Wednesday, May 29

Quizzes seem to be all the rage within the weblog community these days, so I thought I'd throw out the Climate Crisis Quiz from Greenpeace. While you're there, check out the Greenpeace Cyberactivist Community, which works similar to the Amnesty International service I've mentioned before.

Tuesday, May 28

Well, I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing, long weekend. I completed two years of graduate school on Sunday—wow, what a strange feeling! Into the great unknown… Maybe now I can spend some time working on Opensewer.

Why not start out this week with a link to one of our favorites, Alternet? Jay Walljasper’s recent article, Am I a Food Snob?, is comfortingly reminiscent of one of our past rants.

Friday, May 24

I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…

Now that the hype has died down a bit, I want to say a few words about the launch of Vanilla Coke on May 8.

First…It’s a new product, fine, no problem, you like it or don’t like it—you buy it or don’t buy it—end of story.

Second…However, I want to point out the excellent satirical piece that Comedy Central’s The Daily Show produced on May 13 (unfortunately there’s no link to the broadcast). In it, Jon Stewart and the show’s writers point out the fact that the beverage received extensive coverage on all three of the major networks’ morning shows. Wonder how much Coke paid for that little bit of untainted journalism? On one show—I think it was The Today Show—a senior brand manager from Coke was present representin’ the product. She said—this kills me, I mean she actually said this—that “Americans have spoken, and they have told us that they are looking for new, exciting ways to be refreshed.” You know, just the other day I was telling my wife that I needed to be refreshed. She told me to go refresh myself. I can’t believe we accept this kind of mindless crap! I can’t believe that hearing a corporate robot like that talk doesn’t make America want to throw its collective TV set out the window!

Third…On Metafilter (I check the site every once in a while just to make sure it still sucks as much as I think it does), there’s a thread about Vanilla Coke that begins “What's the verdict (besides anti-corporation rants)?” The person who posted this really wanted to make sure that nobody wasted bandwidth bashing the almighty Coke (please…no societal critique here…we all just want to be happy and enjoy our consumer products)! Following this intro are about 70 comments discussing the positives and negatives of the new sugar-water variation—everybody was very obedient. Is this representative of the average American’s frightening state of mental atrophy? I mean, my goodness, 70 comments of ass-licking, subservient discussion about a new Coke product! I’m going to be sick!

Thank you, I feel much better now.

Wednesday, May 22

To the extent I see the mass media culture drag standards of intelligence, creativity and ethics down to the lowest common denominator... and then turn around and generate more slick and profitable news programming bemoaning the resulting deterioration in our streets, schools and elective offices (not to mention our art and civilization), that's the extent I will point my own electromagnetic finger. - Phil Patiris, Modern Television

Tuesday, May 21

If you decide to browse through the NPR Interview archives, as Rosie suggests below, you might as well also spend some time watching a few of Frontline's excellent past programs.

Monday, May 20

"It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak -- 'child hero' was the phrase generally used -- had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police." -G.Orwell, 1984

Sunday, May 19

In an experiment a few years ago, students posing as beggars found that they received small change 44% of the time that they asked directly for it without specifying a sum. If they asked for a precise sum that was a single coin (25 cents), they got it 64% of the time. But if they asked for an apparently arbitrary number (37 cents) they got it 75% of the time. The more precise and unusual the request, the less people were able to resist it.

Friday, May 17

Gentrification has become a dirty word. But without it, a city would die, buried under the weight of blighted neighborhoods.

Thursday, May 16

Today is Bike To Work Day here in the Bay Area. I find myself wondering why it wasn't set on a Friday when more people aren't required to wear suits and ties. They offer a commute calculator to see how much it costs you and an environmental calculator to see how much it costs the earth.
Update: Rodger Stevens' artwork now has pricing information.

Wednesday, May 15

I've been a member of Amnesty International USA's Human Rights Action Center and have found it to be a wonderful tool for responding to human rights issues worldwide. When you become a member, you are automatically notified when new human rights campaigns have been added to the Action Center. You can then visit the individual action page to learn more about the issue, read and edit a prepared letter that will be sent to someone who has the power to help those in need, and personally sign the letter. I urge readers of Opensewer to join this great service from Amnesty International USA.

Tuesday, May 14

As enterprises like casino gambling have transformed the economic power of tribes, Native Americans have become respected, even feared, business rivals. ... "When a tribe starts to have economic power, we have other kinds of obstacles." (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)
Maybe we should think about the destination of our products after we use them in a new and extremely different way. These authors seems to have a start, but maybe they haven't gone all the way, either.

Monday, May 13

An article at The New York Times - Megachurches as Minitowns. "Southeast Christian is an example of a new breed of megachurch — a full-service "24/7" sprawling village, which offers many of the conveniences and trappings of secular life wrapped around a spiritual core. It is possible to eat, shop, go to school, bank, work out, scale a rock-climbing wall and pray there, all without leaving the grounds." [username: opensewer; password: iswatching]
What happens when your power plant becomes such a public nuisance that the nearby town threatens litigation? Easy, just buy the town… (NYT; user name: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Sunday, May 12

Artist Rodger Stevens' intricate, whimsical sculptures celebrate the ubiquitous and simple treasures of life.
Amidst all of the necessary but repetitive headlines about war, terrorism and the economy, one article in today’s New York Times reminds me why I’ve always thought it was such a great paper: In One Last Trial, Alabama Faces Old Wound (user name: opensewer; password: iswatching).

Thursday, May 9

In The Revolt of the Masses (1930), Jose Ortega y Gasset warned that the ordinary, badly-educated people of any democracy would forget that civilization was not a natural state of affairs, and would destroy it in their search for pleasure (via The Writer's Almanac):

... They are only concerned with their well-being, and at the same time they remain alien to the cause of that well-being. As they do not see, behind the benefits of civilization, marvels of invention and construction which can only be maintained by great effort and foresight, they imagine that their role is limited to demanding these benefits peremptorily, as if they were natural rights. ...

... The type of man dominant today is a primitive one... he does not see the civilization of the world around him, but he uses it as if it were a natural force. The new man wants his motor-car, and enjoys it, but he believes that it is the spontaneous fruit of an Edenic tree. In the depths of his soul he is unaware of the artificial, almost incredible, character of civilization, and does not extend his enthusiasm for the instruments to the principles which make them possible. ...
Our task here is to ensure the truth remains openly exposed.

--Adam Curry, in his very powerful article about media and the truth, The Big Lie.

Wednesday, May 8

A.Word.A.Day for May 8, 2002:

solatium (so-LAY-shee-um) noun

Compensation for emotional suffering, injured feeling, inconvenience, grief, etc. (as opposed to physical injury, financial loss, for example).

"We deserve solatium for the wrongful acts of corporations, government and the media."
The next time you hear a politician ranting about how the federal budget deficit is stealing from our children's future, just ask him: what about the trade deficit?

Friday, May 3

Some people actually believe the lie that conservatives are telling about keeping the government out of peoples' lives. I guess poor people aren't included.

Thursday, May 2

Land of the fat reporter from the UK visits Chunky, Mississippi to check out "Bible-bullets-and-Big Mac America" with a few England vs. America observations. "The word 'sandwich' conveys something more like a large loaf: Americans believe they are being swindled if they are not served portions that would disgust most Europeans."

Wednesday, May 1

In 1990 Congress passed Clean Air bills to curb air pollution. But "Somehow, industry believes it needs to continue to pollute." Even the U.S. Military is getting away with it, though they admit that it would "likely result in irreparable harm to public health and the environment."
A friend of mine, whose girlfriend is a teacher, forwarded this message to me today:

"We are taking a school trip to D.C. next week and have arrangments to go on a tour of the White House. Jim, our assistant principal, sent me this questionaire to fill out before we go. You guys should check it out."
Feeding the monster: Wal-Mart is starting to build on urban sites--likely because the supply of greenfield sites is running low. The good news: mark one sin off the long list that Wal-Mart regularly commits. The bad news: this is just a tactic to keep the company's growth from slowing.