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February 2000

Tuesday 2-29 - Leap Day
Join the amazon.com boycott.

Although I'd been vaguely aware of how a certain varied demographic finds this hairstyle acceptable, even desirable; my perception wasn't focused until until I first read Scott use the term "mullet". (He just mentioned the German version recently.) Libby Copeland holds forth in the Washington Post about this coiffure, providing an etymology:

The slang use of the word "mullet" to describe a hairstyle seems to descend from "mullethead," whose first mention in print can be found in 1857, according to the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. "Mullethead," meaning a "stupid, ignorant person," was first truncated to "mullet," meaning "fool," around the 1950s. No one is quite sure when "mullet" came to mean a particular hairstyle, but it seems clear the term is not a compliment.
In an effort at taxonomy, let me mention another hair term, with hopes that it will become more widespread: my Charlottesville brother and/or his wife calls either the pattern-baldness guy who does it, or the "combover" itself, the yinkel.
Monday 2-28
Read Norman Solomon as he slams "Dr" Laura and her homophobia. I don't like her either; had my initial exposure on LA radio (AM station KFI) before she went national. Curiously, she has fans in some female friends of mine, who should know better.

These excerpts from Sam Smith's Great American Political Repair Manual demonstrate "The most important fact about race - it doesn't really exist."

Our concept of race comes largely from religion, literature, politics, and the oral tradition. It comes creaking with all the prejudices of the ages. It reeks of territoriality, of jingoism, of subjugation, and of the abuse of power.

Friday 2-25
An open letter to the "Denial of Service" perps - Naomi Klein of The Nation says:
The flood of messages just formed a virtual blockade. Like Critical Mass bike rides, in which hundreds of people on bicycles peddle down the middle of a busy street bringing cars to a standstill, the hacks restricted access to the e-commerce sites simply by taking up space. Besides, the real war on the Internet has already been fought and, for the most part, lost. World War Internet was a virtual coup d'état. The blood started flowing when the dot-coms figured out how to stage the hottest IPOs, and suddenly freedom and interactivity were about our right to have carefully monitored AOL chats about Time Warner movies.
Update on the Cynthia Stewart case I mentioned a week ago: Salon had a "Mothers Who Think" article by James R. Kincaid late last month, which mentioned her among others who're in trouble because of busybodies with film processing jobs.
Since it is what is outside the frame (the intention of the photographer, the reaction of the viewer) that counts legally, we are actually encouraged to fantasize an action in order to determine whether or not this is child pornography. Every photo must pass this test: Can we create a sexual fantasy that includes it? Such directives seem an efficient means for manufacturing a whole nation of pedophiles.
Read the piece to find out about the large (and possibly Italian) sausages.

Thursday 2-24
Feeling flatulent? Curious about the silent but deadly? Speaking of Salon, check their Q&A with "Dr. Fart" for the stinky. "On average the normal number of flatulatic occurrences a day is ten." So there.
Related trivia you'll probably never use: in Japanese, the word for this is (pronounced hey!) and in German, ein fart ist ein Furz.

Wednesday 2-23
Some highlights from a new study:
  • Providing good news to chocoholics, researchers at a major scientific conference said on Friday that a preliminary study had shown chocolate to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
  • White chocolate did not have the same apparent beneficial effect on the heart as regular chocolate did.
  • Most of the new research was sponsored by chocolate maker Mars, which said it was encouraged by the early results.
  • Chocolate consumption in the United States lags far behind that in some other countries. Industry figures for 1999 show that Americans eat 12 pounds of the substance a year, compared with up to 35 pounds for Europeans.
...just one pound per month? I easily satisfy my quota!

Regular readers of Salon might've missed Tom Tomorrow's Schulz eulogy. "How strange that he passed away as his final strip ran in the weekend papers... the strip didn't die with him - he died with the strip."

Saturday 2-19
The word of the day is "viridian" - it's a shade of green with a touch of blue; according to my dictionary, "chrome green." Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling has started a movement with this name; a good place to begin their web site is perhaps his Viridian Maniphesto.

Friday 2-18
Listening to NPR radio last night, heard the sad, infuriating tale of Cynthia Stewart, the mom who's being pilloried on obscenity charges due to the photos she took of her eight-year-old daughter bathing. What made me choke was the characterization by a major developing lab of their "good corporate citizenship" by snitching the particulars of any suspicious pictures to the authorities. Previously I'd heard that as long as the photo depicts a solitary individual, any state of (un)dress was tolerated; and objections were rare since lab personnel's scrutiny of output was haphazard due to process automation; but they said evry photo is inspected (for "quality") and observation of certain subjects (like naked children) triggers law enforcement notification. (Personally, I always give 'em a fake name.) Can't find anything but this summary posting - it has a paragraph - scroll down.

Screalmin' Jay Hawkins died - ironically, of an intestinal blockage. His "Constipation Blues" began with a spoken-word intro: "Up until now nobody's done a song about real pain."

Wednesday 2-16
Finally the tobacco companies are being made to tell what else they put into cigarettes, at least in Britain.
The ingredients include sucrose, cocoa, citric acid and ammonium - which speeds up the nicotine "hit". Stephen Hesford, a Labour member of the committee, suggested later that the additives also included cynanide and lead.
It's been a mystery about whatever that stuff might be in the "lite" smokes' blends; 'way back in the 60's the talk was about Marlboros and how they contained fiberglass fibers which would make the user sterile.

Thursday 2-10
Check Dvorak's take on "cross-site scripting" and what Microsoft means by its advice to "avoid promiscuous web browsing" (in PC Mag).

Found the repository of Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater essays - I'm catching up on his "News and Recommendations." He's some UCLA academic, writing's cerebral but very astute and agreeable. Two samples:

... the tendency of people who define themselves against something to simply invert whatever it is they oppose, rather than actually having a new idea. Conservatives and liberals do this to one another all the time. Each side wants you to split your conscience, suppressing one half and hyperdeveloping the other half to the point of distortion. As a result, both sides are half right and three-quarters wrong, and in symmetrically related ways. Once we recognize this, we recover a moral orientation to many topics that we had formerly associated with the raving of the moralists. But we also get a sense of proportion.

In discussing the commercial forces arrayed against the Internet's open platform model, for example in the proprietary networks of AOL and Time Warner, I messed up my biology a little. The mollusc that attaches itself to the insides of pipes and sucks out the nutrients that go by, reproducing until it clogs the pipe, is called a zebra mussel, not a tiger mussel. I was writing quickly and got my striped animals mixed up. If you search for "zebra mussel" on the Web, you will discover a minor industry of research on this pest, a nonnative species in the US where it is causing a lot of trouble, for example in the Great Lakes. I think it makes an excellent metaphor.

Wednesday 2-9
The Science Fiction Weekly site has an interview with William Gibson:
I think that what happens is that in the course of writing on a very regular basis, the membrane between conscious and unconscious gets sandpapered down paper-thin, so there can be, like, ruptures. And then this stuff emerges that the conscious mind could never make up. For me, the trouble with too much genre SF is that it's so obviously the product of the conscious mind. I'm just not very interested in that.

[on cyberpunk] Those days are over. I don't know what the equivalent would be, "biopunk," or something. You know, kids in the Haight doing their own genetic manipulation. [Laughs.] That kind of thing is closer. What cyberpunk has become, I think, is just kind of a tag for a particular flavor of popular culture. You can describe a video or a pair of trousers as "cyberpunk." It's not really happening. It's not really happening anymore.

Tuesday 2-8
I'm no fan of "The "City" comic strip - in fact, author Derf's style annoys me; but when I moved back to DC for those three mid-90s years I got used to him, published weekly in the City Paper. The derfcity.com web-site has a bigger dose, the multi-page story of his Ohio school days with Jeffrey Dahmer - Derf was his fan club's President!

Monday 2-7
Concerning the recent far-right political victories in Österreich, the Eastern Empire - unlike the usual oblivious media output, check today's Feed Daily where Martin Schneider comments on the irony of our home team's right-wing tendencies and influence on the story.
[Freedom Party's] Haider has cribbed much of his platform from the conservative wing of America's Republican Party -- he has proposed a Gingrichian "Contract with Austria," advocated a Forbesian flat tax, and closely studied former California governor Pete Wilson's anti-immigration strategies.

Saturday 2-5
Shoes in the News:
Those absurd 'glam' boots I documented observing on short girls in Japan last year are now suspect in traffic accidents there, and may be forbidden in the driver's seat - details in this Reuters story.

There was an article in yesterday's Post about the current state of Usenet - the author's Rob Pegoraro, whose verbiage provided me with the necessary info and encouragment to post my first web pages. My own assessment of those on-line forums (a few of which I check daily, as I've been doing since 1994) is the annoying commercial spam which had infected the newsgroups (back when the web was new) is now rare.

Thursday 2-3
Yab Yum. Know what it is? Something tantric, we read about the beats doing it in The Dharma Bums, but in the Netherlands...
Airport authorities have refused to even consider giving a permit to Yab Yum, saying it wouldn't fit with the overall philosophy of Schiphol.
Schipol is the Amsterdam airport, and it's quite a nice facility. According to CNN,
Yab Yum offers an expensive menu of caviar, champagne and sex at plush locations in downtown Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Wednesday 2-2
Radio interference - disruption because of the KQED fund raising campaign, a phenomenon about which I've railed previously. The horizon-broadening result is my exposure to much more of KFJC (the excellent local college station); KALW "information radio," a less-polished and hence more attractive NPR alternate (but with a weaker signal); the contentious local Pacifica station, in Berkeley: KPFA; and the modern-rock "Alice" (KLLC) whose morning drive-time team of Sarah and Vinnie's actually not bad.

Courtesy the nearby More Like This weblog, learn about Web Bugs:

A Web Bug is a graphic on a Web page or in an Email message that is designed to monitor who is reading the Web page or Email message. Web Bugs are often invisible because they are typically only 1-by-1 pixel in size. They are represented as HTML IMG tags.
...but the specified SRC is a program, not an image.

Tuesday 2-1
Saw "Magnolia" and found it lacking, a tedious, annoying, though at-times interesting film. They're raving about his portrayal of the misogynistic "TJ" character but I thought he was bogus; the best Tom Cruise moment occured before the movie even started, that sequence with his shades in the John Woo "M:I-2" preview.

University of Alaska Poker Flat Research Range Aurora Information and Images. (Nice pictures, but the site's one of those all-too-common examples of web pages made irritating and user-hostile due to the unnecessary, innappropriate usage of frames.)

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