Monday, December 30

I heard Lewis Black say something funny recently: "MTV is to music as KFC is to chicken." Well said, man, well said.
A couple days ago on NPR, I heard a news story saying that the Day After Christmas turned out to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year (and possibly the salvation of retailers). I guess people weren't happy with what Santa left in their stockings, and decided to go out and supplement their lode a bit.

Wednesday, December 25

For those, like me, who need a break from the family today, here's a nifty article on how the Cold War helped bring us The Cat in the Hat. With Jolly Holiday wishes to every Who in Whoville!

Thursday, December 19

To follow Jana's blog - the strongest arguments against citizen input I have seen are the designs people have submitted themselves.
Everyone's applauding -- a bit too eagerly, I think -- the new designs for the World Trade Center. I like the idea of citizens' input, although it seems like a strange concession even under these circumstances. How many city structures are shaped by design advice from Joe Blog in Minnesota? (Check out these helpful hints from America's armchair architects.) But I guess that's the trouble here. The WTC is no longer just an office block or a civic space. It has to serve as a memorial, too -- in the words of one of the development officials, "The architects have responded with great depth to the question, 'What does Sept. 11 represent?'"

It's architecture as national healing. It's also architecture in a rush -- the owner is still coughing up annual rent of $124 million, even with two gaping holes in the ground -- which pretty much kills any hope of a memorial park being developed, rather than twin tower knock-offs. Only one of the proposed plans features a substantial swath of undeveloped land, but what are the chances Richard Meier's open spaces will get a go from them that pay the bills?

Wednesday, December 18

Man Trouble: What does male-on-male sexual harassment mean for discrimination law? article I found on Reason that raises some interesting questions on the nature of sexual harassment law, citing such cases as managers found not guilty of discrimination because they equally offended and harassed men and women who worked for them. I think the article points out some of the trouble in the legal structure of harassment protection, coming from the libertarian perspective. Anyway, it gave me some thoughts to chew over. Responses? Sign the guestbook!

Tuesday, December 17

USA's largest police force wants more power. The power to keep secret tabs on such nefarious organizations such as church groups. Some nice history, too, via the Village Voice.

Monday, December 16

The remote controlled rat, and other nifty things of the last year, in the Year in Ideas from the New York Times.
login:opensewer; password:iswatching

Friday, December 13

And on a follow up, the NY Times has an article today on some of the "difficult" history the Republican Party has had with race over the last 40 or so years. Or, the trouble they have had hiding their racism. The article conspicuously leaves out Florida in the 2000 election...

And Paul Krugman shares his excellent thoughts. NYTimes login for you freeloaders; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.

On the subject of our Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott- Is there any other way to see his recent remarks about the '48 election besides him having affection for a segregation based campaign? Is follow-up news that Lott fought against integrating his national frat surprising?

So tuned and controlled by speechwriters, so careful of offense are today's politicians that their at ease remarks are more revealing in regards to their personal feelings.

Wednesday, December 11

We've got some real good students over there in Ohio. I am glad to know the T-shirt police have volunteers in our high schools keeping political speech off our kids' bodies.

And what about that last paragraph - there are no quotes. Whose words are those supposed to be? The assistant principal's? The writer's? The bodiless voice of authority?

Obviously, we're having a few technical problems.

Tuesday, December 10

Black People Love Us! is a hilarious satirical site that draws attention to the patronizing and condescending ways some whites attempt to relate to blacks:

"Johnny calls me "da man!" That puts me at ease. It makes me feel comfortable, because I am Black and that's how Black folks talk to one another."

"Sally and Johnny give me ample opportunities to translate rap lyrics, reggae songs, and/or street slang! Like I'm a mouthpiece for many, many cultures of dark-skinned people."

Via Alternet.

In the 2002 elections, some parts of the U.S. government were spending taxpayer dollars to tell some of those taxpayers how to vote. Not too surprisingly, it may have been illegal. Personally, I'd be more surprised if the coming legal action against those government officials bears punishment as its fruit.
via Alternet

Monday, December 9

I make some regular weekend drives from Ithaca, NY, up to Toronto, as my friends could tell you. One delight I have discovered along the way is the radio program This American Life, which I catch on the local NPR out of Buffalo, NY, on Fridays as I am passing around the city and over the border. It's a real gem - stories, histories, and all the good things you'd expect from NPR. It's so good that I plan to stop my cd rotation during my time in the broadcast range. (What's also nice is they have an audio archive on their website for your convienence.)
Beacuse it's that time of year, and because we haven't ragged on Wal-Mart for a while... here they go, re-selling toys donated to Toys for Tots.

Saturday, December 7

From Business This Week in the Economist: "Creditors of Enron will be disappointed to note that the 'crooked E' adorning the failed energy group's Houston headquarters sold for only $10,500. A similar sign sold for $45,000 in September, but prices have since collapsed." Wow, no one even cares enough to be stylishly ironic about this anymore.

Friday, December 6

Friday Fear: ever since watching Bowling for Columbine, I'm astounded at the amount of fear mongering that goes on every night on nearly every evening news broadcast. Next time you watch the news, keep track of how many stories are reported on terrorism, crime and threats to your everyday living. All too often, I see these topics reported out of the nation's context and especially out my personal context. It truly is a culture of fear.
Friday Fun: David Sedaris's Santaland Diaries.

Thursday, December 5

Awards cermonies have really lost it. It's that simple. The Oscars, the Grammies, the whatevers, they have always been (at least in my lifetime) a massive display of self-congratulation, usually containing a high number of truly disgustingly self-centered moments. Industry honoring itself. Whooppee. I mean, I really enjoyed Steve Martin's job on the Oscars a few years ago (and he reutrns this year), but the show is really just so much crap. This VH-1 crapfest, however, just blew my mind. I didn't watch it, since I don't have that channel, but just the name - Big In 2002 awards - is amazing. What the hell? We now salute trends? Fads? Shouldn't the most popular email forwards of the year have gotten some awards, too? How about "Big in 2002" - Riots in Nigeria! Bombing in Iraq! Taking down the Old Glory sticker you put on your car last year because it's dirty and now you think it' stacky! Big in 2002 - crap. As always. I want to call this the dumbest award show ever, but if there is one thing people can out-do, it's stupidity.
Yeah, I only linked to an article about the show and not an official link to VH-1, because the idiots who put this one on don't deserve any links at all.

Wednesday, December 4

The name of the case is: State of New Jersey v. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird. Does this mean the car could get fined for contempt if it backfired during the trial? Does the car have the same fair trial rights that I do? Justice in America, kids.
exploratory links inside

Friday, November 29

Last night, during our Thanksgiving reverie (which consisted mostly of sitting), I saw a commercial for Wal-Mart advertising their day-after-Thanksgiving (or “black Friday”) sale. It showed two women (who looked like middle-aged housewives), up at 5:00 AM, wide-eyed, going through the sales circular for that big day. Just a bit later that morning, as these characters put it, they were “in the store by 7:00 AM” when it opened, their shopping carts already overflowing with bargains by, say, 7:25. “This is our time, time for the girls…we love it.” So that’s what girls do, huh? Wait for Wal-Mart to open at 7 to catch all the bargains? Now that’s living.

Just let me make a request…If that commercial resonated with you in any sort of positive way, if you actually would derive some joy from such activity, please do the following: 1) Take note of my photo (and Rosie’s) on the “Persona” page of this website; 2) Make any and all efforts to avoid coming into contact with us—we don’t want to talk to you.

Okay, that was a little harsh. But I guess it’s just my way of saying that Opensewer fervently, enthusiastically, without reservation, proudly, eagerly, passionately, earnestly, excitedly, industriously, avidly, ardently, zealously, fanatically and feverishly supports Buy Nothing Day, which is today.

Thursday, November 28

Today, I’m thankful that a culture or religious sect with an inflated desire to colonize new territory and/or impose their beliefs on the world didn’t invade my land and subsequently, for all intents and purposes, eliminate my people. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27

The current controversies in the Catholic church seem to me weirdly fascinating. Here's a voice from Voice of the Faithful, an underdog group that yesterday was graced with its first audience with Boston's Cardinal Law: "There were some moments of tension. They arose concerning issues regarding our view versus the cardinal's view of the legitimacy of the existence of our organization, the discussions regarding the bannings of our group from church property, and the desire to see a more open process of governing within the church."

It's a curious paradox that the faith of this group compels it to seek approval from a religious body that treats it with such contempt. I wonder if they've ever heard that old Groucho Marx joke -- clearly they ain't interested in belonging to a club that would accept them. NY Times login: opensewer; password: iswatching.

Tuesday, November 26

Have you ever been to an NYC nightspot and seen the odd sight of employees telling patrons to stop dancing? The stop dancing order is for the owner's protection, not from a desire to stifle fun. You see, clubs in New York City need licenses to allow their patrons to dance. It's the archaic cabaret law that's the reason, a leftover from trying to keep whites and blacks from mixing at jazz clubs.

To pull a quote from the article, "The cabaret law itself is absurd. It's totalitarian. Two years ago the only places it was illegal to dance were Manhattan and Afghanistan. And now you can dance in Afghanistan..."

Personally, I think the right to gather and dance is pretty fundamental, up there with free speech and assembly - it's a communal experience that, at its best, is transcendent and spiritual. But the dancing community has come under attack a lot from government lately.

And as Emma Goldman famously said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution."

Monday, November 25

I think we're missing it here. It's not women's rights, poverty, the death of the Industrial Age (which never really touched villlage-life Africa), but yes, religion. Religion in that old time, all powerful world-view sense, the kind we in America tend not to like so much, especially us progressive opensewer types. Why would one care about something as abstract and foreign as "women's rights" when the fate of one's eternal soul is on the line?

So how surprised should we be that there is anger when an insult is perceived to have been made to a powerfully religious group's god or prophet? Similarly, is it so unbelievable that there is violent hostility to religious missionaries (in Lebanon)? Is it any crazier than the belief that drives the missionary work?

We European-Americans, us enlightened, rational folk, should remember our own history of fighting for souls, of the Crusades, the 30 Years War, and the Christian lead genocide of our land's first inhabitants. It's not that long ago. Free enterprise may be our gospel and might bring the internet to Lagos, but what does it do for their souls?

We have our own jihad instigators on this land of the free, too. And sometimes you can't tell them from our enemies.

Friday, November 22

The Bush administration on Friday eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants.
100 Killed in Nigeria Riots Triggered by Miss World Pageant. What's going on here? On the surface: a clash of (religious) value systems. Deeper: The Third and First Worlds at war, reflecting the growing chasm between the richest and the poorest global citizens. Deeper: The death of the Industrial Age, and the continued violent transition into a new, as yet non-delineated one.
I've got one for ya: A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar at Stanford university. They tell Margaret Cho that it's okay to create a new life form using 200 of the 517 genes in the Mycoplasma genitalium. Alright, it's not funny, but it's not really a joke. And neither is this: "How a microscopic organism in your genital tract could solve the world's energy crisis." (From the Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction department.)

Thursday, November 21

Some fat Americans want to sue fast food companies, as you may have heard, but it's gotten into a courtroom this time. (NY Times reg for all you opensewer rats= login:opensewer; password:iswatching.)

Wednesday, November 20

This encourages me: “The pharmaceutical industry is poised [for] a revolution which will oust the blockbuster drug, and usher in targeted treatments based on a fresh understanding of human biology. … the pharmaceutical firms currently most profitable ‘may well be’ those slowest to change, setting the scene for a major shake-up of company rankings. … The new generation of drugs will be based largely around larger molecules, such as proteins, whose composition is becoming the focus of increasing research. Such molecules, although complex, will be faster to develop thanks to the help of biochemistry software. … The treatments' speed of development will also make them cheaper to produce, putting them within the budget of developing countries which often have more severe health concerns, yet little cash to pay for treatments.”
Scraps for fuel! And don't forget how your vegetable oil can power your car. From the "Food Fun Facts Archive."

Tuesday, November 19

This deserves mention: someone has reached in her pocket and given $100 million to Poetry. (NY Times; login required.)
THEY are in fact spying on you. Or will be. It's true. I am not being irrational. Say good-bye to your rights. Yes, it is that simple. You want a NYTimes login? Try ours, freeloader; login: opensewer; password: iswatching...

Monday, November 18

Last Friday I saw Michael Moore’s latest film, Bowling for Columbine, and it’s been bothering me every since. Smart, funny and tragic, the film documents Moore’s journey as he tries to figure out why America has thousands and thousands more firearm deaths than any other country in the world. Is it because of the number of guns, history of violence, video game violence, or rock and roll? The answer, not surprisingly, is none of the above. Instead, Moore finds a culture of fear and consumption as the primary reason we’re so quick to pull the trigger. This is an important film that everyone should see and consider. If you haven't already seen it, find out where it's showing on IMDb.
Following up Rose’s M&M (purposely spelled that way, just to be snide) post last week…I haven’t seen the movie 8-Mile, but just to be fair, I probably will at some point (just so I don’t feel guilty about being too critical). I have, however, heard a-plenty of M&M’s music. I find it quite irresistible—in much the same way that you just can’t turn away when you see a dog taking a dump on the sidewalk, you can’t get his lyrical stylez outa your head.

So far, I find Richard Goldstein’s take on M&M’s current fame to be the most in line with my notions on the subject—I wish I were as articulate:

"What does it mean when our most powerful public reveries are dedicated to male dominance and female submission? This is the crucial question posed by the triumph of Eminem—one most critics won't touch. Instead, they ratify the consensus, making it legit. Male dominance, the populism of fools, becomes something to celebrate. And when culture is on the same page as politics, you've got hegemony."

When did this start? The New York Times is linking company names in articles - is this new? At first consideration, it seems like just common sense and keeping up with the intertextuality of the medium, but then I start to wonder why in one article about cell phone service, Sprint is linked and T-Moble is not. And why don't they link to the FCC, too? Once again, NY Times login for ya; login: opensewer; password: iswatching...

Friday, November 15

North Korea is in the news again, for developing nuclear weapons (or admitting to it). And of course that gets them scolded by the US of A. But what do you know about North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as they call their own nation? Not a lot, probably, since not many foreigners are even allowed in. I have found some interesting travelouges documenting visitors' experiences there online. Here's one that I found very informative.
A new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York illustrates that there was much more to Albert Einstein's life than relativity.

Thursday, November 14

You are a suspect. You may have seen this, and yes, I did get the link from MetaFilter (do they always credit their sources?), but I thought it was worth repeating. And it's in a William Safire editorial, not something I tend to agree with (but I do enjoy his column On Language). Yeah, yeah, nytimes login, in case you don't have it; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.
Maybe all that troubled kids today need is some good old-fashioned mothering. Ahh, maybe not.

"In the 1920s, John B. Watson, a president of the American Psychology Association who dreamed of motherless baby farms, warned: 'When you are tempted to pet your child remember that mother love is a dangerous instrument.' Sounds a little crazy these days, but we have a man who tortured monkeys to thank for changing this attitude.

Tuesday, November 12

America's bishops are holding a conference in Washington, and thinking up ways to curb their nasty abusive habits: "Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego plans to put to a vote a proposal to establish ways for bishops informally to hold each other accountable through 'fraternal love,' Brom said. 'This collegiality will include fraternal support, fraternal charity and fraternal correction,' he said." Would that be the collegiality that helped them cover their tracks in the first place? (LATimes; login: osla; password: iswatching)
Reversing an action by the Clinton presidency that would have banned them, the Bush administration approves more snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Most of the year there is no restriction on how many snowmobiles are allowed into the parks. Let's hear it for getting closer to nature.

Monday, November 11

A book I'd like some folks in Washington (and lots of Americans in general) to check out...
In honor of Armistice Day I typed a boolean search into Google, pairing nostalgia with Nietzsche (I was feeling brave), and this is what I got.

Sunday, November 10

Let's get catty for a moment. We just have to say something about the Winona Ryder ta-do, right? Well, here's what we have to say (two things): 1) Who cares?! 2) Maybe instead of stealing from Saks, she should steal some acting lessons. This girl over-acts so badly that she's consistently put to shame by her supporting cast members. She was good in Edward Scissorhands, but not much since. Thank you.
Judge Admits to Smoking Pot, Leaves Bench. The fact that this is considered a matter of any significance at all is representative of, you guessed it (and please pardon the cliche), what is wrong with America.
"I feel sorry for children today. All they have is virtual emotions." Life equals video game. Death equals game over. Restart.
Battle Royale: Indian Casinos And Corruption (LA Times; user name: "osla"; password: "iswatching"): "The battle for control of the Buena Vista showcases the turmoil spawned by California's Proposition 1A. Approved by voters in 2000, the measure granted a monopoly on casino gambling to the state's federally recognized tribes. California is home to 108 tribes, one-fifth of the nation's total. An additional 54 have applied for federal recognition. ... The race for market share is fierce. California has capped the number of slot machines at 52,000. Fifty-two casinos already are operating with more than 40,000 slots. ... Many of the tribes are tiny -- some with fewer than a dozen members. ... For insiders, that means few to share the spoils. For outsiders, "small tribes are easier to control," said Cheryl Schmitt, director of Stand Up for California, a gambling watchdog group. ... Tribal casinos brought in $12 billion in revenue nationally last year. They donated nearly $4 million to national parties, and their candidates so far this election cycle and paid out $15.6 million for federal lobbying ..."

Friday, November 8

The Professional Golfers Association wants to build a 2800-acre PGA village near San Antonio, TX. You may already know how we feel about golf "communities", so we won't get into that topic right now. What we would like to comment on is the environmental issue. See, the developers want to build the resort over the recharge zone of Edwards Aquifer, the sole source of safe drinking water for the city. San Antonio citizens claim that the resort development can block the recharge of the aquifer and contaminate groundwater with lawn chemicals and gasoline. NPR has the story (Requires RealPlayer).
Are we surprised that Wal-mart is aggressively stopping workers' attempts to unionize (NYT)? And in many cases using illegal tactics...

Thursday, November 7

"Ten or so years ago, I read a review by John Updike in the New York Times Review of Books. It was of a novel by a Brazilian writer, Moacyr Scliar. I forget the title [editor's note: it's Max and the Cats], and John Updike did worse: he clearly thought the book as a whole was forgettable. His review — one of those that makes you suspicious by being mostly descriptive, without critical teeth, as if the reviewer were holding back — oozed indifference."

-- That's Yann Martel, the Canadian writer, oozing ego by way of explaining the inspiration behind his $75k-Man-Booker-Prize-winning novel, Life of Pi, which recounts the adventures of an Indian boy shipwrecked with a tiger. Scliar's book, published in Brazil in 1981 (and now out of print), told the tale of a Jewish boy shipwrecked with a panther. Ring any bells? Here's some more choice Martel:

"Oh, the wondrous things I could do with this premise. I felt that same mix of envy and frustration I had felt with Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, that if only I had thought of it I could have done something great with it. But — damn! — the idea had been faxed to the wrong muse.... I didn't really want to read the book. Why put up with the gall? Why put up with a brilliant premise ruined by a lesser writer."

Such bombast might be forgiven in a writer like Nabokov (whose muse never barked up the wrong fax). Creative juices are mysterious juices, and it's hard to say at this point if Martel is guilty of anything but a cretinous lack of humility. But if you're going to win awards for the "inventiveness" of a borrowed premise, and then provide source details that don't add up, it might help if your novel wasn't such a bore.

Wednesday, November 6

Watch, but don't just watch - engage yourself in the art. And please, do, do remember to keep your mouth shut until you get out of the theater. Is it too obvious to say we watch how we live?

Wait - can I have more lifestyle publications please? I forgot how to tie my shoelaces and want to make my apartment fit for entertaining. I don't want to live, I want to be lifestyling.

Here's how you do it, girls.

Tuesday, November 5

Instead of voting, I do something else to make a positive impact on our culture: I avoid watching reality television. Story: Osbournes 'Regret' TV Show.
Oh, my: SEC Chairman Pitt Resigns.
"More than adults, young people seem intuitively to recognize that our political system is broken. And they register their awareness on Election Day by not bothering to participate in what to them is a pretty meaningless exercise. So when you see the low numbers for voter turnout this time, don't think of it as apathy. Think of it as the wisdom of youth." ... Are Young People Too Smart to Vote?

Monday, November 4

Kids go under the knife for weight loss: "Whether gastric bypass surgery, which shrinks the stomach from the size of a football to the size of an egg, might have long-term side effects for youngsters is unknown. But with childhood obesity reaching pandemic proportions, some families and their doctors see it as the only effective solution." ... Excuse me?!? Did I read that correctly? Pandemic?

Sunday, November 3

John, thanks for taking the blog-helm this week as Rose and I threw our money on the harsh fiery altar of probability that is Las Vegas. We were too inundated by Steve Wynn’s slot machines to even think about getting near a computer, let alone think clearly enough to comment on anything. But now we're back, working hard at getting that ol’ carpel tunnel going again...

Friday, November 1

There is a fair number of editorialists out there (not even counting the bloggers), but one I particularly like is Paul Krugman of the New York Times. He makes his points well, doesn't try to hide his viewpoint, but he doesn't crusade too much, either. Check out today's article (and some older ones linked at the bottom) here. (Yeah, yeah, NY Times login:Opensewer; password: iswatching.)
It's funny 'cause it's true.

Wednesday, October 30

Stay away from this police doggie..... Also, do we all agree that it's been long enough and we can go back to cynically keeping an eye on our nation's cops (remember Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima)?

Tuesday, October 29

Buy, watch, eat, watch, buy, sleep, buy, watch, work, buy, watch, buy, watch.....

Monday, October 28

You'd better not disagree with, criticize or cross anybody these days--'cause if you do, odds are you're gonna get shot.

Sunday, October 27

According to Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader, by trying to stamp out peer-to-peer music trading, record companies are shooting themselves in the foot. I agree. I’ll be the first to admit that I download *scads* of music online, mostly using WinMX and Kazaa Lite. By doing this, I have been introduced to a number of new artists over the past 2-3 years, whom I *love*, and wouldn’t have discovered through the traditional channels (because, as we all know, FM radio sucks—internet radio is a little better). Some of these include Solex, Lemon Jelly, Clem Snide, Thievery Corporation, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Money Mark, Coldplay, Kasey Chambers and more.

I have bought (and plan to buy) many more CDs than I would have if I had not downloaded all this music. The simple reason is, downloading alone does not satisfy you. It introduces you to good (and bad) music but a) it’s tough to acquire a whole album with all the tracks at the same loudness level/bitrate, and b) an average bitrate of 96-128Kbps only satisfies the ear for so long. CDs, at 196Kbps and up, are far superior in quality to MP3s. Long story short, I am a more avid music buyer because of file sharing. Let this post serve as Opensewer’s unabashed promotion and support of online file sharing.

Friday, October 25

Everybody and their poodle loves The Sopranos. I've always been skeptical of a show that pairs realistic mafia depictions with levity, but recently I saw a few episodes and got a sense of why critics love it so much. I can't deny it is a smart, cleverly crafted series -- and one of the few TV shows that deploys artistry behind the camera.

That said, it makes me uncomfortable -- and not in the real-art-is-meant-to-be-disturbing way. I get the feeling most people who love The Sopranos love its surface (funny, action-packed show about criminals), and don't bother questioning its so-called subtext (we're all basically alike, the average hit-man is just as confused as you are in this willy-nilly modern world of ours, and ain't that a laugh riot).

I dunno, maybe it is. Maybe I should just stick to my own favorite show, learn to love the mob and stop worrying about all you sophisticated whack-jobs out there who think life-like murderers are cute.

Thursday, October 24

"Not far away, at the R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson booths, the booth operators and their retail clients smoke around card tables. People at the R.J. Reynolds booth are sent out for beer at the Budweiser booth. People inside the Budweiser booth are sent out for cigarettes at the Brown & Williamson booth. A small closed-loop economy forms before my eyes. All needs are met."

Step inside the National Association of Convenience Stores Show.

Wednesday, October 23

Following-up my last post about cheating little and paying big…when I was in Budapest in 1996, I rode the Metro there a LOT. A British guy I had met earlier in Prague told me that you could ride all you wanted without paying—they only did spot checks and nobody ever got caught. Being a student, I immediately elected this “don’t pay” method of payment upon my arrival.

Well, sure enough I got caught, and I had to pay. Funny thing is, Metro tickets were only around 80 Florints then (I think), which is about 32 cents. My fine was 3,000 Florints, or around $12, or nearly 38 times the cost of a ticket! Anyway, this is what Martha’s going through right now. Penalties must be steep or they won’t discourage anything. Be sure your sins will find you out, cha-ching.

Pity for Martha: "The systematic demolition of Martha Stewart appears to be taking place amid a general sense of media schadenfreude, which is German for taking malicious pleasure in the misfortune of others, especially famous others who seem all too easily successful and wealthy and talented." To me, the situation seems like a lot of other things in life: cheat a little, and you'll pay for it big.

Monday, October 21

This web page, which ranks an all-time top ten of good and evil people, taught me some scary stuff this morning. It also led me to an old article I had read by the author of a book who describes some of the exploits of one of the people on the list from the first page.

Standard stuff for evil--pain and suffering ignored, the sick treated in unsanitary conditions, while meeting and memorializing oppresive dictators and receiving million dollar gifts from convicted felons. Sounds like typical fare one of the top ten evil, right?

But for one of the top ten good? Of all time? Soon to be a Saint, Mother Teresa...

Yes, it's old news to some of us, but with her sainthood approaching soon, it's still worth considering.

Is there a lost generation of young men in Japan? One million boys hiding in their rooms? (Yeah, I got this from Metafilter...)

Sunday, October 20

"Provigil" (I find that name hilarious), made by Cephalon Inc., is a drug that keeps you awake. From the New York Times:

...growing sales of Provigil are also raising questions about the company's promotion of the drug and about society's use of it. Already, some doctors say, Provigil is showing signs of becoming a lifestyle drug for a sleep-deprived 24/7 society, used by people who need to pull all-nighters for work or school or who just want to sleep less so they can work or play more. (Login required; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Uh, mmm hmm. This can't be all that good.

Friday, October 18

C.I.A. director George Tenet has estimated that the current risk of a terror strike on the U.S. is similar to what is was just before the 9/11/01 attacks (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching). Yup, and we're going to remain at risk until the resource-use and standard of living disparities between the first world and third world are reduced.
Little victories: About a week ago, Household International Inc. agreed to pay up to $484 million to settle charges that it deceived low-income borrowers into paying high interest rates. We’ve discussed the rapid rise of predatory lending before on OS—so, our question is: Is this a sign of a genuine turnaround in the industry, or is it merely a minor obstacle to be overcome by one unscrupulous lender? (I.e., the “cost of doing business?”) When you think about it, $484 million isn’t really all that much to pay for a lender with revenues of almost $10 billion in 2001…

Thursday, October 17

Re: The D.C. Sniper. An observation of mine that may or may not have been made by others, and which may or may not be significant: None of the shootings have occurred in the city proper--only in suburban areas (link to interactive map, Flash required). Why? Perhaps better mobility/easier escape? I wonder if there are other intentions in the killer's choice of locations...
Ambitious plans to halve world hunger by 2015 are facing failure, says a report from the United Nations.

Friday, October 11

Congrats, Jimmy, you earned it. And best of all, you earned it with humility.

Monday, October 7

Yes, you are surrounded by hidden cameras everywhere you go, and our civic space is haunted by the electronic lens, but there are ways you can fight the evil eyes.

Saturday, October 5

Go to sleep don't need to worry about what's going on in the world...think about the TV show Friends...don't strain yourself...think about The Real World Las Vegas...just relax...a life of leisure is what you deserve...think about Burberry...don't worry about it, everything will work out... digital cameras... Thomas Kinkade... George Foreman Grill... "Lower Prices...Always..." American Idol... Baby Gap... The Osbournes... Metafilter...
The blind shall see...
Violence killed 1.6 million people in 2000, matching tuberculosis and surpassing malaria in their death tolls, according to a new World Health Organization report.

Wednesday, October 2

"'Nothing was learned from this,' (retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper) says. 'A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.' The exercise, he says, was rigged almost from the outset."

So America prepares itself for cheating?

Monday, September 30

A reminder: It's the last day of Zeptember, so celebrate now. In case you forgot, don't worry; Rocktober starts tomorrow.
Someone in the U.S. government is keeping the peace activists from flying. Who? We're not telling.

Friday, September 27

MIND THE GAP: Income inequality is getting worse.

The most affluent fifth of the population received half of all household income last year, up from 45 percent in 1985. The poorest fifth received 3.5 percent of total household income, down from 4 percent in 1985. Average income for the top 5 percent of households rose by $1,000 last year, to $260,464, but the average declined or stayed about the same for most other income brackets.

Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research institute, said, "The census data show that income inequality either set a record in 2001 or tied for the highest level on record."
(NYT: user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)
Looks like we do have proof of Iraq's illegal weapons program. Because we gave them the goods to get it going.

Thursday, September 26

The Wal-Mart Menace: In court, the nation's biggest company has scruples as low as its prices.

Wednesday, September 25

I just found Think Deeply, a website that contains news, features and discussion about philosophy, spirituality and discovery. A great starting place is Where is Happiness?, by Think Deeply editor, Steve Taylor. If you want more, check out their news page.

Tuesday, September 24

“There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.” - James Madison, often called the author of the American Constitution

Friday, September 20

"As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach in their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
-H.L. Menchken (1880-1956) American Writer

Wednesday, September 18

Socially conservative churches grew faster than more moderate or liberal churches in the 1990’s, says a recent report (NYT; user: opensewer; password: iswatching). This surprises me, since most people I know prefer to have religion with “no strings attached”—i.e., “give me God, but not all of that moral accountability, please.” Hmmm… Why do I have the feeling that the organization that performed the survey does not have it in their best interest to report the opposite result? Just thinking out loud here…
Yesterday the Conference Board released their proposed reforms to corporate compensation practices.

Tuesday, September 17

"There are religious groups -- the Jehovah's Witness, I believe -- who think it's a sin to have a blood transfusion. Well, what if the president for some reason decided to listen to them, instead of to the Catholics, which is the group he really listens to in making his decisions about embryonic stem cell research?"

- Christopher Reeve, Blaming the Catholic Church and President Bush for Research Obstruction
Dear Jason,

I miss a lot more than the Huletts.

I miss:

The cables singing over my head, pellets raining down on my hardhat.
Crunching taconite under squealing wheels.
The men.
The haulage cable rising up as the grip locks. Walking them down the line.
Drifting into the next spot.
Watching the carp chasing the minnows as the snubs tighten.
Cigar smoke.
Having money in the bank.

Unfettered American manhood.
Albert Cincerelli seventy-two years old working with broken ribs.
Sam Grippi.
Slamming one load and five empties into three loads to get 'em going with the larry car dumping on the fly.

Hot July nights.
Cold November mornings and Steve Massi - with shirt open half way.
Red waterfalls in the January snow - flushing rivets.
Screeching spring seagulls.
Andy "Rats" Roskovitch in the morning.
Lyons and Sulin. John Palo.
Ed Burke.
Franko Perry getting the cars moving when nobody else could - one arm ballet.

Uncle Joe Barbato's hands after gripping his whole career.

War stories from the veterans.

Good days pardner - make no mistake.
Never had better work - never made better money.



Thursday, September 12

If our government is "of the people, by the people, for the people," shouldn't our government be accountable to the people? Shouldn't there be major on-going investigations into what happened a year ago? Do not the lost lives demand an inquiry in to why it was all able to happen? Ted Rall can be an insensitive guy sometimes, but he also asks some valuable questions.

Saturday, September 7

Following up some comments I made late last year on predatory lending, I bring you this New York Times article, wherein Citigroup actually seems to be admitting fault. Thank you, Enron and WorldCom, for creating an environment, however fleeting it may be, of corporate repentance.
Hmmm... F.C.C. Weighs a Sharp Easing of Size Limits on Big Media. This can't be anything but bad news. (NYT; user: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Friday, September 6

Connie Chung digging deep? Producing real news? Well, she scared someone with this piece.

Thursday, September 5

Let us all thank GM and Ford for letting us know we don't actually want vehicles which will not destroy the environment.

Wednesday, September 4

Some ad designers are paid to be persuasive. Some ad designers are paid to be deceptive. All too often, web banner designers are paid to be both. The good folks at Valley of the Geeks created a bunch of fake banner ads that they think are a little closer to the truth. (via WebWord)
Mexican schoolchildren carried U.S.-donated desks across the border after Mexican customs officials refused to issue an import permit for the furniture to enter the country by truck. Bittersweet, or just sad?
Following-up John’s thread from Monday: Google has been blocked in China.

Tuesday, September 3

"For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it."—Philadelphia, May 14, 2001.
Ladies and gentleman, our president.

Monday, September 2

If you are a web-searchin', article loving kind of internet user, chances are you make heavy use of Google, and perhaps even the very useful Google toolbar. But the number one search engine online has at least one very vocal critic who is questioning Google's use of cookies and what he calls their "un-democratic" page ranking system.

Friday, August 30

Okay, maybe I am not brilliant. But here is more evidence that almost half of us (here in the 'States) are real idiots.
I hate the war on terror. Hate it. Just like I hate the war on drugs. We have not caught them, we have not stopped them, we have only taken our own freedoms, our own lives. If, as Bush said, the war on terror will go on forever, then we will never win. Nay, we have already lost. If we are not fighting for freedom, what are we fighting for? Our masters. We are letting this happen, we are the idiots, we are the damned, we are America and we suck right now.
Think you're brilliant, don't you? Think again. As Thomas Jefferson said, "he who knows best knows how little he knows."

Thursday, August 29

Don't mess with Americans. Don't mess with your neighbors, or their kids. Don't mess with America. Don't even be suspicious, cause we'll watch your ass. We've got air-tight security everywhere. Don't leave your job post - you gotta ask us if you wanna take a pee. Got it? Got it?
Welcome to America, buddy. Learn the rules.

Tuesday, August 27

Land of the free, home of the brave.
Hip-hop and disgustingly conspicuous consumption. When will this long-running trend die a horrible death? Not soon enough.
This week The Economist has an uplifting (and economically right-leaning, but that's OK) take on the future of the United States, using demographics as a key indicator. (Sorry, it's pay-content: you'll have pick up the magazine to read the article.) While many (myself included) have for a long time viewed the U.S. as having reached the peak of its economic and political power, and now entering a state of decline, this article argues that the future population mix and growth trends for the country paint a more optimistic picture. Essentially the article asserts that our population is growing quite rapidly and evenly across ethnic groups, which is desirable compared to Europe's relatively stagnate growth. More importantly, however, our population will continue to be youthful 'round about 2050, hopefully leading to "lower labour costs … and a more entrepreneurial culture." And although increases in population bring with them an array of social problems, the U.S. certainly has the capacity (and hopefully the foresight) to intelligently accommodate the growth. In fact, it would do us all good to learn to live a bit closer together.

Saturday, August 24

Tom & Ray Magliozzi (AKA Click & Clack) have launched a “Gentle Educational Campaign” against (you guessed it) Sport Utility Vehicles. The tagline is “Live Larger, Drive Smaller.” Why have they done this? Well, in their humble opinion, because SUVs are stupid! (4 min., 3 sec. RealAudio link.) We here at OS like to think long-term, and we’ll enjoy looking back on this era of irrational-vehicle fashion in 20 years and thinking to ourselves, “Look how right we were!”

Thursday, August 22

Today is a good day to revisit one of our old saws: Poor Customer Service. Two personal experiences, just today in fact, of Poor Customer Service prompted these thoughts (I won't say where).

For about a year now, I've been doing something that I want to encourage all of you to do as well: wait for the person behind the counter (whatever counter that may be) to ask, "May I help you?" Over the course of the past, say, ten years, this polite and once ubiquitous custom seems to have gradually disappeared. But it shouldn't disappear--we're all still humans, aren't we? We still need to relate ourselves to one another, right? So I have resolved to not place my order (etc.) until I am asked.

This decision has, at times, resulted in long, nervous, awkward periods of silence--situations in which the person behind the counter and me stare at each other in an intense battle of will. It has also resulted in disdain from both the service worker and the other customers in line. But I don't care--I'm trying to make a point. Besides, it's fun dammit.

One thing to remember when you do this is that even though you're "fighting" something that's wrong, you should always remain polite. Being mean defeats the purpose. So, try this little social protest for yourself. You'll walk away with a wonderful sense of victory and tingly feeling of righteous indignation.

Wednesday, August 21

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." Albert Camus, 1913-1960

Tuesday, August 20

New artist Jordin Isip uses the weathered, the stepped on, and the torn as raw materials in creating his beautiful, pensive, multi-layered illustrations.
Today's Working Assets Radio is on the good old subject of what chain stores do to local economies. They talked about a Super Target - a 150,000 square foot building meant to compete with Walmart. In response, Walmart has started builing 250,000 square foot stores - that's the size of six football fields not counting the space for parking.

Monday, August 19

Those with good memories might remember that not so long ago, Iraq was receiving aid from the United States. And you probably remember that Iraq used chemical weapons, too. If you are some left-wing wacko, or maybe a crazy conspiracy nut, you might have thought that meant that the Unites States knowingly aided a nation that was gassing people to death. And now it seems clear you were right, but it still doesn't feel good. (nytimes login: user-opensewer, password-iswatching)

Sunday, August 18

Uh, hello everyone. Sorry for the lack of updates over the past few days—the people who run Opensewer are in a state of household flux. And some of those who help are on vacation. Continuity will resume before too long, don’t you worry!

Thursday, August 15

What will the world look like in 10 years? Is what you're doing right now going to affect how we live in the future? How will it affect our lives? Are you making a difference? Do you want to?

Tuesday, August 13

Excellent post, Rose! The article you linked is so good that I simply must pull a "quote of a quote" from it:

...sentimentality is an excess, a distortion of sentiment usually in the direction of over-emphasis on innocence and that innocence whenever it is over-emphasized in the ordinary human condition, tends by some natural law to become its opposite. --Flannery O’Connor

Lost your job? Can't find a new one? Don't have health insurance? You must be a minority of one, if you listen to White House. Experts agree, everything is fine!

No, it's not.
So not only does the government want you to rat on your neighbor, they want you to tell it to Fox TV.

Monday, August 12

Today my post will contain both earnest commentary and just a little bit of media deconstruction. In the New York Times Magazine yesterday, Lisa Belkin wrote a mostly excellent article about coincidence and probability, and how these concepts relate to America’s current state of patriotic paranoia (user: opensewer; password: iswatching). In essence, I enjoyed this article, and thought it discussed an ordinarily arcane, counterintuitive subject in an objective and accessible way. It also appealed to me personally because of my interests in randomness and forecasting, and it reminded me of Spyros Makridakis’ insightful description of six key biases that one can fall into when attempting to think objectively or predict outcomes.

So on that front, it was a good article. However, I found myself disgusted by the shameless reference (read: plug) of the recent mediocre film, “Signs.” Belkin seemed to just force it into the seventh paragraph, and it looks suspiciously like someone paid her (or her editor) to do it. If that sentence hadn’t been in the article, it would have been a clip-n-save for me—but now it’s going straight into the trash. Like our own Josh mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, guerilla marketing is increasing in frequency, and it’s despicable. This growing trend makes critical thinking skills more important than ever, but unfortunately those skills seems to be increasingly rare among our compliant, starry-eyed, media-adoring youth.

Incidentally, why is the media pushing “Signs,” a lukewarm film by any standard, and its young director, M. Night Whatever, so hard recently? Is quality of work making the star director here, or hidden money and cronyism?

It’s funny how when we (Rose and I) go out of town we don’t blog—it’s so easy to do it from anywhere. I suppose the reason is that when we’re away, we really want to be away. Anyway, we’re back.
Go ahead and stick your head in the sand and keep telling yourself there's no way humans are affecting the global climate.

Friday, August 9

Thursday, August 8

The latest trend of the supremely image conscious seems to have a frightening but ironic side effect. ( - login:opensewer, password:iswatching)
In case you were wondering if they are listening...
Yep, they are.

Wednesday, August 7

Our military has now decided to ignore our civilian government. Martial law, anyone? Don't bother politely refusing.
Public opinion has swung in favor of revising some of the most ridiculous laws in the United States. It is now even reaching the legislators in New York, home to some of the most extreme sentencing rules.

Tuesday, August 6

Remember this- America using the UN as a cover to spy on Iraq? So we are going to attack soon, consequences be damned?
People may not have been aware of it before last fall, but some people in other countries don't like us here in the States. And it's not just because they are jealous of our freedoms, as some of our elected leaders might tell you. So instead of trying to work more in harmony with the rest of the world, we're just going to sell ourselves. You want some of Brand U.S.A. ? And when Europeans don't like our policies, are we just going to remind them that if it wasn't for us, they'd all be speaking German? Can we even consider just listening to world opinion for once before acting?

Thursday, August 1

Imagine with me for a moment: You're in a bar and have just met an attractive person with a great personality. You're getting along great with this stranger when suddenly, their Sony Ericsson T68i phone rings and shows a picture of the incoming caller on its bright color display. Your new acquaintance smiles and before taking the call makes a point to tell you, "It takes pictures too!" You're impressed with this gadget, and as you wait the person to finish the call, you wonder if you need a new phone. Maybe you'll consider the Sony Ericsson T68i?

The next day you meet one of your friends for breakfast. While you're eating, they begin to tell you about a person they met last night at a bar - a completely different bar on the other side of town. This person intrigued your friend because they seemed interesting, but what was really interesting was that they had the most high tech phone with a bright color display that even took pictures.

Surprise! You've just become a part of Sony Ericsson's new marketing campaign! Welcome to the future: where marketing reaches a new level of deception.

Wednesday, July 31

Following up on Jason's post: While it's excellent that Ford decided not to build another generation of the Excursion SUV, Lincoln, another Ford company, is pushing their new Navigator. Starting at $48,000, it's an easy replacement for the Excursion, but unfortunately only a hair better in its green rating. You might have seen one of their new commercials showcasing the Navigator with the tagline, "There are those who travel and those who travel well." I say they change their tagline to "There are those who pollute and those who pollute in luxury."
Victory! Ford has decided not to build another generation of the horrid Excursion SUV. As a little eulogy, let's cite a few of the vehicle's best traits: 10 MPG, emits 130 tons of CO2 over its lifetime (compared to 23 for an average car), it's 7 feet tall, 19 feet long and at $45,000, a lousy seller. (NYT; username: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

We're probably not going to see the end of the SUV any time soon and in truth, to the extent that new models are created that do not harm the environment and do not present a threat to public safety (wishful thinking), let them be. That said, I do have hope for one thing: Perhaps the death of the most excessive SUV is a sign that the chasm between "what's good for the environment" and "what the market wants" will become narrower in the future. Every citizen of the world has to hope that in the very long run, what we want and what is good for us will become one in the same.

Ice-Cold Tragedy For Sale, Get Yer Tragedy Here!
The kind people at the Columbia Journalism Review have done an excellent job compiling who owns what in the media--what business interest controls your news. Take a look, you might be surprised.

Monday, July 29

This is a fairly trenchant prediction of how the economy and the stock market might relate to one another after the effects of the current economic “bubble burst” dissipate. Let me add one thing: We'll see a return to business models that *always* work. That is, create a product or service, and then sell it for a price greater than the sum of production, distribution, marketing and overhead. It seems so simple…why is it recently so elusive to large corporations? Why is cooking the books so much more appealing? The reason seems pretty obvious: It has a lot to do with the Wall-Street-driven obsession with quarterly profits. Real life doesn't operate on a quarterly basis, but for some reason the stock market expects it to.
From the New York Times:

When studies last year showed that the share of the nation's children living in single-parent households had declined in the late 1990's, many welcomed the results as signs that the 1996 welfare overhaul was working.

But new research underscores a smaller, unwelcome trend: a rising share of children, particularly black children in cities, are turning up in no-parent households, left with relatives, friends or foster families without either their mother or their father. (Username: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Doin' it for the kids, are we? Just remember, if parties are outlawed, only outlaws will party.

Sunday, July 28

Nine miners alive, eighty-three dead in air show accident, and today someone will complain about the humidity. The wheels just keep turning.

Thursday, July 25

It's nice to see that the contemporary religious leaders of the world are not finding themselves irrelevant:

The perception of the child as a consumer is clearly more dominant than it was a few decades ago. A relatively innocuous example is the familiar 'tie-in,' the association of comics, sweets, toys, and so on with a new film or television serial; the Disney empire has developed this to an unprecedented pitch of professionalism.

And Welsch, too--my kind of guy.
What technological invention is credited with the summer blockbuster, the rise of Las Vegas and the demise of southern literature? Air conditioning. (Real Audio link; here is the Talk of the Nation program page.)
This little girl is my hero. (NYT; user: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, July 24

Remember all those un-democratic hi-jinks that went on during the aftermath of our most recent presidential election? It's not just the State of Florida that produces un-equal representation in our government. Un-democratic features, like the Senate, are built right into our beloved national Constitution. Do you know how the Senators were originally chosen? Do you know who the electoral college is really beholden to? Maybe we need to look our sacred constitution more critically.

Tuesday, July 23

Monday, July 22

Davis signed the bill on a hot, smoggy day along a park trail. Steps closer to cleaner air.
Black Americans have made substantial progress in nearly every aspect of our culture over the years, but they still do not experience the same level of representation and opportunity that whites do (National Urban League). Even though it's very much reality, I still find the state of racial relations in our country amazing. I'm "white," and I feel ashamed sometimes that I don't have more black friends. If you're white, how many do you have? If you're black, same question? Of course this doesn't really matter (?), but it's an interesting signifier of how little blacks' and whites' spheres of influence cross--intentionally or unintentionally. I look to explanations like this to make myself feel better, but they don't really satisfy me. What can be done, really? Is Hip-Hop still our best hope of bridging this invisible gap--a gap that no one seems very interested in talking about right now?
File this under "cool." (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Sunday, July 21

We have a problem here at Opensewer HQ: we don't watch enough television to keep up on current trends in popular entertainment. So today, I was overjoyed when I learned (somewhat late) that this past spring, the wretched "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" was dropped without fanfare from network prime-time because of sagging ratings. This is the kind of thing that makes us very happy. It was a stupid show that insulted our collective intelligence. We despised it, and proudly ridiculed it from the beginning. If you ever watched the show and enjoyed it, you should feel ashamed of yourself (boy, that was harsh, wasn't it?). When a piece of trash like this fades into obscurity, it makes us feel for a moment that there is hope for the American mind. But then, just when we think that the era of "that which is really bad will be called good" in popular entertainment is over, another misguided bomb stays off target and kills a large number of our unwitting mental civilians: Big Brother 3.

Friday, July 19

We flip out when we hear about people burning a live kitten on the grill, but what about the other millions of animals who are mistreated every single day so that we can have fresh meat at the grocery store? Mark Morford writes about the mass hypocrisy in his latest Notes and Errata.

Thursday, July 18

Keeping the waters safe for all men, but not animals.
The more modern man ravages nature, the more he reveres it. (The paradox is best exemplified in America, of course, by the popularity of SUVs.)
This is significant.

Wednesday, July 17

Do you know what your neighbor is doing? Do you care? Are you watching? If you're a good American, you'd best be watching and reporting any suspicious activity to the authorities, before they report you.
“…the continued existence of the European City depends on allowing it to become ‘Americanised’.” Hmmm.

Tuesday, July 16

“… Many pre-industrial societies … [saw] time as a circle, not a straight line. From the Mayas to the Buddhists and the Hindus, time was circular and repetitive, history repeating itself endlessly, lives perhaps reliving themselves through reincarnation. … Linear time was a precondition for industrial views of evolution and progress. Linear time made evolution and progress plausible. For if time were circular instead of linelike, if events doubled back on themselves instead of moving in a single direction, it would mean that history repeated itself and that evolution and progress were no more than illusions…” –Second in a series of outtakes from The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler
Something we'll see more of in the future: In early 2003, the City of Louisville, KY and Jefferson County will officially merge to form the 16th largest city in the country.
Quick: Zig Zag Zen; Sierra Club Power Lunch.

Monday, July 15

Sometimes, you can be an American citizen and get your day in court, even after fighting against the U.S. in a war. Other times, you can be an American citizen, be part of an alleged plot to maybe do something, and not get a trial, but instead hang out in prison for an undetermined amount of time. Guess which one is white?

Thursday, July 11

New artist Kaite Ripple sees the world as honestly as she can. She observes emotion and beauty, and captures it simply--without narrative, pretense or didacticism.
“Built on the factory model, mass education taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the ‘overt curriculum.’ But beneath it lay an invisible or ‘covert curriculum’ that was far more basic. It consisted—and still does in most industrialized nations—of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who showed up on time. … It demanded workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning.” --Alvin Toffler

Wednesday, July 10

Todays headline: United State Vice President Dick Cheney accused of accounting fraud and overstating revenues by $445 million from 1999 through the end of 2001. Sounds very familiar to the Enron scandal that apparently the entire Bush administration was aware of. If we reelect these people, something is very wrong.

Monday, July 8

Where have I been? A manned mission to Mars by 2015? And the whole thing will only take 440 days. When you look at the planet’s surface, it almost seems livable.
A Simpsons episode has "Marge reminding Homer that he loved the movie Rashomon, which elicits in Homer the rejoinder, "That’s not how I remember it."

Do you get that joke/reference? Maybe you do. Maybe you even get it without even having seen Rashomon. It's the reference game, the frantic cannibalization that keeps pop culture alive. I'm not a serious student of pop phenomena, but here's a good article that discusses what concerns me most with the popular arts (similar to this more alarmist article I blogged some time ago).

Saturday, July 6

Well I never thought I’d see the day, but I’m linking to a USA Today article. (The hotel where we stayed last night provided the paper for free, which is the only way I’d take it.) Anyway, in it there was a nice article about management sage Peter Drucker’s take on the recent corporate scandals. This man has seen the boom-bust cycle in our economy no less than four times in his lifetime. A nice quote: “As to ‘ethical problems’ in business, I have made myself tremendously unpopular by saying, again and again, that there is no such thing as ‘business ethics,’ there is only ethics.”

Wednesday, July 3

Predatory Lending is one of my favorite topics. The last time I commented on the issue was back in December '01, so I think it's time for an update. Take a look at the rowdy activist group ACORN, who have placed Predatory Lending at the top of their hit list and are engaged in some wonderfully obnoxious protest-antics. (That's three links to Alternet in one day...good stuff!)
A follow-up to my post on Saturday about school vouchers: ...dollars for vouchers subsidize religious schools, leave the poorest of poor students behind in even poorer and more racially isolated schools which further perpetuate the cycle of educational neglect, and are a scheme by conservatives to torpedo public education.
Across the nation, tonight and tomorrow night, millions of people will watch thousands of fireworks displays. Every year, after the fireworks are over, and the sky is filled with smoke, I always wonder why I continue to come out every year and watch. Of course, people have been setting off fireworks during celebratory events for more than a thousand years. Traditions like that are hard to break. But how often do we consider the environmental repercussions of all these exploding chemicals? Don't we have enough pollution to worry about? AlterNet reporter Gar Smith is asking these same questions: Is 15 minutes of pyrotechnic entertainment worth poisoning the earth?

Monday, July 1

This story on Living On Earth made me feel a bit more hopeful - Ecovillage. It's about a community in the middle of L.A. who have "turned a forty-unit apartment building in LA into a place where neighbors plant vegetables together, create and install solar panels, agree not to own cars, and even use odorless composting toilets." The community is even the focus of international tourists.
Money follows the mongrel. ... The adept handling of diversity is the secret of economic competitiveness and national vitality.

Saturday, June 29

Two days ago, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold Cleveland’s school voucher program, setting an important precedent in this divisive national battle. Proponents of voucher use argue that it enables choice and competition, ultimately strengthening our urban public schools. Of course, as we all know, suburban schools don’t need any help—in fact many suburban voters are against vouchers because they don’t want to empower blacks and other minorities to come from the city into their institutions.

The truth of the matter is that use of vouchers is yet another blow against our urban schools, precisely the ones that need the most help. It is another vote against the city, against a sustainable lifestyle based on dense living patterns. (I’m not even going to touch the church-state issue.) In the same manner that a laissez-faire value system does not work for corporate accounting practices (a la WorldCom, Enron, Rite Aid, etc.), it will not work for America’s public education system. (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

As citizens, we need to think long-term and be willing to allocate the tax revenue necessary to create an egalitarian and superior (by world standards) public education system serving every American youth. Oh, wait, but that would create a meritocracy…we don’t want that, do we?

Thursday, June 27

Being one of the kids who was sent to the principal's office for not standing during the pledge, I don't feel so bad about the federal court ruling banning the pledge, but I am quite disturbed by a school's recent decision to ban the game of tag.

Wednesday, June 26

A disturbing report on Kuwaiti detainees that I heard on NPR Morning Edition today led me to this story from the Guardian. While many of the detainees are likely to be extremely dangerous, many others might be victims of a tragic mistake, perhaps scooped up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, the Kuwaiti detainees that maintain they were doing humanitarian work.

Tuesday, June 25

Because we won the cold war, it's now cool that we share a lot in common with Russia. You know, passing laws that limit free expression and political action.

Monday, June 24

When my car broke down the other week in rural Ontario, I was helped out by a very friendly repair and towing company. Giving me a free lift to a local diner while I was waiting for my alternator to arrive, my host described her home town as "not too exciting. I mean, we don't have any malls around here or anything."
It's not just America that dreams of the mall (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching)...

Friday, June 21

It appears that public and private schools now have an extra layer of protection from lawsuits that arise from their sharing of students’ educational records. How can this be any good?
Hey everyone, we just installed a new comment system that seems to be fairly reliable. Use it!

Thursday, June 20

One of the most striking things to people visiting America is the size of our waistlines. Our food industry has been successful in brainwashing us into eliminating self control from our eating habits, and have influenced the government's supposedly objective diet guidelines.

Yet our culture is also fat phobic and filled with images of skinny celebrities and waifish models. Our celebrities get skinnier as our working population gets fatter. It reminds me of seeing poor women reading the celeberity gossip rag "US" - and wondering what they have in common... shouldn't it be called "Them" ?
Can anyone who has flown halfway around the world in a jet powered by subsidized fossil fuel and puffing out greenhouse gases qualify as an eco-tourist -- whatever the shape or content of the holiday that awaits them?...Tourists are the shock troops of Western-style capitalism...

Wednesday, June 19

The S.E.C. adopted the industry's voluntary standards as rules and thought that was an adequate response. And now some in Congress appear intent on ensuring that the states cannot force real reform. And they wonder why there's a crisis in investor confidence? (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)
Ah, the typical American City. (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)
The world is full of strange little examples of beauty.
In times like this, I am glad we have a thoughtful, skeptical, liberal, media to sell us on the wonders of the military machine.

Tuesday, June 18

Announcement: Many of you have been emailing us about when and where the next Opensewer Gatherings will occur, and also about starting new Gatherings in your area. Our apologies for the slow (or lack of) responses. Don’t worry—we’ve read your emails and will in fact answer each one of you individually.

We have been re-thinking the Gatherings, and are trying to design a better way to implement them that is not as top-down as the current structure. Thanks for all your input and suggestions. We will most likely have this worked out by early July, so stay tuned!

Monday, June 17

'We do need a "new economy", but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product.' ... Thoughts in the Presence of Fear.

Sunday, June 16

Just wanted to bring this up again ‘cause I’ve thinking about it… Are you ready to cede your position as a member of the world’s most powerful economy—because it’s probably going to happen in our lifetime. Based on purchasing power parity, China’s GDP is second only to ours, and growing much more rapidly (8% vs. the U.S.’ 4-5%). Sure, they have some structural problems to work out, but we have growing internal problems that can handicap us (most significantly the growing rich-poor gap). Really, think about it—how is going to feel? Personally, I think the coming change will give our collective ego a reality check.

Friday, June 14

Rosie and I are on vacation, staying at a friend's house, and I just read the table of contents from an old copy of John Naisbitt's Megatrends, 1984 edition. I was surprised at how prescient the chapter titles were. Please email me if you have any thoughts on this matter. I think I'll give the book a quick read to see what I think of it.