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January 24, 2005
Ever heard of XanGo? It's a brand of bottled mangosteen juice -- and more. Saw a pair of these brochures pinned to the bulletin board at the gym yesterday, immediately excited at the mention of mangosteen -- could somebody finally be importing them, stateside? Having tasted of this delicious fruit while I was in Malaysia (which was, in fact, one of the goals of that trip) I know how the joy of mangosteen is in the eating -- juice would be nice, I suppose; but I've never heard of it, until now. I've looked for the fruit here, but to no avail: once, in an oriental market, I found small bags of frozen mangosteens, which were terrible! In the Chinese supermarket recently, I found 'em canned, from Thailand, and that's okay, at least one can experience the flavor; but everything I'm dredging up about this new juice is from a loathsome, multi-level marketing point-of-view. Dr Ralph Moss looked into this, and reports:
The techniques of network marketing, honed through decades of trial and error, are now being used by a Utah-based company to position mangosteen as the latest "miracle cure" craze. The price of their XanGo mangosteen juice is currently $37 per bottle (or four for $100). You have to ask yourself: who on earth would pay that much for a bottle of fruit juice, no matter how delicious it might be?
Maybe I should be bottling the leftover syrup, from the cans...

January 23, 2005
Doggie Diner head This is the last Doggie Diner sign in the Bay Area (its adjacent burger stand now operates under a different name). A few years ago, it blew down, and was refurbished to a better state than the original, with a shiny metal-flake paint job. I paused around here yesterday, near the San Francisco Zoo, to watch the sunset from the beach just before meeting up with my uncle, for a steak dinner in the Tenderloin at the original Original Joe's.

My TV-B-Gone arrived, and the initial show-room tests today, at Fry's and Sears, weren't always successful. Observations: since it can take up to 69 seconds for the unit to parse through all of its power-off codes, the user may have to keep the thing pointed at the offending box for over a minute before it switches off. Also, the range seems somewhat limited. A problem with adding it to the keychain is, this initial model is a little too big, and the hollow plastic housing makes intolerable noises in the course of everyday carrying-about. The blisterpack insert art's by Nina Paley, but no credit's given her, either there or on the site, which also utilzes her illustrations -- I wouldn't have known of this without checking her blog.

Heavy Bondage. What is James Bond -- Blunt Instrument or Gentleman Thief? Incredibly detailed analyses, with a page devoted to each picture, lots of inside dope and comparisons with the books. My own collection (from which I recently re-read Dr No) is composed entirely of the Signet paperbacks -- scroll midway down this page to see those classic 60s covers.

Faddish prank among London teenagers: Happy Slapping. Also, The Happy Guy.

January 20, 2005
Where Shag lives, illustrated. (Since it's the LA Times that link will only work for a week -- and if you can't get in, remember: bugMeNot.com.)

Disorder: a key to healthy living? British report says unmade beds kill dust mites. My lifestyle is confirmed: I can't sleep in a 'made' bed, gets cold around the lower edges unless I roll up in the bed-linen and blankets. This means willfully disturbing those same bed-linens and blankets from their 'made' state... and between use, what's the point of making the bed, when nobody sees it? And now with those pesky mites to consider...

There was recent news about how the Mexican government had published and distributed a cautionary educational comic book for potential north-bound pioneers. The Spanish-language Univision network provides some excerpts, in a slideshow.

January 19, 2005
fireworks Good grief, how time's flying. As of this date, I've been blogging five years! If you're inta reviewing the old stuff, scroll down to the archive links.

Granny D holds forth on Freedom and our American-style Velvet Revolution:
There is, in other words, a permanently vicious aspect to life today that was only an occasional visitor to us before -- when the wars came, when the union contract expired. The boot of greedy oppression is now always at our necks, it seems.

Call centers in India are receiving tirades from certain irate Americans, some perhaps copycats of evil radio personalities. On the news the other day I heard how some fast-food chains are now outsourcing their drive-ins' "MayIHelpYou?" tasks to these places, for various reasons. Can't assume the person taking your order is on-site, anymore.

The Tucker48 -- apparently, a replica is now available (with optional CD player, and AC). No price listed -- if you have to ask... Another new motoring choice: the Badonkadonk Land Cruiser. (At first glance, I thought, for $20K this is a very reasonably-priced hovercraft! But it's not.)

January 18, 2005
In the latest Wired, The Shadow Internet --- all about topsites.

Suddenly into Salinger again, reading the Roof Beam. For a long time I had a link to Salinger.org (aka Bananafish Home) on my links page, but now it seems Dead Caulfields is the reference to check. And here's the motherlode: JD's Uncollected Writings has links to almost everything, including the 22 'underpublished' stories! (It's truly amazing -- Thank You, o mighty diety of the Internet!)

Speaking of Watterson: Calvin&Hobbs in 2005 (warning: very disturbing).

January 17, 2005
Jeff Tweiten, world's greatest Star Wars fan, is waiting in Seattle, first one in line, with a sleeping bag and a folding blue foam love seat. He's been blogging his experience for a couple weeks now -- only four months to go (and he's already lost ten pounds).

This is from November 2003: Bill Watterson last seen in northeast Ohio. Do not approach -- opens with Watterson confronting the ubiquitous counterfeit-Calvin-pis sticker. Reminds me of the mid-90s, when I paused at Southland on my way to the beach. It's a barbecue cigarette and souvenir joint on the NC state line. A little stack of these stickers was by the cash register: Calvin urinating on the word "Clinton."

January 16, 2005
Some new products:
LED Scrolling Marquee Belt Buckle
Like having a piece of the future on your waist!
"I got on the computer and punched in biodiesel and found out this could be the future," said Nelson, who now uses the fuel for his cars and tour buses.
And a look at the next big thing from Apple: the iProduct.

Disasters Waiting to Happen by Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel -- excerpt from his new book, Collapse.

The occasional dog situation next door has escalated, such that now I know the beast's name:

January 15, 2005
Sitar-playing busker on Castro St in Mountain View Saw this busker playing a sitar on Castro St in Mountain View today.

Used to be I'd listen to the local top 40 station (WPGC) on January 1st, when they'd play their 'top hundred' of the year just ended, in order to hear those oldies again, from the previous Winter, Spring and Summer. Tapping in to that old vibe, the local classical music station polled their listeners for the hundred greatest. Also, the Top 25 Quotes of 2004. Another look back: celebrities who died last year.

What is Dogging?

Photos of Titan's surface, o Brave New World. Speaking of science fiction, somebody typed in an old favorite: The Waveries, by Fredric Brown, a short story from 1945 which I came across at a very young age, in an anthology called Invaders of Earth. Took me a few readings to understand what was going on.

January 13, 2005
GR LA #1 A collection of Space Invader photos, big cities all over where the tile-tagger's left his mark, but nothing from LA -- for that, check today's image, a picture of the Giant Robot store sign on Sawtelle I took last year. Or see space-invaders.com.

'HFS goes Spanish. But was anybody listening anymore?

In her latest column, Adrianna Huffington invokes "Saturday Night Fever".

Abandoned section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike includes a couple narrow tunnels.

January 12, 2005
La Conchita photos, contrasting the lesser '95 mudslide with the more recent cataclysm. I drove right through this part of Ventura just a few months back.

Paul Graham explains why Americans make some things well and others badly. I've linked to a couple of his essays previously, like "What You Can't Say."

Didn't see "The Polar Express" -- steered clear, after reading reviews like, A Christmas Movie with a Nasty Edge. Also reprinted at CommonDreams.org, Riding the Polarized Express.

January 11, 2005
A web-log: Mildly Annoyed Canadian. Not to be confused with this poll: Who is the Most Annoying Canadian? Seems like it's the Canadian Tire Guy, of whom I don't know -- I'm aware that Canadian Tire issues their own currency but my understanding is the Jolly Scot depicted thereon is a generic figure of Canadian lore, that the Canadian Tire Guy is something else, no doubt a fixture of their TV commercials.

In the New Yorker, Q & A with Miyazaki, sort-of.
He hates the idea that children watch his films repeatedly. He's very worried about kids consuming too much media, and thinks that they should watch a movie like "Totoro" no more than once a year.

Cassini probe
reveals bulging walnut-style equator around Saturn's weird black&white satellite, Iapetus.

More complaining about public radio:
Way back when, I posted a rant about 'Sunday Edition' because I always seemed to tune in at their most boring point: Puzzlemeister Will Shortz! (Even if I was interested in his fussy little challenges, the dead air accompanying them would be a station-changer.) In the same way it seems like I'm always hearing that part of 'All Things Considered' in the last minutes of each hour, when instead of reporting news they go off on some cultural tangent, usually a review of some current musical offering. Just before New Years's, I heard one of these end-of-the-hours about the newly-reissued Brian Eno vocal albums from the 1970s. It was delightful: evening drive-time listeners were treated to some of my favorite songs, due to this re-release of his greatest stuff, "digitally remastered." Be warned: the 'remastered' tracks sound no different to my ears, and these 'new' disks offer no bonus tracks! The omission of "The Seven Deadly Finns" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is criminal, a big opportunity, wasted -- the only difference is, the packaging is those ecological cardboard jewel case substitutes I dislike, and the cover image for "Here Come the Warm Jets" is no longer cropped. I haven't actually heard the new disks, but assume their mixes are identical to those on the out-of-print, 'remastered' Vocal Box Set I finally acquired last year. However, the ATC blurb is worth listening to, since its youthful commentator, to his surprise, finds the material excellent, even though it's older than he is. And speaking of public radio, our local KQED just dropped Harry Shearer's 'Le Show' from the schedule! An outrage!

January 9, 2005
lamps A 60's office building in downtown Mountain View has these lighting fixtures 'planted' 'round the exterior. I usually see them Sundays 'cause they're near the farmer's market.

January 7, 2005
Overheard in New York (with commentary and location info), and Overheard on the Tube (just the quotes).

I'm a big fan of white noise: used properly, it's a vital sleeping aid. White Noise is also a book, by Don DeLillo, which was quite favorably recommended -- alas, when I finally got around to it a couple years back, I was underwhelmed. I figured the new movie was based on the book, but apparently there's no connection -- this film is a ghost story, and no reviewer I've encountered seems familiar with the book, or finds it worth mentioning, which I find odd. Especially since a movie of the book is coming out, later this year -- it's all very confusing.

January 6, 2005
Why no pictures lately? Dunno, things just aren't photogenic. Always seems so dark out...

We Never Learned Why We Lost the Vietnam War, and Now We're Losing Another Asian War by Stewart Nusbaumer -- more about why we got into these things, than why we lost.

On the 20th Century:
Waiter: Cocktail before dinner, sir?

Cary Grant: Yes, please, a Gibson.

January 4, 2005
SET is the Society for the Eradication of Television. (Of course, it's also a game). Some call TV the Tube, a not-entirely-accurate description now in this age of flat-screen. (This is also a tube -- but for what?)

The expanded CD liner notes contained a key, but this Sgt Pepper image-map is interactive: click each face, for more information about that person. Also, Sgt Pepper cover variations.

1930's Japanese Military Propaganda Photos. (My favorite, the one with Mt Fuji.) Also, WWI Postcards: Zeppelin Attacks. Part 1 and 2.

Nathan B. Anderson, Jr was Not a happy Space Camper.

How to hack an iPod so it records.

Autobahns of Poland.

Pontiac Firebird Station Wagon Concept Cars. (The British call station wagons 'shooting brakes' -- just so you know.)

Strange, unusual and odd-looking boats on the canals of England. In the Netherlands, a 747 recently traversed canals through Amsterdam. (photos)

January 3, 2005 (updated)
Lacking anything else to report, here's my Ten Memorable Films of 2004, listed in the order seen. The irregular titles include a great Stanford oldie (unavailable on video, alas) and a Swedish Cinequest screening ('Slim Suzie').
  • Big Fish
  • Smala Sussie
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Make Way For Tomorrow (1937)
  • Good Bye, Lenin!
  • Riding Giants
  • A Home at the End of the World
  • Spiderman 2
  • The Incredibles
  • Sideways
Two superhero films in the same year? (And with Hellboy, it's three.) That says something -- exactly what, I'm not sure.

I enjoy the arcane, random knowledge one picks up from Ask MetaFilter threads. As an example, here's a general topic posted recently: What everyone should know.

From an old note in one of my logbooks (must've been from the radio show) -- the motto of his school, according to Ian Whitcomb:
I Too Will Something Make and Joy in the Making
Turns out this is a line from a poem by Robert Bridges.

January 2, 2005
We're in the path of a string of winter storms, according to the weatherman. Sometimes we think of it as the monsoon but I love our rainy season because the showers never get freezy. All is well as long as the roof doesn't leek. It doesn't rain all summer or fall; this is my favorite time of the year in California -- everything's getting so green!

January 1, 2005
NYC Chinatown Happy New Year!

It's been raining out here, and was raining ten days ago in Chinatown, when I took this picture.

December 30, 2004
ground zero At the edge of the Pit, at Ground Zero. The thumbnail emphasizes a graphic posted all around the area... everything has a logo now.

Here at the end of the year there's lots of looking back -- on the previous year, mostly; but also further back. There's still no concensus on how to refer to this decade but this excellent Cal Pundit post reviews all the decades of the 20th century: where they start and end, rather than what they're called.

December 29, 2004
Chrysler Building entrance We all know what the top of the Chrysler Building looks like -- down at street level, here's the Lexington Avenue entrance. That big wreath was swaying in and out, with the breeze. (Note to first-time visitors: like most images in my pages, this is a thumbnail - click to zoom.)

Orcinus post on the film adaptations of His Dark Materials: Just Don't Kill God. In the comments,
It's not an anti-Christian message. It's anti-authoritarian, anti-Church.

Unfortunately, I don't think the sort of people who are angered by the books would even recognize that such a distinction is possible.

Communist Shop Windows -- 1986-1990 photography by David Hlyansky.

December 28, 2004
I'm just returned from my 13th annual end-of-December communion with the holiday traveling public, this time augmented by a several-days jaunt up to NYC (as indicated in the provious post). Wasn't traveling with the digicam but if the snaps from my old film camera are any good I'll be scanning some in to share with you soon. Meanwhile, here's some New York notes. It's quite a challenge now, locating picture postcards depicting the post-Sept11 Manhattan skyline. No trouble at all picking up samples manufactured after the disaster, however -- these usually show the World Trade Center as it was, labeled with those tiresome, jingoistic "God Bless America" or "United We Stand" slogans. (Interesting derivation of the latter noticed while following the pilot up the jetway: a bumper sticker affixed to his beat-up rollaway read "United WILL Stand." Yes, I was flying the Friendly Skies.) One style of postcards has been tinkered with: somebody selected the WTC towers in Photoshop, and faded them out slightly... yish. Part of my journey to the Empire State involved taking a train north, from Grand Central -- I felt like a Cheever character, commuting. Instead, this was my day trip to the new Dia:Beacon center for very modern art, which has been established in a former box-printing factory just south of Poughkeepsie. I liked the Hanne Darboven (wish I'd had more time for it, with a step-ladder) as well as the hole sculptures by Michael Heizer labeled "North, South, East, West." When I got back, in the hotel that night I watched Thomas P.M. Barnett on C-Span do his great presentation detailing the themes of his The Pentagon's New Map book about The Core and The Gap in the world today. What a smart guy, what a depressing contrast with the shrub, who came on just afterwards, for his annual press conference. Speaking of which, this claims the bulge observed on his back during the first debate is a LifeVest defibrillator -- just in case he has another pretzel moment.

News from all over:
In North Korea, the truly strange Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, an unfinished 105-story enigma. Work must've been called off by the Great Leader since he was still alive in '92. (Cecil answered a query about the Ryugyong, back in 2000.) Related: DPRK changes coming soon?
Meanwhile, in Colombia,
academic turns city into a social experiment -- about that wacky mayor of Bogotá, who employs hundreds of mimes to control traffic.
And finally, whenever I think of Sri Lanka, Arthur C. Clarke comes to mind, since he emigrated there from England long ago. After tidal waves, Sir Clarke issued this statement. His house remained high and dry, but Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs was out swimming near a small island off the coast, when the tsunami struck: It Seemed Like a Scene from the Bible.

December 23, 2004
The first phase of my East Coast Holiday tour is winding down: several days in New York City. I haven't been here in ten years; last time Mr Jenkins was often the bus shelter poster -- now, it seems like pay phones are used more commonly, currently featured: the new Fat Albert.

'Tis the Season!
A timely new post in Scalzi's Whatever: Hateful Christmas Songs -- An Audience Participation Entry. Naturally, "The Little Drummer Boy" is mentioned... the other night, I heard Johnny Cash singing this, in a Village bookshop. It's not my choice -- that would be "The 12 Days of Christmas," because of its tiresome length and infantile repetition. Many of the comments slam "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" but the version on the Phil Spector Christmas Album is agreeable to me; however, a hearing of the Jackson 5's rendition can effect psychic trauma. For some reason I'm unfamiliar with "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" but nobody mentions "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" -- possibly it's slipped off the charts, but was made eternally loathsome for me that day in Hong Kong in '92, when it came out of the Muzak in a store called The Opal Mine and the shopgirls were singing along. And lest we forget, "Jingle Bells" by the barking dogs. On the other hand, I heard an interesting new tune of this genre last week on Fresh Air when John Waters was promoting his new Christmas record: "Santa Claus is a Black Man."

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