course he is also of the opinion that there is no way democrats could ever win any public office outside of "the communist states" without massive (it's raining acorns) voting fraud.

 I pointed out that this is a somewhat hypocritical position as he was aware, of and had no problem with, the Pulpit Initiative from earlier this season Ban on Political Endorsements by Pastors Targeted. This is when right wing preachers declared they were going to openly profess political advocacy and dare the IRS to come after their non-tax status The Associated Press: Group asks IRS to investigate Ark. pastor's sermon. Even if you declare preference for what you desire to hear, it is an irreconcilable position to complain about it - Clergy walk fine line preaching politics from pulpit. A principle of license does not include a guarantee clause of pleasing uniformity.

   But I understood how my father felt. It would be a hard thing to be confronted with and stuck with onerous and oppressive politics from one's church. To be told flatly that Jesus (for instance) was clearly and obviously the champion of one particular set of late model American political opinion. To have a partisan political leader talk glibly about knowing God's mind about things - and speaking unhesitatingly for God. To be told that voting for the other set of opinion puts you in league with unrepenant and uncontained evil.

That would be a bitter pill.

 Now this was not a state of affairs confined just to first church. It was nationwide, even in the reddest states we possess.  I think after this - viewing it in a transformational and civil rights context most of all - this brief and understandable moment of spontaneous joyful celebration  Praise and Politics - That going forward it is better to have partisan politics not present in worship services. To not trumpet advocacy for political person or cause.  Leaving room, of course, for values speech which then even when forcefully expressed can be drawn through the distillation of individual conscience and conclusion. To be sure from the head of the UCC the post election was played with more even hand  Thomas authors letters to Obama and McCain following election. If you insist on making a point of your principles, make the first one for tolerance.

 When it last came up President-elect Obama was a member of an UCC congregation in Chicago. This is the United Church of Christ the smallish New England-originating denomination to which I belong. I read a suggestion (in the Washington Post?) that Obama might want to consider attending the Cleveland Park UCC. I can't recommend that, not more than I would venture suggesting First Church downtown. Our history being the the first UCC church in DC, including as a founding member Oliver Otis Howard,  civil, and indian war general as well as founder and namesake of Howard University.  At that; though, we are at the moment a small (and potentially eccentric) congregation, and between permanent facilities.

 It is important to have a church of ones own. I would recommend whole heartedly Peoples UCC up on Thirteenth street. This is the church our late paster Rev. John Mack attended after he retired and where his memorial service was held. It is a large and vibrant congregation. I was impressed with it at the time. I think that the President elect might feel comfortable there.  I imagine they would happy to have him.

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Friday, November 7, 2008
War is a force...

 There is a Veterans day event that the organization I work for, University of Maryland College Park, Libraries, is carrying out. A day-long marathon set of readings on the theme of war in literature War in Literature: Public Readings, UM Libraries.

 This is our part in the grander scheme of a Semester on War that the whole university is participating in.  There is a web site to this effect:  Semester on War and the Representation of War - Fall 2008 - University of Maryland. I confess linking it here is the first time I've been to it. I knew all this was going on -- a speaker here, a seminar  there -- but I didn't realize how coordinated it all was. I'll have to take a moment when I have time and go through that web site in detail.

 When I looked through the schedule of readings, I noticed that no reading of any of  Karl Shapiro's poems were on the list. I see this as something of an omission. I would have voluntered to read something had I known; V-Letter, perhaps, or  Sunday: New Guinea. These were written during the period he was with MacArthur's army in the South Pacific.

 At the beginning of the semester I read the book War is a force that gives us meaning, Chris Hedge's book from 2002. I read it because it appeared interesting and because there were posters for it scattered across campus. It is part of a concept of theme books at Maryland. This is the book themed for the Semester on War.

  Hedge was a foreign co-respondent for the New York Times covering various Central American and Balkan conflicts in the 1980's and 1990s, giving him a long term and close vantage of the slide into and conduct of these wars. At the end of this period he found it neccessary to step back and examine what meaning and passions-proof humans find, or believe they find in war. His essential critique is that war is engenderd out of myth and lies, virulent but romantic nationalism, the exuberance of hatred.  It is electrifying intoxicating and damaging. It solves nothing. Leaves no higher organization of affairs in its wake, and carries with it only the pervading presence of death and the reality of loss. It's sole power: a false blinding sense of clarity and certaintly. Which is invested in a mode of being where one is raised from the reclining mind to the absolute surface of all the body's senses and immediate cognizance. Unless a center of original humanity is kept  it leaves one disparaging ordinary living, and often unable to live ordinarily. 

I long for our dishelved Sundays home,
Breakfast, the comics, news of the latest crimes
Talk without reference and Palindromes
Sleep and the Philharmonic and the ponderous Times

[From] Sunday: New Guinea Karl Shapiro. Collected poems, 1940-1978 []

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

The later stages of this campaign it needs to be recognized consisted of a overpowering measure of whiskey rhetoric. Ill-reasoned and inflammatory McCain calls liberals a threat to economy - The Boston Globe. It was shameful and ugly, and the hang-over from it will be uglier still. It will be a long walk back for many.  Rep. John "Chicken-Shit" Boehner among them  Rep. Boehner Calls Obama a Chicken... What? - The Sleuth. This will be the legacy of the McCain-Palin Tradition.

 I recognize that basic existing situations will determine the type of campaign a candidate will use. Whether an incumbent or a picked successor is running, or whether both seek the office for the first time. The differentials in age and experience between candidates. The state of the economy.  Whether a bull or bear market prevails. If the economy is in a down turn then the particular type of ailment seen: recession, inflation, or unemployment. Each of these equals a different campaign. For McCain the necessary job was to highlight Obama's lack of experience, the inside draw was to bring his character into question. To a large degree winning lies in charging hard down your given line once the choice is made. That's politics.

 None of this mitigates in the least the damage a deliberately divisive campaign can do to the social fabric of the country. Whether that damage proves to be short term or longer term in its effects. By the last weeks of the campaign I felt fairly certain that I was seeing levels of racism and racist appeal in the campaign. Through what is often called Dog Whistle or what could be called Tax "Code" politics. These whistles, and hoots are not that select that they can't be heard, nor does the code require even as much as a Dick Tracy secret decoder ring to figure out. There was as well a strong strain of sour populist resentment in the campaign one ever increasing over the past few election cycles reminiscent of the Know Nothing movements of prior epochs Know Nothing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For whatever party makes use of that, just know thats a hard spigot to turn off once turned on. For the readymade everyman out there and those primed to make use of him. There was once another Joe who steeped himself in the politics of resentment. Joe the Plumber meet Joe Steel, your brother from Georgia.

 The effective democratic in such a milieu will invariably be a flintier one. The democratic candidate you ask for is the one you get: a little meaner, a little looser with the facts. Make no mistake Barack Obama ran a tough campaign and pulled few punches. Hard campaigns create hardened opposition, artificially so, it leads people to look for reasons not to agree and abandon consensus and mutually held values. For every person who dismisses the "flyover" portion of the United States  another will speak of contaminated coasts. I find it obnoxious to be told I am not part of a real America because I grew up in a state that had a seaport, an international airport, and a college. I'd rather all this stop before it goes too far.

 In particular it bothers me the degree to which the labels radical and terrorist have been thrown around in this campaign.  Easy use of Terrorism is a dangerous abuse of the meaning of the word. And one that will make critical distinctions in some future moment all that much harder. When I see someone try to pin down Michelle Obama as a radical I remember seeing mention in a Washington Post Magazine profile that she worked for the law firm of Sidely and Austin for a while. This triggered a deep memory where I recalled that my sister Ann worked for this firm for ten or so years after graduating from University of Chicago Law School. Sidley and Austin; not exactly a hotbed of Marxist radicalism. There was an opinion piece I saw in the Monitor that teased under the headline Is Barack Obama really a socialist? | , ( Is Barack Obama a socialist? | Salon). No it affirmed , but once into the article it became apparently the purpose was to damn with lukewarm defense. A milder socialism, more rather the author, Donald J. Boudreaux professor of economics at George Mason University,  spoke of.  I'm sure the author thinks this even more insidious I thought as I read the piece. Here I brought myself up - I'm being too harsh and judgmental again. As it happened though this is exactly what this author thought even to the use of that very phrase.

This "socialism-lite," however, is as specious as is classic socialism. And its insidious nature makes it even more dangerous. Across Europe, this "mild" form of socialism acts as a parasitic ideology that has slowly drained entrepreneurial energy [^] and freedoms [^] from its free-market host..."The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened."

I should have expected as much as soon as I saw Fredrick Hayek being name checked by the third paragraph, though I suspect Hayek himself to be more solid than his circle of fan-boys. Frankly this sort of fear-drenched over-the-top ad-homin blather, and from a nominal academic, serves most of all to show the needle resting heavily on empty in the gas tank of conservative thought.   

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Last update: 12/3/08; 11:14:12 PM.