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? ...an 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

And I quote, "(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."--Pat Robertson
You raise very good points, John, and while I agree with you on the entire religious bent -- and perhaps the issue just comes along with it -- there are no women's rights in Africa when they are stone a woman to death for having a child out of wedlock. What happens to the man who fathered that baby? (I believe he might be getting stoned as well but can't confirm this.) And in a recent incident regarding the stoning, the father turned his daughter in. How's that for respect? Will these women ever be allowed to have a voice? To go to medical school? To be a lawyer? To choose to be an artist? Doubt it highly.

Lastly, the entire point of my blog was to diss the pageant contestants who don't seem to have a clue about the stats of the violence but rather, are going for the glorious Miss Universe Title. I can't respect women - or anyone involved - like that.

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.

Sunday, November 24

About 12,000 people have so far been made homeless and the number of injured in hospital is between 1,100 and 1,200, What the hell are pageant contestants thinking? How can they even promote and participate in this pageant? Cudos to the five contestants who are boycotting the pageant because of sentences passed by Nigerian Islamic courts sentencing Muslim women to death by stoning for having sex outside marriage. Ladies, we have a long, long way to go.

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.
And deeper still regarding the Miss World Pageant riots and killings: total lack of respect for womens' rights and living in the Dark Ages.
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.
Don't forget: One week from today, that horrible day-after-Thanksgiving-Black-Friday-day, is Buy Nothing Day. Do your part! And speaking of buying nothin', here's an interesting campaign going on against The Gap - from the folks at Behindthelabel.org.
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.

Wednesday, November 13

So of course you knew it had to happen: Eminem's new movie, 8 Mile: "Let's show another side of Eminem," ponders Universal (who has his recording contract and now is prostituting him to the movie-going public). "No bitch bashing allowed." And hey, "fag[s] and lez[bians]" are okay with him in this film. What a guy, what a guy. Personally, I'm having a hard time with the comparison to James Dean. Before you can convince me that the guy indeed can act, let's see him in a role where he is out of his element, say, maybe playing some sort of more general role like a Matt Damon-type actor in Good Will Hunting, or--since everyone's praising his ability to act--how about a funky role like Sam Rockwell in Box of Moonlight or Lawn Dogs? Then I might be convinced.

Finally, let's talk about the real issue here, which really amazes me: Chicks dig him.

Whether you're with him or against him, bunches of articles here, here and here. Enjoy.

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...
Whuuuhhhh - what's this we've been hearing lately? The end of the S.U.V.? Seems the sport wagon is aimed at buyers under 35, and it's catching on. (NYTimes article/login: opensewer/password: iswatching)
So maybe this recession is at least good for something!

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

America: Hyperactive Bully.
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.
So now the Pentagon is allocating monies to train thousands of Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein. Is history repeating itself? Years back we trained Bin Laden & Associates to fight against the Soviets, and look what happened there...

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

Thursday, October 10

Shame on me for not posting this earlier, but last Friday Jason and I spent an invigorating evening with The Guerilla Girls here at Cornell. Never heard of them? Shame on you. The Guerilla Girls were established in 1985 and are a group of women artists, writers, performers and film makers who fight discrimination. If you've never seen them, at least visit their website to see what they're all about, and make sure to visit the DateBook to see if they'll soon be gracing your town with a performance.
It's amazing to hear over and over again how the words of one reflect the thoughts of many. Speak up people, you got a voice too, don'tcha?

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 America...relax...you 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 war...by 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.
Amidst all the bitching-moaning-cynicism that goes on here at Opensewer, we are incredibly happy to link to the MacArthur Fellows Program, a $500,000-each no-strings-attached award given to 24 recipients. What is the impetus for this, you might ask? Well, in their words, "...the new class of MacArthur Fellows serves as a reminder of the importance of the creative individual in American society." Bravo. Read more about it here, with an overview of recipients here.

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.
We don't have to worry about the Italians. They're not a dangerous people, they're just a nation of opera singers.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt on his Reelection Campaign, trying to get the Big City Ethnic Vote.

50 years or so ago, the Italians experienced extreme prejudice. Today, Italians are loved and emulated with restaurants like The Olive Garden ("Benvenuto! When You're Here, You're Family!") and Buca di Beppo ("A Smithsonian of Italiana!"). So all you Middle Eastern people out there don't you worry: in 50 years you'll have your own stereotypical restaurant and the Americans will love you just as much!

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

Saturday, September 21

Slide Show Saturday. Quick blurb here, or start slide show here.

Friday, September 20

Cartoon Friday.
"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

Thursday, September 19

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.
Today's horoscope courtesy of The Village Voice. For no reason at all, except that I feel like it.

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.
Chews.
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.

Youth.

Thanks,
Brad

Monday, September 16

... the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace ... It [invading Iraq, toppling Sadam] is clearly a decision that is motivated by George W. Bush’s desire to please the arms and oil industries in the United States of America.

Nelson Mandela on the United States. Ouch, but so true.

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.
To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists.

Ari Fleischer, Shrub's spokeperson. And don't forget his other warning soon after 9/11/1: Watch what you say.

The Village Voice's Alisa Solomon writes an incredible article, What We Lost In The Fire, about Shrub's assault on the Constitution. Read it all here.

Wednesday, September 11

Today, we encourage you to remember with your soul and not with your eyes glued to a television set.

Tuesday, September 10

If there's any logic at work in the White House -- a dubious proposition -- it might be a recycled version of the "madman" policies adopted by the Nixon administration. Nixon seemed to think that he could intimidate Hanoi if they thought him capable of anything. Such wildness might appeal to Bush, whose personal history -- from decades of drunkenness and shady business bailouts to political cronyism and a stolen election -- appears to have taught him that he can get away with anything. From an article by Todd Gitlin of Columbia University titled, How To Squander Moral Capital.

Sunday, September 8

Yes, and following up on Jason's blog below, Gandhi believed one of the seven deadly sins was business without morality. The other six can be found here.

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

An Overview of Changes to Legal Rights. Have a great weekend and stay out of trouble.
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.
The American soul has always harbored a deep desire to help people build better lives for themselves and their children. We have always understood that our own well-being depends on the well-being of our fellow inhabitants of this planet Earth. -Colin Powell at the Earth Summit.

Yeah, right, Colin. That's such a load considering it is reported that he spent more time at the Earth Summit talking about Iraq than 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

Maybe the U.S. ought to practice what they preach. Perhaps they could start with paying those United Nations' dues that are "voluntary" yet, in reality, due. At the end of June 2002, members owed the UN $2.028 billion, of which the United States alone owed $1.117 billion (55% in total and 67% of the regular budget). (Info cited here.)
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.
The Farmer and the Dole, the Farmer and the Dole; Hi, ho the dairy-o the Farmer and the Dole. An interesting New York Times article (login: opensewer; password: iswatching).

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

Who knows what to believe anymore? We are all in a state of limbo. (Thanks to Ben Baumes for the Stopwar link.)
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

Good art, bad art, not sure? What is "art" these days anyway and who are we to say? Here's a hilarious article about your favorite and mine, The Painter of Light. Ahhh.... train 'em young to like bad art. And for those of you who like bad art, here's the place for you: MOBA, The Museum of Bad Art: Art Too Bad To Be Ignored.
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. (nytimes.com - 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

Now this article is a little bit interesting, don't you think?
A recent New York Times article reveals the following:

Hard as it may be to believe in these days of infectious greed and sabers unsheathed, scientists have discovered that the small, brave act of cooperating with another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, makes the brain light up with quiet joy.

Can it really be true? Is there hope for us yet? Read all about it here (login: opensewer; password: iswatching).

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 as I say, not as I do.
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

Ahhh… the art of conversation. Is it lost? Margaret Wheatley at Utne claims all social change begins with a conversation. I agree.
“… 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?

Friday, July 12

An interesting article on the war history of the United States and the limits of American supremacy. Author Immanuel Wallerstein claims the demise is captured in four symbolic events - the war in Vietnam, the revolutions of 1968, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the terrorist attacks of September 2001- each built upon the prior one, culminating in the situation in which the United States currently finds itself—a lone superpower that lacks true power, a world leader nobody follows and few respect, and a nation drifting dangerously amidst a global chaos it cannot control. A long article, a very interesting read.

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