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  ' Carrots For Breakfast '

October 2001

Tuesday 10-30
With Powers Like These, Can Repression Be Far Behind? -- LA Times column by Robert Scheer. A lot more commentary like this is needed -- but would it do any good?

Among other things on his site, Big Dave features an awesome Perry Mason reference.

Monday 10-29
Two recent archival links into the great Boing Boing weblog:

A while back I was inspired to build a model dirigible, after receiving a miniature fly-by-wire blimp as a Christmas gift; now many lighter-than-air flying models are available at DraganFly Inovations, Inc. The inexpensive Anti-Gravity Flying Disc is especially appealing, and suddenly viable since the new space I'm moving into has a high ceiling.

Saturday 10-27
That enlightened situation with the instrumental "Star-Spangled Banner" alternative to the mandated recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in Madison, Wisconsin schools has swung the other way via patriotic mob rule:
A few days later, I bumped into a neighbor of mine whom I had seen at the meeting shaking his head in horror. I asked him what he made of it all. "I thought I was in Nazi Germany."
Thursday 10-25
Today, a commentary assortment on the Current Situation:

Speak No Evil -- cover story from the Philadelphia City Paper. ( sigh -- "This Is Not the Time.")

Freeman Dyson responds: What Now?

SF Chronicle column by By Mark Morford, How to feel calmly patriotic and yet not the slightest bit reassured by Bush & Co:

You do not have to rally around Bush and tolerate Cheney's chthonic creepiness and wave a frantic flag and believe every scripted half-truth that drizzles out of the Pentagon, applaud the nonstop attacks on an already demolished nation. Pro-America does not mean pro-war. Or pro-Bush. Or anti-Afghanistan. Or pro-little-flags-on-SUV-antennas.
(Definition: chthonic (thònîk) -- of or relating to the gods and spirits of the underworld.)

And I really like this week's Tom Tomorrow.

Tuesday 10-23
I was wondering if any of that big public artwork in and around the WTC could have possibly survived, like Calder's "Bent Propeller" stabile -- heard an update on NPR yesterday.
Amid the wreckage of New York's World Trade Center lie hundreds of works of art, many created by famous artists. While nothing compares to the human lives lost in the tragedy, the destruction of so many works represents a significant loss to the art world.
His grandson's spearheading a salvage effort... I can't think of those big Calder scultures without recalling an incident out front of the Hirshorn, shortly after it opened -- the black one they have provoke a reaction: An angry, scowling old man confronted us, inquiring, gesturing towards it, jowls all a-quiver: "Would you mind telling me what that is?" and David, the art student, immediately responded with title and artist ("That's 'Two Disks' by Alexander Calder") which obviously wasn't the sort of answer the old fart wanted -- we were snickering as he waddled away in disgust. His behavior marked the art-work as authentic, according to the answer we'd come up with back then, to that eternal question, What Is Art? The sculture had provoked an emotional response.

You wouldn't know it from the mainstream media, but these mailbombings have been going on for some time -- Planned Parenthood centers and abortion clinics have been targeted; victims at the office of the current highest-ranking Democrat (Senator Daschle) just confirm the pattern. (And why would the media suppress news of abortion clinic assaults -- couldn't be that Vast Right-wing Conspiracy, could it?) The Independent, a British publication, has more details, Anthrax attacks now being linked to US right-wing cranks --

But anthrax terrorism is not a new phenomenon, especially in the US. For the last four years, the country has been in the grip of anthrax. It is an American phenomenon: in 1999, the latest year for which records are available, there were 83 criminal incidents worldwide where a quantity of anthrax was actually present, of which 81 were in the US.  

Sunday 10-21
Like all cat people I enjoy playing with, but then there's that problem of hands with scratched up flesh -- no more, if you have a Kitten Mitten!

New colors for margarine coming soon:

Colorful squeezable Parkay margarine in "Electric Blue" and "Shocking Pink in easy-to-grip 10-oz bottles designed to be kid-friendly.

Friday 10-19
Anyone who doubts that we now live in a police state, read this story of official indifference to abuses at the airport, for our "protection." As if.

Anthrax panic:
Open your own damn mail!

Check this recent, unflattering photo of Bill Gates on the "Japan Today" site (and don't miss the comments in reaction, just below).

Thursday 10-17

This egalitarian, anti-skyjack proposal has my strong support, but more for its secondary reasons -- I've grown to appreciate the classless society of Southwest Airlines' "festival seating" (although being an American, I'm made uncomfortable by their rear-facing seats at the front bulkhead) although the fun'n'games invoked on some flights by over-exuberant cabin crew can be tiresome.

Long-time readers of these pages will recall occasional rantings on my dissatisfaction with this apartment, and half-assed attempts to move out, which never seemed to occur -- now it must, as I gave official notice yesterday. The last straw was the new tenants, who've moved in next door -- three college kids (in a one-bedroom!) along with assorted stereos, visitors coming and going, and an incredibly loud-engined BMW-bomb for transport. One of them even plays an electric guitar, for hours, every few days. My lengthy procrastination turns out to be favorable, since the slim pickings of two years past (when Silicon Valley was at the height of its boom) are now a faded memory -- there's For Rent signs all over.

The latest in automotive design from Japan:

A new vehicle called the pod, developed by Toyota Motor Corp and electronics giant Sony Corp, will smile, frown and cry, not to mention take your pulse and measure your sweat.

Wednesday 10-17
A .sig I read on Usenet somewhere today:
On his deathbed, Oscar Wilde said "That wallpaper is killing me. One of us has to go."
Tuesday 10-16
When I lived in Hermosa Beach I visited the Watts Towers several times, usually on Sunday morning, early, to minimize any South-Central LA transit risk. Sometimes I took people along; once, solo, I was able to scale the wall and truly experience their majesty -- they're amazingly solid feeling, the core is rebar he bent by hand, using the nearby train-tracks as a vise (there's a bit of ancient film available, of the artist at work). Now they're open again, after another renovation -- seems they've been closed six years, and now there's a new security fence. This recent NY Times article provides excellent background and speculation and quotes creator Simon Rodia:
Thomas Jefferson, he write the Constitution in the United States, and they don't use it.
(Incidentally, if you don't care to register, use ID/password cyberpunk909 / cyberpunk to peruse the stories on their site, making sure cookies are enabled in your browser. Also, that image is a thumbnail.)

The So-Called Evidence Is a Farce, by Stan Goff -- sounds reasonable to me -- my initial reaction to EoS11 was this is our Reichstag fire, no way could such precision have been executed without some high-level collusion. But the article's mostly about what's really going on, like the Ted Rall column I pointed at Sunday. (BTW I doubt that the shrub was reading a goat story with the children on September 11, when he "briefly turned somber" -- according to Arianna H. it was probably that hungry caterpiller book, the only one he knows.)

The latest comic: My new fighting technique is unstoppable -- like a mixture of This Modern World's politics, amplified, and the existential angst (or whatever) of Red Meat.

Monday 10-15
Developed another acronym for that Current Situation phrase heard so often, it's become tiresome: WATUSH -- the Worst Act of Terrorism in US History. I pronounce it wa-toosh, which is probably too silly-sounding for popular acceptance.

Listening to "Tea for the Tillerman" yesterday, wondering about the Yusuf reaction to EoS11, here 'tis:
A Home of Tolerance, Not Fanaticism.

Another new acronym: AOS. In my NASA console days, this meant Acquisition Of Signal, with the Loss Of... counterpart in LOS; but this new one's from the military: All Options Suck. (More about why in this Newsweek article.

Sunday 10-14
More astute commentary from Ted Rall about the Big Picture, what's really going on. Note the casual reference to the sights of Kazakhstan -- he's been fascinated (obsessed, even) with that region for a long time, and allegedly led a "Stan Trek 2000" tour there last year, which passed through many of the "-istan" countries. (That suffix has its etymology in a Persian word, incidentally -- means "land of," a bit of enlightenment I picked up in a Slate "Explainer" column.)
Friday 10-12
Great letters to Salon in reaction to their lengthy review of the new Our Monica, Ourselves book (which was also worth reading) -- the ruminations on ethnic attributes move into the same territory as Richard Cohen's Profiles in Evasiveness column published in yesterday's Washington Post:
I raise the [US soldier-rapist in Okinawa] case because we are now pondering where and when it is appropriate to recognize race or ethnicity, as with profiling, for instance. We wonder if it is right -- never mind useful -- to give Arab or Islamic travelers a more thorough search when they board airplanes. We wonder, in short, if we are being prejudiced simply for noting race or ethnicity.
"We" do, eh Rich? Hmmpf -- this timid inhibition has been present in the media and polite society for quite some time, out of a reluctance of upsetting vocal minorities. Also in the Post, Life During Wartime: Coping with new rules at National Airport:
One of the most noticeable changes for the flying public is National's no-standing-for-the-last-half-hour edict, called "the potty rule" by some.
It means if you get out of your chair during the ascent phase or final approach to DCA, all hell will break loose -- they could divert the flight to another airport. Over-reacting? I believe so.
Thursday 10-11
Vocabulary of the day:
steganography -- the system of hiding messages inside electronic images and music files.

Sam Smith posted a great list of "Ten proposed new laws for this crisis" in his Progressive Review yesterday -- scroll down to see them -- here's a sample:

2. To display an American flag in any form, you must present proof of voter registration.
6. To be permitted to scream "Nuke Afghanistan," you must be able to correctly locate Afghanistan on a map or globe.
8. Those who wish to express opinions about Arabs and Arab-Americans must pass the following test:
· Those who follow the religion of Islam are called: a) Moslems b) Muslins c) Fanatics
· The holy book of Islam is called: a) The Koran b) The Koram c) The Bible
· In Arabic, God is called: a) Ali b) Allah c) Jehovah
10. A call for war on any radio talk-show will be construed as a public declaration of willingness to enlist in the US Army; callers will have 24 hours to complete the paperwork.
Today he discusses the mysterious whereabouts of the Vice President.

Tuesday 10-9
Good column on today's Wahington Post editorial page, Warring Against Modernity, by Aryeh Neier:
The calamitous EoS11 can be seen as a new phase in a long struggle in which tribalists and fundamentalists have identified cosmopolitanism and modernity as their archenemy.

Our enemies are the contemporary counterparts of the Nazis -- for whom the Jews represented the cosmopolitanism they loathed -- the Khmer Rouge and those who bombarded Sarajevo from their safe perches in the hills.

Note substitution of my proposal of a shorthand reference, for that phrase I'm hearing all over, "the events of September 11th" -- speak it as "Ee-oh-ess eleven" (may as well be abbreviated, seems like we're going to be talking about it for the rest of our lives). Maybe, in years to come, "Ee-oh-ess eleven oh-one."

The current issue of The Nation is great, not just for the Edward Said feature article but also the latest Naomi Klein, Signs of the Times:

After September 11, politicians and pundits around the world instantly began spinning the terrorist attacks as part of a continuum of anti-American and anticorporate violence: first the Starbucks window, then, presumably, the WTC.

In a sane world, rather than fueling such a backlash the terrorist attacks would raise questions about why US intelligence agencies were spending so much time spying on environmentalists and Independent Media Centers instead of on the terrorist networks plotting mass murder.

The battle lines leading up to next month's WTO negotiations in Qatar are: Trade equals freedom, antitrade equals fascism. Never mind that Osama bin Laden is a multimillionaire with a rather impressive global export network stretching from cash-crop agriculture to oil pipelines. And never mind that this fight will take place in Qatar, that bastion of liberty, which is refusing foreign visas for demonstrators but where bin Laden practically has his own TV show on the state-subsidized network Al-Jazeera.

The street slogans -- PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT , THE WORLD IS NOT FOR SALE --have become self-evident and viscerally felt truths for many in the wake of the attacks. There is outrage in the face of profiteering. There are questions being raised about the wisdom of leaving crucial services like airport security to private companies, about why there are bailouts for airlines but not for the workers losing their jobs. There is a groundswell of appreciation for public-sector workers of all kinds. In short, "the commons" -- the public sphere, the public good, the noncorporate, what we have been defending, what is on the negotiating table in Qatar -- is undergoing something of a rediscovery in the US.

Okay, enough seriousness -- how about the Laffwaffe? The Alternative War Works is worth a visit, just for the picture -- who says the Age of Irony is dead?

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years (which sounds like the demand of Mr Apollo) is a challenge to those 'Learn Java in Two Weeks' books.

The conclusion is that either people are in a big rush to learn about computers, or that computers are somehow fabulously easier to learn than anything else.

Sunday 10-7
Coyotes -- Inside the Beltway? Didn't know they were anywhere but out West.

A vexillological oxymoron (scroll down to the National Bolshevik Party). I could spend ages happily exploring every nook and crany of fotw.com (ie Flags Of The World) but instead, I usually just pop in, find what I was curious about, touch on a few others things, and leave the rest for another day.

Huge photo stash from Ground Zero (although I understand its current designation is becoming the Zone, since it's a sealed off crime zone). On October 3 the photographer, "AP," wandered all around but on his way out the police detained him and, lacking proper credentials and authorization, confiscated his digital camera temporarily deleted its photos, but he was able to recover the files with a program acquired from a Belgian web-site. Found 46, 56 & 57 especially interesting/depressing -- the Wintergarden is (was?) a kind of Crystal Palace, one of the new World Financial Center buildings erected on all that newly reclaimed land, which extended Manhattan Island westward -- the extension began with all that soil they excavated in the late 60s, digging the 40-story-deep hole the Twin Towers were constructed in. The central feature inside the Wintergarden is a matrix of sixteen palm trees; I had the good fortune of hanging out in there one morning in late '94, and it's easy for me to imagine it as a venue for certain types of concert-events (although nothin' was happening during my visit, except for commuters rushing through, since it's adjacent to a WFC ferry landing). My guess is they won't survive; somewhere I read an account which mentioned white palm trees (because they were coated with ash, like a sight near a volcano) -- couldn't have been any place else. AP slipped into the Zone discreetly, but the rich & famous approach directly, for sport:
Stars are not welcome at Ground Zero:

It is a test of a person's celebrity to see how far through the security cordons they can go before being turned back.
Salon posted an article about this phenomen too (all work stops as the entourage breezes through, and sometimes the VIPs issue autographs on blank body tags).

Friday 10-5

This entry concerns gas masks (featured on the cover of both the current Time and Newsweek). I wish I had one -- or did, when I first moved to LA -- thought it would be amusing to wear while driving, on those hot, smoggy days. (My vehicle at that time had no AC.) Back then David said he saw somebody wearing one on the freeway, which may have triggered this urge; further questioning revealed that the driver he spotted was actually wearing a surgical face mask, not what I desired, at all -- I wanted a real one, a big, archaic World War I model, with hoses and a canister. Given all the current fears of a biological/chemical attack, lots of folks have been stocking up on the newer, lightweight style -- they're all sold out, now. An article in the LA Times, Lining Up to Buy a Piece of Security, describes the history of the device, and the folly of this fad.

Initially helpless against the gases, British troops effectively cobbled together masks of linen soaked in chemicals, or in a squeeze, their own urine, according to a military historian in Massachusetts.

But H.G. Wells stirred fears of chemical warfare in his prophetic 1933 novel "The Shape of Things to Come." In the novel, a brotherhood of airmen keeps the peace by threatening to use gas. "The image of strategic bombers dropping gas had a lot of influence over the popular imagination in the inter-war period."

There's a great, illustrated "Stomp Tokyo" review of "Things To Come" and its place in futuristic fiction -- Wings Over the World!. Anyway, back to the LA Times:
Israeli masks, which are most widely available, are not such a great buy, say those in the know. "Before this whole thing people weren't even buying Israeli civilian masks. They fog up when you put them on. You can't drink from them. Hair gets caught in the head harness. They didn't use them, so they sent massive quantities of surplus over here."

Is there some linkage between terrorism and copyright? Anyone who read a column in the Washington Post, From T-shirts to terrorism: That fake Nike swoosh may be helping fund bin Laden's network, should also check Naomi Klein's reaction, McWorld and jihad, to get background on the Post article's author and agenda.

What do new trade deals have to do with fighting terrorism? Well, the terrorists, we are told again and again, hate America precisely because they hate consumerism: McDonald's and Nike and capitalism - you know, freedom.

Thursday 10-4
Last week I mentioned that "unbelievable" WTC photo making the rounds -- now, "Tourist Guy" is the wwweb's Man of the Hour -- the Photoshoppers are having a field day, elevating his legend to that of a Gilgamesh. (But sometimes, that site's server disables the images, at times of peak demand, I suppose.)

Spotlight on Arabia, etc
A Seattle paper has published a guide for understanding turbans, and the Encarta people posted a short quiz on Middle East Geography and History. (I got an "A" -- missing only the '33 islands' question.)

Do you worry about copyright laws? Since it's The Law, do you feel guilty violating it, or instead choose not to disobey? No more phone calls, then -- a pair of Australian musicians has made copyright claims to all the possible short sequences of notes generated by a touch-tone phone. If you perform one of their songs, royalties must be rendered!

Good news today, out of Washington -- the Senate Democrats (and even the shrub) are insisting that all the new legislation include some relief for laid-off employees; and we're sending all kinds of food to Afghanistan, airlifting it in, "bombing them with butter." Cooler heads seem to be prevailing.

Wednesday 10-3

Reacting to the Current Situation:
Americans Fend Off Sorrow With Laden Fork and Spoon, from yesterday's LA Times

"What can we do but eat cookies at a time like this?"
The story ends with praise for that traditional American pastime of baking an apple pie, an activity I've found quite satisfying even when cheating by using that store-bought Pillsbury crust.

The CIA and the failure of American intelligence by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker -- how the wheel came off at Langley, as Quiller might say.

Monday 10-1
Zompist put up a fascinating page where he shares "one fact each from a selection of books on my bookshelf." The group includes Oranges by John McPhee, which is on my own shelf, as well.

Worth reading about in the Looka! weblog -- first, where he goes shopping for an Earth flag, and then about the long-lost Apollo 11 landing tape, now restored and available on the BBC site in RealAudio. The standard he orders (since nobody has one in stock) is the NASA photo on the blue field, "the authentic Earth flag" aka the 'Earth Day flag' -- it's too difficult a design to reproduce accurately, with fabric -- I prefer James W. Cadle’s Earth flag. More universal, includes the whole system. Plus -- the Apollo tape, access and read about it here, then be patient -- the ten minute file has a thirty-second leader, and many dead-space gaps.

Great rantings at Red Rock Eater yesterday.

Many other conservatives are acting as though political freedom were some kind of frivolous luxury good, like ice cream or fancy cars, that we have to "give up" in this period of austerity.

If we want to win the war, we should declare October "Respect for Islam Month". Some radio hosts have sent mobs of their listeners to eat at Afghan restaurants, just to show that we know the difference between justice and hate, and I applaud them. Let's keep going: we should have interfaith prayer services in churches and mosques, Muslim food in school cafeterias, a gala evening of classical music from various Muslim countries in the White House, Hollywood stars getting their pictures in the paper by wearing Middle Eastern dress, slides of Arabic calligraphy with tasteful subtitles projected onto the sides of buildings, green ribbons on our lapels next to the red-white-and-blue, and heart-warming stories of decent, life-affirming Muslim heroes told on television news programs. Make a big deal out of it: maximum publicity for maximum impact. Get the Europeans to apologize for the Crusades. Hire a Muslim speechwriter to prevent our leaders from uttering any more cowboy slogans or phrases like "infinite justice". And say it: we think Islam is just great, we really do, we mean it, and we sure do want those terrorists on trial.

I especially like the idea with the tasteful subtitles.

An encounter with Joni at a restuarant in Santa Monica.

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