Thursday, January 31

"We're not trying to disrespect the old man, but at this point in time we can no longer be associated with him or the stooges around him," Kreis said. "We're trying to clean up the image of the Aryan Nations." Yah, okay, right wink wink. Read more on this story here.
Chumbawamba's song "Pass it Along" was recently in a GM commercial. Then Chumbawamba turned around and gave the money from the deal to anti-globalization groups. GM isn't happy, but I sure am.
For months now, especially in recent months, I have been perplexed about Bush's popularity rating. Where, and who, are all these Americans who answer the surveys that now cite Bush's popularity as surpassing JFK's? Do they go to Ohio, where the majority of voters are Republicans? To Texas? I'd like to know.

So I was relieved when I saw Gary Kamiya's response to Bush's recent State of the Union speech. To Mr. Kamiya I say, My sentiments exactly.

Wednesday, January 30

I've always enjoyed learning about space. Ever since reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, I've thought that space, on its indescribable scale, is just... cool. Space exploration is incredibly expensive; almost 15 billion tax dollars are spent on it every year. So I thought it was interesting to find that NASA and its partners are calling on the general public to put in its two cents on how to spend those billions over the next decade. Hurry if you want to participate - the survey wraps up tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 29

Just another example of why you should take a hard look at what's happening in your own backyard before you start criticizing (or even trying to help) others…especially when you're a spokesperson for groups that educate families on the perils of drug abuse.
If the Olsen Twins are so anthropologically smashing, asks Jana, our friend from Toronto, how 'bout triplets? She writes: Wouldn't the thrill of finding a long-lost third party douse all the fascination associated with the two originals? That's why I, the Olsens' long lost triplet, send out a call to be put in touch with their publicist, acquire a third of their fortune, and cavort with them on wildflower beaches both real and cinematic. (Selling the idea that a 26-year old is the missing triplet to a pair of tweens is, I think, no greater marketing feat than selling the Olsens in the first place.)

Thank you, Jana, for your query. Now everybody read this.

Monday, January 28

I may be a bit slow on the uptake, but I'm pleased to find Tom Tomorrow has a weblog - take a look.
We’ve ranted about the evils of television time and time again, but maybe you’ll listen to Science. In the most recent issue of Scientific American, Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi draw on findings from a number of scientific studies to build a description of a startling phenomenon they call “Television Addiction.” Here are a few outtakes:

  • After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood. After watching TV, people's moods are about the same or worse than before.
     
  • More than 25 years ago psychologist Tannis M. MacBeth Williams of the University of British Columbia studied a mountain community that had no television until cable finally arrived. Over time, both adults and children in the town became less creative in problem solving, less able to persevere at tasks, and less tolerant of unstructured time.
     
  • The article briefly discusses the internet as well: For growing numbers of people, the life they lead online may often seem more important, more immediate and more intense than the life they lead face-to-face.
It's likely that these writers didn’t coin the term “Television Addiction,” but this article is the best overall description of the risks of excessive TV viewing I’ve seen in a long time. Do check it out, and take a look at the list of additional resources at the end of the article.

Sunday, January 27

Reading material for Opensewer 11 has been updated--we've linked some excellent articles. Stay tuned as the venues for all gatherings are announced over the next week or so.

Saturday, January 26

Award for Best Misnomer, Most Annoying Commercials and Best Dupe of The American Public: Applebee’s “Neighborhood” Grill & Bar (I love how the “Investor Relations” button is right next to “Just for Kids” on their website). To use the word “neighborhood” in any context relating to these restaurants is laughable. They are located to maximize automobile exposure—inevitably in areas of suburban sprawl. Further, “neighborhood” implies a sense of uniqueness, and chain restaurants are the antithesis of uniqueness. How can a corporate food service enterprise make mediocre food quality this popular (look how many there are—my goodness)? My guess is by advertising saturation. Whether you like the food or not, you think you do. Might as well submit…do not try to resist the pinnacle of capitalist cuisine.

Friday, January 25

Yikes. Just remember: correlation does not equal causation.
Great blog, Josh. For those of you who read the Mark Morford article, make sure you don't miss the link at the bottom of his article regarding Pat Robertson's latest declaration.
In case you missed it, Bush declared last Sunday to be National Sanctity of Life Day. I don't know about you, but I find this unspeakably ironic. So I was happy to read Mark Morford's latest notes and errata on the story.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill (HR 3455) that would provide a business deduction of up to $4,000 for the use of new energy-efficient technologies in residential rental buildings. The bill also contains a personal credit of up to $1,250 for qualified expenditures made by owners of energy-efficient homes (via CSE)! This is a step in the right direction…
Go to www.hipmama.com and click on the article, "Dispatch from Anthrakistan" by Martin A. Lee. The article has some good things to think about concerning "...the crusade against civil liberties on the domestic front, the jihad against dissent that's taking shape in Anthrakistan, our anxious homeland." Is America feeling a false sense of security again? Are we getting all snug and comfy as King George takes a stand on protecting our Homeland?

Thursday, January 24

Yesterday's Fresh Air interviewed David Cay Johnston about his reporting that Enron didn't only not pay taxes for the last few years, but was eligable for hundreds of millions of dollars of refunds. The amount was so big it equals each American giving Enron about a buck and a half. The interview put the whole Enron thing in startling perspective, and talks about how business is so powerful. If you're interested you can listen here.

Wednesday, January 23

What is “sprawl?” We’ve talked about it and criticized it many times on Opensewer, and it’s a recurring theme in discussions of land use in the United States. But when we use the word, what do we really mean? This article presents one of the best attempts I’ve found to define this elusive term objectively.
Yes, but will this strategy work?
Another day, another bloodshed which was a retaliation for something which was a retaliation for something which was a retaliation for something else. It's hard to know what to say anymore when war is all a country has ever known. Our thoughts continue to go out to all those affected by these frequent tragedies. (Thanks Noise Between Stations)
Too soon after the tragedy for good design ideas? (Rose pointed out this article a while ago--I intended to post a link to it earlier.)

Tuesday, January 22

Imagine being this woman.
When I read the first part of this story, despite the seriousness of the topic, the thought of Italians and their love affairs with cars amused me. Then it got frightening: For every one new child born in Italy, four new cars are registered. And further: It is estimated that the average Italian spends seven years of his or her life stuck in traffic. Yikes. Change is critically needed in Italy.

Monday, January 21

Sunday, January 20

Artist Marilyn Kirsch's glowing, abstract paintings and drawings express tension, ambiguity and pure, non-objective imagery confronted by the desire for a reference point.

Saturday, January 19

Just outside the farming village of Millau, France, a McDonald's was under construction. Cheesemaker José Bové and nine friends decided to deconstruct the McDonald's, bolt-by-bolt, to protest imperialism and the standardization of food. Read here for the entire story of his 1999 act which made him the darlin' of France, and the World.

Friday, January 18

Last night on The Daily Show, I learned about the new television programs "The Chair" (ABC) and "The Chamber" (FOX) from cantankerous commentator Lewis Black. The two shows subject contestants to stressful events and surprises, such as fire and sedated alligators, while monitoring their bodily functions to assess how they respond to the "trauma." Apparently, the shows are very similar, and ABC and FOX are suing each other over blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH. Who cares?

So far, the only bodily functions both shows seem interested in monitoring are heart rate and something like "stress level." I’m sure they’ll start to monitor other things after a while. Why don’t the contestants just take a piss on stage, and whoever makes the biggest puddle wins the cash? Now that’s the future of American television.

Thursday, January 17

I'm taking a tip from Rebecca's Pocket and keeping up with the whole Enron thing over at Oliver Willis, thanks to both.

Wednesday, January 16

The Death of Managed Care? (RealAudio link. Here is the NPR host page.)
Martin Luther King day isn't until next Monday but after reading yesterday's Straight Shot by Geov Parrish, I felt compelled to bring it up a little early. As Parrish states, "He deserves better. We all do."

Tuesday, January 15

Because pop-up ads suck.
Writers Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen suggest that people had better start treating obesity like the infectious epidemic it will soon be, given the rate of 325,000 people dying per year due to obesity-related illnesses. Did you know that drinking a single can of Coke every other day will contribute enough calories to add about four pounds? Among other things such as the "supermarket diet" ("Supermarkets devote more shelf space to snacks than to produce"), lack of exercise due to autos ("If we want to move, we drive") and building design, these writers say “the desk job, the television, the Internet, suburban housing developments and their roads to nowhere all conspire against us.” They also hit on the government's lack of any kind of fitting national healthcare reform to address the problem.

A very interesting and thought-provoking read.

Monday, January 14

Disturbing points from Fast Food Nation: for children worldwide Ronald McDonald is the second most recognized fictional character after Santa Claus. The golden arches are more widely recognized than the Christian cross.
Okay so I have one question: Can I expect to see a Saturday Night Live skit about this? I mean, the guy fell of the couch and got a bruiser like the one shown? Wow - he must have skidded across the carpet big-time when he fell. [Warning: goopy, ulta-thick fourth paragraph. Make sure you're not eating when you read it.]

Sunday, January 13

Now that the mania about this horrid situation is finally dying down, we'll add one comment: Individuals in this world have a choice--they can behave like humans, or they can behave like animals. The further we collectively move away from fierce competition, the more we approach being truly human.

Saturday, January 12

A bit morbid, but have you seen The Layoff List? This follows-up Rosie's post about Ford yesterday. The BLS indicates that as of December '01, unemployment is at a six-year high of 5.8 percent.
"...the more time intellectuals spend getting their names in the news, the less likely they are to do serious scholarly work," says Judge Richard Posner about the decline of intellectuals in public life.

Friday, January 11

Uh-huh. Georgie Boy Bush - He Cares For The Little People. To wit:

“It is now clear the White House had knowledge that Enron was likely to collapse but did nothing to try to protect innocent employees and shareholders who ultimately lost their life savings.”--Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

That's our Georgie! What a good Christian he is!

"We strayed from what got us to the top of the mountain, and it cost us greatly.” --William Clay Ford Jr. **
Is this article just in time for the Opensewer 11 topic about bioethics? Yes, act now and you too can be a human bar code!
"Why does the press only write about independents when they're about to close?" says Carl Lennertz about indy bookstores. Coliseum Books, at Broadway and 57th in NYC, is closing its doors after nearly 28 years in business. Broad-sided by two nearby Barnes & Nobles, competition from online vendors and skyrocketing rents, the store will cease operations at the end of its lease on January 25. Coliseum used to be one of our favorite stops when visiting NYC, and even as non-natives we'll be sad to see it close. There is hope, however. Oren Teicher, chief operating officer of the American Booksellers Association, says that though there are fewer independents today than two years ago, their market share remains at 40 percent. And there are many indications that these remaining indy stores are strong and well-equipped to weather the ups & downs of the business.

Thursday, January 10

"The central inquiry must be whether the claimant is unable to perform the variety of tasks central to most people's daily lives," not just those of a particular job, said Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in what could be another landmark decision for people with disabilities in America. Since 1990, the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been narrowed significantly, easing the compliance burden for employers and property owners. Somehow, over the next several years, a clearer line will be drawn between claims that are reasonable and unreasonable--this is a very difficult task. Will conservative politicians attempt to steer the law too far in favor of employers? (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, January 9

Simon Brown and Oliver Shaw, two London based interactive designers, became frustrated with the amount of photographs they weren't doing anything with. So they built Photo-genetic and dedicated their first issue to exploring architecture and texture. The results are absolutely beautiful. Makes me wonder about everything sitting around my apartment that I'm not doing anything with. (via Digital Web)

Tuesday, January 8

There are two kinds of patriotism -- monarchical patriotism and republican patriotism. In the one case, the government and the king may rightfully furnish you their notions of patriotism: in the other, neither government nor the entire nation is privileged to dictate to any individual what the form of his patriotism shall be. The Gospel of Monarchical Patriotism is: " The King can do no wrong. " We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: " Our country, right or wrong! "

We have thrown away the most valuable asset we have -- the individual right to oppose both flag and country when he (just he by himself) believes them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it all away: and with it, all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism. --Mark Twain

The Boston Phoenix's Barry Crimmins sums up The Year of W. in this eloquently written take on 2001.

Monday, January 7

Barcelona-based artist Philip Stanton’s work draws inspiration from, and continues in the tradition of, the twentieth-century modern masters. His paintings explore the notions of Pop and Kitsch, while vibrating with color and celebrating the joy of life.
In the New York Times, Patriotism On The Cheap (login required; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching). A few quotes:

We all applaud our selfless men and women in uniform, whether at ground zero or in battle, but we are not inclined to make even a fractionally commensurate sacrifice of our own. We have no interest in reducing our dependence on the oil from the country that nurtured most of the hijackers, Saudi Arabia, or revisiting an upper-brackets-skewed $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut to find the serious money needed to fight future hijackers and bioterrorists effectively.

In the new p.c., anyone who says anything critical about the president or his administration is branded an anti-American akin to the Marin County Taliban.

Agreed. We've been saying the same thing on Opensewer, slightly less eloquently, for quite some time.

Saturday, January 5

I'm not a vegetarian, and to be honest I don't have any immediate plans on becoming one. However, this article on Alternet presents a pretty cohesive argument and some startling statistics about the impact of our meat-consuming habits on the planet. In fact, some of the stats are a bit too incredible to blindly accept without a source citation. Still, when you hear about a Utah pork producer hosting a three-million gallon waste lagoon to manage pig excrement, it makes you question just how healthy "the other white meat" really is. And don't even get me going on the beef statistics.
Curious bits: The Polaroid Collection of images is at risk. Adolescence is being extended.

Friday, January 4

Here's something fun for Friday. The article is a bit old (December 10), but we at OS feel that extolling the virtues of nasal discharge is as important a matter as any. (Via A&L.)

Thursday, January 3

As most of you know, Opensewer is a passionate supporter of Art (yes, with a capital "A") in its many forms. The definition of art is a continuum, and it seems that perhaps there exists somewhere within this continuum a point where art becomes bullshit. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Let's talk about it some time. Here and here are a couple of very interesting articles on the state of Art, via Arts & Letters Daily.
“I want to enjoy everything and not worry about cutting back,” says the Average American. Unsecured consumer debt is at an all-time (and dangerous) high, and credit card companies show no signs of cutting back the availability of credit. Case in point: Captial One Financial Corp. is the nation's single largest generator of mail. “People are under the impression that something is wrong with them if they aren’t getting preapproved credit-card applications,” says one credit counselor.

The Internet bubble burst, and this one will too. The scary part is that the fallout from this will be much more far-reaching then the collapse of the high-tech sector, since so many Americans have credit cards.

Wednesday, January 2

When is death not the final act? Answer: when Madison Avenue runs the show. On The Media examines the use of dead celebrities in our advertising. You weren't the only one angry to see Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner. Listen or read the show here.
The latest in a series of Ohio mosque vandalisms happened in Columbus Sunday night. Thankfully, several non-Muslim groups have already offered aid. We hear about vandalism almost every day, but when it's a hate-crime that happens to the oldest mosque in your city, it really pisses you off.

Tuesday, January 1

Happy New Year! (…to the Western world, at least.) Sorry for our silence over the past couple of days, but we're having such a nice vacation! Meanwhile, why don't you read this little informative piece about how our contemporary (Gregorian) calendar came into existence.