Friday, November 29

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

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

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

Thursday, November 28

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

Wednesday, November 27

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

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

Tuesday, November 26

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22

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

Thursday, November 21

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

Wednesday, November 20

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

Tuesday, November 19

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

Monday, November 18

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15

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

Thursday, November 14

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

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

Tuesday, November 12

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

Monday, November 11

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

Sunday, November 10

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

Friday, November 8

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

Thursday, November 7

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 6

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

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

Here's how you do it, girls.

Tuesday, November 5

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

Monday, November 4

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

Sunday, November 3

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

Friday, November 1

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